greybeta: (Atlas)
[Author's preface: This essay is exactly 500 words at the behest of the Wolf Lady, aka [livejournal.com profile] wolflady26. She made me an awesome LJ icon and I can't pay her back in anything but words. To help me in my quest of improving my writing in both style and content, she made me use exactly five hundred words to prevent me from rambling. Not allowing a history major to ramble is cruel and unusual punishment. I guess I got my just dessert, here, though. I believe anytime I need to pay someone back, I will use this the Wolf Lady's exactly "500 words" format as part of alchemy's law of equivalent exchange. To gain something, one must give up something of equal value in return. In this case, a free icon is exchanged for free words.]

Every great athlete has his “first moment” where he becomes acutely aware of his God-given ability. Michael Jordan had to have that sudden spark, that one moment when he was ten and he took that guy five years older than him to school. The greatest soccer player of all time, Pele, had to have a game where he dribbled through everybody on the other team and deftly put the ball past the opposing goalie. Wayne Gretzsky, Canadian hockey great, probably deked out two opposing defenders before beating the goalie top shelf when he was a young teenager. These moments allow these superstar athletes to know they are better than everyone else.

My fourth grade teacher was the venerable Mrs. Houston (her husband is somehow related to Sam Houston, like 8th cousins). Anyways, I don’t know why, but I liked learning social studies under Mrs. Houston. I found out something rather odd. Learning geography is fun!

Mrs. Houston invited anyone who wanted to come to study for this Geography Bee thing. She explained that if we made it to nationals, we would get to meet Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! fame. Hey, I watched that show! That’d be pretty cool to meet that dude. What do I have to do? Stay after school once a week and pour over old questions? Mom and Dad thought it would be fun for me, so I did it. I came once a week and started learning random tidbits of trivia…beyond what most fourth graders get at a normal public school. Besides political geography and economies, I picked up physical geography (learning the difference between an atoll and archipelago), cultural geography (they call cowboys “gauchos” in Argentina), and current events (a lot of stuff about Russia and Communism because this was 1994, only three years after the end of the Cold War).

It came time for preliminaries. Everyone in the fourth through sixth grade had to participate. Those who didn’t care were quickly weeded out. Only ten would advance to the school finals. I made it in as the tenth; moreover, I was the only fourth grader to survive the preliminaries. Now everyone in the fourth through sixth grade had to watch the school finals. It is an awesome feeling to have your entire fourth grade class root for you (they had nothing better to do, in any case).

It came down to one question to win it all, about some country that had split in 1994. I remember watching coverage of the Winter Olympics and they said something about Checkaslavawkia splitting into two. With great trepidation, I wrote a badly misspelled Czechoslovakia down as my final answer. Mrs. Houston looked at me, smiled, and said, “Congratulations, Daniel, you are this year’s Beard Elementary Geography Bee Winner!” The audience cheered. They liked me, they really liked me! I also became intuitively aware of something about myself as my friends carried me up in my victory celebration.

I have the most powerful photographic memory in the world.

July 2009

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