Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thrill is Long Gone for Waterside Streaker

At some point before midnight, January 1, 2010, Rodney Furkin will jog nude through Waterside one more time.  What began as a dare during Harborfest 1989 has stretched into a two decade long streak of streaking the downtown Norfolk marketplace at least once a month.  For the last few years, Rodney, a 43-year-old ice delivery truck driver from Portsmouth, has been able to stroll Waterside at a leisurely pace totally unclothed - sometimes completely alone.  "It's weird," he says, "nobody's there at all in the daytime anymore.  I can get food at Mongolian Express, read a book on a bench in the food court completely nude and not be bothered.  That would have been impossible back in '93 or '94!"

Prior to its current flaccid state, Waterside was a bustling social center.  "I used to time my streaks for maximum crowd levels.  Friday nights were the best, right after the Fudgery would sing a song and people would be lined up for free samples.  I'd sprint by and surprise everybody.  Security would chase me, but I was super fast in those days.  Never got caught.  Ever."

Steve Conkle, owner of the "Maximum Keychain Extravaganza" kiosk, says the public nudity is good for Waterside's rapidly shrinking business.  "People get a real kick out of it.  Rod will stop and let people take their picture with him...well, when there are people.  He's like a celebrity around here.  Plus, he's a real nice guy.  Last Christmas he wore a Santa hat and helped me unpack and set up a new shipment of keychains.  I'm gonna miss him."  Waterside's Assistant Manager of Public Relations, Bonnie Thurmell, did not return Tidewater Log's phone calls to comment on this story.  When we knocked on her slightly open office door it opened - revealing a skeleton wearing a wig and glasses, sitting behind a desk covered in cobwebs.  She still refused to comment.

Why is Rodney stopping now - right when Waterside needs him the most?  "I'm getting old," he explains, "This summer I slipped on a slippery spot near the elevator and laid there on the ground, moaning in pain for about 6 hours before somebody noticed me...and streaking on crutches for a while after that just wasn't as exhilarating.  I'm okay now, but it's time to pass the baton to someone else.  I'd like to hope Waterside stays open for at least a few more years so somebody can have as much fun streaking it as I did.  It used to be a real blast.  I met my wife while I was doing it in August of 2000!"

Rodney won't give any details on when his final nude running will take place, but offers some advice for the new guy...or gal that wants to keep the streak streak going beyond 2009 - "Watch out for glass, hide your getaway clothes somewhere good, and smile."

Rodney streaked Waterside one last time between 12:41 and 12:48 P.M. on December 31, 2009 - and received a standing ovation from the janitor

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gala Gives Anchors a Way to Honor Themselves

The following speech was delivered last Tuesday evening at the 73rd Annual Hampton Roads News Broadcasters Association's Dinner Gala in downtown Suffolk by President Burl Hofheimer Sr.

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.  Thank you for coming and thanks to all of you for driving separatley.  Can we fill up a parking lot or what?! (light laughter)

As 2009 draws to a close, so does another year of excellent local news broadcasting.  Despite our dwindling ratings, hundreds of people still rely on us to tell them the news.  If it's raining - we're outside to show them.  If a car accident happened - we're there, several hours after it happened, to show everybody that everything's fine.  If grease left on a stove started a fire that destroyed a few apartments - we're there, again - several hours later, to interview somebody that may have seen or heard something.

I would like to thank everyone for the continued, in-depth coverage of our greatest local heroes.  The noble young men that deserve our highest praise - the high school football players of Hampton Roads.  (resounding applause and cheers) Who won?  Who lost?  The mood of all Tidewaterians depends on our extensive coverage of every single one of their games.  Their fearless running, catching and kicking each Autumn fills a void that we must endure during the rest of the worthless, boring year.

A special thanks goes to our camera men and women for getting the tightest possible close-ups of people's faces while they're being interviewed.  With our new high-definition broadcast technology, the pores on their faces look like the finger holes on a bowling ball.  And when someone doesn't wish to appear on camera, I applaud your decision to increase the mystique of their identity by only filming their hat or feet or a hand.  A normal newscast suddenly takes on the feel of a strange, experimental foreign film.  I urge you to do more of those - even if they don't wish to remain anonymous.  Does anyone else detect the faint hint of an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Gold Baton in the air?  (Andy Fox claps loudly)

For 2010, I only have a few suggestions.  I cannot (bangs podium) stress the importance of remembering what the housewife in Kempsville, the night desk clerk at a hotel in Hampton, or the stay at home mom in Ivor wants interspersed between 17 minutes of Haynes Furniture and car dealership commercials in a typical half-hour Hampton Roads newscast.  Is it raining?  When will it rain?  Did it rain while I was sleeping?  What did it look like?  What got wet?  Don't dwell on car accidents, gang fights, robberies, assaults, beach bacteria, swine flu stuff, troop deployments, local layoffs and such.  Those can all be summed up in sound bites -unless, of course, they happened in the rain.

