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Monday, January 3, 2011

My 2011 Roanoke Wish List

My Roanoke Wish List for 2011, in no particular order:

A daily newspaper that I can subscribe to and enjoy with my morning coffee. My husband requests one that has a decent sports section, which offers more than high school and college sports and doesn't ignore professional teams which are not the local favorites. Every time I get back from New York I lament that I don't have the "luxury" of reading three daily newspapers (two tabloid-sized ones, my preference) before my day begins. I read them on-line, but it's just not the same as getting newsprint on my fingertips.

A bakery. A real bakery, not a seedy looking storefront that has a refrigerator with drinks in it instead of dough, one burnt crescent roll on its shelf, and nothing in its glass case, yet has the nerve to put the word bakery on its sign. When you "sell out" so early in the day, you bake more. You're a "bakery" should bake. This is what in the inside of a bakery should look should be warm, inviting, filled with the aroma of baked bread, cakes, cookies and pastries...

By the way, it's been my experience that most if not all the cakes, pastries and cookies that look so pretty in the filled glass cases of the local supermarkets, even the "upscale" one, pretty much stink.

A real/good, hey I'll settle for decent, Chinese restaurant that delivers, haha! Or not. Buffet, buffet, buffet is the life-blood of most popular local Chinese restaurants. Recently I sampled one in Salem whose Chinese specialties included pigs in a blanket, mini corn cobs, dried fried chicken wings and mussels the size of my fist with melted American cheese on them. I almost threw up just looking at them. There were no vegetables except the mini cobbettes floating in dirty water, or the wilted broccoli smothered in sweet, thick sauces in the meat dishes. No matter what meat we sampled it all tasted the same. The slop they laid out was gross, but it's been around awhile and the locals seem to love it. I will never eat at Die Nasty again. This is what made to order Chinese dumplings with homemade sauce (not just a packet of soy sauce) and freshly fried noodles looks like:

A diner. Just a diner. Not a buffet. Not a pancake or waffle house. Not a psuedo-coffee shop. Not a pretentious and tasteless cafe. Just a diner. And one that's open after midnight, at least on weekends.

*On second thought...After the last couple of weeks of unabashed indulgence ignited by New York City's edible offerings resulting in added pounds, I probably should be grateful that my wish for a bakery, Chinese restaurant/delivery service, and diner will go unfulfilled.*

Tolerance and Respect. Even if we don't agree politically there's no reason why you have to be rude about it. I disagree politically with a good portion of my New York City friends and it means nothing to either side. We've been friends forever and will continue to be. We might "tease" each other once in a while but that's it. And then...We let it go. We don't "defriend" each other over it. We have respect and tolerance for our individual stances. It doesn't matter who we like politically...we still like each other personally.

Less Religion. It should not matter where, or even if, I go to church. In New York, my friends are from various religious backgrounds, or, not at all. I don't care. They don't care. In fact our religious preferences never even come up so why does it here? Why do Baptists run away when they hear we are Catholics, and not even "good" ones at that? It's not like we have a hotline to the Pope. I've seen boys break up with my daughter as soon as she answers the dreaded but inevitable religion question, and have had grown women recoil in horror from me. Too little tolerance of people who have different, or no, religious beliefs.

Less Damn Yankee talk. Yes, I am sick of it. The Civil War is over. The south lost. Get over it. Again, up north we never spoke about it in daily conversation. If someone had an accent different than ours we didn't snarl and make a rude Confederate comment about the rednecks taking over and ruining our city. We never said, "That's the way we've always done things here...if you don't like it, leave." Just because "that's the way it's always been done here" doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. Stop being so close-minded. And by the way, my ancestors had nothing to do with the Civil War. They were too busy dancing on the rim of a volcano in Naples or getting conquered in Sicily.

A Local Writer's/Arts Group. I miss the camaraderie I've had in the past up in New York with creative folk who shared their work and welcomed feedback. E-mail has coldly replaced the across-the-table, and on-the-couch personal interaction. Placing an emoticon after a sentence does not invoke the same response as looking into someones eyes or watching their hands move as they speak. We didn't have to wait minutes, hours or even days for a response. It was spontaneous, instantaneous and sparked the creativity. One idea led to another to another to another. We were more interested in content than form. Most importantly, we all supported each other's craft. Phone calls went returned, e-mails were responded to. When someone had a show or event we all attended. When a friend succeeded we felt like we succeeded. It also helped that our tastes in literature, art and music were similar. We "got" each other. Here? Not so much.

Friends. Real friends. Not acquaintances. Not cliques. Not smile in your face while stabbing you in the back, bless her heart, friends. I know I was not born here. I know I am and will forever be an "outsider" but doesn't it get boring just associating with like minded individuals? I don't want to work so hard in making and keeping friends. I am thankful I do have a handful of true friends here, but can only count them on half of one hand. Maybe that's enough. Funny thing is that most of them weren't born and raised locally. When I do make a friend with someone they usually leave to follow a job. Roanoke is very transient. The only ones that stick around are the ones that were born here. I've tried for years but it's time I realized it's just too hard to break through that local wall so it's time I give up. I'm too old now and just don't have the luxury of time. For my part I am going to become more patient with people, not change who I am, and just lower my expectations so I won't be so disappointed in people so many times.

Passenger Rail Service. I think I would like living in Roanoke more if I was able to escape Roanoke more. I imagine taking weekend trips with my daughter to DC and NYC via riding the rail. It would be so liberating to be able to hop on a train on a spur of the moment whim. I don't want to drive to Lynchburg for years to come. Not just for my selfish desires, but Roanoke really needs passenger rail service. We have to make it easier and cost efficient for businesses, performers, tourists and students to be able to get to and from Roanoke. It's absurd that Roanoke doesn't have passenger service...She was built on the rails! Better accessibility = growth.

Here's hoping 2011 reflects a Year of Growth, for all of us...


  1. Elena,

    You hit on all of the things I wish we had here too. A bakery like I had back up north with their own specialties. A bakery up there was not just a bakery, it was a place to meet and talk about anything-weather-world-gossip...

    I would absolutely love rail service like they have in can go anywhere and do frees you. Yes..Roanoke was built on the rails and we have none.

    Less Yankee talk and less religion would also be wonderful.

    Thanks for posting and venting my same sentiments.

  2. I used to catch hell all the time in Rhode Island for my southern accent. Not a day went by that someone didn't try to taunt me about losing the Civil War, or playing hillbilly music or implying I was racist because I grew up in Virginia.

    It's a problem on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

  3. I am sorry you find Roanoke such a bad place and am equally sorry that you aren't able to enjoy the people you know. I admit it's not perfect but it could be worse.

  4. Anonymous 2 - I don't know how you get that I find Roanoke "such a bad place" from my post. I do enjoy some of the people I know...the ones that aren't phony. No place is perfect and every place could be worse...and better. BTW, you forgot to add, "if you don't like it, leave." Haha!

    Anonymous 1 - Have never been to Rhode Island but it sure sounds similar to Roanoke. Sorry you had to put up with that bs...must be a small town thing.

    Cheryl, of course you could relate ;)

  5. Elena , you couldn't of said it Better, and I totally agree w/you 100% !!!! Most of these people here are back stabbing bastards, with their " sooo called Fuckin Bless your hearts" gimma me a fucking break !!! New Yorkers are the most honest,down to earth people in the world !!!

  6. I suspect it's there in NYC too. You just didn't see it there because you were from there.

    Just like I haven't really seen the reverse here in Roanoke because I grew up in western Virginia.

    It's the people who aren't from the region that feel it most.

  7. It's quite revealing to see what parts of my "wish list" the locals and the transplants have focused and commented on.

  8. Elena, your blog just gets better and better!

  9. Thanks River...I imagine some would disagree, LOL!

  10. I moved to Roanoke from the hollows of WV so I thought I had hit the big time 25 years ago. I, too, would love to see a diner here. A real honest-to-god diner. I'd love to work in one. Passenger rail service would be wonderful, too. I think I'm probably better off without the bakery but it would be nice to have it as an option.

  11. I'd like to apply for the real friend job. I grew up on LI and miss all the same things you do, and have found the same over abundance of many things here. Love your writing!

  12. Heather, you're hired!!!

    Lisa, it always cracks me up when the locals "goof" on West Virginians as if they're "superior." I love the people I've met from WV, (sincere and down to earth) the state is beautiful, and the Italian food I've eaten there was delicious, especially the gelato.

  13. The Chinese food you're looking for is (was? haven't been there in a while) at Szechuan on 419, just up from Tanglewood... (not the one across from Lewis-Gale)

  14. Phil, you're right...although not "perfect" that's the best I've had. Alas, they don't deliver.

  15. I grew up in VA, graduated from a university in a town called "Farmville" for heaven's sake. But then I lived in Nashville for 2 years before coming here and got used to delicious delivering Chinese food, up-all-night diners, and taking Italian language and writing classes just for fun at local shops. While Roanoke has surprised me in many pleasant ways, I totally agree with what you've written. Especially the pastries part ;)

  16. Since I was sick after Christmas I am still catching up. So glad I didn't miss this post. As a transplant, like yourself, there are many things I miss about NE like the diners and bakeries. But I have made many more close friends here than I ever had in NE. The story about the CT man who collapsed in the street and people just drove or walked by him made me sick. I can't imagine that happening here and that's one of the things I love about Roanoke. It's a lot easier to build a bakery or diner than to build a culture of caring people. And besides, if I hadn't moved here I wouldn't have met you and that's one of the best parts. Great post, my friend.

  17. Liz, Farmville's not the town on Facebook is it? LOL

    Pam, you're one of the few I can count on! Glad you're feeling better and look forward to walking again in the spring...

  18. Elena, you nailed it! Someone really could make a killing here by opening either a good old-fashioned diner, a truly great Chinese restaurant (we absolutely do *not* have one), or an honest-to-God pastry shop. I agree with everything else you wrote too. Great post.

  19. Hey thanks Jill, when we gonna work on our Roanoke Bucket List, haha!

  20. I looked up possible Wiki apps to use . . . still wanna do it . . . a bit worried about what people might post. O_o