As I am weary of turning on the television and being frightened out of my wits by one news alert after another, I have decided to focus on getting healthy – both mentally and physically. The mental part is a challenge when you sit at a desk all day basically talking to yourself. But I am finding time to step away and enjoy the quaint little town I call home.
Fairhope is…well…imagine if San Francisco and Mayberry had a love child. Nestled along the banks of Mobile Bay, it’s one of those places that you see in postcards, but know that it couldn’t possibly exist in real life. The people are friendly, the streets and buildings immaculate, and being in the Deep South, the weather allows you to enjoy the amenities almost year-round. The downtown boasts dozens of boutiques, eateries, a mom and pop book store, and even a small museum where you can learn the local history.
Down by the bay is a pier where one can fish, go out to dinner, or just take a stroll. When I was a kid, we would walk to the end and watch the heat lightning illuminate the thunderheads far off in the Gulf of Mexico. It was our own personal fireworks display. And it seemed to always be there to show off for us when we came. I remember once, when I was about nine, my uncle took me there fishing. No sooner had we baited our hooks when he dropped an extremely nice pocket knife which he had just bought that very day into the water. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he stared down for more than a minute. Bob has a calm manor about him. But I think he wanted to scream bloody murder at that moment. Occasionally, I’ll walk to the spot where he dropped it, wondering if it’s still there. But the water is too deep and the bottom too soft for me to ever try solving that particular mystery. From downtown to the bay, Fairhope is a town stuck in time. Some of the buildings are different and there are some new shops. But it’s more or less as it was when I was a child. And yet there are changes which I find unsettling.
Where once Fairhope was a well-kept secret populated by a small number of long-time residents, who although a bit set in their ways, maintained the town’s charm and beauty, it is now bursting at the seams with newcomers. Just finding parking can remind me of the years I spent living in New York. In the outlying areas, new subdivisions have sprung up to accommodate this influx of people. New schools have been built (my old high school is now the elementary school). And the small festivals have turned into major public events. Still, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can stroll down main street and window shop until your heart is content. And if the heat is too much, sooner or later a cool breeze from the bay bearing just a hint of salt and honeysuckle will be along to make it all better.
As for the physical…not nearly as quaint. I’ve been going to the gym and “sweating to the oldies”. Once upon a time, I was in very good condition. No more. I’ve become a doughy, middle-aged man who looks at a flight of stairs with dread. I have a long road ahead of me. But I didn’t get this way overnight. So, it will take time. What I am looking forward to, is when you start actually feeling good after a workout. Not feeling as if I just finished working at a Roman quarry under the relentless crack of a whip; every muscle aching and head throbbing to the beat of my heart. Two months, I’m told. I can hold out that long….I think.
In any event, it’s better than watching the news.