As promised, here is the truth (or not) about the 30 items I posted on April 1.
1. About 25 years ago I had a minor fender-bender in Somerville, where I very lightly rear-ended another car stopped at a traffic light. The driver of the other car turned out to be actor Lance Henrikson, whom I recognized (mostly as Bishop from the movie Aliens) but managed not to gush over. He was super nice, joked about Boston traffic, and since there was no visible damage to either car, he even agreed not to swap insurance info. (Also, he said he was late for a shoot and didn’t want to waste the time.)
FALSE. I have never met Lance Henrikson, nor have I ever rear-ended another car. I did live in Somerville for four years in my early-mid 20’s
2. I once had lunch with Bob Costas, chatting about baseball, as my video game company (Looking Glass) was considering licensing his name for a game.
TRUE. This was back in the mid-90’s. Mr. Costas was surprisingly down-to-earth, and I recall him specifically saying that if we were to use his name for a baseball game, he’d want that game to have a sense of humor. Alas, the project never went anywhere beyond the conceptual stages.
3. I’ve stood in the spray of the tallest waterfalls of four different countries.
FALSE. I have stood in the spray of Gulfoss (one of the largest in Iceland) and Sutherland Falls (the tallest in New Zealand). But that’s as far as my waterfall boasting can go.
4. I was once detained in a police car for over an hour after being caught on the roof of a local school building. I ended up paying hundreds of dollars in fines for “malicious trespass,” but was not actually arrested.
TRUE. I grew up a block from the local public school, and my friends and I considered the grounds a public playground of sorts. There was one spot on the rooftop one could reach by scaling some low walls and hopping railings.
Between two years at college, while walking around my neighborhood with some visiting college friends in the evening, I suggested we hang out up there. (Remember, this was the 80’s, when generally no one cared what kids did.) Little did I know that it was the day before the high school’s graduation, so the place was full of hidden cops looking for seniors intent on some last-minute vandalism. We were up on the roof for less than 30 seconds before several cop cars swarmed the parking lot below, demanding we come down. So, yeah, not only did I have to pay a huge fine, but so did several of my friends, all because of me.
5. As a 12-year-old kid visiting relatives in California, I went to a local arcade with my cousins and played that old laser-disc game “Dragon’s Lair.” I knew how to beat it from hours of practice back in the Philly area, and always found it fun to get all the way through the game. When I had defeated the dragon and rescued the princess, there was a huge cheer behind me. I hadn’t realized that no one in that arcade had yet beaten the game, and I had attracted a crowd of dozens of kids who wanted to see how it ended.
TRUE. In fact, through diligent practice and all the quarters I could scrounge, I became so proficient at Dragon’s Lair that on any given play-through I would intentionally use up 2 of my 3 lives, just to see more of the way-cool death animations for the various failure cases.
Also, my ego grew three sizes that day.
6. While touring colleges as a high school junior, I got stuck by myself in an elevator—between floors—in one of U. Penn’s administrative buildings. I was there for several hours while firefighters and members of the university’s physical plant tried to get it working again. Once I was out, they offered me a bottle of water and a surprisingly curt apology. I did not end up applying.
FALSE. I’m not sure I’ve ever even been on the U. Penn campus, despite growing up outside of Philly. Also, I’ve never been stuck on an elevator.
7. Many of you know that I once barely escaped from a Somerville house fire in my mid 20’s. What you may *not* know is that when I went back the next day to help salvage the belongings of my then-girlfriend, I discovered the book I had been keeping there had largely survived, a bit waterlogged, and with half its cover burned away. The book? Robert Jordan’s “The Fires of Heaven.”
TRUE. An amazing coincidence. I wish I still had the book, but it reeked so badly of smoke, I got rid of it. (After you’ve survived a house fire, you will NOT appreciate the smell of smoke in any context, believe you me.)
8. I have not seen E.T., and I have not seen Casablanca.
TRUE. I know, I know! I mean, who hasn’t seen E.T., let alone Casablanca.
9. I have not seen Citizen Kane, and I have not seen Ben-Hur.
FALSE. Come on! I mean, who hasn’t seen Citizen Kane?
10. When I was 8, my parents asked me if I wanted to try an instrument in addition to piano. I asked to try the violin. In the first *five seconds* of holding the instrument, I poked myself in the eye with the bow, gave myself a minor corneal abrasion, and had to wear an eyepatch for two weeks of summer vacation. My dad thought it was a riot and called me the “pirate fiddler.” I did not end up playing the violin.
FALSE. I’ve never seriously played an instrument other than the piano. Though if I had tried the violin, this seems like a thing that might have happened.
11. The closest I’ve ever come to death was when, as a four-year-old, I stabbed myself in the neck with a rocking chair (not a typo) and missed my carotid artery by 1/8th of an inch.