 Also, the feigning of lighthearted small talk by all of you in the few seconds before Conan, Letterman, or Nightline must stop.  It's obvious it's forced, folks.  Just say goodnight and look down at your desk or watch or something.  No more umbrella jokes or anything. (coughs) Lawson!

So, now, (reading from card) Ladies and Geraniums - without farther, further...addoo, please...welcome Dabney Morgan and his puppet..."Mulch"...for a...an irreverent stroll through the garden of...laughter.

(light applause as Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" fades up)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mission: Eerie Position


Luther Wooten's headlamp died.  He was in the basement of the Union Mission building in total darkness.  The occasional blip of his Handheld Paranormal Activity Sensor (H.P.A.S.) became a solid, uninterrupted beep.  It became so hot that it melted like a marshmallow.  The hallway seemed to expand and tilt as he searched for a way out.  Door knobs dissolved to his touch.  Claws grabbed at his ankles.  He began to suffocate.  Someone whispered in his ear to run, but he couldn't.  It was like he was underwater.  Then, suddenly, he was on the roof - surrounded by a crowd of screaming, faceless figures.  The entire city of Norfolk was in flames below.  A winged demon whisked him away as the roof disintgrated and - "that's when I blacked out. The next thing I remember is being in my bed - in my home."

In 2004, Luther disguised himself as a homeless person to gain entry into the shelter and conduct a Paranormal Activities Investigation (P.A.I.).  "Before it became a shelter in 1972 it was the Naval YMCA.  I wanted to spend a week there, but after the first night, I couldn't go back.  I could feel the lingering presence of thousands of demented, battle-scarred souls once I set foot inside.  It was, by far, the most frightening experience... and experiment of my life."

He expected to detect a few magnetic disturbances in the 100-year-old building after a former volunteer informed him about some strange occurrences.  "She described doors slamming, lights turning on and off, and a file cabinet hovering upside down - pretty normal supernatural stuff for me.  The afternoon I arrived, I interviewed some residents.  Real nice folks, just down on their luck.  They all said it was definitely haunted, but they had nowhere else to go.  As everyone prepared for bed, I snuck off to begin the investigation."

Since 1979, Wooten has explored all of Hampton Roads' rumoured haunty holes including the ruins of Grace Sherwood's house in Pungo, the Peyton Randolph house in Williamsburg, the Bayne Theater in Virginia Beach (currently Captain Cline's Pirate Adventure Ride), Janaf Shopping Center, and the Fuddruckers on Virginia Beach Boulevard.  None of them matched the Union Mission's spookiness.  "It makes the hotel from 'The Shining' look like the inn on 'Newhart' - and I sure as hell wouldn't want to live there."

Last week, Mayor Fraim announced that US Development Co., from Columbia, S.C., has bought the building and plans to turn it into apartments.  City leaders hope it will lure hip, young iPod owners to downtown Norfolk.  Gentrification opponents fear it will lure rich, boring iPod owners to downtown Norfolk.  "Ipod or not - whoever moves in there better be ready for some downright terrifying supernatural occurrences," states Wooten.

Union Mission administrators, US Development Co., and  the City of Norfolk declined to comment on this story because they think the Tidewater Log is fake.  Yep.  Fake.  Tell me, how can it be fake if you're reading it on your computer monitor at this very moment?  It's right in front of you right now and it's still here when you're not online for everyone in the entire world to read.  That, my friends, makes Tidewater Log as real as ravioli.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Power From the People

The toasty SUVs full of people enjoying the "McDonald's Holiday Lights at the Beach, Presented by Verizon Wireless" on the Boardwalk are unaware that the power required for the dinky lightbulb dolphins and such is being pulled from low-income households at the Oceanfront.

"It sucks," says Chester Ray Finch, 51, a window washer that has lived on 25th 1/2 Street in Virginia Beach since 1982.  "I can't watch television, use my microwave, or anything while that dumb thing's going on.  My daughter has to do her homework by candlelight in her winter coat."

The light show reroutes roughly 1.7 megawatts from over 2,000 Oceanfront residents - most of them between 9th and 29th St., between Pacific and Cypress Avenue.  In an email, Dominion Electric spokesperson, Mel Dodd states, "We need power from somewhere.  We can't just create it out of nothing - we're not magicians."

