chapter eternal

I just got in from Northern Virginia, by way of Charlottesville.

Pete’s father died.

If you haven’t been reading this blog since 2004, Pete is my college roommate, my fraternity brother and (sometimes) my friend.

OK, we’re actually close friends, but our friendship is based on my tolerating him for about three days and they yelling at him because he annoys me. But in a loving way. It’s complicated.

Anyway, when he told me his father died, that was all he needed to say. I was going to be there for him, especially since his father also is my fraternity brother.

I plotted out a ridiculous trip, of course. I intended to finagle an early shift Thursday, drive up to Fairfax, sprawl out in a hotel bed, attend the funeral as a pallbearer, skip the repast and get to work pretty close to when I was supposed to be there.

My immediate supervisor, Jenny, said that was stupid.

She gave me Thursday off. And one of my brothers, Butler, offered me a free place to stay.

Having Thursday off, allowed me to attend the wake, where I caught up with some more of my brothers. I was great to see them, but I wish it was under different circumstances. We made vague plans to do so. I hope we follow through.

For some of is, it made us think of our own mortality and the passage of time. I’ve known Pete for 17 years. My beard is rapidly turning white. We don’t party till sunrise anymore. But our craziness all seems like yesterday. And all seems so irresponsible now.

But there’s not a single regrettable moment.

It was a beautiful service, which is an odd thing to say. But there’s no other way to put it. I mean, what sort of monster says, “Oh, that funeral was so awful. Ave Maria was off-key, and that was a tacky coffin”? Well, I guess, a knock-down, drag-out at the graveside service would disqualify a funeral from being a “beautiful service,” but I digress.

It was an honor to serve as a pallbearer for my brother, my friend and brother’s father. His legacy includes bringing together a group of men who have a bond beyond just being friends from college.

And then my drive to work taking three hours at an average speed of 35 mph ruined killed any other profound statements.

i’m sorry

2018 has been rough so far. I drive up to three hours a day to commute to work. Walk my dog, make dinner and pretty much not have time for much else. I tend to not do much of anything when I have Saturdays off, sleep Sundays away and pack in everything I’ve deferred the rest of the week into Monday. I all but stopped watching TV. Until I got knocked on my butt earlier this week and had to take two days off, I could barely think straight sometimes. I’m surprised I got six entries in so far this year.

But we’re in the home stretch.

We found a place to live. We get the keys in less than 20 days. (Of course, we haven’t started packing.)

It wasn’t one of the places I mentioned a couple of entries ago.

I considered this place and promptly forgot about it. I think I had too many tabs open, inadvertently closed the one with this place and assumed I decided against it. When Renée brought it up while doing a search of her own, I realized I never looked at it.

It’s technically a one-bedroom apartment, but it comes with a den that has a window and a small closet, so it’s a bedroom that’s entirely too small for anyone over the age of, say, 10. For now, it’s going to be Renée’s office, some other storage and, if there’s room left over, a guest bed of some sort.

This place isn’t in the limits of a city, independent or otherwise, so it will be the first time in my life that I have not resided in a city. If you’re not familiar with Virginia’s jurisdictions, counties and cities are wholly separate. I used to mean counties were wholly rural jurisdictions and cities were Virginia’s urban areas that had enough resources to perform all the functions of a county and provide the additional services one expects in a city.

Although, for reasons I can’t fully articulate, not being a city-dweller seems really weird to me, I cannot wait. I cannot wait to be less than 10 minutes away from work. I can’t wait to get hours back into my days. I can’t wait to use those hours to write and finally hit spellcheck in Brown River Blues and then send it to my friends for them to critique. I cannot wait to be in a place I don’t intend to leave for a while.

I cannot wait for everything to be in place so I can sit at my desk at work and fully feel ready to finish what I started in September 2012.

starting the year off with a bang

So, there was a coastal storm on the night of the Jan. 3. It wasn’t supposed to go very far inland. The inland roads weren’t fully prepared.

