the voyage of bill’s birthday present

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The things this box has seen ….

I don’t remember what I got my best friend for his birthday.

I mean, I think I know what I got him, but I can’t remember if that’s what I got him.

Back in March, I bought Bill a card and a birthday gift and got it wrapped. I asked them to add glitter, but they didn’t have glitter. It fit perfectly in a Priority Mail box someone abandoned at the post office. I sent it early, since it was going to Hawaii.

Once upon a time, when I asked Bill for his address, he gave me one for regular correspondence and another for packages. I saved it so I never had to ask him again.

When I followed the tracking and told him it had arrived, he couldn’t find it. I then verified the address and learned that he forgot to tell me it was a box at a UPS store and he no longer had it.

I called the UPS store and they told me they mistakenly accepted the package and Bill could come pick it up. Bill was told he couldn’t pick it up. I figured they’d send it back to me one day or they’d eventually let Bill have it, since they signed for it by mistake and I called the day they received it and I was told he could still come get it.

I heard nothing further from Bill about it, so I was a little surprised when I got a package notification Thursday and I got that mangled hunk of cardboard.

“It wouldn’t be proper for us to not have an adventure, even if it’s in the mail,” Bill said.

“I wonder what it has seen in three months,” I replied.

“Clearly, someone banged a hooker on it.”

I have Bill parents’ number, because, although we met in college, at times it seems like we grew up together. In a way, we did. Also, if my dad remained in the Army and moved to the Tri-Cities, Bill and I would have gone to high school together. I have these weird points in my life where there are people I still would have met if my things turned out differently. It used to freak me out, but now I just go with how Dickensian it is.

But I digress.

I plan on calling them next Thursday, driving down to Chester on whatever day is good for us and leaving it for the next time he goes home.

“Burn the edges or something before you give it to him,” I plan on saying. “That’s all it’s missing.”

Happy (belated) birthday, my Billybuns. I’m glad I didn’t follow through with trying to send a sixer of Legend.

we’re all pregnant with doug wilder’s baby

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era.

A few hours ago, I went to a tribute to the 400-pound Queen of Richmond, Dirtwoman.

My first Hamaganza was in 2007. Before Pat Kane finished describing it to me, I was already sold on going. Who wouldn’t want to see a burlesque/drag/comedy/charity show involving not only the city officials but also someone who has been arrested for solicitation in an infamous event and also always makes at least one joke about being former Gov. and Mayor Doug Wilder’s lover?

It wasn’t my first experience with Weird Richmond. Through Bill and Craig, I went to shows at what is now Strange Matter. Over the years, I also drank at Empire, Roxy, Wonderland, Fallout, Third Street Diner, Bogart’s and Mojo’s. I’ve been to drag shows and brunches, the Sex Worker’s Art Show, Poe’s Pub, Baja, Fieldens. I’ve seen things on fire on Hell Block; I’ve purchased beer to gain admission to parties in the Fan District thrown by people I didn’t know; I’ve seen luchadores fight in a kitchen.

It’s why I fell in love with this city.

I loved that among the howling masses in sleeveless tees and bullet belts, there I was in a blazer and a Homburg, and it all seemed normal.

But now the streets are cleaner, Empire now is a fancy Mexican fusion restaurant, Hell Block isn’t really known as Hell Block, there aren’t trans prostitutes at Allen and Broad, Bogart’s moved and closed, lunches tend to start at $10 and often don’t come with entertainment.

In a way, I feel like a different sort of gentrification is happening and weirdos like me are a dying breed.

Let’s face it: my shtick is that I don’t look like the kind of person you’d think would know all the words to several Mars Volta and Death Cab for Cutie songs, love a dirty bar and feel at home with people at and beyond the limits of the mainstream.

I wonder what will happen once Dirtwoman guides her hoverounds into the great hereafter. There still will be a Weird Richmond, but it won’t be stinky, sticky PBR-soaked Richmond. But there still will be pockets of it. There still are people around.

I wonder if this is how people feel about New York nowadays.

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era. But at least I got to experience the era.

lifestyler 2000

Momentarily confuses Rosanna with Joanna; gets Black Card revoked.

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I should have weighed in last week. It was better.

I had a few days of eating poorly because I did something awesome.

I saw Prince’s first real band, The Revolution, on Thursday. It screwed up my sleep schedule and my eating and I don’t regret a single second of it.

