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

flanigan audio
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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'Youngblood'

     It had finally come to pass. Thanks in large part to my second aunt, Alice—who happened to be married to him, and whom I barely knew—I was supping with none other than Kurt Vonnegut. He sat to my left at one corner of the table, facing the same direction as myself. Above us, anchored into the ceiling, hung a television set which featured the World Series, and behind that was a picture window which allowed one to see various and sundry passersby walking through town.
     The author ate quickly, while saying little. Completing the scene, clockwise around the bar/restaurant table were my friends Zoli, Tim, Alan, Joe and Aaron, the bulk of whom—having finished their meals—smoked cigarettes while looking either satisfied or expectant.
     Vonnegut, surprisingly enough, appeared the epitome of health as he himself sat sucking on a cigar. Dressed in an unpretentious dark blue sweater-vest and red bow tie, his voice was relaxed and clear as he talked in a soft-spoken manner about having to put my aunt’s car in the shop for the third time this month, remarking in the end how—now that he had retired from writing fiction—his transformation into domesticity was complete. He seemed uncertain that he could relate anything interesting from recent days spent folding laundry, and apologetic that perhaps we had convened too late in life, adding “Of course that’s the only reason it’s happened, because now I have the time, if not much to say.”
     For our part, we seemed content to merely be at the table with him, watching as he fetched fitful glances towards the television. His “blessed Tigers” were struggling again.
     Tim asked, “So how do you like living in Detroit?”
     “It seems a fitting place to die,” he quipped, smiling. “Between us, personally I’d rather be in New York, but you’re aunt, my Alice, her wants are her needs and her needs must come first.” Most at the table snickered with the admission. “You know last time I was in New York,” he continued, “I walked up to a cigarette machine and was surprised to discover that they had converted it into a book-dispenser. My latest was in there.
     “Now that’s my kind of city,” he said, dropping his matches and disappearing from view as he attempted to retrieve them off the floor. “Either way, you have to admire technology,” he said from under the table.
     Seizing the opportunity, I mouthed quietly to the others, “What was the name of that book?” Zoli immediately threw up his hands, stumped, while Joe whispered, “The Game, I think.” Alan, to my right, asked, “Or was it The Exit?” I wasn’t certain, but did know, now that he was talking literature, I wanted to try to keep him on the topic. It had to be more entertaining or educational than conversing about lawn mowers.
     Thus, when he was settled again, puffing at the cigar in quick succession, I said, “Yeah, I read that book in one day while vacationing at Douglas Lake.”
     “Well, that’s one thing you can say about it: it’s the shortest book I ever wrote,” he remarked before falling silent again.
     I thought then about telling him how I had come to read it. I have this friend, I thought to say, he’s a bit of a stoner you know, and he’s explaining how I have to read it because there’s this one part where you advise writers to avoid using semi-colons at all cost and, later in the book, you make a point of using one yourself. But I didn’t want to embarrass Alan, so I decided against it.
     All the same, I did feel the need to generate some conversation, to steer it in a certain direction even. I tried desperately to remember something else about the book, but I was blanking on that as well. Then I had an idea to ask after Kilgore Trout, one of his fictional characters, but thought better of that, too, in the end.
     An election commercial happened to be airing on the TV. Aaron took the opportunity to ask, somewhat jocularly, “Have you figured out how you’re gonna vote yet?”
     “Well,” Vonnegut replied, “I’ve changed my approach to voting in my old age. Now when I do it, I cast mine for the worse possible candidate, on purpose. I figure that if we’re to bring about any real change—like a viable third party, for instance—things will have to first hit rock bottom. Sort of like how it is with an alcoholic, I guess.”
     I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not. But before I could ask, he dismissed the subject. “Anyway,” he explained, “I’m more interested in golf these days than politics. Did you hear Tiger Woods is taking a break from the tour?”
     “Really,” Aaron intoned.
     “Yeah, he’s a wise one alright,” the author answered, admiringly
     Our waitress, Susan, thus descended upon us, grabbing plates. “We should get our check, don’t you think?” Vonnegut declared more than questioned. Hearing him, she asked “Together or separate?” “Whatever is easiest,” he replied warmly. Then, after throwing down a twenty-dollar bill, he excused himself and walked towards the restroom.
     Susan disappeared with the dirty plates. Alone, we looked at one another in something approaching shock. “Was that it?” we all but asked each other. Zoli was the first to break the silence. “Hey you guys, I got some of that stuff, you wanna do a little?” he asked.
