I am a columnist at this fine magazine that bears your name, and I am paid dearly in solid gold doubloons to hold a mirror up to you so you can see how ridiculous you often look. Lately, though, and this is just between you and me, I have struggled as deadline is approaching, grasping for ways to burst your bubble.
Oh, there were days when the ideas flowed like wine: City Council seemed always on the verge of a Texas cage match; civic paralysis kept projects in discord and limbo, creating wonderful metaphors like giant, gaping holes on Broad Street; and Governayor Doug Wilder wrote my column every time he opened his mouth.
Times were good.
Perhaps I had become a little spoiled during my years as a reporter at Style Weekly. We had the Arthur Ashe statue controversy. A city councilwoman named Shirley Harvey performed an exorcism on top of City Hall. And there was City Hall itself, being held together with metal straps. Talk about your metaphors.
Later, as I moved to Richmond magazine, we had a stampede in Henrico over $50 laptops (made national news for that), the power struggle between Wilder and Jim Ukrop during the planning of CenterStage, and then one of the craziest and saddest things to happen in Richmond — the euthanizing of the Maymont bears.
An embarrassment of riches for a columnist. But for a Richmonder, simply an embarrassment. We who report and write about a town struggle with this all time. Our reporter senses tingle when scandal, stupidity and incompetence rear their heads, even as a little piece of us dies for the failings of the place we call home. It is the yin and yang of our profession.
Lately, though, it's been all yang and very little yin.
Just last year, Richmond was recognized as one of the top cities for business, working mothers, young professionals, commuters, military retirement and job seekers.
Then really big things started happening. Richmond was picked to host the 2015 UCI Road World Cycling Championships, which is projected to bring in more than $135 million for the commonwealth. Soon after, we reeled in the Washington Redskins' training camp, beating out Maryland and D.C. itself.
We're being hailed as the new hipster town, with food- truck courts, new restaurants and cool doughnut shops popping up all over. The Richmond Folk Festival is always another big winner: Last month's event draws thousands of music lovers every year, and heavy hitters Rosanne Cash and Ralph Stanley were among the performers this time out.
Politically, the city has not been so much scandalous as scandal-less. City Hall, if not exactly wowing us, seems to be plugging along, nose to the grindstone like a group of grown-ups. It's a far cry from the days of heroin charges and embezzlement. Apparently, Richmonders are happy or complacent enough to be perfectly OK with Mayor Dwight Jones running for re-election against a single last-minute challenger.
The culmination of this winning streak came in September, when Outside magazine declared us, quite simply, Best Town Ever, hailing Richmond for its robust river, a wild gem in the midst of a pretty cool city.
As a result, lately, it's been hard to take any jabs at Richmond. It's the town that snark forgot.
But there may be hope yet. The state legislators who helped plant the phrase "transvaginal ultrasound" into our collective unconscious made it clear that nuttiness may have vacated City Hall, but it has settled very nicely, thank you, at the Capitol. Richmond Public Schools continue to struggle amid some shockingly low SOL scores. And hey, I know these things can be complicated, but more than a decade to figure out where to build a baseball stadium? For real?
Take a well-deserved bow, Richmond. But the columnist side of me is begging you to do something stupid real soon. The Richmonder side of me, though, is smiling on the inside and promises to smack the columnist across the face.