Friday, December 22, 2006

Five things you don't know about me.

Stephe demands I participate in a "5 things you don't know about me"
social experiment.

I can't imagine there are 5 things anybody doesn't know about me. My life is
an open book, and I bore strangers with its intimate details. The casual
bystander would mistake me for a bum at a bus stop.

In case you've never met me, here are five things that everyone else already
knows. Now you don't have to feel left out.

(1) I was a sickly child.

I was so asthmatic that I slept sitting up or under oxygen tents and was once
airlifted out of Louisiana. I have congenital vision problems, and had several
bouts of eye surgery as a child, which didn't completely fix them. I had a car
hit me and run over my head when I was five, and I was still having major
surgery to repair the damage in college. I had whooping cough, and had both
measles and chicken pox twice.

Just as fat kids always think of themselves as fat, I'll always think of myself
as sickly.

(2) I wrestle badly.

After I got back from Viet Nam and out of the Marines, I was in good shape. I
thought I'd go back to college and go out for wrestling. I was, frankly,
awful. No one else was masochistic enough to go out for my weight class, so I
have a varsity letter. I'm 6' tall and I wrestled at 127 lbs. No kidding.

One of my sisters still has the letter sweater.

(3) I'm the least musical person in my family.

I perform regularly, have made a CD, sometimes tour nationally, and have been
giving lessons and conducting workshops for, oh, 30 years or so. I have few
memories before sixth grade (probably after-effects of the head injury), but I
remember a song I did for a 3rd-grade play. I took music history and
theory/composition courses in college.

You'd think that'd do it, but noooo .... One sister gets BBC airplay. The
other sings for her *day* job. I think of myself as a moderately musical guy
with extremely strong role models.

(4) My Ph.D. is in genetics, but I got a C in high-school biology.

My father was in the Air Force when I was a kid, and we moved a lot; I went to
fourth grade in Nebraska, Louisiana, and California. One of my
elementary-school counsellors called my mother in to advise her on rearing a
retarded child.
I wound up a high-school dropout. We moved to Spain just before 11th grade. I
attended that year, but ran out of courses I was willing to sit through. I
didn't go my senior year. I took a pair of required courses -- English and
American History, I think -- by correspondence. My parents somehow talked the
local high school into awarding me a diploma at the end of the year based on
that, but I wasn't invited to the graduation ceremony.

Forty years later, my "graduating class" still sends me letters asking me to
pay money to come to their reunions.

I got C's in high-school English and Social Studies, too.

Opinions I expressed in class made my California Social Studies teacher so
angry that he yelled at me all the way through a class period and then, after
the bell rang, half way through the next one. The students in the next class
came in, sat down, and listened in silence. When he let me go to my next class
-- English -- I had to walk in during the middle of class. The English teacher
was his wife. A third high-school teacher got so mad at me that she told me
she'd make sure I never got into college.

I appear to be unable to impress primary- or secondary-school educators.

(5) From the time I was 15, all I wanted out of life was to be a father.

When I was a teenager, one of my best friends thought she was pregnant. I
wasn't the culprit, but I thought about proposing and starting a family right
there and then. She got her period before I could work up the nerve.

In grad school, my advisor tried to persuade me to be more career-oriented.
After my first post-doc, I had a choice between pursuing career or family: I
changed careers, married and had three daughters.

A dozen years ago, my ex-wife divorced me in a "no-fault" divorce. Divorce
lawyers, custody evaluators, and the Boulder County courts jumped in and used
that as a lever to irreparably destroy us.

I haven't been awakened by nightmares about it for almost a week.

I expect never to see my little girls again. My mother, their grandmother,
died cut off from them.

I spent countless hours, and zillions of dollars on professionals to try to
prevent a train wreck. After that failed, I spent more trying to repair the

After half a dozen years, I gave up. It's beyond recovery.

The sorts of havoc that they wrought on us has now become illegal in the
majority of states west of the Mississippi. It's still legal in Colorado;
however, senior divorce-industry professionals have opined that it probably
wouldn't even have happened in other counties.

