DRIVEN, It's in the vault, Me Myself and Ty, Uncategorized

Deer and loathing

A bit dark and gory after the jump, so proceed with caution.

Humanity has never gripped me like it did that night as I screamed into the lonesome night at a creature that had no more a mind to understand me than it did body able enough to escape me.

I had pointed my flashlight up and down the road at least half a dozen times, both praying no headlights would appear to guest star in my late night grapple with mortality and its intersection with morality while at the same time wishing some grown-up would show up — my dad preferably — to solve the situation I found myself in.

The road is a popular drag for speeders, especially since it runs right behind the high school. If you wanted to show off your car’s acceleration, this was the strip to do it. I vaguely remember riding along with one such crazy adolescent as we passed an assumed adversary on the road, topping 80 or 90 mph down the long, straight two-lane drive.

I, of course, wasn’t going nearly that fast on this night. Maybe five or 10 over, but mostly because this was the final two miles of a seven-hour trip and I badly needed to use the bathroom.

The first doe darted out confidently. I had no chance of ever hitting her, but I slammed on my brakes anyway to avoid what was sure to be the rest of her nocturnal grazing party.

And then there he was, taking a 45 degree angle to the road as if he was going to rush me off of the left side of the road.

I merged left to avoid him, but he refused to stop, choosing instead to barrel into the side of my car.

I shook the steering wheel steadily to keep myself straight, but hardly had to slow down at all.

I didn’t even stop. “No time for that now,” I thought, pining for my bed while looking over at my antenna, which now looked like a crumpled pipe cleaner tossed to the side from some craft project.

The radio hadn’t even skipped for a moment. That’s curious.

“Dammit my side view mirror is gone!” said the voice in my head, finally realizing there was something missing from my car like the final answer in some Sunday comics picture challenge.

I’ll have to go back for it.

But I knew there was one more thing I would need to go back to, as well.

This had happened before, of course. Continue reading

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Don't Call it a Farewell, DRIVEN, Journalism, Uncategorized

It’s in the Vault: Tall tale

My long-term absence will be explained in a future post.

When I got started in journalism, it wasn’t because I wanted to be a journalist.

It was because I wasn’t good enough to play sports at school anymore, so I sought a way to stay connected to them any way I could. Daniel Ellis invited me to attend a sports section meeting with him, and from then, I was sold.

Which is surprising, since I started out in the undesirable beats – for instance, covering our volleyball team which was riding a conference losing streak of more than 30 games.

Of course, I love volleyball, so it wasn’t really a stretch to stay interested, but there was also the spandex and the tall females I got to talk to on a weekly basis…

Maybe it wasn’t surprising, but regardless, I wouldn’t allow myself to date any of them.

I say that now and pretend like I was being an objective journalist with integrity, but it’s only because I was too afraid of them rejecting me to even ask. Continue reading

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DRIVEN, Me Myself and Ty

My Saint Patrick’s Day Anniversary

EDITOR’S NOTE: I originally reported that the Canes were playing the Penguins that night. I remembered there being a goalie controversy that night involving Tim Thomas and confused the appropriate teams of the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Boston’s Thomas…the opponent that night was actually the Boston Bruins. The story has been updated to reflect this error.

I’m a crier and it’s time those who read this blog knew it.

My friends at the Citizen found this out in July when I busted in to their offices sobbing and asking if I could work for home, but the true proof of it came exactly a year ago today.

The Hurricanes were playing the Bruins that night. I remember because after Peggy photographed the game we were hitting the road to go join “our” friends at Oak Island for our Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.

I say “our” friends because although we now share joint custody of those friends, it’s important to note that the individuals down at Oak Island were my inner circle – the friends I wouldn’t be alive without and in whom I confided everything that needed to be confided.

So when Peggy came over before the game and it was clear she couldn’t be talked out of covering the game (Boston is her “second-favorite” team) I gave up on getting to the beach early and proceeded to start an argument.

I have no clue what the argument was about, or even if I started it, but this argument was the nth in nth days, so when I asked, sarcastically, if Peggy was going to break up with me over it…she nodded her head yes.

The crying started here. I remember everything about that moment: Where she was, how her face looked, how slowly her head bobbed up and down…but this post isn’t about that moment. It’s about everything that happened following it.

She went to her game and I lost it. How could she do this…and with my closest friends 2.5 hours away!?

So I got into my car and drove…talking to Farrell and Jessica and Richard in shifts on the phone the entire way. Between sobs I would listen to music. I remember this song played.