During late night and daylight hours, when the holiday lights aren't on, residents put up with weak power flow, sparks emitting from wall sockets, and barely enough hot water.  29-year-old pizza chef Scott Griggs lives in an apartment complex on 22nd Street and says that his complaints to the city have been ignored.  "They always say how important it is for Oceanfront businesses and families and if I don't like it, I should move.  I live paycheck to paycheck - where the hell am I supposed to go?  Maybe if they compensated us a little it would be different, but I don't know what they do with all that money."

Tidewater Log discovered that holiday light show admissions go to improving the landscaping around the 31st Street Park and King Neptune Statue maintenance.  "What a crock of crap," Scott mutters as he zips up his 2nd coat in the kitchen of his chilly apartment.  Since there isn't enough power to turn the heat on, he burns crumpled up newspapers in the sink to keep warm.  The smoke detector won't go off because he's using the battery for his alarm clock.  "Even if this place burns down, I still gotta be at work at 6 in the morning."

Mr. Dodd continues in his email, "I don't understand why these people are complaining all of a sudden.  It's been going on for years and, in addition to providing them 2 free vouchers to enjoy the event, we always hang notices on their doorknobs to remind them.  Maybe the storm blew them off or something, but they should be used to it by now.  Happy Thanksgiving."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Storm Reveals Remnants of Local DJ's Dirty Dinghy

Ruth Reedy is used to finding odd items in her backyard when extreme high tides recede, but what she found Sunday disgusted her. "It was a long, pink...wiggly...sex toy of some kind", she laughs.  Ruth and others living next to Lynnhaven Bay in Virginia Beach found evidence of a wild party in their yards after the November Northeaster 2009 (NoNor09) - beer bottles, Phil Collins CDs, bikini tops, even a deflated inflatable woman.  "That scared me for a minute.  I started to call the police when I noticed she was fake and it had 'Property of THE BULL' written on her back in big letters."

According to Hampton Roads history buff, Flynnwood Tyner, the decadent flotsam was cargo stowed aboard Henry "The Bull" Del Toro's party boat better known as "The Barf Barge", "The Pontoongler", or "The Poop Sloop".  Henry "The Bull" Del Toro (1958-2002) was a local disc jockey in the 80s and 90s best known for his zany on-air pranks and habitual off-air debauchery.  In 1992, he fooled listeners into believing that long simmering toxic gases in Mt. Trashmore were about to cause a massive explosion.  Nearby residents actually evacuated.

The vessel has never been located, but Tyner believes it rests somewhere amidst the fingery coves of Lynnhaven Bay.  "The Bull wasn't great at maintaining a healthy anything - especially a relationship with a marina," he says.  "He'd get kicked out of one every other week for some reason or another.  Little Creek, Rudee Inlet, Willoughby Harbor, Waterside and all the others.  They wouldn't put up with his antics.  By the time it finally went missing sometime in 2000, he was hiding it in real secluded marsh areas. He'd run it aground, put some branches on it, walk through people's yards to Virginia Beach Boulevard, and catch a cab back to his apartment in Norfolk."

Tyner is in the process of drying out and deciphering what he thinks is one of the ship's log books.  "As far as I can tell, this contains a graphic description of the boat's itinerary as well as supply and passenger lists from March '88 to July '91.  He names names that include local car dealers, business owners, news anchors, politicians, Tidewater Tides - everybody seemed to be on that ship at some point.  There's even names of bodily functions I didn't know were possible.  Really weird ones that I've never had happen!" 

Here's an example of a typical entry:

"Saturday Aug. 12, 1989.  Sunny.  Left around 1:30 P.M. with 8 cases of beer, 2 cartons of cigarettes, a box of cigars, & lots of Zero's subs, chips and pretzels.  Me, Da' Moose, the new bass player for The Boneshakers (Steve something, I think), Les Smith, Mr. Oberndorf, Mindi, Cherri, Crystal, Tanya, Becky, plus Rebecca"

I'll skip what happened on the water, but further down, in real sloppy handwriting, it continues:

"back aft 4 A.M.  Les got sunburn on (illegible).  One cigartte left.  Where the (expletive) is Crystal!?!"

Former co-worker Mickey "Da' Moose" Musalotta doesn't recall that specific outing or what happened to Crystal, but he does have several fond memories of the party boat.  "We'd get a bunch of beer and girls and have strip fishing tournaments.  The Bull and I would already have a dead fish hidden in the cooler so we could pretend to catch it over and over again.  After an hour, all the girls would be totally naked!  They never suspected a thing.  Another time, The Bull, some of AC/DC's roadies, and I tied up one of the station's new interns to a buoy and left him there overnight!"

