Rachel Karen Graham claims to be “a jack of all trades, master of none.” In fact, she has mastered most of what she has attempted.
Born in Kentucky of an American mother and Scottish father, she moved to Glasgow, Scotland, at age twenty for school. Eight years later, she’s still there.
Most of her life revolves around her love of music. Rachel is a music promoter, live event manager, and she operates an independent record label. Rachel has her own style. She likes to wear unusual things, like white or yellow eyeliner, odd-fitting, resewn clothes, and she has a different haircut every time you see her.
She loves taking note of strange quirks and she finds humor in colloquialisms and life’s subtleties. When I asked her if she had ever been in a car wreck, she told me that two weeks after getting her driver’s license, she was in a snowy, one-vehicle, 180-car wreck on Interstate 64. However, most of the story of this event twelve years ago revolved around her amusement at the cell phone a fellow motorist used to call for help. “Some guy with one of those state-of-the-art, new, intriguing “cellular telephones’ stopped and called the police for me. It was attached to a backpack, actually.”
Over the years, I have become good friends with her entire family, parents included. Rachel was interviewed and photographed at her parents’ Louisville home in the fall of 2007 when she came home for her brother Daniel’s surprise birthday party.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FAMILY.
[giggling laughs] I love my family! My family. Donald, my father. Scottish-born. Moved to Louisville with my mom, who went to “Ascumsion” and grew up in Louisville. And my older brother, Daniel, otherwise known as DPG, to those that don’t really know the P doesn’t stand for anything. [laughs]
[laughter] Yes, it’s psilent. [laughs] It’s for Pumpernickel… that’s his fave. Then, Andrea, my sister [coyly] who I think you might have met once or twice.
I’M FAMILIAR… IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT. [laughter]
She’s my younger sister. She’s 25. That makes me the middle. The middle of three sibs.
AND IS DANIEL STILL THE FAVORITE?
Um, he… he creates that reality for himself. [laughs]
WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE FAVORITE?
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
[lots of laughs] I worked… My first “paid” job?
Well, because I did a voluntary job before that.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF THAT?
Yeah, I know. For reals. It was at the Science Center, actually, so it was kind of fun. I got to see IMAX films for free. But my first paid job was a three-hour shift, which was the extent of my whole employment [laughter] at a bread store – I think it was called Breadworks – in Middletown. The shopping Center that had a Hallmark in it, which my second job was at Hallmark…
OH, VILLAGE SQUARE?
Village Square! Breadworks, Village Square.
YOU WORKED AT THAT HALLMARK?
I worked at that Hallmark.
IT WAS CALLED SOMETHING LIKE JOHN CARL’S HALLMARK?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
THAT WAS MY SISTER’S FIRST JOB AND SHE WORKED THERE FOR MANY YEARS.
Oh really? When did she quit?
AH, WELL, SHE…
Well, she’s older than me.
SHE IS OLDER THAN YOU. SHE WAS BORN IN ’71. AND SHE WORKED THERE DURING HIGH SCHOOL AND A LITTLE LATER.
Yeah, I worked there during high school, so… ’95. Oh, it was something… Ginny’s Hallmark, actually.
WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?
[five-second pause] At the time, or in hindsight?
[seven-second pause] I worked at The Limited at the Mall. Not The Limited, the one across from that. Express. It was a terrible job in hindsight.
AND HOW LONG WERE YOU THERE?
About six months. My senior year of high school. Or maybe it was my junior year.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LIFE SO FAR. AND WHILE YOU’RE TELLING ME ABOUT YOUR LIFE I’M GOING TO PLUG IN THIS COMPUTER SO I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP WAKING IT UP.
There’s an extension cord over there.
YOUR STORY CHECKS OUT.
That’s the only part that will. [laughter] My life so far has been pretty crazy. I’m 27-years-old. I’ve been living in a foreign country for the last eight years, one month and… a couple days. Which is pretty cool. I’ve been doing the job that I have for five years, and I really like it. Do you want [my life] play by play?
NO, JUST WHATEVER YOU THINK IS IMPORTANT. LIKE HOW MANY BARBIE DOLLS DO YOU STILL HAVE?
Hundreds, I think. They’re in the basement if you want to see them sometime.
NO, NOT REALLY.
[laughs] Yeah, you do. I can see it in your eyes. [laughter]
NO, DANIEL TOLD ME I SHOULD ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR DOLLS.
YEAH, HE SAID YOU WERE STILL PLAYING WITH YOUR DOLLS AT A VERY OLD AGE.
[hearty laughing] Reaaaally? Well, like, how old are we talking here?
