Sunday, October 30, 2005

Scribbles Interview: Chameleon Clive Allen

This Just In from the 65th Crayon:

Choosing to stay in the Internet for a while, the 65th Crayon pulled a few colorful yarns and strings and managed to snag an interview with a local hero, a colorful character himself, Chameleon Clive Allen. Though he is best known by that, his human name, many are unaware that Clive is indeed a chameleon. His given name is Gone Away, which is also the name of his popular blog, not long ago featured in the Blog Herald's 100 Blogs in 100 Days.

“I had asked Gone about an interview several weeks ago,” The 65th Crayon said. “But the MIT business came up unexpectedly and put a pencil in our crayon box. We had a little trouble connecting—totally my fault.” The crayon admitted.

“When we were finally able to connect, it turned out to be one of the most enlightening interviews I’ve ever done. That chameleon has been more places and done more things than the Geico Gekko—who doesn’t even seem to be with Geico any more; does he now?” The reporter pointed out. “Gone's answers were so forthcoming and genuinely colorful—not at all bland or neutral as one might expect from a chameleon. I think we should run this interview as a Q&A. Let's let everyone get to meet the real chameleon.” The young journalist argued and we agreed.

As part of the colorful bonding thing, the 65th Crayon preferred to address Mr. Allen by his chameleon name Gone Away.

Gone, what was it like growing up as an English chameleon in Africa?

Hot, basically. I am not very susceptible to variations in temperature but Africa was always either hot or hotter. In time it becomes a bore and one wished for snow and ice and wind and storms. Apart from that, it was a life ideally suited to a young chameleon, with wide open spaces to explore, freedom to do pretty much as I wished (both my parent chameleons were working and I was allowed to run free) and very little to care or worry about. The education too was better than I might have received in England, the schools being way behind the times and [so they were] still involved in disciplining and educating their students.

All in all it was a privileged lifestyle and the best way for a young chameleon to grow up. I am always grateful that chance, in the form of my chameleon father, brought me there and allowed me to become the chameleon I am today.

Did you have any close relationships with crayons? Overall were your relationships with crayons positive or negative? How are crayons seen in Africa?

Crayons are as common in Africa as anywhere else and, as a very young chameleon, I knew quite a few. In my late teens, however, I discovered the world of oil paints and, from that moment, crayons never figured largely in my life. This was not from any dislike of crayons, you understand, but more that I was fascinated by the possibilities that oils seemed to hold out. For many years I hung out with them but, in the end, I realized that there was a wider world out there that called to all chameleons. I left and have never looked back.

If you are thinking of ever visiting Africa, my 65th friend, I must warn you that it is best for a crayon to stay out of the sun as much as possible. It can get surprisingly hot and, as I’m sure you know, heat can have disastrous effects upon a crayon’s shape and ability to stand up.

Being a chameleon journalist must present many challenges. Can you share some of them?

I have always found the greatest handicap in a chameleon journalist’s life to be the matter of operating a keyboard. Our small size dictates that we cannot stretch from one end of the keyboard to the other and pressing the keys is somewhat of an effort. Over many years, I have learned to use all four of my feet, my tail and my (rather beautiful and extremely dexterous) tongue to hit the keys and I can now type almost as fast as any human. It is a bit exhausting, however.

Otherwise, it has been an advantage to be a chameleon. My ability to disappear into the background has meant that I have been unobserved in many dangerous situations and my swiveling eyes have enabled me to miss nothing. This is the reason why I am often the only reporter to have gained access to certain stories—a definite advantage, I think.

Tell us, Gone. What brought you to America? Where are you exactly? How did you happen to choose that location? Who came with you and how are you financing your stay? How long will you be with us? (Sorry I know that’s a lot of questions.)

What brought me to America? A Boeing 777, I think it was. But seriously, it happened because I was married to an American chameleon (I must mention here that American chameleons are not true chameleons—they look much the same but lack some of our more amazing abilities—my wife, Kathy, and I do not dwell on such minor matters). After living in England for a few years, my wife became homesick both for the States and her family and it was decided that the only cure was to hop over the ocean and live in America.

