what’s your expertise?

tuesday night at sxsw, i wandered around bruce sterling’s party rather aimlessly.  i’d started out giving michael a fake tour of the house, describing everything to him as though i lived there.

“here’s my kitchen.  we eat breakfast here sometimes.”
“that’s not usually where i keep the garbage can.”
“my stove.  i used to have this plastic tupperware box to keep sandwich bread in.  one time i forgot that the stove was still hot, and i put the box lid on it by mistake.  there was melted plastic all over the place!”

in the living room we flipped through a book entitled why paint cats: the ethics of feline aesthetics.  “cats aren’t really my thing,” i said.  “someone gave it to me as a gift.”  michael and i agreed that why paint cats was a book we’d both want to own as a bizarre conversation piece, but we wouldn’t pay money for it.

as people do at parties, we eventually went our separate ways.  michael wandered off somewhere, and i went out to the front porch.  there were too many people there–enough to cause the kind of loneliness that’s sometimes worse than the alone kind.  i ran into molly, and we talked for a few minutes (she has an awesome green leather jacket which is the complete opposite of my awesome green leather jacket).  “can i ask you a question?” she said.

“sure,” i said.

“it’s a personal question, it’s not web-related.”


“what’s one thing you know a lot about that nobody ever asks you about?”

“oh!” i said, surprised.  i’d been expecting the worst, as i do whenever someone asks for permission to ask me something.  but it was an interesting question, one i’d not thought about before.  i was quiet for a moment.

molly smiled.  “i like this question because everyone has to think about it before they answer, and every time someone answers it i learn something new.”

“it’s a good question,” i said.  “i guess it’d be the x-files, but more specifically x-files screenwriters.  sometimes i can tell who wrote an episode just by watching it.  also abstract expressionism, particularly the career of philip guston.”

molly was so excited about my answers to the question that i got excited about it, too, and after we talked about screenwriting for a minute, she and ari and i asked some other people the question:

ari:  navajo indians
colin:  being the child of hippies
jeff:  making spaghetti sauce while watching mafia films.
kevin:  said he would think about it.  may still be thinking about it.
molly:  urban planning in germany in the 1920s
nick:  skateboarding
rusty:  aerodynamics
zack:  12th and 13th century mongolian history

i was surprised and delighted by every answer we received.  i’d forgotten that people are three-dimensional that way.

i spend most of my time at home or at work.  when i’m at home i read or make jewelry or do stuff on the internet, and there’s not a lot of human interaction.  when i’m working at the restaurant, i talk to customers or the other waiters.  i’ve known most of the waiters for a long time, and i love them dearly, but it’s more a function of solidarity than of common interests.  as much as i love my coworkers, i don’t feel like they understand much of what i say.  i self-censor a lot.

as a direct result of these things, i don’t feel like i belong anywhere.  of late i’ve started to lose valuable parts of myself that don’t really have a place in my everyday life.  that’s why sxsw this year made me so happy.  i’d forgotten that i can be smart and funny and well-read and interesting.  i’d forgotten that there are people like me who know what i mean and get my jokes.  i’d forgotten that i’m three-dimensional, too.

yesterday, finally, i applied for a job.