Monday, January 31, 2011

The eyes of a baby girl

My friends, Josh and Meredith, got married this weekend, and I attended their wedding. I have this rotten habit of arriving at weddings mere seconds before the bride and her posse make their entrance. This wedding was no exception. Staying true to form, I got stuck in the very last seat in the back of the groom's section.

I'm not really much of a ceremonious type of dude. Ceremonies feel scripted and a bit impersonal to me. The receptions, on the other hand, are where people usually let their hair down. Receptions are much more my style. We have the option of two-way communication with each other, and we don't have to worry about composure so much. We "commune" with each other.

That being said, my mind is unlikely to stay focused through a wedding ceremony, no matter how hard I try. This was no exception. Part way through the service, a father sitting in front of me hoisted his little baby up so that she was face-to-face with me...this is where my memory of the wedding starts getting fuzzy.

She stared at me the whole time, unabashedly. I could only return her gaze for so long before I felt embarrassed and kept having to look away, but eventually I found I couldn't look away from her.

I've had an issue with eye contact since I was 15. The girl I was dating mentioned that the way I made eye contact made her uncomfortable, and I didn't want her to feel that way. In that simple sentence she transfered her discomfort and insecurity to me, and to this day, as I stand on the doorstep of 30, eye contact is a huge struggle for me.

A little over a year ago, I wrote this blog, which cryptically alludes to this struggle of mine, and some other things. I had honestly forgotten about what I said that day until I got caught in that little girl's tractor beam. In her eyes, a multitude of things revealed themselves to me. I saw beautiful innocence. I saw peace. I saw truth. I saw confidence. I'm not sure I can explain this, but the oddest, most prominent thing I think I saw in those eyes was forgiveness...almost as if that's the one thing she wanted to convey to me. All in the eyes of that baby girl who can't even talk yet!

Eventually, she lost interest in me, got fussy, and was taken out into the lobby. Immediately, I felt a bit like somebody turned out the lights and the room was suddenly short on oxygen as I came out of the trance. I guess it's been a long time since I've taken the time to really see something as beautiful as a little baby girl. I never saw her again, and though that makes me sad, I know it's ok. We exchanged a few moments where she was the teacher and I was the student, and that was the end of our story.

There isn't really a point to this, because I'm not sure I understand it yet. I do know it was beautiful, and I've got a lot of other thoughts in my head now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Extended Weekend Power-Fail

My car broke down five times between Friday night and Monday morning.

On Friday night, I was on my way back from working in Franklin when my radio died and my dash lights started dimming. I know those signs...the alternator crapped-out two blocks from my house...REALLY? (Yes, I'm thankful it wasn't further away, but still.)


Rod picked me up, and we got the battery charged just enough. I ran every stop sign till it died pulling into my driveway.


Saturday morning, I should have rested in light of my 3-mile time trial on Sunday, but I stubbornly ran anyway.

Saturday afternoon. With coffee, a few rides to O'reilly & Autozone, and an extra hand catching nuts & bolts I pulled out of my car (all of which were provided by my friend, Brittany), I replaced the alternator and Hellboy (that's my Jeep's name) ran again.

Saturday night. "Check Engine." Now, Ol' Hellboy's got almost 200k miles on 'em now. I've had that light come on for nothing, many times, in many vehicles. I decided to proceed with caution and drive.

Sunday morning - The 3-mile Time Trial. I missed my goal by 12 seconds...probably because I was an idiot and ran the day before...or maybe I'm just not in good enough shape. Either way, FAIL.

Later that morning...Car breaks down in Shelby Park by lake. I eventually get it started, then to Hunter's, then home, thanks to Rod and Brittany again.


I walked/jogged to the bar that afternoon and bummed rides from Hunter and Drew the rest of the day. I spent most of the day wondering what I could possibly have screwed up on the alternator to cause this.

