12/29/2014

A clerk today said

I was talking to a clerk at a store where I buy things. I said I had worked on Friday, but I took Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. She knows I work at Court Square Tavern.

"It's a good thing you didn't have to work there on Christmas Eve," she said. "It would be so sad and depressing to be with all of those people who don't have families."

I laughed, felt sad for a second because I chose not to be with my family and I won't be with my American children until Wednesday. 

Christmas is the hardest time to be alone, but that's how I was. And I put the time to good use. So, what she said didn't bother me, nor did I take it personally. Nor did I tell any of my story to her. There's no need! I had a great time, and look forward to the opportunity to be with my family again in the future. 

I write these things out to help process them. To keep some sort of a record. After all, this is my spot for mundane thoughts in a dastardly world! 

Reset

This is the time of year when it could be either AM or PM when the clock strikes 6:54. I know, though, that the eastern sky will begin to turn a dark light blue to begin a mild winter's day in Virginia. 

I've already run two miles. I woke up at 3:30, read for a while, and then couldn't get back to sleep. So, at 5:30, I decided to get up and walk to the gym. It was pleasant to be there with four or five other people. I hope to see them again.

This is the time at which I have to do right by myself and carve out a new habit. I remember what it felt like five years ago when my life had begun again and I was alive! I was a year out of my separation and everything was going great! The fall of February 2010 had not yet happened, with the long slow climb towards where I am now. 

I am happier than I have been for a while. You might not get that, given the context of recent posts. I was at the tavern on Friday and it was awful, but Saturday and Sunday were spent in near-solitude with me endlessly cleaning and organizing and preparing for 2015. This is going to the be the most important year yet, and I want to be ready. I want to question all of the things I assume about the way my life is set up and how it operates. I don't want to wallow anymore in this hole. I want to fashion ladders and skyhooks and new lighting fixtures. I want to make all of this count for something. 

So, yes. This is the reset. It's already happened. 

12/26/2014

Boxing Day at Court Square Tavern

It's a Friday night at Court Square Tavern and here I am behind the bar for the first time in a long while. I didn't go out of town so I could work this shift, but maybe that was just an excuse to justify staying at home by myself for Christmas.

I don't know. I'm trying not to be negative, but it's hard to avoid feeling like the wind hasn't blown my way for a while. And being here feels like another confirmation.

I want things to be better. I want to do things differently. The new year is coming, but why put off change until then?

I don't know. I really don't. I just know that this may be the last time I'm behind the bar here, and I'm completely okay with that. Sure, I have visions of buying this place, but I'm not sure that will ever come to fruition. I don't know if it would be a very good idea, though it still appeals to me.

Who knows? I don't. I've been here for an hour and there's only been one party. I don't want to get depressed, but...


12/23/2014

Mind your F's and R's


I feel sorry for anyone who has to be in the same room as me when I'm working. Anytime I have to type an R or an F I have to slam my fingers into the keyboard contact, as the physical keys disappeared a long time ago. So, I have this strange beat I have to keep in order to keep my mind working on a narrative. 

I'm working as I type this, listening to a meeting from two weeks ago. I don't want to be writing this, and it's very boring, and it is my Christmas present to myself to say this. I will get no satisfaction from publishing a story that I predict ten people will read. I wish I could write something different, but I'm getting paid to do this, and I'm going to be happy when it's done.

And I have to watch what I say. What if I got fired simply for expressing myself? My entire life would change, and I can't  have that happen. I have to mind every single keystroke, every single thing I say, because I can't have anything change at this time. 

And here we are in the time when families are all together and I'm counting the hours until I see my children again. That's less than 200 hours away now as I type this. I'm so excited about seeing them again and being with them. They are my everything. 

---

Two hours later and I'm good. I'm happy to be working. Happy to do what I do.  Happy to wait for my children to come home. And I will continue to hit my R and F with pride. 


12/17/2014

Important questions

Who are you? Are you an individual, or part of a system? How did you get here? What do you hope to do with your time on earth? Do you believe everything you hear? Are  you happy? Do you think the thoughts in your head are your own, or did they come from somewhere else?

What is the purpose of your dreams? Can you control them? Do you remember them? Have you ever had the same one more than once?

Have you imagined that entire worlds live on in the dust we breathe, living on a timescale much faster than ours? Have you ever thought that life might live at other dimensions we cannot comprehend? 

Do you like to challenge yourself, or do you just like to relax? Do you like to learn new things?

How often do you question the basic assumptions that govern the things you do in your life?

Do you know what your reset button would be?

Does hopelessness ever creep into your soul and you lose all sense that anything can ever get better? Does every failure carve a new line into your skin? Do you ever give in to despair? What do you use to stand up the negativity inside of yourself? 

Do you think you have the right to be angry without limit? Have you ever hit anyone? Have you ever wanted to? Have you ever cried because you were angry that you were angry?

Have you ever had to make a decision you knew would hurt you, but you knew you would be better off in the long run? Do you regret things? 

What appeals to you? What makes you get out of the bed in the morning? When did you lose your innocence? Do you believe you ever had such a thing? 

Do you have hope? Do you hide it from people? Do you fear there are other people who want nothing more than to use your hope against you? Can you document it? Would it be worth it to do so? 

Have you ever given up? Have you ever just decided it wasn't worth it anymore?

Do you feel any joy at all in sadness? 

Did you know life that's nothing like anything else thrives at the bottom of the ocean where magma rises through vents in the earth's crust?  How does that make you feel? 

Did you even read this?

Is there a point?

How sharp?

Can I borrow it? 

12/10/2014

Devo Song of the Day: Worried Man

This is Devo's take on a traditional tune makes me feel connected to both them and the old-time material on which we are all building our lives upon. I offer with no comment because I am far too worried.






Making therapy

I spent 30 minutes before work today building the plastic city I'd begun making with my son at the weekend. I had a vision of how I could connect a new platform, and so I took the time to implement it. 

I then took a random scoop of Legos to work and spent part of the day building a vehicle for an Emperor who takes the form of a parrot. He just got stuck in that form, and that's what he does. He also has a little car that can take him to diplomatic ports of call. 

These things have made me happy and I am looking forward to more of it in the next 28 hours. 

12/09/2014

A renumbering

I have changed the name of this blog to reflect where I think I might be in the grand scheme of things, population wise, given that I'm now older and closer to being the oldest person on Earth. I don't think it's an entirely accurate number, but it's a lower number.

I want to post more here, like I have done today, because I want to say something publicly about the things that trouble me. I can't be as specific as I would like for reasons that are evident to me but likely not to others. I want to be able to take my time and turn it into words that may give insights to others in the future. 

I live in a shadowy mind that doesn't always reveal what it's thinking. I am more than just one me. I live in a world with more than 7 billion others, that number always counting up as our species continues to grow, aided by technology and a general sense of progress.

But there is a disquiet in so many of our souls. Each of us has had our hard times, and I'm more interested in hearing about the stories where that density was softened over time. 

What I may begin to do is begin to just capture any and all thoughts I have, maybe fictionalizing many of them. I am more than just myself, and I want to speak to more than just me. 

As I type this, I am listening to a Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting, and I'm not going to write about the deliberations, but I will file them away for the future. I'm listening to a voice that I know in two different ways. Thirty minutes ago I have this person a totem my youngest child made for her and for me and his mother.

I want peace. But getting there sometimes takes conflict. I have learned to disengage but have I gone too far?

As I get older, do I have more of a responsibility to speak out? At some point, should I be in a position where I can take an opinion public? 

I don't know. But I need a public space where I can be myself, and this is about the best vehicle I can think about. I am no stranger here. People know who I am, but my name does not easily lead here. 

My shadowy mind wants to be a little more predictable. I also want to be more connected to the rest of you. If you are reading this, you are someone I want to know. 



What I didn't do

If the legs don't move swiftly and the body's temperature doesn't rise as a result, things that should not anger me do so. Right now I feel uncomfortable in my own skin because I choose poorly, chose not to get myself out there. 

So as a result, my mind fights itself and the demons are all around me. Except, they are not demons. They are just my thoughts and I'm not well-equipped to name them by some other name on these days when I give myself over to laziness. 

