XX

Sgt. Rudolph Tyrone Robinson, U.S. Army, died 20 years ago today at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Broad Rock Boulevard in Richmond.  He was four days shy of being 49.

My first time in this city was to see my father alive for the last time.

Years ago, I said I was going to stop noting my father’s death after 20 years. I don’t know why I picked 20 years. I don’t know if I’ll stop.

clearly, i’m a masochist

My favorite piece of 1990s video game trivia.

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It’s not my first rodeo.

I’ve done an amazing job since 2012 of not timing my moves to getting a new job. Technically, this goes back to 2008, if you ignore the disaster that was my six months in North Carolina.

In November 2008, my housing situation went south, despite it being a three-bedroom house for less than $800 a month because everything south of Richmond is INSANELY cheap. I stopped actively sleeping in the house at least a month prior — I either slept on Pat Kane and Court’s couch in Colonial Heights or at my girlfriend’s house in Richmond. I lived with a coworker, and not seeing him every waking moment of my life was going to be the only way our friendship was going to persevere. I had resolved to move out, and the landlord gave us an opportunity.

My relationship ended around that time, so I couldn’t crash in Richmond — additionally, she had roommates, so if it hadn’t, I couldn’t just live there. I occasionally stayed in Colonial Heights still, but Court started dating her now-husband, so the only way that all would have worked out would have been if it were a sitcom. I mean, it kinda was, since a joke turned into some people assuming Pat and I were a couple and also that one of my birthdays was exceptionally debaucherous. Since I had nowhere to live then, and was in the process of trying to find a new job, I did the millennial thing and moved back home.

Seventy-three miles away from the newsroom.

Oh, and I was a reporter with a beat that was 780 square miles at the time.

I landed a new job in December 2008 in Hopewell, roughly 70 miles away from Hampton. When I lived in the Tri-Cities, I noticed that the time it took me to get from my house to the Petersburg newsroom was close to the time it took to get from Hopewell to Richmond. Since I was young, got a substantial bump in pay and liked going to bars, I moved to Richmond. I also did it because I wanted to be invested in the community but have no bias toward it through living there. But my bank, dentist, barber, you name it were there.

When I finally headed to Charlottesville, I had a very, very hard time finding a place to rent in my price range. It’s expensive there, and since whether Renée was coming with me was up in the air, my options were even more limited.

So I drove in from Richmond for a month.

Once we got there in October 2012, Renée had a hard time finding something in her field. After I told her to look in Richmond. I decided to commute and conceded that I’d eventually have to leave journalism because I wasn’t going to commute 76-odd forever. I loved my job and didn’t want to leave it, but she wasn’t happy there.

I did that drive for five months and didn’t have to leave the industry, or the company. I was genuinely sad my last day, though. The people in the Charlottesville newsroom were like family to me. I really felt like I learned a lot there. Although I rarely visited, I never stopped thinking about being there.

And now, for the second time since I left, the opportunity to come back arose. I turned it down the first time because Renée liked her new job, we had just gotten situated in our current place after being run out of our place in Manchester when the new management made it clear they didn’t want to inherit the old company’s tenants and, again, I didn’t want to do the drive potentially for years.

This time around is different. We had been vaguely talking about moving west after our lease is up. Missy has issues with living here and Renée has to contend with a bad traffic situation each morning.

I explained the rest of this in a previous post.

But if you’re just tuning in, this is why, despite hating it, I’m not sweating the extreme commute too much.

But come on, March.

nonconsecutive

I’m going back to Charlottesville.

Well, I’m not going to live in Charlottesville proper until I 1) sell my mother’s house or 2) can get a place with at least central air in Charlottesville or urban ring Albemarle County for $1,100 or less. I’m a cheapskate when it comes to rent because of being able to rent an entire three-bedroom house in Hopewell for less than $800 a month. The current plan of action involves moving to my first home in a place not incorporated as a city. I kinda want to spend my entire life being the resident of a city, so if anyone knows of a house within Charlottesville city limits that is available after the Ides of March that accepts dogs, has central air and a fenced-in yard, we have ourselves a deal.

That’s right, I’m doing the Long Commute for the fourth time in my life. I hate the Long Commute. Only one of them has been my fault. Because we took out an 18-month lease to get a Great Deal here in Shockoe Bottom, we’ll have our third between Richmond and Charlottesville.

I plan on trading cars with my mom at least when it snows and when I move because she has an SUV. I haven’t told her yet because that was the point of calling her at 7 p.m. Friday. I blanked on why I called her because I was fixated on walking to get drunken noodle because I couldn’t be bothered to load the dishwasher and make dinner today.

Elliott, doesn’t your wife own an SUV?

Well, yes, but taking my mom’s car is a long, storied tradition. And my needing to get to work in inclement weather doesn’t trump her need to get to work in inclement weather. Anyway, my mom expressed reservations about owning an SUV when I went home last weekend. I’m anti-SUV, but I’ll gladly take one with literally 100,000 fewer miles and four fewer years than my car. It also has Bluetooth, which is great, because the aux jack in Nicole is broken, I’ve stopped burning CDs and I only buy physical CDs when the band means an awful lot to me, like The National or Blonde Redhead or The Mars Volta (when it was a band) or Death Cab for Cutie.* (I could throw in Jamiroquai, but I wanted Automation immediately, so I don’t have a physical copy and I regret it every time I want to hear We Can Do It and Nicole only plays music from one channel of the aux jack.)

If we do a permanent swap, I’d have a car essentially identical to my wife’s, though. Whatever. Our relationship began with nearly identical AIM away messages. (RIP, AOL Instant Messenger.)

This started off as a joke, but I’m totally going to try to swap vehicles. She never named her SUV. I’ll call him Scott.

But I digress.

I’m going back, to quote myself 12 hours ago, because I missed being closer to the action — the planning, working directly with reporters, being more involved in the online presence, really feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the night.

I went to Richmond because my wife was having trouble finding a job in her field in Charlottesville. I took the only open job in Richmond, being a reporter, because I figured having an editor who lived an hour away didn’t do Charlottesville any favors. As you know, I moved to the copy desk because, although I like writing, I’m not cut out for the daily grind anymore. And what I thought was the finest piece of writing I’ve done in my entire career didn’t get considered for a Virginia Press Association award. I mean, a post in this blog that I converted into a photo page won an award but I get nothing from the aftermath of a beleaguered town getting hit by a tornado? A convicted murderer was moved by my words and donated to the tornado relief fund from prison. FROM PRISON. I have my half-crazy dog because that storm wiped her home off the face of the earth, but some hokey column I wrote less than two years out of college placed?

But I’m over it.

Additionally, back in 2006, my dream was to become a copy editor there. Because I’m weird. My best explanation for leaving was that although I longed to be on that copy desk, I longed to be on that copy desk more than a decade ago. That means I expected to be doing something else by 2017. And after putting out a non-daily on a wing and a prayer for three years, hiring someone who has taken home awards because she covers the news better than me, having to deal twice with having to recommend firing someone and effectively being a consultant, the past year and some change has been … dull. Really dull.

I didn’t want to leave Charlottesville when I left. I know things have changed, but I have no desire to leave unless corporate wants me elsewhere. I’m excited about diving back in. (I’m more excited about living in the metro area in the spring because this will be my second-longest stretch of extreme commuting.)

Journalism is not dead. Good things can and will happen in Charlottesville, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it as long as I can.

Additionally, I feel that I need to be back there. The Charlottesville everyone saw on TV or on foot when they were in the streets in August is not my Charlottesville. My Charlottesville has amazing scenery, people who stop for people at crosswalks and people with friendly words for their neighbors as they live nestled between the Southwest and Blue Ridge mountains. Don’t let this summer turn you off from that beautiful city.

___

* I have a friend who introduces me as her “friend who loves Arcade Fire AND The Mars Volta.” After Everything Now, I don’t know if the former still is true.

while i was away …

… I’ve been living lavishly, lavishly ….

A lot of things have happened. I’ve just decided in the past few weeks to have experiences instead of recording them.

Which is a bad idea, because my short-term memory still isn’t as great as it was before I got a concussion in high school. There are days where I have no idea what I did the day before. Or something that occurred a couple of days ago feels like months.

Maybe I should get that checked out again.

Anyway, I took my niece and nephew, Shonda and Michael, on a tour of VCU late last month. IT was their first tour, but they’re enamored with it. Michael wasn’t sold at first, but it grew on him. He wants to major in art, and VCU has the No. 2 art school in the nation, so he needs to keep that love for the next year and a half, if he knows what’s good for him.

Earlier today, I came back from a quick trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That is a post for another time because this has been a long 60 or so hours that also involved dropping Missy off at my mom’s house and also going to a birthday diner for my mom.

I also might have some other news on the horizon, but it hasn’t even passed the conceptual stage at this point.

Nope. I doesn’t have anything to do with my novel, although I finished the Rosewood section. It probably needs a revision, but I have to go through the whole thing one more time anyway, since this version was supposed to be the final edit until I started elaborating on scenes, adding sections and strove to switch from omniscient narration to objective (i.e., I’m eliminating everything about what the characters are thinking and feeling).

staycation, all i ever wanted

A friend introduced me to Thundercat, and I now wonder how I completely missed this dude.

I did nothing on my staycation.

Well, technically, I did stuff. I did nothing I indented to do — I didn’t organize things, I didn’t try to do one of my longer recreational walks, I didn’t get blind drunk (because I was on medication from my surgery) and I certainly didn’t work on my novel.

