The Write Stuff: Tom Molanphy on Blackouts, Security, and Unwanted Noise

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Peggy Trimble
Tom Molanphy earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. His most recent book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, was published by OutPost19. He freelances for 10Best/Travel Media Group at USA Today. His short story "Of Subareas and Public Bathrooms" was included in the California Prose Directory, 2013. Tom teaches creative writing, composition, and journalism at the Academy of Art University. He also taught composition at the University of San Francisco, and occasionally tutors at 826 Valencia in San Francisco.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Officer Slater's attempt at "The Upward Spiraling Pigtail" in Superbad. When he fishtails his police squad car into the lamppost, I recall demolishing a truck into a telephone pole when I was fifteen. I laugh because it's a great example of John Cleese's famous definition of humor: "Funny is someone trying to control the uncontrollable."

What is your fondest memory?

Three interlinked memories: Walking away from that demolished truck -- smoking a Cuban cigar at the top of the Jaguar temple of Tikal with my brother -- my wedding day. On a good day, they rush me all at once.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

My great, great uncle PJ Clarke came over from Ireland and founded PJ Clarke's bar in Manhattan. Sinatra loved how tall the men's urinals were. Dave Matthews wrote a song about it. And my Mom wrote a book about it.

What are you working on right now?

I love writing short profiles of people. I'm working on a profile of Mat Schuster for the USA Today Travel website. He's the head chef of Canela in the Castro. His paellas are inspired by his mother-in-law Pepi from Madrid.

What kind of writing do you most admire?

I just wrote a response to that question for the series "Books By My Bed." Here's the opening:

I have a flashlight, a copper pipe and a pair of wax earplugs near my bed for blackouts, security, and unwanted noise. I keep Flannery O'Connor, John McPhee and Greta Ehrlich within reach for the same reasons.

What are some of your favorite smells?

My wife and I landscaped our back hill in Daly City. We named it "Paul's Point" in memory of my brother, who died in 2008. In the morning, I like the rich stench of the woodchips decaying in the damp fog. In the afternoon, I like the snippy bite of the purple lavender. In the evening, I like the waft of the rosemary, which ancient Greeks dried, burned and smelled to improve their memories.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

My wife and I want to see all fifty-nine U.S. National Parks. We've seen fourteen. If the "all expenses paid life experience" covers Ken Burns as our personal park guide, put that on the tab.

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