Doug Thompson Illustration
What a wretched, miserable existence it is to live in Richmond, Va.
It is remarkable, really, that any of us can lift our heads off our pillows to face yet another day in this sleaze-infested, Godforsaken pit. So, it is something close to a miracle that Jason Linkins could do it for four whole years.
Thankfully, Linkins was able to escape so that he could move to a real city like Washington, D.C., and become a hotshot blogger for The Huffington Post and sometime contributor to The Awl, a snarky online magazine that publishes pieces like "Some Awesome Things to Say to a Cancer Patient," and "Stop Working Out, It's Embarrassing."
It was in The Awl, during the VCU Rams' and Richmond Spiders' exciting run in the NCAA tournament, that Linkins, who lived here from 1993 to 1997, offered a handy guide to our pitiable town in case anyone ever wanted to come here. Or stop here on their way somewhere else. Or point at Richmond while zooming along I-95. Or know how to spell it.
"Richmond is a mostly busted-ass city on the banks of the James River that's played host to such luminaries as George Allen, and also George Allen's wife — what's her name, the one who married George Allen. It's best known as the capital of the Confederacy, and, as many of the old-school Richmondites — by which I mean the ‘racist' ones — will probably tell you, that's basically where the city peaked."
Did I mention that Linkins claims to have a "fondness for Richmond that just won't quit?"
Perhaps his fondness was for his alma mater, VCU, from which he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree. "VCU students fell into several categories: heroin users, meth users, people with multiple tattoos, people with multiple piercings, people with multiple piercings that you didn't realize were there until you were in the middle of having sex with them and discovered that you had all this shrapnel to navigate around, and also some people who weren't in the art school."
University of Richmond students fare no better in Linkins' estimation. They are "like U.Va. students, only dumb."
What was it, then, that he grew so fond of? The lifestyle? The city's energy? The wild, breathtaking beauty of the James River? The history? The festivals? The proximity to ocean and mountain?
Actually, he never says. He just offers a litany of the worst of Richmond by way of his own random experiences: transvestite hookers, illegal gun sellers and old drunks yelling.
In all seriousness, you have to ask yourself, "Why?" Why would anyone paint this picture of Richmond? First off, a website like The Awl, which publishes a piece titled "France: This Country Sucks" that calls the whole country a "xenophobic hellhole of white supremacists carrying baguettes," isn't particularly interested in facts, much less nuance. Surely it isn't going to run a piece called "Richmond, Va.: A Pretty OK Place."*
But Linkins must not have cared too much about presenting a true picture of Richmond, either. It's obvious he barely knew the place. I mean, Richmondites? Really? He seems to have no idea why Arthur Ashe was memorialized other than being a tennis champion. He seems never to have stepped outside in daylight. Or eaten in a restaurant. Or visited a museum. He had nothing of importance to impart to the world about Richmond. But he did it anyway.
But at least for Jason Linkins, this has a happy ending.
He got out of here and moved to D.C., that shining beacon of a city that long ago purged itself of freaks, perverts, morons, deviants, wackos, drunks, lowlifes, murderers, rapists, transvestite hookers and racists.
Godspeed, Mr. Linkins. May life's road never bring you down to so horrid a place as Richmond, Va., ever again.
Really. I mean that.
*Actual phrase on my husband's favorite T-shirt