"Boleros for the Disenchanted" Barksdale Theatre launches its 2009-2010 season and Hispanic Theatre Project with a play by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Jose Rivera ("The Motorcycle Diaries"), following the story of a Puerto Rican couple pursuing the elusive American Dream. Featuring choreography by the Latin Ballet the play opens Sept. 18 and continues through Oct. 25. $35-$38. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive. 282-2620.
"The Mystery of Irma Vep" Swift Creek Mill Theatre opens its 2009-2010 season with Charles Ludlam's gothic satire featuring vampires, werewolves and mummies (all played by two actors) Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. and continuing production through Oct. 31. $35. 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway in Colonial Heights. 748-5203.
"Take a Chance on Love" The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen welcomes the Henrico Theatre Company as it presents this situation comedy about a newspaper editor and his attempt to convince his shareholding ex-wives to sell the publication. Opening Sept. 18, the play continues production through Oct. 4. $8-$10. 2880 Mountain Road. 501-5859.
"Boys' Life" The Firehouse Theatre opens its 2009-2010 season with a story following the misadventures of three former college mates as they pursue and refuse adulthood in the Roaring '20s. Written by Howard Korder, the production runs through Oct. 3. 1609 W. Broad St. 355-2001.
"Murder in the Court" The Mystery Dinner Playhouse performs a murder-mystery comedy featuring a courtroom backdrop, complete with judge, jury and executioner, at the Holiday Inn West End. Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 10. $42. 2000 Staples Mill Road. 649-2583."There's a mole in the furniture store." That's singer/songwriter/pianist Bruce Hornsby's response upon discovering that an anonymous caller has tipped us off that he's shopping at furniture store in Shockoe Bottom. The three-time Grammy winner, dressed in a large T-shirt and baseball cap, was browsingÿin search of furniture to put in his new Miami Beach home. There, he's been working steadily on an endowment programÿ-ÿÿthe Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Programÿ-ÿthat he created for his alma mater, the University of Miami. "It'sÿa great program, and it just launched this year," he says. Hornsby also tells us about several other projects he's working on. Besides the Off-Broadway musical, "SCKBSTD," he's writingÿthe score for a Spike Lee film about basketball star Kobe Bryant. He also has a small part in a new Robin Williams movie, "World's Greatest Dad." "Robin Williams plays a huge Bruce Hornsby fan,"ÿhe says, grinning, "and I play myself." Hornsby's rise to stardom began when he formed the band Bruce Hornsby and the Range; it was with them that he had his firstÿ-ÿand greatest to dateÿ-ÿÿhit, "The Way It Is." In the late 1980s, he began playing with the Grateful Dead, and collaborated with the bandÿuntil it disbanded in 1992. He's mainly known for his improvisational style that includes rock, jazz, folk, bluegrass and Motown. But spend time in New Orleans these days and you learn that media coverage of the flood disaster is the tip of the iceberg. Pictures and words fail to convey the destruction and abandonment. This part of the world has changed forever; the storm six months ago sealed that deal. Drive out from the French Quarter or parts of Uptown, out to Lake Pontchartrain, out to the poor rural eastern communities, through the deserted rubble of the Lower Ninth Ward and down through Mid-City, and you'll find nothing but heartbreak. The town lies rotting, block after block, mile after mile. Gutted houses stand desolate and night brings an eerie darkness to much of the city.Now is the time positive citywide changes could be made, but there appears precious little financial help in the offing. Political leadership is a well-acknowledged joke. Time has stopped in this ravaged town not in a merry way like it did in days past, but in desperate, overwhelming confusion. Jan Ramsey, publisher of New Orleans' OffBeat music magazine, is devastated as she describes the trauma: "It's really frustrating. Things are still very insecure here. You just can't get a clue until you actually see it. We really need help here." But amidst the sadness, there are signs people are pulling together. Some lucky enough to have homes are slowly returning to them. Restaurants are reopening, though most operate with shorter hours, clueless waiters and one-page menus. Clubs are open, and though many musicians were forced to leave town, those who remain have a curiously positive outlook. Musicians and club owners say they are starting the long haul to restore the magic the town has lost.Reggie Scanlan, bass player in tonight's house band and member of the long-running New Orleans party band The Radiators, is upbeat about the future. He's not soft-pedaling the horrors that engulf this city, but he roots for his beloved town. "Even people who have lost a lot of stuff, they want to come back," Scanlan says. "There's a lot of people who are very positive. It's going to take a lot of work. Nobody's kidding themselves about that."Scanlan also explains that younger players who had a tough time breaking into the club circuit pre-Katrina are now working. He also says crowds may be smaller, but the hard-core locals who show are ready to party."The scene is picking up," he says. "Obviously, it's not like it used to be, [but] they're ready