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Is Richmond Losing The Braves?

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Well who didn’t see this coming? Surprise! Apparently Richmond is losing it’s minor league baseball team, the Richmond Braves. Mayor Doug Wilder is most likely to blame. The city scrapped plans to build a new stadium that would have almost certainly gotten the Braves to stay in Richmond. It was supposed to be constructed either in Shockoe Bottom or the riverfront, either of which would have greatly enhanced the city’s charm and character. Doug Wilder, while facilitating new programs and initiatives to improve the city in many ways, has also hurt it in many others. This is probably one of the biggest.

The Richmond City Council needs a major overhaul. Heck, it seems that half of the council has been in legal trouble or even jailed in the last four or five years. Either way, Mayor Wilder is going to have to face some tough questions in the coming days and weeks about his decision to scrap a new city stadium.

A press conference scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon will supposedly confirm the rumors of the team’s decision to move to Georgia, near the parent club (the Atlanta Braves). If the rumors are true, the Braves will leave in 2009.

One Richmond resident who voiced his opinion on the news yesterday said he wasn’t surprised the Braves would leave because “the only attractions at The Diamond are the Diamond Duck and two dollar specials on hot dogs and draft beer.” I couldn’t agree more. Come on, Wilder. Get it together.

Ramblings About Winter Break

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It’s been quite an interesting break. I’ve had a month of hanging out with friends (including meeting some new ones and catching up with some old ones, as well as the usual suspects like Jen, Allie, and Tori), spending time with family, having a bonfire, and seeing lots of good movies (I went to see seven or eight). I also had lots of new experiences (like going clubbing at Have A Nice Day Cafe on New Year’s Eve) and learned valuable lessons (such as to not put myself out on the line as much when it comes to girls in general, but particularly this girl I really, really like (who is pretty much amazing, has a terrific personality, has a lot in common with me, and seemed like a great match), because I ended up getting hurt in the end, I guess because of my own lack of knowledge of women and knowing how to accurately judge whether or not a girl truly likes me back as much as, or in the same way that, I like them).

A month is a long time in the Winter. It seems like Christmas was forever ago, when in reality it wasn’t that long ago at all. It’s one thing when it’s Summer and you can do stuff outside and there’s just generally more going on, but I would have been happy with two or three weeks. After New Year’s, everything just kinda drops off. I’ve been out most every night doing something or another, but some of the nights it seemed like there was just nothing to do. I spent many a night driving around aimlessly, blasting (and singing to of course) XM, but even that, after a while, starts to get old. It’s amazing how, despite being very commercially-populated, there’s nothing to do in Short Pump (and the traffic, wow- I have a post about that coming up soon). I guess that’s why me and my friends have ended up downtown a lot of nights. But even that’s lacking the luster it had at the beginning of break. I guess what I’m saying is I’m just ready for a routine to set back in (yeah, I know, that will probably change a week into classes).

One thing I wanted to touch on that came to me recently (and please comment and let me know if you’ve experienced this, too) is how freaking difficult it is to make plans with friends sometimes. First off, as I alluded to in a previous post last week, I have a very diverse group of friends, spanning college and high school and from all walks of life. It’s very interesting to see how they mesh well together sometimes, but other times they won’t even give each other a chance. I’ve had many a night’s plan fall through because certain people don’t want to hang out with other people, sometimes when they haven’t even met before. Nothing ever turns out like you think it will, either. One person can be ten minutes late meeting you somewhere and before you know it the whole night’s gone awry and someone’s angry.

Anyway, as break comes to a close and I start my second semester at VCU, I look forward to some quieter nights and want to solely focus on school (in some ways I put it second or third last semester and that’s not ever going to happen again because I’ve come to some realizations and now I’m completely self-motivated to do well this semester). It’s back to classes, long nights in the library, and lunch and dinner at Shafer with Jen.

By the way, Jen, if you’re reading this, I know I say stuff like this all the time, but sometimes I don’t know where I’d be without you. You’re more than my best friend, you’re the staple that holds my day together sometimes. Not only have I had days when you’re the only good thing that happens to me, but it’s just the fact that you’re pretty much the only constant in my life. People come and go and things change, but you’re always there to talk and laugh with, and you give me a swift kick in the pants and straighten me out when I need it. For all that, I truly love you more than you know.

Well, I think I’ve rambled enough. It’s two in the morning, anyway. Overall it’s been a good break, and now I’m ready to work hard and achieve all that I know I’m capable of.

Short Pump Town Center To Get Hotel

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You’ve probably seen that huge crane overshadowing Short Pump Town Center (on the back side adjacent to Dick’s Sporting Goods) for a week or two now and might have wondered what’s going on. I did a little digging and found out that a six-story Hotel Sierra is being constructed. I guess mall management wasn’t lying when they said this is a regional mall that draws from all over the state; so much so that people will stay overnight after shopping. It seems a little out of place, but looks very nice architecturally. Kudos to the construction crews for starting work the week before Christmas, by the way. Half of the back entrance parking is blocked off by concrete barricades and chain-link fencing and the already overflowing parking lot that time of year was twice as horrendous. You’d think they’d just wait until around now, after holiday traffic has subsided.

Hotel Sierra (who recently changed their name from Sierra Suites to their current one) is a small chain of hotels priding themselves on “comfortable luxury, inspired design, and fresh service.” The hotel is scheduled to open in Spring 2009. I’ll be interested to see how they do at the mall.

West Chase House Fire

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This house, in the West Chase subdivision just outside of Wyndham, caught on fire Monday evening. Although the woman who lived there was badly burned (after safely escaping she went back in her burning house to save the family pet), there is an amazing story behind who pulled her out. This story just reaffirms my belief that there are no coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason. A friend of mine, Rachel Rainer, took the photo at the left that ended up in the paper. Article via the Richmond Times-Dispatch (more photos from me follow the article at the bottom).

Two Henrico County advertising executives have emerged as the Samaritans who dashed into the burning inferno of a home to try to save a woman’s life Monday night.

“Thinking about it now, it all seems like a dream. I’d never in all my life pictured myself in this sort of life-and-death situation,” said Barry Martin, the first man inside a fully engaged house fire in the 12100 block of Jamieson Place in Henrico’s Wyndham subdivision. “I never knew I had it in me.”

The victim, career nurse Jo Ann Casazza, remained in critical condition this morning in the burn unit of VCU Medical Center, in a medically induced coma.

The fate of Casazza now hinges on the skill of the doctors and nurses at the burn unit — and perhaps on a higher power.

It’s a belief in that higher power that her rescuers discovered they held in common.

Martin, founder of The Idea Center advertising agency, and Brian Gordon, who works at The Martin Agency, had never met until Monday.

Martin had set out that night with his 9-year-old daughter Mira to put his family dog down, Buddy. Gordon was just looking for a good place to have dinner with his girlfriend.

Martin and daughter Mira stopped to pray at the family church, Mount Vernon Baptist, after the dog succumbed, and set out for home. Gordon, stumped for a dining spot, paused at a Nuckols Road intersection, wondering whether he should turn right or left.

Then Mira saw a throbbing orange glow of light from the house fire. Gordon saw the image at the same time and the two vehicles changed direction and headed together to the light source.

On the lawn of the Casazza home, a crying girl and a screaming, petite woman, Casazza’s mother, were the picture of abandonment and lost hope.

“We heard that the woman had been safe but ran back in to save a family pet,” Martin said. “It was a very strange feeling after Buddy.”

Martin frantically tried to call 911 but misdialed, at first hitting 411. It was about 7:30 p.m. He had been thinking about how to pull himself out of the despair from the lost pet only to be suddenly confronted by another life-and-death situation on a grander scale.

“I just ran into the house. The front door was the only opening, and black smoke was just pouring out.”

Inside, the victim presented a daunting challenge.

Casazza was literally burning up before his eyes.

She was large, and “her skin was literally fused to a rug in the foyer,” Martin said.

When he pulled on her wrists, “the skin just pulled off. It was a gruesome thing to see.”

