Enjoy, folksies. And consider yourselves "tagged."
1) I was born in Edison, NJ, spent my first five years there, and was raised afterward in Paterson. I will make plenty of homes elsewhere, I'm sure, but Northern New Jersey will always be home to me.
2) I never pictured myself being anything close to a professional writer, much less a poet. Every day is surreal. At my day job, or just driving or walking around, I feel very much like a spy.
3) I went to fundamentalist Christian schools from first through twelfth grade. My mother tells me this was done to instill good morals in me, and my father tells me it was to keep me out of the Paterson public school system.
4) My first exposure to contemporary poetry (post-Whitman) was with a professor in college who gave us two poems by Allen Ginsberg: "America" and "A Supermarket in California." It blew my mind that a) he was from Paterson, and b) one of our mayors attempted to have him arrested at a reading for admitting he smoked a joint backstage.
5) First job: Selling pre-paid vacation packages over the phone to people responding to mailers that look like prize certificates. This was also the beginning of my sleep problems.
6) I have a habit of returning to the scene of the crime. On vacation in Orlando, I went past the old telemarketing job to find the place had been converted to a different boiler room operation, this one selling calling cards. I've also driven past my old high school, though I've resisted the urge to stop in, and I took pro shots with my photographer friend at my old elementary school.
7) I once owned a pair of Z.Cavariccis, about a year past when they were in style, and I thought I was THE MAN.
8) Returning to the scene of the crime: I don't believe the religion I was taught in school. Much of what I was taught was simply a front for the most ridiculous Conservative politics, which I bought into initially; hook, line, and sinker. This is a way longer blog post waiting to happen, but suffice it to say, Fundamentalist/Conservativ
9) I've already lost a couple of Facebook friends because of #8.
10) The smell of chalk dust always, without fail, reminds me of my first grade crush.
11) I cannot stand the sound of a balloon popping. When it happens, I freak out, start sweating, and generally need to get outside.
12) Funniest moment I ever had on the job: While talking to a client over the phone, a co-worker nonchalantly hands me a post-it note that says simply "Ass nipple."
13) When I first started coming out to poetry events in New York City, I drove almost daily from Pearl River, NY to (generally) the East Village. The trip was an hour or better both ways, and I would often do so without so much as a dollar in my pocket. What amazes me is that my parents actually supported this foolishness when I couldn't afford to do it on my own. It taught me my longest-lasting lessons on writing, poetry, family, and friends. I'll be forever grateful for that—especially when I look at my fiancee—
14)...my fiancee, by the way, is a poet also. Her name is Tara Betts, and she's gangster. We met three times before we started dating, like Harry and Sally: first, at Lincoln Center's Casita Festival in '04; second, at Raina Leon's workshops at UNC Chapel Hill, '05; and third, in NYC when she moved to Brooklyn (I had set her up with her then-roommate, '05-'06). Our first date was at a jazz club called Smoke, and the trombone player wouldn't stop staring at her. I was hooked much earlier than that, of course.
15) During senior year of high school and my first two years of college, I was an unrepentant right-wing Conservative and faithful listener of Rush Limbaugh. When I learned about the development of Machiavellian politics, U.S. history, death penalty statistics and race relations, I began a perilous shift toward the Dark Side that culminated in my indoctrination into leftist politics. I now wear a giant black respirator mask: it is the only thing that keeps me alive after my fateful light saber battle with Dr. Laura. But Fidel Castro can still kiss my ass.
16) Shortly after I broke up with my girlfriend in '02, I wrote a short story called "Letters To Pablo" in some of the most embarrassingly non-gifted prose I could muster. I detailed our relationship in some rather non-flattering terms, much of which she heartily deserved. We communicated briefly before I discovered that she had found the story online. I didn't hear from her anymore after that. Sometimes, in my darkest hours, I think about that story, and the decision I made to post it online, and then, ever so secretly, I laugh my ass off.
17) TD Bank was much better when it was Commerce Bank. I hate them down to their mismatched green and red logo.
18) I have a classic, somewhat maddening, contrarian nature toward authority. If you tell me to go west, I will always go east. Requests go much further with me than commands do. Likewise, if someone tells me something "must be," I will fight it with every fiber in me. This results in people not liking me at first...people like, say, insurance agents and salespeople. I'm not sure where I got this.
19) The mole on my face grows hair faster than the rest of my beard. Some days I'll have clean lines where I trim the beard, and a wild tuft of hair growing from the mole. These are the days I hate my father, while simultaneously reaching for my razor.
20) SECRET FANTASY: Winning the National Book Award or an Academy prize, refusing to provide the judges with a picture, and showing up to collect my award dressed like El Pachuco from "Zoot Suit." Because I'm from the streets of Los, cabron! Or something.
For the uninitiated: The ceremony looks something like this in my imagination: