Occupation: music editor and Beer and Metal columnist for the Reader
His friend says: “Philip tells funny stories, knows lots about beer, and has long hair like a mermaid. He is also very kind.”
What do you do when you’re not working?
Biking, reading, playing drums, going to shows, wishing I had more time to cook, displacing about .08 cubic meters of air.
I bum the occasional cigarette.
None, but I love cats.
What’s your idea of the perfect Chicago date?
This question makes me want to barf. I’ll try to be a good sport, but that doesn’t mean I’ll waste brain cells coming up with goofy reality-TV bullshit like a trip in a hot-air balloon or a shared spa weekend. (Though honestly I’d love to go up in a balloon.)
Because I value good conversation above pretty much anything else that can happen when I’m out on a date, I prefer a quiet restaurant or a grown-up bar. I like cheap, unpretentious ethnic food that’s spicy enough to contravene international chemical-weapons protocols. But I clean up nice, and on special occasions I can have a pretty good attitude about expensive restaurants, so long as they’re about gonzo culinary nonsense and not douchebags flaunting their Black Cards.
If you were on Jeopardy!, what anecdote would you share with Alex? Also, would you win?
In sixth grade I washed out late in an all-city spelling bee because I was a heathen child and didn’t know the word “surplice.” (It’s a type of Christian vestment.) I like to think I’d win at Jeopardy!, given that I’m chock-full of useless facts, but I’d probably get nervous in front of the cameras and torpedo my reaction time on the buzzer.
What’s your preferred method for surviving a Chicago winter?
I try to ride my bike as many days as I can. It fights cabin fever, it does wonders for the brain chemistry, and it helps me stay in shape so I’m ready to hit the ground running come spring. Not that I literally run.
If HBO made a miniseries about your life, who would you cast for the lead role?
A polar bear?
What television family does yours most parallel?
I don’t watch enough television to answer this. But as a kid I had a lot in common with Lisa Simpson.
Go-to karaoke song?
“Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs or “La Grange” by ZZ Top. Pretty tough to fuck those up.
What do you find boring?
I sometimes get restless or annoyed, especially when I’m obligated for whatever reason to kill time somewhere I don’t belong. But I’m rarely bored. I mean, boredom is something your brain does, not something the outside world does to your brain. If you can stay busy in there, you won’t feel bored.
Who would you kill if you could be guaranteed you’d never be caught?
I’m tempted to list our most notorious evil old white men, starting with the Koch brothers and Mitch McConnell, but anybody I could name would just be a public-facing representative of a much larger and more entrenched sickness. So how about everybody? At least it’d be fair. Kill everybody. Let’s press the reset button on civilization. In ten million years, some other intelligent life form will have evolved to fill out Valentine’s Day questionnaires.
What was your first e-mail address/AIM name?
I don’t remember. I’ve never had an AIM name, and my first e-mail address was in graduate school in 1994.
Please describe your understanding of cell-phone etiquette.
Kindly excuse yourself before you interrupt a face-to-face conversation in order to take a call or read a text. And be prepared for other humans to interpret your choice to browse your phone in a social situation as indicative of your level of interest in present company.
If you decide to talk on your phone in an enclosed space where strangers can’t remove themselves from earshot, either keep it down or make it entertaining.
What’s your zombie apocalypse contingency plan?
I reckon it’ll suffice to stay clear of the walking dead till they’re eaten by birds, bacteria, fungi, maggots, beetles, and the occasional alligator or bear. I mean, walking or not, they’re still carrion.
Say you’re going to be interred like an Egyptian pharaoh. Who or what is in your burial chamber with you?
Well, aside from the treasures I’ll no doubt begin accumulating any day now, I’d like an army of terra cotta soldiers a la Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Except the figures should all be drawn from Tolkien, Ghostbusters, and Japanese folk tales, just to fuck with future archaeologists.
It’s time to decide who gets to board the generation ship that’s evacuating earth for a planet we haven’t yet fucked up beyond repair. Who goes and who stays?
I say we pull a “reverse Elysium” on that motherfucker. Leave all the rich people behind. It was their devotion to short-term returns over long-term survivability that trashed the planet in the first place. Karma time, assholes!
Where would you set the minimum wage?
I think it should be a federal standard tied to a cost-of-living index determined by city, so that Chicagoans could earn an $18 minimum wage but a tiny West Virginia town with rock-bottom rents could set its minimum to the local equivalent. That would eliminate one of the most reasonable objections to a large increase.
