While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in? Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?
I'm from originally central Iowa, and while I have always been an avid sports fan, baseball never caught my fancy - being in a non-MLB state probably contributed my unrighteousness. However, I went to college in KC (William Jewell College), and my roommate of three years (Matt LaMar) and best friend were both huge fans. They didn't rope me in until 2013, by which point I think the team was more accessible and likable than my previous years in KC. Thus, I've never known a non-competitive Royals team, which has made it quite easy to stay around. I'm back in Iowa now, but I've made sure to maintain contact with all three of my Royal stalwarts - my best friend, Matt, and RR.
Living in Ames, is it difficult to actually watch/listen to the Royals, as you're in an MLB blackout Hell, or are you fortunate enough to have your cable provider carry FSKC?
Through a series of precise experimentation, I have discovered a system that is able to, somehow, evade the blackout. If not at home, I usually listen on the MLB At-Bat app - my best friend is a man of the people and liberally distributes his login information.
Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?
I am a 24-year-old male, 5'7", with a fighting weight of about 145. I'm about 5 lbs heavier than that right now; I've recently started a program of only exercising when it's above 40 degrees. Um, I guess my hair would be described sandy-blonde, or something like that. I recently got an undercut - attempting to look like Brad Pitt. It's not going well. I am currently single but engaged to be married in May.
I nearly went with the undercut last trip to the barber. I elected not to at the last minute. Please list the ways in which it is ruining your life.
My fiancée does not like how it causes all of the females in town to check me out. Other than that, it's done well for me so far. I can't decide if I'll maintain it for the upcoming wedding or not.
I might recommend a more traditional cut for the wedding, as the undercut may look ridiculous in photos ten years from now. What's the future spouse like?
Well, she's a first-generation American - both parents are immigrants from Vietnam. She's four years younger than I am, finishing up a major in event management and minor in journalism. Before I met her, I never realized there were actually people who make a living by planning things. It would be nightmarish for me, but she's quite adept at it. She also sings beautifully, and she and I enjoy playing music. She will sing at some local shop or open-mic every so often; she's trying to pull me in to perform with her, but that will probably not happen.
What sort of music do you two play around the house?
Mostly artists that my fiancée likes - stuff like City and Colour, Bon Iver, The Head and the Heart - typical sort of Gen Y stuff. We've heartily embraced The Arctic Monkeys' new record and have been playing/learning as much as possible. We will also do our own arrangements of old hymns, as well as some of my favorite country and blues - Sturgill Simpson, Dustin Kensrue, Ryan Bingham, William Elliot Whitmore, Brown Bird, etc.
While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?
I am currently a PhD student at Iowa State University, studying Genetics and Genomics. My department pays my tuition, and I get a relatively healthy stipend that allows me to live comfortably in Ames. I started in fall of 2013, so I guess that puts me at about a year-and-a-half in, with hopefully no more than two-and-a-half years to go.
Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?
I actually grew up near Ames, in a small town called Huxley, moved to KC and Indianapolis for my college years, and then returned to the promised land. I absolutely love Iowa, and aggressively oppose any Iowan who speaks belittlingly toward our state. I somewhat abhorred the town of Ames in my childhood years, but have found it most agreeable since purchasing a home here.
Huxley is roughly 150 people larger than Pierre Part, LA, RoyalCreole's hometown. What would you tell him about growing up in the big city? Did you grow up in Huxley or outside of town? Is small-town life more your speed, or did you take a liking to city life in the KC Metro Area and Indianapolis?
Huxley, IA - Heart of the Prairie. Huxley was just small enough to be able to know all the good people, while just large enough to be able to stay away from the bad. It is the perfect place to raise a family. I do not envision returning there, or another town like it, for the next 10 years, but if I ever have a family size of greater than 2, then I imagine we could end up in such a place. My family lived in 3 houses throughout my adolescence, all of them just on the edge of town. It allowed for a large plot of land where we children engaged in activities, but it was also close enough to the town center to be able to bicycle to the library or recreation center. It was perfect. Honestly, I've loved every place that I've lived. Liberty as a whole is pretty terrible, but the historic downtown area near the College is delightful. The same could be said of Ames. There are some places that are much too commercialized, but my house near the original Main Street is a perfect location. I lived right downtown in Indianapolis; it was then that I discovered my love for city biking.
