Third Street

AS I WALKED to work, I knew whether I was on time by where I saw Radio Raheem. If he was near the plasma donation center, weaving his way through the smokers either waiting for their rides or waiting for their turns, I was late. If we were closer to Main, I was good.

The man who amplified music from an unseen device disappeared a while ago, before the plasma center moved to a location closer to its clientele of do-gooders and $50-needers, before police shot an axe-wielding man at Third and Main.

I had seen the man hours earlier when was shirted and his hands were empty. As he crossed my path, I said “RVA all day,” to myself as I noticed his kilt in the early morning. I thought not of him again until the news reports and seeing his final smudge linger on the pavement for an unusually long period across from 3rd Street Diner.

“RVA all day,” I said again.

In my younger and drunker days, I often was a denizen of that former Confederate hospital, eating mounds of food of questionable quality on tables of questionable cleanliness, surrounded on those late nights with my fellow dregs of society who first tried to fill the void with alcohol and then pancakes. Or slices from the ostensibly Italian pizzeria as the bass pulsed from the gay bar a few doors down and the back gate of the Times-Dispatch rattled as the late shifts filtered out before the nearby blocks grew as still as the terminus near the Downtown Expressway or the blocks approaching and passing the convention center before the bifurcation into Fifth Street and a ramp from the interstate.

Or the portion lingering in a dying, cloven neighborhood, anchored by a church calling itself the Temple of God with the Last Day Message. And a cemetery.

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).

Rosewood, Part II

Here we are: Nearly three months later.

I finally started work on this section. Part of the reason for the stall was that I wanted to throw in some additional background and had to plan it out. It kinda sucks that I did it because I feel like it’s one of the things that will get cut when the editor of a publishing house suggests changes.

I threw it in because it is canon to the “prequel” that no longer exists.

In the December 1998 novel, Lorenzo has two best friends. I decided to mention what happened to the second one. I’d always known the second friend, Jake, would run away from home and wind up in New York. I felt like I needed to address that estrangement to further hammer home that Lorenzo should not be back in his hometown.

When I first started writing this in December 2006, it was when I came to the realization that I could not go back to my hometown (although I did from December 2008 to February 2009). As I have mentioned before, all of my short stories are set in this universe and Brown River Blues also is intended to be my farewell to the character of Lorenzo Williamston. I feel like it won’t be a proper farewell without reconciling things from the original novel and subsequent short stories In my opinion, the things that happened from late 1998 to roughly 2004 still happened to him.

Acknowledging that Jake was a person Lorenzo cares about and misses is as important as addressing after a literal decade why Lorenzo and his father weren’t talking.

Speaking of that, do you want to know the real answer to that question? If I remember before the book is published, I’m deleting this, so commit it to memory.

I initially didn’t intend on Lorenzo being in Brown River Blues. At some point in the first draft, an instance comes up where it would have been good for Lorenzo to get legal advice. His father is a prosecutor. I had forgotten. I explained him not asking his dad with saying that they hadn’t talked because of some vague conflict and moved on with the plot. In further revisions, I deleted the needing a lawyer thing but noted that Lorenzo hadn’t been home. So, I’m writing a new section to my novel to retcon a mistake that maybe only 20 people saw when I could have instead thrown in a phone call home or mentioned him having dinner with his parents or whatever.

But, overall, I feel that this section needed to be written. I am going to be a little preachy in it. I don’t get to do that because of my career as a journalist. Indulge me.

Note: I’m trying to get back into the habit of differentiating between posts about my fiction writing by the capitalization (or lack thereof) of the blog titles and whether there is an accompanying YouTube music video. Entries that are both viaduct and Project 792 entries have capitalized titles and music. If you read my blog straight from my domain, these entries are separated by links in the navigation. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow a site to run two separate blogs, so it’s the best I can do.

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.)

hot take

The problem is that, for some of them, their core beliefs are being attacked. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong — these are things their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins have told them in their formative years. This information from the first people they trust became a part of them. It’s bigger than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny; they weren’t just stories to placate a child, they were things those adults believed to be true. As the world shrinks and changes, they can wonder if certain things about their community and their culture are nothing but foolish lies or reject that possibility. It’s easier to lash out than to consider that another worldview is equally valid or actually correct. Even when the evidence is overwhelming.

