Thursday, August 09, 2007

Eight random facts meme

Paul Jones (The Real Paul Jones, not some ersatz Paul Jones) recently tagged me to participate in the “8 random facts about me” meme.

Eight random facts about me. Got to make the most of it.

In fact, just to be an overachieving underachiever, I’m giving you a BONUS FUN FACT at the end. It’s really good and it’s something I learned just yesterday. It’s guaranteed to leave you feeling superior to me. You’ll shake your head and say, “I’d never do that!”

So here goes. Then I’ll tag eight more of you and you’ll have to do it too.

1. I’ve had a bump on my forehead since I was 17.

One day it wasn’t there and the next day I brushed my hair aside, and there it was. I’ve never considered getting rid of it; it’s like a second nose, one that doesn’t smell. It’s just part of my face. Nonetheless various people have referred me (unbidden) to plastic surgeons to see what they could do.

When people express concern this way, I just sing another verse of My Lipoma (sung to the tune of My Sharona).

According to Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge, 1% of the general population has one.

A lipoma. M M M My lipoma.

2. I have an ENORMOUS collection of postcards.

I stopped collecting them about 10 years ago, but I still have all the old ones. Boxes and boxes of them. Pictures of airplanes, zoo animals, Jackalopes, butts large and small, surfer girls, city skylines, the Rapture, the beaches where I grew up. Beautiful antique hand painted postcards. Funny postcards. Boring postcards. Postcards in unimaginably poor taste.

Sometimes they make their way into my talks.

My friend Carol used to write me whole letters on a series of postcards that she’d number consecutively so I’d know the order in which to read them. Her writing was small and slanty (I’ve always thought she held her pen very tightly). I’m surprised now that we shared such private stuff on postcards that everyone could read. But she knew I collected postcards.

Randy Trigg also knew I collected postcards; he once bought me a book deceptively called Boring Postcards.

But generally most people realize that I’m too disorganized to be a collector of anything except perhaps lint.

3. I once consulted a psychiatrist.

I was 24. It was just one visit, just one hour, just one seemingly stereotypical conversation on the couch, except that I sat in a regular chair and he sat on the other side of a desk.

He asked me what I did at work and I told him that I worked in a lead-lined basement and that I couldn’t tell him what I did: what I do is secret, SCI even. He thought I was making it up and that I was crazy—that my real life couldn’t be as strange and isolated as what I’d described to him. He seemed all too anxious to prescribe something strong that would once and for all curb my delusions.

I filled the prescription on my way out of the clinic, took one, and gave one to Kevin. We both felt terrible. After that, I couldn’t even give away the rest.

Eventually I flushed them. Probably some Pacific flounders became placid and far less psychotic.
4. One autumn I disappeared.

I got fed up with Pasadena—oppressive fall Santa Anas, a persistent stalker, and a bad case of the blues at work—and left to spend a weekend in early October in New Haven, Connecticut, ostensibly to see Hot Tuna. The trees had barely started to turn when I got there. I got distracted and ignored my return ticket. A weekend turned into a week that slunk along into November. I just continued to send rent checks to California Street Condominiums (our landlord’s optimistic name for our condemned, cockroach-infested fourplex on California Blvd) and didn’t come back to Pasadena until Rose Parade Season.

I spent three months reading fiction—Alan Paton, Walker Percy, Christopher Isherwood—lying in an old claw-foot bathtub in a basement apartment. Every half hour or so I’d run fresh hot water into the tub. The cat, Ezra, circled the edge of the tub warily, but well-balanced. I left the house mostly to buy more books from the used bookstores, which were cheap and plentiful in New Haven.

Yalies thought I was a townie and townies thought I was a Yalie.

Sometime in November it got cold and I had to buy a coat, an ugly dull lilac-colored synthetic down coat, a coat that turned totemic and followed me around (back to California, to Texas, back to California), haunting me for more than a decade. I finally abandoned it in Rochester, New York.

“Give it to Salvation Army,” I told Francoise and Pat. “It’s really very warm.” And, from all evidence, tenacious and almost indestructible.

5. As a child, I often chewed three pieces of Double Bubble gum at once.

I usually slept with the big wad of gum in my mouth in case I had insomnia and wanted to blow bubbles in the middle of the night. It passed the time better than balancing my pillow on both feet with my legs straight up, but not quite as well as locking myself in the bathroom and re-reading my entire collection of Mad magazines until dawn.

6. I’m irrationally afraid of dogs.

There’s no dog bite story to justify my fear. I’m just afraid of them.

If a nearby dog barks or growls, I get a surge of adrenalin. Dogs used to chase me on my bicycle; I eventually started carrying the clip-on can of doggy mace—Halt!—that postmen carry.

In 5th grade I was late to school almost every day since I walked along ever more circuitous routes to avoid dogs: once a dog had chased me on a particular street, I stopped walking on that street. The streets in my neighborhood were long and winding. Instead of leaving home earlier to compensate, I just got to school later. Eventually I was getting to school after 10am, then after 10:30. I sat in the back of the class so I could creep to my desk via the back door.

7. When I was in 7th grade, I wrote a report about the dangers of methamphetamine.

I cribbed it by and large from an article published in an old issue of Harpers (or perhaps it was Saturday Review) that we had lying around the house. I used the graphic from the article to create a spectacularly lurid cover for my report. It had a face reminiscent of one of Jason Mecier’s mosaics; it incorporated capsules, tablets, a syringe, and a handgun.

I think about my methamphetamine report every time I’m down in the Castro and see posters from the anti-meth ad campaign on bus shelters.

In 7th grade, I took Sudafed almost every morning to curb a perpetually runny nose (allergies); I can't say I didn't enjoy the lift.

