August 12, 2019
Having lived all over the world, a member of the Choctaw Tribe talks to Geth about finding a sense of belonging when visiting home from abroad.
This episode is brought to you by Magoosh (www.magoosh.com code: BEAUTIFUL), Talkspace (www.talkspace.com code: BEAUTIFUL), Circle (www.meetcircle.com/beautiful code: beautiful), and Bombas (www.bombas.com/stories).
176 — The Choctaw & Irish Connection
[00:00:00] [AD BREAK]
[00:00:34] CHRIS: Hello to everybody who’s really locking into the gig economy. This is Beautiful Anonymous; one hour, one phone call, no names, no holds barred.
[00:00:45] THEME MUSIC: I’d rather go one-on-one. I think it’ll be more fun and I’ll get to know you and you’ll get to know me.
[00:00:57] CHRIS: Hi, everybody, it’s Chris Gethard. I’m just so happy to welcome you to another episode of Beautiful Anonymous. Each week I get so excited because I know what this week’s call is, and I’m so excited to tell you guys about it. I feel very, very lucky to have this gig and to be at the helm of this community. Thank you for being a part of it, thank you for putting up with my JUJITSU talk last week, and I wanted to let you guys know, real quick, I have not gone out on the road pretty much since the very, very beginning of 2019. I go a little crazy when I don’t get to come out, do shows and hang out with the guys and meet you guys. We got a bunch of live shows and a bunch of Beautiful Anonymous tapings. September 14th, London, we are returning to the London Podcasting Festival. Jared and I will be there, it’s gonna be a real quick trip for me. I’m hoping all you guys come out, say hello. Then we’re going all over the country, all over the states, Buffalo doing standup. We got another Beautiful Anonymous live taping in Detroit. Beautiful Anonymous live in Woodstock. Stand up in Buffalo and Woodstock, and Detroit, and Brooklyn, and Asbury Park, and Philly, and Baltimore and Richmond. We might have a few more dates, might have another Beautiful Anonymous live in Toronto. Might be doing some standup in Chicago. Who knows? Go to chrisgeth.com for all those dates and I’m filming this tour. I’ve been doing comedy now for half my life, I’ve been stumbling into these weird art projects for half my life, no other performer I know has such personal conversations and it’s really meaningful to me. We’re bringing a camera crew out to try to document it. So come on out, say hi, have some laughs. Talk on camera. Let’s connect. Parlay. It’ll be cool.
This week’s episode, like I said, really excited to tell you about this one. This caller comes from a community that many of us view as marginalized, as fetishized and maybe contained to a very, very specific section of the world. This caller is Native American. This caller participates in her tribal politics or her tribal experience. But you think maybe of Native Americans as living only in the Southwest America. If you’re like me and maybe aren’t such a deep thinker, this caller grew up with a more worldly experience than I know. And then I bet a lot of us do, all different countries all over the world, multiple continents. So this caller has perspectives from every angle. And I found it really fascinating. I think you will, too. Enjoy the call.
[00:03:19] PHONE ROBOT: Thank you for calling Beautiful Anonymous a beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host. [Beep]
[00:03:26] CHRIS: Hello.
[00:03:27] CALLER: Hello?
[00:03:29] CHRIS: Hi.
[00:03:30] CALLER: Oh! This is happening!
[00:03:32] CHRIS: It is, it’s all going down. Everything’s going down. Buckle up.
[00:03:35] CALLER: How are ya?.
[00:03:37] CHRIS: I’ll be honest, I’m a little depressed, but I’m handling it well and I’m here at work. And I bet Jared and Harry never would have guessed I was depressed. That’s how good I am at handling being depressed now.
[00:03:48] CALLER: It really becomes an art form, doesn’t it?
[00:03:51] CHRIS: It does, I’m surfin’ that wave, and I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’m happy to tell you that I can just get through the day and go to work and get stuff done in the face of it now, pretty proud of that.
[00:04:03] CALLER: Something definitely to be proud of. Was it just something that was triggered by something, or you just woke up feeling like “eh.. I’m off today”?
[00:04:13] CHRIS: I’ve just had a couple of days where I can’t shake it. Was it Harry or Jared that just typed “I knew”?. Apparently Harry did sense that I was depressed. I underestimated Harry’s powers of deduction. It’s just, you know, sometimes I wake up and that is just what it is. That’s okay. How are you?
[00:04:39] CALLER: Yeah, I’m not depressed today, but that is a rarity. So I am counting my blessings on that one.
[00:04:48] CHRIS: Happy to hear that you’re breaking the rhythm on that one. That’s good.
[00:04:55] CALLER: Yeah, I feel you though. I was recently diagnosed with complex PTSD and severe depressive disorder and so they put me on some Zoloft real quick.
So that’s been it’s actually been working pretty well.
[00:05:12] CHRIS: Oh, good.
[00:05:15]CALLER: It was one of those things that may or may not work. Or it may bring out your possible manic — like what do they say? — something like I could be bipolar, and if I was, it might pull it out, so stop if you start manic highs or lows.
[00:05:35] CHRIS: Great. I’m glad it’s working. I’m glad it didn’t do that.
[00:05:40] CALLER: Yeah, well, I’m sorry to hear about how you’re feeling today. I know. So now you have to talk to people.
[00:05:46] CHRIS: Oh, that’s the thing that that’s the thing I love the most. What a weird thing to have your job be talk to people on the phone. A nice thing, a nice life, good gig.
[00:06:03] CALLER: Were you always good at talking on the phone or there’s just sort of was you developped this naturally.
