Proust Q 5.0 November 2009: John Pohl

November 11, 2009

Just who is John Pohl? These photo self portraits do not help. Asking questions doesn’t appear to narrow it down either, as this month’s Proust

John Pohl, the early years

Questionnaire shows below (What’s this? Scroll to the bottom.). Here’s what I can tell you. He goes to yoga. I’ve seen it, I know. He knows his way around a canvas or board or anything else that’ll take a bit of paint (there’s a sample belwo). He has a sense of humour so dark and dry that I occasionally hold up a mirror to check for breath. And he is a comrade on the Gazette copy desk, where he will not tolerate a “which” in a “that” hole. Brace yourself.

John, since we are conducting this interview via email, the world isours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to betaking place? Well, I liked a lot of places in Italy when I was there a few

John Pohl, middle man

years ago, but any place that has good espresso and serves plates of olives, cheese and prosciutto at a table on a cobblestone street within a short walk of a medieval village square or a church with 900-year old frescoes would do.

Who and what would you be wearing? I’d be wearing Speedos and Ray-Bans, with perhaps a few other designer items in my man purse.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? We’d be drinking home made beer from a plastic garbage can on the back of my 1970 Dodge half-ton with a bunch of fishers. I would have thrown on a plaid wool jacket for this.

John Pohl, the Bat Man

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others? Gullibility. No, actually, I admire people with a positive attitude and try to accomplish something.

What do you like most about yourself? That I can absolutely believe anything that anybody tells me.

Least? This is one I can’t seem to reveal an answer for.

What is your greatest achievement? According to my wife, it was the family magazine I made with my kids as they were growing up. We did cartoons and used our family photos for fake stories and advertisements and news. They all did some memorable creative work. My son Ardin had a cartoon superhero who spent all his time looking for a sidekick. And Nyssa mimicked his Biff and Marty boy’s cartoon with two goody goodies, Tom and Betty. And then they brought the other’s characters into their own stories in order to ridicule them. Ula had her own newspaper and Leatha had an advice columnist.

What is your present state of mind? Highly charged since my recent trip to Turkey.

Where and when are you happiest? When I’m surrounded by people laughing uncontrollably.

What is your first memory? I’m not exactly sure, but one early memory is of being downtown with my mother and walking upon a scene of a man surrounded by police with their guns drawn. I have a clear picture of this but it seems to be a single image. It became part of a recurring dream that also involved a large sewer pipe lying in a field and an uncle but whose meaning was always just out of reach.

What, currently, do you most love doing? Lost in an artwork.

What was your worst job? I don’t know how to define “worst.” One in which I was injured? Or having a bully for a boss? Or was it the Christmas I spent working two consecutive 16-hour shifts in a booth in an underground parking garage?

Your favourite colour? Green. I don’t really like it but I use it a lot and It’s a real challenge to make one that works and isn’t cheap looking.

5W-jpohl 7_ x 10_ 2008,jpg

By John Pohl

What is your idea of perfect happiness? To be immersed in some creative endeavour.

Of misery? To be drowning in some non-creative endeavour.

If not yourself, who or what would you be? A mountain goat, roaming the hills and looking for shoes to chomp on with a mountain goatess.

Where would you like to live? In a city neighbourhood, maybe on a hill.

What is your favourite journey? A dérive, in which you let yourself follow any path that opens up. But it’s hard to break routines.

Name the person who influenced you most and how. Not one person, but different adults who encouraged me or extended some kindness to me when I was growing up and experiencing the terrors of youth

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why? On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I remember the moment I discovered Kerouac’s Desolation Angels on a library shelf when I was 13 or 14. He helped me escape the straitjackets of religion and nationalism – I was an American and Catholic, both one-true-faith environments that left everybody else as inferior or damned. I wanted to escape that mentality and J.K. provided the ’48 DeSoto to do so, at least until the Beatles arrived.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
People like Nelson Mandela and Gorbachev, and even Poland’s Jaruzelski and de Klerk, leaders who acted responsibly during transitions of power.

What is your motto?
Be unprepared.

How would you hope to die?
In the arms of my great-great granddaughter just after completing my annual “The Next 100 Years,” address to my heirs.

Any last words?
Yes, to President Obama and the Democrats. Please do more to get the people behind your program before the Republicans crash back into power and devote themselves to impeachment.


Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.



  1. Until now, nothing and no one has made me actually want to read On the Road Again.

  2. Great interview. I had always wondered what the heck he’s got in that man purse.

  3. My already substantial admiration for John has been deepened. Thank you for this. I read every word. Don.

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