RIVER NIGHTMARE

I just saw that as a headline (on a TV new outlet, of course). My first thought was that it was just … well … awful. We’re talking about real people’s lives, not some Sci-Fi (pardon, Syfy) original movie here.

Obviously, I’m feeling surly and I’m also trying very hard to pick and choose where I focus my malevolence. Where’s Pete when I need him?

That said, if you’ve been following this blog long enough, despite its lack of updates lately, I’m feeling normal.

I meant to update sooner. I mean it. I actually had things worth writing about but they’re no longer timely. I did see Bill yesterday, though. He finally had enough leave to come to Virginia and we decided to hang out for an entire afternoon and then get as many people together as we could that evening. It was up in the air for a while, as his grandfather just died, I had to beg to get Saturday off and we both had things to do today. But it was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

I think being away from Richmond makes going back there feel so much better. Either that or it’s just the act of going out and doing something. I can’t wait to have a larger space so I can have a party. As I get older, I’ve realized that I can be pretty quiet like an introvert but I need the recharge of a massive social situation like an extrovert. And I need road trips.

Last week, I drove to West Virginia for absolutely no reason. It was the first time since moving back from North Carolina last July that I’ve personally driven myself out of the state. Other than, I think, between getting my license at 15 and turning 18, that year had to have been the longest stretch I’ve ever had of not personally taking myself out of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I can’t do that again.

I’m taking my largest road trip since New Orleans in September. I’m driving to Nashville, possibly by way of North Carolina. I’m beyond excited and it’s mostly for the ride itself.

A year ago today, I was wandering around Richmond on foot, anticipating getting my life back together. I still had a few months ahead of me then.

Do you have any idea how odd it is to not feel like yourself for more than a year? That’s what made Saturday so great. I was cruising along Interstate 64. It was a beautiful day. I had all the windows down. I was wearing a seersucker blazer. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Renée was there but she’s about to go to Orlando for fun and, while she’s there, I’m vacuuming the floors, beginning to pack up the apartment and working. At some point we’ll get this whole having vacation days at the same time straightened out. It could have been earlier this summer if I knew I was going to have the surprise 10 calendar days off from work.

Well, it wouldn’t have been a surprise then, now would it?

I can’t remember why I started writing this entry in the first place. I think it was to vent some anger but I’m old enough to know better than to go full rage mode on the Internet. I think the act of writing itself was enough of a catharsis. And using 10¢ words like “catharsis.” And using a cent sign.

I still don’t know the source of my current writer’s block (despite this entry, I’m still calling the well currently dry). I haven’t been taking a lot of photos nor have I been posting to Facebook or Twitter regularly. This has been going on since before January, back when, if I went to a doctor, I probably would have been told I was clinically depressed. That’s a whole ‘nother entry entirely that I put off  because I didn’t want to talk about it then and, when I felt better, didn’t see the point of bringing it up.

But I digress.

Is it even possible to digress in this disjointed mess?

Anyway, I need this to stop. I miss writing, especially since I spend more than 40 hours a week surrounded by paper and ink. I lost track of the outline of the final change I need to make to my novel (remember that I was writing one? and have been since 2007 or so? and it’s still not completed but, in a way it is?) and I really want to get that done. I keep thinking about tricking myself into writing a killer query letter so I’m forced to finish because my future agent is waiting for the full manuscript. But that wouldn’t help anyone.

Especially one of the main characters in it.

For those of you who have read this far, I’m going to share something with you.

I created a character on Dec. 17, 1998. I named him Lorenzo Santiago Williamston because, when I took Spanish classes up until 10th grade, we had to pick a Spanish name to go by in class. I originally picked Santiago but changed to Lorenzo and stuck with it. I fancied an alter-ego of sorts named Lorenzo and I though I coined the last name of Williamston until I saw it was a city in North Carolina.

I first created a universe for all of my writing in 1993 and I ditched it all in 1997. I destroyed every single short story I had then and even considered being a business major instead of an English major. Then Lorenzo appeared and all but the “Asunder” story I wrote a couple of three weeks back have been in his world. Although Lorenzo has become an old friend, I had no intention of him being in my novel when I began it, which may be obvious when you first read it not that I’ve told you. When he did appear, I did decide that it would be the final time I wrote about him. I do wonder that I’m stalling to hold on to my friend a while longer.