to dance and they want to have music. It's like anything that's healing. It's a slow process."On the flip side, Scanlan acknowledges that club gigs don't pay well, and the lack of conventions and society parties means a musician's take is slim. With landlords doubling their rents, long-term housing for musicians or, for that matter, the waiters, cooks and hotel housekeepers this city traditionally depends on is a huge problem. But club owners and players say they're hoping Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival in April and May will be economic and spiritual turning points. These traditional events will give the world a chance to see that this city by the Gulf is not finished.Over in Mid-City, in a flood-ravaged area, businessman John Blancher is one of those who predict a "huge" Jazz Fest. For 16 years, Blancher has booked zydeco and rhythm-and-blues shows at his Rock 'n' Bowl bowling alley/music club. He's confident that the Fest will help fill the empty French Quarter streets and give the town a boost. "By springtime, there's going to be a curiosity factor," Blancher says. "I know there's so much love and respect [for Louisiana music] from people around the world. If they think they can come and lend a hand they will."Blancher says he's seen positive signs at his venue since its November reopening. For one, there's a better racial mix at his zydeco dances because the Ninth Ward neighborhood clubs were unfortunately destroyed. He also says there are signs that a stronger New Orleans brass band tradition is taking root with young blacks now that "the urban [gangsta] culture that was engulfing New Orleans tradition is gone." But he says hard decisions remain: "I think they're making strides, [but] politics is going to determine if we can pull out. This is a freakin' mess. Drastic things need to be done, [and] people need to let go emotionally. You can't just keep holdin' on. Honestly, [Katrina] accelerated by 50 years what was going to happen."Like Blancher, Jason Patterson, longtime booking manager for Snug Harbor, a venerable neighborhood jazz club near the Quarter, thinks Jazz Fest will work. He agrees that critical housing issues "will be with us for a while," and there is no quick fix to this mess. But Patterson believes tourists are ready to return even if hotels and eateries are struggling with the basics."I think people want to come down and be supportive, and a lot of others are just curious," he says. "I think accommodations will be maxed out [for Jazz Fest]."OffBeat's Ramsey remains hopeful as well despite her frustrations. She recalls a recent awards show sponsored by her magazine that brought musicians back to town to celebrate and describes it as a memorable night that reunited old friends."I think people are hopeful," she says. "But I live in a kind of strange world. I live in a music world."Later this Wednesday night, across town at the d.b.a. bar near the Quarter, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, a local music scene staple since the '70s, ends another gig. Washington knows well that strange musical world Ramsey speaks of, and he too believes that somehow the power of community and music will help New Orleans forge a new day. He's on the same page as many in his world."It's gonna be fine," the guitarist says quietly. "Cats come back and do what they supposed to do: Just to let you know there are nice people here in New Orleans. It's like a new beginning in New Orleans. A new beginning." S
The perfumed essence of another Valentine's Day is fast fading, but the heady musk of love is likely to remain in the air — at least through March — along a short stretch of state Route 54 on the country end of Ashland's western town limits.
Locals know this half-mile or so of rancid roadway, between town limits and Blanton Road, as Skunk Alley: a grueling gauntlet of hair-curling, eye-watering highway that flares the nostrils and tests the fortitude of even the most olfactory impaired.
But to the seeming hordes of skunks that come in search of romance, this is Lover's Lane.
February through March is the skunk's natural mating season. Many of these tales of musky romance end aromatically under passing truck tires, adding to the amorous effluence of the area.
Lamentably, what smells like love to one, smells to another a lot like ... well, a lot like the bad business end of a rotten herd of Mephitis mephitidae (The poor little striped suckers' Latin name literally translates to “stench stench.”).
Robert Gentry recalls “50 years' worth” of Eau de PepAc le Pew wafting through every window, crack and door in the shoebox-sized bungalow he grew up in. “Every time you'd come out of the house you'd smell skunk,” he says. “You'd get used to it — after 10 years or so.”
Gentry's family has occupied one of a half-dozen or so cottages clustered aside this shady stretch of rural roadway for more than 50 years. On this Sunday afternoon — Valentine's Day — the air is clear of skunk, a rarity that Gentry chalks up to the unseasonable cold.
But they'll be back, wagers Cathy Howk, Robert's sister. Both now live far, far away from Skunk Alley — he in Gloucester and she downwind but at a safe distance on Ashcake Road in Atlee. Both have a strong theory as to why their backyard was such a popular place for skunky first dates.
“I think we liked to feed them,” Howk says, recalling that her mother “used to take food and just throw it out back,” making the area into a veritable stationary safari of deer, fox, stray dogs — and lots of skunks.
