9 September 2003, 11:04 p.m.

Questions by Milkmonkey

back & forth

1. Describe what your group of friends in high school was like. Who were the people, what unified you as a group, what did you do for fun? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?

I had splendid, snarky friends in high school, when I finally got any friends. There were three sets, defined not by people but by locations. First, my library friends: three maternal grown-up women who really, really, really looked after me and a few other misfits who hung out in the library. I had my own carrel, next to the bronze head marked 'Ave Caesar morituri.' I went directly to the library during any free period, including lunch. Libraries are still paradise for me -- stillness, and the fact that there, at least, nobody questioned my physical addiction to reading.

Then I moved to the Window, which was in a corridor which connected the social science wing to the assembly hall / theater. This is where the 'bad' theater kids hung out. They wore long black Brooks Brothers style wool coats, and I am shocked that they put up with me. (Ever a rebel, my 'BBC [big black coat]' was black with a diagonal blue pinstripe. What a garment! How I would love to get my hands on it again.) They taught me bitchiness. There was an opera singer (a girl with a glorious voice), there was the first boy I ever had a crush on (although I hadn't parsed it properly then); most important, a gang of articulate, good-natured kids who nevertheless demonstrated that you could question authority without being a dick about it.

When the kids with the Magic: The Gathering took over the Window, I moved into the front hallway of the main building of the school. There I and a group of fellow-Window-exiles mingled with the Indian and Thai mafia that secretly ran the school. Seriously. I and AT were like the token white kids. Kisses to GB (whom I saw later when she was at Br*n M*wr), AB (H*rv*rd) and especially CS (P*tt, and I'm so sorry I never found you again -- you'd understand EVERYTHING now). We were cruel as hell, in a school where cruelty could be divided into specialities. We specialized in academic cruelty.

Others were more conventionally cruel: it was a private school, and if you didn't have the right car or the right clothes you didn't count. Apparently my group didn't count. Like most ugly power-bases, however, we mattered more than the preppy slime who owned the pretentiously-named Senior Commons room. I only went into the Senior Commons a handful of times -- I wasn't allowed in until I was a junior, and by then I was too offended by the exclusion to want to darken its threshold. My compatriots in the Mean Intellectual Clique (we had no name) seemed to agree. Damn! In retrospect, our power was dizzying: we had a stranglehold on any school prize and the presidencies of 80% of the extracurricular clubs.

College was enough of a watershed for me that I never really tried to keep up with my high school friends. I would love to see some of them again, but wouldn't necessarily work at it.

2. In the next ten years, do you plan on traveling anywhere? Where do you think you will go?

In a few weeks, viz., 25 October, I'll be going to Australia with my parents to meet their friends and relations. Hope to see Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream at the Sydney Opera, go to the races, see the Blue Mountains. Exciting stuff, but basically the only real travelling I will have done since graduating. I spent enough of the Sw*t years going back and forth between P*ttsb*rgh, Ph*l*d*lph**, T*nbr*dg* W*lls, and *b* Dh*b*. I suppose I wanted to settle down a bit, despite my sagittarian wanderlust. Maybe that's why I've been in such a funk these last three years.

3. What brought you to where you are right now?

EN, who was a great constant and a beacon to me at Sw*t. I said to her, shortly before college spat me out as indigestible, "I want to move to B*st*n." I said this because I knew she wanted to move to B*st*n. I came up here that spring break, made lox sculptures in her parents' dining room, fell in love with the snow and N*wb*ry Str**t and S*m*d*y C*f* and C*r***s L*q**ds, and the rest is history. Of course, there were causes before that: I had a N*w *ngl*nd fetish that I couldn't massage whilst I was in college. Also, B*st*n is a hotbed of the Early Music. Where I am now is in bed with my Powerbook G3 (my dad made me a Macintosh fan), SLB's cat (EN introduced me to SLB, SLB introduced me to her cat), listening to Handel's Israel in Egypt (some god with a sick sense of humor gave me this deep, expensive thirst for baroque music).

4. And when you want to live, how do you start, where do you go, who do you need to know?

I go to the past, of course. I know what paradises I've had before -- the library at my highschool that had a reading room covered in WPA-style murals, leather chairs, chandeliers, panelling, twelve-over-twelve windows, books. There was my gran's solarium in T*nbr*dg* W*lls, where I would sit with cats and sketch or write and look at the rain when I was a kid. There was my bedroom in P*ttsb*rgh -- books, of course, and mess. Perhaps I'm in too domestic a mood to talk about what I really want when I live -- no, that's not quite right, since perhaps I'm taking 'living' as what you do in the interstices between being home. And the things I leave the house to do must be really different from what I can do in order to coax me out of this kind of comfort. As I get older, 'living' has to be more and more spectacular to get any kind of reaction out of me.

I am imagining the situations where I'd say 'Now this is living.' They are divided between acts of freedom and acts of comfort -- on the one hand, speeding down the highway, wind everywhere, on the way to some great mystery, half an hour late. On the other hand, sitting at a table where the quiche is just right, the wine perfect, the candles flickering. This is living.

5. Why aren't you a rockstar?

[Dies laughing] No talent at making the rock music. I play precious music with trills in. I'm perfectly happy being an eccentric -- mass appeal would vex the pants off me. Also, I don't pay my PR people enough. When I fantasize about fame, I fantasize about the moment when I noticed that Lytton Strachey makes an appearance in everybody's biography. That's what I want, to be the Zelig of the early-twenty-first-century intellectual Úlite. Also, my vinyl jeans don't fit any more.