A friend back in New York forwarded me a questionaire, and it seemed relevant to those of us here at Euro Like Me headquarters, so I got up at six-thirty a.m. and started answering the section marked "MORE PERSONAL QUESTIONS." This is as far as I got....
- Can you make a list of the different places where you have lived until now?
As a kid I lived in North Dakota, though I was too young to remember much of that. The Dakotas were bound up with all the Norwegian food jokes my father made about lefsa and lutefisk, and all the stories he told about his family. I think I remember falling down on an icy bridge and biting through my lip in Wahpeton, but that could be a "recovered" memory.
I grew up in Austin, Texas. Suburban tract house, cool college town, suffocatingly snug at the end. I was a bookworm, then a stoner, then a drama fag and a stoner, then a new waver, then a journalist.
I moved to San Antonio, Texas (also a very cool town) to live with an experimental, multi-ethnic post-punk band of vegan anarchists. That lasted for a couple of months. After they caught me eating ham sandwiches and listening to Elton John, I slunk back to Austin.
Age 25 I moved to New York City. Stayed there for eighteen years. Nice place.
In May of 2005, my wife and kid and me moved to Vienna, Austria.
- How would you trace your personal background up until the moment you were born? What are the most significant points of your parents and grandparents pathways? Where are they from? And if they moved from place to place, why?
My great grandparents, Ole and Tomine, moved to South Dakota from Norway. It was an arranged marriage, and it was said that she watered her rose garden with her own tears. My father never knew his father. Dad grew up very poor and handicapped--he contracted polio as a kid, and nearly lost an arm to it. He studied social work, met my Mom, worked for a time on an Indian reservation, and then they moved to Texas and had me.
My mom's grandfather, Bennett Kerbow, ran the general store in the tiny west Texas town of Mertzon. He was a very high-ranking Mason, he sometimes carried a gun, and I remember him as a kind old man. My mom's father ran a Coca Cola plant. He was a bit of a grump and more than casually racist, but he was a good father to her: he taught her how to dance to country and western music, and he cried when she got old enough to thank him for that. Ma studied speech therapy in North Dakota, met my father, and then they moved back down to Texas. She had my older brother, then she had a daughter, Katherine, who died. Then she had me.
My parents raised my two brothers and I in Austin. They got divorced, and eventually my father moved to El Paso, Texas. My older brother left to live on the open prairie. I moved out to live with my new wave girlfriend in a beat-up commune called Halcyon. My mom left to marry a man in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. That left my younger brother living all alone in the house we grew up in, and I think that got to be pretty depressing for him.