Orignially posted: http://akzia.ru/lifestyle/14-03-2011/2876.html
by Daniel Nash on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 12:37am
I was really excited to see this published after writing it last month. The PDF of my interview with Phoenix Jones was posted online yesterday. But if you don’t know Russian, there’s no easy way to translate it. So here is the English version. It’s severely cut down considering the length of our conversation: this is probably 10 minutes of an hour-and-a-half long interview, not counting almost three hours patrol time. Additionally, the information that did make the cut is pretty basic if you have followed the American coverage, but I wanted to make sure this was a solid introduction of who Phoenix is to an overseas audience. I’m trying to find the time to transcribe the whole interview so I can try to sell a fuller version of this story to an American publication.
Some of the answers are cut down, but I tried to avoid cutting in such a way that the quotes would lose context. I eliminated some questions and answers I really wanted to include because I couldn’t minimize them without losing the spirit of the answer.
The version published in Akzia included some mini-profiles of other superheroes, such as KnightOwl of Oregon, Geist of Minnesota, Nyx of New Jersey, etc. Since I didn’t write that portion, I don’t have the English immediately at hand, but I’ll try to translate it over the weekend as a courtesy to the superheroes who appear.
Hope you all enjoy.
Name: Phoenix Jones
Secret Identity: Withheld
Tools: 10,000-volt stun baton, pepper spray, tear gas, Bluetooth phone.
Phoenix Jones is a real life superhero living in Seattle, Washington. Five nights a week, he patrols the streets looking for crimes not already being handled by police, joined by any number of the other 10 members of the Rain City Superhero Movement he founded.
Guardian of Seattle
By Daniel Nash
I was met by superheroes Ghost and Pitch Black just inside the entrance of Trabant Coffee and Chai in the University District. They demanded my name and press affiliation. I told them, and offered them a seat.
Ghost waved my suggestion away: “Phoenix will decide all that when he gets here.”
When Phoenix arrived moments later, he explained his colleagues were ensuring his safety against anyone who might use an interview as a ruse to attack him.
On patrol with the Rain City Superheroes, there was no denying that public response was mixed enough to make security understandable. Many passersby asked to take a photo with Phoenix, a request to which he readily obliged. Some laughed at the novelty of a man walking the street in a rubber suit, while others openly shouted “You’re not a superhero,” or, “You’re a fraud.”
Whether hero, novelty or overzealous attention seeker, what follows is Seattle’s superhero in his own words.
AKZIA: I know you have a day job, and you get out on patrol five nights a week. I guess my first question is, when do you find time to sleep?
PHOENIX JONES: I take naps. Lots of naps. I get off patrol maybe five in the morning, and I don’t start work until about eight-ish (8 a.m.) so I’ll get some time in there, and I get off around four, so I’ll sleep a little bit there. But I try to spend as much time with my kids as I can. And I get to bed about eight, so from 8:15 p.m. to midnight I usually sleep.
A: You’ve mentioned in the past that your kids are part of the inspiration for how you got into this. I remember you specifically mentioned a car break-in that occurred, and the glass hurt your son.
P: Yes. I went to Wild Waves [water park] and we didn’t have anything that we took… just [swim] shorts. We go running back to the car and as we go back, he slips and falls in glass near my car. And he cut his knee open pretty bad. I didn’t realize where the glass was coming from at first, so I just held his leg shut, saying “Someone call 911.” I looked up and realized my car window [had been smashed]. Some guy comes running over to me with a phone. So I say “Call 911,” and he says “I can’t.” I say “Why?” and he says “It will ruin my YouTube video.” And I thought, does anyone help… anyone?
So I was cleaning the inside of my car and I find this rock inside a mask. And the mask is what [thieves] used to swing and break the window open. I kept it as a symbol that bad stuff happens, and I put it in my glove box and thought that would be that.
A week or so goes by and I’m at the club with my friend. A guy comes in and says, “Hey isn’t that your friend outside?” I say “Yeah, he’s out there, what’s going on?” and he says somebody hit him with a stick. I go out there and his nose is turned all the way sideways
The guy who did it had 50 friends with him. I go, “Great, nobody can do anything. It’s 50 to one.” I go back to my car to my glove box because I had a first aid kit and a couple other things there and I see the mask is still there. I picked it up and I kind of got this idea. No one knows who I am with the mask on, so I ditched the shirt, put the mask on, chased him around the block. The police pulled us both over and I was able to get him arrested. I asked if I needed to [be a] witness and they said “We don’t really need a witness, we have the guy assaulted and we have the other guy, so we don’t really need you, other than your name.” I asked “Does it matter what my name is?” They said, no not really, so I said, “My name’s Phoenix Jones.”
