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.

there will be photos

Our story starts in Richmond on Friday, because of course my wedding had to involve Richmond in some form or fashion. I headed back to my old stomping grounds in Church Hill to have my favorite, formerly friendly neighborhood, barber cut my hair. He went out of his way to make it into the glorious beard you can see in the photo I posted yesterday. It was the most intense barber visit I’ve ever had. Ben having to work his way through more than four months of unbridled hair growth probably aided in that.

Afterward, my destination was Craig’s house. My mom’s bus arrived in Richmond on Saturday and I figured the easiest way to do everything was to just be in Richmond already. Also, I had no idea exactly how any sort of bachelor party would happen so I thought being in Richmond one day and Charlottesville the other would be the best course of action.

It would have helped if I remembered to charge my phone.

While my phone was dead, Craig and I went to Friday Cheers downtown to see St. Paul and The Broken Bones. I needed a good concert in my system. Of course I have their album now. We got drinks afterward with some friends. I would have grabbed more people but my phone was beyond doornail at this point. After that, I got a pretty good night’s sleep. I’m glad I did because I needed it Saturday.

Where do I start with Saturday? Would it be me slightly fretting over not getting a refund back yet from the University of Virginia? Would it be me being in Richmond way, way longer than I expected? Would it be getting to the reception hall late and the Fry’s Spring Beach Club’s coordinator freaking out because there was miscommunication? Would it be that we never got a chance to map out moving the wedding entirely there? Would it be at 6 a.m. Sunday, when I thought everything was fine until the food arrived entirely too early?

I think some people will talk about how stressed out I was for quite a while.

But it all worked out. At UVa, the trees in the garden contracted fire blight, a disease that makes them look like they’ve been burned. The best plan of action to save the entire tree is to aggressively cut the portions that were stricken. It’s currently a lovely promenade of half-dead sticks. Additionally, the forecast varied wildly from high 90s and incredibly humid, like some days in the middle of last week; mid-80s and stormy, like some of the later days last week; and a what seemed like an impossibility: times of clouds and sun with a high of 78.

That was exactly what we got.

Despite the torrential rains, dead trees, panic and literal last-minute changes, our wedding was outdoors with living trees on the second most pleasant day so far this June. The first was 75 and partly cloudy on June 1, this blog’s anniversary.

Much of the day is a blur, obviously. But it was such a great day in Fry’s Spring. Some people I have known for years mentioned that until Sunday, they hadn’t seen me smile that much. Or ever. Of course I was: I told myself 12 years ago I was going to marry that woman and here we are! It was the happiest day of my life thus far.

And I had a pincord suit with a matching hat. And white shoes.

The next day, yesterday, was my birthday and it was more of us starting to catch our breaths. We’re continuing that today. I can’t remember the last time I hadn’t done more than go out on the deck by 2:40 p.m.

Well, I bet you’re looking for photos. As I said in the title, there will be photos. A ton of them are on Facebook and I’m giving people a day or so to send me their favorites to the wedding email before I go through them all and post some. Also, I should have some from Ryan next week or so.

Other than that, I need to get that typewriter fixed so I can start sending out thank you letters.

And get ready for work Thursday.

viadecade

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY, I was a rising senior in college. As I was wondering where the road would take me, I decided to chronicle my senior year and my experience as one of the charter members of what was our fraternity house. When I started, I had no idea how long this would last. I definitely didn’t think I’d be reflecting on blogging for a decade. We’ve gone from the halcyon days of college to slouching through young adulthood and, now, marriage.

I nearly shut the viaduct down several times in its early years. There were a few points when this blog all but faded away (such as January 2013 when there were exactly two entries, as compared to 46 in the first month). The name of this blog went from Langley Park to the S p r i n g h o u s e to the viaduct. The viaduct endured some awful, awful designs along the way and migrated from LiveJournal to WordPress. Exit265c.com went from a blog to almost a website with a blog included.

Through it all, though, it’s always been what it’s always been: A blog for everyone and no one, a public collection of my private thoughts, a relevant way for those who know me to keep abreast of my irrelevancy.

As the countdown says, now that’s it’s finally ticked down to 0, it’s been a crazy 10 years. But you know that. We’ve gone from college to unemployment to eight years of journalism. We’ve been from Rochester to Miami, Boston to Baton Rouge, Nashville to Norfolk. I’ve had some of my highest highs and my lowest lows expressed in words on this exit265c.com.

And I don’t regret a single word. Except for that one time. Then I got over it.

But I digress.

It’s time for a celebration. A month-long celebration! Today is the start of Year 10. My wedding is in 21 days! The 10th anniversary of me turning 21 is in 22 days!  There are many more miles to go, things to experience and people to see.

As I’ve said nearly every year, I’m taking you with me.

We’ll end this, and start the next decade, with our first refrain, the last words of Entry No. 1, June 1, 2004: sit back, relax and vicariously enjoy the randomness that is me.

10K

image

I got Nicole Louise Cobb on Feb. 28, 2009 with 14 miles on her. On Nov. 30, 2013, we got here.

We’ve been to Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York.

It’s been a wild ride. Here’s to 100,000 more, hopefully in a longer time frame.