Newly Reading Richmond
There are two things to know about Wesley Chenault. First, he’s not your stereotypical library geek. And second, he hopes his last bite on earth will be chocolate.
With a clear eye on his five-year plan, the Alabama native had been busy working for the Atlanta public library system when a peer mentor sent him a job description for the head of Special Collections and Archives at VCU’s Cabell Library.
It was tailor made for him; he’d have an opportunity to get to know the past through very intimate relationships with materials on paper. In other words, a library lover’s dream job.
“She’d gotten to know my dreams,” he says. “And she knew that this job matched my background. It fit where I wanted to go. The thought of changing jobs was overwhelming, but I reluctantly looked at it. It did seem tailor-made to my background. I knew I’d regret not trying for it, so I submitted an application.”
That was March 2011 and by October he had moved to Richmond for the new job. The move happened so fast that he and his long-time partner decided to take a conservative approach to moving their entire world here.
“We’re still figuring out the partner situation,” he admits. “We’ve managed monthly visits, but we’re taking it one month at a time. The hope is that in twelve months the housing market will be better and we’ll know more and decide then.”
Meanwhile, Chenault has settled into Jackson Ward and is having a great time getting to know his new neighborhood and city.
“I find it Southern within a Virginia context,” he says with a smile. “Through the lens of Richmond, you can tell the story of the entire nation. It holds a fascination for me because it has an enduring sense of history.”
Having come from the car-based culture of Atlanta, he’s thrilled with the walkability of Richmond. “There’s such a strong local scene here, I’m still in discover mode,” he says, name checking Mama J’s, Ettamae’s and Bistro 27 as places he’s already been.
“I’m enjoying that I can walk everywhere. It helps me attach; that’s important because I was uprooted. The scale and local culture allows you to be part of the community. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface.”
So far, he’s visited the VMFA, the Virginia Historical Society, the Valentine Richmond History Center and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. He mentions how people he’s met have been so welcoming, taking him to their favorite places and providing insiders’ perspective of the city.
His perspective on relationships comes from a vantage point of seventeen years with his partner.
“I don’t think there is a relationship recipe that can be duplicated,” he says. “It takes a lot of compromise, a lot of communication and a willingness to be flawed and let others be flawed. It takes forgiveness.”
Chenault says aging provides a unique perspective, allowing for both people to change. “It’s how you deal with change,” he explains. “So far, I’m with someone where we balance each other well. It’s given us the opportunity to grow and follow our dreams while we plan together.
But he acknowledges that it’s also important to actively work on your other relationships, to maintain friendships, healthy family relationships and what you’re doing for a living.”That’s a challenge I never would have known about when I was younger. Aging is so interesting; there are so many things you don’t hear about. As I get older, even how I socialize is different.”
One of his favorite ways to socialize is eating out and his varied palate reflects that. If it were up to him, his last meal would be a rich one. “I’d start with foie gras and some rustic bread with relish. Then oysters, whatever’s most seasonable, and I’m not sharing those. And good wine must accompany every course. Then some form of pork belly followed by anything with chicken livers. But the last bite of my life must be chocolate.
That way, I’d be very happy and satisfied and could go off into the next realm.”
Karen Newton is a freelance writer and full-time nerd who isn’t happy unless she’s going out every night for food, music or art and blogging it at www.icouldgoonandon.blogspot.com.
This month, VCU’S College of Humanities and Sciences is hosting a speakers series titled, “Celebrating Forty Years of LGBTQ Activism” to commemorate the court decision that allowed for VCU’s first queer student organization to exist on campus. This Thursday, Dr. Marc Stein of San Francisco State University, will give the second lecture in the series [...]October 11, 2016
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