Anyway, they promised that as soon as I got to Farrell Manor, everything would be fine.

They were right. When I arrived, Farrell poured me a half a Solo cup of rum. I remember pulling him aside and telling him that I wanted to hurt in the morning.

I was wrong. I showed up at about 9:30 p.m. and was passed out in my bed by midnight. I woke up at 7:30 a.m., right as rain, and went to the grocery store for green food coloring, beer, pesto, eggs and ham. I also stopped by a tourist store to get a green T-shirt (I had left my house at the same time Peggy did, bringing nothing but the clothes on my back).

So we had green eggs and ham for breakfast, with green pancakes. And Peggy came down later for Black and Tans, which quickly became Black and Greens.

And somewhere Saint Patrick was smiling because there really is no modern equivalent of driving out snakes from a village, but a day when friends give support when it’s needed and alcohol brings people together is a day worth celebrating.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!

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DRIVEN, Me Myself and Ty

DRIVEN: Home is where your car is

I’ve mentioned before that I have lived my entire life within the same, one-hour stretch of highway.

I lived in downtown Goldsboro for my first 3.5 years and then we moved out to Rosewood. When I graduated, I moved to Raleigh and have bounced around from dorm and apartment until I arrived where I am now on Brent Road.

When I first got to N.C. State, I felt like Raleigh was the perfect location: an hour’s drive was enough to be on my own, but if I needed money/food/medicine (Read: Mommy) it was always less than 60 minutes away.

But now, it’s an annoying distance. With my job in Garner splitting the distance and the new bypass that makes the trip a 45-minute dash (30 with my radar detector) it feels like Rosewood is right down the road.

Combine that with me having no reason to be in Raleigh anymore with no classes and my parents’ constant pressure for me to spend time with them and I’m going absolutely crazy.

I’ve been back and forth between Raleigh and Goldsboro constantly since classes ended Dec. 2 and the longest I’ve been either place has been a week. Most of my clothes are in Goldsboro, too because I did laundry there, so I’m even more fragmented.

I feel like my home has been Highway 70 for the past month.
View Larger Map

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DRIVEN, Me Myself and Ty

Driven: B-More…Why B-Less?

Due to some computer issues, I never got around to chronicling my Baltimore weekend before now. Below is my story:

 

My baseball mecca: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

 

Brought on mostly from my authoring of another post, I decided I needed to take a trip up north.

I referred to it in my head as a pilgrimage to my baseball mecca: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I had been to at least one game in Birdland for the past four years and I wasn’t about to let my streak end so long as there was gasoline in my tank.

So I wrecked my already paltry IRA further and headed up north Oct. 1 about 8 a.m. Hard to believe, but yes I was up before noon for once.

Anyway, I had Facebooked ahead and gotten a lunch date with one of my best friends from high school, Jeff McCumber. He’s getting his Master’s degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C., and with it being right on the way I decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, especially since I hadn’t seen him in four years.

So I headed to D.C. and met him at his dorm where, just before he came out to meet me I witnessed the bird bath you see to the right. I love little birds and these feathery puff balls were so cute, I had to get a few pictures.

Anyway, Jeff took me up to meet his girlfriend and see his brick-walled, Bob Marley shrine of a room where he showed me exactly where I’ll sleep when I visit next time. (Yes! A callback!)

We went to an Irish pub and ate and talked about girls and love and life, but it eventually turned into a game of naming obscure people from high school we hadn’t thought about in years and reminiscing about how much we hated and loved football practice.

Jeff had to get to a youth ministry camp later that afternoon, so our time was cut a bit short, but since the Orioles game from Thursday night had been postponed due to rain, I had a doubleheader to catch anyway, so it worked out perfectly.

Until Jeff showed me a shortcut. I followed him to I-495 South, where he called to inform me was the road I wanted, just in the wrong direction. He suggested I take an exit and loop around to head north toward Baltimore.

Okay…so if you’ve read anything from my Driven series, you know I like to drive. I pride myself on my sense of direction and my ability to drive backwards, but the following details the most stressful series of driving miscues I have ever experienced:

I took exit 45. Minutes later (At 4:01p.m.), I noticed a text message from Jeff instructing me to not take exit 45 because of its toll road. If only I had gotten on the toll road! I took the free road to the airport (D) where there were NO exits! I went through the airport parking lot, grabbed a parking ticket and breezed out no charge. Now I’m only 12 miles away from 495. No biggie.

