i should have started earlier

City Middle has been in my head for a good chunk of the week. I had a dream in which this song came on the radio while Karen was driving me somewhere. Karen was not amused because the timing was perfect in the dream: I had $500 in twenties and I was on a good mixture.

Most likely, it will be after midnight before this entry posts. I haven’t gone to bed yet, so I’m going to follow my rule of it’s not the next day until I go to bed. And ensuring that I have a post on Friday and Saturday indeed is going to be a little tricky. More on that later.

Anyway, it’s been a long day. I scheduled an oil change well before I knew what was going to happen today because, for some reason, I had some difficulty finding a place that could squeeze me in.

I barely got my car there on time because it was in a part of the Charlottesville area with a severe traffic problem because people decades ago decided to put a commercial and residential strip on the side of a mountain across the river from the rest of the urban area. That meant that I couldn’t attend an event in my own building. It’s something we’ll eventually get back to when we back to being fully staffed.

From there, I had to hitch a ride to do my weekly radio segment. For the past few months, we’ve been doing recaps of our news coverage on one of the local radio stations. I never had any intention to go into any sort of broadcast journalism, but here we are.

By the time that and lunch were over, my car was ready. But it was time to do my newsroom meeting and our larger staff meeting. And then there was another meeting I nearly forgot about during a time in which I’d hoped to go home for a bit because I’d been waiting for a piece of mail.

Instead, I picked up my car at about 5 p.m. and it took me 20 minutes to take what should have been a five-minute trip. I wasn’t ‘going to be bothered with going home at that point, although I technically had downtime, because then there was a school board meeting to cover at 6:30.

Have I mentioned that I can’t wait for us to be fully staffed again?

I intended to cook dinner tonight, but I was over today. I ordered a pizza from the front row of the school board meeting and got home around 9. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been at work for about 10 hours this week.

I can’t wait for Monday to get here. Technically, we’ll be fully staffed again.

I’m celebrating by going to Raleigh this weekend to see Falyn. I’ve felt bad about not seeing her because I’ve seen her brother-in-law and her parents more than her in the past few years. I kept saying she was in Chapel Hill because that metro area has three prominent localities no more than 30 miles apart and I grew up in Hampton Roads, which has seven cities spread over an area the size of Rhode Island.

I was going to drive, but Renée wants to do something in Chapel Hill, because I kept saying Chapel Hill, and I get unnecessarily weird about having to readjust my seats and mirrors whenever someone drives my car. (I’m that way because the only time I was at fault in a two-vehicle collision was when my mirrors weren’t quite right after my mom drove Simone when I was about 19 and I rear-ended a truck while I was trying to fix them.)

Thirteen years

Now I want to hear more 1980s songs with the original vocals over updated arrangements.

We have reached the point that my first day working in Petersburg seems like a long time ago. I visited the newsroom about a year ago, but looking at it from the outside on Sunday and pointing out the conference room, the sports department, the publisher’s office, the window behind my desk felt like it was the first time in ages. It might have been that the city has finally reached a point in its slow revitalization that things were markedly different in some places. It might have been that I’ve officially been away from the Tri-Cities for more years than I’ve been there.

After stopping at that newsroom, I rode to Hopewell by way of my old house in the far western end of that city. I honestly haven’t been past that house in nearly a decade. Although I was there 1½ years, once the longest time I was at one address that wasn’t my mom’s house, I don’t have a great attachment to that building. I’d forgotten the name of the street that led to mine. I (correctly) guessed that it was the right turn. In all honesty, I all but stopped living there long before I moved out. And I had moved out before I started working in Hopewell.

And then I got to the corpse of the Hopewell News.

Anyone got $595,000 I can have?
I inadvertently uploaded an greyscale version. I feel that it works in this situation.

It still makes me sad to see 516 E. Randolph Road boarded up. But we had a good run. We kicked ass when I was editor there. As I’ve said repeatedly, I wish I could do it again knowing what I do now, but I don’t regret a single thing we did there.

And most of the newsroom staff when it closed now works at papers with the same coverage area that operate out of my old Petersburg newsroom. If things went a different way, I would have left that newsroom just to wind up in it again.

Hopewell has changed for the better, too. That made me happier than Petersburg’s upswing because, although our coverage was a little aggressive and probably more critical at times than it should have been, I was rooting for that little industrial city the whole time I was there. And beyond.

On the way back to Charlottesville, we rode through Richmond to view the skyline. It’s no New York, but it’s a close as one can get in Virginia. Renée misses Richmond a bit, but I honestly don’t miss the Tri-Cities or Richmond. And I hate that. I’m sure we’ll wind up in a city again — it’ll be a while because I genuinely like the direction my current job is going — but I’m sure it won’t be Richmond. We’ve grown apart.

I just looked back at some of my previous March 13 entries in the hopes there was something profound worth revisiting. No, unfortunately.

Well, last year was the first time that it felt like Petersburg felt like forever ago. Those memories of the year I was living in an apartment in Walnut Hill and also the memories of zooming up River Road for nearly two years to my house in Hopewell are beginning to fade. I briefly got lost in Chesterfield County while taking back roads to Petersburg I used to take often. I had forgotten about a faster route to City Point from the Hopewell News.

But a few names and events from 2006 to 2008, my make-or-break years as a journalist, still stick out. A lot of them were good ones. I hope they stick around for a while longer.

Of course they will. They’re people and places that touched me so deeply, I’ll never forget them. I’ll carry the Cockade City and the Wonder City with me wherever I go.

And I’m glad that I’m able to.

oops

I could listen to this on repeat for hours.

I totally forgot to to update this for nearly a month, which is a shame because that defeats the purpose of this. I initially intended this to be an external memory. It’s been good to be able to look back to June 2007 and know with some degree of detail of what I did that month. (You can’t see what I did in June 2007 because I’ve cut off back entries from public view for myriad reasons.)

I mean, since I last posted, I went to Petersburg and Hopewell to mark 13 years in journalism. (The anniversary is Wednesday, and I’ll get to that in a second.) I also went to Lynchburg for no reason. My nephew got into CNU, I’m on a panel for an upcoming conference and my small newsroom is going to be slightly less small very soon. All of those should have been blog entries.

I’ve noticed that, since my workload dropped dramatically in August and I feel adequately compensated for the amount of work I do, I’ve done a lot less once I get home. I have laundry I have not yet put away. I watch more TV. I have books that have not been read.

I think I’ve gone a little bit overboard with experiencing free time because its been so long since I truly had it. I used to do things in my downtime when I didn’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about work. After six years of being unable to take trips or hang out with people while living up to an hour away from some of my closest friends, I just don’t know what to do with myself beyond not doing anything with myself.

What I’m proposing to myself is this: Including this weekend, which should include a trip to visit friends, I’m going to post something every day from March 13 to April 12. I’m hoping this gets me back into writing beyond work.

March 13, as I mentioned earlier starts my 13th year in professional journalism. March 13 marked when this blog went from being about a college student to one about a young adult with a career.

Someone recently asked me what I did in my free time, and I didn’t know what to say. My answer to what I did for a living and what I did in my free time used to be “I write.” I want to be able to say that again.

homeward bound

People Just Do Nothing secretly is favorite show.

I totally thought I recounted my trip to Maryland two weeks ago. To make a long story short, on Friday I got stuck in traffic, got caught in a small snowstorm and I had a hard time concentrating on doing work in a Starbucks when everything went down in Richmond the second I crossed the Potomac River. The following day, I went to Fairfax, where I hung out with three fraternity brothers. That Sunday, I got from there to Albemarle County in about 1:40, so there’s really no excuse for me not to visit people in NOVA more often or for them to come visit me. (And I know I’m really bad at going to Richmond, but I feel that it’s too close for me to crash overnight but too far for me to run down for a day and come back in the middle of the night.)

Now, on to this past week, which took some unexpected turns toward the end.

In honor of Black History Month, I named her Ida Bunny Wells.

On Wednesday, I pulled into the parking garage and spotted this little creature in a space near where I was going to park. I have a soft spot for stuffed animals — the one I received the day I was born is safely hidden in my mother’s house — so I decided to save it from being squished by a minivan.

I took it with me to work, snapped this photo of it and tweeted out that some kid’s lost bunny was safe and sound in my newsroom.

It went mini-viral.

Two days later, after prominent locals, regular folk and people from far-flung areas liked or retweeted it, a local TV station that had a slot open for a feel-good Friday story slid into my DMs to ask if I’d be willing to go on the air about the lost bunny.

I wanted to get this rabbit home, and my ulterior motive for this whole thing was to put the community in community journalism, so I agreed.

Aside: I’m sure we’re all will forget what DM stood for at some point in the distant future, and I can’t wait to look back at this fondly like posts from more than a decade ago that mentioned AIM.