But, even when the book is on a shelf somewhere, the story of Lorenzo Williamston isn’t over.

If and when I have a son, his middle name will be Wilson as an homage to my Uncle Wilson. That’s been settled for years. His first name will be Lawrence.

Over the years, Lorenzo has mentioned consequences of being named Lorenzo Santiago and not being Hispanic. I figured anglicizing his namesake was the least I could do as a parting gift.

I think that’s it. Once I hit save for the final time, that 15-year-old kid who grew up with me and became a journalist with me will no longer be mine.

But that’s the point. Unlike this blog, I created Lorenzo for you, not me. The absolute best thing I could do is share his universe.

After 14 years, 7 months, 12 days — 5,338 days and counting — it’s truly the least I could do.

It only took me 1100 words to get to what this entry was about.

it’s about durn time

I am beginning to feel my writer’s block break. I’m happy about that because I nearly said with all seriousness earlier this week that my novel was over, that I wasn’t going to do anything with it because I just wanted to write out a story and didn’t care if anyone actually saw it. That was a funny statement because it came not long after I dug the notebook in which the final revisions I scribbled out at 1 a.m. one night this winter reside.

For those of you who have been following my spotty updates about Brown River Blues since it began as a 25-part short story in December 2006 (that was set in the summer of 2007), this thing has gone from that short story to an expanded version of that short story to  novel-length short story that had no real plot to warrant it being so large to me weaving a plot into the holes to me now reaching the final phase of reconciling the actions of the actual plot with the spirit of the original short story.

Overall, it was (is?) a fun thing to write. At one point, I created a companion piece for my own edification (that I regretfully deleted) to help me flesh out characters. There is an entire universe for this book, especially for Lorenzo Williamston, that dates back to Dec. 17, 1998. I drew a map of the city Blues is adjacent to back then. There are landmarks, civic buildings, historic sites, people and items fixed in our own global narrative that have everything and nothing to do with Blues. One of Lorenzo’s closest friends lives in San Francisco and plays the violin as a hobby. None of that is mentioned in my novel. Three main characters share a hometown and mention events in a short story I wrote in college and what I wrote out in 1998-99. It feels good to have canon, to know why Lorenzo does what he does in 2007 because I know what he did as 1998 rolled into 1999. It feels good to have great chunks of things that happened before, during and shortly after the action in the current draft of Blues that have been cut from the text that still exist, apply and happen because, although they aren’t there, they’re still there. Although I told myself that this tale of 2007 marks the end of me writing about Lorenzo’s activities (as far as anything that happens to him after August 2008), it’s good to know what he’s been up to for the past seven years. The same for the character of G Scott Smith.

It’s fun to talk about it at times, even if it is one-sided and no one, including those who edited an early draft, have seen what the actual plot is. I vaguely recall texting Mandy what truly happens in the middle of the night once but I might be imaging things.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a post this long. This block is breaking.

 

* * *

I’m 90 percent sure I know what caused the writing process to dry up within me. Well, there were several things . I know what a large problem was but I’m too polite to bring it up. I do have a modicum of decency left. It’s even been a while since I’ve used a word such as modicum.

I’m musing on what is causing me to regain my power.

It’s been gradual. Back in December, I mentioned that I’ve been in the category of “fake it till you make it” for a good chunk of 2012. That was the beginning of the reawakening; I’m sure of it. As of late, I’ve been feeling the hunger of righteous fury. Lee mentioned today that he liked that I’ve been getting progressively cynical. Angry, cynical Elliott who bangs out blog entries well over 600 words, sends his car screaming into the night with the windows down and obscure music blaring and had delusions of grandeur he can barely call delusion because they’re true is the  Elliott I know and love.

Hanging out with my fraternity brothers next weekend might be exactly what I need right now.