I was coasting along, fully expecting to see things transition into snow in about 20 miles. I had already slowed down because there was schmutz on my windshield from a salt/sand truck I had passed way earlier. I was debating hitting the wiper cleaner, pulling over and getting the towel out of my trunk if the little squirt of wiper fluid didn’t help enough.

My windshield effectively turned to mud. I tapped the brakes.

That was snow on Interstate 64 at the Shannon Hill exit, not salt.

Nicole immediately turned 90 degrees. I did the turn with the direction of the car thing, but my car slid into a ditch. We went down and struck the other side of the ditch with the front left corner. Nicole then slid backwards a few feet and banged up the back left corner.


Seriously, the rest of the car looks perfect.

I didn’t get injured, and the airbags did not go off. There was no damage to the doors or windows or trunk or even the hood. But due to the age, mileage and the angle of impact, Nicole was totaled.

I was near a former coworker’s apartment, and he was on Interstate 64 at the time, so I wasn’t stranded for long. There was only one state trooper working on that stretch of highway, and towing companies were overwhelmed because, as Trooper K.L. Bailey — who did not give me a ticket — put it, “No one expected it here.”

I had a rental Impala for a few days, and was poised to get one from my nephew when something told me to get another Altima.

Today, I got one. She’s grey, and her name is Sydney Kazu Smith. I name all my vehicles (and my plants) after characters in novel universe. In Brown River Blues, Syd isthe wife of Scott Smith and the daughter of Edwin Montclair and Yumiko Makino.


It was close to nightfall, so this is the only photo right now.

Despite it almost being precisely nine years, I weirdly don’t miss Nicole. I guess it’s because I stopped, for lack of better words, I stopped forming a close bond with my cars after Simone sustained terminal mechanical failure in 2006.

The ride and most of the features are virtually the same, despite it being a generation newer than Nicole, so there was no real moment of adjustment. I adjusted the seat and the mirrors, set up my phone and set off on a quick jaunt to Henrico County.

I like having some updated features, like Bluetooth, automatic lights and a USB port.

I hope Syd and I have many years together. As I had said with Nicole, I want to keep my Altima even if my fortunes change and I can afford a second car.

I also hope this is the last time I’m in a wreck.

i wish i knew how to quit you

Lies. All of it.


I mean, I sometimes go a month with only making one entry, but there won’t be a self-imposed break

I’m just going to review at some point the currently visible posts and take any necessary action. There shouldn’t be anything I need to (heavily) redact. I think the worst thing I’ve said was mentioning that I drank during my vacation in Vegas. But I’m 34 years old, so I’m allowed to not only purchase bourbon but not be ashamed to do so.

By the way, if you ever are in a situation where you don’t know what to get me, the answer always is bourbon.

Well, there’s also a quote about a package getting returned to sender after looking like someone enjoyed the company of a lady of the night on it, but it was a quote, I’m a journalist and it most certainly did, so there.

I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, and I’ve been cautious (although I sometimes swear here, and the musical accompaniments to some entries sometimes have swears). The only time I got in any sort of contretemps because of this blog was when someone was out to get me in Hopewell and took a quote WAAAAY out of context. My publisher at the time all but recited “Smiling Faces Sometimes.”


There are entirely too many sentences and paragraphs floating around in my head at all times to not put them somewhere. Most of them aren’t about my personal life to the extent that it is detrimental to the company for which I work.

So I will write.

I must write.

Also, I’m quite pleased with getting “contretemps” in and spelling it unaided.

we interrupt this string of youtube videos, …

I’m willing to undo a lot of things to get one thing I want.

(It’s time for the dreaded word from people who produce content online: Hiatus.

I’ll finish the journalism/playlist entries, though, because there are only four of them to go.)

I plan on making some moves in the coming days and weeks, so I need to reassess a lot of things. Unfortunately, that includes this 13-year-old blog. I am 99 percent certain the entire site won’t go away, especially since I own this domain.

