Karl: It’s the 23rd of June, 2012, and I’m here with Matt at Food Lab on Santa Monica Boulevard. First off, should we call you Matt or do you have a favorite nickname you go by?

Matt: You can call me Matt. I have many nicknames, some of which I like, some of which I don’t.

Karl: How old are you?

Matt: I’m forty. I’ve earned my years.

Karl: What would you classify your occupation as?

Matt: An evolution.

Karl: What would you like to be doing?

Matt: Creative things. I have a broad range of interests. Over the past several months I’ve embarked on photography, and I artify it. I’ve dubbed it “Photo Art.” I have completed ten projects that I’ve printed to canvas.

Karl: How did this come about?

Matt: It all started from sitting on my couch, in the living room, looking at the blank wall space. I thought, “I really need to do something with this environment. It needs something interesting on the walls. What can I do?” I decided it would be cool to have a theme, so the theme of the living room is “Friendship.” I found some pictures that I had taken of friends and me, and then applied a proprietary process to artify the photographs or digital files.

Karl: By proprietary, do you mean you’ve patented this technique?

Matt: No, nor do I believe it’s really patentable. I’ve been advised by a good friend not to freely disclose the process because it undermines my ability to potentially capitalize on what I do.

Karl: Sure.

Matt: I don’t want to mass-produce these pieces. They need to have meaning to me. Sometimes they take awhile to create and sometimes they come together quickly, like magic. If people are willing to buy one or more of my pieces, that’d be great!

Karl: So you’d rather be commissioned than exhibit?

Matt: An exhibit would be the best way to showcase what I’ve done or take pictures of the works after they’re printed on canvas because the actual file, or proof of concept, does not evoke the same emotion that the physical item does. I get quite excited when I’m waiting for the finished canvas to be delivered, because it will never come out exactly like the proof. There are many variables involved in production. There’s been some, “Hmmmm, that’s not quite what I’d hoped for,” and some that are, “Wow! Okay!” There’s a roll-of-the-dice randomness that’s a part of this photo art process that’s very exciting to me. Eventually, I grow to love every piece. They’re my children. Being creative like this feeds my soul.

Karl: Definitely. That’s exciting.

Matt: I’m also interested in electronic music which I’ve been dabbling in.

Karl: Cool.  How has that been received?

Matt: I’ve gotten positive reactions to, “Oh my gosh, this is absolutely hilarious and could be in a comedy sketch.”

Karl: *chokes on coffee*

Matt: Yes, not exactly the reaction I was looking for either. My music is rather avant-garde at the moment. One friend of mine described it as poetry lying in a bed of background music. It just depends on who you ask. All of this creating boils down to taking risks. It’s very uncomfortable to expose yourself and to be vulnerable, but to be an artist that’s what you have to do.

Karl: Well, music and photography definitely compliment each other. They could easily fit within the same brand.

Matt: They do, indeed. Another thing that I am going to be learning is film and editing. I have a very good friend that does this for a living. He’s an invaluable resource.

Karl: What’s your current relationship status?

Matt: Detached.

Karl: Are you enjoying being detached?

Matt: I find that when you look, or at least when I look, that things don’t go so well. However, if one completely removes themselves from making any attempt at finding companionship, then nothing is probably going to happen. I imagine that when you’re immersed in something that you love, things will naturally fall into place. I’m still working on doing more things that I’m passionate about. I’m still discovering who I am. Maybe that’s why I’ve remained single. There also needs to be enough understated things that naturally fall into place for a relationship to be healthy, successful, and long-term. That’s hard to find. At least for me…

Karl: Well, in that respect, do you go out?

Matt: I definitely don’t go out as much as I used to. When I first moved here, I was in the latter part of my twenties and I had a lot more energy and naïve optimism. I could go out almost every night, work one full-time job, two part-time jobs, and manage to remain coherent. Now that I’m forty, I can barely manage one full-time job, some side hobbies, and going out until maybe 10:30, on average, at night. *laughs* I’m probably not the best person to ask about nightlife at this point.

Karl: Maybe you go out and do breakfast or lunch and aren’t necessarily entrenched in the nightlife.

