Writer of the hilarious travel memoir Tune in Tokyo, Greenpoint resident Tim Anderson speaks to us about growing up gay in North Carolina, his favorite neighborhood and bookstore in Brooklyn, and reveals a preview of his current project.
Your fan base must adore your high energy humor, as we do…just how many cups of coffee do you drink in a day ? Did Japan import enough coffee to serve your needs while you were there ? (Seriously, what did you find was the Japanese equivalent of Starbucks?)
I always start the day with two very large cups of coffee, otherwise I’m unable to leave the house. Then I’m good to go. Japan was good to me in the caffeine department–the equivalent of Starbucks there is actually Starbucks. They also have their own coffee chains, one of which is called Doutour, which serves a hilariously disgusting cup of black acid that seems to be very popular among the japanese public.
There is at least one historian (JW Cash) who has written about the South as having a mindset of a different country, particularly before a couple of generations grew up watching television. Can you give us a line about growing up gay in the South, and compare it to, say, your experience at Chapel Hill.
I imagine that growing up gay in suburban Raleigh was probably much like growing up gay in many places in the country in the 80s–until the past decade, it seems everyone was totally freaked out by the gays. It helped that North Carolina isn’t deep South. Of course, I come from a very religious family, so there was all the fear of damnation and hellfire to deal with, which was an added bonus. But I must say my parents, unlike a lot of Christians in this country, actually used their faith as a way of understanding and coming to terms with the whole thing rather than shutting the conversation down.
Chapel Hill, as our best (and by “best” I mean “awfulest”) senator Jesse Helms once suggested, should be designated the North Carolina Zoo because of its liberal reputation. It definitely wasn’t as liberal as I wanted it to be. Where were the orgies? (I probably just wasn’t invited.)
When you were in Japan –or anywhere else in the world, really—did you encounter awareness of Brooklyn ? If so, how was it expressed? (t-shirt, disparaging joke, wanderlustic awe)
I think the Japanese awareness of Brooklyn, at least when I was there, was centered on the hip-hop scene. I once accidentally went to a hip-hop club in Tokyo and a number of kids had on Brooklyn T-shirts.
Before living in Brooklyn, had you lived in Manhattan? What drew you to Brooklyn?
No, unlike most folks we know in NYC, Jimmy and I have only lived in one place: Greenpoint. Most people have moved around a bit. We just lucked out with a pretty decent apartment in a great neighborhood. We were drawn to NYC because we were ready to get the heck out of Raleigh and figured why not live at the center of the universe? And we fell in love with Greenpoint for a number of reasons: great local scene (food, bars, parks), proximity to Manhattan for work, and it had a fun foreign-city vibe, since it’s a Polish neighborhood. We can’t even pronounce the name of our favorite restaurant. Too many Zs.
What’s your favorite book store in Brooklyn?
Definitely Spoonbill in Williamsburg. It’s great for browsing and you always find something you can’t believe was published but you’re glad was. Also, it’s very important to me for stores I shop in to have kitty cats for you to ogle, and Spoonbill has that. (This is also why my favorite record store in NYC is Bleeker Street Records, because, in addition to the excellent selection of whatever Andrews Sisters albums you might want, have you seen those two ginormously fat gray cats always stone cold sleeping all over the place?)
What does your ideal day of writing consist of? Do you have any particular routines or places where you like to write?
I do prefer to write outside the house because I’m so ADD. (It’s way too easy to get sucked into a youtube wormhole, amiright?) I used to rent a writing space but these days I just plop down at local cafes–Verb, Grumpy, Oslo. I do like to have noise around me when I’m writing. I think that’s because writing is such a solitary activity that you can go a little crazy if you spend too much time all alone at home with no human contact. No disrespect to my cat Stella. She’s awesome, but she does tend to get kind of judgy when she’s reading over my shoulder.
What are you reading now?
I’m re-reading Bleak House by Dickens, which is a long-term project, because, Lord, that thing is long. But once you get to know all the characters (which does take a little while) you can dip in and out pretty easily, picking up where you left off. For some reason I love reading Agatha Christie in the summer, so I’m reading Death on the Nile. I just finished The Great Influenza by John Barry, about the 1918 flu pandemic. It was troubling! And I recently read Room by Emma Donoghue–I absolutely loved the first half but then it lost me in the second. That kind of narrative conceit (a story told from the point of view of a 5-year-old who has lived his entire life in one room) is a challenge to sustain.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a gay diabetic memoir. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 15, and I was diagnosed with homosexuality when I was born, so why not cover both? It’s a comedy!