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

About Artist:

Dying to Tell

for anyone that mentions my name

| Prelude: |
| Intermission: |
Part One: Pressed |
: |
Part Two: Truth in Advertising: |
Part Three: Lights On |

It started, like most everything else I do, with a drink. This being followed almost immediately by another. Then one last more, which turned into the one I didn’t want but it’s free so may as well drink it anyhow, which not before long gave way to why the hell not and, just seconds later, what you mean ‘last call?’ Already?
      Which is not to be confused with tonight, mind you. For this was November 2004. And me, I had only a couple of goals for the coming year:
1. Quit my job.
2. Continue breathing.
3. Perform at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.
4. Perform at the Midpoint Music Festival.

The first would have to wait awhile, the second I hoped would kinda just take care of itself, and the third well wouldn’t you know it? The application’s due tomorrow and I’ve yet to fill it out. In fact, I had pretty much forgotten to give the prospect any thought whatsoever. But I was tanked now and thus, suddenly, focused. Who cares if you can’t stand up when your back is against a wall? That’s why, after driving home, I popped open a beer and quickly wrote this:

     “Well, look.... you say you want to include poets and so here I am.... have been, actually. My name is Mark Flanigan, and I would like to present my work under the umbrella of your festival, the same work—in spirit anyhow— that I have been presenting for quite some time now.
      I have a rule: never perform the same piece twice in the same city during the same year. Note also that I have been performing six to eight times a year in Cincinnati for over five years. To compensate, I therefore incorporate spoken word, short stories, autobiographical recollection, poetry, live music, sampling, columns, stand-up comedy, and more.... In a word, I keep it moving. I would like, then, to put together a show that is 60% retrospective/ 20% new/ 15% interchangeable/ 5% wild card.... tailored to and for your festival. Let us call the thing ‘Let It Be.’
      Why the fringe? Well, the question answers itself, strangely enough, and to your credit. I am on the fringe, despite being featured in The Enquirer, despite being syndicated in local papers and the like.... I can sell out a 90-seat theatre with any modicum of publicity, and yet it is the same 90 from the same pool of 100 folks. No cover story from “the alternative press,” still no Cincinnati Entertainment Award for poet or performance artist in sight. All the same, if someone happens upon me, they usually come back. I think, to put it bluntly, that if you are sincere about your name, then I understand what you mean and can meet you (I hope) at least halfway, probably without even alienating your audience.
      More than anything, the idea of performing five times in twelve days is a concept that is new to me. One I’d like to meet, truly, more than halfway. It would make me a better artist, I know already, without ever having had the opportunity.
      As far as history goes, I won’t bore you with a bio. Just let the record show that I have performed at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the CAC (both locations), and the Playhouse in the Park, to name a few. Not to mention the neighborhood bar that we all hang out at.
      Concerning technical requirements, I need only as much as you can offer. Lighting, of course, can always be used to effect.... A P.A. opens doors such as having other musicians or the use of samplers or eight tracks. A good soundperson, despite being necessary, would be ideal. I have as many microphones as I could use but, besides that, I will basically take advantage of any raw material you can provide while being able to bring/acquire anything else I might need in order to be successful with regards to my intent.
      In this time of cutbacks and of arts being relegated to the trunk, thanks for existing and continuing. I don’t need to tell you how important it is, of course; which is exactly why I’m here.... Have been, actually.
      Sincerely, Flanigan”

     Well, as I prefaced, I was drunk. And still only half-embarrassed when I slipped it under the door of the producing director that next morning. Pretty certain it wouldn’t fly, but happy all the same that I had made the effort. That I had put my cards on the table. Offered my hand.
      So, just imagine my surprise when, come January, they took it! That’s right, it was already shaping up to be a good and relatively easy new year. And why not?: I sure the hell was due for one.


