Friday, February 28, 2003

On this date:

- in 1968, my brother was born. Since I'm pretty sure he doesn't read this, I can say he's getting this, from UncommonGoods. Uncommon Goods has cool things and ships its glassware very well wrapped.

- in 1797 Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College was born.

After the state lib. yesterday, I curled up with some tea and the internet and ended up skipping water aerobics. Something I linked to from Not Martha that I liked a lot: this How Much Is Inside? guy.

Capital City weather: cold, steady rain all day yesterday; snow flurries this morning.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Curse my early morning nature. This morning, I had breakfast, read Lileks and not martha, shoveled and swept my steps, showered, read the GRTC schedule four times, made sure I had a one dollar bill, checked the state library’s website to be sure they opened at nine, not ten, and got on the bus.

The bus! The smugness of doing the Right Thing! The diversity of people! (Truly: two Asian men speaking their language; an all-American, clunky shoe-wearing, young Asian woman; a white guy or two; a black woman; a young woman of indeterminate ethnicity.) The city looks nice from bus window height. I enjoyed the beautiful porches and windows of the Fan, the snow-outlined trees, the brightly-painted lofts on Broad east of Allen, and of course Central National Bank. After that comes the depressing site of the metal detailing on Miller & Rhodes rusting away and staining the building, and the grubby, broken windows hulk of Thalhimers. I pulled the Next Stop cord.

At 9:20 a.m., I waltzed into the Library of Virginia, and nice woman told me that they had delayed their opening for “two hours because of the snow.” D’oh. I was welcome to stay in the lobby for two hours.

I walked west for two blocks: dummy, you just watched this wasteland go by. I turned around. I’m in the City Hall Deli, now, with a cup of coffee and daydreams of that excellent laptop case at Levenger. I’d look much cooler with one of those. Lime, do you think? I wonder if one of those could take freezing rain, though? This case seems not to mind the spray it got from not being completely under the umbrella.

If I weren’t a morning person, I might not have left so early, and wouldn’t be in this predicament. If I were a real Virginian, I would have been scared of the inch and a half of snow on my street and called to see if the library hadn’t shut down completely. But no, I got up, I felt energetic, and so here I am, in a bright cafeteria with Rod Stewart’s voice coming out of the ceiling.

I wonder if the observation deck is open. Not only was it open, it has clean restrooms! A security guard directed me up and had no need to search my bag. Various city personnel were having their cigarette breaks. I gawked at the snow-grayed view from all sides.

I wonder if I feel more conspicuous hanging out here than I would in a lobby. This place is nearly empty. They can’t mind.

On the ride home, I squinted at the street lights by the new convention center and don't like my description from the other day. They have tubes of back-lit white plastic, with a light grid of black metal on them.

Capital City weather: oh, who the hell cares.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Capital City weather: 25 degrees and freakin' snowin'.

I just checked on the fish pond (I actually leave it uncovered when it snows) and we have an inch of snow, already.

I see that Davis and Main is under new ownership. New dishes? Why yes: salmon and Cracker Jacks. Too bad I don't like fish.

Speaking of Cracker Jacks, the Atlanta Braves are counting down to opening day for you. Only a month to go! Yippee!

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Well, Colonel, the camellias are coming along nicely.

Today, I cut back the monkey grass in the tree wells out front. I will deal with what’s out back after I think a little longer. At the Flower and Garden Show, I both pined after magnificent settings I’ll never have and looked for real tips. One fun, easy idea I had involves the monkey grass out back. I think the previous owner’s vision had been to let it fill in and take over; I’ve been randomly thinning it out since I moved here. Something I admired at the show were tight, tidy arrangement of plants in serpentines. What would it be like if the monkey grass ran in a long “s” from the pond to the locust tree? I’ll stand on the porch and stare, maybe I’ll even draw sketches on graph paper – then I will decide.

Daffodil leaves have poked up about a two inches. The lilies of the valley that I got from my friend in Hanover County are showing themselves, too.

