california (and nevada and arizona) dreamin’

Since I last left you, I saw a friend become a naturalized citizen and our vacation has fully come into view. Beyond that, I’ve just had a cycle of dog poop, cook, work, dog poop, sleep that I can’t wait to break for a few days.

I have a terrible case of senioritis. I hate that it comes with three solid days of extra duties at work.

All I can think about is driving to the Hoover Dam and a Grand Canyon overlook, spending an open-ended six or so hours in Los Angeles and seeing what else there is to do in Las Vegas beyond gamble.

And having a change of venue to write.

And celebrating my birthday and my anniversary.

And how this very well could be our last great trip before we leave the 18-34 demographic.

This will be my 18th epic trip since keeping track in 2004 and my first one to states I haven’t driven from Virginia. This is a big step for me. As I said last year, I have nothing against flying — I just love driving that much.

So, of course there will be driving. I’m mostly pumped about renting a car and going to Arizona and then heading to L.A. because I’ve heard so much about how I’d probably hate it because, in general, people allegedly are New York people or L.A. people and rarely both. I have absolutely no idea what we’re going to do there. I don’t have anything I want to see in that city except the Pacific and maybe the Watts Tower, and I’ll be utterly shocked if Renée doesn’t want to go to Rodeo Drive. I have vague plans to meet one of my fraternity brothers and get food. My goal is to arrive no later than 2 p.m. on whatever day we go there and leave no later than 9 p.m.

We played Miami (and our spontaneous trip to Key West) loose, and I enjoyed it that way. I hope to replicate that.

The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the heat. The current extended forecast has it being no cooler than 112 in Vegas the entire time, the mid 90s along the Colorado River and 90 in L.A.

we’re all pregnant with doug wilder’s baby

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era.

A few hours ago, I went to a tribute to the 400-pound Queen of Richmond, Dirtwoman.

My first Hamaganza was in 2007. Before Pat Kane finished describing it to me, I was already sold on going. Who wouldn’t want to see a burlesque/drag/comedy/charity show involving not only the city officials but also someone who has been arrested for solicitation in an infamous event and also always makes at least one joke about being former Gov. and Mayor Doug Wilder’s lover?

It wasn’t my first experience with Weird Richmond. Through Bill and Craig, I went to shows at what is now Strange Matter. Over the years, I also drank at Empire, Roxy, Wonderland, Fallout, Third Street Diner, Bogart’s and Mojo’s. I’ve been to drag shows and brunches, the Sex Worker’s Art Show, Poe’s Pub, Baja, Fieldens. I’ve seen things on fire on Hell Block; I’ve purchased beer to gain admission to parties in the Fan District thrown by people I didn’t know; I’ve seen luchadores fight in a kitchen.

It’s why I fell in love with this city.

I loved that among the howling masses in sleeveless tees and bullet belts, there I was in a blazer and a Homburg, and it all seemed normal.

But now the streets are cleaner, Empire now is a fancy Mexican fusion restaurant, Hell Block isn’t really known as Hell Block, there aren’t trans prostitutes at Allen and Broad, Bogart’s moved and closed, lunches tend to start at $10 and often don’t come with entertainment.

In a way, I feel like a different sort of gentrification is happening and weirdos like me are a dying breed.

Let’s face it: my shtick is that I don’t look like the kind of person you’d think would know all the words to several Mars Volta and Death Cab for Cutie songs, love a dirty bar and feel at home with people at and beyond the limits of the mainstream.

I wonder what will happen once Dirtwoman guides her hoverounds into the great hereafter. There still will be a Weird Richmond, but it won’t be stinky, sticky PBR-soaked Richmond. But there still will be pockets of it. There still are people around.

I wonder if this is how people feel about New York nowadays.

I hate that I came to Richmond at the end of an era. But at least I got to experience the era.

lifestyler 2000

Momentarily confuses Rosanna with Joanna; gets Black Card revoked.

185.8

I should have weighed in last week. It was better.

I had a few days of eating poorly because I did something awesome.

I saw Prince’s first real band, The Revolution, on Thursday. It screwed up my sleep schedule and my eating and I don’t regret a single second of it.

When I saw that they were touring again to honor Prince, I literally dropped everything and took the day off. I’m not even using literally figuratively, as people are wont to do these days. It came across the AP wire while I was on celebrity news duty. I got up, told my technical supervisor (I don’t have a real boss. It’s kinda weird.) I was not working that day, walked back to my desk, asked my fraternity brother Butler if he was down with going with me and ordered tickets after he said yes.

And then my other brother Brandon said he was in, too.

It was awesome.

I was hoarse.

Then I went to karaoke and sang Super Freak and then Body and Soul by Anita Baker.