Musalotta believes the items churned up by the storm are definitely from The Bull's boat, but the chances that it still holds some valuable cargo are slim.  "Anything of value on that thing has probably seeped out of their baggies by now.  I bet some fish felt really happy for a few minutes...before their brains exploded!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"OBX" Rated More Suitable Name

On Tuesday, voters in North Carolina's Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Carteret Counties passed a referendum to officially change the name of the Outer Banks to OBX.  Dawn Jakowski, chairwoman of "Outer Bankers for a New Name", said the old name has been bugging her since she moved to Duck from Pittsburgh 16 years ago.  "It's so old fashioned," the 55-year-old says, "When my husband and I first came here we wondered what it meant.  Were there supposed to be banks all over the place?  We only saw a few...and the 'Outer' always made me think of a big, gross outie belly button."  The new name, Dawn states, is "easier to say, less confusing, and more extreme".  Next year, she hopes to convince residents to demolish the outdated, unnattractive Wright Brothers Memorial and put a Target Superstore in its place.

Even with its old name, OBX never needed help luring tourists, but a slight dip (-.013%) in combined hotel, restuarant, kite, and t-shirt revenues from the 2008 summer season frightened those that relax there all year long.  Becky Weinstein, of Hatteras (since moving from Trenton, NJ a few years ago), says "It's 2009 - not colonial times anymore.  The new name makes it clear that we're a world-class destination for surfing, sport fishing, hang gliding, as well as just lounging around getting drunk and tan on the beach - plus, it fits perfectly on a sticker."

The oval "OBX" sticker itself is proving to be OBX's chief export these days.  Last year, 63 million stickers were sold to locals and tourists wanting everyone behind them on the highway to know they purchased a sticker in OBX and stuck it firmly on their vehicle.  Proceeds from sticker sales go to various OBX causes such as "Put Advertisements on Cape Hatteras Lighthouse",  "We Need a Boardwalk", and "Kate Gosselin Should Play Queen Elizabeth I in 'The Lost Colony' Next Year".

Tidewater Log located the only OBX resident opposed to the name change crabbing from the dock in his backyard on Colington Island.  Darryl Moody Midgett Baum III, 72, risks a fine of up to $150 if he's overheard using the old name.  "To hell with 'em.  I'll still call it the Outer Banks...and I ain't buying one of those dumb stickers," he says, slowly pulling up a crab nibbling on a piece of soggy string tied chicken neck.  "People can call it whatever they want.  I don't give a damn.  It's all gonna be underwater in a few years anyway."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Franklin Paperweight Factory to Stay Put

The International Paper Company's Paper Mill in Franklin, Virginia is closing next Spring and there's nothing we can do about it.  All the eccentric millionaires in the Tidewater region have passed on the oppurtunity to purchase it.  As the town of 8,400 braces for an impact of unknown severity, it's business as usual at Blumford Paperweights.  The family owned and operated business has been making paperweights for nearly a century  - less than a mile from the huge smokestacks of the paper mill.  Tidewater Log joined Curtis Blumford for lunch at his company's picnic/conference table.

Tidewater Log:  I'm sorry to hear the bad news for Franklin, Mr. Blumford.

Curtis Blumford:  It's sad, real sad, but we're actually having a good year here so... I can't be that sad.

TL:  Does the paper mill's closure effect your business?

CB:  Nope.  There's already enough paper in the world that needs weighing down.

TL:  Will you be able to offer any of the ex-employees jobs at Blumford Paperweights?

CB:  I wish I could.  It only takes 7 people to keep our business running.  Maybe I could hire on or two extra people for the holiday season, but it wouldn't be permanent.

TL:  Have you ever thought about expanding?

CB:  No.  My dad did back in the 70s and it almost wiped us out.

TL:  Was there a greater demand for paperweights back then?

CB:  Oh, yeah.  Novelty type stuff sold really well.  Funny paperweights that said "Sit On It" or had a picture of Darth Vader smoking a joint.

TL:  Wow!  Did you have permission from George Lucas to do those?

CB:  (laughing) Hell no!  Some lawyer called my dad to ask him about it and he just pretended not to understand English and hung up.  We also made a bunch of  "Ringo for President" ones.  Nobody ever called us about those!

TL:  Was your grandfather, Cecil Blumford, still involved with the business at that point?

CB:  Yeah.  He passed away in 1984 and came to work here everyday since he built it in 1919.

