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Proust Q 5.0 March 2010: Jordan Zivitz

March 11, 2010
Nick Cave 2007 from nick's band's home page

This is not Jordan Zivitz

Hmm. How to not gush about young Jordan Zivitz? If you don’t work with us at The Gazette, or read his elegantly written music reviews or interviews with the likes of Nick Cave, Blue Rodeo and Jann Arden,  perhaps you know him as the author of the Soundtracking music feature in this magazine. I know him as the guy across the pod wall whose editing precision I both revere and fear. “Uh, did you mean to write Jimmy Cuddy?”  he recently asked me, hopefully at least trying to hide his horror. I know him as a the guy who can call me a pedant to my face and know that I will be equal parts offended, proud and very amused. I know him as the guy who introduced me to half the music on my iPod, who decoded the comedy of Zach Galifianakis (before he was famous), who introduced me to the very fine Robitussin cocktail at Mesa 14 here in Montreal and who never tires of saying, “No, I don’t know what the burgers are like here. I’m a vegetarian.”
I give you: Jordan Zivitz, Proust victim for March 2010.

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place?
Hmm … where’s Nick Cave playing tonight? Oh, sorry … it’s probably too early in this thing to mention him, isn’t it? OK, then: the Middlebury Inn in Middlebury, Vermont. It was a regular stop on the family vacations of my childhood. Haven’t been there in forever. I don’t miss it out of nostalgia for back-seat “Mo-o-m, he’s hitting me!” car fights, though. I miss it because it was an oasis of calm, even in the calmest of the 50 states. And because they served cold strawberry soup, popovers and the world’s best whipped cheese spread. And because the town looked like it was carved by woodland elves.

Who and what would you be wearing?
I would be wearing a woodland elf draped around my neck. Wait — do you

This is not Jordan Zivitz's trench coat, but he wishes it were.

This is not Jordan Zivitz's trench coat, but he wishes it were.

mean “who” as in designers? How long have we known each other again? I am, of course, wearing a concert shirt, slacks, and my unsavoury trenchcoat. All in black, since I haven’t worn anything as daring as navy blue or dark grey in years.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?

Baby Guinness shots, which I tried for the first time last night and am already craving again. Or whatever’s in front of me that tastes like fruit and works fast.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
A kind heart. A strong mind. The ability to forgive me for whatever I wish I hadn’t done.

What do you like most about yourself?
I like to think I’m something of an individualist. I couldn’t care less about following trends or fashions … I like what I like and am who I am.

Least?
My indecisiveness. No … wait. … I guess this may be an offshoot of the previous answer, but I’ll go with my solitary nature. I’m mortified by the number of times I’ve been told by good friends that they don’t want to intrude on my privacy, or that they didn’t know whether they should approach me about something-or-other because I seemed to be hiding in my shell. I bring that on myself, I know. Also, I could definitely do without my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I don’t know if I qualify for full-on raging OCD, but I spend an unreasonable amount of time checking stovetops, locks and the same bloody paragraph over and over in whatever story I’m editing.

What is your greatest achievement?
Caring for Dustball, my cat who passed away in 2006. She was sick for six years; she took ill the week after her sister died, so nobody can ever convince me that cats don’t have the capacity for serious emotions. For those six years, whatever attention or medical care she needed, she got. And she needed a lot. I don’t regret a dollar I spent, or a night I spent curled up on the floor with her if she didn’t feel up to jumping on the bed.

What is your present state of mind?

It would be very inappropriate to say this is not Jordan Zivitz.

Thelma & Louise, but still no Jordan Zivitz.

Emotional. I just watched Thelma and Louise, and it made me wish I had someone in my life who’d be willing to ride with me into the Grand Canyon. Only if we were facing the death penalty after going on a cross-country crime spree, you understand. OK, maybe it’s just as well I don’t have anyone like that in my life.

Where and when are/were you happiest?
Any time one of my cats has bounced back from an illness. And at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the Catskills last fall, where I met Nick Cave on my birthday. He remembered me from the previous year’s tour. (I had seen him play eight shows in 10 days, and was always losing my marbles up by the stage, so he started recognizing me.) My friend told him it was my birthday, and he bear-hugged me … he isn’t the touchiest-feeliest guy in the world, so it meant a lot. I had my photo taken with him … I didn’t know my mouth could stretch into that smiley shape.

What is your first memory?
Being in the hospital for ear surgery. I have an intense memory of the smell of anaesthetic when they gassed me. Every now and then, I have a sensation that I’m smelling it again. I’m sure that means something bad.

What, currently, do you most love doing?
Listening to Buster The Loudest Cat In The Whole Wide World purr his brains out while he’s curled into a ball and nestled against my side.

What was your worst job?
I’m fortunate in that I didn’t have to endure a soul-numbing succession of McJobs before finding a “real” one. I started working at the Montreal

None of these are the correct bean.

