To the Capital of the Commonwealth

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The Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson

On Saturday, June 16, Linda, Robin, and I headed south to Richmond to attend the annual “Blue Commonwealth Gala” of the Democratic Party of Virginia.  It had been 46 years since I attended any sort of political-party function.  I almost always vote Democratic, but I could hardly be counted as a party “true believer.”  That said, Linda and Robin had fun at the event the previous year, so I joined in.  We hoped to be there (it’s only 110 miles) in time for a tour of the capitol building, but jam-ups on Interstate 95 slowed us.  We dropped Robin at the hotel and motored a few blocks east to the magnificent neo-Classical structure Thomas Jefferson designed in the mid-1790s, when he was Minister to France.  The last tour had already departed, and Linda wanted to sit in the shade, so I did a quick self-guided walk through the building, which had been carefully and lovingly renovated 2004-07.  It was magnificent.  I am slowly becoming a Virginian.  Here are some scenes:

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Picked up Linda and we drove west two miles to Monument Street, a pleasant avenue of stately old homes and lots of the Confederate monuments that have caused so much controversy.  Back to the hotel, washed my face, put on suit and tie, and walked several blocks east and south to Main Street Station, the renovated railway station built in 1901 by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad; admired some wonderful old buildings along the way (the ladies drove).

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Old City Hall, and fine old architectural detail (below)

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The Blue Gala was in the historic trainshed, a perfect venue for a gathering of almost 1400 fellow Virginians.  A year earlier, Robin and Linda enthused about friendly people, and in no time I had met several, including Tom, a former law partner of our junior U.S. senator, Tim Kaine, and Levar Stoney, mayor of Richmond.  We found our table and sat down to meet our tablemates, yakking briefly before the program, which was a seemingly endless series of speeches.  The mood was upbeat, because the party is ascendant, and for good reason – inclusion, sensible gun laws, respect for rule of law, and health care for all.  Indeed, many times that evening we stood to cheer for a recent law that provided single-payer health insurance (Medicaid) for 400,000 needy Virginians. Hooray!

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Main Street Station

The last speaker was New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.  Although the Brittons agreed that he needed some lessons in speech structure and cadence, his words were welcome.  He cited the post-World War II Marshall Plan as an example of our better selves; lamented “moral vandalism” and “sedentary agitation”; and invoked a wonderful phrase from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the inescapable network of mutuality.”  That’s pretty much one of my touchstones, manifest more simply in the phrase “we’re all in this together,” and more grandly in the name of our new home: the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I like that appellation.

Up early Sunday morning, to the hotel gym, pounded out some miles, showered, and headed west on Broad Street for a caloric Fathers’ Day breakfast at City Diner, then home fast, north on I-95 (thanks, Robin, for speedy and safe driving, itself a fine Fathers’ Day gift!).

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