FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: What Makes Your Hometown Weird?

Hey! Happy Friday Homestyle Hashbrowns! I’m doing a Friday Open Thread for the first time in a long time and I’m excited to talk to all of you! What have you been doing? Tell me everything that’s happened! I’m really glad to see you and as corny as it sounds, I’m proud of y’all for making it through these terrible political, and just, world, times. But look! We’ve got each other and you can see that by looking at all the people talking in this thread!

Do you ever read that website Atlas Obscura? It’s one of my favorites, not only because I love the weird news and history they have there, but also because I love their travel guide. Whenever I’m going to a new city or state I like to check out the website and find out what cool, weird, unique sites they have to see there. I don’t always end up going to the places, but I still love to learn about things that make the world more magical. It makes me feel good that there are real life places tied to urban legends and beautiful pieces of art and architecture and nature for us to keep seeing. There are still beautiful things in the world.

The town I’m from in Idaho has the Don Aslett Museum of Clean, which both Riese and former Autostraddle writer Maddie have been too. It was built by Don Aslett, who owns a cleaning supply empire and it was his passion project and is just about the history of cleaning. It’s weird and wonderful. Fifteen minutes away there’s also the Idaho Potato Museum, a museum all about potatoes that houses things like a life size pin-up of Marilyn Monroe in a dress made from a potato sack and the world’s largest potato crisp. A crisp is made from reconstituted potato flakes, whereas a chip is a slice of potato.

So, today I want to know what special and weird things come from where you live! It doesn’t have to be listed on Atlas Obscura, it just has to be the first place you think of when someone asks, “what’s the weirdest thing about your hometown?”


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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 575 articles for us.

114 Comments

  1. in Leesburg we have this somewhat mentally unstable guy who used to work for the navy (in like an office job?) who rides around on a bicycle covered in tiny American Flags like a porcupine, wearing bright neon bike gear, with an American Flag cape. He commits small acts of vandalism by regularly covering the courthouse lawn with elaborate flag creations.

    He’s known as Flag Guy. He’s been around for years.

    He’s neighbors with my friend, and is apparently an unpleasant person to Actually Know, and I am certain he and I disagree on most politics, but I am fond of his habits nontheless.

  2. My home town is know for the worlds only corn palace.
    The palace itself is just a gym with corn murals on the outside and not all that exciting. But I do enjoy my hometown’s commitment to corn puns. It’s pretty a-maize-ing

    Like, they REALLY commit to the bit. My high school mascot was Cornelius, the cob of corn. Go Kernels!

  3. Sault Ste Marie, ON is home to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. The museum itself is awesome, but I’ve always thought it funny that one of the items on display is ROBERTA BONDAR’S UNDERWEAR that she wore in outer space.

    So, Roberta Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut, and she was born in Sault Ste. Marie. It makes sense that the museum celebrates her accomplishments. I just always thought it was weird to pass my her sports bra and briefs on the way to visit old airplanes.

  4. my hometown is home to the elephant sanctuary! and even 20 yrs later, locals are still salty about the fact that they can’t see or interact with any of the elephants ever. please note that the point of the sanctuary is to give these stressed elephants a quiet safe space to exist without ever having to be on show again, so those locals are also stupid.

  5. My hometown is literally a village of 100 people, surrounded by farmland on which another 100 people (me included) live. So there isn’t that much it’s known for, period.

    That said …

    Our village mascot is a giant monster snake, which the mailman crossed paths with in the interwar years. Everything is now snake themed, from the village newsletter to our annual bicycle race.

    There was a fairly famous (in certain circles) UFO sighting in the 1960s.

    Not technically my village, but the next village over has a chapel that was destroyed by a lightning strike during the saint’s (i.e. the Saint the chapel was dedicated to) feast day celebrations. Such celebrations were famously not very religious, and apparently someone said something very blasphemous right before a single lightning strike killed several people. One of the people who died was from my village. There’s a song and everything.

  6. Houston may be most famous as the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (which is actually not even in Houston, it’s in Clear Lake), BUT it is also home to the National Museum of Funeral History, which boasts the country’s largest collection of “authentic, historical funeral service items.”

    https://nmfh.org

    I have a mug from the gift shop that says, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

    You cannot live in a former swamp turned sprawling, hot, humid metropolis and not have a healthy, humorous relationship with your own mortality. 🙂

    Seriously, though, I love this city! Y’all come visit!

  7. My hometown is also the hometown of singer Jesse McCartney and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. And that’s about it. It’s a small village (it’s too small to be called a town) in Westchester County, which is a suburb about an hour north of New York City. I hate everything about it and never go back. I always think it’s interesting that people love going back to their hometowns, especially when they currently live far from them, because I live an hour from my hometown and go max once a year, which is generally to pick up my sister’s car for a road trip.

