1.) Is the value of literature entertainment or education or enlightenment or some combination of all three or something else altogether and why do you believe that?
I believe human beings have the ability and perhaps the duty to explore all the ways to interact with literature and art. A piece of thoughtless work is no longer thoughtless when we think about it. There may be some novels which are designed to be, as Steven King says of his own work, 'fast food'; an entertainment for the moment and then we go on with our lives. Yet King is such a prolific writer, with hits and misses, but he speaks to us somehow. And for those who want more than fast food, his material can be mined in many different ways. Just ask Stanley Kubrick's ghost if you can find him in the Overlook hotel. The value of literature is what we bring to the table and what we dare take away. A book on a shelf does nobody a service. When you put your mind to a book and meet the characters, the places, and perhaps the mind of the author, magic becomes real. And you can go as deep as you wish, as if you are peering into the many forms and permutations of an infinite fractal. Some feel the universe is like a fractal. Likewise, adventure can be found in a math book. Math can be found in a fantasy book. Poetry can be found in a trashy porno story in a dirty magazine they keep behind the counter. We can find out about bombs, and also about how to kiss each other. Shakespeare teaches me these things.
2.) I'm interested in your performance preparation processes.
My warmup for theatrical performances includes stretching, tongue-twisters, breathing exercises, facial contortions, Constructive Rest (Re: Alexander Technique), some arm swinging and body twisting, and about five minutes of pure meditation to center myself. For performance art and poetry readings, I have an entirely different approach: I drink about three beers and a shot of whiskey. My favorite tongue-twister is: I slit the sheets, the sheets I slit, and on the slitted sheets I sit.
3.) Do you have a mantra that gets you through the day?
I do. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Sometimes I chant in my mind, "I am already there."
4.) How did you become an expert on food? Did you work in the industry, or culinary school, or just highly refined palate?
I had a fortunate childhood. My father would often take us out to rather nice seafood places and introduced me to such things at an early age as lobster, shrimp, crab, conch...I associate in particlar lobster to those great times with my father and family. It was such a strange and wonderful thing to enjoy. I had a wide variety of culunary experiences growing up, because in our family we had Jewish relatives, country farm relatives...I lived in Miami so I was exposed early on to Italian, Cuban, Spanish foods, and all this together with a fascination for cooking shows (Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child) set me going. I recall designing gourmet meals for my parents at the tender age of eleven or twelve. I had no idea what I was doing...I would just go to the store with my parents and put the weird stuff in the cart: Snails, Octopus, carambolas, pomegranits, and frozen stuffed chickens. I was really more adept at arrangeing things on a plate than I was actually cooking. There was a few years when I was dating a girl who's father was a judge and I had a regretful free reign on the family credit cards. We made a point of going to restaurants we had no business in, Michelin Starred restaurants, and we did this for a year or two. In short, early encounters with a wide variety of food items at their finest set my palate on its feet. I began cooking in my teens, led by the inspiration of several TV chefs, as I said Julia Child, and in particular I really liked Chef Pasquale Carpino who would drink and sing opera as he sauteed some serious meats and eats. Then, I loved Justin Wilson who didn't sing, but told stories and drank. And Julia, she drank like a boatload of sailors. It just seemed so connected to art, music, life...I was hooked to try and replicate the things they were making look so easy and good, and dare I say, fun! This was before the big modern food-craze hit. Let's face it, before Julia Child, there was meatloaf and casserole. I also got a bit obsessive with cook books. That was about it. The rest of the story comes from going to great places where quality and simplicity and care for the diner were paramount. Those are amazing experiences when you can get them. But some restaurants, I have seen food, the preperation of food, and the very customers so mistreated and mangled...I mean the first and foremost thing to do with food is don't fuck it up. Like medicine, first do no harm. And treat the customer as a valued guest (and they should ideally have the same respect going in.) I committed to speak highly of great restauranteurs who cared about their diners and their food (how food was treated, where it came from), and I wanted to have bad restauranteurs either step up their game or get out of the way. I have picked up many techniques from Chef friends, and refined my palate by way of these collective experiences. And good food does not have to be complicated nor expensive, it just has to be right. I know when it's right. But please know, I am more of a professional diner than I am a Chef. Great chefs have worked the passe and mopped the floor and broke their ass every day in a kitchen to make something special. I'm not that guy. I just know good food when I see and taste it. And for those Chefs who truly bring passion, care, and inspired artistry to their craft, I am in respectful awe.
6.) What first attracted you to Gainesville or were you actually born there?
