Patrick, where are you from?

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,
Spuzzum, BC
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 anyway, Patrick?

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 for myself.

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:

  1. I'm not from any one place
  2. 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,
Spuzzum, BC
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 to?"


Overlooking Twin Falls Kakadu National Park Northern Territory, Australia

Overlooking Twin Falls
Kakadu National Park
Northern Territory, Australia

graphical element

Labrang Si Xiahe, China

Ha, ha. OK, ya got me.
Labrang Si
Xiahe, China