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The Blaze

Welcome to senior living in Richmond, 2045.



My name is Shasta, and this tour will prove that the Blaze has everything you’re seeking in retirement living.

Before we begin, Dimitri will serve you the cocktail of your choice. We have three microbreweries here, as well as a moonshine hut. For those of you who don’t imbibe, there’s a full juice and probiotic smoothie bar. Meanwhile, you young’uns born in the ’80s can design your own soda. I’ll be waiting for you in the Reptile Rec Room when you’re ready. So help yourself to the hologram coasters.

Ah, I see that Dimitri enticed many of you on the Colon Health Pilsner made with artisanal yeast and extra-fibrous hops. Yummy.

In this room we have assorted exotic reptiles in appropriate housing, including Lil’ Kim the Komodo dragon, and Tarantino the boa. Many of our residents didn’t understand the lifespans of reptiles on that whim purchase 30 years ago. The Blaze feels that no one should be separated from his or her viper after decades of loving care, so we built this vivarium and employed Jenna Dawn as a part-time herpetologist. Also a talented skin artist, she spends the rest of her hours in our tattoo rejuvenation salon, and on employee talent shows she beats even Dimitri at burlesque.

And we’re walking. … Turning left as we go down the hall of mirrors, you may not realize this, but ours is the first generation to enjoy retirement living with mirrors. Evidently, people older than 70 used to refrain from looking at themselves hourly. I have no idea why. Down this hall are your Botox, waxing, weaving, contouring, facial, mani-pedi, laser, ultrasound and lipo salons. Slimming mirrors on the left, voluptu-izing mirrors to your right. Yoga pants and cycling shorts also can be purchased on this hall.

This is a great moment to pause for a selfie if you’d like.

On to food. The Blaze honors Richmond’s long culinary history with multiple dining options. When the city became a foodie mecca many of us stopped cooking. Most of our units have no kitchens, because as you know, after 2014 ovens were used only to keep the kitchen pipes from freezing.

As you can see, our most popular dining rooms are the Indian, Chinese and Ethiopian rooms. Those cuisines manage to be healthful, tasty, not too hard on the teeth — and, to be honest, cheap as hell for us to make.

The luxury menu package includes those dining rooms plus the all-you-can-eat kale bar, the lunch and dinner scotch, and any dishes named with an attribution to someone’s mother: Mama’s pie, Mama’s string beans, Mama’s chicken soup. Next year we’re adding cheese straws and homemade marshmallow bunnies to the luxury menu package. We expect Agriculture Department restrictions from the ban on the French to be lifted yet again.

And over here is Meatloaf Manor, home of the bargain-dining package. By the enticing aroma of oil and beef, you know this is the food that you avoided in order to live this long. The reasonable prices? Well, we find that within five years we’re able to resell units with this dining option, thus making up the profit on the back end, so to speak.

Now down to the lower levels of the building and into our vast musical complex. You may know that we housed the first generation of retired punk rockers who’d all pretty much blown their knees and their eardrums. In those halcyon days, as long as we played their vinyl and played it loud, we were successful. After some unfortunate mosh-pit episodes, we installed these soft dance floors and cushioned columns for thrashing. We’ve had hip-hop clubs, a rap stage and line-dancing lanes. The rave retirees were rough. We had to hire an extra pharmacist.

Now we keep it simple. There are five dance clubs — three of which are seizure-proofed. Our outdoor festivals with national talent are held every other weekend in months with an R in them. There are eight practice spaces for our Blaze resident bands to rehearse, and karaoke is available at all levels of care. Lessons in things as varied as Rock Moves After Hip Replacement and Post-arthritis R&B Ukulele are offered throughout the week. There’s a spreadsheet if you forget. Those menacing-looking security guards actually serve as our medical staff, and monitors will ticket your walker if parked inappropriately. It’s just like any other night on the town.

Our other floors are apartments. They tell me that 30 years ago, tours focused on the apartment spaces themselves. How strange. I guess back then people had an oxymoronic value of privacy in their communal years, an expectation that was dashed by the reality of something more akin to a hostel than a house. This

apparently led to widespread depression, anger and a fear of communal living. Makes me sad to think of it.

Thank goodness those days are gone. In 2045 your apartment is merely your resting place. That’s where you go if you feel unwell. We’ll bring you a TV if you get really sick. In these days when we value the joy of every precious day, why anyone would want to hang out in there is beyond me.

Now we’re going to break up into groups. I’ll show you the James River hiking, kayaking, bird watching and rock-climbing trails. Jenna Dawn will take the rest of you to the meditation center, gyms, library and welding studio. And Dimitri will offer tours of the horseshoe pits, burlesque training ground and scrapbooking collective, of which he is president.

Let’s bounce, people. S

Alane Miles is an ordained minister, freelance teacher, writer, and grief and bereavement counselor.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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