Archive for the 'Assignment 2' Category

Assignment 2: New Place

 

For this assignment, I found it a little difficult to find a place I hadn’t been before. I have had my car at school since my freshman year, and because of this I have pretty much hit all of the traditional Williamsburg places by now— Yankee Candle, Five Forks, and the Outlets are all favorites. However, the place I chose, although very new to me, has been a part of a certain percentage of the student body’s weekly routine. For this assignment, I went to the Catholic Campus Ministry.

Growing up, I was raised Catholic. I’ve been to various different churches; a mega church while visiting a friend, I’ve been to small chapels with my family, and then of course St. Anthony’s, the church my family used to go to at home. However, before this assignment I had never been to something like the Catholic Campus Ministry. The church I used to attend is pretty large and therefore the hymns are played through large speakers, the priest has to use a microphone when he speaks to the crowd, and my Sunday school classes took place in another large building all together. Also a distinct aspect of St. Anthony’s is the large Hispanic population in attendance, therefore most of the masses I would attend were in Spanish.

Catholic Campus Ministry was a very different experience. There weren’t a bunch of families like I am used to seeing around, due to the fact it is mostly William and Mary students and older couples, and the mass itself was very short, most likely because it was a Wednesday evening.  In addition to the people, another interesting difference was the look of the chapel. It was obviously a pretty old building, and there were three sides in which people could sit around the altar. I am also used to a more traditional altar with a crucifix in the back, however this one had the image of the Virgin Mary.

I believed that I would feel uncomfortable at the Catholic Campus Ministry because although I was raised Catholic, I haven’t been in a church for several years and personally do not prescribe to Catholic beliefs. I knew that going to mass would definitely take me out of my element. What set this experience a part from others is that I was uncomfortable even though other students like myself surrounded me.  I didn’t know the prayers, didn’t know when to stand, sit or kneel and just felt like a fish out of water.

It’s funny that someone can feel so out of place where others feel so comfortable because it is their place of worship. It makes me wonder if I were to attend the church I used to at my home in Northern Virginia, if I would still feel displaced. I feel that even though I wouldn’t personally with many of the things said, if the usual familiar faces surrounded me, would it matter?

It’s an interesting thing about comfort—when I first came to school in Williamsburg I wasn’t comfortable anywhere in this town. I had to get used to my dorm room, my friends, get familiar with the buildings, and Swem Library. Now, I have my own favorite spots on and off campus, especially the Daily Grind.  And in the future, when I leave Williamsburg and get a job somewhere, I’m going to have to find new places of comfort.  Maybe instead of a coffee shop I’ll find a favorite restaurant to have lunch at, or maybe my favorite place will be my third floor, one-bedroom walk up.  Familiarity comes and goes, maybe after this I won’t find Catholic Campus Ministry so uncomfortable.

Assignment 2 – Five Forks Cafe

If you drive down Jamestown Road, then take a left on 199, and a right on John Tyler Highway (Route 5), you’ll stumble upon one of the countless strip malls in the Williamsburg area. I had never ventured out there before because I do not have a car on Williamsburg. I decided to take the aforementioned route to this particular place because I was in search of a Williamsburg legend that I had heard about, but never experienced: Five Forks Café.

The location of the restaurant is relatively small and requires a car to travel there. It is just ten minutes off of campus, but it feels like it takes much longer to get there. As my friends and I drove down Jamestown Road, I felt the comforting presence of the College releasing its grasp. We passed identical intersections that brought together wide, paved roads from all over the city.

Upon arriving to the junction between John Tyler Highway and Ironbound Road, we faced our first hurdle: parking. Apparently we were not the only Williamsburg residents whose first thoughts were, “Let’s go to Five Forks” when we woke up that morning. Upon parking about fifty feet away from the building, we encountered an intimidating line.

While in line, I had the opportunity to examine the building. It is unassuming, simple, and it stands alone. The walls are half brick and half tinted windows. The room is flat, white, and proudly displays the words “Five Forks Café” in a retro, silver font that reminded me of an airstream.

After we sat down our compact, wooden booth, I looked at the crowd. What I came to find is that this space is an intersection between the College and the permanent residents of Williamsburg. However, it seemed as if all of the people I knew and recognized were on one side of the restaurant – to the left – as compared to the Williamsburg residents who sat on the right.

I did not feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but I did feel out of place. As I sat with one of my friends who is an international student, I asked him, “Doesn’t this make you feel like you’re in America?” Five Forks Café is the type of setting where political commercials for conservative, America-loving candidates are filmed. I imagine Norman Rockwell would love to paint this place. No non-sense American patriarchs would prefer to dine here – and so would Ron Swanson from the television show Parks and Recreation. These characteristics are generally what I saw in the crowd and the employees: homegrown,

Unfortunately, that is not how I would characterize myself. My exchange with the waitress regarding my breakfast order emphasizes the distinction nicely.

“And what will you have, my dear?”

“Can I please have two poached eggs with whole wheat toast and fruit?”

“We don’t poach eggs here, honey.”

“Oh, okay. Then can I please have … um… can you please come back to me?”

“Sure.”

One minute passed.

“Okay, can I please have two eggs over medium. I’d like them not too runny, but runny enough.”

