1) I have a catalog of death fears, a list of gruesome demises that I worry about more than sane people should. Number one is being sucked out into space. While admittedly unlikely to happen, the dream sequence in Apollo 13 where Tom Hanks is blown out of the hatch helped vault this one to the top spot. Plane crashes are #2, being eaten by something #3 (climbing after seeing a shark in the wild a couple years ago), burning to death #4, and drowning rounds out the top 5. There are many others—that thing that happens to William Wallace at the end of Braveheart is definitely in the top 10. In fact, here are probably the only ways of dying that don’t freak me out:
- Freezing to death
- Suffocating in a bank vault (this is from an old Batman and Robin episode)
- Being shot (unpleasant and painful, but for some reason doesn’t scare me)
- Suffering a heart attack while having sex with Selma Hayek and/or Scarlett Johansson
- Being taken into heaven Elijah-style (even less likely than being sucked into space, especially with my Catholic list of priors [such as thinking about having a heart attack during a Hayek/Johansson sandwich])
2) In my 36 years, I have lived in 22 different residences in 9 states. I went to 7 schools between grades 1-12, and two colleges to boot (three if you count grad school). Until I moved to Iowa in 2001, I had never gone more than four years without moving over state lines. Much of this was because my dad was in the navy, but my itinerant ways continued long after I became an adult.
3) When I met TLB at the tender age of 17, we immediately disliked each other. This may seem unbelievable considering TLB’s assertion in her post that we never fight (which is true).
The dislike revolved around my petulant status of having just moved to Illinois. I spent my first three years of high school in San Diego, a place I really fell in love with. My father then got transferred right before my senior year to Great Lakes Naval Base, in the Chicago suburbs. I was not happy about leaving my friends and spending my last year of high school at a new school and trading the sunny skies of So Cal for the frozen tundra of Chicagoland.
A contributing factor was that, like a boy raised by wolves who incorrectly thinks he is a wolf, I thought I was a Californian. Not formally, but in all my manners. I had a serious “dudespeak” problem that took me years to shake. This led me to conclude, quite incorrectly, that I was too cool for Illinois.
At the time I met TLB, I was dating her best friend, L—. I agreed to give TLB a lift, and after introductions, we made small talk, including her asking where I was from. I replied that I had moved from California. This led to me griping about where I currently lived, and how much better San Diego was than Chicago. TLB began to take issue with me and commented that while California may be great, it wasn’t any better than Chicago.
We went back and forth until she asked, “Are you from California?”
Uh-oh. I couldn’t lie because L— knew the answer. “No.”
“Well where are you from?”
“Indiana?!” A sarcastic laugh that I would later grow to love ripped through my ego like a hollow-point bullet. “The whole state closes at nine o’clock!”
Who does she think she is? I asked in sulky silence. But two months later I was no longer seeing L— and going out with the woman who knocked my cocky, poseur ass down a peg. (That's a story for another day.)
4) I published a book of graduation speeches that I co-edited with a friend of mine. It was a series of commencement addresses by celebrities. During the process of putting this together, I
a) got screwed over by Oprah’s people, who all but assured me they were going to grant permission to use a speech from her and then gave me a lame denial at the 11th hour
b) had Oprah’s people threaten to sue because they thought we were going to use said speech without permission (we did not)
c) was told by the first contributor I talked to, columnist Russell Baker, that the concept was “an abominable idea”
d) convinced John Grisham (or, more specifically, John Grisham’s people) to reverse his initial denial ruling and be in the book
The other odd thing is earlier this year, long after the book was out of print, a Japanese publisher contacted us out of the blue to reprint it. It was like Spinal Tap finding out “Sex Farm” was on the Japanese charts. It should be out there next year.
5) I have no way of knowing for sure because there is no world championship for it like there is for air guitar, but I may be the world’s best air drummer. Not only can I reproduce nearly every Rush percussion bit with cyberdork precision, I also do a bit called “The Midwestern Drum Solo," where I mimic through motion and sound of a typical classic rock drum solo. I sit in a chair and do a sort of Keith-Moon-meets-Bobby-McFerrin drum solo, making sounds for all the drum parts as I flail at the air. I run the whole gamut: double-bass thumping, excessive cymbal hitting, slowing down, speeding up, and so on.
I first got the idea from the late, competent Chuck Panozzo, the drummer for Styx. He did a really, really terrible drum solo in the middle of the Caught in the Act Live concert video. Watching this with TLB and our friend Cynthia, I started imitating his performance. Cynthia liked it so much that she requested repeat performances at parties for some of our other friends.
Flash forward about 10 years. TLB and I are at Cynthia's wedding, and Cynthia requests the Midwestern Drum Solo to be performed, in front of guests with a microphone. I was rusty and hadn't done the bit in years. I was actually nervous, because I wasn't sure it would be funny to anyone outside of the handful of folks who had seen it before. But I sat down, hit my air toms, worked the high-hat, and ended (naturally) with the banging of a gong behind me.
I got some laughs, and as everyone who knows me already knows, I'll do almost anything for a laugh.