Not Quite a Biography of Patrick Jennings
Well, I'm going to assume that like most people when you ask,
Patrick, where are you from?
you won't be satisfied with the answer,
even if it were true (I've never lived there and have been known
to lean on the gas-pedal a bit when passing through). "Where are you from?"
isn't at all like the question "How're ya goin', mate?" or "How'dya feel?"
questions for which an honest and full accounting are neither expected,
nor appreciated. No, "Where are you from?" is not so much about where you're
living now but rather "What's your home, the place you identify most with?"
People don't realize they're being intimately philosophical
when they ask such a question. That's because most people live one or
two places their entire lives and answer the question by naming one of
them. It usually takes such people awhile to figure out that my first
response—where I'm paying rent at the moment (currently Deep Cove, near
Vancouver, Canada), or my last 'permanent' mailing address if I'm traveling
(Whistler, Canada)—doesn't really respond to the query they had in mind.
See the question is really just a conversational kick-start. It leads
to other seemingly harmless questions, such as
What do you do?
Under some prodding, I go on to fill in some of the larger details
from of the last few years of my life. I might say, for example, (take
a deep breath) "I spent most of '94 and '95 traveling through Australia
and SE Asia which seemed a good way to recover from several years in Vancouver
bound to a keyboard, code-jockeying for the likes of IBM, Microsoft and
other, decidedly-smaller, software ventures." And they're satisfied
. . .
for a while. Now we can move onto more interesting things,
like the weather, or how great it is that Vancouver now has a Basketball
Team of its very own.
During the course of conversation though, it usually becomes
clear that Vancouver isn't where I'm from and that writing the
software that makes other people billionaires isn't what I do.
The realisation usually comes about when talking of ski-bumming for a
couple years in Whistler, or it's casually mentioned that I've no intention
of writing other people's software ever again; or if I describe the Autumn
colours of New England where I grew up; or brag about playing tackle
football without pads in New Jersey, where I also grew up, or reminisce
my first attempt at 'higher education' as a Photographic Arts
and Sciences major at Rochester Institute of Technology . . .Oh
heck, practically anything I mention about my past is likely to trigger
an avalanche of questions leading in a somewhat randomly reverse chronological
order to my birthplace (Baden Baden, West Germany), how my parents met
(at a dance when they were 16—still together), and why I'm a Canadian
citizen if I was born in Germany and grew up in the USA (Canadian Citizen:
Because Mom & Dad were Canadians and registered me as one when I was
born; Germany: Dad's RCAF assignment; USA: Dad's post-RCAF employment
piloting TWA jets).
This creates a curious mixture of alliances so that I root for
Canadian Hockey teams and Baseball teams; and I root for German Soccer
teams; and I would really love to up-root the USA
and put it on a small Island in the Aleutians where it wouldn't be so
dangerous—well most of the people can stay but the government, industry
and media elites have gotta go.
By this point in the conversation people have just about given
up getting a straight answer on the place I identify most with
but there's that other question fixed in their minds that surely I must
be able to answer,
And just what is it you do
Well, right now I write and construct these web pages though
nobody's paying me to do so which means it doesn't really qualify as an
answer. Infact, nobody's paying me to do anything, which of course leads
to more backward propelled questions. Not that I mind the inquisitiveness
at all. I love the attention. Perhaps it would be easier on everybody
if I could permanently answer that burning what do you do? question
What perplexes these people is that the sum of the various vague
and seemingly misrepresentative responses I give to all their queries
add up to but two facts:
- I'm not from any one place
- I don't do any one thing.
For some reason, many people are uncomfortable with this state
of reality. I believe myself to be among the freest, dare I say happiest,
people on earth. Pascal said, "Our nature lies in movement, complete calm
is death." And so, I am a Nomad. Not just a topographical wanderer but
a philosophical journeyer and occupational rover. When I say 'occupational
rover' I'm not referring to a sort of 'serially monogamous' relationship
with income-earning employment. I mean literally how I keep myself occupied.
Earning an income is just a necessary evil so I can afford to do the thingsI
like to do and go the places I like to be. In particular, this past year
roving through SE Asia and Australia really drove that message home. The
journey I enjoy most though is the internal one. The mind, heart and soul
of self constitutes a vast and ever-fascinating terrain for mental strolling.
But you can't tell people you're a nomad and expect them to understand.
Sometimes I'm feeling particularly alert and expressive and when
people then ask me,
Patrick, where are you from?
I tell them that's a hard question to answer and ask whether they're
really interested in the whole story. I'll launch into it, into the whole
thing, from my teen-age father hitch-hiking between Etobicoke, Ontario and
Montreal, Quebec just to spend weekends with my mother, right through to
my finishing touches on this page
even why I'm bothering to do it
for anyone willing to sit it out. But, if they respond, "No, not
really, I just want to know where you're from," then I say,
I figure they might as well be asking, "Howzit goin?"
They don't really want to know; and Spuzzum's about as bland as the "Fine."
kind of response they're looking for. I'm not sure if I have the patience
to answer those kinds of questions right now.But I'll banter for hours about
places I've been and places I want to go, about things I've done and things
I've not yet done.
BTW: The pictures are all of me.
BTW2: I've been asked if the town of Spuzzum is metaphorical
or real. It is very real. It is beyond Hope.
BTW3: This existential ramble is continued at "Where