Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pursuing Happiness in Charlottesville

I have posted a number of times about visiting Charlottesville, Virginia, and indicated some of the nice aspects of the 40,000 population city which is home of my Alma mater, the University of Virginia. Recently, I had noticed that Out Traveler cited Charlottesville as a blue island in a red state in a brief article. Now 365gay.com has an online article (http://www.365gay.com/lifestylechannel/travel/111307travel.htm) on the city. Here are some highlights:

Charlottesville is a small blue city tucked into a mostly red state. Gay bumper stickers are on cars parked near the Downtown Mall, the pedestrian-only part of Main Street lined with antique stores, music venues, bookstores and restaurants—and the office of the Charlottesville Democrats. Unlike Richmond, an hour to the east, or the Shenandoah Valley, an hour west, no Civil War battles were fought here. No Revolutionary War battles either, though in 1781 Hessian soldiers did come knocking on the door of Monticello, Jefferson’s plantation, only to find that he had been warned away by the South’s version of Paul Revere and had fled the Redcoats just an hour before.

But this is the area where the main thinkers behind the Monroe Doctrine, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence wiled away their hours, mulling over the startling ideas that would lead to the founding of our country (ideas they didn’t always practice themselves, as they were slaveholders). That independent spirit lives on. The Charlottesville City Council consistently supports gay rights, and Charlottesville voters tend to support gay issues overwhelmingly, even though most Virginians don’t.
It is likely that this has a lot to do with the progressive University of Virginia, designed by Jefferson, whose grounds (insiders know the school’s buildings and property is never called a “campus”; it’s a fussy local tradition) reins over the city’s heart and center. The charming neoclassical buildings (and the cuties playing Frisbee or studying on the Lawn) make the university a fun place to tour on a bright afternoon.
But the crowning glory of presidential houses is Monticello, which is Jefferson’s mind in brick and glass. A compass spins in the porch ceiling; a calendar propelled by weights tells the day in the entrance hall; books in six languages line the library; windows are triple-hung and slide up to let the mountain breezes in. Tour guides encourage you to try a few of the native, heirloom fruits and vegetables in the garden – some figs to sustain you on your walk, or a crisp, crescent-shaped pepper.
While you walk the grounds, you can meditate on the Jeffersonian idea that we are all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – in this corner of Virginia, it all seems possible.

1 comment:

Java said...

You are just making the desire bigger and deeper here, Michael.