Timescene 1:06 PM

A pregnant woman in a green shirt passes out a poem to a passerby while a man in shorts interviews another woman in a green shirt about the purpose of their exercise. A woman with impossibly red hair bounces past furiously trying to avoid a piece of literature. The pregnant woman looks side to side waiting for another mark. Her child that already draws breath is excitedly chewing some food and shaking his water bottle.

A man walks past and he seems reluctant. He walks past, but she says something that catches his ear and he returns. He puts his hand in the polka dot bag she is carrying and retrieves a poem. He looks at it briefly and then walks on.

The cameraman wanders around in circles, his camera slung over his right shoulder as he waits for someone else to speak with for a news story he's doing on this project. He manages to snag one of the women who runs the organization WriterHouse, and she's explaining the importance of the project.

The WriterHouse woman reaches into the polka-dot bag and gathers a poem. She and the pregnant woman laugh. A frequent marathon runner walks past and grabs a poem and the three of them are all pointing in the same direction. Then he walks in the opposite direction towards his office.

Now she goes up to an urban planner who had been looking at his phone while walking. She is happy and clearly enjoys spreading the word about poetry.

The squirrel darts  back along the same path he just sprinted along, towards the crumbs underneath the tables at Baggby's.

Seeing an opportunity, the toy store owner comes out of her lair and begins blowing bubbles, hoping she can snare a few of the poem-laden to come into her store. Using her gun, she forms a string of bubbles and blows them straight into face of the the pregnant woman's child. He's gleeful.

Two tall men carry important documents towards the restaurant where they will eat. No one hands them a poem.


One hour of editing

2:33 pm

Over 1,600 words of notes from a court case. It's a mess, transcribed from chicken scratch notes. I don't have a recording of the hearing, but I jotted down paragraphs that make sense independently. But, I have to get through them and give it a narrative.

The process must be completed in an hour because I have to work my second job tonight, a catering gig located elsewhere on the mall. This is how I help pay for my child support.

I'm distracted by the sunny day outside. I want to run in order to get my mind off a zombie relationship that keeps rising from the dead for brief awakenings that give me hope of happiness. I travel there, have a good time, but then when I get home I'm back to the solitude and the loneliness.

A track by the German band Can plays in my headphones. On my other screen, the words await me to give them shape, to give them life so people can know what happened in that court room.

I have my lede paragraph written. That's about it. I'm not sure what comes next. It's like a gigantic game of filing, this writing business. I always seem to manage to win the game, but some levels are harder.

In this case I do not have the source material to draw from. I just have my notes and the knowledge I've gathered in five years of covering this particular topic. But for some reason I've been staring at these 1,600 words again and again. They form sticky sections of oatmeal on a liquid wall.  I must force myself to concentrate.


3:06 pm

1,330 words. Can is playing in my ear, and this is helping me a little, but I got distracted by cute pictures for a minute. I took away from things I was hoping to come up with, and there's somewhat of a narrative now. I know most of the pieces are in place, but this story won't yet be understandable to people. I hope I'm not disturbing my co-workers by tapping my foot incessantly.

The day looks gorgeous. I would like to be running outside. I would like to be doing pretty much anything that isn't this story. I have to show up on the site of the catering gig in less than an hour and a half.

So, one more pass through the story.


3:13 pm

Panic setting in. That's when I work best.


3:21 pm

In better shape. 1,102 and the first six paragraphs make sense. I don't write about legal hearings a lot, so I don't really have a formula to work with.  Besides, Achewood is funny.

3:32 pm

886 words and we have cohesion. In 58 minutes, I need to be putting up tables and chairs. Right now, though, I'm enjoying the thrill of having to get this. I'm dancing in my chair to the rhythm of Can and the joy of narrative. I'm going to turn this piece in in 15 minutes.


3:34 pm

834 words. And it seems to make sense. I'll do a final read-through after I type this paragraph. I'll see if the story makes sense to others, and if I have all the background in place to give the reader an understanding of what's happened.


3:51 pm

Sent to my boss. 39 minutes to go. In a minute I head up to retrieve my black shirt rather than the white wrinkled one I'm currently wearing. I am hopeful I can get the story back quickly. Then I can go to work again.

Approaching, not reaching

Halfway through my life there's a sense I should have paid more attention in calculus. I vaguely remember something about curving lines that could come ever and ever closer to a vertical line, but couldn't quite make it there. In this mess of a thought is an apt metaphor I wish I could flesh out further, but alas.

I'm hobbled by what I can write here mostly by the limitations of what you can say in a public journal. Everything is now actionable. Everything we do is watched, scrutinized, assembled into dossiers that may or may not prove that we are a threat to society. Or that we aren't employable.

So, I back off and say very little about anything, except in rants to people I meet from time to time. And hopefully none of that is actionable, though you can never really tell in a town like the one in which I live.

It's been two weeks now since I got back from England. I've settled right back into my schedule, have worked my first catering gig, and have recurring dreams about leaving Court Square Tavern. Somewhere in the end of that story is one about how disappointing life can be, when you believe in something so much but none of it matters because the owner has no capacity to believe outside of his own conception of the world.

I believed in a place where people could go and be made to feel welcome. Now, I don't have any such place in my own life. Strangers live in my house. The closest I have is my desk when everyone is gone and I can practice my guitar while waiting for the bus ride home.

