Fred A Levy Haskell (fredcritter) wrote,
Fred A Levy Haskell

25 Things

25 Random Things About Me

  1. This list is not random. I neither doubt nor deny that randomness might be possible but I am certain that it’s not something I could attain when pressed to write 25 things about myself. Besides, when you come right down to it, I’m pretty sure that a truly random list of 25 things about me would not be the least bit interesting. I mean, c’mon: “I have type B Negative blood, my eyes are blue, I have a small scar on my…” Bor-ring.
  2. Not only was I born at a very early age, my adoption had been prearranged before I made my grand entrance. Exit. You know what I mean.
  3. Kindly Ma and Pa Haskell, the folks who found me laying in a tiny rocket ship crashed in a field … er … um … heh … That is to say, the people I mean when I say “my parents”, “my mother,” “my father” (may their memory be a blessing) are Joe & Ellamae Haskell. (I became a “Levy Haskell” on that happy, happy day when I married Susan.) I was truly fortunate to have been adopted by them, as they were wonderful, kind, loving, and giving people from whom I learned a lot about the world and especially about being a mensch.
  4. I have fairly recently come to understand that if I had been born a girl I would have been an entirely different person. Entirely. Much, much more so than would be true of most people. Remember, this was back in the days before ultrasound, so there wasn’t any way to know for sure which way my plumbing was configured before I made my debut. It was a private adoption, arranged ahead of time through an attorney rather than through some bureau of social services or somesuch. I don’t know what they do these days and whether this would still be possible, but the arrangements were fairly detailed and specific. You see, Joe and Ellamae really, really wanted a boy and there was this other couple who really, really wanted a girl. So had I turned out to be a girl, I wouldn’t have simply been a girl instead of a boy, I would have gone to and been raised by an entirely different family. You can argue “nature vs. nurture” all you want, but I gotta say that the meaningful similarities between me and the me-who-is-a-woman living in an alternate universe must be somewhere in the realm of the indiscernible.
  5. I’ve “always known” that I was adopted. This actually means at the very least that when I was told that I was adopted I didn’t find it memorably traumatic (or memorably much of anything else I guess. Otherwise I’d remember the occasion. Right?).
  6. I don’t know how or when I came up with this image—it seems to have been kicking around in my head for most of my life—but I have a mental picture of a fairly long hallway or corridor with a shelf mounted on each wall at about shoulder height. Each shelf runs the length of the hallway. Upon these shelves are baby after baby after baby after baby after baby—bazillions of ’em—each wearing nothing but a cloth diaper (this was long before disposable diapers) and each about old enough to sit up with the help of the wall behind them. Joe and Ellamae are slowly walking down the center of this corridor. Ellamae’s hand is gently resting in the crook of Joe’s arm, just like the way they taught us to proceed to the dance floor with a partner when we were in dance class all those years ago. They are walking at a somewhat slow pace, looking from side to side at the babies. When they come to where I’m sitting—probably with some drool dribbling down from my mouth to my chin—Ellamae tightens her grip on Joe’s arm. “Oh, Joe,” she says. “I want that one.”
  7. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, I’ve never met my biological parents, nor do I know anything about either of them. I would very much like to know something about their life circumstances—who they were around the time I was born. I think I would like to meet my biological mother some day. After which I might (or might not) be interested in meeting my biological father.
  8. Losing upsets me far, far more than winning pleases me. This is why I have a strong tendency to not play.
  9. is the number of pills currently I take each morning to help keep me (relatively) sane and (somewhat) happy and (reasonably) healthy: four 20 mg tablets of paroxetine, two 10 mg tablets of methylphenidate (repeated two more times over the course of the day), one 100 mg tablet of lamotrigine, one 20 mg capsule of omeprazole, and one Target-brand Specially formulated multivitamin/multimineral supplement for adults 50+ (compare to the ingredients of Centrum® Silver®). I’ve also been known to pop a couple of aspirin or a naproxen sodium tablet from time to time when I feel the need.
  10. I suffer from clinical depression and apparently have at least some degree of some form of attention deficit. For the most part, my meds keep me functional. Sometimes a little better than just “functional.” Sometimes a little less than “functional.”
  11. I’m Jewish. Or, at least, I was raised Jewish and I consider myself to be Jewish. However, I don’t think my biological parents were Jewish. Therefore I don’t know whether I’d be eligible to immigrate under The Law of Return; however, since I’m not planning to do so that shouldn’t be a problem.
