14) ‘amputations’ by death cab for cutie

In this modern day and age, we have instant coffee, instant tea, instant disbelief. That’s the reason we will never become anything — it is because we never believe in ourselves. We always listen to the mass majority. If everybody’s making fun of you and criticizing you, you know you’re on the right track, ’cause most people ain’t got it.

— Glenn W. Turner

We’ve reached what very well might be the final Death Cab song on this playlist. And what I though was the end of my life in Richmond.

There were parties. My girlfriend moved in as we geared up to head to Charlottesville. I got to sign a resignation letter with the A.T. Cross Co. classic black with 23 carat gold-plated appointments Classic Century ballpoint pen I’ve had since I was a child. I left behind a typography and design template that is still used in part to this day. I left satisfied with what I had done over the years at that paper.

It was time to enter the next phase of my life with a new, positive outlook. I compressed a lot of experience in those six years in journalism in Richmond’s southern suburbs. It was time to apply that elsewhere.

I made a lot of mistakes as I gained that real-world experience. It felt like I was on the path of getting it right.

And I wasn’t giving up on journalism. I believe in it, and I believe in me. Although Turner, who is quoted twice in this song, was a fraudster, I think of that last sentence when I hear “fake news” one time too many or think this part of my life that I find so important to me and the entire world just isn’t for me. When I once came close to quitting this industry that I love enough to create a soundtrack, a friend said she was certain I would literally be the person who turns out the lights when the First Amendment also fades to black. I don’t want that to happen because I was that light of truth to continue to shine. And I want to be a part of it.

It was just time to no longer do it in the Tri-Cities, where I first landed after college.

Next: Interlude

13) ‘that’s incentive’ by death cab for cutie

You’re not a true Death Cab fan unless you have Chords. Even better if you’re a charter-member fan and have Chords on cassette.

I do not have it on cassette. I only came to the party in the gap between Transatlanticism and Plans.

Anyway, the little “That’s incentive!” at the opening of this song popped into my head when I opened the ad for my current job. It all but said, “If your name is Elliott Robinson, this job is yours.”

It was exactly what I was looking for.

I applied on a Saturday afternoon.

Three hours later, I got asked for to come in for an interview that Thursday.

Hired on the spot.

My girlfriend and I were moving to the city nestled between the Southwest and Blue Ridge mountains.

There was only one thing I had left to do: Have the exit I should have had that past December.

Next: Breakup song

12) ‘wrecking ball’ by bruce springsteen

One of my favorite things is that Bruce Springsteen wrote a song in like 2009 and then titled an album in memory of Giants Stadium and then, a few months later, Miley Cyrus was naked on an actual wrecking ball.

I’ve always like Springsteen. I don’t have an awful to of his albums, because he’s one of those artists I like but I only purchase his work when the mood hits me.

I was compelled to get this album the day it debuted. It’s not his best overall, but it was better than a lot of things the industry tells us is the hottest album of the year.

What draws me to Springsteen is how universal a lot of his songs are. There is a universality because, as much as people like to pretend there are huge differences, working-class people of the two currently dominant races in the U.S. are exceptionally similar. Jackie and Billy in “New York City Serenade” (a very fine piece of music, by the way) could be anyone.

But, anyway, after all that happened, I felt like Giant Stadium. I went down, but I was defiant till the end. I felt like this song summed everything up and it was time to move forward.

And, as I mentioned before, things were moving forward fast.

Next: Incentive 

11) ‘i didn’t see it coming’ by belle & sebastian

“Take me on a plane, ‘cuz I’m not flyin’; I can see the world from a different side. Read about us in the morning papers when we make it, when we make it alive.”

There was an awful lot going on once I returned to Richmond.

I got a start date a few days after arriving. I had a couple of weeks to bum around with no job, so I joined Instagram, went to New York and took my favorite picture of my girlfriend. That photo of my wife is now on my desk at work.

As the month rolled along we half-seriously talked about marriage and began talking about the immediate future. As I mentioned in the previous entry, I only was going to stay in Hopewell/Richmond long enough to get a proper goodbye this time. My girlfriend and I made a pact that the first person to get a real full-time job would win and the other person would relocate.

I then began applying for jobs in New York. Although I knew I’d miss driving on an open road regularly and not being subjected to the whims of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, I wanted to give living in New York a try. She was fine with staying there as song as she kept her reverse commute.

Before the summer was over, I managed to get her ring size and there was a ring in the freezer until that November.

Never mind that I had like zero dollars. I mortgaged my future long ago, and it didn’t matter if I added on more money I didn’t have because I already calculated that I wouldn’t be truly comfortable until fall 2018.

