Local Lit: Moving Down(town) In The World by Alex Barrett

by | Nov 9, 2009 | POLITICS

If you’ve been to the West End of Richmond, chances are you were either visiting your parents or partying with your friends that stayed home after high school.

If you’ve been to the West End of Richmond, chances are you were either visiting your parents or partying with your friends that stayed home after high school. It could be that you never even lived there, but you were dragged there against your will to go to some mediocre house party that was supposed to be the “rager” of the year. There probably were a bunch of kids puking on the $50,000 Persian rug on the floor of a million dollar house somewhere in Whyndam or Twin Hickory. The whole time you’re wondering how the hell you got stuck there, but then you realize there’s a pool and a jacuzzi waiting for you and a couple of girls that just might be (probably not) in your age group.

After moving downtown at the beginning of the passed summer, I’ve realized that most people down here despise the West End. Is it jealousy of their luxury, fortune, and North Face jackets or is it an outright hate for the town because they’ve been trying to build it into something too extravagant? I’m willing to bet that a good amount of students here are ashamed, former West Enders. Either way, it is what it is.

People down here are different and I like them because they’re cultural, artistic, and opinionated. Not to say I’m not still cool with people from the West End, but if I had a choice (gun to my head) on living here or living there, it would be no contest. There are so many advantages to being in walking distance of the places that I tried for so many years to get to when living in the ‘burbs.

The sights I’ve had the pleasure to see in downtown RVA are either really moving or really disturbing. Walking by the Rumors boutique on N. Harrison, I stopped with a friend to watch a guy spray paint a mural of what seemed to be two fairylike creatures encompassing a glowing orb on the side of the building. I’ve often taken trips to the beautiful James and NOT gotten shitfaced, but admired its tranquility. I’ve seen more musicians in the last four months than I have in my entire life. There are parts of this city that I’m sure I’ll never see. But I have seen the same crackhead hit me with the same story in the same month for some change. Not to mention, in the first two weeks of living here, someone robbed a lady for her purse on the side of my building, and someone broke the window of a car parked out front. So, obviously there are some crime issues here. But if you’re not an idiot, you can manage.

The sounds I’ve heard are much louder. The streets can be quite loud, especially if you’re trying to pass out at the dorms of Brandt or Rhoads. It seems that there are students out there at all times of the night. It’s no biggie though. I like to know that people are having a good time even if it’s Tuesday and they’ve got exams. It’s also good to know that on any given evening, you can walk somewhere to hear live music as opposed to the West End where you can either go to Innesbrooke during the summer or Market Café to hear “Tater” do karaoke. Sure, you can hit a few bars and hear a cover band or two, but not at my age.

I’ve learned to ignore the smells that otherwise could violently and embarrassingly knock me to the ground. It’s usually about a four second deal where you get a whiff of some type of Indian food mixed with Joose puke. It comes and goes. I’m usually with someone who yells out, “Jesus! That’s horrible!” But like I said, I’ve learned to ignore it.

Something that blows my mind about this place is the party scene. Theme parties, dance parties, raves, etc. It’s not just the type of parties that get me, it’s the way everyone hears about them. It’s usually a text that announces the address only. That’s all you’ve got to know. Most of the time, you don’t even need to know the people throwing the party (unless some fratboys decide to be douche bags). And cops…what cops? They show up to the house, everyone comes inside for ten minutes, they talk to the tenants, and leave. I’m not sure if they’re lazy or if they just assume that everyone’s of age.

Everywhere you go is going to have problems. There’s no perfect place. But with the tools and potential that Richmond has, it’s got a chance to get pretty damn close. As a teen in the West End, I’ve loved coming down here. I envied anyone that I knew who lived here. Now, I’m finally here and there’s not much that could make me happier. Long live RVA.

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me

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