My parents gave me PJ for Paul Junior. Most people I met when I went by PJ assumed it meant (Paul | Peter) (James | John | Jehosephat | something J-based). No one seemed to puzzle out the last name as a possibility.
When I reached middle school and moved halfway across the country I tried a brother’s name on for size. It did not fit.
In sports, I was Jorgy. On radio, I was Bob.
On developing a mantra:
It developed over time. For most of my life I took things way too seriously. One day I was golfing with my family, riding in a golf cart with my brother. We watched our Dad totally lose his shit on one bad shot after another – playing a game.
It took over a decade of work but eventually I landed on: “if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I’m ok”.
On favorite books:
I have too many to name. Tolkien’s oeuvre, Asimov’s Foundation, Herbert’s Dune, and a wide assortment beyond those, and not just SciFi/Fantasy.
On free-range memories:
Free-range was the status-quo when I was a kid. I remember walking to school by myself to kindergarten. I remember playing in the water in the street during thunderstorms. We rode unbuckled in cars. My siblings and cousins flailed around in our grandfather’s pickup truck bed on the way to … everything. None of this is ok today.
I also adventured through forests, spent afternoons in friends’ pools, found turtle remains at the edge of a swamp, made forts in trees, swam in a river, messed with geese (a mistake), ice skated on a pond, caught trout and crayfish, put out a fire, and dozens of other empowering and stupid things.
On feeling grown up:
We lived near Lake Michigan. On the weekends my Mom & Dad would take the boat out with me and my siblings as deck hands. Often we would troll for salmon – driving very slow back and forth with some heavy lines in the water. One magical weekend I was no longer obligated to go. I stayed up late the night before watching Monty Python and then slept in the next morning. I got very good at sleeping in.
On curse words:
I’m fairly certain the first time I swore was an infamous event at my friend Ray’s house the first time I visited. I don’t remember what I said, but Ray heard it. More importantly, his mother heard it. I’m not sure she ever forgot it.
On feeling bittersweet:
I lived in Tokyo for 3 years. I miss the people, the food, the culture, the trains, and about one thousand other bits. I do not miss being on a train and having older people yell at me about the war or people changing seats if I sat next to them. I might not understand bittersweet, and this did not happen when I was a kid.