So if you love city biking, can I assume that your true calling is the high-wire bike-themed life of the big city messenger as detailed in Quicksilver and more recently Premium Rush?
The first time I rode a fixed gear bicycle was the last time I rode freewheel. I try to steer clear of the fixie clique, but I must admit that one of my real joys in life is building, maintaining, and riding fixed gears. This all started in Indianapolis, where riding was much more fun and dangerous, but Ames and the surrounding area has a nice system of paths and dedicated bicycle lanes. I don't do tricks a la Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though.
What did you hate about Ames as a child? What changed?
I think I hated Ames because I didn't know it very well and also because I simply was not mature enough to be able to appreciate its intricacies. As an adult, I am able to understand the value in small businesses, family owned shops, farmers markets, local theaters, parks and bike paths, etc. As a child, I simply knew Ames as the nearest Hy-Vee.
Is your plan to stay in Ames after finishing up your doctorate?
I'm not sure yet. I think I will either stay in Ames or go overseas. Many of the premier parasitic platyhelminthes labs reside in England. I am currently collaborating on a project with one of the largest labs in the world - The Sanger Institute - and am hoping to make a good impression.
What is your educational background/area of study?
My undergraduate degree is in Molecular Biology and, as said earlier, am now in the somewhat more precise discipline of genetics/genomics.
William Jewell's in Liberty, right? Which is sort of on the outer fringe of the metro area if I'm not mistaken? In retrospect, do you think you would have chosen a school more centrally located in the city, or was its mix of urban proximity with breathing room a draw for you?
I chose Jewell primarily because of its academic rigor, its liberal arts education, and the specific honors program in which I enrolled. I was happy that it wasn't in Kirksville (that place is the worst), but, yes, I would have liked it to have been more centralized in KC.
Did you finish your undergrad at William Jewell? How did you get from there to Indianapolis?
Yes, I finished at Jewell. My path through Indianapolis is sort of a long story. I was in an honors program at Jewell that is somewhat lauded for its partnership with Oxford and Cambridge. Like our mutual friend Matt LaMar, I was set to attend Cambridge for a year. Somehow, that fell through for me. I'm still not sure what happened, but my advisers informed me the spring before I planned to head to England that Cambridge was no longer accepting molecular biology students. I applied and was accepted to a handful of colleges at Oxford, but they were going to charge me tuition that Jewell was unwilling to pay. As a backup plan, I ended up studying for a year at IUPUI as a sort of exchange student. I returned to Jewell for my senior year.
With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
In high school and college, my only hobbies were sports; there was little time for much else. After graduating, I have found a significant amount of enjoyment pursuing various interests, some more esoteric than others. I am somewhat adept at leatherworking and will hopefully be able to consider opening my own shop after graduating. I also enjoy riding/building bicycles - particularly fixed gear or track bikes - smoking pipes, teaching myself various instruments, and reading.
Wait, so you're pursuing a Ph.D. in Genetics and Genomics, but you want to open up a leather shop? Is the continued pursuit of higher education while being paid to do so just a way to delay entrance into adulthood without a safety net, or is the leathery an idea for a supplemental stream of revenue?
I imagine it as both of those things. I am not wed to science, and I am not very ambitious either. The fact of the matter is that I'm quite good at what I do and that being a PhD student gives me much more freedom and control of my life than any other occupation. The prospect of a post-doctoral fellowship (the post-doc landscape is bleak right now) does not excite me. I love doing research, but I refuse to sell my soul to it, which is what most research institutions demand these days. In my mind, the perfect situation would be to stay in my lab for a few years after graduation while setting up some sort of small business in preparation for eventually leaving science.
