Ever since 2004, I’ve picked The Post of the Year. I’m not doing that this year. A lot of the themes I made up felt forced over the years, so I stopped doing them. That’s why I didn’t take photos every day in March. Or picked my favorite ’80s songs in April. It’s also partially why I didn’t pick back up with going through the box of albums my mom gave me (I actually did this one on Facebook, so I will finish it here at some point).
I didn’t write a lot of posts this year. I also got hilariously behind on chronicling things that happened in my life. For Christmas, I got a fancy leather-bound journal and pen set that I’m going to use to take field notes when I go on trips. That won’t solve the problem of getting those things onto the blog, but it’s a start.
I think the main reason why I don’t want to pick a post of the year is because the pool is so small. I think, if this were reader’s choice, this one would be the post of the year. Because of my internal criteria, I would argue instead that the one I just wrote is the Post of the Year.
If I can get my next post up before the first, I’ll compare the three and continue the tradition.
Two trains go directly between Charlottesville, which is station CVS, and NYP, Penn Station. I picked the wrong one. Well, it was beyond my control, because I had to be at New York University at 2:30 and the Crescent arrived at 1:46 p.m. and the Northeast Regional arrived at 3:20.
I did not get to the basement of Madison Square Garden until 3:36 p.m. I arrived at my 2:30 appointment at 3:45.
This was a business trip. Since it was in Manhattan, we figured any mode of transportation would have been better than driving. Flying seemed a little too expensive for a day trip, and I’m trying to avoid going to the Port Authority Bus Terminal again.
The problems began even before I officially left. The Crescent gets tied up with freight traffic before it gets to Virginia, so instead of leaving at 7:09, we left at about 8 o’clock. The Northeast Regional leaves Charlottesville at 8:53.
I don’t know we still wound up arriving after the Northeast Regional is scheduled to get to Penn Station. For all I know, it passed us at some point. Or it wound up being pretty close behind us. Or the entire passenger rail system went to crap on the day of my hometown’s 409th anniversary, July 9.
My boss and I caught the very end of the meeting before I changed into my suit (I brought a linen suit with me for that meeting, and I was going to wear it, damn it) in a restroom before the post-meeting reception.
Then we checked into our hotel room. At first, they tried to claim that we only purchased one hotel room. When they realized that mistake, they blamed it on the internet that didn’t work and it couldn’t be fixed until the next day because they “needed a part.”
WE ARE ON THE ISLAND OF MANHATTAN. IF YOU CAN’T GET A “PART” TO FIX THE INTERNET IN YOUR HOTEL WITHIN AN HOUR, WELL, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY.
After we went to our, thankfully, separate hotel rooms, we decided to just have a night out, since we couldn’t do work on a Tuesday. Good thing I didn’t have something crucial to edit. Oh. Wait.
Much like that terrible Myrtle Beach restaurant, I’m not naming the hotel.
We got dinner at Szechuan Mountain House, which mostly was delicious. I got a dish with cony meat. I had hoped it would be a grouper and not a lagomorph. It was a lagomorph, and some of the pieces of meat had tiny bones. After a while, it became hard to eat. The seasonings and everything else were fantastic. I would go again and do a better job of picking a dish.
Afterward, we walked around Alphabet City a bit. My boss lived there for a while and talked about things had have changed since he was there. We stopped at Ace Bar for a while, where we did not play any games (despite that being why we went there). Afterward, we stopped at Paper Daisy, where I had a dinner without bones. Then we got separated after ordering late-night shawarma from I don’t know where (and Google doesn’t either). It was on Allen Street. That’s all I know.
On Wednesday, I scheduled meeting one of Renée’s aunts at 1 p.m. because I left LSW9 there when we made a quick trip up to celebrate another aunt’s birthday in June. After needed coffee at The Bean and more Mediterranean food at Mamoun’s, we walked over to Sixth so our Lyft driver would have an easy time getting to Penn Station.
About 20 minutes in, I looked up and noticed we were on Madison Avenue.
