penultimo

I just realized I missed noting my 2,100th entry a few months back. I think I’m going to switch to noting every thousand at this point and rename to “hundred” tag to “big round number,” or something like that.

It’s my penultimate work day in Richmond. I’m off Friday, and I plan on doing nothing constructive beyond seeing Bill before he enters the next chapter of his life in Kansas.

Earlier this week, traveled around 2007 Richmond in Google Street View. There were times when I got excited because I remembered that something was a weedy lot or an abandoned building or a bar I loved.

I picked 2007, which also is a far back as you can go on Street View, because I formally met Richmond a decade ago.

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, as I kid, I wanted to visit Richmond because it was the state capitol and only was 75 miles away. I didn’t get to go until 20 years ago when my father died. The next time, not including driving through city limits on two trips and going to the State Fair when it was in Henrico County, was in college when I saw The Roots play in Kanawah Plaza. And then my fraternity did some volunteer work in the Fan.

I didn’t really go into the city my first year in Petersburg. My friendship with some high school classmates fell off while we were in college, and Bill and Craig generally stuck around either my place in or Bill’s parent’s house in Chester or Craig’s parent’s house in Powhatan County.

2007 was when I really started experiencing the city. It was my first real impression.

Since then, I’ve seen couch fires on Hell Block, drank in the seediest of bars, woke up in weird places, ate amazing food, made great friends, experienced amazing audio and visual art, briefly became a social media influencer and fully embraced how delightfully weird what went from Cap City to RVA was. I made it my home.

In 2011, I figured it was time to leave.

It was a combination of things: I figured I had carried the Hopewell paper as far as my inexperience could. I set a good framework, I figured, so it was time for someone to take it to the next level. My relationship status changed, so moving to New York also because a goal. And people were starting to leave. That year also was when I ditched my 10-year high school reunion to throw Bill a farewell party.

And the city was changing.

People started to not call Hell Block Hell Block. There were fewer reports of furniture fires, my favorite seedy bar became a trendy restaurant with an event space that wasn’t that bad but wasn’t quite the same. Parties shifted to my place — and were awesome — but I would waver between wanting to keep the dynamic with me, Matt and Shaunelle forever and thinking about how one day the three of us would wake up one day at 35 years old and wonder how and why we were still there.

Those vacant lots became apartments, condos and more restaurants. Places became cleaner and safer. Homes were flipped. Entire trendy neighborhoods popped up like mushrooms overnight.

My departure didn’t go as planned. After a stutter-step, I was gone for three years.

I was excited to return in 2015, but the world kept spinning. Richmond continued its path away from having that gritty but endearing edge, at least in its core. More of my friends moved away or the relationship died. A lot of my old haunts vanished. I felt too old for others. Even more just no longer felt the same. The strange cast of characters all but disappeared. The death of Dirtwoman seemed to be the end of an era.

The magic was gone. Richmond just became I place where I lived. I guess that happens to all places. I realized I didn’t need to be here, like in the middle of it all. I considered moving to the West End when our lease ended. Sure, walking to do a lot of my errands is great, but I don’t need it. I rarely go out anymore. Parties and/or wanton partying happen like every other month now or maybe less frequently. No one on Twitter cares what I have to say about #rva anymore. And I’m married and we’re thinking about kids very soon. I’ve had several rants about how we were putting our kinds at least in a better part of the Richmond’s zoned schools to help them get into the better middle and high schools later.

Meanwhile, I never stopped reading the paper in Charlottesville. I constantly was in contact with various people in the newsroom. I sometimes wished I never left, but it seemed like this move here was permanent and it made no sense to me for someone on a newspaper’s management team to live an hour away in another paper’s coverage area. It wasn’t time to go just yet, and I’m glad that I got the chance to come back

But this doesn’t mean I hate being here in Richmond, although I’m not sad about leaving in a little while. What bums me out is that Richmond and I grew apart.

By all means, come here. Live, work, play. It’s awesome. It’s just not where I am, at least right now.

we’re all pregnant with doug wilder’s baby

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era.

A few hours ago, I went to a tribute to the 400-pound Queen of Richmond, Dirtwoman.

My first Hamaganza was in 2007. Before Pat Kane finished describing it to me, I was already sold on going. Who wouldn’t want to see a burlesque/drag/comedy/charity show involving not only the city officials but also someone who has been arrested for solicitation in an infamous event and also always makes at least one joke about being former Gov. and Mayor Doug Wilder’s lover?

It wasn’t my first experience with Weird Richmond. Through Bill and Craig, I went to shows at what is now Strange Matter. Over the years, I also drank at Empire, Roxy, Wonderland, Fallout, Third Street Diner, Bogart’s and Mojo’s. I’ve been to drag shows and brunches, the Sex Worker’s Art Show, Poe’s Pub, Baja, Fieldens. I’ve seen things on fire on Hell Block; I’ve purchased beer to gain admission to parties in the Fan District thrown by people I didn’t know; I’ve seen luchadores fight in a kitchen.

