Third Street

WHEN I WALKED to work from near the NewMarket Corp., I used to know if I  was on time by where I saw Radio Raheem. If he was near the plasma donation center, weaving his way through the smokers either waiting for their rides or waiting for their turns, I was late. If we crossed paths closer to Main, I was good.

The man who amplified music from an unseen device disappeared a while ago, before the plasma center moved to a location closer to its clientele of do-gooders and $50-needers, before police shot an axe-wielding man at Third and Main.

I had seen the man hours earlier when was shirted and his hands were empty. As he crossed my path, I said “RVA all day,” to myself as I noticed his kilt in the early morning. I thought not of him again until the news reports and seeing his final smudge linger on the pavement for an unusually long period across from 3rd Street Diner.

“RVA all day,” I said again.

In my younger and drunker days, I often was a denizen of that former Confederate hospital, eating mounds of food of questionable quality on tables of questionable cleanliness, surrounded on those late nights with my fellow dregs of society who first tried to fill the void with alcohol and then pancakes. Or slices from the ostensibly Italian pizzeria as the bass pulsed from the gay bar a few doors down and the back gate of the Times-Dispatch rattled as the late shifts filtered out before the nearby blocks grew as still as the terminus of Third near the Downtown Expressway or the blocks approaching and passing the convention center before the bifurcation into Fifth Street and a ramp from the interstate.

Or the portion lingering in a dying, cloven neighborhood, anchored by a church calling itself the Temple of God with the Last Day Message. And a cemetery.


A decade ago, I dressed in a tux and developed a taste aversion for tequila (and, thankfully, not birthday cake).

Today, I’m up at 4:30 a.m. because I left work after midnight and decided I wanted to make fettuccine Alfredo.

I’m 32. I’m frickin’ 32.

I worked today because I used my floating holiday for my anniversary. We didn’t have anything spectacular planned because we both have grownup responsibilities this week. We’re saving the fun for our trip later this summer, a trip that isn’t our official honeymoon. I like how we have this informal agreement that all our trips thus far don’t count.

Our trip to Hawaii at some point next year probably will be our official honeymoon, despite plans to see Bill and Karen and, hopefully, two of Theresa’s children. I really hope I can see Shonda and Michael, but there are some logistics to work out, especially since they have jobs now. They’re growing up so fast.

As I said earlier, I worked today. Never mind that it’s almost dawn. It seems weird to call June 23 “yesterday” because I haven’t gone to bed yet. I’ve effectively stopped celebrating on the day unless it’s a weekend. I’m instead breaking it up into seeing an interesting concert at the Garage on Wednesday, fancy dinner on the Downtown Mall on Friday and then some drinks.

I originally had a point to this but I’m starting to fade. I have lost my train of thought.

Holy crap, I’m married and 32. Five years ago, I was in the Chimborazo house, fresh from a road trip with Bill and Karen and Bill and Karen hadn’t realized they were in love yet. September marks three years of working in Charlottesville. October marks three years of living in this house. It seems a lot closer than that.

Time really starts to go by fast.


For the past two nights, I’ve been up to about this time, scribbling away in a notebook leftover from college. When I was in elementary school, Theresa worked at Phar-Mor.

If you’re unfamiliar, was a chain of stores somewhat like a Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid writ large that proliferated in the late ’70s and early ’80s, hit its apex in the ’90s and didn’t live to see the last episode of Friends.

But I digress

During one of their back-to-school sales, she bought an entire box of notebooks for me. Since I also used loose-leaf paper, these notebooks lasted through college. I’m down to my last three. It’s been about 20 years. This red one I’m using is a little worse for wear but I hadn’t written a single word in it until yesterday. I’m seriously impressed at how well these are holding up, especially since I grabbed this one out of Nicole’s trunk and I have absolutely no idea when it wound up there. There’s a yellow one that has notes from reporting I did at my first newspaper. I think it also has some college notes in it too.

But I digress again

Inside this improbably fresh time capsule, are notes about Brown River Blues. I had an outline to repair some things that is


exactly where I put it back in the fall but I was too lazy to check until a second ago. Tomorrow (night), I’ll merge the two.

