dryish january

I can’t groove to a beat without finding the source sample. You know this.

Twenty years ago in February, I got my first car. I know this because my license plates expire in April and that’s because I once forgot to renew my registration until after March had come and gone. It didn’t help that I didn’t change my legal address until 2009 despite living at least 75 miles away three years prior.

But I digress.

Once I got that 1995 Dodge Neon that I named Erin, my social life began in earnest. It’s also when I adopted the rule of the next day not beginning until one went to bed or the sun came up, whatever comes first. If we’ve been awake since 8 a.m. and I tell you at 12:20 am. that I’m doing something tomorrow, I mean after daybreak. I think telling someone at a party’s end at 2 a.m. that “you need to go to your own place tonight,” instead of “you need to go to your own place this morning,” makes things clear that you need to GTFO right now.

That said, what I drank while I rang in the new year at The Jefferson Theater (where I’m seeing Ben Gibbard again in April, if you’re interested in going) don’t count. Since waking up on Jan. 1, I’ve only had four drinks.

No, no, not drinking sessions. Four drinks. Four responsible adult-sized drinks.

I’ve had three glasses of wine and a bourbon and ginger ale. And in the case of the mixed drink, I just wanted the ginger ale, but the kitchen I was in during a party was crowded. I asked a friend to pour it and hand it to me. He asked what I wanted in it, and I reflexively said “bourbon.”

I mean, it’s like asking me what my favorite thing is. I’ll say “fire” without hesitation. Never mind that I don’t remember the last time I did more than light a cand — oh, I helped burn down a shrubbery during the first part of Phil Collins Weekend.

I didn’t mean to not drink. I was pretty hungover on New Year’s Day, because we were chauffeured to and from the venue in our private Lyft, so I didn’t want to see a booze until that weekend Renée opened the last bottle of wine I bought. I had a glass then and two more the week of the 12th. One was because another bottle was opened. That last drink was the night of the 16th, when I pulled an all-nighter to get our Virginia Press Association entries in and I hoped it would bring me down a notch from my caffeine high.

I’ve also had this month about 15 of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Alcoholic version of Heineken because I bought the for the party I went to in Richmond. I drove, and we were going back that night (not that morning), and I didn’t want to die. I liked how, unlike other nonalcoholic beers, it tasted like the real thing, so I bought more. I finished those off last week.

I think I simply forgot to stop drinking like I was depressed when I stopped being depressed.

What’s weird to me is that I don’t miss having a drink. After a long day at work, I haven’t told myself I needed one. (Work stress hasn’t changed beyond, for the past 1½ years, me feeling like I’m getting adequately compensated for what I do and I don’t have crushing daily deadline.) I’m not trying to quit, so we’re just going to see how long this goes.

I think I simply forgot to stop drinking like I was depressed when I stopped being depressed. It wasn’t healthy, but bourbon felt warm enough to fill that cold hole.

Yes, I put a pullquote in this entry.

So far, I haven’t picked up another vice in its place, other than me no longer being disciplined about going to bed at midnight anymore. And I really need to get back on that.

Because it’s 12:45 a.m., and I have a lot of work to do tomorrow morning.

ADDENDUM: This being exactly a year ago is a coincidence.

tree of life

I cannot stop grooving to this.
I devoured this book in less than 24 hour. I had this entry planned out for about a month, and this story is what compelled me to finally write it here. This will be nowhere near as lyrical.

My father’s side of the family is small. I always wondered why I didn’t meet more of his family, and the answer was that I had essentially met all of them. There are some cousins through the siblings of my great-grandparents I have’t met. My grandfather left behind a young widow and three children in 1954 when he died in a crash so major, my mom said it was on the front page of the Daily Press. (I’ve always meant to look it up, but I’m never in Hampton for enough consecutive weekdays to do all the research I want to do.) Grandma Pearl, who died 10 years before I was born, never remarried. Other than my dad, my aunt had children.

