Great article at the Richmond Times-Displaced site here that describes Richmond as ‘the city that fun forgot’.
Maybe if arch-conservatives like the Ukrop’s clan and Ethyl didn’t run the place liked they owned it then… oh, wait… they do!
Seriously, though, the problem with Richmond is its focus on the past. It’s not just that history happened here. It’s the particular history that seems to have an active life even today. Not everyone is going to be enamored by the fact that Richmond was/is home of big tobacco or is so entrenched in the Southern side of the Civil War. If Richmond wants to be the capital of confederacy aficianados, it doesn’t need to work very hard. If it wants to be taken seriously by everyone else (the majority of America’s population), the powers that be needs to rethink its image.
The serious problems that Richmond faces begins with its identity. Are we talking about the Richmond of the Fan? If so, are we talking Grace Street or Carytown? Or the West End? Of Short Pump? Of Chesterfield? Are we talking about the Richmond of the Civil War or the Richmond of Gwar (for those who don’t know who Gwar is, it’s only the biggest band ever to come from this city – click here to find out). Is Richmond the city of the Country Club of Virginia or the city of the Byrd Theater? Is it Belle Isle or Main Street, Downtown?
Another identity problem comes with Richmond government. It has a layer of dimensions that are often hard to separate. The General Assembly affects city politics which affect gubernatorial races which affects Northern Virginia referendums which affect Southeast Virginia political races whic affect…
Stepping back a bit, Virginia itself is a radically different place depending on where you go. Abingdon is not Lynchburg which is not Glen Allen which is not McLean which is not Alexandria which is not Manassas. These aren’t simple comparisons. They run as deep as cultural differences run. Richmond is a microcosm of those differences with radically different ideas and goals between say the City of Richmond, which is about to embark on a radical transformation as an at-large Mayor is elected, and Chesterfield County, which is still trying to cling to 50’s-style ‘values’ and keep diversity out of its white, established neighborhoods.
The region is divided by a river and by idealogies, by huge cultural gaps and by a dozen different subcultures that exist just in the Fan alone. There’s the quintessential ‘North of the River’ and ‘South of the River’ divide. And that’s just among whites. Then there’s the internal problems of the city and not to mention its relationship with the counties.
The hope is for those people who couldn’t care less about all that; who are equally comfortable sipping coffee at Davis & Main as kicking back a PBR at the Nanci Raygun. People who are equally comfortable chowing down at the River City Diner in Bellegrade or the River City Diner in Shockoe Bottom. People who shop at Kroger’s and watch the ball games at the Robin’s Center. People who watch the fireworks at Dogwood Dell, jog at Belle Isle and shop at Short Pump Town Center. People who see the river as a piece of scenery and not as a barrier. In order to do all that you can’t pay attention to what the locals do or say. You have to ignore the prejudice, the simpleton mindset, and just live a unique life that squeezes all the good stuff out of this big pumpkin city and leaves the shell for the ghosts of the confederacy.