i went to norfolk, virginia, and all i got was this lousy cold, part ii

Beena Raghavendran, of ProPublica, and your humble narrator.
(Photo courtesy Kristen Finn)

I was sick when that photo was taken. Really, really sick. I had an awkward pause when I was making a profound statement because I felt like I as about to propel my right lung into the audience. When it was over, I returned home, got on the couch and, other than walking Missy, did not leave the house for about four days.

But overall, I think the talk went well.

I missed attending the funeral of Renée’s grandfather, though.

If I attended, I would have been in close quarters with her and her grieving family, spreading whatever pestilence that was. I definitely did not want to get Renée sick because she was starting in a new position at her job on that Monday.

But back to the panel talk. It was the first time I presented on a stage in years. I wasn’t nervous at all because I had to do some public speaking in high school, I often had to do a reading at church and we’ve been doing a weekly radio segment for nearly a year.

I still have absolutely no desire to go into broadcast journalism, although my mom wishes I would.

We lost a panelist, which is why I attended. I didn’t want it to get canceled. Also, it was fun getting to share a stage with national name in journalism. And show off my corduroy blazer with elbow patches.

The theme of the talk was how new journalism models can help in equity conversations. Equity is a major them in the area lately, and my newsroom is a new journalism model. One of the ways that we can take a fresh look at things is because we’re not beholden to corporate overlords counting beans and aren’t weighed down by legacies of being on the wrong side of history, as a lot of (Southern) newspapers were wont to do.

Beyond the radio program, it was one of my first public outings as editor, and as I begin moving away from writing a lot, I’m going to have many more.

Hopefully, they will happen when I don’t feel like I’ve been run over by a train and can’t hear out of one ear.

Thanks a lot, 757.

i went to norfolk, virginia, and all i got was this lousy cold, part i

It’s fitting that I’m finally writing about this thing in April because I just successfully went an entire week without the lingering effects of the cold in the title, so I’ve gone from cautiously saying I’m better to actually believing it.

Doing these two entries also means that I’m getting closer to writing about the week of May 19, which, unless something fantastic happens before Sunday would get me caught up in time for the anniversary post. That means I have three and up to five to do over the next three days. It all depends on if I did something noteworthy on April 19th and 26th. I can’t remember, but Facebook remembers.

Anyway, I was sick from April 6 to May 17. Well, I was only truly sick for about a week. My problem is that I’ve gotten an ear infection in my left ear with every cold since I’ve turned 21. Each one last for an uncomfortably long time that makes me wonder if I’ve permanently gone partially deaf.

This sickness coincided with entirely too many things. Renée’s grandfather died a few days before, I won Virginia Press Association awards and I was going to be on a panel a few days after the awards.

I got sick on the second day of the awards, which were held in the Hilton in downtown Norfolk, which was I think the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I usually stay in middle-level or boutique hotels. I also discovered that extended-stay hotels often offer sumptuous accommodations at a lower price point.

I could feel it happening. My throat started feeling a little scratchy during the early session I attended, and I was in denial until after the awards ceremony, which coincided with the University of Virginia going to the championship game. They stopped the awards ceremony so we could watch the end of the game against Auburn.

When we got back from celebrating. I couldn’t stop sneezing. In the morning, I felt awful. I worried about giving my talk and going to a funeral in New York.

But I one my first and second first-place awards of my journalism career. And our organization won three best in show awards, the first time a newsroom in which I was the editor has come home with those. At that moment, despite feeling like utter crap for the 160-odd miles back to Charlottesville, that was all that mattered.

That was all that mattered.

surprisingly close

A little more than a month ago, I learned how close I am to Charles Town, West Virginia. I mean, its two hours away, but it’s closer than my mom’s house. It makes sense, though, because I’m two hours from the end of Interstate 64 in West Virginia and two hours from Danville, and I’m about 50 miles north of the geographic center of Virginia.

But I digress.

I found out how close it was a month ago, and I’m just telling you now because I was absolutely terrible and blogging last month. I don’t know what happened exactly, beyond my ever-increasing need to go on vacation. I get 16 days this year, and I’ll be down to 13 after this coming weekend. I think I need to just go ahead and burn the other three next month or something because I’m only writing for work at this point, and that has never happened before.

Anyway, I went to West Virginia at the spur of the moment because I got invited to a fraternity brother’s bachelor party in the middle of it happening. The first day was a ski trip, and the second was a trip to the casino and horse track. I hadn’t see the groom in a while, so I did what the best man told me and theoretically crashed the event.

