Here is the truth about each of the 30 facts/lies I wrote for this year’s April Fools contest.
Most of them (22) were true — which was probably a mistake from a game-design standpoint, since it made “I guess they’re all true” a winning strategy. Two people employed that strategy and won the contest.
In light of that, I’ve also decided to declare that the person with the best score among people who didn’t employ a degenerate strategy will also be declared a winner.
So, congrats to Hyp H., Josh B., and Kayla S. I’ll be contacting you separately about your prizes.
- When I was a boy—probably in junior high school—my mom explained the mechanics of a tennis serve while we were both in the kitchen. I decided right there to try out the technique, and promptly smashed the kitchen light fixture right off the ceiling.
TRUE. I don’t recall why I had a tennis racquet in the kitchen. What I can tell you is that I still hear about this episode from my mom, some 35 years later.
- When I first heard of the book “The Hobbit,” my mind conflated “fantasy” and “hobo.” I thought it was a book about a magical hobo living out of a boxcar, and so had little interest in reading it.
TRUE. I was probably about 7 when I first heard about The Hobbit, and it was while I was reading the classic kids’ series “The Boxcar Children,” which featured a group of orphaned runaway children who lived out of a boxcar.
- I was one word away from winning a 6th grade spelling bee, but lost when I couldn’t spell the word “tyrannical.” (Left out an “n.”) I went home disappointed, and consoled myself by writing a short story about the proctor’s “tyranny” in giving me a hard word, while the winner got to spell “acquire,” which I KNEW how to spell!
FALSE. I’ve always been, at best, a slightly-above-average speller. I certainly wasn’t good enough to be within striking distance of winning a spelling bee in grade school.
- I was in the stadium during the highest-scoring World Series baseball game in history.
TRUE. I was there in the stands at Veterans Stadium in 1993, as the Blue Jays beat my beloved Phillies 15-14. The real heartbreak was that the Phillies were winning 14-9 after 7 innings, at which point relief pitchers Larry Anderson and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams combined to cough up 6 runs in the 8th.
- I once ate so many chocolate chips in one sitting, I made myself so ill, I couldn’t eat, or even smell chocolate for about half a year without feeling sick. (This was during my first year living in Somerville after college, when I’d come home from work and just eat whatever was lying around. Unlike now, ha ha!)
FALSE. But truth-adjacent. I actually experienced this exact phenomenon, except it was with dried apricots, not chocolate chips.
- Once, in a single sitting, I consumed three Big Macs, two orders of large French fries, a large soft drink, and one of those molten-filling apple pies McDonalds used to sell.
TRUE. I was a track athlete in high school. Some weeks in winter we’d travel for indoor meets after school, and I learned early on not to eat much lunch on those days. Running with a full stomach was not a great recipe for success. On the way back from one of these meets, the team bus stopped at a McDonalds, and I was ravenous even by the standards of a typical 17-year-old boy. I ate all of the above on a school bus.
- This is the stupidest thing I ever did while behind the wheel of a car: While I drove home one night from an alumni event at Wesleyan to my home in Somerville, in the pouring rain, the windshield wiper on the driver’s side stopped working. Instead of pulling over and waiting for the rain to stop, I kept driving—while leaning waaaaaay over to the right so I could see out the passenger half of the windshield. I made it safely home, but my back hurt for over week afterward.
TRUE. Yes, stupid, certainly. You’ve all read that the human brain doesn’t finish developing until about 25, right?
- In 1994, the very first year I played on an ultimate Frisbee team, the team I was on won the league championship. I’m not saying I had much to do with our success, but I was technically on the team!
TRUE. The captain of the team was literally on the roster for a world championship ultimate frisbee team, so maybe he had a liiiiiiitle more to do with our hat league title than I did as a hapless noob.
- I once convinced an acquaintance that I had just consumed a vial of hydrofluoric acid and was in the process of dying.
TRUE. I suspect a lot of you were hoping this would be false, because how could I have done something so despicable? There’s a bit of strange backstory that maybe mitigates the terribleness. Bear with me here.
Though it may beggar your imagination, there were about two or three years of my life when I was an attractive physical specimen. For my college freshman face-book (an actual book, no relation to social media. This was in 1987) that was distributed to all incoming freshman, I submitted a picture that made me look quite debonair, or something. This will become relevant in a minute.
Anyway, a few weeks into our freshman year, I was approached out of the blue by a fellow first-year named C. (Name withheld to avoid shaming, which is not the point of this.) She seemed…maybe interested in dating? I wasn’t sure. She never put it that way, but she invited me to hang out with her on a few occasions. She was perfectly pleasant, but kept dropping little, uh, suggestive hints, I’ll call them, that seemed out of place for whatever it was we were discussing, not to mention the not-that-serious nature of our not-really-a-relationship. Even with no dating history to speak of, I thought something was a little off, and against the advice of my hormones, I deflected her odd advances.