I've practiced and practiced and practiced and I've played and I've played and I've played but I don't seem to be getting close to any point where I can leap over that vertical line that blocks me from making this a serious part of my life.

Are there any serious parts of my life? Of course. I take my journalism seriously, and I feel like I am doing what I wanted to do when I was 21. Somehow, I am here, but being here came with so many costs. Long hours prevent socializing. Long hours helped a second marriage crumble apart. Long hours, especially when I was at Court Square, took away any ability for me to explore myself.

I don't want to reach out to anything anymore. What's the point?  Every time I try, whatever I want just slips away from my fingers.

But, isn't that what life is? None of us has any control over anything, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves we do.

I'm amazed, though, at how much control people give up of their own lives to people they are in relationships with, or their bosses, or their government.

Which gets us down straight to the point.

What is this all about? As the 21st century matures, we're going to watch institution after institution fail. We're going to see young institutions crumble under the weight of bureaucratic and traditional kudzu. I have this sense every single day that something has to change, but I have absolutely no idea what it is or what form it might take.



The new chapter begins

I write this from my desk in Charlottesville, where I can watch people walk past my office all day while writing about the community I live in. I am well on my way to getting back up to speed after a week away in England. I crammed seven days of experience into my life and managed to survive a lack of financial challenges. I bonded with my son and met new friends and spent quality time with my other family there.

I had intended to write more here about the trip here, but I mostly wrote freehand. I am planning on writing out the details of what I experienced, but will likely save most of that for private journals.

But,  at this desk, I know that I am going to have to begin planning for the next trip. My experience is still fresh in my head, and I know that I have to go back as soon as possible. In a perfect world, I would be able to find professional reasons to travel there to help supplement the personal ones.  

In a nutshell, I know that I want to spend more time in England both to see my son but also to fuel my own knowledge of the world. I want to immerse myself there and want to make it a plan to spend at least one full year there at some point in my life.

Coming back, I feel absolutely energized and ready to go full speed towards increasing my worth to Charlottesville Tomorrow as well as fixing all the things I do not like in my house. This summer I will begin redeveloping my downstairs and I will explore catering.

In the meantime, I will be writing about my trip to England to capture what I experienced. This was one of the most full trips I've ever had in my life, and I choose to view it as part of my life than a total departure from the every day.

So, the new chapter has begun.


A massive amount of chirping

A pigeon calls out as numerous small birds chatter and fly around as the innkeeper stands in the gravel drive speaking with someone. Just behind I can see out to the road, cars and trucks whizzing past at speeds that seem too swift. On the other side of the road, a green hill banks up steep. On the other side is one of the Tring reservoirs.

It had been my hope that I could have run along the Grand Union Canal today, but my shoes are not here. They are in my luggage, which did not arrive at the same time as me. I went for a walk instead, maybe a three mile loop. It wasn't as much fun as running would have been.

I've not run since Saturday and my body is crying out for the exercise. I spent the last two days traveling and settling in to my trip here. I've left my credit card home, so I'm trying to avoid the stress that could cause if I chose to allow it to do so. I am drawing upon all of the relaxation and breathing techniques I have learned in the last few years.

I've been over here so many times that if I chose to, I could just let it all wash over me. But, I feel there are important differences that need to be pointed out. A trip to a foreign country is a gift, a chance to remind yourself of what you like best about home. I like Charlottesville in part because it reminds me a lot of being here, even though the built environment here is completely different from how it is back in Virginia.

Last night I sat at a different pub for two hours, chatting with the other innkeeper, as well as a 21-year-old kid who is an organic farmer. The local food movement is alive and well here as well. My dream job would be to spend some time writing about England, writing about what makes it special, both to myself and to the world. So much of who I am can be explained with the differences here and the similarities that lie underneath should you probe a little bit.

Some generalities. Houses are generally closer together. There are many more terracotta chimneys, many more antennas on roof tops. Things are a lot more orderly and neat, except when they're not. The water from where I'm staying flows from deep aquifers lined with limestone so everyone has to take steps to de-lime their showers or they'll be coated in a white scale. Hedgerows line country roads, which themselves are much narrower than anything that would be permitted by VDOT. Cars are much smaller, more colorful, and are generally all manual transmissions. Power sockets are much larger. There are certainly many more sheds.

Last night, Henry and I briefly watched a news program for kids that explained the conflict in Northern Ireland, a conflict that I believe is more or less over. The program outlined what the issues were, and did not shy away from mentioning that British soldiers fired on unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday. Meanwhile I read today that one of our city councilors has received hate calls from people for having the courage to discuss removing the Confederate general statues from Charlottesville's parks. I want my children to grow up questioning and respecting history, both their family history and that of whatever society they end up growing up in.

It is  looking doubtful that I'll be able to run today. The rain comes in tomorrow, which is a good thing because southern England is in the middle of a drought. Henry and I will stay in and explore, playing games and bonding and generally being family members. I regret that I can't be here all the time, but that's not the way it turned out. I remember my breathing techniques and remember that this moment is all we have, that the present is a vital force, and that it's okay if things don't happen the way I wanted them. All of us have the power to write our lives, to sing our songs, and to walk strong.

And with that, I get up to get the rucksack that contains Henry and his sister Laura's books, and I begin the long walk into town to pick Henry up from cricket camp.