“And you still want the toast and the fruit? Any hash browns? They’re really good.”

“Um, okay. I’ll have whole wheat toast and hash browns, please.”

“Great.”

Just like that, the waitress changed my original, pretentious and healthy order to something more classic. Classic yet unhealthy.

Despite their mild manipulation, the women who worked at Five Forks were fantastic. It appeared as if most of them had worked there for over fifteen years. There was a sense of comradery around them when they would chitchat between serving tables. At the table next to me, I heard the waitress joke with a student about her hangover. While I watched the women pace back and forth to the kitchen with huge plates of primarily egg dishes, I felt as if I was watching a bunch of mothers feeding their large, hungry families.

When my food arrived, I devoured it quickly. Somehow, even though it was one of the plainest breakfasts I had ever eaten, it was one of the most delicious. My friends and I exchanged pieces of pancakes for hash browns and omelets for grits in order to fully experience Five Fork’s offerings. When the waitress returned to pick up our clean plates, she asked me:

“Now wasn’t that better than poached eggs?”

“Yes,” I said. “Thank you for the recommendation.”

She dropped off the check, which was handwritten in unintelligible handwriting, and instructed us to pay by the door. We sat for a bit to discuss our incredibly satisfying meal and then trudged over to the cash register to pay for our breakfast.

As we headed back to Williamsburg, I felt the realities of schoolwork, tests, and social obligations creeping back into my head. Although escaping the grip of the College can be daunting at first, it is actually very rewarding. I am sure many students who have ventured off campus can identify with this. Reminding yourself that there is a real world past the two roads that confine our campus is reassuring.

 

Confession Cowardice- A Visit to St. Olaf Catholic Church

I am a practicing Catholic, and, as such, I find going to Confession a much needed part of my faith life. A lot of people might find this odd. Confessing your sins to a priest probably does not seem to be the most fun pastime. However, I find it really relieving and cathartic. The only hitch for me is that I genuinely loathe going to Confession with a priest that I know.

The Catholic Campus Ministry here at William and Mary has its own chaplain; however, he is also a priest at the larger St. Bede Parish on Ironbound Road. I know our chaplain well because I am on the executive board for CCM, so I dislike going to the Confession services held at our campus chapel. So I had been going to St. Bede’s Confession time instead of the campus one for awhile. Except now our campus chaplain helps at those Confessions as well. There are two rooms and you do not know if you will get him or the other priest at St. Bede. A few months ago I had the unpleasant experience of getting the room with the priest I knew. Even with the screen blocking my face, I knew he would recognize my voice, so I made my voice lower and more hoarse to disguise it.

So where am I going with this generally silly anecdote about my irrational Confession fears? Well, I decided that I needed to find somewhere else to say my Confession. So I looked up the nearest Catholic Church besides St. Bede in the Williamsburg area. It is called St. Olaf and is technically in Norge, but it is just up Richmond Road a couple miles past Williamsburg Pottery, so it still seems like Williamsburg to me.

I decided that going to Confession at St. Olaf on Saturday would be my experience of a “new place” in Williamsburg. I pulled out my IPhone and mapped how to get there. It was very simple. The church is exactly eight miles down Richmond Road from campus. So I got in my car and started driving. I had never been that far down Richmond Road to begin with, so I started getting a little nervous because I began to not recognize things. But once I saw the sign for the church I calmed down and knew it would be fine. To get to St. Olaf you turn right off Richmond Road and turn right again down a little side street. There is a Farm Fresh and a Starbucks and some houses in the immediate vicinity of the church. It is not in a “sketchy” part of town or anything, so I felt completely safe. It looked like any small church that you would find near a shopping center anywhere in the United States. Thus, its generic-ness was actually comforting.

Confessions are held at St. Olaf from 4:30 to 5:15 PM on Saturday afternoons- right before their Saturday evening mass at 5:30. I got to the church at around 4:45 PM, so those few people that like to get to mass super early were already arriving. This made me a little nervous. I had been hoping there would not be many people around. The church is really small, so I would probably stand out as someone that did not usually go there. Going to mass on campus is really comfortable because most of the people that go to those masses at our small chapel are also students. And even when I had to go to St. Bede on Ironbound Road over the summer, I blended in with the other college students who had stayed in Williamsburg over the summer and were going their for mass as well. St. Olaf does not draw the William and Mary crowd, however. It is out of the way and not connected to William and Mary’s Catholic Campus Ministry. So I immediately thought that I must stick out like a sore thumb in this community.

Luckily, though, my experience at St. Olaf was incredibly pleasant. I walked in the side doors of the church and clearly looked a little confused, so an older lady approached me and asked if I needed anything. I asked where confessions were being heard. The church is so small that she pointed across the small welcoming area to a bench that I could sit on while I waited. There was only one person ahead of me in line. At St. Bede, there would normally be at least 10-15 people ahead of me in both lines that they have there. Needless to say I was pretty surprised at how quick this was probably going to be.

I went to sit down on the bench with the older gentleman that was also in line. After he went in, I just awkwardly sat on the bench in the middle of the welcoming hall as more people started coming in for mass. I have to say, this set-up really is not the best. At least at St. Bede, you are far away from the entrance area when you are waiting to go to Confession, so no one can see you and say in their head, “Oh, that girl has something to confess.” Okay, people probably do not actually think that, but I just imagine they do.

