Jimmy Chen on Metaphysical Economics and Corroborating a Delusion

An interview with Jimmy Chen, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Jimmy Chen has contributed to ViceThought Catalog,HtmlgiantMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among other venues. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking, eating, drinking, gambling and occasionally practices yoga and meditation. He lives in San Francisco with his cat.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them… ?

I tell them the truth — that I am an administrative assistant at a large unnamed public health institution, though I’m phrasing it here in a way to preserve my anonymity. Telling someone you’re a writer because you write is like telling someone you’re a cook because you cook dinner for yourself. Behavior is not vocation. Salary is, and I’m a freaking secretary.☹

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

I suffer from chronic depression and — by definition, someone who’s internally paralyzed — am too overwhelmed by the logistics of getting medicated, save the three-or-four drinks I have every night, whose anesthetic effect is a gentle reprieve. Side effects may include loss of libido, anxiety, catastrophic thinking, trouble sleeping, vague thoughts about death without any clear plan, unhealthy food compulsions, and mild OCD.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

I am 37 years old and make about half of what a 22-year-old financial analyst at Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch makes, or a PR sweetie at Google or Facebook. I am single, and have not had sexual intercourse in over a year. I masturbate to Korean and/or Japanese porn, thus feel like traitor to my people. I am not on speaking terms with my father, and my therapist thinks I’m a walk-in closet homosexual (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So yeah, I am not successful. Jesus.

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

At the onset of my grandmother’s senility, she said we were from the bloodline of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), whose last emperor was popularized by the film with that name. I am the last illegitimate heir to the Qing Dynasty, but OkCupid does not have a box for that. My story is unremarkable.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old?

Beastie Boys. They partied hard and didn’t listen to their parents. They trashed the place and had good shoes. I was 10 years old and also had to fight for my right to party.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I would not do this, as I would see myself from the POV of the person I was trying to seduce, and feel repulsion.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

I only buy the most expensive cat food, am fairly liberal regarding the price of a bottle of wine, but cannot afford high-end escorts for overnight stays. Does this answer your question?

What are you working on right now?

Flight options for my boss.


What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art is secular church, whose reward for corroborating a delusion is to withhold access from others. It is also metaphysical economics, to diplomatically cordon off class by way of non-functional objects, events, or ideas. It is necessary.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

For all the post-coital couples waiting in line for brunch at overrated places on the weekends to stop gazing into each other’s eyes and look into their iPhones like normal alienated people.

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

I’d buy a house with a wine cellar in Spain or Italy overlooking the Mediterranean. I’d fill the cellar with wine. I’d buy a few goats, plant some beets, fennel, and dill, and basil. I’d hire an old maid to come over and make fresh mozzarella and match up my socks. I’d play chess in my garden with snobby expatriates, read The Economist and Al Jazeera online, plan a coup, make some soup, etc.

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