Saturday, May 28, 2005

100 Things About Me

1. I have blue eyes and brown hair. When I was born, however, my hair was a dirty blonde color.

2. I have lived in Texas all of my life, including stints in Houston, Austin, Friendswood and Waco.

3. I have traveled to 38 of the United States as well as the District of Columbia. I’ve got 12 more states to visit before I die: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, West Virginia, South Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Alaska.

4. Sadly, like many Americans, I have only been to two foreign countries: Canada and Mexico.

5. My favorite song as a very young child was “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary. I still love it.

6. The first LP I ever got my parents to buy me was the second album by the Monkees, “More of the Monkees,” the one with “I’m a Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone." I played it until the grooves disappeared.

7. I have a habit of cracking my knuckles, which unnerves Mrs. Muley.

8. Since I was a somewhat fat child all throughout elementary school, I got the honor of playing Santa Claus in my first grade Christmas play. I didn’t need a lot of extra padding. I had to pantomime to “The Night Before Christmas,” including puffing my pipe and shaking like a bowl of jelly.

9. I became a Houston Astros fan at a young age, back when they routinely occupied the National League cellar. I would listen to the game broadcasts on a little AM/FM radio in my room.

10. I signed up for the “Astros Buddies” club one year, and listed my favorite Astro as Jesus Alou. I got a membership card with his photo on it.

11. Speaking of the Astros, the summer before my freshman year in college I worked in “food service” at the Astroworld amusement park in Houston. I sold soft drinks, made hamburgers and peddled Pink Things out in the blazing Texas sun.

12. I have three brothers, all younger than me. I’m the only one of them who has either married or had kids. One of them still lives at home with my parents. I don’t see them very often.

13. I once was urinated on by a lion in a zoo.

14. My favorite Charlie’s Angel when the show was on TV was Cheryl Ladd, but now I think I like Jaclyn Smith the best. I was never a big fan of Farrah Fawcett-Majors, especially after she started knocking around with Ryan O’Neal.

15. I played trombone in junior high and high school. At one point I was thinking of switching to trumpet, so I took lessons and learned to play that as well. As a result, I ended up being able to play trombone, trumpet, baritone and tuba.

16. I can also play the triangle.

17. My mother describes my heritage as “Heinz 57 variety.” My ancestors were German, Czech, Polish, English and even Native American. We got around.

18. One of my ancestors supposedly an early Texas settler. As a result, I was accepted into membership to the Sons of the Republic of Texas. I have never been to a meeting, but I’m a member.

19. When I was a radio and TV reporter, some of the famous people I got to interview or ask questions of in news conferences were President Jimmy Carter, Beverly Sills, Merle Haggard, Alexander Haig, Donny and Marie Osmond and Heloise.

20. When I was visiting New York City one time in my bachelor days, I saw novelist John Irving in Central Park. I was a fan of The World According to Garp and a few of his other books, and I thought about approaching him and introducing myself, but he was in a deep conversation with a young woman, and I didn’t think he’d enjoy being interrupted.

21. I started collecting coins as a young boy, and have continued to do so off and on since then.

22. I can name all of the U.S. presidents from memory, and in the order they served. I’ve known how to do this since third grade.

23. I have written one short story that I took the trouble to have copyrighted. It’s called “The Bloody Turnip Diet.” I wrote it in college, and it’s about a kid who hates having to analyze stories to death in English class.

24. I’ve been a Beatles fan almost my entire life, but during college and my 20s I was a huge fan. When John Lennon was murdered in 1980, I wore a black armband to work.

25. As a kid, I once owned a guinea pig named Sassafras.

26. Two foods that a lot of people seem to like (but I hate) are onions and mayonnaise. Two foods that a lot of people seem to hate (but I like) are lima beans and pork rinds.

27. I was a fairly good speech-type person in junior high and high school. I placed second in state in both debate and extemporaneous speaking different years.

28. The only time I’ve stayed overnight in a hospital is when I had my tonsils out when I was five years old. I was upset because I had asked my parents to get the doctors to put my tonsils in a jar that I could take to my kindergarten class for show and tell, but they didn’t come through. I did like all the ice cream, through.