But I have gotten as far back as Alfred and Mary Robinson, born around 1840. I know this because my great-great-great grandfather, the first of four Samuel Robinsons, was born in Isle of Wright County in 1860.

* * *

On my mom’s side, it’s an adventure. The joke that I’m related to everyone in Hampton has some truth. And the story of how they all wound up in Hampton — which is between the lines of census data and marriage, birth and death records — probably was a sort of Virginia version of the Grapes of Wrath.

But before we get to the an Elliott meeting a Robinson in the oldest continuous English-speaking settlement in the United States, we start in the former Norfolk County and, in the next paragraph, Mecklenburg County.

Asa and Nancy Terry. I’ve mentioned them before. (This is a variation of that entry.) That’s all I know about them. Their son, William, was born in 1858. In 1880, he married Helen Coleman, born in 1864. She was the daughter of Robert and Sarah, born in 1840 and 1836, respectively.

In 1882, that Southside Virginia county welcomed another William Terry. My great-grandfather. His life began near the town of Boydton, and it ended 80 years and 70 miles later at the other end of Boydton Plank Road in Dinwiddie County. But, before then, he headed toward the coast.

After the 1900 census, he left home. In 1910, he wound up on a farm in what is now Western Branch in Chesapeake. Back then, it was a part of Churchland in Norfolk County. In the city’s records, the specific neighborhood is called Saint’s Delight. In her old age, Grandma Elliott, the only grandparent alive in my lifetime, so she is the Grandma when I only say Grandma, called the place of her birth St. Montclair.

* * *

Armentress Trotter, born in 1885 in Churchland (for clarity’s sake, I’m calling Saint’s Delight/St. Montclair/modern day Western Branch Churchland), was the daughter of Levy Trotter and Mary George. Levy was born in 1854. Mary was born in 1863. Her parents were William, born in 1832, and Rosetta, possibly born in 1850.

Levy’s father, Charles, was born in 1819, and was free as of the 1850 census. His wife, Violet, was born in 1828. There is a white family’s Bible that also has the genealogy of the Trotters in it. It says that my great-great-great-great-grandfather, also named Charles Trotter, was born in 1799. I haven’t seen it for myself. The woman sent me a photo of a page of that Bible but it was the page of Charles the first’s children. She was insistent that we weren’t related. I want to press her for the other page, but I also don’t want to contact her again. She did, like the census data, note that the Trotters were free.

William and Armentress lived on land off Taylor Road. And around the time of the Great Depression, they lost it. They then moved from Churchland to the town of Phoebus in what is now the city of Hampton. They went on to buy a house there. Armentress’ two sisters and brother also moved in and around Phoebus. My Great-Great Uncle Perry didn’t have any children. I’m related to the Mitchells and Askews of Phoebus and Buckroe through my great-great aunts. My mom grew up with people who called her “cuz,” and she thought for all those years that it was a colloquialism.

Armentress died in 1939. William eventually gave his house to his firstborn daughter, Mary Jane, who in 1934 married George Elliott Jr. (who possibly actually was George Elliott III), who was born in 1893. William remarried in 1942, and moved a few blocks away. Grandma, born in 1910, outlived all her siblings.

* * *

Grandma had a hand in raising the children of her sisters Nealious (pronounced Neola) and Helen. (Only one brother survived to adulthood, and he didn’t have children of his own.) Nealious, who was only three years younger than Grandma, died in 1939. It was not long after having her only child, Sylvester Simpkins. (In a weird chain of events, James Simpkin’s stepmother-in-law wound up living in an accessory dwelling unit on his property. I met Ms. Lee, as everyone called her, and I had no idea until a few years ago that she was my step-great-grandmother.) Sylvester, who was known as both Seal and Bear, didn’t have any children.

So, how do I have 10,000 cousins on my mom’s side? Well, Grandma’s sister Helen died in 1955, and her husband James Walker Sr., died in 1953. Before they left this Earth, they had five children, and four of them and their progeny were quite fecund. All of my close cousins called my grandma Aunt Mary because of that.