What instruments have you been messing around with lately?
I am trained percussionist and can fake my way through a bit of trumpet and piano. I've picked up guitar these past nine months. I trying to become skilled enough, so I can play songs that my fiance can sing. I can now play most basic songs, so it's fun to be able to do that together.
What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.
I've made it a point to try to get through a good chunk of the classical American fiction so within the last year have finished Rabbit, Run, Blood Meridian, The Road, Fitzgerald's collection of short stories, a portion of Hemingway's short fiction, and am currently working through Winesburg, Ohio and more slowly through O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find. Those works don't need defending, though. I spend most of my time in these classics, but I did recently finish a contemporary work entitled Your Face in Mine by Jess Row. While it's Row's first novel (his short fiction is somewhat well distributed) and displays some immaturity in novel writing, its subject matter is particularly compelling. The novel's protagonist is a white, American male from Baltimore who is a Mandarin scholar. The plot follows him and his friend as the first person to receive "racial reassignment surgery." It's a fascinating subject that will probably be introduced to society and pop culture in the not-so-distant future. Pretty much all of the go-to race literature is written by black authors, so it was brave of Row to try to squeeze his way into the genre. It's genre fiction to the core so an easy, fun read, and I think it could add a new voice to the hazardous race and ethnicity discussions of our day - I'd recommend it based on that fact alone.
Oh, man, I love Winesburg, Ohio. Is the choice to dive into modern classics the result of not getting much time to in your undergrad studies, or is this a longer standing area of interest for you?
I started reading American classics my senior year of high school; the first one was Sanctuary by William Faulkner (I thought it gruesomely terrible at the time, but I ought to revisit it). In college, my best friend was an English Lit and Crit major. I took an upper-level survey of American Lit class with him my last year at Jewell, and I've been trying to complete the American canon since then.
We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?
Actually, my list is not that long, and the "dumbest thing" is probably not even worth the story. I think that fact probably is more telling of my personality than any narrative would be.
Describe yourself in three sentences or less.
I am a wanna-be scientist who thinks he's cool. A combination of post-modern sensibilities and God-fearing, Midwestern roots, I would like to think I am unique, but I probably am not. I have changed quite a bit through the passing of my few dozen years; I hope for the better.
While your lack of stupid decisions in the past is worrisome/depressing to me, you hint at having changed a lot over your quarter-century on earth. In what ways have you changed?
I think the road to self-discovery began my junior year of high school. Until then, I was a small town kid who played a lot of sports and wanted to become a doctor. It was then that I realized that I enjoyed music and art more than athletics and scientific research more than applied biology. I had been afforded a charmed lifestyle that allowed me to figure out what I like and what I don't like, and I think I'm self-aware and arrogant enough to embrace those things that are beautiful and valuable to me, even when that didn't fit the small town mold.
To which sorts of music/art are you drawn? Was there a moment you could isolate in which you realized that you'd had a paradigm shift of sorts, or was this a gradual progression?
On the music side, I tend toward country-alt. I am yet unequipped to handle visual art, but am slowly working toward an appreciation it. I have a penchant for artisanship - leatherworking, woodworking, sewing, and other crafts. And, as discussed, I approach fiction, particularly short fiction, as art that also entertains. I don't know if I can point to a particular moment in time when my paradigm was altered. I think the main thing that has happened is that I am increasingly able to recognize, appreciate, and enjoy beauty without emasculating myself, and that, in fact, the opposite would happen. Most of this happened in college. My roommate was a classically trained musician and my best friend was a creative writer and sublime literary critic. I greatly learned from them.
What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?
If I can assume it doesn't have to be for the first time, probably Matt LaMar. It's been too long since I've seen him.
Matt cannot be your answer. Who would you meet whose name is not Matt LaMar and that you've not previously met in person?
I loved reading RoyalCreole's "Better Know" edition, and it seemed to me that we have a good deal of similarity. I think I would enjoy meeting him, especially if that meant I was traveling across the Atlantic.