29. I went through three schools and three majors in my tour of the Southwest Conference during college. I started out going for a year at Baylor as an accounting major, then went for a year and a half to the University of Houston as a Radio/TV major, then ended up at the University of Texas as a broadcast journalism major. I graduated with a bachelor of journalism from UT in 1982.

30. I started wearing glasses when I was 12 years old. I tried contacts along the way, but they always bothered my eyes and I gave them up. About 12 years ago, I got RK surgery so I wouldn’t have to wear glasses anymore. By that time, my glasses were almost Coke bottle size and kept slipping down my nose.

31. I got my first kiss in seventh grade during a spin-the-bottle session at a party. The girl’s name was Wendy. I enjoyed the spin-the-bottle concept because at that time in my life, it was the only way I was ever going to get a girl to kiss me without some sort of armed threat. The party might have been a little tawdry and all, but I remember it as a magical night.

32. I am a Dr Pepper addict. I believe they began putting it in my bottles soon after I was weaned from formula, and I’ve been drinking it ever since. If they figured out the volume of all the Dr Pepper I’ve drunk over the years, it would probably float a battleship. If they gave me back all the money I’ve spent on Dr Pepper over the years, I undoubtedly could retire comfortably.

33. I am a decent artist, but I never pursued getting better at it as I probably should have. I can’t draw people worth beans, but I can do graphics and landscapes fairly well.

34. I met my wife when we were both working for a small market television station. When we met, I was a news bureau chief and she worked in production. By the time we married, she had moved up to producer of the 10 p.m. news.

35. When I was being born (the natural way), my big head got “stuck” and I had my oxygen supply threatened. My mom has always claimed that if they hadn’t been able to pull me out with forceps when they did, I would have been born a mongoloid. Some people over the years have said this explains a lot about me.

36. When I was in college, I was in a “band” with some of my friends. We couldn’t play band instruments, and we couldn’t sing very well, but we knew how to use recording equipment. We’d find recorded instrumentals, write our own lyrics to them, then record our singing over the tracks. We even gave a few public “concerts” singing over these instrumentals, including one concert in a large airplane hangar. Youth has no shame.

37. I once entered a poem of mine in a contest run by some blue-haired ladies in a county literary society, and I won. I can’t even remember if I got any money, or if they just knitted me a potholder.

38. The singers or groups that I have seen in concert include Elvis (in the Astrodome as a kid), the Who, ZZ Top, Bruce Springsteen, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Blues Brothers, Amy Grant, Ronnie Millsap, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and Weather Report.

39. I once was in the same room as George W. Bush. He was the governor of Texas at the time, and he met in his reception room at the Capitol with Abner McCall, the former president of Baylor University, who was being honored. I was there to take video of them shaking hands and talking. To my eternal regret, I did not attempt to shake GW’s hand myself.

40. I took four semesters of Spanish in college, but still can’t speak it.

41. I am a “Trekkie,” albeit the non-obsessive type.

42. From third grade until my junior year in high school I thought I wanted to be a doctor. When I went on a field trip to a hospital and saw the kinds of things I would have to do to learn to be a doctor, like cutting open cadavers, dealing with blood and doing intimate things to people, I changed my mind.

43. If you can believe it, I then decided to get an accounting degree followed by a law degree, and be a corporate attorney. I was thinking how much money I would undoubtedly make, but thankfully I also came to realize that I would end up gnawing through my mahogany desk in boredom.

44. I like to collect quotes and lists of vocabulary words I don’t know.

45. I write haiku for fun.

46. I was in journalism classes at the University of Texas with E.D. Hill, one of the co-hosts of “Fox and Friends” on Fox News in the morning. And when I working as a bureau chief for one station in Waco, she was co-anchoring at another. I seriously doubt she would remember me now.

47. I never owned a leisure suit, but I did once go to a high school prom wearing a white tuxedo with a powder blue ruffly shirt and a honkin’ big blue bowtie. I did it to match my date’s dress, but I felt like the pinch hitter at a gay escort service.

48. The first magazine I ever had a subscription to was Boy’s Life, since I was in both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The first magazine I subscribed to out of my own pocket was Mad magazine. I can still remember how I’d be so excited when a new issue, full of twisted humor, would appear in the mailbox.

