damn, damn, damn!

This one’s for John Amos.

I did a cursory search of the albums before I took the box home and divided them into two stacks. The first were albums by bands I’ve heard of and ones with cool album art. The second were compilations, bands that didn’t pique my interest from the covers, bands that I know don’t pique my interest and ones that looked damaged. I made Brass Construction the second album of this adventure because I’m a sucker for anything with brass.

This album also has a track that’s an ode to an exhibitionist/voyeur relationship.

The lead track, Movin’, was playing in the background when we found out that James Evans Sr. died in Good Times. The back cover of this 1975 debut album features head shots of the band members with various expressions. It makes a perfect mood chart. Today, I’m a Morris.

If the City Council meeting lasted any longer, I would have gone full Joe.

Overall, this album is very much a product of its time and is fun to listen to. Much like the Evans family, I would play it in the background of a party. I just hope no one gets bad news as soon as I put it on.

fifteen years

I’ll explain why this song is here in a moment.

This blog nearly is old enough to drive. Checking off this milestone is making me realize how far away senior year in college is now and how long some of the friends I made there have been my friends. Friday morning, I wished that formerly tiny palm I bought a few hours before I wrote my first LiveJournal entry a happy anniversary. I tell stories at work about things in my career and I sometimes panic about not being able to remember all the details. And then I remember that what happened was more than a decade ago. My fifth wedding anniversary is in a few weeks. A day after, I’ll be on the wrong side of 35. I’ve been on the wrong side of 25 for about 10 years now. I wrote about it here, and I’d have to go back in to the CMS to figure out what I said.

N.B.: I just saw how I turned 26, and I wish I hadn’t revisited that.

Anyway, I’m going to kick of this 15th year by going deeper into the past, like before I was born deep.

I went home on Mother’s Day, and I mentioned to my mom that I had purchased a record player. That reminded her that there was a large box of albums in the coat closet that was a mixer of hers and her brother’s. She gave me the entire thing, and I’ve been listening to one a day since what would have been Theresa’s 50th birthday on May 13.

Since I like music, and already have a queue, here’s a the kickoff of Diggin’ in the Cardboard Box.

Yeah, they were dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin';
And just when it hit, me somebody turned around and shouted ...
TILL YOU DIE

I started off with Wild Cherry’s eponymous album from 1976. (If you don’t know the most famous song off this album, we aren’t friends anymore.) Other than that, the band’s cover of Nowhere to Run isn’t that terrible, but the band was a one-hit wonder with four albums.

I have two stacks for now (I’ll get milk crates soon). They did not lay down the boogie enough to make it into the “I’d listen again for pleasure/I’d put these on if I’m being pretentious at a party at my place” pile.

the allure of being awake for 24+ hours has worn off

Per my Fitbit, I woke up at 7:02 a.m. on May 18. I did not go to bed until 7:17 a.m. on May 19. I drove many fives of miles. I walked about eight miles. I hurt my foot. It was pretty awesome. After this post, I’m technically caught up from my backlog of posts from late March. This is good because tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of this blog.

I was awake for 24 hours and 15 minutes because of an obligation to my dead sister. I could not say no to Shonda when she asked if I could drive her to Giants Stadium so she could see BTS, which you (should) know is a very popular Korean band. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. I assumed either it would start and end early or because I was driving and she had a job and lives in my mom’s house without having to pay rent, she’d at least share the cost for two hotel rooms that night and we’d head home Sunday morning.

Shonda switched jobs between the time that she bought the tickets and showtime. She also had a doctor’s appointment on Monday. Oh, and she told me at nearly the last minute that she wanted to arrive at the Meadowlands early so she could get “merch.”

You now know how much your uncle loves you, Shonda.

I had a few options for activities while I wanted for the concert to end. I was going to hang out at the New Jersey Institute of Technology chapter of my fraternity or head into the city and by fraternity big brother or my grand-little, who live in Queens and Brooklyn, respectively. At some point, the number of close friends I have in New York fell sharply. Also, I decided against visiting my wife’s family because I did not want to drive into New York and they also live beyond the reaches of every service the MTA offers. Seriously.

We headed out at about 7:45 a.m., and I dropped her off and then got to Newark at about 2 p.m. I didn’t need to get back the stadium until about 9:30.

This house is a time capsule.
I haven’t set foot in that house since about 2011, and I swear there are some things that have not moved since the first time I was there in October 2003. These are all the pictures you’re going to see of this house. Never mind that this is the public floor.

