About me

(Revised: 03.2.2014)
  1. I'm a writer/journalist/media professional transplanted from a Chicago suburb to rural Missouri.
  2. If I wasn't a journalist, I'd be a landscape designer ... or an actor.
  3. I'm a news junkie/photographer/music afficionado/baseball fan/pop culture buff.
  4. My work has allowed me to interact with murderers, top-selling musical artists, professional athletes, Olympic medalists, politicians, filmmakers and an array of fascinating people from all walks of life. Also, because of my work, I’ve experienced triumphs and death and destruction the way few people do.
  5. I'm a kid at heart.
  6. I didn't know how deeply I could love until our kids were born.
  7. I’ve been voluntarily Tasered.
  8. During summers in high school I worked at an LCD manufacturing plant.
  9. During summers in college I worked at a church camp my parents lived and managed for five years. Imagine 400 acres of property with a 40-acre, crystal clear lake in your back yard. That's where I met my wife, Kates.
  10. Kates and I once checked out next to Bob Uecker at a Wal-Mart in Portage, Wis.
  11. I’ve lived in four states. And visited 22: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, Georgia, California.
  12. But if you ask me about my hometown, I’ll tell you it’s Olathe, Kan.
  13. I've been out of the country once. To Windsor, Canada.
  14. I hate snow and cold weather.
  15. My first car was an ‘88 Toyota Camry ... My parents bought it brand new and gave it to me when I went to college ... On a date in high school I busted up the front bumper when I was backing from a parking garage and scraped it against a concrete pillar ... After I graduated from college and made the eight-hour drive home with the then 13-year-old car, we took it to a mechanic who said there were so many things wrong with the car I was lucky I got it home in one piece. My parents took me to get a new car -- a 2002 Dodge Neon -- the next day.
  16. I’ve been to 11 Major League Baseball ballparks: Milwaukee County Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Wrigley Field, The Ballpark in Arlington, Coors Field, Miller Park, Comerica Park, Jacobs Field, U.S. Cellular Field, new Busch Stadium, The Metrodome and Angel Stadium.
  17. I've sung the national anthem at two of those -- The Ballpark in Arlington in 1995 and Wrigley Field in 1996.
  18. During the summer after my high school graduation, my three best friends and I told our parents we were going camping in Lawrence, Kan., but we headed to Chicago instead. Drove all night from Kansas City (eight hours), visited the museums, went to a Cubs game, walked the city, stayed at a hotel on Lake Shore Drive, and spent a night driving back. … I broke down and confessed to my father the next day when one of my friends’ parents found his ticket stub to the Cubs game.
  19. I don’t curse. Really. ... Why drop an F-bomb when you can get by with a good "shoot!" or "crap!"?
  20. Audio books annoy the heck out of me. I can't stand the narrators' voices.
  21. I’m a master of jigsaw puzzles. Once I start one I can’t pull myself away. I’ve been known to pull all-nighters just to finish a puzzle.
  22. I do my best thinking in the shower. Sometimes I take one just to think.
  23. I'm fascinated with the stories of the Titanic, JFK’s assassination, the Challenger explosion and 9/11.
  24. Sometimes I wish I could time travel -- not to alter history, but to witness it ... The 1990s were pretty dang good, but I've said if I could pick another era to grow up in, I'd pick the '60s.
  25. I'm a Methodist.
  26. I have this crazy, awesome talent with which I can name the title of a popular song and its artist by hearing just a few notes.
  27. If I could be any animal, I'd be a Monkey. They never seem to have a care in the world.
  28. On 9/11, I talked my way out of a speeding ticket by telling the police officer I was a newspaper reporter and I was in a hurry to get people’s reactions to the terrorist attacks. It was the truth!
  29. On the eve of my departure for college, I was driving home from a friend’s house at about 2 a.m. and realized halfway to my house that I was driving without my headlights turned on. What made me realize the problem was seeing a police officer turn around and begin pursuing me in my rear-view mirror. To be fair, he didn’t turn on his flashing lights or sirens, but it was obvious he was eyeing me. I knew the neighborhood and its winding roads pretty well, and used them to my advantage in eluding him. I pulled into my driveway and was walking into my house just as he was turning on to our street. I know now it was a really stupid thing to do and I’m ashamed I did it.
