Another potential last night at the Tavern

It's just after 10:30 and I'm slowly closing up the tavern. The sign on the door says we're open until 11:00 so I'm waiting a couple more minutes until I lock the door. We're close to the point where we close the place on Saturdays in the summer and once I close us up, that's it for this era of me working here. 

Sometimes when I think a second about this space I can imagine me here for the first few shifts I worked here as a server, making $2.13 an hour at lunch. This was in August of 2004. I'd left the full-time job I had in Charlottesville and I'd been sitting in my house doing nothing for two months. When the bottom fell out, this is where I landed. And I began to rebuild my life again.

And now I'm in a life that is full and filled with lots of activity, even though I'm not always certain that I'm in the right place. I believe there is something, or many somethings, that is not quite right at the moment. 

It's 11:02 and everything is done and I'm sitting at the bar having a shift beer and I think about all the times I am this spot as a customer and then I think about how special it is to be sitting here right now on another potential last night here. I don't know when I'll be here on a Saturday again. 

The next time I will work here will be for a private party. And then that makes my mind wander and wonder if this could be a post-wedding destination in the future. That's happened here before and if I think for a second, I can see all of the people I've made happy here in the past in this spot. This spot I love and care for and want to see shine in the future. 

Tonight I cooked 12 dinners and made a decent amount of money for a six hour shift. I'd rather be doing this work than catering because here I can try to build a clientele whereas catering is about becoming an ant and working with a crew to accomplish a series of tasks. 

I'd rather be here figuring out how to make pink lemonade, which I did tonight.

The first set of customers was a family of five from Alexandria who were visiting and somehow stopped in here. Two adults and three little kids, and I got their food prepared quickly and they had a good time, I think. It filled me with joy to see a family come in here, and I loved that they played with the games I've brought in over the years and that they actually played with the Lego!

I like to make people happy and content. There's maybe a conflict between this job and my day job.

So who knows what will happen next? The world can be strange and there definitely seem to be more changes than usual about the world around us. I just know that for tonight I had another great time working at the tavern and I hope for many more.


In this room at the Omni

2017 had not happened yet the last time I was in the ballroom at the Omni. I was here with my American children for First Night and there was a magician we had seen at least twice year. I was incredibly happy to be here with them.

I've been in this large rectangular space so many times over the last 15 years ever since I moved to Charlottesville, every time as a guest. This is one of the only rooms in town where I've never been a catering server, but every time I am in here I am interested in the logistics of how they do their work. 

I've been to many banquets, many speakers and I've had a lot of fun and a bit of sorrow here. I'm struck by how little I want to say about any of it, this being a public blog and all.Much of my life shouldn't be out there.

Yet this is space where I decide to hit send and decide to once again commit my random thoughts about a dastardly world outward. Maybe I have something to say, I think, as I listen to the murmur of the breakfasting crowd I breathe in for a moment and begin to reflect upon what I might have to say. 

In this room at the Omni I remember who I am and choices I have made and I imagine who I might become. 


Another night at Court Square Tavern, still

I sat for two and a half hours tonight doing research for my regular job before the first customer came in. He was a visiting medical student who proudly told me he's gotten all his paperwork turned in for the all-important match for residencies. This guy wants to be a plastic surgeon and he told me all about how it's not at all about breast augmentation and tummy tucks. He explained how plastic surgery helps people recover from losing limbs and bodies need to sculpted back in place sometimes to make that happen. 

Of course, he didn't say that right away. When he came in, I was so focused on my research that when he answered if we had any good food, I told him we had food, but it was up to him if it was any good or not.

Then I quickly apologized, explaining I'm a reporter who is neutral and when I'm thinking that way I can't really be a salesman. Then I told him the bratwurst is very good.

Soon after, a friend of mine who works for one of the local governments came in and we chatted for a bit before another friend of mine came in. Then five more people came in, and then another five. It got busy really quick and I made the shift quickly from writer to tavern-keeper.

It's been 12 years since I began work there and I'm still there. As I've written here on so many occasions, it's the place where I feel most at home in Charlottesville. I prefer to be there just as a customer, but when I am behind the bar and business picks up I am fully engaged and happy to make the people who come in welcome and I want them to leave feeling good that they were at the tavern.

Changes are coming soon. I can't go in to much detail, but changes are coming soon. I'm hoping to be part of them, and I'm hoping they will secure the place well into the future. I need the income I make there but more importantly I need to be able to continue being part of the institution.

My favorite times are when people who used to come in come back and see if for the first time in years. I love hearing stories of the old days, before the fire, and back when CST was one of the only places in town you could find European beer. Now there are corporate chains that offer that service as well, and there are so many more places to go. The tavern hasn't kept up, but it's not been left behind.

