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. 


Almost at 30

Tomorrow I'm hoping to run a mile for the 30th day in a row, ending a quest to become more aware of my body's health and my mind's inability at times to clear time for fitness. 

I have my children tomorrow, so the completion of this journey depends on finding someone to look after them for 15 minutes. I don't plan to run more than a mile because my legs are getting quite tired and they need to rest in order to replenish. 

I'm going to miss this challenge and I am hopeful I can find another one to replace it. I have written out my running schedule for the week and I plan to stick to it. I cannot afford to lose momentum. I am going to have a shorter life if I do not get back to placing my fitness and health as a maximum priority. 

I don't really feel much of a sense of accomplishment at the moment because I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish. I don't like to spend any time away from my children on the weekends I have them. I'd love more than anything for them to run with me, the same way we all ran their elementary school's 5K back in October. My son ran it in just over 30 minutes which was quite impressive. My daughter was a little slower. I'm hoping we can all get back to speed.

One reason I'm not feeling triumphant over the completion of my journey is that I've been saddened by the passing of Prince and the passing of Richard Lyons of Negativland. I'm also sad tonight because of the woman who killed herself in the Shenandoah National Park and that the wife of Patton Oswalt died in her sleep. I'm sad that it appears the residents of my country lack the ability to communicate with each other. I'm sad so many problems appear intractable. 

Breathe. The best thing to do when it seems the walls are closing in is to breathe while you still can. 

One of my main intractable problems has been an apparent lack of time to run. I transformed myself through running seven years ago. After my second divorce, it was my salvation alongside with a job I could throw myself into. Now I've managed to convince myself that work is more important than fitness. I've been making so many excuses about why its more important to continue sifting through email than to hit the pavement.

But more than that, I had become convinced that somehow running outside wasn't safe. I had told myself that I needed to be on the treadmill. I built up so many reasons why I couldn't run and so I let it go. I let go of the habit. 

And on Day 29, I've proved I can do it. I've proved I can challenge myself and meet a goal. 

Day 30 will happen. 

What's the next Day 1 going to be? 

It's going to be okay. That's the way I want it to be, and my faith calls upon me to hope despite the possibility of darkness. To feed that faith, I'm going to fix myself. I'm going to try to fix as many problems as I can throughout my life. I know that when I die, I want to have had cleared up as many messes in my life as I can. 

One of the messes is that my body is not operating at its peak potential. I am an animal that has too much food and doesn't need to exercise to get through the day to day.

The last 29 days, though, I've been feeding myself by making sure I had time to get out there. I am hopeful this will have created a habit that I can sustain. 

I will make it happen. Expect more blog posts about running. Expect me to experiment with some running podcasts. Expect me to stop making excuses for why I'm not doing the things I want to do. 


Springtime at Court Square Tavern

The air rumbles with vibrations from a cooler keeping condiments and cold-cuts at the right temperature for doing business. We're not doing any, of course, but that's to be expected.

I'm not sad sitting here even though I knew no one would come in. I would not be here if I didn't have to be. I could walk over to the park and enjoy the festival but I stay here hopeful that perhaps someone will come in, knowing though that no one would want to be here at this time.

And I have four and a half hours left.

I've chosen to do this over catering this year though I don't think I will be able to continue that in the future. The vibrating air is pulsing its way into my brain in a way that may not be useful or helpful.

I'm not a despondent correspondent at the moment at all because I am happy to be here. I know that tomorrow will be a day off and I have no plans. I'm not sure what I will do, but I will try to be productive.

I hope to run at least a mile. It will be Day 25 of my quest to run for at least 30 days consecutively. I think I am going to make that goal even though I quite tired of running. I would like to go to a place and talk to people all day and possibly make new friends. The surprising thing about 42 is how few people I know very well. I stick to myself mostly and at the moment I'm in a bar by myself waiting for people to come in and hopefully they will soon enough. 

I'm grateful to be here. This is an important place for me. I made it through to this moment. I'm here the night after LCD Soundsystem had their reunion concert at Coachella, a place I can't imagine going to. I don't imagine going to many places anymore. 

It is fitting that I am still in the underground. I imagine that somewhere inside of me are seeds that will grow into a more interesting life that escapes this place. I love this place, but it is true at this point that it is not a healthy place for me to be. I need to be around people when I finish work. 

Well, the other work. 

Yet, I am happy to sit here in a place that was not open ten years ago because of the fire. People may come in later, perhaps, but they might not. I will be here either way for another three hours. Or is it four? I think it's four hours. All around me people are having fun but I cannot see them for they are not here. At Champion there is a metal show. In Lee Park there is a festival. In my office there is a silent auction and gala. 

And here there is just the chattering of fleshy fingers on plastic keys mixing in with the television and the 90's indie rock and all of it. I am here in this moment. That is all that matters. There is no judgment. There is being alive and looking on the positive side. 

It's springtime at Court Square Tavern.