THE PERSON OF THE WEEK, #11: JESSE LICHTENSTEIN
Jesse Lichtenstein is 5'11". I first met Jesse Lichtenstein at a Loggernaut Reading Series in late 2008, maybe, a series he started with a few friends in 2005, a time when there were far fewer solid reading series than there are now. And I think Jesse had a hand in what the poetry reading scene is like here now. Loggernaut is still one of the best and most consistent reading series in town–the hosts write very thoughtful introductions for the readers based on the reading’s theme. About 3 years after that, Jesse and I became roommates at the house off Alberta where I still live. Jesse and I were roommates for one year. We started a little salon series, and at one point we talked about starting a slowcore band, but it turns out he is the only one of the two of us who can play music. We spent a lot of our time out on the porch and in front of the fireplace projecting old movies on the wall. That was a good year. He doesn’t live with me any more though. He lives in Atlanta with his girlfriend, Emily. I like to call her Li-Li. I don’t think he calls her that though. Even though he lives in Atlanta, he still loves Oregon and they might live here again soon. He even lives on a street in Atlanta called Gresham. Jesse grew up in Southern Oregon, where his parents still live, near the Rogue River. He has two brothers who are pretty cool. His dad was the town doctor and his mom was a potter and they had a small commercial blueberry farm when he was a kid. His fingernails still have a faint blue hue. It was a shit ton of work. He has lived in Gold Hill, Boston, New York, Madrid, Portland, and Atlanta. Jesse can speak like 3 or 4 or languages kind of. Spanish, French, some other stuff. It’s pretty impressive. He was a major help with this manuscript of french translations I’ve been working on. He’s just really smart. When we were living together, he’d recite long passages from old British Romantic poems while making couscous or something. He studied the history of science at Harvard, and then poetry in grad school. For a year or two, we were on the same pub quiz team at The Basement Pub, meeting up at 9pm every Sunday Funday, along with John Beer, Marshall Walker Lee, Todd Pangilinan, and a few other regulars. We were pretty good, but it was Jesse who was our secret weapon. Now that Jesse has moved, we kind of suck actually. Jesse is currently writing a book about technology and the future and being confused, and he’s co-writing a screenplay about Vladimir Nabokov. He is also a talented poet, one who has read at Bad Blood, and he’s now working on a poetry manuscript that is not specifically about the New York Mets. You can read some of his new poems in the new Jubilat, for example. Sometimes, a few years ago, we would hang out at Extracto on Killingsworth in the afternoon and write poems all day. We would kind of steal lines from each other. Some lines in Fjords kind of maybe came out of his mouth a little. He spent a lot of time last year thinking about the post office and the future of mail. You can read that essay he wrote in Esquire. You can also read articles of his in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and several other fine and respectable outlets. Jesse has always loved baseball, particularly the Oakland A’s. He played the game all the time, through high school, varsity, American Legion, all that. But now he loves basketball and plays it and thinks about it a lot. He has played pickup on four continents. He has played a few pickup games with Doug Martsch in Portland, and after each of those times I’ve asked him a lot of questions about Doug, as if he was just out mindlessly hanging out with someone I have a major crush on. Does he pass the ball? Can he dunk? Does he trash talk? Does he get sweaty? How sweaty does he get? That sort of thing. Jesse got Clyde Drexler’s autograph three times between fifth and seventh grade. He went to a Waldorf school from kindergarten through third grade, so he learned to knit, crochet, paint with watercolor, sculpt beeswax, play the recorder, and count in German before he learned arithmetic. As student body president of his elementary school in sixth grade, he instituted comprehensive marble-rules reform. He spent one year as a semi-professional itinerant house/goat-sitter. He knows much, much, much more about Tintin and Captain Haddock than he should. He likes to listen to radio detective shows from the 1940s. And he sort of has a freckle in his eye. Today! Today, is Jesse’s birthday. He’ll be spending his birthday getting dirty on an archeological dig at the Etowah Indian Mounds in north Georgia where thousands of Native Americans lived from the 11th to the 16th centuries. So, mostly because this week is his birthday, Jesse Lichtenstein is this week’s The Lovely Arc’s The Person of the Week.
Follow Jesse Lichtenstein on Twitter here.
Please submit your suggestions for next week’s The Lovely Arc’s The Person of the Week to me via email.