surprisingly close

A little more than a month ago, I learned how close I am to Charles Town, West Virginia. I mean, its two hours away, but it’s closer than my mom’s house. It makes sense, though, because I’m two hours from the end of Interstate 64 in West Virginia and two hours from Danville, and I’m about 50 miles north of the geographic center of Virginia.

But I digress.

I found out how close it was a month ago, and I’m just telling you now because I was absolutely terrible and blogging last month. I don’t know what happened exactly, beyond my ever-increasing need to go on vacation. I get 16 days this year, and I’ll be down to 13 after this coming weekend. I think I need to just go ahead and burn the other three next month or something because I’m only writing for work at this point, and that has never happened before.

Anyway, I went to West Virginia at the spur of the moment because I got invited to a fraternity brother’s bachelor party in the middle of it happening. The first day was a ski trip, and the second was a trip to the casino and horse track. I hadn’t see the groom in a while, so I did what the best man told me and theoretically crashed the event.

I took off at about nightfall because the ski resort didn’t have cell service and I didn’t hear any details about the trip until I was about to pass on it.

Although it was just two hours, it could have been faster. I had to take back roads all the way there. Usually, that’s fun, but I didn’t want to get there too late (although I knew we’d most likely be up half the night).

Boy, did we.

I don’t know what time it was when we finally went to bed. I could check, because both Google and my Fitbit know. (I let Google stalk me in part so that I can mostly prove that I was somewhere and it’s not like, with the right judge or unique set of skills, someone can’t find you if they really, really want to find you.) The next day was rough. We partied like we were back in undergrad, and I really, really can’t do that anymore. I soldiered on for a good part of the day, but I couldn’t take it any longer by about the time the University of Virginia-Purdue game was happening. (Yep, I’m that far behind on posts.) I headed back to the hotel to discover that I was inadvertently given a casino card instead of a room key.

Instead of napping, I bought an energy drink, put the game on the radio and headed for home. I got back in enough time to see the end of the game on TV. I was certain UVa’s run was going to end that night, and I’m glad it didn’t. I’ve become one of those people who roots for the team because I live there. But if they play VCU, I’m RVA all day.

Overall, the trip was great. I got to see four fraternity brothers, and I’ll see them again in July for the wedding. I also got to do something spontaneous again. Well, it wasn’t quite spontaneous, but it was with less than a week’s notice. Additionally, it was a part of my goal to see people more often. I typically have weekends off, so I have no excuse. We’ll be moving to our penultimate place before buying something later this year (I’ll explain when we get closer), so I hope to entertain, too.

To make a long story short, Charles Town isn’t terribly far away and, although I’m not really a gambler, I’d go again.

But I’d drink far, far less.

i should have started earlier

City Middle has been in my head for a good chunk of the week. I had a dream in which this song came on the radio while Karen was driving me somewhere. Karen was not amused because the timing was perfect in the dream: I had $500 in twenties and I was on a good mixture.

Most likely, it will be after midnight before this entry posts. I haven’t gone to bed yet, so I’m going to follow my rule of it’s not the next day until I go to bed. And ensuring that I have a post on Friday and Saturday indeed is going to be a little tricky. More on that later.

Anyway, it’s been a long day. I scheduled an oil change well before I knew what was going to happen today because, for some reason, I had some difficulty finding a place that could squeeze me in.

I barely got my car there on time because it was in a part of the Charlottesville area with a severe traffic problem because people decades ago decided to put a commercial and residential strip on the side of a mountain across the river from the rest of the urban area. That meant that I couldn’t attend an event in my own building. It’s something we’ll eventually get back to when we back to being fully staffed.

From there, I had to hitch a ride to do my weekly radio segment. For the past few months, we’ve been doing recaps of our news coverage on one of the local radio stations. I never had any intention to go into any sort of broadcast journalism, but here we are.

By the time that and lunch were over, my car was ready. But it was time to do my newsroom meeting and our larger staff meeting. And then there was another meeting I nearly forgot about during a time in which I’d hoped to go home for a bit because I’d been waiting for a piece of mail.

Instead, I picked up my car at about 5 p.m. and it took me 20 minutes to take what should have been a five-minute trip. I wasn’t ‘going to be bothered with going home at that point, although I technically had downtime, because then there was a school board meeting to cover at 6:30.

Have I mentioned that I can’t wait for us to be fully staffed again?

I intended to cook dinner tonight, but I was over today. I ordered a pizza from the front row of the school board meeting and got home around 9. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been at work for about 10 hours this week.

I can’t wait for Monday to get here. Technically, we’ll be fully staffed again.

