The "Chris is living in Luray Virginia and working at the newspaper there" experiment is over. I definitely enjoyed most of my time there. It was a nice area, nice people, and a nice place to work. What's an adjective beginning with "n" that I can use to describe my time there? Hmmmm... Nifty!
I came to the Page News and Courier in November of 2015 as a nervous, awkward person with a passion for journalism. I left as the exact same person, but the last 16 months did see a lot of personal and professional growth.
Overall, I'm glad that I made the move to Luray. I made a few friends that I'll have forever, and I made several fun acquaintances. As I posted on Facebook when I made the announcement that I was leaving, it never felt like home. But, that's not a bad thing, per se. It wasn't home, but Luray wasn't a bad place to get a career started and spend some time in.
My time in Luray started off on an ominous note -- my first apartment I had tried to rent fell through so I moved to the area without a home. After a few days at the Budget Inn, I found a spot up on the hill at West Main Street.
This is the part where the people from Luray start laughing, and the out-of-townspeople ask what's so funny.
My literal first night, my boss and I went out to dinner. Afterward, he's driving me around giving me a tour of the town. As we're heading up West Main Street, he says to me, "And this... uhhhh... well, I don't call it this, but some people do... this is, uh, 'N-Word Hill.'"
He went on to explain that back in the day when the town was segregated, the black community lived on West Main Street. And, today, it's home to some of the sketchier spots in Luray.
The next week, when I was telling him where I lived, the complex didn't have an actual name, so I was trying to explain where it was.
Me: "It's up the hill there, past that gas station. It's a white building."
Randy: "The gas station past the hospital? Yeah, you should move."
I eventually did... 9 months later...
I will say, though, that I made some of my best friends in Luray over at "The Hill."
I always thought it was a weird juxtaposition -- I was the respectable newspaper reporter hobnobbing at these fancy dinners and meeting all of these important people. Then I go back to my apartment and hang out with my buddy who is 32 and has spent 6 years of his life in prison.
* * *
I got to cover a lot of fun articles.
Probably the biggest and best thing I did on the staff was my feature looking at the controversy with the bike races -- locals hate them, but the town officials love the tourism money they bring in.
Writing about government bureaucracy holding up the replacement and construction of a new bridge on Main Street doesn't sound very exciting. But I wrote like seven articles about it. Summer 2019, the new bridge should be open for business.
Page County has so many parades, it borders on the ridiculous. All three towns have at least two major parades throughout the year. They're either really cold Christmas parades or super hot summer parades.
I unwittingly walked most of a 5K through my work on the paper. Covering the "mudurance 5k" event, while walking around taking pictures of people, I walked 85% of the course. The quads were a little sore the next day.
I learned so much about the Blue Ridge Heritage Project and what they're doing to honor the memory of the families who were forcibly displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s. That's a sad story to look into, but they're trying to make it have a happy ending. Groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial sometime in April at Stanley's Ed Good Park.
Luray has Ralph Dean park. Stanley has Ed Good Park. In Shenandoah, the first time I ever heard of their park was hearing the town council speak about it. My first thought: "Who's Big Jim?" It's Big Gem Park.
The "protest march" against Donald Trump was fun to cover, in the sense that it was nice to see people out doing something. It was cool to see the group of dedicated people on the left marching for what they believed in, and it was interesting to see the meet the folks on the right with their "Trump Pence" signs and how all of that went down.
I hung out for 90 minutes one day with a 93-year-old blind lady, Anne Morrison. That was a neat article about how she was able to live her life for like 50 years, despite not being able to see. She was also the first name that I recognized in the obituary section of the newspaper.
And the ribbon cuttings. So, so, so, so many ribbon cuttings.
* * *
There were a few leads that I tried to cover but we never got to report on it for whatever reason.
The bookstore flooded in a huge rain that we had back in June or July, maybe. I went to interview the owner -- we were expecting the article to be about how the bookstore was gonna be closed indefinitely and how the business next door may have caused it to happen. But, the bookstore was literally open like five days later -- with a messy carpet that was eventually replaced -- and while I think the two business owners had some talk with their lawyers, nothing worth noting ever happened.
The biggest thing that went nowhere was the claim that a newly-elected town council member didn't actually live in Luray when she filed the paperwork to run -- which is a felony. As the PNC revealed a couple weeks ago, the state police are looking into that. It will likely go nowhere, but at least it's out there.
I think something to explore at a later date would be all of the article ideas that I suggested that we never reported on, for whatever reason.
I may pop back in at a later time with some more reflections from my 16 months as a reporter with the Page News and Courier. Good stopping point for now.