I've never been meemed before and I have to admit when I got the tag from Nina I was a bit like Sally Field when she won that 1984 Oscar, "you like me, you like me, you really like me". Reality settled in quickly but it was fun pretending for those few moments ...and fortunately my overt gratitude was not broadcast to millions.
Here are the rules: 1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog. 2. Share 7 random or weird things about yourself. 3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. 4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.Almost everyone in my blogword has already been tagged for this same meme- so, with the exception of Sulutsu whose wise and gentle shoulder I will tap, and Ranger Paul, who I planned to grow-up to be someday and, despite my age, I still hope that someday happens, I invite the first five readers who have yet to be tagged for the 7 Random Facts Meme to link back to me and let the world know those random things about you.
And since this is my first tag and I like to throw a photo into all my posts, I've tried to come up with a creative way to share these 7 random facts; and since I am a Leo and a man of many words -- I will take this short sentence request and now stretch it to the length of a novel, watch:
Random Fact One - I was a New Age Baby before the New Age arrived
Well, OK not really but when I was applying for my first passport at 25 and going through my birth records I discovered that my time of birth was documented as 11:11 am. Back then it really didn't mean too much -- although I did notice it on the clock quite regularly before making the discovery. (that was well before Sept. 11 and now I only notice 9:11).
When I moved to Santa Fe in 1994 I discovered entire cults of people worshiping my birth hour. It was freaky...like "go get a life" freaky. But if you Google 11:11 you will see more than 95,000,000 posts discussing the "11:11" phenomenon.
Some people feel haunted and threatened by that reoccurring number on the digital clock. I try to avoid those people at all costs. Many believe it is related to the concept of synchronicity and others believe it to be a kind of New Age sign, a vast ethereal door opening to save the planet. After the outcome of the elections in 2000, I think we can rule the later out.
I learned later on it was a great weapon when dealing with the "metaphysically-elite" of Santa Fe. When the seemingly anointed would espouse with such abject authority that their goddess trumped my totem symbol, or their reiki-regressionist ascended higher than my gypsy palm reader , or their amethyst outshone my peridot -- in those frequent moments when they would go on and on and on about how much more evolved they were -- all I had to do was look them in the eye, raise my brow and quietly whisper "I was born at 11:11". And then all you could hear was the whoosh of fabric as people in the room dropped to their knees performing all kinds of Hail Mary's, genuflecting toward me, in praise of those four little numbers and a couple of dots.
Humm, darling it would seem my birth hour checkmates your goddess, touche -- now where can I get a decent glass of wine and find someone to talk about art and hiking!
Listen, I've worked with a fine group of people for the last twenty-odd years - we have traveled the world for work together, played and laughed together and loved together. But for some reason when they make their way to this Blog - they call me up and say "Since when did you become a Nature Lover - is that a new phase you are going through, huhhh?
Uh, hellloooo. I was the real deal: sneaking out of the house at 2 to sit under the bird feeder and talk to the birds -- and they talked back; catching honey bees in a glass jar by 5 to feel them buzz for hours on end; the self-appointed manager of a box turtle rescue farm by 7, operating from my own backyard; raising injured fledglings by 9; strafing boa constrictors around my waist by 15 -to work the Oklahoma mall circuit as a junior curator for the local zoo; being chased in a death run by an enormous armor-plated Indian Rhinoceros in Nepal at 30 - well you get the idea. (Thank god I watched every episode of Daktari and knew how to run from a rampaging rhino).
And here is the proof: The front page of The Daily Oklahoman, May 4, 1979, me and Erica the Swainson's Hawk. I am giving some sort of demonstration-cum-lecture to yet another ladies lunch group on endangered species and migratory bird protection - see it was already old hat by 1979. And you think it's a phase!!
As a matter of fact, my dream my entire childhood was to major in Wildlife Management and work as a field biologist in a Conservation Management Area. My dream my entire adult life is to major in Wildlife Management and work as a field biologist in a Conservation Management Area. I don't let that dream die for one minute. I just keep buying lottery tickets.
What happened between then and now was basically Organic Chemistry and Microbiology got together and called me into the councilor's office and urged me to explore a different degree.
So, I moved to Journalism - graduated - got hired by the much beloved Oklahoma City Zoo's PR Department and got paid to write about animals and organized 10K Zoo Runs and begged money from old rich people who anthropomorphized my little world to the point it wasn't the dream I had hoped for -- I needed something well, more wild, I guess.
