Thursday, August 24, 2006

Imagine Fairhope

August 24

I received a confusing email recently from one of my regular correspondents about the “illusion” that is Fairhope. He seemed to be commenting on one of my blog posts, but I didn’t recall having said anything of the kind, and I’ve combed the my blog posts and see no reference to Fairhope as being or having been an illusion.

Let me think about it, though. I myself have wondered why I spend so much time dwelling in my memories of what Fairhope was. Setting aside the fact that I’m old enough to receive (and am receiving) Social Security payments, and may be out of touch with the present and more comfortable in distorting the past to my liking. That can’t be it, no. I absolutely love my life now and have a lot to look forward to. I am rife with visions for the future, near-term and at least sorta distant.

There used to be an organization, and for all I know still is, called Envision Mobile. There was another that was charged to Imagine Fairhope. I think I'll start one called Remember Fairhope? with a question mark, because with all this envisioning and imagining, nobody seems to be remembering a damn thing. Many, of course, are too new here to remember, and I've dealt with them in these posts before (and will again, make no mistake about it.) But do they remember anything?

I don't think of myself as a nostalgist, if there is such a thing, but clearly in the book Bob Bell and I wrote, Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, there was a great deal of sentiment floating around in the whimsy -- and nostalgia was there too. I did my best not to be mauldlin, but Bob openly admitted to his feeling that the old Fairhope had been a magical place, and the book probably crosses that line at times. The picture may be just a tad too pretty.

But I remember Fairhope as being gutsy, argumentative, a haven for idealists with ideas. They were not sweetie-pies, these people, even when they got old (which was when I knew most of them). Irene Bell, longtime teacher of pottery at the Organic School, said she was too old and crotchety to be around children. But she responded and came back to the school when they asked her, and worked there until she died. And no one remembers how crotchety she used to get. Because it wasn't that bad. Craig Sheldon was witty and acerbic, but no one ever would have said he was not a difficult man.

What I'd like Fairhope to remember is that it is more than a classy enclave of rich people. How to interest them in what it really is is a challenge. I do not deny that Fairhope retains a whiff of the character that once was its reason for being. If it didn't I would find somewhere else to live. But while I'm here, I'm gonna nudge people, with the eternal, "Remember when Fairhope was Fairhope? -- oh, you weren't here then? Well let me tell you about it!"

This harping on an unknown and unsought past is part of a well-earned skill of mine. I do it so well I ought to teach a class in it. It's called "How to Empty a Room."

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