[00:06:06] CHRIS: Oh, no. I mean, you ask anybody who’s ever met me in real life, and I’m actually a terrible conversationalist. I would say shockingly bad conversationalist with people I know, with people I don’t know any people. I mean, people come out to these Beautiful Anonymous live shows and I’ll sit in a room in front of 400 people and I have a pretty lovely conversation on the phone. I’ll involve the crowd and I’m like a maestro handling a symphony. And then they come up to me after the show and are like “good job up there, man”, and I’m like “uh…uh… yeah thanks.” And they just are so turned off and they assume that it’s them, and it’s not it’s me.
[00:06:44] CALLER: Are you getting some kind of physical indication that they’re turned off? What do you mean?
[00:06:48] CHRIS: Body language… the sadness and shock in their eyes. The stunning realization that it’s not going well. And because they assume that I’m someone who is good at conversations, that it has to be their fault. it’s the whole thing. It’s fine. Who cares? Who cares? It’s fine.
[00:07:15] CALLER: Well, I definitely couldn’t do what you do. I’ve had some minor versions. I’ve toured with a couple of bands who like to stay afterwards and greet all the fans and I, by proxy, just sort of get a taste of what that’s like, and I’m not socially equipped for it. So at some point I’m like, I can’t play nice right now. I can’t. I don’t know how to do this. I feel strange. And then, of course, like you said, they start to feel like they’ve done something wrong. And I’m like the beginning of the line. And so by the time they get to the people they actually want to see, I feel like they’re deflated.
[00:07:55] CHRIS: Yes. There’s they’re thrown off their rhythm and full of of a panic and an uncertainty. It’s okay. This is how people bounce off each other in 2019. That’s OK. These things happen. None of us are good at talking anymore, but we’re all great at texting. We’re all great at tweeting. But we can’t talk to each other. We can’t just have a conversation! But we can look at a little box, we can do that. Anyway, here I am slamming technology, whereas I’m more addicted to my phone than anyone.
[00:08:33] CALLER: Really?
[00:08:34] CHRIS: No, not not more than anyone. I’m sure there’s other people out there, but I don’t love the amount of time I spend on the screen, although I do spend a lot of time reading magazine articles on my phone, and that’s not a bad use of screen time.
[00:08:46] CALLER: No, if you’re reading articles, or stories, or books, you’re good. Do you find that now that your little baby is around, it’s kind of lessened some of your time on the screen? Or is it kind of more like, I need this. I need this mental break?
[00:09:02] CHRIS: No, it’s not a mental break. There’s two things I think, like I am spending less time doing the frivolous stuff. There are like baby specific apps that fill some of that time, like things to track feedings and stuff like that. And then also like if I’m up at 4:00 in the morning with him and he’s kind of going in and out of sleep while I’m trying to feed him and like, I can’t go back to sleep because I’m going to need to feed him at some point, then I will sit and play on my phone because he’s just sleeping on his snuggle me pillow and I’m just waiting for him to want to eat. So sometimes the middle of the night, the phone will get me there because he can’t really watch TV next to me. Anywho, what’s up with you?
[00:09:48] CALLER: What’s up with me? I feel like I’m a bit all over the place, I was not expecting to come through. I just got back from Oklahoma and I’m originally sort of from there. I’m Native American and my my tribal affiliation is mostly out of Oklahoma. And there was a big ending Indian Gaming Association trade show there was huge as well. It’s the biggest in the states now — which means it’s biggest in the world, I guess, because it’s native and specific to the states. But, It’s such an interesting feeling for me.
My parents are missionaries. I grew up overseas. Born and raised. And I didn’t move to the states until I was 18. And so I have this really funny kind of feeling around identity and home and where I fit in and all of it. It’s fine now. I’m in my thirties, so you’d think I’d be out of this phase. But it just never seems to quite wrap itself up. And then I get exposure to these types of events. And it’s a funny thing because I feel extremely welcome. It’s almost as somewhat a sense of coming home because you’re in a sea of red instead of a sea of white all the time. And it’s like, oh, like these people look like me and they laugh like me. They’re mischievous, like me. That’s definitely is a cultural thing that I just naturally have. And then feeling like for a few days is like, “oh, I belong, and maybe I should be a part of this more often.” And then I leave it and I’m confused again about who I am, because I’ve just moved so many times in my life and all of my family is spread out all over the world and I’m in a long distance relationship with someone from Ireland, and I go to Ireland a few times a year, and so I feel like I’m just everywhere, mentally if that makes sense. So that’s what I’m thinking about currently.
[00:12:15] CHRIS: I gotta say, as an answer to the question, what’s up with you? You really nailed it. There’s a lot. That’s a lot for what’s up with you? Wow. It’s a very interesting life.
[00:12:27] CALLER: Funny, too, cause that’s not what I would have thought a few months ago, I would have been like, “what’s up with me?” The Zoloft’s really helping apparently.
[00:12:38] CHRIS: I’m glad to hear, glad to hear. Zoloft’s allowing you to explore some things. That’s good.
[00:12:47] CALLER: Yeah. It’s not all just one note darkness and sorrow. That’s nice.
[00:12:58] CHRIS: I have a bunch of questions about a lot of the stuff you just brought up, if you’re okay talking about all that stuff.
[00:13:04] CALLER: I’m an open book. Anything you want to ask.
[00:13:07] CHRIS: All right. I mean, you brought up so much. Are you comfortable saying what your tribal affiliation is?
[00:13:16] CALLER: Yes. So I’m card carrying, which means I literally have a card that gives my blood quantum. There’s a lot of actual back and forth and some politics and combativeness around it. Some tribes, they care a lot about your blood quantum and others, you can be next to nothing, you could be one sixty eighth and you’re fully welcomed in. My tribe is Choctaw, but I’m also Comanche, and Apache, but those I don’t have any cards for, they’re mostly on my father’s side, my father’s Dutch and Comanche and my mom is full native.
[00:14:07] CHRIS: Wow. Wow. And does blood quantum — I’m assuming, based on what you said there — that that’s like an actual breakdown of percentage of of what your heritages are?
[00:14:19] CALLER: Yeah. And depending on your tribal affiliation, it also determines what kind of — I hate calling them benefits because it’s really not exactly what they are and I’m really terrible at — I understand it in my mind, but when I try and convey it to other people, I feel a great sense of responsibility about conveying it properly. And I am concerned that I might misstep, so I apologize to any skins who are listening because I’m not I’m not trying to fuck this up..
[00:14:56] CHRIS: Any what’s that?
[00:14:57] CALLER: Skins.
[00: 14:59] CHRIS: Skins?
[00:15:00] CALLER: Yeah, that’s what we call each other, at least in my tribal communities. Redskins. It’s kind of a reclaiming.
[00:15:09] CHRIS: Right. But just so I’m clear, I am pretty well aware of current events. That is not something I should be repeating. I know that much.
[00:15:19] CALLER: Probably not.
[00:15:21] CHRIS: Yeah. That’s not for me or the Washington sports teams to just say that we’re allowed to say. That’s not cool.
[00:15:30] CALLER: Right. I mean, I hear it from time to time, but it’s usually in a term of affection. And if you’re friendly with a skin, they’re not going to care. One thing about natives that’s pretty cool, we’re really feisty and we like to make (and this is I think I get along with my Irish boyfriend so much) is like slagging people is like the best way of showing your love. The meaner you are, the more “in” you are.
[00:15:59] CHRIS: You know, I can speak for the Irish that we like to give each other a hard time. It is a true showing of affection. It really is. So it is.
[00:16:09] CALLER: It took me like two years to stop being butthurt all the time because he was so mean me and so was his family. And then I was like, oh, one day it just clicked, oh ok, they actually really loved me, so I’m going to embrace this.
[00:16:27] CHRIS: You said that you were raised overseas because your parents are missionaries. You said that your father is half Dutch, half native. It sounds to me like maybe if I’m piecing it together. Your grandfather was a missionary who worked with the natives and then married someone who was native, and that’s kind of the roots of of your experience?
[00:16:49] CALLER: Well, that sounds exotic, but no, not quite. So I guess I’m just breaking down my father’s whiteness. Like, that’s like his portion that I know about. I think he’s also Italian, but that probably sounded much more exotic than I intended. But no, my parents are from southeast Oklahoma and that is like the northernmost part of southern culture. Like my grandma lives in the sticks, like I think population 50 and it’s really beautiful in those mountains, but it’s also feels a little bit like deliverance, so that’s where my my parents are from. They are real, true Oklahomans, and they have a pretty interesting story because they decided to become missionaries. They were preachers for a little while — well, my dad was a preacher, women don’t preach. But they decided to go overseas in their early thirties and from from southeast Oklahoma, they moved to Switzerland and went to French school because they were prepping to go to Africa — Francophone Cameroon. They’ve had an interesting set of choices that they’ve made. When I can put aside like my personal issues with some other things that have happened as a result, I kind of stand in awe of their ability to have made such a huge life change and be brave enough to leave to go to Africa after living in essentially one place their entire lives.
[00:18:52] CHRIS: Yeah. That’s wild. That’s a wild switch up. Can I ask something? So tell me if I’m wrong here, because I want to get into it, I’m really, really fascinated. I have like a million questions. Here’s one that I’ve never thought about: How would a phrase it? I feel like for many Americans, the view of Native Americans kind of falls into two broad categories, I would say. And tell me if I’m wrong here: it seems like there’s the marginalization of Native Americans and there’s the fetishization of Native Americans.
[00:19:29] CALLER: Oh, yeah
[00:19:31] CHRIS: Right? It’s sort of like the modern Native Americans have been really put upon and maybe asked to live in areas that are not hospitable and to make do.
And then there’s also the whole image of, you know, and then and then there’s like Hollywood kind of co-opting and making heroes of Native Americans by a culture that I mean, let’s be honest, perpetrated a genocide, I think it’s fair to say. What I’ve never thought about, that you’ve experienced: what is the view of Native Americans when you get outside the borders of the United States? I’ve never really considered that.
[00:20:10] CALLER: Yeah. It’s an extension of that same noble savage variation like the fetishization that you’re talking about — noble savages. I think the number one, it’s funny, we bounce between being completely invisible by people and then suddenly, like “noble savage,” you know, it’s really odd. But overseas, the variation of that is a lot more respectful and backed by, generally speaking, a lot of knowledge, surprisingly. Especially in places like France, they just know a lot about a lot of different– now, they don’t know, because there’s over 500 tribes in the states, there’s no way you can know every one of them, but they’ll know a lot about the five progressive tribes. And so they’ll have information and randomly we’ll know something about Choctaws or something. It’s very odd. And then in Ireland, funny enough, there’s a pretty long history between the Choctaw and the Irish– well I wouldn’t say a long history — but we have a history between the Choctaw and the the Irish because during the famine, because my tribe understood what it was like to be moved out and pushed away and have massive hardship and tragedy. We donated money to the Irish to help — now, it wasn’t very much — but it was a lot for them.
[00:21:39] CHRIS: I’ve heard this story. I will tell you, as an Irishman who has read up on my — and I will say too, just to be clear, I know a lot of Irish people do not love when Irish Americans call themselves Irish, I have attained my Irish citizenship and I’ve been told that this allows me to refer to myself as an Irishman and as someone who’s really read up, I’ve always read about the Choctaw and how during the famine, money came in when a lot of the world was not helping.