However, during that time at the zoo - I was asked to be the quintessential "guy from the zoo with an animal" on the renowned HoHo the Clown Show - an incredible educational show for kids that long predated Sesame Street and was popular even before I was born. Those type of shows were a dying breed but HoHo endured long enough for me to be a part of it -- arriving once a month dressed like Jack Hanna complete with my menagerie of supposedly-handleable zoo animals. And after ten seconds of playing back the first video -- I never spoke in an Oklahoma accent again.
When Ed Birchall, the infamous HoHo, died in the late 1980's, NBC News profiled him and his award winning show as one of the last great local children's shows that was disappearing from network television-- and I heard that, for about a second, I was immortalized on the national news with a tree kangaroo using my bloody leg has...well, a tree. Who knew - certainly not her keepers who suggested I take her on air.
Random Fact Three - Are those Bugle Beads on Your Beat?
When my inability to pass Chemistry or Microbiology forced me to change my major -- I picked Public Relations -- and then learned, after the fact, it was actually a Journalism degree. And to get that journalism degree I had to become a journalist before graduating. Which meant working for the college paper "The Daily O'Collegian" - now don't make fun - it was the seventh largest newspaper in Oklahoma - OK, still don't make fun.
I was never one of those clever, brainy kids in high school invited to work on the yearbook or the school paper. Journalism, to my mind, was way out of my league. Besides, I had spent my entire life preparing to be a field biologist, remember.
So, with the help of my J/B professor I applied with the required sample writings and was assigned to..remember now this is Oklahoma in 1982 - yes, that's right -- I was assigned to the "Pageant Beat". My world of birds and seeds and rocks and snake skins became replaced by rhinestones and bugle beads and young girls with great big dreams of becoming something.
But I needed to graduate -- who was I to argue - and people loved to read those stories of all that crowning glory. We had so many students at Oklahoma State winning local Miss America pageants -- the paper finally needed its own pageant beat reporter. I learned a lot in those days.
Yes, trust me, the Miss America pageant on the local level is definitely not a beauty pageant. And yes, they once were and perhaps still are the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world and the winners and finalists can't touch a penny of that money - it goes straight from the bank to the Bursar's office or the Student Loan company. If you don't go to school - you don't get a cent.
It was an interesting couple of years covering the pageant scene in Oklahoma - a major sport second only to Sooner football. And many of these girls were my peers and over the years I watched them use that money to go on to law schools and grad schools and med schools - opportunities they might not have enjoyed without the help of those often generous scholarships. Not a bad trade-off for ten seconds in a swimsuit.
Above is a shot from a press conference I covered when Treylinda Kerr from Moore, Oklahoma was crowned Miss Oklahoma at Oral Roberts University with a rousing rendition of "Stand By Your Man".
And who crowned the crooning beauty - none other than that Ugly Betty nemesis - the reigning Miss America, Vanessa Williams - just days before the folks from Atlantic City yanked that shiny crown off the top of her head for past indiscretions and just days before I asked to be reassigned to another beat. I like to think that Vanessa is having the last laugh now! You go girl!!
Random Fact Four - My Lofty Situation
I climbed Long's Peak on my 22 birthday. For no other reason, really, than my dad tried when he was 22 but he was turned back by weather. I wanted to fulfill that dream and I loved hiking, and I lived in the area - why not.
Long's Peak rises out of the Colorado plains escarpment wide and tall and to well over 14,000 feet and from a distance looks like a beaver chewing a tree stump.
The trail head is accessible just outside of Estes Park, CO where I was working that summer as a camp councilor for Cheley Colorado Camps. A glorious job because - I got paid to hike. I might not have been able to pass Chemistry or Microbiology but I was sure starting to wise up about life and how to live it. It took eight hours to get to the top of Long's Peak and I loved every second of it.
I tell you this now -- because at 46 -- I cannot walk across a 15 foot high bridge without getting nauseous, swooning and swaying with vertigo and swearing someone was trying to push me off. I have to hold on the railing with both white-knuckled hands and inch my way across that death march screaming "get away from me", "get away from me". Meanwhile, I could actually just jump down and be fine.
Funny how things change with age...actually some of those changes are not funny at all!
Um, anyone notice the "waffle stompers" - anyone remember waffle stompers?
Random Fact Five - My Famous Cousin
Perhaps maybe he's not that famous - but if you are a constant gardener you might know my cool, sweet, lovely cousin P. Allen Smith. Allen is the Martha Stewart of the gardening world and has quite a cult following - not to mention his own spots on the Weather Channel, CBS Morning News and PBS coupled with a bijillion beautifully photographed and beautifully written "how-to" gardening books.