In other words, it's up to me to overcome this, to overcome this feeling that I know hits every year. I would have thought by now that certain memories would have lost their teeth, but that has not been the case. The reverse may be true. With time they only grow sharper and more easily find their targets.

So, will I move the legs tomorrow, knowing this may be the only way to advance without retreating? 

The grayed out sky

The water pours in, endlessly, bathing me in a sea of regret. The holiday approaches and I can't seem to escape the feeling of isolation that's on its way. One solid day of solitude, coming right up!

I had hoped this would be a better December than the others, but no matter what something seems to always go south and I'm stuck with myself, barreling closer and closer into a lifetime that seems to be stuck in isolation. 

It won't always be this way. But how does it stop? How do I get out of this well and into the next orbital? Why can I not store up the energy? Why won't lightning strike?

Seems these days like the colors have faded from the sky, from the landscape, from the air. I know why this, and know how I could change things... but the remedy would be worse than the daily reality. It's not that I am not courageous. It's that I am no longer reckless.

So, I shall withstand this time. It's the dark time, the holidays. I shall withstand the regrets, the negativity, the siren songs. I shall resist the temptation to fall deeply into the hole. 

The writer's impulse vanquished

At least once a day, I get this firm sense that I need to string words together in order to capture a feeling in my brain, an opinion, a thought, a fault line. I begin to type to organize my thoughts, and I begin to feel the rhythm pulsing throughout me. I am on my way to saying something!

And then, the gravity of reality asserts itself again and I pull back and the thoughts collapse into a string of doubts and I remember all the reasons I need to stay quiet. And I'm left as an island of light in a sea of impenetrable darkness.

This won't always be the case. 


12/08/2014

Head above water

I am taking in air. I have a steady view of the horizon. I wait and watch for activity.

I didn't expect adulthood to be so lonely. I didn't expect to be spending this much time by myself waiting for something to happen. I don't have much hope there will be anything else but this gray fog of purpose from now until the end. I either made all the wrong choices or I am predisposed to sabotage everything that does happen. 

But I am taking in air. I have a horizontal view of a world that is steadier than it seems. I activate my waiting and watching sensors. 

I am in this for the long haul. 

11/29/2014

Sudden downtime

I have my children every other Saturday, and I usually work on the one they are with their mother. 

Today, however, is the first off-Saturday in several months where I don't have anything to do. I don't have a catering gig and the plans I had made to go away were canceled. I don't have anything to do or anywhere I have to be until sometime on Monday. 

But here I sit, paralyzed, not quite knowing what I'm allowed to do. I doubt I'll leave the house. 

The blinds are closed. There's a world out there, but I'm not feeling very good about venturing out into it today. I'm a bit hurt remembering all of the bad decisions I've made in my life. If I stay here, I won't have to make any choices. 


11/13/2014

The censored version of what I want to say

I don't like division. I don't like cleavages in society. I want everyone I come into contact with to have the same chance of happiness and success as I do. 

I'm scared to say any of this publicly. I don't like to have defend what I think is a central tenet of humanism, so I don't put myself out there. 

I am tired of that, but it's how I have to be. I have so many things I want to say, and want to communicate in new ways.

But for now, I realize I have strengths that require me to stay silent. 

11/05/2014

Commentary on recent events

I'm sitting at Court Square Tavern waiting for a story to come back so I can post it to Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm not especially happy with the story as I had to write it on deadline and I didn't have time to squeeze more details and context into an article that I suspect many people won't understand or read. 

I hope they read it. And I hope they'll ask me questions. Life is complex, life is multi-faceted, life is much more than anything I think it to be. 

I'm sitting here and there's a cable person on talking about national news. I pay attention to national news, but I don't write about them, and I don't comment. I pay attention to state news, but I don't write state news. 

My realm is local government in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. And, I'm hoping that people will have questions for me. 

I'm sitting here waiting, and then I'll go home to an empty house except for the cats. I am the only customer here, and I'd rather be in a place with people in it, a place with life. I love this place, but time is passing it by, and I'm worried that I'm going to pass along with it.

And that would be a shame. I think I have something to say about the world, about the nation, about the state, about the community I live in. I think I have something to say about division, about humanity, about resisting fear, about encouraging hope. 

I don't know about you, but I live my life trying to overcome my fears. I try to investigate and analyze every thought I have to make sure that it is consistent with my values. I try to make sure I am not ever reacting from any of my negative emotions, and I try to be the best person I can be.

My job is to explain things about how human society organizes itself. I would relish the chance to get paid to write about other areas, but I am determined to do the best job I can in helping people understand how things work. I know that people tend to get upset when they don't understand things, and I know that people who are upset can be manipulated.

One of my core values is to not manipulate people. I believe, deep down, that we're all capable of dynamic thought. This is bedrock for me, because I know my own opinion on things has changed radically over the years. 

I'm sitting here at Court Square Tavern, a place I love, but a place where not many people are going to come in to enjoy the experience the way I experience it. This place is one where I can go home and not be alone. I've been a single man for almost six years now with only a few short-lived relationships that all ended for various reasons.

They likely did because my job comes second, only after my children, in terms of priorities. I can't seem to fit anyone into my life because I have a job that doesn't have a clear start and stop time. I'm waiting for my story to be posted so I can finally be done so I can get on with a bit of relaxation before bed-time.

Of course, that doesn't translate fully to totally being away from work. The other night I had a very vivid dream in which I had a new job and I was going to say goodbye to the role I play in my community. I was sad to be moving on. 

What do you get from your dreams? What are your dreams? Do you think they're important? What do they do for you?

My life stems from my dreams. I made this life happen for me, aided by my parents. And my life is about being connected to others' lives, and trying to do this. Dreams end, as my life ends, but I know now more than ever is about just trying to make things better. I may not solve a major crime or cure a major disease, but I do know that I want to live my life to leave the world a better place.
I may not have what I want. I may not be in a relationship. I may be very lonely at times, but life is very good anyway. So what? I got my kids, have my career, have a sense I'm part of a community.

So, yes, this is a commentary on recent events. I don't put them all out in the public realm. But, I needed to write this, and publish it, and here it is. 

Re-reading Red Mars

I'm re-reading Red Mars, which tells the story of the colonization of the red planet. Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite authors because he can put you in the shoes of a person standing on another world.

That's useful to me because I live in a part of the world with four seasons, and we're currently sliding into one of the four that affects my moods. The way I can fix that, though, is to realize how magical it is to be alive on a planet that is powered by a gigantic furnace 93 million miles away.

No matter how sad I get, no matter how disappointed I am, no matter how much negativity my species is capable of, I am always able to put that to the side when I can take a parallax view and set my mind to right.

I really recommend the book, too.

11/03/2014

The penning in of the new season

What started as a dull ache in my the upper left corner of my torso is slowly changing into a pain that is likely going to last for the next two weeks. All of the stresses I have have a physical outlet now, pulsing. This is the second time this has happened in as many months.

I've been relaxed lately. It's the best way to be happy. It's not always possible, of course, because there are always obstacles that must be navigated. Some days the going is easy, and other days are more challenging. 

And now here is this pain to remind me not to let my guard down, not to allow myself to get lulled into a hazy sense of justified sloth. 

This is a new season. Gloomier. There's a need to be more awake, more attentive, and this is harder because of the new pain cycle I'm going to go through over the next few days. I'm sick to my stomach, I'm shaking with nervousness. and I'm convinced that waking dreams have haunted me. 


9/04/2014

A thing to say!

Well, this blog is more or less moribund now that I am no longer as bound to publicly proclaim the things that are happening in my life. I would get in trouble if I wrote freely, and I would prefer not to define the parameters of that particular peril.

Instead, I know I want to begin to write publicly again in a playful place that is mine. I am beginning to have old interests rekindled and I hope to reinvent myself a little in the coming months and year. I want to do something new while also doing my existing work even better than I've done before.

I want to own my moment. We live in a world that seems out of control, where we all feel a slip could come at any time now. Will the volcano in Iceland blow up? Will we be at war with a country many of us have always feared we might end up in conflict with? Will we snap at ending a sentence with a preposition?

