Friday, February 26, 2010

or am I just that shallow???

A few weeks back, REI had a sweet clearance sale, and I just so happened to have a little bit of Christmas money that I'd not yet squandered. I've never really had a clothing budget. I buy new clothes as inexpensively as possible when the old clothes are so worn out that they don't do the job anymore.

Anyway, I bought two articles of North Face clothing because they were SEVERELY discounted. I've always liked North Face clothing, but simply can't justify dedicating that much of my budget to clothes when it could be so much more enjoyably spent on big cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate malt shakes. Fat Mo's anybody?!?

That being said, I absolutely LOVE my North Face fleece jacket. I'd wear it all the time if I could. If handymanning weren't such a dirty job, I'd wear it to work. It's wicked soft. It's considerably warm. It actually fits me! I have a terrible time buying clothing because I'm slim, and I have long appendages. If I buy a "large" shirt, the sleeves aren't long enough. If I buy an "extra large," the sleeves are good, but the body fits me like a rain poncho. This jacket fits me amazingly.

I have a confession to make. I'm an incredible sucker for a good logo. In high school, I was like an Adidas poster child. I still think the original Adidas logo is amazing. I like the font of the letters and the little "flower" (i guess you'd call it) insignia. I always wore Adidas in high school.

The North Face logo speaks to me as well. I just like the simplicity of it. The question I often wonder is: am I attracted to this because it's the "in" thing? My buddy Hunter, who works at REI, was telling me about people who go into REI to buy things because of the logos. They come into the store on Saturday mornings when the people for whom REI originally came into being are actually out doing things outdoors. It's the same people who buy Hummers to drive around the city. So much capacity put to so little use.

I'd just finished a seven+ mile trail run before I bought my North Face jacket, so why do I still feel like a fraud having one? Maybe the same reason I have trouble calling myself a runner even though I'm clocking 30+ miles a week.

Did I just buy the jacket for the logo? Do I just believe it's better because it says North Face on it? Do I feel just a little more legitimate wearing it? Eh, I dunno. I do know this though: I LOVE this jacket and I enjoy wearing it. Perhaps those other questions don't really matter so much.

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

oh, to be uncool...

Many of you know that I used to work at a record company as a sales rep. It's always fun to see what kind of a reaction I get when I convey this information to people who only know me as Handygraham, or only know me from church or from my East Nasty running group. Generally speaking, these reactions are usually to some tune of "surprise."

Maybe they're really used to me showing up at places with my tape measure on my belt and my pencil in my hat. Maybe they're used to me hanging out in coffee shops when normal people are working. I think, however, they're just used to the idea that I'm completely, unapologetically, unashamedly UNCOOL. Actually, when I consider that, even I find it hard to believe that I once worked in an environment where being hip was a prerequisite.

I know what you're thinking..."No way, Graham - YOU ARE THE COOLEST PERSON I KNOW!" I'm so, so sorry to have to do this, O imaginary blog fans, but the truth is quite contrary, and I think I'll give up lying for lent...or at least for today.

Good Ol' HootenAnnie Parsons recently alluded to guilty pleasures in one of her blogs...I realized that I don't actually feel guilty about some pretty lame pleasures. How am I "uncool?" Let me count (some of) the ways:
  • I keep a copy of Lord of the Rings next to my bed and read it cyclically.
  • AND I would gladly join Dwight Schrute if he went to New Zealand and journeyed from Hobbiton to Mordor.
  • I know spells from Harry Potter better than Seamus Finnigan.
  • I don't just think Saturday Morning Cartoons suck now, I've got a multifaceted argument to prove it.
  • When I get home from work, I put on Nickelodeon. iCarly is my favorite.
  • I appreciate Van Halen's "Jump" for it's musical genius & still listen to it even when I'm not at an eighties party.
  • If it wouldn't scare the majority of my clientele, I'd always rock my Fu-Graham-Chu.
I could go on for days. I guess my point here isn't really to show how uncool I am, but more so remind myself that a lot of the uncool things about me are what make me who I am.

