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.


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.


I can't remember I took a photo this abstract

Exposed brick and hardwood floors.

So …


I’m going to be living in a converted warehouse in Manchester. Because I’m of course I am. I’ll be there in two weeks, but I’m officially counting things on Nov. 1.

The apartment has almost everything I’ve wanted in a place — exposed brick and hardwood floors. The only thing missing is a killer view. Our new place faces a light well. Whatever. The second I go outside, it’s a short walk to where I’ve taken most of my downtown skyline shots. And there’s a community terrace on our floor.

Why am I leaving Charlottesville, you ask? My wife got a new job in her field. The first reason is that I dragged her to Charlottesville, so it wouldn’t be right for me to make her commute all the way there. The second reason is why I moved to Richmond in the first place. I want to be there. A good chunk of my friends are there. At night and on the weekends, I’m already there.

I’ll be at home.

Back in September, I was pretty certain we were going before the end of the year. I even wrote an acrostic on it.

What’s an acrostic? Something that makes my inner English major hate you because you don’t know.




Here’s a bonus song. My favorite movement of a No BS! song starts about six minutes in. Their newest album comes out in November, and I’ve heard it. I think my new favorite song is on it.


So, I went to Washington the weekend before last.

I totally meant to write something about that, despite not doing anything particularly noteworthy, because this blog is often my auxiliary memory.

I spent most of the time within walking distance of this fiasco, because I meant Maryland when I said Washington. We were only in the District for a few hours. The main goal was to visit Jim, one of my friends from high school. I had planned to see more people, but we were bound to the Metro our first night there and it wasn’t a payday weekend for most of my friends.

It was entirely too late at night to be in that station

Judiciary Square

We went around downtown D.C. instead.

And I also sprained my ankle pretty bad.

The trip was the longest time I had been in The Old Line State since maybe 1997. And the longest time I’ve been in a fully urbanized area since maybe 2013. Richmond only sorta counts.

I miss large cities. I missed the consistent sidewalks, the tall buildings, the lighting, the grit, the stuff. Charlottesville seems entirely too small sometimes.

We are trying to get linked into the community more, though. We’re trying to go out on the town at least every other week. I try to accept every invitation to go out and do something, much like in Richmond.

It’s still no Richmond, though. Or D.C.

Or New York.

The countdown to my biggest New York trip has begun. It’s a real vacation. Now that I’m married, I actually take weeklong vacations that don’t solely involve sleeping or partying in as many cities as possible.

Although … maybe I’ll party in as many boroughs as possible?

Sounds like a plan.

the road is calling

Apparently, the official video for this cover is controversial. Whatever. People act like they’ve never been to a party like that before.

But I digress.

I need to take a road trip.

Never mind that I’m going to drive a carload of family to a very small town in eastern North Carolina in two weeks.

Never mind that I’m driving to Queens in two months.

I need to take a real road trip. The ones that are just me, my car and at least two mostly empty lanes of Virginia asphalt.

It’s how I relax. It’s how I think.

For some reason, it just doesn’t feel right here in Charlottesville. I think it’s the mountains.

I can say I’ve spent half my life driving. Most of that has been on the Atlantic coastal plain or the Piedmont. The mountains are beautiful, but it doesn’t beat heading through undulating fields in southwestern Chesterfield County or cruising along an estuary in Essex County. As much as I’ve traveled, I hate that it’s been mostly the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. I can’t say “After driving in Montana and Arizona and along the coast of Maine, I love eastern Virginia back roads best.” All I can say is “After slogging down every congested BosWash highway and byway, the Appalachian spine and the broad plains of the South, I love eastern Virginia back roads best.”

I sometimes feel that limitation makes my self-pleasure driving biased to my hometown of Virginia’s Urban Crescent. But, then again, of course they are my roads to rumination. I was born and raised on U.S. 17 between York County and Port Royal; I learned what I was made of on Foursquare Road in Isle of Wright County; Route 5 between Monticello Avenue and the Osborne turnpikes is one of my favorite things.

I used to (and still) disparage people who never left my hometown. I give people a pass if they at least go to college somewhere else or get a job somewhere else then come back. That said, I think I want to come back. Not to Hampton Roads, but to my part of Virginia. The cultural Central Virginia, not the geographic one.

After three years, I’m still homesick for Richmond and running down Route 10 to get to my mom’s house by way of Hopewell. I feel lame because of it. Not including summering in Maryland and the nearly three years in Charlottesville, I’ve spent all but six months of my life living within the roughly 75 miles between Hampton and Richmond. And that’s where I want to be.

Richmond did something to me. I made itself feel like home, even more than my hometown. Even my physical home. I once said that my house atop Chimborazo felt more like home than my mother’s house. I can’t shake whatever spell that land along the fall line has on me. I think I miss being far enough away that I can live my life but close enough that I can be within the bosom of my family within an hour.

