Category Archives: Running

Indy Mini-Marathon!!

The poet Mark Neely and I ran the Indy Mini-Marathon? Why?

1. Because Mark and I are writers and teachers of writing, and if we don’t do something physical when not doing something writing-related, we will lose our freaking skulls. Hemingway had fishing. Tennessee Williams had swimming. Edna St. Vincent Millay liked to dance on tables and the spleens of men. Etc.

You live in the brain long enough and you will die in the brain. Writers need to DO SOMETHING physical, I feel.

Many writers find cutting the yard as satisfactory. Not to mention shooting bows. Some writers throw things at walls, like ashtrays or hurtful words, or will marry and un-marry repeatedly. Years ago, I knew this one poet who was always purchasing alligators or egrets. Just purchasing them, you know, daily. So you see my point.

[A woman known for exercise]

2. Because we get to run around the actual Indy 500 speedway! Glow.

3. Because the name of the race is stupid. Running 13.1 miles is not a “mini-marathon.”

4. Because it is Mark’s inaugural half-marathon, and he’s not playing around. The man picks the real thing, a BIG one. How big?

5. Because this race is the largest half marathon in these United States.

35,000 runners! (Another 5,000 ran the 5K, but who would want to run the 5K at an event like this? I always feel low running the 1/2 at actual marathons, but running the 5K at such an extravaganza? OK, OK, I know I should be happy anyone is running anything, and usually I am. But here? I’m sorry, I’d be slinking.)

That’s 700,000 water cups!

4,000 volunteers! (Thank you vastly, volunteers! This was easily one of the most organized races I have ever run. Very impressive, and the volunteers were a big part. Kind, timely, encouraging, professional.)

38,500 bananas!

And 60 kegs of beer. (Thank you vastly kegs of beers. Kind, timely, encouraging, professional.)

[Here are some other fun facts, if interested.]

Wait, wait, back up. Before you go to the race, you must clutch and keep the EXPO. You get your race number, pick up some swag, go naked or costumed, maybe see a few pro runners. And who do we meet at the expo? A true legend. The last U.S. man to win gold in the Olympics. The man who is generally known to have started the running boom in this country.

Frank Shorter!!!!

OK, Sean don’t hyperventilate. Heart going all modem. Head whoosh-whoosh. Just say hi. Don’t have a seizure….Don’t pratfall. Don’t do magic tricks. Don’t bark. Don’t reveal your inner life. Don’t tooth, claw, feather, or bone. Don’t vomit on the man.

Yep, that’s me with Frank Shorter. Pretty much my race couldn’t get any better now. Mr. Shorter was gracious and kind and cool. I mean the guy had class. He’s standing there talking to an idiot (me) about MY race, engaging me in conversation, when really shouldn’t we be focusing on him? Very impressive person. Exponential glow.

Mark and I both had Mr. Shorter sign our race bibs. Then I headed home for a pre-race meal: Couple beers and a fat plate of nachos.

[Homemade nachos will make you run like a deep kiss or spiral staircase]

Try to sleep. Can’t sleep too well. Cat keeps pacing around the house mewing after another cat that died recently, so it’s like we have ghost-cats in the house or some shit. Mew. Meeeewwwwwwwww. Creepy. Oh well. I have a dream I am a music box strapped atop a race car that is leaping over a river of gleaming pink taffy. Is this a sign?

Get up early. Wrestle a banana. Drink some Powerade Zero. Wait for Mark to arrive at house. Mark is here! We are ready to run!

So, hey, let’s run:

Parking is organized. Gear-check is organized. Starting line is organized (catching a theme here?). I mean this is 40,000 runners! This race could teach other races a thing or two about logistics. Perfect day. In the 50s. I pack my fancy new iPhone holder with iPhone, car key. I bought this at the EXPO and it’s the best I’ve seen, also waterproof:

[ifitness]

Important question: Sports Beans or gels?I don’t have a huge opinion. Both will do the job, and warning: both can upset your stomach. But you are going to train with a product before you actually race with it, right? Right. Don’t be an amateur. So, my preference: gels. Why? Sports Beans are too damn chewy! I’m trying to run a damn race here, not gnash my way through leather goods. Gels go down smoother. Both will need water. So there. Pop a gel, I say. Pop a gel, about mile 9.

(I did go Sports Beans at the St Louis Marathon a few weeks ago, so this might have turned me against. The St Louis marathon was 86 degrees, full sunlight, Sirocco winds, hilly–absolute hell. The conditions were so bad they had to STOP THE RACE. They couldn’t catch me, though. I did finish, but barely [3:23]. I was then violently ill for hours. Violently ill. I do not want to revisit in any way the St. Louis fiasco.)

Despite an early start for the race, runners began to collapse in the heat.

fun times…

So I load a few gels, Mark goes with beans, and we walk towards the START. Beautiful runners everywhere. Runners stretching, runners warming up. I think runners, especially in running gear, are generally attractive. Then again I am biased. Smell of sweat and nerves. Time for us to load into our STARTING CORRALS; they have them alphabetically A-Z.

I am in corral A because I can run fast once in a while.

Mark is in E, very respectable starting position for a first time half-marathon. I know Mark must feel nervous now, but I am not. He did his training, so I know he’ll be fine. He will find out there are advantages and disadvantages to a corral system. For me, it’s fine. I mean I am actually at the START line, so no problems with crowds or flow or whatnot. For him, it could get congested.

Helicopters humming. Loud music.A man over the speaker says DO NOT OPEN GELS ON THE INDY TRACK.

Um, OK. They don’t want any gel packaging in the Indy 500 track. Maybe a race car would slip in the slimy? Odd.

More nerves, adrenaline fumes odor, runners hopping, flexing around–this tension I love. We are all about to DO SOMETHING, apart yes, but together. I look around at all these strangers, but I know them. We share a vocabulary–fartlek, VO2, Frank Shorter–and we know the secret burn and sweetness of pain. We know to be more careful on the downhills than the uphills. We know how to loosen the jaw, how to hold an egg in our curled fingers. We know that homework must be done, and if it isn’t done, the truth will out today; and if it is done, the truth will out today, and either way, we are about to finally, finally be involved in a human system, where for good or bad or ugly, we are going to get what we DESERVE.