 

* * *

 

I got distracted for a bit here. I don’t think I mentioned it but Sasso works in Monmouth County, N.J., home of Bruce Springsteen and, of course, Asbury Park. During World War I, my maternal grandfather, who possibly was born in what is now Suffolk, Va., was stationed in New Jersey and two of his sisters lived in Asbury Park somewhere between the 1880s, when they were born (my grandfather was born in the 1890s) and the 1970s. I know we Elliotts are from the former Nansemond County and my grandfather was living in Hampton when he met Grandma. At some point, his two sister that I know of moved to Asbury Park.

I have a general idea of when they died and I possibly found relatives still living in Monmouth County. One of the sisters married a man with a very German last name so I think it’s safe to assume it’s my family I just found. When I wake up, I’m calling someone who might remember my Great Aunt Lillie and her sister, my Great Aunt Cora.

I’m visiting Sasso next weekend.

Once I establish these cousins, I’m moving on to tackling Grandma’s parents. Over the years, we keep getting her mother’s and her grandmother’s names confused. We have her father’s and grandfather’s down since her brother’s name is based on his father’s and at least one of my cousins is named after my great-grandfather (we were recycling names for a bit). When I visit my mom, my Aunt Betty says she was able to save some Robinson records from when her house caught fire.

Either way, I think it’s kind of cool that my grandfather was born at the start of Grover Cleveland’s second term and my Great aunts in his first and that George and Cora Elliott were born in either the 1850s or ’60s, possibly later as my grandparents had children late, hence the whole “I’m just turning 30 and my grandfather is way older than your grandfather” thing. My mom can’t top John Tyler’s grandkids with the whole “my grandfather was born in the 1790s” thing but we have three generations where there should be about five.

But I digress.

I need to go to bed so I can figure out a better way to start a phone conversation than, “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you related to? …”

march thirteenth

At some point, I stopped marking this day. I know I had a good reason when I stopped but I felt it prudent to bring it up today.

I’m actually cheating a little, as I’m writing this the night of March 11-12. But whatever.

As I’ve said numerous times before March 13 has been a major date in my life for several reasons. Growing up, I always confused March and May. Theresa’s birthday is May 13. I would always say it was March 13. My younger nephew, her child, was born March 13. I began my journalism career seven years ago on March 13. I inadvertently counted down to Grandma Elliott’s funeral five years ago, which was also the day I changed my name to Elliott in honor of her and my grandfather George.

I’ll never forget getting back in the limo after the graveside service and immediately being handed the signed court order making her surname my first name. It all seemed to come together as, whether she knew it or not, she’s the reason why I’m a journalist. When I’m at my laptop, I can look to my left and see a photo of her. It’s the one that fell down in this post.

It’s been seven years, SEVEN YEARS since I began being a journalist for real money (but, since I’m a journalist, it’s not “real money”). It’s been seven years since an impromptu trip to Florida ended with my first day of work. Seven years since we stopped, on our way to Florida, at Oaklawn Boulevard in Hopewell and I had no idea how right I was when I announced that exit soon being my where I went home. Despite everything, in some way, that is going to be  a home of sorts.

So much has happened in those seven years. It’s hard to believe I was some 22-year-old technically still in college and technically in my 23rd year. Becoming an adult was so much trial and error. Mostly error. Seven years ago, I was a wide-eyed, freshly minted reporter wondering if I made a horrible mistake in becoming a journalist. Seven years later, the hierarchy in a newsroom is Managing Editor > City Editor (when we’re working at the same time) > Me > Reporters. Some days, technically, the hierarchy is Me > Reporters. And this is after three years of somehow keeping a twice- and then thrice-weekly newspaper afloat.

I swear, I’ve seen more in seven years than some people in 17. That explains all the grey hairs sprouting all over the place.

Again, regardless of every awful thing that happened over the past seven years, I wouldn’t have been able to sit in peace here in Charlottesville on Monday morning if things were different. These bumps and bruises, tragedies and triumphs, spectacular wins and crushing defeats over the past seven years not only made me Elliott Robinson but the greatest of all Elliott Robinsons because of Grandma’s flippant response that I took to heart, especially when the chips were down:

It takes more than that to stop me.

I persevered through it all and wouldn’t have anything that happened happen any other way.