the (temporary?) new normal

Beware the Ides of March

Katy suggested that I write down my feelings about what’s going on. She’s right that I should, but I haven’t really though about how I feel about what’s going on. I’ve been in the cockpit for work nonstop since Monday, things escalated on Wednesday. As journalists, it’s easy to be desensitized to things like a global pandemic, or at least pretend that we are. And we definitely internalize all that we see and just try to move on when it’s over. We shouldn’t, so here goes.

I miss my mom. I had hoped to go to her house this weekend, but now I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to Hampton again. My mom’s nearly 70, Hampton Roads is an area where there are a lot of cases of COVID-19. and, although there are no confirmed cases in the Charlottesville area, I’ve come in contact with my reporters, who may have come in contact with people who are infected. For all I know, I’m one of the lucky few who shows no symptoms, and I’d never forgive myself if I get my mom sick.

This is such a strange time, though. Up until about Wednesday, things were somewhat business as usual. And there still are some things that still are set in motion. My lease in this apartment is over in 60 days, so I need to start packing at some point. I think I’ve found where we’ll live next, and I want to excited about that prospect. Instead, I’m wondering if a moving company would be open then to help us. On the bright side, if we have to stay at home and a company helps us move, I can spend a lot of time setting up the new place.

But this really drives home how quickly things can change. For the most part, we know that young and able-bodied people tend be OK, but we don’t know exactly what OK is because it is a new virus. Is there lasting lung damage? Does it cause any other problems down the line?

So, for now, I’m mostly in my apartment unless I’m walking Missy, going for a drive in general or … well, in about a week and a half, we’re going to have to get groceries. And I know that, if restaurants are open in some capacity, I’m going to get some sort of takeout. It’s going to be rough because I’m not as much as an introvert as I seem. I already miss people. But staying healthy is more important than being social.

Collectively, we will get through this. And when we do, keep washing your dang hands.

run with us

I remembered this song from what I knew was an important episode. I cheated and looked it up on YouTube, and man, that episode was probably the saddest moment in 1980s animation.

Back in the late 1980s and, I think, a good bit into the early ’90s, the Disney Channel was a premium network on cable. Back then, I was one of the few people in my peer group that not only had cable but also the Disney Channel. (My mom eventually canceled it, so I went without it sometime around when Britney Spears A LOT of other now very famous people were on the final seasons of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993/4.)

Apparently, it was complete rarity to have cable back then because I went to college and people who grew up in Northern Virginia also didn’t really have the Disney Channel. So, I spent a lot of my life not running into anyone who remembered the cartoon The Raccoons. It was too the point that I thought I was as crazy as Mandy, who for the longest time was the only person who remembered the show Small Wonder.

Over the years, I’ve forgotten a lot about what The Raccoons was about, but what stuck with me was the music. It wasn’t hokey cartoon music. They created real songs, kinda like how there’s a whole entire Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers theme song. That honestly is one of my favorite songs because of the sax solo.

Wait for it …

Anyway, the closing theme for The Raccoons stuck in my head despite only about 1:24 of it playing at the most as the credits rolled. When the internet became ubiquitous, I spent entirely too much time trying to prove that the cartoon about raccoons attempting to save the Evergreen Forest from a greedy, capitalist aardvark existed. And trying to hear Run with Us again. Eventually, several low-quality full versions showed up on YouTube, along with the music video edit.

When darkness falls, leaving shadows in the night,
Don’t be afraid.
Wipe that fear from your eyes.

Then I discovered that there was an out-of-print album by Lisa Lougheed with the song and others from the cartoon. at the time, I 1) did not have a record player and 2) I was too broke post-college to buy both a record player and an out-of-print album.

And then it was reissued recently. And I bought it.

The desperate love
Keeps on driving you wrong,
Don’t be afraid,
You’re not alone
You can run with us; everything you need
Run with us; we are free
C-c-c-come with us; I see passion in your eyes
Run with us

When I first the two tracks after the theme song, I instantly remembered them. And I had forgotten how much I liked Stop the Clock.

