quick update

I haven’t really posted because I really don’t want to do a bunch of solidarity/we’re all sitting around in our homes during the pandemic posts. But, some stuff has happened since my last post around the time of my birthday.

  • Along with my septum piecing, now both of my ears are pierced.
  • I still somehow haven’t had a drink since January.
  • I’m back on the national board of my fraternity.
  • I’m on the board of a statewide journalism group.
  • My publication won two best in show and one sweepstakes awards from the state press association. We have haters now, and it is delicious.
  • The back of my house still isn’t finished, thanks to COVID-19.
  • I took another vacation and wound up in a hotel in Roanoke for two nights. It was a much needed escape for us.
  • I’m still (mostly) writing paragraphs of solidarity for work twice a week, and if I ever bothered to copy and past them here, I’d probably had some consistent content, but again, I really don’t want to chronicle sitting around because of COVID.
  • Obviously, I miss going on and writing about road trips, concerts, seeing friends and whatever.
  • I feel OK despite all that’s going on. I think my second vacation helped. But I miss Richmond. I miss New York. I even miss Hampton Roads and D.C.
  • I’m growing my beard back and started shaving my head.

37

[Godzilla noise]

To make a long story short, you know how turbulent the United States of America is right now. For the most part, I’ve been in my tiny space in my house working. I thought about posting the text of my semiweekly newsletters, but I never got around to it because I’ve been exhausted. I mean, I’ve been going nonstop since March, I moved in May and I’ve had to deal with other stuff along with that.

Because of everything going on, there isn’t a good time to take vacation. So I just went on vacation.

Also, it’s my birthday.

Tomorrow’s my last day off after taking a week off. I’ve done a lot of nothing, and it feels great. I could have worked on some writing. I could have edited two things. I haven’t slept this long since sophomore year, when I worked out my schedule perfectly and didn’t have any classes before noon. I binged the first season of Head of the Class, both seasons of The Politician, got through nearly all of season three of Hill Street Blues and started rewatching Taxi and The Bob Newhart Show. I’ve eaten an entire apple pie. I’ve only somewhat paid attention to the news. I only kinda know what’s going on at work.

Although being off has been great, I can only think about my fellow journalists who have been furloughed and laid off. It’s awful that at a time like this, newsrooms are cutting staffs and making people take unpaid time off. No one is to blame except for corporate leaders who didn’t see this coming all the way back at the time of America Online and the early days of Craigslist and apartment search websites. And the venture capitalists who came in saying they’re going to save newspapers but instead are trying to squeeze out every penny. I could go on, but I won’t.

There’s a Virginia Is For Journalists Relief Fund. It’s had several stretch goals since it began and is now seeking $25,000. If you’re able, send them a few dollars. I’ve donated. Less than two years ago, hell, even now, a furlough would kill me. My profession is in crisis for many reasons, but a lot of the problems don’t lie with the people getting affected the most.

historic times

This blog’s 16th anniversary was on the first, but it didn’t seem like a time to celebrate. It still doesn’t. I’ve been quiet here because we all know what’s going on. We’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, but we couldn’t take a break from protesting because America didn’t stop killing Black people because of the pandemic.

Very briefly, because of 2017, eyes turned to Charlottesville. We had one small protest last weekend, one occurred yesterday and there is one scheduled for today. Either because of the students largely not being here, the unhealed wounds of 2017 or a strong desire to not become a hashtag again, our demonstrations were short and to the point.

But the protests had to happen because of what we saw. It wasn’t as detached as some of the videos of shootings or the other choke holds. This was nearly nine agonizing minutes of a police officer using his knee to squeeze the life out of someone in broad daylight on a street and we couldn’t do anything about it. Talking about it on social media and moving on just wasn’t enough because it happens again and again.

And it continued to happen as people protested. We had press releases contradicting what was aired live. We had officers doing the electric slide with protesters before hitting them with their batons. We watched pleas for the police to stop killing us be met with indiscriminate use of tear gas.

