I’ve been enjoying tremendously connecting to people on Facebook. In the past month or so, I’ve reconnected to dozens of people from high school I haven’t seen since 1974, and even to my childhood best friend from the age of 3 to 5, and who I last saw around the age of 13 or so.
There’s been a fascinating exercise of sorts floating around Facebook recently, whereby someone writes up a list of things about themselves that may or may not be of interest to anybody, then “tags” 25 of their Facebook friends (both literaly, using the “tag” feature, and as in “tag, you’re it”). Initially, when my friend Leora from Iowa tagged me, I resisted doing this. After all, I’m a proud “contrarian,” and don’t like doing things just because “everybody is doing it.” After awhile, as more people tagged me, I started to look at their lists. I decided to try writing mine, with the intention of keeping it to myself. The more I wrote, the more things I wanted to write. Ultimately, I found this exercise to be quite a lot of fun, and I wound up “tagging” over 25 friends. Now, dear reader, I share my list with you. And by the way… tag, you’re it!
25 Random Things About Me
1. I was terrified to sing in front of people for the first 20 years of my life.
2. I wouldn’t sing in front of my grandparents (at age 5) unless they covered their eyes.
3. The first time I sang in public was when I sang “Popeye The Sailor Man” in the kindergarten show at P.S. 205 in Bayside. (How I finagled this gig, in the middle of a “circus” show, is another story.) The next time was maybe 10 or 11 years later, in my brother Jonathan’s party band, for a Sweet 16 at Sammy Kaye’s Roumanian Deli on Queens Boulevard. I had sung around the house, and my brother had encouraged me for months to try singing in public. I finally relented and agreed to do a duet with him on “The One After 909,” but a massive migraine-like headache came on while I was singing, growing in intensity as the song reached the end. I had to quit performing immediately thereafter and sit in the corner, holding my head and covering my eyes, until we went home.
4. I didn’t try singing again until one of my Phi Sigma Delta fraternity brothers, Barry Dickstein, commented effusively on my singing after a bong game in college. I signed up for University Sing, did a duet with a guy whose name I can’t remember (but whose mother was a MILF!) on “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” I didn’t die, and have been able to sing in public ever since. Not dying is good!
5. When I was 15, I tried to ride my 5-speed English racer down a motorbike trail in the lots behind the shopping center. It was over 90 degrees that day, and I was all alone, as all the other kids were in camp or otherwise occupied. I flipped over the handlebars and landed on my neck, and was completely paralyzed for a good hour, unable to move, feel a thing, or cry for help. I probably would have been found dead days later. Miraculously, feeling came back, and I arose, wounded and sore, but alive and well. I decided in that moment that I must have a guardian angel who argued with God on my behalf that day. It was probably my maternal grandmother.
6. I taught myself to play the guitar when I was 13, in the eighth grade (I’m now in the 48th grade…). My brother gave me his old student guitar after a trip to Sam Ash in Hempstead to buy his first real guitar, and I was buying my first good trumpet. He was going to throw out the student guitar, but offered it to me. In the backseat, on the way home, my brother gave me my one and only guitar lesson, consisting of two chords (E minor and A minor), and the opening notes of “Satisfaction,” apparently the Jewish guilt version of the song in a minor key. I quit the trumpet the next year and joined my brother’s band. I’m finally ready to take guitar lessons and actually learn what I’m doing.
7. My one idiot savant skill is the ability to remember weird details of every phone conversation I’ve ever had from a pay phone. Whenever I pass a pay phone, I remember someone I spoke to on it, even if it was someone I never spoke to again. As more pay phones disappear from our world, I remember less conversations.
8. The entire world of personal growth and development that has opened up to me, including my coaching career, would never have happened had Andy Kaufman not “confessed” to David Letterman in 1982 that he couldn’t tell his parents that he loved them, and even brought his real parents out from the wings to tell them on national television, “for the first time,” that he loved them. I later found out this was not even true, but that story moved me to enroll into my first personal growth seminar at 1 in the morning in early February 1983. Feeling and expressing my love is now as available to me as the air that I breathe. [I also had the opportunity to acknowledge Andy to his face later that year for his contribution to my life. His brother Michael has been one of my dearest friends since meeting him, in a remarkable “coincidence,” at that first seminar in 1983.]
9. In 2004 and 2005 I was a semi-finalist in the Andy Kaufman Award show in the New York Comedy Festival. I bombed, but it was an amazing experience.
10. Shaving my head was rather liberating. I once turned down a big part in an indie movie called “He Oughta Be Committed” because I was too chicken to shave my head.
11. Sometimes I have to have comfort foods. My favorites are Nabisco Animal Crackers, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, my mother’s tuna casserole recipe or meatloaf recipe, rice pudding, and vanilla ice cream.
12. When I was a kid I wanted to watch every TV station go off the air and come back. I’d watch the pattern until it went to static. I drove my brother nuts, since he shared the room with me.
13. When I was around 5, Hall of Fame Quarterback Y.A. Tittle came to my family’s apartment for coffee and cake. I freaked out and called him “The Man on the Moon,” and yelled, “Get that bald man out of my house.” Ahh, talk about the chickens coming home to roost!
14. The first girl I ever decided I was in love with was Lorie Leff, in the fifth grade. She was beautiful and smart and her hair smelled nice. I was terrified of talking to her. I had an iguana that I named after her. I learned that naming your pet iguana after a girl is not a turn-on.
15. My first real love was Lisa Shaine. I chased her for half of high school. We went to the senior prom together, and she gave me my first kiss; it was amazing. I wonder how she is sometimes.
16. I love to mix cereals. I don’t eat sugary cereals or add sugar to my cereal. Sometimes I will have as many as three different cereals. My favorites are Wheat Chex, Cheerios, Grape-Nuts and shredded wheat. Cheerios and Wheat Chex don’t go together, but the others can all be mixed.
17. I love, love, love getting on my bike and just exploring. It keeps me young.
18. I still love cartoons. Cartoons keep me young. My favorite current cartoons are Family Guy and Spongebob Squarepants.
19. I never watch news late at night, or anything negative. I like to watch old comedy shows before going to sleep, or Conan. It think it’s great to go to sleep laughing. The bad news will still be there in the morning, so why take it to bed with you?
20. I like to get dressed in a tux on New Year’s Eve and pretend I’m living in a Fred Astaire movie.
21. I have a lot to be grateful for.
22. I can type about 125 words a minute, at least after a double latte. I created a mnemonic keystroke system that more than doubles that speed.
23. Goofy things excite me. When I get a package delivered, I hear Ronnie Howard in my head singing “The Wells Fargo Wagon is a Comin’ Down the Street” from “The Music Man.”
24. My musical icons are The Beatles, Sinatra and Elvis, in that order. I’ve always done impressions, and I taught myself to sing as an impression of a singer, by singing to Sinatra records, meticulously listening for and replicating the nuance of every breath, phrase and lilt. Eventually, I found my own voice.
25. I invented the Internet in the sixth grade, in 1967. Seriously. We had to write an essay in Miss Nooger’s class. She asked us to make up an invention, then write about it. My idea was for a TV screen that would slide out from under the toilet bowl, and you could press a button to get the contents of any newspaper in the world instantly delivered to the screen. She thought there was something wrong with me, and called my mother to express her concern about my “bathroom obsession.” Clearly, she didn’t know that the bathroom is also known as “The Men’s Library”!