An Interview with Nathan Cushing of RVANews
I’m a person who often speaks before I think. I recently finished my Master’s degree at VCU, and thinking back to sitting in class, I realized that I must have come off, if not like a complete weirdo, at least a little random. On a good day, my comments seemed like a spontaneous stream of consciousness thing that would eventually lead back to the topic in some way or another. On a bad day, I was a living, breathing non sequitur. It’s amazing that my classmates didn’t kill me, or a least give me a stern talking-to. Of those classmates (who graciously never even gave me a stern looking-at, much less made me feel inferior in any way), one stuck out in particular as someone who always seemed to think out what he was going to say before he said it. So succinct, thoughtful, and well-articulated were his comments and observations that after my initial “I hate that guy,” I found myself with a great amount of respect for my fellow student. After a semester of classes with him, I found that not only is he so very articulate, but an amazing writer, a logical thinker, and a heck of nice guy. At graduation, I asked him what he would be doing, and he told me he’d be a writer and editor for RVANews. I thought, “Great, I can interview him for RichmondVAPresents, and the interview will be good.” Turns out, I was right.
1. You’re originally from Springfield, VA. I know you went to VCU for graduate school – what made you choose VCU and Richmond, and what made you decide to stay in Richmond after graduation?
I initially came to Richmond in 2003 to complete a B.A. English at VCU. Richmond’s history and its eclectic personality won me over. Northern Virginia has no city that is commensurate with the vibrant and singular personality that I find here in this city. D.C. is certainly larger and undoubtedly has a strong creative population, but the lower cost of living in Richmond makes it more attractive for many people, including myself. Unfortunately, people both within and without Richmond may have the misapprehension that a cheap place to live is an ipso facto cheap place in every other context. Not so. The restaurants, companies, architecture, music, and every other attribute that we think of when we think of culture is quite readily at our disposal.
2. You’re the co-editor and writer for RVANews – do I have that right? How did you come into that position, and tell me more about what you do there.
Marketing. I’m not being sarcastic. Quite truthful, actually.
A common friend shared between myself and the publisher of RVANews introduced us during the summer of 2010. I was interested in exploring my marketing talents, which is a fancy way of saying that I had no idea what I was going to do after graduating with my Master’s degree, so I wanted to try my hand at something a bit more, well…marketable than writing. RVANews was gracious enough to take me on as an intern in 2010 so I could try my marketing hand. Although an enjoyable experience, the internship reinforced my desiring for a writing-based career. In 2011, nearing my graduation date, the publisher of RVANews, who was quite aware of my predilections towards writing and editing, emailed me and offered a position that entailed both of these things. My gratitude for having a job that allows me to write and edit full-time is utterly ineffable.
3. Since you live in Richmond and your job is to contribute to a Richmond-centric online publication, you have to pay pretty close attention to what goes on in our fair city. Since I’m so into lists, give me your top 5 places to go in Richmond, your top 5 favorite things about Richmond, and your 5 least favorite things about Richmond.
Being a graduate student, you find yourself living in this bubble of erudition and scholarship that often prevents one from exploring his or her immediate surroundings. Thankfully, my position has enabled me to catch up, if you will, with what many people have known about, if not to get a sneak peek at new things.
– Video Fan – one of the oldest continually-run independent video stores in the entire country. Such great people.
– Cous Cous – good atmosphere in which I can actually hear people talk.
– The Byrd – $2 movies. Enough said.
– Chop Suey – one of the best and most interesting used book shops I’ve ever been in.
– The Whiskey Grille – the owner, Mac, is a remarkable guy, and exceptionally cordial. ‘The Whiskey’ embodies that.
– Late night bike rides through the Fan
– Window shopping in Carytown
– Eating tacos from Nate’s Taco Truck or Taco Truck Shop
– Taking in a Squirrels game at the Diamond
– Not having to pay New York City-esque housing prices
Least Favorite Things
– Seeing block after block of abandoned and/or undeveloped property—too much potential is squandered. It depresses me.
– Although very fond of my alma mater, I’m increasingly wary of VCU development. I would prefer if the university did not become a seemingly sovereign entity that envelops the community that surrounds it. Becoming a sort of Vatican City of Richmond, if you will.