The garden show, by the way, was in our expanded convention center. The interior felt classier than its predecessor, but that could be the miracle of Styles. It looks great because it’s in the latest style. My memories of the old place include the impression that the colors and textures were passe. I do not care for the funny lights on the street. I can’t find a good picture of them (or the building) on line. Imagine an empty paper towel tube and a toilet paper one (maybe a bit bigger, because it goes over the longer tube). Take the t.p. tube, stand it on end, and cut slots in it, parallel to the ground. Paint it all black. Put the little tube over the tall one, and imagine it lit from within (and tall, and made from metal). That’s the idea. Sure, they look way cool, but when lit up, they are hard on the eyes, especially from the car, which is how so many people travel on Broad Street these days.

Capital City weather: cloudy, 33 degrees, chance of light snow. Saturday’s all-day rain washed away all but the biggest heaps of last week’s snow.

Friday, February 21, 2003


Capital City weather: cold rain and lots of it.

At the Byrd: Greek Wedding and 8 Mile.

In my mail box: a letter and season schedule from the New York Mets; something from my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College; and the Bart Simpson watch I mailed away box tops (okay, product codes) to get.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Capital City weather: partly sunny, 40, slushy.

My "alma mater" received a generous gift for the renovation of an historic building: click for article. Built in an Italianate style, the Davis House looked rundown fifteen years ago when I worked there and MCV rented it as office space. I remember going to the attic or top floor once, where (could this be?) some collection items were stored. Certainly that's where we found a stuffed eagle -- think taxidermy, not beanie -- which made a few practical joke appearances in the main building one summer.

Driving to Richmond Public Library and Ukrop's Carytown this morning presented only parking challenges: the roads are clear. At times like this, drivers have three parking choices. One can park on packed slush; blast through the wall of plowed snow to a blank spot (the nature of this storm meant that the blank spot, where someone was parked when it started, could have lots of bare asphalt); or park too far from the curb, where a plow swung into a few car-less spaces as it passed. Downtown, I chose the latter; at the ‘krops, I lucked into a plowed spot.

Tomorrow, Mom and I go to the Maymont Flower and Garden Show.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Everybody talks about the weather

Here in Capital City, the precipitation fell as sleet, mostly. We have three to four inches accumulation of sleet pellets, with a dash of snow. Hmm, WTVR does not seem to have a camera atop its Broad Street tower any longer. You'll have to settle for a south of the river view from channel 12.

The settle bench on my front porch has holes in the seat, for drainage. Two white cones formed under the central ones, that’s how much like sugar this stuff really is. Out back, alas, things are a bit messier, and I can’t open the alley gate. If I want to take out the garbage, I’ll have to go out the front door, along my street, turn the corner onto Grayland, and go up the first alley. Rowhouse, you know.

On the positive side, when cabin fever drove me to Carytown, I found a number of things open. Coppola's (proscuitto, anyone?), Mongrel, Luxor, The Eatery and Plan 9 were doing business. Places like the fancy housewares shop in the Carillon movie theater and Need Supply Company ("ugly clothes for trendy, skinny teens") were dark. Could it be the other businesses have more of staff in walking distance? I got as far as Plan 9, looked in the "Misc. LPs" bin (no fewer than 3 spoken word records on baseball), bought a used copy of "The Best of Blondie" (as Hospitality Chair of my 15th reunion, I feel obliged to bring some background music), and headed home.

The TV screen crawl indicates that all area shopping malls are closed today.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Capital City weather: The cold rain that started around midnight finally turned to sleet a little while ago. We could get up to 10 inches of snow, last I heard.
At the Byrd: a midnight showing of Ghostbusters. Wish I had tried harder to find someone to go with me.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Mickey Rooney caught my eye today.

I describe one of my sabbatical projects as regaining control over my Girl Scout collection, begun around twenty years ago. With the exception of some old uniforms (in “climate controlled storage” at the family homestead – thanks Mom!), all 500 or so of these items are together – for the first time! – in my possession. Simply because I am That Sort of Person, I maintained a list of what I have, first in teen handwriting, then on a primitive data base. Now, I’m integrating all the information onto an Access database. I type slowly, and get distracted easily, so it’s taking forever.

Mickey Rooney distracted me today, in a movie still with Judy Garland, in American Girl Magazine (published by GSUSA from 1920 – 1979). In the November 1939 issue, the magazine -- always optimistically aimed at “all girls” -- reprinted from The Parents’ Magazine reviews of movies “for ages twelve to eighteen.”