I haven’t had the urge to have a late-night writing session in years, probably not since around this time in 2011, to be honest. I’m enjoying this greatly. Lately, I’ve felt like I’m regaining things I have lost.


The blaring sun shouts down the trees, leaving them in a puddle of boiling wood.

The melted landscape sears all who dare to venture outdoors; baking, ancient homes fan the flames and offer no respite.

The frying sky builds humid tension until the clouds display sharp flashes of weeping with thunderous gnashing of teeth.

And then

brief respite.

Sweet, brief respite.


I’ve grabbed nine of the 10. According to my own estimates, I have one that’s floating around somewhere and one I need to write.

Additionally, I need to edit and expand some of what I have.

By virtue of some of these starting as blog entries, they are extremely short. Short is fine. In fact, one of the shortest is staying that way.

One of the longest pieces is a character study limited to 1,000 words. I’m thinking about doubling it at least to make it two character studies. They’re both characters in Brown River Blues and the second study exists in bits and pieces throughout that work. The events in “The Morning After” have no relationship to the novel beyond it being about two of the characters in it about four months before the action takes place.

The longest short story takes place a few months after the end of Brown River Blues’ action and, once again, the connection ends there. It’s about a character who was only referenced in passing when my novel had an epilogue.

I have a few ideas for the fresh story. The first is a fleeting reference. In the middle of a scene in my novel, there’s a reference to a murder-suicide. And that’s it. I mention that it happened. (There’s also a reference to deaths that are the pivotal scenes in a short story and a novel that will never see the light of day, but that’s neither here nor there.) The circumstances of murder-suicide warrant being told because it’s so out there and involves a minor character. But it’s part of the reason why  I don’t want to tell what happened.

The second idea is to modify a semi-abandoned novel. I got the idea for it when Brown River Blues was wrapping up, but I told myself I wouldn’t work on it hard until the Brown was complete. Then my computer died. I had a lot of ideas for what was going to happen in that second novel, so I might keep it as such.

The third idea is something completely new. I know something will come to me. That’s how a lot of these happened.

At least I’m making progress. That’s all that matters.

Project 792

I started a post title with a capital letter, which hasn’t happened consistently in at least five years.

That’s how you know this is serious.

I took a shower earlier and had one of those grand ideas that most people forget once they get out. Thankfully, this one stuck.

It helped that it was an idea that couldn’t dissipate: I have enough short stories amassed for a book so I should do that.

Unlike my novel, which is too large to be run correctly in this Chromebook (I’m going to get a new computer within the next year), the short stories are in the bowels of this blog or in Word documents that are more palatable to this machine. Compiling this all should be a huge problem unless these 10 or so stories are more massive than I think.

The next street is how I’m going to present this collection.

Although times have changed in the past 10 years, I’m still a little leery of self-publishing, especially since I want to go through the formal publishing house process for Brown River Blues when the time finally comes. From working in a related industry, I know that the circumstances of being published in some form or fashion can have a major effect being published in the future. If you’re at a weekly for an extended period of time, it reduces your odds of getting to a daily. If you’re at publication with a blatant agenda, that could have a huge effect on your where you go from there. If you can prove yourself in a bad situation, and/or generate a buzz from freelancing, you can pretty much go anywhere. How I proceed with Project 792 cannot be a decision I take lightly.

The name comes from one of my tags here, which was inspired by an entry that was one of my first that wasn’t me rambling about everyday life. I now think that particular entry is shit. The name also is going to be the name of the collection, minus the “Project”:


Obviously, there will be better typography for the book cover.

While I put this all together and figure out how to get a collection of short stories out, I want to be held accountable every step of the way. Once the wedding is over, I’m going to get to work on this in earnest. Apparently, there’s a way to give the illusion of two separate blogs in WordPress, which is what I’ve just done, I think. This way, much like a lot of the stuff with the wedding, you can somewhat pick and choose what you want to read about here. Everybody wins!

I’m excited. I hope you are. It’s time for a new adventure.