25 Random Things About Me

I know this is scraping the bottom of the barrel and probably a faux pas, but I need to use every tool in the box to keep my blog going; so here is my version of the dreaded list that was going around Facebook several years ago. The final few questions in the preceding Writer’s Interview have made me think of it, and I remember my friends liking it. I hope you do too.

1. I’ve never worn braces or had any cavities.

2. I have fat and crooked fingers.

3. I once swam the length of Highland Lake, in Maine, four miles, in four hours.

7. I once drove from New Haven to Baltimore in four hours and five minutes, and the five minutes was for gas.

5. I’ve lived in Baltimore, Middletown (CT), Beijing, Nanjing, Taipei, New York, New Haven, Hakodate, Colorado Springs, and Mobile.

6. My favorite urban nightscape is Baltimore, viewed from Federal Hill (‘Who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy’ — Allen Ginsberg, who was writing about seeing it in the daytime). Runner up: Hong Kong, viewed from the New World Plaza. Second runner up: Hakodate, from Mt. Hakodate.

4. My first dance was with ___________. The Place: Girard’s. The song: ‘Double Vision,’ by Foreigner. Whose Bar Mitzvah was it? I don’t remember.

8. I get my 4s and 7s mixed up.

9. I have a recurring dream about the decay of my body, usually involving my teeth falling out.

10. The coolest establishment I ever frequented was the Sometime Cafe, in Hualian, Taiwan. It was very dark; the music was so alternative, I’d never heard anything like it in the US; and there was a free movie around 8 PM.

11. I don’t use deodorant.

12. The biggest tragedy of my life has been the overproduced quality of Cowboy Junkies records, after ‘Lay It Down.’ In other words: I’m lucky.

13. The weirdest thing I’ve ever done for money was to read the poetry of Mao Zedong, in English, into a tape recorder, for a Taiwanese man.

14. I’m ambivalent about writing these kinds of notes for Facebook. I’m both reluctant and compelled to share them. They seem more appropriate for a diary, but a diary is like a tree falling in the forest with no one listening, and at the end of the day, I don’t want my life to be like that.

15. The most famous people I’ve ever shaken hands with are Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Zappa.

16. I’ve skinnydipped on Mt. Tai and in the Peach Blossom Spring, in China. On both occasions, I was inspired by the beauty of the natural surroundings, succumbed to the inspiration in public and in broad daylight, and somehow managed to escape deportation (as well as any real expression of disapproval). Lucky again.

17. I prefer cats to dogs and Dvorak to Brahms.

18. The weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten is lamb fries (breaded, fried sheep testicles), in Oklahoma City. Gene and I were tricked into eating them by our host, who had been going on at length about how much he enjoyed them, but actually, he’d never eaten them. After we began munching on the things, he turned around, grinned, and said, ‘You guys are sick.’ Of course, they tasted like chicken.

19. I always cry when the Blue Meanies take over Pepperland.

20. The funniest book I’ve ever read is The Sot Weed Factor, by John Barth, although the funniest passage I’ve ever read is Mark Twain’s description of a Turkish bath, in The Innocents Abroad.

21. I don’t do drugs but enjoy hallucinating while listening to music half asleep. Once I was dozing in a Freedom Services car before a pickup, and I had some kind of Bach thing for two violins going in the player. The music faded into a vision of two guys loading a truck. The films 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould and Dead Man work too.

22. I have an overactive gag reflex and a morbid fear of vomiting. As a result, it is impossible for anyone to get my throat culture without a fistfight, and I tend to postpone the inevitable, in case of a stomach bug.

23. Actually, there was this one night, I had to unload a Mexican dinner, heavy on the salsa. I was a little off target, coming to the toilet, and the remains of my meal ran in crimson rivulets down the outside of the bowl, like the ‘legs’ in a glass of fine wine. For some reason, I was naked (probably either because I’d thrown up on my clothes or because I’d removed them so as not to throw up on them). It was kind of erotic, writhing nude under the covers, discharging this blood-red liquid all night. In the morning, I felt very spiritually enriched.

24. Oh yeah, there was this other time, much earlier, in Taiwan. I was in Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park, breaking up with my girlfriend for the twelfth time. She used the expression pei he du (配合度), which I figured out meant ‘compatibility,’ and I turned it effectively against her: ‘We have no pei he du,’ I asserted. After it was over, I found myself wanting a snack, so I strode into the Burger King across Guangfu Street, for a chicken burger. That night, around two, I felt the telltale, metallic, queasiness in the pit of my stomach, a little minty, growing mintier still with all the Gelusel I popped, in the aforesaid effort to postpone the inevitable. It was no good: an hour later, I was throwing up out of my nose (a phenomenon I describe as vomiting while in the process of vomiting), leaving a moustache of spinach on my upper lip. I was at it all night. In the morning, I wasn’t able to go to work. My landlady went out and bought me some shu pao, a tasteless electrolyte replenisher for athletes, but it wasn’t an appropriate treatment, for I was still purging. I ended up cabbing it to the Taiwan Adventist Hospital, where they administered a saline IV. The Adventists give you a saline IV for almost everything, as their chief concern is to prevent dehydration. As it turned out, either because of the dehydration or the drugs I was also taking, I became unbelievably restless, to the point of being unable to stop moving. When seated, I rocked incessantly; when standing, I paced. I suffered under these conditions for two or three days, visiting the hospital repeatedly. Receiving IVs while being unable to still myself was a species of torture. I watched the solution drip, drip, drip, with excruciating slowness, wide eyed and grinding my teeth in suspense. I invited myself to my American friend’s apartment, because he had air conditioning and cable TV. One night I paced around his living room, watching Rebel Without a Cause, until I exhausted myself and fell asleep. Also, like an idiot, I called my not-quite-ex-girlfriend, thinking that I was dying and not wanting to die alone. Finally recovering my health after a few days, I took the bus into work. As the bus passed the Burger King, I saw that it was closed, sealed shut, with newspapers covering all the doors and windows.

25. I have green eyes.

Author: Harry Miller

I have traveled and lived in Taiwan, China, and Japan and am now a professor of Asian history and author of Southern Rain, a novel of seventeenth-century China.

10 thoughts on “25 Random Things About Me”

    1. Hmm. Your request is gratifying, but it also makes me nervous, for some reason. Please give me a couple of days to ask my editor if it’s OK and also to think of the best excerpt to preview.


  1. Thanks, JM. I appreciate your interest, and I’ll select something good for you to preview. In the meantime, I see you’ve finished your Alan piece, and I’ll be heading there directly.


  2. That memory from Taiwan was much more than random, a whole story and yet left me wanting to know more. The only think close is walking home in heavy rain from an Applebee’s in Oak Ridge with a tweedjacket after an evening that ended with way too much Wild Turkey.
    The morning after I was leaving for Florida and managed to puke until I was drained just before the shuttle left….


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