Forever 5?

Associate+Professor+of+Writing+and+Literature+Tyrone+Shaw

Kayla Friedrich

Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw

Tyrone Shaw believes that dogs are essential to our humanity, thinks it would be really nice to get to know a bear and wonderful to have a donkey friend. He lives in East Fairfield with his wife Nancy, his Golden Retriever Tuck and his cat Lilly. He is an associate professor in the writing and literature department at Johnson State College.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

My earliest childhood memory is of falling out of the bed, before I was 2, falling out of the front of the bed and landing in a nest of wires. It was an old house with very funky wiring. I fell into this nest of wires and thought they were snakes. I was very frightened and my father rescued me.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?

Staying alive this long, considering my personality.

What do you think is the most significant impact you have made on a person?

I have no idea. If I did, I’d tell you. If we’re talking about teaching, I think it’s maybe like a Jackson Pollock painting process. You take a bunch of paint and you heave it on a canvas that’s on a wall and some of it sticks.

In your opinion, what current youth trend is the most absurd?

Surrender of privacy in social media, especially Facebook. I am just appalled at kind of the combination of voyeurism and exhibitionism I see so many of my students engaged in.

Are you against the idea of Facebook or just what people post on it?

I don’t know, I think it’s just creating a nation of wankers. It’s a terrible thing to say but I believe it. Exhibitionist wankers.

You don’t think that people were like that before?

Well if they did they had the decency to do it in private. On the other hand I realize that Facebook can be a really good way of connecting with people and staying in touch. I understand that. But do we really need to share everything?

What do you think is too much?

Too much is shared, a lot of it is trivial. “I got up this morning and had orange juice. That’s all I had for breakfast and I went to work. More later!”

What’s your favorite kind of cake?

Seven-layer cake.

What does it consist of?

If you’re in Hungary it’s called Dobos Torte. It’s a chocolate buttercream, very thin layers, with a golden cake. There’s seven layers and the outside is a dark chocolate. They’re a pain in the ass to make.

If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, whom would you pick and what would you do?

Probably the body of a crow, and I would fly and play practical jokes on all living things.

Why a crow?

I love crows. Crows are incredibly smart birds. They’re very playful, and their sense of humor appeals to me.

If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be? Why?

Five. Forever I would be 5. I think in heaven, if there is a heaven, we’re all going to be 5 years old. I think that for a 5 year old everything is magical. One of my best experiences is teaching skiing at Smuggs in the winter program for kids. The best weeks were when I had groups of 5-year olds to ski with. They were fearless, they were up for anything and everything was magic to them.

Why not 6?

Six is different. I think the magic, that particular degree of innocence, starts eroding.

What is your favorite musical instrument?

It depends on who’s playing it.

For you to play?

The piano. Of course, I don’t play the piano. I wish I played the piano, but I don’t. I play the guitar.

Why don’t you play the piano?

I haven’t gotten around to it yet. So confusing—there are 88 keys. My guitar only has 6 strings.

What role does music play in your life?

If I were bullshitting you, I would say “Oh, it keeps me sane,” but if that were the case it certainly has failed. It’s something I’ve always loved to do. I get a lot of pleasure out of it. Probably more pleasure playing than people get from listening to me, but so it goes. I’ve had bands most of my adult life, and I still do. I love playing music with my friends, I love the whole interactive process. Of course the next question is do I have any musical idols? I have many. If we’re talking about my favorite bands ever, I think they would be The Band, choice number one, choice number two would be The Beatles. And of course there are others, maybe Asleep at the Wheel, choice number three.

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

The strangest or most disgusting?

Both

There’s a part of the human brain that screens out toxic memories to some degree and I think that’s happening right now. One thing that just comes to mind is the worst burger I’ve ever had and it was just so incredibly weird. It was at Kay’s Diner in Alburgh at about 3 in the morning. It doesn’t exist anymore, I don’t think, and this was back in 1978 when I had this cheeseburger—I never forgot it. It was cooked beyond the consistency of anything recognizable and it was between two slices of untoasted Wonder Bread. And it sat there on the plate and I thought I was having some psychotic episode where I was hallucinating malevolence. It was deeply disturbing to me. Aside from that, I haven’t had anything that is too strange or weird, I haven’t eaten live monkey brains or anything like that. I’m pretty receptive of any kind of food as long as it’s good.

Are burgers your favorite food?

I have a certain category of food and they’re all arterial clogging. These are nature’s antidepressants. Cheeseburgers. I just love cheeseburgers, provided that they are medium-rare. It doesn’t matter whether they are cooked on an iron slab grill or over a flame. They both have different qualities that I love. They just have to be really good and they have to be perfectly medium-rare. I think a perfect cheeseburger ought to—and this will sound blasphemous—ought to have American cheese on it. It should be simple, unadorned with condiments, it should just have ketchup; preferably the bun should be lightly grilled with some butter on it. I love fried chicken. In heaven, there will be cheeseburgers; there will be fried chicken in abundance with all the pan gravy you want. I love ribs. I love a lot of food.

Can we go back to music for a minute?

Yes

Don’t you want to know what’s the worst thing anyone ever said to me?

What’s the worst thing anyone ever said to you?

When I was in The Throbulators, we were playing in Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern, and someone came up to me between sets. He said to me, “I love the way you play, man. You remind me so much of Jerry.” And I just wanted to scream at him, “Get away from me!” I cannot stand the guitar playing of Jerry Garcia. He’s a wank-meister. For that guy to say that to me just almost broke my heart.

Do you have any other questions you want to ask yourself?

Yeah, thank you so much for asking that lovely question. Did I ever punch anyone in the face?

Did you ever punch anyone in the face?

Yeah, twice. Myself. They were accidents.

How did that happen?

Well, they weren’t technically punches. The first time, I was bending of the fender of my Model A with a big wrench, trying to get a head bolt off of the engine. I was kind of leaning down and bracing myself with my arms out, grabbing onto this large handle on a socket wrench and it finally gave way. My two hands came right back and hit me in the face. Second time I stepped on a rake.

Any other questions?

Well, since you’ve asked, let’s go back to food. How about ideal dinner companions? I’ve always wanted to have that question to respond to.

Okay. Who would be your ideal dinner guests?

As far as the people I’d most like to have dinner with, the people living or dead, I think an ideal table for me would be Mikhail Gorbachev, Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Parker, Richard Nixon and Eleanor Roosevelt. For, you know, a dinner party.