[00:22:09] CALLER: Yeah. It’s funny. My guys from from Dublin and we went to there’s a famine ship. I don’t know if you’ve been there, but in Dublin by the convention center, there’s a single ship and you go in there and do tours. And it was very strange coming towards the end of the tour, there was this plaque about my tribe, basically a huge thank you for our contribution and it was really cool. And then down in Cork, there is a huge monument to my people. It’s really beautiful. And then it was funny that the prime minister came to Oklahoma — poor guy, it would be a huge culture shock — but he went down to Durant Oklahoma, which is just it’s an incredible thing happening in Durant. Durant is headquarters for for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. And they have a massive casino there, I think it’s like the third or fourth largest casino in the world now. And they’re going to start getting close to number one. They have so many progressive programs and options for people, it’s just a really unusual community there for people in general, but anyway, because it’s Choctaw headquarters, that’s where the prime minister went and I just thought that was an interesting — It was an interesting experience, he must have had it.
[00:23:52] CHRIS: Now, when you’re in Ireland and you see a monument to your people in Cork, do you turn around and you’re like, “Yo, that’s me! Hey, everybody.”
[00:24:04] CALLER: Yes, funny enough, I haven’t actually seen that one yet. I knew when it was being built. I haven’t made it down to Cork.
[00:24:15] [AD BREAK]
[00:27:51] CALLER: Funny enough, I haven’t actually seen that one yet. I knew when it was being built. I haven’t made it down to Cork, I’ve been basically everywhere else. But you see all these little things here and there and that definitely makes me proud and it makes me, weirdly enough, feel good about my relationship with my guy. It’s like, this is sort of kismet, like this is a good combination.
[00:28:17] CHRIS: When you say feel good about it.That’s another question I had, dating someone from Ireland, Is there is there pressure within the Native American community to date within the community, because you are from a marginalized group and a group that, I think everybody is aware, historically was, you know, wiped out in tragic fashion. Is there pressure to kind of keep the bloodlines within the community?
[00:28:47] CALLER: I would say that that it is completely based on the tribe. I wouldn’t say that is true on mine. I don’t think that at this point it’s even really possible. But there is a lot of care around keeping the language and cultural elements alive as much as possible. They have a really beautiful system that they have created for themselves. so a lot of tribes, they get sort of a variation of a reparation per month. So a lot of people, especially a lot of Americans like, oh, you’re Native American, you must get money all the time. That’s not how my tribe works. Some tribes do work that way where they’ll get like a stipend per month. And it’s meant to build a quality of life, I guess, or be sort of like pacification money is how I think of it. But that’s fine, that’s another thing. But in my tribe, they take that money from the casino that they’ve developed there and then any other money that would have gone to individuals instead, they basically have created an internally flowing system where all that money gets pooled in and then divvied out to the rest of the community. And they have a hierarchy system where that money first goes to; say it’s education, health. So they have really state of the art facilities, state of the art options for people. Like, if I lived in Oklahoma, I would have full health coverage, full educational benefit. I could basically study through my PhD at next to no cost. Any medical anything, including mental health stuff would be covered by Choctaw Nation. And they’ve really enriched the communities there as a result, because they’ve played it really smartly. And it’s about investing in future and growing as a tribe and making a name for themselves. And in that way, so that there’s some dependable place for people to go. That’s not always the case.
[00:31:15] CHRIS: So gaming has truly helped, it’s truly unlocked some funds and some ability to build an infrastructure, that’s beautiful to hear. It also sounds to me like, at least in the case of the Choctaw Nation, the gaming money has… in the overall political discourse of America right now, there’s this real push towards like, is socialism the future of the Democratic Party or is it this evil that’s that needs to be wiped out? But it sounds like the Choctaw people have built a socialist state within the borders America that’s running pretty successfully. That’s awesome.
[00:31:55] CALLER: Oh Yeah. And it works really well.
[00:32:01] CHRIS: And as someone who is a card carrying member, you mentioned you don’t live in Oklahoma. Is this a situation like if there’s Canadians living in the states and you get sick, you can travel back to Canada for the health care. Would you be able to travel to Oklahoma and benefit from that as a card carrying member?
[00:32:18] CALLER: Yes. So I’ve always thought if I ever have some kind of terminal disease, I’d go back to Oklahoma and try and get the best health care possible. And honestly, my brother still lives there and he’s hugely involved and active in Native community. He’s an artist down there and he’s been trying to get me to move there for ages. And there’s a lot that I like about Oklahoma, I wouldn’t want to live in southeast Oklahoma, And that’s no slight against anyone down there. It’s just not my cup of tea — anymore. But Oklahoma City is a pretty cool city. Tulsa’s an all right city. If you want a slower pace of life, it’s not a bad place to be in. Side note: If you are ever in Tulsa, go to Burn Co because they have the best barbecue I think I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s high praise, I’ve had a lot of barbecue. My family’s kind of speckled around the south. It was really good, anyway very random I know, Burn Co. It’s native owned too, so it’s definitely something to support.
[00:33:35] CHRIS: Wow. Okay. Burn Co — support native businesses, I think everybody’s writing this down. An interesting thing about your story and I’m going to tell a story my own to segway into it. So I’m really, really fascinated by this: so I will tell you this: I grew up in the Northeast, right? You’re growing up you see, like you said, these depictions in pop culture, the noble savage archetype, Last of the Mohicans and westerns and all this stuff. You grow with that. I will tell you, the first time I drove cross-country, I went to the Grand Canyon, which, first of all, blew my mind. And then when I was leaving, my buddy and I, we got out the map. This was before G.P.S. and we’re looking at the actual map, folded out and we’re goin’ “You know what? We can drive back down the highway we came and get back on the main road. It’s kind of boring to like spend that hour and change or whatever seeing the same stuff we already saw. Or we can take these other roads that kind of go out the other way and it looks like they loop back around to the highway eventually. Let’s do that.” Now, these were dashed lines and we were young and we were not smart enough to say, “well, if it’s a dashed line, it must mean something” which when we looked at the key later, we found out these were roads that were not necessarily paved in all areas and kind of rough like sort of like outdoors, like off roading. And we were in my little Nissan. It was not smart. Point being that those roads took us through native lands. And I have to tell you, as a kid who grew up in the Northeast with that romanticized look at Native American culture, when I think every kid in my neighborhood went through that phase where you wind up with like a bow and arrow that has suction cups on the end and you think of big head dresses. And when you’re in elementary school, they taught us about the Iroquois who used to live in New Jersey before it was colonized. Driving through… how do I say this in a sensitive way? My jaw dropped. I was shocked to see the desolation of the lands I was driving through. I mean, we were driving for hours at certain points where you wouldn’t see anything. And then you’d come upon like a gas station and then some very humble homes. And I’m talking in the middle of the desert after we’ve driven for hours. And it sounds to me like your tribe in particular has built an infrastructure. I will say, that was in 2004, and I remember feeling very, very heartbroken and very sad to see.
The idea that there was a genocide of native peoples is not over, if that makes sense. People are still living in some very harsh conditions and I remember feeling like me and the American government is not — I always kind of assumed, oh, we’ve made amends — We have not. Now, you said you didn’t move to the states until you were 18. Was that shocking to you as well? Or did your family history kind of already lay that out to you?
[00:37:03] CALLER: Well, my brother is eleven years older than me, and he’s been pretty active for some time. So I did have an understanding before I even got there.
I don’t get a lot of information from my mom because she’s what’s affectionately known as an apple; she’s red on the outside, white on the inside.
[00:37:24] CHRIS: Oh, I haven’t. I heard that. Okay.
[00:37:30] CALLER: Yeah, so that complicated thing. But my brother is really, really involved, so I came with some understanding.
Chocktaws in Oklahoma, at least, do not live on reservations. But I have native friends who whose tribes are on reservations, and I’m pretty familiar with how terrible they are. There’s a documentary called The Canary Effect that’s about this, and it’s really interesting if you ever have time — it’s actually not that easy to find anymore — but it’s about reservation life and this very thing you’re talking about. And it is definitely a systematic slow burn annihilation, like that definitely is what it feels like. From the like from the opportunities that are provided for people there, to the food, oftentimes there isn’t clean water. It definitely feels like at the very least– like this is a kind way of putting it — they’re an afterthought in the American community. You know, and that’s partly what I was saying earlier about how we’re basically invisible, until suddenly we’re like put on a pedestal. So it’s a really weird juxtaposition of how Native Americans sort of exist within the broader American experience.
[00:39:22] CHRIS: Yeah. I remember on that drive being shocked and I remember, as we were kind of getting into this land, every once in a while you’d see like a big wooden homemade billboard. And it would say, like, “Hey! Pull off ahead! Buy some jade! friendly Indians here!” And I remember seeing that and going, oh, man, that’s not good.
That is not good. That we are putting people in a position where they kind of have to put up a sign like that, that at least from my perspective, no judgment, feels like someone having to say like, “hey, we’re friendly, you don’t have to be scared of us. We’re going to use the word Indians when it’s not necessarily a word that is popular amongst natives.” I remember feeling very much like this story is not over. And a lot of us conveniently like to assume that it is and it is not. And like you said, the annihilation angle of it, like it’s not over. And if you see it up close, which I stumbled into back when I was 23 or 24 years old, it was like, oh, this is very visibly not over. It’s fucked up. Pardon my French. Sorry Sally. It’s fucked up. It’s still fucked up.
[00:40:37] CALLER: No, it’s very fucked up. Although I’ll say I won’t speak to that specific tribe, but oftentimes those kinds of signs are a little bit tongue in cheek. So an example of that, in Oklahoma at least, there’s this huge debate going on right now in Oklahoma because Governor Stitt there is wanting to change up the compact. There’s a compact between the Oklahoma government and the native governments, and essentially he’s wanting to raise the fees for the tribes having to do with gaming. It’s really funny, there’s been this joke about how you can’t really get Tribes to do anything together, but man, this man has brought everyone together and they’re all just ready to go, basically. There’s been this funny little joke amongst at least the people I’ve been hanging out with about how they want to send him these letters from each tribe, but they want to send it to them with 12 little Indian boys. It’s really funny. So that’s an example of we like to take things and kind of turn them on their ear and poke fun, too. So that could have been a tongue in cheek sign. But your impression could be spot on, depending on the tribe.
[00:42:12] CHRIS: Now, you mentioned another thing in there that I have a little personal experience with above. You said something along lines of “it’s very hard to get tribes to agree on things.” Now, I once had an experience that I wonder if you could speak to a little bit. I get the sense that there’s sometimes maybe some competition or division amongst tribes in the same way that like I’m from North Jersey and like North Jersey and South Jersey, kind of like butt heads, and then we eventually all get along– but there’s this rivalry. I once I once did a very dumb project many years ago where I effectively hitchhiked across the country from California to Tennessee. At one point, I was I was dropped off at — I’ll never forget — it was a place called the Hopi Travel Plaza. I am sad to admit that I don’t remember exactly what state it was in, but I couldn’t get a ride. No one would pick me up out of this place and this went on for hours and I was getting really scared. And someone explained to me, oh, yeah, this travel plaza is owned by the Hopi, but there’s another tribe that owns most of the land that surrounds it. And a lot of the people are kind of closer with the people from that tribe. Basically, not many people are stopping here because there’s like a rivalry between the Hopi and this neighboring tribe here, so it’s going to be hard for you to ride this particular travel area. I was like, “right, this is many different nations.This is not one large group of people that all think the same way and all have the same exact history and culture and languages and foods.” It took me hours and hours and hours to get a ride there. It was an epic day.
[00:44:04] CALLER: Yeah, there’s definitely contention among some some tribes. There’s a lot of politics for sure, and I see more and more of that whenever I go to these trade shows. Especially this year, the attendance was huge and there were a lot of tribes that normally don’t show up who came. And it’s because of this compact issue, it affects everybody, so they sort of banded together. I can’t speak a whole lot into that, and I’m not going to even pretend like I know all the inner workings, but I know from hearing my brother talk — and his best friend is the executive director of all of the Indian gaming stuff in Oklahoma, and I lived with her last year when I spent some time in Oklahoma City. Just hearing her talking on the phone and listening to all the things she had chagrin with. I was like “yeah, a lot on her plate.”
[00:45:21] CHRIS: You have to balance a lot of people and people who have grown up in different ways, even though maybe the outsiders like myself on the East Coast, think of this as one people, no it’s many, many different types of people that are united under a certain umbrella, but not exactly the same. Diversity within.
[00:45:42] CALLER: Yeah, exactly. You also get some interesting, I guess kind of cultural clashes too, because some tribes or many tribes are matriarchal. And then some tribes are patriarchal. And then when you get that dynamic together… [laughter] of course, there’s going to be butting heads. My tribe’s matriarchal.
[00:46:01] CHRIS: Your tribe’s matriarchal, and then some other chose a patriarchal. And yet you have encounters right? Any patriarchal cultures are like ugh, this guy is kind of a blowhard over here. Been dealing with this for the last thousand years with these guys. Anyway, it’s very interesting to hear your story and I thank you for telling it. We’ve got about 20 minutes left.
[00:46:29] CALLER: Oh, woah
[00:46:34] CHRIS: So you grew up overseas until you were 18, was that in Africa?
[00:46:38] CALLER: So I was born in Switzerland and we went to Cameroon as soon as I was allowed to fly, so I think at six weeks, we went to the Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Macedonia, Croatia and Montenegro. So that’s my upbringing
[00:46:56] CHRIS: Woah! So you’re one of the most worldly people any of us will ever meet
[00:47:08] [AD BREAK]
[00:49:15] CHRIS: Listen, you can be modest all you want, but… name those countries again?
[00:49:26] CALLER: I was born in Switzerland. Cameroon. Kenya. South Africa. Romania. Hungary. Germany. Macedonia. Croatia. And Montenegro.
But in fairness, the latter three were so sporadic. By the time we got to Hungary, I was just kind of like, “all right, my education is failing this is not good for me, and I’d like to say somewhat put, if that’s all right.” So I was I was more or less based out of Hungary. And then I had a small then in boarding school in Germany for a little while. But then I went back to Hungary.
[00:50:13] CHRIS: And you do live back in the states now?
[00:50:16] CALLER: Yeah, I live in the Bay Area,
[00:50:20] CHRIS: In the Bay! In the Bay! That is a hell of a story.
So you needed some stability, though? Your background is from a culture that people like to romanticize as being like in touch with these primitive roots. Meanwhile, you’re born in Switzerland, a country that’s thought of, I think, as one of the most sort of progressive and forward thinking. Then you go to Cameroon and Kenya, which are sometimes unfairly painted, I think, as places that aren’t advanced. And then you go to South Africa, one of the most notoriously racially divided places. Then you bounce all over Europe, every corner of Europe as well. You have seen it all!
[00:51:08] CALLER: Well, my brother likes to joke — and by joke, it really is tension and anger — my parents always like to go to… they had the best timing is what he always said — like we went to South Africa three weeks after Mandela was released from jail, Apartheid was coming somewhat to an end, sort of. That stuff, just the residuals of that are really never ending in some ways. And we lived in Johannesburg in a subdivision area called Hillsborough, which is funny. Whenever I see or speak to a South African and told them that they’re like, “oh, where are your bullet holes?”
[00:51:54] CHRIS: Oh wow, oh wow.
[00:51:58] CALLER: Yeah, I mean, we — my mother, my father — both carried revolvers. I saw someone’s head get blown off across the street when I was like 8. I mean it was just one of those upbringings where it’s like, “oh, I guess that’s my life?” You’re just looking down on it and you don’t really absorb that if you if that makes any sense? There’s a lot of disconnection. When you move that much, you just become a very disconnected person in general.
[00:52:39] CHRIS: Yeah, of course.
[00:52:41] CALLER: I think I was the defense mechanism in some ways, but also it was just a byproduct of… just what you have to do to survive.
[00:52:51] CHRIS: You’ve mentioned your brother a number of times on this call, was he with you throughout all these moves as well?
[00:52:58] CALLER: Well, he’s eleven years older. He graduated from high school in South Africa. So he wasn’t there for most any of the European stuff. He’s a very mysterious guy, he’s an artist now, but he went through a period of time where nobody really knew what he did and he just kind of showed up internationally, like wherever we were. And had these really strange stories and there was a lot of mystery behind it. He’ll say it was something having to do with defense contracting, and I’m like, “Ok, I don’t know what’s happening here.”
[00:53:41] CHRIS: Yeah, I got to say, I don’t either!
[00:53:43] CALLER: Yeah, he did tell me at one point, this is when I was like, all right, I’m just going to resign myself to any old outcome right now. But he was like, “I’m going away. And if you don’t hear from me in a year, just presume I’m dead.” I was like 14, like “OK, brother. Thanks. Have a good trip!”
