i’m right where i wanna be

To make a long story short, I decided on a whim over the summer to listen to Weezer’s entire œuvre, and now it’s one of my favorite bands.

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.

My beard largely hides it, which is hilarious to me.

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.

Day One

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.

The weather was awful nearly the whole time we were there. It didn’t really rain, but the clouds were ominous and it was windy.

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.

nothing will change on friday, unfortunately

This is my favorite song from the Shaft soundtrack, and this also is a reminder to go to the actual Caffè Reggio when it is safe to go to New York.

It’s been a while. It’s been a while because what am I supposed to say? Sept. 13: Still in my house like every other reasonable person. I worked and then watched TV. No one wants that. I don’t want that. Additionally, I write extended intros to my job’s newsletter at least twice a week, and that’s kinda sucked up my creative juices. I thought about making those these entries, but a lot of them are very Charlottesville centric, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to put them here.

Speaking of work, though, there is some news: We’re hiring another reporter, so I’ll once again have four employees, like back in Hopewell. Additionally, we’ll have a winter/spring intern and possibly two summer interns, so there’s a chance that my reporting staff will equal the daily paper’s news staff for a few brief moments in 2021. That’s more of a shame than awesome because I’m watching a daily paper be crushed under bad corporate ownership and it keeps making me not want to tout any of my good news because it feels like gloating even when it isn’t.

That said, my outlet also got $150,000 in funding to deepen a partnership forged over the past year. Also, since the pandemic has ruined everything, I’ve been in a virtual relationship with a news outlet in the country of Georgia and I spoke to a group of Russian and American journalism students a few weeks ago.

I guess stuff kinda was happening after all.

I tried to reshoot the image I used for my debit card, but I got the location slightly off. Never mind that I could have opened my wallet while on the floodwall and gotten in position.

The thing I’ve missed the most this year is seeing friends and family. I’ve stopped by, but I haven’t hugged my mom in a year. I’ve only seen the inside of her house for a few fleeting moments. I’ve only seen a few friends in carefully choreographed outdoor in-person events. The newsroom had a bubble, but the act of newsgathering broke it, and I haven’t seen them outside of Zoom since late October.

Yesterday, I saw a fraternity brother and his girlfriend while sitting on a frigid deck at Legend Brewery in Richmond, hence getting the floodwall shot. He brought up beer I can’t get in Virginia and brought him some Albemarle County brew. (I resumed drinking in the fall. My seasonal allergies were worse than usual due to there being actual ragweed plants growing within spitting distance of the house, and I got a beer after a few days of playing “allergies or COVID-19?”) I had the urge to call up more people and make a day of it, but I didn’t even feel 100% comfortable being across a large table in the open air with a stiff breeze off the James River.

It didn’t help that, a few moments before, I discovered that at least six of my cousins possibly super-spreadered themselves. There attitudes toward the pandemic up to this point is a story for another time.

I know at some point, most likely when the vaccine finally gets around to me (thankfully, I’m probably so far down the list, they’ll know the full range of side effects by that point), I’ll feel OK. I don’t like that I don’t now. I don’t like that, even after getting it, I don’t know if I’ll want to go to a concert again or a crowded event or go to the grocery store without a mask. Maybe it’s for the best that we continue going to the grocery store with masks on. Who knows? I’m not speaking with any kind of authority and I’m not looking for your comments.

Two three two more things: I still might do a post of the year selection tomorrow. I haven’t looked that them closely, but I think there’s something good from between January and early March. Maybe next year will be better. Rambling in this post made me feel a little better.

I also bet you’re wondering about my long-discussed novel. I absolutely did not use any of this quarantine time to knock a lot of things out of the way, but I did complete a draft and, in the course of doing a manual spell check, added some new chapter breaks, moved a section around and also realized something outrageously topical about one of the characters that I’ve decided to not blatantly spell out because, with each passing year, the coincidences don’t look like coincidences. I seriously had to redo another character a few years back because I met someone who was just like that person. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to just wrap it up and get it out there. After I finish these last few tweaks, I’m just going to ship it out to a few friends and tell them that I did not look at it again because I’d wind up writing 20,000 more words instead of hunting for typos.