That chorus hit me right in the feels on Monday.

My memories begin in 1986, and a lot of the things I retained were songs. I think it’s why I love ’80s music so much. It takes me back to when I was little and my mom’s house was a hub of activity. It was still Grandma’s house then. As she was the matriarch, it was home base for everyone. Cousins came and went, meals were made, boomboxes blasted, parties were thrown. Even to this day, my mom’s house is where everyone feels welcome. The front door is open during daylight hours and the porch light stays on all night. (There was an era when keeping it on meant it was OK to ring the doorbell and not to dissuade you from breaking in.)

How everything ’80s makes me feel is why, I’m already thinking about what to do with that house. At the very least, I must renovate it and rent it out so it fills a new family with joy the way it did for the descendants of William and Armentress Terry. Hopefully, some kid in the late 2030s will have a youth full of excitement and song there and think back fondly to it in 2070.

today

I am in love with Dan Shake’s entire œuvre.

I voted, because has Virginia has open primaries and my overall political leanings are none of your business. I’ve only missed one opportunity to vote in my entire life, and I’ll forever feel guilty about that. My grandparents had to pay poll taxes and recite the preamble of the Constitution. I don’t care if the only race is for concession stand operator and it’s uncontested. I must vote.

Doing your civic duty is awesome.

Then I went to work. While I was wrapping things up, I made up my mind to do something, and I kept going because I didn’t know whether I would back out if I stopped. That something was something I brought up on the 29th. I said I was toying with the idea of getting a nose ring.

In that post on the 29th, I wondered if I were going through some sort of crisis. I’m now retracting that statement. I’m now thinking of this being a continuation of the trajectory I was on in late 2011. The decisions I’ve made in the past few months alone fee like they were inevitable. I feel like myself again. That only took about eight years.

But back to the the new holenmyhead.

I set myself up for this.
It’s not very prominent right now, but I plan on getting a larger one when this fully heals in eight weeks.

I’m still a little surprised by how much it didn’t hurt. I mean, today was a little breezy, and I could definitely feel that breeze in ways I did not like. Additionally, the jostling from eating a steak tonight was … interesting, but that tenderness will be temporary.

Oh, and like my magnificent beard (I know I’m a little overdue for my semimonthly beard sculpting), my mom hates it. Well, she didn’t explicitly say so because my nephew, who is home for spring break (because spring break at CNU is before the vernal equinox for some reason), is bleaching his hair in the bathroom sink tonight.

“I don’t know what to do with you boys,” was all she said.

hell atlantic

Freddie Hubbard and George Benson are on this. The album cover could be Goatse, for all I care.

I, uh, don’t know if you know this about me, but I really, really love driving. Although having friends or other loved ones in the cabin with me is enjoyable, my favorite driving is when I’m by myself on an open road. It’s when I think things through and relax. I either put on a playlist of truly background music or the sounds of the engine that the automakers of this decade have allowed the driver to hear.

On Sunday, I headed down to Hampton. My mother and mother-in-law neither will confirm nor deny that they coordinated me coming back down to pick up Christmas presents after we just were there for Thanksgiving. Additionally, I used my last vacation day to take my mom to the record room of the circuit court clerk’s office. I totally forgot the main thing I went in there for, but she at least got to find what she was looking for.

But that was Monday. Sunday night was The Drive.

The second time I ever went to Virginia Beach was in 2001. The first time was in 1992 when I was about to have my first unsuccessful surgery to stop snoring. Never mind that my house is only about 30 miles from the Oceanfront. Never mind that I had extensive trips throughout my life in the other six cities. It just always had this feeling of being aaaalllll the way over there and not offering anything I could get from the other six cities, like a beach or stores.