We live in Lawton, Oklahoma, a little town in the southwest corner of that state, and this was chosen purely because it happens to be the place where Kathy’s daughter and son-in-law are resident at the moment. The cost of living here is quite reasonable, too; a matter that we had to consider since our finances are not exactly overwhelmingly huge. We have a small income, sufficient to keep us, and the intent is to stay, my dear 65th. Like it or not, America is stuck with me.

Have Americans shown any discrimination or positive attraction to you that you attribute to the fact that you are a chameleon? In other words, does being a chameleon work for or against you in our country?

I’m glad you asked that question. Let me say right at the outset that a chameleon does not enjoy standing out from the crowd or being conspicuous in any way. We are designed to remain hidden in most situations and we prefer it that way. This has not been possible in America, however. The moment I open my mouth to speak, everyone realizes that I am “not from here”. Whilst this is rather uncomfortable for me (and, for a time, drove me to keep my mouth firmly shut), I must admit that it is an advantage rather than a hindrance. You see, they love the accent. Of course, you and I know that chameleons do not have accents but everyone that I meet seems to be in possession of one and so assumes, because I speak differently, that it must be an accent that causes it. I refrain from pointing out that it is they who have the accent and so friendly relations ensue almost without fail.

I have found the Americans to be completely free of prejudice against chameleons (perhaps because they meet so few of them) and they are open, friendly and hospitable to an extent not seen in many other places in the world. Since I only have experience of the Midwest and the South, I should add that things may be different in other parts of the country (I have heard, for instance, that New Yorkers have a reputation for being a little more robust in their manners). But, for the moment, my statement holds true.

How has your blog had an impact on your career as a chameleon journalist? What will you do with the content when you return to your homeland?

Ah, where is home to a chameleon like me? I had thought that home was England (and, in some ways, it is) but now I find that I can be at home anywhere. Perhaps my years in Africa made me more able to be free of concerns of place and location.

But the blog: it is a double-edged sword. It has given me the chance to reach more readers than were available to me before and it forms one arm of my quest to be published in traditional form. But it is also enormously time-consuming and has demanded a concentration upon itself that works to the detriment of approaching agents and publishers. I am hoping that I will be able to get the thing more under control in the near future so that my time may be more evenly distributed between my various activities. Part of the problem is, of course, that I enjoy the blog so much. . . .

As to what happens to the content, who knows? There is a vague thought that, were I to find a decent publisher and the books become reasonably popular, some of the blog could be published in traditional format. But, as the monkey said after he’d done his business behind the curtain, that remains to be seen.

Have you any advice for young chameleons who might want to be journalists?

A chameleon is a slow-moving creature and journalism is all about speed and the moment. Write books, young chameleon, write books!

Anything else you might want to add?

Chameleons don’t do math. Oh dear, I seem to be in weak pun mode. Just buy the book, if it ever gets published, buy the book, my good friend! (Its title is The Gabbler’s Testament and sneak previews may be read by going to Sneak Preview 1 and Sneak Preview 2.

Many people in this part of the Internet are unaware that Mr. Allen is indeed a chameleon and that the picture at the top of his blog is a picture of him. His name, Gone Away, is Chameleonian for no longer in his native land. Legend holds that Gone Away was given this name at his birth by a Chameleon shaman who foresaw it would be our friend’s destiny to make his home in many parts of the world with many chameleons, people, and crayons.
—me strauss Letting me be
For links to additional Scribbles Reports by the 65th Crayon see the sidebar listing under his picture and profile.
Scribbles Reports by The 65th Crayon appear Sundays in Letting me be ...
The 65th Crayon is a copyright of ME Strauss. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

And the 65th Crayon strikes again. Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Good Morning Jennifer,
Happy Change Your Clock Sunday!

It was fun to find out so much about Clive? Do you know him. He's one of the founders of the Writer's Blog Alliance.

Anonymous said...

.oO(Such a fine young reporter, that 65th Crayon; destined for great things, I think. Of course, his expertise in the matter of color does him no harm as well. Perhaps only a chameleon can appreciate the importance of that...)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Why, we have a star in our midst!
Welcome Mr. Away. The 65th speaks so highly of you and your colorful exploits around the world.

Thanks for coming to see our site and our crayon's interview.