“This is a good place for skunk — always has been,” she says, ruminating over the female skunk's natural defense against unwanted Valentine's Day suitors, a quick shot of stink that trumps the old “I've got a headache” standby any day. “Too bad we can't do that,” she says, humming a few bars of the 1980 J. Geils Band hit, “Love Stinks.”This is a bean pie. [Holds up a 6-inch pie in an aluminum-foil shell, which he waves at oncoming cars.] It's made with navy beans, sugar, eggs, milk and butter. People who eat bean pies know what's in them. I also sell lotion and incense. Sometimes I bring my hot-dog cart and work that, too.I grew up right here in Fairfield. So I'm not amongst strangers. As a child I used to carry groceries in a little red wagon. Usually I'm here at Mechanicsville Turnpike and Whitcomb Street about this time every day. I would say it's a good corner.I'm not inclined to give you an in-depth interview right now. I'm out here doing business, trying to make my way. And I try to look my best. Like the minister says, I don't want to be like a dull and dirty glass. If someone put a dirty glass and a clean glass in front of you, which one would you rather choose? Likewise, if you own one suit: Keep it clean. This is the latest edition of Final Call. You can find the papers each week down on Brookland Park Boulevard. We're always talking about love. How can we have love when we don't have patience for the next individual? That's what the minister says. Anyway, I said a minute ago that I think I've said too much. Yes sir, How can I help you? [Customer reaches for a paper and some incense.] Whatever you can donate will do. You're helping us in that call to fight crack cocaine in our communities. Can you help us in that call today? As told to Brandon Walters; photographed by Scott Elmquist.Is good bread hard to find? Once upon a time, Jean-Jacques Bakery in Carytown was one of the few places in town that baked a European-style loaf, and its baguettes are still used all over town, from sandwich shops to higher-end restaurants.There's plenty of competition now, however, and that fragrant, yeasty smell of freshly baked bread wafts thickly through Carytown. There, not one, but four bakeries, plus two grocery stores carrying loaves from bakeries without a storefront, vie for a spot in today's carb-shy market. Bread that once starred in its very own biblical miracle and provided the backbone of Western civilization's daily diet must be content these days with the occasional special appearance at dinnertime and a semirecurring role to support sandwiches at lunch.And yet the insidious scent of freshly baked bread is difficult to resist no matter how much carbs scare you.Unfortunately, Jean-Jacques' fine-grained crusty loaves seem a bit bland in comparison to some of the newcomers jostling for attention. Its neighbor, Can Can Brasserie, manages a full-scale baking operation in the back of its restaurant, while turning out bistro classics as well. Profoundly satisfying baguettes with a rich, wheaty tang and snappy crust are for sale along with an even better pear-and-hazelnut loaf (the exact composition of fruit and nuts varies with the season). Both are best served with a slather of butter, although a smear of triple-cream brie on the fruit-and-nut loaf turns a simple snack into a light and lovely meal. Up the street, Baker's Crust also divides its energy between serving meals and baking shiny, darkly golden loaves with dramatic slashes across the top. Although its fruit-and-nut loaf can't quite compare to Can Can's, its smaller, tangy baguette is formidable competition, and the slightly thicker crust provides a better staging area for cheeses.Across the street at the Metro Bakery, if you can get past the cookies and pastries without falling prey to a sugar attack, the bakery's big loaf of peasant bread, rightly beloved by caterers everywhere, provides another perspective on the art of bread-making with a chewy, hole-filled open crumb perfect for butter and surreptitious plate-cleaning.Thick-crusted Billy Bread is delivered daily to Ukrop's and is also available at Ellwood Thompson's Natural Market. It's a rougher bread a dark, dusty brown on the outside, full of holes and rich flavor inside, best suited for sauces, long-simmered stews and big, bold red wines. Somewhere in the middle falls the Flour Garden's excellent herb-laced loaf that is twanging with fresh flavor and chewy satisfaction. It is also found at Ellwood Thompson'sNot everyone circles Carytown endlessly like a rat on a track; some of us even venture as far as Shockoe Bottom, where the Cobblestone Bakery Café, when not serving sandwiches or alluring slices of cake, turns out a soft, floury ciabatta with a medium grain and a slight sourdough punch.Bread for the People delivers residentially (you've seen that little car, haven't you?) in the off-season and sells at the Farmers' Market from April to October. Its Italian loaf is more of a peasant bread and has a higher proportion of whole wheat to unbleached white flour than most. But the real star is the rosemary bread, dense and deliciously redolent of the fragrant, piney herb, perfect with a sharp Manchego while sipping a pinot grigio or crisp sauvignon blanc.The air in Sammy's Bakery on the North Side is almost too thick with the smell of sugar and yeast to breathe without instantly craving one of its decadent offerings, but save some room for one of the best baguettes in town, with a sturdy, crisp crust and firm crumb. And if you're lucky, a fistful of buttery bread sticks will tide you over in the car until you get home to slice up that loaf of well-balanced pleasure and serve it with anything from butter to pasta and marinara. It's almost too easy to find good bread in Richmond these days, so stop your carb-deprived whining and get out the butter. It's time to eat again. SLocating the LoavesBaker's Crust 3553 W. Cary St.213-080011800 W. Broad St.377-9060Billy Bread Bakery1 S. Allen Ave.17th Street Farmers' Market (April to October)100 N. 17th St.342-9111 Bread for the PeopleFulton Hill's Neighborhood Resource Center 1519 