The Internet Told Me, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The Wall Street Journal Winked, “You Can.”

  (New York City) I recently discovered that my childhood home in Ohio is on the market, so I took a tour of the house via the internet.

Over the course of more than 50 photos and a video, I approached the front porch of the house my parents closed on more than a half-century ago (it seems the 89 year old wooden storm door is still there). I viewed the living room (the mirror above the fireplace is gone), the dining room (mostly the same), and the kitchen (the breakfast nook has been taken over by a large refrigerator and cabinets). Upstairs, bricks in one chimney had been exposed, while bricks that had been exposed in other rooms were now covered over. And, in acts of disruptive fenestration, some windows had been closed off while new windows were opened.

But, for all the familiarity (I was probably struck most by an old radiant heater that had been formerly housed in one bedroom fireplace, and now sits in another), it seemed distant, as it probably should nearly a quarter-century after we left the house. In that respect, the “visit,” no matter how vivid through hi-def photos and video, was more a clinical interaction than anything else. It was almost as if I visited a facsimile of the old house.

And then, just like Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) premiered a weekend regional cuisine section with an article about Johnny Marzetti, the school cafeteria staple of central Ohio. Of course, everyone has recipe for it, but for years I have been trying to nail what I remember from my school trips (see supplemental note, below). And, being the WSJ, the paper provided a “modification” of a recipe obtained from the Ohio Historical Society (who thought that noodles, tomato sauce and ground chuck would make it into the museum). But it was consoling, nonetheless, and proved that paper still has value (even over hi-def images).

More important than the prospect of digging into some authentic Johnny Marzetti, however, the contrast these two “visits,” no matter how virtual, demonstrated “the value of place.”

That “value of place” includes more than the physical structures. It represents the values and collective personality, and will, and drive, of residents. This topic being examined here at the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Sumitt in New York City. Sessions covering both rural and urban markets are focused on changing technology and demographics in both spaces. Seven communities from around the globe are being profiled to publicize their efforts to integrate technology into local markets and governments. And while each is incorporating broadband at increasing rates and adoption, the applications that each city introduces reflects its place, its people, and its principles.

More from ICF to follow . . . 

Sidebar: To offer some brief context of my Johnny Marzetti obsession, I need to share that the last time I was “home,” I asked the lady at the deli whether she had the former owner’s recipe for Johnny Marzetti, a concoction of pasta and meat sauce that I could probably approximate but never truly replicate (probably because I was making it in my house in Maryland rather than a campground lodge kitchen on a school trip). I was told (in an account that is probably not unfamiliar in small communities) that the former owner gave his recipes to “Frankie” (not her real name) when he retired and that when Frankie left town, she took the recipe book with her and was never heard from again. So, like me, it seemed  that for at least several years, no one in our small circle had inhaled the authentic Johnny Marzetti we remembered from our youth.

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