Eventually, it was time for Grandma to decamp from the old home William and Armentress bought. Grandma’s new house in 1973 became my mom’s house in 2008. It becomes my house in 2021. I like to think that the $200 worth of real estate near Western Branch my great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Trotter Jr., had in 1870 was the source of money for the 1973 house. Or at least that I’ll be a sixth-generation landowner. My primary residence will be an apartment in Albemarle County, but I’ll be in the company of a forebear, a man whose name I know only because I was able to push past my Grandma’s memory.

I’m still in awe of how far back I could get. The things those people who have blipped back into existence through my research endured in the antebellum years. How my birth and the birth of the hundreds of cousins who can say my grandma was their Aunt Mary would not have happened if William Edward Terry didn’t venture 150 miles away from home at the turn of the 20th century. I can’t believe that just four years ago that if my mom and my uncle didn’t recall that their grandfather died in 1963, I might not have figured out anything else about him beyond his name.

All of those people whose names were forgotten. I found them. I keep trying to push farther back into the past, but that might be a solid wall. My oldest ancestor beyond what was in that Bible comes from 1819. He’s not on paper until 1850. I’m branching into cousins in part because some of my living cousins want to know about the people who married into the family and the Terrys and Trotters and Elliotts and Robinsons now scattered across the globe. I feel like bringing them all home.

the final nail in the coffin

The plan was simple: The owners of the Hopewell News website let the domain expire because they killed the website last year. The Appomattox Regional Library System had digitized much of the newspaper’s archives. Once the site went up for sale, I’ll grab it (because who else would want it) and give it to the library to house the archives. If I’m lucky, I’ll get some donations over and beyond the cost of the site and also give them some money that would go toward finishing the digitization.

It didn’t go according to plan.

I’ve never done any crowdfunding before, and I’m not in any circles of people who would care about Hopewell. Additionally, someone who’s probably a cybersquatter set a very high proxy bid amount. (When I saw that there was an autobid every time I tried to end up on top, I went up to the max on my card. I hope dude enjoys the site for how much I made him pay for it.)

I probably should have approached the previous owners about turning the site over to me, but I figured they’d wouldn’t be amenable to any of my proposals. I still might contact them, though.

I still made a donation to the library. It wasn’t the grand gesture I had hoped it would have been, but it was better than nothing.

Until the library digitizes the last 14 years of the paper, there’s a gap in that city’s history. And that gap includes my entire time there. But this isn’t just about having not a lot to show for a lot of years of hard work.

Local news is important. It’s often the first and only draft of history. There were rivals in surrounding areas, but the Hopewell journalists were in that community daily. We amplified what’s been missing, and that’s why I still do what I do. I don’t want narratives to get lost.

I hope the current paper there, the Hopewell Herald, gets a proper online presence and is getting preserved. I hope the Hopewell News gets fully digitized. I hope the Hopewell News website serves the community once again.

But that’s it. It’s gone. It’s over. It was a formative period of my life but it’s time, about 11 years after I first stepped into 516 E. Randolph Road, to truly move on.

general announcement

Ever since 2004, I’ve picked The Post of the Year. I’m not doing that this year. A lot of the themes I made up felt forced over the years, so I stopped doing them. That’s why I didn’t take photos every day in March. Or picked my favorite ’80s songs in April. It’s also partially why I didn’t pick back up with going through the box of albums my mom gave me (I actually did this one on Facebook, so I will finish it here at some point).

I didn’t write a lot of posts this year. I also got hilariously behind on chronicling things that happened in my life. For Christmas, I got a fancy leather-bound journal and pen set that I’m going to use to take field notes when I go on trips. That won’t solve the problem of getting those things onto the blog, but it’s a start.

I think the main reason why I don’t want to pick a post of the year is because the pool is so small. I think, if this were reader’s choice, this one would be the post of the year. Because of my internal criteria, I would argue instead that the one I just wrote is the Post of the Year.