For years, I, and I’m sure many of you have been wondering what the breaking point in America will be, what was going to be the moment that made us take a hard look at how policing got this way.

It’s kinda interesting to me that I starting binge watching Hill Street Blues before this happened (I’ve briefly paused my marathon). In the 1980s, it showed a poorly disguised Los Angeles standing in for a poorly disguised Chicago. It was the “bad old days” of horrific poverty, despair and crime. The pain characters are flawed but overall noble. The bad cops always are the guest stars who wind up fired, transferred or killed off. At halfway through the third season, we never really see why that precinct is the way it is beyond the brief mentioning of white flight and the open war between the police and residents in the period before Capt. Frank Furillo assumed his role.

Still, the way they do things is cringeworthy. Nowadays, most of it is illegal. Nowadays, most of it is illegal but officers do it anyway. You can see how procedurals like it and the belief that official press releases in real life made so many things appear to be true at all times.

That sentiment has carried for nearly 40 years, that idea that the Black and brown areas of each city are just places where life is nasty, brutish and short, and the police are the only things keeping them from not only destroying their walled-off portions of the city but also the rest. Being outside means you’re up to no good. Being outside of your expected zone especially means it. We’re dealing with biases, stereotypes and a dearth of resources so deep, people could not and would not see that racism was at its root.

There’s much more to say, I’m I’m not writing this to debate it or have a conversation or link to charts and graphs and studies to prove points you already know and/or refuse to believe. If at this point, you’re still waiting for someone to prove you wrong, nothing’s going to change your mind.

I inadvertently fell into writing editorials twice a week, and this is what I wrote on the first:

It’s a community with high incomes, long life expectancy, burgeoning commerce and sites that are draws for tourists. It’s also a community where high incomes mask inequities, where life expectancy varies widely between racial groups, where small business owners of color feel shut out of capital and there are spaces where many people of color aren’t overtly unwelcome but feel it over generational lines. The world watched as death came in broad daylight on a city street.

I’m talking about Minneapolis.

Over the weekend, Charlottesville, a city still reckoning with its own longstanding and recent trauma,  joined other localities across the country and globe in marching against police brutality. They also marched because of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people during encounters with police or people claiming policing authority. The protests locally and nationally came with varying degrees of anguish, pain and rage. Unfortunately, police in some places through the country, some as close as Richmond, Fredericksburg and Manassas, responded aggressively. And, unfortunately, some people in the crowds also took advantage of the demonstrations. But we cannot let that detract from how people are crying out for their voices to be heard, for justice, for change.

We also cannot ignore that the COVID-19 pandemic still is raging. Especially if you found yourself in close quarters during demonstrations or had to remove coverings from your face during your attendance, monitor yourself and your households for symptoms. If tests are available where you are, seek one.

Protests punctuate weekend, June 1-2, 2020, Elliott Robinson

we’re home

No song with this entry. Sorry.

As you can see, there’s still some work to be done, but it’s livable. I’m about to go to bed here. Our landlords were doing some finishing touches as we’re moving in and there’s still some minor work left to do. There’s also still the issue of the rear addition that won’t solve all of the space issues but will allow what is supposed to be the pantry only serve as my home office until the pandemic is over.

This place already feels like home, and I can’t wait for the completion of the punch list items and we start figuring out what normal is here.

I didn’t bring my desk chair over yet. I definitely need it, and I hope it’s tall enough for this desk. A chair from the kitchen table is not tall enough.
We have stream at the edge of the property line may or may not be natural. I could find out, but I don’t feel like it.
Of course, Missy (whose birthday is today, May 3, wanted to get in.
This is at least the temporary home for Cecil. My calculations for the current space we have were only slightly off.
The back room isn’t huge, but I hope it solves some of our minor space woes.