Living most of my adult life in New Mexico -- his beautiful English country gardens were hard to manifest personally, but nevertheless - he is an amazing artist in the garden (and in the home, watch out Martha). I actually moved back to Oklahoma with the sole intent of living in a place where I can finally use one of his books.
In real life, Allen is every-bit as kind and gentle and wise as he seems on your television. Better yet, he was good to his mama and, like me, adored his grandmother - my grandmother's sister. Allen and I were "birds of a feather" so to speak growing up -- the only two in the entire family interested in being outdoors instead of watching endless hours of football. He was the original Nature Boy and I followed his lead. It would have been a lonely world there without that kindred spirit to look up to and he makes going to those family reunions in Little Rock worth the drive. I am proud of my cousin and he really has created a beautiful, authentic life there in Little Rock.
Random Fact Six - Red or Green?
Now this finally qualifies as random. The answer is Red. The answer to what, you say? It has been said by people much wiser than me that the defining moment you know you've become a New Mexican is when your taste buds start craving red chili over the more ubiquitous Green ones. That happened to me a few years ago - just one day out of the blue -- I ordered my usual bowl of green and received red instead. It had been years since I'd tasted red and decided to give it another try.
Oh my, that was a moment I will never forget -- eating red chili is finally eating New Mexico -- every single flavor, taste, and sensation conspires to taste like that land of enchantment. It's absolute mana from heaven and when I was living abroad in Greece and later Italy -- it is the single thing I craved the most and its a craving that was impossible to assuage.
Random Fact Seven - Are Those Rocks in your Pocket or are you just Happy to See Me?
Well, its likely that I'm happy to see you because I really am a people person if I can go a week or so between meeting people -- but yes those are rocks in my pockets.
I have been picking up rocks since I was a toddler. The have fascinated me on every level and continue to do so today. As a kid I believed that rocks were alive and could speak - I still do and I have never stopped listening. As I travel the world for work -- the souvenir I treasure most is that perfect, shiny, yet unusual stone that will fit in my pocket or my suitcase and finally rest in one of the multitude of collection bowls that circumnavigate my house.
This past year while working in Hawaii - a local man that I had met briefly circled round to have a private word with me. "You have a Hawaiian name, you know" he said. "Oh yeah, I heard once, Kimo or something like that?", I replied, remembering those sew-on patches in the ABC store that had your English name with the corresponding Hawaiian name below it. "No, no"...he laughed - "a real Hawaiian name -- an ancient one that arrives with you even though you are not from here and even though you might not be aware".
Now intrigued, "Sure, I'd love to know" I said. "I've heard of these things happening before (after all, I was born at 11:11 for heaven sake!). "Yeah, yeah" he said, this man who had never met me, "Your name is Puhaku and in English it means Stone Keeper. I think you understand". Yes, wise-one, I think I do.
My first rock as a gift, I must have been about 5, was the most perfect Oklahoma Rose Rock, red as blood and as round as my fist. I still have it -- it sits proudly among all the other immigrant rocks I've brought home and it welcomes them so genuinely to share a place in my home. If only we could learn to be like that big-hearted Rose Rock and sit proudly among other immigrants and make them feel welcome to this place we get to call home. After all, its the rocks I've brought from other countries that are the most fascinating and interesting to get to know. For me, life rocks!
This is a pic of my favorite place to hike in New Mexico, Tent Rocks. If you have not been there -- make sure you do on your next visit to northern New Mexico. At one point, thank god, we had a leader compassionate enough to protect things of exquisite beauty like these magnificent stones above, thank you Bill -- there was a natural gas company chomping at the bit to drill into these living, breathing legends.
The path through this canyon is lined with the obsidian glaze of Apache tears -- some say its bad luck to remove them -- just like the volcanic rocks from Hawaii guarded under Pele's watchful gaze. I collected a pocket-full of these shiny tears once, so warm they were in my hand, and took them home. Once there they seemed to scream at me until I finally had to bring them straight back. They are nice to look down upon as I wind my way around these gorgeous monoliths I call my own and I am now content to leave them alone right where they lay - crying for a past that no longer exists and a future that seems so uncertain.
Thank you for letting me share these seven random facts. Something tells me you learned more than seven things. Good or bad -- it's who I am and I have gotten quite used to it. Now go to Nina's blog and read her wonderful words and checkout some of her really cool bloggy friends.
Vanessa Williams, Red Chile, Tent Rocks photos(c) by me trryan. Two photos are me and the rest I appropriated without permission from a Google search.