If you could only listen to 5 musicians for the rest of your life, who would they be?
Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Guns & Roses
If you could only read 5 books for the rest of your life, who would they be?
Alice in Wonderland. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Tropic of Cancer, anything by Hemingway, and Desolation Angels. Google them. Buy them. Love them.
If you could only have 5 childhood memories to recall for the rest of your life, who would they be?
I had nothing but an amazing childhood and the world’s greatest parents. There isn’t a single regret in the amazing way our parents loved and took care of us. To pick only 5 moments would denigrate the decades they invested in us. I am lucky enough to still have my mom around, and she is my favorite person in the whole world. Don’t tell my wife I said that.
If you could only eat 5 things for the rest of your life, who would they be?
Pad Thai, Carne Asada, Gyro sammich, sesame chicken, and coffee
If you could only have five words to describe the world what would they be?
*** update Jan 2019 – Kermit’s painting added below
It recently occurred to me that a lot of who I am, I owe to Kermit. Kermit is a childhood friend, going back a million years. He is an odd and wonderful man, and he helped me to be the same. I remember going back to early high school, or maybe middle school. I was an undeveloped fetus, culturally. He was a brilliant subversive, and I think he turned me into one, too. I watched the shows everyone watched. There was no choice, with 3 channels. I listened to what everyone listened to… again… you had 3 channels for rock, at best.
Odds are, I was lamenting how much I hated reading. They gave us the most droll and sanitized shit. Reading what they fed us was punishment. Kermit turned me on to everything. What do I know about comic books? Still nothing, except barely hetero dudes in tights and sheets. Kermit found this, and gave it to me. I still have it in my collection. It is the story of Gregory, a young boy locked up in an institution and watching his mind go wild. This was more than a comic book… this was cultural subversion… and I was in!
then, he turned me on to authors. At this time, I hated reading more than math. I can not emphasize enough what shitty and boring books they feed kids. You want me to read Wuthering heights? Ok, that is like 200 pages of repressed love and emotion in Victorian England? How the fuck is a 13 year old boy going to connect with that? All the books were ‘Newbery award winners’. He turned me on to Hunter Thompson and Henry Miller. He gave me a copy of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and it rocked my world. These were dirty American expats living in France. They did dick all all day long except sit around drunk and talk about how great they were. They mooched everything they had, including the women, and just lived as they please. This book was full of very graphic sex scenes. It was full of people having fun, and adventures. Think of it like this – Henry Miller is the x rated version of Ernest Hemingway.
take a look at Henry Miller. This guy has seen some shit. Scratch that… this guy has caused some shit!
That book opened the world to me. There are books about sex? There are people doing noting all day long but getting drunk in cafes and celebrating their own genius? How do I get that job? Of course, the book was banned here… which made it all the more sexy. Most importantly, the writing was GREAT. Just beautiful and powerful and visual. I felt I was there. These guys defined ‘fake it until you make it’. Henry Miller basically willed his persona into existence through sheer force of will. I am reminded of Salvador Dali and Hunter Thompson here… same thing.
Then, he turned me on to ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, my second favorite book of all time. I don’t need to tell you my love and obsession with Hunter, I think you know. Then it struck me… what these guys write about is what every young black person in America is in jail for. Raping, drugging, and general malaise. These were NOT good people, but they were GREAT writers. What is the difference? Well, they wrote about it. Oh, and they were white. That helps.
And then he turned me on the Beatles. I knew the poppy happy radio stuff, which I still love. But he turned me on the White Album. He was like ‘these guys will fuck you up, they changed everything, man’. And he was right. He was the first person I knew to have a CD Walkman, and we’d hang out at break sharing headphones listening to this stuff. Then, he got me deep into Zeppelin. What do I mean by ‘deep’? It means listening to Zeppelin OTHER than Zepp 4. He played for my Physical Graffiti. It is a sweeping and galloping masterpiece of rock and roll. There are not pithy 3 minute hits on that double disc. No sir. It is just 2 hours of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant following their muse.
He gave me a light. Where the future used to look boring and corporate and soulless and inevitable… Kermit made it this wide open adventure. Shortly after this, I would spend a month in Mexico every summer. I would just backpack around with no plan, often by myself. I don’t think I would have had the courage or confidence to do something like that were it not for Kermit.
Kermit, I don’t know where you are. I don’t even know if you are alive, but I love you and I miss you and I thank you!
Because of Kermit, I went from hating reading to getting a literature degree. And… you will not find 1 goddamn Newbery award winner in my stacks.
Did I mention this painting he gave to me? It is AMAZING. It is an entirely original oil painting he must have given me 30 years ago. Behold. Better yet, come over and see it in person. It is stunning.
These photos don’t do it justice. Clearly I had a flash on. I need to take a pic in the day, with no flash.
Yesterday was World Book Day. What was the first book that had an impact on your life?
It would be something from Kermit. In high school, Kermit turned me on to a LOT. Books, authors, music, and art. Probably the most impactful was Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’. I am not gonna spoil it and tell you what it’s about. BUT… I will tell you it rocked my world. Everything up to then, in reading, was boring as shit. I HATED reading, it was punishment. Why? Because the schools only turn you on to boring as shit. Henry Miller was all about sex and drugs and general Bukowskian debauchery. Oh, and Kermit turned me on to Bukowski, too. Go watch Barfly with Mickey Rourke NOW if you don’t know about Charles Bukowski.
He (Kermit) showed me reading was cool, and opened up a whole world of counter culture heroes. I ended up getting a degree in literature… pretty much because Henry Miller showed me there is joy in madness and occasional sin.
Do you read “hard copy” books and mags or have your turned to digital ebooks and magazines?
Hardy copy actual books. It strains my eyes to look at computer screens to read. Plus, like you, I am a cubicle monkey who stares at computers 9 to 10 hours a day. Plus, I am often on my phone. I do not need more screen time.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Historical biographies and rock and roll autobiographies
Do you consider reading a pastime? Why or why not?
Uh… sure. I guess. Weirdly worded question. I think there is assuredly a very timeless aspect to reading a book. I love the idea that I have books that are so old that the first person who read it was using candle light… pre-electricity. Not just that they are reading the same story… but that this very book in my hand has lived a thousand lives.
Do you have a favorite book character who has stayed with you after the book was finished?
Alice, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She is my hero. She takes all this insanity around her, and is only curious and polite in return. At no time does she yell “omg, seriously. What the fucking fuck is that?” This is how most of us might handle seeing a caterpillar sitting on a ginormous mushroom smoking a hookah. That, to me, is a big bag of WTF.
you know I talk about this book a LOT. Let’s be specific, then, shall we?
I think my favorite scene is (likely) from the second book. They are all sitting around about to eat. Alice’s hosts rather politely introduce her to all the food. Normally, I guess, this would be simply the courteous thing to do. Problem, though; “everyone knows it is not polite to eat food once you have been introduced to it.” So, being ever so polite (and ever so hungry)… she never does eat.