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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October 2007: The Dance

     I walked into the Semantikon Headquarters not knowing what to expect. Which was okay, because I wasn’t walking through those hallowed doors alone: I had Leizerman, my lawyer, along with me.
     The two of us traversed past the security desk and towards the elevator.

     “Any idea what this is all about?” he asked.
     "Not really,” I answered. “My summons was brief and short on facts. All I know is we’re days away from the new season of Exiled and so I can only figure they want to discuss where the series is going.”
     The elevator arrived; we entered it and hit the button for the eleventh floor.
     “Thing is,” I continued as we moved swiftly, “I don’t want their input. I’ve always had free reign and I refuse to give it up. I’ll walk if I have to.”
     The elevator stopped abruptly, Leizerman saying, “Well, just hear ‘em out and then follow my lead” as the doors opened.
     We exited and walked in tandem through the long hall to the receptionist’s desk. “Flanigan here to see Salzer,” I said. The woman sitting there smiled nicely, saying, “Yes, Mr. Flanigan, you’ll find Mr. Salzer in conference room number 102 down the hall to your left. He’s waiting.”
     The conference door was open. Once inside, Jonathan Salzer, the President and CEO of the Semantikon Corporation, stood while extending his hand. “How do you do, Mr. Flanigan?” he asked.
     “Fine, thanks. You remember Randall Leizerman?”
     Salzer straightened at the mention of his name. “Of course,” he said, shaking my lawyer’s hand vigorously with what I perceived to be feigned warmth. Then pointing behind him, Salzer introduced his own: Harvey MacIntosh.
     The four of us sat down. I faced Salzer, while the two lawyers squared off against each other. There was a pitcher of water next to a glass so I poured one. As I did, I noticed my hand was shaking a bit.
     “So, what’s new?” Salzer asked, congenially enough.
     “Oh, not much,” I thought to keep things light. “Although, last night something kind of interesting happened. I was at a Skyline restaurant; it was late, an hour or so before close, so I sat at the counter and ordered my usual. I’m sitting there; the place is almost empty except for one couple in the corner and a guy to my right and all the various workers, most of whom were busy just cleaning up. A few minutes pass, my food comes, and I notice that the three guys behind the counter seem to be fawning over the guy five spots down.”
     Leizerman clears his throat, as if he’s wondering where all this is going, or trying to tell me to get there more quickly. Either way, I took my time.
     “Yeah, the guy’s voice seems familiar, so I take a look and guess who it is?”
     “Who?” Salzer asks.
     “Denise Janson, that’s who?”
     “Who is that?”
     “He’s a local sports TV broadcaster.”
     Leizerman interrupts. “You mean Dennis Janson.”
     “Yeah, whatever. Anyway, the funny thing is years ago, when I was Bat Boy for the Reds, Cincinnati happened to host the All-Star game.”
     “Really?” Salzer was intrigued. “That must have been something.”
     “Yeah, a tremendous pain in the ass is what it was. After the Reds played and we finished all our usual chores, we then had to box the clubhouse’s entire contents up and ready it for the largest set of egoistic prima donnas you’ll ever see this side of an Oscar ceremony. I mean, we didn’t sleep; we took ten-minute catnaps on cots. Anyway, once all the talent arrived I spent the next two days going from player to player having them autograph cases of balls, which was about the most tedious and thankless task imaginable, for all involved parties. My reward for all my trouble being that I got to keep one.”
     I took a drink from my water.
     “So, the game arrives finally, and just as the first pitch is scheduled to be thrown, I get the shits. I get the shits real bad. So bad that I had to flag the Ball Boy in to do my duties while I did mine, missed most of the goddamn game as a result. Soon as it was over, I collected the bats and then walked back into the clubhouse. I felt weak and knew that once the smoke cleared we’d be unloading box after box, putting everything back where it belonged. I sat in my locker, only to notice that my autographed ball had gone missing during the game to boot.