I actually want to do it right now, but as I’ve said before, staying up till like 3, 4 a.m. would mean taking a nap, taking Missy out, going back to sleep and throwing off the rest of my day. I wish we already had a yard.

But anyway, despite not doing anything truly constructive, I feel great. I used to do one staycation a year. I got away from that. There’s nothing like just being comfortable in your own home for multiple days. Other than a quick trip to Hampton, there was no stress from traveling; no fuss with hotel bills, rental cars and overpriced dinners; and no push to actually do something.

I actually relaxed. I daresay I’ve been more productive at work this week because of it.

I need to start doing this again.

And I need to figure out a way to balance sleeping, my dog pooping and writing.

(And this is also me trying not to write a difficult chapter that needs to be written.)

hot take

The problem is that, for some of them, their core beliefs are being attacked. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong — these are things their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins have told them in their formative years. This information from the first people they trust became a part of them. It’s bigger than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny; they weren’t just stories to placate a child, they were things those adults believed to be true. As the world shrinks and changes, they can wonder if certain things about their community and their culture are nothing but foolish lies or reject that possibility. It’s easier to lash out than to consider that another worldview is equally valid or actually correct. Even when the evidence is overwhelming.

The solution to this problem is something we’ve sought for millennia.

see it before it goes back into the vault

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Contrary to popular belief, I have a chin. There’s still no definitive proof that I have ears.

My left nostril didn’t work.

I went in Tuesday for the sharp, pointy things in my nose surgery. I had deviated my septum when I broke my face in 2009 to the point that I my right nostril was doing all the work.

Additionally, structures in my nose called turbinates were too large, which contributed to my loud snoring that wasn’t sleep apnea. My deviated septum made matters worse.

The result was that I tended to breathe forcefully, I would have this peculiar feeling of not quite having adequate air and I constantly thought I had a stuffy nose.

Don’t get me started on how awful it was when I actually had a stuffy nose.

It’s probably the pain pills talking, but I already feel like I’m taking in more air, and it feels amazing. I’m not supposed to see full results until about a month from now, but I should get quieter with each passing day.

I have my wife finally having enough of all the weird noises I make for the delightfully new experience. And painkillers.

There was a little snag during the surgery, and there were two snaps from inside my face that sounded like they would hurt like all hell. I’m not about feeling that.

I weirdly was in no pain after the 2009 accident, so I might be OK. I need to be by tomorrow afternoon because the surgery and my staycation didn’t line up (because I didn’t plan vacation with surgery in mind). I’m kinda hoping it will hurt still because I was looking forward to that trip I canceled and I won’t be able to drink until after staycay is over because I also was given antibiotics.

Also, as you can see in the photo, I had to shave my beard and mustache off for the procedure. I typically lop it all off yearly, so this is it. Additionally, my clippers died today, so I either need to see if I can fix them in a couple of three days or buy new ones. Or I’ll let it grow back even faster than I normally do when I have my shearing.

I miss my beard.

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Aside: As someone who can sing the entire Arcade Fire debut EP, it pains me to say I really don’t like Everything Now. At least I’m really excited about the new album by The National because the two songs I’ve heard are promising.

Once upon a time, there was a point when I strongly considered abandoning Facebook, except for event invitations and such, and exclusively using Twitter.

A few hours ago, I muted my Twitter account and took it off my home screen.

Twitter used to be fun. I met a lot of people in the Richmond area through it. At one point, we were the most active American metro area on the app. I thought I picked a great group of people I’d enjoy to hang out with in real life. It felt like a party.

You never talk about religion and politics at a party.

After Obama was re-elected, I temporarily and then permanently muted exactly one person who really, really hated the guy.

Then it got worse.

Currently, I can’t go to my curated list of tweeters without it being politics, politics, politics, sexism, complaint about sexism, racism, sexism denial of racism, racism, xenophobia, jingoism, awesome gif.

The negatives are outweighing the positives.

Due to being a journalist, I deal with current affairs a lot more than most people. When I get on social media, I kinda want to unplug. I’m there for the dank memes and maybe the lighter side of news — for every serious news story I post six days a week on Facebook, for example (I actively seek out Sunday readers), there are probably three or four Florida Man stories or something that could become a quick punchline.

I lamented a couple of times on Twitter about how Twitter used to be fun. There’s a guy who tweets about awesomely spicy foods he makes. Over the years, I’ve half-seriously considered getting a few New York strip steaks and soliciting an invite to one of his grilling sessions. But he’s among the people in the past year or so that has gotten so rabidly political, I worry about him bringing something up in real life when I’m trying to have a good time with some ghost peppers.

I think that’s the problem. And, despite me not liking Arcade Fire’s new album, something they’re pointing out with their album. We no longer take a break from the relentless onslaught of … everything now. We don’t know how to disconnect for a few minutes to become decent human beings again. We live to be outraged.

