101 Things about This Guy (Complete, Digitally Remastered, and with Bonus Material)

101 things about me:

Inspired by fellow bloggers and poets and facebook and et cetera, and desiring to get on board with what seems to be the cultural phenomenon of making lists, I’m writing this list.

1: Kevin Costner’s character on Water World, the one with the webbed feet and the gills, sometimes I wish I could be him.

2: I don’t really wish I could be him, I just wish I could swim really fast.

3: Not that I even like swimming a ton, also I’m afraid of water when I can’t see the bottom of it, maybe it’s the post-apocalypse that I’m really excited about.

4: Almost certainly, because if I couldn’t be that Kevin Costner character, I’d probably want to be Mad Max.

5: Also, I’m afraid of seaweed.

6: Not the kind in little aquariums or around sushi, but when I’m wading in water and I have to walk through it (yes, that counts as not being able to see the bottom) – oh, hell, I hate that.

7: I call the grass in rivers and ponds seaweed – it just seems more reasonable than making the distinctions pondweed, riverweed, seaweed, creekweed, runweed, streamweed, lakeweed, puddleweed – if it’s underwater and it’s something like grass and I hate it, it’s seaweed.

At the same time, I don’t think it’s a recent cultural phenomenon – if Aristotle were alive today, he’d be a blogger, right? Cataloguing, categorizing, making numbered lists. And Linnaeus for sure. Can any one of us truly imagine a 21st century Rabbelais who doesn’t have a half dozen blogs cross referencing gargantuan lists ranging from best breads baked on a particular city block to types of urinations I’ve had?

No. None of us can imagine that.

8. After eleven years as an English major, after SATs and GREs and a comprehensive exam, after two degrees and nearly a Ph.D., after teaching college writing for seven years, after getting a novel and many stories and essays published, after seven years of marriage to a Ph.D. and author, I still don’t know the difference between objective and subjective truth.

9. I know the distinction is supposed to be easy and obvious, but I’ve just never committed it to memory.

10. For a while it was like a point of pride for me.

11. Sometimes, I act like I’m too old to understand the difference.

12. Other times, I pretend that I know so much about the myriad and complicated intracacies of truth that objective and subjective means very much the same thing in the long run.

13. Sometimes, I blame the postmodern condition: “Well, you know, can any of us really know anything?”

14. Other times, I blame our holy texts like The Constitution or Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home, because, you know, if those texts aren’t going to make the distinction clear, why should it matter to me?

15. I miss cassette tapes.

16. While all five of the toes on my right foot –

– are among my top hundred favorite body parts of mine of all time, the two closest to the big one are my favorite.

17. And, No!, not just because they’re partially webbed.

18. They have many great features such as looking slightly less like peanuts than the other two little ones while not being so much a loner like biggie over there.

19. Okay, the truth is: it is mostly because they’re a little bit conjoined.

20. But they’re also a little bit rock and roll.

21. In fact, when I’m in a room with a bunch of people more successful than myself (which is pretty much all day unless I’m in the bathroom, and even that isn’t as much of a guarantee as I might hope), sometimes I’m tempted to counter what those folks are saying, or just start an argument by saying, “Yes, perhaps, but I am, you know, semipalmated.”

22. I don’t really have a hundred favorite body parts: only six or seven that come to mind.

23. In fact, it might take me all day to list a hundred body part, even if I count the ones I'm not as fond of:

24. If pressed, I don’t know if I could come up with fifty without the internet’s help.

25. I’m secretly writing a sci-fi fantasy novel that I talk about all the time but hardly ever think about.

26. I act like I don’t like the ocean, but I could sit beside it for a thousand years, I’ll bet, and not get bored.

27. I still think about specific moments from my high school sports days.

28. There’s a gray squirrel in the backyard (nothing exceptional, very standard, white belly, expected tail), and I wish I lived the kind of life where I could sit and watch it for hours without feeling guilty about how I spend my time – really it’s beautiful.

29. There’s also a part of me that wants to shoot the squirrel and eat it.

30. I’m going for a run.

31. Maybe I would feel differently if I were somebody’s boss, but I don’t place much value in the ability to mulitask.

32. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to come up with 101 things about me.

33. Ani Difranco in her song “Grey” says, “I smoke and I drink, and every time I blink, I live a tiny dream, / but as bad as I am, I’m proud of the fact that I’m worse than I seem” – I like that sentiment.

34. I never thought I wanted to have kids until I had three.

35. If I were immortal, the first thing I would do would be to buy a whole bunch of shovels and fill in the Grand Canyon.