[NOTE: There is some contention as to the exact details of Jones’s origin story as he has told it to the press. In a November interview with author Tea Krulos for his blog, Heroes In The Night, Jones stated he went looking for his friend’s attacker the night after the incident, but never found him. A story in the Capitol Hill blog of KOMO News reversed the car break-in and assault altogether.]
A: When you began intervening in crimes you did it as yourself at first, yes?
PJ: Yeah, that was way before Wild Waves. My brother and a couple friends liked to go down to drink at different clubs. I wasn’t 21 and I don’t drink anyway. So I decided I would go and charge them money to drive them downtown. I was kind of stuck there, though, depending on when they wanted to leave. So my friend goes, “Why don’t we just, you know, break up bar fights?” So we went around and broke up bar fights. But six months of doing that and people start recognizing your face. And you’re out there and people just try to attack you. My wife became pregnant at that point and I realized I need to quit this or I’m going to get in trouble. So that’s why, when the second part rolled around, I’ve been so careful about my identity and who I talk to.
A: How old were you?
PJ: I started at 18.
A: What made you decide on your current suit?
PJ: Mobility. When I first designed the suit, I really wanted a full rubber suit. But it was like wearing a rubber band; it just wasn’t practical. So I started cutting things off the original suit.
A: What’s your martial arts background?
PJ: Black belt in tae kwon do, black belt in judo. I should have a black belt in kendo, but I found out the teacher wasn’t accredited. But I fought other black belts and in kendo tournaments I did very well. I have over 30 mixed martial arts fights and I’ve won all of them but two, and I lost by [judge’s] decision. I’ve never submitted or finished. And then I have a couple years of ROTC.
A: How did you decide on the name Phoenix Jones?
PJ: My official answer is “Phoenix,” because it rises up from the ashes and I hope that if I stop doing this or something happens to me, someone else takes up the idea. And “Jones” because Jones was the most common last name the year I was born.
A: I want to talk a moment about your broken nose [in January].
PJ: That really made me mad when they played it that way in the press. Because there’s a whole other part of the story people don’t think about. Let’s review what we do know: My nose got broken by a guy with a gun in a parking lot. But let’s answer the questions: Why was I in a parking lot with a guy with a gun? Because he was assaulting citizens. I did what superheroes do. I ran in to stop the situation and I actually did. I effectively got the guy on the ground, I was holding him. I called the police and they didn’t show up for 17 minutes. The whole incident took 22 minutes and I was winning for 19 of them.
Then out of nowhere his friend comes up and draws on me. Everyone else is gone, so it’s just an ego situation. My ego, what am I going to do? [He imitates a gruff voice] “I’m not going to let him go!” Come on. At that point no one is in danger, so I let him go. When I did, he kicked me in the face and broke my nose.
A: Do you ever worry about your kids losing you?
PJ: I think about that sometimes, but you know what I think is worse? My kids being alive. They’re living in this world that no one seems to want to change. Everybody seems to be pretty happy with the way things are going. And I think that me attempting to change this is much more important than it would be for me to be around longer. Do you know what I mean? They’re going to be in a world that’s getting progressively worse. The urgency is so great that they maybe won’t grow old if I don’t do this.
A: You have a Bluetooth under your mask, don’t you?
PJ: Yes. [He laughs] A lot of people don’t get that. People always try to pick apart my story and ask “How can you hold a guy down and call 911?” [He points to his earpiece].
A: So as soon as you see a crime, you make the call, and then you intervene?
PJ: I try not to intervene most of the time. The best thing I can do is record it. And I have a headcam that goes on the [mask] right here. So a lot of the time I’ll see a crime and then I’ll just videotape it and wait for the police to show up. And if he tries to leave the scene or hurt people, then I jump in.
A: Do you have religious beliefs?
PJ: I do, and I believe in God, but I feel like it ruins the message of being a superhero. It’s interesting how religion was originally brought in to bring hope, but today a word like “mundane” comes to mind, or “fake.” When you see a Union Gospel mission bring food to the homeless, you think, “That’s for points in Sunday school,” or “That’s because you think you’re going to heaven and not because you’re a nice person.” But you see a dude just randomly giving stuff to the homeless you think, “Wow, that’s really nice.”