It’s why I fell in love with this city.

I loved that among the howling masses in sleeveless tees and bullet belts, there I was in a blazer and a Homburg, and it all seemed normal.

But now the streets are cleaner, Empire now is a fancy Mexican fusion restaurant, Hell Block isn’t really known as Hell Block, there aren’t trans prostitutes at Allen and Broad, Bogart’s moved and closed, lunches tend to start at $10 and often don’t come with entertainment.

In a way, I feel like a different sort of gentrification is happening and weirdos like me are a dying breed.

Let’s face it: my shtick is that I don’t look like the kind of person you’d think would know all the words to several Mars Volta and Death Cab for Cutie songs, love a dirty bar and feel at home with people at and beyond the limits of the mainstream.

I wonder what will happen once Dirtwoman guides her hoverounds into the great hereafter. There still will be a Weird Richmond, but it won’t be stinky, sticky PBR-soaked Richmond. But there still will be pockets of it. There still are people around.

I wonder if this is how people feel about New York nowadays.

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era. But at least I got to experience the era.

it really comes together

Editor’s note: How my newspaper formats some articles has inspired a slight change here. I think I’m going to capitalize the first two or three words that start each post, and if there is a section break, boldface the first two or three after the break. Back when this blog was on LiveJournal, I coded it to have drop caps up until the final redesign there.

***

WE GET CHARGED for every hole we put in the walls, so at some point, there needs to be a trip to get more mounting strips. I don’t feel too bad about the artwork propped up against walls because I helped a friend move a year ago and he proudly announced that he just got around to putting art on the walls.

He got married after I did and actually got around to getting wedding photos printed, so he’s got me there, though. I have my favorites saved in three different places, so I don’t feel too bad about it. I also feel a little weird about having photos of myself in my home. I know what I look like; I don’t need reminders. I should get some made for my mom, though.

But, anyway, we’re as unpacked as were going to get for a while. We need to get a new media center to hide the wires behind the TV, another cabinet or two and I kinda want an armchair, despite us reaching the point that the great room is reaching capacity. I’m toying with the idea of getting a Christmas tree, and that would require at least moving the coat rack.

I’m happy with how things have come together, especially the proper dining table. I was worried about it fitting, but it slid in perfectly and probably would with the leaf in. My friend who gave it to us is putting the chairs that go with it in her new attic in the event that we ever want them. I would have taken them with me if we didn’t get four chairs last year and they didn’t somehow go well with the æsthetic of room overall.

As you can see, we’re pretty much rocking the black seating and electronics, brown wood, exposed brick combo.

Feel free to come visit soon. We either can try to reserve a hospitality room, or you can crash at our nap station.

penultimate

It’s our penultimate night in Manchester.

I’m surrounded by boxes, bags and things that blatantly aren’t packed. There’s a method to our madness.

It’s going to rain during our move Saturday, but at least the hurricane won’t get here. There’s still a chance our mattress will get wet, but there’s less of a chance.

We have Mikey and Craig helping us Saturday, so we plan on at least getting the big stuff over then. We have a U-Haul van for eight hours, so we might get a lot of it taken care of. Since we’re moving less than two miles, some stuff isn’t formally packed because we’re just going to bring them over loose (e.g., I’m going to transport my dresser drawers with my underclothes in them) or we’re going to unpack and reuse the boxes.

You see, we have an entire week to move.

But my goal is to have everything out and hand over the keys by Tuesday.

With each passing day, I’m getting increasingly excited about this move. Sure, it’s a one-bedroom, but it’s roughly the same size of this place. We’ll have more closet space. We don’t have to pay pet rent when we get one (at least for 18 months). More of my favorite things, like my barber and Alamo, will be within walking distance. Who am I kidding? I consider nearly the entire city to be in walking distance. But I don’t have to walk everywhere — the complex comes with two gyms. I’ve already claimed an exercise bike. I still don’t know if I want to get on a real one again, although a recent visit to Bryan Park made me want to get one.

But I’m kinda going to miss this place. Although the management went downhill to force us all out, I’m going to miss that it’s a loft in a truly industrial area. I’m going to miss how purposely rough the initial renovation was. I’m going to miss taking the Manchester Bridge.

Manchester Bridge

Seriously, I’m going to miss this view at night.

But it’s time to move on. I know when I’m not welcome. He’s to at least 18 months in our new home.

Convenient to downtown!

Back on The Peninsula (technically)

See you on the side of the James on which I was born.

remember how i always say i hate shockoe bottom?

Well, I’m going to be living in Shockoe Bottom.

At least it isn’t on 18th and Franklin.