36. In part because I can’t think of anything else so terrifying that I’d like to be known for.

37. But, also, because I would love to spend the next 10, 20 millennia watching it carve itself back out.

38. Fact is, I don’t think immortality would get boring to me, despite contemporary folklore.

39. I wonder how many shovels it would take.

40. Most days, I prefer rain.

41. If I could change one thing about myself, I would be unforgivably wealthy.

42. I don’t have any objections to people who curse while they pray.

43. Though my allergies frustrate me in the way they control much of my life, I genuinely enjoy sneezing.

44. If I were three of me, I could be a really good writer; if I were six of me, I could do a good job keeping up with the house and yard; if I were a hundred and forty-four of me, I could be a good enough parent.

45. I’m still thinking about eating that squirrel.

46. I wish I were better at taking pictures – not necessarily more skillfully, just more frequently.

47. If I were immortal, the second thing I would do would be to commit to memory the difference between objective and subjective truth – seems like that’s the type of thing an immortal ought to know.

48. For years, I’ve had this whole obsession with space and time: I mean, imagine I can run ten miles an hour; I should be able to, with little effort, run 10.0000001 miles per hour; if that’s the case, I should be able to run 10.0000002, 10.0000003, 10.00000004, etc. with equally little effort, such that I would soon be running at about 120 mph (which is my ideal speed) – anyway, that’s what my sci-fi / fantasy novel is all about.

49. If I could be one other animal in the world, it would not be a squirrel.

50. I’ve nothing against them personally – they’re cute and all – but they’re not quite as terrifying as a rat, not quite as big as a woodchuck.

51. Maybe if they moved in herds, I would want to be a squirrel.

52. I wouldn’t want to be a dog either – imagine not even having language and having to live with something as moody as a human.

53. I don’t understand line breaks in poetry.

54. I’m not real sure why I end certain paragraphs where I do either, though.

55. Sometimes I wonder who in the hell gave me all these degrees in English.

56. Nobody in my secret sci-fi / fantasy novel has an English degree, and they’re all smarter than I.

57. My spouse just asked me if I was humming the theme to Rocky: no, I wasn’t.

58. I am now.

59. If I could be anybody else in the world, it would be me during my senior year of basketball, during the playoff game we lost to Northeast High School: fourth quarter, tie game, I stole the ball and made a break – this time I wouldn’t pass the ball; you couldn’t pay me a thousand dollars to pass the ball this time.

60. It’s kind of embarrassing to me that if I could change one thing about my past, it would be that I would have taken a single jumpshot sixteen years and two months ago.

61. I was never a fan of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” until I got old enough to wish I was young again.

62. I haven’t seen that squirrel since yesterday morning.

63. I’m not who I thought I would be.

64. I was certain I would be much taller by now.

65. I would have guessed I’d be a stronger swimmer.

66. I’m totally over that squirrel.

65. My favorite colors are green and gray, not necessarily for the way they look together – though I do think of that gray I-80 cutting through the green green heart of Pennsylvania in a thick summer – but they just sound so nice, much better than black and blue, which, of course, are my second favorite colors.

66. Robert Frost famously wrote, “Something there is that does not love a wall” – me? I like a good wall.

67. If you were to ask me what I was humming any day between now and last July, it would be this song.
68. I hardly think about that squirrel at all any more; I mean, if you were to ask me, “What’s up with that squirrel?”, I would be all “What squirrel?”

69. Any time I think about it, I find it hard to believe that anything can hold all these molecules together.

70. I used to tell people that before I met them I could throw an 80 lb. bag of mortar the length of a football field – that wasn’t true.

71. It still isn’t.

72. If I were immortal, the third thing I’d do would be make a much longer list of things about me – I would call it “505 Things about This Guy.”

73. The other thing I don’t understand about language is why I use “were” in #72 instead of “was” – something tells me I’m using the language correctly, but I don’t know how.

74. I hate the sound my tongue makes when I bite it.

75. When I reach the point where I can spend an hour a day in the garden without feeling guilty, I think I will have achieved self-actualization.

76. One of my favorite words that I have never used in a sentence is "craw" – what an awful and beautiful sounding word.

77. When I grow up, I want to be calmer.

78. I have never outgrown my childhood objection to neckties.

79. I still genuinely enjoy Cabin Boy.

80. I don’t typically have any objections to eating with ones hands.

81. I’m not really as into lists as I was three days ago.

82. Okay. Now there are three squirrels. Don’t they know who I am? What I could do to them? How good they would taste in a stew? Still they’re pretty cute when they hop over dandelions.

83. Sometimes I have a hard time following through with

84. I've put it off for twenty-four years, but here I am this evening watching Robocop. Detroit looks just like I left it.

85. Those squirels are back, only this time they've come in the form of robins, red-breasted ones at that. They're busily hopping around the yard, picking up bugs and worms and eating those things. Traci recently said, "They must have excellent eyes or some other sense that allows them to find so many small critters crawling through the grass." Sam countered, "I don't know. It seems like if I spent twelve hours a day hopping around the back yard, I could catch a worm or two, too."

86. Both good points, I'll give it some more careful thought. Some other day.

87. Saturday night was the first night I've been alone in a house in almost eight years.

88. I didn't like it.

89. I miss my spouse and my kids. It is time for them to come home now.

90. Now there are three bunnies within bowling distance. Though one more would fill the crock pot right nice, I'm sitting here, admiring their majesty or whatever.

91. Dennis Rodman's number, when 10 was taken. Oh Worm, where are you now?

92. On second thought, don't answer that. There's like a 90-10 chance I don't want to know. Right?

93. I watched For the Bible Tells Me So last night on Netflix, and wept for about the last half hour of it. I'm so sick of having rights that my gay friends and enemies can't have, I could cry. (Which explains those above mentioned thirty minutes.)

94. At this stage in my life, I have to admit, I'm shocked that it's taking me months to come up with 101 noteworthy things about me. I bet when I was twenty-two, I could have cranked out an awesome list in an afternoon.

95. I blame my kids -- having four children that I find infinitely more interesting than myself, I have very little to post.

96. I guess I do tend to try to live vicariously through my little turtles – ever seen a baby, come on, give one a shell, and it might swim to Australia – but that doesn’t stop me from this overwhelming desire to encourage them to do what I would have done, what I would have wanted to do, what I wanted to try but was never talented enough.

For instance. Noon, today, I’d been thinking about delivering a speech to Sam: “Sam, you’re not going to be 15 forever.” But I decided that was too much, and that I would let him figure it out on his own.

Still, who can blame me? I remember fifteen as the first time I got up on the rim. First fingertips, eventually palm, I remember the first time I dunked something – after my cousin’s basketball game, the first of three losses her team had during her four years of varsity play (what a team!) – a nickel. Quickly followed by a lollipop. Oh. I was something. And here’s Sam, six-foot-two, a hundred and seventy pounds . . . oh, what I would have done.

I’d already been to the coffee shop this morning to work on a novel I’m writing – it’s a historical novel, a Western (in a sense) though it’s set in the East; I’m 72,000 words into it, and I went back again this morning to chapter 10, which is the most important chapter in the book and the most boring; it’s the point at which the plot becomes less like 3:10 to Yuma and more like Wallstreet.

Okay, in response to the first part of your question: No, I don’t find it problematic that I can only talk about this book in terms of movies. As for the second part: Yes, I find it as boring to write about writing the book as you find it reading about writing the book.

But that’s kind of my point. I rethunk my speech to Sam – “You’re not going to be 15 forever,” by which what I would have meant was, “Go for a run, do some push ups, get off the computer for half an hour” – but I couldn’t think of anything quantifiably different about what he was doing and what I was doing, would have done, would have wanted to do, wanted to try but was never tall enough.

Nor did I forget to remember that famous conversation between Mom and Dad many years ago . . .

Mom: Don't you worry about him?
Dad: Who?
Mom: Jackson.
Dad: Why?
Mom: All he does is play Atari and eat Twinkies.
Dad: Yeah, but . . . he's really good at it.

So I let it go. And focused on myself instead: I did a hundred burpees (squat, kickback, push up, return to squat, jump, chin up) and ran three miles. After all, as my dad pointed out two weeks ago, I’m not going to be thirty-four forever. (His actual words, I believe, were: “You’re officially older than Jesus. Way to go.”)

97. I’ve been writing outside today, and it just now struck me: it smells like the ocean in our back yard – anybody else think it’s time for me to turn off the sprinklers?

98. In other vicarious news: traci left Utah this morning for her first cross country trip without me in eight years. I love that open road. traci, our dear friend Kristen, and Zac are driving back here this week. Zac had been in Utah for three weeks, visiting family who gave him a brand new 1987 Jeep Wrangler – a trip that he’s been planning for over six months. traci, on the other hand, flew out last Thursday on a buddy pass Kristen’s friend had given her, such that she (traci) could drive back here with her (Kristen), and we could all hang out for a while – they decided to do this last week. The fact that they’re caravanning across Wyoming right now is dumb luck.