[00:54:07] CHRIS: Now, you’ve you’ve mentioned that he has expressed a little anger at one point. I wrote it down, you said something along the lines of you have — in relation to your parents — “some personal opinions of some things that happened as a result,” you’re being very diplomatic in the phrasing. It also sounded like at one point in your story, it sounded like you kind of drew a line with your parents and said, “I need stability.” And that’s when you kind of went to these boarding schools where you knew you weren’t going to have to follow. Your parents are missionaries, which means they have good hearts, they’re aiming to do good and help people. But it also means you’re getting dragged around the world every year, six months, it sounds like.
[00:54:50] CALLER: Yeah, it’s a very complicated feeling that I have around my parents in general for the reasons you just mentioned. They’re good people with very good hearts. And I admire — I admire anyone as somebody like I struggle a lot with finding purpose in my life. I’m in my 30s and I’m still like, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing — but they always knew. And they not only did they know, they followed through and they have given their lives for their calling and sacrificed normal family dynamics, sacrificed stability and all of that. And, sadly to say, also somewhat sacrificed their children along the way. So I have very complicated feelings about it. I was really angry growing up, was a really angry little kid. And I had a bit of a different experience than my siblings — my siblings were born and mostly partially raised in Oklahoma, so they knew all my aunts and uncles and had a family base, but I was born overseas and I only sometimes visited family, so I didn’t really know anybody growing up. And then I was also a complete and total accident in my family; I was 7 years behind my sister, 11 years behind my brother, and my dad had a vasectomy. I was not supposed to happen
[00:56:29] CHRIS: Wow, and he’s told you that!
[00:56:36] CALLER: Well, like my siblings being siblings, they spun it of like “you’re a complete accident.” But I later one would find out from my parents that like I genuinely wasn’t planned at all.
[00:56:49] CHRIS: [laughs] wow!
[00:56:54] CALLER: And they didn’t say any in any way that was meant to be hurtful and I wasn’t hurt by it. It helped actually reframe a lot to me about how different my experience was with them. They’re very loving, but they’re also very focused on what they’re doing. And I just came along and kind of inconvenienced the whole thing, I think. And they had to sort of find a way of adding me to the mix. So I was around a lot of adults, not a lot of children. I was very self entertaining and they all thought I was kooky because I was just like making toys out of my fingers or silverware or something to keep myself entertained with all these fucking adults, you know.
[00:57:45] CHRIS: Yeah, you’re bored — not kooky — you’re bored out of your skull.
[00:57:49] CALLER: Just a lifetime of boredom.
You know, with this funny like parallel life of like traveling the world. when people hear it, they think it sounds so exotic. But it wasn’t that exotic for me, to me, it was like — and it’s a point of contention with my family in Oklahoma because — I’ve just stopped talking about anything having to do with me because people just assume you’re being snide. You know, when you’re like, “oh, well, we went to France this one time and there was this thing.” To me, it’s like them saying, “oh, I went to New Orleans and blah, blah.” You know? But they don’t see it that way. So I just thought I’ve stopped telling stories or talking or doing anything within my family because it just sounds like they think that I’m being smug.
[00:58:38] CHRIS: Right, right.
[00:58:41] CALLER: It’s just my experience. You know, I can’t really help that that was my experience.
Back to my parents, it’s definitely a point of contention. It’s an ebb and flow with them. And because they’re so super conservative fundamentalist — they’re Assemblies of God. And they have a lot of political beliefs that irk me. Mostly because they’ve they’ve spent now well over thirty five years overseas, and they have no excuse on Earth to not think in broader terms. And it really frustrates me, and it triggers a lot of old feelings with them because a lot of the choices that they made come from that same mentality. And whenever you get apologies that there’s no follow through, there’s no change, there’s like the baseline problem is still there. Like, you actually apologized for something you can’t even change, so it’s really not an apology, if that makes sense?
[00:59:57] CHRIS: It does, it does. It sounds like your parents have like a truly defined sense of purpose for themselves that made it very hard for you to see it attain the same thing for yourself growing up.
[01:00:11] CALLER: Yeah, it’s a really intimidating thing when you’re told your whole life you’re destined for greatness. You know, “The Lord is going to pave the way for you and he’s got a divine power. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” You hear that your whole life on top of like these really apocalyptic ways of thinking about the end of times. And like we’re in a war with Satan and we’re in a supernatural battle for souls. You hear that your whole life, and then you’re seeing like violence around you or inconsistencies around you. And then all of this is just really sensationally overwhelming. It’s like this sensory overload. A lot of things at once. And it’s a lot to unpack, I’m 33 and I feel like I’m actually digressing, like, I feel like I’m actually getting worse in some way. It’s like I thought I was progressing forward, but in many ways I feel like I’m kind of struggling to figure out what it all means for me you know? And I thankfully with therapy and all of this, I’m learning that, it’s not entirely my fault. I mean, I moved so much my entire life, that the way my mind started to reconfigure about human interaction or spatial interaction, it was all “just get through it to the next thing you know. Don’t attach. Don’t build roots. Don’t do anything because it’s extremely temporary.” This spilled over into my adult life too. I’ve moved so many times since I’ve been back in the States. I’ve been in California for a long time, but I’ve moved around California. It’s almost like I’ve never even had time — it sounds ridiculous, saying it out loud — but it’s almost like I I’ve never even had time to figure out what it is I actually want to do with myself. Does that make sense? I don’t think it does, actually, but in my mind it makes sense.
