Before we get started on point of this post
I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the things the COVID-19 pandemic has done is dry up the flow of posts. I get up, walk to the other side of my house and work. Everything I do is virtual. I sometimes go days without technically leaving the property the house is on. (I say technically because, due to topography, a portion of my backyard belongs to an adjacent property owner and we’ve “annexed” it.) On most of my time off, I simply avoid the “work” part of the house so I still feel some sort of work-life balance.
Stuff still is happening, but there sometimes isn’t enough to make it into a proper post, in my opinion. One of the things that has happened is that I’ve begun a journey to stretch my ear piercings. I’m not finished with that yet.
I don’t really see there begin regular updates here again until my life outside of work involves again regularly leaving my house. As you may recall, I don’t exactly like posting about work, partially because this never has had anything about what I did for a living.
But another thing that has happened is that we have made that hire I mentioned earlier. I estimated when it would happen and set a time to go on vacation. I was right. And this is what this post actually is about.
In December, we had an unofficial Christmas break and one of things that happened in the absence of working five days a week what that I worked through the fact that we are in a deadly global pandemic and I know of people who have died and I have been cut off from so many people I love very, very much. It put me in not a good place in January and February. But making that hire, and a few other things going right, lifted my spirits enough that planning out a week off felt like a great and relaxing prospect that would put me in the right mindset work with my full and revamped staff.
I had two plans. If Renée couldn’t go, I was going to Petersburg to do a Tri-Cities food tour. I found out my favorite Chinese restaurant closed, but It was still worth it. If they could go, the request was simple: the beach. Soon, it was decided that we would go to my favorite vacation spot, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. I went there on a whim back in 2005, and it had been nearly 10 years since I was last there, despite how much I love it. As some of you may recall, I lived in Eastern North Carolina nine years ago. That experience wasn’t as fantastic as I’d hoped it would be, partially because my job there currently does not exist. Thankfully, I saw the writing on the wall before the layoffs began.
I didn’t book a room at my favorite hotel there because the reviews have been all over the place there lately. We instead went with the Holiday Inn there. Unless we make plans in advance to visit people while we’re on vacation, we don’t, so being socially distant from everyone was not a struggle. My rule the time before when we got stir crazy and went to Roanoke for a few days (I didn’t count that as a trip worth covering because I was all of two hours from home) was that we would not do anything that would unnecessarily put us or anyone else in excessive danger of spreading COVID by basically doing what we do at home. I don’t think there was a point in North Carolina when we were within 6 feet of anyone. It was a beachfront hotel, and we cringed whenever we saw people who definitely weren’t in the same household mingling in close quarters.
And we mostly saw those people from our balcony because we got a free upgrade to an ocean-facing suite.
There were only two nights when we closed the door to our balcony. I apologize for how many times I’m going to say how relaxing the trip was. I did not think about work. I did not think about Charlottesville. Renée has been trying hard over the years to get me to actually switch it off on vacation, and I finally did it. It really helped that it was a great stopping point at work. My new employees began work on this past Monday, which was my first day back. Our current employees had a handle on things, and our intern is amazing. The only thing hanging over my head was a project for my fraternity, and no one had given me a deadline for that by the time I sat on that balcony in Room 502 and took what was one of the final photos with my old phone.
But let’s back up for a second.
On the way there, we made a stop in Hampton. My mom, who is now fully vaccinated, watched Missy while we were gone. Per the CDC’s rules, it was OK for me to give her a hug. It was so overwhelming to embrace my mom after so much time, I didn’t feel anything at first. But I was also riding on that high during the trip. I can see my mom. I can go inside the house. I can crash there for a weekend again … but on a daybed downstairs because my bedroom is now my nephew’s room. Never mind that all my stuff I never got around to throwing away is in there.
I took U.S. 17 down because it was my route to Jacksonville whenever I headed to and from Hampton Roads from there. I didn’t like the fastest route back then because there were more than a few two-lane roads and far too many slow-moving vehicles on them. It was fascinating to see so many things that had changed and all the things that hadn’t. I wanted to linger in Jacksonville and do things like drive past the house I was in, but I had a singular goal of getting to our hotel room before dark. There wasn’t much to see in Jacksonville, anyway. Because of my work schedule, and often talking to Renée until morning, I spent many days only seeing my bedroom, the newsroom, the grocery store and the kitchen. I honestly don’t think I ever went into the backyard of that house and only went to the gazebo over river at the end of my street a couple of times.
But I digress.
I did not mean for my first out-of-state trip since the pandemic began to be in North Carolina because my last pre-pandemic trip was to North Carolina. I have not been north of Rappahannock County, Virginia, since 2019. I played a drum & bass playlist for the majority of the ride down. I’ve been on a dnb kick for a few weeks. It makes sense because it’s one of my favorite genres. When that playlist ended, I switched over to Weezer’s newest album. I just can’t get enough of it right now, along with Bicep’s new album, Isles, which is a weird juxtaposition. (Well, not for me.)
I was starving by the time we got to the hotel after 6 p.m. My only sustenance that day was a frap from the start of the second leg of our trip. Renée’s favorite food is Peruvian, and no one makes in in Charlottesville, so we set out for that. We wound up going to a place in neighboring Brunswick County, Papi’s Chicken. I got the chaufa, a slice of blueberry cheesecake for later and a passionfruit augua fresca.
It was a little chilly that first night. I brought a jacket with me and sat on the balcony for an long, long time. The size of the hotel and the direction of the wind robbed me of the scent of the salt marsh behind the hotel and the ocean in front of me. But I had the sound of the crashing Atlantic. Although my fears of sea level rise and hurricane damage are keeping me from considering living on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, I miss it sometimes.
Next: The day I thought my phone died.