Williamsburg Road17th Street Farmers' Market (April to October)100 N. 17th St.306-8316Can Can Brasserie3120 W. Cary St.358-7274Cobblestone Bakery Café1810 E. Main St.545-9148Flour Garden Bakery8437 Glazebrook Ave.17th Street Farmers Market (April to October)100 N. 17th St.261-5757Jean-Jacques Bakery3138 W. Cary St.355-0666Metro Bakery3544 W. Cary St.257-7918Sammy's Bakery4019 MacArthur Ave.264-2063Click here for more Food & Drink"Air Bud Spikes Back"If your kids liked the "Air Bud" series, you'll want to be on the lookout for "Air Bud Spikes Back," being released on DVD and VHS on June 24, from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.In the film, school's out for the summer and Andrea Framm's best friend Tammy is moving out of town. To make new friends, she and Buddy join the local volleyball team. Meanwhile, mysterious crimes have been occurring in their hometown and all the paw prints seem to point to Buddy. The question is can Buddy lead the authorities to the real perpetrator and will Andrea find companionship with her volleyball team? The comedy is packed with messages about teamwork and friendship."Air Bud Spikes Back" is available for $29.99 on Disney DVD and $19.00 on VHS. JTHermie: A Common Caterpillar"Positive reinforcement is a message we all want to pass along to our children. In an age of increasing peer pressure, children often compare themselves to other children and they can easily lose their self-esteem.In "Hermie: A Common Caterpillar," Hermie and his insect friends teach children that it's ok to be ordinary. Children learn that we are all special in our own way and that God has a special plan for each of us. The animated film tells the tale of an ordinary caterpillar who, after observing more exciting creatures like the snail, ladybug, butterfly and ant, longs to be different. Hermie tries and fails miserably in his attempts to become something he is not. Each time this happens, he asks God, "What makes me special?" And, each time, God reminds him, "I love you, and I'm not finished with you yet."The film focuses on children ages 2 to 6 and their families and features the voices of comedic legends Tim Conway and Don Knotts. The story is available in English and Spanish on DVD and video, as well as books. Prices: VHS $14.99; DVD $17.99; Board Book $6.99; Picture Book $15.99. JTThere's no doubt Richmond suffers from a killing problem. But will it ever shake its reputation as one of the deadliest places to live in the nation, as the homicide capital of Virginia, as Murder City?It's a difficult prospect. Even when Richmond's total homicide rate dipped to 70 in 2001, the lowest in recent memory, it was ninth on the top 10 list of America's deadliest cities with a population of 100,000 or more, according to Morgan Quitno Press, a publisher of annual state and city rankings. In 2004, Richmond ranked fifth on the list.Across the country, homicide rates have remained fairly steady during the four-year span from 2001 to 2004, based on FBI crime data. (There was a slight increase in 2003 and a slight decrease in 2004.)During that same four-year span, however, Richmond's yearly homicide rate spiked from 70 to 95, an increase of 35.7 percent.There were 13 homicides in Henrico County last year; Chesterfield County had eight. Richmond had 84 in 2005, an 11.6 percent drop in its murder rate from 2004.But that trend may be short-lived. The city is averaging seven murders a month this year. If that rate were to continue, there would be another 50 or so homicides by year's end, bringing the total to around 86. And that's assuming no summer spike. Nelson says police don't recognize any month as being more or less pockmarked with homicides. "You just don't know with murders. Who would have [thought] January of this year would have started the way it did," she says, referring to the Harvey, Baskerville and Casper slayings.Memorial Day is right around the bend, the kickoff to summer. Hot days, long nights. What are your chances of staying safe?According to FBI crime data, the city of Richmond has a homicide rate of 46.5 per 100,000 people. The city has about 200,000 people. SClick here for more News and Features
Good morning. I am Michael Paul Williams, first vice president of the Richmond Newspapers Professional Association. We represent 101 news professionals at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which is the flagship and founding property of Media General. We, too, are shareholders in The Times-Dispatch and Media General. We represent a special class of investor — a group who has gone beyond capital contributions to give sweat, tears and years on behalf of this newspaper and its readers. Less than three years ago, we represented almost 180 people, but our ranks have been thinned by attrition, reassignment of editors, and most recently layoffs. On April 2, 22 of our members were laid off — about 18 percent of our staff. We also lost five deputy editors, all but one of them former union members at the lowest rung of management. No upper level managers lost their jobs. Included in this round of cuts were some of the newspaper's most seasoned reporters, editors, artists and photographers representing hundreds of years of collective experience and institutional memory. Their value is incalculable; they can never be replaced. Every day, our newsroom feels the loss of valued colleagues, friends, and yes, even spouses.
We were told that secret planning for the layoffs began a month earlier, or about one week after we agreed to 10 mandatory furlough days to save money and jobs. The layoffs were sprung on us the same day we sat down voluntarily with the company to talk about its request for wage concessions to save jobs. Our colleagues learned their fate by e-mail the evening before the layoffs, even as some were going about the task of performing critical duties to put out the next day's paper. Our editors have told us the layoff of nearly one-fifth of our staff was necessary because the company is in “survival mode.” As journalists for Media General's Richmond Times-Dispatch, we are committed to accurate, truthful reporting.