The academic year had just ended at NJIT, and they had their formal the night before. Everyone was pretty much half dead, so I hitched a ride over to the train station and took New Jersey Transit into Penn Station. I wandered around Manhattan for a while.

I stumbled across the 13th Annual Dance Parade. It threw off my trajectory and I wound up on the wrong side of it. When I regained my bearings, I had to wait for it to end to get back across.

When I updated Renée on where she was, she noted that I was near a location of my favorite restaurant, Spice. (If you don’t know that this is my favorite restaurant, you don’t know me very well.) I got one of my favorite dishes, hot sweet basil with chicken.

After that, I talked to my mom, talked to another fraternity brother on the phone, got mistaken for Reginald Chapman and manage to wander past the very first bar I patronized in New York. It also probably was the very first bar I ever bought a drink in. I was 19 or 20.

Smoking was not yet banned indoors the first time I was here. It just wasn’t the same a few years later without the cloud of tobacco obscuring the ceiling. Although secondhand smoke is terrible, I honestly miss the ambiance of smoky bars.

I didn’t have a lot of time left, so I did what I swore I wouldn’t do: I went to Hudson Yards. I did not go into the Shawarma Vessel, because screw that. But it was the golden hour, so I walked around there and onto the high line until it was time to get back on the train to Newark.

Under the original terms of service, the developers owned my firstborn because I took this photo.
I can’t get over how much this looks like a computer rendering that has buzz phrases like “activate the street.”
Unfortunately, the sunset over the Hudson doesn’t get really lend itself to beauty at this point on the island.
This is currently my favorite photo. It’s my cellphone and my work computer wallpaper.
What makes Hudson Yards Hudson Yards.

I have no idea how I got to the right train. I always feel confused when I’m in Penn Station but I’ve managed to figure out where I need to go in enough time. Now I’m afraid I’ve jinxed it.

I got back in time to ride with the NJIT chapter’s president to pick up his girlfriend, her friend and Shonda from the concert. It was a nice coincidence, and it was a lot more fun talking to him than I initially thought. I was afraid that the 16-year difference would kill conversation, but our brotherhood transcends the years.

We were in that parking lot from about precisely 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The entire day, I strategically drank Red Bull and a latte, so I wasn’t tired. My right foot was in excruciating pain, though. I injured that foot on New Year’s Day when Missy slept on it. I was walking funny part of the day because I was wearing socks with worn elastic and decided against stopping to fix it. (I need to replace a lot of my clothes. I no longer wear things from high school, but I have more than a few things that are 10 years old.)

The pain contributed to keeping me awake on the ride home. We drove until the sun rose and I powered through thick fog. When I switched my car off, it was time for a nap until I dropped Shonda off for her bus at about 2 p.m.

Overall, I had fun. I didn’t have the cherished memory of the weekend Shonda has, but it was a great day in New York. I love being there and I think I’d do fine there, but I have no desire to live in the actual city. I’m going back in a few weeks, and I can’t wait. Thankfully, that trip will have some built-in time for rest.

As for this trip, I had Monday off. I slept. I continued to drag all of last week, and I’m surprised I made it through an internet show on the 22nd that was broadcast on Facebook Live. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, and I’m glad plans to go to Richmond tomorrow fell through. I’m getting too old for this, apparently.

double dare

Consolation prize.

There was a joke about British Knights. I wondered if the company still existed. The next thing I knew, the shoes I remember most as the ones you received if you came in second in Double Dare were on my doorstep. It was an ironic purchase, but I’ve worn them at least once a week for the past month because they don’t look terrible.

I was torn between these and the ones that stuck out in my childhood memory. There were some more designs from that screamed 1990s, but I didn’t want to look attention-grabbing from a block away. The “Are those … British Knights?” comments I’ve received by someone who looked down when near me have been worth it.

i went to norfolk, virginia, and all i got was this lousy cold, part ii

Beena Raghavendran, of ProPublica, and your humble narrator.
(Photo courtesy Kristen Finn)

I was sick when that photo was taken. Really, really sick. I had an awkward pause when I was making a profound statement because I felt like I as about to propel my right lung into the audience. When it was over, I returned home, got on the couch and, other than walking Missy, did not leave the house for about four days.

But overall, I think the talk went well.

I missed attending the funeral of Renée’s grandfather, though.

If I attended, I would have been in close quarters with her and her grieving family, spreading whatever pestilence that was. I definitely did not want to get Renée sick because she was starting in a new position at her job on that Monday.

