Monthly Archives: June 2012

Vincent Louis Carrella

 

C&C: Chicken or the egg…. photos or stories, which came first?

I’m not sure if you’re asking me two questions here or one. I’ll answer both. I always find the chicken and egg question ridiculous. People take it too literally, thinking of chickens as we know them and eggs as these hard white objects with shells and yolks. But an egg is the source of the chicken and the source of all vertebrates (and I think most invertebrates), so the egg was first. Unless we’re talking about cloning, there is no life form without an egg of some kind.

As for stories and photos, again it’s a very vague question. A photograph, as a chemically produced image created by exposing light-sensitive film to a pattern of light and shadow is only, what, 190 years old or so? 1826, Niepce, right? So obviously in that sense stories are much older than photographs. But one can argue that photography grew out of painting and we know painting goes back to at least to Lascaux. Man has always rendered what he sees on some sort of semi-permanent medium. Still, even that does not predate story-telling. Stories are an innate form of human communication and affirmation. They have been part of us since language evolved. Before that there was only the image, what we saw and remembered. Is the human mind, then, not a camera? I assert that it is. The eye and mind operate as camera and the neuron functions as both film and print. A memory is like a photograph. It serves the same purpose – to remind us of something that is significant to us as humans. We have a need to remember and recall visual information. There are both practical and seemingly irrelevant uses for this trait, this skill, this ‘adaptation’. A photograph can be seen as an extension of the memory urge. To prove we were someplace. To prove we saw a certain thing a certain way. To remind us of a thing or a person. To affirm that we’re actually here and that all of this is real. So, if I look at it this way, that a memory is an enhanced photograph, then I answered this question. The image came before the story.


C&C: Do you remember the first camera you fooled around with, and what age you were?

My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic X15. I think I was 10. I loved that thing. It used those crazy flash cubes and cartridge film. The sad thing is that I don’t think I saved a single snapshot that I took with it. But I do remember being rather obsessed with it. I treasured that camera. I can still remember the sounds it made and the feel of it in my hand. The winding sound when you advance the film and all the clicks and mechanical affirmations. I think that I used that camera primarily for affirmation, not for artistic expression. I took photographs of my brother and he took photos of me and I photographed all my immediate surroundings. As a child I think I was interested in simply defining my world and affirming my existence in it. The printed photograph felt more trustworthy, more real than my memory of things. And of course in those days, way back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the family photo album, the shoebox filled with old photographs, *that* was how your family story was learned and told. The jumbled collection of physical photographs, that were always a mess, always out of order. It was like a Tarot deck containing the Arcana of our lives. And on holidays, or after someone’s death, you’d ritualistically reviewed your history by physically manipulating images. My mother still has such boxes of images. I do too. But that exercise, that ritual is dying and will be dead for my own children. They won’t have boxes of their own. There is a transference that occurs when you hold a photograph in your hand as opposed to viewing it on an electronic screen. And there’s also something beautiful about the fact that those objects, the photographs themselves, are impermanent. This whole digital thing where nothing ever dies and nothing has any real substance, it’s just another example of us becoming more removed from physicality of our existence. The Matrix is coming.


C&C: Can you/do you develop photographs in a dark room? Is digital less saitsfying than real film, and why or why not?

I have worked in a darkroom before but it was a long time ago. I, unfortunately, did not get a lot of hands-on experience with the chemical process of print photography. I know how it is done and I know the basics and I also know what it feels like to stand in the dark and watch an image emerge like magic from a piece of paper floating in liquid. It’s incredible. It’s a very strange and wonderful feeling. But it’s also a lot of work and it’s very expensive. Digital photography has made it possible for the everyman and everywoman to use photography artistically, therapeutically. This allows us all to render (simply, easily, quickly) much more vivid ‘memories’. We can be better and more prolific chroniclers of our lives and experiences. Photography has now become a staple of our daily existence and routine. Look at Instagram. A billion dollars for a company that makes on-the-fly photography (ostensibly) more easy. We are now all photographers, and we carry cameras in our pockets everywhere we go. If there *is* a bigfoot, if there *is* a Loch Ness monster or if there are UFO’s they will not be able to hide from us any longer. In fact, no one can hide any longer. One more thing I want to say about the concept of a darkroom is that though we don’t need a special room with certain chemicals and apparatus any more, we still can have certain darkroom-like experiences in digital post-production. Software now allows us to enhance and manipulate images in ways that make the darkroom look primitive. And there’s a magic in that too. With a mere flick of a slider bar I can eliminate shadows, enhance saturation, sharpen, define, crop and alter an image to create something truly surprising. And ironically, since I do a lot of that in bed at night, I’m in the dark.