When I saw that they were touring again to honor Prince, I literally dropped everything and took the day off. I’m not even using literally figuratively, as people are wont to do these days. It came across the AP wire while I was on celebrity news duty. I got up, told my technical supervisor (I don’t have a real boss. It’s kinda weird.) I was not working that day, walked back to my desk, asked my fraternity brother Butler if he was down with going with me and ordered tickets after he said yes.

And then my other brother Brandon said he was in, too.

It was awesome.

I was hoarse.

Then I went to karaoke and sang Super Freak and then Body and Soul by Anita Baker.

There is video. I don’t know where.  Body and Soul was one of songs I’ve always wanted to do at karaoke, but it’s rarely on karaoke lists. I really want to do a song by The National or Death Cab for Cutie. There was a Death Cab song, but it was Grapevine Fires. I like that song, but it doesn’t have a bass line at all, and it always bothered me. It’s the one song I definitely don’t like on Narrow Stairs. Once I have the video, I will share it. I think I paid for video.

But I digress.

But wait: I don’t digress. Rosanna and Grapevine Fires both share a drumming that hearkens to the Purdie Shuffle.

But, anyway, I also bought an exercise bike over the weekend. It was one Craig had in his living room for a while. He’s moving to Maryland, and I offered to take it off his hands. The model is the title of this entry.

I had planned for years to buy and exercise bike. I’m still not ready to get on a real bike again. I think I’ll wait a full 10 years.

But I’m working this into my at least 5-mile regimen. I plan on pedaling at least 30 minutes at least every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Today doesn’t count. I have stuff to do that I planned before buying the bike.

I used to be an endurance bike rider. I would do 20 miles like nothing. There was no time frame; it was just we’re going to Yorktown and back with a gallon jug of water in the backpack. I miss it. But I spent my entire childhood biking in a place without real hills. I wasn’t ready for Richmond. Although I say I might be in 2019, I don’t know if I am. My wreck in 2009 was my second real crash in probably more than 20 years of riding a bike at the time and the first time I had to go to a hospital about it.

(I seriously broke my arm in but played it off in like seventh grade. It healed correctly, thankfully, but I broke my frickin’ arm and pretended that I didn’t. For a while, I called it my “chicken wing” because I couldn’t hold it out straight unless the situation necessitated it. I seriously gambled my ability to have full use of my right arm over telling my parents that I attempted a stunt and failed.)

But I think throwing this in the mix will help break this plateau. Regardless of it being a plateau, I’ve tightened my belt and I look better in shirts. My doctor wants me to be no more than 170 and gave me until November.

Challenge accepted.

up on the roof

Aside: The new Jamiroquai album is my album of the spring. And probably a good chunk of the summer.

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I would have taken a better photo, but I was in a rush.

Not long after we moved into a new place, I explored the building. The second time I went up a flight of stairs, that time to get all my steps in for the day, I discovered that maintenance didn’t closed a normally locked door all the way.

So I went in.

I wound up on a portion of the roof, but the access door I found didn’t open to much and didn’t lead me to a place with a great view. I also didn’t want to do a lot of exploring because we have real security here and I didn’t feel like explaining how/why I was somewhere I clearly wasn’t supposed to be.

I forgot I took this photo (and two more that give away exactly where I live a bit more, so I’m not posting those). When I came across it a few days ago, it reminded me of a story.

 

In the 2002-2003 school year, I lived in James River Hall at CNU. If one stands in a certain spot next to the original residence hall at CNU, Santoro, and stare at James River Hall, you get one of last two views of how the campus looked back when I was a student. It makes me sad.

But I digress.

JR is a four-story building, but the elevator goes up to five. Nearly everyone I talked to in the building mentioned how they pressed 5 to discover that nothing happened. It aggravated us. It clearly was a four-story building. Where did 5 go? It had to go somewhere, because why else would it be there?

One day, I was in an English class in Ratcliffe Hall, which once housed the English department. And political science. And facilities for our field sports. It was a weird place.

But, as I was saying, I was in class, and right before it started, my future fraternity brother Dorian ran into the room and yelled, “The 5 in James River works!”

The only thing that could have piqued so many college students’ interest would have been someone announcing that there were kegs somewhere.

Someone asked him what was there. He said he didn’t know because he wanted to tell people first. A group of us decided to go straight there after class.

We packed into the elevator and — yes — the 5 illuminated when pressed and we started heading up.

