Friday, November 14, 2014

Chilly with a Chance of the Past

Scenes from a morning walk...

Coming down the hill toward Brown's Island, I see that 5th Street is blocked to vehicular traffic and tents are already set up on the island. People are scurrying about industriously and PortaPotties abound. Is this more Marathon madness?

Winding my way down the sandy/rocky path to the pipeline walkway, I manage to ram my shoulder into a branch for an instant bruise and admire an enormous gaggle of geese on the flatwater at the same time.

Further ahead on the pipeline, I spot a father and toddler girl avidly watching something. It turns out to be three guys in tiny kayaks repeatedly throwing themselves into a rapid, flipping over a couple of times and coming back out. One isn't even wearing gloves despite temperatures in the '40s.

As I stand there marveling at their choice of morning activity, one spots me, waves and does another flip in the falls, sending me on my way so they won't continue on my account.

Suddenly I'm smelling something delicious and then I spot a couple huddled over a campfire making what must be breakfast by the edge of the river. They're very near the rock where I usually sit to take off my shoes when I'm going wading, but today the little beach is all theirs.

Heading back up the hill, I detour to the University of Richmond Downtown campus to see Caryl Burtner's "Missing Richmond" exhibit. I've only been in Richmond since 1986, so there's a lot of history I missed.

It's a compelling show with a gallery of large photographs showing buildings that now sit on what once were slave trade-related buildings - auctions, offices of slave traders, that sort of despicable thing.

But it was the second gallery that I really enjoyed, filled with small boxes holding photographs of buildings then and now. many of the pictures were taken long before I arrived and many of the businesses were long gone by the time I got here.

Places such as Lum's, Murphy's, the Lee Street Theater, a Hot Shoppes, even the house that sat where the Mosque Landmark Altria Theater now sits. My favorites were any that showed students from the '70s and '80s, a glimpse into a world I missed.

Each box held four photographs old and new of the same place, plus fragments from the building, say a piece of masonry or tile or glass. In the bag for the Murphy Hotel was a die, an indicator of its gaming history I suppose.

On the walls are large-scale reproductions of some of the box photographs, including one from 1998 when the Times Dispatch building was imploded, an occasion for which I was out of bed at dawn so I could see it happen from a nearby corner. It was truly a marvel to witness.

I missed a lot but not everything. I'm trying to make up for it by taking in as much as possible now.

When's the last time you saw somebody cooking breakfast over a fire on the banks of the James?

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