Getting caught up


OK. I promised Deana I would do this (stupid) 30 day writing challenge. That was five days ago, and I’ve done one post. So, I’m going to cram five days of writing into this one post. Buckle your seat belt … here we go:

Day 2: Your earliest memory.

Memory is a funny thing. I remember when my mother was eight and a half months pregnant with my younger sister, and a drunk driver hit my parents’ parked car, while they were in a restaurant having dinner. My mother had to be held back as she screamed at the driver, who was strapped to a gurney and being loaded into an ambulance at the time, asking how they would be able to drive to the hospital now that he had ruined their car. I remember this, even though I was three and a half at the time and home with a babysitter. Still, I can see the scene plain as day.

I also remember when my dad and Uncle Nick were driving through town and saw a police officer struggling in a fight with a suspect. They pulled over and joined in the fight, helping the officer to handcuff the guy. And even though it occurred several years before I was born, I could show you exactly where the fight went down. I remember the old car that backfired so badly, that my mother had to keep a few of my diapers in the back seat, in case to use to extinguish the occasional engine fire. Clearly, I couldn’t possibly remember that, if I was still in diapers.

That’s how families are: You hear stories and legends told so many times that, eventually, you don’t remember which ones you were there for and which ones you missed.

My daughters could tell you what song was playing in the labor room when their mother and I were sent home and told that the pains were false later. Our first daughter was born a few hours later, after a wild ambulance ride back to the hospital. (It was Macy Gray, and the doctor said, “We need to stop playing this music or it will make the babies scared to come out.)

They remember me using rubbing alcohol to set the dorm room bathroom floor on fire in college, even though it was years before they were born. They remember lullabies (Hey Jude) and climbing out of cribs and Aunt Wendy feeding them bread, because we were too timid to try solid food, sure that they would choke.

Day 3: Discuss your first love and first kiss

My first love … well, crush … didn’t end well. There was some miscommunication, and I take the blame for what went wrong.

It was second grade, and her name was Heather B. (There were two Heathers in the class, hence the need for a last initial.)  I don’t remember much about her. She was small (for a second grader) and had light-colored hair. I’m guessing she had pretty eyes, because I’ve always been a sucker for eyes.

After giving it some thought, I decided I would make my move with a Christmas card. For my birthday in October that year, someone gave me a “color your own Christmas cards” kit. I colored one for my best friend Rob, and one for my grandparents, and then designated various cards for select aunts and uncles. I held one out, however–the best card–for Heather B.

When you’re wooing females, self-scouting is critical. I knew this even as a second grader, and I had a major problem: I’m not that strong a colorer. I found it tough to stay in the lines–I still do. And I also frequently had little patches of white in the areas I was supposed to be coloring, because my attention to detail was lacking.

Basically, coloring is stupid, is what I’m trying to say.

I turned the problem over in my mind and came up with a potential solution. Bear in mind I was in second grade at the time. I would color the entire card black. It was a bold statement, and the color choice would make her less likely to notice the little flaws in my craft.

Not what it looked like

Not what it looked like

So I colored a black Christmas tree, with black ornaments, a black star on top and black presents beneath. “To Heather B.” I wrote in shaky black letters. “Love Shawn.” I then put it in an envelope and wrote “To Heather B. Love Shawn” on the outside as well.

For two months, the card sat on my dresser. Finally, on the last day of school before Christmas break, I put it on her desk.

This is when the miscommunication took place.

A short time later, she came up to me, holding the card. “Did you make this for me?” she asked.

I looked at her, looked at the weird black Christmas card she was holding, and there was only one thing I could do.

“Nope,” I said and walked away.

Day Four: 10 interesting facts about yourself

1 .In high school, I accidentally accepted someone else’s award at a school-wide ceremony, because I thought they called my name.

2. I once memorized “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” for an English class.

3. I shook hands with Bill Clinton when he was standing all by himself on our college campus while campaigning early in 1992.

4.  I voted for George W. Bush three times (I lived in Texas when he ran for governor) and he sends me Christmas cards.

5. I built a computer model to determine how long you would have to wait on hold when you called your credit card company’s customer service department.

6. I’ve been golfing once, and sliced a ball into the Pacific Ocean.

7. I was escorted out of a former job by security.

8. I was a finalist for the reality show “Faking It.” They wanted me to try to go to Vegas and learn to be a Chippendales dancer in 30 days, but they ended up picking someone else (although I can still do the “tip over a chair with my foot & ride it as it falls” move)

100_48269. My first new car was a magenta Geo Metro convertible. The first person that saw it said to his daughter, “Look, honey, it looks just like your Barbie car.”

10. I hate food with bones or shells, because it’s just too much effort, and I’m always afraid I’m going to bite into a piece of bone/shell, which makes it impossible to enjoy.

Day Five: A place you would live but have never visited.

lionheart_catamaran_1As many of my close friends know, when the going gets tough, I’m ready to go to Costa Rica. I’ve never been there and know nothing about it, other than the fact that there are beaches there, and I could probably get a job as a catamaran captain (even though I’m afraid of boats and water) and just live on the beach, hiding from my old life, while the natives and tourists keep a respectful distance.

I’d wear unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts and live on pineapples and rum. I’d grow a scraggly pony tail that I’d tie back with a scrunchee.

Day Six: Someone who fascinates you and why

Kassim Ouma.

He’s a former boxing champion that I had the privilege of covering. He was born in Uganda and kidnapped by the National Resistance Army at age six. He spent five years as a child soldier before he became an amateur boxer. He made the 1996 Ugandan Olympic boxing team but was couldn’t afford to attend the games in Atlanta.

Later, on a trip to the United States with Team Uganda, he defected. He was a wanted fugitive in his home country and supposedly would be arrested immediately if he ever returned. He claimed that his father was beaten to death as retaliation for his crime of leaving.

After surviving five years as a soldier in Uganda’s civil war, Ouma arrived in Florida and was promptly shot twice. He recovered from the injuries and became a boxing champion.

ouma-phillips12When he was fighting in main events, I once wrote, “No one loves what they do as much as Kassim Ouma loves his job.” Despite his brutal, tragic childhood, Ouma was the happiest person I’ve ever met. Joy seemed to radiate off of him, during interviews, and even in the ring. He would smile ear-to-ear at the end of rounds, seemingly wanting to hug his opponent for giving him a fun three minutes.

I remember on a conference call one time, someone told him his life would make a great movie. Ouma promptly gave everyone on the call his cell phone number, in case they wanted to be part of the movie. He was open and trusting and saw no reason not to give a few dozen writers his personal number.

Since his retirement, Ouma’s life has taken some interesting turns. He once struck up a conversation with a man in a bar and accepted the man’s invitation to come back to his house and have a drink, which seems completely in character for Ouma. The man then made several passes at Ouma, attempted to sexually assault him, and Ouma was arrested or knocking him out.

Ouma also made a return to Uganda in recent year. He wasn’t arrested as soon as he set foot on his home country’s ground, but a warrant for him was issued in the United States, while he was gone, for missing a court date on drug charges.

Everything about his life seems to be a contradiction, which fascinates me to no end. Someday, I’ll finish that screenplay. Hopefully he won’t have changed his number.


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