Revisiting the 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me, The Novel

Because there might be some folks who are coming here for the first time and because I happened upon it on my Facebook timeline the other day, I’m reposting the 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me. 

I think it was the fad of the day thing on Facebook at the time. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun with it.

1. I was born in Maine and lived there for five years. Then my dad was asked by work to move to Laconia, N.H. I went to school there from kindergarten through eighth grade. My last day in Laconia was my eighth grade graduation and prom. It was my first date ever, with a beauty named Adair McAllister. My first slow dance (and the first time my weenie sprung to life inappropriately) was with her to “Lady in Red.” I still think of her when I hear that song, even though she was wearing some kind of aquamarine dress that night.

2. My dad was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. He flirted with baseball dreams for a bit but decided he couldn’t live without my mom. He moved home, got married and began working for Jordan’s Meats in Portland, Maine. He worked there most of his life, retiring as a director of sales. My dad is my hero and my closest confidante. I miss him every day. He lives in Arizona with Mom now. He often dreamed of baseball and of being a teacher. He would have been a great teacher. I know he regrets his career decisions. I just wish he knew how special a person he truly is.

UPDATE: My dad lives in Maine now. He moved in with my sister Sue’s family after my Mom passed away in March 2012. We’re all still trying to get our rudder right after losing my mom to lung cancer.

3. I knew I wanted to be a journalist early in life. My sister, Dede, and I started a neighborhood newsletter, The Fenton Avenue Times, when I was in seventh grade.

4. I won a Society of Professional Journalists scholarship in New York City in 1994. I made Diana Sawyer, Anderson Cooper and Mike Wallace laugh with tales of the Fenton Avenue Times in my acceptance speech.

5. I have been struggling with my weight for most of my adult life. I played tennis for Fordham University, but have put family and work ahead of myself. Combine that with using food as a stretch crutch and I’m in a fine mess. I’ve been able to achieve anything I’ve ever put my mind to, except for losing weight. Still working at it.

6. I was selected to be part of a three-week student tour of Russia in 1987 as part of a delegation with the Samantha Smith Foundation. It was a life-changing experience – made me realize how good we have it in the U.S. and how much I enjoyed seeing the world beyond Maine.

7. My sister Dede is my kindred spirit. She had countless operations on a bum knee as a kid and has fought through debilitating illnesses for much of her life. She is the most selfless person on this planet. She would play teacher with me afterschool and made me bring home extra workbook sheets for her “class.” In her wayward years, she had me deliver a pot pipe across town to her friend. A cop followed me for most of the ride. As you can tell, I’m still a little bitter. All that aside, she is my best friend and an incredible inspiration.

8. My dad was in a near-fatal car accident when I was 11. He was hit by a drunk off-duty police officer driving over a reservoir in Troy, N.Y. His knee and hip were shattered and he needed a hip replacement. Never being able to run or ref a hoops game crushed him, but he’s still a scratch golfer and can beat anyone in foul shooting. He had a severe heart attack in 1997 – the medics revived him on the way to the hospital. Both events rocked my world. I can’t imagine life without my dad and am so grateful that I don’t have to yet.

9. Jim Rice is my sports hero. He is the reason I live and die for baseball. The Red Sox is my team. Whenever life is feeling too good, I break out the tape of the ball going through Buckner’s legs. It grounds me quickly.

10. I have a 1996 World Series ring from working for the New York Yankees. I loved working for the Yankees – I was their publications director for two years. I wish that I could have worked for them and still had a marriage, but George Steinbrenner required his employees to be married to their job. I still miss the job to this day, but don’t regret my decision.

11. I was a prominent figure in a 1994 episode of “Donahue.” The show was all about strippers wanting to form a union. I wouldn’t put my hand down to ask a question, so right before a commercial break, Donahue storms over to me and says, “And we’ll answer this very impatient young man’s question after the break.” He comes back from commercial and I ask the strippers why the man is keeping them down. The girls all gave me big smiles. I probably could have gotten laid that day.

12. I was Tootles in a local theatre production of “Peter Pan” in 1985. I ran across the stage laughing and chomping on a donut. The crowd loved it. It was my last stage role and probably the beginning of my food addiction.

13. I was a big shot for a Maxim-esque magazine called Gear. I went to model parties and lived a very swanky existence for a year and a half. I was way over my head there. Still, I miss those times. I still miss New York 1 day out of 30.

