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 -"

"No."

"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?!

                                                                                                     Sincerely,

                                                                                                   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."


http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_wavy_norfolk_illegalimmigrants_2009116

http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/will-virginia-beach-be-a-sanctuary-for-human-traffickers
                     


Friday, September 11, 2009

Postdated

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!