Sunday, September 27, 2009
Metro columnist Dan Casey: Cowardly criticism fuels 'snob' perception
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Read Dan's blog
Kyle Frazier moved to Roanoke in early July.
He's a financial services rep in the local office of a nationally known company.
You could say that Frazier, 24, is exactly the kind of "young professional" this city has anguished so much about attracting to Roanoke and keeping here.
But a recent anonymous letter he received was anything but welcoming.
It was snobby and pretentious. It even invited Frazier to move -- out of South Roanoke, anyway.
Grilling on the covered front porch of the house where he rents an apartment. It's in the 2300 block of Jefferson Street a few blocks south of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
The letter was from an apparently fictitious organization: Keep South Roanoke Beautiful, Inc.
Bob Clement, the Roanoke's neighborhood services coordinator, has never heard of it. Neither has Bill Thomasson, president of the legitimate community group Neighbors in South Roanoke.
It was addressed to "occupant" at Frazier's address. Here's how it went:
"Apparently you are new to our lovely South Roanoke neighborhood. I passed by your residence last week and could not help but notice that you were grilling in your front yard. Please be advised that it is not the proper thing to do in this neighborhood. In the future, please do your grilling and 'chilling' in the back yard ... that would come under the heading of 'common courtesy'!!!"
There was more.
"Also, storage of your grill should be in your back yard -- not your front yard."
"We can't help but wonder where you lived before if you think the practices that you have been displaying are acceptable.
"Please join us in keeping our neighborhood beautiful."
And the kicker:
"If you do not wish to honor our un-written[sic] code -- maybe you should find some other neighborhood to call home."
When I read the letter to Clement, in the neighborhood services office, his reaction was: "Oh my. I am floored."
Thomasson gasped, "You're kidding. Oh my God." He asked for a copy to take to Tuesday's neighborhood meeting.
For the record, Frazier moved here from Lynchburg, where he lived in that city's tony Peakland neighborhood.
No, he did not grill on the front porch there. The grill was out back, by the pool -- of the dorm he was a house parent for at Virginia Episcopal School.
The offensive cookout was a small gathering on Aug. 22, Frazier said.
That Saturday afternoon, a couple of pals drove over from Lynchburg. Frazier also invited three young women he'd met who live up the street.
"It was probably six or seven people. We were just sitting out on the front patio cooking up some burgers. It was a very conversational, little party. We weren't going crazy or anything," Frazier told me.
"I had a couple people walk by and say, 'Oh, that smells good!' I said, 'Well, come on by.' "
In other words, he was being neighborly.
That's the exact opposite of the haughty, condescending missive, dated Aug. 24, that arrived later.
At first, Frazier felt a little embarrassed. And then a bit miffed.
He moved his small, $40 charcoal grill behind one of the porch pillars where it is concealed.
He took the letter to work and showed it to a couple of supervisors -- who live in South Roanoke.
"They were like, 'You need to put pink flamingoes out in your front yard.' "
That is one great idea.
Here's another one, for the anonymous letter writer from the phony "Keep South Roanoke Beautiful, Inc."
Why don't you mind your own business?
Otherwise, folks are going to begin calling you "Keep South Roanoke Snobby, Inc."