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.

break

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.

woods edge road

Although I wish Chesterfield was one of the localities in Virginia that punctuated signs (e.g., my hometown has a Todds Lane because screw apostrophes), I like how Woods Edge Road sounds. It reminds me of the title of a thriller novel I wouldn’t read because reading about the deep, dark, most likely supernatural secret of on the outskirts of some New England town just isn’t my thing.

After 11 years, Woods Edge Road is about to have another significance: On any given day, it will be roughly as far south as I’ll go in Greater Richmond.

I get my car serviced off Woods Edge Road and I have friends and the family of friends off that exit. If not for that, the title of this probably would be Route 288 or Willis Road or even Chippenham Parkway.

Once my contacts run out in a few months, I’m finally switching optometrists. That means I’ll no longer have an excuse to go to Petersburg. I only recently went to Colonial Heights because Renée’s car needed servicing and we needed to kill time. I haven’t been to Hopewell since getting my current dining table. My last trip to Prince George County was because I decided to take Route 10 during a trip to Hampton Roads.

Other than taking Missy late last year to what the old timers still call Ferndale Park, I haven’t been to my beloved Dinwiddie since we were bored one Sunday and I showed Renée my beloved Dinwiddie.

I’ve all but said goodbye to the Tri-Cities and barely noticed.

It feels a little odd because the region has been a part of my life for so long. I didn’t think it would cease being a part of my life in the blink of an eye, especially since it is so close.

I’ll always carry a piece of it with me, though. In a way, it’s my alma mater, too.

I truly learned to be a journalist there. My first real apartment was there. The first time I fully realized I was a grown up was there.

But I’ve now outgrown it.

pawn shop/lounge/restaurant

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WOW! IT’S A STREET WITH A ROOF. THE FOLKS BACK IN FAIRVIEW WON’T BELIEVE THIS.

DAY FIVE

We didn’t have anything planned in the morning, so I drank more bourbon and watched more Bosch. Because vacation, damn it. This totally would have been the time for me to work on my novel. So much for that.

Eventually I sobered up and went to In-N-Out again. Afterward, I drove Renée to one of the dozens of outlet malls dotting the desert before we went to dinner with Brandon.

We went to Beauty & Essex in The Cosmopolitan. The Manhattan-based establishment is a pawn shop/lounge/restaurant. Seriously.

Afterward, we went to the Fountains of Bellagio. They aquatic display was set to the Pink Panther Theme.

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No video for you!

Then, since our car already was parked there, we went to Bond. A 12-year-old Scotch was among my drinks. I do not regret it.

DAY SIX

On our last full day, we once again took it a bit easy. We ate at China Poblano, which we dubbed the Wong Gonzalez of Vegas. I considered getting ceviche there, because I was disappointed by the ceviche I got the day before, but passed. There’s probably some good ceviche in Richmond somewhere. I haven’t found it yet. But I also don’t get ceviche all the time, despite loving it so much. I said ceviche a lot in the paragraph. Ceviche.

Afterward, we drove through Red Rock Canyon. It was a little late so I couldn’t do the Scenic Drive. If we ever go back to Vegas, I really want to do that drive. I was driving, so I couldn’t take any photos.

CHAIR IN THE SKY

On our final day, we returned Giovanna and called a Lyft back to the airport. The driver missed us on the first go round. His air fresher barely covered the scent to weed in his car. It was 9 a.m. Pacific. We had 12 hours to go before getting home.

We had to change flights in San Diego. The little bit that I saw was beautiful. I kinda want to visit there.

But the airport is terrible.

It is the nation’s busiest single-runway airport, it’s hemmed in by development and the most recent plan to relocate it was killed by voters. We had to go through a second security checkpoint to get to our connecting flight because of the terminal’s layout.

Things got better on our second flight, which stopped in Atlanta on the way to Richmond. I ordered two vodka cranberries and then turbulence led to the flight attendants not coming around to charge us for them. I got a bourbon and ginger ale on the last leg. I had to pay for that one.

We arrived in Richmond at about midnight. We had hoped to order food but no restaurants deliver on early Tuesday mornings. So I went to Wawa.