      The festival was slated for the first two weeks of June. I knew number one on my list would be checked off by then, if only because I had put in my one-year notice at work the preceding April. Everything was lining up, this festival would be my big coming out party and, as such, I felt the need to make a true statement. That’s why, as time went on, I found myself gravitating away from my proposal and deciding to do five completely different shows instead. The idea seemed to pack a bit more punch and, hell, I had never taken the easy route before so why start now? It was daunting, no doubt, but also I hoped that much harder for the public to not take notice.
      It was also around this time that I changed the show’s title as well, to “Dying to Tell,” without really knowing why. The phrase was one I imagined giving to my life’s work, as just about anything I wrote could be filed under it comfortably. Still, I wouldn’t find out until a few months later just how fitting it would prove....
      In the meantime, I began writing new pieces with the fringe festival in mind; you know, things that might be mistaken for being edgy. Which explains some of the things that appeared here in these pages. Things like that rape scene, maybe. For which I would apologize of course, if not for my being more concerned at the time with building a body of work that I’d be excited about showcasing.
      I worked on such things throughout the early months whenever my job would allow. Really just treaded water while biding my time until March 31st, my last scheduled day. And when it arrived, finally, I still had every bit of two months to get in proper fighting shape for my big party. More than enough light left in the day, way I saw it.


      First thing first, though.... Kate Schmidt and I had a piece to make for inclusion in The Weston Art Gallery’s ten year anniversary show, “Ideas into Objects: Reinterpreting the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.” The premise was I would write a letter to Leo, and she—being a metalworker—would frame it. The only flaw being that it turns out the guy wasn’t even an American! Some serious research was most certainly in order then, and resulted in us working on it until mid-April.
      After that, I remembered that I had volunteered to run a reading at the Comet for the Inktank organization, one that I had to both prepare for and help promote. Which was followed just as quickly by a reading at the Mockbee for Saad Goshen’s “SOS Art, an event of sociopolitical expression for peace and justice.” Not to mention softball season is in full swing now, and this was my first year as head coach of the only team more lovable than the Bad News Bears. And then there was Westerberg, the guy who taught me most of what I know. He rarely if ever comes around anymore, so I read over some of my stories as we traveled up to Columbus to see him. Then, that show was so inspiring I had to see him here. Besides, my ticket was free.
      What’s more, I had also made the mistake of promising my editor that I would deliver the first six “Exiled on Main Street” installments for his website’s archives. A mistake I wouldn’t have made, had I remembered that they only existed on my word processor. They needed to be retyped. And my new piece, due at the end of the month, written. One that, being my resignation from my job of nine plus years, ended up weighing in at well over 300 pounds.

