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Made in Oregon

Welcome to Fabulous O'Hara, Oregon

Posted on 2013.05.27 at 16:39
Feelin': thoughtfulthoughtful
Hearin': Coffee shop chatter
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O'Hara, Oregon does not exist in any capacity. Period. I came up with the name to the fictional hometown of Sam and Meg back when I was 13 or 14 and writing a story that involved a magical pen. (I had no idea such a device had been done and done and done before, incidentally.) I liked the alliteration of the name so I shamelessly stole it from myself when I started writing the first PIT a few years later. I saw it as a small town in Oregon and, years later, settled on a precise geographical location for it. (It's situated near Sublimity, Ore, which is nearish Salem.) Most of the geographical stuff was dictated due to the fact that I needed to reference locations and distances to other towns, like Portland.

I did not grow up in a small town. I grew up on the fringes of Beaverton, Oregon, which packs a population of around 90,000 people now I believe. To get super technical, I was actually growing up in Aloha, OR -- but no one knows where that is, and it was more or less unincorporated Beaverton for a number of years.

At the age of 33 --last year -- I found myself transplanted into a town that is so very O'Hara in nature, I feel like this is an ongoing research project. The town in question is not in Oregon, but the size of it is so delightfully O'Hara-ian. One school district encompasses the town. (My employer!) There are 6 elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools that are, technically, on the opposite sides of town. When you leave your house and hang around in the town, you will and do run into the same people. (Oh, to go to the grocery store without running into any of my students….!) The town where I live -- just a stone's throw from Colorado Springs -- has a downtown district of a couple blocks (literally) and was established back in the 1800s thanks to the railroad. (Trains -- huge long trains -- still run routinely through.) Unlike O'Hara, it doesn't rain a ton -- snow is more prevelent in the winter months, and feet of it! -- and the elevation is quite high.

Small towns, I have also discovered, have some interesting things happening that you don't see so much in large suburbs. For example, the teenage population is incredibly restless and keen to get out of the town as much as possible. Cars are critical for the sanity. The area actually does have a fairly serious drug problem -- aflluent homes + bored teens = a lot of "better living through chemestry." Crime does happen, but not often the serious kind. (There was a murder several months ago of a very prominent local official, and the thing made national news. That was sort of bizarre, seeing the town where I live with that kind of press.) I haven't met a TON of people who have lived here for generations -- my town is mostly experiencing surges of growth now as a bedroom community for people in Colorado Springs and even Denver -- but there are definitely those who have lived here for a decade or two that remember dramas that went on over the years. (The building of the Wal Mart; the controversy when the school district built a second high school.)

I'm curious how much living here will affect my portrayals of O'Hara, since I now am up close and personal with small town-itis. I suppose we'll see.

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