Brad @ BMan98
Photo © copyright 1998, Julian Axolotl.
"Shop & Compare," Burning Man, 1998.
(Last updated July 4th, 2006.)

Frequently Asked Questions about J. Brad Hicks

Who are you?

Who, me? I'm a 46 year old divorced white male. I'm bald, six feet tall, and weigh about 260 pounds -- but I carry it well, and I'm in better shape than I look.

I'm a second-generation Weirdo-American; my father was a "beatnik" before Life magazine coined the term. I've been a science fiction fan and a student of magick and the occult for 30 years. I also read boatloads of non-fiction and history. I'm a Hellenic Reconstructionist Pagan (see below), a self-proclaimed working class intellectual, an on-again/off-again Democratic Party volunteer, and a pretty darned good teacher, orator, and essayist if I do say so myself. I'm a former computer programmer, former instructor, former network engineer, former strip club bouncer, former licensed professional security officer, and on-and-off-again entrepreneur.

Where are you from?

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and lived here most of my life. I've only been away for college, and then for the two years I spent on the road, operating a traveling business selling "mind machines" and related products at science fiction conventions and Pagan festivals out of a 1989 Pace Arrow 37J motor home.

That business went under; the RV had more mechanical problems than I could afford to fix. Shame; the business was just getting to the point of earning me a living wage. But repairs were way, way over what everybody told me to budget. So I'm back in town again, more or less to stay.

What did you do to your hair?

I dyed it "clear." Because that's my favorite color.

What happened to the RV you used to live in?

"It blowed up real good."

OK, that's an exaggeration. It pretty much died, of old age exacerbated by a couple of mistakes on my part.

It needed about $10,000 in repairs to remain livable and driveable. My business was making money, but not that kind of money yet. And my credit rating wasn't nearly good enough to borrow that much, let alone buy another motor home. Lord knows I tried.

So I sold it to a wholesale dealer for next to nothing, a 10-year-old GMC van and $1,000 cash, back in October of 1999, and it pretty much decayed away to nothing not long after. These days I take the bus or a taxi. And there is hardly a day that I don't miss living in an RV.

What you do for a living these days?

Sometimes I answer that question by telling people that I made good money during the dot-com bubble, got out before the crash, and retired early, which is not untrue but incomplete. When I'm feeling whimsical, I answer that I'm a professional crazy person, which is closer to the truth. The longer version of that one is that people in America feel unsafe working next to a crazy person, since they don't trust themselves or human resources to know which crazy people are dangerous and which ones aren't -- so I collect Danegeld from every worker in America, they all pay me good money not to apply for a job working next to them.

The blunt simple truth is that I'm on permanent Social Security Disability Income by reason of severe and incurable mental illness. (See next question for details.) It wouldn't be enough to live on were it not for the fact that during the dot-com bubble, employers were desperate enough for competent computer programmers and engineers that I was able to make good money, and that brought my average income for the years I've worked way, way up. But I've never lasted any longer in a job than it took for any one of the next three levels of management above me to be replaced by someone who can't stand having subordinates who aren't neuro-typical. Sure, in theory I could have sued any of my past employers for discrimination, but ask someone who's done that and you'll find out why I didn't. Eventually, after a total breakdown that left me semi-catatonic, and near enough to suicidal to be at real risk of self-injury, one of my doctors (and a heroic case worker at the Missouri Department of Mental Health) moved heaven and earth to get me approved for SSDI.

What the heck is wrong with you?

Well, the official diagnosis is:

PDD is the code that my doctor's office, and the Social Security Administration, use for developmental disorders that aren't in the standard code listing. In my case, that would be Asperger's Syndrome. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it's a mild form of autism. I was born without the neural circuitry that the rest of you use to instinctively read facial expression, body language, and tone of voice, and have had to learn all of those things (to the limited extent that I have learned them) as if they were a foreign language. And even then, I find it physically and mentally exhausting work to do so, most of the time. I'm also very easily over-stimulated, and need a lot of quiet, dark, alone time. The blessing of Asperger's, though, is that like most people on the autism scale I'm blessed with better than average ability to concentrate (when the depression isn't interfering) and better than average symbolic reasoning skills, so the parts of human emotional communication that I do understand, I think I understand more deeply than the rest of you do.

