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With this ring…

Sahtiya, of all the reasons I could talk about for us being here, for asking to marry you, the simplest is love. “I love you. I always have. I want to marry you.” I love this line not just because I do a terrible impersonation of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart Scottish accent, and not just because it’s super appropriate with Andrew wearing a kilt. I like this line because it’s silly (let’s be honest) and because it makes you laugh and smile so wonderfully. But also I like it because, from the moment I met you, my feelings for you started to grow, to deepen, to pervade me. With you I feel every way in which everybody who knows you and loves you does: for your wide and deep intellect, for your openness and warmth, for your curiosity and silliness and for your fully embodied beauty.

What everyone doesn’t know is that you make me feel safe in being vulnerable, you believe in me deeply, you share with me a predilection for boundless personal growth and you inspire in me an infectious joy for life. It’s almost enough to make me feel greedy about wanting to spend every moment with you, until I remember that we met 12 years after we could have.

We joke that we missed 12 years of knowing each other because it’s just been so absurdly fun and so obviously life-changing. What an amazing experience it’s been to discover your whole self. I am so looking forward to deeply engaging in our love for the rest of our lives, and to each day and moment we cover to get there.

 

Alaric, from the very beginning, I knew I had met someone I could spend the rest of my life talking with. You challenge me completely, make me laugh hysterically and I love you absolutely. You are everything I ever thought I wanted in one person and more importantly, everything I need but didn’t know existed.

You magnify the best parts of me and call me out on my worst. You make me feel safe enough to be my truest self and to dream my boldest future; come what may, I know that I will be happy as long as I can make this grand adventure with you. Your wisdom and resilience are my shelter through the storms and you ignite my heart and my intellect.

I can’t wait to begin my life with you, even though I may have dragged my feet for 12 years, and only wrote my vows last night. I will walk any path with you because we will live life to the fullest and I have never had more fun than the time we spend together. And in conclusion… I love you madly.

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Walking on Snow-Covered Grounds

I took a walk on Grounds at the University of Virginia the day after the first real snow in 2014. Pictures include views of the the Corner, Rotunda, Jefferson Monument (1910, Moses Jacob Ezekiel), Chapel and George Rogers Clark “Conqueror of the Northwest” monument (1921, Robert Ingersoll Aitken).

Click the photo below to enter the slideshow. This photoset was also posted on the UVA Global Network.

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Engaged One Year and Counting (Warning: Gratuitous Sentimentality)

Last year on this day I asked Sahtiya to marry me on the High Line in New York City. The proposal was perfectly imperfect, captured on video by my friend Errol Ansalone. The High Line staff at first told me to stay off the grass, but Errol was able to persuade staff to give us a few minutes. We caught Sahtiya by surprise.

Our first official date included salsa dancing on the High Line a short four months earlier. I had discovered the elevated park on my own walks through the city and actually accidentally happened onto the live band and salsa dancing. It made me look pretty amazing though.

Before stopping at the High Line, we went to the stop of the Empire State Building, walked from the ESB to Chelsea Market on the way to the High Line.

After the public proposal, Sahtiya and I stopped to get new shoes at DSW in Midtown Manhattan. Comfortable shoes are crucial for following a mad man intent on making the day memorable, which apparently means walking all over the City.

The shoe shopping slowed us slightly. We arrived at the next surprise stop on time anyway. We shared champagne as a newly engaged couple at The View, a 42nd floor revolving view of the city. For one evening, it was worth the overpriced bottle.

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We squeezed in early to our late dinner reservation at Keens Steakhouse (est. 1885!). The mutton was amazing. I knew that this woman loved steak — rare, so I don’t think we could have found a better place that fit our walking reach (walking [flânerie] was such a critical part of our [and my] New York experience).

Since we were on a high and I have great friends in Brooklyn, we went to a party in the borough. My best friend John surprised us with a toast and champagne. It was a great closing to the night and semi-public announcement of our engagement.

 

We aren’t married yet. The long engagement wasn’t in our original plans, but we’re not great long-term planners. Look for us to try to top our engagement story with our wedding story because we are great at that. Also eating, which is why you can find us at Orzo tonight.

 

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The View from My Front Porch — Photoshopped

This is what happens when a newbie gets hold of Adobe Photoshop (final above, original below). First impression with Photoshop is that it is much easier to use than the Gimp. That is, it was quicker to get to a desired result with photoshop. Gimp is famous for having a higher learning curve though I still feel that the free software (open source, libre, etc.) is the way I’d prefer to go. For industry standards, I can’t at this time see a way around learning both so long as I insist on promoting free software. I do insist.

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How to Move to New York City (Without a Job)

This post first appeared on the UVA Global Network.

The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding. — John Updike

New York is romance; it engenders unmatched love in its residents. We’ve seen the movies and read the books. I decided it was time to get adventurous and make something happen. Vision and opportunity I had, but how do you get to New York with little money and no job? Get creative, and follow these three simple steps.

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Everything I knew about New York City derived from Seinfeld episodes.

Step One: Find a patron.

This is the most necessary step. As you may have heard, New York is expensive. Average rent in Manhattan was over $3,000 in 2012. The good news is that warmhearted patrons are everywhere waiting to part with their hard-earned largesse. As the enterprising youngster in search of material for the finest bildungsroman this side of “Bright Lights, Big City,” all you have to do is ask.

