Interview with /byrneunit
Never done before and probably never to be attempted again is a Leahpeah interview with more than one person at a time. But how can one not be compelled to find out more when it comes to the dynamic couple that call themselves Byrneunit? One cannot. And so, compelled, I venture into new territory and Erin and Brian have gamely come along. They live in Tulsa with their son Henry, who is himself uncommonly good looking, where Brian gives great radio voice and interviews people FOR A LIVING (swoon) and Erin spends her days in the stacks, smelling the knowledge right out of those old books where it enters her head and makes her think that all people know what philately means. They both have ‘butt’ on the brain.
Brian: green text
Erin: purple text
June 23, 2003
Why do you blog?
A few reasons. For one, I’ve always felt I needed the practice writing, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep a journal for shit. I’ve tried time and again, and I always run into the same fundamental problem: Who the fuck am I writing this for? I’m sure as fuck not gonna go back and read it, and I’m sure as sure as fuck not gonna let anybody else read it, so why the fuck am I not watching “The Core” on Showtime Extreme West Coast right now? For real, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank can’t keep the planet from disintegrating if I’m not watching. It’s true. I asked them, and they told me.
For another, beyond needing practice writing, I think blogging helps keep me from going off at the mouth (keyboard) too much, as I have a tendency to write thousands upon thousands upon thousands of words when all I’m trying to say is, for example, that I tend to write very long sentences. Seven words are important, but just to be on the safe side I’ll pad them with an extra few hundred. Just to keep them from breaking during shipping.
For yet another, I am an extremely lazy writer, and I did find that having a blog, with its implied throngs of five (dare I dream, ten?) readers out there in Internetsville, was a solid enough prompt toward actually finishing things — small things, in manageable doses, and with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Entries like that strike me as legitimately good writing practice, assuming you can actually pull one off and not just spend all your time posting photographs of your television. (Cough.)
AAAAand finally, blogging has helped teach me to edit myself on the fly, and to ask myself one all-important question: Is what I’m writing the least bit entertaining? Because if not, it’s basically a journal entry, and look, I’m okay with baring my soul and all, but I apply the same (previously) unspoken understanding to the blog that I do with most of my friends: I am perfectly happy to hear what’s troubling you on a deeply felt emotional level. Just not that often. Because — and this is very important — I’m friends with you because you’re fun to drink with and you’re smart and not irritating and you make me laugh. I’m also pretty sure that’s why most of my friends are friends with me. I’m thinking an absolute maximum of maybe one bout of soul-baring every month or two is about as much as I feel comfortable foisting on my real-life friends, and thus the same goes for the Internets.
See those three paragraphs? 445 words. One question. We’re gonna be here a while. Now’s your chance to jump ship while we’re still in sight of the shore.
I like telling stories and making people laugh. I see things every day and it’s like the people that read our site are the invisible person standing next to me sharing the horror that is every fucking day. Not that every day is bad. No, things are actually very good. But it’s like this, I was in the stacks at work the other day and I found a 3 volume encyclopedia of philately and I immediately wanted to tell everyone I’d ever met. Byrneunit is kind of like that. It’s everyone I’ve ever met.
What do you talk about?
Television, our baby, the cats, drinking, popular culture, shit that’s funny. One thing I love about blogging is that it’s a perfect outlet for publishing stuff that’s funny enough to say to a bunch of people, but not so capital-G Great that anyone would ever want to publish it in any legitimate medium. Yes, bloggers, I just insulted our entire milieu, just because it doesn’t kill trees to happen. There it is, out in the open: We are not rocket scientists, or the next generation of something. That doesn’t make us bad people. It just makes us narcissists.
Television mostly. I love watching TV and I’m completely unashamed to say so. I think people who don’t watch TV and (GASP!) don’t have a TV are boring. They’re often quite full of themselves and look down their nose at those who do watch TV. It’s like Cool Whip, just because something is in bad taste, doesn’t mean it tastes bad.