In the midst of this, a reliable third party gave me the scoop of what was going on. C and a high school friend of hers (who had also gotten into Wesleyan) had perused their face-books over the summer. Each of them had selected three guys from the book who they hoped to entice into bed. First one to get all three would win their contest. Apparently, I was one of the three on C’s list, thanks to a smoldering picture of me sitting at a piano. Or something.
I found that secretly being a game-piece in a contest of conquest was quite off-putting, manipulative, dishonest, etc., so I set about plotting a suitable revenge. C was a chemistry student who worked in a lab in the science building, so I asked if I could see it. I had brought with me a little vial of water labeled as HF, which I secreted on a shelf of other bottles. Then, a couple of minutes later, I took it off the shelf and asked what it was. “Hydrofluoric acid,” she said. “Super dangerous. Don’t mess around with it.” I said it looked like water, how harmful could it really be, and proceeded to drink it. I only pretended to suffer for a few seconds before admitting the prank, and at the time she laughed it off.
Strangely enough, we drifted apart after that incident. Maybe she gave up the game. Maybe she went 2-for-3. But I leave it to you to decide if the punishment fit the crime, and just how horrible a person I am.
- I once convinced my own mother that a camera flash had changed the color of one of my eyes. (Unbeknownst to her, I was wearing one tinted contact and one non-tinted.) She was on the phone and dialing the eye doctor before I told her the truth.
TRUE. Ok, maybe I really am a horrible person.
- One of my favorite life sort-of-coincidences: as a kid, I once got lost in the Philadelphia Museum of Art right as they were closing, and they had to send a few of their staff out to look for me. I wasn’t trying to hide—I was honestly lost, in a series of circularly-connected galleries. They found me and returned me to my parents. The coincidence part is that the next school day, we started reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I was so excited!
FALSE. I know, I know. I wish this were true, too. I loved that book.
- When I was a lad, I made it a habit of coming up behind my dad while he sat in his chair, breathing on his bald head, and buffing it clean with my sleeve.
TRUE. My dad would tell me, “son, someday you’ll be bald just like me, and your kids will do the same to you.” And he was exactly, literally correct. The great injustice is that both of my children are girls, so I can’t keep paying this one forward.
- My first regular, paying summer job was working the chicken fry-o-lator, by myself, at a Roy Rogers fast food restaurant. While performing this task, I once dropped the tongs into the boiling lard into which I dipped the breaded chicken pieces. I had a thick oven mitt on one hand, and before I could stop it, my brain decided I could quick reach in with the mitt and grab the tongs before my hand would burn. I was mostly right. Alas, there was a weak spot on the glove through which some of the hot fat soaked, giving me a terrible burn on my hand. I had the burn scar for almost 20 years before it faded.
TRUE. I try not to think of it. Thankfully, due to my hard work and brilliant mind, I soon advanced from chicken fryer to French-fry-machine proctor to burger-flipper, a job that required the finesse of an orchestral conductor (or so I told myself) as I kept tabs on up to (I think) 18 burgers at a time.
- Being a traditional sort of fellow, when I decided I wanted to propose to my then-girlfriend now-wife Kate, I first asked her England-born father for permission. Specifically, I asked for her daughter’s hand in marriage. “Yes,” he said, “but only if you also take the rest of her.” I knew right then I was marrying into an excellent family.
TRUE. In every detail. Marrying Kate was the best thing I ever did, without a close second-place.
- One time, as part of a practical joke, I slathered an old Walkman-style radio with chocolate syrup, wrapped it in ham slices, and stuffed the whole thing into a hollowed-out pineapple.
TRUE. For a few years, I worked in the same building as my friend Kevin. Once a week, I would take orders from my co-workers and call for take-out at a nearby sandwich shop. Since Kevin worked down the hall, I would sometimes send him an e-mail asking if he wanted me to order something.
One time, on a lark, he wrote back asking if I could order him a “chocolate-greased ham radio with sloth sauce served in a pineapple syringe.” I told him they were out of those, but I didn’t forgot this fond wish of his. A few weeks later, I made him what he asked for – right down to the jar of pasta-sauce with its label removed and replaced with one touting its contents as Rainforest Ralph’s Authentic Old-Tyme Sloth Sauce. “Give your food that three-toed taste!”
- I once brought a two-foot-long sword home from Toledo, Spain, to Philadelphia, PA, in my carry-on luggage aboard a transcontinental airplane. No one cared.
TRUE. This was in 1985. You could bring anything short of a howitzer on board a plane back then.
- I was named after Dorian Haarhoff, a South African who is one of my mom’s favorite poets. I am forever grateful that she didn’t name me “Haarhoff.”
FALSE. But truth-adjacent. I was named after an artist named Dorian, but it was Dorian Rudnytzky, a Julliard-trained cellist who performed with the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. And yes, I am still grateful that my parents did not name me “Rudnytsky.”
- I used to get so lost in my own thoughts on the school bus as a child, the other kids took to calling me “Space Pup” because I might as well have been in outer space.
