RU Home for the Summer: Roanoke, Va.

I love Roanoke, but I can’t say it’s particularly interesting.

Roanoke is strange in that combines a dense population one normally associates with cities and a conspicuous lack of smog.

Roanoke isn’t the most beautiful place to live, but it’s not the ugliest. It’s not the least polluted, and it’s not the most polluted by any stretch of the imagination. Honestly, the appropriate word seems to be “boring.” You’re more likely to find a church than you are to find a decent bar or club to spend your weekends at, and while no one could call Roanoke a “sleepy” city, its energy cannot and will not rival metropolises like Chicago or Richmond. It’s a little middling — not an escape from anything, not a shot of adrenaline, just … normal. Boring.

The weather is nice enough, if you don’t mind rain. Moody, as is typical of Virginia weather, but with just enough stability to keep people from fleeing to a place where the weather is more uniform. Sometimes blizzards come right after a heat-wave. Sometimes during the spring you can see waves of pollen blowing out through the wind, but for the most part allergens stay relatively under control.

Roanoke night life. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Roanoke night life. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

There are quite a few schools in the district. A lot of them are underfunded. William Fleming High School was moved to a new building shortly before I registered to go to school there, and according to most of the rumors I heard the move didn’t come quickly enough. The few photos I’ve seen show a school that was almost literally crumbling around its foundations.

There’s one large gay bar in Roanoke called “The Park” that seems to be really popular among college-aged folks. Gay bars are popular places for LGBT people to meet up, like a Maccado’s or an Olive Garden. Roanoke’s night-life is active enough, but most of the fun happens in the confines of a privately-owned property instead of inside a bustling club.

But Roanoke’s my home, much as I might wish it otherwise.

After this summer, I will have spent four years in Roanoke. The downright-biblical rainstorms become a fact of life after a little while; you get used to the sound and the smell, and you start to learn how to predict when a rainstorm is about to hit. You start to put the tarp over the flowerpots before it even starts raining. And you don’t mind when the neighbors start partying early Friday afternoon.