Actually, I wouldn’t count where our new place is as Shockoe Bottom, but there’s really no other way to describe it, hence the city lumping it in with the city’s most concentrated bar district.

I’m excited. We get the keys on Oct. 8.

Meanwhile, the front door of our current building has been broken since Friday and there are some other issues, like the noisy and smelly renovation of the apartment next door that came without warning.

As I’ve said, this place was great. It had that grittiness we were looking for: the raw, exposed brick; the hardwood floors; the high, timbered ceilings. We don’t have amenities, but I considered being mere blocks from the James as an amenity. I considered being a 40-minute walk to work an amenity. I considered being able to stand in my free(!) parking lot and see the downtown skyline an amenity. Or new property management company has been disappointing that the flaws in this building we were willing to ignore no longer were worth enduring.

Although I’m excited about our new place, I am a little sad about leaving this place. I actually like this apartment a lot.

But we’re off to bigger and better things.

imag0515

Expect more photos from Great Shiplock Park.

17 months in south richmond

On Saturday, we applied for a new apartment. I really wanted to rent a house, but the search was terrible. We had two places we liked snatched from under us, and there was one I really liked but it’s currently occupied by a very cluttered family and all I could think about what godawful things have taken up residence there and will remain after they’re gone.

Anyway, this new place is on the north bank of the James River, which means I have spent a cumulative 17 months living in South Richmond. (Additionally, I have spent a little more than 4½ years living south of the James.) I think I’m going to miss it a little.

South Side is whole different animal. It’s markedly larger than the main portion of the city. Portions of it used to be a separate city. Large chunks are in the city because of a push to dilute the minority vote. Sometimes, it seems like City Hall forgets South Richmond exists.

If we get this place, we’ll be near downtown. It’s another loft-style place. It actually has amenities and energy-efficient windows, so we’ll have something facing the outside world.

But I will miss this place. South Side is gritty. South Side is changing. South Side is a hidden jewel. Given how most people flock to various North Side neighborhoods, South Richmond sometimes feels like the more Richmond part of Richmond.

But it’s time to go again.

The last time I lived on this side of the James, it established that I lived in the city and led to fulfilling years in Chimborazo. I’m hoping this South Side stint is another prelude.

a very richmond weekend

I went to a party this past weekend.

It was a clash of connections, it was where convergence lived.

As I have said for at least a dozen years, everyone I know knows everyone I know. So, of course, it was a co-worker’s birthday party that featured a large contingent of my friends from Chimborazo. There apparently was a point when several disparate people at that party were in my living room in Church Hill.

The party was among things I see as a resurgence of my social life in Richmond. When we first got here, I was commuting from Charlottesville, so I didn’t really do anything. On top of that, a lot of people I hung out with became married and boring or with child(ren) and isolated or moved away. Some of those who were left assumed I was either married and boring.

I guess not really doing anything during my Charlottesville commute did little to dissuade anyone from thinking.

The friendships and weird connections I made during my first stint in RVA made this city my favorite city. Yes, I do love a night home or a night out as a couple, but you all made living here rich and fulfilling. You still do.

Otherwise, I can’t pivot from speaking to an editor to an editor’s friend who knows my friends to another person I had no idea knew everyone else.

Keep my Dickensian life alive.

Minus all the orphans and bleak living conditions.

mom comes to visit/one year

Last weekend, my mom came to visit. Other than my wedding, it was the first time she had been west of Williamsburg since 2011.

I put her up at the Linden Row Inn, which is just a couple blocks down from my job and was the cheapest place downtown that wasn’t sketch. (I told her to come in the fall next time — she used to come in the fall each year, and it helps that it isn’t tourist season at the time.)

The first night, we took her to a Brazilian restaurant. We didn’t get the endless meats package, but it was amazing. It was family run, unlike the big name in Brazilian food, so we might go back for all the meats later.

On Saturday, we had brunch at one of my favorite places that I don’t patronize as much as I used to. I’m a little surprised that I didn’t get a boozy milkshake while at the Village, but it was kinda a little too early for me.

Afterward, we went shopping. Part of the reason for the early Mother’s Day trip was for that. Although Hampton Roads has been roped into BosWash, like Richmond, it’s still a backwater of sorts. I didn’t expect to get anything out of the trip. but I have a new pair of boots. It fills a gap in my wardrobe, but emphasizes my complete lack of real athletic shoes for walking/running. I’ve been lucky so far that the shoes I do own except for one pair) are comfortable during the walk from my place to work.