The anxiety disorder coding is a compromise. One of my doctors thinks that it's a non-specific anxiety disorder. The other thinks that it's Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome related to a childhood where I was a constant victim of bullying (including one homicide attempt by a gang when I was 13), bullying that continued well into my adult life in the workplace. I'm not sure. I do know that when confronted by any threat or obstruction by someone in authority over me, by anyone that I can't fight or escape or placate, I suffer full-blown panic attacks, up to and including catatonic withdrawl.

I also have a depression diagnosis, and that's the one of the three that I'm most dubious about. I'm not sure that the emotional pain and sadness I feel frequently aren't a perfectly rational response to the bigotry and bullying I face as an Aspie. That being said, I do have recurring episodes of pervasive anhedonia (total inability to feel pleasure), and taking bupropion daily has helped some with the feelings of depression and somewhat lessened the recurring urge for catatonic withdrawl.

How do I get ahold of you?

USPS: 8708 Crocus Ln Apt 6, St Louis MO 63114-4356, USA.
Cell Phone: +1 314 402-9244
Email: brad (at) infamousbrad (dot) com

When is a good time to call you?

As a rule of thumb, I sleep from around 5:00 am to 1:00 pm. But that varies quite a bit. As a rule of thumb, while I may be asleep at any time of the day, I will never object to any phone call after 2:00 pm and before 2:00 am.

What religion are you?

Hellenic Reconstructionist Pagan. I'm one of those people who's trying to bring back the worship of the ancient Greek Gods.

Are you seeing anyone?

Yes, but not exclusively. I'm polyamorous. My only current romantic or sexual relationship is as a secondary to a lovely, talented artist.

When were you born? What's your sign?

I was born on July 11th, 1960. I haven't seen a copy of my birth certificate since I was a kid, but I think I remember the time was listed as 12:40 am CDT. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. I'm pretty sure, given that I ended up in a Catholic orphanage in the city, that I was born in one of the city's Catholic hospitals, but not knowing which one, I can't give you latitude and longitude much more closely than 39 N, 91 W.

That makes me a Cancer, triple conjunct: Sun, Mercury, and Venus; with Aries in the ascendant, moon in Aquarius, Mars in Taurus, Jupiter in Sagittarius, and Saturn in Capricorn. You can calculate the rest yourself if you care, especially since I have no way of knowing which "house system" you prefer. Mind you, I don't any personal use for astrology, but I get asked this question a lot.

Where'd you go to school?

Ah, the classic St. Louis question.

  1. Grade School: Twillman Elementary (Hazelwood School District), Spanish Lake (north St. Louis County), Missouri, 1966-1973.
  2. Junior High: C.R. Kirby Junior High (Hazelwood School District), Spanish Lake (north St. Louis County), Missouri, 1973-1975.
  3. High School: Faith Christian Academy, Florissant, Missouri, 1975-1978. Graduated with a 3.3 GPA, 13th in a class of 28 if I recall correctly.
  4. College: Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, 1978-1982. Awarded Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics/Computer Science, 2.9 GPA overall, 3.1 in major.

You seem familiar. Where have I met or heard of you?

Well, it depends. Please don't be offended if I don't remember where we met (especially if you don't either); I'm bad with names that way. The best way to remind me is to tell me a story; I remember good stories the best. Anyway, here are a few of the places you might have met me or heard of me, in no particular order:

Why are you so loud?

Because I can't hear you, and I can't hear me, so I keep talking louder until I can hear myself talking.

No, I'm not deaf. I test as having above-average hearing, yes, including the range of human voice. But I have this little processing defect: I cannot discriminate among sounds very well. If the room is at all noisy, for instance if there are other conversations going on or there's background music or (Ghod forbid) the TV is on, I can't make out a thing you're saying.