Lately ― I think because I’ve been away from the Atlantic Coastal Plain ― I’ve also been taking walks alone on the beach. So I set out to the one beach in Hampton Roads that I knew for certain did not close at night.

Moonrise over the Atlantic.

I took the “long way” to the beach. After I crossed the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, I immediately got off and took Ocean View Avenue/Shore Drive to Atlantic Avenue.

I passed Sarah Constant Beach in Norfolk. It was the first stop on the last trip my father and I had together on my last day of eighth grade in 1997. I remembered that someone was getting baptized in the Chesapeake Bay that day. In 2003, I met someone who mentioned getting baptized at Sarah Constant Beach in June 1997. There was a point in my life when I had a lot of coincidences like that.

I stopped at 33rd Street, because symbolism, and headed to the Atlantic Ocean. I was near the Neptune statue, but that wasn’t on purpose.

I wasn’t going for framing these photos correctly.

I love our beaches in the off season because they’re so quiet. Growing up, I grew to hate the summer tourism season because the roads became more clogged and the beaches full to the point that most request to go were turned down or turned into regret upon arrival.

Then Labor Day comes and goes. The tourists go away but it’s still warm enough to enjoy things. I have countless memories of the beach in those waning warm days. In high school and into college, there also was overnight camping near Grandview Beach at a spot we called The Land Behind the Tree.

Seeing the beach this late in the year was new for me. I encountered only nine people. Atlantic Avenue was dormant.

Six months from now, standing here at about 8 p.m. will be impossible.
Some businesses still were open and their party-setting music echoed in the empty streets. In the hotels, very few lights were on.

I took a slightly circuitous route home. I don’t like going back the way I came whenever I take “quick” trips, so my goal was to reach Interstate 664. That meant I had the opportunity to hit all seven cities, and I really wanted to go to Chesapeake. The family of maternal grandmother’s father goes back to at least 1819 in Norfolk County, which largely became the city of Chesapeake. Additionally, I’ve always been fascinated with the South Norfolk neighborhood in Chesapeake. It once was a separate city and then merged with the county to become the current city. It’s the only truly urban-looking part of the municipality.

I cruised down Virginia Beach Boulevard back into Norfolk, across the Campostella Bridge, down Wilson Road into Chesapeake and across the new Jordan Bridge into Portsmouth. As I headed up Elm Avenue and Effingham Street, I thought about how many people would have conniptions over me riding around P-Town at night. I quickly headed to the Western Freeway and into Suffolk, reaching my seventh city of the day.

Sunday night in the 757. A rare occasion of traveling for miles and miles without rage-inducing traffic. It was the first time in a very long time that I took a substantial ride across so much of my home. I missed being on well-lit surface streets with speed limits of 45 and 55. I missed being able to go 15 miles in a straight line and still be in an urban area.

There was a point when I pulled over on Virginia Beach Boulevard and got out of the car again. I took it in: the straight, flat roads, the air rich with the scent of land exposed by low tide. As I grow older, my irrational fear of Hampton Roads slipping into the sea sooner rather than later increases. I thought about where in Chesapeake or even Suffolk would be high enough for my liking.

I looked back at the eight lanes of U.S. 58, the road I once was stranded on in 2004. Once the longest U.S. route wholly in one state. The great line on the bottom of the commonwealth I’ve driven all but 98 miles of. In a few hours of me standing there, those eight lanes would be filled to the brim. And I would hate it.

I almost missed living here. Almost.

I disliked being there growing up for myriad reasons. The time and physical distance have softened the memories. I like this feeling of nostalgia I’m starting to have for the place. That circle I drove was a beautiful 78 miles.

déjà vu

Brand new truck, butter-soft seats …

I’ve been on a Tribe kick since going to Queens. After The Roots, it’s my favorite hip-hop group. I remember where I was the first time I heard Award Tour when I was a kid. I used to know all the words to Scenario, and that started because I was not expecting to hear RAWR, RWAR LIKE A DUNGEON DRAGON come out of Busta Rhyme’s mouth. Remembering when my mom tried to rap along to Electric Relaxation, I guess in an attempt to prove that she still was hip, still makes me cringe. (But not as bad as when she used “Chiggity check yourself before you wreck yourself!” as a catchphrase.)