C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

A wallet is all I carry in my pants pockets. However, I almost always carry a bag. Call it a man-purse if you will but I have this Timbuktu messenger bag on me all the time, and that is simply because I carry more things than my pockets can handle. So what I’m going to do for you is create an inventory of the things I take with me all the time, like the Tim O’Brien story.

The things I carry:

One black Moleskine notebook, 5×7, that contains the longhand draft of my current novel. One black reporter’s style Moleskine 4X5, that contains all the little ideas and reminders floating around inside my head at the moment. Four pens. One black Uniball Jetstream 1.0mm tip, a red Uniball Jetstream 1.0mm, a blue Uniball Vision Elite, a black Corner Office. Two highlighters, one yellow, one blue. One small bottle of hand sanitizer – apple scented. A small stack of business cards. One small zippered pouch containing band-aids, two powdered vitamin C packets, one tea bag – Echinacea, another stack of business cards, a rubber band, six ampoules of Nozin nasal sanitizers, two 2GB memory stick Flash drives, two tubes lip balm, six Dairy Relief Lactose chewable tablets, one packet Extra Strength Tylenol, one pencil sharpener, one copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, one copy of Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes, one MacBook Pro 15″ laptop, one iPhone 4.

I take these with me pretty much everywhere I go.


C&C: Do you think all birds (except hummingbirds) are evil – or at least, send evil vibes and want to kill humans? I do, they all try to kill me. Whether you agree or disagree, please explain.

Evil? I think birds are one of God’s most precious gifts and I love them, all. Birds are, for me, messengers, omens, signs, life affirmers, symbols of fragility and grace and a link back to our ancient past. Every time I look at a bird I imagine that I am seeing a dinosaur evolved. Birds are the only truly wild animals that live among us and they are virtually unchanged from their ancestors. They are natural marvels and wonders of science. Every one of the, even the lowliest pigeon is a miracle. You’ve been watching too much Hitchcock or you’ve got some early trauma you need to work through, because birds are blessings and they are great teachers. Birds are harbingers of weather and metaphors for living. It breaks my heart to think that there are people who don’t like or appreciate them. The world would be a sad place without them.

 

C&C: If you were an inanimate object, what would you be? What still creation you are most like, I mean.

A tree. Hands down. I would be a tree, because I believe that I was one in a past life. I want to spend 500 years in the same spot overlooking the same ground, day in and day out, providing shelter for animals and insects and good, clean oxygen to the world. And then, when I get old I want to be turned into a picnic table and spend the rest of my days in some concrete backyard in Piscataway New Jersey.

 

C&C: Do you have any pets? And why do you think snakes are so misunderstood?

I have two cats. I used to have a dog but I had to put him down and I’m still recovering from that. I’m still in mourning over him. But I’d like to have a dog again soon. I’m asking the universe for a dog. Snakes are misunderstood for a number of reasons, not the least of which has to do with the depiction of the serpent in the bible. That myth has been perpetuated for centuries, just as the myth of woman as transgressor and temptress has been. And it just occurred to me that this happened in the same blinding flash in the Book of Genesis.

 

C&C: Do you ever wear your pajamas all day long, or would you if you could?

Not unless I am sick, no. I’m not a pajama lover, though I do wear them. I like jeans and flip-flops and very thin comfy tee-shirts. That’s my ideal uniform.

 

C&C: Do you like boardgames, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, any of these?

Oh my gosh, I love them. I was raised on Monopoly and Scrabble and Clue. I played cards all throughout my childhood. I was always playing some form of game. I was big Dungeons & Dragons player for a while there too. That’s where I first cut my teeth writing – creating descriptions for dungeons and quests. I love word games. I loved arcade video games too. I grew up in pizza parlors and bowling alleys playing Space Invaders and Pac Man. So yeah, huge game fan.

C&C: What are you doing for your birthday?

I don’t know yet. But I’ll tell you this, I’ll be spending it in some remote place. I’ll be in the wilderness. I think maybe I’ll go to Joshua Tree or Death Valley. Yeah, that’s it. The desert.

Grigori Black

 

 

C&C: Do you like the X-files? If not, explain yourself. And tell what your favorite tv show is and why.

X-Files? Love it. Huge Gillian Anderson fan, I’m a sucker for redheads. For some bizarre reason I’m fascinated by David Duchovny as well. ‘Playing God’ was absolutely brilliant. I don’t really watch a
lot of television, but I’m a huge movie buff. The last year or so I started picking up various series from the local library. It’s hard to pick just one, every series I liked, I enjoyed for different reasons. More often than not, a series gets recommended to me by one friend or another when they have an ‘Oh my god, that’s you!’ moment when the character does something… odd. In no particular order: 24, Burn Notice, Dexter, House, and Rescue Me. House is a recurring one. Especially from my Ex. Watching Greg’s dysfunctional approach to life actually made me re-evaluate some of my own particular habits.