     “I mentioned as much to one of my bosses, Rick Stowe, and he turns red. ‘That sonuvabitch Janson,’ he yells, ‘I asked him why the hell he was snooping in your locker, the fucker must have snagged it!’
     “So, cut to fifteen years later. The two of us have a history, you know, and this is the first time I’ve seen him since. My heart’s racing a bit as I’m reminiscing, as I’m trying to enjoy my late-night burrito. I ponder whether I should say something; in the meantime, the guy sweeping up asks Janson, ‘So you think Michael Vick will ever play again?’ Between bites of food, he answers, ‘Not likely.’ Then the guy making chili dogs asks, ‘You believe no one’s picked up Byron Leftwich yet?’ Janson, who I can tell would just as soon enjoy his very own meal answers, ‘Someone will.’ Then the guy at the register asks, “Think Mackanin will be back as the Reds manager next year?
     “All of a sudden, I find myself empathizing with the guy. I mean, what a life!  The only thing anyone probably talks to him about is sports when, after two decades of covering men in tights, it probably rates up there with his love of colonoscopies.”
     Salzer and his monkey are completely engrossed, the latter leaning forward. Yeah, I’m putting on a performance for them, a good one, trying to remind them what they have. Now, I’m going in for the kill.
     “And just as I’m thinking this,” I continue, “the poor bastard stands up. He’s had his fill and it’s time to pay the cashier. But before doing so, he saunters the other direction and stands above me sheepishly while holding his check in his hand, says as if to his best friend: ‘The wife and I went to the movies this weekend. We saw Superbad; ever hear of it? Now that’s one fuckin’ hilarious movie. You wouldn’t believe the dialogue. Like early in the movie there’s a scene where a girl says to a guy, if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, and the guy replies, okay but you should know that my back is between my legs. The whole movie’s just like that, fuckin’ hilarious."
     “I haven’t said a word, only been nodding my head. But I have to say something and so I ask, ‘So you’re doing movie reviews now?’”
     The two lawyers cackle while Salzer simply shakes his head.
     “But enough with the pleasantry,” I said after the laughter subsided, “what’s so important that you have to see me?”
     Salzer immediately stiffened, cleared his throat. “Well, Mark, as you well know, the fourth season of Exiled is near and so we thought we’d take this opportunity to discuss your contract.”
     “I already have a contract. What’s to discuss?”
     “Well, for starters, I’m certain you’re aware that your number of hits are down considerably.”
     “Who the hell am I? Fuckin’ Fleetwood Mac? I mean, guys, I’m trying to do something here!” I said in a manner a bit too reminiscent of a desperate Ratzo Rizzo attempting to cross the street in Midnight Cowboy.
     Salzer looked sideways to his lawyer. “Well,” MacIntosh began, “I think what Mr. Salzer would like to suggest is that once you ‘retired’ from the warehouse business and concentrated on writing full time, we thought we’d be getting more from you, not less. Your last contract reflected that assumption, whereas the facts state the opposite. Last year, we received only half the amount of contracted pieces, some of which Semantikon feels were phoned in a bit, as if you were coasting.”
     “Coasting?” I was incredulous.
     Here the two men across from me began to take turns in good cop/bad cop fashion, only both seemed to be playing the bad cop. “Look, Mark,” Salzer went first, “since you brought up sports I’m sure you won’t mind me using a baseball analogy. We find ourselves in a position where one of our veteran relievers has had an off season while we have a few young studs down in triple A who can do a similar job and for a lot less money.”
     MacIntosh: “And need we remind you that you failed to show up for your own annual Exiled show?”
     Salzer: “Not to mention the bad press resulting from Vonnegut’s passing after you portrayed him in a questionable light just days before!”
     “Who could have seen that coming?” I asked.
     “Either way,” MacIntosh didn’t miss a beat, “your popularity is down.”
     “You can’t do this. Four years I’ve given you my best, and this is my thanks? Christ, I’m just one year away from syndication!”
     Salzer answering, “If you were a TV show, you’d might have found yourself cancelled last season.”
