Five Questions: Dan Kirschner (New Pics Through Old Frames)
Dan Kirschner's a visual artist, actor, voiceover artist, and stand-up comedian. He creates one-of-a-kind framed photographs with his latest project New Pics Through Old Frames. We spent a few hours talking shop and listening to reggae at his place. Meet Dan.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Survival. I always feel like I’m about three steps away from crazy. And the mere fact that I’m still floating on this planet…I’m really kind of shocked at that. The world or myself hasn’t said, “You’re done.” The fact that I’m on it and contributing to it in a small way, I feel like that’s important. And I’m talking an ant sized way. My greatest accomplishment may be the smallest thing that I’ve done. [Laughter] Just lived. Just breathed for the past 45 years. [Laughter] And with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I’m still standing!
How do you define being “in love”?
Ah, fuck. [Laughter] I’ll tell you a story about not being in love and that will answer your question about what being in love is. I have a tryst with this woman once every seven years, she’s a lovely human being. And every seven years it boils over into the bedroom and we try to be in love. We were talking about it again in the afterglow of the sex, in the beast with two backs. We were talking about giving it a shot, monogamy, dating, all that shit. And I said, “Well I don’t care about Julie at work.” And she goes, “What?” And I go, “You know that girl you hate at your job, that you’re gonna talk about every night? I don’t care about Julie at work. And I don’t wanna know what Julie did at work today.” And she turns to me and says, “Well then we probably shouldn’t give this a try. Because being in love and caring about somebody means you wanna know about Julie at work.” If you wanna know about Julie at work, then I think you’re in love with somebody. When you give that much of a shit about Julie, about “Tell me about your dreams last night, what do you think this means, Dan?” Ya know? I’ll tell ya another story. I was getting divorced and we had just signed the papers and my now ex-wife turns to me and starts telling me a story about work or her career or something. And it wasn't particularly a good story. And I said to the lawyer, “We’re divorced, right?” And the lawyer goes, “Yah.” And I turn to her and I go, “I don’t care. I can’t feign interest in one more fuckin story. And I don’t have to.” She looked at me and went, “Oh. Yeah. Right.”
Me: So you never found out what happened with Julie from work?
Dan: She never finished the story! And we were perfectly all right! I couldn’t care less. I hope everything worked out because I’m a decent human being. So that’s what love isn’t. Love is about caring about Julie from work. And if you wanna hear about that, then you gotta love somebody, right? Or if you give a shit about what somebody wants to eat. “No, let’s talk about that for twenty minutes. About what food we’re gonna eat.” Shoot me in the head. This is why I live alone! [Laughter]
In what ways do you hold yourself back?
After living on this planet for so long, I can see my patterns. I know that I procrastinate easy tasks. I know that I have family members that are unbelievably lazy. And in no time I could be one of those lazy people. So you constantly have to fight those things. You have to recognize the trait within you that’s lacking. Everybody’s different. Some people never procrastinate. Well, good for you. And every time when the lazy comes out, it’s always more fun doing the thing. Or when the procrastination hits about the call you’re supposed to make, about the class you wanna take, or about the opportunity that might be there, or about the thing that you think you might be able to do but you don’t know, but you’re procrastinating it because you think it’s gonna be hard. It’s never that hard! I might’ve written this myself or I might be stealing this from somebody, there’s no way I could be this pithy. But when I started exercising, when I started going from a guy that never exercised a day in his life to exercising six days a week, the thing that I always said to myself—and this was the thing that I put on the pillow, the tee shirt, on the inside of the eyelids—working out takes an hour, procrastination takes all day. Somebody might have told it to me, I’m not taking credit for it. But put that in your pipe and smoke it. All day long you can procrastinate. Fuckin going to the gym takes a goddamned hour. And you’re done. Recognizing those things in yourself that you specifically have to fight, from your make-up, from your genetic pool, from your fuckin whatever dance your third grade science teacher did to your head, that’s what you gotta fight. But you gotta recognize it, name it, and then fight it. With me, it’s lazy, procrastination, and selfishness.
How do you deal with loneliness?
That’s a dance, too. I’ve had three monogamous relationships in my life that meant something. So most of my life has been flying solo. When you’re younger, you fight it with drugs and booze and sex; meaningless stuff. But as you age, for me, I’d rather be alone than with somebody I don’t like.
Me: Fuuuuck yeah.
Dan: How many dates have you gone on where you’re looking at the other person and you’re saying, “I’d so much rather be in my apartment right now. Or shooting some photography. Or taking a walk. I don’t wanna be with you.” And I find my pickyness…there’s a better word for it…my selective friendships. I love hanging out with those people. And it’s never a question of whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. When we can find the time for each other, that’s a thing I enjoy. And now, I love being by myself. Maybe it’s lazy. Ya know, examine it. Why do you like being by yourself so much? It’s a lot easier to be by yourself than it is to worry about the other person’s food or bathroom or whatever or how they feel or what Julie’s doing… You fight the loneliness with—I’m not lonely. When you leave tonight, I’m gonna go out and see a friend, that’s great. Nothing would make me happier than staying in the house tonight—I’m gonna have fun with Lance, I can’t wait to see Lance—but if he cancels or whatever, I’m gonna stay here and I’m gonna work on some pieces and watch a Hawks game and smoke some weed and maybe watch a movie afterwards. What a fuckin awesome night that’s gonna be! In this nice apartment that I have for myself! Ya know? If you like you, you’re good no matter where you go. If I have a crossword puzzle, I’m good. All I need is the New York Times Sunday and I’m good.
Me: Dude, I was doing the one from Sunday, it’s fuckin killing me, man. I’m getting my ass kicked!
Dan: Yeah, but some weeks…
Me: I did Tuesday’s today wicked quick.
Dan: Don’t even… Monday’s, Tuesday’s. Come on. [Laughter]
Me: I’ll take what I can get! [Laughter]
Dan: But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sundays are weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there for an hour and I’m done. I’m talking a hundred percent fuckin up, down, up, down, and I’m done. And some days it’s 25 percent and I’m the stupidest person in the fuckin world and I hate Will Shortz and he hates me. It’s fine! Because next week I’m gonna get you, Will Shortz!
Me: So the solution to loneliness is the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Dan: Every day! Every fuckin day! [Laughter] You gotta have something. If you don’t have something, you’re fucked. I wanted to go to Lake Arrowhead and I’m having breakfast at this waffle joint and a couple locals are next to me. One of them just moved up to the mountains and the other guy’s been there for a while. And the one guy says to the other guy, “If you don’t have something to do up here, you’ll fuckin blow your brains out.” And I’m sitting there eating my eggs and waffles and I said, “You know not just up here.” If you don’t have something to do, you’ll blow your brains out. You gotta find something that you like to do. I just happened to like making art these days. Who knows what I’ll be doing in five years?
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
You know that bucket list shit that everybody does? I’ve crossed a lot of that shit off. Crossed all the bedroom stuff off. Crossed all the drug stuff off. The wild crazy life experiences. I’ve been very fortunate being a bartender to want those things, to want an interesting life and to have it. To see people in society and stuff like that. I don’t think life is precious. We’re ants. There’s a lot of us and we’re all magical little snowflakes in our own magical little world, but we’re not. There’s too many of us to be that. We matter to the people that are around us, we matter to ourselves. And we can affect the people that are around us in a small way. In our words and deeds. Deeds more than words. I didn’t know that I needed to do this… thing, until a couple of years ago. This art. I always knew I needed art, but I didn’t know I could do the photography. I didn’t know that I could do it, that I wanted to do it, I didn’t know that it needed to happen. And before that it was all about a different art. And I wanted to do that and I needed to do that. When you cross things off your bucket list, the things you want, the person you want to be, and then you become that person, and then you’re that person, and you go, “What’s the next person that I’m gonna be?” Because I’m more comfortable with myself at 44 than I have been in my entire life. It’s gotten infinitely better every year of my life. To where I look at last year, two years ago, and three years ago and I go, “Who is that sad clown?” But he was happy too. But he was a different person. And now, I don’t live there, but I think, “What’s it gonna be like if I’m still around in five or ten years?” Who am I gonna be then? Who’s that guy gonna be? Eventually I’ll peak and I’ll go downhill and I’ll say to myself, “I hope I’m not around in ten years.” Or whatever, I don’t know who I’m gonna turn into! So I think what I’ll miss most about this world is finding out what I’m gonna turn into, what’s next. Because it’s always been like, “What’s next?” Because it’s fun to be able to figure out what’s next. And it’s scary. And it’s spooky and it’s exciting and it’s all the good shit. Like now, I wanna leave the security of my bar. And maybe leave Los Angeles. See what it would be like to be me somewhere else. Now. And that’s exciting. And how great is it to be my age and to be excited about something? How great is it to have an art show at 44? How great is it to have a new career? How great is it to say, “I’m gonna be a photographer!” and someone goes, “All right, here’s some money.” What’s gonna happen next? What’s going on in this movie? That’s what I’d miss the most.