YOU TELL ME.
I think that I probably played with them until I was about… [six-second pause] but, that was because Andrea, my sister, she would have only been about seven or eight at that point.
YOU YOU’LL HAVE US BELIEVE THAT YOU WERE DOING IT FOR HER BENEFIT?
YOU ARE SO SELFLESS.
[smiles] I am. That’s what they all say.
SO, ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH BANDS: DO YOU THINK THERE ARE TOO MANY BANDS?
[five-second pause] Yeah, I mean, I guess that’s a pretty… It’s like asking somebody what kind of music they like and they say they like everything. [laughter]
MMM-HMM. [laughter] “OH, I LIKE EVERYTHING!”
Oh, really? Have you heard everything? [laughter] Do you know how much crap there is out there? You really like crap? Is that what you’re telling me? [laughter] Yeah, there’s way to many bands. I think it’s not that… I’m not meaning for that to be a cynical statement, I just think that people used to play instruments because they really wanted to and because they were inspired by something that they heard, and now people play instruments because it’s fashionable…
DO YOU THINK THAT WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF MUSIC BEING DELIVERED BY ELECTRONIC MEANS – SUCH AS DOWNLOADS – THAT THERE WILL EVENTUALLY COME A TIME WHEN COMPACT DISCS ARE SEEN WITH THE SAME SENTIMENTALITY AS VINYL RECORD ALBUMS?
OR DO YOU THINK CDS WILL MORE LIKELY BE SEEN AS GARBAGE LIKE CASSETTE TAPES AND 8-TRACKS?
8-track tapes and cassettes… because they’re so disposable. Vinyl is still a thing.
YEAH, IT’S WEIRD BECAUSE, I GUESS, BEFORE VINYL, ELECTRIC WIRE RECORDINGS AND WAX CYLINDER RECORDINGS DIDN’T HAVE THAT SAME ROMANTICISM. [laughter] DO YOU THINK THAT WHEN ALBUMS CAME OUT PEOPLE WERE LIKE, “OH REMEMBER THE OLD DAYS WHEN ELECTRIC WIRE RECORDINGS WERE…” [laughter]
No. I think it’s that… Well, I don’t know what the process was originally for making 78’s and stuff like that, because they used different materials, but I imagine it to be somewhat similar to vinyl. I think that that process will always be seen in a nostalgic way. Digital recordings, such as, I mean, MiniDiscs [laughter] …that was a bat of the eyelash! It was like, “I know, let’s put this mini CD in a cassette tape case!” [laughter] “And put into in something so you can still play digital but looks like a cassette tape so people will like it.” That never lasted.
IT WOULD BE INTERESTING… I GUESS A LOT OF TECHNOLOGY EXISTS THAT NEVER REALLY… YOU COULD MAKE SOME OTHER ORGANIC SURFACE-FRICTION TYPE OF RECORDING THAT IS NOT A RECORD. YOU KNOW, IT’S JUST THAT VINYL RECORDS GOT SETTLED ON AND POPULARIZED.
IT SEEMS LIKE THE FASCINATION WITH VINYL ALBUMS IS NOT ONLY THEIR LARGE ARTWORK AREA, BUT ALSO THAT THE DISC ITSELF IS SOMETHING ORGANIC AND MECHANICAL. THAT HAS OCURRED TO ME, THAT SOMEBODY COULD CREATE SOME NEW MECHANICAL MEANS OF DISTRIBUTING RECORDINGS…
Yeah, well it’s kind of like, you know those old music boxes that have the little things that tick around? It’s like that but also the surface of those children’s, plastic… [laughter]
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!
Yeah, they have pegs and the [machine] pings the pegs as they go around and make the tunes…
COGS AND HOOKS, OR WHATEVER…
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you could quite easily do something along those lines. Like the pianos that play themselves! [laughter]
[In a faux frightened voice] THOSE ARE SO FREAKY!
[In the same voice] Crazy! It’s Halloween! Oh, my God! [laughter] We’re talking about pianos that play themselves! [laughter]
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FOODS?
All of my favorite foods seem really lame right now [laughs] because I can’t eat wheat, which incorporated most of my favorite foods in that “wheaty” genre. Even though I haven’t eaten wheat in five years, there’s not a whole lot of things that I like to eat left. So I would have to say that my favorite foods at the moment are pineapple, sweet potatoes, gamey meat… [laughter]
Yeah, like venison and lamb.
OH, I THOUGHT YOU WERE THINKING OF MEAT THAT MIGHT SMELL A BIT GAMEY. LIKE FROM THE OCEAN. [laughter]
No, that would be fishy. [laughter] Game. Like “hunting game.”
