This post is about me. (I guess in a way every post on this blog is about me, but this one is really about me.) I thought it might be fun to introduce myself, in all of my idiosyncratic glory (or infamy -- I'll let you decide).
I really have no idea who reads this blog, but have assumed that most of you who find your way here from time to time are either family or close friends who already know quite a bit about me. While I'm far from being the most interesting person in the world, I can't help but think that there are some unique things about me that you probably don't know.
Here goes nothing. I submit to you Brett Barton: Biases, Books, Beer, Beaches and Balls. (If you've been browsing my blog, you should already be aware of my fondness for alliteration as well as my disdain for the Oxford comma.) (Oh...I also have a penchant for parenthetical tangents.)
The first thing you should know about me is that if something becomes super-popular before I have watched it, read it, heard about it, etc., then I am biased against it. This bias is so strong that there is usually no point trying to overcome it. I first realized this when I was 14 years old. The movie Top Gun had just been released and everyone that I knew kept telling me "You have GOT to see this movie. It is the best movie EVER!" Every time one of my friends wanted to talk about things like geese, kilmers, volleyballs, Berlin, wing men and losing that lovin' feelin', I had less desire to see this movie. I had one friend who went to the movie in the early afternoon and liked it so much that when he came out of the theater, he got back in line to buy a ticket for the next showing of it. When he told me that I just HAD to see it, I remember thinking something along these lines: "I'm sure of it. I hate it." (Let me know if you get the irony in that last quote.)
My taste in music is very peculiar. I hate "pop" music. Actually, that's not true. I do like lots of what was once pop music, but only after it becomes unpopular to the point of ridicule. But whatever is playing on the radio right now that everyone is loving, I don't like it. Bring back the synthesized sound of the 80's and 90's and the hair metal bands with the guys who sound (and look) like girls! Sure it sounds dated, but gosh...it's great music. It warms my heart that my son listens to the likes of Boston, Def Leppard, Kansas and Bon Jovi. I also love progressive rock, which more than likely won't mean anything to you as it's a genre that most people stay away from. It is about as unpopular as good music can get.
Other biases: against smoking, against narcotics (except for Mountain Dew) and against household pets (we have 3 of them).
I love to read. My parents encouraged me to read from a young age. However, I credit my aunt Karen for getting me going by giving me two Hardy Boys books as a Christmas present which I read and loved. After reading those two books, I read the entire Hardy Boys hardback series (all 58 of them). I became such an aficionado of the Hardy Boys that at the age of 9, I could tell you the name of every single book along with its corresponding number in the series. If that weren't enough, I still know them 30 years later. Every now and then my kids will quiz me just to make sure I still have it. ("Dad, what's #19?" Me: "Too easy, The Disappearing Floor." I'm sure this information will prove to come in handy some day.)
It took me a little over 3 months to read the entire Bible at the age of 12. I started my first journal soon after that which I have kept current to the present day. It is a reading log in which I record every book that I have read. (This has come in handy for those times when I'm at the library and a particular cover catches my eye. I'll grab the book, take it home, start reading and if it seems vaguely familiar, I can just check the trusty reading journal to see if it's a book I've read before.)
I love most genres and would list my favorite authors as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Crichton, James Clavell, George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card and Malcolm Gladwell. Due to my bias mentioned above, I have never read anything written by John Grisham. I also resisted reading Harry Potter, but finally read the first book and was not impressed. Lord of the Rings? Read all three of them. Blah, blah and blah.
I love beer, as long as it's not mass-produced (there's that bias again). I guess I'm just a snob. When it comes to beer, I am a huge snob. There's nothing like kicking back and reading a not-too-popular book while drinking a not-too-popular beer with some not-too-popular music playing in the background.
Everyone loves going to the beach. Not me. It's okay, I guess. Maybe I've just had bad luck. Our family took two vacations to Destin, Florida in 2004 and 2005. Our 2004 trip can be described in two words: Hurricane Ivan. Our 2005 trip can also be described in two words: Hurricane Katrina (ever heard of it?). No more beach vacations for the Bartons! Give me the mountains of Colorado while the rest of you deal with sun burn and sand in your butt.