Band of Brothers was recommended by a therapist, I rather liked that series. I’m currently hooked on Spartacus and Game of Thrones. If I had to pick one series though, I think I’d say ‘Firefly’. I only found out about it after it had been taken off the air.

C&C: How old were you when you wrote your first work of fiction, be it a short story, poem, whatever, all on your own that wasn’t a school assignment? And did you tell/show anyone?

I have to cheat a little bit on this one. I read a lot as a kid and I wrote a lot of different things, but my first ‘real’ writing was actually non-fiction. I was 17 and in college. Our teacher had us write about a personal experience. I wrote about being stabbed. She was so impressed that she made me get up in front of the class and read it out loud.

After that I was hooked on writing. For a while, I was writing story lines for a group of friends who played D&D. After a while I was running the games. The last time I ran anything (about a decade ago), the game lasted a year and gave everyone nightmares. They loved it. WoTC published a few things I wrote.

I wrote about 200-300 thousand words of a fantasy series and burned out. I pick at it every couple of months but haven’t sat down and seriously written it out in years. I quit writing for a long time when my life imploded, but picked it back up again when a friend talked me into NANOWRIMO. After that I stumbled on the Cult website and slowly got back into writing again.

No matter how bizarre or twisted any of my writing is, nearly everything I’ve ever written has some little element of a personal experience in it.

C&C: Wait, when you were 17 you wrote a paper on being STABBED??? If you could expand on that one, just a little…

I’d been on my own for about a year at that point. I tested out of High School at 15, went to college the next year at 16. So more or less I was out and about. Some of my friends were less reputable and I
wound up with a bad crowd, sort of.

It’s nothing too terrible. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being a relatively skinny kid, most people underestimated me. It didn’t help that was the summer I went from being about five foot even
to being five foot eleven. I grew up being the short kid and the outsider. I’d had enough with getting bullied in elementary school and been getting in fights off and on since Junior High School and doing
martial arts for a couple of years.

So when someone pulled a knife on me and demanded my wallet, I laughed at him. Unfortunately he was bigger and stronger, so he thought he’d show me up and took a swing. I wound up breaking his jaw, and a couple of his ribs I think. I hadn’t noticed I’d been stabbed until afterwards when I tried to walk off.

When I looked down, there was the hilt of the knife sticking out of my leg. The weird thing was it didn’t really seem to hurt, it felt numb and stiff, but no real pain. Like an idiot, I pulled it out and hobbled home. The next day I could barely walk on it. I patched myself up, but essentially I just ‘walked it off’. It felt weird for years until the scar tissue broke down enough that it wasn’t an ugly purple lump. It still feels tight on really cold days.

C&C: What’s the most favoritest gun you ever fired? And do you generally prefer handguns or rifles for target/shooting for fun? Or more importantly, do you even enjoy firing a gun?

Oh my, this is a complicated one. I don’t know if enjoy is a proper term. I used to go hunting a bit, but not so much anymore. My first ’real’ combat tour really turned me off from hunting. I don’t mind target shooting, but honestly I do it more to hone my skills than anything else.

I’ve fired numerous types of weapons. In no particular order: an M1911 .45, a .454 Casull, a Beretta 9mm, a .38 revolver, an M-4 Carbine, an M16A1 (and A2), an M60 machine gun, an M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun, a sawed off shotgun (I don’t remember what kind), and a whole variety of rifles including a Dragunov Sniper Rifle and enough knock off AKs to fill a cargo container.

I currently own only one gun which I bought from a friend for an excellent deal: a STG-556, which I have yet to fire.

While everyone has their own favorite firearm, I’m a firm believer in the right tool for the job. As far as target shooting, I like reaction/tactical firing ranges. For Close Quarters Battle (CQB) shooting, a pistol is the way to go. As much as I hate the Beretta it works if you take care of it.

As far as all time favorites go, I’m biased towards the M2 Browning. I love the M60, but there’s just something about the M2 that always makes me smile. It’s one of the finest weapons I’ve ever used and not used. There’s just something about sighting down the barrel of the M2 that makes people reconsider their decision making process. Some of my all time favorite moments are the result of me not having to fire an M2.

Although it’s not a gun, my all time favorite projectile launching weapon is an M203 40mm grenade launcher. It was love at first sight. I always, always, always volunteer to carry one. I have a frightening degree of accuracy when firing one. If I can see my target, I can lay a 40mm grenade on it.

