it’s not that bad, pt. 1

This song really is unrelated. I just happened to hear it a few minutes ago.
I didn’t grasp why everyone ahead of me slammed on their brakes until it was too late.

Thank you, Sgt. Wooten. I was absolutely going well over the speed limit on Monday when you pulled me over on Interstate 64. Everyone else with Indiana plates was doing it, so I figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  I guess that only counts when you have Indiana plates.

When I pulled over, my first thought was, “Well, he’s got me dead to rights. It kinda sucks because I’m certain a lot of people were going faster than me.”

That was true. Those faster people weren’t stupid enough to continue driving slowly so he could catch up. But I’m 35 years old. Fifteen years ago, I probably would have punched it, and I would you be telling you the funny story of how the home stretch of my trip went disastrously wrong.

Thursday, Nov. 7

It was sleeting in Kansas when Brandon and I left. I was told that it wasn’t likely to stick to the roads, but it was a little disconcerting. Either way, Kansas is good at clearing roads, Bill said, so there shouldn’t be a problem by the time I arrived on Friday. Bill called me at 9 a.m., 8 a.m. his time, to tell me this news. My alarm had just gone off. I was set to leave at 10. This definitely was going to be a TauDelt adventure.

Bill, my best friend and best man, currently is stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. He plans on leaving the Army soon, which is why he bought a house. His current plan is to finish his masters and become a history teacher. He and his wife — Karen, a friend from college who also is a great friend — decided they were fine with settling in Kansas because they were surprised that they were OK with living in Manhattan, Kansas.

My reasons to visit Bill and Karen a week ago are varied: I’d been meaning to visit Bill since he finished basic training. I wanted someone to go with me so it could become a grand adventure. I wanted to take a road trip with fraternity brothers like in the old days. Due to where they lived, I could fulfill a childhood dream of driving the entire length of Interstate 64.

Everything finally came together.

The plan was simple, and it managed to stay simple. Brandon and I were going to power through Thursday morning and arrive in St. Louis in time for another brother, Pete, to get home from work. On Friday, we would go the rest of the way to Kansas and see Mandy, my friend since Hampton City Schools, on our way to Bill and Karen’s house. On Saturday, we would spend all day out with Bill. On Sunday, we would start the first leg of our trip. Monday would be the remainder of the drive home. On Tuesday, I would sleep.

Pete partially threw a kink on those plans. We expected to stay at his place Thursday night. I only wanted to buy a hotel room for the ride back because, again, I wanted to have the whole crashing on couches or whatever experience. At the same time, I also did not want to be stuck in horrible conditions, so I figured we’d have to get rooms both coming and going to Kansas. Pete on Wednesday night said we couldn’t stay at his place. Old Pete wouldn’t have given us that much notice. It wasn’t too bad — I would have liked to have locked in a lower hotel price — but we were at the Hotel Avyan, which wasn’t that far from his place.

In West Virginia, we stopped at a Wendy’s. The cashier called me Eleot. That’s a new one. Also, that sandwich wasn’t as awesome as the name states.

The drive there was pretty uneventful. The weather was great, and when we stopped for gas in Louisville, we also found this curious fellow.

Stop giggling at the name of the tutoring place next door.

“Is that? …” Brandon said.

“That’s a Kroger-brand liquor store,” I said.

I had seen a Kroger that sold hard liquor the first time I was in Indiana. This was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on a standalone Kroger liquor store.

Since we were in Kentucky, we had to get bourbon. I decided that that I was going to get something that I’d never had before. One charming little bottle caught my eye because it made a bold statement. I like bourbon, so I decided that I would be the judge of that statement.

It was called Old Bardstown. It said it was ruled the finest bourbon in Kentucky. I took a photo of it, and I could have sworn I downloaded it with the other photos from the trip, but I did not. I could just hop on the app and do it from there, but I’m testing out the new CMS for this entry, and I don’t know if I can do that without undoing everything I’ve done thus far.

Anyway, it was very smooth and delicious. As far as I can tell, it isn’t sold in Virginia. Bill said he really likes Four Roses, and that’s sold in Virginia, so I’ll settle for that for now.

But enough about the bourbon.

After we were settled in St. Louis, where it was sleeting, we met up with Pete and his girlfriend. We barhopped, but I only remember one of them because I had a tab at two, Mission Taco and The Beale on Broadway. The night was a bit of a blur. Because it was a good night.

Friday

Technically, we did not check out on time. I set an alarm before we went out, and that two hours wasn’t enough. As I was having an extremely tough go a things, I told Brandon to go downstairs and check out for me. He got down there right before the buzzer. I crept out about a half an hour later. I’ll say I was about at 70 percent at that point. It didn’t help that we were up for a very long time, too.

We then met up with Pete to get lunch. We headed to Southern, which touted Nashville hot chicken. It wasn’t melt-your-face-off hot like Prince’s, but no one can compare to Prince’s. 

Spicy foods are my hangover cure. This wasn’t spicy enough, so I passed out in the backseat while Brandon drove across most of Missouri. 

I woke up about when we needed to stop for gas. While Brandon pumped, ran over to Sonic. What I should have done is gotten this vaguely racist pizza.

You eyes deceive you not.

Really? Really? Trap Haus Pizza?

If you can’t read it, the slogan is, “It tastes so good, you’re trapped for life!” It’s probably good, but it’s also attached to a gas station. But that’s probably what makes it good.

I was back at 100 percent, so I got back in the driver’s seat.

As we neared Kansas, I found that Mandy’s husband had been transferred from Leavenworth, so I was meeting her in Manhattan. We got coffee at Bluestem Bistro in Aggieville. We didn’t have an awful lot to catch up on because there are times when we talk as much as we did in person. But I haven’t seen her in about seven years.

When I wrecked Nicole back in January, I lost my dad’s commemorative plate for when he was stationed outside of Savannah, Georgia. My mom found it a while back and gave it to me. I had all intentions of putting it on my desk at work but I kept forgetting. In the wreck, I was in a spot I couldn’t readily see when I was cleaning the car out and I didn’t realize it was there until I turned over the keys.

I recently posted on Facebook about how I wish I had it still, and people suggested that I contact the 260th Quartermaster Battalion and tell my story. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but Mandy’s husband, Mike, saw it.

While we were in Bluestem, Mandy told me that Mike obtained a challenge coin for me. I quickly looked at it and pocketed it because I knew if I acknowledged its existence any longer, I’d make like a Carrie Underwood song and not cry pretty. 

That night, after we got to Bill and Karen’s and drank in the basement, I went the room I claimed and held that coin for a long time. It’s now in my wallet. After I measure its diameter, I might buy a holder so I can wear it as a necklace.

That singular event was worth the entire trip.

the pears of mary lee’s corner

A few minutes ago, I ate a fresh pear. My mom bought some and forced me to go home with them when I packed up from visiting over the weekend.

I can’t remember the last time I had a pear. Although I eat vegetables for fun, I rarely buy fruit.  And when I do, it’s almost always a grapefruit. There was a time when I ate more fruit, sometimes for free. Especially pears.

Some of the homes on my block were the second or third generation from after the farm that once was there was subdivided. Several of the lots with newer homes featured fruit trees. A few doors down was a peach tree. We had a cherry tree. On the corner were several pear trees. It was an older building, so it either was the inspiration or a coincidence.

That corner lot housed a corner store, some small apartments and the home of the proprietor. The portion of the large, rectangular building that was Mary Lee’s home was a maze. Before I knew that it was Dickensian, I knew that home felt Dickensian. The troubled boy she adopted briefly was my friend. Before he compelled me to sever our friendship, fell into more trouble than someone our age should, wound up in Florida and received a life sentence there, we tried to get pears before they fully ripened and began to rot on the ground.

We’d throw rocks or the ball we were playing with or any other object to rattle the branches enough to send some down.  When Mary Lee caught us, she’d yell and I had to go home. When she didn’t, we’d run off with our unripe bounty, ignorant of stony and bland not being the flavors associated with them.

I was expecting this pear to be a challenge to bite, be flavorless and remind me of relatively innocent times.

It was soft, had a taste close to the chunks in heavy syrup and did no such thing.

dreams

My suspension of disbelief is terrible.

I blame it on horror films.

My mom loves horror movies, so I was exposed to them at a young age. To spare me from going insane, my mom went through great pains to explain that they were only a movie, people liked them because they either liked being scared or saw them (and myriad other reasons), it would be all over the news if it happened in real life and it was all special effects.

I stopped watching them because I picked up on each one ending with the opportunity for a sequel, and I wanted something with a definitive end.