The START, excellent. Since the Bin Laden killing, I was afraid they might go over the top with the patriotic thing, but it was fine: quick national anthem, a few soldiers singing, crank up some dance music, some lady says, “Runners, start your engines” and then the spectators all counted down from 10, 9, 8, 7…3, 2, 1. And we were off!

Mile 1: OK. Get into pace. Adrenaline. Christians on speakers trying to tell us something. Cheering, yelling. Some sort of anti-slavery people marching in a line? Like a small little protest. Some dude in his underwear. OK. Lots of people waving and shouting; they line the street. Lots of signs:

YOU CAN DO IT!!!

GO MIKEY!

THE PAIN YOU FEEL IS WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODY.

BETSY WE ARE PROUD OF YOU (AND SO IS GROVER) TAKE A DUMP IN YOUR PANTS IF YOU NEED TO

I hope I am miles away from Betsy when she takes that dump in her pants. Head-wind. Bridges. I generally like bridges. Flooded White river. I hope Memphis is OK. I like Memphis. Mind sort of wandering, pleasurably soaking in the event.

Mile 2: Just cruising now. Just all groove.  A lot of the guy runners are taking off their shirts and gloves and hats and throwing them into the air. Guys always do this at long races. They wear too many layers and then, as they warm up, they toss away their clothing. You can see their joy–to just throw perfectly good clothing aside, like to say, I’m running here, I’m an animal, fuck that clothing. I rarely see women do this. They plan better, somehow. They wear the correct amount of clothing and so don’t need this odd display of clothing-toss. I think.

At this point, Mark is learning the downside of the Corral system. He’s trapped in a MASS of humanity and is having trouble running his own race, his own pace. He can’t get past thousands of runners. As a result, his first two miles will be slower than he wants, and he’ll have to compensate by running fast once the course opens up and the runners fan out…Not the optimum way to pace a race.

Miles 3-5: Oh no, dead legs, the St Louis hangover. I expected it–the marathon wasn’t that long ago, but still. I don’t want to have flip-flop legs this early. Oh well, fuck it. Shake out my arms, relax. I just focus on my pace (running about 6:20 miles) and enjoy the run. Look at all the bands! Rock bands and ska bands and folk bands and Christian bands and heavy metal teenagers bands. Thank you, musicians! It does help us runners. And also some of you look funny. That makes me happy to see you looking so funny.

Mile 6: Catching a little second wind here. That happens, thankfully. It’s ups and down, these longer races. My legs are getting their spring back. Feeling all Eugene, all jars of boingy. There is butterfly in my shin. Break my name, break my name. Not sure what that means. Mind wandering again…What is that gigantic concrete oval?? Yes, yes, it is the INDY 500 track! I’m not a car racing fan, but I recognize the historic. In a word, to run a lap here is cool.

Miles 6.5-8.5 ON THE TRACK!

I must be inspired. I get into a groove on the track. I’m floating a bit. Could be the location. Could be the hundreds of cheerleaders, some in bikinis. Could be all the race cars parked on the oval. Could be Frank Shorter who is here at the track, working the race for television. Could be I’m just fit right now and running in a nice flow.

Mile 10-11: Grinding a bit. A living room coach on my forehead. The elation I felt at the track now wearing away…legs feeling a bit dead again. Grinding, but that’s OK. That’s what I’m here for, to feel pain, and to know that pain IS NOT suffering. You can take pain and ride it, take pain and gather it into a force, to push you along. I’ve done it many times. And here I do it again…

Mile 12: The race is psychological now. You got this, is what I’m saying to myself. Grind, grind…You got this.

They are playing INDY 500 tape loops of close finishes over a giant loudspeaker. Excited announcers and engines roaring. The streets are lined with cheering fans! Checkered flags are waving. Grind, grind, bring it home!

FINISH!!

1:24:37.

I’ll take it. And why am I being given two medals? That has never happened. You get one medal per race. Why? Because I am now a proud member of the 500 club. The first 500 finishers get a special medal and inducted into the club. OK. OK, I didn’t know that. SWEET. I feel like a gazelle made of Velveeta now. I’m smiling.

Hey. Where is the beer tent? Oh, there it is. You know, Michelob Ultra isn’t that good of a beer, but after you run a long race, Michelob Ultra is a VERY VERY GOOD BEER.

Mark finishes in 1:47:02. Wow. Pretty damn awesome for a first time half-marathoner!


It,

we did!

Since being in Indiana, I’ve heard a lot of hype about this race. It’s all true. Amazing, well-done, professional. A great race. End of story.

GLOW

rotel plums would be boss like tapping jellyfish on my lips

I decided to help the researchers at BSU with a running study. I need to run a sorta fast 5k. This makes my stomach all flat fruit trees, all hop/hop. Why the anxiety?

1. Running at night. Weird biorhythms with night running. I once raced a four miler in the Smokey Mountains at midnight. It was one of the worst races of my life. And how does one sleep after night running? The body all starred out and engine. You crank up the motor and it runs for hours. After-burn.

2. I need to run pretty fast. The study has parameters. I have performance anxiety. What if I show up for the study and don’t run fast enough? Like all the pointy-head scientists with clipboards go, “I thought you could run. You told us you could run.”

3. I have to run around one of those indoor 200 meter tracks. Haven’t done that in a while. (BTW, last summer some dude set the indoor 200 meter marathon record on just such a track. He ran around the track 221 times.)

4. I had a Superbowl party and am still eating leftovers. Like the other day I ate a dinner of Chex mix. For lunch today I ate a vegetable tray. Is that a good meal before a fast run?

So I head to the fancy rec center. You must have a fancy rec center these days, to recruit the students. I entered a door under a climbing wall. You have to have a climbing wall, folks. What’s the point of a fancy rec center with no climbing wall? At Dick’s Sports store, I climbed to the top of a climbing wall years ago and it is remarkably difficult to do. I remember thinking, “This is remarkably difficult.”