I don't have any of the answers to any of these questions, but I know I do have answers on the things that happen in my community. I have done what I do for seven years now, and I don't feel any sort of itch whatsoever. What I do feel are the beginnings of curiosity about my state, about all the places I've never been to yet. Is there a way I can continue to make new connections while also building on the work I've been doing for the past 20 years?

I am a journalist. I write in a manner that I feel comfortable with, not expressly advocating anything but showing my bias towards expressing where decision-makers are on a particular issue. All of the issues. 

But, I want to reconnect with my audio past, and I want to try to build something new using elements from the discarded recent past. This is all within my power, and I have to figure out a way to make it happen. There are good ideas coming, somehow, and I need to create a new outlet for myself. 

And?

So, I will try my best! 

8/08/2014

Devo Song of the Day: Snowball

Another song and a quick story. I came to Devo late in my life, but at a time when I still felt pretty lost. I still feel lost now. Somehow this song captures all of the failed romances I've had in the past. And I heard it for the first time when I was pursuing something with someone new, and I heard the lyrics different then - especially the 'eyes were made for looking' portion of the song. This conjures up the myth of Sisyphus, and I discovered it at a time my tastes had been influenced by LCD Soundsystem. Those songs reflected more positive times, and as I entered in a more romantically unproductive time, Snowball took on a much more somber note. And I'm better for having it in my mind. Live version:

8/01/2014

Devo Song of the Day: Gates of Steel

I'm actually not going to write about the song directly. At least, not at first. For some reason, I feel by writing headlines that advertise daily content, I should go ahead and get on the bandwagon. 

After all, this is a place where I write things. I have this little white box that welcomes me when I am alone at night, after I have finally finished work for the day. 

I don't feel free. 

What is freedom?

There are degrees, I suppose. I write this from a safe place compared to what I see in many parts of the world. But, I still feel like I'm not quite able to do what I want to do.

What do I want to do?

At the moment, it seems like an irrelevant question. 

At the moment, I'm relaxed listening to music, reflecting on where I am in this moment. 

To me, freedom is able to be able to capture these things, these meaningless words that make up a version of my memory of who I was.

But I don't feel free.

Challenge me.


7/22/2014

Devo Song of the Day: Beautiful World

When I began this informal series of journal entries about Devo songs, I didn't expect to go to their later era so quickly. But today I think it's more than appropriate today to highlight this track from the 1981 album New Traditionalists

Within the last little while, I dated this woman for over a year but we broke up and got back together a few times. It happens. When we broke up for the final time, I ended up using the emotions to create personal music that got out the emotions I had to express at the time. I still was interested in her, though, but now she's less than two months away from getting married to Jennings, an absolutely awesome person who fits her much better than I ever could. 

Before they got engaged and when they were still two months into their courting period, I went to her sister's engagement party. This was right about the time my Devo infatuation was about a month old, and I was anxious to spread the word but I thought it best to just find out what others thought, so I asked Jennings what he thought about Devo.

"Beautiful World," he said. "That's what I think about when I think about Devo."

At the time, I was still deep into the earlier years, and hadn't really listened to anything past Freedom of Choice. So, I took his thoughts and put them aside for a bit. 

More than a year later, I believe this song embraces what I hear in the work of this band of people who grew up in the American midwest. I don't know them, and I'll never know them, but I can hear in all of their work this almost didactic approach to making music that encourages people to think outside of themselves. 

Devo. De-evolution. My theory is that Devo's main conceit is that despite evolving into a highly evolved species, our culture ends up restricting our growth, and there's always the risk of back-sliding into societal chaos.

Somehow, though, eight years or so after Devo creeped up from the primordial ooze of rock and roll they had matured and were nurtured by a healthy contract from their record label. This track, I suspect, has a lot to do with the band taking stock on a basic fact that's evident to anyone who isn't currently facing violence or starvation. We live in a beautiful world, and Devo knows this, but yet, this track is also about it being a beautiful world even though the visuals begin to depict some of the strange juxtaposition that happen when all of us choose to impose our view of what that means on everyone else. 

Not their best song, but still important to me. And Boogie Boy is in the video. Perhaps his last appearance? 





And, I am as I post this listening to Harvey Danger's cover for the very first time.





I apologize to Harvey Danger that I know them best for Flagpole Sitta, which I know best as being the theme to Peep Show. I'm not sick, but I'm not well, and maybe I never want to be. It may be a beautiful world for you, but it's not for me.

7/21/2014

Devo Song of the Day: Turn Around

When I was a seven-year-old kid, my brother or sister purchased Devo's "Whip It" as a 45. The song was a big hit, and somehow they got a copy of it. That 45 must have been played a hundred times in my house in Lynchburg.

The B-side, however, was not. "Turn Around" was not on the radio, and I don't think any of us felt the need to play it. Why would we? It wasn't hip. It wasn't cool. 

As I grew up, I forgot entirely about Devo, and what I thought was just a complete one-hit wonder. I remember Weird Al did a parody song called "Dare to be Stupid" that helped confirm this sense that Devo was just a joke, and not one that had any sort of longevity to it. 

Somewhere during college in the early 1990's, I heard Nirvana's cover of the song, and thought it was great. It reminded me of the single, which was probably gathering dust in my parent's basement. 

I wish I could say that Devo helped pave the way for me to enjoy music my entire life, but the reality is that the band did not have much influence on my life until I uncovered a 2007 blog post on Rock Town Hall that made me realize I'd been missing so much. They were not my Gateway band. 

We'll get into all of that later. Right now, I want to inaugurate this series by simply writing about Turn Around, a track whose lyrics are with me today as I continue my introspective quest to figure out who I am, what makes me me, and who is ultimately to blame for all the problems in my life.

Turn Around helps me realize that I'm the only person to blame for anything, and I'm the only person who's going to fix anything. This track reminds me that it's important to look at myself without aspersions. Imagine Burns' "To a Louse" with a fast-paced beat and a monologue halfway through!




There's a reason why Nirvana decided to cover this track. Their cover brings the lyrics out more for me. The track also follows the A-B-A pattern that Kurt Cobain said he learned from the Pixies.

 

However, I am not posting a link to the Weird Al parody. I love the guy, but as I hope to describe in the blog posts to come, the parody helped obscure my ability to know a band that is much more influential than anyone really knows. Including me, because I have no way to measure that sort of thing. But I can write my reflections and observations and other musings.

7/14/2014

Rough thoughts on making music

I am not a trained musician.

This fact becomes blatantly clear to me in those moments when I'm listening to things I've created and I'm trying to analyze whatever it is I'm trying to record. I seem to have this conviction that I should press the red button every time I'm equipped correctly and I have something to say.

Since 2009, my recordings have been just as important as my written journals to my mission to record as much of my life as possible. I've learned to use my guitar as a way to prompt myself to wax lyrically about how I felt on that particular evening. These audio time-stamps define who I was in snippets when I feel free to say exactly what I want to say. 

But, are they anything anyone would want to listen to? 

I'm not sure. I'm not sure at all. I am reluctant to post new things to my soundcloud account because I don't know how best to explain the context for why whatever I post is important to me. Everything I do makes perfect sense, but does any of it mean anything to a listener who is not me?

I've not recorded anything since early June. I titled that session "decidely-bland" because that best described how the character of the music, lamenting the way my life seemed at the moment. The 25 minute session was mostly me explaining how I felt at the moment, very much a journal that I'll return to in the future when I need to know who I was around this time. It's very important for me to have ways to travel back in the past for just a moment. 

Sometimes I listen back and I have no idea who I was in that moment, that moment in which I confessed something to my microphone. I can now listen to five years of where I was in those moments in which I have previously lived. I've always been able to do this in words, but there's something much more visceral in listening to the way I expressed myself in music, somehow fusing improvisational guitar with improvisational singing in the aims of capturing lightning in a wav file. 

And every single time I begin to believe in myself, something happens to make me stop that, and to go in reverse and instead believe that whatever I do is somehow not important, not good, and then that brings me to the middle of July where I've not had the courage to let go and just do it. To go to that place where I...

