Monday, February 20, 2017

COLUMN: Fictional Towns

Being a pop culture junkie is fun -- until it interrupts my sleep.

Last night, I had a shockingly realistic dream that I had woken up in the breathtaking and entirely fictional land of Westeros. Anyone who's ever watched the HBO series "Game of Thrones" knows that this is NOT an ideal place to call home. Westeros is a scenic and beautiful land of Seven Kingdoms, none of whom are especially fond of one another. This displeasure is most commonly expressed through swordfights, frequent invasions, and more beheadings than you can shake a stick at, mostly because it's tough to shake sticks when you have no head.

My odds of surviving Westeros would be nil. This is a show where even major characters integral to plotlines are lucky to make it through a full episode with their heads still attached to their necks. In my role as an ancillary character at best, I'd be dragon food the first time I even looked at someone sideways. I can't ride a horse, I have no Earthly idea how to wield a sword, and it appears Westeros has little need for newspaper columnists and/or nightclub DJs. Plus there's a horde of undead warriors fixing to invade, and none of them seem to be big fans of hip-hop.

This dream DID, however, leave me with a pretty good idea for a column. Just this morning, I posed this question to Facebook:

"If you could live in any fictional town, city, or place, where would you go?" My geeky friends were eager to answer.

A popular response was Hogwarts, the alma mater of one Harry Potter. Me, I think the only way to fully enjoy Hogwarts is to be a legit witch or wizard. For Muggles like us, Hogwarts is pretty much just a creepy castle full of people who are WAY cooler than you or I. If you're at Hogwarts without magic, you're basically the janitor. You're Filch. Everyone hates Filch. No way.

Others said Mayberry, and I could see that -- but not in the modern age. Let's be real: the Mayberry police force is inept. Sure, Andy's good at spouting some sage wisdom and locking up Otis, but how is he with DNA analysis? How would Barney Fife respond to his first criminal sexual assault? Plus, I'm not letting Gomer anywhere near my Hyundai.

The suggestions kept rolling in.

Destination: Hobbiton
Pros: Hobbits make a mean dinner. Fireworks are superb.
Con: I prefer my vacation locales free of all-seeing evil eyes on the horizon, thanks. Pass.

Destination: The Overlook Hotel (you know, from "The Shining." My friends are weird.)
Pros: Fantastic interior design. Good hallways to ride my Big Wheel down. Potential to meet new friends.
Con: Those new friends are all dead, and 'blood-filled elevators' not my first choice in amenities. Hard pass.

Destination: The Wonka factory
Pros: Two words - chocolate river.
Con: Constant fear of eating wrong thing and turning into blueberry. Any rule violation subject to song-and-dance lecture from overly-moral orange slaves who only know one tune. VERY hard pass.

I've sat long and hard today, though, and I'm pretty sure I know the five fictional locales I wish I WOULD dream about visiting:

#5 - Pawnee, Indiana - The setting for "Parks & Recreation" is the only place you could visit Paunchburger and take home a child-sized soda (which is literally the size of a small child.) I could party with Tom & Jean-Ralphio and then have Ron Swanson scold me about it the next day. Plus give me enough time and I'm pretty sure I could woo April away from Andy. Sign me up.

#4 - The mystery island from "Lost" - I probably wouldn't survive a week on an island filled with smoke monsters and polar bears. That said, SOMEONE needs to explain all the stuff that the writers failed to. Plus, I like cushy jobs, and I think I'd be fairly suited to living in the hatch and pressing a button every 108 minutes to stop the world from ending.

#3 - Twin Peaks, Washington. I love a town with a good air of mystery, and Twin Peaks is pretty much the most mysterious place ever dreamt up. Just give the owls a wide berth and stay away from the woods at night, and I think I'd manage just fine. Coffee and cherry pie are already staples in my diet, so I'm pretty sure I'd fit in just fine.

#2 - Rosewood, Pennsylvania. It's a quaint town where not EVERYone is murdered, just a select few. Ideal for independent high schoolers, since parents seem to leave for months at a time without explanation. Few citizens appear to work, but everyone looks to have unlimited amounts of money, including the sinister villains intent on torturing Pretty Little Liars for no discerable reason. Oh, and if you hang out in town long enough, you WILL end up dating one of them, so there's a plus.

#1 - Stars Hollow, Connecticut. No greater fictional town has ever existed than that which the Gilmore Girls call home. If you've ever idealized small-town living, Stars Hollow is basically your mecca. The town is so picture-perfect that you almost forget how poorly you're treated when you visit. Browse for antiques? Mrs. Kim yells at you. Pull out your cell phone in the diner? Luke yells at you. Stay at the Dragonfly? Michel yells at you. Still, it's all worth it for Sookie's cooking and the town square, which is in a constant state of festival. "Gilmore Girls" is the only TV show to make me feel jealous for not being a fictional character. Thanks, Netflix, for letting us visit again this month. Stars Hollow also easily won the straw poll of my Facebook friends, and I'm queueing up for a cup of joe at Luke's right behind them.

Interestingly enough, my #1 and #2 picks are actually the same place. "Pretty Little Liars" and "Gilmore Girls" are both filmed on the same backlot at Warner Bros., mostly on a set they call Anytown, USA. It's the same place they filmed "The Goonies" and dozens of other movies and TV shows. The only magic in Stars Hollow is that which Hollywood has painstakingly created. So maybe it's time to stop day- (and night-) dreaming about fictional paradise, step outside, and try to make our own.

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