If I can get my next post up before the first, I’ll compare the three and continue the tradition.

hell atlantic

Freddie Hubbard and George Benson are on this. The album cover could be Goatse, for all I care.

I, uh, don’t know if you know this about me, but I really, really love driving. Although having friends or other loved ones in the cabin with me is enjoyable, my favorite driving is when I’m by myself on an open road. It’s when I think things through and relax. I either put on a playlist of truly background music or the sounds of the engine that the automakers of this decade have allowed the driver to hear.

On Sunday, I headed down to Hampton. My mother and mother-in-law neither will confirm nor deny that they coordinated me coming back down to pick up Christmas presents after we just were there for Thanksgiving. Additionally, I used my last vacation day to take my mom to the record room of the circuit court clerk’s office. I totally forgot the main thing I went in there for, but she at least got to find what she was looking for.

But that was Monday. Sunday night was The Drive.

The second time I ever went to Virginia Beach was in 2001. The first time was in 1992 when I was about to have my first unsuccessful surgery to stop snoring. Never mind that my house is only about 30 miles from the Oceanfront. Never mind that I had extensive trips throughout my life in the other six cities. It just always had this feeling of being aaaalllll the way over there and not offering anything I could get from the other six cities, like a beach or stores.

Lately ― I think because I’ve been away from the Atlantic Coastal Plain ― I’ve also been taking walks alone on the beach. So I set out to the one beach in Hampton Roads that I knew for certain did not close at night.

Moonrise over the Atlantic.

I took the “long way” to the beach. After I crossed the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, I immediately got off and took Ocean View Avenue/Shore Drive to Atlantic Avenue.

I passed Sarah Constant Beach in Norfolk. It was the first stop on the last trip my father and I had together on my last day of eighth grade in 1997. I remembered that someone was getting baptized in the Chesapeake Bay that day. In 2003, I met someone who mentioned getting baptized at Sarah Constant Beach in June 1997. There was a point in my life when I had a lot of coincidences like that.

I stopped at 33rd Street, because symbolism, and headed to the Atlantic Ocean. I was near the Neptune statue, but that wasn’t on purpose.

I wasn’t going for framing these photos correctly.

I love our beaches in the off season because they’re so quiet. Growing up, I grew to hate the summer tourism season because the roads became more clogged and the beaches full to the point that most request to go were turned down or turned into regret upon arrival.

Then Labor Day comes and goes. The tourists go away but it’s still warm enough to enjoy things. I have countless memories of the beach in those waning warm days. In high school and into college, there also was overnight camping near Grandview Beach at a spot we called The Land Behind the Tree.

Seeing the beach this late in the year was new for me. I encountered only nine people. Atlantic Avenue was dormant.

Six months from now, standing here at about 8 p.m. will be impossible.
Some businesses still were open and their party-setting music echoed in the empty streets. In the hotels, very few lights were on.

I took a slightly circuitous route home. I don’t like going back the way I came whenever I take “quick” trips, so my goal was to reach Interstate 664. That meant I had the opportunity to hit all seven cities, and I really wanted to go to Chesapeake. The family of maternal grandmother’s father goes back to at least 1819 in Norfolk County, which largely became the city of Chesapeake. Additionally, I’ve always been fascinated with the South Norfolk neighborhood in Chesapeake. It once was a separate city and then merged with the county to become the current city. It’s the only truly urban-looking part of the municipality.

I cruised down Virginia Beach Boulevard back into Norfolk, across the Campostella Bridge, down Wilson Road into Chesapeake and across the new Jordan Bridge into Portsmouth. As I headed up Elm Avenue and Effingham Street, I thought about how many people would have conniptions over me riding around P-Town at night. I quickly headed to the Western Freeway and into Suffolk, reaching my seventh city of the day.

