Well, the plan was, when I came to Utah, and this was twenty years ago, that I wanted a place where I could really get away and be shut off from all the usual kind of incoming of my life in Seattle. I didn't have a phone, no mail delivery, no incoming, no news of the day or anything. I really came to write. Well, now, twenty years later, I've got an incredible number of friends, a large social life. I have a big sign that I hang on my gate. It's made out of metal and it actually says "GO AWAY!"
Does it work?
First, they come and say, "Is something wrong?" And I say, "It is now, because you didn't read the sign." People are very respectful. Nevertheless, over time I have large life here, same thing with Crete. I thought I'd go to Crete and really get away. That didn't work either. And I can't help knowing people, and plunging into the culture and stuff like that. So, it's very hard to hide. You can stay away from the tyranny - it's a very useful tyranny - the cell phone, the Internet, all of that stuff. In fact, I'm writing about this for my website today. It's hard to both remain engaged, remain caring and at the same time not to get drowned by the tsunami. That's one of the great conundrums of the twenty-first century.
I look at your website and I think, "One person cannot read all this in one day. And if you wait until tomorrow, there's a whole lot of new stuff. You can't even catch up with your website."
That's entirely true. None of us even reads everything there. It's impossible. You wouldn't have time to write or observe if all you were doing was reading.
You have to make some choices. And I try very hard to do that, the same way with my own writing. I'm very much involved with a lot of organizations and a long-time member of the Democratic Party. And my best friend is Jim McDermott who is a Congressman from Washington. And I really care and, as a Unitarian minister, have been involved in causes all my life. But, at the same time, if I'm going to be able to write about something that isn't being written by 20 or 35,000 bloggers every day, I try to think about what can I add to the flow, as opposed to the glut, that might be useful. And my skill seems to be looking at ordinary, everyday aspects of existence and try to make sense of it. I try to write about what I know and stay away from what other people do far better than I will ever do.
You're hugely inventive, with or without the advantage of wine. A couple of stories that I particularly liked were your bug Olympics, and your essays about the players. How do you determine who's a player?
You know I wish I knew. And I've struck out at times. I have the feeling that if you pay attention to other people, you are aware on subtle levels that the other person has a sense of humor or an openness, and you click. I was in a bookstore in Moab this morning. And there was a blond lady I'd never met waiting in the gift wrap line for something and I looked at her and thought, "She's a player. I just know." And it was like we'd known one another for a long time. We just clicked in. I don't know how to describe it any other way - you just have a sense that you clicked with someone else. It might be a bus driver or a taxi guy, whatnot, just boom, the connection happens. When that happens and I'm in a wiggy mood, I'll see if people want to play. And sometimes, I've found that Asians who aren't born in this country don't get my sense of humor. I've laid some eggs in a Korean barbeque joint a number of times that I won't go in to. But they weren't players, let me tell you.
But you get up and get back on the horse.
Well, yeah. But, what's the risk? The risk is people think you're nuts. And we frequently think people are nuts. The real risk is that you wouldn't have found someone who had a warm and ongoing sense of humor and that is worth the risk.
I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't take much to entertain me. You can put me down almost anywhere to sit for several hours and just watch people. And it's very hard not to be able to come up with fiction stories, based on what you're seeing or social questions about what's going on with the human environment and that's kind of how I make my living. "Look at that!" And you see what I see.