Tuesday (3/24/09) 6:58pm - ... wherein Peter goes on and on (and on) about himself.
Okay, I've finally put something together for the "25 things" meme.
The titles for my LJ posts all start with "... wherein". I stole this naming convention from the chapter titles in Don Quixote, which I read during an exceptionally boring EE class at Rice.
I feel nothing even vaguely resembling school loyalty. I would no sooner feel allegiance towards Rice for providing me my education than I would to Sears for selling me my television. (And feeling allegiance to my *dorm*? Ha. Hahaha. Um, no.)
I keep using the phrase "tallest-midget contest," but it has yet to gain any traction in general English usage.
When I was at Rice, I used to walk the forty minutes from campus to the local used record store every week or two. (Grumble grumble no car grumble.) Most of the new music I discovered then was from "tape exchanges" -- I was on email lists for fans of the Trash Can Sinatras and for Toad the Wet Sprocket, and both lists set up music trades. Everyone in the group would create a mix tape of their favorite artists, and then snail-mail that to somebody else on the list. I would listen to each one, and then meticulously copy over the tracks I liked to meta-mix tapes that I still have today. (Believe it or not, this was fun -- a neat little techie/craft project.) These days, the Connells album One Simple Word is the one that absolutely takes me back to my college years, even though I probably listened more often to The Soul Cages or Woodface.
I have lived in the same apartment for nine years now. I have talked to my neighbors maybe a half-dozen times. Three of those times were me talking to my downstairs neighbor about her subwoofer, which she had cranked up to eleven and couldn't figure out how to turn down.
Sleeping has never been easy for me, and it's only gotten more difficult as I've gotten older. These days I keep a fan by the bed to generate white noise. I wear eyeshades. I go to bed at the same time every night. I've had to cut out caffeine almost entirely. That said, I can get by very well on very little sleep for a day or two -- after that, I get weepy-depressed. Not fun. Also: weird.
Up through ninth grade, I went to a small private school, from which I got suspended several times. The most interesting thing I got suspended for was when I wrote a satirical piece about a rather mean history teacher, in the form of a fake internal school-board memo. Someone got hold of it and ran it through the school's mimeograph machine, making several hundred copies. Soon it was all over the school, and I got nabbed immediately -- probably because I was the only kid there with the writing chops to come up with such a thing.
When I sign my name, maybe a quarter of the time I write out "Petr Rogers" and have to fill in the remaining 'e' afterwards. This always makes me feel dumb.
I regret not taking music lessons as a child. I remember grovelling for a cheap Casio for every Christmas and birthday, and I remember my grandmother grousing at me to 'cut out that racket' on her upright piano every time we visited her. Somehow my parents never put it together that hmm, maybe that kid should take music lessons. As it turns out, I didn't start learning guitar until age sixteen, and didn't start playing songs decently 'til my early twenties. (I remember being seeing an Asian-American college girl busking in Harvard Square, being inspired, and resolving to play guitar every day.) But since then, it's been one of the good things in my life. No day can be entirely bad if it has a guitar at the end of it.
I somehow put off learning to drive until I was 24. (This made living in Houston somewhat unpleasant.) The first time I ever drove a car was in the middle of rush-hour traffic, in winter, in the middle of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I can think of only a couple of driving moments since then that have been as scary, both of which involved my '92 Jetta failing catastrophically on the highway.
As far as I can reckon, there are only a dozen or so photos of me from when I was in high school, and only a dozen or so from when I was in college (in the latter case, most of those are from the Baker Shakespeare productions of Much Ado and The Winter's Tale. Between this and a hard-drive meltdown that ate all of my computer files from college, everything from before my mid-twenties is pretty much an undocumented black hole.
I grew up in a big, spooky old house. It was a faux plantation home built in 1900 as a summer residence for some wealthy industrialist. When we first moved in, the cellar was stocked with little boxes that contained guinea pigs preserved in formaldehyde -- the results of longevity experiments performed by my grandfather, who was a medical professor at the local university. (Side note: films like The Others and Coraline always give me a nostalgic, "warm fuzzies" feeling that the filmmakers may not have intended.)
On a related note, when I was a small child, my older sister sewed me a plush-toy version of the Doubtful Guest, a character from an Edward Gorey book. (As I get older I look more and more like an Edward Gorey drawing; it is one of the small comforts of aging.)
That spooky old house was in Pewee Valley (named after the Eastern Wood Pewee), a suburb about half an hour out from Louisville. When I was a kid, it was mostly populated by retirees, so: not a lot of other kids around. I recall getting proficient at playing catch with myself by throwing a frisbee into a headwind. (This hobby didn't strike me as sad and/or pathetic until years later.)
2003 was a good year. It was easily the most creative year of my life. Somehow I was writing and recording a song per week, writing a weekly sketch with apthorpe, and doing improv shows fairly regularly. I have no idea how I managed this, and can only conclude that when you're already doing a bunch of creative stuff, it's fairly easy to add on a bunch more creative stuff. (Momentum, don't you know.) It was also one of the more social years of my life: the fact that I could seemingly go anywhere in Austin and run into people I knew became something of a running joke.