Matt: I do like the nightlife here, I am definitely more of a night person by nature, but by necessity have become a morning person. I used to love to go dancing. The Factory was a fun place to go to. It’s too crowded now. I’m not a fan of crowds. I love 70s and 80s music. They used to have a particular night, I think it was called “Cherry Pop,” maybe it still goes on, where they would play mostly 80s stuff. That’s what resonated and pulled me out of the apartment. When I lived in the heart of West Hollywood it was very easy to go out because all the bars and clubs were literally down the street.  Now that I’m on the outskirts, I think to myself, “Is this really worth it?” More often than not, it’s “No.” I like being at home in my own comfortable cocoon, thinking about creative things, watching a movie, or drinking a nice glass of wine… I do something called ‘Skype wine.’ I don’t know if other people do that.

Karl: Please explain it.

Matt: This is what ‘Skype wine’ is… I have an amazing friend that lives in Chatsworth. We’re obviously not approximate to one another, and we both live busy lives, but at the end of the day, if she and I are both available, we’ll Skype each other, we’ll pour a glass of wine, we’ll toast one another to another day and whatever successes or goals we’ve accomplished, then we’ll tell each other what wine we’re drinking and how we like it. Then when we are able to actually get together in person, we’ll share a favorite bottle or two with each other.

Karl: That’s really sweet actually. Is this a movement? If I Google ‘Skype wine” am I going to find forums dedicated…

Matt: It’s just something that happened. I do it with a few friends on a regular basis but I’m not aware if other people do it. I also do ‘Skype coffee’. It all materialized during my period of unemployment. ‘Skype Coffee’ would kick-start the day and the practice encouraged me to get out of bed at a decent hour. It’s very easy to get off track, schedule-wise, when you don’t have a job to go to. ‘Skype coffee’ eventually morphed into ‘Skype wine’; the perfect bookends to a day.

Karl: So what is paying your bills now?

Matt: I’m a hooker. Kidding! Yes, I know, I’m also too old to be a hooker… I started working again in April. I’m temping full-time doing administrative work. I’m hoping that a permanent position will be offered to me in the very near future.

Karl: So why West Hollywood? What brought you here?

Matt: I moved here in July of 2000. Before that, I was living in Arizona working in banking. I started out in a traditional brick and mortar branch and then eventually transitioned to back-office operations. In my last banking position, I was a performance evaluator or a ‘Judge Judy’ over call center agents. I never did get to wear a black robe though.

Karl: *laughs* Okay.

Matt: Eventually, I came to the conclusion that six and a half years of banking was more than adequate. I needed a career change as well as a new environment to infuse my life. I expressed my feelings to a friend of mine, at the time, and he convinced me to take a road trip with him to West Hollywood. I had never been before. He said, “I think you’ll really like it.” We journeyed out a few times and the next thing I know, I’m moving to West Hollywood without a job. It was a bit crazy but I find that when you take the biggest risks you stand to make the biggest gains. It’s not easy taking risks. It can cause a great deal of anxiety and there is the uncertain results factor. That’s why people don’t readily take risks. We’re afraid of failure. I think we need to embrace failure. It’s a great learning tool. A refiner’s fire. My dear friend in Chatsworth calls me “Ruthlessly Disobedient” which means that I’m probably about to embark on a procurement of some sort, to assist with my creative endeavors, that doesn’t exactly fall within my budget. Typically, it ends up being a worthy pursuit and works out as if it was truly meant to be. Perhaps everyone should be a bit more ruthlessly disobedient, by taking more calculated risks for a worthy goal. One might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Karl: Since those early days of moving here, tell me about some of the changes you’ve seen.

Matt: I think I was much more observant in the beginning. I had a lot more energy to invest in purposeful observation. I mentioned earlier that I had one full-time job and two part-time jobs, one of which was in West Hollywood. When you’re working in the community, you have a better sense of what’s going on. I haven’t worked in West Hollywood for probably close to a decade but I still live here. From my casual observation, I think Weho has become more diverse. West Hollywood used to be an idealized gay mecca but now it’s much more than that. For example, it’s a very desirable place to live for many heterosexual families. Some are resistant to the change though and long for the good old days.