  30. While I was the editor of my college newspaper, I once got exactly one hour of sleep per night over a span of five days. It was the week of our special homecoming edition. By the end of the week, my eyes had been open for so many hours that it actually hurt to close them.
  31. I consider 1991 the most pivotal year of my life. It was the year I realized the value of family, that nothing in this world can or should be taken for granted, the power of prayer and that change can be a really, really good thing.
  32. Contrary to what a lot of people I know say, I really enjoyed my high school and college days, and if I could do it all over again I would.
  33. Kates and I love the TV show “Friends.” We own the entire series on DVD and we’re almost unbeatable in “Friends” trivia games. Before the days of TV on DVD, I obsessively and successfully recorded all 236 episodes on to VHS tapes, which I’m now recording over.
  34. Contrary to what you might think, our daughter Phoebe was not named after a character in the show mentioned in Random Fact No. 33, but rather after Kates’s great aunt.
  35. I hadn’t realized I could love a person so deeply until my daughters were born.
  36. During my youth, I was part of an 80-member youth choir that toured the country each June. We had a knack for singing concerts at random places, including Arlington National Cemetery and cathedrals, zoos, state capitol buildings, and Major League ballparks (See Random Fact. No. 17).
  37. In 2006, our house was burglarized and I lost some of my most prized possessions. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, but it reinforced the things I learned during the course of Random Fact No. 31.
  38. Perhaps my most prized possession -- which was not stolen in the burglary -- is a Los Angeles Dodgers hat I received from my parents as a Christmas present when I was 12 years old. That hat has been soaked, soiled, crushed, ripped and shredded. I wore it nearly everywhere I went for about 15 years, and I only stopped wearing it only because it had become so tight it made my head hurt. It now has a special place in my den, and if I can help it, I’ll be buried with the thing.
  39. I’ve never broken a bone in my body. But I’ve had my fair share of stitches.
  40. I've been bitten by a dog twice, including when I was a toddler and I tried to pet my grandparents' dog while he was sleeping. He reacted by nearly chewing off my hand.
  41. Kates and I once ate ice cream at a Culver’s with Rosemarie von Trapp, one of the real-life children made famous in the musical “Sound of Music.” Of course, she was no longer a child when we met her.
  42. I went to high school, even ran cross country, with members of the GetUp Kids. Also, Adam Craig and Jon Green were friends of mine.
  43. I saw “Rent” on Broadway.
  44. I attended a high school basketball game at Papillion-La Vista High School shortly after Election was filmed there.
  45. Five places I must visit before I die: London, the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forest, Paris, Fenway Park.
  46. I also really want to attend a taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
  47. I waste no time poring over magazine and newspaper articles. But I’m an embarrassingly slow reader of books.
  48. I balled like a baby when the Kansas Jayhawks won their most recent National Championship.
  49. Naked baby pictures creep me out.
  50. I also don't understand why people spend large amounts of money for photo shoots with their newborns. The snapshots of moments at home are a much better investment.
  51. The first film I ever saw in a movie theater was the 1985 classic “Follow That Bird.” First “R” movie I saw in a theater was “Crimson Tide” in 1995. I was 16 years old, and one of my friends' dads bought us tickets ... A couple weeks later a couple friends and I got into “Braveheart” by ourselves, which, incidentally also was one of the first times I took a car out by myself -- and didn't ask my parents' permission. The story might have had a happier ending had “Braveheart” not been a three-hour epic.
  52. The first Major League Baseball game I attended was a Brewers-Blue Jays game at Milwaukee County Stadium, June 28, 1987. ... My first trip to Wrigley was a Cubs-Reds game, July 13, 1995. Despite all my cross-country moves, I managed to attend a game at Wrigley every summer between 1995 and 2009, except 2001.