(Hey, I was thinking if I had a giant sports store I wouldn’t name it Dick’s. I really wouldn’t. But who asked me?)

Went down a labyrinth. Passed an indoor soccer field. Some kid kicked a soccer ball into another kid’s face. That happens, man. Volleyball courts. A lounge. Students sprawled out like cats. More left/right/left.I like spaces like this, corridors with weird rooms where people are banging out weights. Locker rooms. Underground space for serious athletics. I always feel detached from myself and also still myself in these places. It actually feels good.

Hey, there’s the track.

I see a woman with a clipboard and papers.

Me: “Hi. I’m Sean.”

Researcher Woman: “Hi, Sean. Read this and sign these papers.”

Papers are boring. They ask a lot of questions about my health. I don’t lie at all. I usually lie several times on medical forms. I just lied the other day to my kid’s doctor, actually.

Dr: “She’s (Referring to my little kid) not watching much TV, right?”

Me: “TV? What’s TV? No, no, she never watches TV. I have her too busy working on calculus and basket weaving.”

I don’t give a fuck. I’ll lie right to a doctor. I’m sure you will, too.

Wait, wait, back to the running study.

Papers filled out.

Me: “Ok. What’s this study about?”

Researcher Woman: “The purpose? The purpose of this study is to measure the effects of CWX Pro compression tights on the biomechanics of gait over time during a run to exhaustion. You know, in running to exhaustion, there are kinematic and kinetic adjustments in a person’s gait. CWX Pro compression tights are thought to delay these adjustments. We’ll see.”

Me: “You want me to run to total exhaustion?”

Researcher Woman: “Yes, but not today. Today I want you to run a 5k. A fast one. Go about 95% effort, OK? You can warm up now.”

I warm up. This means I run two 200 meter laps. I don’t warm up much, as a rule. I put on my shoes.

About two minutes later I say, “Well, I’m ready.”

The Researcher Woman gives me a look over the non-warmup. The look is sort of like I wonder if he knows what the hell he is doing?

Then I run. It goes all:

This is cool, this is different, 200 meter track is mostly curves, volleyball players around hope they don’t hit me, trip me, feet falling like leaves, quiet, quiet, haven’t run in my racing flats for a while, just blew by some dude, sorry dude, not trying to be one of those runners who run really fast by others to show out I am actually doing a study, could you get out my lane, OK, runner disappears, OK, good call, a frozen horse is appearing in my chest a bit, thawing now, good flow, legs loosening, arms singing a bit sourly, I am wondering why I volunteered now I am in pain, and oh a flow now, a flow, more people watching, some big dudes setting up cones to do a dash (40 meters?) very polite staying out of my lane, lungs gold with tap-tapping, a rock pressed against my thighs, some groove I’m hurting and sweating and researcher yells out 9 more laps!! and big dudes stop and watch me a while I run a little faster when people watch sort of stupid really I’m too old to care but I am human you know and so rather flawed I feel and so counting down 7,6…lost count now curving curving curving all the time on 200 meter track I might just mention the moon now by no reason to mention the moon and legs so blurry and 3 and 2 and 1 fast finish bring it home, bring it home…

I’m done. 19:03 5k. Not fast. Not slow. And inside the parameters for the study!

Researcher Woman: “You’re done. Now you need to do it in the lab next week. We need to hook you up to some things.”

Me: “Ergh…Uuuu. Ok. (panting) Haven’t run a 5k in a long time.”

Researcher Woman: “Just wait until the exhaustion run. You have to run that same pace into complete exhaustion…”

OK

Went home and ate rotel. Yep, couldn’t sleep.

*

I get to hang around Cathy Day and she always does something smart. She is massively intelligent, and always has glow ideas about writing. Last night, she was reading,  with Matt Mullins, and took photos of the audience from her perspective, as opposed to the usual photos of the reader up on stage:

It’s a cool idea and it shows people enjoying being read to. You get to see us glowing as we see these images and hear these words. Here are some more audience photos in her route book.

This reading was really way plasma. It glow.

First, one of the Chick Litz opened the reading. This one. Yet another amazing BSU creative writing student. I liked the Airplane poem the best.

Matt Mullins showed a film about a crow stealing a takeout container of Chinese food. The crow just plucks it off the road. This what people mean when they say, “Shit happens.” Then Matt read poems and stories. The man works many, many forms. Pretty impressive.

Cathy Day read from her novel in progress. She is writing about Cole Porter’s wife. I was really into this, because she read a scene taking place in Newport, R.I. Oh, I remember running the cliffs, running the walk winding along the mansions in that blustery seaside town. So I was nostalgic and submerged in Cathy Day’s fictional dream and my own memory simultaneously and it was flow and what words can do and isn’t it odd how the mind can go all airport fuel of candy.

*

I read my second graphic novel. (The first was in graduate school–Maus.)

The novel was The Alcoholic. It begins:

“My name is Jonathan A. I’m an alcoholic. I have a lot of problems. Not more than the average person, really, but I have a propensity for getting into trouble, especially when I’ve been drinking. This one night, I came out of a blackout and I was with this old, exceedingly tiny lady in a station wagon.”

Here are my thoughts on this book, and remember I know absolutely nothing about graphic novels.

1. Though I examined each illustration and even had several minutes of putting the book down to reflect, I read the book in one sitting, in my car, in a parking lot before I taught class. I like to sit in my car sometimes, because it is my own space and time, between being home and being at work. I put the heater on and lull myself into a reflective state. What did I feel about reading an entire book so quickly? Well, a little ripped off. I paid $15 for this book and now it’s done. Maybe I wasn’t used to this mix, more graphics and not words. By word count, this was a short book, even if it looked like a substantial book. Odd. I just think maybe this must be part of the form–you can read the things extremely quickly. Also I was captivated by the story, and that helps.

2. Does the mind work the same way when the images are provided?

I mean it can’t, right? Without the graphics above, I have to form the midget lady and the station wagon. My brain has to form my individual images, and this of course is a joy of reading. I read Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree and the great thing is my brother reads it and my colleague at work and we discuss the book in all these ways because we had to form the story, too, we were part of its making. The electrical activity in the brain must differ when we see the words, and here you go–the image.

