Tourist With a Typewriter

Oh, Uncle Adrian, I’m in the reservation of my mind.

Once a Marine

How a Charlottesville veteran is using film to tell the story of a soldier’s transition to civilian life
Printed in C-VILLE 9/17/13

Before and After

Stephen Canty at 17, before joining the Marines (left), and one year later, in Afghanistan (right).

When Stephen Canty watched his little brother leave on his first deployment as a Marine in the fall of 2011, he recognized the grin on Joe’s face as the same one he had worn himself three years earlier. They’d all been grinning then, the guys in 1st battalion, 6th Marines, Charlie Company, excited to be Marines and eager as hell to see combat.

But after eight months in Helmand Province, the excitement waned, and by the time their second deployment came around, the grins were all gone. Before he left, Joe spent most of his time on his parents’ couch, sleeping or stuffing his face with popcorn, so the brothers never really got around to talking about Afghanistan or war. Watching him get on the bus at Camp Lejeune, Canty felt like a parent watching a child head off to college. He knew his little brother was going to go through the same things he did and that they would change him forever, but he also knew that telling him was pointless. War isn’t something you can understand if you haven’t experienced it. It was his brother’s time to grin. His time to lose it would come soon enough. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gun Lobby

A look at the Virginia Citizens Defense League. This was cut from the gun story I wrote for C-VILLE.

guns save lives

The Virginia Citizens Defense League’s April 23 membership meeting starts with a potluck dinner at 6:30, mac and cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, pie, cake, cookies and donuts all spread out and slowly congealing on a picnic table in the windowless, low-ceilinged main room at the Rivanna Rifle & Pistol Club, off of Old Lynchburg road just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

After dinner, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave stands in front of 29 people sitting in mismatched chairs at white plastic picnic tables, five of them women and at least five openly wearing pistols, and talks politics and media bias. Behind him, on either side of a big brick fireplace, is an American flag and a Gadsden flag, the yellow banner with a coiled snake and the motto “Don’t tread on me” that’s become the ubiquitous symbol of the Tea Party and their sympathizers. On the wall a poster reads, “Never Disarm. Register to Vote, Your Gun Rights Depend on it.” There is a lot of paranoia in the room, and even more anger; at the press, at New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, at Senator Chuck Shumer, at the general state of things, freedom-wise, in America today.

“Word to the wise,” Van Cleave says, “it’s gonna be a rough four years.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Receding Passion of the NASCAR Fan

Published in C-VILLE Weekly 4/14/09

NASCAR14“Some fans are completely uninhibited, they’ll do whatever the hell they want to have a good time,” Rusty Speidel says over the phone. “They get geared up, they tailgate their brains out, they take the extra time out to travel.” Speidel should know. He’s one of the guys behind, a NASCAR fan site based in Charlottesville. “They’re really loyal to their driver, to the point where I saw a guy and his wife the other day, they had both shaved their heads except for the [number] 88 in the back.”

Eighty-eight is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s number, and Earnhardt, Jr. is a driver in the National Association for Stock Car Racing. That’s NASCAR, baby, our other national pastime. This is car country, gas and metal and engine-hum country, a nation carved from pavement by men and machines. We’re drunk on fuel and in love with chrome. We drive cars to watch cars drive. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystic Pizza

Printed in C-VILLE Weekly 9/25/07

Crozet pizzaWhen the pizza arrives at the table, it never seems as if there will be enough room, amidst the plates, drinks, napkin dispenser and parmesan cheese, but somehow there always is. This, I think, signifies a good meal: not an elegant and carefully arranged table, but a cluttered and overflowing one. “Mange,” it says. Eat! Dig in! Read the rest of this entry »

My First Gun

Looking for safe ground in the middle of the gun debate

Published in C-VILLE 7/16/13


The decision to buy a gun came suddenly. I was gulping down coffee before work and reading about the latest shooting, when my right to bear arms overwhelmed me. I ran out into the Virginia sunshine, jumped in my Prius, and headed to Walmart. Read the rest of this entry »

Blunt Truth

Profile of a small time dope dealer.

Published in C-VILLE 7/29/08

Blunt Truth

He isn’t nervous yet, because there isn’t any reason to be.

Is there?

Nothing in the car. Nothing in his pockets. Expired tags. Just popped into the office to grab something, his wallet with his ID left at home.

A cop asks him to step out of the car, please, sir.

Another officer says he smells pot and asks if they can search his person. Yes you can, officer, because he knows he’s got nothing on him. Can we search the car? The car is a mess, boxes of stuff from the move, clothes all over the place, it’ll take forever for them to go through it. No, you can’t search the car. It’s Saturday. He works full-time. Wants to get home and enjoy his weekend. The cops take their sweet time filling out the ticket and as he’s signing it, a K-9 unit pulls up. The dog sniffs around outside the car and then sniffs around inside. When it gets to the back, it starts to paw at the seats, scrabble, scrabble, skritch, skritch, and so now too bad, sucker, we’re gonna search the trunk. And they find a backpack and look inside.


Read the rest of this entry »


How four young black men found their mission to change our city, starting now

Published in C-VILLE 2/19/13

The Tonsler Park Recreation Center is busy at 4:30pm on a Wednesday. The long, L-shaped main room bustles with games of pool and chess, people coming and going past the old school Ms. Pac-Man game and the foosball table. Adults watch the T.V. on the wall, or sit and talk in small groups. You get the sense many are just killing time on a cold evening in the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Up In Smoke

Published in C-VILLE 3/4/08

Purple_Sticky_Salvia-200x200I am still unable to comprehend that the drug has taken hold. I open my eyes and the colors in the Mexican blanket on my lap seem baked, as if they’re on fire. The furniture is stretched out and far away and my conscious mind bobs just out of reach in the middle of the living room.

“This is the drug,” I think. “That’s what’s happening. I didn’t think it would come on so fast. I didn’t think it would be this intense. Will it ever stop?”

Read the story.

There Will Be Bacon

Published in C-VILLE 8/18/09

Three pigsTo take “butcher” to mean “botch or mangle” is to mangle the true meaning of the word. A good butcher does anything but that. Sixty-five-year-old Richard Bean, co-owner of Double H Farm in Nelson County, purveyor of sustainably raised pork, poultry and vegetables, is one of the last real butchers around. This is due to regulations on handling meat and also because, as Bean sees it, butchering belongs to a bygone era in this country, an era when people were closer to the source of their food. Closer to the viscera.

Read the story.

A Queer History

In early 1986, Hospice of the Piedmont needed help with a patient who had less than a month to live. The organization’s purpose, then and now, is to care for terminal patients, but this patient had AIDS, and AIDS patients were different.

By the end of 1984, there were 10 reported AIDS cases in Charlottesville, 42 in Virginia. A year later, the total number in the state had jumped to 102, and Hospice board member Jim Heilman began pondering the idea of a group devoted solely to their treatment. Given the hysteria and fear surrounding the disease, as well as how quickly and miserably the patients died, AIDS cases required a special kind of care. When a particularly horrific case came to the door in 1986, Heilman called Blaise Spinelli, a 36-year-old med tech at UVA, and asked him if he wanted to help.

Read the rest here.

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