Paul Khermouch

Age: 17, I’ll be 18 in September.

Neighborhood: Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Where do you go to school? Stuyvesant.

What year? I’m a senior. I’ll be going to college next year at the University of Texas at Austin.

What are you going to study? Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

So, no Urban Planning? No, but I’m going to look into classes.

We heard you recently put some of your computer science know-how to use around the office. Can you tell us more? For the past few months, I’ve been working with a massive database of articles related to public health that were on the T.A. server and in the T.A. library. At first, I was organizing them in an Excel spreadsheet by author or topic or whatever, but after a while, I decided it would be cool to make a front-end interface, so anyone could type in a search term and find what they were looking for.

Wow. Impressive! It seemed like a good thing to do.

How did you start biking in the city? I was slow getting started. As a matter of fact, I didn’t learn to ride on two wheels until I was in middle school. For some reason I was just really discouraged, but my parents were always riding all over the place, and my sister was going around with them a lot, and I just was not doing it. And then something changed, and I finally started to go with them and get more comfortable on the bike.

Where do you ride with them? All over Manhattan, sometimes to Brooklyn. Once a summer we’ll do a day trip to Coney Island and back, which is long, but it’s always fun to go to Nathan’s or the Siren Music Festival.

Do you ride your bike to school? My school is right off of the bike path that goes along the west side of Manhattan, and I also live right near that bike path, so I can basically bike to school without worrying about traffic. I’ve really been pushing myself to bike to school more because I realize I have such a great opportunity. It’s hard to motivate myself in the morning, though. When I do, I definitely feel great, but it’s hard.

What time do you leave in the morning? It takes the same amount of time for me to take the train or ride a bike to school, so I leave at 7:55.

We’ve seen you wear a Smiths t-shirt in the office a lot. Are you a fan? I listened to mainly contemporary rock and roll for most of my childhood. Whenever we would listen to a CD—my whole family would listen to the same stuff—my father would make these comparisons and be like, “Oh, these guys are clearly inspired by the Jefferson Airplane.” And I’d be like, “I don’t know who that is!” And nothing would come of it. This was happening more and more and finally, in my sophomore year of high school, Death Cab for Cutie did a version of ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths, and my dad started listening to it, and he went out and bought the CD ‘Meat is Murder’, and I just started playing it, and I got so into it. I was a diehard Smiths fan for the next five months. That’s all I would listen to. I bought every one of their albums, read everything I could about them, and got their t-shirt, of course. Now I’m listening to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Santana; all these old bands that my peers don’t listen to.

Do you see a link between the politics of that music and what you see in the city now? There is a sense of rebellion in the music back then and in bicycling now. It’s about fighting for what you think will be a better thing. I see that here at T.A. too. Statistics show that bicycling does so much more for the city than an increase in automobile use.

Anything you would want to tell someone who’s thinking about volunteering with T.A.? Don’t be shy! Don’t be scared! Everyone here is going to welcome you, no matter how little or great your experience is with the field or how much knowledge you have. No matter what talents you have, there is always something here for you to do. You’ll never be bored.