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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer is a performer and songwriter.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 

Usually when I have some kind of downtime and I’m not pressed to be thinking about domestic tasks or administrative bullshit. Ever since having a child I’ve just created spaces for art-making, and that’s simply when I come up with the best ideas, because it’s the only time I have at all to have ideas. The faucet is always turn-on-able, I find. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. You can always write something shitty, don’t lie. Just write, something.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?

The time and attention and friendship of the strange man next door, my old neighbor Anthony, who led me away from the path that I was stumbling down, and who gently pointed towards the path to compassion and mindfulness.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?

I like to think it’s the love and time and attention I’ve given to my husband. Sometimes I feel like he’s my final exam in empathy.

What is the biggest challenge youve faced?
Having a really bloody miscarriage — at almost three months pregnant — alone in a hotel room was pretty gnarly. But I actually found myself being deeply grateful for the experience, I found myself feeling unafraid of anything, and I still feel that way. Once you hold death in your hands like that, everything sort of shifts around. I’d also just watched two friends die, and had the pleasure of hanging out with their warm corpses before the machines came to haul them away. I have found myself wanting to pick up dead road kill and lay it to rest simply because I have no more fear of dead bodies.

I’d go to one of those holding cells for children on the Mexican border and try to cuddle the kids.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?

Undertaker? Event planner? Yoga teacher? Professional hugger?

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
Oof. Probably publishing a compassionate poem about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber. It wasn’t a mistake to publish the poem right after the bombing, it was a mistake to not realize that it would warrant tons of unwanted anger and attention, and the mistake I made was not writing a better poem. After that, I realized that writing only half-baked poems was probably not a great idea, professionally.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?

Falling asleep in a pile of blankets with a lover-I’d-met-that day on a beach in the south of France, when I was 16, waking up to find my backpack and passport stolen from under my head, walking a half mile across town with nothing but change in my pocket, and getting recognized in an alleyway by the local garbagemen, who’d found my bag in a dumpster. They recognized me from the passport photo and flagged me down.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
An eccentric German primatologist once invited me to come to his camp in the deep jungles of Africa to live in a tent for a few months, hanging out with his crew and the gorillas. And I was like: If I don’t do this before I have children I’m probably never going to do it. And then I had a child. And now I probably won’t do it.

How do you relax?

I drink wine. I do yoga. I go for walks without my phone.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I’d go to one of those holding cells for children on the Mexican border and try to cuddle the kids.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?

Falling down the stairs and not being believed.

Describe a perfect day.

Wake up, have sex, meditate, eat breakfast with whoever I had sex with, talk about life with them, go to yoga, eat lunch with a bunch of friends who make me laugh, spend all day making art with people I like, have dinner with more people who make me laugh, dance to goth music til 3 a.m.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?

I don’t have any tricks. I’ve just learned that if you wait, things change. So I just wait.

What is your proudest moment?
Sometimes I think it was befriending Casey Long, who was a Dresden Dolls fan/letter-writer in the hospital. She was 17 and from New Hampshire and had ovarian cancer. And then I kept talking to her, and now we’re friends and have been housemates for almost 10 years.

What would you like to experience before you die? 

I wouldn’t mind science advancing to the point where I could swap bodies with a dude and experience an orgasm in a male body. I just imagine it being so satisfying.

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