Suddenly, Gordon burst into the home and together the two men pulled the woman free of the house on the rug, dragging Casazza all the way to the street.

“I will never forget the people who had gathered there, and this terribly burned woman in the middle of the street on a rug with just terrible, terrible burns,” Martin said.

“I tried to comfort her: ‘Have faith. God is with you and you are going to be all right,'” he said.

“Do you mean it? Do you mean it?” Casazza answered.

Martin said he heard Casazza to describe how the family Christmas tree may have ignited. And then she was gone, carried to the hospital by rescue workers.

For more on this story, see tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch.

Restaurant Review – Fast Eddie’s Jukebox Cafe

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I had the opportunity to check out Fast Eddie’s Jukebox Cafe last night with Allie. It’s located on Broad Street in Centerville (somewhat across from Bogey’s Sports Park). It’s basically an old house converted into a restaurant. It’s had a bunch of other names in the past few years, such as The Bungalow Grill, Diner 250, and most recently, Grandpa Eddie’s BBQ. The last time I went it was The Bungalow Grill. I’m not sure if the place has changed hands or not, but I couldn’t believe how much better it was. The first thing I noticed was the friendly staff. We were greeted and seated by the very friendly owner, and our waitress was one of the nicest I’ve encountered in a long, long time. The next thing was the decor. The place has been totally redone and looks like an old-time diner. It’s a small place, but still open and inviting.

One unique thing about Fast Eddie’s is what they serve before the meal. While most places will bring out rolls or some other kind of bread, they serve you a basket of buttered popcorn! Very unusual, but what a cool idea. It was a little too salty, but props for the uniqueness. Allie and I both started with a cup of chicken noodle soup. There’s nothing better on one of the coldest days of Winter. I ordered meatloaf for my entree. This had to be the best meatloaf I think I’ve had in years. It was encrusted in what I think was brown sugar, giving it just a hint of sweetness. The macaroni and cheese was delectable, and the green beans were seasoned to perfection. Allie got a chop steak covered in gravy much in the style of Salisbury steak and enjoyed her meal as well.

The bill was pretty reasonable for all the food we ordered, coming out to about $15 a person for soup, entrees, sides, and drinks. The portions are pretty generous, too. I love places like Fast Eddie’s because all I ever go to is chain restaurants with cookie-cutter menus, less than friendly staff, and mediocre service. All three were extraordinary here. If you’re looking for something different and unique in the Short Pump area and would appreciate some home-style cooking and friendly service, definitely check out Fast Eddie’s Jukebox Cafe.

Rating Breakdown:

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Short Pump House Demolition

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Everyone remember the house across from Barnes & Noble on Broad Street? It was the last one on that stretch of road in Short Pump. Well, the owner, Raymond Haithcock, decided it was time to move on, and is leasing the land for a new development. I don’t know what it is, but I love seeing heavy machinery tear things down. I was able to capture the entire house demolition start to finish, on September 13. I just now figured out how to export the file to fit on YouTube. I had two cameras, one in hand used to walk around the perimeter of the house as it was being demolished and capture it from different angles, and one fixed in the median of Broad Street on a tripod to get a time-lapse shot of the entire thing (shown at the end). The video is set to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” quite appropriately. I love this stuff. I hope you have as much fun watching it as I did making it!

Is Circuit City Short Circuiting?

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Circuit City, based here in Richmond, has done something interesting with the store right up the road from its headquarters, at Gaskins and Broad. The big “outlet plug” that used to adorn the front of the store is gone, and the entire store has been remodeled on the inside and out to look more like the newer store in Short Pump. However, it’s not just the look that’s changed. Take a closer look and you’ll notice a new name- “The City.” Although company executives are tight-lipped about it, this location seems to be a concept design of sorts. It’s big and open, and has a layout similar to that of Best Buy. Not surprising, considering how much market share they, their fiercest competitor, has taken from them in the past decade. The company is overhauling many of it’s operations and restructuring their business on the corporate level as well.

