It’s gotten the point that it doesn’t feel like yesterday.

I was in Petersburg with Simone Tiffany Crystal — my 1989 Toyota Camry — James Cecil Wheatley — my two-year-old plant — my futon from middle school, which served as a couch, LSW2 — my laptop from Christmas 2001 — and the bed I bought when I moved into the Delta Nu Chapter house in 2004.

I had no idea what to expect. At the time, I knew I was covering Dinwiddie County, Virginia State University and Richard Bland College. I had done no research into Dinwiddie. I blindly walked into a contentious Board of Supervisors meeting. A kid horrifically burned himself when he inadvertently poured gasoline on a fire. I lived in a city that, while I was there, was the “most dangerous” city in the state per capita, but never made the official list because its population was under 100,000.

I loved every second of it.

Until I increasingly disagreed with the new managing editor and became the managing editor of the paper down the road.

I had no idea what to expect. I had to hire a new sports editor, the publisher fired a reporter, I had to fire a reporter and we fought tooth and nail to restore the reputation of a publication that often was seen as a laughingstock.

I loved every second of it.

Until I felt like it was time for me to move on and a storm nearly destroyed the building and I stayed on because I didn’t want to leave them in the middle of a disaster and then headed to a copy editing position along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

I had no idea what to expect. I was hours away from everyone I knew and loved, made a nearly blind decision as far as housing, tried to balance a long-distance relationship and saw the writing on the wall when the company was bought out.

I did not enjoy that experience overall.

I then briefly returned to the paper I left before winding up here.

I won’t belabor modern history.

But this in less than two weeks, I’m moving away from the Richmond area, most likely for good.

That means that I’m also leaving where I began my journalism career, the Tri-Cities, most likely for good. I’m running out of reasons to go down there. Here’s what I said about that yesterday:

This pains me infinitely more than leaving Richmond. I learned how much I didn’t know during my time south of the James, and I had my biggest triumphs and failures there.

I love the Tri-Cities because it is a beautiful mess and because there are so many people working hard to remove “mess” from that phrase. It does not deserve the bad rep it sometimes gets. It’s a victim of so many things, including the state’s city-county divide, its own leaders at times and the changing face of commerce and industry in America.

Sure, I may rag on it and the contretemps of its governments, but you don’t get to unless you’ve lived there and worked there and rooted for it on its worst days. As recently as last month, I’ve driven to downtown Hopewell and made some of the rounds I made when I was an editor there.

I’ve half-seriously said I want to retire on some acres in Dinwiddie. Although I want my wife to go home to New York at some point, I hope at least a vacation place in that area is in the cards.

Here’s to a dozen years in journalism. And here’s to years to come.


The beacon of truth that shines upon the just and the unjust grew a little dimmer Jan. 18. The Hopewell News of Hopewell, Va., has closed its doors.

I was once the editor there.

I was 25 years old the first time I stepped into that building, and I had no idea what I was doing. But, damn it, I had ambition.

But I had a great mentor in the publisher at the time, Jim Smith. And I had an invaluable staff that I eventually had to pick myself.

I went with my gut a lot. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and ask for advice. Sure, we made mistakes along the way, but when we were on it, we were on it. We went from the town joke to garnering enough interest to print a third day. We broke news sometimes days before our daily and television competitors.

We kept long hours.

We went as far as Richmond and Roanoke to bring forth stories of local interest. We almost went as far as New Jersey, and I’ll never let Katy forget that she kept me from breaking news on my vacation.

We grew and learned and loved and fought and headed off to greener pastures. Those of us who stayed in journalism became better journalist because of it. Were were a training ground. I firmly believe every journalist needs a stint in a small town.

We kept tradition going at a young paper in a young city in an old state. We penned the first drafts of history. We held elected officials accountable. We launched social media. We ventured into radio. We took home awards. We kept going because people said that we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

We provided a voice to the voiceless. We were that cliché of people who buy a failing business or abandoned building and then get a ragtag group of people armed with broom and paintbrushes and make it work.