There is video. I don’t know where.  Body and Soul was one of songs I’ve always wanted to do at karaoke, but it’s rarely on karaoke lists. I really want to do a song by The National or Death Cab for Cutie. There was a Death Cab song, but it was Grapevine Fires. I like that song, but it doesn’t have a bass line at all, and it always bothered me. It’s the one song I definitely don’t like on Narrow Stairs. Once I have the video, I will share it. I think I paid for video.

But I digress.

But wait: I don’t digress. Rosanna and Grapevine Fires both share a drumming that hearkens to the Purdie Shuffle.

But, anyway, I also bought an exercise bike over the weekend. It was one Craig had in his living room for a while. He’s moving to Maryland, and I offered to take it off his hands. The model is the title of this entry.

I had planned for years to buy and exercise bike. I’m still not ready to get on a real bike again. I think I’ll wait a full 10 years.

But I’m working this into my at least 5-mile regimen. I plan on pedaling at least 30 minutes at least every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Today doesn’t count. I have stuff to do that I planned before buying the bike.

I used to be an endurance bike rider. I would do 20 miles like nothing. There was no time frame; it was just we’re going to Yorktown and back with a gallon jug of water in the backpack. I miss it. But I spent my entire childhood biking in a place without real hills. I wasn’t ready for Richmond. Although I say I might be in 2019, I don’t know if I am. My wreck in 2009 was my second real crash in probably more than 20 years of riding a bike at the time and the first time I had to go to a hospital about it.

(I seriously broke my arm in but played it off in like seventh grade. It healed correctly, thankfully, but I broke my frickin’ arm and pretended that I didn’t. For a while, I called it my “chicken wing” because I couldn’t hold it out straight unless the situation necessitated it. I seriously gambled my ability to have full use of my right arm over telling my parents that I attempted a stunt and failed.)

But I think throwing this in the mix will help break this plateau. Regardless of it being a plateau, I’ve tightened my belt and I look better in shirts. My doctor wants me to be no more than 170 and gave me until November.

Challenge accepted.

because i’m too tired to go to bed

There was  a long period when I didn’t go to the doctor. When I fell off my bicycle back in 2009 and my insurance company didn’t cover it partially because of a mistake on my part, I didn’t have insurance for the next 2½ years and then didn’t go to a doctor again until 2016 because I had fallen out of the habit.

Yesterday, other than being my mom’s first visit to Richmond since I moved into my new place (that I wish I didn’t have to move out of in April 2018, but my dog seriously needs a yard), was my third checkup since December. My new doctor wanted to get a baseline of my vitals because it had been so long. And because I was fat.

She commended me for my weight loss so far. Although I have been laden with various layers of winter clothing each time I was on the scale at her office, I’ve lost more weight by her measure, but I weigh more than what my scale says. She wants me to lose 10 more pounds — to which I said something along the lines of I will once I come there when it’s above 52 degrees.

She gave me six months.

If I’m in the lower 170s with clothes on by October, I only need to see her once a year.

She’s giving me six months to get within 10 pounds of my goal for June.

Doable.

I dug out the belts I had to abandon two years ago because I outgrew them. The last notch on my fat belt is equivalent to the first notch on my skinny belts.

Now I’m really considering actually exerting myself.

{If anyone wants to encourage me in exerting myself [as long as it doesn’t involve running (at the moment)], I’m available most mornings between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.}

I had been waiting a long time to use the hierarchy of parenthesis.

I survived the downtown expressway and all I got was this lousy post

 

Friday started out as a fantastic day.

I took Missy out and she not only did not bark as we exited the building, she barely reacted when we at the top of Taylor’s Hill Park and she saw a dog at the bottom.

And then I got home.

I needed to contact the IRS for my wife’s college financial aid. Also, I had to call Comcast (more on that in a sec).

I tried to use the IRS’ website to take care of business. The form said to use the last address from which I filed taxes. That was my place in Manchester. It was apparently
wrong. Then I tried my address in Charlottesville. Still wrong. Then I tried my current address.

Locked out.

Then I tried using the phone system and ran into the same problem the first two times. The third time, the automated system malfunctioned. I yelled, swore and threw my phone
across the room. Missy looked at me like I was insane.

I tried one last time. It worked with my current address, despite us not planning on sending our taxes off until this weekend.

Whatever.

Then it was time to call Comcast.

There was a really bad billing error. Really bad. I’ve been trying to get it resolved since I got my March bill in late February. At that time, I was told to call back in
March and everything should be OK. Then I was told to call back in April. Then I was told to call again in May.

No. No. You’re resolving this, and you’re resolving it right now.

Using my skills as a journalist, I found the number for corporate customer service. They took care of it. And gave me a $300 credit. Allegedly. The account page doesn’t reflect
what was promised yet, but it is Friday. And I’ve been assigned a case number and my one customer service rep. They have until Monday at noon.

