It’s a simple enough question, and most people have a ready answer. In general, the question could be rephrased “where do you call home?” During my childhood years through college, the answer was Los Alamos, New Mexico. Once I moved out to the west coast, I gradually changed from being from New Mexico to being from California. (This was partly a pragmatic move, as telling people I’m from New Mexico will confuse some folks, and there’s no explaininig it because they don’t even know they’re confused. So, I was from San Diego, unless the person asking also lived there, in which case the question can usually be phrased “where did you live before you moved to California?” In my generation at least, there proportion of native Californians to emmigrants is tiny. Everyone is from somewhere else. The fact I actually was born in California just adds to the ambiguity.
On the homeless tour, as I puttered around the back roads of North America, I usually answered “California” when asked that question, for simplicity’s sake, but as time passed my association of San Diego with home began to fade. Now, I life in Prague, but I am hardly from Prague. Now, when someone asks me where I’m from it can generally be translated to “What part of the US did you come from?” (People can guess my nationality quite easily. Shorts, facial hair, bad at speaking the local tongue: American.) Generally I answer California, because it has a semi-mythic image here, a strange paradise of palm trees, movie stars, beaches, and violent crime. Sometimes I say New Mexico, however, and generally people know where it is, even if they have no image to associate with it. It is a squarish area on the map, and is likely desert because it is next to Arizona, and probably has cowboys because it is next to Texas.
When I got back from Spain I let out a deep sigh and said, “it’s good to be home.” But what did I mean by that?