Karl: Talk about the resistance a bit.

Matt: My perception is that there is some underlying fear that the gay culture is being diluted or slowly evaporating. Human beings are tribal by nature. Like desire to be with like, typically. When one sees less and less of what they personally identify with in their surroundings, perhaps that’s a bit unsettling.

Karl: Can you not have a diverse gay haven? Does the diversity make it less so?

Matt: Personally, I hope we evolve to a point where ‘gay’ is simply remembered as “happy.” I don’t believe sexuality is black and white or needs to be. It’s really many shades of gray. People tend to label. When you start to strongly identify with the label I think it boxes you in, limiting you mentally and emotionally.  I look forward to the day when sexual orientation is no longer a section on a form with a box that begs for a checkmark. We have so many preconceived notions.

Karl: My next question would be whether West Hollywood has changed for the better or the worse but it sounds like you’re saying it’s been for the better.

Matt: For the better. At least that’s my opinion today. We’re seeing more families in the neighborhood now. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders want to be treated just like everybody else – part of the global family – and it’s slowly happening in many places, including here. This is a healthy sign and this change does not diminish the underpinnings of the community. Rather, it’s a testament to the power of diversity and how it welcomes and embraces all.

Karl: How would you describe the general attitude of our community?

Matt: That is an excellent question and very timely. Gay Pride just concluded and I did not participate this year. I’m not as plugged in to that side of things anymore. I believe you will find different answers and age sometimes is a big factor. I choose to believe it’s an overall positive attitude. How many other places have such a concentration of creative, talented, and beautiful people?

Karl: What sorts of things would you like to see more of here?

Matt: Well, I do love to walk and it seems that the sidewalks have become less pedestrian-friendly. I’d like to see more accommodations made for the interesting one-man propelled vehicles so that I don’t have to worry about becoming sidewalk kill. I’ve had many near misses with skateboarders and those two-wheeled upright thingies.

Karl: Segways?

Matt: Is that the Segway? Yeah! I would like to see an improvement on accommodating people that like to individually motorize themselves, apart from cars, by having their own dedicated pathway. I want to be a leisurely sidewalk walker once again. Sadly, we’re not very accommodating to people who want to use alternative modes of transportation other than cars. When I’m not commuting to work, I make every effort to walk. I walk to the grocery store. I walk to get my haircut. I walk to the post office. I walk, I walk, I walk. Also, I think that there needs to be improvements in many of the crosswalk areas. The crosswalk that links 24 Hour Fitness to Starbucks, along Santa Monica Boulevard, is one of the worst. There’s a lot of money spent on many things in this city that do not matter that much in the grand scheme of things… Divert some of that money to crosswalk and traffic light safety!

Karl: Is there anything you’d like to see less of?

Matt: Cars! There are way too many of them in SoCal. Not to mention the negative environmental impacts and the burden on infrastructure that they cause. There are a lot of smart people in California, so let’s make public transportation more desirable and hip. Perhaps the bus as we know it is outdated. An above ground, comprehensive monorail system would be great! A monorail vehicle with a retractable canopy to take advantage of our great weather, equipped with Wi-Fi and espresso service! West Hollywood can be a better leader in transportation. It just takes a great idea and budgeting the money for it. I think we’re not innovating as much as we need to. Jobs are created through and by the process of innovation. There’s too much hoarding of money by those that have abundance, corporate or otherwise. The hoarding of money is undermining the progress and success of the middle class.  A weak economy will continue without a strong middle class that can afford to buy goods and services. West Hollywood is the perfect place to innovate and trail blaze. There’s so much talent and influence here. Let’s lead by example.

Karl: On that note, can you describe West Hollywood in twenty years?

Matt: Hmmm… Much can happen over the course of twenty years. I think the greatest challenge is breaking the status quo to achieve greater success, which circles back to ruthless disobedience but on a much grander scale. I’m hopeful that West Hollywood will remain a great place to live and will continue to attract all walks of life, staying “barely affordable” for all the starving artists who desperately want to be here.