I first arrived on the scene to visit friends who had moved here for college. I was born in Hialeah Hospital and lived for the most part in Miami. I was struck by the trees, the bricks, the feel of the place--an almost cosmic thing. There was such a diversity of people in such a small place and you would see the same people again and again. And there was music, lots of music. Record stores, bands, house parties...and some pretty nifty quality drugs. I moved here in 1984 with the intention of going to college. I had really shitty grades from Miami Dade Community College and a crappy GPA from high-school. So I enrolled at Santa Fe for a few courses (English, Music) and I failed most of them for lack of interest. Funny, I'm a professional musician and writer now. I started playing in bands and working odd jobs; cookie maker, bartender and bar manager, cook in a Chinese restaurant (go figure that one), data entry, and the like. I sold paintings, poetry books, had amazing benefactors who appreciated my work, and scrapped around to the present day where I do exactly what I was doing when I got here, except now I managed to finally--28 years later--make it into the University of Florida to study acting and theatre on the academic side. Gainesville, I call it: "The Known Center of the Universe" [with kudos to Shamrock McShane who I believe first coined the phrase.] The coincidences, experiences, people, trees, history, legacy, music, art, all collide here in Gainesville. I have said before, I would be honored to die here, and I expect there are lots of people who would be happy if I went ahead and died here now. My plans are to live forever.
7.) Who are your real parents and who adopted you and how were you brought up and how did you end up in Gainesville?
How I ended up in Gainesville is answered above. I pretty much followed some of my best friends here and then got caught in the Gainesville Indian Curse/Spell...whatever you call it--the thing that if you've been here for any length of time, you'll never fully escape. Maybe for a bit, but you'll be back. I just decided to go ahead and stay. Who are my real parents? Yes, I was adopted when I was two days old. I am not permitted to know the answer to that question without untangling a number of legal issues, so it remains a mystery. As I am a big fan of mystery, I have no particular interest to know. The parents who chose me made me the person I am today and for all my many faults and mistakes, I like me.
8.) What is the greatest amount of lobster you have consumed in one sitting? And have you ever thought about holding a lobsterathon for charity?
Finally, a lobster question! I do not belive too much in gluttany, nor that more is better. However, I admit to going to Orlando's 'Boston Lobster Feast'. They have an all-you-can-eat lobster deal and I think I put down about seven 1/4 pounders. These lobsters are batch steamed and not particularly special, but they are Maine tails and in a pinch, they'll do. But I'd much rather have one beautiful two-pound tail (Main, Rock, Australian) of quality, cooked properly and simply. That's all I need. Or to be even more conservative: I would like just one South African Lobster Tail, gently broiled, with drawn butter and that would put me in Heaven's lobster tank. SALs are spiny lobsters and smaller creatures, amazing flavor, sweetness, texture...just really amazing when done properly. One tail is about the size of three medium shrimp. Just that. Nothing more. I am open to a Lobsterathon for charity but as it is such a high-end item, I don't know how to make the ethics and the economics of something like that work. Please send some proposals.
9.) How old were you when wanted to be a performer?
That's a great question. Unfortunately, I don't have a proper answer. I never 'wanted' to be a performer. I did not really make a choice there. I have always felt an enjoyment and a responsibility to create and perform, as young as I can remember. Getting a response, causing shifts, making people happy, or think, pushing conventions off the cliff...dancing around for chuckles as a two year old. I have those memories. My Aunt Alice had these amazing things called records--disks that would sing and speak if you put them into a machine called a record player. My sister had those too, 45's mostly. That was one of the speeds these things could be played at. My Aunt had Readers Digest Collections of classic old comedy (Mel Brooks, Sid Ceaser, Woody Allen, old radio shows...classical music, and a particular collection of Royal Shakespeare Theatre which included the scripts so one could read along.) My sister, on the other hand, had Cher, Beatles, the freakin' Archies, the Partridge Family--man, I loved that Cher Song, "Gypsies Tramps and Theives". And I especially loved the song, "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies. One of my earliest public performances, perhaps my first: Me, maybe 7 or 8 years old swinging on a swing set and a group of kids surrounding me. So I'm swinging on the swing and singing, "Sugar, ah honey honey...you are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you..." and at the end, applause. My first applause. It was some kind of epochal feeling I would never forget. My life mission: informed by Shakespeare, the golden age of comedy, and the Archies.
10.) Where does Tom Miller see himself in 5 and/or 10 years?
I'd like to do film and stage work in New York and Chicago. I'd love to work with heroes of mine, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Darren Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, I'd like to be a good story-teller, I'd love to do off broadway stages; stuff I pipe-dream about. The five-year answer to your question is this: I'll be in Gainesville, Florida--The Known Center of the Universe--being Tom Miller. The ten-year answer to your question, I will be at the Hoshinji Zen Monestary in Japan for the remainder of my time, and there, I will just be.