My sister Sara has an op-ed in yesterday's (February 18) Christian Science Monitor. The topic is the lists people are circulating on Facebook to each other of 25 random facts about themselves. This is actually the second Monitor op-ed Sara has written on social networking. She's also written for the paper about hip-hop culture and, way back in September of 2007, the rising cultural cache and populism of then-presidential candidate and senator Barack Obama. Sara has also written op-eds for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. And no, her last name is not Tenenbaum.
1. I’ve slept with the same ratty, ugly leopard-skin polyester blanket for over 30 years. My grandma made it for me when I was 5 or 6 years old, and I often wrap it around my head (with just the nose and mouth showing) after sunrise to keep the light out. My college roommate used to call me “Mother Theresa”.
2. I’m a descendant of both Civil War general Robert E. Lee and first First Lady Martha Washington, but not George Washington (Martha had children from a previous marriage.) Another descendant of mine, Solomon Fitzhugh, was a signee of the Oregon constitution in 1859 that brought US state status. But in 1860 Fitzhugh, also an election delegate, additionally tried to hide out with a handful of other Democrats to prevent a quorum that would give Oregon’s electoral votes to Abraham Lincoln.
3. My favorite piece of journalism I’ve ever written is probably the interview I did with director David Lynch in 2001. He’s pretty much my favorite director, and we got to spend a couple hours talking about movies in the painting studio in his backyard. Lynch also urinated into a sink in the studio during our interview.
4. I’ve been to the emergency room numerous times for freak accidents, like a sliced finger (from a meat-slicer accident), facial burns from French press coffee (the apparatus flipped into the air when I tried to push down the plunger), and heart palpitations I thought were a heart attack. But I’ve never had a broken bone or stayed overnight in a hospital.
5. One of my grandpas landed at Normandy in World War II under George Patton’s brigade (albeit with a quartermaster’s typewriter rather than a rifle), and the other served in the Pacific, including time on an aircraft carrier sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea, and another ship before the war that was part of the Emelia Earhart search party. During the Cold War, my dad analyzed spy plane and satellite reconnaissance photos. I’m proud of that heritage even though I’m more or less a pacifist.
6. Valarie and I met during my last week of college, separated for 10 months when I went back to Oregon, and since then have been together for 14 years and counting.
7. I’m such a rabid Oregon Ducks fan that at age 8, after screaming my head off at the Oregon-Oregon State football game, I was told by the Beaver fan in front of me, “Little kid, I hope you freeze to death!” Sometimes I almost feel like my whole existence is about hanging around long enough in this world to see the Blazers or Ducks win a championship.
8. It’s been said that I could subsist entirely on spaghetti, espresso and chocolate chip cookies.
9. I dearly love travel and have visited something like eight countries in the last four years, but I always get inconsolably depressed right before leaving because I’m a creature of habit and it’s traumatic changing my routine.
10. My favorite wardrobe item is Adidas track jackets. Valarie works for the company so I have an embarrassment of riches in that department. I can choose my track jacket color by mood – it’s yellow today.
11. I was the only child in my family and my mom’s entire side of the family for the first twelve years of my life, and then my mom and her two siblings had five kids between them over the next five years - including Sara, who wrote the article that inspired this post.
12. After Valarie and my immediate family, the loves of my life are Charlie and Nancy, the tabby and German Shepherd I had as a kid, Cindy, my sister’s childhood dog, and Ruthie, the fat tabby we have now. People are over-rated compared to cats and dogs. Seriously.
13. “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” are probably my two all-time favorite films, and yet I’ve never considered myself a science fiction fan. I also got to write two of favorite film essays, both for Salon's short-lived "Masterpiece" series, on these movies.
14. I have a dangerous addiction to driving fast and treating even the shortest grocery-store trip as a race with other drivers. In high school I raced a friend in our mom’s family cars and almost took out a family playing volleyball in their front yard when I slid into a corner at 70MPH. Instead, I went into a ditch and caught some Dukes of Hazzard-level air.
15. I am terrible at waiting for a table at a restaurant. They could take all day once I’m seated to bring the food and I wouldn’t care. But if forced to wait more than 60 seconds for a table, I start to feel like a refugee that diners are ridiculing from the comfort of their seats.
16. I used to be quite a sleepwalker or sleep-talker. My dad once found me on the floor scratching at the back door, saying I was “Looking for Nancy.” (Our dog.) In college, my roommate awakened to me standing in front of his bed in the middle of the night in my boxer shorts saying, inexplicably, “I gotta get out of here. It’s 62.”
17. As a kid, I was so obsessed with football that I memorized not only the score of every Super Bowl, but the MVP and stadium too. Super Bowl IX? Easy – Steelers over Vikings, 16-6 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Franco Harris the MVP with a then-Super Bowl record 158 yards. (And I didn’t look any of that up.)
18. Although I work as an art critic, I was actually diagnosed with a mild case of color blindness as a young child.
19. I’ve worn the same basic model of Casio digital watch since the latter half of elementary school.
20. Last night on TV, Tony Bourdain was asking everyone, “What taste reminds you of home?” I’d have to say the wheat bread at my dad’s restaurant, The Sage, which he’s operated since 1977.
21. I have a phobia surrounding frogs, fish and mice dating to weird early childhood encounters with each: a frog in my bathtub, mice loose in the house, and a fish that flapped in my face from my dad’s pole in our small rowboat.
22. When Tim Russert died last year, I thought back to being in the elevator with him at NBC (while I was working an office temp job) the day after the 1996 election. He accidentally got off on the wrong floor and had to rush to get back in the elevator. “Long night last night?” I asked. He just laughed and said with a big exhale, “Yeah.”
23. I've known a couple of my friends that I'm still in contact with regularly, Ned and Paul, for over 30 years now. Ned I met in preschool at Country School, on a farm outside McMinnville. Paul, pictured here in a shot from gradeschool, I've known since Mrs. McCallister's first grade class.
24. My western zodiac sign is Taurus and my Chinese zodiac sign is the rat. According to one book I read that combined readouts for both zodiacs, the deliberative, solitude-seeking Taurus nicely mitigates the rat’s piano-wire nerves.
25. The first time I went trick-or-treating as a toddler at my grandparents’ house, I was well coached by my mom to say “Trick or treat,” but instead stammered and said, “I want candy!”