Last thing: I was going to post my year-end newsletter at the end of this post, but then I realized why I haven’t really posted any of them here: If you’re not aware of any events in Charlottesville, they would make no sense to you. Additionally, although it has been obvious over the years where I work (you don’t have to go through a couple pages on Google to find me now!), I don’t like blatantly saying where I work here because, as I say in my horribly worded and likely toothless disclaimer, this site does not necessarily reflect my past, current or future views nor does it reflect the past, current or future views of anyone/any entity with whom/with which I am affiliated.

I guess that was three things after all.

the ultimate penultimate

Hunger is strange; keeps happening to me

Penultimate is one of my favorite words. It’s just a highfalutin way of saying second to last. It’s like one of those things that, if you didn’t know exactly what the word was, you felt had to exist. So I try to use it every chance I get. But I’m also that weirdo who said “acrimonious” during a casual phone call yesterday. (Acrimonious was the right word. What was I supposed to say, bitter?)

Anyway, as the title states, this is the ultimate penultimate day in my apartment. Saturday is my last full Saturday in this apartment. It album version of this song, called Penultimo, has been in my head for all of these penultimate days. I’m down to packing everything except for the stuff I’ll need for the next seven days. Our lease actually is up on May 15, so we’ll probably grab some things over the course of the first full week in May, but Saturday night will mark the end nights in this apartment.

I tolerated living here for a very long time, but things got progressively worse. Again, there’s too much to list here. Never mind that I have unlimited space.

It’s been a while since I’ve been champing at the bit to get out of a place. I mean, my Petersburg apartment was probably the worst. My Manchester apartment wouldn’t have been the second worst but the new owners of the building made it awful so all of the tenants moved out. So, yeah, I don’t think I’ve been this ready to get out of a place since 2007.

I’m so ready to leave, I’ve already switched my address on everything (although I’ve read that doing it two weeks in advance is a good practice). This has come in handy because half of my cloth mask order got sent back for being “undeliverable.” Never mind that it was one order in two packages.

The justification for being shorn.

I had the second half resent to the new house instead of to my apartment. I’m just hoping it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of putting the appliances back in and putting the finishing touches on the house because I don’t want to go over there to get it this weekend. Since I can’t take a week off to move like I intended, this probably is the final weekend where I’m not going between the two places until about the 15th.

After that, I hope it’s a long time before I’m counting down the days before I move.

this old house

Dan Shake brought me here.

Petersburg: 2006-2007. Hopewell 2007-2008. First place in Richmond: 2009. Chimborazo: 2009-2012 (excluding six months in North Carolina). First place in Charlottesville: 2012-2015. Third place in Richmond: 2015-2016. Fourth place in Richmond: 2016-2018. This dump: 2018-2020. I’ve never intended to spend such a short time in any of these places.

I began to fear for my safety in Petersburg. Hopewell turned into a bad situation. The first place in Richmond was understood to be temporary. When it came to Church Hill, all good things had to come to an end. In a different scenario, we eventually would have moved to another place in Charlottesville if we never went back to Richmond. We effectively got pushed out of our first apartment in Richmond by the building’s new owners. I was compelled to return to Charlottesville, so we waved goodbye to our dated, but fancy, apartment with a fancy address.

It’s gotten to the point that I have to describe what’s been wrong with this place in person. (Well, at this point, over the phone or in a Google Hangout.) If I wanted real booze yet, I’d have champagne on our first night.

Anyway, one thing that has come from all of this moving has been an obsession with packing. I start early. I look at schematics. I measure everything. For this move, I got a storage unit because I have some fraternity materials and, because our new place is about 300 square feet smaller than this apartment, I wasn’t sure some other things would fit. Especially since the house will be 400 feet smaller than this apartment when we move in.

I’m already making a short story long. The landlord is building an 100-square-foot addition to our house. We’re getting a discount during that period because we’ll be without a laundry room, half bath, closet and a small loft until perhaps the end of June

But for roughly the same price as this apartment, we’ll be back in city limits in a fully restored 100-year-old house. I got to take a look at the work so far and take some measurements. Below are some photos I took on Saturday. They’re a lot further along than the pictures show. After the final painting, all they have to do is install the ceiling and wall fixtures. Then the floor crew is coming in the week of the 20th and the appliances go back in once the floor is ready and the work shifts to the addition.

The measurements let me know that it will be a little cozy, but our stuff is going to fit. Our stuff will fit better when the back room is ready, but it’ll do for now. Photos with captions below.

I expect we’ll be there until we have a kid and it’s time for that kid to have a room of their own. (I presume a loft is no place for a toddler.) It’s a deep lot, though, so perhaps I will sell my mom’s house, finish my book, buy this house and add yet another addition to this aged edifice. All I know is that I’m reaching the point where I’m getting tired of moving.

coming up for air

Trained I’m precise to make the crowd tingle
You finally get to kick it and miss like Ray Finkle
All righty then, spin emcees like Frisbees
And got verbal animation on lock like Walt Disney

I don’t need to tell you things have been intense since my last post. We learned COVID-19 was a lot worse than we expected, far worse, we went into a virtual lockdown and there is a lot about it that we actually don’t know, hence the lockdown.

And, since I run a newsroom, my job got crazy.

Friday was the first time in a while that I wasn’t in front of my computer for more than 12 hours. This weekend was the first time I truly relaxed since early last month. Monday went a little too long, but I called it quits early today. I had to. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and if we don’t pace ourselves, this newsroom won’t make it to the finish line.

In other news, one bit of uncertainty has been resolved: We signed the lease on our new home. Some of you know of the problems I’ve had in this apartment and the complex. Some of you know all of the problems. Some of you probably think I liked it here because I haven’t said an awful lot and we stayed for two years. Well, a lot of things happened and we regretted renewing the lease less than a week after renewing the lease.

We’re heading back into city limits and, if you don’t count the six months in North Carolina, this will be the first time I’ve been in a fully detached house since early 2009. There’s a driveway and a yard and a small stream in the backyard and I’m a bit excited. I’ll be a mile away from work, so I could take the bus or walk (if we get to a point where we can return to our office with some regularity).

It’s smaller than our apartment, but our apartment has a lot of wasted space and I think we can make it work. If not, I have a small storage unit and a lot of things I need but don’t need. It’s restored and it’s getting an addition with a laundry room, small loft and a half bathroom. It has a clawfoot tub. It’s 95 years old. It has a name. I gave my mom’s house a fake name based on the technical name of the subdivision. This house actually is called something.

Again, I’m excited. Ever since we did the first walk through, I’ve been estimating in my head where things would go and hoping certain things would fit. I have memories of a place I haven’t lived in yet. I’m sure there’s a long German word for that.

But there’s still so much uncertainty. SARS-CoV-2 is stalking our streets. I haven’t moved my car since April 1, when I picked up dinner from the fantastic C&O Restaurant (try the Steak Chinoise; you’ll thank me later). I had planned to see my mom on March 13. I haven’t seen her since December. I ordered some cloth masks, which also means I shaved my beard of two years because I care enough about my fellow humans.

Also, it’s been nearly six weeks since my septum piercing, so it’s no longer painful and my nose no longer is swollen.

run with us

I remembered this song from what I knew was an important episode. I cheated and looked it up on YouTube, and man, that episode was probably the saddest moment in 1980s animation.

Back in the late 1980s and, I think, a good bit into the early ’90s, the Disney Channel was a premium network on cable. Back then, I was one of the few people in my peer group that not only had cable but also the Disney Channel. (My mom eventually canceled it, so I went without it sometime around when Britney Spears A LOT of other now very famous people were on the final seasons of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993/4.)

Apparently, it was complete rarity to have cable back then because I went to college and people who grew up in Northern Virginia also didn’t really have the Disney Channel. So, I spent a lot of my life not running into anyone who remembered the cartoon The Raccoons. It was too the point that I thought I was as crazy as Mandy, who for the longest time was the only person who remembered the show Small Wonder.

Over the years, I’ve forgotten a lot about what The Raccoons was about, but what stuck with me was the music. It wasn’t hokey cartoon music. They created real songs, kinda like how there’s a whole entire Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers theme song. That honestly is one of my favorite songs because of the sax solo.

Wait for it …

Anyway, the closing theme for The Raccoons stuck in my head despite only about 1:24 of it playing at the most as the credits rolled. When the internet became ubiquitous, I spent entirely too much time trying to prove that the cartoon about raccoons attempting to save the Evergreen Forest from a greedy, capitalist aardvark existed. And trying to hear Run with Us again. Eventually, several low-quality full versions showed up on YouTube, along with the music video edit.

When darkness falls, leaving shadows in the night,
Don’t be afraid.
Wipe that fear from your eyes.

Then I discovered that there was an out-of-print album by Lisa Lougheed with the song and others from the cartoon. at the time, I 1) did not have a record player and 2) I was too broke post-college to buy both a record player and an out-of-print album.

And then it was reissued recently. And I bought it.

The desperate love
Keeps on driving you wrong,
Don’t be afraid,
You’re not alone
You can run with us; everything you need
Run with us; we are free
C-c-c-come with us; I see passion in your eyes
Run with us

When I first the two tracks after the theme song, I instantly remembered them. And I had forgotten how much I liked Stop the Clock.

That chorus hit me right in the feels on Monday.

My memories begin in 1986, and a lot of the things I retained were songs. I think it’s why I love ’80s music so much. It takes me back to when I was little and my mom’s house was a hub of activity. It was still Grandma’s house then. As she was the matriarch, it was home base for everyone. Cousins came and went, meals were made, boomboxes blasted, parties were thrown. Even to this day, my mom’s house is where everyone feels welcome. The front door is open during daylight hours and the porch light stays on all night. (There was an era when keeping it on meant it was OK to ring the doorbell and not to dissuade you from breaking in.)

How everything ’80s makes me feel is why, I’m already thinking about what to do with that house. At the very least, I must renovate it and rent it out so it fills a new family with joy the way it did for the descendants of William and Armentress Terry. Hopefully, some kid in the late 2030s will have a youth full of excitement and song there and think back fondly to it in 2070.

today

I am in love with Dan Shake’s entire œuvre.

I voted, because has Virginia has open primaries and my overall political leanings are none of your business. I’ve only missed one opportunity to vote in my entire life, and I’ll forever feel guilty about that. My grandparents had to pay poll taxes and recite the preamble of the Constitution. I don’t care if the only race is for concession stand operator and it’s uncontested. I must vote.

Doing your civic duty is awesome.

Then I went to work. While I was wrapping things up, I made up my mind to do something, and I kept going because I didn’t know whether I would back out if I stopped. That something was something I brought up on the 29th. I said I was toying with the idea of getting a nose ring.

In that post on the 29th, I wondered if I were going through some sort of crisis. I’m now retracting that statement. I’m now thinking of this being a continuation of the trajectory I was on in late 2011. The decisions I’ve made in the past few months alone fee like they were inevitable. I feel like myself again. That only took about eight years.

But back to the the new holenmyhead.

I set myself up for this.
It’s not very prominent right now, but I plan on getting a larger one when this fully heals in eight weeks.

I’m still a little surprised by how much it didn’t hurt. I mean, today was a little breezy, and I could definitely feel that breeze in ways I did not like. Additionally, the jostling from eating a steak tonight was … interesting, but that tenderness will be temporary.

Oh, and like my magnificent beard (I know I’m a little overdue for my semimonthly beard sculpting), my mom hates it. Well, she didn’t explicitly say so because my nephew, who is home for spring break (because spring break at CNU is before the vernal equinox for some reason), is bleaching his hair in the bathroom sink tonight.

“I don’t know what to do with you boys,” was all she said.

i’ve fallen back into not being very good at this

I want to like this band a lot, but I only like a handful of songs a lot.

I bought a pleather jacket. It partially was on a whim. I went to a conference a few weeks ago in North Carolina, and the weather was too warm for a coat and too cold for a blazer. Usually, I go add another layer and a scarf and use my blazers as jackets, but the temperatures also were such that I would rapidly swing from being cold and hot throughout the course of the day.

I could have worn the fabric jacket I already own but I don’t wear it in formal settings anymore. Like (until recently) the inside of my car and nearly everything I own that is pure black, that jacket is completely covered in Missy’s hair, and no amount of anything changes that.

I once cleaned out the dryer lint trap and it was 90% dog hair. And there still was dog hair embedded in some of my clothing. I don’t know how she isn’t bald.

But I digress.

It’s time for stores to roll in spring/summer items, so I essentially stole this.

Anyway, as you can see, I quickly added a button a pin and a No BS! Brass-styled guitar pick. I’ve turned some heads since this is a slight departure from me being constantly dressed as a fancy gentleman. But I also almost exclusively wear Converses now. And now I own technically three pairs of jeans and three pairs of shorts.

I’ve think I’ve been going through a crisis of some sorts. I kinda want a nose piercing and that seems even more absurd now that I’ve written it out for the first time.

I’m not saying a correlation equals a equal causation, but pleather and a possible nose ring are coming up during my experimentation with not drinking. Saturday is the 43rd day since I’ve had alcohol. I’ve decided that I’m not going to have any booze until I want some booze, and I haven’t yet. The occasional nonalcoholic beers I’ve had have been good in inducing a placebo effect of sorts. My subconscious applauds my liver for doing a great job of processing alcohol quickly whenever I have at least two and, as expected, nothing happens.

hell atlantic

Freddie Hubbard and George Benson are on this. The album cover could be Goatse, for all I care.

I, uh, don’t know if you know this about me, but I really, really love driving. Although having friends or other loved ones in the cabin with me is enjoyable, my favorite driving is when I’m by myself on an open road. It’s when I think things through and relax. I either put on a playlist of truly background music or the sounds of the engine that the automakers of this decade have allowed the driver to hear.

On Sunday, I headed down to Hampton. My mother and mother-in-law neither will confirm nor deny that they coordinated me coming back down to pick up Christmas presents after we just were there for Thanksgiving. Additionally, I used my last vacation day to take my mom to the record room of the circuit court clerk’s office. I totally forgot the main thing I went in there for, but she at least got to find what she was looking for.

But that was Monday. Sunday night was The Drive.

The second time I ever went to Virginia Beach was in 2001. The first time was in 1992 when I was about to have my first unsuccessful surgery to stop snoring. Never mind that my house is only about 30 miles from the Oceanfront. Never mind that I had extensive trips throughout my life in the other six cities. It just always had this feeling of being aaaalllll the way over there and not offering anything I could get from the other six cities, like a beach or stores.

Lately ― I think because I’ve been away from the Atlantic Coastal Plain ― I’ve also been taking walks alone on the beach. So I set out to the one beach in Hampton Roads that I knew for certain did not close at night.

Moonrise over the Atlantic.

I took the “long way” to the beach. After I crossed the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, I immediately got off and took Ocean View Avenue/Shore Drive to Atlantic Avenue.

I passed Sarah Constant Beach in Norfolk. It was the first stop on the last trip my father and I had together on my last day of eighth grade in 1997. I remembered that someone was getting baptized in the Chesapeake Bay that day. In 2003, I met someone who mentioned getting baptized at Sarah Constant Beach in June 1997. There was a point in my life when I had a lot of coincidences like that.

I stopped at 33rd Street, because symbolism, and headed to the Atlantic Ocean. I was near the Neptune statue, but that wasn’t on purpose.

I wasn’t going for framing these photos correctly.

I love our beaches in the off season because they’re so quiet. Growing up, I grew to hate the summer tourism season because the roads became more clogged and the beaches full to the point that most request to go were turned down or turned into regret upon arrival.

Then Labor Day comes and goes. The tourists go away but it’s still warm enough to enjoy things. I have countless memories of the beach in those waning warm days. In high school and into college, there also was overnight camping near Grandview Beach at a spot we called The Land Behind the Tree.

Seeing the beach this late in the year was new for me. I encountered only nine people. Atlantic Avenue was dormant.

Six months from now, standing here at about 8 p.m. will be impossible.
Some businesses still were open and their party-setting music echoed in the empty streets. In the hotels, very few lights were on.

I took a slightly circuitous route home. I don’t like going back the way I came whenever I take “quick” trips, so my goal was to reach Interstate 664. That meant I had the opportunity to hit all seven cities, and I really wanted to go to Chesapeake. The family of maternal grandmother’s father goes back to at least 1819 in Norfolk County, which largely became the city of Chesapeake. Additionally, I’ve always been fascinated with the South Norfolk neighborhood in Chesapeake. It once was a separate city and then merged with the county to become the current city. It’s the only truly urban-looking part of the municipality.

I cruised down Virginia Beach Boulevard back into Norfolk, across the Campostella Bridge, down Wilson Road into Chesapeake and across the new Jordan Bridge into Portsmouth. As I headed up Elm Avenue and Effingham Street, I thought about how many people would have conniptions over me riding around P-Town at night. I quickly headed to the Western Freeway and into Suffolk, reaching my seventh city of the day.

Sunday night in the 757. A rare occasion of traveling for miles and miles without rage-inducing traffic. It was the first time in a very long time that I took a substantial ride across so much of my home. I missed being on well-lit surface streets with speed limits of 45 and 55. I missed being able to go 15 miles in a straight line and still be in an urban area.

There was a point when I pulled over on Virginia Beach Boulevard and got out of the car again. I took it in: the straight, flat roads, the air rich with the scent of land exposed by low tide. As I grow older, my irrational fear of Hampton Roads slipping into the sea sooner rather than later increases. I thought about where in Chesapeake or even Suffolk would be high enough for my liking.

I looked back at the eight lanes of U.S. 58, the road I once was stranded on in 2004. Once the longest U.S. route wholly in one state. The great line on the bottom of the commonwealth I’ve driven all but 98 miles of. In a few hours of me standing there, those eight lanes would be filled to the brim. And I would hate it.

I almost missed living here. Almost.

I disliked being there growing up for myriad reasons. The time and physical distance have softened the memories. I like this feeling of nostalgia I’m starting to have for the place. That circle I drove was a beautiful 78 miles.

0629 ―> 434

This is my new theme song.
Mariupol meets Charlottesville

Last week was an adventure. For three days we hosted an online news outlet from Mariupol, Ukraine, through a program with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX). The name of the outlet, 0629, is the city’s area code. If all goes well, we’ll send a delegation there next year (there’s a chance that we’ll go to the country of Georgia instead or both).

Part of their visit included a tour of one of our TV stations.

Along with having tours of some cultural sites in the area, the had a tour at CBS19 in the are and we swapped stories about how our newsrooms operate. Their story is a fascinating one because Mariupol was close to the battles of the (ongoing) Russian military intervention in Ukraine. They had some major challenges as they tried to operate as an independent newsroom in an area where that often doesn’t happen and another country actively waged a misinformation campaign.

I saw to it that they learned a lot about the area’s Black history.

A lot of things were oddly familiar, and we also learned a lot from them. It also gave me a new perspective on what we did. In trying to avoid having the interpreter translate figures of speech, it made me think really hard about what we do and why.

Their newsroom signed a Ukrainian Flag and gave it to us

That brings us to today. We have year-end reviews and we’re looking toward 2020. We’ve done a lot in the past year, especially in the past six months, and we’re looking forward to building on the momentum that we’re starting to build. I’m excited about what we’re setting out to do next year. We’re learning a new journalism model as we go, and I plan on charting the next few months during our Christmas break. It’s been a while since a newsroom truly has been mine, and it’s time to put the pedal down.

I’m glad I sat down and watched The Irishman on Saturday so I have the perfect music for it.