Sunday night in the 757. A rare occasion of traveling for miles and miles without rage-inducing traffic. It was the first time in a very long time that I took a substantial ride across so much of my home. I missed being on well-lit surface streets with speed limits of 45 and 55. I missed being able to go 15 miles in a straight line and still be in an urban area.

There was a point when I pulled over on Virginia Beach Boulevard and got out of the car again. I took it in: the straight, flat roads, the air rich with the scent of land exposed by low tide. As I grow older, my irrational fear of Hampton Roads slipping into the sea sooner rather than later increases. I thought about where in Chesapeake or even Suffolk would be high enough for my liking.

I looked back at the eight lanes of U.S. 58, the road I once was stranded on in 2004. Once the longest U.S. route wholly in Virginia. The great line on the bottom of the commonwealth I’ve driven all but 98 miles of. In a few hours of me standing there, those eight lanes would be filled to the brim. And I would hate it.

I almost missed living here. Almost.

I disliked being there growing up for myriad reasons. The time and physical distance have softened the memories. I like this feeling of nostalgia I’m starting to have for the place. It was a beautiful 78 miles.

0629 ―> 434

This is my new theme song.
Mariupol meets Charlottesville

Last week was an adventure. For three days we hosted an online news outlet from Mariupol, Ukraine, through a program with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX). The name of the outlet, 0629, is the city’s area code. If all goes well, we’ll send a delegation there next year (there’s a chance that we’ll go to the country of Georgia instead or both).

Part of their visit included a tour of one of our TV stations.

Along with having tours of some cultural sites in the area, the had a tour at CBS19 in the are and we swapped stories about how our newsrooms operate. Their story is a fascinating one because Mariupol was close to the battles of the (ongoing) Russian military intervention in Ukraine. They had some major challenges as they tried to operate as an independent newsroom in an area where that often doesn’t happen and another country actively waged a misinformation campaign.

I saw to it that they learned a lot about the area’s Black history.

A lot of things were oddly familiar, and we also learned a lot from them. It also gave me a new perspective on what we did. In trying to avoid having the interpreter translate figures of speech, it made me think really hard about what we do and why.

Their newsroom signed a Ukrainian Flag and gave it to us

That brings us to today. We have year-end reviews and we’re looking toward 2020. We’ve done a lot in the past year, especially in the past six months, and we’re looking forward to building on the momentum that we’re starting to build. I’m excited about what we’re setting out to do next year. We’re learning a new journalism model as we go, and I plan on charting the next few months during our Christmas break. It’s been a while since a newsroom truly has been mine, and it’s time to put the pedal down.

I’m glad I sat down and watched The Irishman on Saturday so I have the perfect music for it.

home is a fire

Noise, cars on the freeway
Attempting a clean break
There’s nowhere left to go
Watching the room sweep
Through cracks in the concrete

Codes and Keys is my least favorite Death Cab for Cutie album. (I wrote a half-page review of it in the Hopewell News because no one could stop me.) I’m listening to it all the way through for the first time in a long time, and it’s reminding me about why I didn’t like it. It had nothing to do with the album sounding a little too upbeat form a Death Cab album.

It was about 2011 itself. In retrospect, it was a whirlwind because I felt like I needed to make some changes.

In January, I bought a replica of Jules’ wallet from Pulp Fiction (I finally retired it this summer.) In February, I prematurely sent out a query letter for Brown River Blues. (It still had the old ending at the time, so it would have been terrible.) In March, I took a trip to New York that I decided would be the last time I would see Renée because I still loved her but she was six hours away and I was doing nothing but torturing myself. In April, I was on a journalism panel, but I was thinking about getting out of journalism by May.

In June, because of controversy between my college newspaper and the administration, this blog, which had just became hosted on this domain, had a brief spike in popularity because it was the definitive source of what was going on. At the same time, I was wondering whether I would even keep this thing going.

In July, I had decided that I had carried the Hopewell News as far as I could. I decided I wanted to stay in journalism, so in August, I applied to be a copy editor in Jacksonville, North Carolina. In September, the Hopewell Publishing Co. building was heavily damaged in a tropical storm and I couldn’t in good conscience leave while it was in that state.

