rage quit

I’m late to the Black Pumas party.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I thought it was stupid back in 2004. I think it’s stupid now. It has pretty much reached the end of its useful life for me, but I need it for work (partially because some City Council members use it extensively), it is my only means of contact for a lot of people who I consider to be great friends (despite it being our only means of contact) and, because my account is as old as this blog, it has become a storage bin of sorts. I can find an old photo. I can tell a definitive version of a story because I made statuses about it all when it happened. I can keep tabs on some people from my hometown to fuel gossip later.

I was very discerning about who exactly became my friend, and I have a two tiers of posts because there are some things some people shouldn’t see, like when I share a weird sex news story. A few years back, when there was a succession of older family members dying, my mom said I needed to have some sort of contact with my family.

As some of you know, family can be annoying.

I reached my limit with one of them on Tuesday, but I’d have to block multiple people to make a clean break. I didn’t feel like doing that last night, so I shut the whole thing down.

It’s not deleted, just deactivated for a week. Or until I have some free time, like Friday night or something, to round everyone up and clear them out. Or I’ll fully abdicate my work Facebook duties. I don’t know yet. I just needed to hit the brakes on all of the Hampton Roads stuff I wouldn’t care about if I didn’t have a common ancestor with those people.

It’s not like I hate my family or don’t want to talk to them again. I get my mom’s sentiments, but it’s a constant intrusion into my life. And with everything else going on in the world right now, it’s one hassle I don’t need right now. After graduating from high school, I’ve built a new family: my spouse and some fraternity brothers and friends back in Richmond (who I miss very, very much) who feel as much like my siblings as my actual siblings. And they’re all the family I need.

nothing will change on friday, unfortunately

This is my favorite song from the Shaft soundtrack, and this also is a reminder to go to the actual Caffè Reggio when it is safe to go to New York.

It’s been a while. It’s been a while because what am I supposed to say? Sept. 13: Still in my house like every other reasonable person. I worked and then watched TV. No one wants that. I don’t want that. Additionally, I write extended intros to my job’s newsletter at least twice a week, and that’s kinda sucked up my creative juices. I thought about making those these entries, but a lot of them are very Charlottesville centric, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to put them here.

Speaking of work, though, there is some news: We’re hiring another reporter, so I’ll once again have four employees, like back in Hopewell. Additionally, we’ll have a winter/spring intern and possibly two summer interns, so there’s a chance that my reporting staff will equal the daily paper’s news staff for a few brief moments in 2021. That’s more of a shame than awesome because I’m watching a daily paper be crushed under bad corporate ownership and it keeps making me not want to tout any of my good news because it feels like gloating even when it isn’t.

That said, my outlet also got $150,000 in funding to deepen a partnership forged over the past year. Also, since the pandemic has ruined everything, I’ve been in a virtual relationship with a news outlet in the country of Georgia and I spoke to a group of Russian and American journalism students a few weeks ago.

I guess stuff kinda was happening after all.

I tried to reshoot the image I used for my debit card, but I got the location slightly off. Never mind that I could have opened my wallet while on the floodwall and gotten in position.

The thing I’ve missed the most this year is seeing friends and family. I’ve stopped by, but I haven’t hugged my mom in a year. I’ve only seen the inside of her house for a few fleeting moments. I’ve only seen a few friends in carefully choreographed outdoor in-person events. The newsroom had a bubble, but the act of newsgathering broke it, and I haven’t seen them outside of Zoom since late October.

Yesterday, I saw a fraternity brother and his girlfriend while sitting on a frigid deck at Legend Brewery in Richmond, hence getting the floodwall shot. He brought up beer I can’t get in Virginia and brought him some Albemarle County brew. (I resumed drinking in the fall. My seasonal allergies were worse than usual due to there being actual ragweed plants growing within spitting distance of the house, and I got a beer after a few days of playing “allergies or COVID-19?”) I had the urge to call up more people and make a day of it, but I didn’t even feel 100% comfortable being across a large table in the open air with a stiff breeze off the James River.