Of MGM’s “Babes in Arms,” the reviewer wrote “It may be human weakness to depend on the younger generation to save the world, but when we refer to the entertainment world this picture justifies the hope! Mickey Rooney displays real creativeness in his performance, and Judy Garland continues to be the charming girl everyone would like for a friend or daughter. Good tunes and wholesome gayety for the entire family.”

Questions for Discussion:
1. Did Garland and Rooney’s generation save the entertainment world? From what?
2. Why is Rooney described as actually acting (working) and giving a performance, while Garland just “continues to be”?
3. Trace the evolution of the meaning and usage of the word “gay.”
4. If you ran the Video Fan, which section would you hide it in?

Thursday, February 13, 2003

O Brave New World

Here’s a wire service item in my local paper I nearly missed. Anderson Windows “unveiled” a not-yet-in-stores product for our times: “a bay window that doubles as an entertainment center. A low-voltage current runs through the window. When the current is on, the window is clear. Turn the current off and the glass goes opaque for use as a projection screen for television or DVDs.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Capital City Weather: bright blue skies, 40ish, blustery.

Since Bill noted the "fuchsia alert" on his blog, I should tell you that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has placed plastic saw horse-like things and orange cones so as to block off both the circular drive on the Boulevard and the one off the parking lot. Inside, a guard, stationed a folding table with an Orange Alert sign, did a perfunctory search of my small purse.

Other things of note today: Ellwood Thompson carries ground buffalo meat; a helpful clerk at an office supply store (it’s a sad state of affairs when good service is so odd, it stands out in one’s memory); and more tweaking of the words on a proposed historical highway marker for Sharon Indian School (American Indian Resource Center).

Monday, February 10, 2003

What Mall Did You Hang Out At?

I wrote this a month ago, as a tangent to Dan's musings on Richmond's Sixth Street Market, From the Marble Bar.

An interesting question Dan raises: what do shoppers seek? The design of 1970s and 80s shopping centers assumed shoppers wanted, well, centers of shopping like they’d had in country village or downtown, only closer to where the lived now. While Willow Lawn (built in the 1950s) remained mostly open to the sky, developers decked later, roofed Cloverleaf Mall and Regency Square with fountains and outdoor statuary. The name Chesterfield Town Centre seemed overly optimistic for 10 years or so; it took a long time for that modest mall to become an actual center – of chain restaurants and center of big box stores. The women’s clothier LaVogue had a Cloverleaf Mall store constructed to be a romanticized village: a brick sidewalk (as I recall it), with plantings and fountains, flanked by Tudor and Georgian “store fronts,” one with accessories, one with sports wear, another for dresses. I’m not sure if it’s what we sought, but shopping center builders of the period gave us Town Centers.

A 1990s shopping center in western Henrico County called Downtown Short Pump (after the former, ironical name for a rural crossroads with a couple of car repair shops and a 1930s-ish gas station) makes me crazy. Two out of three times I went there last year, I spent a great deal of time circling, trying to find a place to park. Years ago, my cohorts on the staff of the local history museum and I had a thesis that “but there’s no place to park” coming out of the mouths of suburbanites (white or black) was code for “it’s dirty and there are poor (black) people there, that’s why we don’t want to go [to the Fan, downtown, to Shockoe Bottom].” When I went to a different suburban movie theater on Sunday with a friend (still working at the museum), she noted she had had the same frustrating lack-of-parking experiences. I’ve never circled in the city looking for parking as long as I did in Short Pump. You can always pay for a garage, or just park a block further away than you hoped. I remain puzzled about Downtown Short Pump, though: do the people who complain about finding parking on my block not notice how bad it is out there? Do they think that because it has the word “downtown” in it they aren’t entitled to find parking?

Yes, Dan is right, Richmond shoppers are not seeking unique boutiques nestled into the space that used to be 6th Street. At the beginning of this century, most people seek familiar chains, surrounded by parking lots they perceive to be ample, near to the far-flung suburbs in which they live. Though I am most certainly the type to be unbearably smug about preferring my locally-owned coffee shop to That Chain, I could see national chains having the drawing power and utility that a cross-section of people would frequent. Brave suburban punks, trendy people living in lofts in Tobacco Row, and denizens of Jackson Ward would all go to an Old Navy at Broad and 6th; and nearly all of those folks could use something from a K-Mart or Target (go ahead and put it in the old Woolworth’s and damn the symbolism!). But, alas, at last check of the RTD, what we’re getting is an art space in or on the location of Thalhimers and a hotel in Miller & Rhoades (which could be quite pretty). And meanwhile, mostly unplanned Carytown booms with shops (most of which I don’t need and can’t afford, but that’s a story for another day).

