So I was going to continue with my recounting of my excursion to the Tar Heel State, but I had an accident earlier this week.
I still can’t believe it happened, and I’m still afraid to see the bill.
Some of you may recall that in May 2009, I bought a bicycle and promptly mistook an embankment for a full hill. I knocked out several teeth. I was broke and toothless in part because my insurance company, despite me arriving to the hospital in an ambulance, said there was no proof that I was in an accident. I had to pay entirely too much of my ER visit out of pocket and got the dentures because I knew a sympathetic dentist who let me make payments on them for more than a year.
When you decide to become a journalist, you also take a vow of poverty.
I recently started getting fully out of the hole and decided that I’d give a dentist a call about finally getting permanent work done.
I was going to do that in March.
Anno Domini Two Thousand and Twenty.
So, despite countless times of doing the no-nos, like going to bed with them still in, nothing bad happened until Monday morning. I woke up early because I wanted to give myself more time to walk Missy before work and gradually shift my bedtime back to in-person working o’clock. As I was getting ready to start my day, down it went. My two fake bottom teeth. In my throat. I don’t know how. I don’t know if my brain excised that part in real time or a slip of the finger was a lucky shot.
I tried to cough it up, but it would not budge. I realized I could breathe normally, so I stopped freaking out. (Seriously, it had to have been one of those random-person-from-the-audience-kicks-a-field-goal shots.) I then calmly finished getting ready, announced that I couldn’t walk Missy because I had to go to the University of Virginia and walked out. I later clarified that I meant UVA Medical Center but I was “fine.” I think I only haven’t been yelled at because I’ve been punished enough.
It took a while for the doctor to see me. While I was sitting there, I felt something move. Down it goes. Down into my belly. Fantastic. I got sent over for chest X-rays. Nothing showed up. I was asked for the umpteenth time what they were made of; that time, the response was, “That’s probably why they didn’t show up.”
More time passed. I was able to get my phone a few times, but I missed a partial crisis at work. My boss was off, and I let two of the reporters take off. Because of the pandemic, some people knew I was gone and no one knew no one was in charge. I managed to salvage that situation before they wheeled me over for an endoscopy. Down it went. Down into my belly because, like this Colonial Heights man, I had a story for the ages.
To make this already long story short, I once again have the illusion of all of my permanent teeth. And a throat that is still sore.
We now return you to “Elliott eventually tells you where his new favorite Eastern Carolina barbecue restaurant is” in its entirety.
I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the things the COVID-19 pandemic has done is dry up the flow of posts. I get up, walk to the other side of my house and work. Everything I do is virtual. I sometimes go days without technically leaving the property the house is on. (I say technically because, due to topography, a portion of my backyard belongs to an adjacent property owner and we’ve “annexed” it.) On most of my time off, I simply avoid the “work” part of the house so I still feel some sort of work-life balance.
Stuff still is happening, but there sometimes isn’t enough to make it into a proper post, in my opinion. One of the things that has happened is that I’ve begun a journey to stretch my ear piercings. I’m not finished with that yet.
I don’t really see there begin regular updates here again until my life outside of work involves again regularly leaving my house. As you may recall, I don’t exactly like posting about work, partially because this never has had anything about what I did for a living.
But another thing that has happened is that we have made that hire I mentioned earlier. I estimated when it would happen and set a time to go on vacation. I was right. And this is what this post actually is about.
In December, we had an unofficial Christmas break and one of things that happened in the absence of working five days a week what that I worked through the fact that we are in a deadly global pandemic and I know of people who have died and I have been cut off from so many people I love very, very much. It put me in not a good place in January and February. But making that hire, and a few other things going right, lifted my spirits enough that planning out a week off felt like a great and relaxing prospect that would put me in the right mindset work with my full and revamped staff.
I had two plans. If Renée couldn’t go, I was going to Petersburg to do a Tri-Cities food tour. I found out my favorite Chinese restaurant closed, but It was still worth it. If they could go, the request was simple: the beach. Soon, it was decided that we would go to my favorite vacation spot, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. I went there on a whim back in 2005, and it had been nearly 10 years since I was last there, despite how much I love it. As some of you may recall, I lived in Eastern North Carolina nine years ago. That experience wasn’t as fantastic as I’d hoped it would be, partially because my job there currently does not exist. Thankfully, I saw the writing on the wall before the layoffs began.
