Today’s my 55th birthday. Okay, that was yesterday. My 56th birthday is 364 days from now.
Gee, that makes me sound old as fuck.
Save the sentimentality, people, though I appreciate the spirit in which it’s intended. Birthdays don’t mean much to me. It’s just another day. 5-5 just another number. However, this does seem like a good occasion to share some personal stuff with readers.
First, a short commercial message. I’m asking for money. Yes, money — as in please make a donation. I accept PayPal. There’s an icon on the upper right-hand side of the screen. Please click that square and be generous.
When I embarked on this (almost) daily blog four years ago, I promised I’d write whatever popped into my head as often as time permitted — and those thoughts would be unfiltered. But I also made an agreement that I would not allow this website to cost me any money. I hired a terrific webmaster, Ernst-Dieter Martin, who should take a bow (see his picture on the Emeritus Section, along with a link to his web services). He’s been with me since Day One and makes sure the site stays up and is free of cyber attacks. I haven’t paid the webmaster in a while. So, I’d like to send some cash his way. So, if you can send $10, $20, or $10,000 — he (and I) would appreciate it. Thank you for doing whatever you can.
Now, on to my confessional.
There’s no such thing as normal. We’re expected to be circles and squares. Reality is, we’re all polygons, with multiple sides. Here’s 55 things you probably didn’t know about me:
1. I was born in Dallas, Texas on February 6, 1962. The most famous person also born that exact same day and year is Axl Rose — the lead singer for Guns and Roses.
2. My parents divorced when I was 2. My father spent most of his professional career as an air traffic controller. He was fired by President Ronald Reagan in the infamous PATCO strike of 1982. My mother worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company most of her life.
3. While growing up, I lived in Dallas, Chicago, and Albuquerque. I changed schools five times between the grades of 1-6. Each time we moved, I had to make new friends. That probably made more into an outgoing person.
4. I had speaking and singing roles in all four of my high school musicals. My senior year, I had the lead role in “Bye Bye Birdie.” Play the guitar badly. I play the piano worse. Actually, I don’t play the piano at all. If I have a great personal regret, it’s that I never learned the piano.
5. My junior year, I got expelled from high school for drinking alcohol and had to go to an alternative school for troublemakers. Nonetheless, I was elected Senior Class President the following year.
6. I’ve never done illegal drugs of any kind, including smoking marijuana.
7. I earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas system, but dropped out of a Masters Degree program after one year.
8. Right out of college, I tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer, but was rejected for flight school because I’m colorblind. I have what’s called a red-green deficiency, which is the most common form of color blindness. About 3 percent of all people have this vision defect, which predominantly afflicts males.
9. I’m probably one of the very few people who was in close proximity to both the Kennedy Assassination and the events of 9/11. When I was nearly 2, we lived a few miles from where Kennedy was shot. 39 years later, I lived across the street from the Pentagon, which was struck by an airliner and exploded.
10. I hate mushrooms.
11. I don’t like making small talk. I like discussing serious subjects that matter.
12. My favorite actor is Marlon Brando. My favorite actress is Isabella Rosellini.
13. My spiritual mentor is the late Christopher Hitchens.
14. I am embarrassingly ignorant in math and science. I’m ashamed about this, so I’m trying to catch up and learn more, especially about science.
15. I was born into Roman Catholicism and even attended Catholic school for a time. However, I’ve been an Atheist since about the age of 25. Despite this, I still once joined the Knights of Columbus.
16. I ran for city council once. I finished third in a four-candidate race. Just imagine how shitty a candidate the fourth-place finisher was.
17. I’m passionate about animal rights and environmental protections.
18. I despise flair bartenders. I think they should be banned, imprisoned, or shot depending on how fancy they get.
19. I am trying to become a vegetarian. Trouble is, most veggie food really sucks.
20. I made my first bet at the age of 8, losing $1 on Super Bowl V. I’ve been gambling ever since.
21. Both of my paternal grandparents were deaf. My grandfather, an immigrant from Northern Italy, once played minor league baseball and pitched an exhibition game against Babe Ruth.
