Tourist With a Typewriter

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

Tag: History

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.

Living With War

A visit to a Civil War reenactment near Barboursville, VA. Published in C-VILLE 9/29/2009.

Photo by Ashley Twiggs

“It’s not about slavery. It’s not about racism. For a lot of us it’s about ancestors.” Amanda Kutch is a United Daughter of the Confederacy and on Saturday morning, September 19, she’s dressed like one. Blonde, fair, and outfitted in a blue, flowered dress with a white blouse and a crocheted hairnet, Kutch is getting ready to re-enact the Battle of Rio Hill and the Battle of Stanardsville. A genealogist by hobby and an office manager and academic services coordinator for UVA’s School of Continuing Education by day, Kutch has traced her family in Albemarle County to 1760, and to the Civil War, where they fought in the 19th Virginia, Company E, “The Piedmont Guard.” Recently, she has been campaigning to preserve confederate graves on the UVA campus. “The past is the past,” she says. “There’s nothing that I can do to change it.”

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Being Tom Jefferson

C-VILLE cover story for the week of 6/19/2012. The version that appeared in print was edited down for size. Below is the longer, original version. 

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” – Thomas Jefferson

Stephen McDowell as Thomas Jefferson. Photo by John Robinson

For a few minutes before he goes on stage, assuming that there is a stage, Rob Coles sits quietly by himself and listens to the nervous static of the crowd. He’s dressed in typical 18th century clothes; breeches, a ruffled white shirt and embroidered waistcoat, a heavy greatcoat, and buckled shoes. Soon the introduction will come (it’s always the same intro, the familiar words helping get him into character) and he will walk onstage and do what he’s done for 36 of his 60 years, wearing the costume, pretending to be somebody else. The audience knows the truth, obviously, but they’re very willing to suspend their disbelief, because he looks like him and speaks like him and because they want to be entertained. The first five minutes are the most important, and he can feel it, he can feel the moment when they let go and buy into the fantasy. He is Thomas Jefferson, come from the dead, come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all. Read the rest of this entry »

Flirting With Anachronism

Whether or not a wine festival is the proper place to deal with a hangover is a good question, but not one I want to think about now, not while I’m hung over and tasting wine at the Montpelier Wine Festival. Read the rest of this entry »

All Over but the Tussin

My latest in today’s C-VILLE:

Big Fun, Scottsville Punk, and Charlottesville in the 90s.

Sometime in the late ’90s, while searching online for information on getting high via over-the-counter drugs, I stumbled across a bizarre website detailing the adventures of a bunch of punk rock kids living in a big house in the country, right outside my hometown of Charlottesville. The website was called The Big Fun Glossary, an alphabetical list of terms and definitions and tales of “impromptu punk rock concerts, Dextromethorphan chug-fests, Nomadic Festivals, nazi skinheads, and (most importantly) record alcohol consumption.” It was something I’d dreamt of finding for a long time—a perfect bohemian scene hidden right in my backyard. Only, by the time I’d found it, it was already gone. All that remained was this crazy website.

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Blood on the Tracks

C-VILLE cover story for the week of 5/1/2012:

Blood on the Tracks: A biography of Charlottesville’s Coal Tower

A partly cloudy day, late March, unseasonably warm. Two men look up as I step into a small clearing in the woods beyond the coal tower.

“Hope I’m not bothering you.”

“It’s cool,” one of them says. He moves over on the makeshift bench so I have room to sit down.

“I saw you taking pictures,” he says. “You know two kids were killed here?”

I know, and that’s part of the reason I’m there. But only part of it.

Read the rest of the story.

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