The Most Famous Person I’ve Ever Met


From a Plinky prompt: “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?”

Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton with Buddy the Dog in the Oval Office: 01/16/1998

Who is the most famous person I’ve ever met? Well, it depends on what your definition of “is” is.

Actually, no, wait, it depends on what your definition of “met” is.

Back in the fall of 1992, about a week before the presidential election, Bill Clinton was winding down his campaigning with a visit to Jackson, Miss. I was a student at Ole Miss at the time, and a group of us decided to drive down to Jackson to hear him speak.

After he spoke, we pressed down to the front of the crowd to try to get to meet him. There was a short fence that separated Clinton from the crowd, and he was walking along it, shaking hands with a few people, skipping a few people, shaking hands with a few people, and so on.

I made my way against the fence, and Bill worked his way toward me, shaking hands with people as he came. He shook hands with the person next to me, looked at me, and then skipped down a little ways and started shaking hands again.

I generally just summarize that story as “One time, Bill Clinton refused to shake my hand.”

So, does that count as meeting? If so, then Clinton definitely wins the most famous person for me.

If not, then it gets a bit more complicated.

I’ve actually had conversations with famous people in a number of different areas, but how do you determine which of them is the most famous?

Probably the most historical person I’ve met is astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon. I spoke with him briefly in person at a space symposium back in 2004, and then had a longer conversation on the phone with him a little later about the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

In the acting arena, James Earl Jones is probably the most famous actor I’ve had a conversation with. Back in college, several years before Star Wars: Episode I started filming, I asked him, and I’m sure he loved getting this question, what he knew about the rumored prequels. He told me they were going to happen, and that he would be in it at the very end. So there you go.

Musically, it’s got to be B.B. King. B.B. consider his hometown to be Indianola, Miss., where I worked for the newspaper for five year, so I saw him several times when he came into town for his annual homecoming concert. I got to ask him a few questions for the paper and talk with him a little. He considered my editor, Jim Abbott, a friend, so I got to be around while they talked, too. B.B. is an amazing man, friendly and incredibly down-to-Earth. Just a super, super nice guy.

In the field of writing, John Grisham, right around the time the movie “The Firm” came out, when he was really probably at the height of his popularity, took a six-month or so sabbatical from interviews. When the Sunday “Parade” magazine (or possibly USA Weekend, I forget which) wanted an interview with him during that time, he agreed, but with the stipulation that he would interview himself rather than talk to someone else. To the best of my knowledge, he granted only one interview during that time — to me. I was working at the college paper at the time, and he was in town for a private screening of The Firm, which I’d been invited to. I told him I knew he wasn’t doing interviews, but would he be willing to let me ask just one question. He said he’d never met a reporter that could ask just one question, but if I could, he’d answer it and I could use it. I did, and he did.

So with all of those possibilities, how do you determine who the most famous person I’ve ever met is?

Oh, yeah, Google.

Google “James Earl Jones,” and you get just over 4 million results.

“John Grisham” gets you over 9 million.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, a participant in probably the greatest human achievement of the 20th century, nets about half a million.

And B.B. King? Indianola’s favorite son gets almost 27 million results, making him the most famous person I’ve ever met.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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Radio Song


(From a Plinky.com prompt: “Do you ever listen to the radio anymore?”

Car Radio

Ah, radio. My old friend. We do have our moments, don’t we?

I tend to go through phases with radio. At times, I listen relatively frequently. Other times, I don’t listen at all.

My relationship with radio at this point is centered entirely around my car. I do not remember the last time I turned on the radio in my house. If the radio’s on, I’m driving. That’s all there is to it.

But even then, it varies from time to time. For the longest time, I had two or three radio stations that I listened to regularly. If I was in the mood for country or contemporary Christian, I was probably listening to the radio. If I wasn’t, I wasn’t.

In cars past, a lot of my driving time was spent listening to the iPod. My current car, unfortunately, was made in an unfortunate point for iPod-listening — too new to have a tape deck for an adapter, too old to have an audio input line to hook up to. I can listen to my iPod, but I have to do so through a radio transmitter, and that requires enough set-up time to be a commitment.

Which means, in this car, the choices are radio or CD, and that gets into a mood thing. The CDs are a known quantity. If I’m in the mood for one, I listen to it. If I’m not, I don’t.

The latest development in my love/apathy relationship with radio is the launch of Journey 93.3.

