Back in Virginia

I’m back in Virginia this weekend, for a memorial for one of my professors, and to see Mom and family.

I spent part of my childhood west of Charlottesville, in Stuarts Draft. We lived here for a couple years, and even after moved to Richmond, we came up here quite regularly to spend weekends with my grandmother. I haven’t been back in more than 20 years, a reflection of the same sensibility that led me to get out of Virginia as quickly as I could and no look back.

I have to admit I didn’t really give it enough credit. For one thing, it’s a beautiful part of the country.

Shenandoah Valley

And as a homeowner, I can’t help but notice that houses cost roughly a quarter of what they do in the downscale section of Silicon Valley that I live in. (The only thing remotely close to Bay Area prices is a 6 bedroom house on 27 acres, built in 1777.)

Mom and me

Mom still lives here, and indeed several of her brothers, nieces and nephews, and other kin live nearby— all of them not that far from where their mother grew up.

We spent some time driving around today— I spent an awful lot of time in the car, it’s turning out to be on of those trips— and I was really struck at home the area has changed. For one thing, my old elementary school has closed.

My old elementary school

The manufacturing plants that used to be the bedrock of the economy are also gone, and lots of the farms are gone too. In their place is an algae bloom of box-box stores and fast food. We think of poverty as looking like present-day Detroit or burned-out buildings; I’m beginning to think it looks like Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven, as far as the eye can see.


I also brought my son with me, as I wanted him to get a sense of where his dad lived, and that I essentially grew up in a version of District 12. However, since we visited Monticello today, his sense of ordinary life in this part of the world is a bit skewed!


Well, you can never be guaranteed that kids will learn what you mean them to learn.

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