Goth-cation in Richmond: The Black Pine, The Poe Museum and More

 This Pi Day marked a significant milestone for me: I have reached the ripe old age of Thirty years old. 

In a life Pre-Covid, I would have probably celebrated it enjoying a local club, or gathering with my friends for a "Funeral of my Youth". (I do, after all love to put the 'fun' in 'funeral'.) 

But being that we are all trapped inside, and have been for quite some time, I found my options limited. 

The seed for The Black Pine was first planted in my head by a fellow author, and lover of all things weird. She sent me a link to the aforementioned Air Bnb, enthusiastically pointing out how close by it was. I had just moved to the state of Virginia, and a one hour drive to Richmond seemed feasible. 

I fell in love with photos of the decor. I could imagine a leisurely stay-cation there with my husband, drinking wine and making the rounds to local Goth and Alternative sites. 

One night after opening the Air Bnb site for the umpteenth time, I had an extra glass of wine, pulled out my wallet and booked The Black Pine for my birthday weekend. I had no plan to get there, no one to watch my kids, and wasn't even sure if it was in my budget.

Luckily, the Black Pine has two bedrooms, and is very affordable when split between four adults. Babysitters are impossible to find, much less after moving to a new state; but my mom agreed to fly out and watch the kids. And much to my pleasant surprise, my husband gave the green light to go. 

I was ecstatic. It was time to pack my Goth best and start looking up things to fill the itinerary.

Day One

It feels hideously unnatural to leave your kids, even with your own mother. I've been a stay-at-home mom since 2018, excluding post-bedtime romps spinning at a hole-in-the-wall Goth Club. Add to that a full year of being quarantined with two small children, you could say I'd become protective. 

That being said, I needed the break. As we pulled away in our truck, waving goodbye to my daughter as she colored with chalks on the sidewalk, I felt a sense of weightlessness and freedom. I feel guilty even typing that.

The drive was just over an hour from our home to The Black Pine. Our friends from DC, room mates for the weekend, were close behind us. 

The Oregon Hill area is just urban enough to remind you that you are in a city, but it is quiet and calm. Rows of old houses stand flank to flank on narrow two-way streets, with parking on either side. I noticed some addresses had half numbers, such as our Air Bnb. It made me wonder if the original houses were split down the middle, or if new additions were built on after. 

Entering the house, I was hit with a comforting smell of lavender. It wasn't intense like incense, but subtle, clean and welcoming. 

The front sitting room had a green velvet sofa and two matching armchairs, where we passed many conversations that weekend. The far wall was hand painted with a mural depicting scenes from nearby Hollywood cemetery. There was an old fireplace, stacked with electric bulb candles, and above it, a mirror encircled by a coiled gold serpent. 

There were tasteful curiosities throughout the home, such as a porcelain palmistry hand, iron bats, a tapestry of moon phases, antique hard cover books, and old photos. There were some animal skulls used as decor, but no specimens or taxidermy. The longer I spent in the house the more it felt like home; each detail was lovingly curated, and told a story. 

I stashed my suitcase in the master bedroom, which sat on the front of the house. Looking out the velvet curtained windows, I could see the early first buds of a sleeping tree, and beyond that, the looming facade of a church. 

Once all were settled, we decided to make a trek to The Poe Museum. As an avid fan of Edgar Allan Poe, it seemed fitting that should be my first pilgrimage in Richmond. My friend selected an all black Gothic Lolita outfit for the occasion, and I wore an ensemble of Triple Fortune, Atelier Boz and Alice and the Pirates to complement her. Piling into the back of a nondescript Honda, I'm sure we made an interesting sight, the goth version of a clown car; especially as we emerged in a flurry of black, petticoats and Vivienne Westwood.

The Poe Museum was only about 10 minutes away, our trusty Honda steed hindered only by cobblestone streets. The museum appeared abruptly, protruding out of place in a bustling downtown area. Parts of the museum and surrounding stores were boarded up, possibly from demonstrations the previous year. Although glass windows were covered by plywood, they were decorated with neon murals.We followed the clashing trail past a black iron fence, turning into a small, neat brick building that was the Poe Museum. 

To enforce social distancing, the museum was on timed entry allowing only groups of 6 at a time. To be honest that was a lot of people for the small rooms of the museum. The exhibit was divided between three buildings, each with a different theme in Poe's life: his humble beginnings, his writing career, and his mysterious death. 

As a former denizen of Baltimore, I thought I knew a lot about Poe's life and death; I was surprised that even I learned a few things. 

My favourite item of note was a set of illustrations to Poe's "The Raven", drawn by James Carling. They are intensely dark, with images many would have thought strange and unusual at the time. The Poe Museum acquired the pieces, and displays two at a time to preserve the work. A plaque on the wall reported that Carling died poor and was buried in a mass grave, not too unlike Poe himself. 

We were through the museum in less than an hour, even taking time to read each display at leisure. I'd read before that the museum was "disappointing", for it carried very little of Poe's true possessions; but I found it enlightening. It was a heartfelt homage to the author. 