When we got to the fourth floor, the doors opened, and a woman was confused when none of us made a move to exit.

“Are … you going down?” she asked.

“No,” Dorian replied. “We’re going up.”

She stood there as we didn’t budge and the doors closed.

A few minutes later, we were on the fifth floor. It was just a mechanical area. When we turned around, we couldn’t find a button to recall the elevator. There was a staircase, though.

“Hey!” another woman yelled as we popped out of a seemingly decorative wood panel in the wall across from her open room door.

“Just materializing out of a wall was more exciting that what was up there,” someone said.

And that is why I go down every hallway and try every door that isn’t someone’s apartment in every building I live in.

I survived the downtown expressway and all I got was this lousy post

 

Friday started out as a fantastic day.

I took Missy out and she not only did not bark as we exited the building, she barely reacted when we at the top of Taylor’s Hill Park and she saw a dog at the bottom.

And then I got home.

I needed to contact the IRS for my wife’s college financial aid. Also, I had to call Comcast (more on that in a sec).

I tried to use the IRS’ website to take care of business. The form said to use the last address from which I filed taxes. That was my place in Manchester. It was apparently
wrong. Then I tried my address in Charlottesville. Still wrong. Then I tried my current address.

Locked out.

Then I tried using the phone system and ran into the same problem the first two times. The third time, the automated system malfunctioned. I yelled, swore and threw my phone
across the room. Missy looked at me like I was insane.

I tried one last time. It worked with my current address, despite us not planning on sending our taxes off until this weekend.

Whatever.

Then it was time to call Comcast.

There was a really bad billing error. Really bad. I’ve been trying to get it resolved since I got my March bill in late February. At that time, I was told to call back in
March and everything should be OK. Then I was told to call back in April. Then I was told to call again in May.

No. No. You’re resolving this, and you’re resolving it right now.

Using my skills as a journalist, I found the number for corporate customer service. They took care of it. And gave me a $300 credit. Allegedly. The account page doesn’t reflect
what was promised yet, but it is Friday. And I’ve been assigned a case number and my one customer service rep. They have until Monday at noon.

Then it was time to go to work. Great. I accomplished nothing beyond going to the bank and replacing the shoes I wear to walk Missy in the morning. They looked so nice, I
wore them to work today, and they’re quickly becoming my favorite pair. I now see what people see in sneakers. I might stop wearing dress shoes all the time. Might.

It was either these or a pair of Adidas.

When I got to my normal parking spot, a sudden gust of wind tore my hat from my head. It floated through the Richmond sky and landed in the fast lane of the Downtown Expressway.

You could see it from Third Street.

Surprisingly, motorists traveling on state Route 195 in excess of 55 mph avoided it. With each passing car, my hat of at least eight years inched closer and closer to the left shoulder.

I did what any reasonable person would do: I went in to work.

Then I ducked back out, got on the highway, pulled over onto the shoulder and got my frickin’ hat.

It was worth the toll.

Some people say they would rather run in traffic than call the IRS and Comcast. Friday, I did all three.

eight years

YESTERDAY, I went to the doctor for the first time in eight years.

Why eight years?

Remember when I bought a bike in 2009 instead of an equal or lesser value of vodka? Remember when I wrecked that bike less than two hours later? Remember when got in that big fight with my health insurance back and had to pay a chunk of my ER visit out of pocket?

I canceled my insurance after that and didn’t get more until I was forced to. And then, after getting insurance, I used excuses like “Why bother now? We’re going to move soon.”; “I am aware I’m being extremely unhealthy right now and don’t want to get lectured on it”; and “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Last week, I figured it was time I actually go. I resumed walking a lot, especially with having to take Missy for walks, and I’ve begun losing the weight I gained from commuting to Charlottesville. I don’t feel anything wrong, so I figured it would be a piece of cake.

Well, I had to get an EKG.

I told her my family medical history, so she immediately was concerned. Additionally, I absolutely hate needles, so I’m normally freaking on the inside when I get to the doctor.

But the EKG was “beautiful,” as she put it, and my blood pressure is normal. That said, she wants me to track it for 30 days because of my family history and the pounds I need to lose.

Other than that, my life has been get up, walk the dog, walk the dog again, go to work and walk the dog. Oh, and I went to an ugly sweater party and cooked a ham.

Missy doesn’t like other dogs, so I have to take her on roundabout routes to walk her. It get embarrassing to the point that I want her to get training early net year (never mind that she’s 10), but I don’t mind completely because we wind up in places like this.