Maybe it will mean I drastically revamp what I post here, like sticking to updates on working on my novel (which also has gone on a hiatus until I can get adjusted to my new work schedule). I don’t know.

What I do know is that things might be different soon, and I need to prepare.

clearly, i’m a masochist

My favorite piece of 1990s video game trivia.


It’s not my first rodeo.

I’ve done an amazing job since 2012 of not timing my moves to getting a new job. Technically, this goes back to 2008, if you ignore the disaster that was my six months in North Carolina.

In November 2008, my housing situation went south, despite it being a three-bedroom house for less than $800 a month because everything south of Richmond is INSANELY cheap. I stopped actively sleeping in the house at least a month prior — I either slept on Pat Kane and Court’s couch in Colonial Heights or at my girlfriend’s house in Richmond. I lived with a coworker, and not seeing him every waking moment of my life was going to be the only way our friendship was going to persevere. I had resolved to move out, and the landlord gave us an opportunity.

My relationship ended around that time, so I couldn’t crash in Richmond — additionally, she had roommates, so if it hadn’t, I couldn’t just live there. I occasionally stayed in Colonial Heights still, but Court started dating her now-husband, so the only way that all would have worked out would have been if it were a sitcom. I mean, it kinda was, since a joke turned into some people assuming Pat and I were a couple and also that one of my birthdays was exceptionally debaucherous. Since I had nowhere to live then, and was in the process of trying to find a new job, I did the millennial thing and moved back home.

Seventy-three miles away from the newsroom.

Oh, and I was a reporter with a beat that was 780 square miles at the time.

I landed a new job in December 2008 in Hopewell, roughly 70 miles away from Hampton. When I lived in the Tri-Cities, I noticed that the time it took me to get from my house to the Petersburg newsroom was close to the time it took to get from Hopewell to Richmond. Since I was young, got a substantial bump in pay and liked going to bars, I moved to Richmond. I also did it because I wanted to be invested in the community but have no bias toward it through living there. But my bank, dentist, barber, you name it were there.

When I finally headed to Charlottesville, I had a very, very hard time finding a place to rent in my price range. It’s expensive there, and since whether Renée was coming with me was up in the air, my options were even more limited.

So I drove in from Richmond for a month.

Once we got there in October 2012, Renée had a hard time finding something in her field. After I told her to look in Richmond. I decided to commute and conceded that I’d eventually have to leave journalism because I wasn’t going to commute 76-odd forever. I loved my job and didn’t want to leave it, but she wasn’t happy there.

I did that drive for five months and didn’t have to leave the industry, or the company. I was genuinely sad my last day, though. The people in the Charlottesville newsroom were like family to me. I really felt like I learned a lot there. Although I rarely visited, I never stopped thinking about being there.

And now, for the second time since I left, the opportunity to come back arose. I turned it down the first time because Renée liked her new job, we had just gotten situated in our current place after being run out of our place in Manchester when the new management made it clear they didn’t want to inherit the old company’s tenants and, again, I didn’t want to do the drive potentially for years.

This time around is different. We had been vaguely talking about moving west after our lease is up. Missy has issues with living here and Renée has to contend with a bad traffic situation each morning.

I explained the rest of this in a previous post.

But if you’re just tuning in, this is why, despite hating it, I’m not sweating the extreme commute too much.

But come on, March.


I’m going back to Charlottesville.

Well, I’m not going to live in Charlottesville proper until I 1) sell my mother’s house or 2) can get a place with at least central air in Charlottesville or urban ring Albemarle County for $1,100 or less. I’m a cheapskate when it comes to rent because of being able to rent an entire three-bedroom house in Hopewell for less than $800 a month. The current plan of action involves moving to my first home in a place not incorporated as a city. I kinda want to spend my entire life being the resident of a city, so if anyone knows of a house within Charlottesville city limits that is available after the Ides of March that accepts dogs, has central air and a fenced-in yard, we have ourselves a deal.