When the “big city” shopping was done, I made dinner. I haven’t cooked for my mom since maybe junior year in college, and it was incredibly stressful. Overall, the meal turned out fine. The only issue was with one of the ingredients she supplied for me. It seriously was like out of a cooking show challenge. I got a bag of flash-frozen chicken wings, and they were under-cooked, despite following the instructions to a T. But the rest was amazing. My mom asked me twice about what I did with my pork chops, and remarked as she at them that they were better than her own. Not to toot my own horn, but she never got them right, and it was part of the reason I never really eat pork chops. I perfected my own recipe, though.

It’s a long, strange story, but validation from my mom about food means an awful lot.I’m beyond proud of those pork chops.

On Sunday, I had to work, but downtown isn’t as bad as it used to be, and I mentioned that I was just a couple blocks away. On Monday, I got an extended lunch break to go to Alamo and then send her on her way.

I don’t know whether we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day early each year, but we had to this year.

For various reasons, this entry, despite the timestamp, is getting posted after midnight. As some of you know, May 6 marks a year since my eldest sister died. Other than Prince, New Edition was her favorite. I don’t think I can stand to listen to Prince at all today.

I’m not as sad as I thought I would be today, but I’m OK with that. Theresa wouldn’t want me moping around today.

I wouldn’t be as amazing and weird as I am without her.

I love and miss you, Theresa.

hunter holmes mcguire

I have a weird relationship with Richmond, especially South Richmond.

When I was a kid back in the early 1990s (probably when Exit 265C still was Exit 67) there was a mileage sign nearby that said Richmond was 75 miles away. I was cognizant that Richmond was the capitol, and I wanted to see it. The prospect always got shot down because my mom was certain we’d be shot if we went to Richmond, because this was back when Richmond was averaging more than 120 homicides a year.

A few years later, in October 1997, I finally got to go. In a year that Richmond had about 140 homicides, a car I was in took the exit to virtually all of South Richmond then proceeded to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. In that building, my father was drawing his last breaths. A few months before, I was in a hospital in Maryland, holding my first nephew as he drew his first breaths.

My father never got to see his grandson.

Although the path from Interstate 95 to the VA hospital is clearly marked, the path back is not. We wound up on Hull Street, across Mayo’s Bridge and onto 14th Street. That was when I first saw it: Shockoe Valley. The Fall Line. The place I would call home 12 years later.

I returned six years later. I saw The Roots in concert in Kanawha Plaza with a few friends. I tried to refrain from saying it was my second time in the city, and the last time was because my father was transferred to the hospital there in hopes that he’d receive a new heart and return to Hampton.

I think I failed. I forget. The years between when Renée and I were first apart and the beginning of the spectacle that was being the charter member of a fraternity chapter are a blur.

In high school, I went to the Moorefield Mines in Ameila, the State Fair and Liberty University by way of what was then Longwood College. I don’t count these trips through Richmond because I didn’t get out of a vehicle within city limits.

I also don’t count the drives I would take, often at night, from Christopher Newport University to Richmond. I never knew why I did until I found what I was looking for. One night, I vaguely mapped out a course. I was going to take U.S. 60 to U.S. 360 and then take Route 10 to either the Jamestown Ferry or the James River Bridge. (Gas was like a dollar a gallon back then, y’all.)

I turned from Hull Street to Broad Rock Boulevard. Nothing registered until the light turned red at the northern intersection of Broad Rock and Belt.

I cut my drive short. I was fine until the CD I was playing got to What a Wonderful World. I don’t know why that song hit me. I was miles away then, at Route 10 and I-295. I took the ramp and took the interstate back to CNU. I wanted to be out of the car as soon as possible.

I avoided South Richmond for a while after that.

When I worked in Petersburg, there was an event at the hospital that was related to my beat. I politely declined it, but no one at the moment was able to do cover it for me. I continued to demur as I repeatedly was asked why I couldn’t do it. Then I yelled, “MY FATHER DIED IN THAT HOSPITAL, AND I’M NEVER SETTING FOOT IN THAT BUILDING AGAIN.”

The conversation was over.

When I considered living in Richmond in late 2008, I drove past the hospital a few times to see if I could do it without any problem. It’s fine, although it’s strange to me that I think about it every time I’m at that intersection. I never give Grandma’s death at Hampton’s hospital a second thought. Theresa expired in my mother’s house roughly where the dining room table is now. It doesn’t sting.

I guess it’s because I was 14, and 14-year-olds already have enough issues going on because 14 is so hard, and then my father dies. I guess it’s because I dreamed of going to Richmond for years and it took a grave illness for it to come true. I guess it’s because if you told me in January 1997 that my father wouldn’t live to see 1998, I probably would have called you a damn liar. Sure, he had problems, but he wasn’t going to die yet.

It’s fine, although I think about it every time I pass that hospital and I drove past it tonight after I heard that two children who woke up with a father are going to bed without one because a state trooper holding a conversation was slain in the city today and I sometimes wonder if the reason I’m so compelled to live in this city is because my father died in this city.

It’s fine.

It’s fine.