TRUE. And I left out the best part! I was home with a babysitter at the time. I jumped up out of a wicker kid-sized rocking chair, landed on the front curve of the rocker, and the wedge-shaped back end flipped up and struck me in the neck. The babysitter called my parents at a restaurant, and the first thing she said to my mom was “Mrs. Hart, I don’t want to alarm you, but your son cut his neck and it won’t stop bleeding.”
12. One of the greatest moments of my childhood was when, in 3rd or 4th grade gym class, the coach told all the students to stand on the goal line of the football field. Everyone ran…to the *end line*. Except for me. I stood on the actual goal line all by myself while the rest of the class thought I was an idiot. Then the coach announced I was the only kid who had done what he asked. I got major cred, even from the jocks!
TRUE. Not sure if this was more of an ego-boost than the Dragon’s Lair thing.
13. I once won a contest at a Doctor Who convention with my near-perfect vocal imitation of K-9
TRUE. The prize was a bound copy of the original script for the episode “The Five Doctors.” Note: if you ask me to repeat this performance, I’m afraid my imitation is not as good as it once was.
14. Sometime in my early thirties—I forget the year—while hiking down Mt. Tripyramid in the White Mountains, I slipped and slid down a steep, scree-covered trail (that was actually called the “North Slide Trail,” I kid you not) for over fifty yards, almost all on my butt, and I would have pitched over a ledge had I not been stopped by a convenient boulder. By some miracle I suffered only bruises and abrasions, and finished the hike without further mishap.
FALSE. Though I have hiked Tripyramid, and it does have a trail called the “North Slide Trail.”
15. My wife and I were once lost in the Pyrenees for almost an hour.
TRUE. Kate and I were on a five-day hike along the Mediterranean coast between France and Spain. Each day we followed written directions provided by an outfit whose writer was, I would guess, almost a fluent English speaker. The very first day was actually an out-and-back trip meant to warm us up, a loop through the foothills of the Pyrenees. But we misunderstood some of the markings on our map and followed the wrong trail (including plenty of branches and forks) for several hours, only discovering our mistake when the trail ended somewhere high on the wooded hillside. The trees were only blazed on the up-going side, and we became lost trying to pick up the trail that lead back to our starting point.
Also, it was raining and in the 40’s the whole time. The trip as a whole was great, but that hour was not the best.
You can read more about our walk here: https://dorianhart.com/2013/05/23/a-walk-in-the-pyrenees/
16. My wife and I were once lost in the Algonquin Wilderness for almost four hours.
FALSE. Kate and I did spend nine days canoe-camping in the Algonquin, back in our pre-child days. But we were with two hyper-competent friends, so the odds of us getting lost were much lower than they might have been. We did almost get stranded on a lake after dark because of a moose, but at least we knew where we were.
17. I have shaken the (enormous) hands of both Julius Erving *and* Charles Barkley.
FALSE. In my youth I once ate in a restaurant when Charles Barkley walked in. And I was in a sub shop (excuse me, hoagie shop – this was near Philly) with a friend when Julius Erving entered. Mr. Erving’s hands were indeed enormous; when he put them on the counter, they looked like novelty clown hands, twice the size of a typical adult male’s hands. But I never shook the hands of either player. (For the uninitiated: Charles Barkley and Julius Erving were both professional basketball players.)
18. The crescent-shaped scar on my forehead was caused by a human tooth.
TRUE. At nine years old, I ran head-to-tooth into a classmate during a touch-football kickoff return at a mutual friend’s birthday party. The amount of blood gushing from my head was astonishing, but my subsequent freakout-near-to-blackout shocked me out of the fear of blood I’d had since I was four. I still bear the scar from that collision.
19. My older daughter learned how to use a straw in a restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal.
TRUE. Bereft of reason, Kate and I took our daughter, recently turned 1, on a walking holiday in Portugal. The woman we hired to help plan the trip would each morning give us a printed sheet of directions of the sort: “Walk a hundred yards up the hill to the big tree, look to your left until you spot a track leading toward the barn across the field…” Then she’d drive the three of us out into the middle of nowhere in the Algarve, drop us off with those directions and some bagged lunches, and drive away. We had to hike for hours, following the instructions, to reach our next hotel or B&B. And we did this with a one-year-old in a backpack.
After a few days of this, we stayed a night in Lisbon, and it was there that our daughter had her first experience with a straw. She seemed to be very pleased with the increased volume-per-second over her sippy cups.
20. I learned how to twist straws into fancy flower shapes in a bar in Mexico.
TRUE. A friend’s family invited me to come with them on a vacation to Cozumel when I was fifteen years old. The closest late-night food option to our little hotel was a local bar, and one of the waiters there showed my friend and I how to make “straw flowers.” Next time we’re somewhere with straws, ask me and I’ll make you one.
21. In college I played the title role in an outdoor production of The Merchant of Venice. The director insisted that to keep things authentic, I couldn’t wear my glasses. I had to act out the whole play without ever being able to clearly see the other actors and their facial expressions.