That’s right, I’m doing the Long Commute for the fourth time in my life. I hate the Long Commute. Only one of them has been my fault. Because we took out an 18-month lease to get a Great Deal here in Shockoe Bottom, we’ll have our third between Richmond and Charlottesville.

I plan on trading cars with my mom at least when it snows and when I move because she has an SUV. I haven’t told her yet because that was the point of calling her at 7 p.m. Friday. I blanked on why I called her because I was fixated on walking to get drunken noodle because I couldn’t be bothered to load the dishwasher and make dinner today.

Elliott, doesn’t your wife own an SUV?

Well, yes, but taking my mom’s car is a long, storied tradition. And my needing to get to work in inclement weather doesn’t trump her need to get to work in inclement weather. Anyway, my mom expressed reservations about owning an SUV when I went home last weekend. I’m anti-SUV, but I’ll gladly take one with literally 100,000 fewer miles and four fewer years than my car. It also has Bluetooth, which is great, because the aux jack in Nicole is broken, I’ve stopped burning CDs and I only buy physical CDs when the band means an awful lot to me, like The National or Blonde Redhead or The Mars Volta (when it was a band) or Death Cab for Cutie.* (I could throw in Jamiroquai, but I wanted Automation immediately, so I don’t have a physical copy and I regret it every time I want to hear We Can Do It and Nicole only plays music from one channel of the aux jack.)

If we do a permanent swap, I’d have a car essentially identical to my wife’s, though. Whatever. Our relationship began with nearly identical AIM away messages. (RIP, AOL Instant Messenger.)

This started off as a joke, but I’m totally going to try to swap vehicles. She never named her SUV. I’ll call him Scott.

But I digress.

I’m going back, to quote myself 12 hours ago, because I missed being closer to the action — the planning, working directly with reporters, being more involved in the online presence, really feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the night.

I went to Richmond because my wife was having trouble finding a job in her field in Charlottesville. I took the only open job in Richmond, being a reporter, because I figured having an editor who lived an hour away didn’t do Charlottesville any favors. As you know, I moved to the copy desk because, although I like writing, I’m not cut out for the daily grind anymore. And what I thought was the finest piece of writing I’ve done in my entire career didn’t get considered for a Virginia Press Association award. I mean, a post in this blog that I converted into a photo page won an award but I get nothing from the aftermath of a beleaguered town getting hit by a tornado? A convicted murderer was moved by my words and donated to the tornado relief fund from prison. FROM PRISON. I have my half-crazy dog because that storm wiped her home off the face of the earth, but some hokey column I wrote less than two years out of college placed?

But I’m over it.

Additionally, back in 2006, my dream was to become a copy editor there. Because I’m weird. My best explanation for leaving was that although I longed to be on that copy desk, I longed to be on that copy desk more than a decade ago. That means I expected to be doing something else by 2017. And after putting out a non-daily on a wing and a prayer for three years, hiring someone who has taken home awards because she covers the news better than me, having to deal twice with having to recommend firing someone and effectively being a consultant, the past year and some change has been … dull. Really dull.

I didn’t want to leave Charlottesville when I left. I know things have changed, but I have no desire to leave unless corporate wants me elsewhere. I’m excited about diving back in. (I’m more excited about living in the metro area in the spring because this will be my second-longest stretch of extreme commuting.)

Journalism is not dead. Good things can and will happen in Charlottesville, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it as long as I can.

Additionally, I feel that I need to be back there. The Charlottesville everyone saw on TV or on foot when they were in the streets in August is not my Charlottesville. My Charlottesville has amazing scenery, people who stop for people at crosswalks and people with friendly words for their neighbors as they live nestled between the Southwest and Blue Ridge mountains. Don’t let this summer turn you off from that beautiful city.


* I have a friend who introduces me as her “friend who loves Arcade Fire AND The Mars Volta.” After Everything Now, I don’t know if the former still is true.

while i was away …

… I’ve been living lavishly, lavishly ….

A lot of things have happened. I’ve just decided in the past few weeks to have experiences instead of recording them.