I like cake a lot, but I can’t eat a lot of it. I like pizza a lot, but I can’t eat it at all. I like pastry a lot. Wheat-free pastry doesn’t really exist in a good, edible form yet. [laughter] So… [To herself] What can I eat that I really like? There’s this stuff called Nomato and it’s stuff that’s made without tomatoes. And they’ve got a Nomato ketchup. Amazing. Revolutionized my life. [laughs] I got a Nomato vegetarian chili which was really good. Baked beans. Nomato baked beans. I don’t eat tomatoes either.
I SEE. I WAS GOING TO SAY, I DON’T THINK THERE’S WHEAT IN TOMATOES.
Yeah, but I don’t eat any.
WHAT FOODS DO YOU EAT MOST OFTEN?
Sweet potatoes, pineapple… [lots of laughter]
OKAY. I SEE. I SEE.
See where we’re going with this? [laughter] “I really love this! I have to eat it because it’s the only thing available to me!”
I’LL JUST PUT “SEE ABOVE” IN PARENTHESIS.
Yeah, you could do that.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SECTION OF THE NEWSPAPER?
[11-second pause] Um, the front page is pretty good. [laughter]
YEAH, THEY USUALLY PUT ALL THE GOOD STUFF ON THE FRONT SO YOU’LL BUY IT.
[laughter] I know! (I’d say) either that or whatever section happens to have the Sudoku in it. [laughter] That’s my favorite!
ARE YOU GOOD AT THAT?
[laughs] SO, YOU’VE LIVED IN SCOTLAND FOR EIGHT YEARS?
Uh huh, and some days.
AND WOULD YOU CALL IT YOUR HOME?
Yeah. I’d have to.
IS IT STILL A “FOREIGN” COUNTRY?
[3 seconds] Not as foreign as it once was to me, but foreign to your good readers here. [laughter] Foreign to this Louisvillian readership you’ve got goin’ on here. [laughs]
DO YOU LIVE IN A CASTLE?
Actually, my brother and I call my flat “Le Chateau” – so technically, yes, but in reality, no.
IT’S ABOUT A 400-SQUARE-FOOT CASTLE?
It’s about a 3-square-foot castle! [laughs]
ARE YOU THE LADY OF THE MANOR?
I’m the only… I’m the sole person in the manor.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO LOCH NESS?
IS NESSIE REAL?
Perhaps. Did you know – interesting fact about Loch Ness – if you took the population of the world as it exists right now, and added all of the other people who have ever existed in the world, per body mass volume… the volume of every person that’ ever lived including those that are living right now, that would still not fill the volume of Loch Ness.
HUH. SO YOU’RE SAYING IT’S A BIG LAKE?
It’s fucking huge! [chuckles] But it’s not so expansive as it is deep.
I SEE. I SEE. I WAS UNAWARE THAT IT WAS SO LARGE.
It is huge.
SO I GUESS A LOT OF PEOPLE MIGHT GO THERE AS TOURISTS WITH CAMERAS IN HOPES OF SEEING…
…seeing the wee monster. You can get t-shirts there for little kids that say, “I’m a wee monster,” with Nessie on it, with a little Scottish beret! [laughs] It’s really retarded.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE WHY YOU LIVE THERE?
Every day. My favorite answer, so far, at this present time… because taxi drivers ask me… because I’m frequently late, I end up getting taxis more than I should and when I can’t ride my bike… and so the taxi driver will always make this menial chat, and they’ll go, “Oh, so how long have you been living here?” [laughs] And my favorite answer is, “I came over for a nine-month study abroad.” And then they go, “Oh, all right, okay.” And I’ll say, “Eight years ago!” [laughter] It’s amazing, because then they go, “Oh, so you’ve been here for a while now?” And I’m like, “Yeah. So don’t fucking bump up the meter on me!”
“YEAH, DON’T TRY ANYTHING!” … WOULD YOU SAY THAT’S PROBABLY A GOOD PIECE OF ADVICE TO USE FOR ANYONE WHO’S TRAVELING, IF THEY’RE ASKED HOW LONG THEY’VE BEEN THERE, JUST SAY, “EIGHT YEARS”?
That depends on how well you know the place, because the dude’s gonna go, “Oh, I can just drop you off here! You can make your way around. You’ve been here for eight years!” [laughter] No, I would say it depends on where you go as to how much you can trust the people, but people in Scotland are pretty friendly, pretty trustworthy. It’s not like London where drivers would rather pillage all the money you’ve ever earned in your whole life to take you across the city.
