Constance Alexander: A Tale of Two Cities - feeling at home in native New Jersey and adopted Kentucky - NKyTribune (2024)

Finally owning up to it: I am bi-coastal. My being is bifurcated between my old hometown in New Jersey and my hometown of 35 years in Kentucky. Metuchen is on the east coast, with the Atlantic pounding on the shore, while a portion of Murray’s Calloway County is on the shore of Kentucky Lake.

The two communities have more in common than proximity to water and beginning with the same letter. Both have populations under 20,000. Murray is the 23rd largest city in Kentucky and the 2086th largest city in the United States. Metuchen ranks 67th in the state and 2378th in the country. The area of Metuchen is a mere 2.84 miles, dwarfed by Murray, 11.68 miles.

Size is not the only thing that matters. Having just returned from a week in the town of my toddler-to- teenage years, I can say without reservation I am a lucky person to be able to claim two outstanding communities as mine.

They share essential traits. Saturday mornings in the summer, weather provided, the Farmers Market blossoms in both downtowns. Strangers meet and neighbors mingle. Babies in strollers, kids on bikes, parents and grandparents mix and chat. Parking is tough on both Main Streets and traffic at major intersections can be hectic, particularly at rush hour.

Metuchen is the hole in the doughnut of Edison Township. With convenient access to Route 27, Route 1, and Route 287, drivers pass through the arbored streets and wait impatiently for the traffic lights to change. They struggle to make sure they are in the proper lane to turn or move forward. When a driver hesitates, horns blare immediately, perhaps accompanied by a hand gesture or two. Such gritty impatience seldom exhibits itself that way in Murray.

There are holiday parades and 4th of July celebrations in both places. Veterans are honored for their service on the Calloway County Courthouse square. In Metuchen, Memorial Park pays tribute to those who lost their lives in our country’s wars. There are historic cemeteries in both places. Metuchen’s oldest goes back to the Revolutionary War era and some of Murray’s church cemeteries have graves from the same era.

While Murray has a splendid Arboretum, thanks to Murray State University. Metuchen has a 3.5 mile Greenway, part of a 42-acre corridor that is part of the Middlesex County Park System. No matter what town I am in – first home or current – green space is a joy and an asset.

In the two communities, the library is a meeting place and a center of literacy and learning. There are summer reading programs and a roster of activities that appeal to all age groups, all year round.

In either Murray or Metuchen, getting citizens to serve on the zoning board is a challenge because the mere mention of zoning regulations raises praise or ire, depending on who is forced to comply with proposed changes.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

My old hometown is so diverse, a rainbow of skin colors and variety of accents and languages abound. A town that once was pretty much “lily white” is in full bloom. On Saturday, there was the annual Pride event, filled with lots of activities for all to enjoy. In Murray, no formal, town-wide gatherings are scheduled, as far as I can tell, but Metuchen has some non-Kumbaya moments too.

Recently, Metuchen, Then & Now received a post from a new resident who displayed a Pride flag at her home, only to find it destroyed overnight by anonymous vandals.

In Murray, a monument of Robert E. Lee stands on the courthouse lawn. Its presence makes some citizens proud and others sad and resentful as Murray claims its designation as Friendliest Small Town in America by Rand McNally and USA Today.

As long as I have been writing a column, the title “Main Street” gave me direction. When I was growing up, Main Street was the heart of the community. Today in Murray, there are empty storefronts and buildings for sale but efforts are underway to make improvements. Several murals brighten the landscape and speak of enthusiasm and energy for change.

Main Street in Metuchen is thriving, and it recently was awarded the Great American Main Street Award. With access to NJ Transit in the center of town, commuters flock there every day to catch the train to New York going north, or Philadelphia to the south. Restaurants and shops take up much of the downtown real estate, and luxury apartments have lured young professionals from the city to the suburbs. A colorful downtown mural speaks of diversity and energy.

At home in both places, I am honored to claim Metuchen and Murray as great places to live with lots of good people.


Constance Alexander: A Tale of Two Cities - feeling at home in native New Jersey and adopted Kentucky - NKyTribune (2024)
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