Sunday, August 21, 2011

Princeton; 10 years later

[Part 1 of a series of blog entries looking at the first year of my life spent in Princeton, West Virginia, in 2001. I'll look at my home life, school, pop culture, relationships, basically everything going on in my life one decade ago.]

About a month ago, I was driving home from the mall. For those who are familar with the Princeton area, I was on the stretch of US Route 460 in Green Valley, coming up on the Go-Mart.

I was looking for something to listen to on the radio. There was nothing playing that I liked. I had my left hand on the steering wheel and was scanning through the radio stations with my right hand. I'd hit the button. Commercial. Hit the button again. Song I don't like. Hit the button again. Another commercial. Hit the button again...

I know the song. It was one of the few country songs that I know. I didn't like it, but I took my finger off the button as a wave of memories hit me. It was a Tim McGraw song, the one about having a barbeque stain on his t-shirt, and I thought back to why I knew that song.

When my mom and I first moved to Princeton we had this shitty red truck and the radio didn't work in it for some reason, but the cassette player did. And the only cassette in this shitty truck was a shitty Tim McGraw greatest hits collection. We had never listened to country music before, but my mom jumped into it and is now a huge country fan, to the point where I'm embarrassed to hear most of what she likes.

I was driving in my car listening to this Tim McGraw song when I realized that I first heard it in that shitty red truck in the summer of 2001. Currently in the summer of 2011, a decade has passed since I moved to Princeton. Time for some reflection...

In late 2000, my mom met a guy named Mark. It was a long-distance relationship, as he lived in Princeton and we lived in Ravenswood, in Jackson County, WV. My mom went down and brought him to our house for a bit. Then it was time to take him home and I was going with them. It was one of the largest trips I had ever undertaken in my life.

Living in a small town, you're sometimes isolated from how big the world is. In Ripley, the other city in Jackson County, which is where my grandpa lived, there was a sign before you got on the interstate telling you how far certain areas are from you. The first 14 years of my life, I probably saw that sign at least once a week. Charleston was so many miles away, Huntington was so many miles away, etc... The farthest place on that sign was Beckley. It was like over 100 miles away. And apparently Princeton was past Beckley. It just seemed crazy that we were going past the farthest point on that sign.

I don't remember much about the actual trip itself. It's weird the things you do remember, though. I had recently watched Everclear perform the song "AM Radio" on MADtv and thought it was a pretty catchy song. On the trip to Princeton was the first time I heard it on the radio.

I didn't pay much attention to the scenery around me, as I started to zone out during the car ride. Near the end, my mom mentioned that we were in Princeton and almost to Mark's house. I looked up and out the window and I can remember the exact spot in Princeton that I saw.

We dropped him off and were getting ready to leave. "Why don't you go start the car up" I was told. That way they could get me out of the house and have their goodbye moment. I went outside and got to the car and realized that I didn't have the car keys with me. I turned around and went back to the door.

I'll never forget this moment, because it's stuck out to me as being so funny and petty to me. The front door was open but the screen door was closed. As I walked to the door, my mom's back was to me and Mark was facing me. They had their arms around each other. As soon as he saw me, he got this absolute pissed-off look on his face, rolled his eyes and had this weird snarl in his upper lip. He was so mad that I ruined his chance to make out with my mom. I got the car keys and left. My mom came out a minute later and we left.

The summer of 2001 came and the 9th grade ended. Mark had been staying with us for a week or so, I don't really remember. Since I was on summer vacation, my mom brought up the idea of staying in Princeton for a week.

I thought about that for a moment. I took into account some incidents regarding previous relationships in my mom's life and told her the following, "I don't want to move to Princeton." She seemed taken aback by that and told me that wouldn't be the case. Tempers started to flare. I remember saying, "You know what's gonna happen. We're gonna go down there and you're gonna move in with him." We started going back-and-forth. I was throwing a full-blown 14-year-old fit. Mark tried to defuse the situation. He put his hands up and said, "Whoa, whoa. Nobody's moving in anywhere."

The one-week trip to Princeton turned into a two-week trip. We went back to Ravenswood for one day... so we could start moving our stuff to Princeton.

I was a little bitter about that at the time. Now it's something to laugh about.

Mark had gotten into some trouble with the law and had a court date coming up. We didn't talk about it a lot and I got the impression that nothing too big was going to happen as a result. That turned out to not be the case, as Mark was sentenced to something like 15 months in prison.

So, we moved to Princeton to be with Mark. Having lived in Princeton for less than a month, Mark is now out of the picture for over a year. My mom and I are now alone in this city we know nothing about. What are we to do, aside from listen to Tim McGraw?

That seems like a good stopping point for now. I'll be back later with some more stories from Princeton circa 2001.

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