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.

4-35

It’s my fourth wedding anniversary.

I turn 35 in 30 minutes.

By some measures, I’m no longer a part of the prime demographic.

I don’t know who new musicians are (generally).

I’ve been playing Beck’s Sea Change like it’s still 2002.

My beard has so many grey hairs.

I probably have two more job changes/promotions left before I’m firmly one of the olds and shifting gears is unusual.

As you probably can tell, we haven’t taken a trip. We’re adjusting to avoid once again vacationing in boiling heat. I’m glad we did. I had to run down to Hampton Roads for a family emergency, and my dog also is sick.

But, in all honesty, I’m not complaining.

There a lot of road and adventure ahead of me. And I’m looking forward to it.

This lament about getting older is nothing but that split second when all the traffic lights are red.

20180622_230949

Inadvertent metaphor taken tonight.

dozen

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.

11 years

On March 13, 2006, I walked out of my barely unpacked Petersburg apartment and went to my first day as a reporter in a daily newspaper newsroom. I didn’t intend to stay long — I wanted to be a copy editor, and when I saw that a position opened in Richmond, I applied for it.

I regretted it, because I hadn’t even been in Petersburg for a month, so I turned down going through the next stage of the application progress.

It took me 10 years of trying to reverse that and get to Richmond. Six months later, I finally wound up on that copy desk.

It was a long, winding, crazy road. I have countless stories. I’ve done so many things. I’ve donated so many hours both on and off the clock. It’s hard to picture life without journalism. The majority of this time has been in Central Virginia.* I can’t imagine life without that, too.

There was this one time in Charlottesville when I was up past 2 a.m. I was updating the paper’s website because there was an armed standoff and Katy was there, feeding me information. It didn’t matter to either of us that no one was on the site at the time or that it was most likely that it would go on well into the morning. We did it out of duty to the profession. News was happening. It was our duty to disseminate it.

I’ve said it once before: This isn’t a career — it’s a lifestyle.

It’s been a great 11 years.

___
*Charlottesville is near the geographic center of Virginia, so all but six months of my career has been in Central Virginia. Since it’s such a nebulous term, my newspaper doesn’t capitalize the “C.” Charlottesville did, and I’m sticking to it.

year 10

A decade ago, today was my first day at work at my first journalism job. It also was my first real job after college (although, technically, I was still a student; long story).

I was fresh off a trip to Florida that served as my final spring break. I moved to Petersburg only two days before. I was excited and wondering where the road would take me in the decade to come.

I had no idea what I was doing.

It’s been a crazy ride. I thought I’d be in Petersburg a couple years and then I’d be off to a major metro. Then my industry collapsed.

I learned a lot there. I grew a deep love for my original beat. I wrote some things I thought at the time were great. I also wrote some things that were absolutely horrible. Then I got too big for my britches and headed a few miles down the road to work for the rival paper.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Somehow, I was put in charge of that small newsroom. Somehow, I made key hires. Somehow, it turned into a newspaper I was proud of.

I also learned my limitations and knew someone else needed to build on the foundation I placed to carry it to the next level. I decided I wanted to rise no higher than the position of copy editor, but two storm events delayed that transition by about four months. It led to an awkward, bittersweet transition.

Being a copy editor worked for only six months. I briefly headed back to that rival of my first job then had the departure that should have been.

Then I landed in Charlottesville.

That was a fascinating time. I still had no idea what I was doing, but I finally began to figure it out. The real-world experience there ranks second after the basics I learned in college.

And now I’m here. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve learned how to find out what to do. I’m enjoying being a reporter again, but I kinda miss being in the editor’s chair. I have a feeling I’ll need to make that decision sooner rather than later.

I know what I’m doing.

Here’s to another 10 years. At least.

three years

We have a balcony

I can see my desk from up here!

It doesn’t seem like I took that photo three years ago. The desks are new now. The carpet’s been replaced. More people work in the newsroom. I didn’t think to take a picture tonight.

These three years are the longest I’ve been at one single newsroom, if you don’t count my non-consecutive terms in Hopewell. I’ll surpass that next month.