3. Subject matter was drinking, drugs, sex–ideas I like to read about, generally. It was a bit of a romp, with enough of a break for reflection. Without the graphics, the writing was solid, a simply told story. Not a lot of fireworks, and here we get another key point of the graphic novel: Why would you spend time on close description? On physical character? On all the techniques writers use to fully form an immediate scene? Someone is going to draw the actual scene for you. Weird.

4. This is a very honest book. It reads as an honest account of true addiction. To do things over and over and over without any real reason why. The narrator digs and pries and questions why, and knows what to do and what NOT to do, but cannot find answers and cannot stop. It is very human. Since it’s a graphic novel, I didn’t know how close I could feel with the protagonist. This was foolish on my part. I felt very close. You know why?

5. The art work. Black and white was a good choice–I think color art would have made things less severe. And these illustrations are a weird mix of realism and abstraction. The expressions on the face are vivid. And drawings allow for some much weird shadowing, gritty angles, hollows, shards–a heavy impact. In a word, impressive. The drawings match the gravity of the story.

6. Humor. A dark story, but funny. Humans are funny, aren’t we? The panel above shows the narrator eating dinner with Monica Lewinsky. She’s eying a kielbasa…OK. One of the more powerful scenes for me was when the narrator was working as a taxi driver and met a drug dealer. They end up doing cocaine and other drugs (and drinks) in the dealer’s apartment and the dealer (who is gay) tries to have sex with the narrator and on and on and then the narrator wakes up with his torso and head in a metal garbage can. Oh, and he’s naked. It is a very effective drawing, and believe it or not, comical. Black humor. Sad, too, in its utter, utter dread. The bottom of the barrel is not always a metaphor.

8. Lastly, this is NOT a morality tale. Thank you. It looks at addiction with questioning. It doesn’t try to give a stupid-ass answer. Good.

*

Here are three Hobart flashes by Katie Jean Shinkle. Enjoy.

*

I am a freak and I eat nachos.

S

a treadmill balloon and Andy Devine and other meaningful objects

The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for their 2011 awards. My man Ander Monson rocks it with Vanishing Point.

Woot! Woot!

*

Readings can be dark or light. Cavern or cascade of whitewater. Tight walls. Drippy walls. Angles or smoosh. Smells of linseed oil, smells of urine. Cleavage or ankle bones. Skinny eyeglasses, striped hipster caps. Three minutes. Hair like an encasing dress. Mostly young. Much more older. Really long hair. Walls. Buzz cuts and beards. Bright. Aphotic.

Once at a reading I felt a fat fist in my throat. Like a toad.

Once I washed ashore wet as a clam’s ass.

Once I felt primary, sovereign, but it might have been the dank porter.

But I digress…

Andy Devine is reading in a bright art gallery.Wait, this photo isn’t bright. Let me rip one from Vouched. Ok, here we go:

As usual Andy insulted the audience and the other readers and insinuated we–Matt Bell, Aaron Burch, myself–were simply warming up for Andy’s majesty. Andy said his book was better than moving water, or watching the French Open while having sex, etc. He cackled several times, not a laugh, a cackle. I had an urge to punch Andy Devine. I curled my fingers into a health farm of a fist. I thought, “I will go rustic on your forehead!” This is the same man who recently bragged:

Also, once a year, for a few days, the city of Kingman celebrates Andy Devine Days and Andy Devine Avenue in Flagstaff is named after me.

Then Andy read. His words were like the sun asking the moon out on a date to the symphony and with a handful of Lorcet and golden half-light honey mead and later the sun and the moon make out in a tricked-out car in an alleyway made of circus. Andy put all of us in our place. We were warming up for Andy Devine. I felt waves of nausea. My writing life was a tragic joke, a wet napkin of nothingness, a fraud. In an odd way, I had to thank Andy Devine. He silenced me. I went home and deleted over 400 drafts of various flash fictions. I held a wet towel to the back of my sweating neck. I then opened a Word document and started anew. I wrote the word the. I slept for two days. I drove back out to Indianapolis to watch Aaron Burch eat nachos.

Now that is a happy man. Why? Nachos. I keep trying to tell you folks…

*

Parker Tettleton with a mesmerizing flash over at elimae.

*

The lift activator on my treadmill exploded. This is the second time. Fuck. Me. The first time mechanical dude wanted $110 to fix the lift activator. I paid him, sure, I had to–I needed hill training; I was about to run the Boston Marathon. But I watched him and took mental notes. So this time I replaced the lift activator all by myself. I had this surge of Wow I can fix things. It felt good.I felt less guilty about the generational putrescence of any actual skill. Like my grandfather could build a car out of an ear of corn and some baling wire. My dad could flip the stop lamp switch bracket and pour diet Pepsi into the radiator to cool it down. Me? I pay someone $35 to change my oil. But I did fix the treadmill. I repaired the treadmill. The treadmill, ready for the running, sir. Yes, yes, yes. I then ran MIXED INTERVALS like a fucking roller coaster goat.

Ive started to like the words “Mixed Intervals,” not sure why. Mixed intervals. Mixed. Intervals.

I went all:

6:00 mile pace X 3 minutes/6:00 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:56 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:56 mile pace mile X 3 minutes/Ran a 5:52 mile/5:49 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:49 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:45 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:45 mile pace X 7 minutes.

The last part was tough. I was grinding. I had to turn The Smiths on, and I rarely run to music. Since The Smiths are the only music I like, I had to go to them for extra verve, for a little thrusty-jump!

CROOOOONNNNEEERRRRRRRR…

It worked.

Can I just say I am tiring of everything breaking? My treadmill. Then this middle light of three lights in my dining room. It keeps going dark, like every other day. And I lost an earring last Tuesday. It just fell off my ear I guess. And then my .50 caliber muzzle-loader was recalled.

Knight Rifles has received a small number of reports from the field of Revolution muzzleloading rifles accidentally discharging as the user closed the action.