It didn’t help that, a few moments before, I discovered that at least six of my cousins possibly super-spreadered themselves. There attitudes toward the pandemic up to this point is a story for another time.

I know at some point, most likely when the vaccine finally gets around to me (thankfully, I’m probably so far down the list, they’ll know the full range of side effects by that point), I’ll feel OK. I don’t like that I don’t now. I don’t like that, even after getting it, I don’t know if I’ll want to go to a concert again or a crowded event or go to the grocery store without a mask. Maybe it’s for the best that we continue going to the grocery store with masks on. Who knows? I’m not speaking with any kind of authority and I’m not looking for your comments.

Two three two more things: I still might do a post of the year selection tomorrow. I haven’t looked that them closely, but I think there’s something good from between January and early March. Maybe next year will be better. Rambling in this post made me feel a little better.

I also bet you’re wondering about my long-discussed novel. I absolutely did not use any of this quarantine time to knock a lot of things out of the way, but I did complete a draft and, in the course of doing a manual spell check, added some new chapter breaks, moved a section around and also realized something outrageously topical about one of the characters that I’ve decided to not blatantly spell out because, with each passing year, the coincidences don’t look like coincidences. I seriously had to redo another character a few years back because I met someone who was just like that person. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to just wrap it up and get it out there. After I finish these last few tweaks, I’m just going to ship it out to a few friends and tell them that I did not look at it again because I’d wind up writing 20,000 more words instead of hunting for typos.

Last thing: I was going to post my year-end newsletter at the end of this post, but then I realized why I haven’t really posted any of them here: If you’re not aware of any events in Charlottesville, they would make no sense to you. Additionally, although it has been obvious over the years where I work (you don’t have to go through a couple pages on Google to find me now!), I don’t like blatantly saying where I work here because, as I say in my horribly worded and likely toothless disclaimer, this site does not necessarily reflect my past, current or future views nor does it reflect the past, current or future views of anyone/any entity with whom/with which I am affiliated.

I guess that was three things after all.

historic times

This blog’s 16th anniversary was on the first, but it didn’t seem like a time to celebrate. It still doesn’t. I’ve been quiet here because we all know what’s going on. We’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, but we couldn’t take a break from protesting because America didn’t stop killing Black people because of the pandemic.

Very briefly, because of 2017, eyes turned to Charlottesville. We had one small protest last weekend, one occurred yesterday and there is one scheduled for today. Either because of the students largely not being here, the unhealed wounds of 2017 or a strong desire to not become a hashtag again, our demonstrations were short and to the point.

But the protests had to happen because of what we saw. It wasn’t as detached as some of the videos of shootings or the other choke holds. This was nearly nine agonizing minutes of a police officer using his knee to squeeze the life out of someone in broad daylight on a street and we couldn’t do anything about it. Talking about it on social media and moving on just wasn’t enough because it happens again and again.

And it continued to happen as people protested. We had press releases contradicting what was aired live. We had officers doing the electric slide with protesters before hitting them with their batons. We watched pleas for the police to stop killing us be met with indiscriminate use of tear gas.

For years, I, and I’m sure many of you have been wondering what the breaking point in America will be, what was going to be the moment that made us take a hard look at how policing got this way.

It’s kinda interesting to me that I starting binge watching Hill Street Blues before this happened (I’ve briefly paused my marathon). In the 1980s, it showed a poorly disguised Los Angeles standing in for a poorly disguised Chicago. It was the “bad old days” of horrific poverty, despair and crime. The pain characters are flawed but overall noble. The bad cops always are the guest stars who wind up fired, transferred or killed off. At halfway through the third season, we never really see why that precinct is the way it is beyond the brief mentioning of white flight and the open war between the police and residents in the period before Capt. Frank Furillo assumed his role.

Still, the way they do things is cringeworthy. Nowadays, most of it is illegal. Nowadays, most of it is illegal but officers do it anyway. You can see how procedurals like it and the belief that official press releases in real life made so many things appear to be true at all times.