PART ONE: Pressed

      So, before I’ve even blinked April’s all but gone and I’m informed suddenly that the Fringe kickoff party is, good god, this Friday. Meanwhile, I’ve yet to do anything by way of preparation, or promotion for that matter. Well, it was probably prudent of me to get started.
      First, I enlisted my friend artist Tim McMichael to design for me yet another poster. This time I actually had a few ideas, so we started there. Spring Grove Cemetery, to be exact. Where he took some pictures while I stretched out on graves and looked out for passing cars. Then, Tim figures there’s gotta be a Flanigan buried here someplace. We go to the helpdesk, and I tell the nice but rather serious African-American gentleman that I’m looking for a relative of mine. He pulls out a book the size of a table. “And what would the last name be?” he asks. Flanigan, I answer, with an ‘I.’ He turns some pages, finds something. “Would that be Clarence?” he asks. Clarence? Shit, I didn’t.
      Back outside Tim groans “Well come on Clarence” as we hop on his motorcycle and head into the furthest regions of the place, in an area neither of us even knew existed, to a place time itself seemed to have forgotten. We park across from a makeshift garden shack, jump off as just then a one-eyed old man with pitchfork in hand walks out of it and proceeds to stare at us like we were responsible for introducing the concept of gay marriage into the world. And he continues to, unabashedly, as we begin our search for the one and only Clarence Flanigan. In such a way that I’m immediately convinced the two of us won’t ever be leaving the cemetery, our bodies not to be found for weeks, if ever. We walk the plot, with one eye on the map and the other on our grim reaper; follow it to where Clarence should be but where Clarence most decidedly isn’t. A tree’s there in his stead. We look at each other, the devil looks at us and we decide—wisely I think—to head back.
      There’s an email from the festival waiting for me once I’m home, detailing both my dates and venue. The behemoth is large enough to require five theatres, so I’m happy to discover that mine will take place at the Contemporary Arts Center. I had performed there twice already, the first time during its inaugural week, which incidentally happened to also be the biggest debacle I’ve had the bad luck to suffer. The black box was far from ready: a bare room with no sound system or person, which didn’t matter anyway because the acoustics were such that Steve and I both sounded like we were drunk foreigners, lost at sea. Our careers had still yet to rebound from the memory of it, as the show was so utterly absurd we lost half of our audience as a result. The second time, a year or so later, was much different. They had invested in both drapes and a sound system, so the CAC was more than OK with me. Besides, one of my heroes, Jay Bolotin, he’d be the featured artist during my residency there, which made it that much more perfect.
      What wasn’t perfect, however, were my dates. I had only one weekend performance, the only show to suffer such a fate, while some had as many as three. Here my goal was to set box office records and I’m already in route to being marginalized yet again. But I wouldn’t allow it, not this time. No, and the poster Tim created would go a long way, seeing as how it surpassed any of the other propaganda that was being bandied about. He plastered me on The New York Times so convincingly that even good friends sent congratulations for the coverage. And Dave Peters, nary an acquaintance, offered his print services at a rate so low it would allow the realization of my dream to bury every inch of the city under pictures of me.
      Still, I couldn’t let any opportunity pass by. When the festival sent word that Main Street photographer and gallery owner Deogracias Lerma was offering his services, I made an appointment. It was up to each performer to orchestrate a scene that represented their show, but alas, my well was dry. I had no suggestions, even as I was brushing my teeth and combing my hair. Then I happened to spy Kate, who was napping; she had put on one of those facial masques before falling asleep and, as a result, looked like she had escaped from Spring Grove herself. I grabbed the bottle, along with the hospital gown that I had been operated in a few years back, and drove down the hill.
      Upon arrival, I was told the photographer was running late. I got dressed up and stepped out onto Main with my new look, smoked a cigarette. Wasn’t too surprised when no one seemed to even notice me. Nor did Deogracias blink one bit. Oh yeah, he said. Then took a few shots and chuckled as he looked at them. Knowing already that he was probably the first to capture just how crazy I was.
      No time to celebrate, though. I was off to Eagle Studios, where my friend and musical collaborator Steven Proctor lives, and where I had been all but living myself. For well, wouldn’t you know it? The deadline for the Midpoint Music festival was approaching and we needed a band name, bio, photo, and three completed tracks in order to be considered.... so that I might cross off one more thing from my 2005 to-do list. Sure, the timing couldn’t have been worse. But it simply ruins my week when something that’s purportedly big is happening in town and I’m not even invited to participate. That very thing had happened the year before, so we just put on a non-sanctioned show of our own in my courtyard. We had missed our deadline last time. This year would be different.
      It would also wipe out the first half of May.
      I came home and immediately went to work on my press release, and not a moment too soon, what with the sun already on its way down. Said task at times an impossible one, if only because there’s nothing I find more difficult than talking about myself. Well, when it’s for a press release anyway. Because the strange thing about them is that generally you must speak about yourself in the third person. My M.O. then, while not necessarily effective, is to just have fun with the things, get them done. In fact, would you believe it? I have to write one now....


December 1, 2005
Mark Flanigan (513) 608-3089

     Following on the heels of both his successful run at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and the publication of his collection “Not Necessarily God Stories” for oneleggedcowpress, semantikon.com and the Northside Tavern are proud to present Mark Flanigan’s fifth annual “Exiled” show....
      Initially a mere poet, Flanigan has since become more widely identified as both a columnist and performer. The former via his “Exiled” series, which has appeared in print and on the web for half a decade. The latter thanks to an entertaining mix that has allowed him to entertain the same 100 people for the last seven years, having performed regularly at venues that vary from the prestigious (The Playhouse In The Park, the Aronoff Center, and the Contemporary Arts Center, to name them all) to the downright intimate (various peoples houses, for instance), as well as some places outside of Cincinnati that really aren’t worth mentioning.
      That said, the consensus among those that have seen a handful of Flanigan’s performances is that most of them suffer when compared to his “Exiled” shows.... Drawing heavily from the preceding year’s articles, and taking advantage of his large palette, it’s here that he has the ability to juxtapose the pieces in such a way that a grand narrative is revealed, each piece unveiling yet another layer. His appearance, one that borders upon generation x cliché and mock bravado clownishness, is beguiling.... And the first time you hear whatever is being suggested—not wisdom so much as something real or true, maybe—you find yourself thoroughly surprised. And stay, you must, if only to see it go bust, despite the fact that it’s a school night.
      Which leads me to my point: That shouldn’t be a problem this year. This year the show is slated for Sunday, December 25th. Christmas night.
     ‘When I tell people that,’ the poet explained to me while visiting him in his adopted town of Madagascar, ‘they inevitably ask, why? No matter how well they know me or my work. Either way they shouldn’t be surprised, you know? Most of them even assume that I’m being fed to the lions, that I should fire my manager first thing. This when I chose Christmas night. Why? you ask.
     ‘Well, first of all, the annual show was always intended to be a year in review with intimations of what is to come.... A State of the Union address, if you will. Or at least of the city. That it take place late in the year, then, is only natural. It’s no secret, either, that a large percentage of Cincinnati’s so-called “creative class” have fled their hometown, most of them returning for the holidays. I always liked the idea that all of our prodigal sons and daughters could attend, if they so chose to. That way they, along with those few that still live in the city but nonetheless remain incapable of reading me, can at least be briefed on what they’ve missed, all the wonderful things I believe I’ve gleaned from immersing myself in the city instead of leaving it.
     ‘So, for largely this reason I always choose the date closest to Christmas that’s made available to me.... which, for some reason or other, has always been a Monday or Tuesday. Naturally, then, when it was mentioned that the most hallowed night of all wasn’t filled, I jumped at the chance. If only because I’ve always insisted that the operative word is exiled, and what night could possibly be more appropriate for communing with the disenfranchised, the orphaned, the disillusioned and the insane?’
     The poet falls silent. Looks constipated by something not yet said.
     ‘Besides,’ he says, ‘come midnight, it’s my birthday.”