Short Pump Sprawl Rant

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Any of you that know me pretty well know I run a local history website (I’m in the process of revamping it now, and it looks so bad at the moment I don’t even want to link it right now). I’ve watched the development of Short Pump from a tiny rural village eleven years ago to the sprawling suburban hot spot it now is. Sure, it’s great that those of us who live in the Far West End have pretty much everything we could want and need within a few miles of us, but it’s just gotten ridiculous lately.

Take for example the shopping center that’s opening up this weekend, Short Pump Station. It’s the one that was just completed across the street from Target. Next time you’re driving down West Broad Street, take a look at it. Notice how there’s ten or fifteen retail spaces for lease in the center, and only four are leased as of now. Why are developers building these shopping centers when there is no demand? Obviously, as the old saying goes, if you build it, they will come. Yes, this is true, they will eventually fill up the entire place with tenants, but look at what’s there thus far:

1) A Verizon Wireless store. Are you kidding me? There are five (count them… FOUR) Verizon stores within a one mile radius of this new store! There’s one in Best Buy, Circuit City, Short Pump Town Center, and on Broad next to For Eyes. I can somewhat understand when Starbucks puts a store on every corner, but a cell phone store? That’s insane.

2) Petco. I like animals… shoot, I have four cats. But what’s the need? I know we have a PetSmart right down the road, so it’s only natural that their competition would move in, but seriously.

3) Five Below. I’ve been to one of these stores up at Patomac Mills in Northern Virginia. What is it, you ask? Basically take the Made-In-China crap they sell at Dollar Tree and add a few “nicer” items, up to five bucks. There you have it. It’s geared towards teens and young people on a tight budget, but it’s still crap. We already have a Wal-Mart across the street for that.

The empty shopping center trend continues as you go west of the mall to Towne Center West, which opened this summer (pictured at top, left).

Next to Short Pump Station, West Broad Village is now under construction. Despite “planned traffic improvements” that Henrico County talks about all the time, it’s still going to be even more of a nightmare than ever to drive through Short Pump when it’s all completed.

But rest assured, all you Verizon customers, you’ll always have five cell phone stores within walking distance of each other that you can stroll between when you get stuck in gridlock traffic for three hours and abandon your car on Broad Street.

What I’m Thankful For

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Well it’s Turkey Day. I’m off to Home Team Grill in a couple hours to help serve Thanksgiving meals to the elderly and less fortunate with church, then to the family dinner at my cousins’ house. I just wanted to take a few moments to say what I’m thankful for.

First and foremost, I give the utmost thanks to God for all he’s done in my life in the past year. He has blessed me with so much, taken care of all my needs, and helped me change myself for the better in many ways. He has also provided a way for me to use my talents and skills to help others reach Him through my church with the Impact Arts multimedia ministry. Through the church, I’ve also made some great friends such as Anthony and Tori.

I’m also really thankful for my family. People may come and go, but they’re the one constant that’s always there no matter what. I love them very much.

I’m very thankful for my best friend, Jen. She’s always there to talk to about anything, always keeps me entertained with her crazy stories, and is just an overall wonderful person to be around. Sometimes when nothing’s gone right all day I’ll hang out with her, if only for a few minutes, and my whole day is turned around. She has a way of doing that, and I love her a lot.

There are also so many other things I’m thankful for, but these are the top ones. I hope you’ll take some time today to really reflect and thank God for his blessings in your life. Enjoy your time with family and friends, and eat lots of good food!

P.S. – I’m thankful for all my faithful blog readers, too! 

Richmond Community Church

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As you may have already read on Pastor Alan’s or Anthony Burns’ blogs, Glen Allen Community Church is now officially Richmond Community Church! Pastor Rick McDaniel announced it publicly this past Sunday. This is so exciting because of the way it positions us as a more regional church. With the vision of eventually opening five campuses, the name is much more suited for a multi-campus church. I am thrilled to be a part of the staff as we continue to grow, reach more and more people, and raise the bar on excellence.

The West End Campus will now be known as Richmond Community Church – Glen Allen, and the South Side Campus will now be known as Richmond Community Church – Midlothian. The new website is www.RCC-Impact.com. A new website is now being designed and is on target to launch in January, 2008.