It was good to have an exciting moment during this pandemic. I hope this house brings us years of happiness.

the ultimate penultimate

Hunger is strange; keeps happening to me

Penultimate is one of my favorite words. It’s just a highfalutin way of saying second to last. It’s like one of those things that, if you didn’t know exactly what the word was, you felt had to exist. So I try to use it every chance I get. But I’m also that weirdo who said “acrimonious” during a casual phone call yesterday. (Acrimonious was the right word. What was I supposed to say, bitter?)

Anyway, as the title states, this is the ultimate penultimate day in my apartment. Saturday is my last full Saturday in this apartment. It album version of this song, called Penultimo, has been in my head for all of these penultimate days. I’m down to packing everything except for the stuff I’ll need for the next seven days. Our lease actually is up on May 15, so we’ll probably grab some things over the course of the first full week in May, but Saturday night will mark the end nights in this apartment.

I tolerated living here for a very long time, but things got progressively worse. Again, there’s too much to list here. Never mind that I have unlimited space.

It’s been a while since I’ve been champing at the bit to get out of a place. I mean, my Petersburg apartment was probably the worst. My Manchester apartment wouldn’t have been the second worst but the new owners of the building made it awful so all of the tenants moved out. So, yeah, I don’t think I’ve been this ready to get out of a place since 2007.

I’m so ready to leave, I’ve already switched my address on everything (although I’ve read that doing it two weeks in advance is a good practice). This has come in handy because half of my cloth mask order got sent back for being “undeliverable.” Never mind that it was one order in two packages.

The justification for being shorn.

I had the second half resent to the new house instead of to my apartment. I’m just hoping it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of putting the appliances back in and putting the finishing touches on the house because I don’t want to go over there to get it this weekend. Since I can’t take a week off to move like I intended, this probably is the final weekend where I’m not going between the two places until about the 15th.

After that, I hope it’s a long time before I’m counting down the days before I move.

this old house

Dan Shake brought me here.

Petersburg: 2006-2007. Hopewell 2007-2008. First place in Richmond: 2009. Chimborazo: 2009-2012 (excluding six months in North Carolina). First place in Charlottesville: 2012-2015. Third place in Richmond: 2015-2016. Fourth place in Richmond: 2016-2018. This dump: 2018-2020. I’ve never intended to spend such a short time in any of these places.

I began to fear for my safety in Petersburg. Hopewell turned into a bad situation. The first place in Richmond was understood to be temporary. When it came to Church Hill, all good things had to come to an end. In a different scenario, we eventually would have moved to another place in Charlottesville if we never went back to Richmond. We effectively got pushed out of our first apartment in Richmond by the building’s new owners. I was compelled to return to Charlottesville, so we waved goodbye to our dated, but fancy, apartment with a fancy address.

It’s gotten to the point that I have to describe what’s been wrong with this place in person. (Well, at this point, over the phone or in a Google Hangout.) If I wanted real booze yet, I’d have champagne on our first night.

Anyway, one thing that has come from all of this moving has been an obsession with packing. I start early. I look at schematics. I measure everything. For this move, I got a storage unit because I have some fraternity materials and, because our new place is about 300 square feet smaller than this apartment, I wasn’t sure some other things would fit. Especially since the house will be 400 feet smaller than this apartment when we move in.

I’m already making a short story long. The landlord is building an 100-square-foot addition to our house. We’re getting a discount during that period because we’ll be without a laundry room, half bath, closet and a small loft until perhaps the end of June

But for roughly the same price as this apartment, we’ll be back in city limits in a fully restored 100-year-old house. I got to take a look at the work so far and take some measurements. Below are some photos I took on Saturday. They’re a lot further along than the pictures show. After the final painting, all they have to do is install the ceiling and wall fixtures. Then the floor crew is coming in the week of the 20th and the appliances go back in once the floor is ready and the work shifts to the addition.

The measurements let me know that it will be a little cozy, but our stuff is going to fit. Our stuff will fit better when the back room is ready, but it’ll do for now. Photos with captions below.