The solution to this problem is something we’ve sought for millennia.

see it before it goes back into the vault

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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.

break

Aside: As someone who can sing the entire Arcade Fire debut EP, it pains me to say I really don’t like Everything Now. At least I’m really excited about the new album by The National because the two songs I’ve heard are promising.

Once upon a time, there was a point when I strongly considered abandoning Facebook, except for event invitations and such, and exclusively using Twitter.

A few hours ago, I muted my Twitter account and took it off my home screen.

Twitter used to be fun. I met a lot of people in the Richmond area through it. At one point, we were the most active American metro area on the app. I thought I picked a great group of people I’d enjoy to hang out with in real life. It felt like a party.

You never talk about religion and politics at a party.

After Obama was re-elected, I temporarily and then permanently muted exactly one person who really, really hated the guy.

Then it got worse.

Currently, I can’t go to my curated list of tweeters without it being politics, politics, politics, sexism, complaint about sexism, racism, sexism denial of racism, racism, xenophobia, jingoism, awesome gif.

The negatives are outweighing the positives.

Due to being a journalist, I deal with current affairs a lot more than most people. When I get on social media, I kinda want to unplug. I’m there for the dank memes and maybe the lighter side of news — for every serious news story I post six days a week on Facebook, for example (I actively seek out Sunday readers), there are probably three or four Florida Man stories or something that could become a quick punchline.

I lamented a couple of times on Twitter about how Twitter used to be fun. There’s a guy who tweets about awesomely spicy foods he makes. Over the years, I’ve half-seriously considered getting a few New York strip steaks and soliciting an invite to one of his grilling sessions. But he’s among the people in the past year or so that has gotten so rabidly political, I worry about him bringing something up in real life when I’m trying to have a good time with some ghost peppers.

I think that’s the problem. And, despite me not liking Arcade Fire’s new album, something they’re pointing out with their album. We no longer take a break from the relentless onslaught of … everything now. We don’t know how to disconnect for a few minutes to become decent human beings again. We live to be outraged.

That’s why I had to at least temporarily zap Twitter. After 11 years in the business, I know when I need to step away. I’ve been doing it a lot lately. There are times when if I’m off, I’m the last person to know some event happened. I did not follow the news at all on my vacation in June. I NEVER go that far while on vacation.

Again, as a person who does the news for a living, I don’t see how people function fully immersed in the 24-hour news cycle.

It’s because you can’t. That’s why people read way too much into some genuinely innocuous situations.

Take it from me: Go like a whole day not giving a good goddamn about what’s happening in Washington or what stupid thing a celebrity said or whatever real or imagined social injustice happened. It’ll all be there tomorrow. Or it will be forgotten tomorrow. You’re not going to lose “woke” points because you wanted to spend 12 hours watching cat videos or do nothing but drink a beer and grill steaks with the guy you wanted to hang with whose political views are the opposite of yours and you wouldn’t have known without social media because decent people don’t talk about religion or politics over good food and good drinks.

You don’t need to show your outrage at all times. You don’t need to shout down that troll. Enjoy your fucking life away from electronics, he wrote on a computer.

There are so many screwed up things in this world. You can’t focus on them all or you will drive yourself crazy. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Fix it by voting. Fix it by protesting. Fix it by volunteering. Fix it by using your voice, not your fingers. Fix it by, as the Serenity Prayer says, accepting the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can and having the wisdom to know the difference.

Unplug.

Mute Your Apps.

Remember that we’re on a giant ball of dust spinning at a tremendous speed in an arm of a giant galaxy whirring through the even bigger expanse of the universe. It’s not going to go crashing down if you focus on what really matters: what’s not on a screen.

they grow up so fast

When Theresa was young, her best friend was her godmother’s daughter, Shonda. At one point, they made a pact: Shonda’s firstborn would be named Theresa, and Theresa’s would be named Shonda.

Shonda developed an incurable disease and died before I was born.

Theresa still kept her end of the bargain.

I got permission late Friday to leave work early to pick Shonda up from the airport. She was supposed to land at 6 p.m. in Norfolk, stay at my mom’s house long enough to get Virginia residency and then go to Virginia Commonwealth University or somewhere else.