WHY ARE WE ON MADISON AVENUE?
We got out of the car on THIRTY-FIFTH STREET and hoofed it to my wife’s aunt. I was late. So very late. I apologized over texts and in person and I’m certain she still is mad at me because it was a work day.
The train left two minutes early at 2:15 p.m. I was looking forward to getting into my apartment at 9 p.m.
But we were on the Crescent again.
Then we sat in North Brunswick, New Jersey, for 45 minutes. And then we got to Union Station.
Trains are electrified north of Washington. If you’re heading south, you have to wait a few minutes while the engines are switched out. Something was wrong with ours, so we sat. A train to Richmond came and went. I almost hopped on it. I tried to see if I could quickly rent a car. We sat for two hours. You know, basically the duration of the rest of the trip.
The duration of the trip back to CVS somehow took three hours. My Lyft didn’t arrive until 11:30 because who works for Lyft on a Wednesday night?
I got to the my apartment at midnight. I grabbed some fast food and, less than 12 hours later, I was on the road to Richmond. My boss and I scheduled two other business meetings on Thursday. It’s been nearly three months, and writing about this makes me tired.
And here we are. I’ll be able to talk about the weekend of Sept. 28 and include the wedding and I can mention seeing Pete in June, my wedding anniversary and the wedding I attended in the first part of that story because they’re somewhat loosely related. Other than a funeral, nothing of note has happened since that weekend, so we’re effectively caught up now.
Well, I still need to complete the album posts, but whatever. Oh, and I’ve just been playing Brand New Day by Sting a lot over the past three days. I inadvertently got After the Rain Has Fallen in my head and I forgot that I really don’t like Desert Rose.
There was a joke about British Knights. I wondered if the company still existed. The next thing I knew, the shoes I remember most as the ones you received if you came in second in Double Dare were on my doorstep. It was an ironic purchase, but I’ve worn them at least once a week for the past month because they don’t look terrible.
I was torn between these and the ones that stuck out in my childhood memory. There were some more designs from that screamed 1990s, but I didn’t want to look attention-grabbing from a block away. The “Are those … British Knights?” comments I’ve received by someone who looked down when near me have been worth it.
I didn’t have the opportunity to post over the weekend. And I’ll be in a city council meeting until 1 a.m. Tuesday, so there might not be a full recounting of the weekend until Tuesday night. I would do it now, but I’m a bit tired and want to take advantage of being able to sleep in a tiny bit. I normally would be able to sleep in a lot, but a new reporter starts Monday, and I told her to get there at 10:30 a.m.
Also, there is video footage of me on a slide, but I don’t have the capacity to upload my own photos here (because I so rarely do it). In theory, I could upload it to YouTube, it’s not that serious.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The city renamed this road for him (and it intersects with another named for his wife) a few years ago. I noticed a few days ago that Google Maps never updated. I respected the Rev. Curtis West Harris Sr. too much to let this stand.
If you’re wondering, that street to the right is named for Winston Churchill. No, not that Winston Churchill. This one.
A few days ago, I saw this Washington Post analysis of homelessness and hunger among college students.
I scoffed. This is nothing new.
I knew at least one homeless college student. There were days when I was absolutely famished and didn’t want to ask my family for help because I was supposed to be an adult and doing this on my own, briefly had three jobs and, in theory I was guaranteed — up until my senior year, when my dorm was demolished there wasn’t enough housing and I could have been homeless if not for my fraternity brothers and I renting our unofficial official house — three meals a day from the dining halls.
This didn’t end after graduation. After a few months of only eating beans, getting the occasional Wendy’s sandwich, gorging myself on whatever baked goods showed up in the newsroom and willing my credit card bills (and gas prices) low enough for some meat, I asked my mom for food.
From 2006 to 2009, my mom bought me groceries. Occasionally, she still does. I also try to raid her freezer whenever I visit. It’s more of tradition at this point. Or she sees a killer deal through the connections she still has from the restaurant industry.
Typically, whatever she bought me was all the food I was going to get for about a month. On paper, I made enough to live. I got paid between $22,000 and $24,000 a year at my first paper. I don’t exactly remember, but I know I made less than $12 an hour and absolutely did not reach $25,000. My rent was about $600. I had utility bills and a car payment I wasn’t expecting to have. I had college-related debt to pay back. From the start, I would get my check stub and realize that the entire thing was spoken for. And then some. I had a bank at the time that gave everyone up to $500 to use, minus overdraft fees, after hitting zero. You had 30 days to get your account back into the black. I mastered having about $5 in on the 29th day and then jumping back down to -$480.
I was constantly tired. Journalism is not an 80-hour job. We pretend it is. I’ve never worked at a paper where people put down ever hour they worked. I don’t see how some people have a second job beyond reporting. I walked into every day of my first six years or so of journalism not knowing when I’d get home at the end of the day. Even when I had food to cook, I’ve come home too tired to cook it. I went a day or two without eating because I didn’t have time to eat or had no time to prepare anything. When I lived alone in Petersburg, I’ve passed out because of that on more than one occasion.
On one particular occasion in early 2007, it took me entirely too long to have time to cook the chicken I put in the fridge to thaw.
It definitely had started to spoil.
I was in no position to waste food.
Yes. That happened.
Despite heavily seasoning it and baking it until it nearly was burnt, I almost couldn’t bear to eat it. Luckily, I had some liquor, so I figured it would help kill the germs or help induce vomiting later.
I kept it down. I don’t know how, but I kept it down.
This still feels embarrassing, although a dozen years have passed. It’s because I went too long being too proud to ask for help. And then, when I asked for help, I was too ashamed to ask for more help.
You’re better off looking back at the time when you had to eat at a soup kitchen despite being in your chosen career than looking back at the time you cooked and ate rotten meat.
You won’t believe the problems I’ve had with my homes over the years!
Petersburg: My HVAC unit crapped out in the middle of the summer while I was gone on a long weekend. It didn’t turn off for at least four days and spurted water onto my carpet. Additionally, the refrigerator crapped out and started leaking nasty brown water. It was never fully fixed when I moved out.
Hopewell: Somehow, this was the only place I’ve ever lived that did not have a mildly catastrophic problem.
Richmond, No. 1: Furnace ran out of oil due in part to spat between my two roommates. One felt that he shouldn’t have to chip in for heat since he all but used his room for storage while he lived abroad.
Richmond, No. 2: The furnace died during a snowstorm. The components that needed to be fixed were on the roof. Lived next door to building owned by slumlord whose tenants once ran a gas-powered generator 24/7 on a wooden deck and wound up on the news. (Jacksonville, N.C., for six months while legally still living in Richmond: Local tap water smelled and tasted strongly of chemicals without a filter. The entire neighborhood was infested with palmetto bugs, as it is its natural habitat. Also briefly lived with a squatter.)
Charlottesville, downstairs: Camel cricket infestation. Dryer malfunction led to brief mold problem. Hot water in the tub would not turn off. Occurred on a weekend, plumber did not come for at least three days. Upstairs tenants sang folk songs weekend mornings, including a full-on jam session one day.
Charlottesville, upstairs: Entire ant colony moved into K-cup machine. Another moved into my rear passenger door. Sewage line completely failed. Roof leaked. Once got comically squirted with pressurized hose to toilet. Downstairs tenants were gamers who played at full volume at 3 a.m.
Richmond, No. 3: New management wanted old tenants to leave. Clogged gutters led to the main entrance being nearly impossible to use during rainstorms. Roof leaked so badly that water cascaded from the third-floor apartment onto ours on the second floor.
Richmond, No. 4: Washing machine would fill with water after completing the spin cycle. HVAC broke several times. Maintenance unclogged an upstairs drain, violently sending wastewater all over my kitchen.
Long story short: Plumbing hates me. Or at least water.