Because I was the only person sitting on the waiting bench after the older gentleman went into the Confession room, and probably because I looked new and out of place, an older woman came and sat down next to me and introduced herself. She asked if I was there for mass and I just said that I was only there for Confession. She said, “Oh, you are brave, I don’t like going to Confession.” Little did she know, that my driving out to St. Olaf to go to Confession was because of how much of a coward I actually am. Nevertheless, I chuckled at her comment and said something like, “I guess so.” She then went on to greet friends of hers that were walking into the church.

I am not going to tell you what I confessed, but I did really like the priest who heard my confession. After I was done, I headed out of the church and went back to campus. All in all, I liked experiencing, even if for a very brief time, another church community besides the one I am used to on campus. I felt very welcomed at St. Olaf, even if I felt a little out of place. It is nice to know that even in a different part of town I can find a church that is welcoming and makes me feel comfortable.

Soaps-N-Suds

I’ve lived in a house on Lafayette Street for the last three years during my time at the College of William and Mary. I get most of my necessities within a mile radius. I get groceries at Bloom/Food Lion, I get gas at Kim’s, I get home improvement items at Ace, I get lunch at China House, and, seasonally, I get Italian ice at Rita’s. I’ve driven, walked, biked, and skateboarded throughout the Lafayette, Richmond, and Monticello street/road area at all times of day and night. This area is my home. Still, I have not visited every shop in this small vicinity and rarely go out of my comfort zone. Thinking about where I should visit for this anthro-geo-historical project, I considered Nawab but was not yet hungry, Supreme Styles but did not need accessories, and City Nails, but I decided against a manicure when I saw Soaps-N-Suds and visualized the large pile of laundry on my bedroom floor. We have a washer and dryer at my house, so I’d never been to the Laundromat. In general, all I really knew about them was that my grandpa owned one when my mother was a young girl. She used to help him by sorting the change. So, I grabbed my dirty clothes, detergent, and some quarters and headed out slightly nervous about this new experience.

First off, I learned that one could not even use quarters at Soaps-N-Suds. I walked in and saw that I had to buy a prepaid laundry card with cash or credit. I buy the card, load my washers, and finally sit down and take a look around. I have 28 minutes to contemplate my surroundings. There are multiple TVs playing Judge Mathis to provide me with entertainment as well as vending and pinball machines. What interests me the most, however, is people-watching. Not trying to seem suspicious of voyeurism, I take a seat and look up at the TVs peeking around at my fellow customers in my periphery. I see the Laundromat attendant, an older African American woman, sweeping in the far right corner, a Hispanic mother with two young children playing, a young Caucasian couple folding clothes together, and a few solo people, two women and one male lounging around. While different demographics of people probably occupy Soaps-N-Suds at different days and different times, I guess that the majority of people that go to the Laundromat are Williamsburg residents that are not college students, mainly older folks, and are likely in a slightly lower than average income level.  I bet a large majority of their clientele lives in the Lawson apartments behind the Monticello Shopping Center of which Soaps-N-Suds is a part. Most college students, I assume, wash their clothes on campus or like me, at their temporary house.

After my wash loads are finished, I transfer my clothes to the dryers. By this time, I feel very comfortable. I think part of my nervousness coming to Soaps-N-Suds was that I would do something wrong or unconventional in the washing process and have someone look at me weird or have to ask for help. But with my clothes on their way to being dry and warm, I sit a little more relaxed and enjoy the small claims monetary disputes on TV. Though I do not foresee my need to visit Soaps-N-Suds regularly, I feel as though I have a better view of a bustling Williamsburg local spot. I probably would have never seen this part of Williamsburg without this project’s incentive. Hungry after folding my clothes, I head across the street and order the lunch special at China House.

Pineapples and Perceptions

I struggled to think of a place that would be easy for me to reach in the town of Williamsburg (without a car), not in Colonial Williamsburg, that I had not visited in my four years at William and Mary. What could be left? Then I realized the number of bed and breakfasts that serve Williamsburg, so many of which are right across the street from campus. One of these, the Colonial Capital Bed and Breakfast, is located at Richmond Road and Virginia Avenue, and is where I chose to visit last Sunday afternoon.

Snow crunched under my feet as I tromped up the long sidewalk to the Colonial Capital. A plaque on the door marked that it has been in establishment since 1988. I tried to open the front door (aren’t bed and breakfasts just like hotels but smaller? Can’t I just walk in?) but found it to be locked. I rang the doorbell, and waited nervously for someone to open it. An older gentleman answered the door, and I explained my purpose to him—that I was a student at the College, doing research for a class, and was hoping he might let me look around. He let me in, but looked confused, and asked what I was researching. I explained that it was less of a “what” and more of a “where,” a prompt to go somewhere I had never been and experience a place outside of the William and Mary campus. He laughed at this, but seemed willing to let me look around the bed and breakfast.