     To which Tim replied, “Jesus Zoli, we’re having dinner with Kurt Vonnegut just now. Maybe later, you know?”
     The waitress returned with our check, everybody kicked in. I counted the money and realized we were a bit short. I looked at the bill and calculated with some certainty who the guilty party was. Decided to throw some more in myself, to spare mention of it to our esteemed guest. Who, upon returning, put on his coat and asked, “Do any of you young gentlemen happen to know where the ballet’s box office is? Alice and I are going to be back in town for Christmas and she asked that I pick up some tickets for the Nutcracker. I understand it’s nearby.”
     Joe answered, “I think they sell them in the hotel lobby next door. We can show you where on the way out.”
     The rest of us stood up all at once, put on our respective jackets. Then walked en masse next door to the Cincinnatian. Once there, I followed Vonnegut as he sidled up to the front desk and asked if they indeed sold tickets to the ballet. They did, so he ordered two for the matinee on the day after Christmas, saying “Best Available.” Standing beside him, I realized I had never witnessed the Nutcracker my damn self, so I asked the lady at the counter if the seats next to his were still available. What the hell, I figured, if the Nutcracker wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, at least I’d be suffering through it with none other than Kurt Vonnegut and my second aunt Alice. Turns out they were, so I handed over my credit card as well, and the two of us made small talk as we waited for the woman to process our orders.
     Tickets in hand, we walked through the lobby and back onto the street. There, the guys and I said our goodbyes in kind but unsentimental fashion. He walked away, north up Vine, and that was that.
     We stood on the street. It was a mild night. Tim had recently purchased a house west of town, so it was decided we would walk there. We made our way through the outskirts of town, walked single-file along the railroad tracks on route 50, mostly in silence.
     My mind was racing all the while. “Christ,” I shouted at one point, no longer capable of containing myself, “You know, I’m a writer, too!”
     “Yeah,” Alan, who was directly in front of me said, “we know.”
     “But I didn’t even mention as much to him!” I lamented
     “Well, why not?” Aaron stopped and asked.
     “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it.” To which no one said anything, the others merely resuming the long walk. I followed while half-yelling, “But now that I do think about it, man, I should ask Vonnegut to write an introduction to Exiled on Main Street, you know?”
     The guys turned around and looked at me a little suspiciously. Zoli said, “I thought you were gonna ask Aralee Strange.”
     “Yeah, I know,” I argued, “but can you imagine how much sway an intro by Kurt Vonnegut would have with publishers? I figure I could offer him a cut of whatever I make, I don’t know, say fifteen percent of my profits. Until he kicks the bucket, maybe.”
     Joe didn’t even bother to stop and turn around as he spoke. “What the hell does Vonnegut know about Main Street?” he asked. “He just bought two tickets to the Nutcracker, for crying out loud.”
     “I don’t know,” I answered, “I imagined I could take him on a tour of it.”
     Tim stopped, waited for me to catch up. “Mark, I hate to tell you this,” he began, “but I don’t think things are going real well between Kurt and your second aunt Alice. In fact, I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘second aunt.’ Furthermore, your dog Eve—the one that passed away a few years ago—isn’t going to greet you at the door when you get home tonight; your rodent, P.W. Snodgrass, or whatever it’s name was, is still dead; all your ex-girlfriends have gotten fat; there will never be peace in the Middle East; the Republicans at the end of the day will have either the House or the Senate, and it wouldn’t matter much if they didn’t; and Kurt Vonnegut, he doesn’t live in Detroit; he smokes unfiltered Pall Malls, for your information, not cigars; and he probably isn’t cheap or boring.”
     The whole lot of us stood there, almost in a circle. I looked to Aaron, who merely turned his head sideways. Everyone remained silent until, straightening his arms and shrugging them, Zoli asked, “What? So we made it all up?”
     As if in answer, one by one we all began walking again. Silently.
     I was deeply depressed now. Passing a bar, it beckoned me. No one else was interested, the night had been all but ruined it seemed, so I go in alone. Order a few drinks, but the place is dreary, cheerless, so a few is enough. “I better pay out,” I tell the bartender, reaching into my wallet and pulling out my credit card. It says ‘Fifth Third Bank’ at the top, like it should, but it’s redder and shinier than I remember and, thus, I look at it more closely and discover this inscription at the bottom:

                                                       Kurt Youngblood Vonnegut

     Holy shit, I think aloud, I got Vonnegut’s credit card.... The lady at the hotel must have switched them up!
    " You know, on second thought,” I told the bartender, “give me one more. But just the one, for I think I have a dog to walk....”