Sometimes I listen to the older things and I see all the faults in them. I realize that I want to hear talent that might not be.

Then other times I hear the simple act of me creating in the moment, somehow liberated from everything and transported to a place where it doesn't feel like I can do any wrong, making music and sounds that help me make sense of my life. 

Sometimes it's noisy. Sometimes it's more melodic. But, it's what I do, and it's who I am. Nothing in my perfect in my life, but yet it all seems worthwhile. 

So. What's your creative outlet? Is there anything you keep secret from the rest of the world? 





7/12/2014

A requiem for old paper

On December 16, 2007, the president of CARS sent me a letter thanking me for my $30 donation. At the time, my son was less than two months away from being born, and I was eight months into my job at Charlottesville Tomorrow. I still lived under the impression I was going to be in a marriage with her, but now I don't remember sending them this money, nor ever making such a gift. Why them? I also can't imagine spending $30 on a charity at this moment, seeing as I owe WTJU $60 for the pledge I made back in April. 

Into the recycling bin with this letter, and many more pieces of paper, as it's now almost seven years later and I have this tremendous need to purge the relics of the past that remain in my house, even though my life has moved on. 

Underneath the letter from Larry Claytor is a handwritten note from a Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting from a date unknown. Bill Emory is listed as being a participant, as are Cheri Lewis and Mike Farruggio. Emory is still a fixture at city meetings, but Lewis is back in private practice and Farruggio hasn't really been in the public eye since he lost election to City Council last year.

I don't want to throw out these notes, so I put them in a folder for later. There's nothing historic on this sheet, necessarily, but there is reference to Dan Rosensweig commenting that he's been invited to participate to an Albemarle County discussion on TDRs which I want to hang on for some reason, but I don't know what that will be at this point. So in the folder it goes.

I'm torn about whether to keep a record of the service my Jeep Liberty undertook last December. The window had busted, and there was also a coolant leak. These both cost $283.11, and were among the $1,200 or so I put in that vehicle before deciding to dump the vehicle in favor of a smaller one. Having written this out, the receipt now joins the box of other papers that will be put in my recycling bin. 

This is the best thing I've done in ages. 

7/09/2014

Hope for a new direction while realistic about goals

When I got on the scale this morning, I weighed 190 pounds. If I was in England, that would be 13.6 stone. 

Either way, I'm 25 pounds overweight, and it shows. I have less confidence. I'm sluggish. I'm most often depressed. I have become very good at making excuses for not exercising. 

This wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to let myself go like this. I wasn't supposed to ever let myself give up my best anti-depressant. 

But, I did.

And now I have to reach within to try to stop making excuses. And I have to improve. Or, it's only going to get worse. 

Let's go back for a moment to the last time I was 190, putting aside for a moment that I've been at this heavier amount for at least six months now. Maybe longer. I don't know. I sort of stopped caring about my health and fitness last fall, and that's now carried over to my mind, which has dealt with this years losses by simply retreating. I've created this prison for myself where I just accept that it's never going to get any better.

But that's bullshit. 

I had been about 200 pounds at the end of my second marriage. I was fat. I was a sloth. I was out of shape. And when I realized my marriage had been crumbling for years, and was never even much of a marriage, I dedicated myself to getting better. I was so angry, so confused, so scared, that I embraced exercise as a way to get through it all.

After two months of going to the gym five times a week, I was down to 170 pounds, and I began to feel shards of confidence growing in the caverns of self-doubt where my consciousness dwells. I changed. I became the best version of myself that I'd ever been. I had a lot less fear. 

And now, so many of those fears have returned. They've smashed those shards into atoms. I've retreated within myself to an extent that is unhealthy. 

So I have a choice. I can either continue to spiral back towards a person I did not like being, or I can begin a journey back towards being the best version of myself I can possibly be. 

I know which I want, right now, as I type this. I am hopeful at this moment, but there are other times in the future in which I will give in to the self-loathing, give in to that part of me that wants to hold back self-improvement. 

Not everything is perfect in my life, and there are many challenges coming in times ahead. And I may choose to write about them here, in this little space that is public but not public. I have so many things I want to say, so many observations I want to capture, so many hopes I wish to grow into.... 

What comes when hopes are realized?

It's been a long time since that's happened to me. But, I have hope anyway! 

7/01/2014

On being cool

It's 1:16 in the morning. I couldn't sleep. I've been in a terrible depressive cycle of late. I got off work and just wanted to go to bed. I'm out of my routine due to overwatching the World Cup. It's summer and I'm jittery and I'm not taking care of myself properly. My next birthday is approaching and I don't know what to do in order to get myself out of a rut I've been in for most of this year. 

Now it's 1:17 in the morning. My happiest moment today was when I finally was able to make a decision to turn the air conditioning on. I tend these days to not be able to make even the simplest choices if it doesn't relate to either of the work I do. When I'm not at work, I tend too just lose all sense of focus.

Across town, my American children are asleep at 1:18 in the morning. When they're here, I am able to make choices. The lethargy might not be fully gone, but I feel like I have a sense of purpose when I am with them. When they are home with me, I feel complete and alert. 

Not so much now that it's 1:20 in the morning and the air conditioning is having a hard time cooling this house down to 80 degrees. I was gone for the weekend so I turned it off, and thought I would just leave it off tonight. But when I tried to go to sleep at around 10:00 pm, I couldn't stand it anymore. 

I should sleep now that it's 1:21 in the morning and I've been out of bed for about 45 minutes. But I have a clarity of mind that is seldom present in these days where work activity is only a phone call away and I end up working on many of my vacations and weekends. This is the nature of a dedicated journalist.

Now that I've been typing for seven minutes about my own life, I begin to feel a little more human. Each paragraph shines a light on my present state and the words that get left in this little box. This space is mine and I shall write what I want here. 

It's 1:25 in the morning and perhaps one of my children is having a bad dream. I know that much of my waking life is spent in terror that I've done something wrong. Perhaps I got a fact wrong. Perhaps I neglected to post a story. Perhaps I said something about my life that I didn't mean to make public.

As I begin my third decade dabbling as a journalist, I must say I never intended to have my name out there. Not directly. When I was trying to be a radio journalist, I definitely wanted my voice out there because that was how I could get work as an audio producer. No one could see me, and no one had my phone number or email address.

This was also before social media, even though I've dabbled in that since the late 1980's when I ran a BBS. I've always had a public profile of sorts, but it was always loosely behind an alias. Yet, over the years I've learned to be a moderator, and to adopt a neutral persona in order to be a better journalist. I want to tell people's stories, and I don't think you can tell people's stories if you tell them what you think first. 

And now I'm a reporter, something I don't think I ever fully intended to still be doing at this point in my life, but I have a fantastic job and I bear witness to so much that goes on in my community. I wish I had the range to do different kinds of stories and express my story-telling in other ways, but I'm so focused on covering my beat that I don't take much time to experiment.

It's 1:34 in the morning and I'm sort of losing the point. It's the first day of July, the World Cup is about to end, and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to catch the last 30 minutes of the U.S. match versus Belgium. I didn't expect to caught up in the whirlwind of this year's tournament, but I have been and I'm going to be sad when it's over.

This is the third time the tournament has been held while I've lived in Charlottesville. 

I just began to write out something about where I was in 2006 and what my life was like, but even though this is my personal blog, I don't want to post anything about that. Not that I have secrets to hide, but that there are so many things I keep to myself. Whatever I write here is an extension of that neutral persona. 

But there's a reason why it's 1:39 in the morning and I can't sleep and don't really want to sleep. I wanted to put some public comment out there about me being named as one of my community's top 10 coolest people. I got a text from one acquaintance, and several postings of it on Facebook. 

I glanced at it briefly, but the thought of people I've never met before describing me in any way is a little creepy. Or, maybe they have met the other persona I sometimes am when I'm lucky enough to work a perfect night at Court Square. 

I'm not that person at 1:44 in the morning. And haven't been for a long time. I'm feeling my age and I'm less likely to be out. I've spent most of my disposable income on being at bars to watch the World Cup. 