  12. I wear a kippah when I’m not in my place of abode. Oy! A nice not-really-practicing Reform Jewish boy (who was raised casually Conservative) affecting a kippah? Gevalt!
    Nu? I started wearing a kippah when I’d heard that Senator Wellstone had died. After a few weeks I stopped. A relatively short time later I realized that I felt more comfortable wearing one than not. So my current arrangement with Hashem is I wear a kippah when I’m out and about.
  13. When people ask me about my job these days, I usually tell them that I am “happier than a pig in a mud patch.” I don’t actually know that a pig in a mud patch is any happier than a clam, but I rather suspect he or she is. In any case, things could only be better if I were being paid a better salary. I am working on a fascinating and important project which fits well with my interests, experience, and ability; I am privileged to be working closely with a group of people for whom I have enormous trust and respect; I like the rest of the people I know in the company; and I think I am working for a good company.
  14. If you are called in for an audit, I will come along with you.
  15. I was very unimpressed with Disneyland®. However, it had only been open for about a year and a half when I went—maybe it got better later on.
  16. I am blessed with friends who are the most fascinating, most talented, most charming, most beautiful, and most intelligent bunch of people ever. I love you all—each and every one of you. I probably wouldn’t have survived as long as I have without you.
  17. Speaking of blessed, my wife (Susan) and daughter (Gavriella) are two of the most amazingly wonderful and supportive and silly people in the known universe. In fact, they are more wonderful and amazing than words can tell. As one of my close friends is wont to say about her daughter, “Heck, I’d even like her if I didn’t know her and met her on the bus.” Gavi is a seriously cool person. As is Susan. I almost certainly wouldn’t have survived as long as I have without them.
  18. I spent my first year at the University of Minnesota in the Institute of Technology, thinking I was going to be an electrical engineer. When I transferred to the College of Liberal Arts, the only class which didn’t transfer (that is, for which they wouldn’t give me CLA credits) was the only class in which I’d received an A during my freshman year—Engineering Graphics [which is really just “drafting” under a fancy name after all (even though I was in a new, special, test class in which they were trying to integrate some form of computer graphics with the normal course materials so I had the opportunity to learn a bit of FORTRAN and sit at a teletype connected to a mainframe and see the results of my programs printed out on the teletype paper as plots … more or less), but still…]. I eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (Photographic Communication Specialization). Of course, that particular specialization is no longer offered. Sic transit.
  19. When I ventured that I was trying to write this list, Steph Caro helpfully suggested that the easy way to come up with the requisite number of things to say would be to lie. My initial thought in response was, “No. Uh uh. An unusually large number of my friends are writers and cartoonists and all sorts of creative artists, but I’ve always lacked The Gift.” A more serious slant on a response would be to say that I find it a whole lot easier to remember things, to be reminded of things, or to notice things than to imagine things. Which in truth is why I’m in such awe of my friends who are writers and cartoonists and painters and poets and songwriters and illustrators—all manner of fabulists. However, I no longer minimize my own particular talents (or, not so much as I used to, anyway) which tend to be in the realms of insight, editing, perception, connections, love, curiosity, presentation, enthusiasm … stuff like that.
  20. I’m rarely able to “dash something off.” I must agonize over almost everything I write. I rewrite it. I fix it. I tweak it. I diddle with it. I read over it again, making corrections and amendments and additions and deletions. I change it. I jot notes in the middle to come back to and complete because I can’t think of the right words at the moment but I think I can get the next bit written down. I … well … you probably get the picture.
  21. I love ellipses. Asides. Parenthetical expressions. Nested parenthetical expressions. Tangents.
  22. As a teenager, I was pretty good with a .22 caliber target rifle. I learned at summer camp and got up to … was it “sharpshooter”? Nine or ten “bars” or something like that? A year or two later in my novice competition I scored 100 with, I think, four X’s from the prone position. I thought I had the first place trophy locked up. The last fellow to shoot got 100 with six X’s (or something like that) so I was awarded the second-place ribbon. I never did any shooting after that. 
  23. I am right-handed and right-footed but left-eyed.
  24. I am a total failure with natural languages other than English. I have tried to learn (with varying degrees of interest, determination, and intensity) Hebrew, Spanish, German, Latin, and Swedish.