They didn’t mention my job description, so I cropped out the channel. Because I’m petty.

So, a week that began with people being interviewed for a opening in my newsroom and also for summer internships concluded with me being an Area Man with a small-town story on the Six O’Clock news.

It made up for the cancellation of a civic engagement conference on Saturday due to a lack of interest. A part of it was to feature me as a part of a panel. I was looking forward to that. (It’s partially because I wanted to see if I could speak to a large group again without going into far too much detail about a double homicide. I did that once to a group of Virginia State University students about a decade ago. Needless to say, the offer to build a partnership there was never heard from again.

Anyway, although it partially was intended to be a way to get my publication noticed beyond my live tweets of municipal meetings, this segment showed that one of the local news editors really wants to get a kid reunited with a stuffed animal. That’s all that really matters. If a kid’s buddy goes missing, any adult worth a damn should pull out all the stops get it back to the kid. If we can’t at least do that as a community, we aren’t a community.

run-on sentences

If someone makes a biopic of me, and doesn’t mind the songs being anachronistic, I want this to be the music for 2002.

Last week, I spent my bonus day off (I’m now at three weeks and a day of vacation) on taking my nephew on a college tour at CNU. Earlier, my mom suggested that I just pick a random Saturday or something and give the tour myself. I didn’t register to her that in the roughly 13 years since I graduated, nearly every building that was there has been demolished.

I still got to embarrass him and his sister, though.

When we got to the admissions office, I yelled. The receptionist, Donna, still was there. She ran over and gave me a hug. And then Michael and Shonda got them, too. After we spent some time catching up, we started our tour.

The format completely changed. There’s now a video and a PowerPoint. The presenter even mentioned how the school is proud of how Trible wiped away effectively every vestige of the Japanese-themed architecture that dominated the campus due to a hefty donation from Canon during the college’s early days.

The tour only pointed out

  • the Freeman Center, our gym (which is now also the new home of Gaines Theater);
  • the Trible Library (somewhere in there is structural steel from the Capt. John Smith Library, and that’s the only thing that keeps me from being terminally angry about it);
  • York River Hall, the newest freshman-only dorm, if I’m not mistaken;
  • the Student Union, which opened right after I officially left but was still involved with The Captain’s Log and my fraternity, so it’s the only new building I know; and
  • Luter Hall, one of the academic buildings.

I was a little surprised by how short the actual tour part of the tour was was. In my day, we at least pointed to every building. Sure, they did point to Hiden-Hussey Commons, but said nothing about Santoro of James River, barely touched on East Campus, said nothing about Potomac River Hall and I guess it really makes sense to not bother with upperclassmen dorms on a freshman tour. But at least go inside New McMurran and Forbes. I also wanted to see that weird addition-not addition to James River Hall and the one spot on campus that still looks the way it did in the second half of my college career. (A tree and a sculpture were removed from the Santoro courtyard, so I can’t truly say that looks like it did in 2001.)

I got to see my former boss, Angela, before we left. We also spoke in animated tones in front of Michael and Shonda.

When we headed home, I did point out a few things.

I drove past Ratcliffe Hall, which is now an athletic center and server room. I first met Renée there in January 2002.

Finally, I wound my way through the Hidenwood neighborhood, making remarks about how I can’t believe I used to bike about two miles back and forth to class for a full semester because I didn’t want to buy a parking decal, and drove past my old fraternity house on Deep Creek Road.

The building renovations finally have been completed, and it looks decent. I wish I could have gone in.

If I were younger, I probably would have anyway.

Overall, it was great to be back. Michael is interested in band, and got a separate tour of the Ferg and met a staff member with the band department. I think he wants to go there. I’d jump to the opportunity to be there with him for Freshman Move-In.

Although so much had changed, CNU felt like home. I through about all the antics I had there, like allegedly putting soap in the geese fountain now next to the chapel and mattress jousting on the Great Lawn and the Slam ‘N’ Jam and the parties and the late nights at the paper and the friendships I made nearly 18 years ago that persist to this day. Christopher Newport University set me down the path I’m on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope Michael eventually gets to say the same thing.

my dog has cost me $60


I stumbled across Sneaks a few hours ago, and now I can’t wait for her third album to drop on Friday.