49. My first car was a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, which I outfitted with an 8-track tape player as soon as I could.

50. I had a childhood crush on Valerie Bertinelli from the “One Day at a Time” TV show, but then she went and married Eddie Van Halen. Oh, well.

51. I’m an innie.

52. My favorite Stooge is Curly.

53. The first Presidential election I was eligible to vote in was the 1980 contest. For some reason I only vaguely remember now, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, and ended up voting for Independent candidate John Anderson instead.

54. I have seen all of the James Bond movies except “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” which is considered to be one of the worst. When I was in kindergarten, I had a James Bond spy briefcase, which featured a rifle barrel that would appear from the side when you pushed a hidden button.

55. During our senior year in high school, my best friend and I were allowed to read the morning announcements over the school PA system. We loved to play jokes, such as reading a fake announcement instructing someone to report to a certain room number, which would end up being a girl’s restroom or a janitor’s closet.

56. I was in Boy Scouts for two years, attaining the rank of Life Scout. I bailed out before I earned my Eagle.

57. I’ve had almost all of the classic bad dreams before –- the caught in public naked dream, the tornado dream, the falling dream, the showing up for a big test totally unprepared dream (I seem to have that one most often). Actually, though, I rarely remember my dreams, and very few of the ones I do remember I’d classify as sexy or even as a form of wish fulfillment.

58. I have a mild to moderate fear of heights, depending on the place and the safety features. This has not, however, prevented me from flying in airplanes or standing atop such high creations as the former World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Hemisfair Tower in San Antonio or Pikes Peak.

59. I played Little League baseball for six years, basketball for one year in a church league, and football on my 8th grade school team. That’s the extent of my organized sports involvement during grade school.

60. The last time I shaved my upper lip was the day of my high school graduation, and I’ve had a mustache ever since.

61. I have never eaten snails, caviar, sardines, sushi, sheep’s eyeballs or any other nasty foods in the same general category.

62. When I was single and dating, I never had much of a chance getting women to like me through my looks or physique. If I had any chance at all, it was by making them laugh.

63. I have been keeping a daily journal fairly regularly since the early 1990s. I almost never look back and read it, unless my wife and I can’t remember the date of something and need to refer back to the journal to verify the date.

64. I am a big history buff, including family history, which I guess is one reason I keep the journals even though I never read them. They will give my kids and grandkids something not to read some day.

65. I know all the lyrics to the Texas A&M fight song, even though I never went to school there. At the same time, I don’t remember the lyrics to the fight songs of the schools I did attend.

66. I have never been bitten by a snake or stung by a bee or wasp. I have, however, lost gallons of blood to Southeast Texas mosquitoes over the years.

67. When you look at the shirts hanging in my closet, you will find a number of them with bright colors, including a Hawaiian shirt that makes my wife wince every time I get it out.

68. I had some pretty boring summer jobs, including working two summers in the men’s department of Weiner’s department store and stuffing advertising fliers inside newspapers. One summer, however, I got to be a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Pasadena (Texas), covering the city of South Houston. It was fun.

69. My middle name is Mark. If one of the radio or TV stations I worked for had ever insisted that I change my on-air name, I was going to choose “Mark Randall” as my alias. Luckily, I never had to do this.

70. I was big into racing Hot Wheels cars and building airplane models as a kid.

71. I’m told that I don’t speak with a Texas accent, although I do frequently employ Texanisms such as “fixin’ to” and “ya’ll.”

72. When I was quite young, my mom decided that she was going to make me try tomato juice, something I was determined not to do. One Saturday morning, she set a glass in front of me at the breakfast table and told me I couldn’t leave to go watch cartoons unless I’d tried some. I stubbornly refused, and eventually she let me go. I have never liked tomato juice, and I’m not going to try it to see if my tastes have changed.

73. I used to go tubing and rafting all the time in the Guadalupe River when I was younger.

74. I can’t really snap my fingers worth a darn.

75. My 5 o’clock shadow arrives each day about noon.

76. I have bounced a check or two (or three) in my time. It’s not something I’m proud of. For what it's worth, it was due to poor recordkeeping on my part, not a desire to defraud anyone.