I didn’t book a room at my favorite hotel there because the reviews have been all over the place there lately. We instead went with the Holiday Inn there. Unless we make plans in advance to visit people while we’re on vacation, we don’t, so being socially distant from everyone was not a struggle. My rule the time before when we got stir crazy and went to Roanoke for a few days (I didn’t count that as a trip worth covering because I was all of two hours from home) was that we would not do anything that would unnecessarily put us or anyone else in excessive danger of spreading COVID by basically doing what we do at home. I don’t think there was a point in North Carolina when we were within 6 feet of anyone. It was a beachfront hotel, and we cringed whenever we saw people who definitely weren’t in the same household mingling in close quarters.
And we mostly saw those people from our balcony because we got a free upgrade to an ocean-facing suite.
There were only two nights when we closed the door to our balcony. I apologize for how many times I’m going to say how relaxing the trip was. I did not think about work. I did not think about Charlottesville. Renée has been trying hard over the years to get me to actually switch it off on vacation, and I finally did it. It really helped that it was a great stopping point at work. My new employees began work on this past Monday, which was my first day back. Our current employees had a handle on things, and our intern is amazing. The only thing hanging over my head was a project for my fraternity, and no one had given me a deadline for that by the time I sat on that balcony in Room 502 and took what was one of the final photos with my old phone.
But let’s back up for a second.
On the way there, we made a stop in Hampton. My mom, who is now fully vaccinated, watched Missy while we were gone. Per the CDC’s rules, it was OK for me to give her a hug. It was so overwhelming to embrace my mom after so much time, I didn’t feel anything at first. But I was also riding on that high during the trip. I can see my mom. I can go inside the house. I can crash there for a weekend again … but on a daybed downstairs because my bedroom is now my nephew’s room. Never mind that all my stuff I never got around to throwing away is in there.
I took U.S. 17 down because it was my route to Jacksonville whenever I headed to and from Hampton Roads from there. I didn’t like the fastest route back then because there were more than a few two-lane roads and far too many slow-moving vehicles on them. It was fascinating to see so many things that had changed and all the things that hadn’t. I wanted to linger in Jacksonville and do things like drive past the house I was in, but I had a singular goal of getting to our hotel room before dark. There wasn’t much to see in Jacksonville, anyway. Because of my work schedule, and often talking to Renée until morning, I spent many days only seeing my bedroom, the newsroom, the grocery store and the kitchen. I honestly don’t think I ever went into the backyard of that house and only went to the gazebo over river at the end of my street a couple of times.
But I digress.
I did not mean for my first out-of-state trip since the pandemic began to be in North Carolina because my last pre-pandemic trip was to North Carolina. I have not been north of Rappahannock County, Virginia, since 2019. I played a drum & bass playlist for the majority of the ride down. I’ve been on a dnb kick for a few weeks. It makes sense because it’s one of my favorite genres. When that playlist ended, I switched over to Weezer’s newest album. I just can’t get enough of it right now, along with Bicep’s new album, Isles, which is a weird juxtaposition. (Well, not for me.)
I was starving by the time we got to the hotel after 6 p.m. My only sustenance that day was a frap from the start of the second leg of our trip. Renée’s favorite food is Peruvian, and no one makes in in Charlottesville, so we set out for that. We wound up going to a place in neighboring Brunswick County, Papi’s Chicken. I got the chaufa, a slice of blueberry cheesecake for later and a passionfruit augua fresca.
It was a little chilly that first night. I brought a jacket with me and sat on the balcony for an long, long time. The size of the hotel and the direction of the wind robbed me of the scent of the salt marsh behind the hotel and the ocean in front of me. But I had the sound of the crashing Atlantic. Although my fears of sea level rise and hurricane damage are keeping me from considering living on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, I miss it sometimes.
I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I thought it was stupid back in 2004. I think it’s stupid now. It has pretty much reached the end of its useful life for me, but I need it for work (partially because some City Council members use it extensively), it is my only means of contact for a lot of people who I consider to be great friends (despite it being our only means of contact) and, because my account is as old as this blog, it has become a storage bin of sorts. I can find an old photo. I can tell a definitive version of a story because I made statuses about it all when it happened. I can keep tabs on some people from my hometown to fuel gossip later.
I was very discerning about who exactly became my friend, and I have a two tiers of posts because there are some things some people shouldn’t see, like when I share a weird sex news story. A few years back, when there was a succession of older family members dying, my mom said I needed to have some sort of contact with my family.
As some of you know, family can be annoying.
I reached my limit with one of them on Tuesday, but I’d have to block multiple people to make a clean break. I didn’t feel like doing that last night, so I shut the whole thing down.
It’s not deleted, just deactivated for a week. Or until I have some free time, like Friday night or something, to round everyone up and clear them out. Or I’ll fully abdicate my work Facebook duties. I don’t know yet. I just needed to hit the brakes on all of the Hampton Roads stuff I wouldn’t care about if I didn’t have a common ancestor with those people.
