he called me ‘the lawyer’

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The Rev. Curtis West Harris Sr.

Former Hopewell City Councilor and Mayor Curtis Harris called me the “The Lawyer” because of my interviewing style. I have this nasty habit of forgetting half of my interview questions, so as thing seemingly wrap up, I come back with a flurry of questions. In a way, I like that because it catches people off guard, like when Colombo did it.

Rev. Harris’ church was mostly behind the newsroom. It was the one that got caught in the crossfire about a week after the current pastor of my mom’s church in Hampton started there. Rev. Harris lived across the street from the church on what is now Rev. C.W. Harris Street, near the corner of a road now named Ruth Harris Way for his wife.

Mrs. Harris was his rock. There were countless times when he told him he couldn’t or should do something, like have another soda, and he would a boyish grin and try for it anyway. In one particular instance, he argued that he should have another one, despite the hour, because he once again was elected to the City Council.

It took a lot of effort for him to get on the council the first time.

Rev. Harris spent most of his life fighting for civil rights. He was discriminated against. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He marched arm-in-arm with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was threatened. There were two unsuccessful attempts to firebomb his home. He marched to Hopewell City Hall past a group of Klansmen. He was arrested 13 times fighting for rights.

After seven unsuccessful runs for the City Council and a lawsuit to cease at-large representation for the entire city, he won in 1986. He became mayor in 1998.

He was also fought for environmental justice in a city often known only for pollution. He fought through his resignation from the council in 2012 due to a stroke. He was a bottomless well of information. He never leaked information to me. He would only give me enough to point me in the right direction. Katy and I got to know the city we were covering better through his wisdom. His office next door to his home was a treasure trove of civil rights and Hopewell history.

The world lost that Sunday when Rev. Harris died at 93, but his legacy will live on.

There is a public viewing scheduled for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. just outside the doors of the Curtis W. Harris Sr. Library at Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Hopewell. A second view is set for 10 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church, at the corner of Second Avenue and West Randolph Road in Hopewell, and the funeral will begin there an hour later.

Finished

I reached the end of the 12th draft of my novel early Monday. It stands at 103,000 words and 294 pages, if the formatting is correct.

For some odd reason, I didn’t celebrate.

I guess it’s because it doesn’t mean anything.

As soon as I finished, I started a fresh file for Draft 14. (I inadvertently labeled it 14, and I’ll fix that later.) This one will consist of me hitting spell check, to get the easiest/most egregious mistakes, and then reading it as if I didn’t write it. It’s not a mixture of things that have somehow remained intact since the first draft and things I wrote as recent as 24 hours ago. There’s probably a continuity error in there somewhere. I caught one last night when I made a last-minute change to the sheriff’s last name.

And I also added a chunk of dialogue because I had inadvertently written a character out of the book. The ending in which the character played an important role no longer exists, so if not for the addition, there would have been a “went to visit family” situation from which there was no return.

There’s already a section I don’t like. I’m going to give it a chance by reading straight through. If it sounds bad to me still, I’ll work on it.

I’m expecting this “draft” to go a lot faster than the others.

Once I hit the final sentence again, I’m making an open call to my closest friends for their feedback. I already have five people in mind, and I want no more than seven. While they’re tearing it apart, I’ll finally write the query letter I’ve been wanting to write. I’ll share it if and when I get a deal.

But, deep down, I’m really excited that this draft is over. When I started it, it was 2013. I had a computer I didn’t expect to die on me. Then, when I had a functional computer, I came down with a pretty bad case of writer’s block. And then I had to figure out how to balance things like taking care of a dog in the morning when I like to write well into the night.

It’s close to being real. Once my friends get the correctly labeled Draft 14, I’ll take some of their criticism and apply it to Draft 15 and that’s the draft that goes with the query letter. After so many fits and starts, it could be on its way by this time next year.

Unless it’s garbage.

i wish i knew how to quit you

Lies. All of it.

THERE SHALL BE NO HIATUS.

I mean, I sometimes go a month with only making one entry, but there won’t be a self-imposed break

I’m just going to review at some point the currently visible posts and take any necessary action. There shouldn’t be anything I need to (heavily) redact. I think the worst thing I’ve said was mentioning that I drank during my vacation in Vegas. But I’m 34 years old, so I’m allowed to not only purchase bourbon but not be ashamed to do so.