But back to the panel talk. It was the first time I presented on a stage in years. I wasn’t nervous at all because I had to do some public speaking in high school, I often had to do a reading at church and we’ve been doing a weekly radio segment for nearly a year.

I still have absolutely no desire to go into broadcast journalism, although my mom wishes I would.

We lost a panelist, which is why I attended. I didn’t want it to get canceled. Also, it was fun getting to share a stage with national name in journalism. And show off my corduroy blazer with elbow patches.

The theme of the talk was how new journalism models can help in equity conversations. Equity is a major them in the area lately, and my newsroom is a new journalism model. One of the ways that we can take a fresh look at things is because we’re not beholden to corporate overlords counting beans and aren’t weighed down by legacies of being on the wrong side of history, as a lot of (Southern) newspapers were wont to do.

Beyond the radio program, it was one of my first public outings as editor, and as I begin moving away from writing a lot, I’m going to have many more.

Hopefully, they will happen when I don’t feel like I’ve been run over by a train and can’t hear out of one ear.

Thanks a lot, 757.

well, that didn’t work

Raleigh is surprisingly close to the Virginia border; unfortunately, it isn’t exactly near anything in Virginia.

Can I get a version with Minnie Riperton over this instrumental?

Picking a period right before taking a trip, followed by two nights of meeting overage wasn’t the right time to declare posting every day. This is the first time moment since Thursday night that that I’ve felt like I’ve really and truly sat down and relaxed.

I can’t say I didn’t relax during this trip, though. It was exactly what I needed, and unfortunately, I didn’t take that many photos.

Augmented reality!
Technically, this is the only photo I took.

After work on Friday, Renée and I packed up things for our dog and headed south to Raleigh. Falyn, Isaac and John live there now, and I’m continuing my work to visit people now that I have weekends off.

This was was well overdue because I’ve seen Falyn’s parents and brother-in-law a lot more than I have seen her over the past few years.

Falyn and Isaac recently bought a house and it is renovated enough for them to feel comfortable welcoming guests. They also have a fenced-in backyard, so Missy got to run free for a very long time.

After we got settled in, we headed out. I’m not saying where because I don’t know we were supposed to be there. I mean, we were invited, but it was one of those situations.

I did get to go down a slide, though. That was fantastic.

Needless to say, we had a very late start. We were near downtown Raleigh, so we headed there after Renée and I played with Missy for a bit longer than we should have, given that the point of the trip was to visit people and then got Peruvian food at Mami’s. Our first stop was The Raleigh Times. From there, we finally assembled as a group.

Next up was Level Up. I’m a little glad that barcades are a thing. There are two in Charlottesville (or one and one actual arcade), and I honestly haven’t been, but I like that they exist. It was great fun, and a private event decided that they didn’t want to didn’t need to leave, but we were starting to get a bit peckish at this point. We didn’t know where to go and wound up at Fox Liquor Bar. As we are old, we only made one more stop after that at Landmark Tavern. We were near the augmented reality mural, depicted above, so we headed there on the way back.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed back to Central Virginia. On the way, I decided that I wanted to see the center of Virginia. We live not that far from it, but I’ve never been there before. It’s on private property in Buckingham County, so I was fine with going to the historic marker.

The marker isn’t in the right spot on Google Maps, and I’m not going to be the one to fix it.

While we searched in vain, we circled the actual geographic center of the Old Dominion and missed the marker to our right when we gave up and headed home.

It was worth it, though.

The entire trip was worth it. I don’t have a lot of friends left from high school, and I cherish the ones I have. Falyn and I are variations of the same flavor of weird, so it was fantastic to wear a sparkly grey blazer while with someone garishly bedecked for St. Patrick’s Day and another person wearing an incredibly sexy brocade frock coat and spontaneously do the Time Warp.

I’ve missed that.

Hopefully, I’ll be back soon. It’s only 3½ hours away, and I’ll come back around when I reach the end of my list. And I plan to get more furniture over the summer so people can come here.

homeward bound

People Just Do Nothing secretly is favorite show.

I totally thought I recounted my trip to Maryland two weeks ago. To make a long story short, on Friday I got stuck in traffic, got caught in a small snowstorm and I had a hard time concentrating on doing work in a Starbucks when everything went down in Richmond the second I crossed the Potomac River. The following day, I went to Fairfax, where I hung out with three fraternity brothers. That Sunday, I got from there to Albemarle County in about 1:40, so there’s really no excuse for me not to visit people in NOVA more often or for them to come visit me. (And I know I’m really bad at going to Richmond, but I feel that it’s too close for me to crash overnight but too far for me to run down for a day and come back in the middle of the night.)

Now, on to this past week, which took some unexpected turns toward the end.

In honor of Black History Month, I named her Ida Bunny Wells.

On Wednesday, I pulled into the parking garage and spotted this little creature in a space near where I was going to park. I have a soft spot for stuffed animals — the one I received the day I was born is safely hidden in my mother’s house — so I decided to save it from being squished by a minivan.

I took it with me to work, snapped this photo of it and tweeted out that some kid’s lost bunny was safe and sound in my newsroom.

It went mini-viral.

Two days later, after prominent locals, regular folk and people from far-flung areas liked or retweeted it, a local TV station that had a slot open for a feel-good Friday story slid into my DMs to ask if I’d be willing to go on the air about the lost bunny.

I wanted to get this rabbit home, and my ulterior motive for this whole thing was to put the community in community journalism, so I agreed.

Aside: I’m sure we’re all will forget what DM stood for at some point in the distant future, and I can’t wait to look back at this fondly like posts from more than a decade ago that mentioned AIM.

They didn’t mention my job description, so I cropped out the channel. Because I’m petty.

So, a week that began with people being interviewed for a opening in my newsroom and also for summer internships concluded with me being an Area Man with a small-town story on the Six O’Clock news.

It made up for the cancellation of a civic engagement conference on Saturday due to a lack of interest. A part of it was to feature me as a part of a panel. I was looking forward to that. (It’s partially because I wanted to see if I could speak to a large group again without going into far too much detail about a double homicide. I did that once to a group of Virginia State University students about a decade ago. Needless to say, the offer to build a partnership there was never heard from again.

Anyway, although it partially was intended to be a way to get my publication noticed beyond my live tweets of municipal meetings, this segment showed that one of the local news editors really wants to get a kid reunited with a stuffed animal. That’s all that really matters. If a kid’s buddy goes missing, any adult worth a damn should pull out all the stops get it back to the kid. If we can’t at least do that as a community, we aren’t a community.

there was chicken, but there were not collard greens

I legitimately was in Hollis for a few minutes.
While I was waiting to get picked up, I *totally* did not see a drug deal go down.
I purposely took the LIRR to there on Christmas Eve so I could Facebook a photo of something with Hollis on it.

For the first time in about two years, I went to New York. I didn’t intend on not going to New York for nearly two years; it just happened. I visited at least once a year from 2003 to 2016, so not going north of the Mason-Dixon Line in 2017 was a bit disappointing, and although I saw it was no big deal, nearly not going for Christmas and my wife’s birthday was a big deal.

I almost didn’t go because of Missy. Our original lodging plans fell through, and driving to Hampton Roads to drop her off was about ridiculous because it would have added at least three hours to our trip and the tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (well, I probably would have rerouted us to the free side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the way back, but that’s neither here nor there, much like how the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are two wholly different things).

Renée found a dog-friendly hotel on Long Island, so the plan of me staying in Virginia to watch the dog was short lived. (For those of you just tuning in, Missy abhors any animals that aren’t humans, so figuring out what to do with her always is a challenge.)

We arrived on last Sunday, and Missy visited every borough that day (and the entire trip) except for the Bronx. Manhattan was thrown in that day because we got takeout from Renée’s favorite restaurant, Flor de Mayo.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of New York because I've reached the point that I'm not in awe of the city. I miss being in a heavily urbanized area, though.
We crossed the Queensboro Bridge on the way to the restaurant. I can’t traverse this bridge without thinking about Angela.
Taxi was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid from the music alone. Thanks, Bob James!

On Christmas Eve, we got lunch before heading to Renée’s grandparent’s in Queens. I decided to tag along with her trip to midtown with Renée’s aunts because I had plans to meet my fraternity big brother near Penn Station.

The trip became an ordeal because some idiot pulled the emergency brake two trains ahead of ours.

I only had time to take a couple of pictures of Rockefeller Center before I needed to hop back on the train to get to Herald Square.

I've seen bigger.
I was not impressed by this tree.
I genuinely was excited about this because I watch entirely too much NBC.
Live from Rockefeller Center, …

Of course I was late to my meeting at Stout. The friggin’ F train was delayed again. I could live in New York, but I would have to position myself in a way that I could avoid the Subway most of the time. I was told to take the LIRR back because I could get deeper into Queens and one does not simply walk into Jamaica Center after dark. So I took the first of two hip-hop pilgrimages.

