Sixteen Random Things About Me

Dallas Morning News reporter , Jeffery Weiss wrote this interesting story that ran in this weekend’s paper. It’s all about the phenomenon of “25 Random Things.” It does seem to be spreading like wildfire, as is Facebook itself. I can tell you from my own non-scientific experience that folks are joining Facebook right and left over these past few months…a virtual (pun intended) explosion of old friends and family.

So, in honor of Jeffery’s story, I’m reposting my list of “things” to my blog.

I should self-disclose that when this game was forwarded to me, it was only sixteen things. Jeffery’s story points out that somewhere along the way it jumped the shark to 25. Who knows how that happened. But I’m sticking with sixteen….

Sixteen Random Things About Me
(And if I had a 17th, it would be that I’m almost always too verbose…)

1) I am far more introverted that perhaps many people will realize.
Although I will observe that most introverts probably have no idea how little or much their introversion shows. So who knows? Any extroversion I have –in fact, any ability to be in groups of just about any size– has come through years of very conscious learning. (As it does for all introverts, of course.)

2) My introversion manifests itself in several quirky and illogical phobias.
Phobia 1: For example, I can now speak in front of a group of hundreds, nay, thousands. (And have). And except for a few butterflies here and there, I almost never suffer serious anxiety. But a “song circle” of six folks I don’t know well TERRIFIES me. I have no idea why this is so, and I would think it would be exactly opposite. But there you go.
Phobia 2: I can sit with people through some of the most difficult moments of their life –as someone they love dies in a hospital room beside them, or as they share with me very tough emotion stuff– and I can do this with a level of confidence and calling. But I am sometimes terrified to call people on the phone and ask them even the most basic question. (Like: “Will you be on this committee?” or, “Can we set this meeting?”) I sometimes fret about, and put off, those kinds of calls for days, making whatever the situation is far worse than it really is.
Phobia 3: There are some mornings where it is incredibly difficult for me to get going at all, and I have great sympathy for the story of Brian Wilson.

3) I am deaf in my right ear and have been since birth.
Those close to me know it. I find that many folks do not, which always makes me smile because I am constantly arranging certain things because it. For example, I will almost always stand on your right side if we are walking. I will choose a very specific places to sit at a table, or a specific table in a restaurant as a whole. I will move to certain places in a group if people are standing around, where I believe I will be better able to hear. And I usually do most of this without anyone noticing. But while most folks are probably oblivious to this, it’s something I am constantly aware of, internally.
Except for being totally lacking in any ability to tell direction in sound, I don’t find much else about it very limiting. But I have always imagined that my love of music may come from some inner sense of how precious sound itself is.

So, this one tip, and take this however you like: If you really want me to hear you, speak to me from the left.
😉

4) Although I do not drink soft drinks much anymore, there was a time when I could actually tell the difference between a Dr. Pepper and a Mr. Pibb.
I prided myself on being able to “call out” wait-staff who bogusly tried to pass off the latter as the former. (“Dr. Pepper is a friend of mine…Mr. Pibb,  you’re no Dr. Pepper.”)

I don’t understand anymore why I was once so proud of this, but there you go.

5) I once knew the parents of one of America’s most infamous serial killers.
The very first church I ever preached at (near Lake Lavon, actually) was home to a Mr. and Mrs. Watson, the parents of Charles “Tex” Watson, one of the Manson family killers. I was very young, and this was back in the days before “The Google.” So when Mrs. Watson casually dropped this bomb on me during our first meeting, I actually had to check out a library book to confirm it. Sure enough, it was so. Charles “Tex” Watson grew up in a sleepy little town, just outside of Dallas, and later became one of the most feared killers of our time.
Knowing the Watson’s taught me several crucial life lessons: 1) the difference between a person’s public persona and their private life; 2) the challenging path of trying to discern whether or not someone is “rehabilitated” or not, and what “forgiveness” really means; and finally 3) the incredible, and lifelong bond of love that a parent often feels for their child, no matter what.

6) I cried one of the hardest cries of my life the last time I took off a baseball uniform.
It was the summer after my senior year in high school. Despite the fact that I hadn’t made my high school team, I’d managed to play in a summer league with many of the same guys from that team, and manged to keep alive some dream of making the “big leagues” someday.
We were the clear favorite to win the championship that year, but perhaps our overconfidence got to us, and we lost early in the playoffs. My parents were out of town when I got home that night.

With stark certainty, it suddenly hit me that this was very likely the last time I’d ever take of a baseball uniform in my life. I wasn’t going to make the major leagues after all, and we weren’t even going to win that championship as a “last hurrah” to salve our egos. So as I took off that uniform, and finally said goodbye to a childhood dream, I cried buckets of tears alone.