It’s not like I hate my family or don’t want to talk to them again. I get my mom’s sentiments, but it’s a constant intrusion into my life. And with everything else going on in the world right now, it’s one hassle I don’t need right now. After graduating from high school, I’ve built a new family: my spouse and some fraternity brothers and friends back in Richmond (who I miss very, very much) who feel as much like my siblings as my actual siblings. And they’re all the family I need.
It’s been a while. It’s been a while because what am I supposed to say? Sept. 13: Still in my house like every other reasonable person. I worked and then watched TV. No one wants that. I don’t want that. Additionally, I write extended intros to my job’s newsletter at least twice a week, and that’s kinda sucked up my creative juices. I thought about making those these entries, but a lot of them are very Charlottesville centric, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to put them here.
Speaking of work, though, there is some news: We’re hiring another reporter, so I’ll once again have four employees, like back in Hopewell. Additionally, we’ll have a winter/spring intern and possibly two summer interns, so there’s a chance that my reporting staff will equal the daily paper’s news staff for a few brief moments in 2021. That’s more of a shame than awesome because I’m watching a daily paper be crushed under bad corporate ownership and it keeps making me not want to tout any of my good news because it feels like gloating even when it isn’t.
That said, my outlet also got $150,000 in funding to deepen a partnership forged over the past year. Also, since the pandemic has ruined everything, I’ve been in a virtual relationship with a news outlet in the country of Georgia and I spoke to a group of Russian and American journalism students a few weeks ago.
I guess stuff kinda was happening after all.
The thing I’ve missed the most this year is seeing friends and family. I’ve stopped by, but I haven’t hugged my mom in a year. I’ve only seen the inside of her house for a few fleeting moments. I’ve only seen a few friends in carefully choreographed outdoor in-person events. The newsroom had a bubble, but the act of newsgathering broke it, and I haven’t seen them outside of Zoom since late October.
Yesterday, I saw a fraternity brother and his girlfriend while sitting on a frigid deck at Legend Brewery in Richmond, hence getting the floodwall shot. He brought up beer I can’t get in Virginia and brought him some Albemarle County brew. (I resumed drinking in the fall. My seasonal allergies were worse than usual due to there being actual ragweed plants growing within spitting distance of the house, and I got a beer after a few days of playing “allergies or COVID-19?”) I had the urge to call up more people and make a day of it, but I didn’t even feel 100% comfortable being across a large table in the open air with a stiff breeze off the James River.
It didn’t help that, a few moments before, I discovered that at least six of my cousins possibly super-spreadered themselves. There attitudes toward the pandemic up to this point is a story for another time.
I know at some point, most likely when the vaccine finally gets around to me (thankfully, I’m probably so far down the list, they’ll know the full range of side effects by that point), I’ll feel OK. I don’t like that I don’t now. I don’t like that, even after getting it, I don’t know if I’ll want to go to a concert again or a crowded event or go to the grocery store without a mask. Maybe it’s for the best that we continue going to the grocery store with masks on. Who knows? I’m not speaking with any kind of authority and I’m not looking for your comments.
Twothree two more things: I still might do a post of the year selection tomorrow. I haven’t looked that them closely, but I think there’s something good from between January and early March. Maybe next year will be better. Rambling in this post made me feel a little better.
I also bet you’re wondering about my long-discussed novel. I absolutely did not use any of this quarantine time to knock a lot of things out of the way, but I did complete a draft and, in the course of doing a manual spell check, added some new chapter breaks, moved a section around and also realized something outrageously topical about one of the characters that I’ve decided to not blatantly spell out because, with each passing year, the coincidences don’t look like coincidences. I seriously had to redo another character a few years back because I met someone who was just like that person. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to just wrap it up and get it out there. After I finish these last few tweaks, I’m just going to ship it out to a few friends and tell them that I did not look at it again because I’d wind up writing 20,000 more words instead of hunting for typos.
Last thing: I was going to post my year-end newsletter at the end of this post, but then I realized why I haven’t really posted any of them here: If you’re not aware of any events in Charlottesville, they would make no sense to you. Additionally, although it has been obvious over the years where I work (you don’t have to go through a couple pages on Google to find me now!), I don’t like blatantly saying where I work here because, as I say in my horribly worded and likely toothless disclaimer, this site does not necessarily reflect my past, current or future views nor does it reflect the past, current or future views of anyone/any entity with whom/with which I am affiliated.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
It was good to have an exciting moment during this pandemic. I hope this house brings us years of happiness.
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.
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.
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.