Illustration by Fábio Vermelho
Nate Perkins lives in Boulder, Colorado and is a writer, bookseller and publisher at Trident Press. He is the author of Cactus, the literary zine series Ultimate Gospel and most recently, a short story collection entitled The Way Cities Feel To Us Now published by Maudlin House. His stories are beautiful, detailing life in the American West through its landscapes and cities, mormon missionaries, heartbreak, house parties, the desert, long drives, loneliness, art and a whole lot more. His writing is that winning combination of funny and sad that makes you have to put the book down for a second to catch your breathe, laugh to yourself or cry a little bit. Most often, all at the same time. Here is a little look into his brain.
1. Do you actively do anything to keep your brain healthy, and if so what?
I take Zoloft everyday, which is a huge part moving my brain toward a designation of “healthy.” I read a ton and I could argue that it’s actively for the good of my brain, but actually it’s mostly for entertainment and pleasure.
2. What or who mentally stimulates your growth the most?
I have a bunch of friends who are incredibly talented and creative. They are writers, musicians, painters, poets, waitresses, storytellers, counselors, construction workers, baristas, publishers, bartenders, graphic designers, zine makers, fiber artists, strippers, jewelers, mechanics. Seeing the ways in which their brains work, witnessing the thoughts that would never, ever occur to me without their influence, sometimes feels so mentally stimulating that I think my head will pop.
3. If you could add or take away anything from your brain what would it be?
I would take away the depression and anxiety. I would add about 30 IQ points.
4. Are you more emotion or reason based when making decisions?
I think I’m more reason-based, generally. I say this because there are all sorts of things I WANT to do that I haven’t done because they seem like a bad idea in my brain for some reason. Or maybe it’s cowardice.
5. In what situations have you learned the most about yourself?
It’s when I’m alone that I learn the most about myself. I enjoy being alone but I rarely am, and it’s only very rarely that I’m alone AND outside of my comfort zone. I’m thinking about how a couple of years ago I was hanging out with a bunch of friends in Berlin for a few weeks. The parties started getting too crazy and I thought I’d better wander off by myself for a while to dry out and cool down. I got on a bus to Prague. Then I got on a bus to Bratislava. In these unfamiliar places I found myself drawn to situations that taught me a whole lot about myself. What I wanted vs. what I’d thought I might want, what I did when no one was looking, how I managed my time, how I spent my money, etc. I’ll write a story about that trip sometime soon. I like to think that I’ve grown as a person since then. In October, I’m going to Mexico City for a month, alone, outside of my comfort zone, and I guess we’ll see what happens, what new kind of bullshit I end up learning, if I’ve really changed at all.
6. Do you think you have to learn good judgement? (Are people inherently self destructive?)
I don’t know about other people, but I am absolutely 100% inherently self-destructive. I am really trying to learn good judgement and I think that it’s working.
7. Do you have any daily or annual rituals? Are they personal to you or your family or are they related to your culture or religion?
No specific rituals, really. There are cities I try to visit at some point every year (Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, TX). There are natural places in the mountains and desert that I return to again and again but these experiences are more habitual that ritualistic.
8. Can you speak any other languages, and if so why that language?
I speak Spanish. My dad spent a good chunk of time living and working in Latin America and he taught me words and phrases from a young age. When I was eight years old, my family lived in Costa Rica and I went to school there, where I began to learn it. I took Spanish classes in high school, I spent 2007-2009 living in Uruguay, I worked for an English Language Newspaper in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2010. I traveled through all of Central America in 2011, I finally graduated college in 2013 with a degree in Latin American Studies. I think often about moving permanently to Latin America or the Caribbean or Spain.
9. If you could live inside of a book, which one would it be?
The Hobbit. I would love to live in the Shire. I like cute houses and I want nothing more than to be a fat little hobbit and work in my garden and drink sweet wine.
10. Are there particular books you find yourself buying for or lending to people close to you?
I buy Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey over and over. I give them away to everyone. Lately the book that I’ve been giving away is The Meadow by James Galvin. It’s one of the best pieces of writing on identity of place in the Western US that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
11. Is it more important for you to speak or to be heard?
I don’t care too much about speaking but I like to be heard when I do.
12. Do you think a time exists that is easiest to create? For instance, do you strike the muse or does the muse strike you?
Mornings are best, coffee made, mug in hand. But I always sleep in too late or I have to get up and go to work or there’s something I need to get done or somebody needs something from me. So I have to write or paint or build things in times during which it is more difficult to create. I have to counterfeit the feeling of morning. This means chemical stimulants and isolation.
13. Do you have an emotional state that you find it easier to create in?
It’s an irresponsible recommendation but anxiety and mania have always worked for me.
14. Are there certain elements that you employ to set up the perfect mental space for creating?
No. I mean, maybe ideally I would have a well-lit studio with lot of plants and a large desk but if I wait for those sorts of luxuries I’ll never do anything.
15. Do you think you have to have an elevated ego to be an artist?
You don’t have to have an elevated ego to be an artist but there’s probably an overlap. You know what I’m saying?
16. What smells do you most associate with your childhood?
Cut grass, fallen apricots rotting on the ground, sawdust in my grandfather’s wood shop.
17. If you could only live on five ingredients for the rest of the life, what would they be?
Potatoes, onions, black beans, rice, eggs.
