Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hard to Handle

How do you blog  about your innocuous Saturday when white supremacist terrorists are mowing down peaceful protesters an hour away?

The same way a person deals with any of the unpleasantness of life - heartbreak, sickness and death of a loved one, natural disaster - I would guess, so any way you can.

When I left for my walk, I knew several friends were in Charlottesville as part of the resistance to the rally, but other than observations that some brawling had been happening, they seemed to think things were going well.

Walking down Fifth Street, I passed two motorcycle guys in leather vests dragging a cooler up the hill. When I commented that surely the load was lighter coming up than it had been going down, the one with the vest marked "chaplain" offered me (and a family exiting their SUV) bottles of cold water from his cooler (thereby proving that even heathens can benefit from a chaplain's ministrations).

Friday night's rain meant that some of the more elaborate spiderwebs on Brown's Island were dotted with raindrops, looking luminescent and lacy in the partly cloudy light.

I wasn't surprised to see how un-populated the pipeline was with just one guy fairly far ahead of me. What did surprise me was when he stopped, turned and began shooting photos of the pipeline where yours truly just happened to be walking.

For a nanosecond, I thought I was being smart by passing him, but now I'm not so sure.

Under a massive rock stood two men off to the side and submerged far enough that they looked to be naked, with the nearby rapids splashing water on their bodies. Ever the art historian, it looked to me like a study for Frederick Bazille's "Summer Scene."

Climbing out on to the rocks to put my feet in the water, the scent of men's cologne wafted toward me, although I couldn't see another person around. But it persisted and a while later, I saw a quartet of kayakers paddling downstream. One even waved at me.

As I was waving back, I couldn't help but wonder if one of these guys had decided to bathe in cologne before shooting the rapids this morning. Maybe what I'd been smelling had been traveling across river and not island.

Walking home along Broad Street, I overheard a young woman tell another that a state of emergency had been declared and her friend, busy texting, asked, "Why?" in a completely uninterested way. Clearly more had happened in Charlottesville since I'd left.

As I breezed through Jackson Ward, I spotted a family standing on a corner, clearly looking for help, so I offered my services. All the nice Australian tourists wanted was a lunch suggestion and preferably someplace their three young sons would be happy and I delivered three options.

They voiced their gratitude but offered me no "G'day, mate" as I walked on.

Facebook gave me all the unpleasant updates, although when people began posting video of the neo-Nazi driving into the crowd of counter protesters, I had no stomach for watching such a thing. Seeing photographs of people flying in the air as the car hit them was horrific enough for me.

I was most interested in reading the accounts of people I knew who were there, but just as compelling was the online commentary by my friends of color. I don't think there's any doubt that if a black group had organized this rally, the police presence would have been far larger and more proactive.

Sadly. At least none of my friends had been hurt.

I wasn't sorry to turn off my computer and go eat in service of my hired mouth while discussing the day's mayhem with a like-minded sane person. It seems forever ago that dinner dates didn't have to involve a rehash of whatever the latest can-you-believe-it-scenario-of-the-day is.

We decided to drown our sorrows on the patio at Saison where we acted as the clean up crew, finishing off bottles by having the last two glasses of a Jura bubbly before doing the same with a Willamette Valley Rose.

"Well, if we didn't, who would?" my date inquired, tongue firmly in cheek. Isn't that the staff's job?

Next to us was a guy with his adoring dog Jada Boo (who wasn't above snapping at a stranger) and on the other end, a trio of tattooed young women discussing all the things the men they've gone out with don't know.

The night isn't long enough for that subject to be exhausted, ladies.

Because today had been a difficult one in terms of where our country seems to be, it only made sense to spend the last of it laughing, so we rounded the corner from Saison and went to Comedy Coalition's late show.

If long form improv by the most senior members of the comedy troupe can't distract you for a while, you may as well call it a day. But it did and before long we were laughing at all of it and, for one bit where the guys slipped into a pretend language, so were the comedians.So hard they couldn't talk.

The bit was funny but their reactions were funnier.

It was a good thing, too, because I arrived home to read that people had died yesterday because of the rally over white supremacy. That was sobering news to learn.

It's difficult to process everything that happened in Charlottesville, but personally, today changed my mind. Up until now, I still thought that context could allow the statues on Monument Avenue to stand, probably because no art geek wants to lose public sculpture.

Wrong, so, so wrong. Those statues need to be relocated to someplace where only people who choose to view them can do so. They have no place on any street in our city.

If calling a statue-less street Monument Avenue bothers you, then let's replace the losing white men sculptures with some celebrating our non-white past (say, Gabriel Prosser, John Lewis or John Jasper and for heaven's sake, some women) and begin to unite as a city.

Before going to bed, I sat on the balcony and admired my lone moonflower in the near-darkness. It feels impossible to take anything for granted anymore when normal changes so often.

Only resistance remains a constant now.


  1. I beg to differ -- They are monuments from the past...very few events in a nation are as gut wrenching as a Civil War. Yes they have impact & they should stand where they are. In an era of runaway political correctness it would be a very popular thing to move them. How trendy, how so seemingly right. They are what makes Richmond some of what it was....The Capital of the Confederacy. No one really studies history today. To judge the Past & those who lived it from today's standards is beyond hypocritical. Naturally few if any Blacks could/can be objective about Lee, Jackson, etc. Why should they? Yet in some ways these statues are woven into Richmond's culture. They haven't hurt this city. This city has come a long way in the last several decades. A real solution to help bring about racial equality would be a revamped school system for all. Now that would be a real project with lasting results.

    Those opposing groups should have never been allowed to mingle in C-Ville. Just where were the police at the outset? When two groups with an adjacent taunt & mock each other what would one expect... "Moma told me not to come.... that ain't no way to have fun." Unfortunately some nut case drove down from Ohio & drove his car into the crowd & a young lady was killed & hurt. Well ain't that America for you....full of nut cases. However as a student once myself I learned that after Ohio State, circa May '70 peaceful gatherings could be deadly. I'm sure the Mayor of C-ville & the President of UVA suggested zero attendance other than the Alt-right individuals. Remember they were issued a permit... per ACLU approved.

    Carroll Whitney

  2. Agreed, Carroll, where WERE the police at the outset?