  53. First rock concert I attended was for Hootie & the Blowfish.
  54. First CD I bought was “Gin Blossoms: New Miserable Experience.”
  55. I think music is the greatest discovery ever made. I can’t fathom a day without it. And that’s why I’d much rather be blind than deaf.
  56. I’m so obsessed with news and current events that I subscribe to more newspaper and magazine e-mail lists and feeds than I can keep track of, in addition to recording every new airing of the “NBC Nightly News,” “The Daily Show,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Saturday Night Live” on our DVR.
  57. TV shows I watch regularly: “How I Met Your Mother,” “Baseball Tonight,” “Modern Family,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Mom,” “New Girl.”
  58. If I'm flipping through TV channels and find one of these retired shows, I'll watch it: “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Saved By the Bell,” “The Cosby Show,” “Full House,” “Frasier,” “Will & Grace,” “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Office.”
  59. My list of people I'd love to meet, if only for lunch: Bill Cosby, David Letterman, Jennifer Anniston, Bonnie Hunt, Bob Newhart, Ray Romano, Peter Gammons, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Matt Damon, Mandy Moore, Paul McCartney, Debra Messing, Bob Woodward, Kristin Chenoweth, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Stiles, Steve Carell, Zach Braff, Kirsten Dunst, Tony Kornheiser, Mike Lupica, Cal Ripken Jr., Brian Williams, Amy Adams ...
  60. I once interviewed Ingrid Michaelson while she was going through a drive-thru. See a list of people I've met and/or interviewed here.
  61. I’m an Eagle Scout.
  62. I can’t swallow pills. I’ve tried. I’ve tried them with water, ice cream, Jell-o, everything you can think of. Can’t do it. So every time I get sick, I’m chugging syrup.
  63. When I was in the fifth grade, my parents took my brother and I out of school for two days (prior to the beginning of our spring break) so we could go to Disney World. I got mad at them because it was the first year I would have had perfect attendance. The next year, though, I started a streak of perfect attendance that lasted me for the next 18 years (Read about the day that ruined my streak.) … At my ninth grade awards banquet, the kid next to me was talking the whole time the principal was introducing that year’s perfect attendance winners. So I never heard him not say my name, but I went on the stage anyway, fully prepared to receive a certificate. The audience laughed as the principal tried to explain and I can’t think of a more embarrassing moment in my life. It turned out there was a glitch in the school’s computer and the principal delivered a certificate to me the next day.
  64. When I was in fifth grade, I entered a New Kids on the Block drawing contest, and my poster won. The grand prize was an official “Hangin’ Tough” tour jacket. It was so flashy and valuable at the time my mother feared I was going to get beat up when I wore it to school. I still own the jacket. ... When the New Kids reunited in 2008 I entered that story into a contest to win tickets to their Boston show. I didn't win that contest.
  65. I can't stand the smell of coffee. I don't drink it either.
  66. I love the smells of new carpet, a new car, new construction, fresh flowers, a fishy lake, summer rain.
  67. Golf. I just don't get the appeal.
  68. I wash our dishes every night, partly because I can’t stand dirty dishes sitting around the kitchen and partly because I find it therapeutic. I also hate the sight of dirty dishes stacked in the sink.
  69. My life motto is “Relax, God’s in Charge.”
  70. In high school, my friend Tom and I were riding home from a day of school in his pickup truck when a Monte Carlo slammed into the back of the truck. The impact forced our heads against the rear-window, which shattered. Miraculously, neither of us had a scratch, but we had terrible headaches the next day.
  71. I think the terrible CGI in movies these days has ruined the action-adventure genre.
  72. I took piano lessons for three years. Quitting remains one of my biggest regrets in life.
  73. I desperately want to learn how to play guitar.
  74. In the Beatles vs. Stones debate -- or Beatles vs. Elvis, I’m all for the Beatles.
  75. And in the "Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek" debate, I’m all for "Star Wars." I can't stand "Star Trek."
  76. I've never smoked a cigarette. And I have no tattoos ... I'm totally turned off by both.
  77. I wish all writers, books, documents -- anything written -- adhered to AP Style.