I took off at about nightfall because the ski resort didn’t have cell service and I didn’t hear any details about the trip until I was about to pass on it.

Although it was just two hours, it could have been faster. I had to take back roads all the way there. Usually, that’s fun, but I didn’t want to get there too late (although I knew we’d most likely be up half the night).

Boy, did we.

I don’t know what time it was when we finally went to bed. I could check, because both Google and my Fitbit know. (I let Google stalk me in part so that I can mostly prove that I was somewhere and it’s not like, with the right judge or unique set of skills, someone can’t find you if they really, really want to find you.) The next day was rough. We partied like we were back in undergrad, and I really, really can’t do that anymore. I soldiered on for a good part of the day, but I couldn’t take it any longer by about the time the University of Virginia-Purdue game was happening. (Yep, I’m that far behind on posts.) I headed back to the hotel to discover that I was inadvertently given a casino card instead of a room key.

Instead of napping, I bought an energy drink, put the game on the radio and headed for home. I got back in enough time to see the end of the game on TV. I was certain UVa’s run was going to end that night, and I’m glad it didn’t. I’ve become one of those people who roots for the team because I live there. But if they play VCU, I’m RVA all day.

Overall, the trip was great. I got to see four fraternity brothers, and I’ll see them again in July for the wedding. I also got to do something spontaneous again. Well, it wasn’t quite spontaneous, but it was with less than a week’s notice. Additionally, it was a part of my goal to see people more often. I typically have weekends off, so I have no excuse. We’ll be moving to our penultimate place before buying something later this year (I’ll explain when we get closer), so I hope to entertain, too.

To make a long story short, Charles Town isn’t terribly far away and, although I’m not really a gambler, I’d go again.

But I’d drink far, far less.

long time, no see

I can’t stop listening to this.

I didn’t mean to not write the entire month of April. Luckily, I made notes about what I was going to talk about. The reason for the delay is that I really need some time off. I have some coming up, but it doesn’t really count as vacation. Regardless, I’ll have 2½ weeks of vacation left after those days off, so I’ll relax at some point very soon.

Anyway, let’s venture to the waning days of March, when I got a text from one of my fraternity brothers named Dan and one of 20,000 people I know named Dan. This particular Dan is still in my phone under a nickname he got in college that I think no one calls him anymore. But it helps me know which Dan I’m talking about.

But I digress.

Dan contacted me because of a concert.

In September, I’m going to Charlotte to see Phil Collins live.

My love of Phil Collins partially was a joke. I say partially because my first exposure to him was Don’t Lose My Number when it played in a grocery store when I was a child. And then there were episodes of Miami Vice with
Take Me Home and Long Long Way to Go. And then, in like 2003 or something, someone made a disparaging Phil Collins joke. I immediately replied along the lines of, “Dude, In the Air Tonight is the greatest song ever made!” And then someone mentioned Don’t Lose My Number, and I mentioned how I thought it was glorious the first time I heard it in a grocery store.

In the span of five minutes, I became The Black Guy Who Loves Phil Collins, so I rolled with it. Now, No Jacket Required is usually the first album I play when it’s warm enough to have the windows rolled down. You don’t know the depths of my love of the song Inside Out. Philip Bailey’s Chinese Wall album is amazing because it’s a Phil Collins album with one of the lead singers for Earth, Wind and Fire doing all the vocals.

Oh, if he has Philip Bailey there is a guest. …

the next few days

I was watching the UVa game, so I missed posting something for Thursday.

I’m going to West Virginia on Friday night, so a post for Friday probably won’t happen.

At least I’m making a concerted effort to post as much as possible over the course of 30 days.

I have so much work, and laundry, to do before I go to West Virginia on Friday night.

Yes, I eventually will tell you why I’m going to West Virginia. And I haven’t forgotten the topic of the post I forgot to tell you about earlier this week.

No song or drop caps tonight. I’m going to bed.

i need a vacation

I remember what I was going to post about yesterday. I’ll do it tomorrow.

There was a time when I rarely too days off. Most famously, I went two years and 28 days without a vacation. I pretty much went crazy the second I was off, but that’s neither here no there. I just couldn’t think of things to do beyond sitting on my couch or visiting friends, which I did on the weekends, so I disliked taking time off.

