After spending nine stellar days perched on the edge of Harlem in New York City, I’m back in Virginia. I don’t think I could ever live in New York–I couldn’t stop marveling at the mountains of trash bags heaped in bloated piles on every street–but I will miss the endless options for eating out. Erik and I roamed Harlem, the Upper West Side, and even braved the subway to Greenwich Village in our search for snacks and used clothes. I picked up a beat-up copy of Odelay! and a pristine two-disc set of Stars’ In Our Bedroom After The War, and a green flannel and a flowered skirt, and Erik patiently picked through heaps of ties until he found a few solid additions to his collection.
I thought my cabin fever would return with a vengeance once I arrived back in Leesburg, but even my fairly small town has proved capable of yielding surprises. For the past year, I’ve driven past a long-empty strip mall around the corner from my folks’ house, only to discover this week that a Hershey’s ice cream shop has taken up residence in one of the storefronts. Is Hershey’s Ice Cream an East Coast thing? A central East Coast thing? Either way, when the employee at the counter offered me a rewards card, I wisely refused. I sat at one of their metal tables with an old friend from high school for hours the other night, watching a storm illuminate the parking lot in flashes and ignoring the families who eyed our spot. Driving home through sheets of rain, feeling my car hydroplane momentarily on pools of water turned mirror-like by the stream of oncoming headlights, I thought of how much I have changed since the time when this landscape was most familiar to me. I’ve been taking the Metro into DC more and more often lately, shifting the center to my social life in ways that are unplanned and refreshing. Last weekend, Bridey Heing and I adventured all the way to a launch party hosted by The Intentional in a strange little warehouse-turned-art gallery/studio/apartment where two friendly dogs romped through the crowd and no one remembered to buy water and way too many WMHs (white male hipsters) stood around sipping from beer cans. Some of the art displayed there had been featured in The Intentional‘s most recent issue, and would likely be hanging on my wall right now if I had endless money. (Bridey is a freelancer and all around good person, and you should subscribe to the Tiny Letter she launched this morning.)
I’ve got 200 pages of Anna Karenina left to go, but the volume was too fat to drag across six states, so instead I finally read some issues of The Atlantic that I’ve been saving. I was a subscriber in 2014, and I let all twelve issues pile up, unread until New York. Reading them there gave me the odd sense of traveling back in time. Our Airbnb host, Lloyda, was lovely and endlessly hospitable, and her spotlessly clean apartment was cluttered with air fresheners that occupied every shelf and table in little pairs. I hadn’t seen an air freshener like that–one with a wax cone inside, and two plastic halves that you twist apart like an Easter egg–and it reminded me of a green air freshener that had sat in the basement of my childhood home and the way my mother always warned me not to touch the non-child-safe wax. So instead I stared at it, wondering at its danger.
I don’t even remember receiving the November 2014 issue of The Atlantic, probably because UVa’s campus was imploding after the Rolling Stone article came out, but two articles were especially astounding. One was the cover story, a predictably wonderful article by Hanna Rosin about a sexting case that unfolded a stone’s throw away from Charlottesville in Louisa County, Virginia. The article taught me what THOT stands for, which made me feel old in a good way, and I loved the way Rosin took teen girls’ sexuality seriously, and the way she explained why some adults don’t. A second article jumped off the page because it unpacked a landscape close to where I’m currently living. In “The Urban Future of the American Suburb,” I learned about Michael Caplin’s quest to transform the Tyson’s Corner area into a city in its own right. I transferred from Amtrak to the Metro’s Silver Line on my way home and sat near a window so that I could spot the half-finished buildings and plazas mentioned in the article, and there they were suddenly, whooshing below me, and then they were gone again.
Online this week, I’ve read about the postmodern idiocy of Minions. This weird court case in Charlottesville. A list that cracked me up for days. The Planned Parenthood story that has everyone all upset. This WordPress help page, because I broke a website that I’m getting paid to fix by accident. This sad article about heroin, and this obituary which is extremely brave and for that reason even sadder. President Obama engaged national discourse about race, and Trump did too, but in a different way. I finished watching Season 1 of True Detective, which more than lived up to the hype, and then decided not to bother with Season Two. Instead I’m watching Murder, She Wrote, unironically, because I actually like it and might explain why at a later time. Say what you will, but Jessica Fletcher kicks ageism’s ass.
This weekend I’ll be finishing up a story about Wylder, formerly known as Save the Arcadian, and another long, collaborative piece about what went wrong in Virginia colleges this year. I’ll continue the great X Files rewatch of 2015 so that I can be extra-ready for the new miniseries that’s coming out this January. I might even make it out to the National Building Museum’s indoor beach, which looks too cool to be real. I’ll be writing pitches. I’ll be drinking Earl Gray. You know where to find me.