Monday, May 26, 2008

Fair Hope for Hoboken

May 26, 2008

My last post inspired a friend to write comparing Hoboken and its preoccupation with Sinatra to Fairhope, my last domain, and its preoccupation with the school that was at the center of the town’s attraction in generations past.

Probably the only similarity is me. I spent a lot of energy in Fairhope working to preserve its heritage – both at the Organic School and in the history of the little utopian colony itself. Now that I’m in strange surroundings I’m most comfortable around the town’s historical neighborhoods and learning of its favorite sons and its old institutions, some removed and some restored.

This correspondent sees it as basking in the glory of others, even though the others are long gone. Maybe so. I suspect it’s just a different type of brain at work -- mine, somewhat like Jill Price of whom I wrote in a post a week ago -- being surrounded with memories and sometimes all but drowning in them. My home town, Fairhope, is facing its future by destroying its past and building new monuments. Hoboken, on the other hand, has retained much of its past while being open to the new where there is a buck to be made. There’s a difference, and to me the difference is in Hoboken’s favor.

We all have to live in the present and work toward the future. I’m told there is a lot of turnover in the population of Hoboken, and there is rampant political controversy in its conversion from an immigrant community to a bedroom for Manhattan. I could get involved in some of that after having visited the Open House at the Neumann Leathers Warehouse, now a rabbit warren of artists’ studios down by the river. Neumann Leathers is slated to be taken over for development, and there are many, including me, who hope that won’t happen to this unique haven for real artists. A fair hope for Hoboken, but probably there is no stopping the project.

However, Hoboken is no more obsessed with Frank Sinatra than Fairhope is with the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education. On the other hand, these are both pet projects of mine, and I enjoy sharing their good points with the world. Glorying in the past? I don’t see it that way. Certainly both locations are moving forward at a dizzying clip. It’s me who’s determined to keep the past alive.

“Maybe it's time for each of these locations to make their own glory; after all, ghosts don't last forever,” writes my friend. I counter with this – they are making their own glory on their own, and I am making mine in my own modest way. It just happens that one of my pleasures in life is poring over old pictures, talking to people about the way things were, and reflecting on what is good about the past and the present. The future will take care of itself.

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