Illustration by Kevin McFadin
During the year-end celebration of Festivus —perhaps you’ve heard of it? — a family gathers around the dinner table and “enjoys” a rite known as the Airing of Grievances. Our annual Best & Worst Part 2, aka The Dead Dogwoods, is a bit like that — a spirited look back at the personalities and events that made us shake our heavy heads in shame for the Richmond region. To keep a sense of balance, this year we also shine a light on our champs, those who stepped up or delighted us in some simple way.
Vaya Con Dios, Our Darlin’
Congratulations, Eric Cantor! After 13 years of holding one of the worst jobs on the planet, a job many people whispered you never wanted to begin with, you are free — at age 51! — to enjoy your retirement, we mean “job,” with Wall Street’s Moelis & Co. You’ll meet with important people, shake hands and lure big investors to your firm without ever really making another decision or worrying about those pesky questions from reporters. Isn’t it great to finally be a winner?
The Case of the Hidden Chins
We blame xyrophobia (the fear of razors) for the slow and insidious beard explosion in Richmond. There’s no other logical explanation for so many guys going “full Hagrid.” At first, we thought it was hormones in the craft beer or intense compression from men’s skinny jeans “forcing” hair follicles to grow out of their faces. We were mistaken. Now we’re stuck with “Lumberjack chic” until goatees get big again.
Secrets Keep You Sick
Richard Nixon could have used a man like Dwight Jones. In his handling of CAO Byron Marshall’s abrupt resignation, the mayor has shown that he can shut a story down tighter than a Russian sub at 3,000 feet, ethics be damned. Marshall’s not talking. The council members who signed a confidentiality agreement aren’t talking. But, as they say, the truth will out. Your move, Deep Throat.
After a legal dispute among its owners, The National was sold to worldwide entertainment behemoth AEG Live. The popular downtown music venue is now part of a global properties portfolio that includes the Staples Center in L.A., the O2 Arena in London and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. While this bodes well for attracting big-name acts, it still feels slightly icky … like Starbucks taking over The Lamplighter.
Smelling is Believing
China’s Shandong Tranlin Paper Co. will build a massive complex along the James River in Chesterfield. Instead of using tree pulp, the plant will produce paper from organic agricultural field waste. Supporters of this $2 billion boost to the local economy are quick to point out that the process does not involve toxic chemicals, produces “little noticeable odor,” and will actually make the James River cleaner. There’s no official word yet on whether the plant will also lower humidity, reduce crime or heal sick puppies.
Richmond is officially short one boyishly adorable newscaster, thanks to those basic cable temptresses over at CNN who lured Ryan “Dimples” Nobles away from his anchor spot at NBC12. The award-winning reporter is now a national correspondent for CNN in Washington, D.C., after seven years at WWBT. Breakups are hard. But at least we still have Juan Conde.
Fine Print of Football
The Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond has been an unqualified success!* (Results do not include shortfall of revenue in sponsorships and in-kind services, increased city contribution to Redskins, failure to lease second floor of facility, delayed payments from the deal to Richmond Public Schools and disappointing sales for food truck vendors who forked over $2,500 to the team.) *For the Redskins.
Exit Through the Gate, Please
You can take your pick of chumps in Puckettgate. Sleazebag Republican legislators asking Sen. Phillip Puckett to resign and in return offering his daughter a judgeship. Puckett, playing the spineless simp, takes the deal! Desperate and hapless Democrats scramble to persuade him to stay, with Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff Paul Reagan going so far as to leave the most ill-advised voicemail since Alec Baldwin castigated his daughter, Ireland. Lastly, there’s McAuliffe, in the role of the fool, blathering in the corner about being “disappointed.” A veritable cornucopia of douchebaggery.
The Hype Machine
Over two days in October, NBC12 ran 16 Ebola stories on its Facebook page — some with a screaming EBOLA CRISIS graphic — ranging from breaking news (“Second healthcare worker tests positive”) to irrelevant (Ohio closing schools), downright fear-mongering (hmm, could it be airborne?) and finally the obligatory oops-we’ve-gone-too-far post (“Get the facts on Ebola. Be informed. Calm fears … ”). Seriously, we can’t wait to see the graphic for the zombie apocalypse.
Sympathy for the Rolex
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a timepiece of wealth and taste
I was around when Governor Bob
Had his moment of greed and shame
Counted the hours while Jonnie
Gave some gifts and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you, hope you
guess my name …
Tobacco Town 2.0
Hey, you! With the e-cig. I know it’s legal to vape right here in the New York Deli. I get that it’s a hipster thing. But seriously, must you exhale the cotton candy fumes at me when I am eating a corned beef special? Have you no manners? Go outside. Not because you have to, but simply to be, you know, nice.
THUMB UP, THUMB DOWN
Wheat Shall Overcome
Our city continues to condone torture of the gluten-intolerant by allowing new bakeries, doughnut shops, pie-makers and breweries on every corner. It’s as though the entire region has been split into two groups: people who giggle and lick Krispy Kreme icing off their fingertips, and those who have convinced themselves that quinoa muffins taste better than sand.
Weight for It
Declared “The Next Great American Food City” by the Peripatetic Gourmet himself, Colman Andrews, Richmond has become a playground for the palate. Andrews gushed over newcomers like The Roosevelt and Peter Chang’s China Café as well as mainstays like Lemaire and Millie’s. And yet, there is fretting to be done as we gobble down a chorizo pasty at Proper Pie, a samoa doughnut from Sugar Shack and a late-night batch of chocolate chip cookies and milk from Red Eye. Yep, it looks like we are gaining more than a foodie reputation: Richmond ranked third on Gallup’s most obese major communities in the nation.
Major Air Time
In the midst of this snarkfest, it’s simply no fun to write about accomplished women like WWBT NBC12’s Sabrina Squire and WTVR CBS6’s Cheryl Miller. The anchors are celebrating 30-plus years at their respective TV stations and between them have racked up Emmys, honors and accolades. So just this once, can we imagine them as the Dynasty divas Krystle and Alexis Carrington of local TV news — pulling hair and hurling each other into giant swimming pools? Now we feel better.
An Oscar-Backed Plea
Talented, intelligent, beautiful. Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o can add a new adjective to her list of fine qualities: politic. Her one-woman campaign to halt the proposed Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium and preserve the district’s history was thoughtful, persuasive and shrewd: In her beautifully handwritten letter to Mayor Dwight Jones, she referred to him as “an accomplished scholar” and “no stranger to the cause for education.” Lupita for mayor, 2016?
KAY-kel. KAY-chuh-lee. Kay-CHEEL. No matter how you say it, David Kaechele (it’s actually KACK-lee) is going to be missed when he retires after 34 years on the Henrico Board of Supervisors. The nine-time chairman and Three Chopt District rep helped oversee the explosive growth of Short Pump and Innsbrook and has been a mainstay of one of the most consistently successful counties in the commonwealth. The only not-so-consistent thing about Kaechele? The pronunciation of his name.
In June, Ron Smith (writer-in-residence at St. Christopher’s School) was appointed Virginia’s Poet Laureate. During his two-year reign as the commonwealth’s “Stanza Superhero,” Smith will be tasked with protecting our borders from lame limericks, clumsy couplets and viral strains of haiku. He is also the man to call if you need a word that rhymes with “orange.”