I also write about other stuff, I guess. Stuff like my clothes and stuff that happened when I was a kid.
What don’t you talk about? Why?
I don’t talk about my family. (The mom ‘n’ dad family, not the one E and I made.) I don’t want to say anything that would hurt their feelings, because they’ve got enough shit to deal with on a day-to-day basis without inadvertently booting up one day and discovering that my tenth birthday party was the moment my entire life began to slide inexorably downhill and it’s ALL THEIR FAULT. (It wasn’t, and it isn’t.) Plus my dad, at age 60, has suddenly discovered the Internets. I believe this is entirely because my mom bought a bitchen new iMac, mostly at my urging, making the fact that they now know we keep a blog at least partially my fault.
I also don’t talk about any bitchery E and I might have between us, because for one, it’s none of your goddamn business, and for another, it kind of seems like running to a bunch of strangers for sympathy, and that’s a cheap thing to do in a non-public forum, let alone one that’s, y’know, available for people in Chad to read over lunch. Plus it’d be kind of awkward to bitch about each other now that we’ve combined our blogs.
Also I don’t talk about work, because it’s really a terrible idea. Beyond the fundamentals, my boss and at least two of my coworkers read our blog, and since I work with a total of five other people, that’s a solid fifty percent saturation of the coworker market, and no amount of crafty syntax can disguise who you’re talking about in a situation like that. For example, if I said I had a problem with a female coworker, I’d immediately be down to two possible candidates. Both of whom read the site.
I don’t talk about things that make me think too hard. I don’t talk about politics because I’m not really able to say anything other than “I hate Republicans” and that’s not exactly trenchant commentary. I don’t talk about things that are too personal, when I do talk about my family I keep it light. It’s nobody’s business. I’ve learned no to talk about work, I’ve gotten into quite a bit of trouble for that. I’ll go into it a little more with the next question.
Worst/best experience regarding something you wrote in your blog or put out on the net?
One time I wrote an article for Salon (dude, I don’t know how it happened either) about going to a Tesla reunion tour concert at Incahoots in Oklahoma City, and it turned out pretty good, despite some decisions by the editor I now question, and so many people wrote nice e-mails that it made me feel like humanity can be worth having around. When somebody takes the time and makes the effort to say something nice to me, that seriously blows my mind. People are sooooo ready to say shitty things to each other, and that goes quintuple on the Internet, and so when the opposite happens, it’s always sort of touching to me. I’m kind of a sap. I should mention that.
I’m not sure about the worst, but I’d kind of rather not dwell on that, so if it’s all the same to you, let’s move on to the next question.
The worst experience is all the shit that’s happened with my job. I’m still not going into it too deeply, but I know that a few people in the library system read my site and I know that the library administration is not at all happy with it. I used to talk about work more, little things like about how miserable I was and how working with the public depressed me. But I was called to the carpet for that, so I stopped. Then I was recently taken to task again because I called a state representative a choice name. So, yeah, everyone knows I’m a librarian, but that’s it. I’m leery of even talking about good things that happen. Well, other than the encyclopedia of philately.
As for the best experience, I guess it would be the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve gotten in knowing those people. All in all it’s a good experience. Like I said, I like making people laugh. However, I’m quite surprised that so many people do read my shit every day.
What is the other person’s best post evah? Which one of your own is your favorite?
I really can’t name complete unmitigated best ever anythings, because my recall is so incredibly awful that I’m a hundred percent sure I’m forgetting six or seven better things. That said, I always liked this one of Erin’s a lot. It’s about her mother, who is a wonderful and loving and often singularly bizarre person, one whom I really never get tired of and honestly count myself lucky to know.
As for my own, there was this one time when a certain distinguished general of the Rebel Alliance came to an untimely end in our garbage disposal; that prompted a post I still enjoy.
My favorite post of Brian’s is the one he did about Admiral Ackbar. We still have the Admiral on a shelf on the back porch, covered in his death shroud.