Anyway, so when Tribe broke up and Q-Tip released his first solo album, I got Amplified as soon as it came out.

When I got to Let’s Ride, I paused. I had heard that beat before. And it wasn’t because I had heard Joe Pass’ play Giant Steps.

Wait for it.

When I was younger, I often would experience déjà vu. Anther one that really freaked me out was when I was in Model United Nations. I was sitting across from a kid with a distinctly odd-looking face, and I had had visions of sitting across from a kid in a suit with an odd-looking face for years.

But, when I was in my bedroom in 1999, I envisioned being in the back of a car in a large city while Let’s Ride played.

In early 2000, I attended the National Young Leader’s Conference. I learned a lot of things that week, one of which being that definitely did not want to be a politician. I wanted to be one of the people who brought them down. Another thing I learned was that Washington, D.C., was where my “This is a moment where I’ll hear this song” feeling came from.

I took the train there and got a ride from my brother-in-law’s brother to where I was staying. My departure time didn’t mesh up with him driving me back to Union Station, so I got a cab. Before the cab arrived, I had put Amplified in my portable CD player, as was the way in ye olde days. Let’s Ride is like 15 minutes into the album, and I had been more or less alternating between it and Things Fall Apart (I considered myself to be a backpacker at this point in my life, so I was having a little crisis about You Got Me blowing up), so I wasn’t planning on this matching with anything. I just decided that I wanted to start my trip home with Kamaal Fareed.

Somewhere along the trip, that moment that matched with the first time I heard the song happened.

I mention this because of three things. On my road trip to Kansas, Brandon brought up the night I had when I started earning the nickname Epic. My car was in Newport News. My last memory was in Norfolk. I woke up in my childhood bedroom. I no longer lived there and, thankfully, my mom and grandmother were not home that night. As absolutely no one I know has any idea what I did (I disappeared from a party, I can’t recall how or why I went to Norfolk and have no idea how I got back to the Peninsula), the conjecture is that I died and simply respawned. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, I’ve had many, many times that involve moments where I don’t understand how I did not die, so it’s plausible that I know all the save points and cheat codes.

The other reason why I bring this up is because I had a very brief déjà vu moment in the hotel room in New York. It doesn’t happen to me as much anymore, so it sticks out that I experienced something that I swore I experienced before.

Years ago, the subtitle to the viaduct was “hoping the road of life isn’t a beltway.” I was because I was starting to have a suspicion that things sometimes felt familiar because this is the Matrix and I’m starting to remember looping through this. I have another instance where a former coworker can tell you that I completely predicted the person in the lobby waiting for him.

“He’s going to have some weird, giant sore [on his waist] that he’s going to show you because he thinks the hospital screwed up,” I said.

When Fred came back up from the lobby, he started swearing at me because I set him up. I did no such thing. I just … knew.

Where the hell’s this when the Mega Millions is obscenely large?

The third reason why I brought this all up is because I love looking up the origin of song samples. It’s why I listen to such weird music. I heard that one passage in a song that was a part of the backbone of 2001 and, the next thing I know, I’m grooving on an entire album of 1970s Icelandic acid jazz.

For some reason, I never searched for where J Dilla got that guitar loop until the Tribe pilgrimage. This album is pretty frickin’ cool.

the pears of mary lee’s corner

A few minutes ago, I ate a fresh pear. My mom bought some and forced me to go home with them when I packed up from visiting over the weekend.

I can’t remember the last time I had a pear. Although I eat vegetables for fun, I rarely buy fruit.  And when I do, it’s almost always a grapefruit. There was a time when I ate more fruit, sometimes for free. Especially pears.