We forged a kinship in that converted car dealership that went beyond being coworkers.

After we moved on, we constantly checked in, rooting for the underdog we once were a part of.

And now it’s gone. Abruptly. All of that grit and determination snuffed out.

The Hopewell News ranked as one of my greatest accomplishments. It still does. Nothing — not even the deletion of the online archives — can take away that great push we made during my tenure 2008 to 2012. It made us into who we are. For some of us, it made us into damn good newspapermen and women.

To name a few, Katy is now an editor herself at a major metro. Along the way, her tenacity brought forth sweeping change in state and local government. Jonathan quickly grew into his role of being the voice of local sports in the Tri-Cities. He just launched a new venture into Central Virginia sports.

And here a sit like a proud parent whenever I hear of the accomplishments of those journalists who were under my care those years. Even if they left the industry, like any rational person would do, knowing that I played a role in their journeys warms my heart.

I will forever miss The Hopewell Publishing Co., and I hope someone assumes the mantle for the betterment of the Wonder City. We need small-town papers more than we do national outlets. What goes on in your city hall affects your daily life more than anything that ever happens in Washington. The internet alone can’t fill that gap between your front door and the statehouse. A viral post from down the street without full context is just that: a virus.

“You can’t get your news from Facebook. People need to know that,” said the final editor, Adrienne Wallace, in an article in the first newspaper I ever worked, The Progress-Index.

Those words are very, very true.

24) ‘the sirens of jupiter’ by the olympians

If you haven’t noticed, I like almost every song that has trumpets and/or trombones in it.

And, here we are: The theme of right now. I know how to make an entrance.

Well, this one is kinda an exit, too. This most likely is the last entry for a bit.

I am content, though. While I’m back in Charlottesville, there is something I want to do, hence the vagueness and planned hiatus. This cunning plan has nothing to do with leaving that newsroom or the company, though. As you have seen over the course of 24 songs, I took a lot to get here. Twice.

Hopefully, this project quickly come to fruition and I’ll back sooner rather than later. And then this old new beginning will continue.

23) ‘after the legions’ by the calm blue sea

Although I was (and still am) excited about Charlottesville, I paused for a moment to think about how much Richmond and the Tri-Cities shaped my life. I was really the first time I did that. Every other departure was rushed in some way.

I’m leaving RVA, perhaps for good this time. Like this is as final as leaving Hampton.

Although I was 21-going-on-22 when I got here, I feel like I actually grew up here. I mean that as in truly maturing. I learned so much from Stony Creek to Tappahannock, from Burrowsville to Blackstone. That’s 5,280 square miles of Virginia in which I’ve had a byline. An area more than twice the size of Delaware. An area nearly as large as Connecticut. For roughly seven of the past 11 years, that has been my Central Virginia, my stomping grounds, my home.

I’ll eternally be grateful for the 804. I’ll always miss the Tri-Cities and the backwoods of Dinwiddie and River Road in Prince George and Murphy’s Law in Chester and everything the Fan has to offer and living in and around Church Hill and the Varina-Enon Bridge and Henrico’s Varina Managerial District and Ashland Coffee & Tea and so much more, but it’s time to finish what I started in Charlottesville.

And, perhaps, start something else.

And, perhaps, start something else.

Next: Beginning again

22) ‘sea of dreams’ by oberhofer

BoJack sent me here.

It’s a little weird to be talking about things that just happened. Well, for the past 13 years, this blog has been talking about things that just happened. I mean, I’m not recapping things that I mentioned not too long ago.

Toward the end of the summer, after having a BoJack Horseman binge and having it haunt me (but not as deeply as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” — that book hit me harder than “Colony of Unrequited Dreams”), I had heard of a departure in Charlottesville.

This was after all of the unrest that occurred.

