Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

I'm like the last nerdy kid in high school to show up at the Senior Party, but still... I finally signed up for Neil Kramer's great interview experiment.

I'm going to be interviewed by Robin Slick who is the mother of two out of three members of the Adrian Belew Power Trio.

[She is not Adrian Belew's mom.]

I went all fan girlish for a minute because back in college when I wore black and was really cool, I was a big King Crimson fan.

Anyway, Robin asked me what kind of questions she should ask and I just sat there with a blank stare and drooled like a dope.

Help me out if you can. Can you think of any interview questions that Robin could ask me? I'm drawing a total blank.

My assignment was to interview... wait for it... Backpacking Dad.

I had no trouble thinking of questions.

I asked him a LOT of way too personal questions that he refused to answer, so I sent him a second set... less juicy, but still good.


I understand you met and married your wife when you were very young. Can you tell me the story of how you met and fell in love?

I was 18 and in the middle of my first (and only) year at the University of Toronto. I, probably unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time online. Some of that time was spent in a chatroom on the Undernet where a bunch of non-perverts who self-reported their ages as between 17 and 21 would hang out way too late at night. My wife was one such non-pervert, living in San Jose, and we would spend hours typing back and forth at each other. Yadda yadda yadda I moved to California that summer. :} Actually, she flew out to Toronto for Spring Break, buying a plane ticket despite my protestation that she was crazy for doing it and especially crazy since she hadn't even seen a picture of me at that point and the pictures I finally did send were a couple of years old. We spent that week getting to know each other very quickly and very powerfully. In June, after the school year ended I sold my guitar for a plane ticket to California and spent a month in San Jose with her.

I believe you are Canadian and your wife is a U.S. Citizen and that, in marrying her, you relocated to the states. What was involved in that decision for you and how does it feel to live the expatriate life?

The relocation happened a few years before we married. I moved in August of 1996 and we lived together for about two and a half years before we were finally married. It was a fairly easy decision to make. After I returned home from that June trip we tried to figure out how our relationship was ever going to work with me in Toronto and her in San Jose. I toyed with the holiday-visit plan, but it's not like we were rolling in cash. Then she asked me to move. No, she asked me why I couldn't move. And there were hardly any reasons. I have US citizenship anyway, I had already been living away from home for a year, and I, uh, was on a little bit of academic probation at U of T: too many hours spent online, or hammered in my apartment with my roommates, and not enough hours spent reading about Canadian politics and European history. There were very few reasons not to move, and a great reason to move. So, in August I sold my computer for a plane ticket and some money to live on for a while and I moved in with her and her roommates in San Jose.

What do you miss most about Canada while living in the U.S.?

In the winter I miss the snow; until I visit and my father makes me shovel his deck and his driveway and doesn't give me an allowance for it. I miss the Canadian seasons. I miss family and old friends. I suppose what I miss most of all is just feeling connected to a place instead of just to people. My home is where my family is, but my roots are where my Roots sweatshirts come from.

What do you like about living in the U.S.?

Mexican food and Disneyland.

How would you describe the ways that becoming a father have fundamentally changed you?

I have always been obsessive, or easily addicted to something. When I was young it was video games, slightly older it was, well, still video games but maybe there was more alcohol involved in the playing of them. I used to smoke. I used to say that I was "drinking the world interesting". When my daughter was born all of that obsessive energy finally found it's focus. When I saw her for the first time the rest of the world dulled and she glowed in my vision, like the universe was marking her so that I could pick her out wherever she was. I still get obsessive about other things (um, hi, I wrote seven blog posts this week!) but the world no longer needs any help to be interesting to me: as long as my daughter is in it the world glows right along with her.

What is your favorite drink?

Linkwood 12 year old single malt scotch.

What is your biggest fault?

Arrogance. I'm smart and funny and I know it.

I know that you are in school studying philosophy… what drew you to that line of study? Who is your favorite philosopher / what line of thinking do you find most resonant and why?

