1. So what are the limits of friendship? When do you finally cut a friend out of your life?
Does friendship have limits? Should friendship have limits? That makes friendship sound like a political relationship. "I'll do for you as long as you do for me." That doesn't work for me.
Granted, there are varying degrees of friendship. In general, don't willfully disrespect me or violate my trust. If you are just a casual acquaintance whom I have carelessly labeled as friend simply because I have no reason to dislike you, that might be enough to cut you off. If you are a closer friend, I will cut you more slack. And there is always, in any situation, room for forgiveness.
In general, I want to be your friend (using the generic "you"). And I want to please you. I want to like you and I want you to like me. I want to bend over backwards to help you when you need it. And I like to believe it all comes back full circle eventually. So, to answer your question I will paraphrase what I said to someone else recently: I don't (generally) cut off friends; they cut me off.
2. If you could either get any woman you wanted just like that but never sing another note or be more famous than Caruso and Pavarotti combined but never get laid again, which would you choose?
This is a difficult question to answer, for reasons that are probably opposite of what you expect. I like sex, but sex itself is really not that important to me in the grand scheme of things. And fame is not at all what drives me -- I'd be far more content to succeed in my music in every way and bask in relative anonymity.
It's still a tough choice. I often fantasize about having any and every woman I want. I think most guys do. I might choose that: the benefits outweigh the loss of singing ability, and I could still whistle, listen to music, improve my piano abilities, or learn to play another instrument. (Could I hum? Probably not, since that involves the same mechanism as singing.)
But the novelty of being able to get any woman I wanted might wear off after a couple of years or a few thousand women... and then I wouldn't be able to sing. That would be truly tragic. I just really don't want the fame. I want to be able to live my life, on my terms, and not have to go to the extremes that mega-celebrities do to try to achieve some normalcy in their everyday lives.
So, if given the choice, I'd decline both those options under those terms and opt instead for relative success in my field and finding one woman I love with whom I could at least occasionally have sex.
3. Speaking of celibacy, by some weird twist of fate you are now pope. What name would you choose, and more importantly, what would you want your papal legacy to be?
I had an idea of what name I would choose, but I have to admit that I had to look up a list of popes and their legacies to confirm that was, indeed, what I wanted. I think I would choose Peter Stephen (Petrus Stephanus). By combining the two names, I avoid the numbering discrepancy that exists with popes named Stephen following Stephen II. I chose Peter because Peter was the most flawed of Christ's apostles. He sometimes displayed an astounding lack of faith, a misunderstanding of Christ's teachings, a certain arrogance, and weakness in the face of temptation. Despite all his shortcomings, Christ chose Peter to be the foundation upon which his Church on earth would be built, which was a very meaningful act. For it takes a flawed person to understand truly our complex and human natures. By choosing Peter, I recognize my own flaws, my own humanity, and proclaim my own fallibility, but accept with humility the role I have been thrust into and hope to appeal to those who seek Christ despite all their human shortcomings. I chose Stephen because it is my middle name and my confirmation name, and thus it preserves a very strong tie to who I am. Saint Stephen is recognized as the first martyr; he preached the teachings of Jesus and that the way to eternal salvation was through Christ. The Sanhedrin convicted him of blasphemy and he was stoned to death, an execution supposedly overseen by Saul before he became Paul. Like Saint Stephen, I would be willing to sacrifice my life if that is the Lord's Will. Pope Stephen I ascended to the Papacy at a time when the Church faced much internal strife as well as anti-Christian persecution. He helped repair some of the schisms that developed in the Church.
As Pope Peter Stephen, I would want my legacy to be one of uniter and restorer. I would work to increase ecumenism. I am a firm believer that the differences between the various churches are mostly political rather than theological. I would work to repair the schisms between Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church, and the various Protestant Churches. I would reach out in a spirit of cooperation and conciliation to the other major world religions, recognizing that though we may differ on what the way to salvation may be, we have a common purpose in seeking a higher truth and enlightenment. And I would want to be known as a Pope who reached out to everyone who felt ostricized by the Church for whatever reasons; who let them know that yes, we are all sinners, but that that's okay -- there's nothing wrong with being who we are, who God made us -- because Christ loves us and died on the cross so that we may be redeemed, and that as long as we strive to know Him and to follow His teachings, we will not be barred from His Heavenly Kingdom simply because we cannot conform to the ultra-high standards set before us. My legacy would be one of restoring the Church, so that there truly was "one catholic [small c, i.e. universal] and apostolic Church," one Christian body comprised of sinners of all colors and shapes and united by faith and the common goal of seeking redemption and salvation through the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Tell me what you like and dislike about Flannery O'Connor.
I'm not a literary critic, despite my efforts to discuss books intelligently at book club and with friends. I simply enjoy her stories. They resonate with me because I recognize in them themes common to my own understanding of Christianity and that other authors (C.S. Lewis, of course, comes immediately to mind) wrote extensively about. Her sense of the macabre and of irony -- her ability to turn a character's world upside down, to disabuse him of all his assumptions about right and wrong -- make for some very stunning reading. If I had to choose something I disliked, it would be the ubiquitousness of racism in her stories -- not her own, granted, but of the characters and the worlds she evokes.
5. Which three remaining favorite restaurants of yours do you most want to escape the spwebdesign curse?
Rod Dee, a hole-in-the-wall Thai place located on Beacon Street in Brighton and on Peterborough Street in the Fenway area. They make by far the best Thai food in Boston.
Redbones, not because I particularly like their barbecue (I don't), but because I will forevermore incur the wrath of danger_chick, my housemate Tubby, and several other friends if they close.
Helmand's, because after Helmand's there is nothing in the Boston area that isn't either mediocre or overpriced, and I know of no other Afghani restaurant in town.