Interview

Questions submitted to me by my friend and excellent blogger.

1. Our hometown (assuming you consider Winona your hometown?) is “famous” for some things, and infamous for a few other things. But what do you think are its hidden treasures – those things that only a local would know, but which are a real joy?

The thing that always strikes me about Winona is its natural beauty.  Even having lived here the majority of my life, there are still moments that make me stop and go, “Wow!”  Like when the sun lights up the lush green bluffs on a clear day.  Or the view of the river from the bluffs just south of town.  But aside from the obviousness of its natural beauty, the first thing that jumps to mind, as an avid people-watcher, is the wealth of true characters in this little river town.  If you take time and sit anywhere people congregate here, you will become privy to all manner of intrigues, betrayals, celebrations, and chance meetings peopled with a wider variety of characters than you would imagine could inhabit a small upper Midwestern burg – pirates, poets, artists, jocks, idiots, fools, players, romantics and cynics.

Strangely enough, I sometimes find the ins and outs of local politics to be somewhat fascinating.  There are long held grudges in this place that STILL find their way to the surface in politics.  And people tend to be very passionate about issues close to home.  That makes the local political scene vibrant and dangerous.  Add in some of the local characters to the mix and it becomes downright crazy.  For example, someone I went to school with who was a horrible student and at one time was reprimanded for paying one student to beat up another student on the school bus he was driving, was elected to the school board.  How surreal is that!

One thing that is not immediately apparent to someone who has not lived here is the real cultural awakening that has occurred over the past 20 years.  There is an active stew of artists and musicians here that makes Winona pretty special.  And now, with local businesses like the Book Shelf, Ed’s No Name Bar, the Acoustic Cafe, and Dib’s Cafe offering an outlet for artists, the bohemian side of Winona is seeing a bit of a small-scale Renaissance.  Also, I can say from first-hand experience that the Minnesota Marine Art Museum is astonishing.

2. You have a difficult time accepting compliments, as do we all. What, though, are you the happiest about – in your physical aspect? And what in your emotional/spiritual makeup? Finally, what moment in your personal history shines in your memory?

A surprisingly difficult question to approach.  I tend to take self-deprecation to new and unheard of levels, because I always felt it kept my ego in check.  When I was a kid, I could be insufferable, because I had an easy time remembering facts.  This made schoolwork easy for me and I reveled in showing adults how smart I was.  But, I also had a love of learning (still do) and I really felt humbled when faced with something new and intriguing.  Anyway, in order to temper myself, I took on a self-deprecating approach, that has now morphed into self-doubt.  So, to actually answer your question…

Physically, I have always been a fan of my eyes.  There is a story from my childhood that I once crawled up on the bathroom counter, looked into the mirror and said in a smooth voice, “Hello there, blue eyes.”  I contend its apocryphal, but my family insists on its validity.  But honestly, they are pretty awesome.  Plus, I have long eyelashes.

Emotionally, I am easily happiest about my ability to listen to others.  It’s the one compliment I have heard over and over from friends and acquaintances and it is something upon which I hang my hat.  It’s vitally important to me to listen to someone, because for them to open up and confide in you is a great gift.  Of course, this is not small talk  I’m referencing.  For some reason, there is something about me that allows people to trust me (and they can) with things they don’t tell anyone else.  Maybe it’s because I try not to judge.  Sometimes I try and offer guidance if the situation calls for it, but the truth is that most people just need to talk about big issues in a non-threatening environment.  I try to offer that.  And that makes me happy and a little proud.

My proudest moment is working harder than I have ever worked in my life, and receiving applause.  When I was cast as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” as a junior in high school, I never imagined how it would fundamentally change my life.  I became much more extroverted, I discovered a lifelong love of acting, found out what real commitment to a goal means, and rode the first of many wild emotional rollercoasters in my life.  I came home from rehearsals physically and emotionally spent, but ready to face it all again the next day.  I broke down in tears in front of the director because all the exhaustion and frustration just had to come out.  And I experienced the unmatchable high of having an audience go completely silent and have their entire focus on me.  There is no bigger rush.   But it wasn’t just about me.  It was everyone connected with the production.  It was the most magical collision of talent of which I have ever been a part.  It’s my best memory.

3. You’ve been “banished” to a desert island for a 3-month solo stay. No contact with the outside world will be allowed, but all your creature comforts will be provided. You are allowed 5 books; which do you bring? You are allowed 5 CDs; which do you bring? And you are allowed 5 DVDs; which do you bring?

I was wrong, this is the most difficult question…

Books

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (technically three volumes, but I’m counting it as one book.  If limited to a single volume, I’ll take one of the Treasuries instead)

The Bible (King James Version) – to be honest, as much for the poetry of the language as anything

A Collection of Modern American Poetry

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – because I can play all the parts to my hearts content

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – one of the only books that made me laugh out loud while reading it

CDs

1. Magnum Mysterium- a collection of sacred vocal music, this is my musical lifeblood

2. Warehouse:Songs and Stories/Husker Du – my favorite album by my favorite band

3. Now and Then/They Might Be Giants – collection of their early albums, simply great music

4. Joe’s Garage/Frank Zappa – profane, deviant, crude, and musically better than almost anything ever recorded

5. Decade/Neil Young – the best of a true musical genius

DVDs

1. The Matrix – don’t know whether its the mythology or the cool factor, but I cannot get enough of this movie

2. Exorcist III –  woefully over-looked sequel with one of the most tense scenes ever put to film, and it stars George C. Scott.  ‘Nuff said.

3. Spencer’s Mountain – a sentimental favorite that I would take along for the incredible scenery alone

4. Clerks 2 – yes, the original is a classic and deservedly so, but this one has SO many laugh out loud moments

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – a complete geek-fest, but seriously… I love this movie

4. Who are your 3 favorite teachers of all time, and why?

Mr. R, my high school choir director.  My first and most important mentor.  Opened my mind to many possibilities, especially the possibilities within me.  He was a person I feared, respected, loved and loathed all at the same time, because he took me far out of my comfort zone, but never let me drift over the edge.  He helped me become more extroverted, gave me tools to actually challenge myself, and revitalized a lifelong love of music and singing.  I owe him more than I could ever repay.

Mr. P, my high school history teacher.  Inspired me to go into education, and if there was one person whose classroom atmosphere I always wanted to emulate, it was his.  Opened my mind to art and architecture and made connections between them and history that made all the dates and events come alive for me.  I have never been so excited to go to class as I was to go to his.

K. C., my college English professor.  Never allowed me to get away with being just good enough.  Saw through me and saw potential.  I still remember asking him about a grade he gave me and him telling me he knew I was capable of constructing a better argument. Ignited my appreciation for Chaucer and my love for defending my opinions, because of his passion for it.  Was kind and cool, but quietly intense.  A true Renaissance man.

5. What does “faith” mean to you?

The definition of faith is sometimes simplified as the acceptance of something we do not fully understand.  But the truth is, faith is complex.  What is more, it is always changing.  When I was a child, I accepted many things just because my parents, or adults or the church said that was the way it is.  But, as I grew older and began questioning and searching out answers for myself, a funny thing happened.  My faith changed.  I doubted, wrestled, researched, prayed, gave up, and somehow rediscovered faith.  When I think back on that journey, it isn’t filled with milestones, but with small zig zags.

At one time, faith was simply comforting.  It was an absence of questioning.  Then, it became a struggle.  Why?  What?  HOW?  Now, it has become a series of questions.  A never-ending Q and A within myself and between myself and God.  Many of the questions I have are unanswered and may always remain that way.

So what is faith to me?  It is the willingness to accept the importance of questions and the absence of answers.

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