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Paul Christopher Gomez

January 7, 2013

A life of adventure led Paul Gomez to Novi Sad, Serbia. He lives there now with his wife Ivana, and their two children Troy and Isadora. Paul is a writer, so teaching English seemed to be the natural choice of occupation, given that he was in a foreign country whose language he did not know. After a year of teaching English as a Second Language as a freelancer, he was able to discern that while English was a mandatory subject in primary school, secondary school, high school, and even some disciplines at the University level, very few people could properly speak, so he decided to open a school for conversation. Focusing on the four disciplines of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, Paul hopes to be able to increase the vocabulary of his students, and their ability and confidence to speak English. The school is called American Spirit, and it is the only one of its kind in Serbia.

1. What is your hometown?

Oakland, CA.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Honestly, I identify most with the protagonist of my novel “New Wave Sci Fi.” His name is Sunshine Garcia, and he is on a quest for love. He suffers from a fictional syndrome based on the notion of Metempsychosis (which regards reincarnation and the transmigration of the soul), wherein, from story to story through the novel, he is always Sunny, but in a different version of the world, playing a different version of himself, only slightly aware that these changes are happening, mostly or completely forgetting that he lived in any other story than the one he is in, with only vague memories of the supporting characters that follow him across the arc of the novel. He does, eventually, find love. It is more than a little abstract in structure, and certainly errs in the direction of metafiction.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the flashbacks, Johnny Depp as my current Serbian-living incarnation in reflection.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

“The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint Exupery. It was my first favorite book. I found a copy of it when I was eight on the bookshelf of some hippy neighbor lady, and then I watched the movie at a community library screening a year or so later. I think about Gene Wilder’s fox and Bob Fosse’s snake on a regular basis.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

Lately, I have been buried in grammar books, because I’m a language teacher now. Grammar is the great pillar that supports communication, and somebody has to answer the questions my students come up with. …Those and “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” by Og Mandino, which takes 10 months to read if you follow the instructions of the book, which I sort of am.

And I recommend Raymond Carver to my ESL students because of his tendency to use elementary vocabulary and basic sentence structure. English is a very tricky language, and while our writers dance quite skillfully across the page to service the native reader’s literary requirements and fetishes, this doesn’t fly well with ESL students. The Carver is not an easy read, really, but he’s a pretty straight shooter, with the most beautiful parts of his poetic sensibility down there underneath the words, which, being Universal, do not require translation.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

I listen to a lot of Ekatarina Velika in the morning before work. They were a great band from Belgrade that played in the 1980’s. Not an 80’s band, just killer rock.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

I do not remember. I am very rarely overcome with emotion during cinematic experiences. I only really cry when I’m sad about something that is happening in life.

8. Cat person or dog person?

Depends on the cat or dog. I’m more into the personality of the individual than the species.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

That’s relative to the situation, I suppose. Empirically, I believe that truth and kindness are equally important, but kindness sometimes means shielding certain individuals from the truth, so I call on relativity and appropriateness, under the auspices of a humane morality, which is of course relative. If you’d asked what is more important, truth or love, I would have just said ‘love.’

10. How do you define sin?

Knowing that what you’re doing is harmful to others, and then carrying on with the harm is fairly bad behavior.

11. How do you define virtue?

There are so many virtues that to list them here would take far too long, and it would be difficult to put them down in paragraph form. I do, however, believe that virtuousness is one of the essential characteristics of being an enlightened human, and that great individuals can be identified by the virtues they embrace.

Take Francis of Assisi and his famous prayer. He said, “Oh Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace….” Francis possessed many virtues, and asking God to be made into an instrument of peace was certainly one of them.

Another example: You’re camped around Ilium. Hector comes out to pick a fight, and nobody will stand up to him except Ajax. In this case, bravery and truculence are important virtues. Are you virtueless because you didn’t choose to fight Hector? No, but you certainly aren’t as brave as Ajax.

There could be a multi-volume Encyclopedia of Virtues.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

While I definitely dislike thinking about not being around, I suppose if I could create the ultimate final resting place for my body, I would be dressed in a smashing Italian suit, with a loose tie, bronzed all the way through, and seated in a black, mint condition 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air Hardtop. Passenger side, because I really don’t drive. Parked forever in Oakland’s Coliseum Drive-In.

or….

Should I be returned to the earth in a coffin, and marked with an actual stone, I hope that one of my children, or whoever may be looking after these things, has the good sense to engrave on it below my vital statistics a hearse song that is the final track on The Pogues ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God.’

The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out
The ones that go in are lean and thin
The ones that crawl out are fat and stout
Your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out
Your brains come tumbling down your snout
Be merry, my friends, be merry

BonusQuestion: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Henry Miller

Connections:

American Spirit
American Spirit on Facebook

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