While we were gone for the week, people have gotten worse at parking in our parking lot. The spaces are close to being the exact width of a car, which means one SUV or poorly parked sedan throws everything off. Previous pavement striping showing through a quick asphalt overlay adds an extra degree of difficulty. I’ve taken to parking in a what’s left of a space because I have gotten tired of having to hunt for a better space and my car has reached an age where I don’t car if it picks up scratches and dings.

Because of the amount of travel, the amount of time away from my car or a combination of both, I broke my routine and still had my phone in my hand when I got out of the car. I dropped it trying to squeeze out of the driver’s seat, My screen is only operational because the screen protector is holding it together.

The following day, I got stuck in the parking lot for 20 minutes because a garbage truck broke the gate.

Welcome back to Richmond, right?

“everything is 45 minutes away”

OUR THIRD ANNIVERSARY

After witnessing a robbery that was brushed aside, I got a beer and stayed up later than I planned. We left late for Los Angeles. Renée drove in because we were curious about traffic and an adage that New York people hate Los Angeles.

Because I was tired from the day before, I dozed off a few times as we vast emptiness the 15 cuts through. When I was awake, I was struck at how the road stretched into the horizon and drank in the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a sign noting the San Andreas Fault.

Traffic was atrocious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Renée as angry as she was as we tried to exit into downtown LA when getting to Rodeo Drive seemed out of the question. We were going to visit El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula to wait out rush hour. Taking the exit was arduous in itself.

We were getting hungry, and I suggested eating at Musso & Frank. There wasn’t any (cheap) parking nearby, so that was right out. We reached a point where I was certain Renée was going to start mowing down Californians when a cursory search for restaurants noted that The Stinking Rose had a parking lot.

We got to Beverly Hills after all.

After we ate, we shopped at Beverly Center — where I replaced my Vegas-ruined shoes — and met up with Ben, a fraternity brother from our George Mason University chapter.

We managed to see him because we left so late and because we got stuck in traffic heading to the Santa Monica Pier.

We had no idea there was a concert going on, and it let out as soon as we arrived. It was pure pedestrian chaos. Luckily, I was driving at this point. We missed sunset from the pier, but we made it to the Pacific Ocean.

Before we met up with Ben, he mentioned that he was 45 minutes away from where we were. I apologized, saying I hoped it wasn’t too out of his way.

He said it wasn’t a big deal because, in Los Angeles, “everything is 45 minutes away” and everyone is chill about traffic before it’s a given.

I also couldn’t handle the relentless traffic. Be said he likes it more than DC traffic. I hate DC traffic. Los Angeles is my third least favorite place to drive after Boston. At least it didn’t make me fly into a blind rage like Washington and Boston. (New York isn’t even in my top 10; I actually like driving around New York.)

Afterward, it was time to head back. I didn’t want to drive through the night through the desert, but that’s what happened. There were a few traffic jams on the way back, but driving through the night through the desert as our anniversary turned into my birthday was an amazing gift. So was the sunrise over Las Vegas.

MY 34TH BIRTHDAY

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Four days in, we finally saw Las Vegas.

We had to take a glorified nap because we had to return the Esportage. Originally, we planned on not driving on the second half of the trip. Then we decided to rent a convertible. Then the price shot up for the convertible because it was Friday. Then we got an Altima.

That made me happy because I drive an Altima. I named her Giovanna because that’s the name of Nicole Cobb’s sister in my novel (the Cobb sisters’ parents are Italian and Irish from New Jersey).

After going back to sleep, we prepared to go to Circus Circus to get steak at THE Steak House with my fraternity brother PaulAnthony and Linda. If you’ve been following this blog since the early years, or are a friend from my college/early journalism days, you remember those names.

I dressed formally. I was told twice that I looked like a hitman. One man appeared to hope I would say I was.

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Tonight, he sleeps with the fishes. I promise.

I had the best steak of my life and it was very, very good to see PA after all these years. Additionally, I discovered that day that another brother, Brandon, was visiting from Virginia. I made plans to see him the following day. I hadn’t seen him since going to Maryland to see The Revolution.

After dinner, I wasn’t ready to end the night. Because it was my birthday. We drove around the Strip and eventually ended up in the actual city of Las Vegas. I have more photos, video and a video I was going to use to get stills. It would have been too much effort to do that and post these entries in a timely fashion. Perhaps later this month.