Monday morning - I take Ol' Hellboy to my man, Ali, at David's Tire and Alignment. Unfortunately, his code reader's busted, so I have to run down to Autozone to get it read, but it's there that my car...breaks down.


Eventually fired it up with some starter fluid and made it to the intersection of Nolensville & Thompson where it broke down...TWO blocks from Ali's place.


On Monday, I paid for a tow truck for the first time in my life, and paid to have somebody ELSE fix my car for the first time in at least six years. Ali explained it all to me, and was kind enough to show me that I'd installed the alternator fine, and that the distributor was a completely unrelated issue.

As it's still "Dry January," I couldn't just meet somebody for a drink to cap this off properly. So, I ended the night quietly at home with a meal from Fat Mo's, a chocolate malt shake, a half box of Swiss Rolls, and the "A-Team." A reasonable substitute, I guess.

It's not for sympathy that I record this story. We all have really bad days so that we can properly appreciate the really good days when they happen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bachelor Power!

I used to wonder if growing up betwixt two sisters made me soft. I guess it probably did a little bit in some ways. Just like dudes have to be dudes, ladies have to be ladies, and I think I probably have a bit more patience/understanding for that than most dudes. I mean, have you MET my sisters? 8)

Every once in a while, if I'm feeling like I'm just not "dudely" enough, I stop, take a deep breath, and look around my house.

Being a single guy who lives alone, I have a lot of freedom:

Wardrobe changes: I can change clothing anywhere in my house. It's not uncommon for me to have to race home, after inviting people over, and have to pick up all of the clothing that has been shed in all of the rooms in my house. I'm usually just in a hurry to get to a run, or tired, or watching TV and don't see any reason to leave the room. For that matter, I'm not really obligated to wear any clothing at all while I'm home alone, now am I?

I like having things readily accessible. I have three guitars in my living room. Why? Because if they're in their cases in the next room, I'm going to be less apt to play them. That's the reason why my vacuum is prominently placed between two of those guitars...actually that's a lie. I bought the dude equivalent of the "roomba." It's the irobot "Dirt Dog," (I named him Sanchito) and is designed to tidy up one's workshop. Seems to work well in my house though. I don't know why that other vacuum's there.

I have lockers in my room for all my running gear. I broke the glass globe of the light on the fan in my living room punching for the sky during "another MTSU First Down" over a year ago...doesn't bother me. There are a leaf blower and a hedge trimmer in the corner of my kitchen because...well, I don't know why exactly. I have a quilt on my bed that is camouflage with army tanks and such on it - matching pillow cases too. Uh, my movie collection...HELLO.

But guys, I took things to a whole new level yesterday. Are you ready for this?!?

Not the tools on my kitchen table, not the sweaty jacket hanging in the back, or even the stuff all over my fridge. Nope...Look all the way to the top. That, my friends, is a pull-up bar...IN MY KITCHEN!!!

Ok, I suppose you're asking why (and probably rolling your eyes...I get that sometimes).
  1. cause it's AWESOME!
  2. I ordered inversion boots and there was no room to hang upside-down anywhere else in my house so I'd still have room to move and do exercises.
  3. umm, did I mention that it's AWESOME?!?
  4. err...that's all I got.
Yes, I can get it back down and patch the holes in no time when I go to sell my house, but for now, it's MY house, and as such, shall maintain optimum level of dude-ness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some pull-ups to do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Backwoods wiring...

So Neal, one of my fellow East Nasties, came to me the other day apologizing that he was unaware of my profession and the fact that I'd been voted Nashville's Best Handyman in 2008 & 2009 - Yeah, I was too busy doing other stuff to win last year. 8) No biggie at all, Neal. I don't go around touting that award...I'm too busy touting all my other, far more lucrative abilities.

Anyway, Neal asked me if I'd be willing to come look at a ceiling fan, and a vintage media console for him. He'd actually done a fine job installing the fan himself, but the wiring in his place was causing some confusion. The console had been working fine, but upon a little bit of moving the power cord, it just stopped working.