I found the bed and breakfast to be an odd hybrid space between the public and the private. My thought prior to entering was that the space I would be able to view (the breakfast half of the bed and breakfast) would be similar to a hotel. I walked around most of the ground floor, and some of it fit my previous idea—a desk displayed pamphlets about the area, and a guest book was prominently displayed, along with a sign marking the establishment as AAA approved. At the same time, I was very aware that I was in a house, not a building constructed for commercial purposes. I explored the large living room, dining room, and a small breakfast nook. They were all laid out as if someone lived there—comfortable pillows on couches, tables waiting to be set for dinner. (There were even some Williamsburg local history books spread out on the coffee table.) It took me a while to realize that this was a home, for the owner of the Colonial Capital. A space that I had always considered as removed from everyday life, as a getaway for travelers, also functions as a very intimate and personal space for those who make it their lives, and not just a weekend away.

At first, my interactions with the owner were a bit awkward. He did not seem to know what to make of a college student wandering through his bed and breakfast, and I imagine I looked silly walking around and looking at the place, without a very clear understanding of what I was looking for. He followed me into the different rooms for a few minutes, which made me very self-conscious, as if I might make trouble. Eventually he seemed assured that I was not going to steal anything, and I explored the downstairs alone. I was not given any direction, but did not feel comfortable entering the kitchen, located toward the back of the house, though I did spot groceries sitting on the counter from the doorway. The owner did not tell me where I could or could not go, but I felt like the kitchen was in the private or management portion of the Colonial Capital, and that venturing there would be an unwelcome visit behind the scenes to the running of the bed and breakfast. I also made the choice not to go upstairs, as that gave the impression of being a space reserved for the resident or paying guests.

The most meaningful experience of my visit came when I asked the owner a question. I had noticed the images of pineapples in and outside the building, from a flag out front to candle holders in the dining room. Prompted by my own curiosity more than anything else, I asked what was significant about pineapples. He explained that they are a symbol of hospitality dating back to the colonial era, when pineapples where a rare product in some areas of the world, and one who shared pineapple was seen as an especially generous soul. The owner of the Colonial Capital, a retired employee of Colonial Williamsburg, said the historical workers would refer to themselves as “working for the big pineapple.” They are the symbol of the hospitality house (across the road), and are among the many symbols used to represent establishments before widespread literacy.

This man came alive telling me the story about pineapples, and I wanted to hear more that he could tell me about the town. (This past summer, I worked for a local newspaper, and spent time interviewing members of my community. At this point in my visit, I felt like I was back on a story assignment, and began a dialogue appropriate to the interaction between reporter and subject, though I did not plan it that way.) He explained that the house was built in 1926, during the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg, and was part of a former farm owned by brothers who were active in the town, and even financed part of the wall that runs between campus and Richmond Road. (I have a quest to find the marker on the wall that recognizes the contribution of the Bozarths.) It was a local history lesson from someone who knew an entirely different side of Williamsburg than the one that I experience on a daily basis.

The Colonial Capital has faced harder times with the recession, as the owner said that travel was an aspect of life readily purged to save on funds. I proposed that the bed and breakfast model might appeal to a specific segment of the tourist population, and the owner agreed that he relies on older clients, saying he shared age and retired status with much of his clientele. I am clearly outside of those typical customers, and felt like an outsider, observing a service and space meant for someone very different from me. I felt very young, less of a reporter now and more of a college kid who had never walked into a bed and breakfast before.

My visit to the Colonial Capital Bed and Breakfast taught me well about space and the people who inhabit them. The seemingly very close and familiar, a house on Richmond Road, can feel like a different, strange world. It might be difficult to imagine relating to someone in a foreign environment, but not so hard to find common ground and understanding by simply asking them a question. They can share a great deal about place, history, and definitely hospitality.

“The Beach”

 

A New Place

In our last assignment I talked about what place meant to me. I illustrated how it shaped me as a person and why I believe it is important to everyone in some way. This week our assignment called for me to do something courageous, I had to go somewhere I had never been before. As daunting of a task as this seemed to be I would like to think that I did well in my endeavors.

As I started to think about where I wanted to lose myself I decided that I wanted to go somewhere hidden in plain sight. I thought that it would be interesting to really connect our first two assignments and check out what types of bodies of water surrounded where I currently call home. Being from Southern California I tend to think of a “beach” as something with waves, warm sand, pretty girls, and lots of sunshine. So naturally when my friends native to the area began asking me if I had ever been to the beach I freaked out. All of the memories from back home began replaying in my head like a broken film of some type. I immediately thought of how I missed surfing and walking along the boardwalk. A good friend of mine said she would go with me, so after practice we met up and headed down to “the beach.”

Once we finally got on the road I found myself rambling about how excited I was to finally see something that reminded me of home. Every time I looked over at my friend she giggled more and more as if there was a big surprise. It turns out there was one…. A very big surprise indeed. When we got there my jaw hit the floor. There was no beach, no waves, no sunshine—I was bummed. However, I realized that even though it was not Southern California I still was able to call it home. It was not as exciting and fun as back home but it was still vital to the community. As we walked around the shore I saw other people enjoying a great day at “the beach.” That place served as a refuge of peace and beauty to anyone that visited and it was clearly illustrated in the faces of those that were there that day.

Once we got back in the car I noticed how much I really began to appreciate “the beach.” It was serene. I felt as though I was looking at what all of the romantic writers from way back when were writing about. I started the car and began to ask myself “why haven’t I ever been here?” Because it really is not that far out of the way and it is not hard to get to at all. Although, I must admit it was a little weird on the way out there because the road we took did not have any markings such as lanes or anything like that. Maybe I thought it would because my California instincts told me it should but then again the more and more I investigate this Williamsburg place the more and more I forget about back home. The reason I say that is because I am slowly realizing that I can call this place home, it has begun to shape me in the same fashion that California has.

Based on what we have been learning and talking about in class I have decided that place is a very lucid term. It is something that is connected to many generations of many different people. For instance, “the beach” has been walked on by Americans since the first Americans landed here on the Mayflower. Before that there were Native Americans and before them who knows who, or even what could have been walking around. What is important to remember is that these places remain, and people leave there imprints on them. The people will come and go but the place remains constant and shapes people in the same way that it always has. This idea does not go just for “the beach,” but also for the whole town of Williamsburg.

So far in this short semester I have learned two things. The first being that place truly does shape someone’s ideologies. The second, and the one I’ll elaborate on more, is that when a person branches out without fear of what may or may not happen they will find themselves wondering why they had never tried whatever it is they are doing before. It is human nature to set limits on ourselves, but people do not realize that we set limits on our geographical location as well. I can honestly say that I have set limits on my surroundings my whole life and because of this latest assignment I refuse to do so anymore. In fact the next place I plan to investigate is a chocolate shop called Mad About Chocolate right down the street from the College Apartments.

Assignment #2: A Trip to Harris Teeter

As graduation nears, I continually find myself making a mental checklist of all the places in the Williamsburg area I have yet to explore.  Thus, when given the assignment to visit a place I had never been and may be somewhat uncomfortable, I had quite a few places I could think of.  I ultimately decided to visit the Harris Teeter on Quarterpath Road.  While going to a grocery store may not sound adventurous, I always noticed the Harris Teeter when heading down Route 199 to the airport.  However, I did not realize there was an entire shopping center there since trees along Route 199 blocked my view.  Though not far from campus, the shopping center that houses Harris Teeter is little known to many William and Mary students.  Quarterpath Crossing is not on a bus line making it inconvenient to many students.  If students need to go grocery shopping, they either go to the Food Lion on Richmond Road (it is within walking distance) or Martin’s or Target, located on the Red Line.

I decided to go to the Harris Teeter in Quarterpath Crossing because I knew there would be few, if any, students there.  That made me feel somewhat uncomfortable – a requirement for the project – because I was not sure how people would react when they saw someone my age (I wore a hat that day that had my sorority letters and “College of William and Mary” on it) shopping there.  In a sense, I felt I would be “invading their zone.”  In other words, college students realize Williamsburg residents may sometime be annoyed with having to deal with college students living in their town.  By going to the Harris Teeter, I felt I would be stepping into the “college student-free zone” near Kingsmill.  While it is obviously not an actual “college student-free zone,” few students venture out there which residents of the area may appreciate.  Moreover, going to a new grocery store always makes me feel a little uncomfortable because I do not know where everything is located.  Thus, people can tell that you are not familiar with the store and probably not from the area.  I wanted to see who uses the grocery store while also investigating why the shopping center is there.

My first thought was that Quarterpath Crossing, which looks relatively new, was built to accommodate all the people living in Kingsmill.  Upon searching old newspaper articles, I found the shopping center opened in 2009.  It houses various stores and businesses in addition to Harris Teeter.  Banks, a seafood restaurant, a Subway restaurant, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, and a salon are also located in the shopping center.

When I arrived at the shopping center, I was surprised at how few cars were parked in front of the grocery store.  It was about 12:30p.m. on a Sunday. While some people go to church on Sunday, and Saturday is more of a day to run errands, I was surprised at how few cars were in the parking lot and how few people were in the store. The shopping center where I usually go on Monticello Avenue is always busy on the weekends.  Moreover, Harris Teeter appeared to be the only store besides Subway open in the shopping center.

The first impression I had while walking into Harris Teeter was just how clean and newly built the store appeared.  The inside looked much more upscale than the Food Lion and even appeared to be decorated in a more upscale fashion than Martin’s in Monticello Marketplace (where I usually shop for groceries).  When I first arrived there seemed to be no more than twenty people doing their grocery shopping in the whole store.  Most of the shoppers were couples, appearing to range in age from 35 to 70 years old, with the majority of shoppers appearing to be of retirement age.  The majority of the people shopping were dressed nicely. While I was wearing athletic clothes, most of the people appeared “put together.”  Most of the men wore jeans or khakis with button-down shirts.  Most of the women wore jeans or skirts with preppy sweaters or jackets.  Almost all of the women appeared to be wearing makeup.  The types of clothes people wore and the cars they drove led me to believe mainly middle class and upper-middle class people shop at the grocery store.

Though a chain, Harris Teeter in Quarterpath Crossing has a community feel.  People greeted one another and some shoppers clearly knew each other since they struck up conversations and asking about their families.  These observations lead me to believe Harris Teeter serves a certain geographical area, specifically Kingsmill, which is located just across Route 199. I also saw numerous cars with Kingsmill decals on them.

