Thursday, October 21, 2010

Check out my Talking to Strangers story

My Talking to Strangers story for Nerve is online, "Talking to Strangers: Austin, TX."

TTS is a regular series that Nerve does, and I thought I'd try doing one, because it involved photography, and I'm far less experienced at photography than I am at interviewing and writing.

The idea is that you go out into the world with your audio recorder and your camera in hand, and you approach people you've never met and have a discussion with them about their dating life.
Tell me a crazy hookup story.

I hooked up with the bassist from The Vibrators. I thought that was pretty cool.
I am naturally an introverted person. I believe I'm an INFP. After years of talking to strangers while working on stories, I've gotten over much of the inhibition, but it's always a little daunting.

I headed over to the South Congress neighborhood of Austin, Texas. This is like the Williamsburg of Austin, or, well, Texas, really, and I knew it would likely contain the highest number of hipsters, albeit Texas hipsters. This is more the Nerve demographic.

Because I hadn't done one of these before, the editor sent me two documents. One was a model release that I had to have each interviewee sign, and the other was a two-page guideline to doing a Talking to Strangers story. Much of what was on the latter, I didn't need and knew already, but it did have a few tips on the photographs that were helpful. I have no idea what they are anymore.
What's the secret to pleasing a woman sexually?

Maybe listen to her a little bit? Actually care for her? Instead of just fucking her?
The editor wanted me to do a practice one first, so I went over to a hair salon and interviewed two stylists, both of whom ended up in the piece. The editor gave the nod on those, and, not long after, off I went to do the rest of the interviews.

Nerve asks you to interview a total of 10 people, although they usually only run five, or in my case six. I spent the better part of a late Sunday afternoon interviewing and photographing the other eight subjects.

Basically, I wandered up and down the street, looking for people who were 1) attractive, hip, and/or interesting looking in some way, and 2) looked like they would be willing to talk openly and publicly about their private life.
How many boys are you dating right now?

Um, about three boys.
I would say in total I asked maybe 16 people and got 10 yeses. I would say the most common no was from very attractive women. Very attractive women get talked to all the time; why do they need to talk to you? It made me feel bad for guys who try and talk to very attractive women. Very attractive women are a pain in the ass. Unless they want something from you.

I believe I interviewed a total of five men and five women, although it may have been six women and four men. I figured readers would be more interested in women than men. Women are nicer to look at than men.
Do more girls like to do reverse cowgirl in Texas?

I haven't really had sex outside of Texas. All the girls here, they're into it.
I found Leda working in a restaurant as a waitress. She was really darling and very chatty. Scott was selling his vintage goods at kind of a stand near an Airstream trailer selling cupcakes. Kelly was working at a hair salon. She was terrifically forthcoming and very pretty. Memphis was working at the same hair salon and very tall. Susan was working at a video store and is maybe my favorite; I love, love, love her photo, and her interview was hilarious. Aaron was looking all broody and sexy at an open-air coffee shop and was cool.

If the person was in a sort of public area -- for example, Leda was working -- I would drag them off to a place that was a bit more quiet. I think the interviews are only supposed to take about five minutes, but getting anything interesting out of someone in five minutes isn't easy, so most of mine ran about eight to ten minutes.

I asked them what they did for a living, if that was a good place to meet people for dating, what the Austin dating scene is like, if they believe in "the one," what their best and worst hook up stories were, and about their sex lives.

Since I've interviewed a lot of people about sex, this last wasn't hard, although it may be hard for someone else. People were pretty forthcoming about their private sexual stuff. Mostly, I've found, if you act like you don't care, and I don't, people will tell you pretty much anything.
Has anyone ever surprised you in bed?

I've had annoying things, like the guy who asked if he could come on my face, and I was like, "I'm not feeling it today," and he just did it anyway.
Probably my favorite story is Susan's but you have to to go the story and read it for yourself. Sex is pretty absurd, and so is her story.

For me, taking the photos was the most nerve-wracking part. I lack confidence in my photo-taking skills, but that's why I was there in the first place, to get more comfortable doing it. To "play" photographer, I guess.

I tried to find a place where the light was good. I attempted to put them in front of an interesting background. Leda and I both liked the green wall behind her. I think my favorite photo is Susan's, which you see here, and which we almost didn't do, but it came out great.

In any case, I'm glad I had the experience, I think it turned out well, and I thank everyone who allowed themselves to be interviewed and photographed for it.
Do you believe in "The One"?

I don't believe in a single one. I think there are several options, and it all has to do with timing, and where you are in your life. I don't believe in destiny or anything like that. I think in your lifetime, you'll probably encounter the quote-unquote one three or four times.
Oh, the ones that were left on the cutting room floor. There were four that didn't make it. One was of an African-American woman who loved sex, used to be a dancer, and had a very sweet story. Another was a guy who worked at a candy shop, who had a spectacularly obscene story about an ad he put on Craigslist; he may not have made it because of how obscene (and I mean that in a good way) his story was. There was another young woman who had had nine Margaritas. And there was one girl who was in a band, who I'm glad they cut, because she was the one person I interviewed who was an absolute turd. She was hipsterier-than-thou, cagey, and generally an ass. Also, rude. If you don't want to be interviewed by me, don't say yes. And your band sucks. And so did her photograph. Since I obviously didn't like her. Anyway, one bad apple, etc.

[Talking to Strangers: Austin, TX]