Tom Graham@Houston

Where are you? A student bedsit in Houston, Texas.

What are you? I am taking undergraduate prerequisites preparatory to entering a graduate program in computer science. I do accounting and financial analysis type jobs on contract.

What do you make? Not anything much, lately. My main creative outlets are playing Elvis Costello songs on a cheap guitar, and writing letters. Low commitment of time and money. I like cooking and doing beadwork and other crafts.

What do you love? I love it when I can pay all my bills and have money left over. Then I can go to the record store and get CD's and not feel guilty. Or the book store.

What do you hate? Being broke, being arrested, being depressed. I hate corporate and school bureaucrats when they give me a hard time, which has been happening a lot lately.

What do you listen to? Leftism by Leftfield. It is not too distracting to have on while I am working. The BBC World Service, which I can tune in through my cable-converter box. That's been about it this week, except for Trust by Elvis Costello, maybe once or twice. Brian Eno's Music for Airports is a long-time favorite. I am sometimes into classical, but not really for about the last 15 months, although I've been to about 10 concerts in that time, but more for social reasons. Last weekend I went to a Greek festival and heard Greek music.

What do you watch? The Simpsons. Seinfeld. Eastenders. Nature programs, biography programs.

What do you drink?Republic of Tea tea. Sleepytime tea. Gatorade which I stir massive amounts of vitamin C into. Shiraz wine from Australia when I can afford it. Sometimes, anything I can get my hands on, but that's contrary to my personal policy.

What do you smoke? I don't really smoke much any more. I went through a Drum handrolled phase for a couple of weeks last December. I smoke a small amount of pot every once in a while, mainly on principle. I am not into the cigar trend. I think pipes are cooler and smell better. Unfortunately, none of it is very good for you.

What do you take? I used to take a fair amount of E and acid in the 80's, but you definitely can't get real E in the states any more, because the Feds have placed tight controls on the ingredients, a policy which either hasn't occured to the UK authorities or is unconstitutional there, I'd be interested to know which. I have no idea where to buy acid any more, it's been years since I was in contact with that scene. Now I take vitamin megadoses.

What do you believe in? I believe in a brand of existentialist psychotherapy called rational-emotive therapy by some, cognitive-behavioral therapy by others.

  • When We were 16.

  • Where were you? When I was 16, I moved from Westport, Connecticutt, a small town on the shore of the Long Island Sound, to the suburbs of Houston, TX.

    What were you? I was in high school. I saw my main function as livening things up, entertaining people. I made up songs, wore weird things to school, taunted the teachers, etc. I spent a lot of my spare time going to used-books stores and reading up on existentialist authors like Nietzche, Virginia Woolf, and Jean Genet, also cultivating knowledge of dance music and indie rock.

    What did you wear? Black work shoes or chinese peasant slippers, or boat shoes. A black new-wave raincoat. Some Ralph Lauren stuff for my more conformist moods. A skirt once in a while.

    What did you listen to? The Style Concil, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Culture Club, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, PIL's Flowers of Romance and Metal Box, Cabaret Voltaire, The Minutemen, Billy Bragg, Big Audio Dynamite, Aztec Camera's High Land Hard Rain, Black Uhuru, New Order and Joy Division, I was quite a music fan and wanted to expand my musical mind as much as possible. I didn't want to miss anything that was considered noteworthy or classic by the good critics, so I used record guides.

    What did you watch? I didn't watch TV much at all. My favorite films were The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, and Clockwork Orange. I liked foreign and art films.

    What did you love? The promise of a life with wider horizons which seemed promised by the magazines and books I found, particularly the college guides. My new-found attractiveness to the opposite sex.

    What did you hate? The depressive moods which began with the onset of puberty, and which I had no idea how to deal with.

    What did you drink? Liquour stolen from the parental liquour cabinet. Beer when we could find a shop to sell it to us, or when there was a keg party in a vacant warehouse.

    What did you smoke? Marlboro and Camel Lights, kreteks (Indonesian clove cigarettes, now banned in the states in their authentic formulation), daily spliffs.

    What did you take? The E and acid I mentioned earlier. Steered clear of cocaine, I considered it beneath me.

    What did you want to be? A college student. I didn't have a specific career aspiration.

    Who did you fight? No-one literally, the teachers I didn't respect (most of them) figuratively.

    Who/What did you believe in? Existentialism.

    Where did you go? Friends houses, thrift stores, record stores, used-book stores, the Contemporary Arts Museum, keg parties, hardcore-punk shows, a dance club called #'s.

    What did you learn?I guess I learned that, if you do it properly, you can defy social norms in such a way that it is to your advantage, because if you are enthusiastic about your interests, and make it seem fun and acceptable to try new things, other people may follow you.

    october 1996.