If I have to rely on something, I obsessively clean/maintain it. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I do before going to sleep.

C&C: What’s your favorite color?

Most people go with the obvious: Black. Most of my wardrobe is actually black. I never owned shoes for the longest time. Once I moved out at 16, I wore combat boots almost exclusively for the next 15
years or so. The only other pair of boots I had was an old square toed pair of engineer boots (Biker boots), I still have them.

I do have a gray suit and a few colored shirts though. Most of the time I default to black because it doesn’t show blood, dirt, etc. and it goes with anything. My actual favorite color is blue.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

My wallet (with about 70 euros), a Smith & Wesson limited edition folding karambit, a tactical collapsible steel baton, eleven euros and fifty three cents in change, and an assortment of keys. Also three mints, two receipts, and various ID and credentials.

C&C: When you were little did you get crushes on female cartoon characters?
If so, whoooooo?

Cartoon characters? None. I didn’t watch much TV. I’m Pre-MTV (Just barely though). Radio though… Oh hell… I fell in love with voices: Pat Benetar, Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, and Dolores O’Riordan. I could probably sum my life up in songs/lyrics. Is that wrong?

C&C: You walked right into a songs question. If you picked your soundtrack, say, just 5 songs, to your actual life, what 5 songs would you pick?

Complicated. Lately it’s mostly been instrumental music. From day zero, there are a couple of Eagles songs that will always be my absolute undisputed favorites. A lot of NIN resonates with me,
especially in my darker moods. But this changes from year to year. Mood to mood, experience to experience. Right now, looking back, these are the first five that come to mind right now. No particular order.

1. Wish you were Here – Pink Floyd
2. Mad World – gary Jules Cover
3. Into The Ocean – Blue October
4. My Body Is a Cage – Peter Gabriel Cover
5. Clean – Depeche Mode

Instrumental version:

1. Moonlight Sonata – Beethoven
2. Lux Aeterna – Clint Mansell
3. Clubbed to Death – Rob Dougan
4. Sun’s Gone Dim – Johann Johansson
5. Red Warrior – Hanz Zimmer

C&C: And, from the other side, if you could pick 5 songs for your
soundtrack to what your life ideally would have been like, what would those 5 songs be?

My life is pretty ideal, but I’ve had a lot of people attribute songs that they felt defined ‘me’.

1. Uninvited – Alanis Morissette
2. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
3. Electric Blue Eyes – Cranberries
4. Behind Blue Eyes – The Who
5. Eat you Alive – Limp Bizkit

C&C: Are you left-handed or right-handed? And do you think this has an effect on people’s intelligence or personality?

Depends on what I’m doing. For writing I’m primarily right handed. I can shoot equally well with either hand and I’ve got a vicious left hook. Left-handed people have always seemed different somehow. Fun fact: fuzes for Russian ordinance turn the opposite direction from US ordinance. A lot of people attribute this to a predominantly left handed population. I’ve never seen proof, but a lot of Russians I’ve met have in fact been left handed.

C&C: How many tattoos do you have?

Three tattoos. One over my heart (my first one), one across my right bicep (my second one) and one that goes down my spine. I planned on having a fourth done. I get one tattoo for every major deployment I survive. Bosnia/Hungary was my first one. Kosovo was my second. Iraq
was my third. I’m due for a fourth, but haven’t felt compelled because I just went back to Iraq. If I go to Afghanistan or somewhere new, then there will definitely be a fourth.

Mlaz Corbier

 

C&C: Do you have favorite fairy tales? Tell me about them. You write some lovely twisted ones, how interested are you in old fairy tales?

In most any fairystory I read there is something that amuses me, especially the Grimm collection as they’re all in German (I read both collections in the original language). I hate it how most people don’t have a clue about fairytales these days — at least not how they were meant. When Disney decided to childify their stories because it was cruel to show children a witch dancing in iron-hot shoes until she died, most of the fun was gone. Everyone — including me as I just mentioned them — always thinks of Hans Christian Andersen or the Grimm brothers when fairystories are concerned, but my favourite ones are written by Aimee Bender. Compared to the classic ones, those by Bender are written an awefully lot better.

[misspelling of awefully is intentionally, by the way]

 C&C: What is your favorite undersea creature and why?

 I don’t much care for underwater creatures, there’s a reason why they are underwater and I’m on the land. If I were meant to care for them, I would have been given gills. I don’t see the point in most animals anyway. I mean, take an hippopotamus. What can you use them for? I couldn’t care less if they’d get extinct. Hippos smell bad, are aggressive and are really inconvenient to put somewhere with those big arses. Of course, I know why you ask this question and you want me to say the octopod, but they’re not my favourite no more they’re not. As a matter of fact, I will never write about them hideous eight-legged freaks again even though I know all about the existence myths.

