The Educational Tour Marm has tagged me with a meme and the task of sharing eight random facts about myself and passing along the challenge to eight other bloggers. Since this blog, with all its random interests and revealing moments, has already put forth a great deal that might otherwise qualify for this exercise, this may pose something of a challenge. It also requires three more personal admissions than the last meme of this nature that came my way this past January - though it did prompt terrific posts from two among those I tagged: Geoffrey Chaucer and Ben Fuller at Namibia Notes.
1) I had an ancestor, Col. Archibald Gracie, who was on the Titanic and survived the ordeal long enough to testify at hearings and write one of the definitive first-hand accounts of the disaster before succumbing to the effects of exposure eight months after the ship went down. He was my Great Grandfather Archibald Gracie Ogden's 1st cousin, and hence mine thrice removed. In our family papers is a letter written by a distant Ogden relative who was on the Carpathia and sent Archibald Gracie ashore in his dry clothes.
2) My 1st car was a 1967 vintage Series IIA South African Army surplus landrover. We bought it in 1996 in South Africa through a graduate school friend's family auction house for US $4,000. We outfitted it with 5 jerry cans and a Hi-Lift Jack and took to calling it "Teddy" because it carried that big stick. Teddy Landrover was kept on -and off - the road during our Fulbright year in Namibia with the labor and ingenuity of bush mechanics who managed to spot weld the frame, overhaul the transmission and replace the gear shift with makeshift tools.
3) I met my wife at the Meteor Hotel bar in Grootfontein, Namibia. To be precise, I had met her once previously outside the post office, but we connected months later and if it hadn't been for the black Akubra "Snowy River" cowboy hat I sported in those days I doubt she would have recognized me. As it was, I had to pay the local guy I was drinking with $20 Rand to leave the two of us alone to get better acquainted: best investment I've ever made. The Meteor Hotel is named for the Hoba Meteorite: " the heaviest meteorite in the world and the largest naturally-occurring mass of iron known to exist on the surface of the earth." This space rock landed a few kilometers outside of Grootfontein 80,000 years ago.
4) I collect stuff. I know this is hardly a revelation given the cabinet of curiosities that this blog tends to become, but amid the utter clutter here and there are accumulations of stamps, coins, patriotic covers and much else besides. My one guilty collection - guilty because of the expense and my complete lack of appropriate display space - is a vast assortment of matte finished metal toy soldiers in 54mm scale and depicting units of the American Civil War. There are upwards of 350 figures by now, enough to field an understrength regiment at need, but I'm still looking for a few good zouaves and one can never have enough cavalry...
5) I was an English major. I am fond of saying that I am a walking advertisement for the benefits of a liberal arts education for a good generalist without a clear focus in life. I have accumulated a substantial amount of knowledge and expertise in other matters along the way - natural history and science and psychology and a vast store of trivia - but it was learning how to learn and exposure to different systems of thought that gave me the ability to move between disciplines and integrate what I find at the interstices.
6) I have been known to lampoon my colleagues and associates in song, often at those dreaded overnight "retreats" where you end up spending far more time together of a more informal nature than is generally "safe for work". As one who tends to snore, the group accommodation this entails is not a pleasant prospect and I end up wishing at these times that we would remember that retreat is also a verb. Nonetheless, I am nothing if not irrepressible and do love a stage, so I tend to come out with sing along ballads with new lyrics set to show tunes and old standards to twist the tails of my co-workers and bosses. Thus far it has endeared me to them rather than prompted an early exit interview. My family has this same tradition for milestone birthdays and weddings.
7) I was an accomplice in one of the greatest senior pranks in Haverford College history - and this at one of the many schools that expelled Chevy Chase, in this case after an incident with a cow on the 3th floor of a dormitory. Four of us got student council funding for something we called the Main Line Construction Corps whose propose was to "erect structures on campus". We used the first $50 bucks to by paint and rollers and plot the transformation of an isolated security shack into a Fotomat. That certainly dates me; I guess it would have to be an ATM kiosk now. The trick was that the guard almost never left the shack unattended, except for a 5 minute window when the shifts changed at 2 a.m. We lurked in the woods until the moment arrived, then dashed out and slapped on a bright yellow coat with blue trim and a prefabricated sign before the lights of the returning security car appeared through the trees. They left it that way for several months afterward and I must admit it brightened the old thing up considerably.
8) My fourth grade history teacher had me teach my class the section on the American Civil War. To this day I have no idea how this idea came to fruition, but I had been captivated by this period of history and was reading everything I could find on the subject. She probably figured it was a good way to keep me engaged rather than lobbing back-bench rebuttals to the standard lesson plan. I think I lectured the class for most of a week and gave them the toughest quiz they were likely to see that side of high school. Even Hannah Morgan, the smart girl I had a crush on, missed the question on John Brown. This solidified my nerdy reputation at middle school, but also gave me a taste of power and how absolute power tends to corrupt. I did not go forward with my initial impulse to learn everything there was to know about WWI so I could teach the next week's history lesson too.
Now that that's settled, here are 8 fascinating, informative, enigmatic bloggers to whom I extend this opportunity to reveal all that they dare in 8 random facts about themselves:
Martin Rundkvist of Aardvarkaeology
DE Cloutier of Jungle Trader
Martin Langeland of Dum Luk's
Bill West of West in New England
Sissy Willis of Sisu
Lars Smith of Conservation Finance
Genevieve of Prairie Bluestem