Some of the homes on my block were the second or third generation from after the farm that once was there was subdivided. Several of the lots with newer homes featured fruit trees. A few doors down was a peach tree. We had a cherry tree. On the corner were several pear trees. It was an older building, so it either was the inspiration or a coincidence.

That corner lot housed a corner store, some small apartments and the home of the proprietor. The portion of the large, rectangular building that was Mary Lee’s home was a maze. Before I knew that it was Dickensian, I knew that home felt Dickensian. The troubled boy she adopted briefly was my friend. Before he compelled me to sever our friendship, fell into more trouble than someone our age should, wound up in Florida and received a life sentence there, we tried to get pears before they fully ripened and began to rot on the ground.

We’d throw rocks or the ball we were playing with or any other object to rattle the branches enough to send some down.  When Mary Lee caught us, she’d yell and I had to go home. When she didn’t, we’d run off with our unripe bounty, ignorant of stony and bland not being the flavors associated with them.

I was expecting this pear to be a challenge to bite, be flavorless and remind me of relatively innocent times.

It was soft, had a taste close to the chunks in heavy syrup and did no such thing.

dreams

My suspension of disbelief is terrible.

I blame it on horror films.

My mom loves horror movies, so I was exposed to them at a young age. To spare me from going insane, my mom went through great pains to explain that they were only a movie, people liked them because they either liked being scared or saw them (and myriad other reasons), it would be all over the news if it happened in real life and it was all special effects.

I stopped watching them because I picked up on each one ending with the opportunity for a sequel, and I wanted something with a definitive end.

This inability to fully enjoy something fantastic has bled into my subconscious.

If I dream about being able to fly, I say, “Wait a minute. This is impossible!” and I wake up. A talking animal or inanimate object? Ice cream grows on trees? Something that traditionally is a nightmare? A little voice announces that it isn’t real and wakes me up. Back in college because I didn’t actually pass a class or something? Completely rejected and sent to the waking world.

Unless I have a lucid dream and play around in the space or a dream is framed in being a film, I dream about going to the grocery store, having conversations with friends, driving somewhere, going to work, so on and so forth. It’s a little bothersome because I’m afraid that I’ll reach a point in my life when I’m not certain whether something actually happened. I sometimes remind myself that a married couple I once worked with being in a ’70s folk rock band and this information not coming out until another former coworker who also is a DJ noticed them on an album cover when he was digging in the crates did not happen.

The worst was when I was in high school. I went to bed on a Monday night and dreamed about getting up on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The dream included getting ready, riding the bus, going to class, going home doing homework and going to bed. When my alarm went off and morning news program mentioned it was Tuesday, I had to explain to the rest of the house why I was shouting, “TUESDAY? TODAY IS TUESDAY?”

This even comes into play when I have routine dreams with deceased people.

Except for one exception.

Last night, I dreamed of going home. I took my niece and one of my nephews on a college tour. Their mother went with us.

My brain doesn’t cancel dreams with Theresa in them. It definitely has tried, though.

I’ve had the realization that a dream was impossible because my sister is dead. It didn’t end the dream.

I don’t even get the reminder anymore.

In a way, they make me appreciate the plausible slice of life dreams. I like having the occasional conjuring of doing the normal, boring things with my sister I never got the chance to do.

Thank you for at least let me have this, brain.

penultimo

I just realized I missed noting my 2,100th entry a few months back. I think I’m going to switch to noting every thousand at this point and rename to “hundred” tag to “big round number,” or something like that.

It’s my penultimate work day in Richmond. I’m off Friday, and I plan on doing nothing constructive beyond seeing Bill before he enters the next chapter of his life in Kansas.

Earlier this week, traveled around 2007 Richmond in Google Street View. There were times when I got excited because I remembered that something was a weedy lot or an abandoned building or a bar I loved.

I picked 2007, which also is a far back as you can go on Street View, because I formally met Richmond a decade ago.