This inability to fully enjoy something fantastic has bled into my subconscious.

If I dream about being able to fly, I say, “Wait a minute. This is impossible!” and I wake up. A talking animal or inanimate object? Ice cream grows on trees? Something that traditionally is a nightmare? A little voice announces that it isn’t real and wakes me up. Back in college because I didn’t actually pass a class or something? Completely rejected and sent to the waking world.

Unless I have a lucid dream and play around in the space or a dream is framed in being a film, I dream about going to the grocery store, having conversations with friends, driving somewhere, going to work, so on and so forth. It’s a little bothersome because I’m afraid that I’ll reach a point in my life when I’m not certain whether something actually happened. I sometimes remind myself that a married couple I once worked with being in a ’70s folk rock band and this information not coming out until another former coworker who also is a DJ noticed them on an album cover when he was digging in the crates did not happen.

The worst was when I was in high school. I went to bed on a Monday night and dreamed about getting up on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The dream included getting ready, riding the bus, going to class, going home doing homework and going to bed. When my alarm went off and morning news program mentioned it was Tuesday, I had to explain to the rest of the house why I was shouting, “TUESDAY? TODAY IS TUESDAY?”

This even comes into play when I have routine dreams with deceased people.

Except for one exception.

Last night, I dreamed of going home. I took my niece and one of my nephews on a college tour. Their mother went with us.

My brain doesn’t cancel dreams with Theresa in them. It definitely has tried, though.

I’ve had the realization that a dream was impossible because my sister is dead. It didn’t end the dream.

I don’t even get the reminder anymore.

In a way, they make me appreciate the plausible slice of life dreams. I like having the occasional conjuring of doing the normal, boring things with my sister I never got the chance to do.

Thank you for at least let me have this, brain.

300 miles for carbs

I didn’t intend to go to Maryland yesterday, but there I was with my wife and dog, on a hill near where the Atlantic Coastal Plain transitions into the Piedmont in Anne Arundel County.

We were at a Chick-fil-A in Crofton.

IMG_20181027_184353_2

For some reason, retail establishments on hills that tower over the neighboring commercial landscape are amusing to me.

A few days ago, Mandy (I feel that enough time has gone by in this blog that I should start reintroducing people. Along with Bill, I consider Mandy to be my best friend. We have known of each other since elementary school and have been close friends since high school.) alerted me to Chick-fil-A testing out macaroni and cheese at select locations. The story about it listed some faraway places and, vaguely, Maryland.

I don’t eat a lot of carbs, but I love mac and cheese, mostly because it involves one of my favorite foods, cheese. Since moving away from home, Wawa has been my go-to for it because I can get it fast and it is a tolerable approximation. I wondered where it would rank in my “eh, this isn’t like from home, but this is fine” list.

I immediately told my wife, and Renée searched for locations in the state. I figured it would be in a well-populated area but just far away to not say it was in a large city.

I was spot on.

We joked about going.

Then, on Saturday, I didn’t have anything pressing to do.

“Wanna go to Maryland to get Chick-fil-A mac and cheese?”

So we did.

MVIMG_20181027_184840

It’s real.

Nearly three hours later (there was a wreck on Interstate 66, so we had to cut through Fairfax County on Braddock Road), we were there. I got a large, because one simply does not travel across state lines for food just to get a small.

It’s good.

Really good.

Surprisingly good.

Lately, I’ve been trying hard to not eat out that much. I fell back into the habit when we moved and didn’t buy groceries for about a week. But, if this gets expanded, I don’t feel like cooking and I don’t want to wait for a full-service home-style restaurant to serve it up, I’m there.

Being that this is a Georgia restaurant chain, it was very Southern. The cheese sauce had a rich creaminess that doesn’t come out of a box. There were bits of crust mixed in because it was finished in an oven either in-house or from wherever it was trucked in. (Proper mac and cheese goes in the oven for that crust. It didn’t have bread crumbs because that is venturing into full-on casserole territory. I would have been annoyed by that.)

I’m saying it: It tasted homemade. If someone brought it to a potluck, they could totally pass it off as their great-aunt’s recipe. Sure, you could get the same taste if you just pull out your great-aunt’s recipe or find a locally owned southern/soul food restaurant, but a place with a drive-through window pulled it off. That was the point of this trip: to see if a fast-food place can pull off what takes at least 40 minutes to prepare properly.