TL:  That's incredible.  What was he like?

CB:  A hard worker.  No nonsense.  A good family man.  He had really big earlobes when he got old.

TL:  How old was he when he started Blumford Paperweights?

CM:  20.  He built this factory with bricks he'd been collecting or given as gifts his whole life.  The land was an old Indian trash dump and he bought it for few dollars.  Nobody wanted it.

TL:  Was the business successful from the start?

CB:  It was steady.  He did lots of small custom orders for businesses in Virginia and North Carolina and animal shaped ones have always been popular.  You see, Americans got most of their paperweights from overseas back then - fancy glass ones from Italy, ornate Oriental ones, ivory ones from Africa and India. 

TL:  But, one day changed everything.

CB:  Yep.  December 7, 1941.

TL:  What happened?

CB:  I wasn't alive, but my dad was and he remembers.  Let me call him for you...(yelling) DAD!!  Come out 'chere a second!

The whirring of a machine from inside the factory stops and Mack Blumford, 82, comes out, wiping his hands on a filthy rag.  He sits at the picnic table and lights a cigarette. 

CB:  Tell him about December 7, 1941.

Mack Bumford:  Pearl Harbor got attacked.  In Hawaii.

CB:  Tell him about what happened here.

MB:  My father and I were here and heard the news like everybody else around 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

CB:  Tell him about the phone call.

MB:  The Secretary of War's secretary was from Suffolk and she had a poodle paperweight on her desk that we made.  She called and placed the first of many orders for paperweights to be used by everyone in the U.S. Government and Military.

CB:  There were to be only American made paperweights on American desks from that point on.

TL:  Poodle ones?

MB:  Nooooo sir.  We're talking about very nice, heavy, individually crafted paperweights engraved with the names of generals, boats, forts, admirals, secretaries - everything.  Come in, I'll show you something.

I follow the Blumfords into the factory and Mack points to a picture on the wall.

MB:  There's Truman with Stinson and under Truman's right hand is a Blumford paperweight.

TL:  Amazing.

CB:  And here's a picture of my dad working.

TL:  What were you working on there, Mack?

MB:  Oh, I don't know.  Little frogs, probably.  I loved making those.  Still do.  Here.

Mack reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little frog paperweight.

TL:  Thank you.  So, do y'all still do stuff for the Government?

MB:  Naw.  Those jobs fizzled down after the war and Johnson made it clear that he wanted all U.S. Government desk accessories made in Texas.

CB:  He said that on the plane right after he got sworn in.

MB:  I'd like to think that most of the ones we made are still in use somewhere because they're so sturdy.

TL:  I can tell you take great pride in your paperweights.

MB:  Quality always comes first.  Uniqueness comes in first...and a half.

TL:  Mack, do you have any thoughts about the paper mill closing?

MB:  Well, I'd like to say that we're gonna miss having the paper mill in town.  I hope all those people will be back to work soon.  They're all real good folks.

CB:  Yeah...and I never thought I'd say it, but I'm gonna miss the smell of it.  I like it.

MB:  Mmmm-hmmmm.  Me too.  Smells pure.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Rule to Make Hangin' Tough for Teens at MacArthur Center

Last weekend, Tidewater Log met with Skip, a local teenager, and Gene, MacArthur Center's Assistant Public Relations Director, at Doumar's to discuss the "Nobody Under 18 Without Somebody Over 21 After 5 P.M. From Now On" rule that starts on October 19th.

Tidewater Log:  Thanks for meeting with me today.  Do y'all want anything to eat?

Gene:  No, I'm good.

Skip:  (grunt noise)

TL:  While Skip's busy texting, let me ask you, Gene, to describe the heinous, out of control situation at  MacArthur Center.

G:  Everyday, especially on weekends, as many as 40 teenagers hang out in the mall - walking around aimlessly, looking at stuff they don't intend to purchase, and making our older shoppers feel uncomfortable.

TL:  Is this true, Skip?

S:  Huh?  Yeah...I mean no.  Sometimes we buy stuff.  All we're doing is hanging out and talking.

G:  Yes, but you have to realize that they're talking, quite loudly I might add, about social networking sites, video games, cell phones, popular music - the sort of things our older shoppers are unfamiliar with.  That, along with the fact that most of these teens have full heads of healthy hair and slim builds make our older shoppers feel...old.

TL:  Okay, let's say that all the teens promise to spend at least $5 on something and limit their conversations to topics old people understand - like the weather or "Dancing with the Stars".

G:  That sounds doable.

S:  No way.  You can't tell us what to talk about.  And there's nothing that costs $5 in the entire mall!