To quote Philip Seymour Hoffman's character in "Almost Famous:"
"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with somebody when you're uncool."
I had trouble communicating with people at the record company, and often times just people in Nashville, because of this. For quite some time now, I've been pretty okay with my uncool preferences...Okay, okay...perhaps a bit TOO okay with them sometimes. 8) It's often difficult finding somebody who is either okay with their uncool preferences and/or okay with mine. But I'll tell you what - I couldn't even begin to put a value on the friends of mine with whom I share the bond of mutual uncoolness. Nothing compares to the freedom to be one's self - not to mention having friends who encourage this whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, here's to you, my friends who accept me for who I am...the good AND the bad. You've been a source of saving grace for me and will continue to be such.

AND, while I'm bleeding here on the altar of dignity...

I may or may not have watched most of "The Devil Wears Prada" last night.
I may or may not have changed the channel quickly when my buddy Aman arrived to watch 24 with me.
I may or may not have to borrow it from one of you so I can see the end.
I may or may not have a bit of a thing for Anne Hathaway.

On a far more manly note...I started yesterday by watching "Invincible" with Mark Wahlberg and ended it by watching Jack Bauer beat up on bad dudes.

Hey, I'm okay with being uncool...not unmanly.

In the words of Miranda Priestly, "That is all."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colds are STUPID!

I'm into my fourth day of having a wicked-annoying cold. I'm in a sour mood because of it, and I'm just going to embrace that, so buckle in.

Mindless musings of a man on Sudafed...

I spent Monday & Tuesday sick on the couch, for the most part, which doesn't really happen all that often. I redboxed "Coraline" which was pretty cool. On Tuesday, I bought "The Patriot" on Blu-ray because it was on sale. I hadn't seen it in a while, but I know why it's on sale.

At one of my high school track meets, I was about as sick as I am now...not sick enough to stay home, but certainly not well either. I brought a bottle of Dayquil to that meet, determined that I would not be sitting out...and I didn't. I wasn't really thinking about what I was doing and began treating that bottle like cough lozenges. Well, half a bottle later, my dad retrieved me from lying sprawled out at about the 50-yard line. He told me the meet was over and it was time to go. It was the only track meet I ever won all four of my events. (to his credit, my buddy Mike who was my long jumping superior, was on an injured ankle that day.)

One good thing about saying home sick is that you know you just can't work. I couldn't focus on email, and I surely wasn't about to go out and fix somebody's "something or other." There is a certain degree of liberation that comes with that. It usually gets squelched, however by the fact that we need money and we can't make it while we're sick on the couch.

A couple of years ago, my flag football team had their playoffs all on a Saturday. I was, of course, sick as a dog. I knew I needed some Dayquil (I take recommended dosages these days), but I knew I also needed some caffeine, so I grabbed a Full Throttle energy drink on the way to the game. Let's just say I wasn't exactly at my best that day. I remember the huddle felt a bit like the circle of Charlie Brown's friends swaying around the Christmas tree...or was that the Who's (I debated on that apostrophe...too sick to care) of Who-ville? Well, the huddle wasn't swaying, but it sure seemed like it.

Colds suck because they have to run their course. I can't arm-wrestle a cold. I get really frustrated with them because they block off my nose entirely so I can't sleep properly. In exhaustive stupors, I lose my cool and get really frustrated and angry at the cold, which makes it even more difficult to fall asleep. Not to mention the fact that I have to try and sleep sitting up in attempt to keep my nasal cavity open.

Perhaps colds are a reminder for us to be empathetic toward one another. We all get colds, and they're not fun for anybody. Note to self, take care of the where have I heard that before?!?

In closing:

If I could punch a cold in the face, my fist would come out the other side of its head.

That's how much I hate colds.

More cohesive and positive thoughts to come!

Special thanks to Rod Jones this morning, whose blog posting made me laugh so hard I literally cried into my cereal!

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Super than the Super Bowl???

So, I had a Superbowl party last night, and it was FANTASTIC!

I love hosting/throwing parties at my house...and I must say that I put on some pretty good parties, if I do say so myself. 8)

I'll get to my point in a little bit, but let me go ahead and set the scene here:

A month ago, my buddy Aman (the one who decided 2010 is my year) called me and said, "Hey Stoner, are you planning on throwing a Superbowl party?!?" I thought about it for a second, remembered how much fun my SB party was last year and replied, "Uhh, heck yeah, man!"

As of yesterday, 14 people had RSVP'd to my party, which is plenty to have a great party. For those of you who don't live in Nashville, RSVPs for Nashvillians are meaningless. Case in point...from six pm till ten pm last night, there were between 40 & 50 people in my house...err there were that many people in my living room and kitchen all night, and somehow it worked.

