Who says you can’t go home again? Most writers and artists and all of popular culture do, but never mind those naysayers. In honor of the upcoming pilgrimage home for the holidays, here is our escape guide for your hometown. To paraphrase Tolstoy (because of course Anna Karenina throwing herself on the railroad tracks is the same thing as taking New Jersey Transit the night before Thanksgiving and seeing everyone you knew in high school at Penn Station): every slightly claustrophobic/nevertheless beloved hometown is alike. Read on for a guide to your hometown.
PUT ‘EM BACK
The Bar That’s Way Too Nice
Show up here earlier in the evening the night before Thanksgiving. This bar always thought it belonged in New York City with its craft cocktails and dark wood paneling suggesting a sophistication that belies its suburban surrounding. Post up at the bar and let that one guy from high school buy you drinks just to prove that he has money. Leave when you’re adequately intoxicated and have reached your limit indulging in banal conversation about what you’ve both been up to for the past five, seven, ten years of your life.
The Irish Pub
Every town has one. Except maybe you weren’t able to get in when you were seventeen years old and still had braces. Head here after the nicer bar to revert back to your adolescent self and relieve yourself of the pressure to make small talk with the guys who showed up in your suburban town for happy hour wearing their nicest suit. We get it: you work in finance. So does half of the class of 2005 that showed up here tonight.
Your Friend’s Basement
Be honest: you knew this was where the night would end. Head to your friend’s house with the coolest (drunkest?) parents and drink Natty Lights in the basement. Maybe put on Phish or Pink Floyd or some other band you would listen to in high school to seem cool. You can always play the new Taylor Swift on your ride home.
IF YOU CAN GET IN
The Country Club
You know the one—the club that your parents were members of growing up, but that you can’t get into now without your own adult membership fees. Sneak in and play paddle tennis; convince your mom to take her with you. This, of course, is reliant on the idea that your parents are still members. If not, just sneak in. What’s the worst that could happen?
Let’s be honest, you still get a thrill striding into the local establishments that turned you away all those years ago. At this point, you’re just happy to be there.
Show up there at 2AM and order the cheese fries and pretend to still be in high school. Then, watch actual high schoolers roll in with groups of ten, and admire the fact that the boys and girls still manage to sit at different tables and make the same awkward eye contact you once experienced at the age of fifteen.
That One Really Fancy Restaurant
Though the swankiness of the one super expensive restaurant you remember from high school may now pale in comparison to other dining establishments you’ve experienced, this nonetheless signals ‘special occasion.’ Sure, last time you went was your high school graduation, but you’ve survived another year in the real world, so shouldn’t you treat yourself? If you want to be a hometown hero, take your parents. Show them you’ve really made it in the world.
GET YOUR FIX
Shout-out to the Green Village Deli, an iconic institution in Harding, NJ. If you’re in that state, of course order the Taylor ham, egg and cheese. If you’re not, order whatever it is that you wax on about endlessly to friends when you’re hung over. Now, finally, you can have what you crave.
This is obvious, not least because you have parents who are probably so excited to have you home that they treat you like a visiting dignitary. You also probably (definitely) don’t have the same caliber coffee in your apartment, or the same likelihood of having pancakes and bacon waiting for you at the kitchen table the moment you stumble out of bed.
Your High School
Just kidding, this is creepy, and will maybe give you PTSD. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, head back to the playing fields of your youth. The turf is definitely much nicer now than when you were a student, which of course isn’t fair. Play a game of lacrosse or football with some of your friends… try not to get injured.
This is a time-honored tradition. Put on a full sweat suit and settle in for a few hours/days. Order everything to your parent’s account, watch that show you’ve always wanted to get into, but didn’t want to commit to paying for another streaming service. We’ve already told you the best shows to watch based on travel destinations, so justify this supreme laziness as research for your next trip.
OFF THE GRID
That Side Street Near Your House
Revisit the side street where you would go to make out with your boyfriend or girlfriend in your car when both of you lived with your parents. Try not to get busted by the cops this time for being found in a ‘suspiciously parked vehicle.’
The Water Tower / The Railroad Tracks
After hours spent binge-watching Netflix, if your hometown doesn’t have either of these two mainstays then you may be feeling like you’ve missed out on a key part of high school. Blame the glorification of hanging out beneath a water tower on Friday Night Lights or Dazed and Confused. As for the railroad tracks—who doesn’t want to emulate Steve Harington’s character development in Stranger Things? TBD if his character goes to college, but he’s already saved about ten lives already as a high school senior, and really: what have you done with your degree that tops that heroism?
FILL YOUR BAG
The Liquor Store
Revisit the sketchy liquor store two towns over that never questioned your glaringly fake Vermont driver’s license. Stock up on wine and liquor—it’s way cheaper here than in the city.
Your Sibling’s Clothing
This, of course, is far easier to do if they head back to their real lives hours before you depart so you can peruse their closets without fear if interruption. It’s only fair. It’s their fault for leaving early. It’s also a nice continuation of your childhood relationship—stealing from one another, and then lying about it.