Also, it was an exercise in reminding ourselves that I almost always have weekends off now and the Baltimore-Washington metro area isn’t that far away.

By the way, The Lord’s Chicken did not pay for any of this. But, if you would like to give me money for eating things, I might consider it.

of a sofa and things

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Despite protestations from friends, I got the one that matched our dining room chairs.

I need to get back in the habit of posting more often.

So, I bought my first adult couch. It makes everything seem so weird now. I mean, we’ve had furniture before, but this makes it feel real. A friend donated our dining table and we bought chairs on a whim one day. The TV was a Christmas gift. Replacing the mattress didn’t feel like a milestone. But when the delivery men struggled to put this thing through my oddly shaped foyer, I said to myself, “Holy crap, I’m an adult.”

And then I inadvertently had caffeine that night and planned out all the other furniture I want to get.

It goes without saying that we are not moving out of this apartment anytime soon.

Anyway, we then had a staycation of sorts.

It wasn’t our intent. I need to burn 10 vacation days, and for some reason, we tried to plan out our vacation dates through texts and screwed up a little. I had plans to take my nephew on a college tour that Saturday and Renée thought she had an event to attend on Sunday. Instead, both things were canceled.

We got bored.

We drove to Washington, D.C.

The only thing we did there was let Missy out to pee on the National Mall.

The following day, we went to Winchester because, like me, Renée has a goal of seeing all of the regions of Virginia. I’ve been to 36 of the 38 current ones, and I’ll hit 37 next month. I’ll end this one day with Norton.

I’ll hit Covington because I intend on taking a road trip to Kansas to see my best friends, Mandy and Bill. Bill and Mandy’s husband, Mike, are stationed there, so I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’ve promised to visit both for years and never got around to it.

At the least, one of my fraternity brothers is going with me. I’m hoping for two. It’ll be Voyage XX, my 20th blog-worthy trip. I’ll hit 28 states. I’ll see the entire length of Interstate 64. I’ve been wanting to do that nearly my entire life.

I need to get around to getting my oil changed, brakes checked and making certain I won’t have a mechanical surprise in an exurb of Evansville, Illinois.

BUT,

Before we get to that, I’m seeing Death Cab for Cutie live tomorrow. I won’t wax poetic about it again.

ALSO,

I am officiating a wedding on Saturday. A friend’s officiant was unable to officiate, so I petitioned the courts one more time so I could do my second. I have about 1½ pages of things to say, because I am a good friend. I wind up editing it every time I look at it because it’s what I do. And because I’m a good friend.

A good friend who is coming to grips that, at some point he became an adult.

so long, sofa

So, I discovered that there’s a nearly six-minute version of the revamped Bob Newhart Show theme song, and it has been giving me life this week.

Especially in light of a death in my household.

20181004_014950

October 2015-October 2018

Our living room never grew up.

The living room at my first apartment in Richmond was a little tight, so a real couch would have been a bit much. Also, there was the whole question of getting it into the apartment.

Since I didn’t want to bother my friends with the whole “can you help me move my couch?” thing (again), we snagged this futon from Walmart one October night in 2015. It was comfy and had no real problems, so we never considered upgrading.

Well, once we got more space, I wanted an armchair, a new TV and a proper stand for it all, but there’s nothing truly wrong with what we have, so I never got around to it.

Well, now there’s something majorly wrong with the couch.

It was one of those things that you buy with the understanding that it’s going to fall apart in the stupidest way in a few years. I half-seriously said we had two moves before it broke.

We made it to two.

When I put it back together in March, I discovered that I was a little overzealous when I put it back together in the 2016 move, so the plywood that the screw went into came out with it when I disassembled it for the most recent move. Eventually, a brick partially supported the middle section.

And then some springs gave way on the left side.

And, tonight, total failure.

The two middle supports were the only things keeping the couch in one piece. The rear one failed, and I don’t have a second brick to prop it up. Additionally, it really needs more than two bricks to salvage it. So it shan’t be.

In the next 72 hours or so, I’m buying my first grownup couch (never mind the living room set I was given in 2006). I’m a little excited.

Except for the whole getting the couch into the apartment thing.

 

 

apartment ‘d’

This is perhaps the first time in the 14-year history of the viaduct that I’ve actively censored something. It’s because a situation like this never happened before, so I never set a policy.

