Tag Archives: Virginia

The Roanoke Star and Mill Mountain, Virginia, October 2016

The Roanoke Star has crested Mill Mountain more than 1,000 feet above the city since 1949.  It is visible for 60 miles, and results in Roanoke’s nickname as the “Star City.”

The views of the Roanoke Valley from the mountain’s crown are breathtaking.









Roanoke, Virginia, October 2016

Rainy Roanoke!  It actually is a beautiful small city, even during an overcast October week — and the skies cleared up brightly my last day there.

What I loved most about the city during the daytime is how the surrounding mountain peaks ascended to be obscured by darkening alabaster clouds.  It’s as though some celestial painter was coloring outside the lines, and brushed broad swathes of smoky white to cover the summits, and to turn the slopes the hues of deep, royal blue-gray and dimming charcoal.

This entire region in Southern Virginia rests along a broad valley encircled by mountains — the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west.  (The Alleghenies are where you can find Iron Gate and Clifton Forge.)  It is slightly disorienting for a first-time visitor to see mountains virtually everywhere on the horizon; I think it subtly affects one’s sense of direction.  (Mill Mountain, home of the famed Roanoke Star, is within the city limits.)

There actually is a Long Island, Virginia along the Roanoke River, presumably where all the cool people live.  Just northwest of that is Altavista, Virginia, with its notable cottage industry of obsolete Internet search engines.

My girlfriend calls Roanoke “The Snow Globe City,” and that makes sense when you view downtown from the highway.  It is a quaint looking southern city, its streets are neatly lined with boxlike period buildings, and it has the appearance of a picturesque architectural huddle.

And there are churches everywhere within the city.  It is indeed part of the Bible Belt.













Throwback Thursday: “Star Trek,” the Original Series

I really missed the boat with last week’s Throwback Thursday — it was the 50th anniversary of the entire “Star Trek” franchise, with the first episode of the original series airing on September 8, 1966.  (And even the term “franchise” seems way too narrow to describe “Star Trek” in all of its incarnations — it’s really more like a permanent part of western popular culture.)  I’m not old enough to remember the show’s original run, which was a surprisingly scant three years.  But I remember it in syndication when I was not much more than a baby in the mid- to late 1970’s.

“Star Trek” was something that my older brother and maybe my father watched.  (I was fixated on programming that was more comprehensible for young kids, like “Land of the Lost” and reruns of “The Lone Ranger.”  Seriously, the original black-and-white serial western was still in reruns back then.)

But “Star Trek” was definitely something I was attracted to as a tot, doubtlessly resulting, in part, from the contagious ardor for it that I saw in my older brother.  (He might not admit it today, but he was a bit of a hard-core science fiction fan long before I was.)  The show was on at our tiny house in Woodhaven, Queens, quite a lot.  He also had toys and posters connected with it.  (And anything my older brother owned was something I endeavored to play with when he wasn’t looking.)

He had that Captain Kirk toy among the figures produced by Mego that you see in the bottom photo.  (Again, 1970’s “action figures” were often pretty much indistinguishable from dolls.)  In the early 1980’s, he had a totally sweet giant poster depicting diagrammed schematics for The Enterprise in surprising detail.  I’ve Google-searched for it, but found only similar pinups.  The one hanging in the room we shared was blue.

I remember him annoyedly correcting me because I called it “Star Track.”  (I did not yet know the word “trek.”  I myself was confused by my own mistake; I knew that there could be no “train tracks” in space, even if I studied the opening credits one time just to make sure.)

I was precisely the sort of pain-in-the-ass kid who fired off an incessant barrage of questions when I saw something on TV that I didn’t understand.  My father was patient to a fault when I punctuated his World War II movies with inane questions.  (I’m willing to bet I eventually acquired more knowledge of the war’s European theater than the average six-year-old.)  My brother was not always so forbearing.  I actually remember him changing the channel away from shows he was watching, like “Star Trek” or “MASH,” if I joined him at the little black-and-white television we had in our room.  (The poor guy needed me to lose interest and go away, so that he could at least hear the damn show.)

Certain “Star Trek” episodes remain memorable to this day, even if I understood maybe 15 percent of what transpired onscreen.  The was The One With The Domino-Face Men, which the Internet now tells me was actually titled “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”  Then there was The One Where Kids Ruled Themselves on a Deserted World, which made a really big impression on me.  (The Internet tells me this one was “Miri.”)

As I grew up, the show faded from prominence in my child’s psyche.  It was just never my fandom of choice.  Nor was it for many other kids I knew … by the 1980’s, it was already considered “an old TV show.”  The kids on my street were always excited about the feature films; even if we were underwhelmed by the “slow” first film in 1979.  Blockbuster movies were major events back then, and fewer, and they were enigmatic in a way that is impossible after the Internet’s arrival.  (I think that Millennials will never be able to understand that, in the same way that you and I can never appreciate the vintage “serials” that our parents watched before the main feature at a Saturday matinee.)