77. Our family had a CB radio in the car back in the 1970s when it was all the rage. My handle was “Texas Tornado.” Copy that, good buddy? 10-4.

78. The stupidest, worst comedy I remember seeing is “Anchorman” with Will Ferrell. It’s one of the few movies in my life I’ve felt like walking out of.

79. I took oil painting lessons in 6th grade, and was getting much better when I had to quit because we moved to another town.

80. When I was in elementary school, my mother made me and my younger brother take etiquette lessons. We were taught how to introduce ourselves and others (“Mr. Jones, may I introduce Mr. Muley.”) We learned which fork was which, how to use napkins, how to insert cufflinks, what to do with finger bowls, and how to bow, among other things. I have forgotten most of what they taught, although I do remember that elbows on the table are a big no-no. Feet on the table, too, as far as that goes.

81. I think O.J., Michael Jackson, Robert Blake and Lizzie Borden are guilty, UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle are bogus, Elvis is dead and Paul McCartney is quite alive. However, I believe there could have been a second gunman in the JFK assassination, and that there are supernatural occurrences that defy human explanation. And the check sometimes is in the mail.

82. I spend more money than I’d like to admit each year at Half Price Books. I have been a customer since my college days, and I can easily spend two or three hours browsing without blinking an eye. My family has learned to drop me off and just arrange a time to meet me later.

83. I also try to periodically sell back books I’ll never read again (or have grown tired of) to Half Price Books. If I was rich and had rows of empty bookshelves I’d probably keep them all, but I have a finite amount of space, so I must purge every now and then to permit me to bring new treasures home.

84. I love to fish, although I don’t end up doing it much.

85. I don’t think there’s a sexier screen performance than that of Grace Kelly in either “It Takes a Thief” or “Rear Window.”

86. The first girl I ever had a crush on was Lisa Counts in the third grade. She was a beautiful Southern belle, and I knew she was something special when she invited me to her birthday party and I learned that she had invited only boys.

87. I have never watched a complete episode of the following TV shows: Alias, 24, Desperate Housewives, Lost, The OC, CSI (any variety), Stargate, The Man Show, Sex in the City, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Joey, Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Greatest Race, Survivor...Maybe it would be easier if I just listed the current shows I have watched.

88. I’m jealous of people such as my daughter Rebecca and fellow blogger Jenn who are natural artists and can draw whatever they want so well. I am in awe of people who can draw or paint well.

89. I’m a huge fan of the comedy team of Bob and Ray. They are the kings of dry humor and wit, in my opinion.

90. I prefer books with a straight-on narrative style, and a good, event-filled plot if it’s a work of fiction or autobiography. Books where the author talks for pages about his memories of the smells of pickles and alfalfa on his grandma’s farm drain the life out of me and make me reach for the TV clicker.

91. I’ve had to dig holes to bury two dogs (they were dead at the time) as well as take one cat to the vet to be put to sleep.

92. Based on which TV show makes me laugh out loud the most, the Beverly Hillbillies is the funniest thing on the tube. I knew my wife and I would get along well when I learned she loved both the Beverly Hillbillies and Star Trek.

93. One of my literary goals is to read every book Charles Dickens ever wrote.

94. I accepted Christ as my Saviour during elementary school, although it wasn’t until college that I was baptized.

95. Two historical periods that interest me greatly are the Victorian Age in Britain and the 1920s, the “Jazz Age,” in America.

96. I always wanted to learn how to fly a plane, but my poor eyesight prevented me. Now that I’ve had RK surgery, my eyesight would probably be okay, but I have neither the money nor the time to learn. My dad learned to fly small planes when I was a kid, and he would take me flying with him across Texas. We used to touch down in small rural airports where you had to make sure the cows were off the runway before landing. I'm not kidding.

97. I am doing research for three eventual books right now, all nonfiction books about local history.

98. I celebrated the American Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, by watching a huge fireworks show over Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans.

99. As I’ve grown older, I have learned the value and wisdom of speaking less and listening more.

100. This last fact does not explain why I feel the need to keep a blog.

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