TRUE. For some reason I was cast in the title role, though the student who played Shylock stole the show. Not only did I have to act blind, but I agreed to grow a circle beard to look more…er…Venetian, I guess?
22. Probably the most irresponsible thing I did in college was to steal an animal skull from the Wesleyan science building. For about two months I kept it on my desk in my sophomore dorm room, where I thought it looked cool – until it probably cost me a second date with a fellow student named Carol who though it was utterly horrific.
FALSE. Pft. Like I could get a date in college.
23. I had two Best Men at my wedding. One I’ve known since Kindergarten. The other I didn’t meet until I was in my mid 20’s – when I discovered him hiding in my room behind my desk with the lights out in my Somerville apartment.
TRUE. This is how I first met my good friend Kevin Kulp. Full disclosure: he wasn’t by himself. It turns out that Kevin is cousin to both my neighborhood friend John (who often accompanied me to the rooftop from item #4 of this list) and my friend Julie, who attended my high school. Julie brought Kevin along during a surprise visit to Boston, figuring he and I would get along well.
She was not wrong.
24. In college, playing in an unwisely crowded 7-on-7 game of full court basketball, my head collided with another player’s head and I was rushed to the campus infirmary. The first thing the on-call nurse did when she saw me was to get on the phone and excitedly tell the person on the other end that “someone just came in here with the biggest hematoma I’ve ever seen!”
TRUE. This happened after classes had ended for the semester, but before exams. I had to take my tests with one eye swollen all the way shut, and the other swollen about 2/3 closed. The lump on my head really was astounding. It looked as though someone had taped half a lacrosse ball to my forehead.
25. I’ve only ever entered one officially sanctioned constructed-deck Magic: The Gathering tournament – and I won it, using a green and red deck with Ernham Djinns and Shivan Dragons. Top prize was getting to play in the next round of the tournament, in Cleveland Ohio, over 4th of July weekend. I opted out and let the (thrilled) second-place finisher go in my place.
TRUE. This was in the earliest days of magic, when its pro-tournament scene was just getting started. As such, one could build a competitive deck without breaking the bank. I still own a huge collection of magic cards, all from sets now many years old, and while I spent way too much money on the hobby, I could theoretically make most of it back by selling my half-dozen most valuable cards. (Yes, Magic nerds, I own a (played) Black Lotus and a full set of Moxen!)
26. In the days before GPS and cell phones, I once became so lost trying to find a friend’s house in Brooklyn at night, that after driving around for over three hours, I pulled over to the side of what I thought was a residential street and went to sleep. I turns out I was in a notoriously violent neighborhood called (if memory serves) Brownsville, and I was awoken by a policeman at 5:00am who told me I had slept through a drive-by shooting three blocks away, and that I was an idiot for sleeping there. He did give me directions to my friend’s house, which was nice.
FALSE. But given my phenomenally poor sense of direction, I’m sure this happened in a nearby parallel universe.
27. In the first video game I ever worked on (Ultima Underworld II) I named one of the characters after a shortstop for the New York Mets.
TRUE. In all the many games I’ve designed—both video games and my own D&D campaigns—I’ve named characters after athletes. (I can think of Bavaro, Ozilinsh, Larkin, Embree, and Sabo off the top of my head.) In this case, I named a wizard of the Scintillus Mages Academy “Elster,” after shortstop Kevin Elster. (Maybe his full name was Elminster, and he shortened it to avoid confusion?)
28. The first movie I ever saw in an actual movie theater was “Heaven Can Wait.”
FALSE. “Heaven Can Wait,” which came out in 1978, was the second movie I saw in a theater. The first was the animated feature “The Rescuers” in 1977.
29. As a tween I went through a short period where I’d sneak up behind my father while was he watching TV, flick him on the ear, and run away shouting “Ear ear, guv’nah!” He endured this with reasonably good grace until one day, to my shock, he grabbed my wrist, pulled my face close to his, grabbed my own ear, and whispered “Ear today, gone tomorrow, if you catch my drift.” It’s one of the clearest memories of my childhood. I thought I was in huge trouble, having gone too far, but then dad burst out laughing.
FALSE. But I oh so much wish this were true.
30. As teens, my neighborhood friends John and Matt and I used to experiment with how far we could launch water balloons using a long length of (I think) surgical rubber. Eventually we overshot our target (a distant tree) and smashed a water balloon through a neighbor’s kitchen window. The woman who lived there didn’t like kids anyway and threatened all our parents, but mine calmed her down by offering to pay for the repairs. (Which, of course, I paid back with several months’ worth of lawn-mowing money.)
FALSE. Matt, John, and I did roam the neighborhood together for a few years as tweens/young teens, and all the adults on our street called us “The Three Musketeers,” but we never got into that much trouble.
That I will admit to.