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 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 (I 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 make 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 that year 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.

round trip to cvs

After the dream is broken, there’ll still be love in the world.

Two trains go directly between Charlottesville, which is station CVS, and NYP, Penn Station. I picked the wrong one. Well, it was beyond my control, because I had to be at New York University at 2:30 and the Crescent arrived at 1:46 p.m. and the Northeast Regional arrived at 3:20.

I did not get to the basement of Madison Square Garden until 3:36 p.m. I arrived at my 2:30 appointment at 3:45.

This was a business trip. Since it was in Manhattan, we figured any mode of transportation would have been better than driving. Flying seemed a little too expensive for a day trip, and I’m trying to avoid going to the Port Authority Bus Terminal again.

The problems began even before I officially left. The Crescent gets tied up with freight traffic before it gets to Virginia, so instead of leaving at 7:09, we left at about 8 o’clock. The Northeast Regional leaves Charlottesville at 8:53.

I don’t know we still wound up arriving after the Northeast Regional is scheduled to get to Penn Station. For all I know, it passed us at some point. Or it wound up being pretty close behind us. Or the entire passenger rail system went to crap on the day of my hometown’s 409th anniversary, July 9.

My boss and I caught the very end of the meeting before I changed into my suit (I brought a linen suit with me for that meeting, and I was going to wear it, damn it) in a restroom before the post-meeting reception.

Then we checked into our hotel room. At first, they tried to claim that we only purchased one hotel room. When they realized that mistake, they blamed it on the internet that didn’t work and it couldn’t be fixed until the next day because they “needed a part.”


After we went to our, thankfully, separate hotel rooms, we decided to just have a night out, since we couldn’t do work on a Tuesday. Good thing I didn’t have something crucial to edit. Oh. Wait.

Much like that terrible Myrtle Beach restaurant, I’m not naming the hotel.

We got dinner at Szechuan Mountain House, which mostly was delicious. I got a dish with cony meat. I had hoped it would be a grouper and not a lagomorph. It was a lagomorph, and some of the pieces of meat had tiny bones. After a while, it became hard to eat. The seasonings and everything else were fantastic. I would go again and do a better job of picking a dish.

Afterward, we walked around Alphabet City a bit. My boss lived there for a while and talked about things had have changed since he was there. We stopped at Ace Bar for a while, where we did not play any games (despite that being why we went there). Afterward, we stopped at Paper Daisy, where I had a dinner without bones. Then we got separated after ordering late-night shawarma from I don’t know where (and Google doesn’t either). It was on Allen Street. That’s all I know.

On Wednesday, I scheduled meeting one of Renée’s aunts at 1 p.m. because I left LSW9 there when we made a quick trip up to celebrate another aunt’s birthday in June. After needed coffee at The Bean and more Mediterranean food at Mamoun’s, we walked over to Sixth so our Lyft driver would have an easy time getting to Penn Station.

About 20 minutes in, I looked up and noticed we were on Madison Avenue.


Terrible annotation for effect. Note that Washington Square is off the map to the southwest and where Madison starts relative to Penn Station.

We got out of the car on THIRTY-FIFTH STREET and hoofed it to my wife’s aunt. I was late. So very late. I apologized over texts and in person and I’m certain she still is mad at me because it was a work day.

The train left two minutes early at 2:15 p.m. I was looking forward to getting into my apartment at 9 p.m.

But we were on the Crescent again.

Then we sat in North Brunswick, New Jersey, for 45 minutes. And then we got to Union Station.

Trains are electrified north of Washington. If you’re heading south, you have to wait a few minutes while the engines are switched out. Something was wrong with ours, so we sat. A train to Richmond came and went. I almost hopped on it. I tried to see if I could quickly rent a car. We sat for two hours. You know, basically the duration of the rest of the trip.

The duration of the trip back to CVS somehow took three hours. My Lyft didn’t arrive until 11:30 because who works for Lyft on a Wednesday night?