Also, the following photos do not have captions.

The Fremont Street Experience truly is an experience. The canopy created a humid microclimate. Passersby smelled of booze, cigarettes, weed, sweat, desperation. We entered a souvenir shop where a woman was perched on a wheeled platform ladder to scan for shoplifters. We pushed through the crowds to get inside to Golden Nugget to go to the bathroom. We lingered for a while. I got three glasses of Makers, neat. I wanted a bottle. I got one.

On the way back, I got McNuggets. Because Tipsy Elliott loves McNuggets. Being able to get, for the same price, 20 McNuggets nearly 3,000 miles from home is all that is good and bad about America.

We took some city streets. Having a familiar feeling so far from home also is what is good and bad about America. If you had told me I was actually in Virginia Beach, I would have believed you.

I completed my birthday by downing more bourbon and watching Bosch, an Amazon series based on a series of crime novels I’ve been obsessed with since 1996. It is superb.

Still exhausted from driving through the night, I slept for a very long time.

an american tail: elliott goes west

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Really west

DAY ONE

I neither gambled nor worked on my novel during this trip.

Our Lyft driver came sooner than expected, so we didn’t get a chance to take the garbage out. Additionally, I had turned the thermostat up into the 80s. As we dashed downstairs, I hoped for the best.

The trip to Las Vegas was uneventful. I had decent sleep, wasn’t hungover and ate before we took off. I was dreading the temperature, though. The Southwest was in a heat wave and  it was 116 when we landed.

A dry heat just means it feels like an oven. It wasn’t terrible, but I was disquieted by the lack of sweat. I understood how people wind up passing out/dying here and made a note to constantly drink water.

The cabbie who transported us to our North Las Vegas hotel (it was cheaper and quieter) played Crazy Train as we rode. I took that as a good omen.

Because of the time difference, we had to at least stay awake till 11 p.m. That was as far as we got. Before bed, we went to In-N-Out Burger because it was nearby.

We walked. I wore white shoes. I had to clean them afterward.

Because of the heat, the asphalt roads weren’t completely solid. My soles were pitch. The lane markings were smeared with grey to the point that some were nigh invisible. Bott’s dots were the only hope.

In-N-Out’s burgers bore a slight resemblance to Smitty’s Better Burger. Hands down, Smitty’s would win in a fight.

Afterward, we willed ourselves to go out to stay awake. The last thing I wanted was to be up before dawn each day. We went to a local bar a few blocks down (we got a ride that time). It was terrible, even for me. We then went across the street to the Cannery Casino, we were disappointed in large portions of it being closed for the night. Then we remembered it was a Tuesday.

“Because who’s here on a Tuesday?” I said at one point.

Next up was our first road trip: the Grand Canyon by way of the Hoover Dam.

DAY TWO

We still got up a little earlier than I wanted, but it worked out. As our Lyft driver headed to our rental car in Henderson, he played a ’50s radio station as we passed countless lawyer ads and a cell tower in the incongruously disguised as an alien pine.. I was starting to groove on this arid, quirky place. Part of the route was on U.S. 95. I noted how we traded one 95 for another.

We didn’t get the SUV we requested. Instead, we got a Kia Sportage (or, as the receptionist said it, “Esportage”).

It did not have fantastic acceleration. I drove to the Hoover Dam.

From there, I drove through miles of Arizona desert and mountains to the Hualapai reservation to their portion of the Grand Canyon. It was two hours closer than the national park entrance and I wanted to give natives my money.

It goes without saying that the canyon is utterly beautiful. Our tour included two overlooks. The best was Guano Point, where I scaled numerous rocks to get sweeping views of the canyon. Additionally, I survived taking a cliffside selfie.

Renée got altitude sickness but was a trouper and drove back to Vegas. Once we returned, I walked to a 7-Eleven to get her a soda.

The 7-Eleven got robbed while I was there.

coming soon

You have no idea how much I love this song.

I have at least one giant post about my vacation on the horizon. I went to work two days after my trip, and now it’s my weekend again. Perhaps it will appear by Monday night.

Or I’ll just continue jamming out to hits of the ’70s and ’80s and you get it when you get it.