Awful Interview: Jamie Allen

29 Jan

Jamie Allen

If you’ve heard me talk about squirrels in the past six months, Jamie Allen is to blame. He’s the founder of the Inman Park Squirrel Census.  Ping-pong is his current game of choice, but if you ask he also has a lot to say about baseball and cricket. Jamie Allen is in the top five most inquisitive people I have ever met. He’s been published in places like the Missouri Review, The Morning News, McSweeney’s, and Salon. You can hear him read on February 7th at the Goatfarm here in Atlanta. It’s going to be splendid.

Jamie, you are much taller than me. What’s the view like up there? How’s the weather?

I’m 6’2”, just like my father. Inside my head, though, I’m shorter. By that I mean, when I think of myself, I think of myself as being somewhere between 5’10” and 6’0”. And when I come across a picture in which I’m standing next to someone who is shorter than me, I’m always struck by how goony I look. Imagine Woody Allen stuck in my body. Fade in on comedy. That’s my life.

Further to this, I’m always impressed with people taller than me for no other reason than they are taller than me. I stand up straighter when near them, as if it might make some difference in our interaction. But here’s the funny thing about that: I simultaneously and fully realize that other people can live their lives without the advantage of excess height, and do quite well with it. You, Vouched, as you have alluded, are not tall. You’re kind of small. But you possess a comfortable confidence in exactly who you are. You draw people to you. I slump when I stand next to you because I want to be closer to what you have to say. So I guess the view and the weather are the same when we’re standing next to each other.

How can you be so sure? How do you know my blue isn’t your yellow?

You mention colors. I don’t know if this is a coincidence, but I am a big fan of colors. All colors, I don’t care. I’ve done some research on the subject, and I have found that many people have a favorite color. Isn’t this fascinating? I hypothesize that this ranking of colors starts in school. I think it’s learned behavior. A teacher says, “What’s your favorite color?” and it immediately puts the student on the spot. They don’t even realize they have a choice to not have a favorite color. So they pick something. I discovered this when I realized my children have favorite colors. At first, I laughed at them – how can one have a “favorite” color? But then I realized they were serious. And then I realized my favorite color is either red or brown. Do you have a favorite color?

I do. Two, actually: mustard and blue. Blue can mean a lot of things though. I don’t mean navy, or cadet, or royal, or cerulean or anything. I mean that weird kind of blue that is between all of those. Do you know what I mean? Try to describe it more successfully than I did.

Oh, I get it now. This is an essay test. OK, well, I think I have mentioned to you, Vouched, that I write terribly to assignment. But I’ll play: I think you mean the color of blue that is in your heart, or a blues singer sitting with his old guitar on a dusty porch on a warm and shiny spring day, or a warm blue taco on a plate in a land of green. With mustard on it? My daughter got me a mustard-colored knit hat for Christmas. I’m very happy with it. My favorite color is now that specific yellow. Do you take your pretzels with mustard? Or do you do that cinnamon-sugar with the sugar sauce thing? Mustard makes me think of pretzels at a baseball game, and that reminds me that I would like to attend more Braves games this year.

Yes, that is the blue I was referring to (all of them). A+, thank you. I hope that Red and Brown’s feelings aren’t hurt now that you’ve left them for Mustard. I do take my pretzels with mustard, especially the whole grain kind if it’s available OR the horseradish kind that really kicks you in the sinuses.
Braves games are fun. What else would you like to do more of this year?

I think there is a movement afoot in which people are against New Year’s resolutions. It’s building momentum, like that wave of hate that large groups of people feel for Valentine’s Day, or the commercialization of love. But now it’s resolutions. More than ever, I’ve heard/read people expressing reservations with or even outright anger towards the idea of making resolutions – one argument being, you know, you’re perfect the way you are, just live your life, or at least don’t buy into something you’re going to fail at anyway. I can see validity in this. But I make a Resolutions & Goals List each year. I fail each time to achieve what’s on that list, but I still do it. And I just did one, so your question is timely. Among the things on my list to do more of: Cuba. Running and eating. Finishing things I start (i.e., stories, ahem). Ping-ponging. Counting squirrels. Reading. Yoga-ing, maybe? Napping, definitely. And appreciating my kids in that silent way that only parents who stare at their children until their children say, “What are you looking at?” can understand.

Are you pro- or anti-New Year’s resolutions, Vouched? I bet you have a big year ahead!

What is with the anti-resolution movement? I think it’s healthy to reflect on your state of affairs and admit to your weaknesses and aspire to do things differently. Coasting through life makes things stagnant. Plus, I like lists. *Steps off of soapbox* I’m pro New Year’s Resolutions. I also hope to always have big years ahead.
How do you respond to your kids when they catch you staring at them? Do you hug them real tight? Do you shrug it off with a, “Oh, nothing.”?

Hugging them, even touching them lightly, would cause them to cry out in pain. They’re like vampires and I’m sunlight. They’re like the Wicked Witch and I’m a bucket of water. I was running in the Peachtree once, right through that section they call Jesus Junction with all the churches. You’ve run this race before, Vouched; you know what I’m talking about. There are people on the side of the road, drinking things and shouting positive reinforcement and ringing bells and spraying hoses, the whole way. So I was making way through the church part, and out of nowhere, it seemed, this priest stepped off the curb with, like, a bucket of I guess it was holy water and this religious-looking sort of object that was about the size and shape of a microphone but was actually built to splash water. (I’m sorry, I know there are names for these things, but I am lazy.) And he dipped that thing in the water and splashed a large amount of it right on my face as I passed. Do you know that for a brief moment when it hit my face I worried that it would burn like acid? But it cooled me instead. Felt great, actually. It was kind of a spiritual experience, right there on Peachtree. I wish my kids would realize the same thing about me. They will. Oh, they will. But now, yeah, I guess I just say, “Oh, nothing.”

Are you a vampire or sunlight?

 I hope to be sunlight, though I’m not sure how to ascertain why. May I be sunlight? From what I’ve seen of True Blood, I’d be a terrible vampire. How would you fare as a vampire?

Haha! Fare. Nice one. I suppose I’d fare on vampire fare. But then if you were sunlight – wait, what are you saying? Do you want to kill me?

 So…*twiddles thumbs*… are you pretty pumped for the reading on February 7th? What do you imagine it will be like? Dream big.

Any reading with you, Vouched, is stimulating and unpredictable. I’m excited to see Rachael, Myke, and Jared tell some stories. That’s all I really need. Thanks for inviting me along!

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