      Well, I must be drunk now, too. Some people drink until the people around them become attractive, whereas I do it until I’ve tricked myself into thinking that I’m a good writer. Anyway, the press release sent, now I have to hang some posters. It’s a task that I’m somewhat ambivalent about. On one hand, I absolutely despise having to hang posters of myself, the mere thought of it causing me to break out in a rash. On the other, though, I’m kind enough to allow myself a drink at every bar that I hang a poster. I figure it’s only fair, my patronage for their advertising space. And some nights, I’ve been known to hang upwards of twenty posters before I lose them.
      Now that the bar is closed again, I have to gather myself. Tomorrow, at dawn, I’m scheduled for a radio interview on WVXU, a fact that I’m excited about but equally anxious. The last time I was up at seven a.m. was the last night I forgot to sleep. But I do it, somehow. Once there, I learn that the interview is actually being recorded in order to be aired later in the week. Also, that Mark Tipton is on vacation, and today his void will be filled by Jackie Demaline, the theatre critic and arts reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, whom I’ve yet to meet but to whom I have sent more than one of my crazy press releases in the past. I’m a bit nervous, if only because I got a severe case of cottonmouth from the coke I snorted upon waking, and what’s worse I seem to be the only one in the room that smells like Jameson and cigarettes.
      There’s another woman sitting next to Demaline, too. Someone important, it seems, but who I have no idea. I’m sitting there along with some of the other performers, all of whom she seems to know personally. She’s talking college with some other person I don’t know, whose play apparently is going to be presented at the CAC as well. Then, without any prompting on my part, the woman turns to me and asks, “Now what college did you graduate from?” The room falls quiet while all eyes are on me. Harvard, I tell her.
      Just then, another guy comes charging into the booth. Sits down at the controls. Shit, it’s Jason Bruffy, the ringleader of the entire festival. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so sorry for myself. That man must be busier than the only whore in town, and I watched as he tinkered with dials, did promos and all the other radio things that disc jockeys all over the world no longer have to deal with. I was impressed.
      And, before I knew it, on the air. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what was said. Only that, at one point, I remember telling “the audience” about a dream I had the night before: I was up for an Oscar and won in the category for Best Sound in a Silent Film. Then, after that quieted the room, Jackie Demaline said to me, “Now Mark, you’ve been doing this sort of thing for many years now, and still no one even seems to know you’re even here. What do you think about that?” Well.... Yeah, I’m not sure how I fielded that question that particular day, I figured I’d pay more attention when it was aired, but you can bet it wasn’t my normal response. All the same, I felt good about the woman’s grasp of my situation. Sensed that she was on my side. And I knew there was a good chance she’d be reviewing me in the end.
      From there, I head straight to Inktank headquarters, a haven for writers located on Main. For a meeting about a coffee table book they had hopes of publishing, culled from the writings of the many homeless that live around there. They thought I might contribute something, and being a whore myself, I couldn’t pass up any prospective john no matter how sore my pussy. So I’m sitting at a table with this rather sober but sincere group, some of them—like Inktank founder Kathy Holwadel and its executive director Jeff Syroney—I know. Others I don’t, like the young woman that’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, who I’ll come to find out is actually Gina Mantione, the producing coordinator of the festival and my contact to the CAC. There’s another woman present; she’s the guilty suburban type who looks as if she can’t sleep soundly beneath her down comforter until all the homeless have their coffee table books in hand. There’s still one empty chair, strangely, but that mystery is soon solved as someone I most definitely know comes in and sits down. Someone I had, once or twice, up to my old apartment for the sole purpose of smoking crack. We acted like we didn’t know each other, as suddenly I understood more clearly why I had been summoned. But the meeting adjourned, I felt the need to acknowledge my homeless friend. “I didn’t know you were a writer” was all I could think to say. Her reply?: I didn’t know you were one either. Fair enough.
      My cell phone rang as I walked back out onto Main. It was Julie Fitzgerald, a reporter from Cin Weekly, asking for an interview. We conducted it during my short commute home. Once there, I had another request for information waiting for me, this one from City Beat. They were putting together their annual “Hot List” issue, and unbelievably wanted to feature me. I say that because, of all the “alternative” newspapers in the country, theirs surely must be the hardest to crack. To wit: this was the first time, in all my years of doing this, that they so much as acknowledged me. Possibly because I’m too mainstream for them. Or, maybe it was something I said? Either way, things were running on all cylinders as I wrote:

     “Hello City Beat
      Not sure how much you know about me so I'll err on the side of caution. I’ve been doing featured readings for just about forever.
      Thus, when I heard that the fringe was interested in having poets on board I said what the hell and basically told them "Here I am, I’m interested." Jason of course had seen me before, and sure enough, they proved good on their word. I initially had told them that I was going to come up with a show that was 70 percent the same each of the five nights, but I soon realized I would do five completely different shows and re-visit a lot of the pieces that I and others seemed to like best.... a retrospective, then, in five parts. This also in hope of inspiring some people to perhaps come more than once. And also to make a statement, that I have acquired enough material and--more importantly--types of material to do five one hour shows without repeating myself....
      You get the picture, I suppose.
      Once I realized this much, next thing was to come up with something that brought it all together, a task that became easy once I chose the pieces I was going to do.... One underlying element was my struggle as an artist to make a living doing what I want to do, or more precisely maybe, the effects of having to do both—work and write—on my health, and also on my relationships and so on.... A few years back, while choosing to make a push as an artist and working in a warehouse fifty hours a week to pay the rent, I actually had some relatively debilitating health problems, most probably brought on by sleep deprivation and exhaustion.... They lasted eight months or so, and only went away after I pretty much resigned myself to not taking on any more creative endeavors.
      But not too long after getting better—healthy but not very happy with this new life—one night I said ‘hang it,’ and I got back in the ring and figured I was going to do my thing regardless of the cost. Thus, dying to tell.
      One other interesting thing I found, while putting the shows together, was that despite the fact that I was looking at them as a retrospective, I couldn't deny that, really, the stuff I’ve been writing of late ranked up there with the rest. As a result, the last two shows are largely made up of material I’ve worked on in the past six months, most of it published but none of it performed yet.... a fact I rather like. There’s a continuity to the shows, the first two looking back, the third being a musical set with my collaborator guitarist Steven Proctor, the fourth and fifth bringing us up to the present. It’s kind of like a five act play, I guess, that one could watch from beginning to end, and probably not have to see me perform for awhile afterwards, if it wasn't for the fact that I could probably do fifteen one hour shows and still have something to say. Ha ha....
      That should be enough, I imagine. Thanks for your time.

