about mark flanigan

Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

Visit markflanigan.com

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mark flanigan exiled from archives

October 2007: The Dance

June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" Mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2007: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

     Now that the bell has rung and I’m wearing my new corduroys, it must be time to fulfill my first assignment. “Try to make it interesting,” the genius at the wheel suggests, a notion that inspires me to at first think of exotic locales that I’d be hard-pressed to find on a globe, let alone describe convincingly. After that, the temptation to weave a summer full of lost virginity and illicit sex with the suburban wonder that is Mrs. McCabe from across the street hits me. How could that fail to be interesting? Would you, dear teacher, feel comfortable blowing that whistle?
     Well, no worries, for the truth—in all its glory, I’m sure—it will be. But to understand my summer we must first impose a bit on spring. For there you will find me busy attempting to reinvent myself. Trying to find another way, the years of drink and drugs starting to take its toll, apparent on the lines of my face. My hair is thinning; I’m growing a bit fat; I’m breathing more heavily than I should while reading biographies of John Belushi and Keith Richards. I decide to quit everything, at once. That, and I begin to exercise with such regularity that I soon realize I’m addicted to it. Why even on Sundays you could find me in the living room elliptical training with the same verve that was once reserved only for chopping up lines.
     I ran, I swam, I biked, I lifted, and the weight came down a bit. Before long, when I indulged my new fascination—boxing—I did so with thoughts such as this: Maybe I’ll become a fighter. I know I’m 35, never been in the ring before, but Hell you never know. After all, George Foreman recaptured the title at age 45 and he was fat! I studied film while thinking of prospective boxing monikers, in the end settling on Mark “The Bad Man” Flanigan, which I would compulsively shout out at any given time, whether I was doing dishes or having sex, it didn’t matter.
     The experiment was going well, I thought. I began to believe I could do this, live the life of a monk. The only problem was I couldn’t write, didn’t write, had no desire to really. My creativity evaporated completely, like just another bad habit. My deadline was quickly approaching and, for once, I barely noticed. I should be in the ring anyway, I figured.
     But before that was to happen, I’d have to get through softball season first. For once, I was ready for it. I was in better shape than I had been in years and certainly, this would pay some dividends. I couldn’t wait to get on the field, show what a dynamo I was going to be. I would galvanize my team of bartenders and barflies with my newfound health and love for the clean life!
     After a few weeks of batting cages and tossing ball, I’d finally get my chance. We had a practice game scheduled against our sister team, The Comettes. And when the time came to take the field, I strutted onto it with my retooled body, exclaiming “I’m a bad man!” to anyone within earshot, which was everybody in Northside. My position is shortstop, so it wouldn’t be long before I could display my tiger-like prowess. Sure enough, there it was: a sharp line drive up the middle to my left. Instinctively, I positioned myself beneath it, the ball was high but I squatted down and pushed off with my legs, jumping like never before and feeling, first, the ball miraculously go in my glove and, then, my shoulder snap. The velocity of the ball had been such that it carried my arm behind me with its motion. I came off the field. Said to the first person I saw, “Give me a goddamn cigarette.”
     Later that night, my arm felt like it was broken. I couldn’t move the thing; it was lifeless. In the morning, thinking I would save myself some money, I went to a chiropractor. First thing he did was send me for an MRI. The result?: I was already out a grand and had a second-degree tear of my left rotator cuff to boot. Both my softball and boxing careers would have to be put on hold; I signed up for my therapy, was told to refrain from exercising. Which was fine by me, I mean what good had it done me anyway?
     Still, I tried to keep my head up, stay on the path. As it happens, that weekend I had a ticket to see Oasis, a guilty pleasure dating back to my drug days. Kate had to work and I couldn’t get anyone interested in accompanying me, so I’d go it alone. Arriving, I passed the bar on the way to my seat, which was third from the aisle. As luck would have it, and I mention this not mean-spiritedly but as a matter of fact, I could barely see my seat as I approached it because the sight of it happened to be eclipsed by four of the largest Samoans to ever take in a rock concert simultaneously.
     I sat down meekly; snug in my new crib of somewhat spoiled meat. I got the sense that one or another of my concert brethren, though seemingly decent, rarely got out of the house; I could barely move or breathe. And sitting there in my own lap, waiting for the band to come on, I got to thinking: Man, it’s just not natural, being here on the occasion of a band that can only be appreciated in terms of excess, and you being sober. Now, Mark, I ain’t saying we need to duck out and head over to Green Street, but surely a beer or two may be in order. I couldn’t have agreed more, so I excused myself, extracted my person from the Samoan police line-up and stepped in another line.
     This one was long and slow moving. I surmised that I would probably not have an opportunity to come back before the show began. Thus, I decided to buy two beers. Therefore, when it was my turn to order, I knew what I would say. “I’ll have a Bacardi and Coke” is how it came out. “Single or double?” the bartender asked. “Uhhh, you better make it a double.” I watched her pour and then I watched as she continued to pour, adding a splash of Coke in the end. I tipped her accordingly, which is to say heavily, and made a mental note of her face.
     I ended up going back often enough that at one point I abandoned my seat altogether. I remember vividly the first six songs, what they played and in what order, the accompanying lightshow, but I can’t recall a single detail after that. And in the morning I woke up on the kitchen floor with dried peanut butter on my right hand and a pack of cigarettes in my pocket. Never looked back.
     Enter Summer.
     Now that I’ve had a few bumps, a half of Valium, a six-pack, and thirty milligrams of Dexedrine, I’m ready to talk about it.
     The Comet team had to take the field without me. My chiropractor estimated that I could be playing again in as little as two months. It would be more like two weeks.
     The thing he—and most others—would not grasp is that this was an important season for me. The year before I had become head-coach and our team responded by having a dismal 3 and 15 season. Things would have to improve this go ‘round, or I would most probably lose both my position and pension. Knowing as much, at the start of the year I searched for some new recruits, all of them abundantly confident in their abilities as potential All-Stars.