[01:02:49] CHRIS: I think it makes perfect sense. I think it makes perfect sense. You never had a chance at having a firm foundation to slow down and figure out what you want or where you’re headed. I think a lot of people listening right now are going know that makes sense. If you grow up living in 19 different countries and then move around, and you’re on your own as a kid. Yeah, it makes sense. Makes a lot of sense that you might have some trouble finding that foundation as an adult, I think it makes total sense.
[1:03:30] CALLER: It makes me feel so stunted, like I’m in such admiration of people like you who — I don’t know when the bug for comedy started for you, it seems like it was young, if I remember correctly — but it seemed like you were just like, “that’s it and I’m going for it.” And I’ve never had that thing. I’ve had things I’m interested in just because they’re kind of fun or I’m decently good at them. I did theater, dance and music for a long time. I had some decent success with certain things in terms of like I was making a living off of it, and that was good. But I squandered so many really amazing opportunities because I was so detached from them, I was like “well, I don’t know how long I want to be doing this so I’m not going to put too many eggs in this basket.” And I didn’t know I was doing that until after the fact and I was like, “fuck!” (sorry Sally) “that was a terrible choice to have made,” but I had already made it. So, yeah, I’m still trying to sort it out. I feel like this gig economy might be my best bet right now. A bunch of things.
[01:04:51] CHRIS: The gig economy has many, many problems — and in the Bay Area, it’s I think the epicenter of the debate surrounding a lot of it. That being said, it certainly works well for someone with a short attention span and an inability to commit long term to things, gig economy is good for that. If you’re not able to really buckle down and commit, gig economy is awesome. I’ll do Postmates today and I’ll drive a Lyft tomorrow and I’ll try to run an Air BnB on Thursday.
[01:05:25] CALLER: But then you start thinking of your future and it’s like, “oh fuck, I’m exhausted.” Like I can’t do this long term.
[01:05:32] CHRIS: Well, if there’s one thing I can reassure you of, I did find comedy when I was young and I was very dedicated to it. It does not change the fact that pretty much every day I say, “fuck, I’m exhausted and I don’t know if this is going to be long term.” Every day, and I’m 20 years in. Just yesterday, with my wife, I had a big sit down and was like “I don’t know how long I can keep this going. I’ve only been able to keep it going for half of my entire life. I don’t know if this is gonna keep going.” So those feelings haven’t gone away. I have to tell you, seeing a guy get shot when you’re 8 years old while, you’re in the midst of being dragged to a dozen different countries that you live in as an isolated child who then winds up back in America unable to lock in on a long term game plan. Yeah, that’ll get you on Zoloft.
[1:06:26] CALLER: [laughs] Yeah.
[1:06:29] CHRIS: We only have a minute left, I am just curious, how did you wind up dating a guy in Ireland?
[01:06:33] CALLER: I lived in Chicago for a little bit as a stage manager and I met him at a pub and his friend was hitting on me horribly, just absolutely horribly.
[01:06:43] CHRIS: This is a very Irish story so far.
[01:06:46] CALLER: He came over here and he rescued me. And what was meant, in my mind, to be a one night stand, 5 years later, we’re still going.
[1:06:58] CHRIS: Look at that like that.
[01:07:02] CALLER: He’s pretty incredible.
[01:07:03] CHRIS: You think you’re going to move there? Is he going to move here? How’s that gonna go?
[01:07:09] CALLER: Hopefully he’s moving here in about a month. We have VISA complications right now, but hopefully he’s gonna be here in a month. And then eventually I will live in Ireland, I miss living overseas.
[01:07:19] CHRIS: You can’t stay in one place for too long.
[01:07:24] CALLER: No, can’t do it. That’s what’s best for him, he spent his whole life in one place. When he talks about buying a house and I’m like [heavy breathing] like I get hives. [laughter] He’s good for me though.
[01:07:36] CHRIS: We only have a few seconds left, but I will say there is no small irony in that you are you are I think the first Native American we talked to on this show and someone who has lived in more countries that aren’t America than maybe anyone else I’ve ever talked to in my life.
[01:08:00] CALLER: It’s so great talking to you, Chris.
[01:08:04]. CHRIS: It was a true pleasure. Very eye opening in so many different directions. Thank you for talking, and I wish you the best.
[01:08:12] CALLER: Likewise. I hope you feel better soon.
[01:08:14] CHRIS: Yeah, you too. You too.
[01:08:18] [TIMER RINGS]
[01:08:21] CHRIS: Caller thank you for telling us so much about your roots, both in the sense of your heritage as well as your personal past. About your family, about your questions in life, I hope you get them all answered and I hope you and your Irish boyfriend have a long and happy life.
Thank you to Jerry O’Connell and Harry Nelson in the booth. Thank you to shellshock for all the music. You know about me and my tour dates, they’re up there at chrisgeth.com gettin out there again in the fall. Come say hi. Hey, if you like the show, go to Apple Podcasts. Rate, review, subscribe. Really, really helps when you do. That’s all the business. We’ll see you next time.
[NEXT EPISODE PREVIEW]
[01:09:21] CHRIS: Next Time I’m Beautiful Anonymous: The inner workings of the mental health system and also a fantastic love story.
[01:09:32] CALLER: Neither of us really even knew that we were gay, let alone attracted to each other. And romance kind of formed from that and we are now very much in love. So I got to spend my birthday with her.
[01:09:46] CHRIS: Wait. Wow. Wait a second. That’s a hell of a story.
Okay. First of all, I want to say that the idea is spending two birthdays in a row in a mental health treatment facility, tt’s not ideal. Sorry you had to go through that.
[1:10:01] CALLER: Yeah. That’s OK, thank you.
[1:10:05] CHRIS: That’s next time on Beautiful Anonymous.