Recently, I was interviewed by an on-line publication about my work, the Hit and Miss Engine Papers. A video conference was set up inside a generic looking office building. The group "conferencing" before me were a professional looking bunch. They carried "man satchels", and dressed smartly in nice suits sans ties. They were business casual. Even the sole female in their group looked important.
I was coming from work. I wore my very dusty and dirty Carhartts and workboots. If you are unfamiliar with Carhartts, they are basically Garanimals for men in construction related fields. If you are unfarmilliar with Garanimals, then this witty observation will be lost on you.
After the important group before me had moved and shaked enough, I was ushered into the large room, that resembled a grey, empty swimming pool. It had all the character of a wet roll of toilet paper. I felt silly for expecting more. My mahogany and stainless steel dream conference room was reduced to a large, crudely built Formica and press board table. Upon closer inspection, the word "dick" was carved into the rough plastic top, right where I sat down. Before the interview had even begun, I felt as though someone had seen right thru me.
So some fiddling about with technical things occurred, and then it began. I was face, to computer screen face, with my interviewer. She seemed pleasant enough to look at. She had on expensive designer glasses and a cowl neck sweater. This was all that I could make out. I wondered what I must have looked like, to her. She looked like a writer; and I imagine, I resembled a hobo.
We exchanged some formalities, I set some ground rules, and we began.
The following is a transcript (edited due to length) of our discourse.
Interviewer: So (deleted) tell me about...
Murdoc: Stop. What did we just talk about?
Interviewer: Oh, my bad.
Murdoc: Did you just say "my bad"?
Interviewer: Sorry. Sorry on both accounts.
Murdoc: Look, I'm not trying to bust your chops here, but let's not use my real name. Agreed? I'm writing some very personal stuff and I want to keep me separate from my work. Christ, I sound like a dick already! You can't see this, but someone before me, carved the word "dick" right here (points to conference table) in front of me.
Interviewer: (laughs) That's rather ironic, don't you think? (adjusts glasses)
Murdoc: Um yeah, thanks Alanis.
Interviewer: (nervous laugh) Okay, let's get back on track, Murdoc. Tell me about the Hit and Miss Engine Papers?
Murdoc: It is an experiment in word and images.
Interviewer: Yes, it says so on every page and entry, but could you give me something more?
Murdoc: Sure. (pause, he looks down and rubs a dirty finger across the word dick, carved into the table) The work is basically an exploration of grief, and an early coming to terms with the solitude that awaits us all. It's a personal journey into the broken human heart. It is an unwanted, but necessary trip down shitty memory lane. It's a binging and purging of emotions best kept hidden. It's...It's therapy but without some asshole, a couch, and a bill after every session. How's that?
Interviewer: Nice. So it's about lost love and your need to come to terms?
Murdoc: Sure, if you put it into it's simplest terms. It's funny, but I recently shared the HME Papers with a writer friend. He jokingly, I hope he was joking, called it "break-up" poetry. If this is how it is perceived by the reader, than I think I will be shutting it down. It's not like I'm performing this shit with bongos at open mic night at the local coffee shop. I hope to Christ no one confuses this with break-up poetry. It's prose for shit's sake! (pause) But fuck, I can see where the lines could be blurred.
Interviewer: If it was just break-up poetry, we wouldn't be talking. There is something about your work that has touched a nerve with readers, women in particular. Have you noticed this? And why do you think that women are drawn to your piece?
Murdoc: Women are drawn to my piece? I haven't noticed this. What about my piece intrigues you? It's length or girth?
Interviewer: (smiling coyly) Alright, I chose the wrong words. Thanks for making me look stupid.
Murdoc: Sorry (smiling slyly), you chose your words perfectly, I just happen to be embracing my new moniker. See, (points to table) it says so right here, I'm a dick.
Interviewer: You don't seem like a dick; and dick's don't write such beautiful words.
Murdoc: (pause and blush) Thank you. (pause) Here's the thing... I think women come back to the HME Papers because it's a guy, a real guy, finally being honest. And I think this is also why many men come back to it, and are scared off. So, I guess, what it is, is just honest human thought and emotion being expressed in a relatable and palpable way? You can lie to me all you want, but tell me honestly, you've never felt this way? I'm just putting my balls on the table and handing you the hammer.
Interviewer: I must admit, your work has made me cry a couple of times.
Murdoc: Really? Which ones?
Interviewer: Mouthful of Bees and the Geometry of Grief and Coffee.
Murdoc: Thank you.
Interviewer: I said your work made me cry. Is that a compliment?
Murdoc: Absolutely. Truth be told, I cried while writing those posts. It's my intention to touch the reader. I crave eliciting and forcing emotion on the reader. I want and need to feel that my stupid words are touching a nerve, pressing a button, flipping a switch. My subject matter is nothing new or different. So yes, as you said earlier, it's about lost love and coming to terms, but it is also something more. It is self-actualization and the epiphany of understanding. I think this is something we can, and want, and desire, to relate to. And as a bonus and prize, there are mopy images at the bottom of the box of my not so Honey-Combs.
Interviewer: So from what I have gathered, most of the images are from your backyard and home?