None of these are the correct bean.

Gazette in 1998, four months after graduating. But if you’ll accept a subdivision of an often fantastic job, my answer would be some of the insane archival photo searches I was sent on as a copy clerk in the first three years I was with the paper.  “Find me a photo of the wind.” That was my favourite. Or “find me a photo of a bean.” Okay, what kind of bean? “Oh, you know… a bean.” Okay, here you go. “No, no, no! That’s the wrong bean!” Oh — and being sent to interview a porn star-turned-techno singer. She made me hold her purse while our photographer snapped pix of her collagen-lipped self pouting in an alley — pretty much the only unmolested tract of land in the city, since this was on Grey Cup weekend. Then a drunk guy in a foam cowboy hat lurched into the alley and barfed on my shoes.

Your favourite colour?
Fluorescent orange. Definitely.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not having to worry about money, the future, or the health of anyone I hold dear.

Of misery?
The exact opposite of the above. Or having to review Hilary Duff for the third time.

If not yourself, who or what would you be?
A bird, so I could get over my fear of flying. Although, with my luck I’d probably end up as a penguin.

Where would you like to live?
Discounting the fact that I don’t eat seafood and that Nick Cave never plays there, I would love to live on the Newfoundland coast. Or at least to visit it.

What is your favourite journey?
Cross-Canada train ride. I’ve done it twice — in 1990, when my mother worked for Via and the rail line was going to be shut down, and on my own in 1995. I love the scenery, the idea that the world (or at least the country) is right outside your window, and the camaraderie among a bunch of strangers who are strangers no more by the end of the trip.

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I always think it’s the half-tomato-sauce, half-mizithra-cheese spaghetti combo at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Then, whenever I travel to Toronto and make my pilgrimage there, I realize it’s not all that great after all. You’d think I’d have learned by now. I’m guessing my insistence on eating there is rooted in childhood nostalgia for the Factory outlet in Edmonton (where I lived until I was 9), but aside from the free sourdough bread, I routinely leave the resto thinking that childhood nostalgia is kind of retarded.

This is not Jordan Zivitz

This is not Jordan Zivitz

Name the person who influenced you most and how.
I’ve spent more time pondering this question than any other in your list (it’s now been more than a week since I had those baby Guinness shots), and I honestly can’t reach an answer. (You thought I was going to say Nick Cave, didn’t you?) There have been so many people who have had a profound influence on me — friends, colleagues, teachers, artists, etc. — and I don’t think I can raise any one of them about the rest. Maybe that’s a cop-out answer, but every person is the sum of their influences, and mine are so interwoven that I can’t easily pull at individual threads.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
Nic … actually, no. It was Rush’s song Marathon. I saw the video for the first time when I was 13, and had no idea what I was seeing or hearing. It was so outside the realm of any other music I had been exposed to … this was just after MuchMusic moved to basic cable, and was right about the time I started to pay serious attention to music. I was much more of a reader than a listener before then. Seeing the surreal animated visuals, hearing Geddy Lee’s voice … I mean, you’re just not supposed to sing like a helium-huffing chipmunk, right? It opened my ears to the fact that music could be strange and confusing and still be wonderful. I know I’m talking about a multiplatinum band that sells out arenas wherever it goes, but it was so unlike my record collection at the time, which was pretty much limited to Paul Simon, Elton John and Weird Al Yankovic. And I still think Rush is about as outré as mainstream music can get.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
Anybody who makes a concerted effort to improve the lives of animals. I used to volunteer for advocacy groups and shelters, but quickly realized I don’t have the emotional strength necessary to deal with cases of horrific animal abuse, or even just to try to make the world safer for cats and dogs (and birds and ferrets and…). So I focus instead on giving my cat the best home he can have, while knowing I should be doing more.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

George and Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. I like the idea of someone being a hero by living their life, instead of trapping garishly costumed megalomaniacs in giant webs.

What fault can you most easily forgive?

Forgetfulness.

What fault can you not forgive?
Betrayal.

What is your motto?

“Has this page been spell-checked?”

How would you hope to die?
In my sleep, with my headphones on and my cat beside me.

Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to volunteer? Deep dark secret? Admitting that the reason you so publicly cling to the vegetarian thing is that werewolfism runs in the family?
The vegetarian thing is just for show. Every broccoli stalk I eat is
hollowed out and filled with three kinds of bacon.

Any last words?
Are the Olympics over yet?

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.

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2 comments

  1. […] the corner and it's the fourth house on the right, the one with the big pine tree. « Proust Q 5.0: Jordan Zivitz March edition: Jordan Zivitz, Flanken Soup, SXSW, Nuit Blanche, Flanken Soup and a photo gallery […]


  2. […] Jordan Zivitz was the subject of 11th ave’s Proust Questionnaire 5.0 in March. You can read that here. […]



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