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By the numbers

This week's Friday Five are all in order! Ready?

1. What's something in which you took first place?
I was ranked first in my graduating class in both high school and college (undergrad). Neither of those valedictorian spots came with speech-giving privileges, alas.

2. What's something at which you’d like a second chance?
Duh. My marriage.

Okay, wait. Let's try a more mentally healthy answer. Love in general?

Okay, wait. Let's try a less one-note answer. Ummm... how about my time at Oxford? I know now (and actually, I knew by the end of my course) that if I'd done a few things differently, I'd've gotten more out of those two years academically. But when I arrived there I was ignorant and shy and a little paralyzed, kind of like a deer in the headlights, and no one really stepped up to mentor my confused American self (boo, hoo; yeah, I know: not that kind of place). So if I could go back in time for a do-over, knowing what I know now, I'd make more informed academic choices (about what sub-specialty to declare within my "major"; about which specific papers--where there was a selection--to sit in finals; etc.) and would undoubtedly have a more successful time of it (and then afterward, when I came back to the US and had to make some more academic choices, my confidence wouldn't be quite so shredded).*
* All that said, I'd take my years in Oxford, exactly as they were,
over just about any other two-year period in my life, since they
played such a big part in shaping the person I eventually became.

Then again, a "back-in-time" do-over may not be the kind of second chance the question was getting at. If you want me instead to name some passed-up or failed-at opportunity from my past that I'd like another shot at right now in middle age, then how about a 9-5 cubicle job? I had one in my 20s, but I only stayed two years because I wanted other things out of life. Well, I got some of those things, and now, thirty-five years down the road, I think I'd welcome the stability, benefits, and even the dullness of the cubicle!

3. When did you last feel like a third wheel?
I'm a singleton in middle age, so opportunities for this abound, in theory. But in fact, I am seldom alone with a couple, so it's a pretty rare occurrence. Maybe I felt it a little the last time I went to a concert with my sister and her partner, which would have been a few years ago. It's not that they act all in-joke-y and exclusion-y, mind you; it's just that they're a real team, with deep affection and an interesting shared life to talk about. Having been cast out of couples-world myself, I guess I felt like a sad charity case.

4. What's to look forward to in the fourth quarter of 2018?
Number Three Son and his bride will be moving into my/our home. We are in the throes of preparation for it now, and they will take up residence exactly as October begins. Call me crazy, but I'm really looking forward to it. I think it will be fun to have more people in the place.

Also, though it's not nearly so guaranteed a thing as the foregoing, maybe some Democrats being elected to Congress?

5. Who had an especially good fifth film, fifth book, or fifth album?
Book: I am a huge fan of the "Don Camillo" books of Giovannino Guareschi. Six of them were originally published in English in the 1950s & 60s, and the fifth of the bunch was Comrade Don Camillo (1964). Unlike its predecessors, which were basically short-story collections masquerading as novels, Comrade read like an actual novel (well, at least like a more-or-less through-composed long-form piece). The book is a (mostly) sweet adventure taking the beloved Cold War priest to the USSR, where he wreaks his usual havoc on Communism. (It was also the basis of the fifth film in the Don Camillo film series, but I'm afraid that movie was a bit of a disappointment.)

Film: Captain America: The First Avenger was the fifth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. IMO, it was definitely the most successful of those early origin films, not to mention just being a good movie.

Album: Harry Nilsson's fifth album was Nilsson Sings Newman, the all-Randy-Newman-covers project that is not only objectively wonderful, but one of my favorite albums of all time.

Added later: Beethoven's Fifth!!!!