searching for fialta


“Spring in Fialta is cloudy and dull. Everything is damp: the piebald trunks of the plane trees, the juniper shrubs, the railings, the gravel. Far away, in a watery vista between the jagged edges of pale bluish houses, which have tottered up from their knees to climb the slope (a cypress indicating the way), the blurred Mount St. George is more than ever remote from its likeness on the picture postcards which have since 1910, say (those straw hats, those youthful cabmen), been courting the tourist from the sorry-go-round of their prop, among amethyst-toothed lumps of rock and the mantelpiece dreams of seashells.”

I wish I owned this copy.

In Spring in Fialta, which is perhaps my most favorite twenty-some pages of writing, Nabokov vividly fictionalizes a Mediterranean town on the Riviera.

For the story I am writing now (yes, the one that has been keeping me to blogging only once a week!), I’m trying to do something similar by turning my hometown into a fictionalized version of itself, a made-up town that exists outside of time and space. It’s been quite fun gathering the places and images that make my town home to me. Some scribblings from my notebook:

“An old bank now full of antiques, jewelry displayed in the old safe deposit boxes; another old bank building where rugs were once sold that has now become a literal “seed bank”; the longest row of iron-front buildings in the world, having survived the 1906 earthquake; a shoe store that hosts punk shows after-hours; a downtown plaza with a bust of the old lady for whom it is named, with eyes that follow you wherever you walk; a storied concert venue, supposedly haunted from its previous incarnations as an opera house and movie theater; an Italian restaurant owned by an elderly couple who sing and play accordion that was once a speakeasy and is said to have a tunnel running underground across the street; an old mill that local kids climb up to sunbathe; dark country roads that have for years harbored parked cars of lovers and trouble-makers; a statue commemorating the town’s famed wrist-wrestling championship; a bright pink house belonging to the town’s beloved newspaper columnist; an old train depot with a junkyard backyard full of beautiful found art; docks along a dusty river that holds no life except for the occasional seal or whale that – as lore has it – loses its way from the Bay and ends up there; a wetlands bird sanctuary perfect for a light stroll, right off the highway; a grand parade in honor of butter and eggs and kids dressed as baby chicks that brings the whole town out; a roadhouse with a dollar-bill-collaged ceiling and a mean corned-beef-and-cabbage lunch on Paddy’s Day; a downtown stuck in the 1950s and often used as such in movies set in that period; a hidden-away coffee shop that packs up on Sunday mornings for live blues sets and family board games; a seedy dive bar where locals still smoke inside with makeshift tinfoil ashtrays, quickly crumpled up when anyone unexpected pokes his head in; countless neighborhood parks that are host to farmers markets and first kisses; a once-archaic Moose Club that now has the quickest-expanding membership in the country due to the local 40- and 50-something singles taking over; an antiques store with a big banner for a “going-out-of-business liquidation sale” that has been “going out of business” for twenty years  (until, with the recession, it finally did this year); an eccentric old hardware store that was known for its stuffed polar bear in the display window, until said stuffed polar bear caught fire and burned the place down; a now –shuttered costume store whose owner kept a monkey as an in-store pet; the 100-year-old farmhouse across from a feed store that I grew up in; and pastures so green they are almost neon.”

Photo by Scott Hess

So many points to anyone who knows this town from the description (without knowing where I’m from). Here’s a big hint:

[Okay, I know, I gave it away. I couldn’t help it. It’s such a sweet song!]

If anyone has favorite eccentricities of their hometown, please, please share. There is really nothing I love more than discovering the particular personalities of cities and towns, different I’m sure to each person who passes through.


2 Responses to “searching for fialta”

  1. 1 Kathleen

    You said you wouldn’t take sunbathing on the mill!

  2. I didn’t take it! It’s one thing to list it as something I factually know that other people do, and another to use it in a story as if it is my own invention, right? I’ll take it down if you want though… this gives you no claim re: crickets and stars twinkling! 🙂

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