TL:  Well, how about hanging out somewhere else in Norfolk.  There's Waterside, or the Naro, or how about that church with a cannonball in it?

S:  Laaaaaaame.  No thanks.

TL:  Is going to the mall with a parent out of the question?

S:  Totally.  No way.

After being told that we'd have to leave if we didn't order anything, we continued our conversation in the parking lot.

TL:  Could you befriend a stranger in their 20s to accompany you to the mall?  With a car, perhaps?

S:  Yeah, I guess so.

TL:  Good.  Problem solved.  Gene, out of curiousity, what did you want to do when you were Skip's age?

G:  I wanted to pitch for the Red Sox...or become a marine biologist in Australia.

TL:  What happened?

G:  Well, I don't know.  It seemed like I had forever back then.  Me and my friends would hang out at the beach or Ocean View Park just doing nothing.  Time kept passing by.  I got married, had two kids, got divorced, developed and conquered a drinking problem, jumped from job to job, and just ended up where I am now.  It all flew by so fast.

TL:  Are you happy?

G:  Yeah, for the most part.  At least I have a job.

TL:  Good point.  What do you think about that, Skip?

S:  (texting)  Huh?

TL:  "Huh" indeed.

Skip and Gene then shook hands, but Gene later confided that Skip's handshake lacked meaning and sincerity.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thirsty Camel - Haiku Restaurant Review

Ocean View landmark
BBQ sandwich tasty
Thursday lunch enjoyed

(the Thirsty Camel's website)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Russia With Sunscreen

This Summer, my bike chain kept popping off.  Sometimes it would take 30 seconds to fix.  Sometimes it would take 5 minutes.  I was on my way to meet some friends at a bar on Atlantic Avenue to play the lobster game, riding extra slow on the bike path (still speeding past 6-person canopy bikes full of tourists), when "CLANK".  Dammit. 

Not wanting to get grease all over my hands and safari shorts, I walked it over to a nearby hotel's bike rental stand.  It wasn't busy and I was sure the attendant would be nice enough to fix it. 

"Hey!  How's it going?"

He looked at me like I was aiming a flaming arrow at him.

"Could you put my chain back on?  It's not a rental, but I -"


"Awwww, come on.  I don't want to get my hands all greasy.  Don't you have some sort of tool or -"

"I, eh...I can not do."

"Here...(digging in pocket)...I'll give you two dollars!" 

"Eh...Sorry, no."

"Oh, Allllrrright."

"You're welcome."

I rolled my bike a few steps away and fiddled with the chain until it was back on.  Riding away, I waved with my greasy fingers and said "thanks".  He didn't wave back.  He was Russian.

Russian or Eastern European.  Thick accent.  Stocky.  Piercing gaze.  No nonsense.  A fondness for folk songs played on a balalaika - or Depeche Mode.  He was one of the 18,000,000 young, foreign girls and guys that materialized at the oceanfront this summer.  They'd been heading to the Outer Banks in droves for years, but I guess they figured Virginia Beach was closer to the Norfolk airport and there are more places to work - hotels, gift shops, bike rental stands, restaurants, "your name engraved on a grain of rice" booths, amusement parks, etc.

Unfortunately, after the sun sets, Virginia Beach isn't nearly as sleepy and safe as the Outer Banks.  On August 10, a young woman from Belarus was attacked in the woods near her apartment on 24th Street.A guy followed her from the resort area, waited until nobody was around, and pulled a gun on her. Watch this.

He still hasn't been found.  Let's hope that his life keeps getting more and more miserable until he's finally ripped apart by a fumple of rabid raccoons in the next hour or so.  UPDATE: They found him.  Christopher Minifee.  Watch this.

I wish somebody had been walking with her.  I wouldn't advise anyone - tourist or local - to venture west of Pacific Avenue alone after 10 P.M.  It's a creepy, lawless place.  Lots of shadowy alleys where weirdos hang out - littering, dealing low-grade taffy, burping, singing doo-wop off key, stalking their prey, etc.

The article states that she was participating in an international work outreach program sponsored by the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association.  I wrote the VBHMA asking for information about the program on August 14.  Until I get a response - this one will do.