DOES THE SUN SHINE THERE OR IS IT ALWAYS FOGGY AND MYSTERIOUS?
The sun shines briefly every now and again, but it’s not foggy and mysterious. It’s gray and blue. The light is very blue there. It’s like if you have ever done manual color photography and you had the cyan filter and everything looks too blue. That’s the way it looks, really, if you go into the countryside.
OH, THAT SOUNDS KIND OF NICE.
It is kind of nice. It’s a very strange, eerie sort of color.
SO MORE EERIE THAN MYSTERIOUS. I HEAR THAT SCOTTISH MEN ARE A BIT OUT OF CONTROL, IS THAT TRUE?
Um, they can be, yeah. They like the “bevy.” … Well, after a football game there’s approximately hundreds of thousands of them there, running around the streets singing totally indeipherable songs. [she imitates them…] “Bluh, bluh, blah, bluh, bluh, bluh… HEY!” [laughter] like all the time down the street. That’s pretty uncontrollable, but on the romantic front here?
NO, I WAS JUST TALKING ABOUT IT IN GENERAL.
Yeah, they’re all pretty drunk. In general. As a sweeping generalization.
HOW REASONABLE ARE YOU ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10?
I’m the most reasonable person you will never meet.
[laughs] SO, TEN?
Ten. I’m uncontrollably reasonable. [laughter] I have no control over my reason! [laughter]
HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOU?
To me or to everyone else?
HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOU?
I’m the most important person you will never meet. [laughter] I think I’m… probably, on a scale from 1 to 10, oh, you know, seven and a half.
YOU KNOW THAT MOVIE PLEASANTVILLE WHERE THE CHARACTERS GET TRAPPED IN AN OLD TV SHOW? WHAT TV SHOW WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO BE TRAPPED IN?
[eight seconds] I don’t watch a lot of TV now, so I’ll have to think of a TV show that I used to watch. [three seconds] Doogie Howser, MD. [laughter] Just joking! Probably The Wonder Years.
WHAT KIND OF CHARACTER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ON THAT?
Winnie Cooper’s dorky friend. [laughs] She never had any big problems, she was just kind of there.
TELL ME ABOUT HOW TIGHT YOUR SOCKS AND SHOES WERE WHEN YOU WERE A KID.
[lots of laughter] I said I had OCD! I used to, and still sort of have a residual… this thing in me, that drove me crazy as a child… which as that I had to have my socks – like the seam of my socks – exactly straight if it went across. And if (the seam) went on the end of the sock it had to be in a place that I couldn’t feel it under my toes. And I couldn’t have any wrinkles in my sock when I put on my shoe, and if I did… [laughing] I’d get enraged and take my shoes off and start all over again! Sometimes I’d have to get another pair of socks [still cackling] because I would pull on them so hard to try and get all the wrinkles out… I went through socks really easily and it would just create holes in the ends.
NO SOCKS ARE DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND THE RIGORS YOU PUT THEM THROUGH! [laughter]
No. I think I remember doing that, but I also remember – and I don’t know if this came first – but I remember sitting on the stairs in my house, which is where I would always go thorough this sock ritual thing [laughter] and I was wearing Tretorns. Do you remember those? And they had been sitting outside, because they were really cold. My mom brought them in and just put them on the stairs for me when I was doing my sock thing. And I went to put my foot inside one and I could feel something in there…
…and it was a cockroach! I screamed so loud. I hate cockroaches more than life itself. And that feeling of that thing in my shoe really freaked me out. I think that I continued to do the sock thing more because I didn’t ever want anything like that in my shoes.
DO YOU STILL CHECK INSIDE YOUR SHOES?
WELL, THAT’S ALL I’VE GOT FOR YOU.
I THINK IT WENT PRETTY WELL, THOUGH. I THINK YOU HANDLED YOURSELF REALLY WELL.
– – – – –
Five DOs and DON’Ts of being Rachel Graham
1. Match your shoes to your clothes; exactly
2. Wear white eyeliner
3. Ask a server if they actually serve Coca-Cola when they say they’ve got Coke
4. Set your watch 25 minutes fast so that you’re only five minutes late
5. Wear black and navy
1. Eat wheat
2. Get your hair cut by anyone except Leigh Ferguson of LeighFerguson.com
3. Use the term “peeve”… “pet peeve” is one of my pet peeves
4. Tell me I have OCD one more time – because I already know – and don’t break my routines!
5. Tell me I talk I the phone too much and don’t tell me to put it on silent