Mason Dixon and Other Thoughts

So I crossed the Mason Dixon line for probably the 11’th time in my life yesterday, but it was the first time I ever saw the sign.  Apologies to Dave if we saw it the last time we drove down and I just don’t remember.  I know it was the line that separated the North and South in the Civil War, or at least I think that’s what it was, but I wonder who it was named after and I’m curious why it’s still important.  I’m not curious enough to wikipedia it, that would be too easy, and the mystery is more interesting to me than an actual answer, but the importance, that is an actual thought.

I’m in Richmond Virginia visiting some old friends cause I needed a break and they were kind enough to let me come stay with them for a couple days.  I drove down yesterday in my new car, which was fantastic, if somewhat dark, lonely and very very rainy.  Richmond is, as far as I’ve been able to tell from my admitedly short tour through the city last night and hour long walk this afternoon, a city sort of divided.

It might be the outsider perspective, maybe native Richmondites don’t notice, but the city seems to be dying from the inside out.  I walked for blocks and blocks without seeing a single white person, and not that that’s a bad thing, although it is a bit shocking to my far more multicultural sensibilities.  I passed block after block of empty storefronts, closed businesses, boarded up showrooms.  I felt a bit like I was in Detroit again, and I didn’t expect to find that here.  And that’s what I mean about the city dying from the inside, there’s something wrong when local businesses can’t make a living in prime retail space, hell there weren’t even any chain stores in the part of town I was walking through.  I walked for over an hour and didn’t see a single business that looked like it was selling anything I would want to buy, and very few businesses at all until I hit the large office blocks down by the river, but even then there didn’t appear to be any retail or restaurants working.  Just empty storefronts and parking lots.  I’ve never seen so many parking lots.  I can’t even begin to tell you.  What I want to know is where are all the people who are parking these cars in these massive parking lots?  What are they doing here, because I couldn’t find anything to do.

There was also that class race thing that I always notice when I’m in the southern US (well except for Florida, but that’s because the only time I’m in FL I’m at Disney or Universal and the class/race thing doesn’t really impact theme parks).  Admittedly it was lunch time while I was walking around, but there were an awful lot of African Americans just sitting at bus stops and perching on stoops with no aparent place to be, and for every well dressed professional looking black man, I saw fifty others in wife beaters and old jeans smoking cigarettes and basically doing nothing.  What is that about?  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Race relations, not in my own country let alone in someone else’s, and I have no solution that doesn’t sound pretentious or naive, but seriously, get a fucking job.  When I did walk far enough to find white people they looked like most of the people I work with, dressed in business cas, walking with a sense of purpose towards this office or that, basically they looked like they had places to be and things to do, which would make them the polar opposites of the aformentioned stoop perching African Americans.  Maybe my view of race relations is coloured by the fact that I am a middle class white male living in a country that is significantly (though not entirely) less racist then our neighbor to the south.  Maybe being white means I can’t or won’t understand.  Maybe being male means I’ll never quite get suffrage either, who knows.  But what I do know is that life is what you make of it, and carrying a chip on your shoulder because three hundred years ago someone you are barely related to was taken hostage and sold (and fuck that is a deplorable thought, but it was three hundred years ago) might not be the best use of your time or energy.  That’s just my two cents, what the fuck do I know.

Anyway, I’m in Richmond, I think I’m going to go see Roanoke, because it interests me, have to hit DC only to see the Lincoln Memorial (again, but that’s a whole other story and probably a whole blog post about that one thing) and I’ve been told I have to go to Williamsburg and Jamestown, though I don’t know exactly why.  Would also like to see the beach while I’m here.  It’s been too long since I was in an Ocean.

Anyway, I’ll report on my vacation as it happens, at the moment I’m going to settle in and read a book for a bit while I wait for my hosts to return.

-m

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