GOOSES!

No, you can’t have the geese.

The day after Christmas, I headed to Christmas and she got to run around my mom’s yard. It doesn’t look like it from the photo, but she was stoked.

I still miss the cherry tree.

Yard!

I plan on going home more often, and one of my friends in Richmond has offered the full run of his backyard. I think we’ll do that on Mondays.

While I was in Hampton, my mom and I also went to one of the old, semi-abandoned cemeteries to find the grave of my Great-Grandpa Terry. I’ll spare you the problems with older cemeteries, perpetual care and finding family members, especially when the people who were alive when someone was buried have died.

When I finally got a wealth of information on William Edward Terry, I uncovered a picture of his grave marker. I was surprised that it was still standing and mostly legible. The only problem was that the site didn’t precisely say where. I used my skills of deduction of find his final resting place within a few minutes.

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William E. Terry. Died Jan. 7, 1963.

In a few weeks, I’m going to send off some paperwork to the state to get more information on the circumstances surrounding the last year of his life. I’ll share more details when I get more details.

So, here we are: perhaps the last real post of the year. I’m fit as a fiddle (unless my blood work says otherwise in a few days), I have some research and writing to do and I need to get used to the new normal with Missy to fall back into a routine.

This has been an interesting year that (for me) seems to have turned out well in the end. Here’s hoping 2017 continues that trend.

And here’s another picture of Missy for good measure.

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Good dog.

it really comes together

Editor’s note: How my newspaper formats some articles has inspired a slight change here. I think I’m going to capitalize the first two or three words that start each post, and if there is a section break, boldface the first two or three after the break. Back when this blog was on LiveJournal, I coded it to have drop caps up until the final redesign there.

***

WE GET CHARGED for every hole we put in the walls, so at some point, there needs to be a trip to get more mounting strips. I don’t feel too bad about the artwork propped up against walls because I helped a friend move a year ago and he proudly announced that he just got around to putting art on the walls.

He got married after I did and actually got around to getting wedding photos printed, so he’s got me there, though. I have my favorites saved in three different places, so I don’t feel too bad about it. I also feel a little weird about having photos of myself in my home. I know what I look like; I don’t need reminders. I should get some made for my mom, though.

But, anyway, we’re as unpacked as were going to get for a while. We need to get a new media center to hide the wires behind the TV, another cabinet or two and I kinda want an armchair, despite us reaching the point that the great room is reaching capacity. I’m toying with the idea of getting a Christmas tree, and that would require at least moving the coat rack.

I’m happy with how things have come together, especially the proper dining table. I was worried about it fitting, but it slid in perfectly and probably would with the leaf in. My friend who gave it to us is putting the chairs that go with it in her new attic in the event that we ever want them. I would have taken them with me if we didn’t get four chairs last year and they didn’t somehow go well with the æsthetic of room overall.

As you can see, we’re pretty much rocking the black seating and electronics, brown wood, exposed brick combo.

Feel free to come visit soon. We either can try to reserve a hospitality room, or you can crash at our nap station.

tabled

If you want our old table, let me know.

I do not miss the old table. At all.

It’s getting closer to looking like real adults live here.

Minus the newspaper box on the bookcase. That is not stolen, by the way.

A friend of mine is consolidating households and asked if we needed a table for our new place. I immediately jumped to it. I didn’t even know if it could fit in here when I said yes.

You see, we got our old table during a Target run about a year ago and 1) it was not what we expected and 2) it didn’t come with all the pieces. I was angry about something, as I’m wont to do, so I left it all wobbly until I could put it together correctly. The problem with that was it wasn’t built to be disassembled again after being put together, because it was crate furniture from Target. When you move, you chuck it out and get a new one or you try to move it in one piece and it collapses spectacularly in your moving vehicle.

When I took a portion of it apart to attach everything tightly, a critical piece wouldn’t fit anymore. The screw holding it together went straight into the naked plywood, so that hole no longer was good. I never got around to getting nails or a bigger screw or a power screwdriver. Instead, we settled with no one leaning on it tool hard and agreeing that it could not be moved.

It survived the trip, but that critical bit fell off again and I was so over dealing with that piece of crap.