That sentiment has carried for nearly 40 years, that idea that the Black and brown areas of each city are just places where life is nasty, brutish and short, and the police are the only things keeping them from not only destroying their walled-off portions of the city but also the rest. Being outside means you’re up to no good. Being outside of your expected zone especially means it. We’re dealing with biases, stereotypes and a dearth of resources so deep, people could not and would not see that racism was at its root.

There’s much more to say, I’m not writing this to debate it or have a conversation or link to charts and graphs and studies to prove points you already know and/or refuse to believe. If at this point, you’re still waiting for someone to prove you wrong, nothing’s going to change your mind.

I inadvertently fell into writing editorials twice a week, and this is what I wrote on the first:

It’s a community with high incomes, long life expectancy, burgeoning commerce and sites that are draws for tourists. It’s also a community where high incomes mask inequities, where life expectancy varies widely between racial groups, where small business owners of color feel shut out of capital and there are spaces where many people of color aren’t overtly unwelcome but feel it over generational lines. The world watched as death came in broad daylight on a city street.

I’m talking about Minneapolis.

Over the weekend, Charlottesville, a city still reckoning with its own longstanding and recent trauma,  joined other localities across the country and globe in marching against police brutality. They also marched because of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people during encounters with police or people claiming policing authority. The protests locally and nationally came with varying degrees of anguish, pain and rage. Unfortunately, police in some places through the country, some as close as Richmond, Fredericksburg and Manassas, responded aggressively. And, unfortunately, some people in the crowds also took advantage of the demonstrations. But we cannot let that detract from how people are crying out for their voices to be heard, for justice, for change.

We also cannot ignore that the COVID-19 pandemic still is raging. Especially if you found yourself in close quarters during demonstrations or had to remove coverings from your face during your attendance, monitor yourself and your households for symptoms. If tests are available where you are, seek one.

Protests punctuate weekend, June 1-2, 2020, Elliott Robinson

coming up for air

Trained I’m precise to make the crowd tingle
You finally get to kick it and miss like Ray Finkle
All righty then, spin emcees like Frisbees
And got verbal animation on lock like Walt Disney

I don’t need to tell you things have been intense since my last post. We learned COVID-19 was a lot worse than we expected, far worse, we went into a virtual lockdown and there is a lot about it that we actually don’t know, hence the lockdown.

And, since I run a newsroom, my job got crazy.

Friday was the first time in a while that I wasn’t in front of my computer for more than 12 hours. This weekend was the first time I truly relaxed since early last month. Monday went a little too long, but I called it quits early today. I had to. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and if we don’t pace ourselves, this newsroom won’t make it to the finish line.

In other news, one bit of uncertainty has been resolved: We signed the lease on our new home. Some of you know of the problems I’ve had in this apartment and the complex. Some of you know all of the problems. Some of you probably think I liked it here because I haven’t said an awful lot and we stayed for two years. Well, a lot of things happened and we regretted renewing the lease less than a week after renewing the lease.

We’re heading back into city limits and, if you don’t count the six months in North Carolina, this will be the first time I’ve been in a fully detached house since early 2009. There’s a driveway and a yard and a small stream in the backyard and I’m a bit excited. I’ll be a mile away from work, so I could take the bus or walk (if we get to a point where we can return to our office with some regularity).

It’s smaller than our apartment, but our apartment has a lot of wasted space and I think we can make it work. If not, I have a small storage unit and a lot of things I need but don’t need. It’s restored and it’s getting an addition with a laundry room, small loft and a half bathroom. It has a clawfoot tub. It’s 95 years old. It has a name. I gave my mom’s house a fake name based on the technical name of the subdivision. This house actually is called something.

Again, I’m excited. Ever since we did the first walk through, I’ve been estimating in my head where things would go and hoping certain things would fit. I have memories of a place I haven’t lived in yet. I’m sure there’s a long German word for that.