We mostly spent Christmas Day in Queens, alternating between celebrating the day with my extended in-laws and camping out in the basement with Missy. There was another dog in the house, so we had to keep them separated. For the most part, there was an entire floor between them the entire time. Dinner consisted of ham, chicken, shrimp, string beans, macaroni and cheese, yams and numerous desserts. Coincidentally, that was the menu at my mom’s house, with the addition of roast beef.

Although the following day was Renée’s birthday, it began with a treat for me: New York seltzer and pastrami. You have no idea how much I live for both. If we weren’t heading to Renée’s birthday dinner, I would have also gotten knishes and matzo ball soup. I went to the Pastrami King. I’ve been Team Katz, but I’ll probably think about Pastrami King for the rest of my life.

Living
I still need seltzer from out of a glass bottle with a siphon.
My
Food fit for a King
196 Merrick Road, Merrick, NY
Best Life
Behold the glory of the rye bred, deli mustard and pastrami.

After this food, it was time for more food. We dined at Chef Wang. I’m usually adventurous with food, but I played it safe this time. I regret not getting the braised frogs with picked peppers. I haven’t had frog since I went to Louisiana in 2010.

Thursday was our long slog home. Before we got stuck in traffic several times between Long Island and Maryland, we made a few stops. Among the first was another hip-hop pilgrimage.

For some reason, the video to this iconic song is not on YouTube.
Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden ...
If you’re familiar with the video to Check the Rhime (and a couple other songs), you’re familiar with Nu-Clear Cleaners.
You on point, Phife? All the time, Tip.
Linden Boulevard represent, represent

On our way to meet Renée’s friend Chris in Hoboken, we were trending toward going through the Bronx so Missy could be in all five boroughs. Traffic and GPS (and two missed turns) had other plans, so we wound up on the Brooklyn Bridge

I took a ton of photos as we crossed, and this was the only one I liked
I’m usually the driver, so despite this being my third crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge, this is my first photo.

and through the Holland Tunnel.

I'm a fan of typography and design, but the original decoration placement didn't bother me.
No longer the HOLLAAD TONNEL.

This trip wasn’t the first time I spent an extended period of time in New York City with people who live in New York City, but this trip more than any other made it feel like any other city in America. I honestly don’t think there’s anything in the city I desperately need to see. Like Hampton Roads, it’s a place where family members live. Like Hampton Roads, it has places with food I love to eat. Like Hampton Roads, it’s a place in which I don’t need to do anything special. I just need to be in those port towns along the Atlantic, breathe in the salt air and see seagulls.

Although I love the mountains, have no intention to at the very least not move out of this apartment anytime soon and am afraid of the rising sea, I must return to the coast at some point.

And I hope many, many, many years pass before I have another without New York.

it’s been a long time; we shouldn’t of left you without a dope beat to step to

Enough is enough
PARTY'S HERE!
Yes, I wear this sweater regularly.

This is the face of a man who has not seen his friends since February because he keeps making excuses about why he can’t drive a whole hour to Richmond.

I’ve been a terrible friend. I keep making excuses as to why I can’t go to Richmond. Some of them are legit, though — up until August, didn’t normally have weekends off.

After that, I had no excuse.

I don’t want to go to a place so close and leave my wife to tend to the dog all day and night. We can’t to certain places together with Missy because she hates every living creature that isn’t a human. I can’t just go to Richmond and come back because part of the reason for going is to drink booze.

A few weeks ago, I relented. There was no excuse. I walked Missy that morning and said I would walk her the following night. And I genuinely missed my Richmond friends. I’m seriously not joking when I say I blame my dog. In a way, I understand how some of my friends with kids feel. But I went to Kansas for a few days last month and it’s not like I won’t enjoy multiple days with this face while Renée takes a solo trip.

She's nearly 13
LOOK AT THIS LOVABLE MUG.

So, I finally arrived in Richmond. It was glorious. We sang songs, swapped stories, reminisced and shared memes and crazy YouTube videos. It was exactly what I needed.

Why have I been away from this?

I vowed to not let so much time go by before I visit again. I already have plans to at the very least go back in February to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones again.

I said I was going to do a lot of things now that I have weekends (mostly) off and work mostly ends at a respectable hour. Being reminded over the course of two months of what that entails has been invigorating.

I miss you, friends. In 2019, I shall see you.

And, if you don’t have pets, I’ll bring my dog with me.

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.