Also, vacations are expensive, and I was a poor journalist for a very long time, so it wasn’t like I was going to use that time to go to Miami or Vegas or something.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen the value of taking time off.

I now average about three months between long weekends or full weeks off.

I’m due.

I can tell.

I’m frazzled right now, and the earliest I can take a four-day weekend is May 4-6. I have something to do every weekend Until April 26th, and the only reason I’m not taking that weekend off is that is because I want to try to schedule something that Friday or Monday that I’ve been putting off.

Yep, I’m putting off more things than just time off. I’ve been awful at not working this year.

Anyway, on this May weekend, I want to do some research in a city without anyone beyond Renée knowing I’m in the area. I want very limited human interaction. Well, I’ll probably let someone know at some point in the weekend because I’m not very keen on buying a hotel room for three nights unless I have a good deal.

One of those days, I’m going to do absolutely nothing. I want to lay in bed and write or read a book until I have an overwhelming sense of laziness. On a chill day at home, I still feel obligated to do something. On a vacation in a new place, it seems wrong to waste a day there.

That’s why I’m going to a place where I’ve seen it all before.

I cant wait.


It took me years to discover that there actually was bass after the drop. Because my stereos weren’t very good.

I legitimately had a topic for tonight. I was excited about writing about it. I then went to two grocery stores, went to the pet store, decided that I wasn’t going to cook tonight and then threw stuff in a crock pot for tomorrow.

And forgot what this post was going to be about.


Just let your soul glo …

I sat in on a Freedom of Information Act primer for members of boards and commission. It’s a very lengthy piece of legislation, but if you’re really curious, read it and weep. (Also, there is a citizens’ guide to the state’s FOIA law.) Here is my (very brief) summary of what you need to know:

  • If you are paid with tax dollars and can’t serve citizens without transparency, you’re not serving citizens.
  • Usually, just because a meeting can be closed to the public, it doesn’t have to be.
  • You can disclose what was said in a closed meeting. If there is an objection, tell those who object to consider Portsmouth. When in doubt, contact the city or county or school board attorney.
  • FOIA matters because, in part of public perception, trust and accountability.
  • If you contact a public official in written form, what you sent becomes a part of the public record.
  • You don’t have to be a journalist to use FOIA.

If you think the people who get paid with our tax dollars aren’t operating in the sunlight, contact the Virginia Coalition for Open Government or the
Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council.


I’m sure I’ve shared this before. It’s one of my favorite f-you songs. Especially because of the classical instrumentation.

I took Missy on a long walk today. It wasn’t as long as some of the ones we’ve taken in Richmond because she was two years younger then and it’s a lot easier to navigate around Richmond than here. One of the problems is that there is a severe elevation change between where I live and another part of the neighborhood.

There’s a path people have forged over time down the ridge. Missy and I took it today and walked though a nearby apartment complex to do a loop. I got curious about how much they’re going for, and a one-bedroom there is going for the cost of my current two-bedroom, 1½-bathroom place with an office. Of course, these are newer, but they’re smaller than the one-bedroom apartment I had in a similarly fancy building in Shockoe Bottom.

The Charlottesville area has an affordable housing problem. We’re getting a jump in rent next month, and we’re paying about double what we were when we were living in the Truman-era house (which was about the same size as this apartment). That house has jumped $20,000 in value from when I lived there until now.

I sometimes wonder if and when we get to be a full-blown mini-Silicon Valley and this area just is a playground for the rich.

last night

There are some things I don’t like about Damien Rice, but this song is not one of those things.

There was a small party in Richmond last night, which was the first time I’d seen them since December. This is me continuing my promise to visit people more often because I have weekends off again. My next three weekends are jam-packed, so It’s awesome to know that I will go into April knowing that I’ve done something social/recharging/relaxing for five weekends straight.

That’s the Elliott I remember.

The friends I made when I lived in that house in Chimborazo are among my closest. After them it’s Katy, my inner circle of fraternity brothers and very small group of friends I still have from high school. That’s less than 25 people for whom I’d drop everything if there was a request for help or support.

It was good to see them. It was good to get my batteries recharged for two weekends straight.

And now I can’t wait for what next weekend brings. I convinced my mom and godmother to do an oral history of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. They were in their 20s in the 1970s, and I’ve already been told to not even bother to ask. I totally get it; beyond what’s in this blog, I couldn’t tell you what happened in 2007.