– Those the openly and vociferously bemoan Richmond despite living here. Despising the city in which one lives is not cute or appealing. In its least potent form, it’s a mosquito-like annoyance, and at its nadir its pompously pathetic. Simply leave if the city bothers you so much.
– I would love for the city to be more “bike-friendly.” I know that can be a nebulous phrase, but I hope to see cycling become less of a niche activity and a more accepted mode of transportation used by a variety of people. I am, however, encouraged by the hiring of Jakob Helmboldt as the city’s first ever Bike, Trails, and Pedestrian Coordinator.
– Speaking of transportation modes, the lack of effective light rail, such as what I encounter when I visit San Francisco. I know it’s a hard sell, and would require a large sum of money, but I think it could work very well in the city.
4. Tell me more about RVANews. When did it start? Why did it start? What is the environment like at your workplace, and how many of your staffers are Richmond natives vs. people who chose to live here? Which columnists get the most traffic for your site, and which columnists should we follow on Twitter?
It started several years ago as a way to bring quality, hyper-local news with a distinct voice to Richmond.
The environment is the ideal of what I always wanted to work in. It’s simultaneously casual, professional, and creative. Some wear jeans and a t-shirt, other will wear dress shirts and bow ties. Every person has a unique personality and skill sets that both feed and inspire the others.
Most everyone at RVANews has been translated into Richmond from other regions in Virginia.
We’re lucky in that we have excellent columnists and freelance writers. Our content can range from someone’s struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, the Battle of Bull Run, subterranean libraries and special collections, on discerning and upholding proper manners, and how the city conducts its recycling program. Our goal is to be engaging, informative, and to make Richmonders feel more apart of their city.
There are a lot of great people to follow, but I would suggest that these people are “musts,” beginning with the founder/publisher
– Ross Catrow (@RossCatrow)
– The Checkout Girl (@TheCheckoutGirl)
– Dan Goff (@WxDan)
– Susan Howson (@SusanHowson)
– heyitsphil (@heyitsphil)
5. You say (or said) on your Twitter profile that you collect words and tattoos. Tell me about your relationship with your tattoos, and tell me your take on the tattoo culture in Richmond.
I don’t know. I’m not trying to be deliberately coy or withdrawn, but I genuinely have no idea as to why I’ve amassed, and continue to collect, tattoos. It’s very much like any hobby that one feels compelled to participate in, be it gardening, cycling, cooking, what have you. Not only am I compelled to write (something not that I choose to do, but that I must do), but I’m compelled to collect tattoos. Each tattoo is representative of either an event, feeling, thought, and or experience that has affected me in a profound way. I prefer the traditional American tattoo style made famous by tattoo artists such as “Sailor” Jerry Collins and Don “Ed” Hardy. Seeing old photographs of sailors and general miscreants with tattoos of eagles and flags and skulls and roses absolutely won me over. Being my writing hand does not carry with it artistic abilities, at least in the drawing or painting sense, the only way I could take part in my admiration and fascination with tattoo designs was to collect them. I went into the tattoo shop at the age of 18 thinking I would walk out with one, just one, that would last my entire life. I know have close to forty tattoos, with more anticipated.
As to the tattoo culture in Richmond, it is one of the most dynamic and effervescent in all of the U.S. It has been ranked one of the top three most tattooed cities, in fact. Both the talent and that talent’s range in the city is absolutely stellar. It was said that in the early days of tattooing (i.e. circa 1940) there was a distance of 100 miles in-between tattoo shops. In Richmond, it can a mere 100 feet. Just recently, I profiled a local artist that tattoos life-like nipples on the reconstructed breasts of mastectomy patients. Her work is phenomenal. This is demonstrative of the unique creativity and passion that Richmond has, not only in its tattoo culture, but in the city at large.
6. The last question I always ask is – if you had my job and could pick 5 people in the Richmond area to interview, who would you choose?
7. The additional question I always ask after I ask what is supposedly the last question is – is there anything you’d like the readers of this article to know that I haven’t already asked?
Nothing that I can think of!
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NathanCushing
Nathan’s Website: nathancushing.com
Check back every few weeks for a new interview with a Richmond personality. If you yourself are a Richmond personally, and feel horribly neglected by this website, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll schedule something. Probably.