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When I was in middle school in Merrillville, Indiana I was called out of class one day to be introduced to a young man my age who had just moved next door to my family. Having recently moved from San Diego, California, I was new to the school as well and welcomed the chance to have a new friend in this school where I had not made any friends so far.
Gordon and his family had moved from Norfolk, Virginia. It was my first direct exposure to a strong Southern accent and I found it somewhat amusing to hear as did some of the other boys in the neighborhood. A couple of the boys used to taunt Gordon by imitating the call they would sometimes hear coming from his mother as she called out, "Go-din!"
My new friend's mother was a sweet lady with the demeanor of a Southern aristocrat. His step father was a soft-spoken man who seemed to be at work a lot. Gordon was the sole offspring still living at home. He was full of turmoil and could display a mean streak sometimes, but he had become my friend and I tolerated a lot from him.
One thing that used to irritate me though was how he was always bragging about Virginia and especially Norfolk. I don't think I'd ever been to Virginia at that time and perhaps I was a bit jealous since I had thought of myself as well-traveled and here was a place I'd never been. Besides, Gordon's arrogant attitude about Virginia really bugged me. I developed a resentment about Virginia.
By the time I was in my mid-20s, after my family had been living in Tennessee for several years, I had traveled throughout Virginia and had softened a bit about the state, but I still retained this ridiculous distaste for the state. That is until I met Cathy.
The young lady who would become my first wife was from Richmond, Virginia and we would frequently go there to stay with her family. I started making friends there and felt very comfortable with the city when we moved there after Cathy became pregnant.
Richmond actually is a quite attractive city along the James River and conveniently located along the I-95 corridor which extends from New England to Florida. The city has broad boulevards with stately memorials honoring heroes of the Confederacy. History is everywhere. I began to enjoy living in Richmond.
After our son was born, Cathy and I began traveling with the World of Fantasy Players in 1978. Whenever we could we'd stay in Richmond. Virginia had become a part of me and this was the home of my wife and newly born son. And now, along with East Tennessee, Richmond was now a place that I too thought of as home.