Exsqueeze me? You mean my rifle might just fire? That’s slightly deadly, sir. That’s slightly fatal, young lady. Whoops, I just fired off a .50 caliber weapon. Well, look at thar! Dern. So I have to send the rifle action away for repair. They are supposed to send me a box and pay for the mailing and whatever. We’ll see.

So I tire of this, all this breakage and loss. Everyone knows why. The tendency to degrade. The universal force. Entropy. As in: WE ARE ALL FALLING APART. I feel it as every day passes, it, shimmering in the air, and so do you. Fucking physics. What can you do?

I don’t know.

*

Peter Davis is reading in a dark bar. Peter read funny poems about Tina. I heard a girl next to me say, “Wait until Jared reads. Jared is loud.” Jared Sexton read. He was LOUD. He read a fabulous story about a man with a girlfriend and the girlfriend keeps mouthing off drunk in public and so the man has to get into various fistfights. He loves his girlfriend sober but is maybe frightened of what will happen when she drinks. It’s an interesting situation. Other readers on this evening were melancholy. In fact, I distinctly heard two melancholy sonnets. One reader I couldn’t hear too well. I think he said something about a monkey. Could have been money. Could have been Vivi, like a poem about a girl named Vivi? I don’t know:  the sound waves got caught in the mushy walls. Or maybe fell into the square pit of the bartender’s boxing ring. I noticed the bartender was overwhelmed and pouring very heavy drinks. She might have been an inexperienced bartender. The drinks were heavy. I drank a vodka and tonic. And then a tonic and vodka. They are not the same.

*

MEANINGFUL OBJECTS

Flash needs meaningful objects. What? Exactly. The cut-glass tumbler. The bowl. The red shoe. The big gob of phlegm. The blackberry. Creamy tops of glowing lantern in the night. The river rock. The paring knife. The cat. The canoe. The nipple. The paper plate. The solitary bean. The Turbo Dogs. The mockingbird.

They must connote, as in echo off the page. They exist to argue for their existence. You have to give the reader an opportunity.

Little Things by Raymond Carver. A domestic fight. Move to the kitchen (for all the obvious reasons–one of the finest places to have a fictional fight is in the kitchen). And:

Let go of him, he said.

Get away, get away! she cried.

The baby was red-faced and screaming. In the scuffle they knocked down a flowerpot that hung behind the stove.

What of that flowerpot? Doesn’t matter. You gave us an object. Now our minds will grapple for reverberations.

–flowers as already metaphorical. We don’t need pointy PhD hats for that. Flowers are not given/received due to  a sudden spike of interest in botany right around birthdays, first dates, and Valentine’s day.

–I just like the crash of the pot on the floor.

–He gave her that flower, man!

–Their love once grew like a flower and now it’s…

groannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

–Yeh, I’m with her, me too, and the dirt all bird-footed out, the way we can’t put it all back together.

–I don’t get how you hang a flowerpot. That’s some phony shit.

–I need to go to the bathroom.

–I think the pot is supposed to point us back to a better time for this couple. I mean it’s in the kitchen and its clearly not utilitarian. It’s not a spatula. It’s a flower.

–The pot is a manifestation of—

OK, OK, let’s move on. You’re all wrong and all right. Carver gave us a chance, is what I’m saying. We are all gods of our stories. Didn’t have to be a flowerpot. You could all place something else behind that stove. But give us a chance, folks. Give us an object.

Kathy Fish is one of my favorite flash fiction writers. Often she will use objects as a way to characterize. Watch now. You could form someone wary, yet open to experience, hard, but with an underlying sentimentality, a person who—

Or you could just dump out their backpack:

I empty my backpack onto my bunk: euros and condoms, a photo of my dog, digestive biscuits, a can of mace, and a bottle of spring water with a picture of a cow on it.

Objects, objects, objects. Sometimes they make me happy as a little stove.

Check out the opening of this recent flash (Go read it all–it is glow) by Mike Meginnis, over at JMWW:

This body can’t stop throwing up. Cheeto dust and Gatorade. Power bars. Granola. Macaroni. Cheddar. Grains of rice. Frito Lays. Taco Bell. Refried beans. Paper bag. Bendy straw. Fishing line. Dog food. Dog sick. Dog fur. Powerade. Lettuce leaves. Carrot peel. Orange peel. Jelly Belly jellybeans. Gummi worms. Taffy. Chewing gum. Fingernails. Cocacola. Cocacola. Cocacola.

In the toilet, on its rim, on the floor, in the grout. Pooling in this body’s shaking hands.

See? Things, people, things. Let me end this little constitutional with one of my favorite flashes and uses of objects, Four Hard Facts About Water, by Damian Dressick:

After your two-year-old daughter trips and falls unseen into the neighbor’s in-ground pool while you are in their summer house trying to find steak sauce…

Steak sauce. That’s why you weren’t there when your two-year old entered the pool. Steak sauce. Could Damian Dressick make a philosophical argument concerning the oft banality of human mortality? The very absurdity of how we enter, leave, die? How grief confounds even the most…Yes, yes, he could. Or he could give us a meaningful object.

See?

*

My favorite type of writing is the smashing together of the natural world (glow) and the artificial world, the world of media vomit, neon sign, advert (blar). What a touch, what a touch by Fausto Barrionuevo over at deComp:

BARN OWL

Pigeon coops, roach motels, mouse traps,
veiled by the billboards back-bending lamps,
veering out like tree snakes.
Hushed yellows on the backs of mosquitoes
by the Barn owl, steady on the scaffold.
Her shadow flying on tropical winds
above her bold profile.
A cold breath flows from her cracked beak,
thrusting seas running like waterfalls
through her cavernous lids.
Under the painted orange sky, a slogan in the sand:
All buffets open till midnight.
Rain drops snap onto granite
as clouds, black as pavement, roll by.
A herd of deer dashes across the interstate,
antlers charging into dark forest.

