Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Phoenix Jones: The Space Needle Interview
Everything you need to conduct a good interview- a notepad and pen, digital camera, digital voice recorder, a cup of coffee and...a collapsible baton? At a cafe with Purple Reign and Phoenix Jones after the Space Needle interview. Photo by Lucien Knuteson.
The scene: October 8, a little past 8PM. Phoenix Jones has suggested we meet up at Seattle's famous Space Needle, then head to have a crime report meeting with his wife and team mate, Purple Reign, at a cafe. From there we headed out on the eventful patrol everyone has heard about.
It was cool with a light drizzle of rain. A busker wailed away on the saxophone. I had made contact with local photographer Lucien Knuteson. He told me he was on his way to the Space Needle, and while we waited I decided to record an interview.
I snapped this shot of the Space Needle moments before meeting up with Phoenix Jones.
Tea Krulos: The team- where would you like to see it go from here?
Phoenix Jones: You know I really want to solidify one whole city. Like I think we’ve done parts- we made a big step in Bell Town, a big step in Pioneer Square but I would like there to be a more open line of communication between me and the police and a more direct response between me and the people.
I want it to be more like- you know, call the police and send a text message to Phoenix Jones and I want to have enough guys to send them here and there. Basically my own superhero-esqe police force. I think that would be pretty cool. But one that does it for free, obviously. And doesn’t write tickets.
(We encounter a High School homecoming football game near the Space Needle and stand on a hill behind the fence, taking it in. As we walk away, our dialog is inaudible but Jones mentions he was high school football team captain.)
TK: So you were captain of the football team?
PJ: I was, yeah.
TK: I know you get this a lot- people say you’re going to get stabbed, you’re going to get shot, you’re going to get killed- how do you respond to that?
(We encounter a small group of young high school guys, wide eyed at seeing Phoenix.)
Dude #1: Hey! Are you the Rain City…
PJ: I am, I’m Phoenix Jones.
Dude #2: I was watching your YouTube videos the other day.
PJ: My personal videos are on Phoenix-Cam.
Dude #2: Phoenix-Cam?
PJ: Yeah, it shows videos of us taking down drug dealers and stuff like that so check it out.
Dude #2: Alright, man.
PJ: You guys be good! Sorry about that. Ok, here’s the thing- so what makes a superhero a superhero is that they face adversity and they overcome it. If you are not facing adversity, you are not a hero. If you’re not in the line of fire, you are not a hero. When people got scared and said 'oh my god, he’s going to die' what they really said is- 'he’s stepping up, putting himself between danger and safety' and that is what I would expect everyone to do.
And could I get stabbed? Yes, happened. Could I get shot? Yes, it’s happened. Could I get hit with a baseball bat? Yes, it’s happened. Can I get my nose broken? Yes, it’s happened. But ideas are bulletproof. If they get me, they got to get the idea. And I think I’m at like reaching 2 million people- so they got to get an idea out of 2 million people’s heads and I’m not even halfway done yet.
TK: Is there ever an event or turning point that would make you stop?
PJ: Well... obviously if they get me, right that is going to make me stop ipso facto. I guess as long as there is a separation between my family and this, I’m not going to stop. I think if someone brought my family into it, it would make things more complicated for sure. That is when I would have to really weigh the costs.
But I think at that point I would have already made my choice because if they are coming after my family it is not going to stop because I hang up the cape or hang up the cowl. because I have already set an idea.
It is like the scene in Batman when they talk to the Joker and he is like ‘you’ve changed things. We can’t go back to the way it was.' I feel if they are coming after my family, I’ve already changed things. And at that point quitting isn’t going to help- we got to move and I got to make a long commute.
TK: How would you describe your experiences with the media?
PJ: They went in waves. The first wave was 90% negative and kinda twisted what I said. It wasn’t helpful to me, it was a hindrance, it was terrible. The middle wave was the curiosity of- is this guy for real? And for the most part I think the ‘for real’ part was answered and now I am in the last one and that is understanding. And I’m having the most fun with this one- where people have gotten over the fact that I’m out there. They’ve gotten over the fact that I really do interject in crime. Now it’s come down to- why?
And I think this is a lot more entertaining and a lot more interesting and a lot more – I feel helpful- for the people to understand why instead of trying to find out if it is truth or a publicity stunt.
TK: What advice would you give- like there were those young guys back at the football game who were interested in you and what you do- what advice do you give to people who are inspired by you and want to do what you do?
PJ: Well, there are two things. The first thing is that there are two types of heroes- the type of hero that responds to a need, a calling where they live or they respond to a threat and out of that threat they arise to be heroes. Then there are the calculated heroes who have taken the time to train and then put themselves in the line of fire to prove they are heroes. You want to be the latter. You want to be trained if you are responding to a threat or a purpose. Don’t wake up one day and dress in spandex and walk down the street and fight crime. It is not going to end well.
Dude walking by: Hey, nice suit, man!
PJ: Thank you, guys!
The second thing I tell them is that the hero and the coward are mostly the same, the difference is the coward doesn’t do something and the hero responds to his training. If you see a situation and you don’t do anything you are defined by the actions of not doing anything If you see a situation and you do something, you are defined by your actions of doing something, but none of those definitions are ever going to line up with what you think. No matter how brave you are and how much crime you fight and stop bad things from happening people are going to judge you and you have to be ready for that and willing to take that, no matter how noble your choice is. This isn’t a road to become famous. 90% of the superheroes who are really doing work, no one will ever hear about.
TK: Being out with you, I’ve seen a lot of people recognize you, give you high fives and stuff like that- how does it feel to have this sort of reception from Seattle?
PJ: It is really funny because it- you know, here’s a good explanation. Remember yesterday when we saw the hot dog vendor who we had helped his cart not get robbed by those guys and he gave us the free VIP passes for hot dogs-
Here is a photo I took of Jones and his team mate Mist talking to the hot dog vendor he is mentioning.
PJ: That kind of thing is awesome. In the same breath, the people who have had an experience with me, a feeling with me and have an emotion attached with me, that is when it feels good. That is when I feel like- yes!- I have changed the way that guy thinks about me being a superhero. Now when it is just people who have heard about me and think its cool- when something bad shows up on TV they are going to think what that said and when an article comes out, they are going to think what that says.
Right after this article with a bunch of lies was written about me, people were actually spitting on me when I walked by on the streets it took me months of doing what I had been doing before people realized that article wasn’t true.
When someone comes up and says- hey you saved my cousin from this or you saved my bus from getting robbed or you saved my hot dog stand from getting robbed, those always feel great. When someone gives me a high five because they recognize me, it feels good but I take it just at that because I know it is easy to flip and turn.
That is why when people do that, I say 'hey check out my Phoenix-Cam' because there is video of real people having everyday experiences with me and I feel the more they see video and are like 'hey that guy is real and that guy is real and that guy is real' it is going to be harder to change their mind to be negative toward me. You know?
At this point Lucien calls me and we meet up with him and head over to the crime meeting.