Interview: Thomas Bauerle

Who is it that you most admire?

I admire anyone who can find his own way in life. One of my heroes is Sam Shepard. I mean, the guy does it all. He played drums in the 60’s band The Holy Modal Rounders. He has written 44 plays and books of short stories. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child. He has acted in, directed, and produced Hollywood movies, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. He has been romantically involved with singer Patti Smith, and actress Jessica Lange. There is nothing the guy can’t do. I want to be him.

What would you most like to change about Nagoya?

If I could change one thing about Nagoya, I’d make it just a little more out there. Wilder, more of a nightlife and off the wall artistic anarchic presence. There are so many great musicians and artists in town with very few places or chances to show off what they can do and be appreciated.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My greatest extravagance is the one I take with time. There are days when I have a lot I should be doing, but I really enjoy just relaxing and enjoying my down time. There are also things I should have accomplished by this stage in my life, but I‘ve reveled in the joyful detours.

What is the most overrated virtue?

The most overrated virtue is “success.” By that I mean when success is judged by how much money you’ve accumulated by any means. I have a hard time respecting people whose only talent is racking up ever-higher numbers in their bankbook and portfolio. What are you actually DOING for this world and the people in it that makes things better for your having been here?

What talent would you most like to have?

I would most like to have the talent to say the right thing at the right time. I once wrote a short story about a young girl who inadvertently started a religious cult. Her one talent was the ability to say, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be all right,” and have everyone believe her. Because that’s what everyone really wants from religion, from the government, is to feel that somewhere, someone who knows what they are doing is in control and that it’s all going to be all right. I’d like to be able to say to people who are upset, “Hey, it’s going to be all right!” and then they are comforted and carry on with their lives with no worries.

What do you most fear?

I have a strong case of claustrophobia, so my greatest fear is to be trapped in a situation where I am boxed in, held down and helpless.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I most deplore my occasional laziness.  I’m involved in a lot of things.  I get overwhelmed sometimes.  There are times I just refuse to deal with something because there are just too many small details to deal with.  Sometimes I feel guilty for not saying that one kind word or doing that one kind act for someone else because at the moment, I was just too tired to make the gesture.

What is your current state of mind?

My current state of mind is happiness at home, and I’m going through a great creative writing spurt, but I am also suffering severe pessimism and fear about the future of humanity. Right now there is a lot of nationalism, fear, meanness and pure hate surfacing, and the ascendance of world leaders like Putin, Trump, Duarte, Kim Jong-Un, all of whom are bullies and mean-spirited hate mongers doesn’t bode well for the near future.

What trait do you most deplore in gaijin?

The trait I deplore most in many gaijin is the one I deplore in many people.  Even after traveling and experiencing other cultures and ways of thinking, they sometimes still can’t get it out of their head that the way their home country does things is “the best way.”

Who or what would you like to come back as?

I’ve already decided I will come back as a dolphin. I’ve lost a lot of faith in people lately. Dolphins seem to have a good time. There’s been story after story of them saving people from sharks and rescuing drowning people. And that’s not even their own species! Was on the island of Bali once and went out in a small boat. Suddenly, we were surrounded by dolphins: dozens, maybe a hundred. They put on a show for us, doing flips in the air trying to outdo each other to show off. They would come up to the boat and look at us, like, “Did you see that! Watch this one!” Then they should go out and do a trick. Wild dolphins! They seemed to really be enjoying us being there with them. The show went on for over half an hour, maybe longer. One of the greatest days of my life.

How would you like to die?

I would like to die in a state of peacefulness, knowing full well that I was about to enter the great mystery, lying on a porch or veranda looking out over an ocean or forest, the Rolling Stones playing softly in the background, with my family and friends there chatting happily, there to share the moment. And after I pass, I would like to be buried at the foot of a fruit tree, or fed to a tiger.

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