8. I didn’t vote until the 1990s.

I stumbled and stuttered through the library’s copy of Das Kapital when I was in junior high school. I didn’t get it, but I thought turning the pages would be good enough to partially assimilate Marxism. I read Ramparts too and felt thoroughly radicalized.

By high school, I’d abandoned Marxism as stodgy and decided I was an anarchist, which seemed to be a more provocative stance. Better still, it irritated Mr. O’Rourke, the Vice-Principal In Charge of Discipline and Keeper of the Permanent Record.

Then, abruptly, I stopped paying attention to anything remotely political (save a few really interesting scandals like Mr. Reagan’s Iran-Contra debacle) and didn’t start paying attention again until the first Gulf War. I didn’t register to vote; I didn’t read about politics; I didn’t talk about politics; I thought it was crazy to put bumper stickers on cars. No-one knew what my political views were or if I harbored any at all.

I caught up during Poppy’s administration, reading The Nation and nurturing an unsustainable sense of moral and intellectual outrage.

“Enough!” I finally thought. “Enough! I have done sufficient penance.”

So now I have vague misgivings about politics although it’s hard not to have a strong opinion about the clowns, miscreants, and Teletubbies who are in office as I type this (you have noticed a more than passing similarity between the verbal stylings of Alberto Gonzalez and Laa-Laa, the yellow Teletubby with the liar’s horns, haven’t you?). But I have little original to say about politics (or Teletubbies) and can barely tolerate most pundits.

I do vote now though. Regularly. Conscientiously. Hardly ever just picking the name I like the best.

Bonus Fun Fact. I ate raw pork.

Remember when I complained about that saran-wrapped item I bought at Tuk-Tuk Thai Market in Berkeley? You know--the item that was roughly the same size and shape as the banana sticky rice cakes? Remember how the smiling guy wasn’t sure how much the saran-wrapped item cost? And remember how I wrestled with the saran wrap casing in the car, in the low light of early evening, eager to eat whatever it was.

Here’s what I said:

“But what’s this? The rubbery texture is a little too familiar. I grew up in LA; I’ve had menudo. This, this outer stuff that’s been so tightly encased in plastic is TRIPE. Ick. I can’t even imagine what the ground up material inside it is. It looked pink in the store’s fluorescent lighting through the partial translucence of the tripe. I’d originally thought it was one of those red bananas. But now I know I don’t want to know. ICK. ICK. ICK.”
I found out what the mystery item was.

Are you ready? Ready for your bonus random fact?

It was… raw pork sausage. Maybe you already figured this out but I hadn’t.

I ate raw pork sausage. No wonder I was scrabbling around looking for something to kill the taste.

How’d I learn this? My brother and I were at Tuk-Tuk yesterday and I saw the same inscrutable pile of saran-wrapped items on the prepared food counter, right where the banana sticky rice cakes used to be.

Except this time, there was a sign. Clearly written in big black block letters. RAW PORK SAUSAGE.

I turned green with the recollection of biting into the as-yet-unidentified food item at twilight in the front seat of my car.

“You’d know already if you got trichinosis from eating raw pork a couple of months ago, right?” I asked my brother as we walked home from the market. “You’d have symptoms soon afterward, wouldn’t you?”

He reassured me that I’d know already, and added that he thought the Thai sausage would be fermented raw pork anyway, not just plain old raw pork.

He said this to make me feel better. Some food is cooked without heat, like ceviche, which is cured via the acidity of the lemon juice. In fact, there’s something fashionable these days about ordering cured meats—witness the charcuterie plate in lots of fancy restaurants. Very French. Very stylish.

Raw pork. That’s all I could think. I was eating raw pork in the car because my blood sugar was low. Raw pork.

But when I thought about it yesterday, I just about tripped over an irregularity in the Berkeley sidewalk. I felt dizzy.

Raw pork.

Ick. I’ll never eat again.

And that’s your bonus fact: I once accidentally ate raw pork sausage encased in tripe. Recently, in fact. I made this mistake recently.

This meme requires that you tag 8 more people to do the same. I’m going to point you to their blogs, but I hope a few of them will take care of this assignment via skywriting. Something about those puffy white facts against the summer sky...

Mark, Jaina Bee, Erich, Connie Lynne, Susie, Rock, gem, Diane. Go for it!


Blogger Rock said...

Done, but I haven't had time to find 8 bloggers and I won't for some time as we are getting out of Austin for a spell just as the summer heat is settling in. Look out Canada!

Also I left out the random fact that I was almost run over by Bob Weir since not enough people would know who that is.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Great facts, Rock!

But are you sure you weren't shot in the face by a younger Dick Cheney (fact 8)? It'd be a more fun fact that way.

The Bob Weir story would work if you subbed Jerry Garcia for Bob Weir. On second thought... I once saw Jerry Garcia driving at most 35 mph in the fast lane of 101. So I'm not sure if anyone would believe a story about being run over by him. You'd have to be moving awfully slow.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Diane said...


12:36 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

Seven for me.
Hot Tuna...I was supposed to go see them a few weeks ago, but sadly missed...remember them very well...

10:08 PM  
Blogger Susie said...

Well, I gave it a shot. I don't think I can top eating raw pork, though. You set the bar high.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Somehow the juxtaposition of raw pork and Hot Tuna in the last two comments is troubling in so many ways.


If you google "I ate raw pork", you'll see that I'm not the only one, but you'll also see that the others did it intentionally.

Sick puppies.

Try googling one of your own 8 facts and see who else shares some disturbing facet of your life or personality quirks.

Go ahead -- see!

8:25 PM  

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