I guess that’s part of the rationale of some of my family moving to a very small town in eastern North Carolina.

I miss everyone.

My schedule should be changing to something more conducive to seeing people. Perhaps that will help.

Until then, screw the adage: I want to go home. I just have to find a way back there.

Said I’d return if I’d ever cared

But there’s no interstate I find to take me there

To take me there …

‘imagine your worst nightmare times 15’

Because of the Super Bowl, and “All N My Grill” being in my head for about six months, I grabbed Missy’s first two albums when I went to my mom’s house last week. I have a spindle with some hip-hop and R&B albums I “retired” from my collection after my tastes changed began drifting away from what I considered my jams back in middle and high school, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been reclaiming albums as of late. I’ve been chalking it up trying to cling to my youth after a few years of being well on the wrong side of 25 and attempting to right the wrong of abandoning entire genres of music because I was becoming “educated” and “cultured.”

Thursday afternoon, I finally got around to popping in Da Real World and it wouldn’t play. I was adamant that it wasn’t scratched, so naturally, I started cursing at Nicole’s radio, which I plan on replacing within the next 12 months anyway. I finally inspected it to discover that there was some schmutz on it so I licked my finger and wiped it off, because I’m a grownup now. About a decade ago, I would have licked the entire CD. I was almost at work at that point, so I decided to wait until after work to give it an official spin.

I took a different route home than normal, and I’ve completely forgotten the track order, so the string sample I was looking for started (about 45 second into the video at the head of this entry) when I was less than half a mile from my house. I decided that I’d ride around until the song was over, which led me to 10th Street Northeast and East Market at about 11:30 p.m. While I was waiting for the light to change, a disheveled young man clad in a superb blue blazer, a bow tie, boat shoes, khakis — you know, the whole nine yards — started crossing the street to where there was no sidewalk.

“Where the hell is that UVa student going?” I asked myself as I realized he was walking to my car.

It happens a lot. I have a black Nissan Altima, a.k.a. the black Lincoln Town Car private taxi of the teens. I’ve largely stopped driving down Water Street on weekends, because every time my car is stopped for any reason by the Downtown Mall, I get hailed. There’s been more than one occasion that a drunk person has tried to get in. I’m glad my doors lock automatically.

I turned the music down (I didn’t want to because ALL N MY GRILL) and was about to tell him I wasn’t a taxi when I saw that he was more distraught than disheveled.

“How close am I to the Corner?” he asked.

The Corner, the restaurant-retail strip on University Avenue opposite the University of Virginia, unofficially begins at 14th Street Northwest. The grid starts over downtown, and I’ve long suspected that some wayward UVa students see the numbers going up regardless of which direction they go on Main Street and assume they’re heading the right way until they reach worst combination of them all: dark and unfamiliar.

“Dear God, that’s like two miles that way,” I replied, pointing west.

“Isn’t it just another left up here?” He was standing by the front passenger-side door. I could smell the booze on him.

“No, you keep going that way and you end up at the river.”

“Oh my God, how did I get this far?” In an apologetic way, he eventually asked if I could drive him to the Corner.

I cleared off the stuff I piled in the seat and told him to get in. I wasn’t worried as was obviously a student, waifish it wasn’t the first time I’ve given a stranger a ride since I’ve had my license.

My wife is going to yell at me about that.

I headed down Water and the student mentioned that the Corner was just to the left, which would have been his right a few moments before when he said it was another left. At this point, “left” was the railroad tracks and the Belmont-adjacent neighborhood that has been renamed the Strategic Investment Area because it’s about to be gentrified by way of bulldozer.

I pointed out that we were passing the bus station and the Downtown Mall was to our right. He calmly freaked out while texting. He told me he though he was on his way to a friend’s place in the Flats @ [sic] West Village. I asked if he wanted to be dropped off there, but he was adamant about going to the area of the Jimmy John’s on the ground floor of what is about to be The Graduate Hotel.

“This is bad. I’m not even that drunk. This has been a bad year.”

“What’s been going on with you?” My first thought was that I had a suicidal student on my hands.

“It’s been a bad year,” he repeated. “You know, with everything that happened. I live in Kellogg. Hannah lived with us.”

He was referring to Hannah Graham, a second-year UVa student who authorities say was abducted and murdered by Jesse Matthew Jr. after wandering from the Corner area to the Downtown Mall a few months back.

“They never gave us all counseling, just the people who lived with her and her friends,” he continued. “We were just … we needed someone. … They never told us how to get back and now here I am. Thank you for taking me back.”

“No problem. It happens. If I had a dollar for every time I wondered how I got back to my place in college …”

“No, this is really bad. Oh God, I know where I am now. I was so far off. … You’re not a taxi, are you?”

“No, I work at the paper, I was on my way home from the newsroom and just happened to take the long way.”

“Oh God, that’s even worse. This is a nightmare. Imagine your worst nightmare times 15. That stuff happens with Hannah and I have to get a ride back to the Corner … no offense.”

None taken.

I pulled over at a loading zone on Main between 13th and 14th Northwest. I asked if he was going to be OK. He said he was going to be fine now that he was back, apologized again and insisted on giving me his last three bucks. He eventually headed into the 24-hour convenience store on the block tapping away on his phone. There were some cops nearby. I hoped he’d be OK and set off for home.

I’ve been home about two hours now. Although I’m certain one of his texts before he got out of the car was “He dropped me off near Boylan,” I’m a little worried. I also feel a little queasy.

If I had a dollar for every time in college I’ve wondered where I was or barely know how I got home, I’d be a wealthy man. I wandered around Savannah, Georgia, drunk and alone about seven years ago. It was my first time there. It wasn’t a problem.

Nine times out of 10 nothing bad happens. Drunk twentysomething Elliott wandered home or back to where he was staying. Sober thirtysomething Elliott drives Drunk UVa student back to UVa Adjacent.


I now really, really want Charlottesville to rename the northeast numbered streets.

I can’t stop thinking about what could have happened to that kid if I didn’t want to hear some Missy. I can’t stop thinking about how numbered streets ascending in both directions in an entertainment district could lead to huge problems. I can’t stop thinking about how something as simple as NE or NW on a street sign might have contributed to Hannah Graham’s demise.

I’m sure that guy’s vomiting into a friend’s toilet right about now or will be in about eight hours, but I’m still fretting a little. We don’t think about the consequences of something bad happening when we’re wastefaced when we’re feeling invincible in our undergraduate years. I guess I’m concerned because of all the “Dude, you were so drunk and stupid” dollars I would have amassed from my time at Christopher Newport University.

When I posted the abridged version of this on Facebook, one of the comments was, “You’re officially a grownup.”

I guess I am.

Stay safe out there.

1800: snow

We got a pretty big snowfall this week. Like, it was 50 degrees today, but roads still needed to be plowed big.

It started Wednesday night, so we set up contingencies. I got off work early and the brunt of it hit when Renée got off work, so I hunkered down at home and she got a room at work. Since it started snowing before I got home (it began earlier than forecast), I left my car uphill and around the corner, as to not have a repeat of a month ago in a rental car.

Oh, have I mentioned that we are less than 7 days from me not having my car for 30 days? For a simple minor accident?

At 10 p.m., it looked like this

It was bad, but not really bad.

It was bad, but not really bad.

Then, when I opened the door at 8 a.m. Thursday, it looked like this.

Well, shit. Where's that snow shovel I bought last year?

Well, shit. Where’s that snow shovel I bought last year?

I had to work Thursday, so I got a ride in. The snow had stopped but the road I parked on and my street are down the list of roads to be plowed, although I’m less than a block from a road that’s near the top of the list. Also, I’ve heard that a stretch of my street is private and got incorporated into the city system by accident at some point in history. This information came from an article, so I wondered if that was why nothing got done to it officially until late today.

I got home fairly early Thursday. It was still snowing then. Although I knew I couldn’t get out, I decided to make an attempt to get the foot of snow of the frickin’ Prius. I knew it was forecast to be quite warm today, so I got myself a head start.

This is how it looked before I got the snow off the car and the people on the street started doing what they could to reopen the street in lieu of plows.

I could have driven Nicole out of this. If I cut the wheel harder and gunned the engine, I wouldn't have hit that pole. Also, If I weren't on the street I was on, I wouldn't have hit that pole.

I could have driven Nicole out of this. If I cut the wheel harder and gunned the engine, I wouldn’t have hit that pole. Also, If I weren’t on the street I was on, I wouldn’t have hit that pole.

While I was shoveling, I was greeted by a motley crew who lived in the house I parked in front of. They offered to completely dig me out, but I declined because there was no point. Then they offered to let me warm up inside, which was awesome.

Of course I know people who know them. Did I need to mention that?

I made new friends, stayed for a few hours then wandered back downhill. Not long after that, I got a text from a stir-crazy Renée: The snow had stopped. She could not stay snowed in at work anymore. Although I couldn’t get her, she was going home.

I opened the front door at nearly midnight to see her walking up the street, as the coworker who drove her across town knew the vehicle couldn’t get to our door.

This morning, it shot up to the upper 40s/low 50s, so I figured it was time to dig out. I got out successfully, got to UVa and then parked back in my spot around the corner whilst I carved out a space for myself in front of the house. After that, I helped my new friends dig out their sidewalk and we became Facebook official. After that, I helped a stuck woman with two small children then took a walk. Because the last 24 hours of so have made me feel like a badass. Especially all of the walking uphill and downhill.

And now I’m sore. So, so sore.

If anything, this minor disaster got neighbors talking and working together. That’s what a community is. It’s a little ridiculous that we’ve gone a year and some change without really making friends here, but our schedules make it tough. At least this snowfall seems to have a bright side.