     I looked to my right, at Leizerman, my lawyer. He may as well been playing poker, I couldn’t read his face. Some fuckin’ lead, I thought. I was confident, however, that he was formulating some plan; he had never let me down in the past. In the meantime, it seemed I was on my own.
     “Look,” I sighed, “I’m not saying last year wasn’t without some distractions. Christ, I had a baby in the house!”
     “Really?” Salzer asked with genuine interest. “Boy or girl?”
     “A boy.”
     “What’s his name?”
     “ Ernie.”
     “Mark,” my lawyer interjected, “Ernie is a bird.”
     “I know he’s a bird. Birds can be babies, too! Anyway, whose side you on?” I asked Leizerman. Then, to the others: “I’ll have you know, staying at home isn’t the easiest thing. There’s a lot of laundry that needs to be done, dishes don’t do themselves! Someone has to load the washer.”
     The table fell silent. I noticed I was starting to perspire. “Alright, so maybe I’ve had some bouts of writer’s block. Hell, if you really want to know, I’ve been experiencing something much worse: living block. Geesh, I mean it’s not exactly a secret that I have issues.”
     “Still?” Salzer asked.
     “Yeah, Jonathan, still.”
     Salzer straightened his back. Said, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but just the other day I overheard someone at the office water-cooler describe you as ‘Fitzgerald, but without the novels.’”
     “Or the screenplays even,” added MacIntosh.
     “All of which is neither here nor there,” Salzer then continued, “for, if I may impart a bit of career advice, Mark, it would be this: your readers haven’t taken to the new and improved cleaner cut model of you. See, I think what your fans expect is to feel like they are sitting next to you at the neighborhood bar, overhearing you during either a bender or a blackout.”
     “Well, someone better start buying my drinks for me then.” Flustered, I turned to my lawyer. “Leizerman, you gonna do anything about this?”
     “What can I do?” he answered. “I agree with them.”
     “Great, just great. Remind me, what have you ever done for me?”
     “I’ve gotten you out of three DUI’s. I don’t know, maybe you should have known better than to bring a DUI lawyer to a contract negotiation.”
     “I wasn’t aware it was gonna be a contract negotiation.”
     This of course was the perfect cue for MacIntosh to slide one to me diagonally across the table. I skimmed through it: only six months at a substantially reduced rate.
     “No incentives?”
     “Not unless you consider keeping your job an incentive,” Salzer said.
     His sudden coolness didn’t surprise me so much as reinforce his seriousness. “Salzer, you realize if I sign this, I’ll be working virtually for free.”
     “Speaking of free,” he volleyed, “perhaps you would like to test the free agent market? Maybe you could become a sports columnist for your local paper?”
     I signed.
     Hell, I needed the job. More importantly, I wanted it. Like a poison lover that had dumped me, I wanted the bitch back.
     “Well,” Salzer somewhat smugly relaxed back into his chair, “I guess there’s just two other orders of business. First, there’s the matter of your parking spot.”
     “You kidding me? Who you gonna give it to, one of your new studs?”
     Leizerman coughed, and then meekly raised his hand.
     “You can have it, you sick fuck, you earned it. I’m gonna have to sell the car anyway. What else you got?”
     Salzer replied by pulling out two bottles of pills and sliding them across the table.
     I read the labels. “What, no coke?”
     “Too expensive,” MacIntosh chimed in.
     “Tell me about it,” I said.
     Salzer sat across from me with a sudden easy smile, what with all the unpleasantness now behind us. He took out a fat cigar and, chewing off the end and spitting out the butt, asked, “So what do we have to look forward to?”
     “Well,” I answered, “I got a funny story about Denise Janson.”
     “ Now Mark,” he replied, “you’re just a week from deadline, is that all you have?”
     “ Actually, a new idea has come to me only recently.”
     “ Good,” he lit up. “I hope you realize your back’s against the wall.”
     “That’s fine,” I said, standing up and surveying the room. “That’s where I do my best work....”