That’s why I had to at least temporarily zap Twitter. After 11 years in the business, I know when I need to step away. I’ve been doing it a lot lately. There are times when if I’m off, I’m the last person to know some event happened. I did not follow the news at all on my vacation in June. I NEVER go that far while on vacation.

Again, as a person who does the news for a living, I don’t see how people function fully immersed in the 24-hour news cycle.

It’s because you can’t. That’s why people read way too much into some genuinely innocuous situations.

Take it from me: Go like a whole day not giving a good goddamn about what’s happening in Washington or what stupid thing a celebrity said or whatever real or imagined social injustice happened. It’ll all be there tomorrow. Or it will be forgotten tomorrow. You’re not going to lose “woke” points because you wanted to spend 12 hours watching cat videos or do nothing but drink a beer and grill steaks with the guy you wanted to hang with whose political views are the opposite of yours and you wouldn’t have known without social media because decent people don’t talk about religion or politics over good food and good drinks.

You don’t need to show your outrage at all times. You don’t need to shout down that troll. Enjoy your fucking life away from electronics, he wrote on a computer.

There are so many screwed up things in this world. You can’t focus on them all or you will drive yourself crazy. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Fix it by voting. Fix it by protesting. Fix it by volunteering. Fix it by using your voice, not your fingers. Fix it by, as the Serenity Prayer says, accepting the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can and having the wisdom to know the difference.

Unplug.

Mute Your Apps.

Remember that we’re on a giant ball of dust spinning at a tremendous speed in an arm of a giant galaxy whirring through the even bigger expanse of the universe. It’s not going to go crashing down if you focus on what really matters: what’s not on a screen.

they grow up so fast

When Theresa was young, her best friend was her godmother’s daughter, Shonda. At one point, they made a pact: Shonda’s firstborn would be named Theresa, and Theresa’s would be named Shonda.

Shonda developed an incurable disease and died before I was born.

Theresa still kept her end of the bargain.

I got permission late Friday to leave work early to pick Shonda up from the airport. She was supposed to land at 6 p.m. in Norfolk, stay at my mom’s house long enough to get Virginia residency and then go to Virginia Commonwealth University or somewhere else.

A storm delayed and then canceled her flight. The airline offered all the Virginia-bound passengers the option to fly into Richmond and then get reimbursed for rental cars or whatever to get the rest of the way to their destinations.

I’d forgotten how much my niece looks like my sister.

I got her some food and then she crashed on my couch. Since she was coming from Hawaii, I told her she could sleep for as long as she liked and I’d drive her to Hampton on Sunday or Monday. Missy had training on Sunday, so I’d have to rush that morning or take her after.

Having Shonda here was weird. I saw her extensively until she was 2 years old. I called the ambulance the day she was born. I’ve fed her, changed her, bathed her, taken her to the park, held her whenever something made her feel uneasy.

Then I went to college.

Then she moved to Stafford and then Hawaii.

My brain couldn’t reconcile my little girl being 18.

I kept trying to say I was babysitting.

Saturday night, after we ordered pizza and watched and SNL rerun, I realized the beginning and the end of the 18-34 demographic was in my living room. She had been glued to her phone. I scoffed at us both being millennials. On social media.

The next day, we went to brunch and simultaneously whipped out our phones to send pictures of our food to the Internet.

In two years, every child Theresa had will be at least 18. My babies will be adults.

I feel so old.

I also hear a clock ticking, and I think it needs to STFU.

sharp, pointy things in my nose

I haven’t been able to breathe for quite some time.

Seriously.

I had surgery as a kid to stop snoring. It didn’t go quite as planned, and because I was a kid, it got less effective the older I got.

And then I also broke my face in 2009.

At some point, I stopped being able to sit with my mouth closed for an extended period of time without having a peculiar sense of breathing but also not being able to breathe.

I ignored it.

Over time it became normal.

I also shrugged off snoring again. I tended, at least until having a dog completely disrupted my sleeping habits, to sleep eight hours and feel refreshed in the morning. Additionally, I didn’t really co-sleep with anyone, so I wasn’t annoying anyone.

After four years, Renée had enough. I finally went to a doctor and got referred to two specialists and now we’re going to shove sharp, pointy things up my nose to reduce the size of the structures in my nose that are serve a function that does not include restricting the airways they’re supposed to be in.

I’ll be recovering for most of August, apparently.

There’s a good chance it will fix everything for good, but it might not. But I should at least be quieter by September. And less feeling like I’m not getting quite enough air.

This also means I had to cancel a vacation that would have coincided with seeing the solar eclipse in Nashville. I’m a little disappointed, but this needs to be done and I don’t want to know how changing elevation and a long car ride will affect things. My current plan is to get some stuff done around the apartment I haven’t done in the nine months we’ve been here and just kick back and enjoy Richmond.

 

If my face isn’t hurting.