Greetings friends and followers! It's time for another round of Blogger Idol. This week's challenge was to pair up with another blogger playing from home and conduct an interview of one another. You will find my results below. Enjoy!
We arranged a meeting at a small bar on the south side of town. He told me one of his friends had recommended the place – said the bartender was quite the character and told really interesting tales. I walked in and wondered just where the hell I had agreed to meet. The bar was far seedier than either of us expected – dirty old wood paneling, dim lighting, the odor of stale cigarettes lingering in the air. I took a seat as I waited for him. I asked the man behind the bar if he had any wine. He opened the cooler to reveal a cardboard box with a spigot on it. I passed and settled for a bottle of beer – nothing on tap here.
Then he walked in. I knew it was him because the bar was otherwise empty and I couldn’t imagine who else would be coming here of all the places. His physical appearance is not important, because it was his words and compelling outpouring of real, raw emotion that had intrigued me and led to my request for an interview.
I introduced myself. He shook my hand and said hello, and quickly began scanning the back of the bar, disappointment appearing on his face as well. He would have to settle for the rail, and so he ordered a glass of Kessler’s on the rocks.
I indicated my bottle of beer in a show of commiseration regarding the lack of any quality alcohol. He sipped at his whiskey, and I asked what drink he had been looking for. He appreciated my astute observational skills. All good writers must possess the ability to read emotion and pay attention to details.
“Jameson’s,” he replied. “But, this will have to do. You can’t always get what you want.”
What great truth was held in these last lines reminiscent of Jagger’s lyrics of lamentation. We both had known such truths – that life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. I felt akin to him knowing that we both suffered from diagnosed mental illness, and I applauded his ability to write about his pain with such abandon. One of the most powerful phrases I had encountered while researching his blog in advance of our interview was “unless you can describe the flavor of the barrel of a gun, you cannot possibly understand.” Shit. That got me. He had me hooked right there; I trembled in my seat as I read this post because I could relate to all too many of the terrible emotions he had artfully transcribed.
I skipped a light, congenial beginning to our interview. “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” “How many siblings do you have?” Who gives a shit. I wanted to get to the heart of this man – to reveal a bit more beyond what he had already bravely exposed on his blog. I asked him to talk a bit about his depression. When had he been first diagnosed? How did he attempt to manage his illness?
He replied, “I was officially diagnosed about four years ago. Now I know that it’s really there, but I suspect it was always there. When I was a kid, nobody medicated their children, so I was never diagnosed. I’ve been seeing therapists since I was a child for one reason or another. I don’t trust them, and I am usually able to find their personal line of ulterior bullshit within a couple visits. You know what I mean?”
Having myself been diagnosed with bipolar disorder approximately fifteen years ago and rotating through a myriad of therapists in that time, I did know what he meant.
He continued, “I don’t see therapists anymore, and I never will again. Now that I am writing, I am never going to give it away for free again.”
This statement quite naturally led into an easy and rich discussion about the cathartic power of writing. Many authors have used their texts as a means of moving beyond their misery. He admitted that he had undoubtedly had his own cathartic writing moments. But to this admission, he added, “Having said that, I find there are definitely times where no matter how much I need or want to work through something, it just is not going to happen. Those sessions are usually heavily edited and hopefully turned into something useful later. If not, they become hate mail. They are then stamped and sent out. It is just one of the ways I can be old fashioned. I use our postal system to deliver my hate mail.”
He took another large gulp of his whiskey and crunched on a few ice cubes that had also drifted in his mouth along with the liquid. I could tell that as his teeth mashed down heavy upon the ice cubes he was silently ruing some other wrong that had been done to him, probably crafting sentences most definitely designed to have a sting. If you hold any doubt about his words becoming hate mail, you should rush to his site right now and read “Go Fuck Yourself.” This post was sent to a former employer as a resignation letter. This guy definitely has some big balls. I think there’s another post discussing his testicles too.
