It was one of those weekends that couples with no children dream about. Just time together. At The Muscarelle Museum of The College of William And Mary, a travelling exhibition of works by Sandro Botticelli and his contemporaries was on display.* Mrs CorC? and I drove down. The exhibition is not huge, filling only three rooms. I was humbled by my ignorance and my arrogance, thinking I know what classical Renaissance art is about; that I know what it is I see when I look at such a painting. Sure I can identify The Madonna or The Christ Child, but there is so much more. The contemporaries of Botticelli probably had an understanding and derived spiritual and aesthetic truths from such a painting than I cannot see.
After touring the exhibition and, of course, buying the poster, we decide to head back to town. We agree barbeque is in order from our favorite purveyor of slow-cooked pig flesh, the Hogshead Cafe. Part of the Southern folklore of barbeque is that a true barbeque joint is small, nondescript, and almost one step away from being closed by the Health Department. The Hogshead is as clean as the proverbial whistle, but it is small and not particularly flashy, decorwise. The barbeque tastes great. We are partial to this dish called barbeque nachos, consisting of your basic nacho makings coupled with lots of barbeque. Yummy and a prodigious amount of food.
Sunday comes. We both succumb to the “I don’t wanna get out of bed” syndrome. Before we know it, a brunch opportunity has presented itself. We decide the Henry Clay Inn on Railroad Avenue in Ashland, Virginia will satisfy our brunch-related hankerings. The nickname for Ashland is The Center of The Universe. I have no reason to believe that it is not The Center of The Universe. It is just that cool of a place. Railroad Avenue is called Railroad Avenue because the railroad tracks of the main North-South rail line of the whole East Coast run down the center of the street. It’s all part of the experience. We sit on the porch of the Inn and enjoy our brunch. Two freight trains pass during our meal. Both are southbound. No Amtrak trains pass by. A glance at the Smartphone app revealed major delays on all the North-South trains going through Richmond.
What always amazes me about freight trains is the graffiti painted on the box cars, just as I am astonished at the graffiti painted on abandoned buildings. Whether we like it or not, graffiti is the painting genre of our time, as representative of late Twentieth Century- Early Twenty First Century America as Botticelli’s works characterized Florence. Graffiti has an energy to it, a declaration for humanity that a lot of modern art gracing museum walls lacks. So juxtaposed with the quaint bourgeois gentility of Ashland with its charming pastel-painted houses roll these magnificent graffiti murals. That both represent America is indicative of our genuine diversity.
The cherry on the ice cream sundae that is Ashland is the town “Character”. This particular chap rides a Fifties-vintage bicycle with fenders and balloon tires. He just cruises on his bike around town, passed the artsy cafes and coffee houses, circling Randolph Macon College, the town’s claim to fame. He wears outlandish outfits. Sunday’s outfit appeared to be inspired by the miniskirt. One might call him a “Flamer”. But What the Hell, it’s Ashland.
*Note: This exhibition will be in Boston at the Museum of Art from 15 April through 5 July. This is the only other stop on the American tour. Those of you living in that neck of the woods should consider going.