I was at work in Richmond the day of the event that now pops into everyone’s head when one says “Charlottesville.” I mentioned several times that it most likely would have been a day I would have been working. I wouldn’t have been downtown, but I would have been receiving all of the dispatches and getting them online through all channels.

It also bothered me because I lived not too far from the Downtown Mall (Renée and I often walked there), and from my years of living there, it wasn’t the Charlottesville I knew and loved.

Also, it made me realize it would make people think twice about going there. That couldn’t be me. It made me realize that it was all the more reason to go back.

For reasons I won’t go into because it goes into internal workings of the company I love and have worked for over the past five years, I figured going back was a long shot. Additionally, I was committed to live in Richmond despite not being exactly where I wanted to be in my career.

I sent a text to a former coworker joking about coming back.

Then I got asked if I’d seriously consider it, because it was potentially doable.

Emphatic yes. After talking to my wife, of course.

But I had to do it.

In an exchange almost as swift as the first time I was hired there, I was on my way back.

That was a little more than a month ago. The next entry is the penultimate song, and perhaps the penultimate post here for a while. As I said before, there’s something I have to do, and I can’t do it with certain distractions. I went as far as changing my license plates a few moments ago, which is something I never thought I would do.

When I’m serious, I’m serious.

Even if this doesn’t work out, the actions I’m taking were overdue anyway.

21) ‘3 o’clock’ by blonde redhead

You wouldn’t know it from the songs that have been in this playlist, but Blonde Redhead is my favorite band. Its latest album, Barragán, is my favorite album of theirs after Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons.

Blonde Redhead’s latest EP, 3 O’Clock came just as I was thinking about moving beyond the copy desk in Richmond. As I have mentioned before, I’ve always wanted more, so reaching my 2006 goal wasn’t going to cut it. At the time, I was certain we weren’t’ going to leave Richmond, so reservations, I decided that I had to look elsewhere. There had been several transitions in that newsroom and there wouldn’t be another avenue for me to move up again unless someone quit or took an obscenely early retirement.

To me, this song, which is the title track, sounded like the beginning of an end.

I figured I would leave that newsroom before 2017 ended. I wasn’t expecting that when I arrived, but leaving Charlottesville when I did took my career in a direction I wasn’t planning. As every day marked the longest time I’d ever worked at one company, I wondered if those days also were counting down.

Next: It started as a joke.

20) ‘ms. garvey, ms. garvey’ by roy hargrove big band

It took me months to pick this song. I honestly considered ending the playlist completely with “Minor Soul” or, since I was in the same company, leaving it at “Git It Awn.”

I picked this song a little more than a year ago after I grew tired of being a reporter, didn’t get the editor job I wanted on the management side and wound up becoming a copy editor.

For those of you who have been here since the very start in 2004, you probably recall that my original goal in life was to be a copy editor at this newspaper. I wasn’t 100 percent happy there because, as I put it, “It was my goal in life 10 years ago. That means I expected to be somewhere else 10 years later.”

This was me trying to inject something lavish into it to deal with it.

I fully planned on dealing with it. As recently as August, the plan was to deal with it and continue the plan of renting a place with a yard for Missy until my mom’s house was sold and I threw that money into buying a house for myself.

I was getting back into the swing of things, but as I have said numerous times, things in Richmond just weren’t the same anymore. I’m not going to belabor it.

I kept telling myself I wouldn’t go back to Charlottesville and made a joke out of it.

Meanwhile, I still read the paper every day and never bothered to fully disentangle myself from some of the mailing lists.

In retrospect, my tone of “I’ll never go back there” was identical to how I swore I wouldn’t date Renée again … although I visited her in New York almost every time I went to Newark.

Next: August.

19) ‘minor soul’ by johnny lytle


I had a whole farewell speech planned but was at a loss for words when I was presented with my going away cake.


It took me months to read the card everyone signed.

Flagship paper!

Although I said I would visit, I could only bring myself to go twice.

My own column!

I often thought about how I got married in Charlottesville and filed my marriage license in Albemarle County.

