A Town Like Alice
By Lee Moyer
You remember Alice? This is a story about Alice.
Of course it used to be a story about Greg. But Greg doesnt live here any more. And when he did live here, he was called a good many things other than Greg (He was certainly never called Alice). I called him the Yeti.
Never to his face, and never even to the others who lived with me in this large Dickensian boarding house. I just kept the name in reserve, as my own private joke for when he went too far. I relished the name. I thought it was clever- "Yeti", because he lived high in the attic- Literally and figuratively. And there was as much snow in that attic as Id ever seen indoors
He was a dumpy pasty white guy with poor hygiene and the hairline of Henry Kissinger.
He wore short pants year round, and didnt have the legs for it. In winter he wore Panty Hose under his shorts and claimed that they made a difference. Maybe, but if they did it wasnt in any good way.
He was a rich young computer nerd, and he would occasionally be so high that hed share his drugs. His influence was more pervasive than the smell of spilled bong water on the putrifying avacado-colored shag rug. He "managed" the house as a landlord for his absent pater familias. He was not the only one of his siblings to live in the house, but as the eldest, it was his domain. He was the living embodiment of every argument youve ever seen for representative democracy. But for some reason, the rule of private property doesnt find democracy agreeable.
Time and again the old ramshackle house was nearly beautified, nearly improved, nearly made livable- lovable. Time and again the Yeti of the frozen north in his faggy little khaki Jungsvager shorts would stomp his little jackbooted feet and force a continuation of the status quo. Because isnt that what life is about? The status quo.
And if some people blacked out, tumbled down the stairs and landed in a pile of their own vomit- well, thats the way things go.
If the stoners spent all their money, and all their parents money on drugs and food theyd forget to eat - well thats the status quo.
If some people suffered, and some died under his negligent eye well (to coin a phrase) thats life.
I left after several months when it became crystal clear that despite my skills and my passion for the betterment of things, that I was merely a powerless plebe, never destined to have even the most ephemeral of effects
I went back several years ago because Gregs little sister Monica- the only really sane member of this clan of Borgias- had inherited the familys decaying House of Usher and was having a party cum exorcism. Wondering what kind of vicious family drama had allowed the smart sane nice member of the family to inherit, I looked around for Greg. And then I remembered
Greg had (in the words of Noel Coward) "Been to a curious doctor in Washington Square, Who gave him hormone injections to strengthen his hair, he put something here, and he put something there. I wonder what happened to her? um, him?"
Greg was now "Alice" (This is a story about Alice, remember?) and Monica was now the reigning girl in the family. The dead stayed dead, The living came and partied in a calm fashion. They met, the mingled, they showed off their children and reminisced about days and people gone by. They remembered, they forgot, and they forgave. And Alice skirted the periphery- literally and figuratively- talking in a ridiculous warbling falsetto and trying to look like someone else- someone decent, someone likeable. But the pitiable truth is that whatever his costume, his makeup never really changed. He was the same appalling human being.
But what does this have to do with anything?
Why am I bringing this up now?
Whats the point?
Change could only come to Gregs Dickensian Fiefdom when he became Alice and abdicated his throne. Scriptures tell us there are countless names for the beast, and right now Charlottesville is a town like the Yeti. Like Greg. Like Alice
It may one day become meek and harmless. Its old boy network may one day grow up.
It may mend its unwelcoming ways. It may abdicate its throne of Southern privilege and become an American meritocracy
But Im not going to be here to see it.
Im moving away - far away - on May 24th.
I can no more thrive here than I could in the Yetis abominable house.
A friend recently told me that the old saw about the cream rising to the top was a myth- That the cream is running as fast as it can to get away.
Charlottesville is a Town Like Alice.
And I cant live here anymore."A Town Like Alice" IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND MAY NOT BE DOWNLOADED, TRANSMITTED, PRINTED OR PERFORMED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR