Five Questions: Al Underwood
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Oh my goodness. [Laughs] That’s a great question. Because those things shift. That’s a great question. My greatest accomplishment in life up to this point is maintaining my really close relationship with my brother, so that’s like a family thing. And then finding a degree of happiness over these last couple of years that I didn’t think I could achieve. [I asked here if his relationship with his brother was a challenge at any point.] No, never, never. It’s just that we’re old, so it’s been a long time. And I’ve been able to maintain that relationship. It’s been really good. He’s, sometimes he’s the older brother, sometimes he’s the younger brother. Ya know, it all depends on where we are in life and what’s going on. But he and I have a very good relationship, even though we’re separated by half the planet. Right now he’s living in Austria and, but prior to that he was living in Venice, Italy for the last fifteen years. And it’s interesting with technology, we’re closer now than we’ve ever been growing up. But we’re always pretty close, so I appreciate that cuz as you move through life and things change and relationships change and things happen, it’s easy to focus on things outside of the family. He’s the only family I have. No mom, no dad, no relatives. We’re just two guys in the world. Isn’t that wild? So that’s good. I like that. I’m happy about that.
Who is the most important person in your life?
Gosh. That’s a great question. Um, to sound really egocentric, but I think it’s important. Right now, I’m the most important person in my life. I gotta take care of me otherwise I’m no good for anybody else. It’s cliche, but it’s true. You can’t do anything for your friends, your family, your work unless you take care of yourself. And I did not take care of myself for a long time. Um... You know, not looking forward in life. Not, not thinking more than a couple steps ahead. And it’s the things all the old guys say, ya know, “Didn’t take better care of my health,” you know “I didn’t eat well,” “I stayed up too late,” “I partied too much,” you know I just didn’t take good general care of myself and in turn I couldn’t take good care of my friendships, romances family, you know it’s just all these other things fall apart if you don’t take care of yourself first. So I don’t mean that egocentrically, but I mean that in terms of get that core of whatever it is together and then everything can hang off that a little sturdier. Such a random question for me to answer. I’m sure I could give you a better answer if I thought this out, ya know? [Laughs] Yeah, it’s like I’m sure I could be eloquent. This is how I did an interview for this fashion magazine that’s this European fashion magazine. We sat at Farmer’s Market and she just let it roll and we talked for about 15, 20 minutes. And I look at this, and I started to read it and they asked me, “Did you read the article?” And I was like, “I got through a couple paragraphs and I was reading my own words and I don’t wanna hear this, I sound like an idiot.” Ya know? “No it was really good!” And I’m like, “It’s not! The picture’s great. [Laughs]
What is one thing you don’t know now, but feel compelled to know?
Oh, interesting. [Chuckles] Well, that’s funny. [Laughs] That’s a good question because, there’s two things. I mean there’s something really deep and philosophical. But one thing I wanna know before I die… Will this internet thing really work out? [Laughs] Cuz it’s really kicking off with with some sputters and sparks, but you know, where does it go next, ya know? But yeah, I overheard, many many years ago, I was very young when I heard this guy say this. I must’ve been pre-teen, but I overheard a gentleman talking with my father and some other people, and he just said, ya know, “The worst part about getting older is knowing that you’re not going to be around long enough to see all these great developments come to fruition that people are working on now. That you know are in progress.” And for me, that’s the biggest thing, is do we work things out that people are really struggling with right now. A range of things, ya know, technological things, will we find a way to, ya know, we’ve learned so much about the human body, can we really, ya know, cure some of these issues that are coming along: cancer, other things like that. Stop that. Mitigate it. And help people live longer, healthier, more productive lives. And if we do that, ya know, will it work? Will we end up with too many people. One of the, one of the…I like the idea of everybody finding…See if you find a level of happiness, and you can do something that you really wanna do, and you wanna do that the rest of your life, and your life is extended by, uh, X number of years, um, does that exponentially raise the level of happiness globally? So is it possible to find—and I don’t mean Utopia—but ya know, is it possible to find a universe or a world that works, um, at its leisure and all the technology we’ve built works in our favor to allow us that opportunity to do it. That’s what I’d like to know. Did we really reach that point where we can focus on the things that really matter most to us and allow all this technology that we’ve built to serve us. Ya know, to allow us to do that. That’s an interesting…For me. That’s what I sit at home at night thinking about. [Laughs] It’d be an awful waste of human effort and time, wouldn’t it?, if all the stuff we’re doing means that a hundred years from now or five hundred years from now we’re still angry pissed off battling people. Ya know, then what was the point? I guess there is no point.
Knowing your history, what’s one memory from your stroke survival experience that you look to for inspiration when you lose sight of what happened?
That’s a good idea to think about actually, because the biggest learning, the biggest thing I go back to is recognizing that, how fragile we are, and then with a really simple thing that happens, something, you could die, or, or be severely, worse, you could be alive and severely limited, handicapped in your ability to move through the world. And if you’ve really enjoyed the world one way, physically, your eyes, and you lose some of that stuff, that’s a really frustrating little prison to be put in. But the best thing about that was, and this is such a cliche, but, they stand for a reason. But you really do have to lose something before you can gain something that you need. And ya know, the zen thing is you have to lose everything before you have anything. And I believe that’s true. I believe that’s true. Because in order for me to gain—I think we talked about this the first time we chatted—but in order to have a deeper vision, I had to lose part of my sight. And I think that’s… For me that’s profound because I have to go back to that and realize whatever you’re having, whatever bad time you think you’re having right now, where were you back then? And how much worse could this be? And that makes any difficulty that I’m going through—any financial hardship, having a cold, having a rough day at work, that girl’s just not responding to my advances—ya know, makes all that just wash away. Because it could be so much worse. And it’s that attitude, people say, “Those are first world problems.” I really like saying that. These are first world problems. I mean, I see a guy on the bus yelling at the bus driver cuz this guy’s taking too long to pay his money. It’s like, this is what’s bothering me. Ya know, you’re so lucky that’s what’s bothering you. Ya know, that’s the kinda thing I go back to. Is that I lost my vision to help me gain a deeper sight. A longer vision? I’m sure we’ll have a writer fix that for me. [Laughter] Touch that shit up, will ya? [Laughter]
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
Not a damn thing, I’ll be gone! I’m telling you what. And my friends will tell ya this, and as you get to me over time, ah, this chassis is gonna come screaming in at that finish line beat up and rusty and bolts flying off of it, leaking, I mean, I’m gonna squeeze everything I can get outta this. Ya know, had I had that opportunity to see what things would be like, like if I could die and look back and see myself, I’d definitely miss, ah, spending time with my family. I’d miss times I didn’t get to spend with my mom before she passed. I’d miss more time with my brother cuz we’re separated by a planet. I think that’s really important for me. And I’d miss the, uh… I’d really miss the affection of a woman. I really like the way they do what they do. And that’s a shitty thing to think about not having access to any more. Ya know, but that’s why, when you’re dead, you’re dead, cuz you don’t want to think about stuff like that. You’d be the worst lost soul, ya know. There’s a reason why things are haunted. It’s cuz they can’t get that girl, that’s why! [Laughter]