     The truth, it soon became obvious, was that these men’s fathers would have preferred to raise daughters. As a result, throughout the year, you could find me having conversations such as this: “Geesh, you got ate up out there today,” I would say to someone who had four consecutive errors. “Really? You think so?” they would ask indignantly, as if I had watched a different game or was merely insane. “Coach, I gotta tell you,” they’d continue, “I don’t really agree with your assessment of events.” Or, mid-season, I’d have to field questions such as, “Now how are you supposed to hold a ball when you throw it?”
     Despite such madness, we actually managed to win with some regularity. We chose to play in two leagues this year, one of which we went 8-10 in. Yet, I guess the biggest story regarding the 2006 softball season would have to be the Township Tavern tournament. In that particular league we were a paltry 3-12 heading into it, which placed us as the last of twelve seeds. Our first game was against a very good Silver Fleet, who as a result of us neither catching nor hitting a single ball, promptly whipped us 27-2 in four innings. The next game, after a few personnel changes, we won. There was some grumblings, but no one seemed unhappy when, magically, the following game ended in similar fashion.
     Thus, having won twice as many games in the tournament than any previous year, we had earned the opportunity to play the next day. The first through fifth seeds would be returning along with one very dark horse. Unfortunately, the schedule pitted us against the Fleet again—the same team that had whipped us the day before—but things would be different this time. We would give them all they could handle, at one point building an 11-3 lead. “We’re gonna shake up the world!” I was saying, channeling Muhammad Ali, “We’re gonna shake up the world! We’re some bad men!” But, alas, the lead didn’t hold out and we lost by seven. Still, we gave them something to remember us by before exiting and, according to all the newspapers, my job remains secure for next year....
     Things, despite appearances, didn’t necessarily begin and end with softball. And seeing how one shouldn’t speak of summer vacation and neglect to mention his or her travels, this year a bunch of us decided to pull our resources and rent a cabin on Douglas Lake in Tennessee. Frankly, I don’t remember much of it. There were ten of us, eleven counting little Wren McMichael, and we each had a task to perform before our departure. Mine, along with Joe Winterhalter, was to buy the alcohol. Which we did: four hundred dollars worth. Which in turn perhaps explains my lack of recollection.
     The other “trip” I took was to see the venerable Tom Waits. First, in Nashville, and then in Louisville. Tim McMichael was my co-pilot on the first leg, where we arrived tired yet excited. We had a few beers at a bar beforehand, popped a pill. Here I advised, “Now listen, Mac. I don’t want to be talking through this one, you know how I get sometimes, so if I speak for more than twenty seconds at a time remind me to shut the hell up.”
     We arrive at the venue, find our seats. Once again, I’m third from the aisle. There’s a couple to my right and the guy next to me is garrulous and, I dare say, a bit buzzed. “We’re seeing Tom Waits at the Ryman, man, at the Ryman!” he keeps exclaiming, patting me on the back, almost hugging me in disbelief of our good fortune and offering me one of his three beers.
     As the show begins, the crowd’s adulation—although far from being misplaced—is ridiculous nonetheless. Everybody in our vicinity has traveled great lengths to be there, and as a result, they are desperate to hear every holy fart. The guy next to me can barely contain himself during the set, yelling up to the stage in-between songs, “Tell us a story, Tom, but make it a good one!” People in front of us turn around and shake their heads in dismay. It was like being at the opera, except that all the sneers were coming from middle-aged hipsters with dyed hair and ugly girlfriends.
     I’m being good, though, for the most part. Still, at one point Tom Waits sings something that cuts me to the quick, something I can no longer remember or find again, and I say “Man, that’s so true!” to Tim, only to be rudely shushed by some guy from Idaho. I stew in my seat, wondering what’s wrong with these people, no wonder the guy hardly ever tours, when not two minutes later an usher comes running up to the very same guy and scolds him for recording the show on his phone. I took great joy in standing and shushing the prick demonstrably, who gave me no lip the remainder of the evening.
     After the show, while sitting at a honky-tonk that featured a Japanese cowboy singing the Hippie Hippie Shake, I asked Tim, “Why didn’t you tell me to shut the hell up?” His answer, “You said to do it if you spoke for more than twenty seconds at a time. You were talking, but never for that long.”
     The next show wasn’t quite as enjoyable. I had been spoiled in Nashville, my seat having been only fifteen rows from the stage. In Louisville, my friend Ali Edwards and I sat in the balcony and—the band playing quietly, the sound somewhat muffled—I had a difficult time hearing anything over everybody’s incessant chatter.
     The only other excursion taken this holiday was of the daytrip variety. One morning, Kate and I got in the car and drove three and a half hours to Payne, Ohio, a city outside of Lima. There we picked up the newest member of our family, a baby Pacific parrotlet who has since been christened “Ernie.” He’s my new two-inch tall buddy that, as Kate is wont to say, looks awfully cute in his little green suit. He sits atop my head as I write this, both of us ready for our jacket cover photo.
     Speaking of which, this summer can only be viewed as a mixed bag regarding creative enterprises. I spent the better part of a month preparing for The Open Mic Gong Show, watching old episodes and practicing my Chuck Barris impression. You know, “I don’t know why they gonged you, I liked your piece. But then again I like watersports.” That sort of thing.
     The remainder of my summer was spent editing my Exiled on Main Street columns into book form. It was quite a process, one I had put off for far too long, and for good reason. Fact is, when I started writing the column, I didn’t even own a computer. Some were on my word processor, others on computers owned by ex-girlfriends’ that no longer allow me inside their homes. For some of the pieces there wasn’t a definitive version available to me at all. Most had to be re-typed. I’m still working on the thing, actually, but all things being equal, Exiled on Main Street should be available next fall from ThinkAgain Press.
     All of which leads me to one question: How did I spend my summer vacation? There is no novel, no screenplay, no short story collection, no CD to speak of. However, I did write one poem this summer:

Success

it was late
Sunday
night.

I walked into the neighborhood
bar.

it felt good,
for whether
it was conscious
or not,
I had stayed away.

having had a few beers
already,
I needed to piss.

I walked into the bathroom
and there it was
in large black ink
above the
urinal:

          “I GUESS FLANIGAN IS SOME KIND OF POET.
          --Overheard At A Bar”

and beneath that,
            by another hand,
“The Things You Hear!”

I finished, washed
up.

walking out of the restroom,
I yelled,
“I made it!”
to no one in particular.

then, I got drunk.

and, the next afternoon,
wrote this.

     Well, my summer in a nutshell, I imagine. So all that remains now is to describe the events of last night, I guess. I’m hard-pressed to say just how it happens, it never seems planned and yet it almost always occurs. The bats, gloves and bikes put away, every year before school begins a group of us neighborhood kids gather to play ghost in the graveyard. Last night, after dusk, it was balmy but nice. A steady breeze scattered the waning light, and our collective voice rose above the swooshing of nearby willow trees as we counted “One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock....”
     Peggy, something of the neighborhood tomboy, had volunteered to be the ghost; she would be hidden before we reach “Midnight, I hope I don’t see the ghost tonight,” and all our bodies scurry pell-mell, cutting through the wind effortlessly, energetically, as we run around the side of the house and into darkness. We played such that the ghost could utilize any nearby front yard, so she could be anywhere. Old Poppies house, with its wall of shrubs surrounding it, the houselights dimmed, was always the most enticing.
     I wanted to win, so I stopped by the side of the first house and scanned through the oncoming night, careful not to be taken unawares, reticent to stray far from home base. I watched as the others fanned out before me, most of them disappearing from view. I listened intently. There was a fir tree nearby; I thought I could hear the wind rustling through it when suddenly a hand appeared from beneath it. “Ghost!” I yelled, turning and running towards base, but not quickly enough. Giggling, Peggy caught me, slapped me on the back from behind; I was a ghost now.
     And with that came the end of summer, and the beginning of the fall.