Wednesday, January 07, 2009

16 Random Things About Me

There’s a new meme making the rounds of crime-fiction-related blogs, after being given birth on Facebook. While I am not usually one to participate in this sport (and am only rarely asked to join in, anyway), my friend and longtime January Magazine cohort, Linda L. Richards, invited me to have a whack at it this time. And I’m always up for a challenge.

The rules are pretty straightforward:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
Already, there have been a number of bloggers exposing tidbits of intimate information to the prying public through this meme. They include the aforementioned Ms. Richards; Patti Abbott; Bill Cameron; Ali Karim; and Patrick Shawn Bagley. Undoubtedly, more will follow. It’s actually a rather enjoyable exercise to muse on small things about yourself that most people probably don’t know. I figured it would be tough to come up with 16 worth mentioning; but when I finally got going, it was hard to stop myself at that number. (I’ll have to save the remaining factoids for some later date.) For now, here goes:

1. I love hotels. I’d probably live in a hotel for the rest of my life, if I could afford to do so, and as long as I had an office elsewhere to store my books. In the mid-1980s, I moved to Detroit, Michigan, to take a job as a magazine editor and was put up for six months (at company expense) at what was then the Westin Hotel in the Renaissance Center downtown. I couldn’t have been happier, enjoying room service, laundry pick-up and delivery, and restaurants and movie theaters a mere elevator ride away.

2. I once had a friend who could’ve gotten me a job crewing for singer Jimmy Buffett on his boat. Stupidly, I passed up that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

3. I can’t stand the smell or taste of mustard--it makes me want to wretch. Ditto with horseradish and wasabi. There must be some element common to all three, because I’m equally sensitive to them and they all cause the same reaction.

4. For some reason, hearing the 18th-century Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” always brings tears to my eyes, especially when it’s belted out on bagpipes.

5. I used to write and host a series of TV segments about Seattle history, based on my book Eccentric Seattle. But I had to give it up, because I didn’t like seeing myself on the tube. I thought the producers should’ve hired somebody handsome to play me.

6. I was born with a high capacity for alcohol. This could’ve been very bad, had I also been prone to alcoholism. Fortunately, I am not. My capacity has served me well at times over the years. Maybe a decade ago, my wife and I attended one of her company Christmas parties. And in the course of it, someone got the brilliant idea to have a tequila-drinking contest. The half a dozen women in attendance were out or the running early, so the decision came down to about as many male imbibers. Finally, my wife’s boss (who outweighed me by 50-75 pounds) and I were the last ones competing, having each consumed probably 10 shots of Mexican hair-raiser. Even I knew that I couldn’t spill too much more down my gullet, so I went for a bluff. I looked across at my opponent, seated at the opposite end of the long table, and said, “OK, I have to admit something: I don’t think I can drink more than three or four more of these.” My wife’s boss immediately announced with a groan that he conceding. He didn’t look very good in the morning, but I could at least stand with relative verticalness.

7. I’ve never been inside a Wal-Mart store. Never want to go.

8. For many years, I worked as a travel writer, in part for Travel & Leisure magazine. During that time, I had the chance to visit a great number of exotic places. But the spots where I feel most at home are Jamaica, Australia, London, Barcelona, New Orleans, and San Francisco. That last city is my favorite place of all. I’ve told my wife and friends that if and when I die (many decades from now), I want to be cremated and have my ashes tossed off the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t care if it’s illegal.

9. I was named Jeffrey after my maternal grandmother’s favorite brother, Geoffrey Bunting. My mother once told me that had I been born a day earlier, on March 17, my parents would have named me Patrick, instead.

10. I rarely loan my books, and almost never give them away. I still have 99.5 percent of the books I’ve owned since high school.

11. One of the reasons I like writing fiction? Because it gives me the chance, through my protagonist, to finally get the girl.

12. I’m a hell of a whistler. Vibrato and everything.

13. I didn’t have a driver’s license until I was 40 years old. My mother started driving at about the same age. I dreamed as a youngster that I would die in the crash of a black car, and it put me off the whole business. It wasn’t until I got married and my wife asked that I share the driving, that I finally got my license. And then I was proud enough to be annoyed when I didn’t score 100 percent on my driving exam.

14. While a senior in college, I won a spot on the selection committee for that year’s commencement speaker. I’d barely stayed awake through the previous year’s commencement address, given by some dull banker, and wanted my own class to be sent forth into the world by someone more memorable. In the end, I was able to secure Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau as our guest--a minor coup that won me notice from The New York Times. (I was interviewed in a wrap-up piece about that year’s college commencement orators by Robin Toner, who just recently died.) Prior to his address, I had the chance to dine with Trudeau, and in the course of it I asked him--pleaded with him, really--to let me interview him for my hometown’s alternative newsweekly, explaining that it would put me in a good position with the editors there. Trudeau politely refused, saying, “If your whole future in journalism depends on interviewing me, then you’d better think about a different profession.” Wise words, but hard to hear at the time.

15. Although I consider myself computer savvy, other electronic gizmos do nothing for me. I’ve never sent a text message in my life. I once received one on my cell phone, and it took me several weeks to figure out what it was.

16. People often insist that they wouldn’t wish to travel back in time 20 or 30 years and live things over again. They’re fools. I’d be thrilled to be 30 years younger and have the chance to make changes in my life. In fact, I might change most everything.

Although the rules say I’m supposed to tag 16 more people, that narrows down the available stock pretty damn quickly. So instead, I shall tag only four bloggers, none of whom I’ve seen chosen yet: Gerard Brennan, Uriah Robinson (aka Norman Price), Mystery Readers Journal editor Janet Rudolph, and my old friend Kevin Burton Smith of The Thrilling Detective Web Site. Oh, and of course I’m also supposed to tag back to Linda Richards.

Have fun with this, everyone.


Linda L. Richards said...

I so knew you'd rock at this! And your answers are terrific.

A agree entirely about living in a hotel. Like you, though, I'd need a place to store all my excellent junk. (And books are not junk, but they sure take up a lot of room!) And your number 11? I don't know, Jeff: far as I can see, you did get the girl.

Kevin Burton Smith said...


Uh, I mean, "Yikes!"

Bill Cameron said...

Amazing Grace on bagpipes draws a tear to my eye as well. Yes, I admit that The Wrath of Khan is probably what got this going in me, but still. Yes.

Scotland the Brave by a full pipe and drum band also blows me away.

Ali Karim said...

Good stuff and very funny, brightened my day and you are well traveled - a wonderful thing to travel

Great insight into your existence


Uriah Robinson said...

I am chuffed, proud , overwhelmed and astonished to be tagged along with such a distinguished group. I will watch and wait and see how the professionals handle this meme. The only interesting thing about I can think of at the moment is that I was once lost a job to a murderer, but I will get the old brain working and see if there are another 15.

Anonymous said...

I can cure you of the "Amazing Grace" tears. Download and play The Dropkick Murphys version. Or just go here and dance like crazy.

Gerard Brennan said...

Hi Jeff

Ta for tagging me. Just so you know I didn't duck out of it, here's the link -- 16 facts!


Janet Rudolph said...

16 things about me? Who would care? I'll get to work on this.