I started in Philosophy and Political Science at U of T. My original intent was to go to law school afterward, but as it turned out I started to hate the idea of practicing law. I grew more and more interested in issues about the mind, what thinking is, and the history of those questions. The most influential philosopher in my academic life has been John Locke and his bare empiricism about the mind. I've also internalized a lot of what Paul and Patricia Churchland have said about the mind and scientific inquiry. They are eliminativists, which means that they think our folk-psychological categories of describing our mental lives are hopelessly inaccurate and just need to be eliminated in favor of more rigorous scientific terms. "Idea" is a sloppy term, and I already think about patterns of neural activation instead of "ideas" and "feelings". Not all the time, and usually not in conversation. But often enough that I recognize how much I've taken to heart.

What kinds of experiences take your breath away?

Always travel experiences, but the ones involving new people. For instance, my wife and I were in Rosarito, Mexico one weekend, staying at what used to be a Hollywood escape hotel back in the 50's. While we were in the bar/dance club on the dance floor the hotel lost power and the band had to stop playing. The lights were out and the floor was lit by starlight and moonlight glowing through the windows. Total silence for a couple of seconds. And then an African couple out on the floor just said "keep it going" and they started pounding the floor with their feet in a contagious rhythm. The washed-up musician who had been running the Karaoke Night in the other room jumped on stage and started singing at the top of his lungs, using the stomping as his back beat. Everyone on the floor joined in the dancing and stomping and singing. Experiences like that are why I travel. Sure, it happens at home for someone (the guy running the Karaoke session was just at work and then, bam, he's creating solid memories for a bunch of people), but I think being away from home increases the frequency of those experiences.

So there you go, Shawn has spoken.


JCK said...

Great interview, Jessica. That Backpacking Dad is turning up everywhere. His reading blew me away at the conference.

RobinSlick said...

Ha! Oh, you so just gave me an idea what to focus on for your interview...when will you be back from vacation?

Backpacking Dad said...

@jck: I believe you are thinking of "Laid Off Dad" :}

Thanks for interviewing me, OTJ.

Assertagirl said...

Great interview! I didn't realize Shawn's family was here in Toronto, so that's cool.

I had a similar experience with the power going out on a cruise ship that I worked on, but I think I'll save that story for my own blog. :)

MadWoman said...

That was a great interview although it did make me pound my head into the office desk for not realising that Shawn was a fellow Canuck. You'd think I'd have noticed the "wrong" spelling of words and whatnot.

Wow. I feel like I know you now Shawn ;)

Mr Lady said...

Dude, Jessica, can you at least publish the questions he refused to answer? :)

Fab interview!

bejewell said...

I am now salivating at the idea of reading the questions you asked but the Backpacking Master refused to answer.

Have I mentioned that he is my Jake Ryan?

Mandy said...

I just heard of this experiment. I love the idea and this was a great interview... even if all the juicy questions got scrapped!

for a different kind of girl said...

This was a great interview, and I say that even though I first read it as he sold his guitar for a plane ticket and some money, which made me say "Awwww!" again at his story, because boys with guitars are fine.

Shawn is hardcore awesome, though, even without a guitar, and I totally believe that one day, he will rule the Internet.

Redneck Mommy said...

Funny, I was sure Shawn would tell us his favorite drink was something different. Something Irish.


Good job on interviewing him Jess. Too bad he pansied out on the tough questions.

Wink, wink.

Anissa@Hope4Peyton said...

Wow, if you're the last kid to get to the party, I think I might be part of the clean up crew that hits it after the band leaves.

That was outstanding! Thanks to both of you because that was veeeery cool.

Any chance of just seeing the questions BPD wouldn't answer?

queenoftheclick said...

Your last tweet for today is hysterical! Thanks for the good laugh.

Ali said...

"my wife was one such non-pervert" - - - how romantic ;)

ahaha. great interview. ah, roots. love that.

apathy lounge said...

Huge Adrian Belew fan here. My husband has been a longtime King Crimson fan. Belew came to Dallas' Granada Theater twice and we went to see him both times. Even had my picture made with him. Just. Too. Awesome.

Neil said...

Great questions. And I found it quite beautiful what he said about his daughter.