John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Peculiar Nostalgia

For some reason, I find myself very nostalgic for Richmond today, particularly for the Fan District, which was always my favorite part and where I lived during most of my time in Richmond.

Richmond is kind of a weird city; a large portion of the population is (or at least strives to be) genteel and olde-worldy, while another large portion of the population is run-down-urban-southern-slummish, a third population is beer-shotguns-and-pickups redneckish, and a small portion of the population are ambitious go-getter types who keep trying to save Richmond from its perennial slide into obsolescence, irrelevance, and ruin in spite of itself.

Add into this mix an evergreen population of fresh-faced college students (blue-bloods at U of R, commoners at VCU), state politics, and a love-hate relationship with more developed regions such as northern Virginia, and you've got a Groundhog Day-esque city which always has something happening but which never quite gets past 1959. [1]

I think it is the "genteel and olde-worldy" part that appeals to me the most. Having grown up in banal, stressed-out, postwar suburbia, it was quite a shock to me to move to a place where people's homes had been deliberately been built to be beautiful. The Fan, with its Queen Anne townhouses and big ol' beautiful churches (not to mention the incredible Maymont Park), was not just a new place but like a whole other world. What's more, even though Richmond was a city, and the Fan an urban area, it had a slow and peaceful quality that I had never experienced in WE'REALLBUSYHEREANDWAYMOREIMPORTANTTHANYOUGETOUTTATHEWAY northern VA.

I used to walk all over Richmond, which is something that's not really feasible here. Or as I've often described it in conversation, "In Richmond, drive 45 minutes and you're across town. In northern VA, drive 45 minutes and you're just reaching the edge of your neighborhood." It's a world in microcosm, where areas are measured in blocks, not miles.

Of course, Richmond has big problems, too, which is why upon graduation I moved up here instead of staying down there. A Richmond boom economy is like the bleakest northern VA recession. Housing is cheap, the cost of living is cheap, but paying jobs are nonexistent. Racism is ugly, ubiquitous, and entrenched (in both directions). Religious right medievalism constantly attacks the schools, the libraries, bookstores, gay bars, straight bars, television, radio, and anybody who has a slightly different opinion. Beautiful old buildings stand vacant and decrepit, with homeless alcoholics flopped in the foyer, while the city government tries yet another brainless get-rich-quick type scheme to "revitalize downtown."

There's also the fact that from June 1 until October 1, living in Richmond is like being in somebody's mouth — 98.6° and 99% humidity. Not a healthy clime for somebody with a passion for turtlenecks and a pathological hatred of sweating (like me).

I'm not sure why I'm feeling nostalgic for the place today; I think it may be that traffic and the job have somewhat got me down, because I keep fantasizing about sitting at home in my nice little Stuart Circle townhouse, working on my latest novel while laurie_robey plays with Buddha in the background. Just one of those "wishing for a different lifestyle" type days, I guess.

-The Gneech

[1] Or at least, that's what it was like when I lived there, which admittedly was almost 20 years ago, now.
Tags: deep thoughts, koyaanisqatsi
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