Anyway, this song seemed fitting as the world seemed to kick into higher gear that July. I definitely didn’t see it coming. I knew we were going to be serious, and it didn’t matter how broke we were then. And knew that one day we’d look back at it when we made it alive.

It was also hard to believe that things were looking up just two months after one of the lowest points in my life.

But first, I needed to get back to work.

Next: Let me see what you’ve got.


10) ‘vanderlyle crybaby geeks’ by the national

I have so many feelings when it comes to this song. The period of Sad was almost over. There was a chance that I could go back to Hopewell and move back into my old house. Almost everything could go back to normal. I wanted it. I needed it.

I resolved to leave North Carolina when my lease was up, and no one had rented my room in Richmond. I didn’t hear a definite from Hopewell, but I was going back. I couldn’t be there another minute. So many things felt wrong and went wrong, and I saw this as a way to leave Richmond correctly.

I was still looking for jobs as I worked on if and when I’d go back to Hopewell. My goal was to go back, make my mark and give 120 percent again and leave it and Richmond wholly on my own terms the next time. There was not going to be a snap decision or a prolonged goodbye.

High Violet was i heavy rotation as I plotted this out. I thought about the first four lines of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” kinda summed up my post-college life, although I only spent one year living alone.

Then there’s that refrain: “All the very best of us string ourselves up for love.” It made me think of all the stupid things I did over that past year for love, especially the love of journalism. It nearly killed me, and for all the wrong reasons.

There are only redemption shots in beer pong, I said at the time. I hope I’m wrong.

Early one July afternoon, the day after my last day at work, I shoved all my belongings in my car once again and headed back to the house I had begun to call home. The first place I had ever officially lived after moving out of my mom’s house. Seriously. I voted absentee in Hampton for about 3½ years because I just couldn’t commit to my first apartment or the house I shared with a coworker for about year and a half.

I officially didn’t have a job yet, but I had enough money at the time to pretty much get myself through July. I pulled away from that house while playing this song. I did not look in the rear view mirror until I was completely out of the neighborhood.

Next: Every word’s a whisper without you.

9) ‘jungleland’ by bruce springsteen

As I have mentioned, my time in North Carolina was godawful. It shouldn’t have been godawful, but I was in a very bad place, and very bad things happened.

I was ashamed, but I’m not anymore. I was skipping along the line of suicide for years, and the culmination of everything from about November 2011 to May 2012 finally pushed me over the edge. I leapt from a high bridge as the tide was going out and came out physically unscathed and covered in mud.

I didn’t want help. I had resolved years before that there was a point of intolerability, and I reached it. I never thought I would get there, but I did. Five years later, I can’t believe I go to that point. I could no longer fake it until I made it. Everything was wrong and that was that.

I mean, five years later, I can’t believe I gave up. I gave up. Elliott Robinson doesn’t give up.

And that’s what I felt as I dragged myself out of the Elizabeth River and got some help.

I remembered a passing phrase my maternal grandmother once said: “It takes more than that to stop me.”

The plight of The Rat in “Jungleland” seemed to cover what I was going through.

There was a chance to go back to my old job in Hopewell and have a proper exit and move forward. I took that opportunity.

I was going to move back to Virginia.

I was going to hit the reset button.

I both realized I lost myself and found myself as I decided that whatever was pulling the strings wasn’t expecting me to force quit.

As I resided in the institution I checked myself into after my emergency room visit, I decided that I was going to take a more active role in what happened next.

Not dying made me more determined.

I wasn’t less sad at this point, but I was more determined.

This is why I cut off my blog posts about 2013. I reached a nadir I never thought I would reach, and damn it, I’ll never reach it again.

It takes more than that to stop me.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. I bought a replica “Bad Mother Fucker” wallet. As in what Samuel L. Jackson’s character had in “Pulp Fiction.”

Life got its one chance before old age. It missed. I’m still alive and rarin’ to go, you fuck. Nobody gets rid of Elliott Robinson that easily.

Next: I wasn’t fully happy, but fuck this.

8) ‘music is math’ by boards of canada

The past inside the present.

This song encapsulates my six months in North Carolina.

I knew something was wrong, and the unsettling end of this song shows it. I noticed it even then.

I looked depressed in my photos. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I can tell glancing at them now.

Nothing went as planned. I didn’t leave Virginia on a good note. I was hundreds of miles from friends and family. I didn’t get a chance to bond with my roommates or make new friends because my life was work, talk on the phone or Skype until nearly sunrise and sleep until work again. I made friends with very few of my coworkers.

On occasion, I went back to Virginia or hung out with my roommates or went to Wilmington. Those few moments were not enough.

My team in Virginia fell apart. It bothered me.

I felt powerless.

I almost gave up.

Next: I considered giving up.