Lobster Video Game Sedaris Smallmouth Hobart decomP

Life is oddly. You dream about car accidents and dappled nachos. You rub the eyes from your sleep. Stumble into a clutter and hate yourself. For a moment. Bills and printer ink and some cartoon where blue frog-people scream green things. Hi son. It is Sunday and I need to trim the shrubbery–would you like to go bowling? Shoes have wheels now. You go bowling and go to get a bowling alley beer (little plastic cups) and tumble right into a Lobster Zone game. A game with live lobsters. A bowling alley game with live lobsters.

Really, What-the-fuck?

Here is what we know:

1. It costs two bucks to play. You can use your charge card.

2. You use a claw to snag the live lobster. Or: “Unlike any other crane machine, we use a pneumatic system that allows the claw to close beneath the water surface in the tank – not before the claw meets the water. Electrical systems in other machines run directly into the water, risking electrocution of the lobsters.”

3. Here is that damn DFW lobster essay.

4. You catch the lobster and they cook it right there, in this bowling alley type of place most likely known for fries and toasted cheeses and chicken fingers. Possibly they deep fat fry the lobster? I ponder. Little crinkly cups of beer. Four strikes, four spares. There is a lady in here looks like a pumpernickel. Hi lady, my back hurts a lot lately. Hi, she replies, I’m about to smoke a cigarette because I am a fan of The Smiths. On the TV a man pushes another man down. Ok, bye.

5. Here is a video of a successful catch in Las Vegas:

6. There’s something creepy and wrong about this idea and machine, but who am I to say? As a reward for teaching CTY all semester, The Johns Hopkins folks use to throw us all a big-ass seafood party in Rhode Island. Clam cakes, clam rolls, clam chowda (red and white), lobsters. I once ate six lobsters for dinner. Six. I’m not sure the appropriate amount of lobsters you should eat, but it is not six. Don’t do that. OK? Pain. Echoes of. I wouldn’t do it again. I’m actually not sure I would eat another lobster, but I might. I eat some seafood. No other meat, naturally, unless I myself kill the animal, but I digress.

*

New August decomP.

I glow The Mysteries by Alexandra Isacson:

She tried to keep herself from blurring into watercolors. Lucent, her blue-violet eyes fixed on a powdered Tarot.

“Yeah, I cut lines with that card,” he said.

Jennifer Moore with Vegas poem. Great title, momentum, flow. You caught a shard there, Jennifer, and you held it to the neon light and it became a prism. We thank you.

Ambivalence is a mumbling groom, focusing his gaze on the bridesmaids;

none of these women are fathomable. Leave the open bar, the pool
tables, the girls willing to do everything.

*

I ran 12 miles at an incline yesterday, but who gives a shit?

This dude ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) and drank a beer for every mile! Whoa. Why didn’t I think of this? Yes, he vomited, blacked-out, was nearly run down by traffic, but no pain, no malt liquor or whatever. He says:

Perhaps even more problematic are the goddamned do-gooders and paramedics onhand in case of medical emergencies. They will take your swerving, stumbling, and vomiting as signs of delirium or fatigue, and then get all interventionny and try to take away your beer. That can not happen.

This guy is no “goddamned do-gooder” and you got to like him.

*

Lopped a Sedaris book yesterday. Engulfed in Flames. That’s a yell/hell of a title (and skull on the cover) but the book doesn’t really come across as dark and desperate as its possible aim. Sedaris isn’t so glow at titles anyway. The New Yorker often changes the titles of his essays, from book to magazine (or the other way?). The excellent (and truly funny, as in awkward and angry) “Turbulence” appears as “Solution to Saturday’s Puzzle,” a limp and obvious title at best. “Turbulence” has more metaphorical punch, more Clear Winner, and doesn’t force itself on us like a Barbed Bird.

The book took a day to read. This while busy. There were dark and funny pieces, and there was fluff. As usual, the pieces read cleanly–Sedaris obviously edits hard (over-edits at times, some essays so intent on wrapping up in a neat little bow). Sedaris, at his current age, works best when he gets deeper into the bone, into the gristle–his reflections on a skeleton that continually says, “You are going to die.” A sort of Bartleby riff. The cigarette/addiction essay. Or even better when he addresses homosexual issues, and his obvious anger on the subject, a real, earned, valid anger. I wish we could see more of it. I actually wish he would go blue more; he does at readings. He really does. He is in the a-reading-is-different-than-a-book camp. He’s more a stand-up comedian at readings. More a careful writer in his books.

Sometimes Sedaris loses that sympathetic narrator he has always controlled. In earlier books, Sedaris makes fun of everyone, but always includes himself. That’s his trick. Sometimes, in Flames, he comes across as too wealthy, too cosmopolitan, too, well, what he probably is: successful. It’s a tough line to walk. People laugh at fat comedians, etc. People like a narrator who is a bit down, especially in mini-essays. But Sedaris knows this. This genre is Sedaris, so he adds health problems and ineptitude and pratfalls and social errors and whatever mix to make himself a sympathetic buffoon. A smart buffoon. Yes. And I’ll read the words of a smart buffoon.

Sometimes the pieces have a whiff of bullshit, and Sedaris now claims in interviews, “They are 9o something percent true.” If you read enough Sedaris, you’ll respect him for how much is NOT bullshit, but you’ll also see how transparent he is when trying to fake something, an inconceivable coincidence (probably while he’s trying to tie aforementioned bow) or a forced stretchy of lengthy, perfect dialogue.

In the end, you respect the man. He do glow. He’s a bit of a magpie genius. He lives everyday taking little notes, writing them up, editing, then we get these little essays. And he does it again and again. Mostly they are worth reading. Sometimes even truly funny, as in humor laced with roiling clouds, anger, frustration–the real stuff of life, and literature. Sometimes you go: how did he do that? None of this is easy. As we know.

*

New Hobart bringing it all tongue of cigarette, hacking cough.

I glow Kristine Ong Muslim.

We figure the leaves will find a way back into the house, where they take more than their share of furniture. The smell of ruin and the lack of rain outside has not permeated the house yet. That must be what draws them to us, draws them indoors where we multiply when faced by extinction.

