1. My first solid memory is from my third birthday party. We had Indian feather headbands, and a balloon hunt. My favorite color has always been green, and my mom made sure I got the green feather. She also cheated and showed me where the green balloon was hidden before the other kids got to the party. Good times.
2. My most recent memory was an enlightening moment of extreme good fortune. When I woke this morning to greet the dawn on the balcony overlooking the lake, I was given a magnificent gift. A giant spotted ray jumped straight up, three feet into the air, flat as a pancake, waving its wings up and down before hitting the surface with a huge splat. It was a sign. An omen. A reminder that no matter how heavy the world is around me, I can choose to fly toward bliss. That ray lives its whole life under water, but it does not stop reaching for the sky.
3. I remember my second grade teacher Mrs. Boyd at Cherry Valley Elementary in Newark, Ohio. She had a framed picture of a donkey, just his grinning head peeking over a stall door. She told us that he was always watching us when her back was turned, and he whispered in her ear to tell her who was being bad. I don’t know about the other kids, but I could not be sure that the donkey was not really snitching on us.
4. I am proof that the only difference between belief and knowledge is self-deception.
5. I have had a strange relationship with Miami’s professional sports championships. We moved here in 1972 when I was in sixth grade. My parents got season tickets for the Dolphins. I rooted against them silently, since they were so popular. They won every single game. When our Florida Panthers made the magic run with the rubber rats all the way to the Eastern Conference Championship, I refused to go inside the Miami Arena until after the Stanley Cup was done. We did, however, go downtown and talk trash in Jaromir Jagr’s face one night after one of the Penguin games in the conference finals. He looked like he thought we would jump him, and nobody asked for his autograph. We attended each of the Florida Marlins’ victory parties after their World Series wins, but once again we refused to jinx them by going to the games. That’s the kind of voodoo we do.
6. Boxers or briefs? Neither, if I can get away with it.
7. I have the three coolest children on Earth. My oldest is teaching middle school literature, while married to a rocket scientist who works on the space shuttle. My middle is graduating this term in Tallahassee as a Seminole, and my youngest is a wildman studying Art in downtown Miami. I am truly blessed.
8. I spent half of my junior year in high school as a full-time intern at the Lowe Art Museum in the University of Miami’s main campus. I had an extraordinary opportunity to interact physically with one of the greatest single collections of American Indian artifacts, including a whole room full of powerful magic Kachina dolls.
9. I always resist the new wave of technology, and then take to it like a duck in water when I finally break down and make the switch. It happened with personal computers, CDs, and DVDs. I still own some 8-track tapes.
10. I enjoy getting caught up in large astrological or mythological predictions for the end of the world, and then devising rituals for saving our species. The next big one is 12/21/12. Supposedly the Mayan calendar ends on that date. Should be a massive party, start your prep today!
11. I got locked in the Salvador Dali museum one day when a pencil drawing he created during his honeymoon had been removed from its frame and stolen. I was not the one who took it.
12. I dug Joe Namath. He was, to me, the first sports superstar. He represented rebellion and the essence of cool. Twelve has been my favorite number ever since. I actually slept on a Joe Namath pillowcase, which is very disturbing now that I know how creepy it sounds.
13. I had Bell’s palsy for three months in 1989, and it paralyzed half of my face. Somehow I made it through, including a very fortunate gift I found lying on the sidewalk outside the supermarket.
14. Once I had some high-quality Japanese goldfish in a large tank in my room. The weather turned cold and I came home from work to find the entire 60 gallons covered in eggs. My pearl-scales spawned.
15. The Obama campaign was the first time I had ever donated money and time to a political cause, and I was really worried I would jinx it. Turned out pretty good in the end.
16. I have done quite a few things that I will never tell anyone other than Nina. Most of them were life-changing-level events. It is very difficult to keep these things secret, for someone like me who loves to talk about experiences and memories. I often think that the less people who know about something, the more powerful it is for any beings who can access it directly.
17. I love rationalization.
18. When asked to name the greatest human invention, I always say “words”.
19. Nina and I slept in our car at Niagara Falls.
20. In 1990, my students were chosen for award in an international graphic design competition against professionals and published in HOW magazine and I got the issue just in time for a flight to Chicago for a field trip.
21. When it comes to food, I will always choose something I have never eaten before. And I count the different species I devour at the Chinese buffet: my current record is 21.
22. Nina and I worked side-by-side cooking at a restaurant called Cafe Tu Tu Tango. I ran the brick pizza oven and she did the salads. We were both out in the main dining room and it was grand while it lasted. Then they shut down, since the rent in the upscale Aventura Mall was too high. The restaurant was covered in wicked cool decor full of random arthouse found objects. After the final Friday night shift, I lifted a giant wooden longhorn bull’s head from the wall and marched it to my car, passing three mall security guards with a grin on my way.
23. I am learning to adjust my stimulus/response tables until everything I experience causes bliss.
24. I don’t understand how happiness has gotten such a bad name.
25. I don’t ever remember being afraid of death. The Christian churches that I grew up in must not have stressed the Hell thing very much, or maybe I was always immune to it. I spoke in tongues with my cousins when we were in grade school at an intense charismatic church called the Glory Barn. I have always loved the idea of God in all forms. I am pretty sure that no one will ever be able to prove divine existence, and “divine” simply means “inside” anyway. I have talked to God, seen her work in the world, studied enough to know that we are probably creating all the different versions in our heads, and yes. I don’t ever remember being afraid of death. Maybe that’s why I live every day as fully as I possibly can, including helping others to enjoy their lives as fully as they can. Maybe that’s why my life is so fulfilling and satisfying. Maybe that’s the real reason I don’t ever remember being afraid of death.