I grew up with a love of sports. I loved playing football, basketball and soccer as a young child. However, I wasn't fast. I wasn't strong. I wasn't tall. And after I went through my growth spurt at age 14, I still wasn't fast, strong or tall. I was slow. I was six feet tall weighing 140 pounds. I was a fiery competitor which greatly helped compensate for my lack of athletic prowess, but not to the point where I was ever really good at a sport. I was merely competitive (which is a nice way of saying that I was a decent loser). I so badly wanted to be good at something. I finally found some success in three different sports.
In March of 1986, my dad and I went on a ski trip to Telluride, Colorado. We spent four days on this wonderful mountain. The first two days were spent taking beginners' lessons. The third day we ventured out on our own to ski other beginner runs beyond the "bunny hill." The fourth day we actually went to the top of the mountain and skied the whole way down on an intermediate trail. I fell in love with everything about snow skiing on this trip. (Take that, beaches!) We had the opportunity to go to Telluride again the very next year. I was excited to return to see if I had improved any from my first trip. You see, I had been training and was hoping to see if all of my hard work had paid off.
My dad had given me a high-tech video for Christmas which promised amazing improvement for people who wanted to become better skiers. All one had to do was watch the video and then visualizing himself executing the same flawless turns and techniques that the professional skiers on the video were doing. I so desperately wanted to be a better skier, so I faithfully watched the video almost every single day for the three months leading up to that second ski trip to Colorado. Like I said, I trained hard. Would you believe that it worked?!? I had transformed from a snowplowing traverse skier to an aggressive parallel skier willing to take on any run just from watching a video over and over again and believing that it was me skiing on that video. The darn thing worked and I found something that I was really good at. It was great.
Before I was a snow skier, I was a ping-pong player. I grew up with a ping-pong table in my house. I would play my friends at times, but my primary opponent and arch-nemesis was my dad. When it came to ping-pong, he was merciless. He was also pretty good (like me, having grown up with a table in his home playing against his dad). At the age of 10, I entered a Ping-Pong tournament that was put on by the Christian school that I was attending at the time. Any and all students of the school from Kindergarten to 12th grade were allowed to play. Having gone up against my dad numerous times, I had some decent experience and figured that I would win a few games even though I was much younger than most of the other competitors. As it turned out, I kept winning and winning knocking off kids who were seniors in high school while I was just in the 5th grade. I made it to the championship and was squared off against a girl who was a junior in high school (who, oddly enough, sometimes reads this blog). It was an epic battle but I took the "best of 5" championship by winning 3 games to 1. I was crowned champion of the entire school and loved the sweet taste of success in an unlikely sport, but a sport nonetheless.
My ping-pong career did not end there. As an adult, I have played table tennis tournaments in such exotic locales as Atlanta, Chicago and Wichita. I have brought home trophies and medals which are now gathering dust in some out-of-the-way cabinet or closet. I have practiced against a ping-pong robot. I have built my own paddles and am still willing to take on anyone that challenges my table tennis superiority.
If you're not strong and fast enough to play football or not tall enough to play basketball, don't be afraid to look elsewhere. Snow skiing is great, but is definitely not cheap and not easily accessible if you live in the Midwest like I do. Ping-pong is more accessible and not as expensive, but you better get along well with Asians if you want to play. And then there is running. All you need is a pair of shoes and a stretch of road.
I made a New Year's resolution to begin running on a regular basis in the year 2005. That became the most successful New Year's resolution I ever made. I began running in January. In February, my friend Bill encouraged me to sign up for a race. In March, I ran that race -- a 5K (3.1 miles). In April, I ran a 5K three minutes faster than I ran the one in March. In May, I decided to run a marathon (26.2 miles). In October, I did just that. It was a great experience and I'll never forget the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes on that fall day in Chicago. (It was made even more dramatic when I found out 20 minutes later that my beautiful wife finished as well, despite not having run at all for the two weeks leading up to the marathon due to a knee injury.) That about sums up my accomplishments in the world of sports.
Okay, enough about me! I'd love for you to comment and tell me what unique things make you unique. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying a Boddington's beer while I plan my next vacation to the mountains. I wonder if the Aspen Holiday Inn has a ping-pong table?