Sunday, January 18, 2009

16 things

1. I can sing in four ranges, all of which are missing notes. I'm probably best at minor-key songs (bluegrass, gospel, etc.). As an instrumentalist, I'm the worst musician in my immediate family.

2. I've been paid for haiku by a magazine, or at least its editor/publisher. Albeit only once.

3. I was one of the infants given tetracycline in its early formula, in the mid-1960s, which has permanently (at least, so far) stained my adult teeth beige. They don't look rotten (nor are they), but I really should consider caps.

4. My brother, who couldn't convince his girlfriend to accompany him, once treated me to a Laurie Anderson concert in her stead. She was performing with the same patter as she did on Letterman's show the night or so before, and it wasn't that inspired the first time. My brother and I were sitting in the front row, and we might well've been the only people in the audience not to have stood to give her an ovation. She stared at us.

5. Because some college classmates of mine couldn't convince their girlfriends to come along, I was able to attend not only the first Thelonious Monk Memorial Concert, but also the reception afterward. Thus I met David Amram, Urszula Dudziak, Wynton Marsalis, and T.S. Monk III. And Gerry Mulligan; we literally bumped into each other at a buffet table, both turned around to apologize, and I then burbled, which famously was not the thing to do with Mulligan.

6. I took the Metro train into that concert in DC, but couldn't get my Plymouth Sport Suburban to work properly (as soon as I hit the highway, it would only go in reverse) after making my way back to the Vienna station, thus missing what amounted to a late third date with one eventual ex, another woman, accelerated her expressions of interest very soon after, and that seems like a pretty damned pivotal night in my life as a result.

7. As far as I know, this was the only period in my life when more than one woman was interested in me at the same time. (There was even another.) (Remarkable.)

8. I sparked a very informal anti-Vietnam War demonstration among fellow neighborhood kids at age six. We were riding around our Boston suburb in the back of an old firetruck (rather like a giant pickup truck), and I started everyone flashing peace signs and shouting for an end to the war. Seemed like a good idea.

9. My earliest memories of friends are of a girl, like myself aged 4, and her slightly younger brother, probably of Tlingit or Athabascan ancestry, who lived around the corner in Fairbanks, AK. I thought their mother remarkably beautiful. She was certainly very nice to me. Also of a boy of about 12, who was developmentally disabled and lived down the street...he had an enormous collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. He later was imprisoned for murder, a decade or so later, my parents heard from friends who still lived there.

10. While attending the University of Hawaii, I was elected to the lowest possible elected office in the state, the Student Senate. I was 19th for 19 positions for the College of Arts and Sciences, out of a field of 24 candidates...three of my friends and I ran, in 1983, as the Green Slate.

11. At 18, I believe I was the youngest editor so far of HAWAII REVIEW. I held that position for one month.

12. I was a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist, who might well've achieved highest "selection index" (score) for the year in Hawaii, in 1981. At the assembly where the students were recognized for such things, my name wasn't called, to the bemusement of the other folks I'd done slightly better than; this was not the first nor last time that I'd been shown such a petty slight by that school or other assemblies of pompous folk.

13. I've always been good at such tests, and as a partial consequence have never put much faith in IQ tests as measures of intelligence, as oppose to of IQ test-taking ability. A similar test taken at about the same time could be broken down as Things You Can Do In Your Head, at which I went off the top of the results scale, and Things Requiring You Deal With the Outside World, in which I fell into the Bright Average classification. Mildly telling, I thought.

14. I tend to work too much, in low-reward, high-responsibility positions.

15. As a Type 2 diabetic (both sides of the family, though happily not my parents nor brother so far), I shouldn't drink. Not too tough, but I have a vicious sweet tooth. Alzheimer's on both sides, too, which terrifies me, if less so than it did in my 20s.

16. My ex, mentioned above, noted that I seemed to be able to talk to anyone, though I tend to interview people w/o realizing it, and that I was the only person she knew who actually didn't seem to care what clothes he wore. I think she was ambivalent about the, I suppose, am I.


C. Margery Kempe said...

Wow -- fascinating list, Todd. I've learned a lot of weird things about you. Just to make you feel better, I was a National Merit Scholar (sorry, that's not the make you feel better part) and the only one my school had ever had and *no one* mentioned it to any one. I assumed that they were as common as oh, some kind of common thing. When I found out I was the first ever (my school was dedicated to making better autoworkers for tomorrow) I was depressed. But a good teacher, noting my unusually disturbed nature, asked about it and went to the principal who then decided maybe he should announce it. Feh.

So don't wait for people to notice how great you are -- you don't have to go around blowing your own horn like Miles, but it's okay to let people know.

And as for 14. I tend to work too much, in low-reward, high-responsibility positions: this needs fixing. Value your contribution even if no one else does.

On Facebook, I did the 25 Things (I think people ran out of things and reduced it to 16) on my birthday as it happened:

It's my birthday today.

After pining for a birthday party for my first ten years I finally got one, but setting up a lifetime of disappointment, it was poorly attended and most of the presents were wrapped in Xmas paper.

I have been to an emergency room twice, about twenty years apart, in Los Angeles and Houston.

I cannot explain many of my obsessions.

Nothing exists until I write about it.

I don't believe an ant can lift 25 times its own weight. 24, sure, but not 25.

I love the music of a cello.

Alice in Wonderland dwells in my very cells.

I adore Peter Cook.

I want to be Stephen Fry, but he's already doing such a good job at that I relinquish the wish (sort of).

I want to be Jane Austen too, but without the strain and poverty.

I want to win the lottery just so I can go visit my friends who inconveniently live in very disparate locations.

I am far more sentimental than you think.

I've kept a journal since I was eleven and have them all.

I used to work around the corner from the crowbar skull and the giant hairball at Harvard Med, and that was my favorite thing about the job.

I want to live in London (working on it).

There are so many things I want to write that I am often frozen by indecision and frustrated that I will never finish anything again (but somehow I always do).

I do try to be normal, I'm just crap at it.

I long to be Tom Stoppard, too.

When I was about ten I spent the summer pretending to be the boy in My Side of the Mountain, hoping I could find a falcon of my own and making my shelter in the grapevines in my grandparent's garden.

I have a letter for softball. I played catcher mostly because I was the only one not afraid of the ball, due to years of playing baseball on the four diamonds behind our house that belonged to the Catholic school.

I need to live near water -- must be the Michigan thing, never more than 6 miles from a lake or river.

My head is so full of ideas that sometimes I think it might explode.

I cannot reliably play a kazoo, but I do play the drums, percussion and the kantele.

I want to inspire a song someday.

Todd Mason said...

Cool, Kate...and I note you spell-checked yours, or at least typed it while less punchy. (I shall be revising shortly.)

Oh, I thought it was perfectly representative of my experience at my second, more pretentious high school that they slighted me that way. My grades were inconsistent enough that I wouldn't qualify as a Merit Scholar, so I wasn't too surprised that my semi-intentionally half-assed essay didn't win me those ill-gotten SAT bucks from the Princeton Review folks.

And, of course, it wasn't when Miles was blowing his horn, so much as when he didn't think he needed to any more (and his adventures in partner battery came increasingly to light)...

C. Margery Kempe said...

I would be lost without spell-check as I cannot type to save my life. And as I always tell the deaf ears of my creative writing classes, revision is where the magic is anyway.