So, my policy is this: I’ll censor images, because you can easily hide swear words if you’re reading this in mixed company.

That said, here’s what happened today:

I woke up to take Missy for her morning walk. and when I got to the landing, I noticed an object roughly between my door and the neighbors. What is was didn’t register for a second. I said to myself, “Is that a package?” I shit you not.

It was a package, all right.

It was … well … a martial aid.

Excuse me, sir, but are you lost?

And by “marital aid,” I mean “big, black dildo with a suction cup.”

My guesses are that he was not properly secured in a bag and fell out, someone thought it would be funny to put him anywhere in the complex or both.

I also got a suggestion that the only and most logical explanation is that it’s fraternity rush season. I don’t think any undergrads live this far away from Grounds, but if you’ve followed my life for any length of time, you know that stranger things have happened.

It could be a variation of the vintage TVs being left on Henrico County doorsteps. I am not making this up, and I hope this link is stable for a very long time.

After texting the uncensored photo to a lot of my friends (sorry, not sorry), I punted it down to the next landing.

Needless to say, I haven’t been able to take anything seriously today.

As of 7 p.m., he was still out there. It was getting dark then. I hope his owner finds him and gets him out of the cold and damp.

august

So, I didn’t write about what happened in August because too much happened in August, and I didn’t have time to catch my breath. I’m not even going to properly caption all the photos.

So, I left my old job and started my new one. I had to hit the ground running, and it’s been incredibly hectic, but I finally feel like my pay is equivalent to the amount of work I’m putting in, so it’s been great. I think things will work out very well.

Anyway, my first week culminated on the anniversary of Aug. 12 in Charlottesville.

Nothing truly violent happened this time around, but now there is an argument about how the police response was disproportionate  to compensate for the approach last year.

All I will say is that, from these pictures, I obviously was out there on the weekend because 1) it’s kinda my job and 2) I refuse to be afraid.

Anyway, while I was still trying to figure out things like where the bathrooms are, another week of work went down into the books, we set up some things, like having radio spots and then I took a trip with by brother Butler to the Danville area. We went to an event at Virginia International Raceway, but we got distracted by the AAF Tank Museum.

Butler works near a Lamborghini office, so we got VIP access. It was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done in my entire life.

After this, I felt like I was kinda getting the swing of things at work. We had a lot of breaking news, though (as a matter of fact, I need to do real work either later today or all day tomorrow — and I definitely have to do something tonight), but it’s been great to mostly have my weekends back again and not have the pressures of daily deadlines constantly hanging over my head. I mean, I have deadlines, but now the idea is to get the best and most accurate story out instead of the first. This has taken a great load of stress off me over the weekends and allows me to do things like go to my mom’s house, fire up the grill and play with my dog in her backyard.

And now, here we are: Labor Day weekend. August feels like it went by in the blink of an eye. I’m excited about getting more settled in my role at my new journalism job, having a better work-life balance and feeling more like a member of the community.

Friday night, I was on the Downtown Mall. There has been so much strife and unrest in our country over the past few years, but seeing it full of life and hosting a rally for the University of Virginia the night before its drubbing of the University of Richmond reminded me of what could be. Of what we hope will be.

moving in

I would show pictures of my new desk, but there’s a banner emblazoned with our name on one side of my desk and the sign on the glass behind my desk casts a shadow on my desk. Even without the photos, you’ll be able to figure out where I work within five seconds of searching on Google, but I want you to earn it.

And, obviously, my long-running blog (14 years!) is not affiliated with my job.

Anyway, I have nearly two full weeks of work left at my old newsroom. I went to my new place yesterday, where I got some questions answered and had some discussion of short- and long-range plans.

Additionally, I got my parking pass and my key.

I packed up most of my desk on Saturday because I didn’t want to do it with a lot of people about and I’d failed to realize it was my penultimate Saturday shift. For the longest time, I only had one or two personal effects on my desk. As I got older, I realized that it was kinda weird that I didn’t have pictures or other pieces of flair on my desk. Especially since there was a stretch when the only trinket on my desk was a mug with a photo of a former mayor of Hopewell on it.

She has a rose in her teeth.

Long story.

Today, I put my few trinkets on my new desk. Only my coffee mug and cell charger are at my old desk. When I finished, I sat alone there for a few minutes and let it all sink in.

It’s almost time for a new adventure.