I expect we’ll be there until we have a kid and it’s time for that kid to have a room of their own. (I presume a loft is no place for a toddler.) It’s a deep lot, though, so perhaps I will sell my mom’s house, finish my book, buy this house and add yet another addition to this aged edifice. All I know is that I’m reaching the point where I’m getting tired of moving.

refresh

I’ve been sorta on a disco kick lately.

We decided to take a three-day weekend at work. Good Friday was scheduled as a day off but we swapped it with Monday. We had considered skipping the holiday because of the COVID-19 epidemic, but we realized we needed to take this break for our own sanity. We are down a person, but we’ve done a TON of work over the past few weeks. We’re not going to be able to continue to cover this unfolding pandemic effectively, especially as it reaches its expected peak, if we’re mentally drained.

The decision was right on time. I was reaching a breaking point on Thursday and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. Then it dawned on me.

If you know me, you know that one of my pastimes is driving for pleasure. Because the state is in a modified lock down, I haven’t really gone anywhere, especially not for a good, long drive. Going for a ride technically is within the rules. I needed some time alone with a good playlist and some back roads. I took a roughly 90-minute break on Thursday.

I stopped for gas at that Kroger and still beat that estimated time.

U.S. 29 was business as usual. Riding through Greene and Orange counties (yes, Greene with an E borders Orange) was relaxing. I felt like myself by the time I got to Louisa County. By Fluvanna County, I was singing along and all the windows were down. When I returned to Albemarle, I felt infinitely more refreshed than I did the day earlier this week when I just couldn’t anymore and slept for nearly 10 hours. I did not wake up refreshed that day.

Then it just got better.

Last, I was on a Zoom chat with about 20 of my fraternity brothers and some of their spouses. We talked for three solid hours. It was absolutely fantastic. I shouted, I laughed, I had side conversations about people. Although we weren’t in the same physical space, it felt like being at a party.

I woke up this morning in a great mood. I honestly can’t remember the last time the morning came with me smiling and ready to go. Yes I can. It was the last time I hung out with a core group of friends. I think I thought it was perk of having a couple of three beers and shots, but I was stone sober. I needed that connection. I needed the open road.

I know the next days, weeks and months — honestly, the next year — are going to be rough. For those of us who are lucky enough to still be employed, we’re not just working from home, we’re trying to keep a semblance of normalcy while in the middle of a crisis. It’s not going to stop being stressful. Don’t forget to unplug from it for a little while. If you haven’t yet, do it. You need to.

coming up for air

Trained I’m precise to make the crowd tingle
You finally get to kick it and miss like Ray Finkle
All righty then, spin emcees like Frisbees
And got verbal animation on lock like Walt Disney

I don’t need to tell you things have been intense since my last post. We learned COVID-19 was a lot worse than we expected, far worse, we went into a virtual lockdown and there is a lot about it that we actually don’t know, hence the lockdown.

And, since I run a newsroom, my job got crazy.

Friday was the first time in a while that I wasn’t in front of my computer for more than 12 hours. This weekend was the first time I truly relaxed since early last month. Monday went a little too long, but I called it quits early today. I had to. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and if we don’t pace ourselves, this newsroom won’t make it to the finish line.

In other news, one bit of uncertainty has been resolved: We signed the lease on our new home. Some of you know of the problems I’ve had in this apartment and the complex. Some of you know all of the problems. Some of you probably think I liked it here because I haven’t said an awful lot and we stayed for two years. Well, a lot of things happened and we regretted renewing the lease less than a week after renewing the lease.

We’re heading back into city limits and, if you don’t count the six months in North Carolina, this will be the first time I’ve been in a fully detached house since early 2009. There’s a driveway and a yard and a small stream in the backyard and I’m a bit excited. I’ll be a mile away from work, so I could take the bus or walk (if we get to a point where we can return to our office with some regularity).

