NORFOLK, Va. — Local resident Mark Buckner was stunned this week to learn that Portsmouth, Virginia is still a city.
Buckner, 25, reacted to the news of Portsmouth’s continuing existence with genuine astonishment. The Hampton Roads city was founded in 1752 and still stands across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk. These facts eluded Buckner, who was bewildered by the revelation that Portsmouth is not a ravaged wasteland of iniquity and despair whose remaining residents hunker down in ramshackle quarters, awaiting their grisly demise from starvation or roving cannibal gangs.
“Mark was convinced that Portsmouth was abandoned after a Chernobyl-like incident,” his friend Jeffrey Wan said. “We pointed out the hotels and high-rises across from the Waterside and said ‘Dude, it’s literally right there. That’s Portsmouth.’” Buckner then responded, “Wait, that’s not Norfolk too? Like, south Norfolk?”
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Portsmouth, home of the Olde Towne Historic District, Portsmouth Naval Medical Hospital, and at least three restaurants, has long languished in the shadow of neighboring cities. Notable former residents include Perry Ellis, who similarly languished in the shadow of other fashion designers, and Chandler Harper, who won a golf championship or something.
Buckner, of course, was not aware of this. His girlfriend Chelsea Briggs said, “We even reminded him that he’s been there in the last year. We asked if he remembered that cute little biergarten we went to. He thought that was Norfolk too.”
When reached for comment, Buckner was still gobsmacked. “It’s a shock, really,” Buckner stated. “I thought Portsmouth was dissolved under martial law and repurposed as a place where we send old people and lepers to die.”
Portsmouth has long suffered from confusion with neighboring Norfolk, due in part to its historic naval facility being called, perplexingly, Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Originally named Gosport Shipyard, the facility was captured by Union forces and renamed at the close of the Civil War, according to the 1912 tome “The History of Portsmouth: We Can’t Catch a Fucking Break.”
“It’s like discovering Atlantis,” Buckner said. “If Atlantis was unremarkable, somewhat dingy, and devoid of wonder.”
The city is well aware of its image problem, but its mayor, John Rowe, is optimistic about the future. “We are proud of Portsmouth’s historic buildings, its Walmart, and its many car washes,” he told the Peedmont. “Many people think this thriving city was covered in sulfur after offending the Lord with its wickedness, or that it’s a cesspool of petty drug dealing, lifted trucks, and mutant rednecks, but they are clearly confusing us with Suffolk.”
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