If you could only eat one type of sandwich for the rest of your life what would you pick?
Banh mi, with the bread still warm.
What is your favorite curse word?
Lately I’ve been enjoying “criminy,” which I suppose barely counts as a curse word. But the hazards of life as a cycle commuter can inspire outbursts of creativity in this area—one of my favorite spontaneous coinages is “dickbeard.” As in, “What’s the matter, dickbeard, your fuckin’ turn signal not work?”
Where were you this past Fourth of July at 7:18 PM?
Couldn’t tell you—and if this is a reference, I don’t get it. But by dark that night, I was at Small Bar Logan Square for the probably illegal fireworks fiasco in the middle of the intersection.
How long do you stay angry, and do you get loud or quiet?
I find sustained anger too draining to be justifiable. If someone I care about wounds me badly, I prefer to take a time out until it’s possible for me to address the subject without heat. I can be resentful if I feel like I’ve been chronically ill treated, but despite the occasionally unreasonable intensity of my opinions I don’t have much of a temper.
And in case you can’t tell already, I get quiet.
Do you like to talk about a movie right after you’ve seen it?
I’m usually ready by the time we get out of the theater and hit the sidewalk.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you ever made for someone you care about?
Nothing worthy of a Russian novel, I’m afraid. The sacrifices I’ve made are the same kind of sacrifices everybody makes to keep a relationship alive—and given that, it feels a little melodramatic to call them “sacrifices.” But while I haven’t been put in a position to, say, quit my job to nurse someone through terminal cancer, I don’t think that necessarily means I’m a less compassionate person. I won’t know what I’m capable of till I’m tested.
If you didn’t have to be yourself, who would you be?
I’d say Bruce Dickinson—he gets to be in Iron Maiden and fly jet planes—but I suspect that Bruce Dickinson is still busy being Bruce Dickinson.
Have you ever met Hamid Drake? I’m always struck by the almost beatific aura of happiness he radiates, and then I think, If I were that good at playing drums, and if it were all I had to do to make a living, I bet I’d be that happy too.
Anyway, dolphins seem to have it pretty sweet.
Are you afraid of or excited to face the unknown?
I like exploring: knocking around in an unfamiliar city on vacation, listening to music that most people find vile and strange, or eating foods that my fellow honkies tend to treat as punch lines to borderline racist jokes. But I’m not good with being uprooted. I don’t usually like moving, and I prefer to change jobs on purpose. On balance, whether I like “facing the unknown” depends on whether the opportunity to learn interesting new stuff outweighs the associated risks and dislocations.
Who is your intellectual idol?
Probably Jorge Luis Borges. But I have a soft spot for Carl Sagan. Also I recently read a history of the intersection between Romanticism and the second age of scientific enlightenment, and I have to say, Joseph Banks, Michael Faraday, and Caroline Herschel were all pretty badass.
Do you have a personal mantra?
“This too shall pass.”
What’s your CTA pet peeve?
The way the pee smell permeates an entire train car, so you can’t tell if you’re gonna sit down in the tainted seat without dabbing at it with your fingers (which no reasonable person wants to do). Also, able-bodied humans who exit a bus through the front doors. And people who sing with headphones on. And bus bunching. OK, I’d better stop now.
Do you have any hidden skills and/or talents?
Is this a sex question? I’m not answering a sex question in a newspaper. But yes.
So, really, why are you single?
My exes would probably have better answers to this than I do. But I’ve been trying to get to “happily ever after” for 28 years, which is enough time to make all sorts of mistakes. I’ve projected my love onto a woman who couldn’t return it, thus persuading myself that I was part of a serious couple when I wasn’t. I’ve failed to accept that a partner was never going to get off the fence and commit. I’ve gotten wrapped up in a demanding job and kept a wonderful relationship on autopilot till it was too late to save it.
Like most people, I’m sure, I’m convinced that a human-being owner’s manual exists, and that everybody got a copy but me. I know I need to learn to express my affection in such a way that the people it’s aimed at can more reliably feel it. But why am I single today, as opposed to all the previous times? Low morale, probably. It’s hard to face the anxiety and vulnerability that come with dating when you can’t imagine anything turning out well. I’d be thrilled to be proved wrong, but I’ve been doing a lousy job getting out there and doing the proving myself.