Dear Tidewater Log,

      Thank you for your interest in the International Outreach Summer Work Program.  We employ Eastern European students at Oceanfront businesses because they're cheap, obedient, and dependable.  If we had local high school students working at these places during the summer they would complain about the pay, be rude to customers, show up late or not come in at all, ask for days off, and give freebies to their friends. 
       The young European workers all live 6 or 7 to an apartment that we provide near the resort area.  They don't get minimum wage because they aren't American citizens.  They won't complain about the hours or conditions because they're stuck here.  All they have to do is take tourists' money and give them ice cream, bicycles by the hour, t-shirts, or ferris wheel rides in return.  If they seem cold and unfriendly, please remember that they aren't here to make friends with locals.  What are you doing hanging around the Boardwalk anyway?!
       As for your question about the possibility of the countries we get our Summer employees from having a work exchange program seeking workers from the U.S., I am sorry to say they do not.  Why would they want lazy Americans who complain about everything?!


                                                                                                   Sandy Foote

   P.S. We, too, were shocked to hear about what happened to the young girl from Belarus on August 10.  However, it should be noted that we are not responsible for transporting these young men and women to and from work.  We're not a taxi service!

   P.P.S. Please ignore any ties that the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association might have with Viktar Krus and the Russian immigrant worker scam that unraveled recently.  You know, this thing -  

"According to the 98 page indictment obtained by WAVY.com, the illegal immigration network began at a modest apartment, located at 1017 Chinquapin Lane. The apartment was rented by Viktar Krus who owned V&K Services. The feds accuse him of filing fraudulent petitions, bringing in and keeping in foreign-born workers. They worked at the resort strip as housekeepers, cashiers, fast food workers, and material handlers."



Friday, September 11, 2009


Say goodbye to this old, brick post office.  It's going to be replaced with a Walgreens.

I hope they sell gum.

If anyone would be kind enough to grab a brick from the rubble, I'll give you a dollar.

(UPDATE: Nobody did)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Greekfest - 20 Years Later and Still No Gyros

Ask a bar full of locals about Greekfest '89 and you'll hear various stories about what happened. Some will be rather blunt and peppered with language you'd get a ticket for on Atlantic Avenue. Some will sound like something from a movie. Some may even make sense. There isn't one official story that sums up everything and doesn't offend anyone about the confusing mess that erupted at the oceanfront 20 years ago. Even my September 5, 1989 edition of The Ledger-Star is a rambling mess of articles and interviews without a basic timeline of events. Here's a simple summary -

Way too many people showed up for an end of the summer celebration in Virginia Beach during the 1989 Labor Day Weekend. Yes, many were black fraternity members (hence the "Greek" in "Greekfest), but there were lots of non-students as well. People just wanting to drink, flirt, and hang out. I'm convinced there had to be a few Renaissance fair actors in the mix.  And maybe some flamboyant tap dance instructors.

A strong police presence from the start made things tense. Rap music was played. Loudly. People jaywalked. Cops from Norfolk and Portsmouth were called in. Some foul language was probably exchanged. Small crowds assembled. Cops put helmets on. Police dogs and horses were given helmets. The small crowds convened. Things went beserk. Hard object throwing and looting hit the full tilt boogie mode early Sunday morning. National Guard troops showed up. People were rounded up and detained. There were lots of arrests. Cassingles of "Fight the Power" were unspooled and stomped on. Hard. Local screenprinters rushed orders of "I Survived Greekfest '89" t-shirts. Small outbreaks of chanting and mischief continued until Monday night. Vacationers went home without a vacation.

Three busses from New York City with 135 members of the Brownsville Community Baptist Church thought they were going to have a relaxing Labor Day weekend. Nope.

The event received national television and newspaper coverage. It was turned into a "racism" thing by some media outlets when it was really just a "confusion" thing. I wish I could refer you to something other than a skimpy wikipedia entry on the subject, but there isn't anything else about it online. No first hand accounts from cops, business owners, visiting fraternity members, reporters, or photographers. Until now.

Sadly, Mr. Reddick passed away in 1996 at the age of 30. I'd like to think that all of his negatives are safely stored in the archives of the Virginian-Pilot building in Norfolk, but they probably tossed them years ago to make room for boxes of complaint letters addressed to the comic pages.

I bet you'll never play tennis at Owl Creek the same again. Oh yeah, and when the detainees were eventually released, they had to get back to the resort area on their own. A 3 mile hike North on General Booth Boulevard - hungry and exhausted. Fun.

The beach wasn't crowded at all the next summer when Labor Day rolled around. Cops were everywhere. I saw an undercover cop dressed as the Norwegian Lady, standing motionless on a pedestal. Nothing really newsworthy happened. I think someone may have lost their sunglasses in the ocean near 5th Street. That's all. The American Music Festival was inaugurated in 1993 and has proudly hosted such non-riot inducing acts as The Beach Boys (without Brian, of course), K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Hall and Oates, and Public Enemy. Say what?! Naw, I'm just kidding about Public Enemy. Maybe one day. It took a little time, but alas - tourists returned to Virginia Beach. Even the French Canadians came back. Merci.