 C&C: Have you ever seen a baby hippo swim? I think you would feel differently about them if you did. Here is a video. Wach it and tell me how you feel about them after.

 Still rubbish. I really don’t see why people get all worked up over a bunch of animals, especially if they are cute baby ones. Dogs are decent animals, the rest can be used to feed on.

 C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

 I’ll give you three guesseses.

 C&C: Are left-handed people smarter than right-handed people, and why?Please explain, with references.

 I know Craig Wallwork is right-handed, so I guess that takes down the average level of intelligence of the righties by a fair bit.

 C&C: How do you feel about Batman?

 If he wouldn’t wear knickers over his tights, he would be quite all right. Though what makes Batman interesting is the villains of course: Joker, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Two-Face. I was going to buy Batman shoes, by the way, but no one was willing sell me a pair.

 C&C: When is your birthday?

 My birthday is October 31st and September 19th.

 C&C: Recently you and your brother met for the first time. Can you tell me anything about that experience?

 Eddy decided to come to Amsterdam and even though I hate that rotten place, I went to meet him. It was a peculiarly bright day. It must be the two of us radiating awesome. In the end, it was rather disappointing because Eddy and I agree on pretty much everything there is to agree on. It was still all cakes and ale in the end of course. I can’t tell you much about what happened as most of the time was spent plotting how we’d take over the world. For the rest we talked about literature and gossiped about people we both know, mostly you though.

C&C: When you met Eddy, would it have been better if you’d gotten into an instantaneous fistfight, and all those around you had started fist-fighting (like that X-Files Fight Club episode), or was it satisfying to sit in the sunshine, making the day brighter, and talk about me?

Don’t be silly, please. Eddy and I would never fight. And may I say that your spelling is atrocious?

C&C: Have you ever wanted to punch a child?

I’m a teacher. I want to punch children every day.

August Interview Line-Up

August 7th – Monica Drake

August 14th – Adam Skorupskas

August 21st – J. David Osborne

August 28th – Sean Ferguson

July Interview Line-Up

July 3rd – Camille Alexa

July 10th – Dan Donche (Janden Daniel Hale)

July 17th – Nikki Guerlain

July 24th – Charles Dodd White

July 31st – Gordon Highland

 

Craig Clevenger

C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child and why?

Easy… I had a five-foot (at least) styrofoam replica of a t-rex skeleton. I have no idea where my parents found it, and I’ve never met another person who had one as a kid. I found a picture of it not too long ago, with me and my younger brother sitting beneath it. As for “why,”I don’t think I need to explain the coolness of a big-ass dinosaur skeleton in a small boy’s bedroom.

C&C: If you could choose 5 songs as an accurate soundtrack of your life up to this point, what would they be? If you could choose 5 songs as a soundtrack to your ideal life, what would those be?

 Man, this one is tough. Honestly, I’m not much of a music person. I love music, of course, and I have my preferences but my listening range isn’t all that expansive. And as for lists… I just don’t think in the absolutes of lists very often, much less lists that could be sound tracks to my life thus far (to say nothing of antithetical lists of my actual life versus my ideal life). I will say that Chris D.’s “Lily White Hands” would be on there. It’s probably the most achingly beautiful song about heartbreak that I know, a trailer park ballad that sounds like someone’s playing a violin strung with barbed wire. Just beautiful.

Tina Turner’s cover of “Whole Lotta Love,” not as a reflection of any point in my life, but just the music I’d like to imagine playing in the background any time I made any sort of entrance. Which I never do, anyway. But it’s one of the balls-out sexiest things ever recorded, and downright dangerous to play to anyone who has even the slightest intentions of keeping their clothes on. The same could be said, of course, for Link Wray’s “Rumble,” which is so seriously bad-ass it’s the only instrumental tune to ever be banned on American radio (play it once, and you’ll know that fathers across the country were imagining their daughters’ footprints on the insides of car windows).

