Wednesday, April 13, 2011
#290 Catherine Lacey: She Fit Right In Once She Got There
Catherine Lacey was born in 1985 and grew up in Mississippi, which generally confuses people. She doesn't have an accent, though she did as a child. She was a weird kid and knew she was weird. The other kids often had no idea what she was talking about. In the South, one way to be seen as normal is through the church, so she clung to that—and to community theater, where many southern weirdos end up. At church, she sang in the choir, including a few solos, which felt important. For a while, Catherine felt like she was a favorite of God's and that it would be good if she contracted a sudden illness and died so she could go to Heaven. For high school, her grandfather sent her to boarding school, but not because she was a bad kid. She had more freedom there and a worldview that included church-less Sundays seemed pretty radical, but she still felt as if she would be metaphysically punished if she did some of the things that the other kids were doing. That fall, Catherine’s parents split up and, when she came home for Thanksgiving, everything was different. Her little sister moved down the street with her mom, but Catherine and her brother visited their dad's house. Catherine grew up and stopped being religious. At some point, she had an atheist or agnostic boyfriend. At Loyola University in New Orleans, Catherine double majored in English and visual art. She was living there when Katrina happened, and was going to stay through the whole thing, but evacuated at the last minute. She ended up in Chicago for a semester and slept on box springs in a sunroom with a space heater. She coped with the relocation by becoming a workaholic. At the end of 2005, Catherine moved back to New Orleans, which was so strange post-Katrina. Her apartment had been destroyed and her new apartment was in a neighborhood where barely anybody lived. She got a job in the kitchen at Whole Foods despite having no qualifications because there were very few people back in town. At Loyola the next semester, Catherine had a professor who encouraged her to write creative nonfiction and to apply to graduate schools. Besides, writing fiction in post-Katrina New Orleans seemed impossible. After that, Catherine did a nonfiction MFA at Columbia on a fellowship, which meant moving to New York, which was something she never wanted to do, but she fit right in once she got there. Catherine’s first apartment was a semi-legal sublet in the East Village from a famous artist, which was cheap and awesome. The next year, she moved in with some Italian jazz musicians in Crown Heights. Catherine loved Columbia and wrote a book about growing up in the Protestant South, but it sucked so she threw it away and wrote it again. Around this time, Catherine kind of lost her mind and went to New Zealand for a few months. It didn't seem crazy at the time, but going to New Zealand as soon as possible for as long as possible seemed really important, so she went. She financed the trip by donating her eggs twice, which was pretty weird. It made her hysterically emotional and she cried on the subway a lot. She felt like she was everybody’s mother. In New Zealand, Catherine hitchhiked and worked on farms. When Catherine went back to NYC, she moved into a house in downtown Brooklyn, started renovating it with friends, and opened a bed and breakfast there. The people she lives with have become a kind of family to her and she now has a boyfriend who is a photographer. Catherine plans to keep writing and figuring stuff out as she goes.