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, as I kid, I wanted to visit Richmond because it was the state capitol and only was 75 miles away. I didn’t get to go until 20 years ago when my father died. The next time, not including driving through city limits on two trips and going to the State Fair when it was in Henrico County, was in college when I saw The Roots play in Kanawah Plaza. And then my fraternity did some volunteer work in the Fan.

I didn’t really go into the city my first year in Petersburg. My friendship with some high school classmates fell off while we were in college, and Bill and Craig generally stuck around either my place in or Bill’s parent’s house in Chester or Craig’s parent’s house in Powhatan County.

2007 was when I really started experiencing the city. It was my first real impression.

Since then, I’ve seen couch fires on Hell Block, drank in the seediest of bars, woke up in weird places, ate amazing food, made great friends, experienced amazing audio and visual art, briefly became a social media influencer and fully embraced how delightfully weird what went from Cap City to RVA was. I made it my home.

In 2011, I figured it was time to leave.

It was a combination of things: I figured I had carried the Hopewell paper as far as my inexperience could. I set a good framework, I figured, so it was time for someone to take it to the next level. My relationship status changed, so moving to New York also because a goal. And people were starting to leave. That year also was when I ditched my 10-year high school reunion to throw Bill a farewell party.

And the city was changing.

People started to not call Hell Block Hell Block. There were fewer reports of furniture fires, my favorite seedy bar became a trendy restaurant with an event space that wasn’t that bad but wasn’t quite the same. Parties shifted to my place — and were awesome — but I would waver between wanting to keep the dynamic with me, Matt and Shaunelle forever and thinking about how one day the three of us would wake up one day at 35 years old and wonder how and why we were still there.

Those vacant lots became apartments, condos and more restaurants. Places became cleaner and safer. Homes were flipped. Entire trendy neighborhoods popped up like mushrooms overnight.

My departure didn’t go as planned. After a stutter-step, I was gone for three years.

I was excited to return in 2015, but the world kept spinning. Richmond continued its path away from having that gritty but endearing edge, at least in its core. More of my friends moved away or the relationship died. A lot of my old haunts vanished. I felt too old for others. Even more just no longer felt the same. The strange cast of characters all but disappeared. The death of Dirtwoman seemed to be the end of an era.

The magic was gone. Richmond just became I place where I lived. I guess that happens to all places. I realized I didn’t need to be here, like in the middle of it all. I considered moving to the West End when our lease ended. Sure, walking to do a lot of my errands is great, but I don’t need it. I rarely go out anymore. Parties and/or wanton partying happen like every other month now or maybe less frequently. No one on Twitter cares what I have to say about #rva anymore. And I’m married and we’re thinking about kids very soon. I’ve had several rants about how we were putting our kids at least in a better part of the Richmond’s zoned schools to help them get into the better middle and high schools later.

Meanwhile, I never stopped reading the paper in Charlottesville. I constantly was in contact with various people in the newsroom. I sometimes wished I never left, but it seemed like this move here was permanent and it made no sense to me for someone on a newspaper’s management team to live an hour away in another paper’s coverage area. It wasn’t time to go just yet, and I’m glad that I got the chance to come back

But this doesn’t mean I hate being here in Richmond, although I’m not sad about leaving in a little while. What bums me out is that Richmond and I grew apart.

By all means, come here. Live, work, play. It’s awesome. It’s just not where I am, at least right now.

hot take

The problem is that, for some of them, their core beliefs are being attacked. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong — these are things their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins have told them in their formative years. This information from the first people they trust became a part of them. It’s bigger than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny; they weren’t just stories to placate a child, they were things those adults believed to be true. As the world shrinks and changes, they can wonder if certain things about their community and their culture are nothing but foolish lies or reject that possibility. It’s easier to lash out than to consider that another worldview is equally valid or actually correct. Even when the evidence is overwhelming.

The solution to this problem is something we’ve sought for millennia.