You take a thing, it expands. You freeze a thing, inspect closely, it expands. One purpose of writing. To see what falls.

I glow Matt Mullins.

Mutiny is the last I remember.  being pitched over.  only to awaken here.   drowning in an Aeron chair.  typing my own ransom memo for the corporate pirates who pay me in somnambulistic days.  unsure how I was fished out and tanked.

The man shreds some sentences here in a fascinating way. As I told him over D golf, “You let the sentences heighten the claustrophobia of the situation. Good job.”

*

I went cross-training. What does that mean? I took my brother fishing. We drank weak beer and caught strong fish. My brother kept catching sucker fish. Nasty. Suckers fight like submerged Cheetos. You just drag them in…

I reeled in the giant sporting fish, the smallmouth bass. It fought like a parking lot. A screeching tire. RAINBOW, RAINBOW, RAINBOW!!!

Then I let the fish go.

word.

S

Canoe and Write and Run and Dan Chaon

I took The Boy fishing on the White River. The water was high and rumbled like lips on a wine jug, or maybe a flight museum if all the planes came to life, propeller thrum, etc. After watching quite a few other fisherman just casting randomly, I made sure to teach The Boy how to read a river. While books and minds are important, a person MUST know how to read a river. It’s a masterpiece, this river, I said to my son.

I said, “Son, don’t spook the water you’re about to fish. Those fish will think this canoe is a killer whale.”

I said, “Son, feel this sand (I scooped a bit from a bank); isn’t is cool and marvelous in the hand?”

I said, “Son, fish eddies and riffles and pools. If you’re just going to throw the lure anywhere we might as well be in a Wal-mart parking lot or hell, but I repeat myself.”

I said, “Son, fishing is like the act of love. When you are older, you’ll regret days you didn’t fish, not the ones you did.”

I said, “Son, let’s go light line today. Everything is ten-fold with light line.”

I said, “Son, if you’re not getting hung up on the bottom, you’re not fishing in the right place.”

I said, “Son, pass me that massive, massive beer from the Igloo cooler.”

I said, “Look, son, fools!” Ah, Memorial Day weekend…

[He said, “Dad, why is that woman naked?”]

Drunk, wet, dumb, loud, naked, often underwater. No worries, though. I enjoy the people-watching and most likely these folks (and many others we passed) did not know what they just caterwhomped themselves into. As I said, the river was high. Anyway, no matter the chaos, we caught fish the way a hole in the ground catches the glint of stars. Good times, good times.

*

Wow, via HTML, look what Mud Luscious Press is up to.

Love it. Love it!

Everything here is way glow.

*

Dark Sky Magazine has a spotlight feature on this Sean Lovelace fellow.

*

I’m still in disbelief I signed up for:

The Toughest Road Marathon in the World
The Only Uphill Marathon in the US
6000 ft Elevation Gain

MOUNT LEMMON MARATHON

Man, fuck me. Pain…

This is Ander Monson‘s fault, basically.

OK, so I am IN TRAINING:

I am most worried about the altitude and the mountain lions. I can’t train for those factors. Anyway, I started my training today. I am going to try for primarily slow hills (I have a treadmill with grades) and LONG runs and also dark beer. I will also try to like tackle random dogs I see along the highways. Just pull over, run at the dog, and tackle the thing. I’d also like to eat at a mercantile exchange, like maybe takeout. I’d always had that urge. I’m not even sure what a mercantile exchange is, but fuck it. And I’ll be rattling more doorknobs than usual. If I see a doorknob, I will rattle that doorknob. So I warn you in advance. Are doorknobs slowly becoming extinct? I mean you see a lot of handles and metal bars and like little flippy things and electronic locks and so on, but what about a good old slobber-knocking doorknob? I wonder.

Also I will flutter my eyelids when appropriate.

Also I will AK47 my lungs in the late evenings, particularly Tuesdays.

Also I will tick.

Also I will magic rhythm my shins.

Today:

8.2 mph:

12 minutes at 2%

12 minutes at 3%

12 minutes at 4%

2 minutes at 2%

Not a bad start, good sweat. Legs should feel glow later.

*

Dan Chaon glows grief well here, a wigleaf Top 50. Grief as Things Fall Apart, things end (our own lives), and I can’t stop them, I can’t stop them anymore than I could stop rust or an ebbing tide or a crumbling log or a drunk and tumbling Lady Gaga or a sagging bedroom or a crumpled shirt or the moon carving itself into nothing. Look around: Things fall apart. Grief as resentment. Look at them. Look at them, in love, hobbling, hobbling, hobbling–but alive.

It’s a tone piece: shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

So many writers would fuck this up. But Chaon keeps it on keel, quiet, leaves rustling…falling, mulching, into the emerging buds of…

Spring, the season, as most rude reply to death. Most rude.

Late April.

Early May.

Tulips and daffodils and lilacs and budding trees.

I wonder if that would make her happy, to know that the Hobblers were still around. Down the block and back, down the block and back, getting a little exercise. Maybe—probably—she would like it. “Sweet,” she would say.

As for me, I don’t know what I would prefer. I sit at the window, peering out, and I don’t know whether I want to see them, or if I hope that they will never come.

The hurt isn’t that I am going to die, dear blog reader. The hurt is that the day I die you will have a need for low-fat latte, and you will make or buy low-fat latte, and you will drink low-fat latte, and it will be a good low-fat latte.

*

What are you looking at?

26.2 pain

3:19:38

Didyou

hear?

An American won a fucking marathon! An American.

That’s like a grapefruit winning a knitting contest. Maybe it can be done, but…

I was there, too. I finished 109th. 3 hours and 19 minutes. Pretty dern slow for me, but it was humid and my training spotty and the hills came for me like propaganda and pulled drapes of razors.

Will I ever run a fast marathon again? Who knows?

Interesting race. Chaos. Costumes. Country music. I thought I would run faster as I ran AWAY from the country music, but I suppose not. Some guy from “Biggest Loser” sang the national anthem. We were off!

OK

OK

(Dude next to me is running barefoot. This is an insurrection in running. It scares the hell out of Nike. This book is one of its bibles.)

pain

Pain

PAIN!!

