Day 6/ Mar 4th – Richmond, VA to Brandermill, VA: School, dinner

The Liberty Tax Statue

With the Liberty Tax Statue, Jonathan

One of the myriad inconveniences of daily life in America is the tax system, which is sufficiently Byzantine that millions of ordinary people find themselves compelled to use accounting firms to help them file their tax returns each year.  These firms are, as you might imagine, rather interchangeable, and so many of them resort to eye-catching publicity stunts to attract the wavering taxpayer through their doors.  One of them, Liberty Tax, employs the unusual but arresting tactic of hiring actors to dress up as the Statue of Liberty (geddit?) and caper around in a winning fashion at major road junctions near their offices.

Apart from the two of us and a sprinkling of the indigent and/or mentally ill, the Liberty Tax Statues are the only other people we see outside on the roadside during a typical day.  As the role of the Statue of Liberty is not a demanding one, we’re usually able to chat for a few minutes with the ones we pass; so today we met Jonathan outside the Liberty Tax office in Brandermill.  When we told him about our walk, he insisted that we come into the office to meet his colleagues (probably a ruse to get out of the cold for a few minutes).  To her great credit, Juliette, the manager of the office, didn’t miss a beat when presented with two sweaty and rather sheepish British hikers, and, with the spontaneous friendliness that is one of Americans’ most endearing qualities, promptly invited us to dinner tonight.

She pulled up outside our hotel at seven this evening, half-an-hour late, looking frazzled.

“I overslept!  Sorry!  And I forgot, it’s my son’s concert tonight?  Would you mind?”

So it was that we attended the Cosby High School Titans Band Pyramid Concert, held in a brand-new thousand-seater auditorium that would shame many London venues.  A series of junior school bands parped and tooted their way through some popular standards before the Cosby Titans themselves, resplendent in black tie, glided onto the stage and showed them how it should be done.  They were by some distance the best school band either of us had ever heard, fifty-odd gifted children drilled by a phalanx of evidently devoted staff who, heartbreakingly, took it in turns between numbers to stand at the podium to plead against budget cuts – in essence, for their jobs.

We went out for dinner afterwards with Juliette and her three children (6, 9 and 12), all of whom were engaging, immaculately behaved and entirely unfazed at being pulled away from homework and Miley Cyrus to spend the evening with us.  They probed us about our walk (“How much money does it cost?” “Do you sleep in the woods?”) and, inverting another American stereotype, ate interminable quantities of salad.

At dinner with Juliette and family

We felt very fortunate to have been invited into an American school – since Columbine, this isn’t all that easy for passing strangers to do.  We’ve walked past a lot of them already, but have had to confine ourselves to reading the noticeboards on the lawns in front of the school buildings.  The events advertised on these are sometimes heartwarming (‘Grade 5 Bake Sale for Haiti’), sometimes depressing (‘McDonald’s Night’) but usually sports-related (‘Go Wildcats’ or ‘Wolves Good Luck at State’).  The school teams are usually named after some ferocious creature (Cougars, Bears, Lions), though we’ve also seen Otters and Raccoons.  Our dream is to find, perhaps in some swampy district of Kentucky, a team called the Leeches, if only so we can attend an evening game and, at the appropriate time, shout from the bleachers, “You suck, Leeches!”.

2 Responses to “Day 6/ Mar 4th – Richmond, VA to Brandermill, VA: School, dinner”

  1. Jesper Says:

    Great post. Reminded me why I love travelling (by car I hasten to add) in America.

    “…and, with the spontaneous friendliness that is one of Americans’ most endearing qualities,…”
    Amen to that.

  2. Debbie Says:

    I love reading about America through your eyes. Things that I grew up with and take for granted – such as bake sales, sports-led school pride, and band concerts – suddenly seem special. hope you and Sally are continuing to have a great time exploring VA.

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