7) ‘life in mono’ by mono

I’ve been trying to post the YouTube-generated versions of songs because there’s less of a likelihood of them being taken down eventually. I deviated here because that version was a radio edit.

Despite being an English major, I did not hear this song because of “Great Expectations.” A fellow literature aficionado saw the adaptation of the Dickens classic and sand it stank. I value her opinion on book adaptations, so I avoided it.

I came across this in my voyages into trip hop and other electronica-adjacent genres. I picked this one for my exit from Virginia just because of the vibe of the song. It sounds like an ending but not with the finality of a Death Cab for Cutie ending song.  This was a phase of life ending, a totally new direction, a response to the cycle of defeatism in “Stability”/”Stable Song.”

I had six months.

I checked about how long I had until I needed to seriously consider changing my residency. My lease with my newfound roommates was for six months. I figured, when it was up, I’d either stay with them, find a new place to live or would have already begun fighting tooth and nail to go to Virginia, another newspaper or leave the industry.

But I wished I could have had a proper exit.

I didn’t even take my bed down there. I never got around to it. I slept on a cot. I was going to live 550 miles away from my girlfriend.

I loaded up all my possessions in my car — up until that point, everything I owned except for my bed fit in my car — and headed down there hungover as all get out on New Year’s Day. My first day at work was Jan. 2.

It was unseasonably warm most of that winter. My job was near the beach. The house was roughly two blocks from Wilson Bay in the New River estuary. It should have been amazing.

Next: It wasn’t.

6) ‘stability’ by death cab for cutie

A funny thing happened as I stuck around in Hopewell as the repairs were made to the newspaper building: The loop of ‘Stable Song’ in my head gradually changed to ‘Stability,’ which is an earlier version of ‘Stable Song’ with a very long instrumental coda.

As I mentioned in the last post, I was ready to leave Hopewell when the building was all but destroyed. I then rejected the job offer in North Carolina because I didn’t want to leave them in that state.

I really should have seen how far they would push back my start date.

As the repairs continued and things settled into a variation of normal, I went back to feeling that it overall was time for me to go. I eased back into my job hunt.

Once the repairs were done, it just wasn’t working out anymore. I took a deep breath one day and called North Carolina. The job was still open. Without the opportunity to properly plan, including discussing things with my new girlfriend, I was packing up my things and heading south.

I met my new roommates before they even knew where we were leaving. I didn’t formally changed my address from my old place in Richmond. There were singed bridges, anger, and feigned celebration. I was rushing headlong from one failure to another.

I couldn’t believe my triumphant Centipede fizzled into languid repetition of “Stability.”

If I played closer attention to the music, perhaps I would have noticed something else going on.

Looking back, I think I knew it. Actually, I did. I know I did but it was too late. We’ll get to that in Track 8.

Next: End credits

5) ‘stable song’ by death cab for cutie

There was a very long period when I essentially did nothing but listen to Death Cab for Cutie. There are three more coming up over the course of this.

I once had a dream that featured this entire song. Yes, the all of “Stable Song” — I dream of entire songs, even when it isn’t playing, on occasion..

In this soundtracked dream, I wandered through a situation where I wasn’t equipped to to do anything to fix it. It bothered me greatly. In understand why I dreamed it, and it sticks with me a decade later. I wrote about it here, but the majority of post before 2013 no longer are public.

“Stable Song” popped in my head again six years after its release because I had recently discovered the 12-minute version of this song, “Stability” while looking up the video for “You Are a Tourist.” The final track on Plans commandeered my thoughts about Codes and Keys because Codes and Keys is my least favorite Death Cab album. It felt fitting over the course of that late summer and nearly all of fall because I felt that I took the paper in Hopewell as far as I could take it. Someone else needed to take it to the next level. I no longer was 25, and I realized I didn’t know a lot of things. I needed to go somewhere to learn more. I also felt like Greater Richmond was a phase of my life that also had run its course. I didn’t want to leave, but figured I needed to leave. I’ve mentioned that several times a few entries back. Not to belabor it, but in all honesty, I shouldn’t have come back in 2015. Or at least not all the way back to the city’s core.

It’s funny that not even six months ago I was adamantly against living in a suburban or exurban area. Como hemos cambiado.

But I digress.

I cast a wide net for a new job. I decided I would look across Virginia plus Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina. North Carolina was first to make an offer.

And then two tropical systems all but destroyed the newsroom in Hopewell.

I needed to leave, but not yet. I couldn’t leave my team like that. Not while there were tarps hanging from the rafters, ripped-up carpets and Servpro dehumidifiers fighting of the growth of mold.

I messed this noble act up a little.

I was 28 and thought I knew things.

Next: Didn’t we just do this one?