But there’s still so much uncertainty. SARS-CoV-2 is stalking our streets. I haven’t moved my car since April 1, when I picked up dinner from the fantastic C&O Restaurant (try the Steak Chinoise; you’ll thank me later). I had planned to see my mom on March 13. I haven’t seen her since December. I ordered some cloth masks, which also means I shaved my beard of two years because I care enough about my fellow humans.

Also, it’s been nearly six weeks since my septum piercing, so it’s no longer painful and my nose no longer is swollen.

757 forever

I’ll always listen to a song featuring Plugs One Two and/or Three.

Some of you may know that I made a big decision in 12 years ago. I had the option of picking an 804 number or a 757 number when I got off my mom’s Sprint plan and switched to Verizon. I chose 804 because I was living and working in Petersburg, had no intention of ever going back to Hampton Roads and, frankly, hated it. I mean, we had like 1.5 million people and you couldn’t tell because it was spread among the eight seven cities, we had no unifying sports or cultural thing and I had stars in my eyes after seeing all that Richmond had to offer.

A few months later, when it launched, I set up a Google Voice number to serve as a work number, but I’d been inconsistent with doing that. Another problem was that, although it was a separate number, I didn’t have a way to easily demarcate if I was getting a personal or business call and I sometimes forgot to call people back on the number they dialed.

This month, I finally fixed that.

I now have a separate phone for business purposes that uses my Google Voice number and a reassigned my smartwatch so I don’t necessarily need to keep two phones on me at all times.

But the days of my Google Voice number are numbered.

Once I run out of business cards or decide that my time at my current publication has run its course, I’m going to disentangle a few things I attached to my Google Voice number over the years and switch to the phone number on the new phone. But I’ll need to sort out an additional problem.

At some point, my mom is setting things up so I also inherit her phone number. We’ve had that number ever since the city of Hampton switched from having party lines. My mom once said, “I still remember our first phone number, PA-2 [and the rest].” I looked at a keypad and replied. “It’s the same number. They just turned ‘PA’ into numbers.” It was Grandma’s number. As she was the family matriarch, it was the number. If everyone else and everything else failed you, you dialed that number. I won’t be just down the street in Hampton, but being that default link is the responsibility I’m willing to take on.

I only know of a handful of people who changed their number after those few years after college, so I’d probably have the number ring to my personal phone and over time train people into contacting me with that 757 number. But, if it’s not possible for me to inherit our roughly 60-year-old number, I have a contingency.

My thoughts about Hampton Roads have softened over the years. The passage of time likely washed away all the memories of the things I hated about living there. And it’s also caught up a little with metro areas of comparable size as far as things/stuff to do.

Earlier this month, it was announced that 757, which went from being maligned when we were kicked out of 804 to becoming shorthand for the entire region, is about to be joined by 948. If I ever wanted my personal phone number to once again represent where I’m from instead of where I felt like I finally came into my own, I was running out of time.

So, I now have what’s currently a “secret” 757 number that’s going to rise to prominence while the 804 number I never really used finally goes away. And then, if I inherit The Number, my current cell number will begin to fade away.

I have no desire to ever live there again, but let the record show that I’m now 757 forever.

i’ve fallen back into not being very good at this

I want to like this band a lot, but I only like a handful of songs a lot.

I bought a pleather jacket. It partially was on a whim. I went to a conference a few weeks ago in North Carolina, and the weather was too warm for a coat and too cold for a blazer. Usually, I go add another layer and a scarf and use my blazers as jackets, but the temperatures also were such that I would rapidly swing from being cold and hot throughout the course of the day.

I could have worn the fabric jacket I already own but I don’t wear it in formal settings anymore. Like (until recently) the inside of my car and nearly everything I own that is pure black, that jacket is completely covered in Missy’s hair, and no amount of anything changes that.

I once cleaned out the dryer lint trap and it was 90% dog hair. And there still was dog hair embedded in some of my clothing. I don’t know how she isn’t bald.