I’m celebrating by going to Raleigh this weekend to see Falyn. I’ve felt bad about not seeing her because I’ve seen her brother-in-law and her parents more than her in the past few years. I kept saying she was in Chapel Hill because that metro area has three prominent localities no more than 30 miles apart and I grew up in Hampton Roads, which has seven cities spread over an area the size of Rhode Island.

I was going to drive, but Renée wants to do something in Chapel Hill, because I kept saying Chapel Hill, and I get unnecessarily weird about having to readjust my seats and mirrors whenever someone drives my car. (I’m that way because the only time I was at fault in a two-vehicle collision was when my mirrors weren’t quite right after my mom drove Simone when I was about 19 and I rear-ended a truck while I was trying to fix them.)

oops

I could listen to this on repeat for hours.

I totally forgot to to update this for nearly a month, which is a shame because that defeats the purpose of this. I initially intended this to be an external memory. It’s been good to be able to look back to June 2007 and know with some degree of detail of what I did that month. (You can’t see what I did in June 2007 because I’ve cut off back entries from public view for myriad reasons.)

I mean, since I last posted, I went to Petersburg and Hopewell to mark 13 years in journalism. (The anniversary is Wednesday, and I’ll get to that in a second.) I also went to Lynchburg for no reason. My nephew got into CNU, I’m on a panel for an upcoming conference and my small newsroom is going to be slightly less small very soon. All of those should have been blog entries.

I’ve noticed that, since my workload dropped dramatically in August and I feel adequately compensated for the amount of work I do, I’ve done a lot less once I get home. I have laundry I have not yet put away. I watch more TV. I have books that have not been read.

I think I’ve gone a little bit overboard with experiencing free time because its been so long since I truly had it. I used to do things in my downtime when I didn’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about work. After six years of being unable to take trips or hang out with people while living up to an hour away from some of my closest friends, I just don’t know what to do with myself beyond not doing anything with myself.

What I’m proposing to myself is this: Including this weekend, which should include a trip to visit friends, I’m going to post something every day from March 13 to April 12. I’m hoping this gets me back into writing beyond work.

March 13, as I mentioned earlier starts my 13th year in professional journalism. March 13 marked when this blog went from being about a college student to one about a young adult with a career.

Someone recently asked me what I did in my free time, and I didn’t know what to say. My answer to what I did for a living and what I did in my free time used to be “I write.” I want to be able to say that again.

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.

run-on sentences

If someone makes a biopic of me, and doesn’t mind the songs being anachronistic, I want this to be the music for 2002.

Last week, I spent my bonus day off (I’m now at three weeks and a day of vacation) on taking my nephew on a college tour at CNU. Earlier, my mom suggested that I just pick a random Saturday or something and give the tour myself. I didn’t register to her that in the roughly 13 years since I graduated, nearly every building that was there has been demolished.

I still got to embarrass him and his sister, though.

When we got to the admissions office, I yelled. The receptionist, Donna, still was there. She ran over and gave me a hug. And then Michael and Shonda got them, too. After we spent some time catching up, we started our tour.

The format completely changed. There’s now a video and a PowerPoint. The presenter even mentioned how the school is proud of how Trible wiped away effectively every vestige of the Japanese-themed architecture that dominated the campus due to a hefty donation from Canon during the college’s early days.

The tour only pointed out

  • the Freeman Center, our gym (which is now also the new home of Gaines Theater);
  • the Trible Library (somewhere in there is structural steel from the Capt. John Smith Library, and that’s the only thing that keeps me from being terminally angry about it);
  • York River Hall, the newest freshman-only dorm, if I’m not mistaken;
  • the Student Union, which opened right after I officially left but was still involved with The Captain’s Log and my fraternity, so it’s the only new building I know; and
  • Luter Hall, one of the academic buildings.

I was a little surprised by how short the actual tour part of the tour was was. In my day, we at least pointed to every building. Sure, they did point to Hiden-Hussey Commons, but said nothing about Santoro of James River, barely touched on East Campus, said nothing about Potomac River Hall and I guess it really makes sense to not bother with upperclassmen dorms on a freshman tour. But at least go inside New McMurran and Forbes. I also wanted to see that weird addition-not addition to James River Hall and the one spot on campus that still looks the way it did in the second half of my college career. (A tree and a sculpture were removed from the Santoro courtyard, so I can’t truly say that looks like it did in 2001.)

I got to see my former boss, Angela, before we left. We also spoke in animated tones in front of Michael and Shonda.

When we headed home, I did point out a few things.

