Friday, June 12, 2009

Charlottesville, Virginia 6.10.93: Human Comedy Amidst Gorgeous Buildings

From Wythe Co., we drove to Charlottesville for the night. Wanted to see Monticello on Thomas Jefferson’s 250th birthday year. A horrible Vietnamese meal in Charlottesville.

Next morning, we walked on the campus to see the Rotunda, the residences it behind it facing one another across the lawn. Students live in some of these as an honor, and most black-painted doors with brass nameplates had various posters, announcements, and newspaper clippings on them. One had a sticker saying something like, “Republicans Still Have the Answer.” Next to it had a sticker with the word “visible,” the V being a pink triangle. There were other openly gay things on the door. What a story in the juxtaposition of the two, and in the very existence of the latter in this staid environment.

Then to Monticello. The drive itself, in morning mist on the hills, was lovely, but the place was infested with visitors. A college-student tour guide was barely articulate—made about eight subject-verb agreement errors, used the word “basically” constantly and meretriciously, and seemed to have absolutely no feel for the place and its history. I felt very grumpy, out of sorts, scrutinized.

After Monticello, back to Charlottesville for lunch. We walked and then ate in the old downtown. It was very pleasant—another lovely fall day—but something about the place disturbs me. It’s as if the people are all playing a role, an Anglo role, of forced politeness and formality. Very few seem to be native Virginians, but they all seem to have adopted the air (an air of superiority) of Virginians. But don’t they realize that the English culture of Virginia is something much different from a Masterpiece Theater staging of Brideshead Revisited? It’s earthy, 16th-century, Shakespearean in its roots.

People dress in Charlotteville—dress the part. Lots of preppy college boys in short hair, ironed Oxford-cloth shirts, loafers, lots of preppy college girls with clean bobbed hair and fresh faces. Older people very formally dressed, even for a shopping foray.

Then home via highway 29, with gorgeous scenery in Albemarle and a bit of Nelson Co., but flattening as one approaches Campbell and Amherst, becoming very unattractive in Pittsylvania.

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