If a tree falls in a forest . . . If something happens in Rappahannock County and it’s not reported in Big Washington media, does it really happen?
Apparently not, based on the ruckus stirred up by the front-page story in Sunday’s business section of The Washington Post, whose headline read: “The ‘in’ at Little Washington: Known for overhauling gritty urban corridors, developer Jim Abdo turns to Rappahannock County.”
But it’s not as if Mr. Abdo’s buying up just about every available property in the county seat had been a secret; indeed, the Rappahannock News had even run its own front-page story a few weeks back. Until Big Washington media deemed it a big deal, however, it seemed hardly worthy of local reaction and comment — just another day in the country.
Herein lies an irony almost as delicious of one of the famous Inn’s signature dishes: Most of the negative reaction about the latest invasion by Big Washington newcomers would have never occurred but for the sudden attention of Big Washington media.
Then, just as suddenly, a county-wide conversation erupted — whether via email and Internet or in person, over coffee or something stronger. “Conversation” is a euphemism; the more accurate description is “outrage.”
How dare a Big Washington newcomer — together with his “co-conspirators,” town mayor John Sullivan and Inn owner Patrick O’Connell — be so “arrogant” and “greedy” as to turn a historic town into his own personal “Potemkin village?”
It reminded some of the movie actress Kim Basinger’s $20 million deal some years back to “save” a small town in rural Georgia by buying up all the houses and lots, thereby turning it into her (now abandoned) personal plaything and fancy tourist destination.
But since she was a Georgia native, at least she wasn’t a snotty newcomer. And that seems to be the biggest complaint about Mr. Abdo — his “newcomer-ness,” lodged most often from newcomers themselves (another delicious irony).
As in the immigration debate roiling the nation, how long you and your ancestors have lived here confers credibility. And yet the most shrilly anti-immigrant voices often come from those with the weakest pedigree.
Many true Rappahannock natives couldn’t care less about what happens in the little town of Washington, anyway. To them, it’s a place apart, already invaded and taken over, like Crimea. The authentic Ukraine (to continue the analogy) can be found in the countryside and in Sperryville and Flint Hill, real towns with organic, not superimposed, energetic spirit. (In these readers’ eyes, the Rappahannock News covers Little Washington entirely too much, at the expense of more interesting happenings elsewhere in the county.)
Given the county’s native-newcomer fracture that this latest controversy exposes, Mr. Abdo’s chosen name for his flagship enterprise — The White Moose Inn — seems especially fitting.
Though not indigenous to Rappahannock (maybe they were here during the last Ice Age?), these awkward but charismatic non-native creatures would probably be welcomed, not considered an invasive species, unlike stink bugs.
The White Stink Bug. Yes, as Mr. Abdo’s critics must surely recognize, things could always be worse. Think about it. The White Stink Bug.