But Media General is not being transparent with its shareholders, who aren't being told, as we are by top management, that the Times-Dispatch is in “survival mode.” They aren't being told that Media General is demanding cuts in the newspaper that undermine the viability of a flagship product that management acknowledges is profitable. They aren't being told that top executives aren't willing to take pay cuts in exorbitant salaries, beyond sharing in furloughs and forgoing their lucrative bonuses. We have asked them to take additional pay cuts, and we believe they have been asked internally to take additional pay cuts, but they refuse. And yet they are threatening to lay off more of our people to save less than $200,000, which could be accounted for easily by modest cuts in executive pay or trimming of the newspaper's bloated senior management staff. We are concerned that the company's strategy appears to be to sell a smaller product in an increasingly competitive market at a higher price, and do not believe that this strategy has been clearly enough elucidated for stockholders. Are Times-Dispatch managers accurate in describing the condition of the company as “in survival mode?” And at what point does Media General believe that these continuing cuts will compromise the Times-Dispatch and its ability to satisfy readers, attract advertisers, and serve its community? Michael Paul WilliamsColumnist, reporterRichmond Times-DispatchAn education in school-buildingI read with more than passing interest the architectural review by Edwin Slipek Jr. of the three new elementary schools in Richmond (Architecture, Oct. 12). As a former employee of Richmond Public Schools who spent more than 12 years working in the office which was responsible for the design, construction and renovations of schools, I can offer Style Weekly readers (along with Mr. Slipek) an "education" of sorts of what really occurred that lead to such a final product.First of all, Mr. Slipek refers to the fact that the new buildings do not have the architectural character and feel that the "grand old" buildings such as East End Middle School (AKA Onslow Minnis Middle School) or Thomas Jefferson High School or William Fox Elementary School have. This is absolutely true. The "grand old" buildings were designed by one man ... the same man who designed schools not only for the city of Richmond for more than 30 years but buildings at the University of Richmond. I have no doubt that these "grand old" buildings can still serve the needs of students, but they are not even close in meeting the current State Department of Education Standards for site size, classroom size, computers, etc.As for the prototype used by Sverdrup, to be honest, it is not the best design one could have developed and used for an elementary school. This prototype was actually first designed for the suburban Dallas area, and then modified for the Richmond area. While Sverdrup has school experience in other parts of the country, these were the first schools they had designed in Virginia.Any public building (actually any building) is built within something called a budget. This is damn important in the design and construction of a building. The budget was tight to start with (along with the time frame) to complete all three projects with an opening date for the first day of school, 1999 (which by the way is no easy trick). There are trade-offs, and as anybody knows from even renovating a bathroom or kitchen, you have to put some priorities first and decide what can be lived without. All things considered, to have all three new elementary schools go up and running on-time should be hailed as a minor miracle, especially within the geopolitical environment of the city of Richmond. This "good news" as stated in Mr. Slipek's review is actually very good news indeed!- Stephen Kadar Jr., Assoc. AIA, AICP, CSIGay thrift store in the worksI read with much interest the article about the closing of the Out of the Closet Thrift Shop (Street Talk, Oct. 26). In reality, the idea of a thrift store to benefit the gay community is not dead. A new organization, the Richmond Gay Community Foundation Inc., plans to open a thrift store next June. Proceeds from the thrift will be awarded to local organizations that will address the many problems faced by the gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.By funding multiple organizations, the store will have a larger base of support from which to receive donated items and volunteers. Furthermore, the ROSMY Executive Director was correct when she stated in Style that they are "a social-service agency not business, retail people." Because the major focus of our organization will be our thrift store, it is anticipated to grow and prosper for many years, as Los Angeles' Out of the Closet Thrift and Philadelphia's Thrift for AIDS have.I was delighted to read in Style about the dramatic increase in donations and grants ROSMY has received. As its founder and former executive director, it is reassuring to know that the organization is growing and in good hands. I applaud ROSMY's board of directors, staff and volunteers for the work they are doing. Our new organization hopes to be as successful in running our business as ROSMY is in running its social-service agency.Individuals who have items to donate or would like to learn more about RGCF may contact them at P.O. Box 14562, Richmond, Va. 23221, or by e-mail at RGCF@aol.com.- Jon Klein, MSW, presidentRichmond Gay Community FoundationIt's all about prioritiesI am writing in response to "Pipe Dreams" (Cover Story, Nov. 2).The article seemed only to present one side of a multifaceted story. Namely, there are very few theater organs left that are playable. Those that are playable cling to life only through the ministrations of a small yet devoted group of enthusiasts who volunteer their time and talents. I don't dispute these facts. What I don't understand is how the theater organ world seems to throw up its hands saying in essence that they have no idea how these instruments will be maintained after they are gone.Yes, to be certain, there are fewer and fewer pipe organs around. This is due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is monetary.It all seems to boil down to priorities. Theater owners ought to feel a level of responsibility for the organs they own. These grand old organs shouldn't have to depend on volunteers to make repairs and keep the organs playing. These organs should be featured by these theaters. These theaters should pay to have skilled theater organists play these organs. It is as much a shame to see a grand old theater organ die an ignominious death as a church organ. I personally hate to see it, but it happens all the time, and only an educated public can help change these circumstances.If there is anything that I can do to help prevent one more silent pipe organ, I would be glad to help professionally. I would also be glad to talk to anyone who wants to plan for the restoration and maintenance of these instruments. And I am sure there are any number of professional organ technicians who would be glad to do the same.