I got to the my apartment at midnight. I grabbed some fast food and, less than 12 hours later, I was on the road to Richmond. My boss and I scheduled two other business meetings on Thursday. It’s been nearly three months, and writing about this makes me tired.

And here we are. I’ll be able to talk about the weekend of Sept. 28 and include the wedding and I can mention seeing Pete in June, my wedding anniversary and the wedding I attended in the first part of that story because they’re somewhat loosely related. Other than a funeral, nothing of note has happened since that weekend, so we’re effectively caught up now.

Well, I still need to complete the album posts, but whatever. Oh, and I’ve just been playing Brand New Day by Sting a lot over the past three days. I inadvertently got After the Rain Has Fallen in my head and I forgot that I really don’t like Desert Rose.

But I digress.

May I never get this behind on posting again.

G Scott Smith

G Scott Smith is one of my favorite characters. Initially, he was going to be an insufferable hipster, but I kept making him more complex. His legal first name is the letter G. (He prefers no period, as it’s not an abbreviation, but goes by Scott.) He plays blues on a resonator guitar. He has a closet full of stingy brimmed seersucker fedoras. He drives a restored blue 1967 Mustang fastback. He wears $200 slacks. He keeps his hair cut like a 1970s anchorman. He’s a graphic designer. He’s happily married and is an expectant father. He has a ranch taste aversion. He really, really likes weed.

Oh, and he’s bisexual.

That’s been the case from the start. If you, for some reason, only read this for updates on my novel, you missed the whole me announcing that I’m bi thing. In Scott’s case, it’s not a plot point. He and his wife, Sydney, talk about it on occasion, but that’s about it.

I think that both contributed to the stall in editing and prompted me to move forward.

I think I was a little envious of Scott because saying it/thinking about saying it was a part of his story but that part was in the past.

And now that’s over and I’m on Page 244 of 291. Next is reading through it one more time, because I vaguely mentioned year ago that something about a character was problematic and I no longer remember what that was. The finish line is in sight.

Hiatus over

I’ve gotten back into editing Brown River Blues. How it happened is kinda funny (I’ll explain in the next post). Initially, I stalled out at one of the chapters that is outside of the numbering sequence. I have a few that are sorta interludes. They’re of varying lengths and add clarity to other parts of the story but you don’t necessarily need them for the overall narrative. Examples: There are a few newspaper articles and there’s a lengthy one that explains the death of a person that occurred well before the action of the story.

The one that tripped me up tried to do too many things at once. In the source material for parts of this novel, a novel I wrote in high school about high-schoolers, the character of Lorenzo had two best friends. I’ve always known that one of them would run away from home and make contact with Lorenzo on increasingly rare occasions. That happened between the source material and BRB. I felt bad about one of Lorenzo’s childhood friends being in BRB but not the other. I wrote the story of Gordon, but it didn’t fit anywhere except for in this spot where Lorenzo begins to repair his relationship with his dad. (Also, an unusual number of characters all have some problems with their parents, which purely was accidental and varies in degrees of severity ranging from murder-suicide to being helicopter parents.)

Anyway, I deleted Gordon’s story. I still feel bad about it, but everything flows better. Perhaps I’ll add it to the Seven Ninety-Two collection of short stories.

the longest vacation, part five: the vacationing

I don’t know why I just thought of this song.

Aug. 29 & 30

I apparently forgot to take photos this day. On the bright side, Google stalks me, so I know where we went. We largely hung out at the beach and ate locally. Breakfast was at the National House of Pancakes. I eventually got dinner at Big Mike’s Soul Food, and unlike the Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named, I enjoyed every crumb of that pork chop dinner. I mean to warm the food up when we got home, because my takeout was followed by a quixotic journey, but I couldn’t stop eating after just one taste.

I did a very bad job of illustrating that I physically was on a beach.

The next morning, we sadly said goodbye to our view and headed back north.

17/10. Would oceanfront resort again. (But closer to downtown next time.)

On the drive down, I noticed that we passed the town where my fraternity brother, minister at my wedding and former roommate Drew lived. So I visited him and posted a picture on Facebook to make everyone envious. I don’t think anyone has seen him since maybe 2015.