Then it was time to go to work. Great. I accomplished nothing beyond going to the bank and replacing the shoes I wear to walk Missy in the morning. They looked so nice, I
wore them to work today, and they’re quickly becoming my favorite pair. I now see what people see in sneakers. I might stop wearing dress shoes all the time. Might.

It was either these or a pair of Adidas.

When I got to my normal parking spot, a sudden gust of wind tore my hat from my head. It floated through the Richmond sky and landed in the fast lane of the Downtown Expressway.

You could see it from Third Street.

Surprisingly, motorists traveling on state Route 195 in excess of 55 mph avoided it. With each passing car, my hat of at least eight years inched closer and closer to the left shoulder.

I did what any reasonable person would do: I went in to work.

Then I ducked back out, got on the highway, pulled over onto the shoulder and got my frickin’ hat.

It was worth the toll.

Some people say they would rather run in traffic than call the IRS and Comcast. Friday, I did all three.

farewell

On Friday, we had a sendoff for an editor who had been around since before I was born. Nearly everyone in the newsroom was there.

It wound up being the last time I would see some of them.

While I was on my way back from visiting my old newsroom in Charlottesville, the company announced layoffs. I was spared, but people I knew and liked are gone. The paper is shrinking in size, too. I think I’ll wind up with more work because I’m one of a handful of people trained to do what some of the departed editors did.

I feel a little twinge of guilt because it makes me think the whole training me to replace them thing was the plan all along.

We knew this was coming, though. We had been spared drastic cuts for about five years but we haven’t been able to fix the woes plaguing the journalism industry. Major retailers pulling ads and getting close to or going out of business didn’t help.

(I’m simplifying things here.)

And there’s still the subscription problem. People stopped paying for news when it was on the internet for free. We had to start cutting veteran reporters because they cost more. Our quality dropped as we lost institutional memory and checks and balances. Sometimes, it was enough to turn people off to us. Yet they turned to the dubious origins of some of the news online. Never mind it telling them exactly what they want to hear. Never mind it sometimes not going in depth. Never mind it sometimes being patently false. Never mind it not being something that would tell them things like “that highway will be closed tomorrow.”

We’ve gotten so used to it being free, people are still resisting paying. People cry bias and fake news when the truth doesn’t fit their worldview. Novice reporters get things wrong when overworked editors don’t have time to sit with them or truly fact check and there aren’t veteran reporters around to regale them of how the situation all started 20 years before.

It’s a sad situation, and it’s been a sad situation for the entire duration of my career.

I don’t know what the solution is. Misinformation seems to be winning the battle. I probably could start a blog saying Obama is from Neptune and he’s still hell-bent on destroying America and make enough advertising dollars to live comfortably.

It shouldn’t be this way.

binge

I wish I could say the break in text posts was because of not yet finding a new balance with working evenings and having a dog.

I’ve been slacking because of what seems to be my new rite of spring: Binge watching a TV show.

It all started with going through all but the final season of Night Court back when I was in Charlottesville. (I don’t consider the final season to be canon for reasons far too detailed to go into right now.) Last year was BoJack Horseman. This year, it’s Shameless.

I cannot get enough of this show. Recently I’ve been going to bed at 1 a.m. so I can get up around 9, walk Missy until about 11:30 and then watch up to three episodes. I’ve breezed through Season 3 in two weeks and will start Season 4 tomorrow.

Season 8 starts some time this year.

When I started this binge, my wife asked what I was in it. First off, I have a very, very dark sense of humor, courtesy of coping with years of reporting on and editing articles about some pretty heinous crimes. Secondly, it’s because it’s one of the move honest representations of lower-income families I’ve seen on TV.

Because I’ve seen it in person.

I was extremely lucky. I had a father and grandfather with military pensions. We always had food, lights, water and at least one car. I didn’t necessarily get everything I asked for when I wanted them, but things seemed to work out on Christmas and my birthday.

Until an infill house was built, my mom has the house with the second-highest assessment on our block. She was shocked. My response was, “Have you seen the rest of the street?”

I grew up with friends who sometimes came home with me for lunch or a sleepover and it was clearly because they were hungry. I had friends who were constantly moving as their parents stayed one step ahead of evictions. I’ve seen vermin-infested homes. I had friends and family members who begged, borrowed and stole to make ends meet. I’ve a dumped body and heard of others being shot. I’ve seen deadbeat fathers and spaced out mothers and the old lady who’s a semiretired whore and the people who have fried their brains and rotted their teeth. I’ve seen siblings fight each other viciously but would gang up on anyone who said something unkind about one of them five minutes later. I’ve been to parties where someone starts fighting and that’s the cue to leave. I’ve seen the upper-class boyfriend and girlfriends try to tough it out. I’ve seen the neighborhood bars that skirt liquor laws and unorthodox living situations and the smart kids everyone lifts up because they knew he or she were better than that place and they also wanted to show that despite it being considered by some to be a slum, we can produce people who can make something out of themselves.