I drove past Ratcliffe Hall, which is now an athletic center and server room. I first met Renée there in January 2002.

Finally, I wound my way through the Hidenwood neighborhood, making remarks about how I can’t believe I used to bike about two miles back and forth to class for a full semester because I didn’t want to buy a parking decal, and drove past my old fraternity house on Deep Creek Road.

The building renovations finally have been completed, and it looks decent. I wish I could have gone in.

If I were younger, I probably would have anyway.

Overall, it was great to be back. Michael is interested in band, and got a separate tour of the Ferg and met a staff member with the band department. I think he wants to go there. I’d jump to the opportunity to be there with him for Freshman Move-In.

Although so much had changed, CNU felt like home. I through about all the antics I had there, like allegedly putting soap in the geese fountain now next to the chapel and mattress jousting on the Great Lawn and the Slam ‘N’ Jam and the parties and the late nights at the paper and the friendships I made nearly 18 years ago that persist to this day. Christopher Newport University set me down the path I’m on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope Michael eventually gets to say the same thing.

starting the year off with a bang 2: electric boogaloo

Relax yourself, girl, please settle down.

Absolute, throbbing, searing pain for which there is no succor. That is what I felt on New Year’s Day after I decided to walk off the mild discomfort I felt in my foot the day before. I slept on my stomach with my right foot at a funny angle while my dog slept on said foot for nearly the entire duration because she likes sleeping near my feet. I woke up to a swollen foot. I couldn’t put any weight on it. Moving it was the worst sensation I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve had three invasive surgeries and fell off a bicycle face-first.

I have no idea how I would have operated a car, but my wife had to stop me from driving myself to urgent care while I was nearly rationalizing amputation. I thought about people who have chronic pain, get increasingly potent opioids and wind up being addicted a but still in pain as their tolerance rises. I’m not 100 percent certain I would not have turned down meth at this point.

If I can property brace or prepare for it, I can hide being excited or in pain. That came in handy when I am absolutely certain I broke my arm or elbow in elementary school doing something I was explicitly told not to do. I am lucky that 1) my parents did not notice and 2) I can fully extend my left arm. When I finally got seen at urgent care, I was asked where my pain was on a scale of 1-10, I said 8½. I’m sure no one believed me. But I was extremely close to wailing. I now know I will wail at 9, and 10 probably will cause me to unleash a torrent of expletives that would cause Rudy Ray Moore to rise from the dead to give me a round of applause.

I honestly was shocked when they said I hadn’t broken anything.

I was equally shocked that I wasn’t given any pain pills. Instead, I was given a corticosteroid for the inflammation and antibiotics because one of the side effect would be a weakening of my immune system. The swelling and pain went down to tolerable levels almost immediately, and I’ve gone from crutches to a cane to walking gingerly to nearly walking normally as of 2:25 a.m. Saturday.

I won’t be re-enacting the Now That We Found Love video anytime soon, though.

And I’m going to be move cognizant of where Missy is in the bed each night.

Have we really gone 28 years without discussing the dude dancing in the clear jumpsuit with just his draws on?

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.

backwards

I can neither confirm not deny that I heard the non-orchestral version of this song while waiting for food and then downloaded Wax Tailor’s entire œuvre.

The first time I ever drove was when I was in elementary school. An extremely hungover Theresa ordered food from the seafood restaurant around the corner. It was simple enough: A left, a right, a right, a right a right, a right and the park. Only three instances of oncoming traffic, one of which at a traffic light. Technically not even out of our neighborhood. I made it down our street well. I stopped at the stop sign. I tried to turn left and careened into a ditch because I did not realize how far one needed to turn the wheel to make a car make a 90-degree turn. Years passed before I got behind the wheel again.

Fast forward to Maryland when I was an early teen. My brother-in-law at the time knew I was going to learn to drive soon and figured he would give me some pointers.

“Driving backward is hard,” he said (or something like that). “If you learn that first, going forward is easy.”

Well, he had an early 1980s two-door Oldsmobile Delta 88. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s 218 inches long. That’s comparable in size to the Chevrolet Suburban. I shit you not.

So, here I am — 14 years old — having my second driving experience ever wheeling a vehicle in one larger than a goddamned Chrysler Pacifica minivan backwards. But I did it. I was mortified, but I did it.

But I typically avoid going in reverse. Back into a space? No. Back down a  long driveway? Watch me lose my nerve and run off to the side. Get out of a tight space? Witness this 10,000-point turn to turn my car around first.

That all changed recently.