But still, it’s hard to make a list like the one you’re asking for. I suppose those last two could go toward my “ideal life” song list; in truth, my life as reflected in my writing (or maybe its the other way around) has been a long-term effort over many years to change a bitter world view that I was pretty much born with. And I don’t know how to plug music into that. Most of the time, I’ve got so much noise in my own head that I needn’t add to it with music. I listen to Johnny Cash on my iPod before doing a reading, and bring said iPod with me on long plane flights or when I go for a run, but otherwise I’m okay with silence. I’ve driven between Northern and Southern California more times than I can count, most of that with nothing but the road humming beneath me; I drove back to Texas some years ago with five or six CD’s that I hardly listened to most of the way (though I will say that driving through East Jesus, Nowhere in the dead of night, with nothing but empty fields for miles around and the occasional light from a distant farmhouse, while listening to Tom Waits recite “What’s He Building in There?” is a whole level of spooky that I’ve never experienced in a horror film).

Yikes, that’s it…. forget those other songs (I mean for my life list; otherwise, don’t forget them, because they’re all brilliant). My list is actually only one song, and it’s the same for both lists. Not in the creepy context I just described, of course, but the sound track for my life would simply be, “What’s He Building In There?”

C&C: How many pairs of boots do you own?

Right now, three. I’ve got a pair of black smoke jumpers that I don’t wear too often. My brown, steel-toe engineer boots (the ones pictured here) are pretty much what I wear most every day. They got promoted after my square-toe harness boots (also brown) finally gave out on me after the fifth or sixth set of soles. I left them behind when I moved back to the U.S. from Bolivia. Since I lived next door to a cobbler who literally specialized in clown shoes, I imagine my old roommates donated them to the cause. I picked up a pair of rattlesnake skin cowboy boots not too long ago, which was love at first sight, and I’ve got some photos of some really cool, 1930’s work boots I’m going to have made for me, once I find that giant bag of money I’ve been looking for.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

Right now? Which pockets? Just my jeans? Or my coat? Which coat? Technically nothing, since I’m sitting here in a pair of old jeans that look like they’ve been hit by lightning. But to give you a more legit answer, here’s my “every day carry,” as the cops would say:

Various keys one acquires from couch-hopping for as long as I have, all hooked to a caribeaner in my front belt loop.

Motorcycle wallet with “White Trash” stamped on it (this got a huge laugh from airport security in South Africa) and painted red,white and blue (though the color’s fading from fifteen years of back pocket friction); I doubled the chains up on this one, and keep those hooked to my front belt loop as well.

Emerson CQ-7 folding knife… great locking mechanism, and I swear this thing is made of scrap from the Roswell crash. It cuts through damn near anything and always gets an envious raised eyebrow from other knife geeks. I’ve threaded the loophole with about eight feet of military paracord, all compressed neatly into a rattlesnake knot lanyard (I’m getting pretty good with paracord).

A lighter. This is random… I don’t smoke, but try to make it a habit to carry a lighter. Somebody once told me that a gentleman always has a pen, a lighter and the correct time. And I aspire to be a gentleman. And a lighter is a lot like the knife (and especially the paracord), something for those situations you hope you’re never stuck in but don’t always get to choose. Especially if I’m traveling, I keep as much survival gear in my pockets as I can. Every time I hear of someone’s horror story about being stranded in the middle of nowhere, surviving the night in some blizzard or strange desert, I wonder why they went hiking without a knife, whistle, lighter, paracord, signal mirror, etc.

Pen. I file down Mont Blanc refill cartridges to fit inside of ordinary Bic gel pens. The refills are more expensive, but the ink is so much better and easier to write with, and I’m a pen snob. I ran out the other day, so I’ve been using a fountain pen this week until I get myself to the office supply store.

Moleskine Reporter Notebook. Always in my pocket, so I’ve always got something to write on. I built a pen holder on the spine with black electrical tape, but that’s too small for the fountain pen. I’m also a notebook snob.

Forty-three cents. Okay, that’s not true since, as I said above, there’s nothing in my pockets. But when I leave, I’ll have at least that, so that I’ve got represenation from all coinage for any transactions that day.

A black bandanna. Actually, three of these. I have a cold, and I’ve been sneezing and hacking a lot. Vanity prevents me from carrying a packet of travel tissues. That’s right up there with wearing a pocket protector.

Sunglasses. Five bucks at Walgreen’s, I got them a few years ago when I was tending bar on Halloween night and dressed as Jim Morrison. Wore the leather pants I bought when I lived in London (and yes, I looked good), a black t-shirt under a blue workshirt, etc. I still have the sunglasses, though I’ve crushed them a few times so whenever I put them on, they’re kinda crooked and I look like I just stood up after being shot out of a cannon. I just haven’t bothered to replace them.

Reading glasses. These are a pain in the ass. They’re rimless, with really thin wire earpieces, so I absolutely have to carry them in a case. The thick-rimmed glasses that are so fashionable now just don’t work on me… I look like someone from a 1950’s educational film(“Your body is changing…”). I need to get my eyes checked again, so I’ll try to find some frames that are a little more durable without making me look like I lost my lab coat.