I’m hoping Renée is able to sell it soon, because I want it out of my sight. I also want the last lingering boxes and such out of my sight, too. We get bookcases out of the deal, so I can put mine away, there should be one left over. I want the common area to look neat at all times — I don’t want to have to “clean up” (i.e. shove everything in the bedroom) if someone is slated to come over or be utterly embarrassed if someone stops by on short notice. In theory, we have enough storage space. We just didn’t take enough time off to put everything away yet. I try to do as much as I can before work each day, but I don’t want to anymore. I want it done this weekend.

But this table is a big step. Actually, the table and the shelving. There’s very little left to be tackled and that’s a big relief. As a whole, this place looks infinitely more like adulting that the last place, so I want to continue the look of adulting. And this table screams adulting.

It’s the first real table I had in a decade. I got Theresa’s living and dining room sets when the divorce happened. It was amazing, but I was too transient to have that much grown-up furniture at age 23. I gave it all away by November 2008. Other than my bed, I could fit all my possessions in my car from that month until October 2012.

These are exciting times for Elliott Robinson.

welcome to miami, part two

Unfortunately, none of what happened in this video occurred during this trip.

Renée set up renting a car so we could drive to Key West on Saturday. Both of us wanted to experience driving on the Overseas Highway. We also discussed how, technically, it isn’t quite an overseas highway.

I read Freedom in the courtyard until the car was ready. I honestly don’t like the Nissan Versa. I hoped the car they gave us wouldn’t be one.

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HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

The ride down was atrocious. I was under the impression that the entire highway had been widened to four lanes, but there was a substantial two-lane section that nearly was at a standstill. At one point, Renée’s navigation app told her to turn off U.S. 1 and take a back road. At first, we thought it would bypass whatever the clog was further down the key.

Then we realized it essentially was sending us back the way we came. We lost our spot in the jam for nothing.

We went from planning to spend a part of the day in Key West to getting there shortly before sunset.

“At least I get to take a photo during the golden hour,” I said as we cruised down Roosevelt Boulevard.

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Cue more ’80s music.

Since we were running out of daylight, I requested a shot at the Southernmost Point. It was the only touristy thing I wanted to do on the trip. We waited in the most orderly unsupervised line as everyone traded phones to get shots.

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You can tell I’m on vacation because my shirt isn’t tucked in.

Afterward, we had Thai food that was so insultingly mediocre, I refuse to name the place.

We didn’t get back until well after 2 a.m. On my ride back I also wound up in traffic. I still don’t understand.

On Sunday, we returned the car by way of a long drive along the island in a quest for gas for less than $3 a gallon. Afterward, we had brunch at CVI.CHE 105 with Kris. Once again, I had a giant bowl of octopus bits and other cephalopods, crustaceans and bivalves. It was absolutely delicious.

There were plans to hang out with some other people that fell through so I suggested that we return to RedBar, because RedBar. I can’t wait to go back for a third time. And fourth.

While having insanely potent drinks, I would up playing an intense game of Jenga with a dudebro that I wound up losing. I owed the guy a shot for losing, and not long after, he passed out. In the bar.

I kind wish I had a Sharpie on me.

The next day was our last full day. Our recovery from the night before was part of the reason we didn’t leave the room until about 4 p.m. I still wasn’t 100 percent when we ate more Peruvian food at Chalan on the  Beach. Once again, I had the fruits of the sea.

A short nap after that restored me and we set out for the beach one last time.

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Last night in South Beach.

While we sat on that beach, a remarkable thing happened. I looked up at Renée’s face and could almost feel my writer’s block falling away. It was a beautiful moment. I was elated. I was inspired. I wanted to start writing right that very second. This trip precisely was what I needed.

We had our last dish of the trip was at Cheeseburger Baby. I didn’t have a cheeseburger, but Renée did. At some point, we lost our condiments. We both saw the waitress put them in our bag but they were nowhere to be found when we got back to our room. It was delicious all the same.

We swore we’d call it a night early, because our flight was early. It didn’t happen, partially since the hotel had a laundry facility and we didn’t want to travel home with sweaty clothes. We wound up taking what should count as a nap.

On the trip back home, I lost my license in the airport. I dropped it sometime after the TSA checkpoint when we were herded through like so much cattle. I hope some 19-year-old enjoys all the drinks.

I’m still in a state of relaxation from the trip. I’ve been so wound up and mentally battered and bruised for days, months and years, and finally feeling like myself again is just incredible.

Can someone remind me why I don’t like going on vacation?

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Vacation mode.