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Which Side Am I On?

“In New York, the fact that I used to hunt – with an actual gun – made me a Neanderthal. In the South, the fact that I stopped made me a homosexual.”

“New Yorkers pretend they’ve read book they haven’t. Southerners deny reading ones they have.”

-- Michael Graham, Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War

The Oxford American began publishing again at the beginning of this year. Like The New Yorker, it sets me to making lists of books to read, art exhibitions to attend, and movies to see. I have not read the above cited, enticingly titled book. The quotations don’t even come from a full review, just a page of tiny excerpts – enough to make me reach for the To Read page of my notebook.

I nod knowingly when certain titles or authors come up; I omit mentioning that I’ve read others. I went to college in Massachusetts, and friends and classmates sometimes asked me to speak for The South. When I lived in Oxford, Mississippi, a coworker said, as flakes began to fly, “you’re probably used to driving in the snow, being from the North, and all.”

Time as a curator at the Valentine Museum, plus the time living the Southern Studies program (Center for the Study of Southern Culture Home Page) through Christopher, prepared me to Speak for The South much better than did spending about sixteen years growing up in suburban Richmond before going to Mount Holyoke. I wasn’t raised a Southerner, and I don’t think real Southerners take me for one. If I had to check a box, I’d probably reach for “other,” like children of different-race parents do. I would feel okay checking “Virginian,” feeling that I am a type of late 20th century carpet-bagged, suburban Virginia. I missed ham biscuits at Mississippi functions and Massachusetts McDonaldses, but the CCV and Junior League haven’t come calling. Still, on the return leg of a roadtrip, green signs with giant white arrows pointing the road to RICHMOND fill me with gladness and security. Maybe that’s how everyone feels about home, though. It’s the place where you know the rules: whether hunting and reading are good or barbaric.

Capital City weather: bright blue skies, about 40 degrees.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Strange But True
I did a little thrifting today. In a pile of plastic comb-bound fundraiser cook books, I spotted one from a church in Florida called Burnt Offerings.

But I bought the pink felt and paper Hallmark bridge tally books ($2), a silver plate serving fork that I think matches what's out at Erin (50 cents), and a 1960s blue and yellow umbrella ($5) to go in the vint umbrella stand I bought in Berkeley Springs last month.

I got home in time to watch "Cookin' Cheap," from Roanoke's public TV. Those boys crack me up.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Capital City weather: snow and rain over night, flurries at breakfast time. At the Byrd: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” which I just saw for full price because I thought it would never get to the Byrd.

Yesterday, I saw a shape note singing performace by the Richmond Sacred Harp Singers. The old fashioned harmonies make hymns go down easy. I haven't yet figured out how to make links on words, so click here for their Home Page and learn more.

I never thought I’d miss Montel’s “who’s this baby’s daddy?” shows, but here’s something that is perhaps not more depressing, but certainly is harder to watch. Today’s gimmick: “Cash for Trash,” or what junk of your mate’s would you like to ditch? A woman just bullied her husband out of a handmade ladder-back chair that’s been in the family for over 100 years. Cutesy video footage shows her putting it on the curb with the trashcans. Family tradition tells of parents turning the chair over so toddlers could push it along as they learned to walk. He agreed to give it up (she let him keep an 18th century tall clock), and she got to pick “door number one” with a cash prize and an ugly recliner. He looks a bit grim; she’s hair-flipping smug.

And here’s a woman who gave up a 25-cent yard sale vase (the appraiser deems it worth 20 bucks or so) for Valuable Prizes.

All parties seem happy, and I suppose I should be, too, because all I need to do is keep an eye on these people’s curbs and I’ll be able to stock our case at the antiques mall.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Due to popular peer pressure -- and to the 6th time my local Fox affiliate has offered the New Area Code episode of The Simpsons in as many weeks -- I have entered the blog world. I'll be interested to see how it looks and if I have the tenacity to keep it up.