It’s smaller than our apartment, but our apartment has a lot of wasted space and I think we can make it work. If not, I have a small storage unit and a lot of things I need but don’t need. It’s restored and it’s getting an addition with a laundry room, small loft and a half bathroom. It has a clawfoot tub. It’s 95 years old. It has a name. I gave my mom’s house a fake name based on the technical name of the subdivision. This house actually is called something.

Again, I’m excited. Ever since we did the first walk through, I’ve been estimating in my head where things would go and hoping certain things would fit. I have memories of a place I haven’t lived in yet. I’m sure there’s a long German word for that.

But there’s still so much uncertainty. SARS-CoV-2 is stalking our streets. I haven’t moved my car since April 1, when I picked up dinner from the fantastic C&O Restaurant (try the Steak Chinoise; you’ll thank me later). I had planned to see my mom on March 13. I haven’t seen her since December. I ordered some cloth masks, which also means I shaved my beard of two years because I care enough about my fellow humans.

Also, it’s been nearly six weeks since my septum piercing, so it’s no longer painful and my nose no longer is swollen.

the (temporary?) new normal

Beware the Ides of March

Katy suggested that I write down my feelings about what’s going on. She’s right that I should, but I haven’t really though about how I feel about what’s going on. I’ve been in the cockpit for work nonstop since Monday, things escalated on Wednesday. As journalists, it’s easy to be desensitized to things like a global pandemic, or at least pretend that we are. And we definitely internalize all that we see and just try to move on when it’s over. We shouldn’t, so here goes.

I miss my mom. I had hoped to go to her house this weekend, but now I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to Hampton again. My mom’s nearly 70, Hampton Roads is an area where there are a lot of cases of COVID-19. and, although there are no confirmed cases in the Charlottesville area, I’ve come in contact with my reporters, who may have come in contact with people who are infected. For all I know, I’m one of the lucky few who shows no symptoms, and I’d never forgive myself if I get my mom sick.

This is such a strange time, though. Up until about Wednesday, things were somewhat business as usual. And there still are some things that still are set in motion. My lease in this apartment is over in 60 days, so I need to start packing at some point. I think I’ve found where we’ll live next, and I want to excited about that prospect. Instead, I’m wondering if a moving company would be open then to help us. On the bright side, if we have to stay at home and a company helps us move, I can spend a lot of time setting up the new place.

But this really drives home how quickly things can change. For the most part, we know that young and able-bodied people tend be OK, but we don’t know exactly what OK is because it is a new virus. Is there lasting lung damage? Does it cause any other problems down the line?

So, for now, I’m mostly in my apartment unless I’m walking Missy, going for a drive in general or … well, in about a week and a half, we’re going to have to get groceries. And I know that, if restaurants are open in some capacity, I’m going to get some sort of takeout. It’s going to be rough because I’m not as much as an introvert as I seem. I already miss people. But staying healthy is more important than being social.

Collectively, we will get through this. And when we do, keep washing your dang hands.

fourteen years

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know exactly why I’m too tired right now to do this post correctly. It’s wall-to-wall COVID-19 coverage everywhere. I didn’t expect to be working on content on a pandemic back when I started doing this in 2006.

Some of you know this story: I began working in Petersburg and got an offered to have a job interview for the job I wanted in Richmond (which I got 10 years later). When I look back at everyone I met and the lives that have been effected by me toughing it out in Petersburg, I wouldn’t trade that for any other potential scenario.

If not for my nearly three years in that tiny newsroom, I would have missed out on some great people. I’m way too existed to go into detail about all of them, but if we became friends between 2006 and now and I’m only a phone call, group chat or text away, you mean a lot to me. And I’m glad I get to say that about a lot of people. You have enriched my life as much, if not more, than the journalism that brought me to you.

Now it’s nearly time to go to sleep. I still got a lot of work to do. And it’s an honor to do it.