The location of Harris Teeter within Quarterpath Crossing makes the store not only a neighborhood grocery store for people who live in the area, it is also convenient for people driving on Route 199 to and from work.  While I went on a Sunday, a day many people have off from work, I can imagine Harris Teeter is convenient for people who commute to Newport News and Norfolk.  There is a Starbucks located inside the store and a “to go” bar where salads and warm foods can be picked up for lunch.

Despite feeling uncomfortable when I first walked in, I left Harris Teeter knowing I would feel comfortable shopping there again.  While I was the only college student in sight, people did not look at me as if I did not belong.  The shoppers and people working in the school were all friendly.  The assignment allowed me to venture outside of my comfort zone – the geographical comfort zone of being near campus and the emotional comfort zone of going to unknown places where few people like me (college students) are. The assignment has inspired me to travel to new places within the Williamsburg area so I can have a better understanding of and appreciation for the place I have been living.

Love at First Bite

Williamsburg locals and tourists alike have deemed Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que as “a Virginia tradition for over 40 years.”  My father, one such Williamsburg native and an alumnus of the College, has raved about this local gem since I was a small child.  He recalls the time when Pierce’s was just a small building with a walk-up order window.  There were a couple of picnic tables, but no indoor seating. While the restaurant and its menu have since expanded, my dad claims that the Bar-B-Que tastes just as good now as it did when he was growing up.  My grandparents still live in Williamsburg, so I spent a lot of time around the town and the campus while growing up.  However, we never went to Pierce’s because, until recently, I did not like to eat meat.  Now, each time I return to the College of William and Mary for classes, I take exit 238 off of Interstate 64, which is very close to Pierce’s.  I have always thought about testing my father’s theory that Pierce’s serves the best Bar-B-Que around, but I have never had a car on campus before this year.   I had always thought that the restaurant was far from campus, but it turns out that it is actually fairly close by car.

The packed parking lot in front of Pierce’s made me feel slightly apprehensive about the possibility of large crowds in the restaurant.  I know that, usually, hordes of patrons at a restaurant indicate great food, but I try to avoid crowded restaurants as much as possible.  When restaurants are busy, I feel the need to rush my meal so that I can give my table to someone else.  I would prefer to take my time and enjoy good food and conversation with whomever I am with.  However, I was pleased that I was able to quickly find an empty table and that there was, in fact, some breathing room in the restaurant.

Once I gathered my Bar-B-Que sandwich and found a seat, I began to observe the atmosphere and the people in the restaurant.  Pierce’s exudes a unique and fun ambiance.  The wood-paneled walls and linoleum floors are reminiscent of the 1970s, the era in which the restaurant was founded.  These walls are lined with pictures of the owners and the development of their restaurant, employees, famous customers, and magazine articles and awards.  Sounds of Oldies music and lively conversations fill the room, adding to the friendly atmosphere.  After ordering at the counter and picking up their food, customers grab plastic utensils and fill up plastic cups with the obligatory Southern tea appropriately labeled: “sweet sweet sweet. ”  These details all lend themselves to the authentic, laid-back feel of the restaurant.

Families with children occupied a majority of the tables—colored red and yellow to match the exterior of the building. Other patrons, however, looked as if they had come from a late church service.  Whether patrons were dressed in their Sunday best or in sweatpants, everyone seemed extremely comfortable in the establishment.  This led me to consider the idea that eating at Pierce’s may be a Sunday, or at least a family, tradition for many people.  While Pierce’s seems committed to loyal Williamsburg families, the restaurant actively tries to attract new clientele.  Surprisingly, since Williamsburg public transportation does not travel as far as the restaurant, I received a William and Mary student discount.  This is just another example of Pierce’s commitment and contribution to the Williamsburg community, temporary residents included.

After my trip to Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que, I found more pictures on the restaurant’s website.  These pictures added to the idea of Pierce’s as a family-run and family-oriented establishment.  They depicted parties held at the restaurant and soldiers who used Pierce’s Bar-B-Que sauce while deployed overseas.  There are also pictures of celebrities and politicians such as George Bush and Tim Kaine enjoying delicious Bar-B-Que at Pierce’s.  The restaurant has built its reputation enough to sell products in addition to its delicious menu items. While in line to order, it is impossible to miss the mugs, peanuts, and Bar-B-Que sauces bearing Pierce’s name and logo.  While the restaurant has become famous beyond the borders of Williamsburg, it is still committed to maintaining its down-home family feel rather than becoming cutting-edge or modern.

My experience at Pierce’s expanded my view of Williamsburg.  Until this Sunday afternoon, I had not ventured onto Rochambeau Drive.  Not only did I eat a delicious sandwich, but also I saw parts of Williamsburg that I did not even know existed.  This was great for me because I thought that I had seen a great amount of Williamsburg; it turns out that there is much more to see.  I am excited to continue my discovery of Williamsburg so that I can better know the community in which I live and learn.  Because I will be engaging in local history this semester, I must keep in mind that Williamsburg does not consist solely of students, professors, and my own grandparents.  I must keep an open mind, but at the same time try to understand Williamsburg to the best of my abilities.  In an article by Alessandro Portelli, the author claims that he had “[played] the ‘objective’ researcher, and was rewarded with biased data.”  I must agree with Portelli that one must first understand a community before he can expect its people to open up to him. Therefore, I can only succeed in recording local histories by actively engaging with the community and its residents and visitors and by experiencing new things that may even, at first, make me a little uneasy.

