Profile: Jen O’Connor


Jennifer Caryn O’Connor; born in Niskayuna, NY
nicknames: Jen, Jenny, JOC
loves: “Eric. the seasons. insects. my family. dirt. chardonnay. best friends. soap. plants.”


“I worked on a road crew for a summer during college. My foreman’s name was Big Daddy. On my first day (in an unspoken test of my stamina and determination) the crew (all men) had me run back and forth in front of a string of heavy machinery, directing traffic on the road we were resurfacing. After racing up and down a street in the 90 degree heat all day, they decided I was worthy of being part of their team. Timmy, a lifelong road crew member, gave me a ride back on the steamroller in a show of solidarity.”


“My dad’s a lawyer and he used to dictate briefs on handheld tape recorders. Whenever he upgraded to a newer model he’d give me his old one. Starting at age 2 or 3, he taught me how to record myself singing. When I was in elementary school I got my first microphone, but I mostly recorded made-up radio shows where I forced my brother and sister to be guests. I also forced them to star in a musical I wrote when I was 14, but I ended up having to rewrite the ending because they went on strike due to poor working conditions and a demanding director (me).”

“My parents made me take piano lessons starting in elementary school. When I was 12 or 13 my piano teacher was this incredible jazz pianist who taught college students for extra money. She refused to teach children, but my parents coerced her into meeting me. Afterwards she said I was the first kid she’d ever met that she liked because I was so polite and thoughtful (read: nervous, anxious, serious). She didn’t shave her legs or her armpits and it blew my mind. I didn’t know that was possible. We used to spend entire classes interpretive dancing or “drawing our feelings.” For a kid who didn’t really want to be taking piano lessons she was a dream. Almost every class I thought we were just goofing off, exploring her weird ideas. In reality she taught me so much about art and music and culture. She introduced me to ideas I wouldn’t fully appreciate until I was much older. Like now.”


“When Eric and I lived in Bangkok we played at a bar in our village called Rainbow. The owner’s name was Gai or Kai -Gai means chicken, Kai means egg. We were never sure which it was. She was a really sweet lady, but terrible at running a business. She was only able to afford one rent so she slept on a cot behind the bar. Despite this she rarely charged for drinks, and by the end of the night she’d get so drunk she forgot to ask for money for food. (Rainbow closed a few weeks after our show). We played Zombie by request of the Thais in the audience. At some point Eric’s finger started bleeding and Gai/Kai gave him a phonecard he could use as a pick. When we were finished she paid us in fried chicken toes. They were actually really delicious.”


Jen runs The Kirk Estate, home of the actual parlor.
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