Michael Barbaro: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. You’re a busy dog.
Jasper Payne-Green: I’ve always got time for you Michael — I’m a big fan.
MB: Oh! Pardon my surprise, but I wasn’t aware my show had many, erm, listeners like you.
JPG: You mean dogs?
MB: Yes, sorry, dogs.
JPG: [Laughs] You’re good! To be honest it wasn’t something that I would have found on my own. You know those old CD’s that your dad would always play in the car?
MB: Oh yeah. Stevie Nicks, The Eagles…
JPG: Right. Well, for my dad, that’s your show.
MB: Ah, I see. So you’ve kind of made it your own now? Do you listen when you’re hanging out on your own?
JPG: [Jokes] No thumbs Michael
MB: [Laughs] Right!
JPG: But honestly, I think it would be a fantastic way to pass the time. Plus, there’s so much to catch up on.
MB: That’s right, you’ve only been on this earth for what, seven months?
JPG: Seven and a half.
MB: Mhm. Well, yeah. There’s a lot you missed: two impeachments, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg…
JPG: Oh, what about that “Rabbit Hole” series you all did? I would love to dig into that one.
MB: Curious about the YouTube algorithm?
JPG: What’s YouTube?
MB: Um, it’s… wait, you know Rabbit Hole has nothing to do with rabbits?
MB: It’s a reference to Alice in Wonderland… a passage to the strange, dark corners of the internet.
JPG: Where all the rabbits are?
MB: No, or um, I mean, yes there are probably some rabbits somewhere down there, but you’re more likely to find alt-right wackos and militant white-nationalists.
JPG: I prefer rabbits.
MB: You and me both.
MB: So, Jasper, I wanted to circle back to the topic of time in the car. Have you always enjoyed it?
JPG: No, not at all. The first time I was ever in my parents’ car was, of course, when they brought me home from the shelter. So the next time we got back in, I was like “Hell no! No way I’m going back there”
MB: That must have been terrifying.
JPG: Tell me about it! But no amount of wriggling or screaming would loosen my mom’s grip.
JPG: They kept giving me treats though. I made sure to savor every one because I was convinced it was the last they’d ever give me.
MB: Yeah wow, quite an ordeal. Where did they end up taking you?
JPG: The park.
MB: Sounds like that was a relief.
JPG: I guess.
MB: Oh, so not a relief then?
JPG: No, I mean it was, yes. But you have to keep in mind that park was not something I was remotely prepared for, sensorily speaking. You’re familiar with surprise birthday parties?
MB: Of course.
JPG: Imagine opening the door to a dark house, but then when the lights come on and everyone shouts, “Surprise!” they’re all strangers, and half of them are squirrels!
MB: That’s…overwhelming, to say the least.
MB: So, what did you do next?
JPG: I clawed my way back to the car!
MB: [Laughs] From Charon’s Ferry to safe harbor in the blink of an eye.
JPG: I don’t know about that. The lesser of two eagles maybe.
JPG: Come again?
MB: You said, “eagles,” but the saying is “lesser of two evils“…
JPG: Oh. What are those?
JPG: Yeah. Can they fly? Do they have fur? Are they tasty?
MB: Oh, I see. [Mutters] How can I explain this. [Out Loud] ‘Evil’ is like when a person gives you a treat, but they put something inside it that gives you a stomach ache.
JPG: Oh, why would anyone ever do that?
MB: That’s kind of the point.
JPG: Uh huh. Well, I guess the park isn’t really like that. I was trying to say that it was loud and smelly, like an eagle. The car is too. But not as much as the park.
MB: To be completely honest, I didn’t know eagles were smelly.
JPG: Fish, Michael. They absolutely reek. And they don’t have anyone to brush their teeth. Talk about bad breath.
MB: And that’s something you consider yourself something of an expert on?
JPG: Of sorts. Though I do put up with the occasional tooth-brushing.
MB: You don’t mind it?
JPG: I find it more confusing than unpleasant.
JPG: There just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Mom and Dad smear this tasty stuff on these little sticks and wiggle them around in my mouth while I do my best to lick it off. Why won’t they just hold them still?
MB: You sound almost annoyed.
JPG: I would be, if that stuff wasn’t so darn delicious.
MB: [Laughs] You seem to have acclimated well since that first harrowing ride in the car.
JPG: I’d like to think so.
MB: What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
JPG: Squirrels, without a doubt.
MB: Like not barking at them?
JPG: Not catching them! One of these days, Michael, everything will change.
MB: When you finally catch a squirrel?
JPG: They won’t be laughing then.
MB: They laugh at you?
JPG: All day long. From up in their trees. Sometimes they throw nuts, just to piss me off.
MB: That sounds infuriating.
JPG: You can’t even imagine.
That’s the first half of the interview. The second half will be published tomorrow or maybe Wednesday.