  8. Originally I’m from New York City and what’s not weird about that place? It was an…interesting? valuable? horrifying? place to grow up as a kid. Now I live In Albany, NY, New York’s state capital! We’re not a super interesting place, but every winter we do have a Santa speedo run. A bunch of bored dudes put on speedos and santa hats and run through the freezing cold, snowy streets. Not sure why. We also have a tulip fest every spring to honor our Dutch heritage and eat fried dough. They do a whole street sweeping and crown a tulip queen and plant tons of tulips (which two weeks later they let residents dig up at the crack ass of dawn for free). That’s pretty neat.

  9. Hello yes I have an important(ish) announcement to make:

    I got kissed by a girl for the first time since coming out as bi!!! We’ve been flirting for month and then she finally kissed me and it was awesome and I am very excited and just needed to share

    My hometown has the Mustard Museum, which is pretty boring tbh, but one time in high school my friend vandalized it with ketchup. While I don’t endorse vandalism, I love telling that story.

    We have many random houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We have Epic campus, which is basically it’s own municipality, and has themed rooms(the Alice in Wonderland room is particularly creepy), slides to get from one floor to another, a life-sized replica of King’s Cross station, a moat and medieval drawbridge… so much more. It’s insane.

    Oh, and not too far away is House on the Rock, which is literal hell on earth. There is a point where you actually walk through a hallway whose entrance is made to look like an open demon’s mouth.

  10. We have some ruins of an ancient roman villa in a metal shed next to the train station…

    Historically we were famous for our chickens and there remains a pub named after the prestigious breed

    Oh and Charles Darwin lived a 15 min drive away, he has a very nice garden

    a bit weird, a bit cool, not too bad for a sleepy london suburb!

  11. My hometown is a little little village on the east side of the Hudson river just south of Albany NY. My friends house what is a stop over on the Underground Railroad For folks fleeing the south and slavery. There used to be a tunnel that went from the basement out to a place near the edge of the Hudson River. That tunnel was converted to a root cellar in later years and we try to explore it (After being told not too) We find it was collapsed not far in.

    At least my village isn’t famous for a couple of young girls being killed in a cave in. But my ass is still sore from the wuppin and we got.

  12. I was born in Norman, Oklahoma, around the time when the Sam Noble Museum was being built. I can’t remember it-we moved away when I was a toddler-but I’m told that the counstruction site was visible from my bedroom window. I still visit the Sam Noble almost every time I visit my grandparents in Oklahoma City. During one such visit, we also dropped by the Museum of Osteology. https://amp.cracked.com/article_22540_5-real-museums-scarier-than-any-haunted-house.html

  13. My hometown is on the Mississippi river and has very steep hills. In the 1886 this super rich guy lived in a fancy house on top of one of the bluffs, and worked downtown by the river. He got tired of schlepping it up and down the giant hill so he had a street car elevator thing built to carry his lazy ass. Now it’s open to the public and claims to be the steepest incline elevator in the world which it probably isn’t but *shrug*

    It’s also about 40 min from the Field of Dreams which you can visit in the summer and pretend to disappear into the cornfield. There’s always a baseball game going on and you just join in and play until you don’t feel like it anymore and everyone is very nice.

  14. My hometown weirdly has a number of claims to fame… it’s the birthplace of John Wayne, the setting of The Bridges of Madison County, and where what would eventually be the Red Delicious Apple was first cultivated. Also George Washington Carver lived there for a short time.

  15. Please come to Idaho’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival. Where the oysters are anything but…

    Ask yourself, would you want a testicles desirables in your mouth? I’m not a fan myself, but welcome to my great state!

  16. My hometown is Los Angeles(West LA and Beverly Hills to be specific); so, most of the weirdness is the Hollywood scene, the Industry as we call it. A large portion of Beverly Hills is Iranian(mostly Jewish), not white/European like 90210 showed(both old and new). The High School is next to an oil field, that may or may not still be active(white parents called Erin Brokovitch to sue, but not sure what happened). We average at least one police chase a day in LA city and/or county and usually KCal9(CBS affiliate owned) is the station to cover it live. We watch it like it’s a rarity and if we know the area some of us act like we could get away safely. The L.A. coroner’s main office has a souvenir shop where one can buy stuff. I could go on, but I say just google it.

    How is everyone’s week going? It’s back to being Spring here, which is nice. I had a nice time at the Purim part I went to on Saturday night. Then Sunday spent most of my time with two delightful queer Jews at Cuties. I got to(finally) meet Molly Adams of Autostraddle. She is just the coolest! I was suppose to go roller skating again with my friend on Wednesday, but she decided on a whim to go back home to surprise her grandparents, which is really sweet. I may go to flirt night at Cuties tonight or I may go to bar with a friend. Not sure yet.