- Henry J. Brissette IIICapital Pipe Organ AssociatesWe're different from those Canadians, eh?I was interested in the article, "Original Sin" (Back Page, Nov. 2) in which Travis Charbeneau discusses the destructive effect Americans' fear of centralized government had during the "Wild West". He contrasts it against Canada's orderly settlement of the western provinces during the same time.Yes, the Canadian government and the Mounties kept the peace. They did so because their citizens believed central government was good. More than 100 years ago two men in Headly, British Columbia, Canada had a "Wild West" style shoot-out in the street. The local Mountie officer promptly hung the survivor because dueling was illegal. Death by gunshot remains far lower in Canada than in the United States.The Americans of the 19th century praised rugged revolutionaries who took a gun and tools over the mountains to hew out a new independent life. The Canadians revered loyalists who left everything in the United States and relocated to stay under British rule.Americans forged their country through war in 1776. Canadians formed their country through conferences in 1867. The transcontinental railroad that carried settlers in Canada was built on a federal promise to the province of British Columbia. American rail lines were built by commercial interests.Canadian people were not the same as Americans. They had divergent roots and values which led to a positive view of central government.- Kristen HughesSo was Jefferson just a kook?A few thoughts on the "Original Sin" essay: To answer Travis Charbeneau's assertion that our founding fathers suffered from a pathological paranoia of centralized power, I need only recite the names of the most tyrannous trinity of our own century: Hitler, Stalin and Mao. There are others I could add, of course. The success of our nation has been built upon the wisdom and experience of our forefathers who were less power hungry than our leaders are today. This should give us pause before we dismiss their wise council. I suppose, to Charbeneau, Jefferson was just a kook when he said "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."- Lee CarletonEditor's note: Lee Carleton is also Back Page contributor.Still a peon, but a peon with a viewKudos to Mariane Matera for article "How to Tell if You Have a Real Job" (Back Page, Nov. 16)This woman has obviously walked in my shoes and knows the pain and anguish of being "low (wo)man on the totem pole."I often wondered how the college graduates I was working with and for couldn't figure out how to add paper to the copier or the fax, let alone create their own Rolodex card with important numbers rather than having to ask me a million times for the same information over and over again.Don't even get me started on the throngs of people who would invade my desk space (since I wasn't important enough to have my own cubicle/office) in order to use MY pen, MY Post-Its, MY tape, and MY scissors. Didn't these professionals have office supplies of their own?Over the years I've continued to move up the ladder. Each time I believe that I finally have come into my own, but for some reason I still haven't been able to shake the "peon" status. However, to end on a good note, I am writing this letter to you from my office with a window with a view.- Danna EhrhartWe want to hear from youStyle welcomes signed letters to the editor that include the writer's daytime telephone number. Letters are edited for clarity and space. Mail or deliver to 1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220. You can fax your letter to 355-9089 or e-mail it firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate letter to the editor in the topic field.man who's homeless, drunk and tired generally has two options.He can flop down where he stands and sleep on the Richmond streets.Or he can make his way over the river to The Healing Place, on Dinwiddie Avenue in Manchester, where a clean bed for the night in a free detox center awaits.If he chooses the latter, he must take a tour before he leaves the next day. He has to see its dorms with neatly made beds and open-door lockers, its lounges and meeting room. He has to talk to the men who live there, who once stood in his dusty shoes. If he likes what he sees, he stays. This simple process is the best way to get men who are homeless started on the road to sobriety, says Mike Christin, executive director of The Healing Place, a year-old shelter and addiction treatment center. The 12-step-based, peer-led program is easy to get into, though it's hard to stay the course. It promises to cure the addicted for good and on the cheap. And it could change the way homeless addicts are treated in Richmond. The Richmond region collectively spends about $30 million to address homelessness each year, or about $21,400 per homeless person. That sum doesn't include the costs of incarceration or medical bills; the annual cost to the public for taking care of a homeless addict soars into the $30,000 to $40,000 range.For decades, there's been one main program in Richmond to treat this group. Rubicon Inc. provides residential drug rehabilitation for the destitute with more than $3 million in financial backing from the city's Richmond Behavioral Health Authority and the Virginia Department of Corrections.But people can't walk up and knock on Rubicon's door. Admission requires a referral, typically from a government agency such as the Behavioral Health Authority. There's almost always a waiting list of weeks or months. Experts say that for many, that's simply too long to wait, because addicts soon lose their "moment of clarity."At Rubicon, residential treatment costs a minimum of $75 per person, per day, and generally lasts one to three months. It serves groups The Healing Place does not, such as women and people with serious mental illnesses. The Healing Place program costs $25 per man, per day, and typically lasts a year. The Louisville center it replicates boasts that 65 percent of its graduates are clean and sober a year later a phenomenal number, according to others in the field. Is one program better than the other? Which is more effective: a short-term stay with licensed staff, or a longer stay with people who've been through recovery themselves? State and city officials will soon have to answer that question. Executive Director Christin intends to seek government money to expand the program at The Healing Place. And if he's successful, Rubicon may find itself fighting for the money it has collected for years.Both programs are similar in content. They consist of residential stays during which clients are not expected or allowed to work or do anything unrelated to their treatment. Community is key. Days are strictly scheduled around meetings and classes. Clients learn about addiction, grief and loss, managing anger and preventing relapses. At The Healing Place, classes are taught exclusively by graduates of the program, who work for a small stipend and room and board. Rubicon staff consider this insufficient.Having staff who are themselves in recovery is "a valuable thing," says Connie Lockhart, Rubicon's clinical services director. However, Rubicon staff must also be licensed, certified or pursuing a degree related to addiction treatment. "We are licensed," Lockhart says. "They are not licensed." These requirements necessarily drive treatment costs up, she says.After 30 to 90 days at Rubicon some people, especially