I'm not sure who I am this morning. I certainly don't feel cool. I've been stuck in this rut, you see, and all of my creative energy goes into making sure I don't miss a detail when I'm filing a story on deadline. I'm constantly thinking about who I need to contact and what questions I have to ask. I'm worried about getting scooped and work simply consumes me.

Leaving me at 1:47 am to say it's kind of neat to be recognized for the work, even if I'm too timid to promote it. I'll make jokes about it, and I'll play it down in an attempt to deflect any sense that I think I'm cool. 

I don't even know what that word means. To me, it means a younger Henry Winkler, and I don't think I've even worn a leather jacket. To me, it conjures up visions of those kids in secondary school who had that mythical element I knew I would never possess. 

I just do my job, whatever that job is. 

In less than 12 hours,  I'll be attending a historic meeting between the City Council and the Board of Supervisors. It will begin at the same time Argentina and Switzerland begin squaring off in São Paulo. I'm somewhat sad I won't be able to take the day off, and even more sad that I will not be able to enjoy all of fthe U.S. - Belgium match in a crowd of strangers. 

But, I will focus because the conversations these elected officials will have will inform the next six months of my reporting. Duty calls and I must turn in a story by the end of today. 

At 1:58 in the morning, I have fantasies of being a lot less timid as the World Cup tide recedes for another four years. Maybe I'll summon the same transformative energy that helped me during my divorce. Maybe I'll learn how to store my self-confidence within, as opposed to constantly deflecting it, letting that precious commodity leak away. 

I can't say. 

I can only control what happens in one day. And that means now trying to get some sleep. Maybe I'll actually find a way to stop making excuses and get up and run rather than occupy my dreams as long as I can. 


6/12/2014

World Cup 2014 begins

In the months leading up to today's beginning of the World Cup, I've not at all been excited. Since Qatar was chosen for 2022, I've had a really bad taste in my month about FIFA, and I've tuned completely out. I was certain that the World Cup would begin and I would have no interest in it whatsoever. I've been concerned about the ethics of spending billions of dollars on stadiums in a country that perhaps could use that money somewhere else.

But, not today.

Today I'm scrambling to find out how I'm going to watch as many of the matches as possible while still working. This is the first World Cup in 20 years that is in my time zone, and I had gotten used to watching at odd hours.

At the moment, I'm mostly struck by how little has changed in my life in the last four years. I'm in the same job. I'm still a middle-aged single dad. I'm still tinkering with music and don't have the time to really devote myself to the craft.

But for the next month, I'm going to enjoy myself while watching as much football as possible. I'm going to meet people in bars while watching the U.S. team try to get out of the group of death. I'm going to discover a country I really want to visit. I'm going to imagine that the world is something I'm part of, as opposed to something that's far away from me.

One difference between now and 2010 is that I'm not in good shape anymore. I've had a hard time getting motivated, and there are scales over my eyes.

I've had a great time in the past four years, despite much heartbreak and the making of many mistakes. The next four years will be very different, and I'm ready for that. But first, let the games begin!

Hopefully I can find a way to stay in touch with these matches!




5/24/2014

Honoring Catering

What a lovely event I worked tonight. It was a celebration of a woman who died in January. She was the matriarch of a family of four who had retired with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley.

I didn't know her, but I was glad to be part of a time when family and friends came together to honor her. I didn't want to work tonight, and barely made any money after paying my sitter.

But you know what?

Sometimes service isn't about making money. Sometimes it's about being in the right place at the right time to learn a little bit about other people, and to be there for them when they need people who care to be present for them.

I'm honored to have played this very small role in a family's life, the same way I'm honored to be there when people get married, when people graduate, when people have a need to celebrate.

The best thing tonight was coming home and being able to tell my daughter all about it. She's one of the most important people in my life, and I do this work to help support her and her brother. I felt proud to do be able to do this, and to be able to know a little bit more about this country I find myself in. I do this work for my family, my crazy strange extended family.

Tonight's event was a lot like the first event I did for C&O. That was a wedding between two people in their 70's. It was magical.

So was tonight. Nobody was somber, despite people watching video of the memorial service in one of the rooms.

Tonight was what I think all of us would want when we pass on. We want to be remembered. We want our family to come together to remember who we are. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it. I'm at peace tonight. I worked hard and people were happy as a result.

I think I'm heading in the right direction.

5/05/2014

Another pause from Court Square Tavern

I may have worked at Court Square Tavern for the last time, but I'm not really sure. I don't have any shifts scheduled as I want downtime on my Friday nights so I can enjoy life a bit. It's nice to have two nights a month where I can go out and socialize. I need this.

I'm unsettled about what this might mean, to be honest. The place is not what it used to be, and I'm lamenting that a chapter in my life has closed.

Again.

Without going to that, I'll refer you an improv that leaked out of me about three hours before I went in that night. In the song, I'm drawing upon all the unknowns currently facing me. How am I going to get through this life? What's it going to be like? Will I find another place I can call home?

I don't know. But I'm glad I have music to help me sort it out in my head.




4/04/2014

Reflections on being at this stage of my journalism career

Soon I will buy a book because of a review written by Siva Vaidhyanathan. The book is called Should I Go to Grad School? and the pages tell the story of 41 people who faced that decision. I'm curious to know more, because after reading the piece I'm somehow wondering why my own answer has always been no.

I met Siva once at an event at the University of Virginia a few years ago based on his book, The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)He is an incredibly engaging media studies professor who can explain the complexities of this ever-changing communications landscape. During the University's crisis in 2012, he became a leader who explained precisely why the situation going on was important to the future of universities across the nation, and perhaps the world. 

I've read many of his articles, though I'll confess I tend to skim them because my own attention is so focused on work I do covering local government in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Most of my focus is on drinking information from a firehose and trying to turn it into cases of San Peligrino to enjoy. 

I read his review several times because it tells his own story of why he decided to go to grad school after spending five years trying to become a journalist. The article hooked me by beginning with a musical quote that Siva says he sang in response to a visiting professor's request in a American Studies class if anyone was familiar with Rodgers and Hammerstein. 

 Swept away by the enthusiasm of the moment more than by my affection for Oklahoma! or South Pacific, I raised my hand and sang my reply.
Professor William Stott smiled and held his arms akimbo. He paused. Then responded. “I’m just a girl who can’t say no.” His voice was rich and joyful. We had broken the fourth wall of academic performance protocols; the expert’s lecture had somehow threatened to become a song swap.
Somehow this interchange triggered Siva to realize that he had a calling to the humanities after a false-start in journalism. He writes about how had a further conversation helped him articulate that he wanted to write books. Stott encouraged him to apply to grad school.

***

For me, thoughts of further education were put aside when I considered the expense but also because I couldn't decide what I actually wanted to do. 

Hence I became a journalist. 

In 1992, I went to an activities fair in Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech. I was a sophomore who bombed out of computer science after realizing I was completely unprepared for whatever that entailed. While I understood how math and programming worked, I didn't have the discipline to prove it. I understood principles, but that was about as deep as my brain wanted to go. After a disastrous first semester (GPA of 1.8!), I ended up taking political science and history courses just to do something.

No one ever told me in high school, middle school, or even elementary school, what college was supposed to actually be. The main idea was that you went so you could get a good-paying job. Computer science was supposed to pay a lot, so I went with that. How hard could it be? 

Before college, I just loved the thrill of learning how things worked. Everything I learned fascinated me, but then something else would jump out at me. I never felt any need to become an expert on anything. I had taken advanced math and loved the puzzles embedded within, but I had no idea what the practical worth of becoming an expert in that field might actually be. I didn't care about any of it except I was just supposed to do it so I could go to college. 

I also loved chemistry, so much I took a second advanced course my senior year at Brookville High School. I seemed to have an aptitude for understanding how things worked at a very small level. When I got to Tech, there was no need for me to take chemistry because it wasn't a prerequisite for anything. I remember sitting in my girlfriend's class in freshman year and being able to follow the discussion about how atoms are structured, with electrons circling a proton due, and how different numbers of electrons could create different elements. 