But I digress.

It’s time for stores to roll in spring/summer items, so I essentially stole this.

Anyway, as you can see, I quickly added a button a pin and a No BS! Brass-styled guitar pick. I’ve turned some heads since this is a slight departure from me being constantly dressed as a fancy gentleman. But I also almost exclusively wear Converses now. And now I own technically three pairs of jeans and three pairs of shorts.

I’ve think I’ve been going through a crisis of some sorts. I kinda want a nose piercing and that seems even more absurd now that I’ve written it out for the first time.

I’m not saying a correlation equals a equal causation, but pleather and a possible nose ring are coming up during my experimentation with not drinking. Saturday is the 43rd day since I’ve had alcohol. I’ve decided that I’m not going to have any booze until I want some booze, and I haven’t yet. The occasional nonalcoholic beers I’ve had have been good in inducing a placebo effect of sorts. My subconscious applauds my liver for doing a great job of processing alcohol quickly whenever I have at least two and, as expected, nothing happens.

dryish january

I can’t groove to a beat without finding the source sample. You know this.

Twenty years ago in February, I got my first car. I know this because my license plates expire in April and that’s because I once forgot to renew my registration until after March had come and gone. It didn’t help that I didn’t change my legal address until 2009 despite living at least 75 miles away three years prior.

But I digress.

Once I got that 1995 Dodge Neon that I named Erin, my social life began in earnest. It’s also when I adopted the rule of the next day not beginning until one went to bed or the sun came up, whatever comes first. If we’ve been awake since 8 a.m. and I tell you at 12:20 am. that I’m doing something tomorrow, I mean after daybreak. I think telling someone at a party’s end at 2 a.m. that “you need to go to your own place tonight,” instead of “you need to go to your own place this morning,” makes things clear that you need to GTFO right now.

That said, what I drank while I rang in the new year at The Jefferson Theater (where I’m seeing Ben Gibbard again in April, if you’re interested in going) don’t count. Since waking up on Jan. 1, I’ve only had four drinks.

No, no, not drinking sessions. Four drinks. Four responsible adult-sized drinks.

I’ve had three glasses of wine and a bourbon and ginger ale. And in the case of the mixed drink, I just wanted the ginger ale, but the kitchen I was in during a party was crowded. I asked a friend to pour it and hand it to me. He asked what I wanted in it, and I reflexively said “bourbon.”

I mean, it’s like asking me what my favorite thing is. I’ll say “fire” without hesitation. Never mind that I don’t remember the last time I did more than light a cand — oh, I helped burn down a shrubbery during the first part of Phil Collins Weekend.

I didn’t mean to not drink. I was pretty hungover on New Year’s Day, because we were chauffeured to and from the venue in our private Lyft, so I didn’t want to see a booze until that weekend Renée opened the last bottle of wine I bought. I had a glass then and two more the week of the 12th. One was because another bottle was opened. That last drink was the night of the 16th, when I pulled an all-nighter to get our Virginia Press Association entries in and I hoped it would bring me down a notch from my caffeine high.

I’ve also had this month about 15 of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Alcoholic version of Heineken because I bought the for the party I went to in Richmond. I drove, and we were going back that night (not that morning), and I didn’t want to die. I liked how, unlike other nonalcoholic beers, it tasted like the real thing, so I bought more. I finished those off last week.

I think I simply forgot to stop drinking like I was depressed when I stopped being depressed.

What’s weird to me is that I don’t miss having a drink. After a long day at work, I haven’t told myself I needed one. (Work stress hasn’t changed beyond, for the past 1½ years, me feeling like I’m getting adequately compensated for what I do and I don’t have crushing daily deadline.) I’m not trying to quit, so we’re just going to see how long this goes.

I think I simply forgot to stop drinking like I was depressed when I stopped being depressed. It wasn’t healthy, but bourbon felt warm enough to fill that cold hole.

Yes, I put a pullquote in this entry.