But remember the airport road? It’s in the center of the toll roads like this:

|  ^  | ^
|  V |
(The bold indicates the free public airport road).

The exit for 495 northbound comes up, but you have to merge over to the toll road to take it. I missed the merge and continued down the road before turning around again.

Now I see the exit on the right that says “To I-495.” Boom. I took it. I’m on the way to Baltimore and I’ll still get to see the first game of the twin-bill (First pitch was scheduled for 4:35 p.m.)

By now, Jeff has already posted the following on my Facebook wall:

“So I watched you ride off into the sunset on a road I know you shouldn’t be on… oh good times good times… Today was a good day. Thank you again for going to lunch, and I hope you have a good time at your game…whenever….you…get….there…..”

That was at 4:41. At 4:50 I responded to his post that I had just reached I-495, just like I thought I did.

Man, I turned on some Jason Derulo and went into my driving zone. The wind through my hair with the top down: this was why I had wanted to do this solo road trip in the first place.

But then I felt something. It didn’t feel like I was going north. The road signs didn’t say anything about Baltimore.

A Google depiction of my route. Total distance traveled: 69.3 miles. Total time wasted: 1 hour 50 minutes.

Now to the voice in Ty’s head: “Wait…is that a toll road? I want to avoid that. Let’s take this exit to the airport…airport? WHAT. THE. FUCK.”

Yep, I was back on the road to Dulles International with no exits to change my route. This time I followed the road around the airport (See, I did adapt with new knowledge to avoid the parking lot line, at least) and headed back toward 495 AGAIN.

No big deal, right? I mean, yeah I’m getting stressed but all I have to do now is take that 495 North exit I missed the first time and I’m right back on track.

But it’s time to adapt some more. Last time I missed the exit because I wasn’t on the excitable toll road. Let’s get over there now to avoid missing it again.

“WHAT THE FUCK? IT’S NOT A MERGE EXIT…IT’S AN EXIT EXIT!”

So now I’m on International Drive, except not really. I’m stuck in standstill traffic on the ramp to get to International Drive, which is a road I know I don’t want to be on.

I fight through the traffic and manage to turn myself around again, but I’m done with Jeff and the Nav system and that horrible airport road. I took a look at my fancy phone map and discover Lewinsville Road, which seems to lead to a 495 junction. I took the road and finally, at 5:51 p.m. as evidenced by a Facebook post I sent to Jeff, I was on the right road to Baltimore…

I arrived at the park about 7:30 p.m. and walked in just in time to see the second pitch of the game. The ticket was just $6 with my student ID, so I was pretty happy.

I grabbed my customary crabcake sandwich and a beer and stood in right field to watch the first half of the game. I moved to centerfield (Eutaw Street Reserve) for a spell, then back to SRO before taking a seat right beside Nick Markakis in right field. The Orioles won, but my friend Kaitlyn who was supposed to meet me at the game was held up at work, so the game was a solo shot.

It was nice to just enjoy a baseball game by myself. Anyone who knows me well knows about my affinity for the sport and reverence for its traditions, so it was almost the fulfillment of my pilgrimage to simply sit and observe. I cheered and yelled and made snide remarks to myself still, but it was a tranquil and relaxing experience.

After the game (WE WON!) I hit the road back south to stay with Christine in D.C. After finding a Thomas Street in Alexandria, I went to Thomas Street in Arlington (The one she actually lives on). I slept in her room, mostly so I could blog that I slept in a room with a girl…and then awoke the next day to continue south to Rocky Mount where Taylor had a volleyball match.

They won in five sets and I headed west toward Raleigh for the N.C. State/Virginia Tech football game. I got there in time to see most of the second quarter and thus my solo road trip came to a two-touchdown loss end.

And so my pilgrimage was completed and the weekend will go down as one of my busiest, most traveled, most athletic event watching weekend in Ty Johnson history. Yay.

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DRIVEN

Tis the season

DRIVEN: PART III
Cadence

Miss the intro? Click here. Then go here to read part I and here for part II.

While driving around Granville County with Richard two Fridays ago in search of another haphazardly placed rural high school, something happened.

It happens every year about this time. I’m driving with the top down and all of a sudden, I’m hit with a rush of cool, damp air. This time it was as we were passing through some swampland, so it was especially intense. Imagine how it feels a lot like when you wade through a cold spot in the ocean only in a car driving through a dense forest.