Back when I was in high school, 93.3 was one of the two leading rock/pop stations, and I listened to it frequently. Then it became the Possum, and at the time I had no interest in country, so it dropped off the dial as far as I was concerned. By a few years ago, it had changed a time or two since, and was a different country station, the Wolf. I was listening to country then, so I listened to 93.3.

And then, one day, I turned on the radio, and they were playing songs that had no place on the Wolf. The first one I thought was a fluke, but after the third one, I realized 93.3 had changed formats yet again.

Now, it’s what once would have been called a classic rock or oldies station, playing stuff that’s 10-30 years old.

Meaning that 93.3 is once again playing a lot of the same music it did when I was in high school. And, embracing the fact that I’m apparently officially old, I’m listening to it now just as happily as I did then.

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I Had A Dream


From a Plinky prompt: “Have you ever had a recurring dream?”

 


My longest ongoing recurring dream started not long after I began my current job.

Prior to that, I worked in newspapers.

I assumed I always would.

For me, being a newspaperman wasn’t so much what I did as it was who I was. I had the proverbial ink the veins, and, all too often, the literal ink on the hands.

Leaving newspapers to come to work for NASA was a big deal. I wanted the new job, and was excited about it, but the move involved some loss of identity. It would be cool, but involved giving up a little bit of myself.

But I did it. And was glad I did.

However …

Not long after I started the new job, the dreams started.

In the dream, I realized that I had made a mistake. A terrible mistake.

I was a newspaperman. I wasn’t supposed to be working for NASA. I was supposed to be working for a newspaper.

So I went back to work for a newspaper.

In the dream, I would go back to Indianola, and resume working at the newspaper there.

That part was pretty much the same every time I had the dream.

There was a little bit of difference in the next part.

I would realize that I had made a horrible mistake. I would realize that I wanted out. I would realize that I had romanticized newspapers, and that NASA really was much better.

The difference in this part was how long it took. Sometimes I made this realization the next day after I went back to the newspaper. Other times, I didn’t last that long.

Fortunately, in the dream, almost invariably, I never, technically, quit my job at NASA. I had just gone back to the newspaper without letting anyone know.

So, thankfully, I was always able to just go back to work the next day as if I’d been sick or something the day before and pick up where I left off with no one the wiser.

The dream was a good thing for me.

Leaving newspapers really was hard. And I really did have second thoughts some times. The dream let me live out those reservations without having to actually live out those reservations. It gave me a picture of the “what if…” scenario of going back that rang pretty true.

I was happier at NASA. And my rational mind knew that. But it was good for my heart to be able to experience that as well.

Newspapers were a very important part of my life, and I’ll always have fond feelings of that part of my past.

But that doesn’t mean that the present isn’t much better.

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Lucky Just To Linger In Your Light


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Smiling.”

Something that makes me smile — serendepity.

I’d been looking forward to the last Reconstruction post I did, on the creation of the universe, for a while. But the next one just sort of loomed there. “Smiling”? Um, smiling is good. People should smile. I like to smile. What do you say about it.

But then right after I finished the last post in the series, this post showed up in my news reader. Go, read it. I’ll wait.

Smiling Comes Easy Here This month is going to be a hectic one. On the agenda, we have everything from homeschooling starting back up (for which I am only minimally prepared), to Girl Scout cookie sales, to my teaching at the pregnancy center again, with lots in between! I really dislike being a busy person, but with four kids, it’s not possible to avoid busyness. However, it is possible to be busy only with things that really matter. Things that tug the corners of my m … Read More

— “Smiling Comes Easy Here” via The Faery Inn

See what she did there? Better than anything I had in mind for the “smile” prompt, and that’s not even what she was trying to do.

But, ultimately, it gets back to what I wrote in my New Year’s post, about undiscovered treasure.  A lot of her post is about finding beauty in the mundane or the things we take for granted. How often to you smile about a friend’s rebuke or a seeing a pregnant woman or sitting at a school table. But there really is treasure everywhere.

I wrote my short version of her list a while back for a Plinky prompt, my catalog of everyday treasures, my raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

What about you? What are the magical mundanities of your life? Where is your every day treasure?

What makes you smile?

The e-Book Reader: Hot Chocolate Versus Sunsets


From a Plinky prompt: “Would you ever get an e-book reader?”

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

Imagine if hot chocolate got in a fight with sunsets.

Or if you had to pick sides between the laughter of small children and tender hugs from loved ones. Imagine if great music somehow became the archenemy of tasty food, and you had to choose which one wins.