  25. I really need people. Almost desperately. I hope not pathetically.
  26. I am older than I look and much older than I think I am. I am, however, younger than dirt.
  27. Macintosh or PC? Macintosh. Hands down. Without the slightest smidgen of a doubt. Even though my Blue & White G3 Power Macintosh is 10 years old now and is starting to show her age—she’s a little too slow to handle video well. On the other hand, she never ever chides me for being intimately familiar with the PCs at work.
  28. Music. I’ve had and still have a life-long love affair with music. It is essential. My taste in music these days has become almost too broad to be called “eclectic.” I admit that I don’t like very much of the current popular music I hear on occasion but I suspect that if I were to hear it more often and got used to it there would be more of it I would like. As it is, I’d rather listen to symphonic and chamber music from the early baroque through the classical period (although I do not yet understand or enjoy Opera), renaissance music, jazz [I’m less fond of big band and “modern” than of the rest (although I do like some of each), and I definitely don’t like jazz-rock fusion (although Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are teaching me to appreciate jazz-bluegrass-rock fusion)], rock and roll, rock, acid rock, folk rock, folk music, “folk” music, acoustic music, punk, and folk, traditional, and some popular music from cultures and countries other than the U.S. And any number of other musics I am forgetting to mention or for which I don’t have a label.
  29. I started trying to learn to play guitar when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I’ve continued to try, off and on, ever since.
  30. I make photographs. I just now realized that the best answer to the question I’m frequently asked when I mention I’m a photographer—“of what?”—might well be “beauty.” That is, of beautiful and interesting people, things, scenes, moments … whatever I think will make beautiful and interesting photos.
  31. I’m one of those people to whom cilantro tastes almost exactly like Ivory bar soap. I understand this probably has something to do with how our taste receptors function but there are apparently at least a couple of questions still unanswered about the phenomenon: whether we’re detecting some tastants others do not detect or vice versa; and whether it’s hereditary.
  32. I know that cilantro tastes like Ivory soap to me because: 1) I’ve eaten cilantro; and 2) when I was in second or third grade I said a word that caused my teacher to rub Ivory bar soap on my front teeth and to tell me not to rinse my mouth and to stand there spitting into the sink until she came back for me. As I recall, I didn’t know what word I’d said that had caused her to take this action [she, of course, wouldn’t tell me (I think she gave me the old “you know what you said” routine) and I’d probably been saying a lot of words before she nabbed me (most them perfectly inoffensive), so who knows which one was the problem]. Whatever it may have been, I’m fairly certain I didn’t know what it meant. I was a pretty naïve kid. Ah, the Good Old Days…
  33. One of my female friends in her “25 Random Things About Me” said, “I develop crushes on people all the time. They’re harmless; I certainly have no intention of following through. But, they can be awfully distracting.” And in the follow-on comments someone said that was true of her as well. *sigh*
    Me, I’m sort of a guy. You know. Guys are supposed to be pushovers for a pretty face … right? So I, too, develop crushes on people all the time. I believe and sincerely hope that they’re harmless, even though most of the time I would, um, “follow through” if all concerned/related parties were okay with it. (We are, after all, poly.) Hm. Come to think of it, only if the crushee is a friend.
    And … by golly! … she’s right—those crushes can indeed be awfully distracting.
  34. I am a hard-headed rationalist who nonetheless sustains a surprising number of mystical beliefs.
  35. The first Grateful Dead record album I owned (Anthem of the Sun) was a premium for subscribing to Rolling Stone. Anthem is a thick, complex work and I didn’t really understand it or get into it right away but, oddly enough, it made good background music so I’d put it on when I was doing other things. I eventually learned to love it. I attended my first Grateful Dead concert on a Sunday night in 1968 at the Labor Temple in Minneapolis. The ticket cost me $1. Of course, that was back when a dollar was worth something. I found them pleasant and somewhat interesting but didn’t really understand or get into them then, even though I went back to see them the second time they played the Labor Temple. Later on in my life I came to adore the Grateful Dead and their music. Some things just take a little time and experience is all.
  36. I was also lucky enough to see and hear quite a few other fabulous acts at the Labor Temple in the late 60’s and early 70’s, including Spirit, Rotary Connection, Muddy Waters, Procol Harum, Mother Earth, Pacific Gas & Electric, Jethro Tull (it was their first American tour—in support of This Was—and they were the front act for … was it Procol Harum?), and … undoubtedly others I can’t recall at the moment.
