Monday, February 14, 2005

When I first left school, college, I, like most people was in a bit of a shock. I really missed the sense of community around me not to mention having access to all the equipment. I was at a loss what to do, how to keep making art.

My soon-to-be friend and artist Wendy Jacob told me about a project she did when she first got out of school. For a whole year she drew a picture of an egg. Everyday until the year was up. Everyday a new egg. You might raise your eyebrows at this but to me it was an epiphany and I knew in her very minimalist and subtle way Wendy was sharing something with me not as a linear teaching lesson but more like opening a window to let some air and light in.

Two of the bigger things that I was doing at that moment was trying to reconnect with my sister whom I left at home when I went away and watching a then rather unknown program called Inside the Actor's Studio. Back then James Lipton's end of the show questionnaire was actually longer, containing more questions. So I put the two together, I really can't recall what was going through my head, and used the questionnaire with more added questions and started an interview process.

The questions were very polarized: what is your favorite word? what is your least favorite word? what is your favorite smell? etc.... So I took a tape recorder and went to everyone, people I knew, people I'd see on the street, in cafes and ask to interview them. Obviously I scared a few people but I got a lot of takers and I always began the interview telling them that they could come back and interview me anytime they wanted, with the same questions or ones of their own.

I really learned a lot about listening during the process and the questions often melted into the background, providing a loose backbone for a conversation. There were joyous and beautiful moments and some very sad ones. I was surprised at how many people just opened up. I went to apartments, places of work, offices, school rooms-so many different spaces. I learned how the cadence of my voice and my sitting position could alter and bring out the conversations. I must have interviewed more than two hundred people and it became this monster of a thing, cassette tapes everywhere and then it occurred to me that I wanted to give all these tapes to my sister. I had my reasons, many of them having to do with wanting to give her something meaningful, to give her this beautiful thing that would be an opening into the world. I interviewed everyone, covering a spectrum of ages, professions, etc....

I mention all this because asking people to donate their playlists has sparked a lot of discussion and words about the meaning behind it so I figured I might as well fess up. I had ulterior motives for asking people. I won't know what Atticus will choose. My friend Mike told me

he will find everything he needs in due time and the worst thing is
waiting. why give him 'this' or 'that' now? he will find it when he
needs it. i think of my summer of paul simon. when i found the
pillows. janis joplin. bob marley. when you first played morphine on
my stereo in watterson. i can taste those times that they came unto
me still. and the rediscovery is there again and again.

And he is right. He will. Often the voices of the child are far different from what the parents think or want. I am eager to see and watch what he takes to, what he desires and craves and creates. In no way do I wish to overtly influence that. What I really want to give him is a sense of who I am and who the people around me are. I can't really explain it. I want to give him a time capsule of his early days, of what was going on, where we lived and who weaved in and out of his life. Who my friends are and, odd and cheesy as it sounds, what they listened to. Will my heart be broken if he looks at me and says, "God dad, I really hate Stevie Wonder's voice." Well, yeah, of course I would but I would rather him grow old and hold these song lists in his hand and ponder them, maybe say to me one day, "You know, Uncle Arturo really likes Morrissey." And I would say, "Oh kid, you have no idea."

I would hope that after all the zeitgest of his teenage years, he can come back and be able to look at us and see us with headphones on, doing crazy and stupid and funny and sad things. That he will be able to look at us, well me, as a human being who sings along badly to hip hop and knows all the words to Barry Manilow's Mandy. He may or may not. Whatever his journey is, I am going to give this stuff the way other people give their kids Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls. I mean, he can still play with all that, Trucks OR Barbies, ahem. Oh I don't know.

I rambled on yet again.

Oh, and a lot of people really did come back and interview me. And they have those tapes somewhere with them....

Megan D wrote me this

So I am sitting here, thinking about this playlist long and hard because although Atticus doesnt have the language for it, he already knows Music. We inherit that knowledge genetically. Sitting in the womb he knew music as a heartbeat, hearing your voice from outside, the sound the fluid around him made. So my line of thought is something like this: at this stage in his life what message/communication/conversation do you want him present to/aware of.

I guess my answer is that I want him to hear everything.


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