But computers? Programming languages? Somehow I thought I was supposed to be a computer science person because I'd spent a lot of time in high school running a BBS, one of the precursors of the Internet. I'd learned to piece together software and hardware in order to connect to something called Fidonet, which allowed the people who called my board to interface with others in the Lynchburg area. I learned to be an online communicator on the fly, and when I got to Tech I was fascinated that people had set up boards that could be accessed easily through the data network. 

However, I didn't explore any of that. I spent more time with the girlfriend than I did working through my assignments. I had a troublesome roommate who was a sophomore and lorded it over me. I was living away for the first time and more interested in social things. Oh, and I worked in the dining hall. 

Somehow my parents let me back that second semester of freshman year. And, I really enjoyed delving into the humanities because they would end up preparing me for my career. I remember one professor, Thomas Howard, exposed me to novels by Graham Greene in a course that dealt with geopolitics in the 20th Century seen from a historical lens. I knew I wanted to keep pursuing knowing things for the sake of knowing things, even if I didn't know what I would do with any of it. 

I also took an introduction to communications with a professor whose name I think was Doug McCallister. The basics he taught about how humans interact with each other was amazing to me, and helped me understand Negativland better. I need to over the notes for the course before commenting further. 

Somehow, my parents let me go back for a second year even if I didn't quite know what I was going to do. It's probably that none of us really knew what else I was supposed to do. In retrospect, I would have been fine had I just gone to work for my father, who at the time had a factory in Campbell County. I'd spent all summer there, another piece

Thankfully, though, I had my own South Pacific moment, though it was not nearly as memorable as Siva's. And it's an era of my life that has faded away from me until now. 
I didn't want to go to the activities fair in Cassell Coliseum, but I went to humor my girlfriend. But 
somehow I got recruited by a weekly newspaper called The Preston Journal that had been operating since the mid-80's. It was the tabloid ugly step-cousin to the Collegiate Times, a broadsheet twice-weekly that our editors seemed to hate. 

I didn't care about any of that. I just knew I had been given a place to write. I was amazed that people could actually pick up a paper and read something I'd written. Maybe they'd actually react to it. Send in a letter to the editor. 

Somehow, everything was fitting into place. The newspaper became by real purpose going to college. Classes were an afterthought, but I somehow managed to learn things about in my coursework as well as learning how to interview people and write a story. I was made opinions editor second semester, and helped transform The Preston Journal into The Tech Independent, a twice-weekly broadsheet that sought to compete directly with the Collegiate Times. 

That launch began well in the fall semester of 2003, but having to publish a paper twice a week completely drained all of us. I watched as the brains behind the move self-destructed in front of me. Yet, I had deadlines to file, and I instinctively knew how to assign stories, collect them, edit them, and get them put to bed twice a week. In the first days, we had to drive the lay-outs to Salem in order to have them converted to print. I loved doing that drive, sometimes at 4 in the morning. 

I ended up as managing editor, but the business end of the paper more or less faded away and we folded just over a year.  We didn't really have anyone pulling for us in the communications department or in the administration. And we owed a lot of money. 

We worked so hard, and we failed. 

I remember sitting in the wreckage of our news room in November 1994, not knowing at all what I would do. I felt like my career was over. A history and political science undergraduate degree didn't really seem very useful, especially when I hadn't nurtured any further relationships with Howard, McCallister, or any of the other great professors who definitely gave me the initial basis for my understanding of how government worked. 

But, all of those classes laid the foundations for what has ended up to be a career in which I still am allowed to explore my wonder of the world around me. The time I spent getting journalism experience helped pave the way to the next stop on my journey. 

We'd put the final paper to bed the night before, and had a celebration in our offices in Schulz Dining Hall. But no one was there the next day except me to mourn the short history of our ambitious endeavor. 

The phone rang, the double-ring on the ever-present ROLM phone indicating it came from off-campus. I answered. On the other end of the line was the news director of WVTF Public Radio. He had seen our paper's obituary in the Roanoke Times and wanted to know if anyone wanted to apply for an internship. 

Nineteen years ago around this time, I was driving to the station's studios in Roanoke three times a week. I cut my teeth as a radio producer, rewriting wire copy, and putting soundbites on carts. After learning how the professionals did this, I tried my hand at doing my own pieces and suddenly I could be heard by thousands of people all across western Virginia. I pushed myself to learn multi-track editing so I could make layered sound pieces. 

I was hooked, and my life had purpose. 

Since then, I've worked in public radio, worked for a publishing company, created a podcasting network, and have spent the last seven years helping build Charlottesville Tomorrow. I've had an amazing career because I get to explain things to people and help them understand how this crazy and confusing world works. 

But, I want to do more. I want to write books, which is the same thing Siva was encouraged to go to graduate school to do. For me at 40, I don't think it's a valid option for me but I will never fully discard it. I have always had an instinctive sense that I can learn by doing, and I've challenged myself frequently. I'm still in awe that I'm still doing this twenty years later, and I've probably got the most important job of my life right now. I'm helping shed light into how the community in which I live makes decisions about how it will go forward into the future. 

Why didn't I go to graduate school? A dislike of classrooms, most likely. I don't know where that comes from, but I suspect it comes from having a personality that doesn't want to ever be nailed down to doing one thing. I get bored easily and choosing a discipline to commit to would have been misery for me. 

But, I suspect it's also because I didn't want to spend the money, not when I could perhaps learn by doing. 

Over the years, I've though about law school, business school, and urban planning school. But I've also thought about buying a restaurant. I have a lot of meaning and purpose in my job now, but the world is ever-changing. Gone are the days of certainty, for some reason. 

Why is the world ever-changing? How does this world we live in actually work? Why is there so much conflict? Why am I so reluctant to express opinions on things? 

I don't know. 

But, why not grad school? 

Siva's review has prompted me to buy a book that can help me understand why other people haven't pursued that option and why some have. 

I agree with his general idea that universities have played a vital role in creating the society we have now, and that we need them to be robust. Other than that, I can't comment because it's not an area I know by choosing not to participate directly. Before this job, I interviewed academics a lot and really felt a kinship with those probably felt a similar wonder to mine that they got to study the thing that they felt passionate about. But we all know by now that passion as seen from others can be completely taken out of context. 


In the United States, and increasingly in the world at large, we tend to reduce the conversation about the value, role, and scope of the scholarly life to how it serves short-term and personal interests like career preparation or job training. Sometimes we discuss higher education as an economic boon, attracting industry to a particular location or employing thousands in a remote town. Or we probe it as an engine of research and innovation. And sometimes we use academia as a tableau for satire or social criticism when we expose the excesses of the lazy and self-indulgent professoriat or giggle at the paper titles at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association.
But none of these appraisals of the life of the mind gets at the real heart of the matter: the now quaint-sounding matter of the university’s “mission”—the bigger-picture question of what our institutions of higher learning do for and with the world. In sizing up such issues, every account is a vignette. So sometimes the best we can do is assemble the widest array of vignettes and try to maintain proper critical distance.
The more I re-read this article I see so many parallels between aspiring academics and aspiring journalists. We both sacrifice a lot for our work. Both of our professions are fueled by the youth of people who have felt the calling. I certainly continue to sacrifice a lot for what I do, and I'm proud to be able to do so despite my profession being similarly maligned. 

This review and hopefully this book will help guide me as I think more about this possible connection. We all have so much to explain about this confusing world we live in now. For me, I want to learn how can we learn to avoid unnecessary conflict. 

***

I know I so often want to use my skills as a writer to explain so many things outside of my job. I want to tell people how awesome it is that probes will be reaching both Jupiter and Pluto next year. I want to write about David Letterman's retirement and what that means in terms of American culture. I want to learn more about Russian literature. I want to indulge fully in what it means to be a human being connected to so much despite constantly feeling disconnected from everything. 

But, I am paid to explain a particular kind of public policy, and my writing strives to give everyone the chance to understand how they can make a contribution. In seven years of reporting this beat,
I've become an expert on so many things that would not have been possible without my college education, the actual coursework. I benefited from living in a society that put a premium on the experience. 

I thank my parents for sticking with me and believing in me. They invested in a college education that put me on this path, and I am thankful I went to an institution that was flexible enough to allow me to explore what I wanted to do. 

And now I'm curious about the state of the academy. 









