9 Observations About Richmond, Virginia From A Person Raised In New York City
1. Chick-Fil-A Is Virtually Everywhere
Chick-Fil-A is delicious, let’s be real. I don’t know what those radical Christians are doing to their chicken that I’m not doing to mine, but whatever it is, it’s working. Growing up in New York City, the only time I could ever enjoy such biblical chicken was when I went to visit relatives in the South. Then I’d be all about that number five eight-piece meal with extra-large waffle fries and a lemonade. There’s a secret Chick-Fil-A at NYU that I always heard people talking about, but it took me forever to figure out how to get in it, like it was some kind of exclusive eating club at Princeton. In Richmond, Chick-Fil-A is basically everywhere. It’s in all the malls, off all the highway exists, it’s out in stand-alone stores. Every time I see one it’s like looking at a secret F buddy none of your friends knows about, who you don’t even really like as a person, but you know when you call him he will come over right away get the job done exactly the way you like it.
2. People Love Confederate Flags, And It’s Hard To Tell If They’re Being Racist About It
So the thing about the Confederate flag is that it immediately makes me think about the Ku Klux Klan, who do not like black people all that much! The first time I saw one around town, on the back of a pick-up truck no less, I thought, “Oh, okay.” You rarely see Confederate flags in New York. But I’ve probably seen maybe 50 Confederate flags since I’ve been here, and they just keep getting bigger and bigger. There are these dudes who stand in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in a pick-up truck and they wave these huge, boisterous Confederate flags, and I’ve been meaning to roll up to them and be all, “Hey, bros. What’s up?” People from around this area tell me that the flag has a totally different meaning down here. It’s about Southern Pride, like pride that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. If you say so!
3. Christian Book Stores Are Taken Very Seriously
I went book surfing at the local Barnes and Noble and two things stood out to me right away. The first is that the most recent issue of Vogue Paris on the shelves is from August, which is blasphemous because it’s already October. But the other thing is that the Christian section was gi-freaking-normous, maybe the biggest Christian section of books I’ve seen in a single space, all at once. I think the books turned to fire as I walked past them. Then there are tons of little Christian book stores all over the place, not to mention the Lifeway Christian Store — a whole store devoted to Christian books! I don’t mind people reading Evangelical books or anything because, like, free speech, but when are these people going to start using iPads?
4. People Are Very Nice
New Yorkers are very nice, too. We’re delighted to tell you the fastest way to get to Prospect Park when it’s the weekend and none of the trains you need are running. But Southern niceness means saying hello to absolutely everybody you see, even if you don’t know them. That just seems so weird to me. Can I just get to where I’m going, please?
5. The Coffee Shops Are Never Full
I love coffee shops. 70% of my dissertation was written in a coffee shop. I don’t drink coffee, but I love the smell, and I love the communal feeling you get that everybody is so focused on whatever their creative project is that day. But in New York, you have to fight to get a seat in at the Think by NYU, or any other coffee shop really, BECAUSE EVERYBODY STAYS FOR HOURS. You have to get there early, or you’ll be out of luck. I recently discovered Crossroads, probably the hottest cafe in Richmond, adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University. It’s your standard hipster cafe with artisanal this, free-range that. But when I got there, there were actually PLENTY OF PLACES TO SIT. This is unheard of in New York.
6. You Can Buy Concert Tickets Right Before A Show
The second I found out that Sleigh Bells was coming to Richmond I went to buy tickets right away. Tickets had been on sale for a few weeks before I heard about the show so I got paranoid about being able to go. Get this: the tickets were not sold out.Listen, if there’s a hot band or musician you want to see in New York, you better get on the guest list or be perched at your computer screen on Friday at 11:50am right before tickets go on sale at noon, or else they will sell out. I couldn’t get to the Sleigh Bells concert when they played Terminal 5 last year because it was so sold out.
7. It’s Basically Just Like Brooklyn
Maybe the most surprising thing is that demographically, Richmond is exactly like North Brooklyn, i.e., lots of young hipsters! The city is trying to re-brand itself as a creative center for young people with big ideas. Everybody bikes — and this includes giant unicycles, because what would a hipster city be without giant unicycles — has tattoos, asymmetrical haircuts, or is an anarchist, DJ, blogger, writer, artist, or otherwise plays in a noise punk garage band. Plus, food trucks!
8. The Rents Are Ridiculously Low
New Yorkers pay so much in rent for the privilege of having a shower in the kitchen, or a bedroom everybody walks through to get to the living room. What you pay in rent in New York will get you some pretty palatial settings in Richmond.
9. Even Tumblr Has An Office Here
And if Tumblr is here, it’s gotta be cool.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.