    To the trans folks out there, how do you deal with dysphoria that is kind of aged based? Like I saw billboard for some fashion ad that triggered my dysphoria hard. In the ad it was a very attractive woman in a sports bra with another attractive woman next to her. They both looked like they are in their early 20s. Really made me wish I was a queer woman-ish person in my late teens, early 20s. Really mad that compulsory heterosexuality and transmisogyny told me I can’t be trans woman(aligned) because I like women. Really had me thinking hard about my HRT options, but then I don’t want to fully transition and there isn’t much options(beside implants) to get breasts and softer skin+hair. I just despise being seen as my assigned gender(doesn’t help I like clothing marketed towards men cause pockets). Why can’t I cocoon into looking more androgynous trans queer? Why isn’t there hormones just for my body without changing my face? Fuck I am sad. 🙁

    This was put up yesterday across the street from my work at the Downtown Women’s Center.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my tread. Have a positive weekend!

    • With all due respect, I think almost everyone would prefer a young body, but I choose to make myself feel good about ageing by checking out and admiring gorgeous older women that help me see how beautiful (and fun, and sexy) it can be to embrace the inevitable. 🙂

      • I’ve done that too, but part of my dysphoria is related to, I wish I had a more trans and queer teens and early 20s. That I was able to explore the scene and myself more, vs pining over straight women, because again of compulsory heterosexuality & general transphobia.

  17. My hometown is a big, queer-friendly Canadian city, and most of the time, I don’t miss it too much. But right now, I do.
    I’m living in a smaller Canadian town, and the museum where I work is about to hold a pride exhibit. Despite multiple requests from museum staff to the curator that we prepare for potential backlash, the curator is essentially insistent that homophobia is dead and we’ll all be fine. I had to pull the “as a queer woman, I am not comfortable with this” card in a staff meeting this week and it’s still not being addressed. Not to mention the very, very serious sensitivity training needed for my fellow front desk staff… I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall.

  18. God, what isn’t weird about Savannah, especially considering we came from NYC. Basically every stereotype about the south is affirmed by Savannah.

    My school, for homecoming week, had a school sanctioned bonfire in the middle of campus. We considered a grocery store trip disappointing if we didn’t run into at least five people we knew. Our neighbor had a family cake recipe he guarded harder than he would’ve if it were gold.

    Our street once assembled an anti-varmint committee, an anti-train committee, and tried to boycott the library.

    Basically, it’s a tiny southern town and I still regard it with a great deal of affection.

    • I assume you’ve already read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!

      As someone with strong connections to Charleston, SC, I very much agree that Savannah is like a microcosm of nearly everything both good and very, very bad at the South. So is Charleston, but Savannah is generally more fun. I think it’s the heat.

  19. I moved around the Midwest a decent amount as a kid and kind of count myself as having two hometowns, one in Iowa and one in Wisconsin.

    – My Iowa hometown, Parkersburg, is notable for producing a string of 4 NFL players in a very short amount of time. The town has all of 1000 people so that’s kind of a high number of guys to have in the NFL. But then the legendary high school football coach got tragically murdered at the school. There was also an F5 tornado in there that decimated the town. It’s been a kind of devastating last few years?

    – My Wisconsin hometown is significantly less interesting, but there’s a rad historical theater that has the last fully functional butterfly curtains that are used in the US theater.

  20. Of the famous residents listed on my home village’s Wiki page, 80% are either footballers (soccer players) or team managers.

    My U.S. hometown of Salem, MA, is actually the town where I was born and never technically lived – but, Mey, as a listener of My Favorite Murder, you know how loose the definition of “hometown” can be. The obvious answer to what makes it weird is all the witchy stuff, but slightly less obvious is the degree to which that’s embraced; for instance, there’s a stylized (read: preeeetty racist) witch logo on the side of the water tower, as well as on the police department’s crest.

  21. An odd thing in my hometown when I was growing up was the UFO Room in a local sandwich shop. It was created by a local man who was just really into UFOs, and his wife’s sandwich shop gave him a place to share. Apparently he donated his collection to a museum in Roswell before he died.

    https://www.lincolntimesnews.com/local-news/zone-life/ufo-expert-says-farewell/article_3832de78-db11-50cd-83c6-1a0b98424720.html

    Also there is the grave of a rumored ex-pirate (Jean Lafitte) at the church where I went to Girl Scouts.

  22. My hometown is Bremerhaven, Germany. Bremerhaven was a big harbour for emigration from Europe to the United states in the 19th and 20th century. In 1985 Friedrich Trump left Germany to board a ship to the United States. He was sixteen and left the country although he was supposed to do service in the military. Because of that it was illegal for him to leave and to enter the US. He did it anyway. Later, he procreated and we know how that ended…

  23. There’s a family run bagel shop that does incredible, old recipe bagels. People still buy bagels from the Dunkin’ Donuts in town.

    This is extremely weird to me.

