Don't be shy about asking me about my work or what I do. I wrote a photo essay on the Berlin Wall based on my research there. I'm currently writing another photo essay about various sites in Prague, covering topics such as self-immolation, philosophers who die as martyrs, the ashes of cremated communists, fanciful etymologies, Buddhist sutras, and analyses of film scenes. Over the next few days I'll write about death masks. Not all of my work deals with such gruesome things. Earlier this year I wrote an essay about my deaf cat Bosko. I'm also writing a much longer essay about public art in post-communist Central Europe. I have many interests. I'm also a runner. Just don't talk to me about running. And talking to me while I'm running rarely ends well. I translate from several languages. I'm a musician, and I've produced three albums. I'm a slow reader and a slow talker. And a slow thinker. That is all for now. Thank you for reading and for being my friend.I posted this to Facebook several days ago in response to charges that I rarely make the effort to be sociable. I disagreed, of course. To some extent. This post was also really a follow-up to a previous post here in which I requested new friends because it seemed that nobody has any interest in what I do or any ability to interact in a functional way with me. You know: hard stuff like Q followed by A. And if I'm criticizing your social skills, then you've got major problems.
In my own defense, however, I have reasons for the way I am. I grew up gay and very religious on a farm in rural Texas. AIDS made the headlines when I was beginning to think about sex. Also, I was intelligent. A counselor once measured my IQ and then declared that he had never seen such a high score. I nonetheless concur with Peggy Hill: "Well, whoop-dee-doo! I am the smartest hillbilly in Hillbilly Town!" (And yes, I was class valedictorian.)
There are two other ingredients you should know about that are added in the mix: my parents abused me horribly as a child. It wasn't always physical, but it was indeed always mental. Also, I had several speech impediments and would attend therapy in school until fourth grade.
That said, there's something much easier for me about meeting people and having great, intimate conversations with ease when I'm overseas. A lot of people don't understand that. But there's a lot of pressure here to fit in. I've never fit in. And when I speak, especially to strangers, I'm struck by how odd I must sound. Always being asked by my compatriots, "What country are you from?" does not instill in me much confidence. When overseas, there's not the same kind of pressure. I even think my personality bloomed when I was living in Japan, when even the pressure to look like others was lifted.
Some of my happiest times have been abroad. Some of my proudest moments have involved non-native speakers gleefully admitting that they understand my English better than that of any other American. At least somebody understands me on some level!
If I've managed to resist the terrible inertia of introversion to meet you, then I've made--and I am still in the process of making--shitloads of effort to be sociable. It's because you intrigue me and seem to be open to (or patient with) dealing with someone like me. And for that, you will have my undying love.