It’s been a great three years. I didn’t expect to be in Charlottesville this long. I didn’t expect it to row on me to a degree. My heart remains in other places, though. I also never expected to be in this house all this time. We’ve already surpassed my cumulative time in Chimborazo. It seems so crazy that all that was more than 1,000 days ago.

In six months, we’ll mark 10 years of professional journalism. I’ll officially have a solid decade between me and Christopher Newport University. That’s still too short of a time for so much to have changed there.

Now that I’m breaking records, I wonder what’s next. I haven’t shuffled out of the prime demographic just yet. We don’t have kids yet. I’ve said packing up and heading to parts unknown was getting old, but I think I have one or two moves left in me before I say, “Here. This is where I’ll stay.”

Whatever happens next in this voyage in this profession that hasn’t died yet, despite years of obituary writing, you’ll see it here.

Now I’m off to celebrate with NyQuil and tea, because I don’t like taking sick days.

faith and fully mine (unofficially)

Nicolecita

Nicole Louise Cobb

Today, my mom told me what my birthday present is: She’s paying this month’s car payment, which is the last one. Once the bank processes everything and hands me the title, I’ll officially own a car outright for the first time since 2006. Because I am an idiot.

Long story short, I bought a car in 2006, traded it in a year later and then — when that car died in a long, hilarious chain of events when my life partially fell apart and I drove more than 8,000 miles over the course of 60 business days — I bought Nicole Louise Cobb. (Inexplicably, I neither explained what happened to my second brand-new car, Marian, nor formally introduced Nicole … also, some of my friends think Marian and Nicole are/were the same car.)

So, a little more than nine years later, I officially put that youthful indiscretion behind me and focus that money on continuing to make certain Nicolecita keeps rolling and looks that nice when I get her washed.

And some frivolous things. I mean, I fully intend to be responsible with this cash I have never seen the entire time I’ve been employed professionally, but I want some trifles and more ridiculous (if that’s even possible) trips before having to be responsible for a minor (or minors) for at least 18 years.

First order of business is a road trip to New York before summer’s over. We’re taking Nicole.

I bet at this point, you’re wondering about her name, if you don’t know the story. Nicolecita is a term of endearment. My car-naming scheme is that their namesakes are characters in the universe of every piece of fiction I’ve written. Nicole Cobb is a writer/photographer who HATES her middle name.

Nicolecita is the proper Spanish diminutive of Nicole. The rules get strange when things end in a vowel that isn’t o or a. And Nicole isn’t a typical Spanish name, if it’s one at all. I didn’t intend on calling her Nicolecita — it just happened.

year eleven

Round and round we go.

Nearly every year, I’m partially surprised this blog still exists. It’s been more than a decade so it’s time to stop being in awe.

But, still. Eleven years ago, we were embarking on a chronicle of turning 21 while living in a fraternity house. When I was sitting on that couch at 210 Deep Creek Road, I didn’t envision it becoming it covering nine years in journalism, my highest highs, my lowest lows, countless road trips and adventures and, before this month is through, my first wedding anniversary. I didn’t expect this blog to last the summer.

I’m glad that it survived.

This is an auxiliary memory of sorts, for better or for worse. I was in a conversation about something a few weeks ago in which everyone couldn’t remember the date or precisely how something happened. I pulled out my phone and there it was: Read it and weep: It’s what happened, documented less than 24 hours after it happened.

In a way, because of that, I’m looking forward to presenting this all to my children and grandchildren. “I can show you how things were in 2005.” “Let me show you why Richmond is my favorite place.”  “If you read these entries closely, you can tell I was in love with your grandmother for a long, long time before 2011.”

I can’t wait to see what the next year brings and how I’ll bring it to you. I’ve already declared this the Year of the Trip, so there’s that.

Let’s do this.

the day i temporarily lost my online presence

I’m probably not explaining this fully or correctly, because I’m banging it out as it happens and I want to go home.

So, exit265c.com isn’t back up just yet, and my email sorta works. Additionally, I don’t think I can access any emails I got today until later tomorrow. Or I won’t get them at all. Whatever.