In the 1980’s, just about every boy I knew was preoccupied with the space-fantasy of “Star Wars.”  On television, we had cheesefests like the original “Battlestar Galactica” and “V.”  As we got older, we gravitated toward the “Alien” and “Predator” film franchises.  At home, I read Orson Scott Card and Harry Harrison, and as I approached college toward the end of the decade, I’d discovered Arthur C. Clarke.  If we’d known another kid who was really into “Star Trek,” I’m not sure we would have considered it “nerdy.”  It would just have been very weird, because it we viewed it as a campy tv show from maybe two decades prior, like “Bonanza” or something.  I don’t think I ever even thought of the franchise as really relevant or popular until I was at Mary Washington College in the 1990’s.  “Star Trek: the Next Generation” would regularly draw kids out of their dorm rooms into the lobby at New Hall.

Still, it’s hard not to develop an emotional attachment to something that stimulated your sense of wonder as a tot.  I … felt pretty damn sad when Captain Kirk died in 1994’s “Star Trek: Generations.”  I saw it in a theater in Manassas, Virginia, I think, with my girlfriend at the time.  She actually felt she had to console me after seeing how doleful I was on the drive home.




Ballston, Virginia, September 2016

This is the major professional and commercial area of Ballston, an affluent section of Arlington, Virginia.  These were taken near the Virginia Square Metro Station; just north of George Mason University.  (Do college students eat frequently at these upscale cages and gourmet delis?  When I was going to school in Fredericksburg, we splurged when we went to Olive Garden after a formal.)

Also just a few blocks away is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).







Warrenton, Virginia, Labor Day Weekend 2016 (3)




All The Pretty Horses!  (That’s a James Patterson reference, by the way.)

This pretty girl took a shine to me instantly.  (I was surprised, as I thought horses were generally shy around strangers.)  I wanted so badly to pet her, but I elected not to cross onto this person’s property in order to do so.  I am told Southern people take certain things very seriously — and two of them are property lines and Second Amendment rights.





This eastern rat snake (or northern black racer?) elected to join our party, or he at least ventured near it, where he was expertly plucked up by one of our group.  (You’ve got to lift them from just behind the head, so that they cannot bite you.)

Forget that narrow-fellow-in-the-grass bull@#$% you heard; this mamajama was KAIJU.





Watching “Captain America: Winter Soldier” on the big screen on the side of a barn!  And then “Civil War!”









Warrenton, Virginia, Labor Day Weekend 2016 (2)


One of these chickens is an enterprising bird that my friend and her family have dubbed “Adventure Chicken,” as she  frequently escapes the enclosure. Adventure Chicken actually stuck her head in my tent when I wasn’t looking.













Warrenton, Virginia, Labor Day Weekend, 2016

Camp Nolan II.  The anti-bobcat bat is inside beside my bed.



The soda-holding flamingo.



This pretty lady and I became fast friends.


She even wanted to become my bunk-mate!



A homely locust.



CVS is selling Halloween decorations already.  But it’s okay, because some of them are damned cool.  This is a rat skeleton I purchased.  Then a trio of us placed it inside a certain Mary Wash alum’s tent at night, with a glow-stick inside its ribcage.



The results were somewhat lackluster, as you can see below.  Our host however, ensured he received his a proper scare this weekend by firing off a starting pistol while he napped.

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“PET ME,” says the Puppy!



A butterfly joined our group for quite a while.  The trick to attracting them, apparently, is organic tomato sauce.


“Where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

These are a few (poorly taken) shots of rural central Virginia between Alleghany County in the southwest and Fauquier County.  It’s a beautiful journey.  F. Scott Fitzgerald described the American Midwest as “that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”  I myself have always thought his description it fits the Commonwealth just fine.

Most of these aren’t great photos.  For one, they were taken from a moving car, as you can tell from the reflections in the window.  For another, I am a terrible photographer, as you can tell from the unintentional shot of my giant white nerd face.  (My phone is new.)

The best shots were those I didn’t get.  Lord knows I scrambled to get a picture of that bear on Skyline Drive, but it was a blink-and-you-miss-it opportunity.

There were other things that I saw, too, of which I’d love to have gotten pictures.  The first was the thin, immaculate strip of white headstones in a family cemetery, lying adjacent to their farm’s vast, green square of a cornfield.  The juxtaposition of life and death in that image was perfect.  Another was a sullen-looking cow, lying in the exact center of a fenced front yard, regarding passing cars like an apathetic despot.

As you can see, what I captured are really just your standard road trip pics, but they still manage to show some of the beauty of the Commonwealth.


Heading north.








Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.  [In best Stephen Colbert voice:] “Watch out for bears!”





Creepy solitary abandoned mountain shack is creepy.



New Yorkers, these are dormitories for Chicken University, where poultry prepare earnestly to graduate someday to a culinary position with your household.  (These flat, low buildings are often visible from the road in the valleys — I remember thinking that they resembled dog kennels, except that they are entirely enclosed and look quite neatly maintained.)




“Meet Virginia.”






I think this is the southern fork of the Shenandoah River, but I’m not sure …