I've struggled with it ever since it was pointed out to me as a kid. Piracetam helps, but I can't get it legally in the US, and can't afford to smuggle it. Nothing else helps.

You can't help me hear you, except by speaking a little louder, or a little more slowly with exaggerated ennunciation, the way you'd talk in a room with a lot of echo. You can help me speak more softly by letting me know when I'm doing it. Just hold up a hand where I can see it, palm down, and move the hand down, like you're trying to push something down. That's the signal that my friends agreed upon to subtly tell me when I'm shouting and can't tell. I'm terribly sorry; I'd do better than that if I could.

What are you so angry about all the time?

*Sigh* I'm not angry. I just look angry.

Part of it is that you're not giving me any slack. I'm large, I'm bald, I'm loud (see above), I talk fast, and my complex speech patterns (book learned) come across to some people as condescending. (They're not meant to be; that's just how I talk.) So I come across as a bit aggressive, and I'm really not.

The rest is all facial expression. I don't have any. Well, OK, some. But mostly, I don't. It may be Asperger's Syndrome. It may be because I was almost completely blind at the age when humans are learning to see. (My vision was probably around 20/200 as an infant. I wasn't diagnosed as near-sighted and given glasses until 3rd grade.) But whatever the reason, I don't change facial expressions a lot.

Oh, and I'm also embarrassed about my teeth. I'm told that they're not as bad as I think they are, but I think they're horrible. When I was six, a bully broke out my front teeth. The quack dentist my parents took me to did a terrible job on the reconstruction. They're not only the wrong size and color, over time they gave me a terrible overbite, which has caused my lower teeth to grow in snaggly and crooked. So one reason I don't smile much is that I'm embarrassed to show my teeth.

You know how dolphins look like they're smiling all the time? It's not that they're always happy. Their mouths just naturally curve that way. Well, my face just naturally rests in a position that looks like a frown. Unless you see my eyebrows scrunched together and lowered in a fierce (and unmistakeable) glare, it's not one. Don't take it as one.

That being said, there are a few things that can be counted on to tick me off. But that's a topic for another long essay of its own.

Alternatively, a few years back I had a flash of insight about another possible reason why people think I'm angry all the timeSee my LiveJournal entry for October 6th, 2002 to read and discuss.

Got any family?

I'm adopted. I was adopted at a very early age, only a couple of months. I have no memory at all of either my birth parents, nor of the orphanage, and no interest whatsoever in either.

Of my adopting family, both parents and all four grandparents are dead. The last of those to die, my mother, disowned and disinherited me in the will, cutting me explicitly out of the family.

I have one sister, who so far as I can tell has despised me her entire life. She has never passed up a chance to pick on me or snipe at me unless she was that desperate for bail money.

As children, we were never encouraged to know anyone on my mother's side of the family. I suspect I know why, and if I'm right, there was a good reason for that.

On my father's side, there's his sister and her family. They're all nice people, but I don't really know them, and they don't really know me. We haven't had much to do with each other in 20 years.

I was briefly married. But she was pathologically jealous and untrusting, even though I never did anything to give her any reason to be, so I ended up divorced from her after less than three years. Given my druthers, I would've stayed friends, but she wasn't having any of that. I kind of liked my ex-inlaws, but since the divorce long ago, have had no contact with them. Thank Prime there were no kids.

I used to be in a coven that claimed to be my family. They pledged me perfect love and perfect trust. We swore an annually renewed oath to be there for each other. When the RV I was living in blew up and I was desperately, almost suicidally poor, it wasn't any of them that helped me at all. Some of them weren't even returning my phone calls. So no, I'm not real close to any of them, either.

So no, I don't really have any family, and it's not an entirely comfortable subject for me.

What do you want for Christmas/Yule/your birthday/whatever?

I realize that I'm a hard person to shop for, so here are some things that I can always use: