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.

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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.

he called me ‘the lawyer’

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The Rev. Curtis West Harris Sr., c. 2010

Former Hopewell City Councilor and Mayor Curtis Harris called me the “The Lawyer” because of my interviewing style. I have this nasty habit of forgetting half of my interview questions, so as things seemingly wrap up, I come back with a flurry of questions. In a way, I like that because it catches people off guard, like when Colombo did it.

Rev. Harris’ church was mostly behind the newsroom. It was the one that got caught in the crossfire about a week after the current pastor of my mom’s church in Hampton started there. Rev. Harris lived across the street from the church on what is now Rev. C.W. Harris Street, near the corner of a road now named Ruth Harris Way for his wife.

Ms. Ruth was his rock. There were countless times when he told him he couldn’t or should do something, like have another soda, and he would a boyish grin and try for it anyway. In one particular instance, he argued that he should have another one, despite the hour, because he once again was elected to the City Council.

It took a lot of effort for him to get on the council the first time.

Rev. Harris spent most of his life fighting for civil rights. He was discriminated against. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He marched arm-in-arm with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was threatened. There were two unsuccessful attempts to firebomb his home. He marched to Hopewell City Hall past a group of Klansmen. He was arrested 13 times fighting for rights.

After seven unsuccessful runs for the City Council and a lawsuit to cease at-large representation for the entire city, he won in 1986. He became mayor in 1998.

He was also fought for environmental justice in a city often known only for pollution. He fought through his resignation from the council in 2012 due to a stroke. He was a bottomless well of information. He never leaked information to me. He would only give me enough to point me in the right direction. Katy and I got to know the city we were covering better through his wisdom. His office next door to his home was a treasure trove of civil rights and Hopewell history.

The world lost that Sunday when Rev. Harris died at 93, but his legacy will live on.

There is a public viewing scheduled for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. just outside the doors of the Curtis W. Harris Sr. Library at Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Hopewell. A second viewing is set for 10 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church, at the corner of North Second Avenue and West Randolph Road in Hopewell, and the funeral will begin there an hour later.

pawn shop/lounge/restaurant

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WOW! IT’S A STREET WITH A ROOF. THE FOLKS BACK IN FAIRVIEW WON’T BELIEVE THIS.

DAY FIVE

We didn’t have anything planned in the morning, so I drank more bourbon and watched more Bosch. Because vacation, damn it. This totally would have been the time for me to work on my novel. So much for that.

Eventually I sobered up and went to In-N-Out again. Afterward, I drove Renée to one of the dozens of outlet malls dotting the desert before we went to dinner with Brandon.

We went to Beauty & Essex in The Cosmopolitan. The Manhattan-based establishment is a pawn shop/lounge/restaurant. Seriously.

Afterward, we went to the Fountains of Bellagio. The aquatic display was set to the Pink Panther Theme.

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No video for you!

Then, since our car already was parked there, we went to Bond. A 12-year-old Scotch was among my drinks. I do not regret it.

DAY SIX

On our last full day, we once again took it a bit easy. We ate at China Poblano, which we dubbed the Wong Gonzalez of Vegas. I considered getting ceviche there, because I was disappointed by the ceviche I got the day before, but passed. There’s probably some good ceviche in Richmond somewhere. I haven’t found it yet. But I also don’t get ceviche all the time, despite loving it so much. I said ceviche a lot in the paragraph. Ceviche.

Afterward, we drove through Red Rock Canyon. It was a little late so I couldn’t do the Scenic Drive. If we ever go back to Vegas, I really want to do that drive. I was driving, so I couldn’t take any photos.

CHAIR IN THE SKY

On our final day, we returned Giovanna and called a Lyft back to the airport. The driver missed us on the first go round. His air freshener barely covered the scent to weed in his car. It was 9 a.m. Pacific. We had 12 hours to go before getting home.

We had to change flights in San Diego. The little bit that I saw was beautiful. I kinda want to visit there.

But the airport is terrible.

It is the nation’s busiest single-runway airport, it’s hemmed in by development and the most recent plan to relocate it was killed by voters. We had to go through a second security checkpoint to get to our connecting flight because of the terminal’s layout.

Things got better on our second flight, which stopped in Atlanta on the way to Richmond. I ordered two vodka cranberries and then turbulence led to the flight attendants not coming around to charge us for them. I got a bourbon and ginger ale on the last leg. I had to pay for that one.

We arrived in Richmond at about midnight. We had hoped to order food but no restaurants deliver on early Tuesday mornings. So I went to Wawa.

While we were gone for the week, people have gotten worse at parking in our parking lot. The spaces are close to being the exact width of a car, which means one SUV or poorly parked sedan throws everything off. Previous pavement striping showing through a quick asphalt overlay adds an extra degree of difficulty. I’ve taken to parking in a what’s left of a space because I have gotten tired of having to hunt for a better space and my car has reached an age where I don’t car if it picks up scratches and dings.

Because of the amount of travel, the amount of time away from my car or a combination of both, I broke my routine and still had my phone in my hand when I got out of the car. I dropped it trying to squeeze out of the driver’s seat, My screen is only operational because the screen protector is holding it together.

The following day, I got stuck in the parking lot for 20 minutes because a garbage truck broke the gate.

Welcome back to Richmond, right?