I've Got a Story to Tell

Well actually not only do I have a story to tell but I've come to the conclusion that everyone has a story to tell. The problem is that not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone to listen to their story.

About a month ago, me and some buddies rolled to this new hookah lounge in Blackhawk. Now I had frequented this place maybe 2 or 3 times before this visit but this time I was in a very talkative mood. We had been bbqing the entire day in the park and I may or may not have been drinking since around noon on that day. Anyway, we rolled over to the spot around 11 at night. When we arrived it was the usual workers that I had always seen. Two young boys (probably around my age or younger) and their uncle (I knew it was their uncle because I had asked the time before). I was on a mission to hang out with these guys that night so as soon as we walked in I told the uncle that he had to come and smoke with us. To give you an idea of what this dude's style is like, he's a middle-age middle eastern guy, that always wears a white dress shirt (of course with no undershirt and the top few buttons undone) and lots of jewelry. He also usually has a Bluetooth earpiece on and randomly chats with seemingly imaginary people on the other end. To make a long story short.... he brought his own hookah to our table and sat down with us. His two nephews came over too and they told us basically their lifestory. They were Palestinian and enlightened us about what it was like living in Palestine and coming to America. They sat with us the entire night basically and answered any question we had for them. At times we all broke into heated debate about everything from the Israeli government to who actually killed Mahatma Gandhi. It was an awesome night. I don't know too much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it was seriously mind-blowing to hear all the first-hand stories from these gracious guys.

Why doesn't this happen more? No, I don't mean me hanging out with Palestinians, I mean random conversations, with random people, about real topics. I really miss freshman year in college for this reason. We would stay up super late and just chat about anything. It seemed like as soon as one random topic was completely exhausted someone would chime in with another totally random question and we would all go nuts on it. Sometimes I just crave these random rambling conversations. I think they're healthy because they 1) let you understand your friends better (when you have them with your friends), 2) let you understand yourself better (when you have them with random people), 3) and make you think about things that you would have never sat by yourself and thought about. So am I promoting sitting around and talking about deep topics with your closest friends? No, not at all.

I feel like the opportunity to hear other people's story is all around us. It could be the cab driver that drives you to club night tonight. It could be the girl sitting next to you on the train. It could be the man working behind the counter at the 7-11 (I've had some awesome conversations with clerks before). I remember one conversation I had with an old man on a place. Actually I don't remember any of the conversation except one thing. He said that whenever he gets overwhelmed he thinks of his granddaughter. Whenever he visits her, he would pick her up above his head and she would say to him, "Grandpa, I can see the entire world from up here." For some reason I think about that line when I lose sight of life and need some perspective. I've had cab drivers from all sorts of African countries (that have told me about their country) even one in Austin, who's contact information I got because he was so awesome to chat with.

What's kind of sad these days is that people kind of keep to themselves when they're in public. On public transportation people are rocking their iPods and I see people eating by themselves all the time at restaurants (I hate seeing that). Would it be weird to ask someone eating by themselves to join your party? Why don't they make a restaurant where each table is different topic? Or better yet, half of the restaurant is just seating for people that want to actually talk to each other.

We have on family friend in Texas that is probably the friendliest woman I've ever met. You know when you ask someone to take a picture for you (when you're on vacation)? Well before digital cameras were around, she would take other people's pictures on her camera too and get their contact information and actually keep in touch with them. Talk about great communication skills. I guess I'm getting a little off topic here though.

The point is, everyone around you has a story to tell. Some of them know what their story is and some of them need people to ask them questions to formulate that story. Some of them have told their story many times and have refined it to perfection and others have yet to even spread their gospel to the world. Think about the random people you encounter every single day! The grocery store clerk, the gas station attendant, the stranger at work, and many many more. Remember they each have a story to tell.... are you going to listen?

Random Acts of Marination

So sorry I haven't posted in a while. My new promise to you my avid reader.... two post a week. Yeah you heard it right. Two posts a week. And if I don't and you call me on it.. free dinner for you. So it's 5 AM... I've been out all night and I want to be random so here comes stream of VLoveness.

There are 3 songs I've been thinking a lot about lately (you should download all 3 right now!). They are Bobby Caldwell - "Open Your Eyes," William Bell - "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" and Stevie Wonder - "Ribbon in the Sky." Let me know when you download them so I can welcome you to your new life. William Bell's "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" is one of the greatest songs my ears have had the pleasure to experience. Also if you've never heard any Donny Hathaway, your life is not as pleasurable as it could be.

I was going to be super randocious with this post but I've decided to focus on music instead. Growing up my sisters were HUGE music fans. I HATED! music. They would sing all these 80s songs and we would watch Disney movies and they would sing along. It all rubbed me the wrong way. Then one day I was in the bathroom and I caught myself saying/singing "tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.. beauty and the beast..." I thought to myself... what the hell. Where did that come from? Anyway unfortunately my sisters heard me singing that on the toilet and clowned the shit out of me for a while. Anyway I guess that's the first time I remember enjoying music. Weird eh? Don't judge me! My musical life was born and I never looked back.

My buddy David and Joey and my sisters would become the foundational elements for my music tastes today. My sisters implanted that 80s flavor in my head (although I didn't appreciate it till I was older - all that New Order, Duran Duran, the Cure, etc). Anyway, David, Joey and I would only listen to Guns and Roses, Metallica, and Dr. Dre growing up. So I loved hard rock and I loved rap. I'm glad they had such broad tasts because it made me appreciate weird music when I got older.

Question time out: What's the first CD you ever bought? Mine was the Fugees "The Score." I don't even know where it is today but I listened to that CD SOOO much. What's the first concert you went too? Did you have good time? I didn't go to a single concert until I was in college! Can you believe that?

Okay back the post. Middle school was filled with R and B. Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, and Mary J. Blige. Rome, Ginuwine and 3T. I fell in love with hip hop and R and B music. What a great time for school dances. All the songs were dirty but we didn't even know because they were so cleverly soulful. My music taste stayed the same through high school with the occasional rock group I liked but Tupac and Biggie and 90s hip hop were a big influence.

Then I went to college and my head exploded. I don't think I ever thought about music until I went to school. I loved music. I loved certain artists but I never THOUGHT about what I was listening too and what artists were saying. My roommates and homies changed my musical life forever. My drawgoup at Stanford was 5 buddies. They all had crazy different taste in music and they all rubbed off on me! Then the girl I was dating was super into country music and that rubbed off on me too! So I got heavy into conscience hip hop, some folk music, spanish guitar music, and country music. Anyway I guess that's the evolution of my music tastes. Here are some of the greatest music moments of my life:

Acapulco, Mexico:
Me and a bunch of buddies went to Mexico for Spring Break. We brought a couple Country Mix CDs and some of the guys (one in particular - Mike Scrafford) was clowning the shit out of us. Things like "why would you bring that music..' blah blah blah. He's from Kansas mind you. Anyway, one night we came back from partying and everyone was still drunk. Me and Dede threw in one of the CDs and went nuts! We were bopping around the room and singing super loud. Within 5 minutes a bunch of girls from the University of Kansas and some dudes were in our room prancing around and singing with us. Everyone one was belting out the lyrics - oh oh including our buddy Mike Scrafford,who kept saying "this is my songgggg." That shit was classic.

The Booth:
Tyrone and me used to call our room in the Soto Dorm at Stanford, "The Booth." Oh was the booth classic. After parties people from our dorm would come to our room, we would put instrumentals on, and everyone would freestyle. It was such a healthy atmosphere. People who were shy would even get on the mic. It was awesome! One time Gustavo even freestyled in Spanish. That wasn't the best part though. We hated our lives that year for many, many reasons. But something I will never forget is Rones and I would pull ridiculous all-nighters and get frustrated or tired and pause. We would bump some dope beats and just break it down in the middle of our room. Just crazy dance moves, act a fool, do whatever we felt like to relieve our stress. The Booth lives on.

Pre-Formal Strut:
This last one is more obscure but I want to do it again. Sigma Nu Formal my senior year and we were about to roll on the bus to the venue. But right before we left the house, we put on some 70s funk music AND everyone around us got into two rows and we made everyone STRUT down the row. Each person did their own classic strut and busted out. We all got so pumped and I loved every moment of it.

So there it is. I love music. I used to bring the boombox into the bathroom to brush my teeth, take a shower and all over the house. I would listen to music when I was going to sleep and as soon as I got up in the morning. I'm obsessed in other words. Over the years, the people around me have influenced the way I hear and listen to this music and I really appreciate that.

Farmer V

I have no voice. I lost it sometime in the morning on Saturday. It could have been caused by the repeated trips to a new hookah lounge near my house the last month, the insanity that was the Stanford Reunion of sorts Friday night or the diet of Rockstar Energy drinks and Smirnoff the entire day on Saturday. It's been so strange to not be able to express myself because basically the last five years I have made a living by talking. Anyway since I can't really talk too much (or unfortunately belt out songs while I'm driving either), I've been forced to retreat into my head much more than normal. It's been quite interesting actually but in the end a few frustrating revelations have come about:

I'm stressed, maybe even troubled about this whole moving situation. I've never left the Bay. I've never been more than an hour from The Familia. The fact that I'm moving to Chicago in a few months is seriously weighing heavy on me. Don't get me wrong here. I am extremely excited and happy about moving. In a lot of ways though, it's just hard for me to grasp. When confronted with major change I tend to get overwhelmed. I've been thinking a lot about the people in my life (my family and friends) and how those relationships are going to profoundly change once I move. I wasn't thinking about all these deep things at all until sometime late into Saturday night. Not sure why my mind all of a sudden became so frazzled but let me tell you, it came at the tail-end of what can only be described as a Top 5 Weekend of All-Time.

Let me break down the festivities for you in 5 or less sentences! On Friday, the Oakland A's won their series against the Twins, I went to Happy Hour with Rones and Ritz in the city, then went to Singhma Coots birthday party, which ended up being more of a college reunion. Opened my eyes around 8 AM Saturday morning, partook in an early morning delirious laughter session, ate delicious MEXICAN taqueria food for breakfast, and rolled down to the Marina. The NAVY was in town for their annual airshow. We arrived a couple hours early, watched Stanford football at a bar, drank FREE Rockstar and Smirnoff all day and if that wasn't enough we snuck into a roof party for the actual airshow. Mafternoon peaked as I sipped tasty beverages on a roof overlooking the Bay, with Blue Angels screaming directly overhead, a DJ (that actually played my resquests) and ladies and gentlemen, a huge TV with the Tigers/Yankess game on it. Seriously it was one of the most euphoric situations I've ever been in. My buddy leaned over and said, "Vaman it can only go downhill from here for us." That night I saw just about everyone I lived with in college for some classic Karaoke and Bobbito's birthday party. I just sat at karaoke and felt so blessed for all the things in my life.

Sometime between the end of the night and going to sleep, my mind began an intense marination session, which has yet to stop. Maybe it was that I realized that I won't be around all these people I love so much anymore. Maybe it was because I had soo much fun that I was just having fun withdrawal. Whatever it was, it left me with a feeling of want. A feeling of wanting order again. Why can't we just relish in the things that we do have? I'm so focused on what's to come that I've lost sight of enjoying the things I do have before I leave. It reminds me of a quotation that I often marinate on.
"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; The wise grows it under his feet."
I'm doing a little bit better with staying focused on enjoying life in the Bay Area before I leave. The mind is still all over the place and it's still thinking a lot about uncertain things. Argh. I really believe that cultivating and growing the things around you can get you where you need to get. Did that even make sense?

Anyway, here's a video that made me feel bad about my dilemna. This video really blew my mind and made me feel thankful.

My last year in college, I finally sacked up and decided to deliver a spoken word piece at our annual poetry slam. I'm including it below because looking at it reminds me who I am and where I come from. It sounds a lot different when recited but hopefully it gives you some insight into me.

I'm the guy that's asleep on the couch when you come down for lunch because
I'm the guy that spent the entire night talking to Jimi, Dee and Dev about life.
I'm the guy that feels comfortable speaking in front of thousands of strange people but
I'm also the guy that has trouble finding the right words in front of that special girl I have my eyes on.
I'm the guy that still visits his high school because he's afraid of forgetting his past.
I'm a guy who has many things to teach but much more to learn.

I learned about religion from Chuck and Nathan, who are steadfast in their faith but also open-minded.
I learned about attitude from Kurt, who is positive and optimistic no matter what cards life deals him.
I learned that I like sweet girls from SB, who was motivation enough for me to run long distances in high school.
I learned to be the professional dancer that I am today from my sisters, who always forced me to dance at family parties.
I learned not to take life for granted from my grandma, who cries on my birthday because she's afraid that it might be the last one she will see.
I learned to value people again from my cousins in India, who have nothing but each other, which is really all they need.

I believe that having a positive attitude can really change everyday of your life and
I believe that we're all not completely honest with ourselves and
I believe small acts can have a profound impact on the people around us and
I believe the world would be a much better place if people were more empathetic towards one another and
I believe our generation not only has an opportunity but an obligation to bring about positive change to the World.

Who are the people that have made you who you are?
What have you learned?
What do you believe?
I know that it's people like you who have made me the man I am today.... a Vaman to be exact.