Gabriel McDonald (Second Row) - Interview Conducted by Anna Chard & Phoebe Shin
Monday, November 16, 2020: It is 10:40 in the morning. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping (we think- we were actually inside so, upon reflection, we have realized that we can’t really attest to that). The mood is light, as is the company, and the Human of CPS makes small talk as we anticipate the beginning of yet another student interview. I click record. “Welcome, Gabriel.” The interview has begun...
Anna: We know that you are heavily involved with GSA on campus— what has been the most rewarding part of that work for you?
Gabriel: Well the most rewarding part is just, as an upperclassmen, seeing the undersclassmen, especially freshman, become more comfortable in the space talking about their own identities and queer issues. I know when I was a freshman, I came into GSA and it was this really new thing; I hadn't really come out to anybody yet, (I had only sort of just figured it all out) so I came in and it was just a super welcoming environment. It was really casual. And, you know, when I became a leader, I really wanted to make sure I made that space for everybody as well. This year we’re also operating a little differently because we’re focused on a lot more educational stuff— I think a lot of affinity groups are doing that this year. We just wanted to make sure that we convey some valuable information with our very much increased turnout at meetings.
Phoebe: Is there a quote or a set of wise words that has left a lasting impact on you?
Gabriel: I think there's this one Gandalf quote—
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
I really like it… it's just like take charge of your own life and decisions and don't necessarily worry about things that are out of your control.
Anna: Do you have a favorite spot in the bay area?
Gabriel: I mean I don't get out much, so I don't know if I have a favorite spot. I think Cerrito Vista Park in El Cerrito is a nice place to hang out. I hung out with one of my friends socially distanced over the summer there. I remember two summers ago I was working as a camp counselor at UC Berkeley and I had taken a day off: There was a 2 hour period in the morning where I had nothing to do, so I just kind of walked around the UC Berkeley campus, and that was really nice because it’s a beautiful campus and the sun was shining.
Phoebe: More specifically, what’s your favorite restaurant in the bay area?
Gabriel: There is a place in both San Francisco and Marin called Gott's Roadside Burger; that's really good, and we go there pretty often. Berkeley and Oakland are just great hodgepodges of different restaurants. There's a good Indian place called Vik’s in Berkeley (so good). I'm surprised by how many people know of it because I thought it was this out of the way thing that no one knew about. Xyclo on Piedmont is also very nice, and that’s Southeast Asian cuisine.
Anna: What’s a pet peeve of yours?
Gabriel: I don’t know! You have to be doing it for me to actively be thinking about it. Okay here's an interesting twist on that question: I have a pet peeve about myself, which is that I’m absolutely horrible at reaching out to people (like texting first). I don't like that I'm not good at doing that.
Phoebe: What’s a skill you want to master?
Gabriel: Piano. I like playing the guitar, but when I came to college prep I just liked to sort of play around on our three pianos. When I came into Chorus and moved on to AVE, we did a lot of reading from sheet music. So, occasionally I would just go on the piano and try to figure out what my part was. Eventually, it sort of became this thing where I was like I just really want to learn how to play this instrument; it’s a very nice instrument, and it can be used in so many different contexts. And then two summers ago, I went and stayed with my aunt in Malaysia. she has a piano at her house, and she taught me how to play a specific piece that she used to play when she was a kid; that just sort of intensified my interest in the piano. I was going to try to do stuff with it on my own last year and this year, and then Corona hit, and I dont have one at my house. But I'll learn it in college!
Anna: What’s your favorite scent?
Gabriel: I love new book smell. There's just something about it. You get a new book and just open it up to the middle and smell it, and it's so nice. Textbooks also have that new book smell. And then also old book smell! I love new and old book smell, but nothing in the middle.
Phoebe: What’s the most interesting gift you’ve given or received?
Gabriel: I'll talk about two which are related. This is just a watch, nothing super special, but it's been passed around my family. So, first it was given to my uncle by an eccentric aunt of his; she was super wealthy and stingy, and he got her to gift him this watch for his birthday. Then, at some point, he passed it on to my other uncle, so he had the watch for a while. Two summers ago, when I went to stay in Malaysia, that uncle passed it on to me. He told me to pass it on to a male member of the family who is of age when I get older, so that’s pretty cool. It is sort of like a family heirloom. The other gift is my necklace. The chain was given to my mom by the same uncle who originally received the watch, and this pendant was given to my mom by my grandfather. It’s amber. I guess it gives me more connection with my family in Malaysia, which is really nice. I got this like 3 years ago and have not taken it off since.