mothers, stay longer clients graduate from the program and return to their normal lives. About 70 percent to 75 percent of those who start complete the program. Less than half of those who continue with the outpatient program finish successfully. What happens afterward is largely unknown. "They are not usually very stable when they leave us," Lockhart acknowledges. Rubicon is trying to keep better track of its alumni, she says. Plans are under way to turn one of the buildings on its spacious Front Street campus into a recovery house, where graduates of the program can reside while they begin rebuilding their lives.The Healing Place has a different schedule. For one to two months, clients attend classes on the nature of substance abuse and the 12-step program. If they're ready to commit, they then enter the six-month recovery phase, in which they embark on the 12 steps and begin mentoring newer members. Finally comes three to four months of transition, when clients live in Healing Place-sponsored apartments and begin working.This lengthy process is absolutely essential, Christin says. There are no shortcuts. Nine men have graduated from the program thus far; eight have remain sober and employed, Christin says. With time, he expects to duplicate Louisville's vaunted 65 percent success rate. The success of the Louisville center helped Christin get $4.5 million in grants from foundations and corporations. But that support won't last, so now he's turning to the city and state government for help (he wants to build a center for women, as well). Compared with Rubicon, he says, "our costs are way, way lower."But Dr. Jim May, substance abuse services director for the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, says there's more to be considered. The Healing Place's success numbers only reflect graduates, he points out: "The majority of people drop out before they get to the end."Christin acknowledges that his program works only for participants who are determined: "They at some point have to want this for themselves, or it's not going to work." Thus referrals from the Department of Corrections, which include people eager to use rehab as a reason to get out of jail, might not be a good fit for The Healing Place.Marty Muguira, executive director of the homeless-services umbrella agency Homeward, has been watching The Healing Place with interest. Data shows that the number of unsheltered substance abusers has decreased since it opened, she says. But is it the best solution for treating addiction? Many are waiting to see how successful The Healing Place is in Richmond, Muguira says. In her opinion, "there's a place for both." SClick here for more News and FeaturesWe've heard a lot about community lately. The gist of the clamor is that we need to reinstate the values that can be fostered by a sense of belonging.Enter Disney and the planned town of Celebration, Fla. Using some of the most innovative urban designers, the company has built a town that is planned to foster neighborliness and easy living.In order to write this book, "Celebration U.S.A." (Henry Holt, $25), reporters Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins and their two young children moved to Celebration at its beginning in 1997. Their report from the front lines is fascinating and evenhanded. They tell us about the manner in which Disney exercised control: The company appointed the town manager without input from the residents; micro-regulated life to such an extent that a new owner was reproved for temporarily hanging red curtains at her window while she waited for the obligatory white ones; and insisted that the Presbyterian minister remove a mildly critical sentence from a talk he was to give at Founders Day. They let us see the environmental ruthlessness with which the company cut down scores of 100-year-old live oaks and tried to fill in some wetlands. And we hear about the conflicts about and failures of the much-advertised school.They also show us the key failure: Disney was really interested in the bottom line. Because of what the authors describe as the company's "fear that the project would not be popular with the middle class if it had room for poor people," there was no low-cost housing to attract a diverse group of residents. Largely, white middle-class families flocked to this protected area.But Frantz and Collins also tell us of Celebration's successes: the placement of expensive houses close to smaller ones, the use of front porches to help neighbors to get to know one another, the design of a real downtown within walking distance. And we see the residents begin to take hold of their own lives and begin to enjoy each other and their surroundings.Designers of our gated communities and people who are looking for community could profit from the experiences Frantz and Collins share with us.That’s all I know and all I want to know. I know I’m livin’ fast gettin’ high and dyin’ slow. I look at righteous people and I wish it could be me. To die here in these cold streets will be my destiny.No matter how much you beat me or how much love you show. My refusal to bear fruit means this big tree won’t grow. I’m tired of seeing death and I’m tired of tellin’ lies. The wickedest thing in this world is the money inside their eyes. I hear gunshots that make me shake. A larger nightmare — I’m lyin’ dead in my coffin. I’m lyin’ dead awake. The shackels of the streets are the lords of life. The shackles of the streets are what let me live twice.I’ve got a force in me that’s for real. I think the things that makes a man is gettin’ money and totin’ steel. Of peer pressure blinded. Triple-six minded. I look for the piece but for some reason I can’t find it.Little brother my heart’s paid a heavy toll. Even if I got baptized I probably couldn’t save my soul. What I really want in life is a wife, two kids, a car, a house — what separates the men from the mice.What it’d be like to have a family portrait on my mantelpiece. It’s all a dream now when these traditions are just stolen by the beast. And a nice job that pays about ten dollars an hour? I was 14 years old when I got tripped up by the devil and his white powder. You carry a .45 for protection but that don’t protect the middle section.This is the life I live and I just wanted you to know. I used to sell drugs and now inside my veins they flow. I remember the days when me and grandma had no heat. We had to sleep fully dressed wrapped up in blankets and sheets. Boilin’ pots of water for a bath in the mornin’. Grandma lost three kids, and I still see her mournin’. And I’ve stole from her and you. Oh what a tangled web us addicts weave. There’s nothin’ we won’t do.I stopped getting’ high the day I wanted to live. I’m a whole person you just don’t know what peace I would give. I’ve got many lyrics, you know, many different styles. I don’t have that much stage experience. I’m just focusing on getting my message out, tryin’ to obtain a positive image with all I’ve been through. Everybody already knows what the streets are about. It’s the same old story here and there. But each person has their own story that helps them get by and try to live a righteous life everyday.That’s what it’s all about — stayin’ into the word. I’m just tryin’ to open some eyes to the message being seen out here. — As told