We also stopped in Raleigh on the way back to see Falyn, Isaac and John, but I have no photo proof. She basically dared me to stop by and I did. Because of course I did. I’m Elliott Robinson.

You’ve probably noticed that going to Raleigh would have made no sense from Myrtle Beach because my dog was in Hampton. There was one more thing we had to do before getting Missy.

Aug. 31


There was a promotion at our nearest SoulCycle, in Arlington, and I went to Georgetown to get my mom’s birthday present while I waited for my wife. Then we got the dog and rested at home until Sept. 3. I kinda missed this, the whole epic road trip thing. That was the old me, the me I felt I lost over the years of having horrible work schedules or not caring about whether I got enough sleep.

He’s to epic road trips and getting enough sleep.

the longest vacation, part four

This was supposed to be our last full day. Instead, I extended our stay until Friday. I regret nothing.

I’m not ashamed of how much I’ve played this song.

Aug. 28

Oops. I do regret something. On Aug. 28, 2019, I had the worst steak I’ve ever had in my entire life. It wasn’t rancid or anything. It was just cooked in a impressively bad fashion. I nearly spit it out. I ever send food back, but I nearly sent back that garbage. It was not medium rare like I ordered. It tasted like it was steamed. It was tough. It was woefully underseasoned. And don’t get me started on the abomination that was supposed to be pancetta macaroni and cheese. I usually name the places we go in my travel posts, but screw this place. Screw this place so hard. Never mind that all of the seafood was cooked well.

Yep, still angry about that more than a month later.

Anyway, before I was insulted by a dead cow, I got the sunrise over the Atlantic I’ve been looking for. Despite spending more than half of my life within two miles of an east-facing major body of water, I’ve never seen a sunrise over one. I tried once in high school, but we had been up the whole night and were facing the wrong direction.

So, within weeks of seeing the sun sink into the waves as I crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel after celebrating my aunt-in-law’s birthday in New York, I got my sunrise.

The forecast called for rain that day, and I rained to the point that we bought an umbrella while we were at the outlets. I essentially overhauled half of my wardrobe and retired my Pulp Fiction wallet.

Don’t worry. I’m still a BMF.

The rainy day was short-lived. We walked around downtown for a while and also headed out to the Second Avenue Pier as the sun set.

Additionally, we finally went out for drinks beyond the hotel bar, and I also decided that I wanted a lot of drinks. Because vacation. Since everything is Tropical Sugar flavored, I couldn’t fall asleep. I wandered around the beach near our hotel deep into the night and then slept for a part of the night on the balcony for the ambiance. I managed to take one picture that was somewhat close to decent while I walked.

A creek enters the Atlantic here, and I forded its sandy delta. For the second time during this time off, I had hoped that any accident would be fatal because I would otherwise be killed.

I did a good job of hydrating, so our new last full day wasn’t miserable.

the longest vacation, part three

I didn’t have my phone with me for the first half of this day because we were at the beach.

To be honest, I spent a lot of late August/early September listening to a lot of Pretty Lights.

Aug. 27

Clouds thwarted my attempt to see sunrise on our first morning. I woke up a few minutes before sunrise and decided to stay up for it. I had hoped the clouds would burn off or something, but all I got was dark clouds gradually becoming brighter clouds. After that, I set an alarm for the next morning, headed off the balcony and went back to sleep.


Despite the clouds in the morning, it turned out to be a pretty nice day.

A very, very nice day.

And you could tell how relaxed I was.

Remind me again of why I used to hate going on vacation?

We finally ventured away from the Ocean Reef Resort at about 5:30 p.m. The night before, we also grabbed some takeout from Sol y Luna and the décor compelled my wife to suggest that we start our evening there.

Afterward, it was my pick. I wanted to go on a Ferris wheel. I don’t know why. We researched one of the multiple ones we saw while riding around and went with SkyWheel. The sun set while we were on it.

We then walked around the boardwalk for a bit before going into an old-timey arcade.

We very briefly thought about going to a bar. Briefly.