We weren’t even in this apartment a full day when Missy stuck her entire head through the blinds. Although our apartment has windows that nearly stretch from the floor to the ceiling (6-foot windows and 8-foot ceilings, which is the lowest ceiling I’ve had since 2015), we hadn’t considered her doing that. But she did, breaking the corner of about two slats in both bedrooms because they face the parking lot. We decided that we had to stack things in front of some of the windows and raise the blinds slightly on the windows where blocking them was impractical. This, of course has two down sides: I can’t really open and close the blinds how I’d like and anyone behind our apartment can look into our living room and kitchen.

As for the broken blinds, there were near the bottom, as that’s where Missy’s head was, and the missing pieces were not entirely noticeable, in my opinion. I decided that I’d either replace them before we moved out or when they told us to fix them.

Fast forward nearly a year. The blinds in our bedroom had been fully raised since the summer when our air conditioner momentarily conked out and we had to open the window. The spare bedroom’s blinds were up a bit just like the ones in the living room and kitchen, as it’s mostly my closet.

Then we got a note that generically said to lower or replace the blinds within five days or we’d be charged $50 each to replace them.

I already was having a bad day, so that was one of the last things I needed to see. I angrily lowered the blinds — because I get them wanting the windows to look uniform and it probably was in the lease, but screw you for being aggro about it and not policing it for 10 month — and swore about it the whole time. And then, as the blinds hit the windowsill, I was reminded that Missy broke them slightly.

Since inspecting for blinds compliance suddenly is a thing now, it was time to buy blinds for like $10.

Easier said than done.

Remember how I said that the windows are nearly floor-to-ceiling? The closest place that had blinds that spanned that height was across Afton Mountain. No one within 30 miles had blinds the dimension of the master bedroom window, about 50 inches by 72 inches, and ordering them meant they would arrive past the deadline. Or I could get fancy wood ones that cost $50 anyway.

I decided to buy the one for the smaller window and deal with the consequences of the other. I also tried very hard to not be mad at Missy because she didn’t know what she was doing and we should have assumed she would trip to get her face as close to the glass as possible, even if the blinds were open. I got over it, but later that night I needed to be by myself for a while.

I measured the window several times and read on every store website that blinds are a little shorter than the window measurement so they actually fit. And then I discovered that blinds come in nearly width imaginable. I consistently got 35 inches when I measured the window. Never mind that there also were 34-inch and 34½-inch blinds. In retrospect, I should have measured the blinds themselves.

WHY CAN’T WINDOWS HAVE STANDARD SIZES?

I went with 35 inches and headed to Waynesboro.

When I got back, I discovered that the blinds were just barely too large. Like millimeters. I tried forcing it, but it didn’t work.

Remember that already being a bad day? I wasn’t about to drive across a mountain to return those. I threw the blinds to the ground in frustration, sent Renée $50, since I decided we’d pay for one each, and put in a borderline aggressive work order for them to come replace the stupid blinds for their exorbitant deterrence fee. I’m surprised I didn’t curse in it.

Currently, there are things stacked up in front of all six windows in this apartment. If you come visit, now you know why. Missy can’t look out, and now I don’t have a desire to have natural light in here sometimes. Maintenance is coming in at some point Tuesday to measure the windows. If I’m home at the time, I’ll suggest the 34½-inch blinds for the spare room.

déjà vu

Brand new truck, butter-soft seats …

I’ve been on a Tribe kick since going to Queens. After The Roots, it’s my favorite hip-hop group. I remember where I was the first time I heard Award Tour when I was a kid. I used to know all the words to Scenario, and that started because I was not expecting to hear RAWR, RWAR LIKE A DUNGEON DRAGON come out of Busta Rhyme’s mouth. Remembering when my mom tried to rap along to Electric Relaxation, I guess in an attempt to prove that she still was hip, still makes me cringe. (But not as bad as when she used “Chiggity check yourself before you wreck yourself!” as a catchphrase.)

Anyway, so when Tribe broke up and Q-Tip released his first solo album, I got Amplified as soon as it came out.

When I got to Let’s Ride, I paused. I had heard that beat before. And it wasn’t because I had heard Joe Pass’ play Giant Steps.

Wait for it.

When I was younger, I often would experience déjà vu. Anther one that really freaked me out was when I was in Model United Nations. I was sitting across from a kid with a distinctly odd-looking face, and I had had visions of sitting across from a kid in a suit with an odd-looking face for years.

But, when I was in my bedroom in 1999, I envisioned being in the back of a car in a large city while Let’s Ride played.

In early 2000, I attended the National Young Leader’s Conference. I learned a lot of things that week, one of which being that definitely did not want to be a politician. I wanted to be one of the people who brought them down. Another thing I learned was that Washington, D.C., was where my “This is a moment where I’ll hear this song” feeling came from.

