“Where did you grow up?”
It’s a common enough question, one I’ve been asked many times in casual conversation. The mundane answer would be, “Paterson, New Jersey.” Yes, Paterson, once a great industrial city, birthplace of Lou Costello, now a decaying, crime-ridden mess. But Paterson is only part of the answer. I was born there, lived there until I was nineteen, so yes, I grew up there, but a man whose best feature is his imagination (and it must be, ‘cause it sure ain’t my looks or personality!), has many homes encountered in many ways. So here’s the rest of the answer, the facts that go beyond the easy answer of Paterson, New Jersey:
I grew up on Baker Street, where the client comes panicked and tells a terrible tale while Watson packs his revolver and the game is suddenly, joyously afoot.
And I grew up in the 23rd century, on a great ship where the captain is brave and confident, the first officer logical, and the doctor is the real McCoy (not an Urban legend).
And I grew up in a very specific New York City, selling selfies to finance my webs and hiding the wonderful, terrible truth from dear old Aunt May, and I could see the Baxter Building towering over us and I knew that even the streets of Hell’s Kitchen were safe because justice is blind.
And I grew up in Gotham, waiting for a signal that outshines the moon, a call to arms, for the hour to don cloak and cowl and chase down clowns, cats, and others of that superstitious, cowardly lot.
And I grew up in Cimmeria, surviving on sword and wits and wanderlust.
And I grew up in Innsmouth, where the air smells of fish and strangers are most unwelcome.
And I grew up in the Carpathians, where the children of the night make sweet music and the dead travel fast.
And I grew up on Tattooine, and flew off across the stars with an old hermit and a master pilot and his loyal, furry first mate.
And I grew up in the October Country, where a saint named Ray showed me how mood and essence are just as vital as plot.
And I grew up in London and a plethora of other places, where my face often changed while my name and number stayed the same and the gun never left my hand except when my arms were around an exotic beauty, and the world was always better shaken than it was stirred.
And I grew up in Middle Earth and traveled far and wide and back again in the company of wizards, dwarves, and elves.
And I grew up in jungles and battlefields and on pirate ships and in Sherwood Forest and Ancient Egypt and Rome in the days of Caesar, and Camelot and ‘Salem’s Lot.
And I grew up under an opera house where the Phantom silently terrified the world with a simple revelation of what waits beneath his mask.
And I grew up in a strange neighborhood where a family of monsters lived down the street from a witch, a Martian, and a talking horse.
And I grew up in the ‘40s flashing a whip, punching Nazis, and fearing snakes.
And I regenerated in a blue box that’s bigger on the inside and can take you anywhere and any-when and safely home again or onward farther and deeper than imagination itself.
And I grew up in a hundred other places that etched their echoes into my mind and dreams and ideas and made me who I am today.
Paterson was only an ingredient.