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

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.”

WE ARE ON THE ISLAND OF MANHATTAN. IF YOU CAN’T GET A “PART” TO FIX THE INTERNET IN YOUR HOTEL WITHIN AN HOUR, WELL, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY.

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.

WHY ARE WE 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.

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.

DREW!

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

BONUS TRIP TO GEORGETOWN.

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.

Boohiss.

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.

the longest vacation, part two

Welcome to Post No. 2,300! Remember when I used to mark every 100 posts? That was 300 posts/nearly exactly four years ago. (Do you remember when I used to average about 180 posts a year?) When I hit 2,000, I decided to switch to marking every thousand. So, at this rate, expect that when I’m in my early 40s.

But I digress.

I played this song multiple times a day for like a week in early September and haven’t listened to it since.

Aug. 26

North Carolina is large. I keep forgetting that. It’s less than 1,000 square miles smaller than New York and nearly 10,000 square miles larger than Virginia. I’m reminded of its enormity when I decide to go somewhere there because it’s just the next state over. And then the ride is slightly shorter than a trip to New York because the far southeast part of the Tarheel State is as far from Charlottesville as Brooklyn.

Our voyage through North Carolina on our way to South Carolina took about an extra hour because because we had to go to Hampton first to drop off Missy. It was our belated fifth anniversary trip, and getting Missy into/out of (semi) public spaces always is a thing because she does not like other dogs.

We went to Myrtle Beach because my wife used to vacation there with her family and liked it. I was just ready to go on vacation overall because of a large project that ate up my life for a good chunk of the year. While I was at the racetrack, I felt relaxed in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I knew the newsroom was capable of running for a few days without me, so I seldom thought of work. I purposely did not bring my computer. It was fantastic.

The sunlight was perfect when we arrived.

We had a room with an ocean view.

I resolved to see the sun rise one day before we left.

Due east is slightly to the left of our balcony.

We almost immediately went to the beach.

My mom’s comment upon seeing my getup (not seen: my second pair of customized Chucks): “Well, that’s your husband.”

I’d didn’t know how much I missed the Atlantic. Growing up in Hampton Roads made me take it for granted. Although it was great to be back, I was missing the Blue Ridge the whole time.

I’ve always wished the Chesapeake Bay was clearer. This photo does no justice to the water because the sun was setting and I never got more than my ankles wet this entire trip.

And then I discovered the resort bar.

I’ve had enough coconut-flavored drinks to last a lifetime.

Because we’re wild and crazy thirtysomethings, we capped off the night with a trip to Target. I now own about three pairs of shorts. The taste of the weather I had before the sun set made me reconsider my exposing my calves moratorium.

the longest vacation, part one

This is my favorite song of the moment. It does not go with the theme of this post.

Since the beginning, I used Roman numerals for all of my trips. I jammed two, technically three vacations into the nearly two weeks I had off in August, so I initially didn’t know whether to label this xxii; xxii and xxiii; or xxii through xxiv. I’m going to count it as one, as it was contiguous time off, but I’m going to break this into parts.

Aug. 23 & 24

TAUDELT ROAD TRIP.

It’s Year Two of being Lamborghini VIPs. This time, instead of heading back 15 miles to Danville this time around, we decided to camp out with the other fans at the track. We’re thinking about making this a largely yearly tradition and getting an increasing number of fraternity brothers joining us, regardless of whether we get to go to the fanciest of the hospitality areas. This year, we did get a third brother to come and almost had a fourth.

The first order of business was setting up the tent, and I’m glad we did because it unexpectedly rained a lot the first afternoon.

Not pictured: The rain.

That night, Beanie showed up, joining Butler and me. Then, since it had dried out enough, we went exploring the campground. Our first stop was a Tiki bar we noticed the year before. After that, the night devolved into going to several party sites, riding precariously on the backs of souped-up off-road vehicles and entirely too much alcohol.

“If we crash this thing, I hope I die because, otherwise, my wife will kill me.”

The next morning, we definitely dragged a bit. We caught some of the practice runs and early races. We also caught up with some of the people we met the night before. Their night wound up being a lot wilder than ours, including a dude who work up in a strange person’s camper and had to retrace where some of his valuables were.

Prototype cars.

Along with needing to be around for the big race on Sunday, a constant, overwhelming urge to go back to sleep and the chilly temperatures after the Friday rains, we took it easy. We didn’t make it to 1 a.m.

Aug. 25

Gradually, the sun came out, but the previous damp conditions mad the track slick in spots. We saw a lot of vehicles slide off the track during the races. The races were pretty good overall, though. And, as usual, the hospitality area had amazing food. I’ve been trying to eat a lot less lately, but I ate a lot during that trip. I also walked a lot, so there’s that.

After learning that once can rent a Lambo for less than a golf cart at the track (RENTING A GOLF CART IS FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-ONE AMERICAN DOLLARS), we headed for home. I was happy that it was early because It would be time to hit the road again in a few hours.

I apologize for this posts being a bit short on words. By the time I catch back up, I’m going to be talking about the first full week in July. And then I need to reference June when I finally get back to last weekend.

family weekend

It’s weird how something that looks so unfamiliar feels so much like home.

There only are three buildings in this photo. Technically, two of them were there before I graduated, but they did not look like this.
This view and what’s directly behind me, Santoro and James River halls, are the only things that look they way it did in the 2004-2005 academic year.
At least Rita’s still is there.

Last month (which seems like a century ago), I went to CNU Family Weekend at Michael’s request. His sister was supposed to come with us, but she decided to hang out with friends after I bought tickets to the football game. Michael’s in the and he wanted us to see him perform.

He’s down there somewhere, Part One.
He’s down there somewhere, Part Two.

There were a few musical performances, so I only got to see him in person for about two whole minutes, but he knew we were there. We spent most of the day on campus, including visiting where we first met. The doors were locked, since it’s no longer an academic building, so we couldn’t go in. Additionally, exactly where we first met is now a server room. This was good enough.

Ratcliffe Hall.

Oh, since I haven’t posted any photos and such in a while, I haven’t cut my beard in more than a year, and I got a backup pair of glasses for when I don’t want to put in contacts/it isn’t advantageous to have contacts in. Of course the frames are orange. They’re also an Easter egg.

(Also behold how blind I am.)

Anyway, it felt so great and comfortable to walk around the campus. There was a brief moment when I forgot I wasn’t a student. (I had a work assignment due over the weekend and I tried to remember what class it was for.) As I said before, it makes me very happy that Michael is there. CNU wasn’t my first choice, but so many things in my life would not have happened if I didn’t not wind up in Santoro 202 in August 2001.

Despite the changes, the New Great Lawn does look pretty at night, though.

Go Captains.