Which is a bad idea, because my short-term memory still isn’t as great as it was before I got a concussion in high school. There are days where I have no idea what I did the day before. Or something that occurred a couple of days ago feels like months.

Maybe I should get that checked out again.

Anyway, I took my niece and nephew, Shonda and Michael, on a tour of VCU late last month. IT was their first tour, but they’re enamored with it. Michael wasn’t sold at first, but it grew on him. He wants to major in art, and VCU has the No. 2 art school in the nation, so he needs to keep that love for the next year and a half, if he knows what’s good for him.

Earlier today, I came back from a quick trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That is a post for another time because this has been a long 60 or so hours that also involved dropping Missy off at my mom’s house and also going to a birthday diner for my mom.

I also might have some other news on the horizon, but it hasn’t even passed the conceptual stage at this point.

Nope. I doesn’t have anything to do with my novel, although I finished the Rosewood section. It probably needs a revision, but I have to go through the whole thing one more time anyway, since this version was supposed to be the final edit until I started elaborating on scenes, adding sections and strove to switch from omniscient narration to objective (i.e., I’m eliminating everything about what the characters are thinking and feeling).

staycation, all i ever wanted

A friend introduced me to Thundercat, and I now wonder how I completely missed this dude.

I did nothing on my staycation.

Well, technically, I did stuff. I did nothing I indented to do — I didn’t organize things, I didn’t try to do one of my longer recreational walks, I didn’t get blind drunk (because I was on medication from my surgery) and I certainly didn’t work on my novel.

I actually want to do it right now, but as I’ve said before, staying up till like 3, 4 a.m. would mean taking a nap, taking Missy out, going back to sleep and throwing off the rest of my day. I wish we already had a yard.

But anyway, despite not doing anything truly constructive, I feel great. I used to do one staycation a year. I got away from that. There’s nothing like just being comfortable in your own home for multiple days. Other than a quick trip to Hampton, there was no stress from traveling; no fuss with hotel bills, rental cars and overpriced dinners; and no push to actually do something.

I actually relaxed. I daresay I’ve been more productive at work this week because of it.

I need to start doing this again.

And I need to figure out a way to balance sleeping, my dog pooping and writing.

(And this is also me trying not to write a difficult chapter that needs to be written.)

see it before it goes back into the vault


Contrary to popular belief, I have a chin. There’s still no definitive proof that I have ears.

My left nostril didn’t work.

I went in Tuesday for the sharp, pointy things in my nose surgery. I had deviated my septum when I broke my face in 2009 to the point that I my right nostril was doing all the work.

Additionally, structures in my nose called turbinates were too large, which contributed to my loud snoring that wasn’t sleep apnea. My deviated septum made matters worse.

The result was that I tended to breathe forcefully, I would have this peculiar feeling of not quite having adequate air and I constantly thought I had a stuffy nose.

Don’t get me started on how awful it was when I actually had a stuffy nose.

It’s probably the pain pills talking, but I already feel like I’m taking in more air, and it feels amazing. I’m not supposed to see full results until about a month from now, but I should get quieter with each passing day.

I have my wife finally having enough of all the weird noises I make for the delightfully new experience. And painkillers.

There was a little snag during the surgery, and there were two snaps from inside my face that sounded like they would hurt like all hell. I’m not about feeling that.

I weirdly was in no pain after the 2009 accident, so I might be OK. I need to be by tomorrow afternoon because the surgery and my staycation didn’t line up (because I didn’t plan vacation with surgery in mind). I’m kinda hoping it will hurt still because I was looking forward to that trip I canceled and I won’t be able to drink until after staycay is over because I also was given antibiotics.

Also, as you can see in the photo, I had to shave my beard and mustache off for the procedure. I typically lop it all off yearly, so this is it. Additionally, my clippers died today, so I either need to see if I can fix them in a couple of three days or buy new ones. Or I’ll let it grow back even faster than I normally do when I have my shearing.

I miss my beard.