So far, I haven’t picked up another vice in its place, other than me no longer being disciplined about going to bed at midnight anymore. And I really need to get back on that.

Because it’s 12:45 a.m., and I have a lot of work to do tomorrow morning.

ADDENDUM: This being exactly a year ago is a coincidence.

tree of life

I cannot stop grooving to this.
I devoured this book in less than 24 hour. I had this entry planned out for about a month, and this story is what compelled me to finally write it here. This will be nowhere near as lyrical.

My father’s side of the family is small. I always wondered why I didn’t meet more of his family, and the answer was that I had essentially met all of them. There are some cousins through the siblings of my great-grandparents I have’t met. My grandfather left behind a young widow and three children in 1954 when he died in a crash so major, my mom said it was on the front page of the Daily Press. (I’ve always meant to look it up, but I’m never in Hampton for enough consecutive weekdays to do all the research I want to do.) Grandma Pearl, who died 10 years before I was born, never remarried. Other than my dad, my aunt had children.

But I have gotten as far back as Alfred and Mary Robinson, born around 1840. I know this because my great-great-great grandfather, the first of four Samuel Robinsons, was born in Isle of Wright County in 1860.

* * *

On my mom’s side, it’s an adventure. The joke that I’m related to everyone in Hampton has some truth. And the story of how they all wound up in Hampton — which is between the lines of census data and marriage, birth and death records — probably was a sort of Virginia version of the Grapes of Wrath.

But before we get to the an Elliott meeting a Robinson in the oldest continuous English-speaking settlement in the United States, we start in the former Norfolk County and, in the next paragraph, Mecklenburg County.

Asa and Nancy Terry. I’ve mentioned them before. (This is a variation of that entry.) That’s all I know about them. Their son, William, was born in 1858. In 1880, he married Helen Coleman, born in 1864. She was the daughter of Robert and Sarah, born in 1840 and 1836, respectively.

In 1882, that Southside Virginia county welcomed another William Terry. My great-grandfather. His life began near the town of Boydton, and it ended 80 years and 70 miles later at the other end of Boydton Plank Road in Dinwiddie County. But, before then, he headed toward the coast.

After the 1900 census, he left home. In 1910, he wound up on a farm in what is now Western Branch in Chesapeake. Back then, it was a part of Churchland in Norfolk County. In the city’s records, the specific neighborhood is called Saint’s Delight. In her old age, Grandma Elliott, the only grandparent alive in my lifetime, so she is the Grandma when I only say Grandma, called the place of her birth St. Montclair.

* * *

Armentress Trotter, born in 1885 in Churchland (for clarity’s sake, I’m calling Saint’s Delight/St. Montclair/modern day Western Branch Churchland), was the daughter of Levy Trotter and Mary George. Levy was born in 1854. Mary was born in 1863. Her parents were William, born in 1832, and Rosetta, possibly born in 1850.

Levy’s father, Charles, was born in 1819, and was free as of the 1850 census. His wife, Violet, was born in 1828. There is a white family’s Bible that also has the genealogy of the Trotters in it. It says that my great-great-great-great-grandfather, also named Charles Trotter, was born in 1799. I haven’t seen it for myself. The woman sent me a photo of a page of that Bible but it was the page of Charles the first’s children. She was insistent that we weren’t related. I want to press her for the other page, but I also don’t want to contact her again. She did, like the census data, note that the Trotters were free.

William and Armentress lived on land off Taylor Road. And around the time of the Great Depression, they lost it. They then moved from Churchland to the town of Phoebus in what is now the city of Hampton. They went on to buy a house there. Armentress’ two sisters and brother also moved in and around Phoebus. My Great-Great Uncle Perry didn’t have any children. I’m related to the Mitchells and Askews of Phoebus and Buckroe through my great-great aunts. My mom grew up with people who called her “cuz,” and she thought for all those years that it was a colloquialism.

