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Considering its dire implications, the news earlier this month that a Red Bank house had been had been designated one of New Jersey’s 10 most endangered historic sites was oddly encouraging to a near-octagenarian with a weatherbeaten voice and fu manchu straight out of the ’60s.

Oddly, that is, because inclusion on the list put together by Preservation New Jersey provides no guarantees that the house will be saved. It offers no legal leverage against a present or future owner who might decide to knock the house down. There’s no money in it, either.

In sum, the appellation is as toothless as a newborn.

Yet George Bowden was ecstatic. He’d known that the house, once the home of pioneering African-American newspaperman T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, might land on the list, but asked that that not be publicized until it was official, after which “we can blow it sky high,” he told redbankgreen with characteristic enthusiasm.

Once it was announced, Bowden started making plans to leverage the endorsement of historians across the state. He began planning outreach to community groups, leaders of African-American congregations — he’s even reached out to Oprah. Whatever it takes to get the word out.

“You can try to prevent it through the press, or local support,” he says, “but there’s no legal groundwork for preventing demolition.”

“He’s like the Energizer bunny,” says Ed Zipprich, a candidate for council this year who serves on the borough’s Historical Preservation Commission that Bowden heads.

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Eight years ago, when the Red Bank Farmers’ Market opened in the Galleria parking lot, it had only two vendors.

Today, there are 30, and every week more merchants ask to be let in, some hoping to hawk goods that have nothing to do with the market’s self-defined mission: to promote locally-grown produce. “I had a guy come here once wanting to sell rain gutters,” says Jim Sourlis, who manages the market. “He was so insistent, I had to call the police to get rid of him.”

The gutter guy probably couldn’t have cared less about the origins of the market, where the corn and tomatoes come from, or the feeling of community that springs to life on the blacktop here every Sunday in the summer. But Sourlis, whose family owns the Galleria mall, does. He says the market came into being to help support small farmers, who get first consideration in terms of space allotment. That’s what Jim’s mother, Elaine Sourlis, intended when she dreamed the place up, he says. (Elaine was vacationing in Europe until recently and was unavailable for an interview.)

“We pride ourselves on being a farmers’ market first,” Sourlis says. “The number-one thing is New Jersey farmers. It has to be from here.”

In addition to its weekly crop of vegetable and flower growers, the market features purveyors of honey, organic foods, fresh eggs, handcrafted jewelry, ravioli, a chiropractor, Lithuanian baked goods, stained-glass mobiles, tea, soap, frozen treats and hurly-burly paintings.

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Admit it: There was a time, maybe not so long ago, when someone would bring up the subject of organic food and you’d start looking around for the nearest exit. Not because you think there’s anything wrong with getting pesticides and other horrors out of our food stream, but because of the mix of moral superiority and harmony-of-the-spheres loopiness that often serves as the verbal packing for such good-sense ideas.

It’s hard enough being reminded of your bad dietary choices, especially when the person doing the reminding is a weird-beard or earth mother who tells you that his or her VW bus runs on your French-fry grease. But when the purported benefits of free-range chicken or meatless diets start ranging out beyond the travel limits of the Space Shuttle to the distant galaxies of the universe, you may be tempted to speed-dial Cluck U for a bucket of wings as you as you tear home in your SUV.

Given the millions of Americans who have begun to rethink what goes onto their foods and into the earth, the stereotype of the vegan proselytizer is probably no longer operative. Still, the organic-Prius-herbal-holistic crowd might benefit from a wholesale image makeover, one that replaces some lingering out-there-isms with simple pragmatism.

In that sense, Marcia Blackwell is a compelling ambassador of sorts for the organics movement.

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Psychologists call it the “hedonic treadmill,” the seemingly never-ending pursuit of goals and possessions that we think will make us truly and enduringly happy, if only we could attain them.

Having been bombarded all their lives with the messages that they deserve the best and most fulfilled lives, millions of Americans, and no doubt millions more people around the world, find themselves captives of the treadmill. Because no achievement, no acquisition, it seems, can do for them what they thought it would in terms of sustained contentment. The kick just doesn’t come, or if it does, it fades fast.

A whole new field of psychological study has bloomed in the past few decades to explore this disconnect between what we think we want and what actually makes us happy. Meanwhile, until the answers are clear, most of us just get back onto the treadmill in search of the next hit.

Megan Prenderville and Mike Harper of Red Bank work seven days a week at a combined nine jobs. She teaches CPR to medical professionals. It’s freelance work that consumes as many hours as she allows. Mike freelances too, as an illustrator; at the moment, he’s working on a children’s book for Scholastic Inc. He also puts in 15 hours a week at Lowe’s in Eatontown, mainly for health benefits he considers an exceptional bargain for his labors in the paint department. That’s three, but those are their side gigs. Together, Mike and Megan also share duties as self-employed picture framers, antiques sellers and vendors of old-timey fruit-crate labels.

Except for those hours when they slip into Brothers Pizza to decompress with what Megan calls “the four-o’clock guys” over beer and a couple of slices, they seem never to be idle. They might appear, in fact, to be chained to the treadmill.

And yet, you are unlikely to meet a couple with less desire for something other than what’s at hand. Because what’s at hand is what they want. The Ph.D.’s of happinessology should probably pay a visit.

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