There’s a story blowing up my Facebook feed this afternoon. It’s called 10 Small Towns In Virginia Where You’d Never Want To Live, by Bud Tapman. On that list is my hometown of Phenix, Virginia. And since everyone I know in Phenix has yet to drive and park their car at the municipal building in an effort to pick up wifi internet from the library, I’ll have to step in and defend Phenix until they are able to read this shameful article.
I see your click bait Bud Tapman and raise you some real science and data¹ about Phenix, Virginia, which you, sir, who sits in a shadow on a rock overlooking an ocean at sunset, know nothing about. We’ve got sunsets in Phenix, too, and rocks. No ocean though.
Five Reasons and/or Clarifications Why Phenix Is Not One of the Worst Small Towns to Live in Virginia
1 / This dude ain’t never played a game of Tennis Ball on a Friday night
And what’s Tennis Ball you ask? For starters, I’m not talking about a lowercase tennis ball like you hit with a tennis racquet while playing tennis. No sir. I’m talking about the titlecased Tennis Ball, the official sport of Phenix, Virginia, which is a lowercase tennis ball you hit with a baseball bat at a basketball court where the lights go out at 10:16 PM like clockwork. If you hit it in the church yard, it’s an automatic homer, but if you hit Jeff and Anne Lipscomb’s house, you better truck it around the bases before you get beaned upside the head by your friend and second cousin.
Baseball may be America’s pastime, but Tennis Ball is Phenix’s pastime.
2 / Two post offices and two banks? Mama, you didn’t tell me we had moved on up like the Jeffersons
I thought we still had one post office—which was only open until noon—and only the Bank of Charlotte County. Who did this guy’s research for him — James Frey?
Oh, and by the way: if you ever try to rob the Phenix branch of the Bank of Charlotte County, every citizen in town (yeah, we call each other citizens), shop owners and all, will break out their shotguns and rifles on your thieving ass.
And, AND… the Phenix bank was the only bank in Charlotte County to survive the Great Depression. Sure, we don’t have any money in the bank, but that’s not always a negative. It depends on whether your glass is half empty or half full. In Phenix, our glass is half full — sometimes with alcohol on a Sunday. I’m just kidding. We don’t have any stores open on Sunday that sell alcohol. Our glasses are half full with alcohol on a Saturday, but only if you get to the store before 5 PM. Or is it 6 PM now? Mike sold the store, so I don’t know how long Robbie keeps it open these days.
3 / Does Bud Tapman know what it’s like to be entertained on a Saturday morning at the Livestock Market with the sweet aroma of pig and cow manure as cattle are auctioned off to the highest bidder? I’m betting he doesn’t
And so what if the stock market (as we called it growing up) doesn’t exist anymore. The building collapsed. Bud Tapman don’t know about that rich history or that sweet aroma. And yes, I do realize it’s “Bud Tapman doesn’t know about that rich history,” but you’re talking smack about Phenix, and my Phenix dialect can’t withhold itself. It must be freed of correct grammar.
4 / This dude ain’t never been to the Blue Hole
And no, the Blue Hole is not a reference to something explicit. It’s a hole with quicksand around it that goes straight through the core of the earth from Phenix to China. True story. Jay Taylor once threw a cat in it, and the cat never returned.
5 / This dude can’t count. Population 281 — the hell it is
I know what the U.S. census says, and I know that the census also includes neighboring mini-towns in that figure like Bethel, Old Well, and Aspen. We’ve got a solid 120 people in Phenix, four of which might actually be dead, rocking back and forth in a rocking chair on their front porch, and nobody knows.
With all due respect to Bethel, Old Well, and Aspen, you’re not from Phenix. (I mean no harm by this. I’m just saying: you’re not really from Phenix so you’re bloating our population figure. Save for the bloating our population figure, I love you. I really do. I have family in those places. But you’ve never held up the P-Town gang sign, have you? I didn’t think so)
Do you hear me federal census taker? Correct our population in Phenix. You’re making us look all heavily populated and shit — like some sort of city.
In conclusion, Phenix is definitely not one of the worst places to live in Virginia
Look, I don’t live there anymore, and most everyone I was friends with got the hell out of Dodge, too, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. It’s where our childhoods were birthed and our lifelong friendships were made.
And I’m proud to say I’m from Phenix without the -o. Do you know what it’s like, Bud Tapman, to tell someone you’re from Phenix, and they respond: Arizona? And you’re like, “No, Phenix without the -o. It’s a small town in Virginia”? No, you don’t Bud Tapman. No, you don’t.
And if you come to Phenix talking smack, we’ll kick you out. Actually, we’ll probably be really nice to you and give you directions. But if you run out of gas on a weekend as you’re passing through, you’re screwed until Monday. Scratch that. I know a guy who can siphon tanks. He can hook you up.
But for real people from Phenix reading this: you guys have got to get some high speed internet that doesn’t suck. You’re killing me when I visit my mom. Killing me.
P.S. Bud Tapman
Also, I have relatives from Drakes Branch, which is #6 on your list, and you obviously didn’t do much research there either because you didn’t even call it Duck’s Puddle at any point in your measly little paragraph. The f—k outta here.
Works cited and other science and data and stuff:
¹I grew up in Phenix, Bud Tapman — if that’s your real name. And yes, Jeffrey Pillow is my real name, last name and all. I know, Pillow. Crazy, right? I even had a relative by the name of Jasper Pillow who lived in Old Well a few hundred years ago. No kidding. Jasper.
What’s your experience or advice? Share it in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
Written by Jeffrey Pillow, author of the coming-of-age memoir in progress When the Lights Go Out at 10:16, which you can read on this blog as it’s being written. When the Lights Go Out at 10:16 is a story of growing up in small town America in the 1980’s in a teeny tiny town known as Phenix, in Charlotte County, Virginia. It is a story of life and friendship in the face of terminal cancer. Want to read more blog posts? Visit the blog archive. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive updates of new posts by email. Or, follow me on Twitter (I just re-joined).