In September, I decided I was going to make this post in October. Instead, Renée and I slouched toward getting back together, so the biggest news of that month instead was that I was in the same room as President Barack Obama. In November, things were official between us and I restarted my job hunt.

Suffered a swift defeat
I’ll endure countless repeats
The gift of memory’s an awful curse
With age it just gets much worse
I won’t mind

And then it was December.

To the beat of DCFC song that appears in two versions on not Codes and Keys, corporate restructured our newsroom. My job no longer existed. I had thought I had dodged those woes in journalism. The job in Jacksonville still was waiting for me, but it felt like everything fell apart. The six hours between Renée and me ballooned to nine. I had to rush to find somewhere to live. The year didn’t turn out the way I expected in January.

But, if it had turned out in some what that I expected then, this post wouldn’t exist.

I revisited Codes and Keys because I learned last week that, during some restructuring, one of my favorite editors (in a weird way) lost his job in a way similar to me. The suits walked in and his position simply ceased to exist. It’s not even a good comparison; his unceremonious drumming out was after years of good journalism that made my not quite six years in 2011 look like a joke.

But, despite the countless cuts in journalism over the years, this dismissal was the closest to home. In a slight variation in what happened to me after Dec. 7, 2011, that editor’s dismissal would have led to me getting an promotion. Officially, it would have been an interim proposal, but it wouldn’t have felt good.

Yes, this album is three years old, but it’s my current jam.

It makes me wonder if last week would have made Flume or AlunaGeorge stick with me in a weird way like Codes and Keys.

I didn’t dislike Codes and Keys because of how it sounded. I disliked it because I dealt with so much uncertainty in 2011 and, as it was one of the few new albums I bought that year, it was the soundtrack for much of that year. (This was the era when Death Cab was the soundtrack of my life in general.)

I felt chills as Home is a Fire played a few minutes ago. It’s a little funny at this point because I concocted a Doors Unlocked and Open remix in my head back in August when that song got stuck in my head for some reason. But hearing that whole album brought me back to 2011.

The first half of the following year was tumultuous, but 2011 was a prelude. And now I’m seeing that although there were a lot of things that sucked at the time, a lot of good things happened and a lot of good things got set into motion. (I’m still not reopening posts from before Jan. 1, 2013.)

I hope my former boss eventually can look back and make that same conclusion.

I’m renewed, oh, how I feel alive
And through autumn’s advancing, we’ll stay young, go dancing

Draft Fifteen

I’ve gotten to the end of Brown River Blues. It now stands at about 98.000 words. I’m keeping the official tally at about 100,000 for now. It was that much before I cut an entire chapter a few years ago.

(I also cut a section in the previous draft that went on about how one character loved MySpace and refused to get a Facebook account. I had a character say something along the lines of “Facebook is the future” back when I figured it would be irrelevant by 2013 or so, but it no longer fit.)

I’m satisfied with it now. Technically, Draft XV will be me reading it like it isn’t my own novel and trying to catch any typos I missed in Draft XIV.

(Oh, and I’m also checking for any problematic sections. I mean, I deleted something else in the last edit because my thoughts have evolved since 2007 and there was a relatively OK 2007 conversation that seemed terrible in 2019.)

After that, I have a very short list of people I want to give it to for feedback.

(I don’t remember who was on the list, but I have three people whose opinions on it I value to the point that I’d rip up three quarters of the thing.)

tiny vessels

This song’s bridge is one of the highlights of my life.

Earlier this week, I emptied my phone’s photo folder. I didn’t get the largest amount of storage space on my phone and I didn’t need a lot of those photos. While I was doing it, I noticed that I didn’t delete my photos from the Death Cab for Cutie concert I attended in October 2018. That is because I never got around to writing about it.

That is a little shocking to me.

I distinctly recall keeping track of the set list. I heard Ben Gibbard sing a lot of songs I’ve wanted to hear live and I would have died if Tiny Vessels was one of them. I didn’t put it on Facebook, so maybe it was on Twitter.

It’s proof that I did a bad job of keeping track of my live over the past year or so. The other proof was how far back I had to go back in October to get caught up to October. The only think I haven’t written about so far in 2019 is going to Shenandoah National Park about two weeks ago, but that’s not really worthy of a post. There also were some work-related things, but I’m not really talking about work here.

Other than that, two of my cousins died over the past few weeks, but writing about them didn’t seem appropriate.

Oh, and an old friend reconnected after a long time, flaked out on meeting up two times now and then went dark, so I don’t know what that’s all about. I’m assuming he’s going to ask me to join his multilevel marketing scheme at some point. Or is trying to establish an alibi.

But I digress.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I’m trying to keep my word about being more punctual with what I’m doing. I’m partially doing it for my own sake. I like being able to go back to a random month and rediscovering what I did. I’m just not doing anything of blogging note lately.

I do have some updates from the Project 792 side of things, but I should have gone to bed an hour ago. But I got sucked into listening to Death Cab instead.

he did not play inside out

The answer to “What is Elliott’s favorite Phil Collins song (but somehow isn’t among the ones he knows all the words)?”

We’re finally caught up. Yes, this post is about what I did nearly a month ago, but we’re caught up. You see, A lot of my life now is work, and I made the decision to not really write about work. But a lot has happened at work and it’s exciting but that’s not what this blog is about. It once was when I didn’t have a proper work-life balance. Since June, when we ended our partnership with my old newspaper, I’ve begun to embrace more or less going off the clock at 6 p.m. and having weekends to do things like enjoy time with my spouse and dog.

The other thing I get to do is actually enjoy my weekends.

Now that I truly have weekends off, I’ve decided to make an effort to see at least one friend once a month. That didn’t happen this month in part because I went to a family member’s funeral.

This post, in a way, came to be because of funerals.

It starts in March 2018.

Yes, 2018. One must look back before going forward.

When Pete’s father died, we decided that we couldn’t start hanging out when weddings and funerals happened. That led to a group outing when Pete came to Fairfax in June to help his mom move. A lot of the people in that outing who vowed to keep in touch were at the July wedding of one of my fraternity brothers. (In April, I “crashed” his bachelor party in West Virginia; I didn’t write about it until May because I was really bad at posting things this year.) The hangout and the wedding led to a formal invite to a birthday party.

There was one little snag: It was near Opal, in damn-near Northern Virginia, the night before I needed to drive to Charlotte to see Phil Collins with one of the far too many people I know named Dan.

Of course I did both. You know me.

It was fun. Butler made a rare exception and DJ’d a friend’s party.

He is my favorite DJ.

And, per the adage that when there are more than three TauDelts, there is fire, there was fire. We sat back for a while while the other people at the part tried to set a bush on fire (it was to be removed, and burning it was decided as a good start for that landscaping project). Then we hard to show them how it’s done.

After the burnination, I headed home, since it was on the way, and then headed down to the Tarheel State.

I forgot how much I hate driving in North Carolina.

I mean, it wasn’t terrible and I wasn’t truly stuck in traffic, but it’s not a fun place to drive through. And Charlotte is a lot farther than it seems.

I’m not going back to find the original post, but my love of Phil Collins started off as a joke. It turned into me not hesitating to spend a little more than $150, plus gas, to shout, “Take, take me home,” with a crowd more diverse than any given event in Charlottesville.

We almost got floor seats. I’m glad we didn’t because I tiered seating is where it’s at.

That weekend was a fantastic time. I hope the momentum keeps going despite the impending cold weather. Although we’re 30-somethings ( I recently found out that’s AP style, and I’m still shocked), we mostly live close enough together to see each other more often. And I now have the free time to see people again.

Hopefully, I can line something up for November.