7) I tried pot for one of the only times in my life while on a campout on top of a mountain in Colorado.
I was a young teenager, and it was during the mid-70s. We were around a campfire, looking down at city lights far below, singing “Rocky Mountain High,” and quite literally trying to live it out. Honestly? I don’t think it had any effect. Or, anything that wasn’t just as easily explained by the altitude.

8) My junior high nickname was “Pinky.”
This is perhaps one of the darkest and most unmentionable secrets of my life, and if you start calling me that now I may have to kill you. The nickname was given to me in gym class by the other guys and a coache, because of 1) my propensity to have “pink” skin when I worked out (ala Jason Witten, btw, in case you’ve noticed…); and 2) my propensity for horrible looking sunburns. “Pinky” was, of course, the nickname of a female character on “Happy Days” at the time, and just about the last thing any junior high boy would want to be called. Eventually, everyone in school called me that. Even in the halls. No one called me by my real name. I would meet knew people who would say they didn’t know MY name, but that they *had* heard of “Pinky.”
Mercifully, junior high ends. And, somehow, Pinky stayed in that building and never followed me to high school and beyond.

9) I never expected my adult life to be lived in Dallas.
I’m not entirely sure where I expected to be, but it wasn’t here. Since my high school graduation gift was a set of luggage, I figured it was a pretty clear signal that I was supposed to head out to all points beyond. I assumed I’d only be back for vacations, now and then. But then I moved back for seminary. Then, I went to work at a church quite literally right across the parking lot from there. My next move was only a few miles beyond that circumference. I have now lived an astounding 87 percent of my life in this city.

I now live within a mile of where I grew up. This, too, was unexpected. When I moved to Northaven Church, they had a parsonage, and a part of how they (a church) pays you is often through offering that place to live. It’s a wonderful house. It’s a *great* school system. It’s a mile from my parents (and my daughter’s grandparents).

But it’s far too close to my past. Especially for the first few years we lived here, every place I drove here in North Dallas I saw ghosts….old friends hanging around the park…old girlfriends and I walking down a street….the old-me driving my old car down the streets. These North Dallas streets are filled with ghosts for me. Strangely, in the past two or three years, many of the ghosts seem to have vanished. And in a way, I am grateful for that, because it’s a lot more fun to live in the present. But I also now have the vague feeling that those memories may be lost forever, buried under the archeological sediment of seven new years in the same old place.

10) I love to travel.
Despite the being right here most of the time, I have been a lot of other places….Mexico, Haiti, Nepal, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Germany, England, France, Guatemala, El Salvador. I would travel a whole lot more too, if time and finances permitted it. Our house is filled with art from those travels…a Saraswati statue from Nepal…two icons from Russia…paintings from Haiti…etc… They help me remember how big the world is, and how beautiful the people everywhere are.

11) “If I didn’t know it, I would never have guessed you were a minister.”
This line was first said to me years ago by my old friend, Carolyn H, and has been repeated by several others through the years. I take it as the highest of compliments. The older I get, the more I dislike many religious people. I find their narrow judgmentalism off-putting, and have long since given up doing most arguing with them. I find myself wanting to apologize on behalf of Christian people everywhere for much of what is done in Jesus’ name. But, the older I get, I don’t even feel like doing that anymore. There simply are not enough hours in the day.

Even just a few years back, I was very heasitant to tell many of my musician and artists friends that I was a minister. The church and artists have not always had a great history, shall we say. But, I’m too tired to hide that anymore either…simply not enough hours of the day for this either.

More and more, I simply lean on a line from a Woody Allen character who said, “If Jesus returned today to see everything going on his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

When I first heard that line in the theater, I laughed for five straight minutes with my friend, Bill Frisbie. Today, I wince more than laugh. I am fortunate to serve a church that is made up of many, many people who have found themselves unwelcome at other churches. Some of them have, quite literally, been shunned by either religious authories or their families and loved ones. Sometimes, it’s because simply because of who they are as people, other times it’s because of beliefs that others found too “outside the box.” Whatever the reason, they have found a way to our church, and have found it to be a “haven” for them. I’m glad for that. I remember that Jesus hung out with the outcasts of his day, much to the chagrine of the religious elites of his day, and I take comfort in that too.

12) I voted for Ronald Reagan twice.
The first two elections I could vote, like many of the other kids my age, I voted Republican. It was that second election –and more precisely, election night– that began to change my heart. The Reagan-Mondale election was a landslide. It was the jeering throngs of blue-blazered young Republicans –watching returns at the UT Student Union, deriding the Dems, whom they had clearly destroyed in the election– that started to make me question the politics I had always assumed was the only way to be.
There was something, I thought, about America that did not like a landslide. All sorts of other changes …socially…spiritually….politically…were at work in me at the time. And by the time I voted a third time, I voted for Jesse Jackson. I’ve consistently voted that side of the aisle ever since. (BTW, Barack Obama is the *first* presidential candidate I’ve ever supported from the very beginning of a primary season, who has actually won.)