To many, it would signal the end of summer and the onset of fall, but to me, it means North Carolina is finally a convertible-friendly state, if only for a few weeks.

Between humid summers that leave sweaty messes on my white leather seats and biting cold winters when I blast the heat to fulfill my need to ride topless, early spring and late fall provides the only median temperature that makes it even remotely sane to own a convertible. Think of how Dwight said it was silly for Michael Scott to drive a convertible Sebring in Pennsylvania. Some climates just don’t allow for a lot of top-down cruises.

 

Cadence

Cadence in all of her top-down beauty.

 

But the coming of fall also reminds me of how many convertible chances I have let slip away. An entire summer is gone with only a handful of convertible beach trips to show for it. I haven’t even made my annual pilgrimage to Camden Yards yet and the Orioles’ October hopes were dashed in June. (This has been rectified).

And so begins my convertible bliss blitz. Top down on the way to school. Top down on the way to the grocery store. Top down anytime I have a chance because driving, to me, is a hobby.

I know how it looks when a guy is riding alone in a convertible, trust me. You can’t ride solo with your entire profile on display and not look like a douchebag unless you’re a girl. Even with flowing blonde locks whipping in the wind, it only fools drivers for a moment, if that. The girls all snub you. The guys all look like they want to run you over. There was one time when an older Latin woman blew a kiss at me in Kinston, but that doesn’t happen often.

What I’m saying is that it’s hard to be comfortable driving with the top down when I’m alone, though I do it a lot. I know I’m a punk and I know I look like a douchebag, but feeling the wind is worth 400 miles of scowls, so I just put up with it.

But now that it’s convertible season again, there’s no amount of discouraging words, faces or angry truck drivers to make me join the ranks of the coupes.

If you haven’t ridden in a convertible before, trust me it’s not as awesome as I’m making it out to be, but it’s still something you need to try. Ask nicely. Convertible owners like to show off the fact that if they flip their car the only thing protecting their brain is a skull and some canvas, so take advantage.

And if you’re in my area, just flag me down when I pass you.

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DRIVEN

Driving power-drunk

DRIVEN: PART II
Cadence

Go here for an introduction to this series, here to read Part I or check out Part III here.

How I feel about driving could best be summed up by Jack Sparrow:

“That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.”

Yeah, he’s not talking about a car, but he may as well be, because that freedom, that’s what I used to lay in bed late at night thinking about when I was in high school…just getting in my car and driving as far south as I-95 would take me just because I could.

And it happens still, though it’s not always as gallant and romantic as I always imagined it, especially if you ask my ex-girlfriend Sonja. When she was living in southeast Georgia during summer 2008, I visited her three times, always enjoying every second of the six-hour road trip between Goldsboro, N.C. and Hinesville, Ga. That’s when I first discovered that lovely scenic bridge mentioned in my “What’s news to you” post, but I digress.

Is there a sweeter sight?

Anyway, we frequently made the 1.5-hour trip to Brunswick, Sea Island and Jekyll Island, simply because there was little to do in Hinesville. I always drovebecause she loved to ride, and I drove all across that region, always trying new ways to shave minutes off of our trip, finding new roads to try out and generally just driving aimlessly. With El Cheapo gas making me feel like I was a king, I poured gasoline like cheap beer, especially since I was living at home and had lots of disposable income while my girlfriend bankrolled our excursions halfway with her Rayonier-funded salary.

But she got sick of me taking the scenic route everywhere and started limiting my gas. She would never pay to fill my tank because she said having a full tank of gas made me “drunk with power.” If I wanted a full tank, I had to pay for it myself. Otherwise she bought it one half-tank at a time.

I’ve always loved the way she put it, drunk with power, because it’s so true. When the needle is on F, I feel invincible. I peel out. I make my tires bark. I take the long way home. I take other cars off the line.

It’s a powerfully intoxicating notion, having a full tank of gas and knowing the routes are endless and they can take you anywhere.

It’s the knowledge that I-40 ends in California, I-85 takes you to Atlanta and I-95 south leads to I-4, which runs right into Disneyworld. It’s knowing 95 north puts you through D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and right up into Massachusetts and U.S. 17 winds from Virginia through Wilmington, N.C., past Myrtle Beach to within half an hour of Hinevsille and back to coastal Georgia before ending in Florida. (I like road maps…and Highway 17).

It’s freedom. And it’s a pleasure.

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