Not in my pockets, but around my neck so, technically, part of my EDC…

Six-fingered hand necklace. My roommate, Pol, made it for me down in Bolivia.

Skeleton key. Long story, but it goes to a house with seventeen rooms and a gajillion locks. So, I’m not sure exactly what it opens, but if I were willing to break and enter and spend a few months testing every possibility, I could find out. I like not knowing, because that way I get to make something up.

And I used to have a magnifying glass, as close as I could get to a monocle (which I totally want, someday, the kind that actually hooks into the eye socket), that I wore on a chain, but for the life of me I can’t remember what I did with it.

C&C: You collect mugshots – how did that begin, and do you collect anything else?

I don’t recall how I started collecting mug shots, honestly. I don’t collect any one thing, but I do collect lots of different things. That made no sense at all, did it? Okay… I don’t take pictures. I hate being photographed (and I mean really, really hate it), so I’ve never made a habit of taking pictures. But I do save things… trinkets, gifts, etc., anything that will serve as a memento. I build altars out of them, memorials to memory, really, instead of keeping photo albums. So I’ve got old club flyers, bottles of liquor, subway tokens, stocking stuffers, odd toys, casino chips, letters… just a ton of shit… and I build story altars out of them. When I was staying out in Rob Roberge’s cabin in the Mojave, I built an altar out of the stuff I found in the desert. Old rusted cans, a Mexican Coke bottle, animal bones, weird bits of flora, feathers from different birds (one being the road runner that wondered into my kitchen after the wind blew my front door open during the night), and I built an altar out of that (with a few of my own votive candles thrown in, of course). Which reminds me, I collect bird feathers, too. I love birds. I’ve got a few parrot feathers, a crow feather (they’re harder to find than you might think… there’s a weird legality there, I think), and I’ve been looking for an owl feather for a long time. And books. I mean I collect books, not that I’ve been looking for a book for a long time, which I sort of have, but then we stray into weird philosophical territory there… But the mugshots, I don’t know how that started. There’s the obvious noir angle, of course, and I love old shit. I guess “antiques” is the proper word (you can charge more for antiques than you can “old shit”). And the fact that there was a day when everybody dressed to kill when the left the house, Sunday or not. All these criminal scumbags getting their booking photos taken, and they’re wearing collars and hats. I dig that. I have a couple of con men (both are described as traveling with dogs and being expert golfers—the con men, not the dogs—and both are from Memphis and, I believe, in the same handwriting. So I don’t know if that was some kind of con artist’s M.O. of the day, or if it was code for something or what). Some of them don’t have charges written on them, just the fact that the person escaped from a prison or road gang, etc. I’m always on the lookout for more.

C&C: Is romanticism dead or dying with technology – i.e. cell phones, emails, texts, all leading to FEWER near misses, random meetings, eye contact with people who cease to become strangers…? Tell me what you think about all of this.

I’m not sure I can summarize my feelings about all of this, right here. Certainly, all of those things are changing the way we interact with each other, no doubt. And the changes are both positive and negative, in my opinion. I’m among the first to say that technology is killing romanticism, but I’m all too aware that every generation believes that the [insert invention here] is going to be the death of civilization as we know it. Some people belived that the telephone, with its ability to interrupt someone else at any time—and from any distance—would be the death of polite society (and of course, some would say that’s exactly what happened).

With email, many said it was the death of written correspondence. With MySpace/Facebook/etc., it was the death of real interaction. With Twitter, it was the death of… what? Long form journalism? Attention spans? I don’t know. But it’s always the “death” of this or that. And I think those statements are certainly true to a degree, but they’re only part of the truth.

Facebook is mainly for my own PR, but I also keep in touch with extended family as well as friends who live far away. And I’ve gotten back in contact with people I would never have found otherwise, through Facebook. And having spent some time in the Third World, and seen how Facebook is a pipeline to a whole new level of discourse with the rest of the world, I’m not so quick to dismiss it. But yeah, it has its downsides. I remember talking to someone who said he hated Facebook, because it wasn’t real. He said his friends put up “fake lives,” only showed themselves in their best light, that it was all superficial and phony. I then suggested that is perhaps was not Facebook’s fault, but his choice in friends. That did not go over well.