As we sat in momentary silence, it suddenly occurred to me that I had yet to learn this man’s name. I asked, and he replied, “Call me Hank.” I can’t tell you if this is actually his name, or just what he wanted to be called. He spoke these three words with an odd little smirk, but the interview carried on nonetheless.
Being as he seemed relatively private in the way he presented himself, I then questioned what it was that initially prompted him to begin sharing his writing with a public audience via his blog.
“I’ve been maintaining blogs for years,” he quickly offered. “I wrote for a blog in law school, which allowed me to work out my personal shit with the school in a public ways. I want to be a writer, and the only way to do that is to write, so I write. I will never get better without feedback, so the internet seemed like the best place to get brutal and honest advice from strangers who are also writers.”
Hank mentioned his time at law school, and his profession is also noted at many points in his blog posts. As a practicing lawyer, there is a certain level of professionalism typically associated with said occupation. Therefore, I prodded him to find out if he had any fears or concerns about the language and content of his blog.
“I’ve been through this over and over again in my head,” he said. It was easy to believe those words as it was immediately evident that his mind was constantly running laps, thinking, tottering with theory, contemplating life and literature. He continued, “over and over trying to find a hole in my security. Very few people know I maintain that blog, and there is nothing that can lead back to me. It takes a high level of vigilance and editing, but I think I am pretty good about redacting any information that could point to me.”
This was indeed true. It was a level of vigilance and editing that I lacked. My own blog, full of similar “inappropriate” language and content could be linked to me with minimal effort. As an educator, this did concern me. But, I have grown a great love for sharing my writing through my blog, and said love has only been enriched by the opportunity to share my written expression with such intelligent and insightful individuals as the man who I currently shared drinks with.
He had written many posts that intrigued me as I perused through them prior to our meeting, but I wanted to know which of his posts was his personal favorite. His answer was a bit of a surprise, but a very sweet and endearing one.
“It’s a post about playing Candyland with my daughter. I am a cynical, bitter asshole about most things. But that piece reminds me of her, and thinking of her makes me keep my cynicism, anger, and hate in check. I can’t let her be me; she’s too perfect.”
As the focus shifted more exclusively to discussion of blogs, I asked if there were any other bloggers that he followed and admired. He informed me that he once was a follower of Palaniuk before he became a pay site. He confessed that he rarely read blogs, rather devoting his time to literature. We both came to the conclusion that blogs get a bad reputation, but bloggers are truly writers at heart and that stigma should be abolished. Being a literature lover myself and literary teacher, we discussed some of our favorites. It can be immediately concluded from perusing his blog that Hunter S. Thompson has influenced Hank. He shared, “I feel a certain kinship with misunderstood outcasts.” Hank further praised his literary idol, continuing, “The man was brilliant on so many different levels. Most people just know him for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but he was so much more than that. He was a keen political analyst, and had a highly successful prediction rate. He learned to write by typing Hemingway books over and over.” There was far more to the conversation as he applauded Thompson on many different levels.
Hank allowed me to praise my own literary idols like Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen. This conversation digressed for three more bottles of Miller Lite and I don’t know how many more whiskeys he had ordered. I wasn’t really keeping track of that when the conversation was so interesting and sincere.
Finally, we returned to the primary focus of this interview – to build a bigger audience for our respective blogs. I concluded with one last question: why should new readers bother with your blog?
Hank thought a bit and then offered, “I think I have a decent perspective on life, in an unhinged and damaged sort of way. I think I have the ability to write decent fiction, and some of that is mixed into my blog. I want criticism. I think other writers visiting my page will be able to provide a level of criticism the general public will not. Honestly, no writer celebrates the success of another writer without internally hating them. Or is that just me?”
I left his final question lingering, paid my bar tab, and thanked Hank for his time, assuring him that I would be a returning reader of his work. If you want to answer this question for Hank, or offer his invited concrit, please visit him at ibloggedyourmom. Yeah, that’s the title. That tells you all you really need to know about the guy.