I took the job writing Insiders\’ Guide to Richmond for Globe Pequot Press only after I had flipped through several of GPP’s books on other cities–Pittsburgh, Nashville, Baltimore–and was happy to see chapters related specifically to each city’s strengths and relieved to see that some personality was allowed in the write-ups. Until fairly recently my personality consisted only of sneers and snark, with occasional bits of poignancy and regular chocolate cravings, but on Richmond’s behalf, I brought out the long-repressed cheerleader portion of me.  (There will be no photos. Um, you know there never were any. I played basketball.)

I cringe every time I see RVA touted as capital of you know what. That is old news. I’m tired that others frame Richmond in the national media by leading with Capital of Confederacy…even if the gist of the article is that the writer is pleasantly surprised that we aren’t still unsheathing our swords, toiling at in-town plantations, and wearing hoop skirts.  I’m not ignorant or naive enough to think the effects of the Civil War, slavery and their aftermath aren’t factors in Richmond and the entire country, but we really aren’t living in an ante-bellum time warp. Writers who live elsewhere still can’t quite believe that about us. 

Exhibit 1 NY Times: 36 Hours in Richmond  A great article chock full of good stuff, but the first phrase sends a saber through my gut.

Exhibit 2 Washington Post Food shops More worthwhile picks from someone who likes us but didn’t move here because of those statues. Sigh.

Exhibit   3 Southern Charm with an Edge.   Glad there’s good info here, but still sigh at the Yankee/Confederate business. We aren’t the Confederate capital anymore–haven’t been for a while–though James J. Kilpatrick didn’t help Richmond’s cause by being at the forefront of Massive Resistance in the 1960’s.  Glad I missed that.  

In outlining the book, I thought long and hard about how best to show off Richmond.  I’ve lived here since 1992 and have seen such improvements in the arts, outdoors, university, and culinary scenes, just to name a few, that I knew I’d have no problem filling 200 pages (the original amount called for that–it came in around 300). I had editorial freedom, so I pushed artsy, outdoorsy, culinary, rivery, quirky Richmondy treasures. I didn’t ignore history, far from it, but there’s so much more than Confederate history here.  Maggie L. Walker’s site is a revelation as is the Richmond Slave Trail. And how about Patrick Henry at St. John’s and TJ”s Capitol? I could write several chapters about all the cool places to visit. Oh, I did. VMFA, art galleries up the wazoo, adventure sports playland, trails for running, hiking and mountain biking, Class IV rapids through downtown. Jazz, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, symphony, theaters, music clubs, architecture, and a thriving and expanding ethnic scene, too. And lots of great places to eat in authentic, i.e. not chain, settings. The place sells itself if you let it.

I’m also tired of seeing pieces in national outlets (like a recent one on usatoday.com that says stay at Hope & Glory Inn in Richmond????) full of errors that make it clear the person hasn’t been here. A piece from Reuters recently suggested an itinerary where you’d go to the Charles City County plantations to spend the day, making it seem like you can eat at them–you can’t–and then suggested having dinner overlooking the water at the Boathouse….ok sounds good…at Sunday Park in Chesterfield County.  Perfectly nice place, but if you are out Route 5 well east of Richmond and want to come back this way and eat on the water, you go to the Boathouse at Rockett’s Landing which actually is on the James River.   A spectacular setting. Any tourist would be peeved to learn after the fact that they drove 40 extra miles to overlook a reservoir. Ok, I’ll stop now. I think my personality has reverted back to its origins.

Advertisements