Post-Poe, we set out for some destinations on our hit list: an alternative secondhand shop called Saturn Return, and a music shop called Wax Moon. Much to my surprise, there was a poster of Mana (Moi Dix Mois era) behind the cash wrap of Wax Moon. "That's a deep cut," the tenant said, "Not many Americans recognize him."

Our get-up should have given it away. 

I found a vintage vinyl of The Mission UK, and 45 Grave. Praised be to Mana. 

For dinner we visited The Answer Brewpub. 

In the words of the shop tenant who recommended it, "Try the Joose."

And for the love of god, you do not need more than a flight. 

Day Two


I awoke happy that I'd avoided a hangover, and that I was no longer bursting with food and sweetened beer. I was glad to walk off our overindulgence at the nearby Hollywood Cemetery

Being that I was three decades old, it was high time to shop for crypt real estate. 

I'll spare you the tasteless cemetery jokes from here on out, as it is an active and beautiful cemetery. Although dressed for a funeral in a black velvet dress, round sunglasses and large brim hat, I was on my best behavior. We watched a funeral procession of cars pass, to where an interment was about to begin; a solemn reminder that this was still an active site of grief. 

We followed winding paths to President's Circle, the site of former US President James Monroe's tomb. As we reached the crest of the hill I noticed huge white blocks strewn along with walking path, and two more crosses were knocked to the ground. At first I wondered if it was an artistic choice, but there was a news reporter and a cameraman observing the scene with bewilderment. 

The site had been vandalized the night before; which is a reserved term for the damage caused. Graves were grossly destroyed beyond recognition or repair. Unfortunately there was no way to tell who had done it or why; all we know was that it occurred the night of Friday, March 12th.

If you visit Hollywood Cemetery's website, they are collecting donations to restore the damage. It states that authorities are still investigating the crime.

With that to chew on, we realized the walk freed up some room in our stomachs. Armed with Google Maps and good internet reviews, we set off for the nearby 821 Cafe

It had outdoor seating, many tempting options, vegan fare and- mimosas.

I'll be completely honest- it had been so long since I went out to brunch, I forgot that mimosas exist.

And they had several!

I opted for the Lemon Basil mimosa, and a Smoked Salmon BLT. It was served on a soft, fresh baked Everything Bagel, and a side salad drizzled with garlic tahini dressing. It was my favourite place we ate the entire weekend; it was delicious, refreshing, and frill-free. I recommend it for a casual outing with friends, especially when bottomless mimosas are a thing again. 

Afterwards we made a mandatory visit to local oddities extraordinaire, Rest in Pieces. It is a small but well curated curiosities shop, featuring occult wares, texts, wet specimens, and taxidermy galore. It is not for the faint of heart; as it is proudly emblazoned on their shop merch, "It makes me physically ill to walk by your shop".

I pondered if $299 was reasonable for a stuffed coyote.

It is. 

That in mind we headed "home", making a pit-stop at Vinyl Conflict record store. I picked up a Joy Division EP, wishing The Black Pine had a record player to play my recent acquisitions. 

The Black Pine does not have a record player, but it does have a wireless speaker. I believe this is the playlist we chose for our evening in. 

As we were all a bit knackered, we passed the night playing board games stocked by the Air Bnb hosts. 

The only spirits that night were imbibed. 


Day Three


If you want to feel old, venture into the VCU area on Sunday morning, hungover and searching for smoothies. 

I felt as if Thanos snapped his fingers and I was turning to dust, surrounded by thin, attractive twenty-somethings dressed head to toe in Forever 21. With raccoon eyes, my black mask, and a bomber jacket that screamed "FUCK CANCER" in white letters, I received a pretty wide berth. 

I will not name drop the juice place, because it was not good. 

If I were a young, attractive twenty-something still, I would have probably been up for exploring the cute college area. However I am now a grumpy geriatric, and had two small children I was dying to see. We gave our friends a tearful goodbye, insisting we would do this again soon, "Once Covid is over".

I love how tenacious hope is. 


After this trip I was left with a few thoughts. First, it is important to 'get away' if you can, especially if you have kids. I realize it is near impossible now, and I consider myself extremely fortunate. But I hadn't realized how tired I was, and that I hadn't felt like myself in so long. It was nice to wear my fancy clothes again, however tight they were, and remember who I am. 

Next, I felt completely refreshed and inspired by The Black Pine. Having just moved into my new home, I returned from Richmond raring to go antique shopping, so I could bring a bit of that ambiance into my own living room. 

I felt thankful for my friends who traveled from DC to celebrate with me. Given Covid-19 and the size of the house, we could only take two companions; but I'm glad they were close friends and people we trust. We were all careful and quarantined before and after the trip. 

I'd love to start browsing Air Bnb for my next adventure, but I have a hard time believing anything will be as beautiful and unique as The Black Pine. The home was sparkling clean, and the hosts anticipated every need. If you're ever in the Richmond area I can't recommend them highly enough. 

Lastly, Thirty is not as bad as I expected. 

I imagine at Thirty, you can even buy a stuffed coyote if you want.

No one can stop you. 




PS- I will edit to add my photos later, when not possessed by a midnight endeavor to write down my thoughts.

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