Murdoc: Yup. I live in shack down by the river. It's a nice shack, with a lovely view of the water, and the industrial plant across the inlet. It's a weird place that time has forgot. I'm twenty minutes from downtown Baltimore, but it might as well be twenty light years away. There is no mail delivery. You have to set up a P.O. box at the little post office around the corner form my house. When I went in, the old ladies stopped chatting and just looked me over. The Post Master, a lovely looking silver haired woman, said, "Can I help you?" And I replied, "Yes, I need to set up a P.O. box," and she said "Why?" And I replied, "Because I've just moved here." And she replied, "Where?" And then I told her where I was living and she said, "Oh, you're the new guy in Susan's old place. Welcome to Fort Howard." That's fucking weird and wonderful. It's a very protective, waterfront community on a tiny peninsula. It's Mayberry on the water. And it is such a place that time has forgot, that it makes taking photographs easy. I just worry that I'm going to be the guy that fucks it all up. I think after this interview I'm going to go back and delete any reference to my quaint, adopted, redneck town. I also think I'm going to get real drunk and regret doing this interview.
Interviewer: I think you're doing fine. It seems like you're starting to get comfortable and loosen up.
Murdoc: That's because the Xanax I took while waiting in the lobby is starting to kick in.
Interviewer: You are surprisingly funny.
Murdoc: And your sweater has a really big collar. You could carry groceries around your neck and no one would ever know.
Interviewer: It's a cowl neck.
Murdoc: A cow neck?
Interviewer: Cowl, cowl, like towel. It's a type of...(she stops and just smiles while giving Murdoc the finger)
Murdoc: Sorry. I'm a dick. It says so right here (points again to etching in table). So, how many of these video interview thingys do you do?
Interviewer: Too many. It would be so much nicer to actually talk to you writers face to face. I mean, be honest, this is weird, right?
Murdoc: Yupper. I feel like at some point I am going to ask you for a credit card number and then I will commence disrobing and self-manipulation.
Interviewer: (laughing) Oh God yes, that's it exactly. (more laughing) Hey baby, (attempts husky guy voice) I'll show you mine if you show me yours?"
Murdoc: That will be twenty dollars please, Visa or Master Card?
(they both laugh)
Interviewer: (composes) You know (deleted), I mean Murdoc, sorry, really sorry...
Murdoc: It's okay.
Interviewer: What I was going to say is, you're not a dick. It may say so in front of you, but you're not a dick. In fact, you are exactly the guy that I had hoped you would be. You are a man. You have airs and old world sensibilities.
Murdoc: Would that make me provincial?
Interviewer: Shut up for a second. You are strong and sensitive. You seem to be that guy that eludes most women. So who fucked up?
Murdoc: Wow, you reeled me in and then the gloves came off. This is getting good.
Interviewer: No really, who fucked up? Did you do something stupid and guy like? Did you drive her away, and is this work, the HME Papers, a feeble attempt to make yourself look good? What happened?
Murdoc: Shit, where were you thirty minutes ago? If you had started this interview this way, we'd be into some really good discourse now.
Interviewer: Answer the question!
Murdoc: Do you want the truth, or a well fabricated lie?
Interviewer: Surprise me.
Murdoc: We both fucked up. It's easy to fall into routine and just exist without living. As much as I may have loved her, I should have showed and not told. There should have been more flowers and less, "I love you's". She needed physical affirmations of my love. I built her a house. It wasn't enough. She has the house and I'll be damned if I don't understand how she can live there. Everything in it was designed and built by me. I still don't understand how she can walk the floors from room to room and separate me from the damn thing. I guess we are all built differently. Where I live now would barely fit into our old master bathroom, and yet it is filled to the ceiling with memories of her. There is nothing physical here to remind me of her...
Interviewer: You packed it all away, Photographs and Misery.
Murdoc: Yes, but it's the mental cleaning and purging that I need to work on. This will sound silly, but I don't want to forget and shove all those great moments from our past into the wood chipper. I respect them. They, the memories, are a part of me now. For good or bad. They got me to where I am today and I think it is a sad and foolish soul that grinds them all up and hauls them away to the dump. She is an expert at this. She had and has, the uncanny ability to just erase her past, never look back, and start all over again. She warned me of this when we first started dating. Her parents warned me too. I should have listened.
Interviewer: Have you spoken?
Murdoc: I speak most days, usually at work.
Interviewer: Have you spoken to her?
Murdoc: Not a word since the day I moved out.
Interviewer: Really? No contact of any kind? No texts? E-mail? Drunk dialing?
Interviewer: But what if...
Murdoc: Stop. There is no banking on "what if's". Dreams are for sleeping. If you are dreaming with you eyes open, you are probably the idiot on the corner with the accumulation of a life misspent in a rusty shopping cart.
(interruption from moderator)
Interviewer: Shit, we've only got a few more minutes.
Murdoc: So make your last question a good one.
Interviewer: Fuck, this was just getting good. Can we continue this over the phone?
Murdoc: I hate phones. How's about e-mail?
Interviewer: Argh, it's so impersonal. Fuck, fuck, wait (pause, she takes off her glasses and leans into the camera); what is a hit and miss engine?
Murdoc: (big smile) A hit and miss engine is a beautiful feat of old engineering. They were reliable beasts forged of cast iron. They were known and revered for their simplicity and ever-true nature. They ran at an uneven pace compared to most combustion engines, but it is steady that wins the race. The may not have been fast, but their speciality was torque. And when you see or hear one, you will never forget it. Look them up.
(interruption from moderator)
Interviewer: Shit, we're out of time.
Murdoc: Do you kiss your mom with that mouth?
Interviewer: (smiling) Yes, we're very close. Hey, seriously, can we do this again?
Murdoc: What more do you need to know? As far as interviews go, I think we totally fucked this one up and accomplished nothing. Greatness made!
Interviewer: I'm gonna be in Baltimore next month, wanna grab a coffee?
Murdoc: I prefer cheap beer.
Interviewer: Hey (deleted), you're alright.
Murdoc: Fuck, have we learned nothing today?
Interviewer: (sarcastically) Sooorrry, Murdoc. Hey listen...(end video conference link)