22. My grandfather’s name was shorted when he arrived at New York’s Ellis Island. His real name was DALLAVALLE, which roughly translated means, “from the valley.” He was born in Rabbi, Trentino (Italy). The name was shorted to DALLA.
23. My favorite brand of car is Citroen.
24. My favorite book is “The Power Broker,” the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction, by Robert Caro.
25. Except on very rare occasions, I do not read fiction.
26. I witnessed the 1989 Romanian Revolution first-hand.
27. I drink wine every day. My favorite wine is Gevrey Chambertin, from France. My favorite white wine is just about anything from the Alsace region of France.
28. My favorite movie is The Godfather. The best movie ever made was Schindler’s List.
29. My favorite sports team is whoever I’m betting on that day. Aside from gambling, my favorite sports teams are the New Orleans Saints, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Boston Bruins. I don’t have a favorite baseball team, except that I always cheer against the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox. I like to say when the Yankees play the Red Sox, I cheer for a rain out and a stadium collapse.
30. I’ve met and shaken hands with six out of the last nine U.S. Presidents, including Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.
31. I’ve met and spoken with Donald Trump four times.
32. I once sat in the senate office chair of Ted Kennedy.
33. I’ve been married to Marieta Dalla for 26 years.
34. My basic philosophy can best be summed up as follows: If Immanuel Kant, Robert Owen, Karl Marx, Lyndon B. Johnson, George Carlin, Van Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Cesar Chavez, and Sam Harris all had a secret love child — that would be me.
35. I refuse to eat fast food, unless it’s a matter of life or death, or I’m traveling through West Virginia, which is kinda’ the same thing.
36. I run 2 to 3 miles every day. I used to run 5 miles, but that was too much strain on the joints. The longest distance I’ve ever run at once was 12 miles. I have never competed in a 10K race or a marathon of any kind. My father, however, used to run marathons regularly and even competed up until he was 50.
37. The sound I cherish most is the sound of silence.
38. I like people. I also like being alone.
39. My greatest enjoyment is reading.
40. I do not believe in UFOs. I do not believe in superstition. I do not believe in astrology. I do not believe in faith-based healing or prayer. I do believe in inquiry and science.
41. I do not believe it is wrong to have tried and failed. My life is filled with failures.
42. No words offend me. None whatsoever. I have no regard for political correctness. The older I get, the less I care what other people think.
43. My favorite television shows at the moment are, in no particular order: PBS Frontline, American Experience, 60 Minutes, John Oliver, This is Us, Suits, StarTalk, and anything that’s news or political.
44. Celebrities aren’t particularly interesting to me. The people I admire most are those who rarely get praise, particularly medical caregivers and those who work with animals, especially solving animal abuse cases. I’m weak. I do not think I could do those jobs, so I really admire those who do.
45. The older I get, the less material possessions mean to me. So long as I have a laptop, and internet connection, and some wine — I’m good.
46. My preferred alcoholic drink is Johnny Walker Black, not only for taste but because it’s historically been the beverage of choice for Leftist revolutionaries. I also have a soft spot for Jameson.
47. I have no internal time clock. I can work or read or sleep anytime of day or night.
48. Despite being outgoing, I’m not into parties or social engagements, at all. I despise making meaningless talk.
49. I once ripped up an airline ticket, rented a car and drove from New Orleans to Las Vegas because Marieta found a wounded Ring-Necked Dove in the street and we didn’t want to leave it behind to die. True story.
50. I’m ridiculously fortunate to have wonderful family and friends, far better than I deserve.
51. If I could do my life all over again, I’d make many different choices and decisions. However, I would not change my essential belief systems. I’m proud of my beliefs and my path to a personal philosophy.
52. I’m still trying to decide what to do next and where to live the rest of my life. When I figure that out, I’ll likely write about it. Or, maybe I won’t.
53. Writing is easy. Editing is hard.
54. I plan on writing a book over the next six months. It’s a project that was shelved which I aspire returning to with fresh enthusiasm.
55. My first World Series of Poker was in 1985. Since then, I’ve been to most of them. However, I have probably worked my last WSOP.
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