There is no other place in downtown Charlottesville where you can go and have a true pub-like experience. To me that means a place where you can go in and suddenly get pulled into a conversation with a stranger. I love getting to have that experience as a bartender. It's such a different experience to working as a catering server, but I love that as well. I love helping to make people happy at weddings in different locations across the community.

But the satisfaction I have working at the tavern on a night when I get to see new experiences unfold. A set of groomsmen and a groom made up one of the groups of five. Sadly I won't also get to work that wedding, but I'd love to. I've been witness to so many now and I'm proud to get to be part of people's lives as a background character.

I do prefer the tavern because I get to be a bit more in the foreground. After all, it's one of my stages and the one where I have fit for so long.

I'll keep working there as long as I can and may be there a bit more in the fall. I want to be part of the changes and try to make it a place that'll continue to be there for a while to come.

As the groomsmen left, several said they hope the place sticks around for a while. I do too.


A piece of history

While I was at the Board of Supervisors all day, I used my secondary thought processor to look up all kinds of specifications about the hardware of the Atari class of home computers. I listened to the business of the day while researching the history of the first personal computer I ever had. In Christmas of 1982, my dad Joe Tubbs got our family an Atari 800. At the time, this was absolutely epic. We set up the computer on our dining room table.
Tonight I found one of the first games we ever played. The Sands of Egypt was a graphics-enhanced text adventure that we never solved despite hours and hours of play time. It's kind of a legend in my family.
And now, here it is courtesy of the Internet Archive almost 34 years after we first played it. So much has changed in that time. 

You can play it here


The Grind

Every day is near the same. My dreams keep me in slumber as I visit cities I'll never get to visit in real life because they might not even exist. I'm assigned to accomplish tasks that can never be solved, but I cannot wake quickly because I am driven to do the impossible. Then the liquid of reality pours in and I float up to consciousness.

I move quickly to my computer to begin to do the impossible. Stories must be written. Complexities must be simplified. Corrections must be made. Direction must be given. First, though, I need caffeine ameliorated by the tannins in my cheap black tea with a spot of milk. I like to sit in my front room going through the first set of information about the world.

First question: How badly did I screw up the night before? Did I get something wrong in a story? Did I make anyone angry? Did anyone react to what I wrote the day before, or what my colleagues wrote the day before? I seem to need to do this at home rather than at my office.

Eventually, though, gravity pulls me towards my desk at work, the same place on the downtown mall that I have sat for over six years now, on the second floor of a parking garage with glass on my right and glass behind me. In years past I might have taken the bus to get there, but route changes have severed my personal connections to the transit system. I lament this almost every time I get in my car to drive the mile and a half.

I take the same route every day. I'm stopped at the same traffic lights on an almost routine basis. I get caught at every single one. By the time I get to the garage, I've managed to listen to ten minutes of either soothing jazz or something somber from public radio. And then I drive up the concrete and try to park in roughly the same spot, close to the mallside elevator. If I park anywhere else, I will forget where I was.

I get out of my car, and then walk down the stairs unless I'm lucky and the elevator shows up right in front of me. If I'm carrying more then two bags, I'll stop and hit the button. When I walk down the stairs, I always remark about how many flights I've taken in that staircase over the last six years. The routine adds up to many miles.

I get to my desk and make a silly comment upon arriving to work. I'm usually in well after 9:00 am because I'm almost always going to be at work well past 5:00 pm. My work day doesn't end until well into the evening.

On some days City Space is filled with people who are attending a workshop, a training, a symposium, a retirement, a party. There's always a happening, and I'm always on the margins watching. I sit at my desk and watch people go by as I settle into the work in front of me.

I always do the work in front of me. Sometimes I do more than what's due that day, but I try my best to never break a deadline or to ask for more time. If I am assigned to something, I always aim to deliver on what I have promised I can do. Any less and I would feel a failure. I do what I say I can do and sometimes this pushes me to new heights of productivity.

I write about the public realm in my community as well as the wishes private property owners have for their land. I see all of the forces pulling upon the community in which I have now lived for 14 years. Everything that comes across my eyes is weighed against the format in which I present my stories. I am that rare person who has had the ability to do the same thing for nine years and with each passing day I feel I grow stronger not only in my ability to get the job done, but also to push past my boundaries.

When I get home, eventually, it is almost always to an empty home. In the summer, I have to turn the air conditioning on to wipe away the stuffiness and heat. In the winter, I have learned to live in the relative cold of my house. But either way, I'm always alone. The days of romance are over for me, or at least, the prolonged stasis of independent living increasingly seems permanent.