Austin's renowned live-music scene is often wasted on me. I think I see what I'm *supposed* to get out of live music. The Bruce Springsteen hoot night I went to a couple years ago was fun. When I watch TV shows at the Drafthouse, it's mostly because experiencing it with a crowd is a different (and far better) experience. But put me at a band's show, and my response is frequently, "Oh. So there are *musicians* on the far end of the signal chain, instead of an mp3 player. And the musicians happen to be in the same giant room with me. Um... yippee?" Unless it's a dance event, I typically get pretty bored pretty fast. (And so I am surrounded by plenty, and cannot appreciate it. *le sigh*)
In spite of having no particular aptitude for drawing, my life has had a number of fits of amateur cartooning. When I was a kid, the house was full of old trade paperbacks of Peanuts and MAD Magazine which I read all the time (in spite of all the 70s MAD references being lost on me). I remember as a small child trying to write my own comic strip. I think it was about dinosaurs that were drawn mainly as big circles with some other bits (head, feet, etc.) attached. I remember one of them having a dinosaur say "Hey! You foiled me!" in the last panel. Then I read Bloom County religously, poring over each day's comic to try and see how Mr. Breathed did what he did. As a senior in high school, I spent an entire Chemistry II class drawing cartoons with a friend of mine. Every single class I had my head down, diligently scribbling away. Some friends from the yearbook staff got wind of this, and put a bunch of those cartoons in that year's yearbook. Maybe seven years ago I drew a ton of cards for the local 1kbwc game, and four years ago I drew a comic book in 18 hours. These days, I don't draw much.
I sporadically have the classic "Actor's Nightmare": you're on a stage, the show's starting, you have no idea what you're doing there. One of the nice things about doing improv is that, while you may still have that nightmare, it stops being such a big deal. ("Oh. Well, okay, guess we're winging it, then.")
The most fun I've ever had writing was a five-month period in 2006 when I contributed to a site called hogwarts_hocus. Executive summary: it was a giant collaborative project in which everybody wrote a variety of established characters, who all hung out together at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This may sound inauspicious, but the writers were freakishly talented. (I defy anyone to read this without laughing -- I accumulated a bunch of "best of" posts here and listed all my best writing here.)
I've had pretty bad allergies all my life. Oddly, my parents never took me to an allergist when I was a kid -- they typically just gave me Chlor-Trimeton, which left me more-or-less stoned through much of high school. (Whether this was a good or bad thing, I'm not entirely sure.) I finally got an allergy test in the late 90s, when I lived in Boston. They did one of those 'needle tests', where they prick you with a needle a bunch of times and put a single drop of an allergen on each spot. They did this on my arm. The 'ragweed' spot produced some irritation. Then it turned into a blister. Then a bunch of other 'satellite blisters' popped up around the main one. Then they all coalesced into one big blister. Then that whole part of my arm swelled into a massive welt that didn't go away for two days. (Odd bit of irony: my allergies are actually not as bad in Austin as they were in Louisville; I must have lived next to a giant field of ragweed.) These days, I'm on at least a couple of different allergy meds at all times and do all sorts of stuff to get rid of dust-mite allergens.
Clothes almost never fit me. Most long-sleeved garments I own I either (1) bought online in some online-only "freaky tall and skeletal" size, or (2) had made to measure. (Side note: this makes clothes shopping kind of unpleasant -- which is sad, since I find fashion somewhat interesting.)
When I was negotiating my job offer for my current place of employment, I included "a pony" as one of my requirements. (I explained further that you're supposed to ask for a bit more than you really need early on in the process.) When I accepted the eventual job offer, my employers bought me a plush-toy pony, which I now keep on my desk.
I do wonder if I should have moved off to L. A. when I graduated from college, and pursued screenwritery showbiz. I was already writing spec scripts (only I didn't know they were called that) as a pastime, and things were relatively flush for the TV industry then. These days, I suspect I'd do better to just write audiodramas or no-budget webseries and put them together with endearing amateurism here in Austin. On the other hand, writing is so blasted *difficult* for me, that maybe it's better my life didn't go that way.
Through a long stretch of high school, I ate lunch with four guys: Kevin Jones (who went on to join the military), his friend Chris, and two of the friendly local pot dealers. We had a regular spades game going much of the time -- that is (IIRC) until the school banned card games, claiming they were "a form of gambling". (Side note: Kevin and Chris, I'd find out later, had worked out a really wonderful way of cheating at Spades.) I also recall there was a week or so where we talked about nothing but black holes, using what little we'd learned about relativity to try to work out exactly what happens at an event horizon. I ate the same thing almost every day: a peanut-butter sandwich with toasted bread, a can of off-brand root beer, and perhaps a small cube of some dessert my mother had cooked the previous weekend. In my senior year, a couple of my friends were TAing for the biology teacher during my lunch period, so I just cut from the lunchroom (against the rules, of course) and hung out with them over lunch.
 Auxiliary fact: the application to Rice University included a one-inch square that you were supposed to fill with whatever you wanted. I traced in a drawing of Bill the Cat.
 Since I was nominally part of the yearbook staff, I got a free yearbook. This is one of the only mementos I have from high school. I should scan in the cartoons from it the next time I visit Louisville.
 Most of my friends at school were on the academic team and were a year behind me, so we had different lunch periods.
 Or more specifically, "Chek," the Winn-Dixie house brand.
 If Mom had made ribbon cake the previous weekend, it portended good lunches that week.
Just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this... glad you finally succumbed to this meme-dom. Though I don't do it often, I can personally identify with feeling stupid after omitting a letter from one's own name, though sloppy script is very forgiving with regard to such things: "It's supposed to look like that." I love the pony story, and it's so cool that your employers got you a plushy pony. The spooky house also struck a cord with me. When I was little, my family lived in (rented) the second floor and attic of a house in a mostly owner-occupied suburban neighborhood on Long Island. It was on a corner, was the oldest and least-well-kept house in the neighborhood, and had all sorts of quirks (treasures, to kids) dotting the yard: bowling balls embedded in a concrete wall at the edge of the yard, chicken wire in the eaves of the roof, and plastic flowers wound around the railing on the porch.