Armentress died in 1939. William eventually gave his house to his firstborn daughter, Mary Jane, who in 1934 married George Elliott Jr. (who possibly actually was George Elliott III), who was born in 1893. William remarried in 1942, and moved a few blocks away. Grandma, born in 1910, outlived all her siblings.

* * *

Grandma had a hand in raising the children of her sisters Nealious (pronounced Neola) and Helen. (Only one brother survived to adulthood, and he didn’t have children of his own.) Nealious, who was only three years younger than Grandma, died in 1939. It was not long after having her only child, Sylvester Simpkins. (In a weird chain of events, James Simpkin’s stepmother-in-law wound up living in an accessory dwelling unit on his property. I met Ms. Lee, as everyone called her, and I had no idea until a few years ago that she was my step-great-grandmother.) Sylvester, who was known as both Seal and Bear, didn’t have any children.

So, how do I have 10,000 cousins on my mom’s side? Well, Grandma’s sister Helen died in 1955, and her husband James Walker Sr., died in 1953. Before they left this Earth, they had five children, and four of them and their progeny were quite fecund. All of my close cousins called my grandma Aunt Mary because of that.

Eventually, it was time for Grandma to decamp from the old home William and Armentress bought. Grandma’s new house in 1973 became my mom’s house in 2008. It becomes my house in 2021. I like to think that the $200 worth of real estate near Western Branch my great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Trotter Jr., had in 1870 was the source of money for the 1973 house. Or at least that I’ll be a sixth-generation landowner. My primary residence will be an apartment in Albemarle County, but I’ll be in the company of a forebear, a man whose name I know only because I was able to push past my Grandma’s memory.

I’m still in awe of how far back I could get. The things those people who have blipped back into existence through my research endured in the antebellum years. How my birth and the birth of the hundreds of cousins who can say my grandma was their Aunt Mary would not have happened if William Edward Terry didn’t venture 150 miles away from home at the turn of the 20th century. I can’t believe that just four years ago that if my mom and my uncle didn’t recall that their grandfather died in 1963, I might not have figured out anything else about him beyond his name.

All of those people whose names were forgotten. I found them. I keep trying to push farther back into the past, but that might be a solid wall. My oldest ancestor beyond what was in that Bible comes from 1819. He’s not on paper until 1850. I’m branching into cousins in part because some of my living cousins want to know about the people who married into the family and the Terrys and Trotters and Elliotts and Robinsons now scattered across the globe. I feel like bringing them all home.

0629 ―> 434

This is my new theme song.
Mariupol meets Charlottesville

Last week was an adventure. For three days we hosted an online news outlet from Mariupol, Ukraine, through a program with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX). The name of the outlet, 0629, is the city’s area code. If all goes well, we’ll send a delegation there next year (there’s a chance that we’ll go to the country of Georgia instead or both).

Part of their visit included a tour of one of our TV stations.

Along with having tours of some cultural sites in the area, the had a tour at CBS19 in the are and we swapped stories about how our newsrooms operate. Their story is a fascinating one because Mariupol was close to the battles of the (ongoing) Russian military intervention in Ukraine. They had some major challenges as they tried to operate as an independent newsroom in an area where that often doesn’t happen and another country actively waged a misinformation campaign.

I saw to it that they learned a lot about the area’s Black history.

A lot of things were oddly familiar, and we also learned a lot from them. It also gave me a new perspective on what we did. In trying to avoid having the interpreter translate figures of speech, it made me think really hard about what we do and why.

Their newsroom signed a Ukrainian Flag and gave it to us

That brings us to today. We have year-end reviews and we’re looking toward 2020. We’ve done a lot in the past year, especially in the past six months, and we’re looking forward to building on the momentum that we’re starting to build. I’m excited about what we’re setting out to do next year. We’re learning a new journalism model as we go, and I plan on charting the next few months during our Christmas break. It’s been a while since a newsroom truly has been mine, and it’s time to put the pedal down.

