I’ve been here for ten years this April. John and I lived downtown on 2nd Street, next door to Social Graces, a sweet little Victorian tea room run by Alica Rambo (not yet -Wozniak and not yet of Easton Yoga) and her mom, Pat Eibes-Porter. We walked everywhere; John walked to the bus to commute to New York. He came here for college, and had a difficult time escaping the grasp of Easton. It was a place he came to regroup; it was familiar. After graduating from Lafayette, he left for New York. But then he came back. A while later, he left Easton for Philly to start a business, but then returned for a third time.
After being unable to find a home downtown that suited our needs (we wanted a yard and didn’t have the $$ for an ambitious deconversion project), we moved to College Hill in fall 2002, a year after we got married here in Easton, with the ceremony at Colton Chapel at Lafayette and the reception at the Bank Street Annex. Everyone loved our wedding. Our photographer-friend took some black and white shots of us sitting on a bench downtown. When people see the photos, which hang in our hallway, they ask: “Where was that?” We say, “Centre Square.” It looks like middle Europe; the architecture alone is enough for some of us to live here. Certainly, the aesthetics are why droves of artists, furniture makers, animators, writers, photographers, nature lovers, painters–you name it, a whole mess of us earthy creative types–love a place like Easton. It has its problems, it has its cast of characters, it’s not perfect–nothing is.
I live here for reasons practical and intangible. Easton is situated at a right triangle between New York and Philadelphia. But we don’t have the price tag; the economic factor drove me out of New York. We all know about the great restaurants and cultural options. But we are also close to nature–with Jacobsburg a short ride a way and the lovely, rough and rocky trails of the Delaware Water Gap, one of our national parks, just a bit further north. And then we have all those rehabbed rails-to-trails. Compared to where I grew up, minutes from the Pine Barrens in one direction and a Wawa in the other direction, Easton is not the sticks, as some of my friends described it when I first moved here. If your frame of reference is “the city” (as in New York), maybe Easton looks like the sticks. However, we have sidewalks. I can use them to walk to get a cup of coffee, to buy some excellent fresh mozzarella and sausage at Giacomo’s, or to walk downtown. I can walk to work. I can walk my kids to March School once they are of school age. I can stroll them to Nevin Park and in snowstorms, when roads are impassable, we can trudge over to a friend’s house for dinner, impromptu. I can walk to the gym. I can walk anywhere and run into someone I know, and generally be happy about running into that someone I know. We have street parking. And finally, the signifier of urban life: If necessary, I can, within reason and the realms of being green, throw just about anything out on garbage night. In the morning or usually beforehand it will be gone, thanks to rabid trash scavengers (you know who you are) or to the fine collectors themselves who come around. There is no such thing as the once-a-month, suburban “bulk trash” thing here.
The intangible reasons have to do with the way I never tire of running around my neighborhood and looking at the homes; no two are the same. It’s the way the trees frame the street in the fall and spring when they are in full bloom and bend, like arms outstretched, from one side to the other. It’s the way the neighborhoods have their own flavors and characters. It’s the reliable way new businesses and restaurants pop up and the sad inevitability in the way that some fail. It’s the way students and community brush up against each other, the way the city is still very old school (people get up so early in Pennsylvania) yet adaptable to new ideas. People, even old-timers who’ve been here–gasp!–twenty years, have a can-do spirit that feels alien to my Jersey upbringing. I think it’s because many of us, at least in the past ten years if demographic information is to be believed, are from elsewhere. We came here on purpose.
I stay here because I live in an old house we adore, so much so that we will have a party for it when it turns 100 in 2012. I stay here because I have a yard and a garden that keeps me grounded. I meet interesting people, we have wonderful neighbors, good friends, and a sense of community that I don’t see anywhere else, every time I visit friends or family somewhere else. If you know people, you are accountable for something, and they, too, are accountable to you and others as well. I stay here because I’m always learning something by living here. On a culinary press trip with ten food writers and one CIA-trained professional chef, I was the only one who knew what a growler was (thanks, Saturdays at Weyerbacher).
I stay here because there is a commitment to sustainability that will keep it from becoming Jersey West (sorry, Jersey, you know I still love you). I stay here because the history is rich and fascinating, and people want to share it and work with it in a smart way, whether that means the Steel in Bethlehem or the new Silk Mill project on 13th street here in Easton. I stay because as the summer harvest season looms on the horizon, I cannot wait to get my hands dirty, shake the hands that feed me, and pull good things out of the earth. I stay here because I literally have roots. And I trust that those roots, whether they are friends, family, or something like a comforting hybrid of the two, will provide me with the opportunities I need to pay my bills, put food on the table and nourish my body and mind.
Easton isn’t perfect. We need more foot traffic and fewer pawn shops. We need more retail (oh, how I miss Essentially British and Happy Tuesday, for starters). I wish we had a train to New York (it’s coming someday, they insist), and I wish we did not have some of the classic urban problems that we have. But we have people who care, and care they do. I love Easton for what it is, and most importantly, for what it can be. As one of my students might say, “This place is so random.” It is.
Carrie Havranek moved to Easton in April 2000 and lived at 15 N. 2nd Street. She is a freelance writer and editor, and teaches writing part time at Lafayette College. She’s the one chasing twin boys around College Hill. She and Laini met almost ten years ago and worked together at Lehigh Valley Magazine many years ago. She is thrilled to be Online Editor for Little Pocket Guide.