The fan was a pretty straighforward fix (for somebody like myself...Neal was right to be confused), and I even got to wire up a couple of remote controls for the fan. I've probably mentioned my enjoyment of electrical work. Generally speaking, it's clean...I don't have to play in sewage or get covered in drywall, and when you're done, the payoff is getting to see a light turn on, or an outlet work. Plumbing offers similar payoffs, but you often have to get at least wet, if not "yucky" to get to the payoff.

Fan - Check. I moved onto the console. It was one of those cool old consoles that looks like a piece of wooden furniture, but discretely houses a stereo usually featuring a turntable, a radio, sometimes a cassette player, and maybe if you're really lucky, an 8-track player. Neal seemed to think the cord may accidentally have been wrenched loose, causing the unit to refuse to power up.

I took the back off and began digging around, but couldn't find any shorts or breaks in the power cord, so I dug a little deeper. After another couple of minutes I came across a small set of RCA jacks. They looked as though they were from the same vintage as the console, so I'd overlooked them before. This time, however, I noticed scotch tape and safety pins, which are not components that manufacturers typically use when fabricating electronic audio devices. It was a sure sign of backwoods rigging!

Whoever had this console before tried to rig up an auxiliary speaker output jack. They did so by pushing safety pins through the existing speaker wires, then looping them through the respective contacts on the jack. Then they used the scotch tape to "insulate" them so they wouldn't touch.

I'll give them credit...this was pretty resourceful, and somewhat ingenious. I've done plenty of projects @ 2am, when Hope Depot is closed and I'm limited to whatever parts I've got sitting around...something tells me that wasn't the case here. I took the safety pins out of the wires and the unit fired back up. (Honestly, I'm not sure what that had to do with the power not coming on, but it works now...maybe I'm just overlooking something.) At any rate, Neal & I had a good laugh about it, and were both glad to see that thing making music again.

Anyway, thought you guys might get a kick out of that...I know I did. 8) For anybody that cares, I've included some facts below. For everybody else - or maybe just everybody - catch you next time!

Boring facts:
  • They actually make wire splices that do something similar to what the safety pin was doing...but those actually work.
  • Safety pins aren't actually bad conductors.
  • Scotch tape is NOT a good insulator.
  • Most speaker wire connections INSIDE a stereo unit will be soldered. The safety pins were just dangling...sometimes making the connection, sometimes not.
  • It's generally a bad idea for any two wires (speaker/power/etc.) to touch if they are not meant to be touching.
  • feel free to add your own...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Born to Run + ENFL

Guys, I cried a little bit yesterday.

No, I didn't try and cut a glass bottle with my teeth. I did try the Jedi mind trick though...I figure it can't hurt, right...actually, I think I try that on something almost everyday. I digress. The truth is, I cried because I finally finished the book, "Born to Run," by Christopher McDougall.

I've heard the hype for two+ years and just now read the book. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that I'd actually used many of the theories from the book (passed on to me by fellow runners) to change my running life for the better. The story behind it, however is worth every bit as much as the facts found amidst it.

You know why I cried? It can be summed up in four words:

I don't want to risk butchering McDougall's story at all, so this will be quite cryptic, but his story reminded me of why I love East Nasty AND Running.

Last weekend, I ran with my friend Julie, and somehow we got onto the subject of struggling through long races. The surprising thing is never ends badly. Whether it's a close friend, or a random weirdo you've never met, somebody is always there to pick you up when you fall, or encourage you through it when you think all hope is lost. ALWAYS.

Julie actually coaxed me through the disaster that became my first marathon attempt, which involved agonizing side stitches, an IT band lock-up on my right knee, and a thunderstorm which made them call the race before I had the chance to finish. That day I was pulled off the course at 20.5 miles on a 26.2 mile course.

That's why McDougall's account and reference to the community that running provides brought tears to my eyes...because I've been basking in that beauty for almost three years now, if my memory serves me correctly. It's changed my life, and quite possibly saved it.