Can’t we all just get along?

And yet, that sort of quandary is where we are, thanks to the e-book reader.

In this corner — Cutting-edge technology. Oh, how I love you. Oh, how you make my life better. Words cannot express to you my gratitude for my iPhone, which makes me happy in countless little ways. I can’t imagine life without you. You make everything better and faster and shinier and usefuller and awesomer.

And in this corner — Words, printed on paper. Ideas incarnate. Facts and fantasies, information and imagination, captured in physical form. So delightfully visceral. So comfortable. So comforting. So familiar and yet so exciting — my oldest friend, continually taking me to unexplored realms.

How does one choose? How could one be asked to choose?

Yes, I love the idea of an e-book. I love the idea of being able to carry a library in this small portable form; of reading several books at once and always having the one I want to read with me when I want to read it. I love the idea of technology transforming reading; I love the idea of relating to written words in new ways I’ve never been able to before.

But at what cost? At the cost of not owning a physical copy of a book? Of not being able to hold it in my hands, to leaf through it, to feel its heft and know its dimensions? Of not feeling the texture of the dead tree pulp on which its words are printed? Of not having it on a shelf in my home, a proud sign for visitors that this volume is a small part of who I am? Of not being able to go into my library and pull down the perfect volume that a friend simply must read? Of not being able to skim a bookcase for that one book that has exactly what I’m looking for? Of not having a pile in my bedroom of books queued up to vie for my time and attention?

As an author, am I willing to pay the cost of no longer having the overwhelming thrill, the victory, of lifting a bound block of paper, and knowing — like Joyce and Faulkner and Dickens and Hemingway and Dostoevsky and Miley Cyrus before — that I made this?

May it not be.

I imagine it is inevitable. I imagine that in the not too distant future, enough people will have readers or tablet computers or whatever next-generation device they come up with by then that electronic books will gradually become the default, so insidiously that we don’t even notice that printed volumes have joined vinyl records in intriguing obsolescence.

And I imagine that it will be convenient and delightful, and make reading more enjoyable than it ever has been before. And I imagine that when that day comes, I will be happy, and will love reading books electronically.

But, so help me, I will miss real books.

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Bad Hair Days


Screenshot of wordpress.com showing my post featured in the freshly pressed section

My promo box on the WordPress.com homepage

Excuse me for a moment while I put this lampshade back where it goes, and clean this chips off the couch.

OK. Exhale. Hey! How are you? Looks like pretty much everybody’s gone. I think it’s just us here again.

So regular readers may have noticed something was up the past few days. Even if you didn’t happen to notice how much traffic the blog’s been getting, you might have caught that there were a ridiculous number of comments being posted.

Here, then, is the story of my 15 minutes of bad-hair fame.

I got up Friday morning, and had an e-mail with the latest writing prompt from Plinky.com — “Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.” I’ve written answers to a small handful of Plinky prompts, and even though this one wasn’t technically a writing prompt, it did relate to a story I’d told recently, so I figured I would write it up.

I got out my senior-year high school yearbook, snapped a quick picture of my senior portrait, and wrote up the story, and then posted it on my blog. No big deal. A bit later, I started working on my “real” post I planned for the day, following up on my trip to Disney World.

Heather and I both noticed that something was unusual around the same time. I noticed that I was getting a high number of comments about the post. and she noticed that my traffic counter was shooting up ridiculously quickly. I went into my stats page to try to figure out what was going on — A lot of the traffic was coming from WordPress.com. Was I getting visitors because of one of the tags on the post? Were that many people checking out the “mullet” tag?

And then we saw — I was “Freshly Pressed.” Of a half-million new blog posts, mine had been chosen to be featured on the front page of WordPress.com. There, for the viewing pleasure of thousands, was my embarrassing high-school senior portrait.

On Friday, I received 3,515 visits to my blog. For point of reference, my previous one-day record was 159. The bar graph showing my daily visits became useless, because every other day for the last month essentially became too small to measure.

On Saturday, it kept going, with 3,482 visits that day. On Sunday, 3,434. On Monday, I logged over 1,200 visits before they finally replaced my post on the front page of WordPress.

To put that in perspective, about half of the traffic my blog as received since I launched it in January 2009, almost two years ago, came in that 72-hour period.