I’ve seen those smart kids flame out when they can’t adjust to the outside. I’ve seen them falter but recover. I’ve seen them go on to stride into work with a monogrammed travel mug, a Michael Kors blazer, a J.Crew shirt and Stacy Adams shoes.

I’ve seen hopes and dreams get crushed, bright kids become bitter and hardened, wonderful households get shattered by drinking and drugs.

But there still was fun. There still was family.

And sometimes, all you can do is look back at it and laugh.

For seven seasons and counting.

Kanawha Canal

My walks with my dog, Missy, often lead me to the Kanawha Canal in Richmond. She typically alternates between relieving her bowels along its banks or on the hills overlooking the James River and Shockoe Creek floodplains. I suppose she likes to take in nature as it calls.

I’m exceptionally vigilant with cleaning up when she defecates along the canal, although at times it seems as if it couldn’t get dirtier. By being a canal, it’s relatively flat. The locks probably haven’t been open in decades, so there hasn’t been a grand exchange of water. Excess returns to the James out of the main outflow at Chapel Island and leaks through the Great Shiplock, but one often sees the detritus a city bob listlessly for days at a time. From the occasional tire marks and front-end pieces from speeders who don’t realize Dock Street bends slightly to the left, I often wonder how many entire vehicles are below the surface.

My current writing is that near stagnation.

My current job is to edit for eight hours. I’ve taken to walking out to move my car, get an item of some sort from the automated convenience store on the ground floor or lighten my load on other floors as to not be glued to a screen the entire time. Lately, I’ve been avoiding my laptop before work.When I return home, I mostly stick to the most critical websites for my entertainment before I retire. Excluding some nights out, this is the latest I’ve been awake in weeks.

I’ve barely had a desire to write, let alone edit my own work. Mostly, I’ve had no desire to sit in front of a computer screen in my off time. It was different when I was a reporter — I was out covering things and interviewing people. In Charlottesville, there were managerial meetings and staff meetings; heading out of lunch, dinner and/or coffee; and going to the old pressroom to place or take a phone call.

Additionally, I reached a point in my novel where I left myself a mess.

I robbed an entire portion of a chapter and placed it elsewhere, leaving myself a note to fix it later. The current revision affected the easy way to clean up the scene and set the stage for a challenging section to write. Whereas my vacation last year restored my inspiration to write, I need another to prepare me to keep writing.

It’s been pointed out by several people that I have been kicking Brown River Blues around for an official decade now — I began it as a 25-part “short” story in late December 2006 and it’s set in the summer and fall of 2007. I’ve called this the final draft. I mean that as in any other edits and revisions would be at the prompting of someone else. I’ve had the idea of the query letter for agents in my head for at least two years. I want to share this. I want it to be over, but I have to get through this rough section and get into not letting the brainpower I need at work interfere with the brainpower I need to finish this novel.

I need to put this canal back in service.

delirious

Yesterday, I did perhaps the most impulsive thing I’ve done in a while. I was reading a blog in my downtime at work and saw that The Revolution is touring this year in Prince’s memory. I immediately asked my fraternity brother Butler (who I semi-seriously have dubbed my vice best friend) if he wanted to go to the show in Silver Spring and bought tickets.

20170308_115631.jpg

If you want to go, there’s still time to assemble your crew.

I’m not going to recap the whole thing about Theresa, Prince and me. I’m just happy that I’m able to do something like this.

It also reminds me that, as I said earlier, I have been a bit sedate. Making that snap decision made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve made a snap decision.

I have to fix that.

Also, I managed to forget the fifth annual fotos de marzo. Consider this the first photo. I’ll catch up at some point.

*drumroll*

I’m eating as I write this. Seriously.

Despite winding up eating late at night for the past few days, I’m at 184.8 pounds. That’s roughly 10½ pounds since Jan. 1. I started at 195.4.

That’s also a promising start.

I’m not expecting every month to be 10 fewer pounds, especially since that would leave me at about 135 pounds in June, and I don’t want to be 135. Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve been 135 pounds since elementary school.

When I say my grandma fattened me up, I mean she fattened me up.

I don’t clearly recall a time before puberty without shopping in the husky section. Or a pants size smaller than 30.

But, anyway, I’m down 10 pounds and I’m eating at 12:20 a.m. It’s not celebratory. As I mentioned before, I had to tweak my diet regimen slightly and it’s leaving me hungry by the end of the day. I’m annoyed by it because I don’t like eating this late on a daily basis. I’m going to try something out after I wake up later and see if it works.

Also, I’m going to bug my friends who are in this with me to see where they are so far.