By the way, if you ever are in a situation where you don’t know what to get me, the answer always is bourbon.

Well, there’s also a quote about a package getting returned to sender after looking like someone enjoyed the company of a lady of the night on it, but it was a quote, I’m a journalist and it most certainly did, so there.

I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, and I’ve been cautious (although I sometimes swear here, and the musical accompaniments to some entries sometimes have swears). The only time I got in any sort of contretemps because of this blog was when someone was out to get me in Hopewell and took a quote WAAAAY out of context. My publisher at the time all but recited “Smiling Faces Sometimes.”

Context

There are entirely too many sentences and paragraphs floating around in my head at all times to not put them somewhere. Most of them aren’t about my personal life to the extent that it is detrimental to the company for which I work.

So I will write.

I must write.

Also, I’m quite pleased with getting “contretemps” in and spelling it unaided.

24) ‘the sirens of jupiter’ by the olympians

If you haven’t noticed, I like almost every song that has trumpets and/or trombones in it.

And, here we are: The theme of right now. I know how to make an entrance.

Well, this one is kinda an exit, too. This most likely is the last entry for a bit.

I am content, though. While I’m back in Charlottesville, there is something I want to do, hence the vagueness and planned hiatus. This cunning plan has nothing to do with leaving that newsroom or the company, though. As you have seen over the course of 24 songs, I took a lot to get here. Twice.

Hopefully, this project quickly come to fruition and I’ll back sooner rather than later. And then this old new beginning will continue.

23) ‘after the legions’ by the calm blue sea

Although I was (and still am) excited about Charlottesville, I paused for a moment to think about how much Richmond and the Tri-Cities shaped my life. I was really the first time I did that. Every other departure was rushed in some way.

I’m leaving RVA, perhaps for good this time. Like this is as final as leaving Hampton.

Although I was 21-going-on-22 when I got here, I feel like I actually grew up here. I mean that as in truly maturing. I learned so much from Stony Creek to Tappahannock, from Burrowsville to Blackstone. That’s 5,280 square miles of Virginia in which I’ve had a byline. An area more than twice the size of Delaware. An area nearly as large as Connecticut. For roughly seven of the past 11 years, that has been my Central Virginia, my stomping grounds, my home.

I’ll eternally be grateful for the 804. I’ll always miss the Tri-Cities and the backwoods of Dinwiddie and River Road in Prince George and Murphy’s Law in Chester and everything the Fan has to offer and living in and around Church Hill and the Varina-Enon Bridge and Henrico’s Varina Managerial District and Ashland Coffee & Tea and so much more, but it’s time to finish what I started in Charlottesville.

And, perhaps, start something else.

And, perhaps, start something else.

Next: Beginning again

22) ‘sea of dreams’ by oberhofer

BoJack sent me here.

It’s a little weird to be talking about things that just happened. Well, for the past 13 years, this blog has been talking about things that just happened. I mean, I’m not recapping things that I mentioned not too long ago.

Toward the end of the summer, after having a BoJack Horseman binge and having it haunt me (but not as deeply as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” — that book hit me harder than “Colony of Unrequited Dreams”), I had heard of a departure in Charlottesville.

This was after all of the unrest that occurred.

I was at work in Richmond the day of the event that now pops into everyone’s head when one says “Charlottesville.” I mentioned several times that it most likely would have been a day I would have been working. I wouldn’t have been downtown, but I would have been receiving all of the dispatches and getting them online through all channels.

It also bothered me because I lived not too far from the Downtown Mall (Renée and I often walked there), and from my years of living there, it wasn’t the Charlottesville I knew and loved.

Also, it made me realize it would make people think twice about going there. That couldn’t be me. It made me realize that it was all the more reason to go back.

For reasons I won’t go into because it goes into internal workings of the company I love and have worked for over the past five years, I figured going back was a long shot. Additionally, I was committed to live in Richmond despite not being exactly where I wanted to be in my career.

I sent a text to a former coworker joking about coming back.

Then I got asked if I’d seriously consider it, because it was potentially doable.

Emphatic yes. After talking to my wife, of course.

But I had to do it.

