Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Lambertville-New Hope, Local-Sustainable Living | Comments Off on TAKE A HUFF, AND SEE WHO YOU REALLY ARE!



George Washington at the Battle of Princeton by Charles Willson Peale

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton by Charles Willson Peale


Out Magazine just did a story about our, as yet, unwritten New Hope legacies.  It was inspired by the site we created with New Hope Celebrates, Retro-Scope, to preserve New Hope’s LGBT history.  What astounded me was, on this national magazine, the comments about Mother Cavellucci: beloved New Hope drag queen.

I mean ALL the comments.

Every one was about Mother.  Not about the Playhouse or even Pride Week which was also mentioned.  They each lovingly remembered Mother.

I recently read that the more you use a memory, the more you lose it, I mean, it changes.  I cannot recall where I read that.

Every great country, famous person, every “significant event” stays with us only through repeatedly used memories: certain stories made up of many.  In the “greatest” stories, you know the ones, like the Pilgrims meeting the Indians, or anything about George Washington (river crossings included), the ones you learned about every year in school from grade 1-5, the memory-made-facts are so locked down, ironically all real memory is lost.

You saw Bob Gerenser cross the river as the General.  You drive by the cannon on Main Street in New Hope.  Got feelings?

Fact is, no matter how many times you’ve traced your hand on construction paper and pasted feathers on the fingers, or learned the word “maize”, you never really got a sense of what it was like back “then”.  You might not have even cared.

Pittore Justice Center Recently Lambertville, NJ renamed the Justice Center at 25 South Union Street, the Phillip L. Pittore Justice Center, after an ex-Mayor/shoe shop owner who took Lambertville outa the 1960-70’s dumps into its regentrified 1980’s.  Renaming this place lauds Pittore’s work, and with any luck, will keep him in the “story.”  But can it keep him in our collective memory, to connect him with the delight we find in our pretty town?  After all, most people when they want to get to this place call it the ACME, anyway, recalling the beloved supermarket it once was.

Memory is feeling.  Feeling is not fact.

Strong feeling is the genesis story of every memory, good or bad.  It determines the things we hold onto, and revisit.

Feelings are renewed each time we take a huff off a memory’s vial.  

And, they obscure a complete picture.

Who hasn’t found lost-love sweeter upon looking back?  Indeed, as a nation, patriotic events always obscure the pain of war.  Fourth of July fireworks celebrate victory, though their bright lights are a dazzling mimicry of killing-bombs.

And the ACME Supermarket?  Really cramped and lots of out-dated produce.  But people only lovingly remember walking there, meeting friends, and how kitchy it was, like a 1950’s time capsule.

Complete or not, memory-made-stories are a reflection of what we value, who we are at our core.  How we name our buildings, erect monuments or museums to memories are its physical reflection.  But how to keep the real memory alive, a complete connection to that monument, is difficult to pin down.

Joe "Mother" Cavellucci, 1990's

Joe “Mother” Cavellucci, 1990’s


When I heard about the renaming of the “ACME” as the Pittore Justice Center, it was right around the time I was producing the 2013 Pride Week Retro-Scope exhibit, with a feature on Mother Cavellucci, and it got me thinking.

What about the unofficial community leaders we love, characters who turned around our town, from quaint to colorful, like Mother Cavellucci?  They don’t get buildings named after them, or statues.  Yet in New Hope, it was these community “leaders,” who made New Hope a destination.

Evidenced by the Out Magazine article comments, its hard to find a person who doesn’t have a memory-vial for Mother.  They take a huff and instantly smile.  “Oh, I remember Mother!”  and then the stories start.  But Mother doesn’t have a building named after her, just a permanent place in the hearts of those who knew her.  But what about those who never will?  Will her memory fade?

Would you name a building after Mother?  How about a statue of Mother in the center of town, sitting atop the Main Street cannon like Lorelie on the rocks or the Litte Mermaid?  Would that do her justice, in all her witty glamor?

The Artist In His Museum by Charles Willson Peale

The Artist In His Museum by Charles Willson Peale

Charles Willson Peale’s American Museum was founded in the early 1800’s,  just as this country was figuring out what it was, after winning independence from England.  It was one of the first, and showcased a collection of “American” artifacts, like Mastadon bones and plant specimens found on United States soil.  Despite the fact that the Mastadon most likely did not consider itself “American” its skeleton was to Peale, and contemporaries like Thomas Jefferson, the great stuff of “our” nation.

Peale also painted the esteemed portraits of the very Patriots we consider our “founding Fathers.”  Portraits with shiny buttons and coiffed wigs (see above), and without any trace of the trenches these men were fighting in at the time, mid 1770’s.  This is the stuff of memory building, inspiring feeling and value on each view, craftily knowing what to leave out.  The result: identity.

How do we create such an esteemed portrait of Mother and her contemporaries to reinforce the legacy and identity of the diverse “New Hope nation”?

My take: like the construction paper turkeys these sorts of tributes would convey the facts but leave out the feeling.

The legacy of Mother and her contemporaries needs much more room, a place to plunge into her world of dazzling gowns, and fabulous parties, and even her tiny apartment.  That such a larger-than-life person could retire to such a small space, with a limited income, but each day rise to give more than she got, is remarkable.  That’s moving.  That’s the stuff of memory building.

Hankering to take a huff on New Hope’s colorful legacy?  Start your indulgence here, at the Out Magazine slideshow of photos from the Retro-Scope archive.  Its amazing!