Saturday, April 05, 2008

Seven Weird Things About Me

All righty, I've been tagged. The big leagues have come a calling. There is a blogging type called a meme, and while I've seen them in others' blogs, I've never participated in one before. Mostly because I haven't been asked. So, I looked it up, and found, among other references, this blog on blogging that explains memes. For our purposes, it's a common theme that many people pass on to many others, to get their take on. I'm sort of thinking chain letter for story-tellers. My friend and blogging big-wig Danny Miller invited me to this party, to share seven weird facts about myself. Rather than think this to death, I decided to copy my inviter and do this as spontaneously as I could do. While I HAVE rewritten parts of the explanations for content, the seven items themselves were literally written down at once, and within 5 minutes. I haven't even changed the order, although I don't believe the order is relevant to much:

1. I have been a groom in four different religions' wedding ceremonies, and a groomsman in two others. Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Methodist were the ones I've said "I do" in, although the first two were the same day and one marriage. I've also been a groomsman in a Greek Orthodox and a civil wedding. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Buddhist ceremony was easily the most beautiful, and, as might be expected, the Catholic/Jewish weddings easily won the most chaotic day prize. Of my life. A full mass before the first wedding at the church, then the Jewish wedding at the reception hall. The Buddhist ceremony was surreal and so calming I was afraid the wedding party would fall asleep. The bride and I almost did. Our 'wedding march' was the hum of two very large prayer bowls being rubbed around the rim by large padded sticks, and then we were blessed by a Buddhist monk that looked older than the one that called Kwai Chang Caine 'Grasshopper'. Very sedate, zenlike and beautiful. Not a bad gig for a nice Jewish boy.

2. Johnny Carson signed my high school yearbook on prom night. It was 1976, we had just been to prom, my date and I, along with 3 other couples, were looking for a place for dessert, and one of us had heard of a little restaurant with a piano bar in Lincoln Park that was open til the wee hours, and we all thought it would be very cool to get out in our tuxedoed finery. We strolled in, completely full of ourselves, until we realized the only other occupied table in the place was a large round one near the stage that had about 10 people at it, one of whom was quite obviously Johnny Carson. The hostess who seated us saw we recognized the celebrity, and ceremoniously walked us to our table right past Mr. Carson and his entourage. We attempted not to gawk too much, but it was probably in vain, because as we were passing his table, he said "Prom night, eh, folks?" To which we replied, glibly and en masse, something profound like "uhhhhh huhhh". He chuckled, during which I recovered just barely enough English to ask if he'd mind signing a yearbook. He said sure, and four of us actually ran out to the car to retrieve our yearbooks. He signed each one graciously, and we let him be. Their party finished their meal and left before our dessert even showed up. When we finally asked for the check, our waitress said it was taken care of by Mr. Carson. How cool was that??

3. I have been in four musical productions (two professional), and 17 non-musical ones (11 for money), and I cannot sing a note, nor dance a step, and I am a lifetime stutterer. And please believe me when I tell you this is not false modesty. Although the stuttering is much less a problem than when I was a child, it always astounds me that when on stage, although I am as nervous as I can imagine ever being, it focuses me to the point that I have never frozen on a line or stuttered a letter. But the singing and dancing. The singing they've been able to hide me fairly successfully, but not always as a "dancer". One brief anecdote: I was cast as Pedro (the lead muleteer) in a college production of Man of La Mancha in the mid eighties. The other muleteers (there were 4 others) were professional dancers. They had several choreographed numbers, but only one that included me. Their whole rehearsal schedule before entire act runthroughs was something like a total of three hours... A couple of very simple background dances they could do in their sleep. Those poor souls. Their one number with me took something like 10 hours of total rehearsal time. And every one of these sainted souls put up with me with good humor and patience. I wish I could remember their names and give them credit. And for those of you with dance knowledge, the toughest part of my whole choreography was a very simple ball change. I don't even have two left feet. I apparently have no working feet.

4. I used to live in Steve Goodman's old house, and he was Bar Mitzvahed with my cousin. Chicago folk/blues legend Steve Goodman ("City of New Orleans", "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request", "Lincoln Park Pirates", etc) was a close family friend and when he moved to do high school at Maine East in the Chicago suburbs, my family bought their old house on Monticello Ave in Chicago, where I lived from preschool through half of third grade. Because he was 10 years older than I was, I never knew him beyond meeting him a couple of times in a group. But it IS a weird fact nonetheless.

5. I am in the midst of a thirty year "Seder Strike". My grandfather used to lead Passover seders before he died (1975), and he led them with the iron hand of a Conservative Jewish Patriarch. Not the four hour Broadway productions of some of our Orthodox friends, but nevertheless, it was a good two hours before getting to the bulk of the food. After grandpa died, the consensus was for me to run them, being the member of the family most able to read the Haggadah in both Hebrew and English. But the natives became restless. They insisted on the shorter, food-friendlier version. This being the peak of my holier-than-thou period, I refused to run a seder any shorter than the full-book version. The family called my bluff, and instead decided to run the "Things I remember" version, where they do a blessing or two, name the stuff on the seder plate and ask the Four Questions. Since my brother's wife, children, and soon-to-be grandson have never seen a real seder, my mom and dad say they'd be willing to sit through one. Thirty years from my last real family seder, I now plan to get back to Chicago some day to actually lead a seder. My version of "Next year in Jerusalem".

6. When I die, I want to be cremated. That's not really the weird part... lots of people wish to be cremated when they die. The weird part is the reason. It's not religious, it's not for 'green' reasons, it's just cause I'm afraid I'm going to wake up in the coffin in the grave. Tell me all you want that I'll be embalmed, or otherwise preserved... and that it won't be physically possible for me to wake up buried. I believe you. I also believe I might wake up in the coffin.

7. I hate to fly. Also, not a weird fact, in and of itself. The weird part, at least according to what I've heard, is that I have flown at least 40 times in my life. Every person I know who has flown that much has at the very least developed a coexistence with flying. Some may not like it that much, some do like it, some love it.. but they've all at least dealt with it sans histrionics. I have spent four days traveling across the country on a train, IN COACH, because I didn't want to spend 6 hours in a plane. I do love train travel, even in coach, but it's much more because I can't get on a plane without hyperventilating and pacing and panic attacks for days before, sometimes weeks. But yet, in some cases (work, or where the train doesn't go, like Vegas) I have flown. And never, ever, gotten used to it. Not even a little bit. That seems weird to me.