This is my life. It is a good one. I believe the work I do is valuable and it is backed up by the funding that my organization receives. I am happier than I have been in my entire life. Every second seems to fit into a cohesive whole. There is not much room for creativity outside my work life in part because I have two other jobs I must do in order to make ends meet. Previous life choices have added up, and the bills have come due.

Certainly I am leaving much out of this narrative. I am certain I will repeat this narrative as well, and add to it as it inevitably changes.

There is no negative connotation associated by titling this post "The Grind" as I believe that I am well-suited by the routine that has been carved out over time. Gone are the musings of a depressed man who felt sorry for himself. In its place are writings from a person who realizes that a life of work and duty is a noble cause.

Yet, I am also the sort of person who questions my own usage of the word "noble" to describe my life. This is just my life. As a child I wanted to know why society worked the way it does. From my position now I do not claim to have any of the answers, but I can describe to you the mechanisms that I see.

I write this in the evening. Soon I will try to sleep and the dreams will come. I will go on another trip and I will be in more exciting scenarios than my current life of public meetings allow. I will fly. I will see people I've not seen in years. I will speak with former lovers and apologize. I will try to make amends. I will be human. And then I will wake  up and it all begins anew.


The keys

Somewhere in this house Squirtle stands guard over my keys. I'm not sure where they are, but I know they are here, and the protector I put in place of them is waiting for me to find him. 

I do try to keep my house in order, just like I try to keep my communications in order, but sometimes there's a whirlwind and I'm left wondering where things are. This is one of those times. 

I lost my last set of car keys last May upon coming back from a catering gig outside Waynesboro. A big tulip concern threw a party to announce their big hothouse and I drove back late and stopped at a gas station in town and somehow they got misplaced. I searched for two hours in the parking lot before the manager told me I'd need to move my car by morning. I had it towed and getting a new set of keys wiped out the money I'd made that night.

Such is life. Things come, things go. Everything around us is always in motion. Everything inside of us is always in motion.

When I got the new keys, I found a keychain in a box I'd picked up from the public defender's office several years ago. My children have loved playing in that box, and I thought it fitting to appoint the Pokemon Squirtle to be the new chain to protect my new set of keys. At the moment, they are missing amidst the whirlwind but I am certain I will find them. 

Downstairs the washing machine whirs and I sit here waiting for the phone to charge so I can listen to podcasts. Ten years ago I was all about podcasts but these days I am all about information about the community in which I live. I am cleaning my bed sheets and I must wait for that to be done before I can seek slumber. I am hoping that in a moment the cleaning will reveal Squirtle and his bounty of keys, metal shanks that can unlock the doors I am allowed to unlock. 

If this doesn't happen, I will get new keys. I will find new doors to open. 


Year 43

My left ear pulses with pain from a bee sting that happened while I was mowing the lawn tonight while my kids were in the backyard enchanted with fact that nature has totally overgrown the bottom terrace. The top terrace is rough around the edges, but no one will be swallowed whole. 

Both of my ankles throb due to at least two other bee stings. I apparently angered a hive today in trying to get the public portion of my yard under control. Earlier this summer I paid a friend of mine $50 for a lawnmower because he moved to Los Angeles with his wife. 

In the past seven days I have now suffered a sunburn from the beach, a summer cold I suspect was caught in the hotel breakfast buffet line and now these sharp aches from earlier this evening.

This is year 43. This is now the time when I can expect that aches and pains are going to be more part of my life as I'm well past the days where I can claim to be young. In my mind, I'm still in my early 20's but now my body is rejecting my mind's desire.

I am a body. If I close my eyes I can imagine each pulse of pain of coming from a distant part of this galaxy of nerves that compromise my corporeal self. They are a reminder of things that happened today. I embrace the pain with joy because I managed to mow my lawn. I got something done that needed to be done, even finishing after the stings pumped a tiny bit of venom into my system.

This is year 43. There's more I need to say about these times I'm living in. I know what I do for a living, but what do I do to live? Is it simply accepting the pain without acting upon it?

Surely it is time to begin to amuse anew whatever soul finds itself gazing upon these words? Maybe I should commit to truly committing myself to the idea that I have dastardly thoughts from a mundane world?

I simply know now that the nerve endings will heal and that I shall chalk this weekend up to being one of the best I have had all summer.

For now? I shall continue to take deep breaths and ride out these sharp bursts of feeling in my extremities. Tomorrow brings another challenge. Today brought a realization that stories are the sinew that binds humans together.

I'll see if I can advance that idea tomorrow.