Striving to become "The Family Friendliest Beach in the Universe", Virginia Beach has implemented a "no cursing" ordinance at the beach. Somebody asks if that's unconstitutional here.  If you want to read more about my challenge to the city concerning the "no cursing' signs go here.

Easy jazz is pumped from loudspeakers starting at 10 in the morning until midnight between 16th and 26th Streets along Atlantic Avenue. Smooth, instrumental versions of "Superstition" or "Time of the Season". I hope someone at BMI or ASCAP just heard a cash register sound...or several thousand of them.

There are cops on horses, bikes, segways, motorcycles, four-wheelers, and their feet making sure no one is saying or doing anything un-family friendly. Unfortunately, they can't tell people not to notice t-shirts displayed in gift shops with sayings like "Whatchoo Lookin' At Bitch Ass?!", "Why Go to High School When You Can Go to School HIGH?", and "I'm Hornier Than You". Those aren't in a secret, adults only browsing area - they're right in the front windows...you can't miss 'em...right above the tit mugs and pot leaf belt buckles.

Near midnight, long after the city employed zither players and jugglers have stopped performing along Atlantic Avenue, the jazz turns into classical music (boosted a few volume notches) for the bumbling drunks to waltz around to. At 1:30 A.M. super bright floodlights are switched on. FOOMP. Go home.

Everyone scurries, blurry eyed back to their hotel rooms or, most likely, back to their cars for the long trip back to Norfolk. Ahhhhh, Virginia Beach...who would ever want to riot in you now? Everything's perfect!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Letter to Dwight, the "Drummer" of Coolin' Out

Dear Dwight,

I arrived at the 7th Street stage at about 8 o'clock on Sunday August 16, 2009 as your band, Coolin' Out, was nearing the end of its first set. Everyone excused themselves from the stage for what I thought would be a short break - grab some water, sell some cds, meet & greet, etc. Little did I know that it would be 35 minutes until the music started again. "They must be pretty tired", I said to the other folks perched on and leaning against the Boardwalk railing. Yawn.

After watching a rollerblader balance a bottle of water on her head for a while, the vocal mics were checked, the announcer said hello, and the show resumed. Man, those drums were tight. I was impressed. The snare sounded perfect. The bass drum full and deep. You were singing, too. That's not an easy task. I needed to get closer.

Uh-oh. There aren't any drum mics. None. Well, one - your vocal mic. Is it really picking up the snare, hi-hat, and bass drum that good? Without any feedback from the stage monitors or P.A.? Amazing.

Wait a minute - I just heard a drum fill. A little tumble down the toms and the movement of your drumsticks didn't match. I'll pay closer attention the next time a fill rolls around. Hmmmmm. You sure are hitting the snare softly. Is there a tiny microphone hidden somewhere on the rim? There must be. Okay, here comes the fill. Here we go. Whooops! Not even close this time. There was a cymbal crash at the end and your drumsticks were nowhere near the cymbals! Oh my.

The bell of your ride cymbal does work and you're definitely playing it - no doubt about it. "Ding - Ding - Ding - Ding - Ding". Loud and crisp. It helps out on those extended instrumental breaks.

Real drums and cymbals always sound better than fake ones and aside from the occasional use of your ride cymbal - the drum sounds I heard that night were all fake. You were not providing the underlying beat to the songs. They had been created by a machine and you were pretending to play the drums. Not just for a part of a song because a cable crapped out - every single song. Fake drumming. And, even worse than simply fake drumming - you were fake drumming very poorly.

You were constantly tapping the snare a second or two behind and infront of the beat. You forgot about drum fills and fumbled over the toms while the beat continued without you. The ultimate blooper occured when you twisted your hat around backwards on your head with both hands in the middle of a song. Whoa! No hands at all for a few seconds - and the beat never stopped.

The best part about this is that I'm the only one who noticed. Everybody kept dancing and drinking the same as if you were actually playing the drums. Oh well, no harm done. You still got paid and people still had fun. Don't worry, I won't tell a soul.

I do recommend that the computer that actually performs the drumming duties for Coolin' Out be included in the band member introduction segment of your show. And, just for kicks, at some point in the future, really play the drums for an entire Coolin' Out show. If you do, I'll buy a cd. Or do you fake drum on that, too?

A Concerned Beach Music Fan,

Tidewater Log

(here's the band's website - check 'em out in person and watch Dwight "play" the drums)