I’m chalking it up to how I learned to parallel park when I moved to Richmond. (If you don’t know how to fit a 190-inch car in a 200-inch space, you aren’t parking in that city.) I now park in a parking garage every day at work. Occasionally, parking there is pure garbage, and the best and only way to get into a spot is to back in. The alternative is to go up a level or two. I never take the elevator, but I’ll gripe about having to take the stairs all the way to the top, so I’ve started backing into spaces to make them work.

I have been backing in like a dream. I’ve even been backing in at home lately.

Once you go backwards with a 18-foot, two-door car, throwing anything else in reverse when you don’t overthink it is a piece of cake.

But don’t ask me to back down a long driveway just yet.

of a sofa and things

IMG_20181017_201725_01.jpg

Despite protestations from friends, I got the one that matched our dining room chairs.

I need to get back in the habit of posting more often.

So, I bought my first adult couch. It makes everything seem so weird now. I mean, we’ve had furniture before, but this makes it feel real. A friend donated our dining table and we bought chairs on a whim one day. The TV was a Christmas gift. Replacing the mattress didn’t feel like a milestone. But when the delivery men struggled to put this thing through my oddly shaped foyer, I said to myself, “Holy crap, I’m an adult.”

And then I inadvertently had caffeine that night and planned out all the other furniture I want to get.

It goes without saying that we are not moving out of this apartment anytime soon.

Anyway, we then had a staycation of sorts.

It wasn’t our intent. I need to burn 10 vacation days, and for some reason, we tried to plan out our vacation dates through texts and screwed up a little. I had plans to take my nephew on a college tour that Saturday and Renée thought she had an event to attend on Sunday. Instead, both things were canceled.

We got bored.

We drove to Washington, D.C.

The only thing we did there was let Missy out to pee on the National Mall.

The following day, we went to Winchester because, like me, Renée has a goal of seeing all of the regions of Virginia. I’ve been to 36 of the 38 current ones, and I’ll hit 37 next month. I’ll end this one day with Norton.

I’ll hit Covington because I intend on taking a road trip to Kansas to see my best friends, Mandy and Bill. Bill and Mandy’s husband, Mike, are stationed there, so I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’ve promised to visit both for years and never got around to it.

At the least, one of my fraternity brothers is going with me. I’m hoping for two. It’ll be Voyage XX, my 20th blog-worthy trip. I’ll hit 28 states. I’ll see the entire length of Interstate 64. I’ve been wanting to do that nearly my entire life.

I need to get around to getting my oil changed, brakes checked and making certain I won’t have a mechanical surprise in an exurb of Evansville, Illinois.

BUT,

Before we get to that, I’m seeing Death Cab for Cutie live tomorrow. I won’t wax poetic about it again.

ALSO,

I am officiating a wedding on Saturday. A friend’s officiant was unable to officiate, so I petitioned the courts one more time so I could do my second. I have about 1½ pages of things to say, because I am a good friend. I wind up editing it every time I look at it because it’s what I do. And because I’m a good friend.

A good friend who is coming to grips that, at some point he became an adult.

so long, sofa

So, I discovered that there’s a nearly six-minute version of the revamped Bob Newhart Show theme song, and it has been giving me life this week.

Especially in light of a death in my household.

20181004_014950

October 2015-October 2018

Our living room never grew up.

The living room at my first apartment in Richmond was a little tight, so a real couch would have been a bit much. Also, there was the whole question of getting it into the apartment.

Since I didn’t want to bother my friends with the whole “can you help me move my couch?” thing (again), we snagged this futon from Walmart one October night in 2015. It was comfy and had no real problems, so we never considered upgrading.

Well, once we got more space, I wanted an armchair, a new TV and a proper stand for it all, but there’s nothing truly wrong with what we have, so I never got around to it.

Well, now there’s something majorly wrong with the couch.

It was one of those things that you buy with the understanding that it’s going to fall apart in the stupidest way in a few years. I half-seriously said we had two moves before it broke.

We made it to two.

When I put it back together in March, I discovered that I was a little overzealous when I put it back together in the 2016 move, so the plywood that the screw went into came out with it when I disassembled it for the most recent move. Eventually, a brick partially supported the middle section.

And then some springs gave way on the left side.

And, tonight, total failure.

The two middle supports were the only things keeping the couch in one piece. The rear one failed, and I don’t have a second brick to prop it up. Additionally, it really needs more than two bricks to salvage it. So it shan’t be.

In the next 72 hours or so, I’m buying my first grownup couch (never mind the living room set I was given in 2006). I’m a little excited.

Except for the whole getting the couch into the apartment thing.