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Tony R. Rodriguez interviews MadSwirl's Johnny Olson 

 

 

© 2007 Tony Rodriguez

 

Johnny Olson is a madman. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Johnny eventually settled in Dallas, Texas, where he continues his life-long "learning journey as an auto didactical painter, poet and writer." Johnny is the creator, editor and co-webmaster of MadSwirl.com, a website housing modern day Beat-influenced writers, photographers, painters and illustrators, each with an eccentric knack for producing pulsating and innovative work. Since 1999, Mad Swirl has continued to impress Beat aficionados, not to mention literary junkies like myself. Considering Johnny Olson's unrestrained and awe-inspiring work, I felt compelled to open up a dialogue in order to dig deeper into the artist and the man.

 

 

Tony: When I think of Jack Kerouac . . .

 

Johnny: I think of beautiful beatitude.

 

Tony: When I think of my early twenties . . .

 

Johnny: I think of the years battling with the unraveling fašade of machismo I had to do to get to my gooey soft center.

 

Tony: When I think of Mad Swirl . . .

 

Johnny: I think of everything that is to come is beginning now.

 

Tony: When I think of sex . . .

 

Johnny: I think of Lisa Ohhh, "Ohhh Lisa!" I also think of how uptight we are as a country about sex. Sex shouldn't be closeted and shamed. It should be celebrated and honored. I love sex, always have and always will.

 

Tony: When I think of the 2008 Presidential candidates . . .

 

Johnny: I think we are one election closer to finally getting the wheel and being able to drive.

 

Tony: One great bachelor party moment was when . . .

 

Johnny: I realized that bachelor parties are sort of pathetic.

 

Tony: Six years ago, when 9/11 struck and radical Islamists made a name for themselves I found myself . . .

 

Johnny: feeling the mean green U.S. Marine, wanting to re-enlist . . . and I had NEVER dreamed of re-enlisting and haven't since.

 

Tony: Today, when I think of 9/11 and radical Islam I find myself . . .

 

Johnny: wondering what kind of world we are living in and then I get depressed, so I change my mind's subject.

 

Tony: As a writer, painter, publisher, I feel that . . .

 

Johnny: it's our  responsibility to speak our voices whether it's thru a brush,  a pen, a blog, and to get that voice into as many heads as you possibly can.

 

Tony: As a Marine who did a tour of duty during the first Iraq invasion, I feel . . .

 

Johnny: a mixture of emotions ranging from day  to  day, month to month, year to year. Some days I feel the pride and power of facing death in combat and coming out the other side a better and more peaceful man. On other days I feel anger that we were nothing more than pawns setting up the bloody fat-cat game of chess that we are watching today. Ask me again tomorrow . . .

 

Tony: You're in charge of developing the national literature curriculum for all high schools in America. You've decided that by the time American kids graduate high school, they must have read and studied these five books . . .

 

Johnny: Only five? I wish I went to that school! I could list about 50 I think should be mandatory, but my short list of five would be: Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky; The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller; The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway; and last but NEVER least, On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

 

Tony: You're at Mad Swirl's Open Mic. The Absinthe Lounge is flooded with familiar faces, each talented in their own regard. For a change in the evening's groove, you hope these writers walk through the door and read their work . . .

 

Johnny: I'd hope for some of the not-so-local Mad Swirling mad ones I've yet to meet face-to-face but know only thru their poems and letters . . . Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal in LA, ZoŰ Alexandra in NYC, Justin Hyde in Iowa, Michelle Greenblatt in FLA, J.D. Nelson in Colorado, Ra! Gabriel from God-knows-where, and my madman, Tony R. Rodriguez from San Fran. But that of course after I have heard and devoured the swirling words from my local Dallas mad ones: Cheyenne Gallion, Paul Sexton, Opalina & Carlos Salas, Josh Weir, Megan Harris, Joey & Jolee Cloudy, Dez Statum, Chris Zimmerly and Roderick Richardson who all speak with their tongues on fire!

 

Tony: You're on your deathbed at age 112. Your closest family and friends are gathered around in silent adoration and respectful awe. You know you don't have much longer to live, so you breathe in and exhale your last monologue on earth . . .

 

Johnny: If I live to be 112, I think I will be too tired to say anything except "Let me die please". But if I had the energy, along with the limited wisdom of a 36 year old, I would exhale this . . . 

 

"Life is a beautiful tapestry woven with threads of each moment, each experience, each relationship, each dream you have created. Good or bad, silken or coarse, each one is a precious thread which makes up the beautiful tapestry of who you are and what you will leave behind when you're gone. Weave a beautiful tapestry for all the world to share!"

 

Tony: You're entering the gates of Heaven and you come face to face with Jesus Christ. He tells you he loves Mad Swirl and begins quoting various pieces from your publication. After a few hysteric laughs, you pause and get serious by saying . . .

 

Johnny: Does the whole mad swirl of everything to come begin NOW? And by the way JC, why didn't you ever submit any of your work to Mad Swirl?

 

Tony: Where do you hope to see Mad Swirl in ten years?

 

Johnny: I hope that Mad Swirl will be finished with college earning a PhD in Swirling Madness. Perhaps married with 2 little mad ones, a boy named Jack and girl named Sylvia . . . and they live happily ever. OK, seriously . . . although I do really feel like Mad Swirl is a love-child that was conceived on a mad wish and a swirling prayer and milk from my man teats, and know this may seem like a cop-out answer, but ten years from now I hope that Mad Swirl is exactly where it should be. Right now Mad Swirl is exactly where it should be, is exactly when it should be, is exactly who it should be, and is exactly what it should be. I never put much pressure on the growth process. When we gave birth to this whole mad swirl in 1999, we did it as a way to showcase ourselves and the other mad ones in our world. We did it our way because we could. I think that's what attracted other mad ones. We did our print 1st issue and that started the swirling. Soon we had even more mad ones coming around for our 2nd issue. More swirling. More issues. More swirlers. MadSwirl.com. Swirling-swirls. Open mic. It just keeps going and growing. It just keeps swirling. The ride has been great so far. If I'm still doing this 10 years from now, well then color me blessed.

 

 

Interview by Tony R. Rodriguez.

 

Tony Richard Rodriguez was born in Fremont, California on August 22, 1977. He is currently teaching Theology at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, CA. He is the author of The Disappearance and the Slow Awakening, Rapid Eye Metaphors, and Simplicity Regurgitated: Poems and Shorts.  Visit his blog: http://tony-r-rodriguez.blogspot.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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