TRUE. But not in a bullying way, thankfully. I even had a particular older kid on the bus who’d look out for me, and who often had to tell me when we’d arrived at school, since I wouldn’t even have noticed the bus had stopped.
- At the fanciest restaurant I’ve patronized as an adult—the only one so posh there were no prices on the menu—we (Kate and I) had spent the day hiking and had neither showered nor changed our clothes. They let us in, but we were seated at a table as far from the other guests as possible.
TRUE. This was on our honeymoon in New Zealand, after a day of hiking in Mt. Cook National Park. We figured we had nothing to lose by asking if we could get dinner inside the nearby fancy-pants restaurant at the Hermitage Hotel, and lo and behold we were soon eating one of the fanciest dinners of our lives while smelling like socks.
- When I was about ten, I got hit on the shoulder by a ball that flew into the stands at a Phillies game in Veteran’s Stadium. Just got a bruise, but the team brought me an autographed ball after the game signed by Manny Trillo, the player who’d accidentally struck me. I no longer own it, and have no idea what happened to it, to my chagrin.
FALSE. Though I did attend Phillies games, and did see Manny Trillo play on many occasions, I’ve never caught a foul ball, let alone be struck by one.
- I still have a small scar on my butt from when I accidentally sat upon our family’s first cat (named Twizel), not seeing her in a pile of blankets. She let out a howl like I had set her on fire, and she clawed right through my pants in her panic to escape. No, I’m not showing it to you. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
FALSE. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
- I’ve played lots of board games, and am of average skill (at best) at almost all of them. But I have *never* lost a session of Big Boggle. (On rare occasion I’ve lost individual 3-minute rounds, but never a multi-round game.)
FALSE. I was, and probably still am, a formidable Big Boggle opponent. I almost never lost. I played the game regularly with a friend named Chris, and beat him every time, though he never seemed to mind. But one day Chris invited a friend of his over to play with us, a kid named (if memory serves) Geoff Taubman. And for the life of me, I could NOT beat him. Not once. I thought I was such hot Boggle stuff, but man, did Geoff Taubman put me in my place.
- The fastest I’ve ever run a mile is 5 minutes, 20 seconds.
TRUE. I was a speedy little bugger back in high school, before age and arthritis slowed me to my current crawl. The thing was, 5 minutes and 20 seconds was entirely mediocre for a high school miler. I regularly finished in the middle of the pack. And my senior year, I ran this exact time every time, in five or six meets. Now matter how tired, no matter how fresh I was, I always finished in exactly 5 minutes and 20 seconds. It was absolutely uncanny.
It was also after one of these miles that I ate all that McDonalds food I mentioned in item #6.
- As a kid, I had exactly one at bat in a little league baseball game. I drew a walk, and then was promptly picked off of first base. Thus ended my baseball career.
TRUE. I never had any skill at baseball. All the eye-hand coordination in the world couldn’t make up for general klutziness and lack of all-around athleticism. Soon after this one ignominious at bat, I transferred to cross-country.
- The first book I listened to “on tape” was the Lord of the Rings, and it was literally on cassette tape – or, more specifically, thirteen different cassettes. That was back in the late 90’s, before every car had one of those newfangled CD players.
TRUE. I listened to this on the long car rides between Boston and Ithaca, NY, while I was long-distance-dating my eventual wife Kate. Yes, I had already read the books numerous times, but I still found it comforting (and a different experience from page-reading) to listen to the books. Ian Holm was the voice actor for Frodo.
- I’ve haggled with a street vendor in Tijuana over the price of a sombrero.
TRUE. I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and visiting my grandmother who lived in San Diego. One day while I visited her, she drove me across the border so I could say I had been to Mexico. While there, I successfully haggled a street merchant down from $8 to $4 for a huge straw sombrero that couldn’t have been worth more than fifty cents.
- I’ve played piano on the stage of Carnegie Hall. (Ok, granted, it was for about 15 seconds during a private tour when the place was otherwise empty, but still…)
FALSE. The only time I’ve been inside Carnegie Hall, it was to listen to my nephew Morgan sing with the Ragazzi Boys Chorus.
- I still own a wooden “lucky ruler” I’ve had since I was a kid. It’s lucky because my birthday (7-11) randomly appears twice—as part of both the address and phone number of the ruler’s manufacturing company, printed below the measuring hashes.
TRUE. Here’s a picture of it:
- Over the course of my life I’ve reached the top of Mt. Washington three different ways: on foot, by car, and by the cog railway.
TRUE. Our family drove up when I was a kid, and we took the cog railway the day after our wedding. But this didn’t become true until last summer when I hiked the Presidential Traverse.
- My Freshman year of college, my roommate (technically it was a two-room double) tried to make beer in our shared closet, but something went terribly wrong. Proto-beer overflowed all over the floor, and it was weeks before our rooms didn’t reek of the stuff.
TRUE. Ah, college. Scott was actually a fine roommate in most regards, and despite having very little in common we got along just fine. But man, that stuff reeked worse than Kate and I eating at the Hermitage.