Wesceleb: Phil Ross
Phil Ross enters the room with two frozen peach wine coolers and begins to speak without being asked a question.
Phil Ross: I had a high school teacher named Dr. Fass who kind of loved/hated me and told me that if I was ever going to give an interview someday when I was a famous asshole writer, I was supposed to do it while drinking a peach wine cooler, which I think was how he met his wife or something?
The Argus: So you followed through?
PR: I did. Belatedly, but I did.
A: So, do you consider yourself a famous asshole writer?
PR: No, but hopefully soon. I’m actually going to be spending next fall and winter in Russia—this is still in the works—but my goal is to be traveling with a professional Russian hockey team named Yaroslavl Locomotive. Last year, their plane crashed and the whole team was wiped out, and there was one player who was told to stay back from the team and to play with the junior team for a while. So they’re rebuilding this team around this one kid who’s totally traumatized, all the pressure of this one town is on him. I’m basically hoping to travel with this hockey team as they rebound.
A: What inspired you to do this?
PR: I just couldn’t shake the story. I remember hearing it and I couldn’t get over how shell-shocked this kid looked. The thing that caught my attention the most was not how much pressure would be on him from the hockey-watching public, but from the state. Hockey is such a political, propagandic device. This league is only in its fifth year, so the state sees it as essential for it to succeed and for it to grab attention across Europe and America. And this kid is the epicenter of all of this—he’s going to be the captain of a team at 21.
So, it’s this amazing story. No one is really covering it, and I did as much research as I could on it and sort of cold-call-emailed this writer Wright Thompson, pitched the idea to him, and hopefully I’ll be writing it through the website Grantland.com.
A: Have you been involved with writing at Wes?
PR: I am an English major, and I took a pretty good number of creative writing classes. I took a semester off and lived in Shakespeare and Co., an English language bookstore in Paris.
A: You lived in Shakespeare and Co.? How?
PR: I just walked in and asked them if they knew where I could stay and they took me there.
I was traveling around Europe, and I was supposed to stay with Monica Fuhrmann [’12] in Paris. When I got there, I had no phone, I realized how shitty my French was, I was carrying my way-too-big backpack, and I freaked out—and the only place I knew was this bookstore my crazy hippy friend Danny had told me about. So I went in there, and someone tapped me on the shoulder—and it was Monica Fuhrmann. So I stayed with her for a few days and I asked the bookstore if I could stay there and they took me in. And I wrote every day when I was there. That’s what got me really into writing.
A: Didn’t you temporarily go to University of Miami?
PR: That was immediately after my semester off. I wasn’t sure I wanted to come back. May or may not still be registered there. Also, partially at some point, it seemed like I was registered at three other schools. But I only actually go here.
PR: I guess it took me while to find my place—
A: No, don’t give me that bullshit. Be honest.
PR: I really fucking hated Wesleyan for a while. Sometimes, Wesleyan can be so sunless and cold and awkward, and I just really want everything to be exactly the opposite of that all the time. I realized it was better to just make Wesleyan like that rather than to transfer to UM.
A: What ways have you gotten involved in things on campus?
PR: I try to act in at least one show a semester. I’ve gotten varying degrees of involved with helping Second Stage, Relay for Life, and—I don’t know—the Hill. I’m not really good at being formally involved in anything.
A: If you have to give advice about how best to be informally involved, how do you achieve that?
PR: I would say generally go with the whole dangerous animal thing: people are generally more scared of you than you are of them. Go out and be super ostentatiously available. Go to everything. I don’t know, what makes you think, “hey, Phil Ross—he should be a WesCeleb?”
A: What makes you think that?
PR: I wanted to do something in college. Fuck.