There’s still a chance for advancement!

I learned of an alternate scenario in the company that would have involved leaving Charlottesville that would have been more up my alley.

But I had Johnny Lytle playing the ever-lovin’ crap out of a vibraphone to send me out. Everything was going to be fine. I’d get over missing those guys, and it was going to be a grand future in RVA. I mean, the last time I was torn about leaving a place, everything eventually turned out OK.

Next: I’m convinced?

18) ‘it’ll get you there’ by rilo kiley

I’ll always miss Rilo Kiley. My favorite singer in the band was Blake, though. I seriously have a playlist of nearly all of Ronnie Foster Pinsky’s oeuvre from Rilo Kiley to The Elected to Night Terrors of 1927.

But Jenny was spot-on here.

I was so desperate to stop commuting from Richmond and not deal with an issue of me not really liking someone but that person having absolutely no idea, I half-seriously offered to temporarily be a janitor at the Richmond paper.

I was offered a reporting position. I like to write, but I like to write this blog and also fiction. I wrote news for five years, and I swore I would only do it again if I could have a column again and/or could do whatever I wanted, like write features or churn out a 10,000 word opus I spent months on.

I got half of it.

I was to be the reporter for one of Virginia’s largest jurisdictions and also write a traffic column. It was a step downward, but it paid more and there was a chance I could get back into an editing role sooner rather than later. I banked on the sooner rather than later because, despite the setback in 2012, I considered myself an overachiever and wasn’t going to settle for long with just being a reporter. Not to disparage reporting. I mean, I had planned to just be a copy editor until I got a taste of being in charge. Additionally, I have problems with authority, so I need to be in some sort of managerial role with little oversight. Unless why I need to do something is spelled out and it makes sense, telling me what to do does not go well, especially when I’m fed up. I didn’t sit in the designated press row in Hopewell Council Chambers, for example, because nobody tells Elliott Robinson where to sit.

But, anyway, I was going to the big paper. After reporting at a small daily; somehow holding together a smaller non-daily and its weekly sister paper and improving its online presence; pulling myself out of a bad place after all that work seemed for naught; coming back and making my mark again; and learning what else I could do while helping to run the show in Charlottesville, I finally was going to live and work in Richmond. All the blanks that I blanked, they got me there.

It trumped my feelings for Charlottesville. I figured I’d write a couple of amazing stories, get promoted soon and would be trading in my sweet loft apartment with exposed beams and brick and hardwood floors for a house in Malvern Gardens in no time. And, since it was an internal transfer, it wasn’t like I was truly saying goodbye. Also, I knew people in that newsroom.  It felt like the next step in a bright, shiny future.

Next: Bright, shiny future

17) ‘three faces’ by menahan street band

Around 2014, I started getting into the whole soul revival thing. Actually, it was a bit earlier with Sharon Jones. But I really wanted to hear instrumentals. This band is one of the permutations of the musicians at Daptone Records. I loved this song enough to make it my ringtone back in 2015, and it still is my ringtone.

That’s says a lot, because my previous one was a Danish song I legitimately downloaded that I can no longer find online. I had been my jam for nearly a decade.

I was getting tugged in two directions at this point. The commute and another temporary issue got to me, but I didn’t want to leave Charlottesville. To this day, I cannot explain why I love working there. I just do. This past August did nothing to change that. If anything, I made me want to be there even more.

But living and working in Richmond sounded appealing. As I mentioned before, with the perfect well-paying job, I’d never leave Richmond. Hell, just a few months ago, I was thinking about where in this city to live next while I waited for the money I would get from either selling or renting our my childhood home. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In Richmond, a lot of my favorite places were gone by the time we returned in fall 2015. And a lot of my favorite people had either moved away or our friendships had moved on. It was great to be back, but it didn’t feel great to be back. I figured that would change when I lived and worked there.

Still, it was bittersweet, like this song.

But it was for the best.


Next: It’ll get you there.