Brewing with Secrecy

After reading the Jack Edwards article about growth in Williamsburg I knew I had to check out the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. First of all, I had no idea that a brewery existed in the Williamsburg area. Second, I have been to Busch Gardens three times and I never really connected the beer conglomerate with the family oriented theme park. It may sound naive or super obvious to most people, but for some reason I thought the theme park’s namesake was spelled BUSH Gardens, and it was named so because of the heavy foliage within and around the park. (I grew up going to Kings Dominion and compared to BUSCH Gardens, Kings Dominion sits upon a giant slab of concrete). Finally, I had a romanticized vision about being able to tour the brewery, which would have been a fun way to spend Friday afternoon.

The brewery is located off of Pocahontas Trail that is also Rt. 60, and for a while it is listed on the map as York Street. At first the road to beer ran in between the railroad tracks and Colonial Williamsburg. The area displays a typical outskirts of a town vibe as on the left there isn’t too much development, and on the right there are a few industrial-esque brick buildings. It far and away lacks that neighborhood feel found within the city limits. Sporadically, Colonial Williamsburg appears through the trees on the right, and at one notable point I saw two ginormous bulls contained in that colonial style fencing that makes you wonder how they don’t escape.

After a while the road turns into motel alley as every single hotel or motel one can imagine seems to have sprung up along the trail. Their existence is obviously Colonial Williamsburg tourism related, yet it gives that essence of the “bad part of town” because they are mostly empty and many appear as forgotten buildings of the 1970s. This is definitely not tourist season. After the plethora of motels fades away, on the left, across the train tracks, is what I assume to be the poor and working-class part of town: tiny houses, poorly developed area, yards littered with junk and other belongings, and an African American man riding his bike across the train tracks. It feels very depressed.

Passing under the Humelsine Parkway, I see a heavily wooded area with small businesses and the mark of civilization—a Starbucks. Finally, to the right appears the Kingsmill housing development sign, marking the entrance. Out of curiosity, I turned into the entrance only to discover that the community is gated, which further accentuates the disparity between the classes that reside on the other side of the train tracks. I can only imagine the houses within those gates as a silver Mercedes and a sleek black Land Rover drove out of the entrance. The side trip was cut short by the gate and so I went back to the main road. The brewery materialized among the trees a few hundred feet later.

It is a simple, but substantial red brick building. It’s actually smaller than I would have thought. The entrance has large black, metal gates and the small employee parking lot was sparsely occupied. Immediately I got the sense that I was trespassing; it wasn’t inviting, and right by the employee entrance my hopes of a beer tasting were dashed as a sign professed that there would be no brewery tours. Sadness. I drove around to the visitor parking and finally I was able to smell the brew. It took a while to notice, and that was surprising because my sense of smell is unmatched according to my husband. I smelled what made me think of rice, oatmeal or breakfast. It was a pleasant odor, and the most memorable part of the entire adventure. Because I couldn’t go any further by car, I left before I was told to leave or the cops were called, which I felt might have happened if I hung around too long. I did manage sneak some pictures of the entrance.

The brewery was surprisingly depressing. It didn’t seem like it was very active, and it didn’t appear to employ a large group of people. It felt like the recession had encompassed the building and polluted the area. The Anheuser-Busch Brewery did not seem to be living up to the expectation of prosperity for the area, as was depicted in the Jack Edwards piece. I was surprised by the lack of “busyness”. I’m also surprised that they didn’t offer tours. People come from all over to visit Colonial Williamsburg or Busch Gardens and perhaps tours could further boost, or certainly add to, the tourism for the area. Budweiser is “King of the American Beers”, right? It would fit in well with folks that enjoy American history and Americana…and beer.

There’s an aura secrecy surrounding the whole operation. The only sign of life beside myself consisted of a black SUV leaving the visitor parking area, possibly demonstrating what I should do. As I’m reflecting on the feeling I wonder if there is something else going on inside besides the brewing of beer. I’m specifically thinking of Breaking Bad and the commercial laundry business that hid the high-tech meth lab underneath one of its industrial washing machines. Perhaps there is some sort of illegal activity afoot or better yet there is a connection between Camp Perry and this Anheuser-Busch brewery. That secrecy impression set my imagination afire, but I guess I’ll never really know whether or not the aforementioned exists. The most likely scenario is that they don’t have enough employees to offer a tour right now, maybe they will in the future. Nevertheless, I don’t get a sense of community or openness from this factory. Overall, the exploration of the second coming of Rockefeller (Anheuser-Busch) to Williamsburg left me yearning to return to the Williamsburg City limits. Maybe a spring or summer trip will offer a more pleasant experience.

 

Assignment #2- My Trip to Williamsburg Christian Church

Since I have been a student at William and Mary I have been attending Williamsburg Presbyterian Church.  As I explain to younger students interested in the church, going to WPC gives me a home away from home in Williamsburg.  My home church in Alexandria and WPC are both part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  I am no expert in church politics or theology, but what I have seen of the PC(USA) is fairly consistent.  The worship services in churches I have attended are fairly mainstream and traditional.  There are hymns accompanied by organ or piano, a choir of adults from the church, a pastor in robes delivering a Scripture-based sermon, and other rituals such as prayers, Communion, and an offering.

