I don't recognize him at first; I've been standing on the appointed street corner for several minutes and seen no trace of him, or so I've thought. But I haven't been looking for a grown man whose face is nearly covered with sauerkraut and the occasional blop of mustard. That's not what I've been looking for. I realize my error, and approach him. As I do, he meets my gaze and a glint of recognition flashes across the famous eyes. "Ahga ko slah oh-mee!" says the proprietor of the Avocado Papers web site through a mouthful of hot dog. He notes the confusion on my face, swallows forcefully, and clarifies: "I've got cole slaw all over me. Hi, Steve." I point out that it's sauerkraut. He smiles knowingly: he knows. He's toying with me, or with himself. He knows that raw or cooked, cabbage is cabbage. "I mean, I'm not anti-cabbage, but... you know." I know; he knows. "You wanna --", he says, gesturing with his thumb towards what I take to be his apartment building. As we climb several flights to his apartment, I wonder, certainly not for the first time, why there isn't some sort of state or city law -- ordinance? Is there a difference? -- mandating elevators in buildings with more than perhaps three or four floors. "You want a graham cracker?" he asks in a vaguely exasperated tone of voice as he holds open the door to his apartment. "That's all I've got." I say that I'd just as soon start our interview. "Suit yourself. I'm all yours, Chief." Chief?...
SS: Okay... Chief, well first off: twelve. That's a pretty exciting age to be, right? But the teen years, they're --
SS: Actually, I'm thirty-two. But I don't have any tattoos. I don't really know why -- I guess I just haven't felt a need? Not that I'm not anti-tattoo; I'm not. Not at all.
SS: And yet you recently told Rolling Stone that you were an orphan.
SS: I might have, yeah, but I'm not. Definitely not. I just don't think I could make a claim like that. Not only did my biological parents raise me, but -- well, that's it, actually. That's why I'd be sort of uncomfortable, oh I don't know...
SS: Making that claim.
SS: Yeah. But it's horrible. Orphans? Shit. But the same way I'm not anti-tattoo, I'm also not anti-orphan. By any means. I just wouldn't want to be one myself. My friend Bill, he's not an orphan either, but he thinks it's terrible.
SS: Speaking of which, you have children of your own now. How many?
SS: Well, I'm going on like no sleep here, but there's, yeah, three. Lancelot of course, God knows who his mother was... And Piper... I guess there's only two. Yeah... And no, I don't know how old they are; everyone asks that. They're not old enough to drive, I can tell you that; they're both way too short.
SS: What kind of car do you drive?
SS: You know, it's funny: I don't know. It's some type of German car. It cost like three hundred grand. I don't really understand how it works, but it's black, and it goes very fast, as any car will if you put enough gas in it. That's why having a big gas tank is so important, and this one is pretty big. Fucking huge, actually. But in the words of Men at Work, be good begoodbegood, be good begoodbegood, be good begoodbegood, be good Johhhhhhny.
SS: Like almost a green, sort of an olivish-greenish color?
SS: I guess... To me it's never really been about the hue; it's much more about the saturation, the luminance. If you've got a good, solid red or orange -- let's say orange -- bright enough, saturated enough, and you put that up against a sort of washed-out, dullish green, it won't hold up. Regardless of hue, regardless of one's own feelings about hue. Now having said that, give me an orange and a green that are equally bright and saturated, and I'll usually take the green.
SS: Because it's closer to violet than orange or red are?
SS: Partly. I don't know, it's not quite that simple for me. These preferences that most of us have, who knows -- There's this woman Beth, for example; she and I were friends until recently. She'd add an "r" sound to the end of a lot of words that ended with a soft "a" sound. Like the name "Anna" -- she'd pronounce it "Anner." Or "banana" would come out "bananner." But it wasn't always -- she didn't always do it, you know? For example, the letter "a" in the phrase "go for a jog": that'd come out normal. Not like "go for er jog." Weird.
SS: Okay, but you're losing me here: what does that have to do with why the Mets won the World Series in October?
SS: Well they didn't; the Yankees did. As to why the Yankees did, I think it had less to do with throwing the ball harder and more to do with the fact that they scored more points than the Mets did in four seperate games. Baseball is undoubtedly partly about throwing the ball really, really hard. Really fast. But that's only part of it. You have to throw it in the right place too, and someone has to be catching it.
SS: And hitting.
SS: And hitting is comes into it, of course it does. If you throw the ball really fast but you're not using your bat properly, you're basically nowhere.
SS: Couldn't agree more. Let's talk a bit about adjectives.
SS: Sure, OK. Well, let's say you've got some noun.
SS: Good. But so what does that tell you? "I'm wearing a shirt": well, join the club, Slick. You know? What you want is to tell people something about it. Like if it's red, for example, you want to let people know that. You don't want to keep people in the dark about that: Why. Right? So if you say "I'm wearing a red shirt," all of a sudden people know a little more about the shirt than they did before: because the "red" is in there, the adjective. It's a subtle thing, but it can make all the difference.
SS: But don't adverbs do that?
SS: No. No, they don't. They're different. Because I've heard that one -- "why not adverbs." Because they're different. They end in "ly"; that's how you can tell them from adjectives. They're not interchangeable. Jesus.
SS: That's not what a lot of people are saying.
SS: Well, people can say what they want. A while ago, I said that if the swallows ever came back to Capistrano, I'd reconsider. But I don't think they're coming back. I think they're gone.
SS: What about pronunciation?
SS: I think it's important. Obviously. This Italian guy in Midtown used to cut my hair; at the end, he'd say, "Okaaaaay, my-a frieeeeend, you looka like a playboy; you come back een a montha, I feex you up again." I don't envy the Italians. Not at all.
SS: You're not anti-Italian.
SS: No. Oh, you're fucking with me -- look, like I said, I'm sort of tired. But seriously, it's important that people know this about me: I'm not anti-Italian. No. To each his own.
SS: Let's talk a little about your site.
SS: Wail, yew goan-uh dyew? Buht yew goan crumpa dair, thain yew noan uh daif.
SS: Could you answer me in English like we talked about before?
SS: That would be my pleasure, Steve... My site. Well, it's a little overwhelming, definitely.
SS: What is?
SS: Jesus: the publicity, for starters. I guess I just didn't expect it to be so intense. Not in a bad way, really -- How can I complain? I taped Letterman this afternoon, I'm doing the Today Show tomorrow? Sheeyit, cuz you wal taima roan, goan-uh yern --
SS: How was Letterman?
SS: Fine. I mean, I watched him for years, but like most people, not so much recently? He made a pass at me. I'm joking, of course. He was great. Martin Short was on too, and the guy on Frasier, the brother. Niles. Whatever, it's exciting.
SS: And the women.
SS: [laughter] Yeah, I read that; some hack at the Times thinks I'm doing this as a way to meet women. Big-time asshole, that guy. Look, I'm laughing, but the truth is that I really resent that implication. I'm in this strictly for the money, strictly for the cash. And you can say what you will about my site, but it pays the bills. If people want to believe otherwise, I guess there's not much I can do about that.
SS: How does it pay the bills?
SS: Well, I mean, I'm still writing the checks. But figuratively.
SS: How does The Avocado Papers figuratively pay your bills?
SS: I don't know. It doesn't. Why does everyone -- Look, if money were the goal, I'd be selling Tupperware or something.
SS: Fair enough. So what's off limits?
SS: On the site, you mean? I don't know. Not much. Rodents, I guess -- actually, that's not true, there's a little thing about hamsters. Pigeons -- you won't be seeing anything about pigeons.
SS: Because they're the scum of the Earth? I mean, whatever: they seem to be off-limits for most web sites; let's just say mine won't be any different and leave it at that. I don't see any reason to glorify or shine a light on what they do.
SS: And the URL, where'd that come from?
SS: The name? "The Avocado Papers," you mean? Well, we were The Hawks. And everything was fine, we were sailing along, and all of a sudden one day "The Hawks" meant something else, uh, altogether. It was right in the middle of that whole psychedelia thing: Chocolate Subway, Marshmallow Overcoat, those kind of names, you know. When we were working with Bob Dylan, and we moved to Woodstock, everybody referred to us as "the band." He called us "the band," our friends called us "the band," our neighbors called us "the band." We'd started out with The Crackers, we tried to call ourselves The Honkies... Everybody kind of backed off from that, you know. It was too... straight. So we decided just to call ourselves The Band.
SS: Sorry, what --
SS: So I had to find a domain name, you know, a URL that wasn't taken; I toyed with "The Angry Banana" --
SS: Wait; what you just said, it was from The Last Waltz, the Scorcese documentary about The Band's last --
SS: Yeah, I know.
SS: Well, so what was that about?
SS: This interview is fucking over. Just kidding.
SS: Actually, we are almost out of time; let's end with this: the internet in five years. Where will we be?
SS: Well, there a lot of people who are spending a lot of time and money moving the web closer and closer to where it'll be indistinguishable from television. Which I think is great. Why can I still not watch Walker, Texas Ranger at a time that's convenient for me? We can find a cure for the common cold, but we can't -- you know? Or like, Gimme a Break. "Gimme a break, I sure deserve it..." That's what we're all sort of waiting for, I think, the TV angle...
SS: Gimme a Break?
SS: Yeah, Steve. Yeah, I think so. I do. I do.