4/03/2014

A musical confession and the beginning of a new era

I first began recording things when I was a little kid growing up in Lynchburg. My friend Jeffry Cudlin and I made comedy tapes and radio parodies on a little cassette recorder. This may have been sparked by listening to radio dramas that were on NPR at the time, including Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Star Wars, and the Lord of the Rings. For Jeffry, he was doing parodies of easy listening stations.

As we grew older, this converted into making music together. Jeffry was in charge of the music, and sang whatever I could off the top of my head. His talents are infinite compared to mine, and I showed no aptitude to learn a single instrument. At one point he gave me lyrics to sing, but we ended up going to different colleges and I stopped being able to learn easily from him. 

And, that's where I am at today. With others, Jeffry and I ended up making a lot of music together in 1998 when I moved to Arlington for that purpose. Of course, this never took the form of actual practice for me because by then I was 25 and I was well on my way to putting work before any other use of my time. So, what we ended up with is a lot of energy, but I never learned to harness any of it.

But, here's a sample of what we made in March 1999, fifteen years ago, at a place on the western bank of the Northern Neck near Tappahannock. (I apologize for the size of this photo)

To The Moon

I will confess now that nothing in the above music was rehearsed. That song is 100 percent improvisational with no prepared lyrics. There are mistakes in it, yes, but everything I sang and everything my band-mates played here, including Jeffry, is something that was so powerful in the moment.

Of course, this style meant I wasn't very consistent. We tried to rehearse, but I didn't seem capable of the discipline required. We played two live shows, and they were both abysmal experiences.

For whatever reason, I could not commit myself to believing that music was something I could actually do. I came closest in the wake of leaving Arlington for Alberta in 1999, when I was armed with all of these tapes of the recordings we'd made. In a year and half we made at least ten hours of material. Jeffry and I did a lot of experimental stuff, too. I used time working at WVTF Public Radio that summer to digitize as much as I could of the material. They had just transitioned to a digital platform, so I was easily able to convert much of the material.

From there, I began to think about making electronic music. I downloaded a program called Fruity Loops and began making experimental compositions and learned how to make noise that wasn't entirely improvised. I learned a lot about musical structure and tried to take the same pulse I feel when I sing off of the top of my head come across in a short do-it-yourself pulse of sounds. I spent a lot of my downtime living in Calgary making music, experimenting as much as I could.

Unfortunately, I didn't use my voice very much. I couldn't figure out a way to work that into the process as I was creating sounds in a very different way.

However, when I got back to the United States in 2000, I used the same production skills I had learned making my music to create public radio for WVTF again. I had become quite agile at manipulating different sources of audio to create pieces that would be listened to by thousands of people. I scripted out words for me to read, and this form of production occupied my professional life for a while. On the side, I also kept manipulating sounds, and participated in a few side projects with Jeffry, but it wasn't until 2004 that I began to sing again.

I will be writing about this more. I don't understand why I make music, to be honest. I just know that what I'm doing right now musically is perhaps the most important thing I'll ever do in my life. That's a bold statement, I know, and I'll ask that you bear with me while I try to explain it. All I know is that for whatever reason, I'm supposed to sing.

For now, I close this post by adding a link to a little podcast I did in 2006. A lot of the material was contributed by Jeffry, but this is something I did to sort of stitch together a way to begin offering all of the material I'd made over the years. I regret that I stopped making this podcast, but maybe it's time to start again.

I think it's sort of bold to put yourself out there. I'm not a musician by trade, but creating sounds brings me enormous pleasure. I like knowing that I live in an age where I can upload something and it's available. Long ago, I chose to be a journalist, a kind of life that eats up time that would otherwise go to rehearsing and perfecting a song.

But, as a preview of future posts, I'll just say that embracing the way I create music is one of the most empowering feelings I'll ever know. I hope that eventually I can find a way to connect to people in this manner.

For now, I bring you the Notes That Were. At the end of the post, you can listen to the whole thing, but skip to 10:00 to get to a 1999 improv in which I sing about loving that I'm getting to sing, but then I quickly say how much I am not happy with the direction of my life. As always, the words just happened as a result of me being in the moment.

The title of this post refers to the beginning of a new era. By that, I mean I am going to begin putting more things out there, from the past and the present. This edition of the Notes that Were indicate that if I can tap into all of the way I can create, improv and structure, I can have a bright future again.

3/29/2014

The Night of the Ten Mile Run

I woke up about 14 hours ago. I put on clothes I had laid out the night before. I even pre-pinned my bib, which turned out to be a mistake because one of the pins lied when it said it was of the safety type.

I woke up about six hours after I had gone to bed after a night in which I went out and enjoyed myself. I reconnected with an old friend and had a great time speaking with her, a fellow single parent with whom I have a lot in common. I stayed out past my rightful bed-time, but I didn't care. 

I hate waking up early, but I had absolutely no trouble getting up for this race. This was the fifth year in a row I was set to run it, and that's something that allows me to feel confidence in myself. No matter how inconsistent I might seem to myself, there are certain things in my life that I never fail to accomplish.

I fell asleep last night before UVA lost to Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen game. I put my head down and suddenly it was three in the morning. I never sleep more than three or four hours in a row now, much to my chagrin. 

But I fell back asleep, and suddenly it was time, and I felt no sense of doubt that I could run this race. After all, I'd run the past four and I had this sense I could do this one, even though I had not trained as much as I would have like to have done. 

So, I woke up, and I got out of the door. I stopped off at the GoCo to get a small cup of coffee, and then headed to my secret parking space. I got out and casually walked to the start line outside the John Paul Jones arena.

At the back of the line, I spotted Dave Norris. I was so happy to see him running, because he was there the first time I ran when he was Mayor of Charlottesville. Then Janis Jaquith came over and said hello. This was her second Ten Miler, and I remember a time when she thought her husband Harry was crazy for all the running he did. Harry, by the way, was someone who inspired me when I was just getting started as a runner. 

But, I had to find my friends, Jeffry Cudlin and his sister Karen Cudlin Lines. They drove down from the north to run the race, the same way they did in 2011 and 2012. We grew up together in Lynchburg, and we're piecing together a tradition of running races together.  One day I will head up to run with them in a foreign town.

So I left Dave and Janis and walked up and down the crowd, looking to see if I could see them. I didn't know anyone at all. I couldn't spot anyone who I knew. I began to feel like I was in a foreign town myself, but fought that feeling off by realizing that this was the fifth year in a row that I was standing there waiting to run. Waiting for the gun.


Why do we do this? Why do we wake up early to run ten miles on a morning where showers were called for? Why do we subject ourselves to running as fast as we can over roads that go up and down with the volatility of an uncertain stock?

Why was I so confident I could run ten miles when I've not actually done that since last March? Why was I absent of any doubt at all?

Because. I finally had faith in myself. I finally believed that  I am in control of at least the physical parts of my life.

And, because I found Karen and Jeff, and we were able to take this picture. I post it even though I do not find I make a good selfie.


Just about 30 seconds after this was taken, the race began. We were about halfway back in the column of souls seeking to cast footfall across this fair land, so that meant we jogged in place while we waited to cross the actual start line. This can be disconcerting if you've never done it before, but I was happy to be with my friends. Last year, I ran alone.

Of course, we separated very quickly after we crossed the line. I wanted to go slow and enjoy myself. Jeff was trying to move as far forward as he could. I lost sight of Karen very quickly as we climbed up the hill to the left turn onto Copely/Alderman.

Because I chose to run slow, I was able to just look around at all of the people around me. As we began the trek to the first mile marker on the roller coaster of that first road, I just detached from the moment and observed all around me. I was able to forget about myself completely as I fell into a sea of strangers, all of us united for a common and completely arbitrary purpose.

After I lost sight of Jeffry and Karen, I didn't see anyone I knew at all. I had no idea who I was with, but within a mile or two I was definitely in a peer group who could run at a certain pace. I may not have known who any of them are, but for the first time in a while I had something that allowed me to connect to strangers I'll never meet.  We were running together, we fellow affluent humans.

Of course, as much as I wanted to forget myself, it's tricky to do so because I was still running and when you have a goal of moving that far, and you've done this before, you know you have to have a game plan.

