It Happened on Main Street
By Anuraag Girdhar, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 14, 2012
For most of us, Dartmouth’s allure back in application season had very little to do with quaint Hanover. But it’s always been there for us. As young college students, the entire Upper Valley is, in theory, our playground. Organic burritos and low-quality booze are just not meant to be mutually exclusive.
However, the specters of urban life have been encroaching on Hanover from the southeast — even more so than normal this term. These specters come touting a Frappuccino in one hand and a heavy-duty wireless router in the other, sporting a new pair of J. Crew chinos. The owner of the cute little DVD and poster shop greets his customers with a smile of resignation, a shadow of his former joviality, while he moves a 1958 Winter Carnival poster into storage to make room for the new construction next door.
The Dartmouth sophomore is spending big tuition bucks to attend Dartmouth, and his heart lies near his money. Or perhaps closer to his chemistry midterm.
“The phrase, ‘Let’s meet up over coffee,’ might mean being at Starbucks from now on,” Rui Shu ’15 said. But he also said that he has not been affected by the recent changes and stressed that he’s not originally from Hanover — so how much should he care about the recent changes on Main Street?
Perhaps there is some wisdom in this. Why would Shu be an ardent defender of a town that just happens to lie near his college? He has never regarded the steep Hanover property tax with grudging ambivalence — he certainly doesn’t own a house here.
It’s because the College and Hanover are symbiotic. In a way, they’re both kind of fairy-tale lands that exist apart from many students’ conceptions of reality. But they are also very different — Dartmouth grows Hanover, while Hanover keeps Dartmouth steady. They are two faces atop the head of Janus, threatening to tear off, fastened only by the ephemeral present between.
The Dartmouth freshman is still recovering from synchronized song and dance routines like the Salty Dog Rag. Aniksha Balamurugan ’16 suggested that in our isolation lies our solidarity.
“I think there is a slightly emotional aspect to all this,” Balamurugan said. Still, she echoed what appears to be a resounding collective sentiment.
“For the most part, we have all been surrounded by such franchises,” she said.
So it seems as though the increasingly familiar sights in downtown Hanover — in spite of their consumer-oriented nature — justify our emotional loss, even that which accompanies the pre-Homecoming, “I love everything Dartmouth!” spirit. Accessibility, however, is a more pressing consideration for James Brofos ’15, who comes from the even more remote Hopkinton, N.H.
“CVS exists in Hopkinton in the form of a counter along the wall of the local supermarket,” Brofos said. If it were not there, “one would have to travel all the way to the state capital to purchase cold medicine.”
Of course, this is also a reflection of Dartmouth’s short four-year memory. CVS has been around since before the ’13s arrived. Therefore, it seems timeless to all current Dartmouth students, and there is no reason to be hurt over that which simply exists.
Of course, the owner of the specialty boutique on Main Street laments that J. Crew will soon be stealing his clientele, while sophomore girls at Hanover High School now have the means to become cliquier than ever. But none of this is important at Dartmouth, because Dirt Cowboy is still around, and everyone knows that two is better than one. Hopefully it sticks around for the ’16s’ next four years — then it can quietly pass from our world.
From the northwest a zephyr blows and brings rain that pitter-patters along the autumn sidewalk. To stony listeners it whispers, “P’lease don’t forget me.” But the umbrellas unfurl loudly. The grim-faced specters of suburbia wield pong paddles and keg beer.
In a quarter of a century, these listeners will return as perhaps their mothers and fathers did before them. But what is this? There is a Taco Bell where the old gelato shop used to be? And the rain will not fall to wash their nostalgia away.