So last night, in honor of this great book and Running in general, I broke out my Vibram fivefingers and did my normal Monday night 6-miler...I'd forgotten how good the earth feels when your bare feet (almost bare in this case) meet it. Then I swung by Kroger to pick up some pinto beans, corn tortillas and some cilantro to enjoy a RarĂ¡muri-style recovery meal.

If you don't run, I hope you find yourself doing it someday. I hope you can find a group like East Nasty has been to me. If you do run, I hope you get frequent reminders of how good we have it. If you haven't read the book, you're doing yourself a true disservice, and perhaps those around you as well.

I believe it firmly. We are born to run.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Cut Glass Bottles (a video how to)

My friend Gail (I call her HandyGail) has a wonderful blog called "My {re}Purposed Life." Some of you may also know HandyGail as my friend Jamie's mom (the HandyGraham shop is in Jamie's garage).

The last thing I'll say about Gail is that if you don't go see her blog, it's your loss...aside from that, her blog speaks for itself far better than I ever could. Gail did mention something about cutting glass bottles the other day. It just so happens I know a thing or two about that, so I decided to make my first "How to" videos on cutting glass bottles. There are 3 videos below. Enjoy!

Glass Bottle Cutting 101 - (the contraption)

Glass Bottle Cutting 102 - The Tile Saw

Glass Bottle Cutting 103 - Edge Clean-up

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hey Jealousy

Ironically, I heard that song yesterday, and hated it just as I've always done.

I'm jealous today because I read my friend Sarah Brown's blog earlier, and she's headed to Tahoe to go skiing this week. Many southerners have to specify that as "snow skiing," but everywhere else, it's just "skiing."

Anyway, Sarah expressed some insecurities about her skiing abilities...well, this one's for you, Sarah.

A few years back, I was visiting my Uncle and his family out in Colorado and we decided to hit the slopes at Winter Park. I'm a pretty competent snowboarder. I'm not afraid to hit the double diamonds and hammer them out. I'm a far, FAR cry from that mutant Shaun White, but I do like to try and hit the jumps when I can.

There were about 10 of us who went up there together for the day, so we all went to our favorite parts of the mountain and agreed to meet for lunch at noon or something.

For most snowboarders, the mogul field is a nightmare. For me, however, it is a smorgasbord of jump after jump after jump...and I LOVE IT! I found a huge field of moguls that ended in a big powdery section with a sweet jump in the middle of it and dug in.

Perhaps I'll venture a bit more honesty about my snowboarding capacities: I can carve and go fast for problem. I LOVE jumps, but the truth is that I get to snowboard so little that my landings are often a textbook definition of "tumultuous."

I spent the WHOLE morning riding through that mogul field over and after run. I would just go as fast as I could through them until I simply couldn't control myself anymore. Then, I'd crash hard and smash into the next few moguls with whatever body part gravity hated most at the moment. At the end of the mogul field, I'd stand for a second so my eyes would uncross, then head full-speed toward the big jump to attempt some trick that I didn't have a chance in the world at landing.

Lunchtime rolled around, and I was giddy. I dragged myself into the lodge to meet my crew for some nourishment. My uncle said, "Hey Graham, give me your backpack. I put the bread and pretzels in there." I sheepishly handed him my backpack...which I had been wearing for the WHOLE morning crash session. After opening it, he just smiled and looked at me with incredulity asking, "Man, what the hell were you doing?!?" The whole loaf of bread was flat as a board, and the whole bag of pretzels had been reduced to crumbs too small to see with a microscope.

Fortunately, those guys have come to expect a certain degree of crazy from me, so we all had a laugh about it. You guessed it. I went right back out and did the same thing all afternoon.

Anyway...not sure what you should take from this. Go for it? Falling is more fun than not? Don't volunteer to take the bread and pretzels if you treat yourself as a human crash-test-dummy?