Sometimes when I am at my most depressed, it's because I have deviated from my game plan. This is so easy to do when you are pulled in so many different directions. It's easy to keep deviating and moving around and being flexible and ending up not quite where you want.

But, a race is a fixed point in time. You have to show up and do your best if you're going to get a result.

In 2010, my first race, I powered through to a 77:38 finish.

That fell back to a 80:00 finish in 2011.

And then 82 something in 2012.

Then 90 in 2013.

How would I fare in 2014?

I had a game plan. I knew I would finish, and I knew I would beat my expectations, even if I had already lowered them well below what I thought I would do when I signed up in December. I had planned to get in perfect shape and run, but I am pulled in so many different directions that I found it hard to train.

So I adjusted the game plan as best I could, and there I was at mile 2 running through the beginning of my body's first objections that I was making myself run so early in the morning. My mind was completely enchanted with the novelty, but I began to have doubts. I was running on the pace I had set for myself, and each time I felt doubt, I shut my mind down and listened to other people's conversations. I listened to bird song. The energy of every cowbell shake propelled me further.

And I ran. I felt more alive than I have felt in some time, charging through this city where I've had so many experiences. I chose to do this, chose to test myself to see how far I could go once the gun went off. And so I powered through all the miles, my advantage coming from knowing exactly how long each climb would last, and who I could expect to see along the way.

I ran and ran and ran and pushed myself as fast as I could, knowing full well I would score my slowest time ever. And I didn't care.

At mile 6 I caught up with Karen, said hello, and then slunk back to a slower pace. This was right as we crossed into the neighborhoods north of downtown, where I was glad to see many familiar faces cheering me on. I took fuel from them and charged on.

If you have never run the Charlottesville Ten Miler, it can be summed up in one word.

Hilly.

And the worst hills comes at the end. After the long straightaway on West Main Street, you suddenly start a roller coaster that doesn't stop until the end. I knew it was coming and was mentally prepared, but I needed all of the cheerleaders on the side of the road to motivate me.

Races are fantastic in the sense that none of it matters at all, but you're committed to doing something at your best. They are completely optional whereas high school gym was not.

So I ran those hills towards the end, not really feeling much exhaustion at all. In fact, I was sad when I saw the finish line in front of me. I wanted to keep running. I kept wanting some arbitrary measurement to help me define my life.

We always live in a sea of strangers. I don't know the vast majority of the people that I walk past or run past, but for slightly over 94 minutes this morning, I had common cause with everyone I ran with. I had common cause with myself because even though I'm out of shape, I was still able to accomplish a result by crossing that finish line. I opted to participate and to try.

And I supported a preschool that needs the money.

Hours later after finishing I am still giddy. I managed to execute my race plan.

Now, I have to figure out how to tweak my life plan. I know more about myself than I did when I woke up bleary-eyed this morning.

I feel I am on a life plan that I decided years ago. A picture like this makes me think maybe I have not deviated too far.






3/27/2014

On the Eve of the Ten Mile Run

Five years later, I've regained all the weight. 

I'm no longer the slim person I became in the months following the end of my marriage. I am in the worst shape since that time, and no longer feel motivated to work hard to exercise my body for the sake of my health.

A year or so ago, I was still motivated. I spent the spring working out eight times a week at least. I was swimming, lifting weights, and running. I got back in really good shape, but did not get back in the habit once I came back from England in late July. 

Slowly I've stopped making the time to get in shape. There are many reasons for this. I'm a single father, and my children are at my house a lot more than they used to be. I'm also a hard-working journalist and stories often pop up, which means I often change my plans for work.

But, there's a much more important explanation. 

I stopped believing in myself. 

Without going into the details, I pursued a relationship with someone last year and she didn't have the same feeling. I always knew this was going to be the case but I kept trying anyway. It worked for a little while and I was happy. We ran together, but then when she ended things, I just completely lost all interest in self-improvement. 

And then we had the holidays, a time that wasn't very easy for me. I should have thrown myself into running, the same way I have done with previous break-ups. But I did not. It was cold out, and there were too many excuses waiting for me to latch on to. 

I signed up for Saturday's Ten Miler on the first registration was available. My goal was to train to run it as hard as I did in 2010 when I ran it in just under 78 minutes. On that run, I poured all of my pain into my footfalls, and felt like I had finally grown up, and that I'd finally found a way to stay healthy. 

But, the pain of the end of my marriage faded as I learned to breathe, learned to cope, and began a tremendous set of friendships. My times in the Ten Miler got slower and slower, and last year I ran it in just under 90 minutes.

On Saturday, I hope to be under 100 minutes. 

And that's okay.

I didn't make my goal to be in the best shape.

And that's okay.

I'm going to have a good run, and I'm going to enjoy every second of it. I'm going to be with people as we travel on foot throughout the place that's most important to me. This is where my children were born. This is where I have managed to be somewhat successful in the career I chose for myself twenty years ago. 

This is where I have so many memories of what's happened already. And I'm hoping that I can use this particular ten miler to reflect on how far I've come, and I will ponder the possibility that there may be new memories in the future.

I'll be joined by my best friend from childhood, and my best friend from college. This race is a chance to take stock on where I am at 40 and will remind me that I can choose who I want to be.

In recent days, I have confirmed that I want to continue being a journalist and I want to get even better at the work I do in my community. I am energized by recent conversations with my boss and editor and think that my best professional days are yet to come. 

Now a similar choice faces me. Do I want to get healthy, or do I want to stay on the same path I am back on? I'm more lethargic than I was, less positive, and it's so easy to just give in to sloth. 

Will I manage to forge better habits than I have now? 

I don't know. I'm just the version of me that existed on March 27, 2014, a day in which I managed to balance the many aspects of my life except exercise. I managed to write a story on deadline while also taking care of my children. I got all my work done freeing me to actually have time to spend on writing this post!

I will write an account of the race. And I'll try too write here more often to keep myself somewhat accountable. It's my theory that if I write about how good things are, that will keep the good things happening. After all, we're all just stories in the end. 

(I stole that last line and I am not ashamed of it. Matt Smith became the Doctor the first day I ran the Ten Miler and the Doctor is the closest thing I have to a religion) 


3/19/2014

A realization that should be marked publicly

Is this thing on?

I'm writing this from a crowded tasting room somewhere in Charlottesville. I'm ostensibly finishing up work for the day by going through a list of stories to see what I need to do next. My job has been merciless of late, and I have a rare chance today to catch up on looking forward.

So, what is this realization that should be marked publicly?

I don't really know, to be sure. Of course, I have an idea or two, but I don't have any ability to commit my private thoughts into the public realm at this time. This is something I was able to do in the past, but I'm much more hesitant to do so now. 

Instead, I'm sitting in a public space writing out ideas for future stories, tackling a tickle list of stories. I don't know anyone here, and no one knows me. These are my fellow residents, skewing in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties.

But I don't know any of them. And I never will. 

I was going to write more about how little family I have, and how I mostly live alone except the times when my two American children are here. I've mostly created a family for myself through Court Square Tavern, but for whatever reason I don't seem to be adding any more close connections through there. It's not a place where I feel I can totally myself anymore. 

So, tonight I came here to the Three Notched Brewery to do some work and prepare for the next set of feature stories I will write for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I am about to celebrate my seventh anniversary there, and I am at a point where I am wondering if it's still what I want to do. I am so torn about this but I need to decide who I want to be soon. 

I'm so proud of this place. There's a good crowd and I don't recognize anyone here. I'm sitting in a comfortable chair drinking a 40 Mile IPA, so named after Jack Jouett's epic journey to Court Square to warn the Virginia legislature that British troops were on their way. I'm sitting in a building that used to be the Monticello Dairy, and where I once worked for a catering company. I remember being in this space, or somewhere close to this space, when I was 20 and visiting a good friend who lived in Charlottesville at the time as a UVA student. 

I have a connection with this building, the same way I have a connection with the former Monticello Hotel. Yet this is more of a third space than the one I wish I could create. 

Maybe there are several realizations in this post. I don't know anymore. I just know I'm going to hit publish.