Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Before Fairhope Was Precious

I've written a lot about my memories of Fairhope, both on this blog and in two books. I lived there as a child and again when I moved back in 1988 until I left for good in December of 2007.

Others are compelled to write about Fairhope too--from Sonny Brewer with his lyrical The Poet of Tolstoy Park to Rick Bragg in the current issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

It is Bragg's latest that inspires this post. He is, like many of us, somewhat conflicted about Fairhope. He writes that he loves the bay, the surrounding geography of what is now Fairhope, but that he finds it "too precious" to be a comfortable place to live. It's a tourist town now, and an extension of Mobile, and his article, which you can read here and post a comment on if you wish, has generated much response across the board. There are those who love Fairhope and think Bragg got it right, others who love Fairhope and think he didn't, and those who just love everything Rick Bragg writes and don't know anything about Fairhope.

If you want to read some about old Fairhope, you can find a post on this blog "In Praise of Old Libraries," or one with a picture of the Christian Church, one of the first structures in town, or one about the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street, which I call "The Center of the Universe."

There was a time when I thought I'd live out my days in Fairhope. But life has its way of changing, and the time came when I didn't want to live there another day.

But I still love to visit, and I still cherish all the memories I have of when it was simpler and less self-conscious, less precious--simply an extraordinary little town peopled with unusual, special, thinking folks. I recommend that Fairhope. You'll find it in the writings of those who knew it long ago, including myself in Meet Me at The Butterfly Tree and The Fair Hope of Heaven. Newcomers and visiting luminaries tend to write about the little city as if it held the answer to all questions, the fount of all wisdom, and as if it is the magical Norman Rockwell town they've always dreamed about. Fairhope has a great many pleasant qualities and a few drawbacks. It is in transition now from a haven for intellectuals to some new incarnation, but it is situated in one of the most beautiful spots you'll find. Just don't expect too much. There is more to Fairhope than meets the eye, but it isn't all pretty.