Smile Politely

25 Random Things to Make You Sorry You Asked

“Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.”

25. I hate all chain letters and their derivations. When you tagged me, this notification arrived and crashed my game of Beta Scrabble. I was about to play “ZOETROPE” and win the game. I will never forgive you.

24. Is randomness really possible to achieve? In communication theory, randomness is just noise. Buddhists believe in karma, not randomness. Martin Luther believed nothing is random except small human choices. I believe you randomly picked me because you know I have nothing better to do, and you want to torment me.

23. I suffer from hyper vigilance. It is the result of being married lo these many years to a woman of low vision. I am the eyes for many, not just the one. The house is built for light, but even so it is not enough. The lamp above the sink could almost be used for tanning. One would think it might help with washing dishes, and yet the plate covered with sauce that had been left to grow mold is never washed sufficiently. The floor has markings of dust and hair. The ceiling corners have cobwebs. I see them, but can’t tend to everything. I have other concerns. I pretend not to notice. And yet little manages to slip past my habit of guarded observation. I notice that I am missing a toothpick. I notice when someone forgets to ante during poker. I notice when someone throws a non-recyclable Styrofoam coffee cup into the recycling bucket. I try to overcome what I see. I long for those moments of fleeting obliviousness, when laughter makes my eyes squint and I fail to be The Observer. As someone once sang, some woman singer from the 70s, “O sweet blindness…”

22. I am rambling, semi-incoherent from having only five hours of sleep, from driving in the crunchy snow while watching (on a portable DVD player on the dashboard) a Japanese horror movie (Tale of Two Sisters) and a 1962 romantic American film (Rome Adventure) starring Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue and realizing how very bizarre the concepts of romance and manhood were in those days and how very strange it is that then it was risqué to show an unmarried couple traveling together and how she, a 21 year old woman, had to repeatedly allude to her virginity, while in this same week the Daily Illini regular sex column detailed how to perform anal penetration with one’s fist upon one’s partner for pleasure.

21. I am a little fish in a little pond. I would rather be a little fish in a big pond. Even more, I would rather be in Mexico City, a tiny little fish swimming in the biggest pond in the world, where all the other fish trill their “r”s.

20. I am successful in cultivating my lifelong fear of success. This amounts to a Möbius strip of terror.

19. I consider the lilies. They don’t toil. They don’t spin. Oscar Wilde carried lilies. He didn’t toil. He may have spinned, though. I think he probably did spin.

18. I believe that anyone who opposes contraception or RU-486 or the morning after pill has a duty to speak out against fertility drugs as well. No one has the right to mass produce children in a hungry world. Adopt already. A woman with six children, with a husband (understandably) leaving for Iraq, should not be given the encouragement to give birth to eight more children in one fell swoop, or squat, or whatever. That is something mice do, not human beings.

17. Doctors encouraged me for years, based upon the ridiculous and dubious PSA test, to have a prostate biopsy. One doctor even spoke of “your cancer” as though it were a done deal. I resisted until last year. $8000 in bills later, I had the biopsy results. They were “completely negative.” As I swore at Carle Hospital about the bill, they smiled and told me to be sure to come back in six months for another PSA test so we could go over it again. Health care in the United States of America is a racket, complete with awful and incessant and utterly shameless fear-based advertising.

16. I believe football is a perversion of sport which promotes a mental state slash metaphor by which we conduct politics and war in our crumbling imperialistic nationalism. Not only did I completely ignore the Super Bowl, I did not watch the advertisements (even on the Internet), I refuse to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s new album, and I fasted all day.

15. Health insurance is a plot concocted by evil capitalists to enslave the masses and keep us in poverty. I’m still not over the health care issue, obviously.

14. I cannot comprehend what it means to act one’s age. The very concept must be a plot concocted by evil capitalists.

13. I want to know if anyone who reads Smile Politely listens to, say, country singer Dierks Bentley or if they all are just holed up with Of Montreal wearing fishnet stockings or whatever.

12. People who write letters to the editor of the News-Gazette are crazy. The letters to the editor column should be called a humor column. People consistently call other people names, like “loony liberal,” as though this were the height of wit. Several (white) people have written to insist that President Obama is not African-American. Another guy compared gay people to mass murderers. One person wrote last week to call for downstate Illinois to form a separate state, apart from Chicago. OK, that was my own 84-year-old father who wrote that one. Freudians, just go hog wild, OK? See if I care. I’m going to write a letter to the Gazette right now.

11. Did the phrase “wet nightmare” just pop into my head or did I hear it in the lyrics of Animal Collective that I was barely listening to the other day? Can I use that phrase for a future column or would it be unconscious plagiarism?

10. Too much praise can stifle my creativity as much as rejection. I need some strokes, to be sure. It is one of those fine lines.

9. The Tao Te Ching says,

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


8. Sometimes I think I sacrificed my potential career as a foreign missionary to live in central Illinois and walk my wife’s dog.

7. I watched over 40 movies in January this year. One was the Lifetime movie, Prayers for Bobby, with Sigourney Weaver and that guy from John From Cincinnati. It is about Mary Griffith, the fundamentalist Christian who became a gay rights advocate after her son committed suicide. Sentimental movies make me angry, because my nose drools with mucous like Stephen Colbert after the inauguration.

6. If I could tag you 25 times, I would.

5. If I were brave, I would renounce all travel.

4. I do not like to shave.

3. I question the validity of romantic love.

2. My memory is slipping. What was the question again?

1. I have seen dozens of shows on Broadway. Since you tagged me and said you wanted to know more about me, I would like to invite you over so I can sing the songs from Spring Awakening, Wicked, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, and Assassins. Oh, and of course, Gypsy. How is early Saturday morning for you?


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