to Brandon WaltersWith 80 percent of the popular vote and a mandate for change, L. Douglas Wilder, at 73 a nationally known politician and local celebrity, breezed into office in January 2005 promising to take on crime, clean up corruption in city government and push for accountability in schools.So how has Wilder fared? Is the new strong mayor system working? What has changed, if anything, for Richmond under a revised form of city governance? The attempted school eviction on Sept. 21 brought national attention and embarrassment to the city. A lack of clarity in the new charter has resulted in continual jockeying for power between the City Council and the mayor. Gridlock has persisted. An examination of the three areas Wilder pointed to at the beginning of his tenure reveal the complexities of the new system, a failure of leadership and a possible road map for future change in the city. On the issue of crime, a high priority for residents living in a city with a staggering homicide rate for its size, Wilder has received high marks. In February 2005, Wilder hired Rodney Monroe as chief of police, who in 2007 earned the praise of Richmonders when the city ended the year with 55 homicides, the lowest total in 26 years and the third consecutive annual decline.On his economic development platform, faced with robust suburban counties with growing commercial and residential assets and little interest in working with the city, Wilder has taken a strong-arm approach to developing the city. Wilder took on the corporate elite by forcing private plans for a performing arts center to be downscaled in 2005 and, recently, stood by as a key regional asset, the Richmond Braves, announced intentions to leave Richmond for a new stadium in Gwinnet County, Ga.Meanwhile, Wilder issued an all-out assault on the Richmond Public Schools. Vocal on the need for improving schools from the start of his administration, Wilder has taken an adversarial role with the School Board, Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman, who recently announced her resignation, and members of City Council. By April 2008, some observers of the Richmond political scene were questioning for the first time whether Wilder would in fact seek the office again. A Wilder re-election bid would face strong opposition from the Rev. Dwight Jones, a member of the House of Delegates and pastor of a prominent local African-American church. Jones has already garnered endorsements from one sitting council member. Polls show Wilder is politically vulnerable, and some local pundits have speculated he may choose to ride off into the sunset, or to a possible position in an Obama administration, rather than risk ending his career with an electoral defeat.While the end of this story remains to be written, the first three and a half years of Richmond's experiment with the strong mayor system raise two evaluative questions: the first regarding the effectiveness of the Wilder administration and the second about the effectiveness of the new system itself. As to Wilder, few observers deny that he deserves at least some credit for the reduction in crime under Monroe, and for the expected success of a new master plan for downtown redevelopment spearheaded by another Wilder appointee, Rachel Flynn. Richmond has also attracted new corporate investment on Wilder's watch. In 2007, the city saw the first resurgence of its population in more than a decade, and Wilder has secured a $300 million line of credit to finance capital improvements. Some observers also credit Wilder for being the first elected official in many years to buck the local corporate elite on a substantial issue, that of funding for the performing arts center.On the other hand, Wilder failed utterly to build productive working relationships with City Council and the School Board. Nor has he been an effective advocate for the city's interests either in conversations with the surrounding counties or in the Virginia legislature. On the contrary, the constant in-fighting at City Hall has worsened the city's reputation. Critics such as City Council President William J. Pantele also charge Wilder with failing to tackle sufficiently waste and fraud in city government. Nor has Wilder made tangible progress on his ambitious plan to close several older city schools and open state-of-the-art new facilities. Lastly, the departure of the Richmond Braves, while of minor economic significance, has called into question Wilder's competence as a leader capable of defending the city's interests.From the standpoint of the conventional political barometer of whether the city is better or worse off than it was four years ago, Wilder's first term is a mixed bag, of notable successes and high-profile disappointments. From the standpoint of the strong mayor system itself, however, the Wilder administration represents a severe disappointment in at least one respect: Wilder has failed to help the city overcome -- or even meaningfully address -- its structural problems as a city surrounded by totally separate counties, a city with large amounts of untaxed government property, and a city that regularly gets the short shrift on public school funding because of an outdated statewide formula. Instead, Wilder has been more interested in exerting authority within the city -- often, it seems, for little more than authority's sake. Wilder has interpreted strong mayor to mean strongman rather than strong advocate for the city's interests in a wider regional and state arena.When Wilder took office, Richmond was a city with vastly higher poverty rates than its neighbors, a widely scorned public education system, and a serious problem retaining middle-class, tax-paying families with children. In 2008, little has changed on any of those fronts.That Wilder is now vulnerable politically, however, such that his re-election and even his candidacy are in serious doubt, shows that it is much too early to judge Richmond's political system as a failure. The new system was intended to make it easier for people to hold their government accountable. Wilder started his term of office with a deep reservoir of support, a reservoir that has substantially evaporated as a result of various conflicts and failures. That lack of support may now cost Wilder his job, the ultimate expression of being held accountable in a democratic system.In this minimal but vital sense, then, the new system is a step in the direction of accountability. Whether the new system will or can ultimately produce a government in which meaningful accountability is a more regular feature of day-to-day governance, not just something that happens every four years on Election Day, remains to be seen.SCorrection:Police Chief Rodney Monroe was hired in February of 2005, not January 2005.(Editor's Note: Due to an editing mistake, earlier print and online versions failed to include final adjustments from the authors, including Monroe's hiring date.)Excerpted from "Richmond, Doug Wilder, and the Move to a Strong Mayor System: A Report on a Political Experiment in Progress," by University of Richmond professors Amy Howard, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, and Thad Williamson, who teaches leadership studies.Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.Click here for more Forum