Last Friday night we held our biggest annual event, our readers’ choice awards, the Nappies, at the Saenger Theatre. While I am always happy to see them come around, I must admit I am always equally happy to see them go for another year.
It is a major undertaking and a lot of hard work for our entire staff. But I always find it worth it the moment the doors open at 6 p.m. and such an interesting cross-section of Mobilians flood into the Saenger lobby. Mechanics and meteorologists, mayors and margarita makers, doctors, lawyers, police and Indian chiefs (seriously), queens of drag along with the publishers of the best glossy mag, it’s really a perfect slice of Mobile pie. And each year, I’m always impressed to find out the many talents of all the “ingredients” who make up our very special “home slice.”
Even around the time we started this paper 13 years ago, the number-one compliment you could receive from someone who thought you were doing something great while also doing it in a ZIP code beginning with 366 was “Oh my gosh, I couldn’t even believe I was in Mobile” or “It looked like something you never would have seen in Mobile” or “You can guarantee (he/she) who is doing (insert this innovative thing) won’t be here for long.”
But you know, I don’t really hear that much anymore.
And that’s because there are really a lot of good people doing great things in this city these days — in a variety of areas, from charity ventures to artistic and culinary pursuits to bringing innovative businesses to town or new generations re-energizing decades- or centuries-old ones.
And whether they are native sons and daughters who have decided to stay, or transplants who have adopted this as their new hometown, they’re doing it by choice and with pride. When I first moved here almost 20 years ago, there seemed to be an attitude that if you were a young professional here, you were either waiting to get out or you had failed your way back in — an attitude that is largely gone.
Talented folks are choosing to stay or make this their home now because, well, it’s a pretty freaking great place to live, work and raise a family. And because we are still such a relatively small burg, I increasingly see all of these talents melded together in so many different creative ways.
Cool is the new norm in this city, and there is no need for those backhanded “I can’t believe this is Mobile” compliments anymore. In fact, I hope visitors are going back to their hometowns saying, “Wow, you wouldn’t believe what I saw in Mobile” or “You wouldn’t believe what a cool and happening little town Mobile is.”
Sure, we still have much to accomplish, but we also have much to be proud of, and so much to look forward to as well.
I’m proud we were the first city in Alabama to welcome Uber and our administration and City Council had the courage — although there were a few bumps along the way — to not let political ties get in the way of bringing it here. Just seeing how many people used it for the Nappie Awards alone tells me it is going to totally revolutionize how we get around in this city.
I know it sounds silly to be so excited for such a service, but it always used to be such a huge source of embarrassment when my friends from bigger cities would come to visit and I would have to try and explain our limited public transportation options or cab services to them. It just felt so podunk. Not to mention it has changed the way adults go out at night — probably helping many downtown businesses — and also I can’t tell you the sense of relief parents of college kids have now, knowing their children can get safely home. It really is a huge leap forward.
Speaking of leaps, we are so close to being one of the few U.S. cities that build airplanes! Wrap your head around that. It’s pretty special and the ripple effect is going to keep on rip, rattlin’ and rollin’.
Cross your fingers, but it seems like the much-needed Interstate 10 bridge is finally about to happen, and that will not only ease that hideous commute and traffic nightmare but also be transformative to our skyline.
And we may soon be able to actually access our waterfront and cross Water Street without fear of getting smashed “Frogger” style (Yikes! That reference really dated me, didn’t it?), as the city is exploring some pretty exciting plans presented by urban designer Makul Malhotra. Read more about that in this week’s cover story by Dale Liesch.
The proposed new biking, running and kayak trails along Three Mile Creek could be a “watershed” moment for the city when it comes to fruition. Can you imagine being able to jog or canoe from University to downtown? That would be so cool!
And with the recent announcement Mobile is about to get nearly $5 million in BP settlement money, I’m hopeful it will be used for something really transformative — a project we can see and touch, and always know, for years to come, we took that money, which we deserved, and spent it wisely — not shored up some budget that needed, um, shoring.
I know I am gushing a bit. But I’ve just never been happier to be a Mobilian. And it’s only going to keep getting better and better.