I’m glad I sat down and watched The Irishman on Saturday so I have the perfect music for it.

home is a fire

Noise, cars on the freeway
Attempting a clean break
There’s nowhere left to go
Watching the room sweep
Through cracks in the concrete

Codes and Keys is my least favorite Death Cab for Cutie album. (I wrote a half-page review of it in the Hopewell News because no one could stop me.) I’m listening to it all the way through for the first time in a long time, and it’s reminding me about why I didn’t like it. It had nothing to do with the album sounding a little too upbeat form a Death Cab album.

It was about 2011 itself. In retrospect, it was a whirlwind because I felt like I needed to make some changes.

In January, I bought a replica of Jules’ wallet from Pulp Fiction (I finally retired it this summer.) In February, I prematurely sent out a query letter for Brown River Blues. (It still had the old ending at the time, so it would have been terrible.) In March, I took a trip to New York that I decided would be the last time I would see Renée because I still loved her but she was six hours away and I was doing nothing but torturing myself. In April, I was on a journalism panel, but I was thinking about getting out of journalism by May.

In June, because of controversy between my college newspaper and the administration, this blog, which had just became hosted on this domain, had a brief spike in popularity because it was the definitive source of what was going on. At the same time, I was wondering whether I would even keep this thing going.

In July, I had decided that I had carried the Hopewell News as far as I could. I decided I wanted to stay in journalism, so in August, I applied to be a copy editor in Jacksonville, North Carolina. In September, the Hopewell Publishing Co. building was heavily damaged in a tropical storm and I couldn’t in good conscience leave while it was in that state.

In September, I decided I was going to make this post in October. Instead, Renée and I slouched toward getting back together, so the biggest news of that month instead was that I was in the same room as President Barack Obama. In November, things were official between us and I restarted my job hunt.

Suffered a swift defeat
I’ll endure countless repeats
The gift of memory’s an awful curse
With age it just gets much worse
I won’t mind

And then it was December.

To the beat of DCFC song that appears in two versions on not Codes and Keys, corporate restructured our newsroom. My job no longer existed. I had thought I had dodged those woes in journalism. The job in Jacksonville still was waiting for me, but it felt like everything fell apart. The six hours between Renée and me ballooned to nine. I had to rush to find somewhere to live. The year didn’t turn out the way I expected in January.

But, if it had turned out in some what that I expected then, this post wouldn’t exist.

I revisited Codes and Keys because I learned last week that, during some restructuring, one of my favorite editors (in a weird way) lost his job in a way similar to me. The suits walked in and his position simply ceased to exist. It’s not even a good comparison; his unceremonious drumming out was after years of good journalism that made my not quite six years in 2011 look like a joke.

But, despite the countless cuts in journalism over the years, this dismissal was the closest to home. In a slight variation in what happened to me after Dec. 7, 2011, that editor’s dismissal would have led to me getting an promotion. Officially, it would have been an interim proposal, but it wouldn’t have felt good.

Yes, this album is three years old, but it’s my current jam.

It makes me wonder if last week would have made Flume or AlunaGeorge stick with me in a weird way like Codes and Keys.

I didn’t dislike Codes and Keys because of how it sounded. I disliked it because I dealt with so much uncertainty in 2011 and, as it was one of the few new albums I bought that year, it was the soundtrack for much of that year. (This was the era when Death Cab was the soundtrack of my life in general.)

I felt chills as Home is a Fire played a few minutes ago. It’s a little funny at this point because I concocted a Doors Unlocked and Open remix in my head back in August when that song got stuck in my head for some reason. But hearing that whole album brought me back to 2011.

The first half of the following year was tumultuous, but 2011 was a prelude. And now I’m seeing that although there were a lot of things that sucked at the time, a lot of good things happened and a lot of good things got set into motion. (I’m still not reopening posts from before Jan. 1, 2013.)

I hope my former boss eventually can look back and make that same conclusion.

I’m renewed, oh, how I feel alive
And through autumn’s advancing, we’ll stay young, go dancing