Given that this scenario is not terribly out of the ordinary for our family, you would think that I would be good at plots, and could just make something wonderful happen in the above mentioned Chapter 10: “Tendrils.” Not the case.

Though I deeply envy them their drive, I have, through the beauty of text messaging (yes, I said it, beauty. of. text. messaging), traci has been updating me when she reaches some of our favorite landmarks: “Park City llama onto I-80,” “Eating a sandwich in the town with no name but lots of fireworks, “Big sky Wyoming,” “that dark red highway across Wyoming,” “the town named after Richard Ford’s stunning short story collection,” “Zac peeing on an abandoned gas station in the wide open plains” (this most recent one is not necessarily a landmark for us, but, again, not so terribly unfamiliar).

And in return, I’ve been occasionally suggesting appropriate music for the drive. At the Utah, Wyoming border (this will be no surprise), I suggested “The BalladPoncho and Lefty” to get them started. Perhaps the perfect road trip song – why not get it into our heads early. “Now you wear your skin like iron, your breath’s as hard as kerosene.” My goodness, Willie. As a writer, I could stand to learn how to create a complete epic narrative in four stanzas. Well played.

For the midway point of Wyoming, I had to go with “Off He Goes.” This one’s personal. The first time I ever drove through Wyoming – in fact the only time I’ve ever crossed it from top to bottom – I was listening to this song. Now, the fact that it is basically a newer version of “Poncho and Lefty” notwithstanding, the song will always remind me of that first cross-country drive with Angelo – only five crackers for lunch, but we would split a can of pork-and-beans for dinner, bathing in rest-stop sinks, our bed was simply every stitch of clothing we owned and a sleeping bag a piece. Freedom might be just another word, as we all know by now, for nothing left to lose, but I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.

I know it’s obvious, but if I were on a desert island, and that desert island was called Nebraska, and my smart phone could only pick up one song for the entire 660 miles: Big Country’s “Through a Big Country.” And if you’re riding along with me, try not to feel at first a little embarrassed for me, then kind of frustrated, and eventually pissed off, as I alternately scream the lyrics and weep for the eleven hours it takes to get to Iowa.

Lag Wagon’s “May 16” and Millencolin’s “No Cigar” for the bulk of Iowa. You’re gonna be tired at this point: pep up. In fact, if you can find it, easily, just play the entire sound track to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II. I can’t make a connection to road tripping here, but it’s a nice soundtrack to jam to while crossing this little ocean of cornfields.

But what about Illinois and Indiana?

We’re gonna need a bigger soundtrack.

How about this, instead: start with This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think about and just make your way through the Modest Mouse Oeuvre, including, though not every song snaps, No One’s First, and You’re Next. Focusing specifically on “Never Ending Math Equation,” “King Rat,” “Dashboard,” Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and “Styrofoam Boots.”

Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina – well, that’s hardly even a trip, now is it? Still, I would just find whichever Ani Difranco album is my favorite today, and play that on repeat until you get home.

Meanwhile, thanks to the glorious inventions of thumbs and the qwerty keyboard, I’ve learned that our caravan will most likely spend the night in Wyoming tonight. Short first leg, but I think we can all agree this restful drive should lead to a long haul tomorrow – Indiana, maybe. Maybe Ohio. I’m hoping they’ll get home by Thursday, though, much as I miss them, I sure do love a cross country drive.

99. I’ve gotta admit, I’m looking forward to this coming to an end.

100. If I were immortal, and I’m pretty sure I’m not, I would jump off of very tall objects with the idea in mind that I might be able to catch a bird cruising by beneath me – what a rush.

101. Finally, it turns out, I’m an awful blogger. I can’t keep a pace for shit.

102. Bonus: Ijust want to mention how proud I am that I made it through a hundred things about myself without saying fart or shit. Hazah!

103. Bonus: I just now realized there are two # 65s and two # 66s, but I am too lazy to go back and adjust everything that follows accordingly. So lazy, in fact, that I'm not even going to cut and paste them down here to become 104 and 105. That said, I'm leaving it up to the theorists to decide whether or not this can be called a "101 Things about Something" list, given the way I have unintentionally put the pork to the above numbers. To wit, I must say: in your face, alphanumeric system.

1 comment:

  1. Jackson, I love reading your blog, it always makes me laugh. And then feel sad that I didn't get to know you and traci better when y'all lived in SLC. Alas. I wasn't 29 forever. -- Trista