Anyway, here’s what happened:

So, back when I was on the executive board for my fraternity, we were all given email addresses with our domain name in them. Since they were being hosted by Gmail, we were told we’d have them for life. Before then, I had a series of addresses from Hotmail, my fraternity chapter and then a couple on Gmail for various reasons (e.g. one that was for work because we had storage issues). I liked having a email address from a domain that wasn’t a free email client. It looked professional. So I used it for everything.

Sometime after 2012, my fraternity chapter’s email account and my national fraternity email accounts ceased to exist. I wasn’t prepared for either, and I lost a couple things that went to both. I recovered all of the accounts that used them for my user name.

Except one.

In 2012, I renewed exit265c.com for three years so I wouldn’t have to worry about renewing every year or forgetting to renew. I made the mistake of registering the domain at not WordPress, so I have to go through an arduous process to make exit265c.com point here. I did that because my blog was still a LiveJournal account back then, and I planned on making this more than a blog in phases.

Anyway, since I rarely needed to access the back end from where I registered my domain, and Gmail hosts my @exit265c.com email accounts, I thought nothing of not getting emails from the domain service.

I figured I had like another year to go before it needed to be renewed. They’d email me anyway.

They did.

Those emails bounced back.

My domain expired today, but luckily, wasn’t deleted because hosts have grace periods, thank God.

Since I have a netbook at the moment, exit265c.com isn’t my homepage, because I don’t get to have a homepage. I didn’t look at it this morning.

I though it was odd that I didn’t get any periodic emails today, but I didn’t think too hard about it.

I didn’t think about it at all until my wife said she emailed me something, and I didn’t get it. And then she asked where my site went.

I have a stable of passwords I rotate in various combinations, I was able to renew my domain and change my email to Gmail. At some point, I want to have my own server, so I don’t even have to trust the lidless eye of Google to keep my emails.

I can’t log into the control panel of the domain service yet, because the hamsters are turning and my site is slowly whirring back to life. Actually, as I’m posting this, I’m slowing getting today’s emails. That’s a bit of a relief.

I’m also very glad they didn’t bounce back. I guess they were being held somewhere until the deletion date, which would be when they would bounce back.

The morals of today’s story are, don’t trust anyone who offers you an email address “for life;” if you want to have an email address that doesn’t have a free clients’s domain, buy your own domain; and make sure all your damn contact information is up-to-date on all your important accounts.

Now, I’m going to go buy a beer for my troubles.

Elliott out.

nine years

My first day of work in Petersburg was nine years ago today. It’s been a crazy run since then. I went from Petersburg to Hopewell to Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Hopewell again and now here I am in Charlottesville.

I didn’t intend to move so much. I didn’t intend to be a reporter. I didn’t expect to wind up in a supervisory position of sorts.

I regretted going to Petersburg almost immediately. Running around in the wilds of Dinwiddie County was the opposite of my weird dream of editing copy. I missed all the friends and experiences I left in Hampton Roads and I lamented not being in Richmond. Over time, the Tri-Cities grew on me to the point that I’ve driven through several times since officially leaving in September 2012.

How could I not? I spent about six years on the banks of the mighty Appomattox.

I’m glad that I wound up in Petersburg. I met so many people because I was there. I made new friends, I gained a wealth of experience and I wouldn’t be sitting here now if I hadn’t been there.

The amount of things that have changed since then is amazing. I was still on AOL Instant Messenger. This blog was still on LiveJournal. My cell phone not only was a flip phone, it didn’t have a camera. I rarely texted. Tablet computers didn’t exist. My laptop still had a floppy disk drive. We had YouTube, but videos weren’t going viral. Facebook was still fresh. MySpace was clinging to life. Only birds were tweeting.

It seems like such a short time ago, but it’s so far away.

When I went to the Progress-Index a few months ago, I was shocked at how much older everyone looked. Then I remembered that I hadn’t set foot in that place in more than six years.

I can’t help but wonder where this journalistic adventure will take me next. September will be three years here. Four months after that, I’ll begin breaking my record for my longest total tenure at a paper. I never intended to jump ship every 2¼ years on average.

Regardless of what happens next, this year is going to be a good one. And an interesting one.

I haven’t said this in a while: Live from Central Virginia, this is EXIT 265C and this is the viaduct. I’m continuing to hope that the road of life isn’t a beltway.

Sit back, relax and vicariously enjoy the randomness that is me.