13) I was the star of my kindergarten play.
It was the “Selfish Giant,” a musical version of the Oscar Wilde short story. Yes, I was the Selfish Giant. I got the part, best I can tell, because I was the tallest kid in the kindergarten class. There are pics, and even a reel-to-reel tape of this somewhere, and they might be coming to a Facebook page near you. When I was looking for a name for my own songwriting, recording, and home studio, it was only fitting that I call it “Selfish Giant Songs.” Introvert that I am, it’s been a pretty good metaphor for life my life from kindergarten through this moment right now.

14) I once knew George and Laura Bush on a first-named basis.
Perhaps even *more* rare, they knew me by first name too. This was way before he was even Governor, when he was “just” the son of the sitting President. He was a member of the church where I served, and we’d see each other in the halls, and at various functions. I talked to him on the phone a couple of times, we exchanged small talk pretty regularly. He, Laura, and the twins, have gone with me (and Dennise) to serve the homeless together.
Needless to say, these past eight years have been more than surreal than you can possibly imagine. First, to have *anyone* you first know in the real world become President, is a very unique experience that rarely happens to anyone. But then, to have the events that have transpired these past eight years take place? Absolutely bizzare. I have been openly critical of many Administration policies these past eight years, and am unapologetic about that. And I am also aware that I have many friends who don’t just dislike, but absolutely *hate* George Bush. But I will personally never be able to share that “hate.” Having seen “W,” I tend to think that Oliver Stone must share a similar sense of compassion for him that perhaps few of my friends will ever be able to fully understand, and that I am not sure I’ll ever be able to fully explain.

15) I once allowed the criticism of a total stranger to keep me from writing songs for almost three years.
I was in college, and I was playing in the stairwell at Jester Center (those who know it perhaps know that one of the only good thing about Jester are it’s HUGE stairwells, perfect for playing…) An older student, a woman, passed by while I was playing and humming an instrumental song I’d written. To this day, I don’t know what she really said, but I know what I heard from her was that it was plagiarized from some other source. The shame of feeling that I had “stolen” some melody drove me to put away the guitar, at least in terms of writing, for almost three years. To this day, I can no longer remember that song.

16) Don Henley and my Mom grew up about seven miles apart.
He grew up in Linden, Texas, the county seat of Cass County. (if you’ll note: his music company is called “Cass County Music.”) Mom grew up in Atlanta (yes, Texas) seven miles away. I have met Don a couple of times around Dallas now, and we’ve talked about East Texas. Everytime we have, his face lights up. He says he remembers listening to my great-uncle on the radio (he had an early “talk show” where he talked about anything and everything…). He says he also remembers visting the “Mays Supercash Grocery Store,” that my grandfather co-owed with that same brother.
When Henley sings, “Somewhere back there in the dust…the same small town in each of us…” it’s always been as literally true for me and him as possible.

And it’s reminded me that the world is really very small, you never know who you’re going to meet, and that it’s probably best not to burn your bridges if you can…because people find a way of circling in and out of your life when you least expect it.

People whose lists I would like to see:

Dennise: Because she already knows all this, and I’ve already seen her’s.
Cary: because she started all this.
Tom: Because he starts so many other cool things with Cary.
Chris W: Because he knows much of this stuff too (But don’t post it….just email it…you know why…)
Melanie: Because if she’s not going to move to Texas, she should at least have to share with all us here.
Bill F: Because he gets mentioned in # 11, and for years I’ve been wondering how he is.
Paul I: Because he remembers Pinky and yet has never mentioned it.
Bill N: Because he is one of the greatest human beings on the planet. Seriously.
Paul B: Because it would be good for him.
Vicki C: Because she’s one of those crazy Northaven artists types, and the funniest, most truthful writer I know personally.
Frank R: Because I believe I have modeled how he can make out his list, and descretely find a way not to mention me.
John F: Because I’ve known him almost as long as Frank, and because we’re bandmates.
Rusty K: Ditto for the band-bond, and because he knows Atlanta too.
Ann W: Because she needs a break from her new assignment.
Amy F: Because she just joined Facebook this week, and deserves to be thrown into the fire.
Charles H: Because of the old LFG group, and for being a good guy.
Annie B: Because she is my oldest musician friend, and such an incredible person.
Michael B: Because I have a hunch he’ll havea great list, once he gets back in the country.
Charles G: Because he hates this kind of stuff, which is exactly why it would be good for him.
Sheri B: Because it’s been cool to reconnect with her here, and in real life too.
Erik B: Because I know he loves baseball and will appreciate #6.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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