  37. I saw The Who at the Guthrie Theater (which had a modified theater-in-the-round design that featured a thrust stage projecting from a back wall, with seating for 1,441 people surrounding nearly two thirds of the stage). They were kind of between popularity at that time (they were then on tour to support their new album, Tommy), so they were able to sell out two shows without disappointing/turning away an unconscionable number of people. The opening act—most appropriately when you stop to think about it—was Koerner, Ray and Glover.
  38. There were some other fabulous acts I caught at the Guthrie in the late 60’s and early 70’s, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Gary Burton, Muddy Waters, a double-bill with the Steve Miller Band and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and Steve Goodman (once as part of a triple bill—with Bonnie Koloc and John Prine—and a second time solo). And, you know, probably others.
  39. Speaking of concerts, in the mid- to late-60’s I was extremely fortunate to be able attend some concerts at another unusual venue: Dayton’s seventh floor auditorium. I can remember three of them: Gerry Mulligan, The New Vaudeville Band, and the Yardbirds. My wonderful father took me (at my request, of course) and although he probably liked Gerry Mulligan and The New Vaudeville Band, I really do not know what he thought of the Yardbirds—they weren’t exactly his kind of music don’tyaknow.
  40. Oh yeah, and some concerts at the Minneapolis Auditorium in that era as well: Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, the Stone Poneys, and The Doors (as a special treat, Jim Morrison called local harmonica legend Tony “Little Son” Glover to the stage. As I recall, every one of us in the audience who knew his name—all ten or twenty of us—cheered and applauded furiously). Also held there was a big “teen show” which was a feature of the Minneapolis Aquatennial in 1967 I believe it was (written up for the Minneapolis Tribune by one of the young reporters working there at the time: Molly Ivins). It featured the Shadows of Knight, Buffalo Springfield, the Jefferson Airplane, and … again, perhaps others I can’t recall.
  41. I found out about and became involved with science fiction fandom when I was 13 years old or thereabouts. Went to my first Worldcon just after I turned 18. It was huge! It was the largest Worldcon ever. It was NyCon III in New York City and it had about 1,500 members. I have continued my involvement with the science fiction fan community to this very day.
  42. I didn’t colour outside of the lines very often when I was a little kid. I’ve been kinda trying to make up for that unfortunate fact ever since.
  43. I love to read. No, really, I love to read. I’m telling you, I love to read. When I was younger I read a lot of science fiction—until fifteen or twenty years ago I read almost entirely science fiction. I’d say “I read for escape. I read science fiction so when I finish a book I don’t feel as if I’d just wasted my time by reading it.” Until I was in my mid-20’s or so I tended to tell people that I was pretty much illiterate outside of science fiction; then I discovered how shockingly little most people have read and I realized that I really had read quite a few works of literature other than sf—at least in comparison. These days I’m reading a lot of books about science, history, the development of Jewish thought and culture, and the Tanakh and commentary … most anything that catches my interest; almost no fiction though.
  44. I seem to be blind in the portion of the spectrum in which poetry lives. A dear friend once called me on this: “You enjoy songs don’t you?” she asked. “Well songs are just poetry set to music. Right?” I recognized the truth of her statement and had to think about it. What I finally figured out is when I hear a song, I generally don’t understand the lyrics at first—what I respond to is the music. And if the music is sufficiently interesting it makes it worth my while to listen to the song the ten or twenty or fifty times it takes me to get a handle on what the lyrics are on about. (Since then I’ve noticed that not all songs are, in fact, poetry set to music—some are mere doggerel or even just groups of words that rhyme at particular intervals. Many of those sorts of songs make themselves clear to me more or less immediately.) So I reckon if I were to be able to figure out how to look at a poem without immediately phasing out and, in addition, come up with a way to get myself to read it over and over and over and over again numerous times, I probably would be able to understand that poem … at least to some extent … um … it would no longer be a complete mystery to me. (A curious side note to this is I went with some people to hear Allan Ginsberg read back in the early 70’s and I found I was with him every bit of the way—I got it! It must have been telepathy (or perhaps just illusory), however, because I haven’t been able to understand even some of the same poems he performed before or since. Not even when I hear them on a recording. Curious, eh?)
  45. Over the course of my life I’ve done many, many very interesting things (not to mention “teachable moments” and interesting things) which I haven’t listed here. I reckon I’ll manage to squeeze in a few more before the last rose of summer pricks my finger.
  46. Sometimes I just don’t know when to quit.
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