And then there’s the post itself. We watched as the post surpassed my other top posts. There was a moment, not knowing how long it would stay on Freshly Pressed, where we wondered whether it would surpass the previous most-popular single post, One More Bite of the Apple. In a bit of understatement, it did. The previous most-viewed record, for that post, was 540 visitors. My haircut post has received almost 8,000. More people have viewed it than have viewed my blog homepage in the entire time my blog has been up.

So, thoughts about it …

It’s cool. It’s a huge honor. A lot of the comments I received were congratulating me on being Freshly Pressed. It generated a lot of traffic, not just for that one post, but for the site as a whole. About a third of the page views during those 72 hours were for things other than that one post. So there’s that part of it.

It feels a little random. There are posts I like, posts I feel good about. That post was just a diversion I was writing to answer a prompt for the fun of it. I didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that it would be paid any attention at all. Also, I never had any goal to be Freshly Pressed. It’s a big honor, but not one that I sought.

It’s a little weird that that’s what has been the defining characteristic of my blog. One third of my blog traffic has been that one post. Half of my blog traffic has been caused by that one post. My blog is now basically, historically, “David’s Bad Hair and Other Stories.” It’s like the band that has a huge hit with their quirky one-off song that’s utterly unlike their sound. If I could have picked a post to get that sort of response, it wouldn’t have been that one. I hoped someday to write a post that would get better response than my previous one-day high. I’m pretty sure I’ll never top this level.

I’m annoyed with myself that, yeah, on Saturday and Sunday, I actually spent time thinking, OK, what do I write next? If I get any residual traffic, what would I want them to read next? It may have even had a small effect.

A lot of people commended me for being brave enough to share the old photo. A lot of people saying they were jealous of the response, but wouldn’t have been brave enough to share a photo like that. Me, I’m an improv actor. I get paid to make a fool of myself publicly all the time. I didn’t give it a second thought. Nice that it “paid” this time, too.

That said, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the reaction. A lot of the early comments were basically laughing at my hair, if deservedly so? Was that the only reason I was picked, was because I had a funny picture? It was nice when an increasing number of comments talked positively about the humor and storytelling. Hopefully there’s more to me than just bad hair, and the feedback was very very very nice.

The big question I have is, what happens next? Is there any long-term benefit to this, or was it just a funny thing that happened one weekend? Will any of those people come back? Will my Google reach increase because of the increased traffic? Are there other areas of impact that I’m not anticipating?

So, all in all, it was kind of weird. And, yeah, I was totally taken in, constantly checking my stats during the weekend to old records be beaten and then new milestones be reached.

But I’m very grateful. Grateful for being picked, grateful for the traffic, grateful for the comments, very grateful for the compliments. Grateful for the people who read other things and said it spoke to them, grateful for the opportunity to share those things. To WordPress, a huge thank you, and thank you as well to everyone who stopped by.

And if any of the weekend guests are still here, feel free to stick around and have fun with us.

View My Worst-Ever Haircut and Mull It


From a Plinky prompt: Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.

david hitt high school photo mullet

My high school senior yearbook portrait

It wasn’t intentional, I promise.

To be sure, I went through a series of bad hair styles in late high school and through college, and, to a lesser extent, thereafter. Somewhere, there are probably worse pictures of the style in this picture, but it was the worst one I had handy.

In my defense, for what little defense it provides, I didn’t realize I was rocking a mullet.

I blame Jeremy Wells. Jeremy, you see, was my high school newspaper editor my sophomore year, and he was, to my young mind, awesome. He excelled at everything I wanted to excel at and more. And while he was a good writer, his main strength as editor was his design and graphics ability, proving that you could become a school newspaper editor on the skills I had instead of the skills I didn’t.

I wanted to be Jeremy Wells.

And that imitation extended to hair. I wanted long hair like Jeremy’s. So I decided to start growing it out.

Now, I did not want a mullet. To be honest, at that point, I didn’t even know what a mullet was. In fact, it wasn’t until probably a decade after high school that I really realized that I’d had one.

What did I want? Awesome long hair. Like hippie or rock star hair, but clean cut and respectable. That’s totally better than a mullet. Look, I was in high school, whadda you want? Shut up.

What I got was a mullet. That I kept for way too long.

And the irony was this. I was telling this story to someone recently, how I didn’t know I had a mullet and that’s not what I was aiming for, I just wanted awesome long hair like Jeremy’s. I pulled out the yearbook to show his picture to explain what I’d actually wanted.

And in that picture, looking at it again for the first time in almost 20 years, it turns out Jeremy Wells was totally rocking a mullet.

Sigh.

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