18. Do you have spiritual needs and if so how do you nourish them?
I nourish my spiritual needs by driving across North America or by sitting next to Boulder Creek, close to my house.
19. Do you have a place you go to, either physically or mentally, where you feel the most at peace?
I don’t know where this might be for me now. Maybe just walking around my neighborhood in the evening. For many years, the most peaceful place in my life was the Marriott Library on the Campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
20. Do you think that people need some form of discomfort to make art?
Yeah, but not so much that they should actively seek out discomfort. All the human experiences are necessary in some amount to be able to create art. Discomfort is one of these. It is essential but no more essential than any other experience. Comfort is also necessary to make art.
21. Are you more motivated by the promise of reward or the threat of punishment?
Reward, but that doesn’t keep me from punishing myself.
22. How much does your conscience/morals come into play when making decisions?
A lot. But my conscience is unreliable, and my morals are ever-evolving and shifting.
23. Do you ever experience your emotions in physical ways? If so, how?
I’m the best barfer you’ve ever met.
24. What is your least favourite physical sensation?
25. What is your favourite physical sensation?
The pleasure of eating good food.
26. Do you think a person has to understand art in order to be able to appreciate it?
I guess that depends on how we define understanding. Does a person have to comprehend the motivations and methods of the artist in order to appreciate art? Definitely not. Does a person have to feel things about art or a piece of art in order to appreciate it? Yes. I think feeling is as much understanding as an artist can hope for from his or her audience.
27. Do you connect more to the lyrics or music in songs?
Music. Always the music. Individual lines of lyrics stick out and act mostly as punctuation for the music and place-markers in my mental image of a song.
28. What is your earliest memory?
Having thrown a ball into the road. Chasing after it. Watching it bounce away from me. My mother grabs me from behind.
29. If you got alzheimers or dementia what memory or memories would you be saddest to lose – or – which ones would cause the biggest loss of your personal identity?
30. Do you expect happiness in your life?
Never, but I sure am grateful for it.
31. Do you feel like falling in love is a spiritual or chemical process?
It’s both. Spirits and chemicals can’t exist without each other.
32. Do you try and avoid feeling negative emotions or do you feel it is more constructive to experience your emotions fully?
I try to avoid feeling negative emotions in that I try to avoid doing things that will make me feel badly. But it’s way more constructive to experience emotions fully.
33. What flaws do you think you have when it comes to communicating with other people?
I’m definitely conflict avoidant which is a problem. This means that I do dumb martyr shit sometimes, or I shut up and let myself get resentful.
34. What do you think your ex partners would say the hardest thing about loving you was?
I always have some new big plan, somewhere new to go. I’m always waiting on somebody. I’m always a fucking scattershot mess. I never have any money.
35. Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares? If so, what do you think they mean?
I have lots of recurring dreams and nightmares. The worst is the one in which I am floating or swimming in deep water and huge, monster-sized shapes move under me. They say water in dreams means sex, don’t they? I think that this is actually more of an indicator of my need to feel like I’m somehow in control of my life and the things around me.
36. If you have ever taken psychedelic drugs, did you have any interesting hallucinations on them? Do you feel changed from having taken them?
I have taken a moderate amount of psychedelic drugs. I’ve done MDMA, MDA, LSD, DMT, psylocibin, mescaline, and maybe some others that I forget. I’m a mescaline fan for sure, as anyone who has read my book Cactus can probably imagine. I don’t think I would be alive if I hadn’t taken mescaline. I would have killed myself five or six years ago. I know that sounds dramatic and dark but it’s absolutely real. Mescaline is that good shit. It made me see how dumb and beautiful everything was all at the same time. It made me feel like I was the earth and I was a ghost and I realized that dying wouldn’t do any good. I haven’t done psychedelics for a while now though. The last time I did, a bunch of my friends and I were coming up on mushrooms and there was a drive-by shooting in the street in front of the house where we were. It kind of freaked me out. I mostly just do party drugs now but I try to go easy on those too.
37. Do you find your mood affected by different colour palettes?
I’m not colorblind or anything but I’m so bad about colors. I can’t remember what color my house is. I wear black t-shirts. I will, like, feel off if the colors in a place are wack but I am bad about noticing when colors make me feel good.
38. If you could live in a world where the aesthetic was controlled by a particular visual artist or film director, who would you choose?
Tarsila do Amaral.
39. What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?
I’ve seen a man on a motorcycle run into a horse. I’ve seen a school of whales swimming around a boat I was in. I’ve seen people get beat up and robbed. I’ve seen a man get hit by a bus. I saw a bobcat cross the road in front of my truck. I saw a black bear walking down the street around the corner from my house. I’ve seen a wolf have explosive diarrhea.
40. Have you ever seen something which you feel has directly resulted in certain elements of your personality today?
There’s a punk house show I went to when I was a teenager, very similar to the one that I write about in Cactus, that I think pushed me in a very specific direction.
41 .Would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?
Hearing I guess? I really like to read. If I had to choose books or music I would choose books. Not to say that hard of hearing or deaf people have it easier than blind people or whatever. I am very thankful to be able-bodied in the way that I am. I don’t want to lose either.
42. Do you feel like you surround yourself with the people who see you for who you really are?
I suspect the people around me know more about who I really am than I do.
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