I have been a Stephen King fan since I was 9 years old and read IT for the first time. I’ve read nearly all of his books, seen most of the movies, watched most of the TV shows. I follow a bunch of King-related accounts on Instagram, and am a part of 2 different Stephen King Facebook Groups. Let’s just say I know a lot about the guy, yet after all this time, I’d never actually set foot in his home state of Maine.
That all changed a few weeks ago, when I went on a family vacation to the state of Maine, visiting Bar Harbor and Portland, with a brief stopover in Bangor. We didn’t have enough time to do a proper guided tour, so I did a hasty self-guided tour, seeing the places most interesting to me. I saw the standpipe and the bird bath in the park, the bizarre Paul Bunyan statue, downtown Bangor, and Mr. King’s house.
It’s hard to explain fully the feeling of déjà vu I experienced as I saw these places I’d traversed so often in my mind brought to real-life brick and mortar. The most potent point for me was sitting on a bench a few feet away from the bird bath in the Standpipe park, the Standpipe looming nearby. I could practically watch the entire scene with Stan and the dead kids unfold before me. I could feel how terrifying that moment could be for child, alone, threatened by something from beyond comprehension. More importantly, I could see how this place could inspire an author so keenly.
Driving through downtown Bangor, it was clear for the first time how much of Bangor there is in Derry. From the hilltop Victorians of the richer folks to the downtown that borders a wild canal, the Barrens, the Bottoms. It’s all there, or at least a bizarro-world version of it. It was a pleasure to be there. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to actually be in Derry.
I was raised in a small town not too dissimilar from Derry or Castle Rock or Chamberlain, or any of the other places King writes about in his books. His stories may have taken place in fictional towns far away, but to me I could look around my little ex-fishing village and imagine I was there too, in those stories, fighting monsters, achieving great things. I was inspired to be writer, to dedicate my life to telling stories.
Our little tour ended fittingly at King’s house, a strangely normal place for the birthplace of so many nightmares. As I stood outside of his house, looking at the place from which all those daydreams of mine had originated, I could feel my life folding in on itself. Here I was, 37 years old, the same as the Losers in It, 27 years removed from the first time I read that book, coming home to my birthplace, or at least the birthplace of my burgeoning adulthood. I could have been Ben or Bill or Richie, wandering through those places that held so many ghosts, yet for me they were pleasant ghosts, reminders of when I was young and the world was still fresh and alive and teeming with unknown things.
I got back in the car and waited while my wife took a picture of my oldest son in front of the gargoyled gates. He’s 9 years old this year, and he’s started reading The Gunslinger. I guess the Master is right. Time is a wheel, and in the end it always comes back to the place where it started.