it’s not that bad, pt. 2

I completely forgot there was a new Muse album. It was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday

For obvious reasons, it was extremely slow going Saturday morning. For a chunk of it, we watched Bill and Karen’s kid play and closely scrutinized children’s songs and the videos accompanying them. Eventually, we felt up for the task and Bill, Brandon and I got ready for our day out. It was the day of the Kansas-Kansas State game, and we couldn’t get tickets. It was cold, so I’m a little glad we didn’t. 

We took an Uber into Aggieville. I deleted my Uber back when it was fashionable, so I would have gotten a Lyft. But, if I was in charge of hailing a ride, we would have missed out on our delightful driver. A native Texan, she immediately told us not to be alarmed because she needed to take her knife out of her boot because it was uncomfortable. She then went on to regale us of her verbally abusive childhood. But, seriously, she was a hoot.

Our first stop was Kite’s Bar and Grill. It was crowded, as was every other place in Aggieville, so we spent the entire duration of the football game standing or leaning against the bar. I had nothing but water, for obvious reasons, and some of the surprisingly delicious nachos they served.

The most disappointing thing about this entire trip was that I didn’t really experience a lot of local food. I was warned that this would happen.

After a football’s game worth of water, I recovered enough to head to Keltic Star Public House, where the hair of the dog, a lamb slider and rebel drumsticks rejuvenated me. From there, we called Karen to pick us up and went to So Long Saloon to some more drinks and its chipotle raspberry and black bean dip. Bill and Karen did not tell us there were raspberries in it before we tried it because it sounded a tad odd. I would have tried it anyway, though. (It was spectacular, by the way.)

Back at Bill’s house, we analyzed the absurdity of children’s programming once more before I drove us back into Aggieville and we headed to The Varsity Truck.

I keep forgetting to do Alt Text. Butts.
One of its slogans is “The Varsity Truck for some late night back alley fun!” Oh, college towns.

The Varsity Truck is the back half of Varsity Donuts. Legend has it that the historic building housing the doughnut shop lacked a kitchen and the shopkeepers were not allowed to install one. The solution was to permanently park a food truck in the alley to cook.

As this is a college town, drunk students were lured into the alley by the smell of doughnuts cooking in the moonlight and began asking for food. This led to the truck becoming a late-night food spot. Its wares include corn dogs (I love corn dogs, so of course I got one) and grilled macaroni and cheese sandwiches. (I love the occasional gross, fattening food, so of course I got one.) We ate them in the alley as The Walking Dead played on mute and a grossly inappropriate song — I think it was Andy Gibb’s An Everlasting Love — played.

We ended the night with ranting at Tiny House Hunters, which might be my new thing, and the house was asleep by 11:30. Because we’re in our 30s, and multiple days of rallying all night long are out of the question.

Sunday

After waking up at about 8 a.m. and subjecting ourselves to more children’s programming, Brandon and I decided against breaking our ride back into two parts (I initially planned to stop somewhere in Kentucky). When then dedicated the day to Karen. She’s been as much as a integral part of our college experience as Bill. And before Bill and Karen were dating, our road trips began to include her (which led to me realizing Bill liked Karen before Bill knew he liked Karen).

Karen gave us a driving tour of the city that included all of the places that weren’t Aggieville. Although we went to Aggieville. I needed to get a magnet for Renée, and I also got a key chain. Because why not?

As the tour began winding up, Karen mentioned that there was a winery. So we went.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, and this was the only one I enjoyed.

The winery was called Liquid Art. We each did a flight and briefly sat outside. It took a while for us to figure out the fire pit, and then the wind picked up.

Back inside, I decided that the winery’s boldest, reddest wine was pretty good. But I decided against buying a bottle.  On the way to Kansas, we brought in Virginia beer and cider and Kentucky bourbon. There was a brief mishap with the bourbon in transit from St. Louis to Manhattan, so I decided against carrying any other quantity of booze over state lines. 

Unless the ghost of Burt Reynolds could be my blocker.

We could have been East Bound and Down, though.

Afterward, we went to Little Apple Brewing Co., where the featured meal was Memphis loaded sweet potato fries. I ordered supplemental food, because I wanted soup and it somehow didn’t register that a flatbread was a small pizza, 

While we were eating, Mandy visited because I hadn’t seen her in seven years and just getting a cup of coffee just didn’t seem right for the only other person who know as much as — if not more — about me than Bill.

FINALLY, A LOCAL RESTAURANT.

 After Mandy left, we decided it was time for dessert, so we headed to Vista.

If I hadn’t had entirely too much food that day, I would have gotten a Vistaburger. Although it’s a hamburger, I at least would have been able to say I ate something unequivocally local. Instead, I got a hot chocolate float. I’d never heard of one before, so I guess that counts.

We wrapped up the night with more Tiny House Hunters, two shots and a beer and an early bedtime so Brandon and I could hit the road at 6 a.m.

Monday (and about 40 minutes into Tuesday)

Brandon and I woke up at 5 a.m. so we could leave by 6 a.m. Brandon had to get to work on Tuesday, so we had to get going early. If we only stopped for gas, we could have made it back to Charlottesville by midnight. I was shooting for 12:30 a.m. (and I probably would have made it too, if I noticed like all the locals that there was a cop up ahead, as I mentioned in the first part).

Once we got to the St. Louis Metro area, I drove the portion that I missed while passed out in my backseat and completed driving the entire length of Interstate 64. I stopped short of doing the entire Hampton Roads Beltway earlier this month, so I can’t say I did the entire thing in less than a month. But I did it. I’ve wanted to do it ever since the early ’90s, when I found out where 64 ended.

We made a few stops in Missouri to get gas and then for me to get a Mountain Dew. I was still a little sleepy when we started, and nothing perks me up lie doing the Dew. I rarely drink it because a 20 ounce bottle keeps me moving for about 18 hours.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it snowed from Kansas to the Mississippi River. It wasn’t sticking to the pavement, but that was awful. It was also interesting to go from scraping ice and snow off my car to effectively driving into a sunny fall day.

We didn’t make another real stop until we grabbed food in Mount Vernon, Illinois. It was an arbitrary stop, but we went from Manhattan to Times Square.

Yes, it’s at Broadway and 42nd.

Seriously.

Again, we did not plan this at all.

A few hours later, after stopping for gas in Kentucky, it began to rain. A lot. A whole lot.

And it was foggy in West Virginia, too.

But I soldiered on.

“Years of playing driving simulation video games with a steering wheel and gas pedal prepared me for this,” I said to Brandon, who sometimes woke up to me more or less navigating by dead reckoning along some higher elevations.

We got back at 12:40 a.m. The rain still was coming down in buckets. The Mountain Dew kept me up till nearly 3 a.m. I slept until nearly noon Tuesday.

I’m grateful that tomorrow is Friday.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed this trip. Again, it was great to see people I’ve known for between about 13 years, in Karen’s case, and as much as about 25 years, in Mandy’s case. (Mandy and I knew of each other since fourth grade but didn’t truly become friends until 10th grade.)

That saying about being able to pick up where you left off with good friends is true. If stepped into night out with Pete and our banter felt like my favorite, most comfortable pair of shoes. Both coming and going from Kansas, Brandon and I went a good four hours before the conversation tapered off. Bill, Karen and I have have quiet and raucous times in equal measure so mostly sitting on the couch as their child played seemed like a natural progression. I talk to Mandy so much, there wasn’t exactly much to catch up on. Unfortunately, we’ve drifted away from some of our mutual high school and college friends to the point that there isn’t as much gossip as there used to be.

Since I’ll still have three weeks of vacation to Renée’s two, I might split those days into weekend trips to St. Louis and then another trip to Manhattan.

Although I want to explore St. Louis, I’m looking forward to returning to Manhattan more.

This is the key chain I bought.

If you didn’t see this coming, I’m disappointed in you.

it’s not that bad, pt. 1

This song really is unrelated. I just happened to hear it a few minutes ago.
I didn’t grasp why everyone ahead of me slammed on their brakes until it was too late.

Thank you, Sgt. Wooten. I was absolutely going well over the speed limit on Monday when you pulled me over on Interstate 64. Everyone else with Indiana plates was doing it, so I figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  I guess that only counts when you have Indiana plates.

When I pulled over, my first thought was, “Well, he’s got me dead to rights. It kinda sucks because I’m certain a lot of people were going faster than me.”

That was true. Those faster people weren’t stupid enough to continue driving slowly so he could catch up. But I’m 35 years old. Fifteen years ago, I probably would have punched it, and I would you be telling you the funny story of how the home stretch of my trip went disastrously wrong.

Thursday, Nov. 7

It was sleeting in Kansas when Brandon and I left. I was told that it wasn’t likely to stick to the roads, but it was a little disconcerting. Either way, Kansas is good at clearing roads, Bill said, so there shouldn’t be a problem by the time I arrived on Friday. Bill called me at 9 a.m., 8 a.m. his time, to tell me this news. My alarm had just gone off. I was set to leave at 10. This definitely was going to be a TauDelt adventure.

Bill, my best friend and best man, currently is stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. He plans on leaving the Army soon, which is why he bought a house. His current plan is to finish his masters and become a history teacher. He and his wife — Karen, a friend from college who also is a great friend — decided they were fine with settling in Kansas because they were surprised that they were OK with living in Manhattan, Kansas.

My reasons to visit Bill and Karen a week ago are varied: I’d been meaning to visit Bill since he finished basic training. I wanted someone to go with me so it could become a grand adventure. I wanted to take a road trip with fraternity brothers like in the old days. Due to where they lived, I could fulfill a childhood dream of driving the entire length of Interstate 64.

Everything finally came together.

The plan was simple, and it managed to stay simple. Brandon and I were going to power through Thursday morning and arrive in St. Louis in time for another brother, Pete, to get home from work. On Friday, we would go the rest of the way to Kansas and see Mandy, my friend since Hampton City Schools, on our way to Bill and Karen’s house. On Saturday, we would spend all day out with Bill. On Sunday, we would start the first leg of our trip. Monday would be the remainder of the drive home. On Tuesday, I would sleep.

Pete partially threw a kink on those plans. We expected to stay at his place Thursday night. I only wanted to buy a hotel room for the ride back because, again, I wanted to have the whole crashing on couches or whatever experience. At the same time, I also did not want to be stuck in horrible conditions, so I figured we’d have to get rooms both coming and going to Kansas. Pete on Wednesday night said we couldn’t stay at his place. Old Pete wouldn’t have given us that much notice. It wasn’t too bad — I would have liked to have locked in a lower hotel price — but we were at the Hotel Avyan, which wasn’t that far from his place.

In West Virginia, we stopped at a Wendy’s. The cashier called me Eleot. That’s a new one. Also, that sandwich wasn’t as awesome as the name states.

The drive there was pretty uneventful. The weather was great, and when we stopped for gas in Louisville, we also found this curious fellow.

Stop giggling at the name of the tutoring place next door.

“Is that? …” Brandon said.

“That’s a Kroger-brand liquor store,” I said.

I had seen a Kroger that sold hard liquor the first time I was in Indiana. This was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on a standalone Kroger liquor store.

Since we were in Kentucky, we had to get bourbon. I decided that that I was going to get something that I’d never had before. One charming little bottle caught my eye because it made a bold statement. I like bourbon, so I decided that I would be the judge of that statement.

It was called Old Bardstown. It said it was ruled the finest bourbon in Kentucky. I took a photo of it, and I could have sworn I downloaded it with the other photos from the trip, but I did not. I could just hop on the app and do it from there, but I’m testing out the new CMS for this entry, and I don’t know if I can do that without undoing everything I’ve done thus far.

Anyway, it was very smooth and delicious. As far as I can tell, it isn’t sold in Virginia. Bill said he really likes Four Roses, and that’s sold in Virginia, so I’ll settle for that for now.

But enough about the bourbon.

After we were settled in St. Louis, where it was sleeting, we met up with Pete and his girlfriend. We barhopped, but I only remember one of them because I had a tab at two, Mission Taco and The Beale on Broadway. The night was a bit of a blur. Because it was a good night.

Friday

Technically, we did not check out on time. I set an alarm before we went out, and that two hours wasn’t enough. As I was having an extremely tough go a things, I told Brandon to go downstairs and check out for me. He got down there right before the buzzer. I crept out about a half an hour later. I’ll say I was about at 70 percent at that point. It didn’t help that we were up for a very long time, too.

We then met up with Pete to get lunch. We headed to Southern, which touted Nashville hot chicken. It wasn’t melt-your-face-off hot like Prince’s, but no one can compare to Prince’s. 

Spicy foods are my hangover cure. This wasn’t spicy enough, so I passed out in the backseat while Brandon drove across most of Missouri. 

I woke up about when we needed to stop for gas. While Brandon pumped, ran over to Sonic. What I should have done is gotten this vaguely racist pizza.

You eyes deceive you not.

Really? Really? Trap Haus Pizza?

If you can’t read it, the slogan is, “It tastes so good, you’re trapped for life!” It’s probably good, but it’s also attached to a gas station. But that’s probably what makes it good.

I was back at 100 percent, so I got back in the driver’s seat.

As we neared Kansas, I found that Mandy’s husband had been transferred from Leavenworth, so I was meeting her in Manhattan. We got coffee at Bluestem Bistro in Aggieville. We didn’t have an awful lot to catch up on because there are times when we talk as much as we did in person. But I haven’t seen her in about seven years.

When I wrecked Nicole back in January, I lost my dad’s commemorative plate for when he was stationed outside of Savannah, Georgia. My mom found it a while back and gave it to me. I had all intentions of putting it on my desk at work but I kept forgetting. In the wreck, I was in a spot I couldn’t readily see when I was cleaning the car out and I didn’t realize it was there until I turned over the keys.

I recently posted on Facebook about how I wish I had it still, and people suggested that I contact the 260th Quartermaster Battalion and tell my story. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but Mandy’s husband, Mike, saw it.

While we were in Bluestem, Mandy told me that Mike obtained a challenge coin for me. I quickly looked at it and pocketed it because I knew if I acknowledged its existence any longer, I’d make like a Carrie Underwood song and not cry pretty. 

That night, after we got to Bill and Karen’s and drank in the basement, I went the room I claimed and held that coin for a long time. It’s now in my wallet. After I measure its diameter, I might buy a holder so I can wear it as a necklace.

That singular event was worth the entire trip.

of a sofa and things

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Despite protestations from friends, I got the one that matched our dining room chairs.

I need to get back in the habit of posting more often.

So, I bought my first adult couch. It makes everything seem so weird now. I mean, we’ve had furniture before, but this makes it feel real. A friend donated our dining table and we bought chairs on a whim one day. The TV was a Christmas gift. Replacing the mattress didn’t feel like a milestone. But when the delivery men struggled to put this thing through my oddly shaped foyer, I said to myself, “Holy crap, I’m an adult.”

And then I inadvertently had caffeine that night and planned out all the other furniture I want to get.

It goes without saying that we are not moving out of this apartment anytime soon.

Anyway, we then had a staycation of sorts.

It wasn’t our intent. I need to burn 10 vacation days, and for some reason, we tried to plan out our vacation dates through texts and screwed up a little. I had plans to take my nephew on a college tour that Saturday and Renée thought she had an event to attend on Sunday. Instead, both things were canceled.

We got bored.

We drove to Washington, D.C.

The only thing we did there was let Missy out to pee on the National Mall.

The following day, we went to Winchester because, like me, Renée has a goal of seeing all of the regions of Virginia. I’ve been to 36 of the 38 current ones, and I’ll hit 37 next month. I’ll end this one day with Norton.

I’ll hit Covington because I intend on taking a road trip to Kansas to see my best friends, Mandy and Bill. Bill and Mandy’s husband, Mike, are stationed there, so I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’ve promised to visit both for years and never got around to it.

At the least, one of my fraternity brothers is going with me. I’m hoping for two. It’ll be Voyage XX, my 20th blog-worthy trip. I’ll hit 28 states. I’ll see the entire length of Interstate 64. I’ve been wanting to do that nearly my entire life.

I need to get around to getting my oil changed, brakes checked and making certain I won’t have a mechanical surprise in an exurb of Evansville, Illinois.

BUT,

Before we get to that, I’m seeing Death Cab for Cutie live tomorrow. I won’t wax poetic about it again.

ALSO,

I am officiating a wedding on Saturday. A friend’s officiant was unable to officiate, so I petitioned the courts one more time so I could do my second. I have about 1½ pages of things to say, because I am a good friend. I wind up editing it every time I look at it because it’s what I do. And because I’m a good friend.

A good friend who is coming to grips that, at some point he became an adult.

so long, sofa

So, I discovered that there’s a nearly six-minute version of the revamped Bob Newhart Show theme song, and it has been giving me life this week.

Especially in light of a death in my household.

20181004_014950

October 2015-October 2018

Our living room never grew up.

The living room at my first apartment in Richmond was a little tight, so a real couch would have been a bit much. Also, there was the whole question of getting it into the apartment.

Since I didn’t want to bother my friends with the whole “can you help me move my couch?” thing (again), we snagged this futon from Walmart one October night in 2015. It was comfy and had no real problems, so we never considered upgrading.

Well, once we got more space, I wanted an armchair, a new TV and a proper stand for it all, but there’s nothing truly wrong with what we have, so I never got around to it.

Well, now there’s something majorly wrong with the couch.

It was one of those things that you buy with the understanding that it’s going to fall apart in the stupidest way in a few years. I half-seriously said we had two moves before it broke.

We made it to two.

When I put it back together in March, I discovered that I was a little overzealous when I put it back together in the 2016 move, so the plywood that the screw went into came out with it when I disassembled it for the most recent move. Eventually, a brick partially supported the middle section.

And then some springs gave way on the left side.

And, tonight, total failure.

The two middle supports were the only things keeping the couch in one piece. The rear one failed, and I don’t have a second brick to prop it up. Additionally, it really needs more than two bricks to salvage it. So it shan’t be.

In the next 72 hours or so, I’m buying my first grownup couch (never mind the living room set I was given in 2006). I’m a little excited.

Except for the whole getting the couch into the apartment thing.

 

 

apartment ‘d’

This is perhaps the first time in the 14-year history of the viaduct that I’ve actively censored something. It’s because a situation like this never happened before, so I never set a policy.

So, my policy is this: I’ll censor images, because you can easily hide swear words if you’re reading this in mixed company.

That said, here’s what happened today:

I woke up to take Missy for her morning walk. and when I got to the landing, I noticed an object roughly between my door and the neighbors. What is was didn’t register for a second. I said to myself, “Is that a package?” I shit you not.

It was a package, all right.

It was … well … a martial aid.

Excuse me, sir, but are you lost?

And by “marital aid,” I mean “big, black dildo with a suction cup.”

My guesses are that he was not properly secured in a bag and fell out, someone thought it would be funny to put him anywhere in the complex or both.

I also got a suggestion that the only and most logical explanation is that it’s fraternity rush season. I don’t think any undergrads live this far away from Grounds, but if you’ve followed my life for any length of time, you know that stranger things have happened.

It could be a variation of the vintage TVs being left on Henrico County doorsteps. I am not making this up, and I hope this link is stable for a very long time.

After texting the uncensored photo to a lot of my friends (sorry, not sorry), I punted it down to the next landing.

Needless to say, I haven’t been able to take anything seriously today.

As of 7 p.m., he was still out there. It was getting dark then. I hope his owner finds him and gets him out of the cold and damp.

august

So, I didn’t write about what happened in August because too much happened in August, and I didn’t have time to catch my breath. I’m not even going to properly caption all the photos.

So, I left my old job and started my new one. I had to hit the ground running, and it’s been incredibly hectic, but I finally feel like my pay is equivalent to the amount of work I’m putting in, so it’s been great. I think things will work out very well.

Anyway, my first week culminated on the anniversary of Aug. 12 in Charlottesville.

Nothing truly violent happened this time around, but now there is an argument about how the police response was disproportionate  to compensate for the approach last year.

All I will say is that, from these pictures, I obviously was out there on the weekend because 1) it’s kinda my job and 2) I refuse to be afraid.

Anyway, while I was still trying to figure out things like where the bathrooms are, another week of work went down into the books, we set up some things, like having radio spots and then I took a trip with by brother Butler to the Danville area. We went to an event at Virginia International Raceway, but we got distracted by the AAF Tank Museum.

Butler works near a Lamborghini office, so we got VIP access. It was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done in my entire life.

After this, I felt like I was kinda getting the swing of things at work. We had a lot of breaking news, though (as a matter of fact, I need to do real work either later today or all day tomorrow — and I definitely have to do something tonight), but it’s been great to mostly have my weekends back again and not have the pressures of daily deadlines constantly hanging over my head. I mean, I have deadlines, but now the idea is to get the best and most accurate story out instead of the first. This has taken a great load of stress off me over the weekends and allows me to do things like go to my mom’s house, fire up the grill and play with my dog in her backyard.

And now, here we are: Labor Day weekend. August feels like it went by in the blink of an eye. I’m excited about getting more settled in my role at my new journalism job, having a better work-life balance and feeling more like a member of the community.

Friday night, I was on the Downtown Mall. There has been so much strife and unrest in our country over the past few years, but seeing it full of life and hosting a rally for the University of Virginia the night before its drubbing of the University of Richmond reminded me of what could be. Of what we hope will be.

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.

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Inadvertent metaphor taken tonight.

25th

I’m counting Iowa.

A week ago, I went to Omaha and back. I was out of my house for about 40 hours. I didn’t take a lot of pictures. We didn’t do enough sightseeing to do it.

I did the math and realized Nebraska would be my 24th state. Unless you’re traveling to North Omaha, it’s impossible to get to the rest of the city without going to a portion of Iowa that wound up on the western side of the Missouri River when it changed course. I’ve reached the halfway point of visiting all 50 states. I was on the ground in a vehicle in Iowa, so I’m including it. I made that ruling because I count it when I enter cities and counties in Virginia.

If I didn’t, I truly never went to Falls Church until earlier this year, which would have made it an incredibly small outlier in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years or so. And my first official trip to the city of Suffolk would have been my sophomore year in college, instead all of the times my family rolled through it from the time I was an infant.

Anyway, along with going to an awards dinner, we did a little touring of the city. We saw some of the Old Market and ate at Upstream Brewing Co. I had a burger made of Omaha steak. It wasn’t the best restaurant burger I’ve ever had, but it is No. 2, knocking down a place in Charlottesville. Out of all the gourmet burgers thrown at me, Smitty’s still is first (Theresa and I once had the menu memorized).

After that, we wandered a bit and wound up at the Imaginarium. It was a labyrinth of things from my childhood and other interesting items both old and new.

“This is the kind of place where, if you go down the wrong aisle, you end up in an ’80s fantasy adventure or an ’80s slasher film,” I said.

I was tempted multiple times to buy something, but then I thought about having to get things through the airport.

The awards were bittersweet, because it’s great that we’ve gotten recognized for our work, but what was covered was terrible. That’s the problem with a lot of journalism awards — we put a lot of human suffering on display, hopefully for the betterment of society or a collective vow to never do that again, so it sometimes doesn’t feel quite right to be feted for hard work we did to ensure a heinous event goes down in history. I put off writing this because I thought I would be able to say something more profound, but I also think I’ve reached my limit of justifying being proud of covering a murder trial or bringing down a corrupt official or writing 5,000 words on someone who is destitute and on drugs.

Anyway, we then got caught in a torrential downpour on our way to having nightcaps at the bar of Sullivan’s Steakhouse. It was there that it was cemented that #rvatank was national and global news.  (I’d like to point out that, if you scroll all the way down, aaaaaallll the way down, I am the origin of the hashtag.)

The next day, we were going to walk across a pedestrian bridge to Iowa, but we were dragging a bit and just toured the main Omaha paper. After that, we rode through Iowa again and headed back to Virginia via a three-hour layover in Atlanta. We had a layover in Atlanta going. It marked my fifth and sixth times in that city without seeing anything more than the airport and what’s visible from Interstate 85.

I say I’ve been there.

fourteen

Renée mentioned recently that this album is 30 years old, and that made me realize I have been jamming to this song since kindergarten.

It’s getting to the point that this is depressing.

The summer before my senior year in college was 14 years ago.

Fourteen years ago, I was in that sweltering living room, wondering where I’d be after graduation.

I bought myself a plant in a tiny pot earlier that day. This was Cecil a few days ago.

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My little teenager.

I hadn’t heard of Facebook when this blog started, because it was just a few months old. Twitter wasn’t a thing. Nor was the iPhone. I was not quite 21.

Cecil went through a lot. I had no idea how to take care of a plant. There was a cluster of palms in that tiny pot. Two survived. These two nearly died several times in the early years. They started leaning in 2007 when I didn’t account for a balled-up article of clothing unfurling. But fronds no longer are falling as fast as the new ones come in. There’s been no leaf burn recently. Cecil’s finally in a window facing toward the south and west.

Cecil has been through a lot, but Cecil survived and is thriving.

Cecil is a metaphor.

starting the year off with a bang

So, there was a coastal storm on the night of the Jan. 3. It wasn’t supposed to go very far inland. The inland roads weren’t fully prepared.

I was coasting along, fully expecting to see things transition into snow in about 20 miles. I had already slowed down because there was schmutz on my windshield from a salt/sand truck I had passed way earlier. I was debating hitting the wiper cleaner, pulling over and getting the towel out of my trunk if the little squirt of wiper fluid didn’t help enough.

My windshield effectively turned to mud. I tapped the brakes.

That was snow on Interstate 64 at the Shannon Hill exit, not salt.

Nicole immediately turned 90 degrees. I did the turn with the direction of the car thing, but my car slid into a ditch. We went down and struck the other side of the ditch with the front left corner. Nicole then slid backwards a few feet and banged up the back left corner.

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Seriously, the rest of the car looks perfect.

I didn’t get injured, and the airbags did not go off. There was no damage to the doors or windows or trunk or even the hood. But due to the age, mileage and the angle of impact, Nicole was totaled.

I was near a former coworker’s apartment, and he was on Interstate 64 at the time, so I wasn’t stranded for long. There was only one state trooper working on that stretch of highway, and towing companies were overwhelmed because, as Trooper K.L. Bailey — who did not give me a ticket — put it, “No one expected it here.”

I had a rental Impala for a few days, and was poised to get one from my nephew when something told me to get another Altima.

Today, I got one. She’s grey, and her name is Sydney Kazu Smith. I name all my vehicles (and my plants) after characters in novel universe. In Brown River Blues, Syd isthe wife of Scott Smith and the daughter of Edwin Montclair and Yumiko Makino.

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It was close to nightfall, so this is the only photo right now.

Despite it almost being precisely nine years, I weirdly don’t miss Nicole. I guess it’s because I stopped, for lack of better words, I stopped forming a close bond with my cars after Simone sustained terminal mechanical failure in 2006.

The ride and most of the features are virtually the same, despite it being a generation newer than Nicole, so there was no real moment of adjustment. I adjusted the seat and the mirrors, set up my phone and set off on a quick jaunt to Henrico County.

I like having some updated features, like Bluetooth, automatic lights and a USB port.

I hope Syd and I have many years together. As I had said with Nicole, I want to keep my Altima even if my fortunes change and I can afford a second car.

I also hope this is the last time I’m in a wreck.