Listen Here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/franz-xaver-messerschmidt/id1289105880?i=1000599422847
Hello, friends. Welcome to another very special episode of The Irrationally Exuberant. So, three or four weeks ago I sat in my kitchen and, under the watchful, semi-mocking eyes of my wife and children, spit into a tube until I could spit no more, then mailed it off to the good folks at 23andMe to be tipped and toppled and spunned and broken down, analyzed and digitized and turned into data in an easy to read e-document detailing the very building blocks of the meat machine that is Reid Messerschmidt, as well as some information on the meat machines that proceeded me, my ancestors.
It had never occurred to me to do this before. I’m an artist, goddamnit! A man of feelings and knowledge! What business of mine is my disgusting body? And god knows I love a good story, but my ancestors? I’ve known a good swath of them over the years and, while some of them are great and a few I really love, there’s not a one whose kinship is a matter of personal pride. Gratitude, sure, but not pride. Still, my wife, understandably, I suppose, wanted to know what horrible syndromes and diseases would ultimately kill us and our children.
“Listen,” I said. “I know I’ve probably given my beloved offspring Clinical Depression and Alcoholism, do we really need to delve further? They’re going to start resenting my building blocks.”
She believed we did, and I was not uncurious, so a kit was ordered. Everything that could be known about me would now be revealed for a paltry $125. I only hoped it wouldn’t ruin my life, send me spiraling down a depressive, dissociative abyss, ultimately leading to madness.
On the other hand, I’d heard of people finding out their father’s were not really their father’s, and that sounded appealing.
Well, all of that information is now here, in front of me, in an email that I have printed out, because I am old fashioned, even at the expense of our fragile ecosystem.
Some of the information – most of it – is unsurprising. The genetic scientists in their corporate laboratory have discovered that it is likely that I have dark brown hair, blue eyes, and a taste for sweets. Bullseye! These things are true. They also found it likely that I have a muscular, athletic build. This is slightly less true. They further determined that I am unlikely to transmit a propensity for any horrible syndrome or diseases to my kids. Aside from the Clinical Depression and Alcoholism, of course.
The scientists have also discovered some relatives of mine who were also coerced into sending this deeply personal information through the mail to strangers. Some of them I am aware of. Others I am not, because they are third or fourth cousins and I could not care less about them or their building blocks.
There was no conclusive information regarding my paternity.
But, buried amid all of this semi depressing data about the fundamental makeup of myself – easily communicated in a medium length email and indicating no particular gifts or promise – is one surprising tidbit. A tidbit I had long suspected, and has now been confirmed.
I, it turns out – and you may want to be sitting down for this – come from the same genetic line as Franz Xaver Messerschmidt!
If this doesn’t spin you into a tizzy of excitement and envy or even touch off a glint of recognition, allow me to tell you about my Uncle Franz: He was an eccentric 18th Century Austrian sculptor responsible for the famous “Character Heads”, a series of 64 tin-lead alloy and alabaster busts of his own head, each displaying a different, peculiar, often extreme facial expression.