As for my own favorite, I’m always kind of enamored with the most recent one. Sarah Brown once said that reading your own stuff was like looking in a mirror. I’m quite pleased with the one I did about Where the Boys Are, but I also like the one about Last of the Mohicans. See, more TV. Well, movies on TV.
What does the other person do that bugs you super much and why do you love that about them?
This almost doesn’t count, because it rarely bugs me. But: One of the things I love most about E is that despite the fact that she’s really not a very good singer — like particularly the part where you stay in a single key throughout the song, and it’s the same key the instruments are playing in. She loves to sing, though, and she does it often, in a hearty and spirited fashion. The only time it bugs me is when it’s during a song I’m trying to listen to. As for why I love that, it’s because it’s an expression of this completely unashamed and joyful part of her that makes her just radiate. It comes out when she reads books to little kids too, which is why she gives the best fucking story times in the world, ask any kid who went to one of hers.
Brian is more patient than I am. I tend to jump into things without looking and he slows me down and makes me look before I leap. It drives me nuts though, because I just want to jump. For example, after I had a miscarriage, I wanted to get pregnant immediately because I thought that would make me feel better and everything would be perfect. Brian pointed out a litany of reasons that that was not a good idea, number one being that neither of us were ready for that. He was right and I was so pissed.
Favorite/worst thing about living where you live?
The best thing about Tulsa is the retardedly cheap real estate, which allows us to have quite possibly the prettiest house we’ll ever live in. There are loads of beautiful houses from the 1920s in our part of town, almost enough to allow me to ignore the miles and miles of sad, disgusting Plano-like tract houses out South.
The worst thing about Tulsa is, I gotta say, Tulsans. Not all of them: There are some true jewels among the obese, hateful fundamentalists, but man, there sure are a lot more obese, hateful fundamentalists. Plus the heat and the tornadoes officially wore out their welcome with me roughly two decades ago. Give or take a decade. I am thirty years old, for clarification.
Ah, Tulsa. It’s super cheap to live here. Like, insanely cheap. We have an awesome house that we’re able to live in without starving or going without prescription medication. Both of our families are here and it’s good to have that support system, especially now that HGB is here. I like Southern cooking and it’s quite abundant ’round these parts. Things are just slower here and it’s easy to go at your own pace.
However, easy is a wicked trap. It is easy to live here, but it also kinda kills your soul. Tulsa is still totally segregated and oh, oh, so Christian. It’s nearly impossible for me to imagine living in a city where the majority of the people share my political beliefs. Yes, technically Tulsa had a Democrat for a mayor and Oklahoma has a Democrat governor, but it’s a negligible amount of Democrat. Like traces of uranium.
The blue laws are insane here. The powers that be want to do all they can to keep liquor out of our hands. One of my favorite quotes is from Will Rogers who said “Oklahoma is the only state that staggers to the polls to vote dry.” But they took care of that because liquor stores are closed on election days; at least until the polls close. We wouldn’t want anyone drinking and voting.
I was wondering, do you ever watch American Idol or other base reality television?
What could possibly prompt you to ask such a question?
Fucken American Idol. Brian and I started watching it like, three years ago. But we just watched the auditions. But when it would go from Gong Show to Star Search we’d turn it off. But last year, I don’t know what happened. We didn’t turn it off. Every week it was just, like, “Well, might as well.” Then when it got to the top 12 and we were stunned to realize that we were, well, I don’t want to say emotionally invested, but we just had to ride that bitch out.
When this season rolled around there was some serious discussion about whether or not we could handle it. But then it started and there was never any question.
The only other reality show we watch is America’s Next Top Model and we’ve been on that ride since the beginning. Again, there was question as to whether or not we could commit this year, but who am I trying to kid?
How would your spouse describe you?
Hmmmm. I don’t really know. I think she’d say I’m tall and kinda smelly, and that I spend too much time watching “The Core” on Showtime Extreme West Coast. But she’d also say nice things about me, because she’s nice like that. To me, anyway.
He would say I’m funny. He’d say I’m cute. He’d say that I read a lot and that I’m a worrier. He’d also say that I’m killer at Trivial Pursuit.
Quick: ten words that start with B. Go!
That’s eleven, and I started to type a twelfth one, and then I realized I’d already said “Butt.”
If you were president of the US:
ooooh man. (Sound of soapbox being dragged out from underneath sofa.) Okay, first and foremost, EVERYBODY GETS TO GO TO THE DOCTOR WHEN THEY’RE FUCKING SICK, PERIOD, BECAUSE WE’RE ALL FUCKING HUMAN BEINGS EVEN IF WE DON’T MAKE MUCH MONEY, YOU HORRIBLE HORRIBLE SOULLESS FUCKING CONGRESSIONAL ASSHOLES.
Second and foremost, the minimum wage goes up, up, up, until it’s enough to live on. This will drive prices up, and that’s fine, because you know what? If we all make more money, we can fucking afford to pay a tad more.
Third and foremost, we start sending one fruit basket a month to all the nations in the world that fucking moron frat boy in the White House and his cadre of pure evil have spent the past six years alienating, fucking over, or both. Eventually we call and say we’re sorry about the mess. Then we go from there.
Fourth and foremost, we bring back the trains, bitches. National passenger high-speed rail, and the automakers can eat a dick. Everybody takes public transportation whenever possible, and everybody fucking sucks it up and walks a little more, and oh my goodness look! Suddenly we’re not all quite so horrifyingly obese any more! How did this happen?
Fifth and foremost, somebody’s gonna figure out a system so we don’t have to put so goddamn many stray animals to sleep. If we’ve gotta repurpose farmland for a kitty refuge, so be it. People can come visit and marvel at the lack of avian and small rodent life.
Sixth and foremost, I would follow the example set by William Henry Harrison and Fidel Castro, and give speeches that last between four and nine hours. Or I’d pay somebody to do it, because man, I’m not sure I’ve got more than about forty-five minutes in me. And that’s with the fart jokes.
Seventh and foremost, Pat Robertson goes the fuck down and stays down. I don’t care what kind of charges we have to trump up for him. We’ll think of something.
Eighth and foremost, Rip Taylor gets a cabinet position, period. Not a briefing goes by without confetti from here on out.
I have several hundred more assertions like this, but trust me, it’s pretty much downhill from here.
I’d dress up, eat shrimp cocktail, and watch a lot of TV.
Is it weird being a parent? Did it change your life?
I guess it is weird, but generally I’m too busy marveling at how fucking precious our baby boy is. Seriously, he blows my mind on a daily basis. I can watch him look at stuff all day, and try and imagine what he’s thinking, how he’s putting stuff together. I love watching him enjoy very basic things, like when he vigorously pats horizontal surfaces. I love seeing the unvarnished happiness he gets when he learns to do stuff like sit up, which he did like, last week. He’s just so pleased about it.
And yeah, it did change my life, for the much much better. It has only begun to change my life. Years from now I will look back on this time and guffaw at how relatively little my life had changed nine months into the game. And then I will pull directly back on the throttle of my rocket car, sending it screaming into the stratosphere, because goddammit, it’s nearly two thousand fucking ten, and do you see my rocket car anywhere? What about yours? Anybody got a rocket car? We’ve been lied to, my friends. Lied to.
Yes, it did change my life, but no, it’s not weird. It’s not weird because we’re still the same people we were only now there’s one more of us. It’s had a very positive effect on me. I’m more together, I don’t drink as much (there was a considerable amount of drinking before HGB came along) and I quit smoking. I get more done. I think that’s because I don’t sleep in on the weekends or if I do, it’s until, like, 8:30. Plus I have a much better picture of who I am and what I want from life. I could never live well for myself, but now I live well for him. He needs me to be my best. I guess that part is weird. It’s been so long since I’ve felt my best that it’s a little hard to adjust to. I’m all, do other people feel like this all the time?
Sometimes I miss my pregnancy heft. There was something so pleasing about it.
What is your day job?
I work in public radio, and for this I am so lucky it’s pathetic. I honestly do not deserve a job this good.
I’m a reference librarian. Up until recently I was a children’s librarian, but I like reference work a lot better. Every day I have to keep myself from going into the stacks and rubbing all over the books. We have the presidential papers all the way back to Washington. I take that back, for some reason we don’t have Coolidge, but still. Most of them. There’s a locked case full of old yearbooks and you have no idea how happy it makes me to know that I have access to the key. People call and ask questions and it’s my job to answer them and the truth is, I love to answer questions. Brian once said that this was a job I was born to do. I’d never thought of it like that, but he’s right.
What actor would play you in the movie of your life?
God, y’know, we’ve been around and around on this, and I think at one point we decided it’d be Jason Lee, and I think I’m still all right with that. But spiritually, I think I’m more of a Walter Matthau. And by “think” I mean “know like I know the water is wet and the sky is made of air.”
For a long time I said Alyson Hannigan. I guess it’s still her, but her acting is kinda suck. I can tell you who’d direct the story of my life. That’s David LaChappelle. I want my biopic to be encrusted with Swarovski crystals, as that is the only possible way to jazz up the life of a woman who, if she didn’t have to, would never leave her pajamas much less her home.
I don’t really have one. Green is high on the list, though. Let’s say green.
Sushi, oh sushi, oh my dear god how I love you sushi. If I found out I would only be able to eat one food for the rest of my life, I would weep for joy because hey! Sushi forever!
When you were 10, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A cartoonist. I have always nursed the suspicion that I had the right answer back then, and that I’ve been deluding myself ever since.
What do you hate?
Greed, weakness, and bigotry. Also terminally melodramatic and self-centered people make me want to swing big heavy boards at them until they stop doing their thing.
Also, I really truly hate bad punctuation. And grammar. And I hate the TV news a real real lot, and I can’t keep talking about stuff I hate because I’ll be going all night.
A lot. People say that hate is a strong word, but sometimes it’s the only one strong enough for how I feel, and sometimes it’s not at all strong enough. Ok, I hate religious fundamentalists and all they stand for, which is hatred and bigotry disguised as love and acceptance. I hate the way they give you that “Oh, pity” look when you tell them you don’t go to church. I hate it when people tell me to have a blessed day. I hate tabouleh. I hate eggplant. I hate it when I tell people that I hate eggplant and they say “Oh, but you haven’t tried my eggplant!” Well guess what, does it have eggplant in it? Because that’s the part I hate! I hate Tom Cruise (see religious fundamentalists). In Hell I would be eating eggplant with Tom Cruise for all eternity.
What do you love?
Kitties, babies, baby kitties, also the dogs and the baby dogs as well. Animals, actually. I’ll go so far as to embrace the entire kingdom animalia, with the exception of the insects. And some of them are even okay. I love Scotch, the single-malt kind, because drinking each of the 85 or so different malts is like meeting a new, unique person, and though that’s the kind of crap people who write about Scotch say all the time, they say it because it’s true. Scotch is simultaneously your drinkin’ buddy and your drink.
I love people who make me laugh, and people who are fun to get drunk with as they make me laugh. I love, love, love to sing, and I wish I got to do it for people more often. I love smoking. Oh, man, I really love smoking. I’m gonna have to get past that one eventually, because I also seriously love our baby, and the smoking’s gonna start subtracting the time I get to spend with him before too long here. And y’know, the wife, she’s okay too, I guess.
Quite a bit. I love Beverly Hills 90210. I love cheese fries with ranch and bacon (though they’re not my favorite food because favorite food implies that you could and would eat it every day. Cheese fries do not fall into that category) I love the water, but I would never scuba dive. I love answering questions. I love winning, especially when the game involves answering questions. I love my hair.
And if anyone is wondering why I didn’t list my family (including kitties) in my love list, that’s because I figured you guys already fucking knew that.
What about coffee?
Christ, I forgot to mention how fucking much I love coffee. Please, please, please put that in there. It’s really important to me.
What do you want to tell other bloggers, if anything?
Good luck to all of you. Please fucking punctuate your goddamn websites correctly.
Don’t give me (or any of your readers) a list of what you did today. I know it’s your site and the whole point is to talk about yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should just pound out the contents of your DayRunner. Follow my handy dandy litmus test: If you don’t want to hear someone talking about it, chances are nobody wants to hear you talking about it.
Astounding facts about you:
I am pleased to state, after reading the delightful Alice’s interview on this very site, that I am one of at least two otherwise semi-functional adults in this world that can not ride a bike. My reasons are pretty much exactly the same as hers: I just can not wrap my head around the idea of moving forward, in a non-car environment, while not walking. It totally freaks me the fuck out. Thus, roller skating, ice skating, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and basically anything other than leisurely strolling are basically out. Do not pity me for this, as it’s very rare that I think about it.
- I am almost entirely deaf in one ear and working on the other; despite this, I maintain a very fine singing voice.
- When I was three years old I busted my head on a dashboard in a car accident, burned my left calf with an iron, had my appendix taken out, and had a bout with the whooping cough. On the other hand, I have never broken a bone or had a cavity. Draw your own conclusion from this.
- I’m pretty sure we’re told the future in our sleep, and we forget almost all of it when we wake up. (See aforementioned head injury for possible explanation.) It’s not something I like to talk about, because it’s kind of an insane belief, but just the same I believe it. I’m not kidding. Don’t ask me for details, though.
How sad is it that I can’t think of one single thing? Quite.
Thank goodness that Henry was available for that question. Henry, could you please tell me something amazing about your mom?
An astounding fact about my mom is that she has an encyclopedic knowledge of serial killers, and that she sometimes eats sauerkraut* directly from the jar for minutes on end. That’s two things, technically, but I don’t quite know my numbers yet, so cut me some slack.
* — “Smells like feet; tastes like heaven.” That’s a direct quote.
Are you Windows or Mac? Why?
I am a large white male secular humanist, one who has always bought Macs. They’re just categorically better in every conceivable way, in a nutshell. Plus OSX never crashes. Like, never. Seriously, I’ve been using it since they first sold it in 2001, and the system has crashed like twice total. In five years.
Do you cook?
I like very much to cook, and I almost never do. I never plan ahead to have the right ingredients, and I’m too slow to get anything done in the kitchen by mealtime.
Yes. I tend to make the same things over and over. I don’t think I’m an excellent cook. I’m an OK cook. Brian complements me, but his taste buds are fried due to years of smoking.
What are you working on right now?
There’s a little something-something I’m trying to put together at secretstar.org. Also I’m in a minor writing group (it’s kind of a drinking group, really), and we do little exercises that I find really helpful. (Stretching, mostly.) Also I’ve got the first nine to twelve pages of a novel written down. 388 to 391 pages to go!
Getting a new job. As much as I like being a reference librarian, I need more money. I’m also working on writing more for myself. That’s hard though. I still can’t completely convince myself that people want to read what I have to say. We’re also working on moving. There are precious few job opportunities, so we must go out and seek our fortune.
What will you being doing next year?
I have some very strong hopes and dreams that I can’t talk about on the Internets right now. Regardless of how they turn out, I’ll be marveling at the fact that our son will be almost two whole entire years old by then. Also Smudge will probably still be waiting on my cereal milk. (Smudge is a cat, not a roommate or cousin.)
Hopefully I’ll be settled with my family in a new city with a fresh, new job. And I will have completed my matador training.
Tell me a secret.
Sometimes while I’m on the phone I sneak into the bathroom and pee. Just pee though, never the other one. Unless I’m on hold with customer service.
I was the Youth Poet Laureate of Oklahoma 1994.
What do you wish I had asked you that I didn’t?
“What’s so bad about Anthony Kiedis, anyway?”
Does this dress make me look famous?
Thanks, Brian and Erin!