Tourist With a Typewriter

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

Month: August, 2012

The Wonder Years

How real estate and gentrification changed Belmont for good

C-VILLE cover story for 8/28/2012

The old Belmont Store, torn down in 1960 when the new Belmont bridge was built.


“One big problem is change. [The older residents] don’t understand change is happening and why it’s happening, and sometimes I don’t understand it myself.” – Jimmy Dettor, lifelong Belmont resident. From the documentary, Still Life With Donuts.

When she arrived in Charlottesville in the summer of 1976, Joan Schatzman didn’t think of herself as a pioneer. She was 24, fresh out of college in Boston, and when her best friend Debbie decided to go to grad school at UVA, she went along for the ride.

Initially they rented an apartment near Grounds, but in the spring of 1978, Joan, Debbie, and another friend decided to buy a house across town in an old, run-down neighborhood called Belmont.
“Belmont?” people said. “You can’t live in Belmont!”
“Nothing but trouble there.”

Read the rest of the story.

The Empathy Broadcast

The writer David Rakoff died August 9th of cancer. In a 2011 New York Times essay, he talked about how awkward it is when people try and comfort the sick and dying. He ended the piece with this beautiful paragraph on “the empathy broadcast.”

“We like to think that the empathy broadcast with the swooping, downward intonation of the “aaawwww” is an evolutionary comfort; something we are programmed to welcome and offer freely ourselves. As a comment on something that has already happened, it probably works. But as an anticipatory tool, it does not soften the blow, indeed it does the opposite. It leaves you exposed, like grabbing onto the trunk of a tree for support in a storm only to find the wood soaked through and punky and coming apart in your hands. The sweetest bedtime-story delivery is no help when the words it delivers are a version of ‘…and behind this door is a tiger. Brace yourself.'”

Fear and Viognier

Gonzo Wine Tasting on the Monticello Trail

A version of this was originally published in the Virginia Wine Gazette circa 2007.

To answer your questions: 1. Yes, this is a true story. 2. Yes, I wrote it quickly and while drinking. 3. Yes, it is an homage to the work of James Fenimore Cooper. 

I was somewhere around Crozet on the edge of the parkway when the Viognier began to take hold. The assignment had been simple enough: pick a varietal, sample it at a few local tasting rooms, and write about it. But somehow, in my twisted mind, it became something far stranger and more dangerous. It became a challenge: I had decided to taste every Viognier on the Monticello Wine Trail in one day.

Of course it’s not possible. To paraphrase the movie Cool Hand Luke, nobody can taste 25 Viogniers. But I had to try, I had to experience the tasting room as it really was, if I was going find what I was looking for. But what was I looking for?

The heart of Grapeness, Das Drink an sich, the Virginia Wine Dream. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine in the Time of Poverty

How Patricia Kluge’s vineyard reached beyond its means

Published in C-VILLE, 5/24/2011.

In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, one character asks another how he went bankrupt. “Gradually,” he says, “then suddenly.”

Patricia Kluge and her second husband, one-time richest-person-in-America, John Kluge.

In 2002, the Kluge Estate New World Red entered the world in an ebony trimmed wooden box designed by David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, a.k.a. Viscount Linley, son of Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen and 14th in line for the British throne. There were only 289 of these beauties made, signed by the winemaker, naturally, but also by the winery owner, who saw fit to slap an embossed profile of her swollen head on every bottle. She also slapped a $495 price tag on the wine, by far the highest price we’re ever likely to see on a wine from Virginia.

Eight years later Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard would be moribund, ending not with a bang, but with a fire sale. The New World Red, having long ago lost its royal trappings, would end its life being sold for $10.96 at a Downtown wine shop. Instead of being displayed in a custom case, customers were carrying it off by the caseload.
Read the rest of this entry »

Lords of the Ring

Saturday night fighting in Fluvanna

Published in C-VILLE, 3/10/2009.

To knock a man out takes a combination of strength, precision and luck. You have to hit him in the right place, and if you do he’ll go down, no matter who he is. Getting knocked out doesn’t hurt. “It’s a good feeling, actually,” boxing great Floyd Patterson once said. “It’s not painful, just a sharp grogginess.” Patterson was 28 when Sonny Liston beat him senseless a second time, ending his career. George Rivera is 30, and the one time he was knocked out (a lucky blow from an opponent he was whipping easily), it didn’t hurt at the time. “It hurt after, your pride and all that,” he says. Read the rest of the story.

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