Today, I advise parents trailing small children around grocery stores to get
out of Colorado, and if they can't get out of Colorado, to at least flee
Boulder County.

Boulder is so special.

Okay, done. I tag, in my turn, ... lessee ... David, Jed, Richard, John, and Ron.


Anonymous stephe said...

Brilliant! To be clear, despite knowing you for 17-ish years, I did not know you wrestle badly, were a sickly kid (I only know the USMC guy), or have a weird educational history. You're clearly a better musician (or maybe more courageous) than I.

I remain honoured to know you (better).

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ah have been challenged, and ah shall replah in due tahm. I am, suh, yo humble &tc.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Ronald Coleman said...

Five things everyone who actually knows me, knows about me, but no one "here" knows about me:

1. I'm a ridiculous underachiever. Most of the people I hung around with in college and law school and who thought I was among the smartest and "most talented" people they know either can support their family comfortably or are worth eight figures, or more. That's not counting the ones who were too dumb to even recognize my brilliance, who are also millionaires. I've never had a year in the black. I ran the table at Northwestern University Law School as a first year and was too lacking in common sense and ambition to even do law review.

2. I learn Talmud regularly. In the last few years my study partner (a genuine talmudic scholar who also has a Ph.D. in finance from Columbia and may be poorer than I am!) and I have completed the tractates Sotah, Avodah Zara and anticipate finishing Betza next spring. With another partner and somewhat on my own I also finished Tractate Yoma.

3. I have a weight problem. Some years are better than other. I range from 20 to 50 pounds overweight. But when I see the people who've lost a lot of weight, I inevitably see that they have lost something else, too. Their affects are depressed. I'm not making it up. Brains need sugar. But if I get much past 215, I can tell I'm disgusting, and I usually am able to put the brakes on and turn it around... for a while.

4. I speak Yiddish. I went to the Workman's Circle I.L. Peretz schools, and then the socialist Camp Hemshekh, for years. It stood me in good stead when I became religious.

5. I speak awful Yiddish. My late Aunt Dorka said, after hearing my chopped up, semi-frum. semi-Lithuanian, artificial "klal Yiddish," in that inimitably charming Eastern European way, "You speak Yiddish like a goy."

Five things almost no one knows about me:

1. I performed on stage with Brooke Shields. We were in the Triangle Show at Princeton. I even wrote the skit. Her mother liked me a lot.

2. I was arrested once. Hanging out in the wrong place with some "bad kids," I was busted for "possession of alcohol" as a minor -- being in the room with an open bottle which I had, in fact, not touched. They were trying to get us to give them information about a vandalism incident, so they cuffed us and everything. Really made a great evening for my parents. No charges were filed.

3. I have a weakness for "bad kids." It continues to this day. Even in shul I gravitate socially to certain kinds of "bad kids." But it's really a quirk, because I remain pretty square.

4. I don't drink any more. Drinking reveals the real you. Okay, so underneath I'm not so square, after all. So no serious drinking. The real me stays in a box. There's nothing wrong with letting the better me be The Man.

5. I have no patience for hardly anything. I just don't want to hear it. I can figure out what most written pieces are about in about 10 seconds. I can't be bothered to read the rest. I may have a touch of ADD, but I'm too "accomplished" to have it as a syndrome (as opposed to a trait).

Oh, and one more thing.

6. I'm generous to a fault. No, really, a fault. I give away money, and time (which in my line of work is money) to almost anyone who asks for it. It's a good thing I don't have much money or I'd be in trouble. I'm not motivated by money, which is a problem, because I need it, maybe more than most people who are not motivated by it. But I give away far more than I have any business doing. I ran a business into the ground because I not only hired people based on their needs, not mine, but couldn't fire them despite the looming disaster.

Now you know more than you cared to -- except for some reason you have evidently read this far!

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Ana said...

You are alot more like me than I thought you were when I saw how short your toes were! Your musical ability is clearly (to my ears) improved greatly over the last two years. You are possibly a "kindred spirit" which means a good mirror for me. Nice seeing you and dancing with you.

3:56 PM  

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