A storm delayed and then canceled her flight. The airline offered all the Virginia-bound passengers the option to fly into Richmond and then get reimbursed for rental cars or whatever to get the rest of the way to their destinations.

I’d forgotten how much my niece looks like my sister.

I got her some food and then she crashed on my couch. Since she was coming from Hawaii, I told her she could sleep for as long as she liked and I’d drive her to Hampton on Sunday or Monday. Missy had training on Sunday, so I’d have to rush that morning or take her after.

Having Shonda here was weird. I saw her extensively until she was 2 years old. I called the ambulance the day she was born. I’ve fed her, changed her, bathed her, taken her to the park, held her whenever something made her feel uneasy.

Then I went to college.

Then she moved to Stafford and then Hawaii.

My brain couldn’t reconcile my little girl being 18.

I kept trying to say I was babysitting.

Saturday night, after we ordered pizza and watched and SNL rerun, I realized the beginning and the end of the 18-34 demographic was in my living room. She had been glued to her phone. I scoffed at us both being millennials. On social media.

The next day, we went to brunch and simultaneously whipped out our phones to send pictures of our food to the Internet.

In two years, every child Theresa had will be at least 18. My babies will be adults.

I feel so old.

I also hear a clock ticking, and I think it needs to STFU.

sharp, pointy things in my nose

I haven’t been able to breathe for quite some time.

Seriously.

I had surgery as a kid to stop snoring. It didn’t go quite as planned, and because I was a kid, it got less effective the older I got.

And then I also broke my face in 2009.

At some point, I stopped being able to sit with my mouth closed for an extended period of time without having a peculiar sense of breathing but also not being able to breathe.

I ignored it.

Over time it became normal.

I also shrugged off snoring again. I tended, at least until having a dog completely disrupted my sleeping habits, to sleep eight hours and feel refreshed in the morning. Additionally, I didn’t really co-sleep with anyone, so I wasn’t annoying anyone.

After four years, Renée had enough. I finally went to a doctor and got referred to two specialists and now we’re going to shove sharp, pointy things up my nose to reduce the size of the structures in my nose that are serve a function that does not include restricting the airways they’re supposed to be in.

I’ll be recovering for most of August, apparently.

There’s a good chance it will fix everything for good, but it might not. But I should at least be quieter by September. And less feeling like I’m not getting quite enough air.

This also means I had to cancel a vacation that would have coincided with seeing the solar eclipse in Nashville. I’m a little disappointed, but this needs to be done and I don’t want to know how changing elevation and a long car ride will affect things. My current plan is to get some stuff done around the apartment I haven’t done in the nine months we’ve been here and just kick back and enjoy Richmond.

 

If my face isn’t hurting.

woods edge road

Although I wish Chesterfield was one of the localities in Virginia that punctuated signs (e.g., my hometown has a Todds Lane because screw apostrophes), I like how Woods Edge Road sounds. It reminds me of the title of a thriller novel I wouldn’t read because reading about the deep, dark, most likely supernatural secret of on the outskirts of some New England town just isn’t my thing.

After 11 years, Woods Edge Road is about to have another significance: On any given day, it will be roughly as far south as I’ll go in Greater Richmond.

I get my car serviced off Woods Edge Road and I have friends and the family of friends off that exit. If not for that, the title of this probably would be Route 288 or Willis Road or even Chippenham Parkway.

Once my contacts run out in a few months, I’m finally switching optometrists. That means I’ll no longer have an excuse to go to Petersburg. I only recently went to Colonial Heights because Renée’s car needed servicing and we needed to kill time. I haven’t been to Hopewell since getting my current dining table. My last trip to Prince George County was because I decided to take Route 10 during a trip to Hampton Roads.

Other than taking Missy late last year to what the old timers still call Ferndale Park, I haven’t been to my beloved Dinwiddie since we were bored one Sunday and I showed Renée my beloved Dinwiddie.

I’ve all but said goodbye to the Tri-Cities and barely noticed.

It feels a little odd because the region has been a part of my life for so long. I didn’t think it would cease being a part of my life in the blink of an eye, especially since it is so close.

I’ll always carry a piece of it with me, though. In a way, it’s my alma mater, too.

I truly learned to be a journalist there. My first real apartment was there. The first time I fully realized I was a grown up was there.

But I’ve now outgrown it.