Scalzi had a post not long ago about ten things he’s done that he didn’t think anyone else had done. Though this is eerily similar to a drinking game I played in college, and I try to avoid such games these days, I thought I’d try it this time without the shots of liqueur. I’ll try to keep it chronological, but it all gets mixed up. Forgive:
While celebrating the Fourth of July on the White House lawn with my parents (Dad worked for the President at the time, and I think Mom did, too), I managed to get past the Secret Service in order to ask Rosilyn Carter where the bathroom was. By tugging on her sleeve while she was giving an interview in front of cameras. I was seven or so. Gracious woman that she is, she escorted me. I had no clue. How sad that that was my 15 minutes. (I was on the 11:00 news that night.) (I could not, however, get anywhere near Amy or her new puppy, which was all I cared about at the time.)
- I rode in a (I think it was a Chevy) Grenada with my Amma, my Aunt Hulda, and five kids from Virginia to California. Yes, that’s five children, two adults, and 3,000 miles. At the end of the trip I threw up in my uncle’s Volkswagen Beetle in Huntington Beach, California.
I kissed Lorne Greene on the cheek when the family took a Chex Mix-sponsored flight on a double-decker plane to Hawaii. Awesome and memorable vacation. I walked through lava tubes. Fell for a Hawaiian boy (I was 13), and danced with my Daddy while he was wearing a grass skirt. (I have pictures. You can’t run, now, Dad. I can be bought.)
- I sang with Stanley Jordan. I sang with Farrakhan’s choir. I sang at the Shiloh Baptist Church (special place). I sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (special place as well). I cut an album with an opera cast. (Did I mention I sang?)
- I sat in a canoe while men with impossibly large calves hauled me up the Pagsanjan River in the Philippines. Then I got so sick (Dengue Fever, right?) that I didn’t know where I was for three days. Fell face down in a bowl of rice. Daddy freaked out. Mom (on the other side of the planet) freaked out. I would’ve freaked out, but I was unconscious. Soul-defining moment. Long way from home. I recovered. I remembered.
- I had a passel of Korean children touch me for luck while touring Seoul, Korea. (Thanks, Dad. And thanks to the summer sun that had turned my hair white, and the weird twist of fate that had me still wearing braces at 20.) I was a vision to these kids – must’ve looked like I was from another planet. I ate kimchi. Dad took me to where the ‘locals’ ate. He didn’t even smirk at me when I retched, though it must have cost him. (Again, thanks, Dad. Blech.) I learned how to ask for the bathroom and beer (uh, reverse order) in Korean. And Chinese. And Japanese.
- I was in a foreign country (Italy) when my own country went to war. I was 21 or so. I watched a bunch of Italians burn an image of an American soldier in effigy (while displaying a sheet with the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine” next to it. I think they missed the point). I finally learned something about how the world feels about Americans.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II patted my cheek, after I shook his hand. In the Vatican. Standing next to my mother. Wow. I mean, WOW. (Thanks, Mom.) The Holy Father then guaranteed me favors in Heaven. (My Catholic friends refer to this as my “Get Out of Hell Free” card.) (Did I mention WOW?) This same trip I touched Galileo’s tomb. I touched ‘The David’. I saw ‘The Pieta’ (wanted to touch it, but it was behind glass). I saw the Sistine Chapel. I touched Keats’ and Shelly’s headstones, and felt humbled by William Story in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. I sat on the Spanish Steps with a pretty Italian boy’s head in my lap, and my heart full of poems. I saw the Colosseum by moonlight. I kissed said pretty Italian boy while wading in the Trevvi Fountain. (I met the Carabinieri soon after…) I was covered from head to toe in pigeons in St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). I took a gondola ride through the canals of Venice, walked across the Rialto, and sipped cappuccino on the Grand Canal. (Again, all this is thanks to, and mostly with, Mom.)
I sang ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ with nothing but a bodrhan (and, of course, my best friend, and lots of Guinness) for accompaniment to an after-hours club of really old people on Prince’s Street in Edinburgh. (We sucked, incidentally.) I hitched a ride from a Brit officer after touring Stonehenge. I tried to avoid watching a rugby match between the Aussies and Kiwis while sleeping in bunk beds in Earl’s Court, London. I had a tank train its guns on me in Belfast (don’t tell my parents). I met a neo-Nazi on the street in Munich. He spit on me. (Other than that, Germany was a lovely country. We toured the country, and were well met. We loved Munich and Koln. We also went to the Alps, and swam in some of those lakes. Wow. Deep, full, and lovely.) (And peopled with naked Germans….) (Coochie crawling is verboten!) I gave tours (again with best friend, and again with lots of Guinness) of the red-light district of Amsterdam. I jammed with a Big Band in Warsaw. I taught the Czech singer at the pub in Hungary how to sing John Denver songs. I slept at a Marriott in a Soviet city. I met Havel in Prague before the break. He hit on my best friend. He stood the bar a round. This all took more than three months. My life changed.
- I took a group of children in my raft as I navigated the New and the Gauly rivers, in West Virginia. I taught them how to pitch tents, build fires, and keep their sh*t together. I took other groups down the north branch of the Potomac. I climbed big rocks. I mountain-biked. I was a badass there for a while.
There’s more, and much of it is more important and more special, as at this point I’ve only hit about 26 years old. But I’m beginning to bore myself… I’ll do the “Ten Things, part deaux” at some point. It’s not as interesting, I fear. “I watched my children tear up my house” just doesn’t make good copy.
What’re your “Ten Things”?