Richmond, Reconstructed is a new, bi-monthly feature in which Richmond residents talk about their lives and experiences in our city. First up is Scott Burger, Oregon Hill resident and keeper of the Oregon Hill community news site.
Editor’s note: Richmond, Reconstructed is a new, bi-monthly feature in which Richmond residents talk about their lives and experiences in our city. First up is Scott Burger, Oregon Hill resident and keeper of the Oregon Hill community news site. Here he tells his Richmond story in his own words.
“I came here mostly because of the convenience factor and because I was interested in the music scene. I decided Richmond would be close enough yet far away enough from home in Norfolk that it would be good — and that was about ’92. I didn’t think I’d stay … I fell victim to the curse, which you know of, which is “Nonesuch Place”. The Native Americans basically said, “Yeah, you will love this place, but you will never leave”, and that’s pretty much what happened to me here.
I worked with small record labels, and I put out a compilation CD of local bands. I did that for a few years and worked jobs and played music and things like that. And then I started working for Throttle Magazine back in the ‘90s. Todd Ranson and Ann Henderson really brought me on board, and I started doing music reviews and some features. At some point, I guess I realized — I was doing security guard stuff, working at Freedom House in the kitchen — I better get something with health insurance.
So I got a real job, so to speak and I worked for a retail brokerage in downtown doing technology stuff. I did that for 13 years, and now I’m unemployed; I got laid off this past November. But at that point we were bought by a bank and it was very corporate. I was surprised I lasted that long to be honest; I’ve always been somewhat more of an activist. At the same time, the nice thing about the job was that it did enable me to save a lot of money, and I was able to buy my first house here in Oregon Hill.
I’d always been around the neighborhood, rented here and there — I also lived in the Fan, also lived downtown. When I bought my first house it kind of cemented my relationship with Richmond. It took a long enough time, I thought I’d buy a house a long time ago, but I did eventually buy one and I became involved in the neighborhood association. At some point was elected and served as President for awhile too — a couple years.
Obviously, I have an affinity for this neighborhood, it really speaks to me in a lot of ways: what it was what, what it is, and what it could be. I love going down to Belle Isle and just looking downtown and looking upriver. Just seeing where we are and realizing all this history that’s been here and all the great things that can happen. When I first came to Richmond while I was living in Norfolk I’d come up here with prep school and play sports. We’d always come over the bridges and highway overpasses and I’d look down and see the railroad tracks and the trees and these abandoned places, and I was always fascinated by that stuff. That’s part of the allure also.
I don’t know how much people will really care, but Richmond has changed a lot in that it has become more — I won’t say “sophisticated,” but it definitely feels like more of a metropolitan area. It used to be that the music scene was somewhat insular, but pretty vital and alive, there on Grace Street. Now, it seems like it’s still got a lot of talent and vitality but it’s more spread out, things are happening at a lot of different places in the city. Which is great, but I do sort of miss the Grace Street music scene. Obviously, it’s nostalgic on my part but there’s something to be said for being able to walk to all these different clubs and enjoy all different types of music — not just from here but also music that comes here. To some extent that hasn’t come back, but I have high hopes for the future.
There’s some great talent here that could compete with anything in any other city in the world, really. The history and some of the other factors make it particularly interesting. To watch the whole Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue come up, how the city has dealt with things like that and come to terms with its history has been fascinating. Sometimes it’s been alarming, sometimes it’s been very entertaining. I’ve tried to appreciate what’s going on, and hopefully we’re making progress.