Monday, January 22, 2007


“Freckle-faced,” tells you something about a person but not everything.

There are good freckles and not so good. Good freckles will pluck your heartstrings like Yepes playing Tarrega. Not-so-good freckles, the big, lonely kind, are, well, something you grow out of.

I might view things differently, except I inherited the good kind of freckles. I have so many little freckles that the freckles have freckles.

I knew I was different, but my mom was very supportive. She always thought her looks, including her freckles, were her own best attribute. The lyrics she made up for the songs she sang us as little kids had frequent mentions of “pretty Willie.”

So when I got to school and kids tried to tease me about my freckles, they found I wasn’t vulnerable there.

I remember one instance in the second grade with another boy:

Boy: But what about all those freckles?
Me : What about them?
Boy: They’re so ugly.
Me: They’re not ugly. My mom says every freckle is a kiss from the sun.
Boy: (pause) Michael Ticup has big ears.

Poor Michael Ticup was teased unmercifully about his big ears (which really weren’t very big) because, I guess, when he got probed, he displayed some vulnerability and the mean kids pounced.

In addition to my beautiful freckled Irish skin, I also inherited my dad’s alcoholic gene.

There are many components to alcoholism blah blah blah. Among them, I believe, is a gene that causes the equivalent of an allergic reaction to alcohol.

Carriers of this gene react to alcohol with an intense craving for more. This gene doesn’t necessarily make the carrier want the first drink, but after the first drink forget the rest of the day and evening.

My dad was a carrier and he passed it on to me. It’s not all dramatic and psychological and spiritual. it’s like some people are allergic to peanuts: the only “meaning” is that they have to avoid peanuts.

So the only “meaning” of the alcoholic gene is that the carrier has to avoid alcohol.

My dad had only one DUI in the United States. The other was in New Zealand and it became one of his favorite stories.

The US DUI happened in San Francisco around the time I was born. I can’t remember the details of the account but it was pretty egregious.

A few days later my dad visited Bill O’Brien, his boyhood pal and my godfather, who was then still practicing law, to get the DUI citation “fixed.”

Bill O’Brien had plenty of clout to fix a traffic ticket, but he must have been annoyed at having to do it for my dad, because he gave my dad a tongue lashing.

My mom describes this a turning point in my dad’s life.

When he got home and told my mom how humiliated he felt, having a boyhood peer talking down to him like that, she said something in reply that she thinks made a difference.

“You’re too good a person,” she told my dad, “to ever put yourself in a position like that again.”

Anyway, I was mentioning this to an acquaintance who is experiencing the legal consequences of her own DUI. “Why didn’t you just get your DUI fixed?” I asked her.

“Yeah, right.”

I actually met a guy for whom my freckles were the best part of me. Just the sight of them made him tingle.

Another time, in a group situation, a very cute young guy described the freckles on my back as “fawn-like.” Cute, intelligent, AND discerning.

Some might think it’s tough to get by without alcohol.

I wonder how people get by without freckles.

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