Friday, September 07, 2007

Fan District Hub newsletter

The following art and copy made up the first Fan District Hub newsletter, which hit the streets this week:

Hub, official spokescat for the Fan District Hub, hopes you will read on, and eventually smile.
Community blogs are what’s happening

What has the potential to become a powerful network of independently published community blogs continues to form in the Richmond area. Now there are nine such web sites in Richmond. The newsletter you are reading is the paper extension of the community blog published by me, the Fan District Hub.

While I'm watching this trend with great interest, as a longtime alternative media advocate -- Biograph Theatre, Color Radio, SLANT magazine, etc. -- I suspect publishers in the mainstream media are something less than happy about it. In fact, some seem to be in a near-panic. And, for good reason.

Since newspapers and broadcasters have been running less and less local news, as a national trend, they have left a gaping void that the community blogs seem prepared to rush into with fresh enthusiasm and new technology.

John Murden’s Church Hill People’s News was the first community blog in Richmond. Ross Catrow was next with his West of the Boulevard News. In addition to the Fan District Hub, the others now running include: All Things Shockoe, Carver & Jackson Ward News, Hills and Heights, Near West End News, North Richmond News and, the newest, simple called Oregon Hill.

This newsletter will come out on a monthly basis. It will grow -- four pages next month. In the meantime, please take the time to visit the Fan District Hub online. Send us your suggestions. Yes, this is the time for volunteers to step up.

By the way, both at the web site and with the newsletter, advertising is dirt cheap, for now. For information on that click here.

The Fan District Softball League: Chapter One

Referred to as the “hippie league” by softball players who played in the polyester-clad softball leagues governed by recreation and parks departments, the Fan District Softball League had its own style, which leaned toward cotton, silk-screened T-shirts. Its games were played on “open fields,” rather than in softball complexes with fences. Among other things that meant the Fan League featured a style that put more emphasis on defensive play, rather than simply a home-run derby, with big-bellied Bubbas and Junies trotting around the bases.

It also meant the league’s activities received less scrutiny by authorities outside of itself, which was viewed at the time as a good thing.

The rather unorthodox Fan League bubbled up out of the pop culture ooze of the summer of 1973, which was the heyday of WGOE, the daytime AM radio station that dominated the local hippie audience. Its sound could be heard in the shops and on the sidewalks of the bohemian commercial strip of West Grace Street, adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University. WGOE, inadvertently set the whole thing in motion when its promotional softball team of deejays and a few ringers, the ‘Nads, played a few games against impromptu squads representing a few regular advertisers on the station, mostly bars.

By the next summer teams began to jell, but there was no formal schedule and fields were still being commandeered, rather than secured by arrangement with any proper authority. By 1975 the name Fan District Softball League had come into use and the organization had its first commissioner -- Van “Hook” Shepherd. Cassell’s Upholstery beat the Bamboo Cafe in a one-game playoff for the season’s

championship finale. The four other teams in the league that inaugural season were the Back Door, Sea Dream Leather, Uptop Sub Shop and WGOE.

In 1976, in addition to the regular season the league staged two tournaments, one of them an invitational. Teams representing the Biograph Theatre, deTreville, Hababas, J.W. Rayle, the Pinheads (the VCU sculpture department and friends) and the Rainbow Inn were formed in 1976.

During the first decade of the league’s existence, next to the music and nightlife scene, softball-related activities were at the heart of the Baby Boomer-driven culture in the Fan District. Unlike most softball leagues in those days, the FDSL usually had lots of fans at its games. Of course, the kegs of free beer that were around had something to do with that. In that time the freewheeling FDSL was the only organized-yet-independent softball league in the Richmond area.

Thus, the Fan League governed itself, made its own schedule, cut its own deal with the umpires, etc. It remained so through its last season in 1994. The Fan District Softball League had lasted 20 years, which was a wonder in itself.

Chapter Two will appear in the October newsletter.

SUV’s in the Fan

The first time I drove a sports/utility vehicle, it was a Toyota ForeRunner and I was surprised at how unstable/top-heavy it felt. That was 10 years ago. While some makes are worse than others, since then, as a class, SUVs have proven to be outrageously susceptible to rolling over.

A few weeks ago I saw a muscle-bound SUV flipped over by a low-slung compact like it was a cheap hamburger. The compact had been doing about 25 miles-per-hour before it struck the SUV on the rider’s side -- the SUV ran a red light -- causing it to tumble and spin around on its roof; the driver was bloody, trapped inside and lucky to be alive.

In that case the high-riding design of the driver’s SUV was dangerous only to her. Let the buyer beware. But what about danger posed to others? Some say SUVs generally threaten smaller cars on the road. Maybe they do. However, in the Fan District, there’s absolutely no doubt SUVs can be a danger when they are parked at the curb.

Decades ago a good many Fan residents rode streetcars, later buses, to work, or to shop; purchases from department stores, grocery stores, etc., were routinely delivered. Neighbors walked for short errands and saw one another in the doing. Lots of middle class families didn’t own a car. The neighborhood was originally designed for such a lifestyle.

Well, that era is long-gone, yet there aren’t any more parking spaces now than there were 75 years ago. So, with many times more motor vehicles, it’s crowded. And, get this -- the taller those vehicles are, the more difficult it can be to simply get around.

That’s because the height of large SUVs, vans and such, breaks the sight line of a motorist, or bicyclist, trying to see around them at an intersection. From a side street, entering an intersection, either you must creep part-way into the intersection and peer around, or you jet across, hoping for good luck...

Consequently, now we need a law which recognizes that in densely-populated neighborhoods, for safety concerns, vehicles that stand over a certain height shouldn’t park near the corner. Maybe tall vehicles shouldn’t park within 15 feet of the corner.

Some SUV- and van-lovers would no doubt object. Still, it says here -- get a garage! -- that no one has an intrinsic right to park anywhere they choose in the public way. After all, driving itself isn’t a right in Virginia, it’s a privilege.

By the way, the small sedan in the above mentioned accident had a crumpled front end; its driver appeared unhurt.

Hub’s blurbs and links
  • For information about the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment click on the link or call The Community Foundation at (804) 330-7400.
  • VCU’s student enrollment for this year is the largest in the university’s history, more than 31,300 students.
  • Alas, it seems the retiring Sen. John Warner is one of the last of a dying breed of cat inside the beltway -- a courteous politician who does his own thinking.
  • Richmond Free WiFi Blog

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