New Hope is a small artsy town along the Delaware, where Pennsylvanians go to pretend that we are quaint New Englanders. It is far enough north of Philly for it to remain small, but close enough for it to be a tourist trap around holidays. Its great-it has little nooks and alleys where bohemian types grow tiny gardens and maintain art studios. People sit outside stores making jewelry and painting things. They have vintage clothing stores and Grateful Dead galleries and a barn theatre and Thai food (Wildflowers Café, I heart you).
The neighborhood association leaves snippy notes on the residents’ doors:
Dear Artistic Friend,
As you know, Halloween season is upon us, and it is crucial that our community maintains a high-quality picturesque atmosphere for our visiting brothers and sisters with the wallets.
We have noticed that the ivy growing on your stone wall/lattice/picket fence has dropped below the requisite 75% coverage. Please rectify the situation promptly, or you will and face a fine and also be barred from future community drum circles until such a time as the ivy has been restored.
Please know that we are only here to promote the welfare of our enclave for the betterment of all individuals, including yourself. Let us know if you need help cultivating your ivy; we have some sweet organic compost that would perk that shit right up.
I have been here many times. Every time I go, I am simultaneously enchanted and rendered bitter with jealousy. Yesterday, I'm pretty sure the bitter won out. As I enjoyed showing Wendy the ducks and the water and the cat named Morgana that roams around the witch shop, I was meandering around in a haze of displaced confusion. Something about the constant press of economic desperation at our backs makes it kind of difficult to pay $15 for parking and then have a good time window shopping for things you wish you could afford.
It's not all happy in funky town, either. You can tell that the economy has hit these people hard, too. A lot of shops empty, a lot of houses for sale.
I do know that real estate is outrageously priced, or we would ditch the land of “Answering Darwin.com” lawn signs and move there in a heartbeat. Leave behind this world of community Apple Butter Frolics that are actually meant only for specific church members and not really for the community…trade in the entrenched German farmers and Oyster Picnic set for homemade incense and Sweeney Todd at the Playhouse types...
Or not. I can be a sweater-dress wearing eccentric making my art-or my crafts, as Steph recently defined for me-from anywhere. It doesn’t have to be picturesque and covered in ivy. But it would be nice.
Wendy really did dig the witch shop. She pawed through the astrological rocks and poked at the chakkra wind chimes and identified the perfect wizard wand for her. She's cool like that.