    As far as how my week has gone:
    – I have affirmed that my job is slowly killing me with stress
    – My boyfriend is lovely
    – Being with a guy and embracing my bisexuality continues to be a trip
    – Stars I love granola and full fat dairy.

  24. Once when I was in middle school, Bob Dole was running for President and he came to my hometown and leaned over an unsecured railing to shake someone’s hand at our fairgrounds and fell off stage onto his head.

    I did a segment on it in my tenure as World News correspondent for my 7th grade news broadcasting class and got political hatemail from an 8th grade Republican!

  25. I grew up in Portland Oregon before it was famously hipster city. I have a lot of fond memories of exploring Portland and surrounding areas, but the first thing I thought of from Mey’s prompt was the weird little Church of Elvis right off of Burnside, by Powell’s City of Books. It was just like, a window installed in the side of a building or something? And colorfully decorated. I vaguely remember that you could put a quarter in a slot and get a little card that certified you were married at the Church of Elvis? My best friend in high school showed me one time; it was a fun day. I haven’t been back to Portland in a long time and kind of prefer this vague recollection of real-life experience to Googling what the Church of Elvis actually was / is.

  26. Biltmore Estate, Grove Park Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway, too many microbreweries, mountains, rivers, downtown, etc, etc…

    Asheville, to me, will always be where I learned to drive, met the first girl I fell in love with, learned how to bake, and learned to appreciate the outdoors. But mostly, fell in love with a girl.

  27. It’s not a place, but a fact – my town’s name is based on a bet. It was originally named Wing’s Falls for Abraham Wing, the founder of the town, but then he lost a bet (I think over cards) to a Mr. Glen, so the town was renamed Glens Falls.

    (All my college friends called it Stars Hollow though.)

  28. Mey, thank you for introducing me to Atlas Obscura! My parents are coming to visit me in a couple of weeks and I have been trying to figure out what we should do when they come and now I have the whole weekend planned out.

  29. “What’s the weirdest thing about your hometown?”

    The fact we didn’t get 100% White Anglo Protestantized after becoming a part of the United States even after about 215 years and managed to turn out the unique “wild child” it is.
    Sure our regional French is pretty much dead in the city but the food, flavours and fun live on. I’d like to thank the Irish immigrants and Sicilian immigrants for this with out ya we might have gotten super Anglo and boring with dry laws or *shudders* Southern Baptist.

    Or what’s super weird in this town Catholic to Catholic Mey is that people look forward to Lent here. We fucking love our seafood and what counts as not meat for the Friday abstainment from meat? That’s right seafood.
    Restaurants have Lenten specials, schools, churches and charities do fish frys and well grocery stores nearly always have fried catfish on the hot food bar but Lent gives people an excuse to eat it.
    Also non-catholics and non-christians look forward to Lent because of all the tasty tasty fish. Picture a rabbi at a charity fish fry getting waved at by members of their congregation while waiting in line or at the dessert auction.

  30. Sudbury, Massachusetts:

    1. The town is really, really old. Like 1770s old. A bunch of my friends grew up in 300-year-old houses. They are beautiful homes with super old exposed beams and uneven floors.

    2. My town sent more Minutemen to the battle of Lexington and Concord than any other town in Massachusetts! Booya.

    3. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was a true story and took place in a tiny one-room school house that sits in my town.

    4. “Over the River and Through the Woods” is about the Sudbury River.

  31. HELLO BEAUTIFULS IT IS MY BIRTHDAY TODAY!! And there’s no one I’d rather share a birthday with more than autostraddle so HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL OF US.

    Also my hometown was originally going to be used for the city Breaking Bad takes place in because we were as far (as I know) the meth capital of the US, but Albuquerque was prettier and offered tax breaks for filming or something. Fun facts!

  32. I’m a military brat, so I don’t really have a “hometown”. But the town I was born in was in a country that doesn’t exist anymore. I was born in West Germany, and now I wonder how many people even REALLY know that there were two Germanys.

  33. My current town is Portland, OR, which is more or less officially America’s Weirdest City (come at me, Austin) but the weirdest thing about it to me isn’t the Darth-Vader-masked, kilt-wearing, flaming-bagpipe-playing guy who rides around on a unicycle, or that we have the country’s smallest park, which is a few square feet on a street island, but that MOST RESTAURANTS CLOSE BY 8, 9, OR, 10 PM, EVEN ON WEEKENDS.

    This makes NO sense to me on a business-profit level or a large-city-culture level, and I will never stop griping about this.

    My actual hometown, in NY, is the real-life version of the town the Great Gatsby took place in, and the home of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

  34. I’m from a mid-sized liberal college town in the middle of Missouri. My county is literally one of three blue dots in a sea of red.
    The only really “weird” thing I got is that my high school mascot is the Kewpie. We’re the only one. Because later people figured out a naked baby was not a very intimidating sportsball mascot…..

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