UPDATE: One of Facebook comments was from a former co-worker at Gear. He wondered why our 2002 night at The Red Light bar in lower Manhattan didn’t make my top 25. I remember meeting James Gandolfini there. That’s about all. Anyone willing to fill in more of the gaps, I’d love to hear them — as would my therapist, I’m sure.

14. I left my family at 18 and have been the satellite office of the Wood family ever since. My three sisters and parents lived within 40 miles of each other for years while I was in New York. I am to this day a homebody. Though I knew I needed to go to NYC to be a journalist, I miss my three sisters and all my nieces and nephews a ton. I wish I had been there to see them all grow up, especially my niece Amy. She never had a dad growing up. I cherished that role while I had it before we moved back to Maine.

15. I hate cards of any kind. I find them impersonal. Call me if you really want to talk. Yet, I am infamous in my family for Fed Ex’ing cards to my mom and sister. I know it still means something to them.

16. I was burned by women consistently as a young man. I never thought I’d find love and then I met Debbie Treubert at Fordham in 1991. I knew from our first date that I was going to marry her – sounds cliche, but it’s true. Nonetheless, I spent the next year doing everything I could to screw it up. Finally, I was given a shot to win her heart again in the fall of 1992. Three men vied for her affections. She dubbed them “Bush,” “Perot” and “Clinton.” I was “Clinton” and finally got another date with her on Election Day ’92. One of the best days of my life.

17. I spent most of my early 20s in a mad dash to make $100,000. I was Mr. Overachiever, the youngest ever exec with the Yankees, blah blah blah. I thought money was everything. My dad’s heart attack really woke me up to what really matters. The birth of my son, T.J., was the best day of my life. He is a gift. He made realize that a job is just a job. Seeing him and Debbie at the end of the day is all that’s important.

18. I was one of eight people that lunched with Bill Gates on the day of the launch of the XBox. I kicked his ass in “Dead or Alive 3.” I had a digital photo of he and I, emailed it to everyone I knew but have since lost it. 

UPDATE: Still haven’t found it. Please, Interweb, send it back to me.

19. I hate namedroppers, despite the fact I did just that in #4, #11 and #18.

20. I will learn to play the piano someday soon. I envy anyone with musical talent beyond Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

21. The worst day of my life was the day my friend, Frank Colasuonno, passed away in September 1994. He was an otherworldly piano player. He played Billy Joel better than Billy Joel plays Billy Joel. The rest of my senior year at Fordham was mostly a blur. I was unsure whether there would be a diploma in my packet on graduation day. God bless the Jesuits for getting me through that year.

22. I secretly loathe tall people and rich people who inherited money and piss it away. I know I would have been a college hoops player with six more inches of height. I also know I’ll do big things with money if I ever have a lot of it. Those who say “mo money, mo problems” have never been upside down in a mortgage or had a million-dollar idea but no money to explore it.

23. I love writing but spend way too much time doubting my talent. The upside: it makes me work hard every day, always feeling like it’s never good enough. The downside: I waste years off my life thinking it’s not good enough. I’d have a best-selling book written by now without all this self doubt.

24. I can’t wait for the birth of my second son in June. T.J. is such a good little boy, I feel like I’m tempting fate with another child. He just has such a pure heart and is so smart and full of compassion. I was very much like him and was teased mercilessly as a tweener. I was sensitive and never fought back. I’m trying to figure out how to teach him to bite back without losing his sensitivity. 

UPDATE: Jake is 4 now and a full-on super dude, TJ is the incredible older brother I’d knew he’d be (when he’s not tormenting him, that is). And TJ is still a good boy. Not so little anymore. I told him this morning he might be big enough to kick my ass soon, but it will never happen. I’ll always outsmart him. (At least that’s what I need to believe with my fragile 40-year-old ego.)

25. I feel way older than I am, though I still feel and act like a kid most of the time. It’s just that I’ve had plenty of moments in life that have showed me who my true friends are. I have very few close friends because of it and am more introverted than most people would think because of it, but boy, do I treasure those friends that stuck by me.

BONUS: I will have a fashion sense again, once I’m thin enough to shop at The Gap and Abercrombie and Finch. And I love the Lowcountry. I moved South for all the wrong reasons, but I wish I’d done it 10 years sooner.

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