Whatever. Have fun Sarah - do some shredding for me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Italian Stallion

Until last night, I had never seen the original "Rocky" movie. I'm ashamed to admit that as I'm from Pennsylvania, and I love Philly, but sadly, there remains an embarrassingly long list of movies that I should have seen already and haven't.

January's off to a quiet start as I'm abstaining from alcohol for the month, and it tends to limit your evening social activities. I was bored last night, and the only movies on TV were "Ironman," which I've seen a few too many times, and "The Crow," which I nixed because I wasn't really in a vengeant mood. Rather than go back out to the redbox, I checked my on demand and decided it was high time that I moved Rocky into the plus column of my movie checklist.

"Rocky" came out in 1976. I was born in 1981. While I was growing up, I watched every Van Damme movie in the video rental store multiple times. I'd seen "Bloodsport" somewhere between a million and infinity times. There's just nothing like mindless, plotless ass-whooping to nurture a teenage boy's brain.

These days, I...well, my taste hasn't changed much. Watching Rocky actually led me to some surprising (to me, at least) realizations.

Movies nowadays not only cater to, but probably also shorten our (already short) attention spans. Every time the camera watched Rocky walk down the road, I was waiting for something to happen, but he just kept walking till he got to his destination. I was waiting for the scene to end/transition. Since they never ended quickly, I was under the impression that they were just building suspense for something bad to happen. The loan shark would come rough Rocky up, Apollo Creed would send the media to humiliate him, or maybe the ghosts of a thousand British soldiers would crawl out of the Delaware River and ambush him in a hail of musket fire. Nope, the scene was a 30-second walk down the block...end scene. I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it.

I expected the loan shark, Rocky's shady employer, to find some reason to shake Rocky down for money he didn't have so Rocky would have a more desperate cause to beat Apollo. Turns out Rocky was going to get the money, win or lose. The loan shark actually turned out to be a pretty good dude, generously GIVING Rocky money for a date with Adrian and more money later for training strings attached. He even came to see Rocky's fight.

Rocky's training scenes didn't pump me up like I expected them to, and in the end, although Rocky lasted all 15 rounds with Apollo, Apollo still won by decision. The movie didn't make me hate Apollo like I usually have reason to hate antagonists, but I still felt the need to see Rocky floor him.

So...I think I LOVED it. I hadn't realized how conditioned I'd become to expecting a movie to take me from extreme highs to extreme lows. Extreme tension - resolution. Extreme oppression - revenge. Extreme suspense - relief.

I hadn't realized how modern movie scripts are designed to give us such severe mood swings. Stallone was just trying to tell a story about a simple guy, so he kept the story simple. Genius.

Eh, that's all, I guess. Thanks Sly, for a good reminder that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How about some brass tacks?!?

All right tricks...

Enough of all this, "oh, I've been gone so long, what do I write???" crap.

Today, I'm taking a belated snow day.

I've had the good pleasure of meeting a guy through East Nasty by the name of Cheyenne. He and I have struck up a fun friendship right from the off because he's one of the few people I know here in Nashville with an affinity for all things ghetto. Oddly enough, on Sunday at our post-run brunch, after discussing good hip hop, R&B, football and running, we found ourselves discussing (of all things) books.

Now, picture this: Cheyenne and I are isolated off in the corner of this house full of runner-types. I'm wearing my infamous, larger-than-life yellow fleece sweats, a hoodie, and my hat cocked to about 1 o'clock. Cheyenne's in b-ball type shorts, a t-shirt and rocking his ice-stud earrings (I may or may not have a similar set).

I guarantee you that none of my friends at brunch who saw us would have guessed in a million years that the two ghetto kids in the corner were on the topic of literature. Chey and I had quite a few riveting discussions, not the least of which was a debate regarding reading fiction vs. non-fiction books. I'll spare you the details, but by the end of our debate, I'd convinced Chey to read "Call of the Wild" by Jack London, and I was headed straight home to find a non-fiction book to read.

When I got home, I called Rodimus Prime Jones for a suggestion on a good/enticing non-fiction book to read, and he suggested "Devil in the White City." The official classification of my attention span is: "Distracted," so I have a tough time reading books that don't have intriguing stories and knew Rod would have a good suggestion. I was about to run out to snag a copy when I realized that I had a perfectly good non-fiction candidate sitting on my kitchen table.

For years now, I've heard about "Born to Run." Having heard the lessons learned from it recounted to me by my friends many times, I never felt the need to read it. In fact, a year ago, I actually completely changed the way I run altogether as a result of this book that I'd never even opened. As it turns out, I really love running, and this book is not only about that but is rumored to be quite non-fictionally plot-driven. My older sister, Gretchen, who is somewhat new to running (and yet has already completed her first 1/2 marathon with another on the books) lent me this book a few months back after she finished it. It seemed like a no-brainer, so I dove in and am quite glad I did. I'm about 60 pages in and am contemplating a trip to Mexico ASAP. Perhaps I should finish the book before I do anything rash.

Hasta entonces - ¡Que corran bien amigos!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

harder than I'd thought...

It's Thursday morning. I'm at my favorite coffee shop, Crema. I just saw my friends Cindy & DJ Murphy. I'm wearing my sweet North Face fleece. Last night was our weekly East Nasty run. I'm having a writer's bottleneck.

Many of you have known me as a bit of a talker. Historically, it's actually how I used to work my thoughts out...rotten luck to those innocent bystanders who were ambushed by my raw thought process.

One of the reasons I grounded myself from reading/writing blogs was this: I'd get so caught up in my own head trying to figure out my thoughts and the thoughts of those around me, I'd occasionally sort of forget that the real world actually exists. So, in my 313 days of penance/freedom, I have gotten MUCH better about not over-thinking, but rather, living.

So, I'm sitting here thinking...
-have I forgotten how to think/ponder?
-do I even remember the dude who wrote all these old handygraham blogs?
-gosh...blogging is harder than I remember.
-do I backtrack and tell old stories, or do I focus on moving forward?
-this blog is getting way too serious.
-my pandora hip hop station kicks ass.

Woah, ok, I think I just needed to get that crap out. I feel way better now. Getting back into blogging is, indeed, harder that I'd thought. Feels like my rhythm's starting to come back now. I owe you guys something fun for wading through that, so I'll leave you with this...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I think I feel a pulse...

Dear blog-world - It's been 313 days since my last confession.

I kind of picture today's blog like so many movie scenes where somebody just disappears unexpectedly, and without any type of warning. People have long since forgotten that the person is gone, and then... Peter Pettigrew shows up on the Marauder's Map.

I thought to myself yesterday, "What do you blog about when you've been off the reservation for the better part of a year?" Well, how about why?!?

Perhaps you're asking...where have you been? The short answer is: "bricks & mortar." The longer answer begins with this: I grounded myself from all things blogging, and... You know...I'm just going to leave it at that. 8)

So, if you were enjoying my blogging, I do apologize for the not-so-brief lapse. If you weren't enjoying it, you're welcome. Also, I haven't read any blogs during this span either... If I missed anything, I hope you told me.

Why come back now?

-I talked to my buddy, Cary Graham (The Hack Novelist) the other day about his blog, and it must have called my writing spirit out of slumber.
-I also checked on Annie's blog the other day to find the sad status of "The Honda." I broke the no blog-reading rule...Hell, I might as well go all in with the writing part too.
-2010 may have been the craziest, best, worst, most-meaningful year of my life. 2011 is going to be a big year, and it's going to need to be documented.
-I've missed writing.

Anyway, not exactly a triumphant return, but seriously if I'd tried to blog about 313 days of material we'd be in quite the cluster right now. More exciting entries to follow...

In the words of Drew Jones, "I think it's safe to say, 'He's back!'"