In an exchange almost as swift as the first time I was hired there, I was on my way back.

That was a little more than a month ago. The next entry is the penultimate song, and perhaps the penultimate post here for a while. As I said before, there’s something I have to do, and I can’t do it with certain distractions. I went as far as changing my license plates a few moments ago, which is something I never thought I would do.

When I’m serious, I’m serious.

Even if this doesn’t work out, the actions I’m taking were overdue anyway.

21) ‘3 o’clock’ by blonde redhead

You wouldn’t know it from the songs that have been in this playlist, but Blonde Redhead is my favorite band. Its latest album, Barragán, is my favorite album of theirs after Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons.

Blonde Redhead’s latest EP, 3 O’Clock came just as I was thinking about moving beyond the copy desk in Richmond. As I have mentioned before, I’ve always wanted more, so reaching my 2006 goal wasn’t going to cut it. At the time, I was certain we weren’t’ going to leave Richmond, so reservations, I decided that I had to look elsewhere. There had been several transitions in that newsroom and there wouldn’t be another avenue for me to move up again unless someone quit or took an obscenely early retirement.

To me, this song, which is the title track, sounded like the beginning of an end.

I figured I would leave that newsroom before 2017 ended. I wasn’t expecting that when I arrived, but leaving Charlottesville when I did took my career in a direction I wasn’t planning. As every day marked the longest time I’d ever worked at one company, I wondered if those days also were counting down.

Next: It started as a joke.

we interrupt this string of youtube videos, …

I’m willing to undo a lot of things to get one thing I want.

(It’s time for the dreaded word from people who produce content online: Hiatus.

I’ll finish the journalism/playlist entries, though, because there are only four of them to go.)

I plan on making some moves in the coming days and weeks, so I need to reassess a lot of things. Unfortunately, that includes this 13-year-old blog. I am 99 percent certain the entire site won’t go away, especially since I own this domain.

Maybe it will mean I drastically revamp what I post here, like sticking to updates on working on my novel (which also has gone on a hiatus until I can get adjusted to my new work schedule). I don’t know.

What I do know is that things might be different soon, and I need to prepare.

20) ‘ms. garvey, ms. garvey’ by roy hargrove big band

It took me months to pick this song. I honestly considered ending the playlist completely with “Minor Soul” or, since I was in the same company, leaving it at “Git It Awn.”

I picked this song a little more than a year ago after I grew tired of being a reporter, didn’t get the editor job I wanted on the management side and wound up becoming a copy editor.

For those of you who have been here since the very start in 2004, you probably recall that my original goal in life was to be a copy editor at this newspaper. I wasn’t 100 percent happy there because, as I put it, “It was my goal in life 10 years ago. That means I expected to be somewhere else 10 years later.”

This was me trying to inject something lavish into it to deal with it.

I fully planned on dealing with it. As recently as August, the plan was to deal with it and continue the plan of renting a place with a yard for Missy until my mom’s house was sold and I threw that money into buying a house for myself.

I was getting back into the swing of things, but as I have said numerous times, things in Richmond just weren’t the same anymore. I’m not going to belabor it.

I kept telling myself I wouldn’t go back to Charlottesville and made a joke out of it.

Meanwhile, I still read the paper every day and never bothered to fully disentangle myself from some of the mailing lists.

In retrospect, my tone of “I’ll never go back there” was identical to how I swore I wouldn’t date Renée again … although I visited her in New York almost every time I went to Newark.

Next: August.

19) ‘minor soul’ by johnny lytle

Excitement!

I had a whole farewell speech planned but was at a loss for words when I was presented with my going away cake.

Richmond!

It took me months to read the card everyone signed.

Flagship paper!

Although I said I would visit, I could only bring myself to go twice.

My own column!

I often thought about how I got married in Charlottesville and filed my marriage license in Albemarle County.

There’s still a chance for advancement!

I learned of an alternate scenario in the company that would have involved leaving Charlottesville that would have been more up my alley.

But I had Johnny Lytle playing the ever-lovin’ crap out of a vibraphone to send me out. Everything was going to be fine. I’d get over missing those guys, and it was going to be a grand future in RVA. I mean, the last time I was torn about leaving a place, everything eventually turned out OK.

Next: I’m convinced?