Miles 22-26 in a marathon. It may be why people run the race. Or will never run the race. You are in a different world, some odd planet. You float but in a sheen of blue/orange/some glow. You are on a drug, but like no other drug. You are in a tunnel but you see more. You are alone but somehow connected to the winds, to the cloud formations, to the bird sitting on the wire. Hello bird. You feel like an alien now, a strange race, or possibly you have shed everything and you simply feel human. Human. How it was meant to be. All of this contained in a crucible of pain.

A lot of people fall. I mean stumble. Strapped into stretchers. This is miles 22-26. People falling into stretchers. Sirens…

There were storms! Severe weather. Over 2500 runners didn’t even get to finish the race!

The race apologized.

Some of them even ran alone around the parking lot. Finishing their very own marathon, in the lightning and rain. I call that Steel. And I get it. You come this far, you train, you set this goal. You want to finish the damn thing.

Did anyone hear about the princess who ran a recent marathon as a 34 person caterpillar?

OK

word

Woot Woot Newz and Miles

Word.

New micro-fiction/poetry/hybrid/whatever/plop/lovely pancakes/celebrities/corn chips/thing coming out in 2011.

The more I wrote on this the more I understood people offended by the term, genre.

What do I know about this MSS?

Pub Genius Press.

MSS is odd. Not sure what to say about the MSS. I feel it’s a swirling pool below a pipe, a flotsam juxtaposition. We’ll see. I enjoyed writing it, intellectual play, shard-glow, sort of the point of writing for me.

I’ll let the words on the page talk in 2011. That’s how it should be anyway.

Here is a sample but a poor sample since I have radically changed the text by now.

Here is a sample but a poor sample since I have radically changed the text by now.

How do I feel? Like snapdragons and wine made from the drippings of arrows. I wear transparent sandals as I walk the kidneys of my living room. That means happy. Then it settles and I had  a small depression (why? but the same thing happen after a good road race) and then I just settle and move on and try to write something. Been weirded out by Lady Ga Ga recently. Not sure why. But I sense I will write about Lady Ga Ga soon. I feel it stirring and that is usually the beginning of how I work. It’s like an itch.

What should I do to celebrate?

Make nachos. Kiss them. Drink champagne.

*

Other big news!

The Broken Plate launches on Monday! During the In Print Festival.

In Print has Mary Miller, Matt Bell, Kalia Yang, and Mitchell Douglas.

How kick ass is that?I am always so impressed how this festival gets these people together, reading, conversing, energizing all the BSU community. Makes me proud to work at BSU, to be honest. If you are anywhere near Muncie, Indiana (and I know you are) on Monday or Tuesday, come hear these people read, speak, glee like film-makers and moons.

Wow. It’s been a journey on the magazine.

The Broken Plate is the BSU undergrad-edited literary magazine. I have been Head Editor the last year. It was a new position for me and I had never done such a thing and I went from anxious to OK to we-can-do-this to awed, especially by the students. They really stepped up, from designing to editing to marketing to everything that makes a literary magazine. I am happy and proud of our end product, our words.

This issue crackles like golden larynx bones. Includes Roxane Gay (always strong) and Jimmy Chen (one of the wittiest, most interesting writers, period), many others, and even BSU students. One of the unique aspects of The Broken Plate is the mix of national/international writers and BSU undergrad students.

Someone is going to say, “Hey, Sean, Roxane and Jimmy and you all write for HTML Giant. Is the fix in at the magazine?”

BLAR ME.

The students edited the magazine. The editing was done blind. I didn’t even get the names of the authors until the very end of the process.

But I am HAPPY to see these two authors and many others.

Get a copy!

*

New Word Riot out!

Great interviews: Mary Miller, Shya Scanlon, Matthew Simmons.

I thank Riot for these. Excellent.

*

Ran 17 miles today at Greenways. What is Greenways? This:

Oh, it hurt. I won’t lie, I was a tad hungover. You do NOT want to run your long run in a state of dehydration. That be stooopid. So I drank a metric ton of water (carbonated–I drink all my water with fizz now, and it is annoying) on the way over. Went bad and good, like many long runs. My hams are screaming now. I felt dead-legs early, then got a second wind about mile 10. Grinded 10-14. Then drove it home. I had a tendency to grind anything home, and I hope to never lose than tendency.

I saw dogs, reclining bicycles, dogs, dog shit (who let’s their dog go ON the Greenway?), kids, no comets, no naked people, a few other runners (more joggers–nobody was rolling it), dogs, a man screaming into a cellphone while standing on a bridge (In general, people pacing across bridges, yelling into cellphones, they scare me.), a nice parcel of robins in the shrubbery, a house with a pond and this canoe at such an aesthetic angle, like some small Japanese print, I don’t know, I was jealous of the pond-canoe people but I am sure they have credit card problems and the wife still pays for porn (who does that?) and the teenager just started hardcore into the Furry scene and I saw several rivers (rivers always make me glow and give me energy) and groundhogs and furrows of dirt and someone mowing their yard (a bit early?) and more robins and a few doves and several woodland/swamp areas I would not mind bow hunting (noticed when I think of bow hunting I run faster).

I talked to exactly one person. This older man bicycled up behind me and just stayed there. It weirded for a second. Why is guy drafting off a runner? Then he pedaled alongside and yelled out, “You are running 9 miles-per-hour!”

I said, “Sounds about right.”

Then he pulled away. Well, thanks for than information, kind sir. Your little digital MPH reader.

That was my only conversation of the morning (except when I prayed to my knees).

*

Been playing a lot of Bioshock (the first one). That game be crazy. I like it.

Xbox is weird. I should not be playing it, yet I find odd moments. Reminds me of running or writing in that way. If you really want to do something, you do it. People sometimes annoy me when they say “I have no time” to do something. You can find time, though it might be pain in the spleen (like running at 6 a.m. or X-boxing at midnight or eating nachos during a faculty meeting). Really they are saying, “I don’t want to do that thing as much as another.”

I think.

S