I couldn’t find a patron so I found a friend, which I don’t recommend. Friends make unhappy patrons. Mixing friendship and money is like having beer before liquor (never sicker).

Parents are unhappy already because you don’t have a job so they make better choices as patrons. Unfortunately, your parents don’t live in the city so you still have to find a place to sleep at night.

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A friend and I at Rudy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen. Does my process work?

Step Two: Find a couch.

Friends are a bad idea as your major funders, but they often have serviceable couches.

My friend lived in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is cool. Knowing cool places is a crucial skill on par with knowing the subway (HopStop saves lives). For the best couch-surfing experience, find a friend in one of the cool neighborhoods. If you’re unsure, look for vegan cafes, bars with long lists of IPAs, and record stores that sell vinyl.

I’ll assume you’d like to keep your friends so the next step is to find gainful employment.

Step Three: Find a job.

I was sleeping on an IKEA futon in Brooklyn, jobless, the night before my 30th birthday. Never do this. It leads to long nights.

Be ready to network. Unlike catered networking events in college, this hustle will make you feel dirty. Asking about jobs was my opener at parties. Luckily the hustle is just as much a part of New York culture as a bagel and lox. Fresh faces are looking for a way in and longtime residents are looking for a way up.

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Everything is better on a boat, including the view of Manhattan’s West Side.

Two months after I arrived, networking got me a job with a windowed office overlooking 8th Avenue. I moved to Manhattan. Days of tailoring cover letters were finally over. Veni, vidi, vici, New York.

Moving is hard. New York is harder. But you’re young and resilient; you’ll come out strong and prosperous. I eventually left the city, but I still walk fast, drink hoppy IPAs and enjoy the Brooklyn-like restaurant scene in Charlottesville.

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Say Hello — About a Man About Town

Alaric J. Hammell was born in the Appalachian lowlands of southeastern Ohio and was raised on the Ohio River in West Virginia. He gained appreciation for his roots after stints in New Jersey, Oklahoma and Manhattan. Following love to Virginia, Alaric makes his home with his fiancée in Charlottesville and his living with wizardry in content development, marketing and social media strategy.

OK, now that we’re done with the fluff, let me slide into a first person narrative for the remaining of this introduction. If you’re still reading, then you should at least get something more for your effort than the vague dust jacket bio above.

Quixotic flâneur

Exploring the city gets me up in the morning. And when I say, the city, I mean *the* City. I love New York and cities like her, which partly explains my difficulty getting out of bed in Charlottesville. It’s a wee bit smaller.

There is, however, much to explore. History lives here, mostly because the University is still obsessed with Mr. Jefferson and racial segregation persists, but I have explored and found much to like nevertheless.

Footloose amateur

This year is the first time since the last decade that I’ve spent longer than a year in once place. It also will likely mark the first period on a similar timeline during which I will be working in the same industry. Attaching oneself to another will do that to you.

So I now find myself more anchored and professional than ever before. I get itchy to get up and go. Convincing myself that it’s okay to accumulate some possessions because I won’t be moving myself across the country is difficult. My professional expertise continue to expand at ludicrous speed.

I’ve gone plaid, and there appears to be no turning back. Check back as I continue to historicize myself. Though I stay in one place, everything is in flux.

Wannabe raconteur

Don’t we all have a dream? My dream may be a little tame and undifferentiated from others, but I desire to tell stories through oral, written and visual media. How many white guys want to be writers? I suffer the affliction of hubris, just as well. Who wants to hear what I have to say? Nobody maybe, but I’ve always felt drawn to the asynchronous nature of storytelling. I feel comfortable with that control. I also kind of like the stage.

The full realization of my dream takes my lottery winnings to a Mediterranean island off the coast of Greece. Waking up in the noon o’clock range to the smell of the sea and the promise of lazy labors of love: eating, reading, writing, walking and talking (all in the name of foreplay).

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman

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31 books in 52 weeks, or too much free time

The Reading List 2010

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (January 6)

On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner (January 8)

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy (January 13)

How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, Robert Dale Parker (February 18)

What’s the use of truth? Pascal Engel, Richard Rorty (February 23)

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, Walter Mosley (February 25)

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall (March 10)

The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason (March 11)

Darwin, Tim Lewens (Routledge Philosophers series) (March 21)

Dewey’s Critical Pragmatism, Alison Kadlec (March 26)

Philosophy and Social Hope, Richard Rorty (March 28)

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (April 29)

Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerny (April 30)

The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (May 5)

Morality and the Human Goods: An Introduction to Natural Law Ethics, Alfonso Gomez-Lobo (May 14)

Moby-Dick, or The Whale, Herman Melville (June 9)

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (July 3)

The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology, Peter Singer (August 26)

The Case for Literature, Gao Xingjian (August 31)

The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert (September 1)

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, Neil deGrasse Tyson (September 5)

The Secret Goldfish: Stories, David Means (September 21)

The Pragmatic Turn, Richard J. Bernstein (October 14)

Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, Cornel West (October 19)

Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word, Toni Morrison, ed. (October 22)

Willful Creatures: Stories, Aimee Bender (October 31)

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, Alfred Lubrano (November 16)

Allentown: a novella, Bayard Godsave (November 17)

Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life, Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi, ed. (December 10)

The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates, ed. (December 10)

Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, Noam Chomsky (December 18)