I took the train there and got a ride from my brother-in-law’s brother to where I was staying. My departure time didn’t mesh up with him driving me back to Union Station, so I got a cab. Before the cab arrived, I had put Amplified in my portable CD player, as was the way in ye olde days. Let’s Ride is like 15 minutes into the album, and I had been more or less alternating between it and Things Fall Apart (I considered myself to be a backpacker at this point in my life, so I was having a little crisis about You Got Me blowing up), so I wasn’t planning on this matching with anything. I just decided that I wanted to start my trip home with Kamaal Fareed.

Somewhere along the trip, that moment that matched with the first time I heard the song happened.

I mention this because of three things. On my road trip to Kansas, Brandon brought up the night I had when I started earning the nickname Epic. My car was in Newport News. My last memory was in Norfolk. I woke up in my childhood bedroom. I no longer lived there and, thankfully, my mom and grandmother were not home that night. As absolutely no one I know has any idea what I did (I disappeared from a party, I can’t recall how or why I went to Norfolk and have no idea how I got back to the Peninsula), the conjecture is that I died and simply respawned. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, I’ve had many, many times that involve moments where I don’t understand how I did not die, so it’s plausible that I know all the save points and cheat codes.

The other reason why I bring this up is because I had a very brief déjà vu moment in the hotel room in New York. It doesn’t happen to me as much anymore, so it sticks out that I experienced something that I swore I experienced before.

Years ago, the subtitle to the viaduct was “hoping the road of life isn’t a beltway.” I was because I was starting to have a suspicion that things sometimes felt familiar because this is the Matrix and I’m starting to remember looping through this. I have another instance where a former coworker can tell you that I completely predicted the person in the lobby waiting for him.

“He’s going to have some weird, giant sore [on his waist] that he’s going to show you because he thinks the hospital screwed up,” I said.

When Fred came back up from the lobby, he started swearing at me because I set him up. I did no such thing. I just … knew.

Where the hell’s this when the Mega Millions is obscenely large?

The third reason why I brought this all up is because I love looking up the origin of song samples. It’s why I listen to such weird music. I heard that one passage in a song that was a part of the backbone of 2001 and, the next thing I know, I’m grooving on an entire album of 1970s Icelandic acid jazz.

For some reason, I never searched for where J Dilla got that guitar loop until the Tribe pilgrimage. This album is pretty frickin’ cool.

starting the year off with a bang 2: electric boogaloo

Relax yourself, girl, please settle down.

Absolute, throbbing, searing pain for which there is no succor. That is what I felt on New Year’s Day after I decided to walk off the mild discomfort I felt in my foot the day before. I slept on my stomach with my right foot at a funny angle while my dog slept on said foot for nearly the entire duration because she likes sleeping near my feet. I woke up to a swollen foot. I couldn’t put any weight on it. Moving it was the worst sensation I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve had three invasive surgeries and fell off a bicycle face-first.

I have no idea how I would have operated a car, but my wife had to stop me from driving myself to urgent care while I was nearly rationalizing amputation. I thought about people who have chronic pain, get increasingly potent opioids and wind up being addicted a but still in pain as their tolerance rises. I’m not 100 percent certain I would not have turned down meth at this point.

If I can property brace or prepare for it, I can hide being excited or in pain. That came in handy when I am absolutely certain I broke my arm or elbow in elementary school doing something I was explicitly told not to do. I am lucky that 1) my parents did not notice and 2) I can fully extend my left arm. When I finally got seen at urgent care, I was asked where my pain was on a scale of 1-10, I said 8½. I’m sure no one believed me. But I was extremely close to wailing. I now know I will wail at 9, and 10 probably will cause me to unleash a torrent of expletives that would cause Rudy Ray Moore to rise from the dead to give me a round of applause.

I honestly was shocked when they said I hadn’t broken anything.

I was equally shocked that I wasn’t given any pain pills. Instead, I was given a corticosteroid for the inflammation and antibiotics because one of the side effect would be a weakening of my immune system. The swelling and pain went down to tolerable levels almost immediately, and I’ve gone from crutches to a cane to walking gingerly to nearly walking normally as of 2:25 a.m. Saturday.

I won’t be re-enacting the Now That We Found Love video anytime soon, though.

And I’m going to be move cognizant of where Missy is in the bed each night.

Have we really gone 28 years without discussing the dude dancing in the clear jumpsuit with just his draws on?