Me, I’ve become something of a luddite in recent years. Yeah, I’m all over the interweb, but I still write longhand; I still send snail mail love letters; I’m having calling cards printed up, soon. Not business cards, but calling cards. Those are much more useful to me, given I don’t have a business and represent only myself. I absolutely loathe talking on the phone. If it’s critical business, or someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, then I manage. But just “Hi, how are you?” I hate that. For me, the phone is best for planning face-to-face meetings. Texting is my preferred method, though. Again, mainly for quick interaction, not prolonged discourse. I prefer things in person. It baffles me when I see people in groups with their friends, and they’re all texting people who aren’t there. And I will bet money that if those people with whom they’re texting were, in fact, present, then they’d be texting someone else.

I ditched my iPhone (not by choice, originally) a while back. There are times, no doubt, when I wish I could map something, or otherwise take advantage of it. I’ve been using a little disposable “burner” phone for the last two years or so. It cost me fifteen bucks. Great reception, and I pay only for the time I use (and given how much I hate talking on the phone, even my minimum plan for the iPhone was money up in smoke). It sends and receives texts, but has no voice mail. If I see someone called, I can call them back, but needn’t listen to some recorded babbling. My favorite feature of this phone—all of them, really—is the “off” switch. Seriously. Cell phones have given rise to this assumption throughout society that we’re all able to be reached anywhere, any time. But the throttle works in both directions; it’s also just as easy for me to decide when I don’t want to be reached, and for how long. I get a lot of resistance on this. A lot. People have a sense of entitlement about cell phones; I’ve encountered genuine anger from people who don’t hear back from me right away. I used to have an outgoing voice message explaining that my phone is off during certain hours while I was writing, but I would call back after my work day was over. The vitriol people left on my voicemail was staggering.

Gads, I could go on forever about this stuff. I ranted about the shortcomings of Google+ at length, already; there’s also the whole privacy issue, which is enormous and complex. But, your question was specifically about romanticism, so I won’t go into that. What else…? I’ve heard, recently, that younger people aren’t developing a lot of social skills such as the ability to read non-verbal cues, facial expressions, etc., as a result of having so much of their social lives lived out on smart phones. This may or may not be true, I don’t know. I didn’t hear any sources cited; it wouldn’t surprise me in the least, though.

For me, technology should facilitate real world, offline interaction. When it ceases to do that, it fails. My cell phone, Facebook account, email address, etc., all serve me. Not the other way around.

 C&C: Do you wear shoes in the house?

Whose house? What kind of shoes? Generally, no. I like to be comfortable. And since I mostly wear boots, my roommate frowns up throwing my filthy smoke jumpers on his glass coffee table. But sometimes I have to. In Bolivia, the tile floor got really cold at night. In the desert, shoes left unattended for too long are scorpion bait, and I wasn’t there long enough to be comfortable on the porch, barefoot. I have big feet. Easy pickin’s for the snakes.

C&C: I know you’ve bartended, do you know anything about ‘flair’? You know, like cocktail type stuff. Don’t hit me. Just tell me about bartending.

I loved bartending, but I was never one of those superstar bartenders who knew every cocktail in the book. So, no, I know nothing about flair. I started at a beer and wine bar, at first, so there was no need to know any of that stuff. Same with the last gig I had, as well. I only worked one hard liquor bar during those years, and knowing a dozen or so basic cocktails and a few mixing basics was enough. Every now and then somebody would ask me for something I was unfamiliar with, and it was perfectly acceptable to say something like, “remind me what’s in that one, again?” Nobody ever had a problem.

It was great work because it was social and physical, which is what I needed after sitting alone most days and writing. Interacting with people and moving around for three or four nights of bartending would always re-charge me for my writing week. That said, it completely burned out my desire to hit the town on weekends. Or at all. I hardly drink at all, anymore, and I’m loathe to go any place crowded and noisy.

And having spent some time volunteering at a needle exchange, I’ll say this: between the drunks and the addicts, I’ll take the addicts. Granted, I was seeing the addicts under very controlled, benevolent circumstances. But man, drunk people, and I mean really drunk people, are awful. And dealing with unchecked alpha-male attitudes, emotional baggage, crying, vomiting, fighting, delusions of super-humanity… it wears you out. But, yeah, I’d do it again.

C&C: Why would anyone have a llama as a pet?

 I have no idea. I mean, cats, dogs, birds, goldfish, I get. But a llama seems like it straddles the lines between “livestock” and “pet” and “pack animal.” Kind of like a horse, I guess. Except you can’t get a lifetime of mittens and scarves from a horse; I also don’t think they’re as agile with cargo on narrow mountain roads or other treacherous terrain, and most people are loathe to slow-cook their horse over a pit after it’s out lived its usefulness. All of which I suppose is precisely why somebody would choose a llama for a pet.

C&C: What did you get me for my birthday?

I’m not telling you. I’ll have it on me, next time I see you and it’ll be up to you to spirit it away.