Graeme Wood – Harvesting Interesting Conversation
I went to a high school full of smart kids, but the smartest guy there was Graeme Wood. He was a couple years ahead of me and editor of the school paper. Most of my interaction with him was limited to him repeatedly telling me to get my stories in on time. We were never particularly close friends, but ten years later, I was reading The Atlantic online and saw that he had written the story I was reading. We became facebook/twitter friends, and when he recently came to Austin for a couple days, we met up for pizza. Ironically, this happened weeks ago, and just like in high school I’m scrambling to get this late post up without further tardiness.
Graeme went to Deep Springs College, a two-year school with free admission located on a remote farm where the class of a dozen or so students (males only) work the land and their minds. Some graduates go to Harvard and Oxford, others become commercial fisherman and such.
He ended up becoming a journalist, living and traveling all over. Cambodia, Central African Republic, Somalia, a whole bunch of quasi-nations, Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. People think I’m well-traveled, but I have nothing on Graeme.
He brought along his friend Ben, who also used to write for The Atlantic and now lives in Austin. When we met at Homeslice, we were told the wait would be an hour and forty five minutes. We decided to tough it out, and I told Clare that I doubted the wait would be that long.
We talked obliquely about travel and food. Graeme discussed two theories he’d heard about eating in foreign places: eat at establishments with the fewest walls (aka street food) and eat the least appetizing dish to have the most authentic experience. I asked how anchovies figured into this latter theory, and he countered by saying anchovies are on another level than say….rat…which might be delicious despite societal prejudice against its potential tastiness.
For one who has traveled so widely and has such an adventurous palate, he was pretty adamantly against olives of any sort. Ben and I quickly backed off. We did have a hard time choosing toppings. I have found that the more educated my pizza guests are, the harder time we/they have agreeing on an acceptable topping compromise. We eventually worked one out, and verily, it was bomb. Ben and Graeme thought it was good, and much better than the jumbo slices they choked down in DC.
As we left, I asked Graeme what he was up to these days, and before he could respond, Ben chimed in with “well, he’s got a film at Sundance”. You know, as one does. He wrote a short piece for Good Magazine about harvesting the organs of death row inmates that got animated and became an “official selection” at the Sundance Film Festival:
Graeme’s life seems fascinating. I wished we had more time, because I feel like I barely scratched the surface of Life As Graeme. If he shows up in your town, buy him a pizza or maybe a rat, you won’t be disappointed.
Total this year: $473