It didn't take me long to realize Aman's true intentions to have me host the Superbowl party...he wanted to throw a good party, and my house is kind of a party house. Let's get something straight: I absolutely LOVE IT when my house gets volunteered as a party-hosting site!!!

Aman showed up with two marvelous party platters from Jimmy John's. He also set up a beer taste test with voting sheets and all. My buddy Hunter made three pots of chili - two pots with different spice levels and one pot of vegetarian chili. These guys and my friend Julie showed up early to help set up...Hunter even helped wipe-down my kitchen and bathroom while I hustled to make final preparations. I'd spent most of the day alleviating the disarray of my bachelor small task. I spent much of Saturday building a mount to hang my projector from the ceiling in my kitchen so we could watch the "big game" in BIG. The kitchen is always where people congregate and chat anyway. For the die-hard fans, the TV in the living room was accompanied by surround-sound. For those who didn't really care, I set up a few Atari games in my bedroom.

As kickoff came and went, people began showing up in droves, and they all brought what we'd asked them to bring. I quickly ran out of counter and table space for all the food, and I'm pretty sure my house was in some sort of fire code violation.

I ask you: Are there any better times in life than being in a house surrounded by good friends while enjoying the over-abundance of food and drink at your disposal???

I'm going to brag about my great friends now a bit. As the game concluded and the night wound down, people began cleaning up my house for me. I watched as my friend Jen washed my dishes for me. Not only was the trash properly disposed of, the recyclable trash was separated out for me. Somewhere during the night, somebody emptied my regular trash can. My friend Christy made a heroic, emergency run to the store in the middle of the game as we had a ton of chili, but no bowls to put it in. This happens at my parties almost every time. My friends are awesome!

So my point: My favorite part about parties is that it's a great excuse for me to be surrounded by the wonderful people I have the privilege and pleasure of calling my friends. I also get to watch worlds collide as these individuals intermingle and find common ground in the crucible that my house becomes. If you take a moment to soak in a situation like that, it can be pretty overwhelming. Hardly all of my Nashville friends were in my house last night, and yet in that small collection of personalities, I had in my house last night more value than any bank, any vault, any treasure on earth.

Here's to a great night! Here's to my friends! Here's to the Saints' first Superbowl win! Umm...the Saints won, right?!?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

sprinting's for the dogs... (storytime)

Twice in less than 12 hours, I found myself in a fully-street-clothed, dead sprint.

The first time was last night after our East Nasty run...yes, after the actual run. We had just finished enjoying our post-run beverages at the Three Crow bar as usual and decided to go get some food somewhere a little less smokey. Three Crow is delightful, but when they can't open the windows, and it's too cold to enjoy hanging out on the deck, the smoke gets to be a little too much. Anyway, I'd said my goodbyes and on the way out, I ran into my friend Christy who was waiting in her car to see if I'd like a ride. I thanked her, declined, said I'd see her there, then started jogging up the street to my car. I heard Christy hit the gas with a little bit of gusto, and found myself inspired to do the same. Full-sprint up 11th street in East Nashville. I'm pretty fast, but I have a little trouble outrunning a car. It felt good, so I kept going long after Christy passed me.

The second time was this morning right in front of my house. I'm dog-sitting a good little dude named Wrigley who decided that my fence was not going to confine him this morning. A fellow after my own heart, Wrigley doesn't like to come when he's called. Trying to keep my cool so he would come back to me, I jogged after him for about a block. When I caught up to him, I finally got his attention and tricked him into chasing me. Wrigley's a Rhodesian Ridgeback and has some WHEELS. As I said before, I'm no slouch on a short sprint, so we had quite the race...he let me win. Dead sprint number two.

OK...I have to finish chase story. As he casually meandered down towards a mindlessly busy street, I began to lose my cool a little bit...I can't handle the idea of a dog getting hit by a car...just can't handle it. Fortunately, he ran through the gate into one of my neighbor's fenced-in backyard (last house on the right before the busy street...phew). Lucky break. I waited at the gate for the final showdown. OK Corral time:

Picture inside-the-park home run. Wrigley took a speedy lap around this yard like he was running the bases. As he rounded third, I crouched in my best catcher's crouch and got ready. He didn't hesitate for a second and ran straight at me. Wrigley was about reenact the scene from "Major League II" when Willie Mays Hayes takes home plate despite the catcher already holding the ball. I braced myself for impact and waited to show him that 190lbs. is a lot heavier than his 35lbs. At the last second, however, I noticed a peculiar look in his eye and I knew exactly what he was about to do. I put my hands up and performed something between a penalty kick save, and a high tackle on a wide receiver trying to get past the safety. Little punk tried to jump me. How did I know that look in his eye? Because he did exactly what I'd have done...I knew I liked this dog. As my nose bled a little, I held him cradled like a baby (his punishment was humiliation), then carried him up the street to be unceremoniously placed into his crate with "NO COOKIE, MISTER!" more sidebar: I played on a softball team called "The Farm Team" with some friends this fall. We lost every game but one. With two outs during our last at-bat during one of our games, I walked up to the plate with a fool's hope to rally. I popped a safe base hit into the outfield, but was simply not content with staying at first base. Despite slipping in the mud and the ball already en route to second base, I stayed the course. Realizing that the ball was beating me there, I knew it was time for drastic measures. It must have been the energy drink talking, but I made to jump over the girl manning second base. It occurred to me what I was doing as I was jumping and I hesitated...

Had I followed through with my plan, I would have flown over her as she turned to tag me low, and I would have had a fighting chance at getting there first...not to mention earning a spot on ESPN's sports reel. As it turned out, I didn't follow through. I jumped straight up in the air and fell in the mud about two feet from the bag, was tagged out with ease, and the game was over. I guess it was more like this scene from "Major League." Everybody laughed. Eh, whatevs...I'm okay with trading the sports reel for the comedy reel.

Anyway, I was going to make some sort of pontification about sprinting, but for now, I'll just say "to be continued..."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So much more, indeed.

On Friday night, as I stood outside Melrose Pub watching a long-awaited, decent snowfall here in Nashville, the conversation between my buddy Ian and me delved just slightly into the unfathomable realm of dreams. Dreams are some of the most curious of phenomena that we get to experience. They're so very telling.

Although I find dream interpretation incredibly fascinating, fascination may be the only real value to them. As Dumbledore said, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." What's so telling about dreams then?

Some people say we humans use only about ten percent of our brains. Ten percent may be an inaccurate figure, but it seems true that we're nowhere near optimal utilization of the capacity of our minds. I think dreams are a huge indication of this. As the dream world is a place where we don't necessarily have to play by the constraining rules of reality, it's a place where thoughts involuntarily stretch into freedom. Seriously - sometimes we wake up and can connect the dots in our dream to events from the day before. Sometimes, however, we wake up wake up wondering "Where the hell did that come from?!?" In dreams, we arrive at thoughts that NEVER could have manifested in the chaining sobriety of being awake.

In my newly-found, somewhat-forced addiction/obsession/habitualization of reading AND my learning how to listen better, I've begun to start my mornings by reading other peoples' blogs. I think it's awesome how I can actually hear some of my friends' voices when I read their blogs, and some of them seem to have this alternative personality who comes alive in the blog world.

This morning, I stumbled onto the blog of a friend named Greta Weisman whilst checking out the blogroll of my friend Hitoshi Yamaguchi. You may recognize Greta's name from some affiliation with the great HootenAnnie Parsons, through whom I originally became acquainted with Greta. Ok, I'm done name-dropping now.

Anyway, Greta's blog from yesterday detailed some of the pangs of being a first-year teacher. She eventually came to a comment to the effect of "I'm not just a teacher." Greta, you're so very right.

The world we've built on top of the original creation is incredibly binding. What I mean is that our human value structure is often so myopic (money, superficial beauty, status, etc.) that it prevents us from blossoming into our intended individual beauty. It's so common for a person to think they ARE their profession. I'm a teacher. I'm a doctor. I'm a handyman. Period. These are all honorable employs, yes, but as Greta highlighted, it's a mistake to stop there.

I am a man whose occupation is being a handyman. Graham Scott Stoner was created, however, to enjoy music, running, reading, writing, building things, eating...the list goes on, and will continue to grow as I age. THAT is who I am...not just a handyman. Generally speaking, the majority of things that make me who I am are not things that make me money. In this year of discovery, these are the things I hope to start learning about my friends. I hope to stop telling them apart by what they look like and what their job is. I want to tell them apart by the thoughts/desires inside of them that make them who they are.

Kudos to you, Greta. You most certainly are so much more than a teacher.