My church at home is mostly families, with some retirees.  The transient nature of the area brings a lot of families in and out of the church, and there are few families or couples who have attended for more than 20 years.  My family, attending since 1992, is one of the older families around.  Often middle-aged couples leave to retire elsewhere in the country.  WPC, however, is overwhelmingly made up of retirees.  There are some families with children and a spattering of college students, but the majority of the congregation has grown children and is retired.  Both at home and in Williamsburg, the congregation is almost entirely white.  The income levels in my home congregation vary, but in my experience at WPC the income levels are mostly upper-middle class.

My decision to attend WPC occurred even before I moved to campus.  In some questionnaire for the College I had checked my religion as ‘Presbyterian,’ so I received a letter from Westminster Fellowship, or WesFel.  WesFel is a Presbyterian, college fellowship group sponsored by WPC.  Joining WesFel and WPC were automatic for me.  They were extensions of my church life at home.  The other students in WesFel mostly come from PC(USA) churches and have had similar experiences.

So when I thought about getting out of my college bubble, I decided to try a different church.  More importantly, I decided to try a different kind of church that isn’t next to the College.  Several of the churches on Richmond and Jamestown Roads have college groups and appeal to college students in some way.  I chose to get away from this bubble and try Williamsburg Christian Church on John Tyler Lane.  This church isn’t far from William and Mary and I pass it on the way to my friend’s off-campus apartment.  I enlisted another college-aged friend from WPC to come with me and we planned to attend their Sunday morning service.

I looked at the WCC website Saturday to find out what time the service is.  When I poked around I discovered that the church is nondenominational, and I suspected that the service was in a more contemporary style.  The website described that the church did not seek to impose beliefs on its members, but the ‘core beliefs’ section of the site was fairly extensive.  The theology was nondenominational and very focused on the Bible.  In my PC(USA) church experience, congregations are relatively reluctant to talk about controversial or political issues.  When people do bring up issues such as hell, abortion, and Creationism, Presbyterians usually get very uncomfortable and wishy-washy.  I was curious and a little apprehensive about a church with a more literal interpretation of the Bible.

Sunday morning, I first struggled with what to wear to WCC.  At home my Dad goes to a church with a contemporary style service and high income levels, and the congregation is pretty well-dressed.  I’ve attended other contemporary services where people were pretty casual, though, so I wasn’t sure what I would encounter.  I compromised and stuck with an outfit I could wear to church either here or at home: an a-line skirt, a solid color shirt, a cardigan, and simple heels.  Smart casual, perhaps.  My friend and I had carefully planned to arrive just in time for the service to start, so we could sneak in without having to make small talk with a well-meaning but overly curious church member. When we arrived at 10:45AM we went straight into the sanctuary and to seats near the back on the end.

The worship space was casual, as were the church members.  Rather than a big sanctuary, the space had a low ceiling and linked, padded chairs instead of pews.  I was maybe a touch overdressed, as there were plenty of people in jeans or casual slacks.  Like in other churches I have attended, the congregation was almost entirely white, but there seemed to be a much greater difference in age than at WPC.  There was a pretty even mix between high schoolers and people in their eighties and nineties, even though there were maybe 60 churchgoers in attendance.

The worship service began with about fifteen minutes of songs led by a worship band comprising two women singing, a man on guitar, and another man on a drum set.  The words to the songs were projected on a screen at the front rather than being in a traditional hymnal.  Around 11AM the music ended and the pastor stepped up, launching into his sermon almost immediately.  He spoke for about half an hour, longer than my usual sermons, and seamlessly incorporated various scripture readings into the lesson.  I had anticipated a harsh, potentially political message, but I was wrong.  The sermon was sincere, well-informed, and passionate.  The pastor talked about leadership within the church and how sometimes it can be misguided or not up to the task, but that Jesus was always watching and cared about each member of his ‘flock.’  After the sermon there was a simple Communion, an offering, and then a quick prayer and song to close out the service, which ended promptly at 11:59AM.  The only thing that really seemed ‘weird’ to me was between the sermon and Communion when a member of the church got up to play an animated video about how the light of Christ is just around the corner even when things seem dark.  The message didn’t quite fit with the sermon, and the style was really out of place.  Nonetheless, I was surprised by how much I liked the experience.

There were certain limitations to what I could learn while I was there.  I purposely avoided talking to people excepting the friend I brought with me.  In my effort not to offend anyone there by revealing that I was more interested in studying them than worshipping with them I just snuck in before the service and back out when it was done.  In a place like a church, an intimate community, not talking to anyone really limited my impression.

In addition to stepping out of my religious bubble, going to Williamsburg Christian Church got me out of my college bubble.  Going to a church downtown keeps me around college students and retirees.  Honestly, we college kids mostly just interact with each other at the church.  This congregation was more intimate and had a broader demographic.  I didn’t exactly ask other people there what their annual income was, but the casual atmosphere is definitively different from the more formal church I attend.  Even though I was out of my element, new, and a little apprehensive, I felt very comfortable.  This was a pleasant surprise in the Williamsburg community.

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About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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