      That done, I suited up for softball. I was feeling good about things, despite one glaring omission: I had yet to rehearse a thing. Still, I suited up. The Comet lost by a run, the first of what seemed like ten such losses in a row. Afterwards, I had to at least stop in at the bar and pay my respects. And while there, someone pointed out yet another oversight on my part: my beloved posters, all one thousand of them, had the opening night listed as ‘Tuesday’ when it should have read ‘Thursday.’ Said revelation knocking the wind out of me. I mean, I didn’t know how to fix them, nor did I have the time. And all my mailers, which had yet to be sent out, were suddenly useless.
      Tim, resourceful as ever, found a way to salvage the posters at least. He printed the correct day a thousand times on stickers, but the ones I had hung up still had to be fixed or replaced. Another day gone. May 20th, only two weeks until the curtain rises, and also the world premiere of Jay Bolotin’s The Jackleg Testament.
     Attend I must, attend I did. And while sitting there amongst a house that was at double its capacity, I had daydreams of similar success as the film rolled. I watched the crowd from my cramped seat. Noticed how polite they were. Quiet. As if unsure whether or not it was proper to laugh at an often-funny film made by a very serious artist. But aside from the lack of oxygen, the premiere seemed to go smoothly. There was a certain reverence within the theatre; no one chatted, or got up to piss even. It was what I imagined church to be like. Well, I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting prelude, I was heartened anew. First round’s on me!
      And, in the morning a photographer, Leigh Patton of Cin Weekly, to meet. I was fresh out of visual scenarios for her so I figured hell, the roof deck and its wonderful view of the city was the only thing I had going for me. Thus, I set some of my equipment up there on the ledge—a music stand, a microphone, its stand, and a Fender amp for street creed—and waited for the bell to ring. What an odd job, I thought, to walk into a stranger’s house with an eye to photographing them. But this one had been there before, so I showed her the way up. She didn’t seem quite as impressed as the last guy, but all the same, I jumped onto the ledge and tried to act as natural as possible while pretending to perform on a roof deck. It wasn’t working, though; Leigh had to get a higher angle from which to shoot me and, as such, stood on a chair that immediately toppled over and plunged her—and her camera—to the ground. Brutally. Well, it doesn’t get any more awkward than that. And the poor girl’s lens was cracked, the camera maybe ruined. She brushed herself off and, assuring me she was alright, headed to her car for some new wood.
      Returning, she then took a few perfunctory shots before she said, “You know, I saw some photos of you that The Enquirer had with your face all painted up. What you think about doing something similar for me?” Well shit, just like I feared, my worse nightmare. From here on out every time someone wanted to take my picture I’d have to first dress up like a zombie. This one even wanted to take it a step further. “I envision you under water,” she explained, “do you have a tub?” I ran the water while applying my Aveeno Facial Masque, donned my hospital garb. Got in. Just then Leigh—the photographer that had already almost fallen to her death—put an unsteady foot on each side of the tub, straddling me, while she shot me from above. My kind of gal, I thought, a real trooper. Then, suddenly, I became increasingly aware that the water had rendered my gown transparent, and I wondered to myself: Mark, what would you do if, on the off chance, she hit on you? After all, you’re already naked....

PART TWO: Truth in Advertising

      As it turns out, my life rarely mirrors porn. I did, however, remind myself of a movie character anymore. Henry Hill, specifically, towards the end of ‘Goodfellas’: Michael keep an eye on the sauce, Sandy try cutting more than you snort, Jesus is that a helicopter?, Doctor really I’m alright I just partied all night, Christ there it is again, Michael don’t let that sauce stick, Lois you little hick don’t yeah yeah me just make sure you use an outside line, you hear me? Yeah, all the attention was wonderful, but the days were disappearing so rapidly I began to feel as if I was having a perpetual panic attack. At which time I headed, first, for the medicine cabinet. Then, to Guitar Center for an eight-track recorder, a sampler, fifteen different types of cable, and yet another microphone. I would have spent a fifth of my nest egg while there, too, if I hadn’t financed it all. The trip was necessary, though, what with my having given away so much milk for free in the past, there was no reason for anyone to pay ten bucks to see me unless I did something grander, more theatrical.
      My trunk full, I swung past Steve’s for a quick practice. Then, to the Tavern to meet Aaron Cowan, my friend the artist, who had volunteered his services with regards to lighting. I had with me the scripts for all five shows, two hundred pages worth. Damn near a novel that he would have to read and translate into lighting cues, despite never having done such a thing before.
      But there was no time for worrying about him. Opening night was in less than ten days; I had to start getting ready for it. Back home, I ripped open my packages and held on as I traversed a sharp learning curve. To make matters worse, a couple of days back I had the epiphany that what I should do is play fifteen minutes of recorded material prior to each opening. That way I would be presenting, not five hours of original material in nine days, but six and a half. Decisions such as this the number one reason while I may be in desperate need of management. Also, one of the problems with amphetamine.
      I delved into it all the same. So deeply, in fact, I forgot to listen to myself on the radio even. Day and night, I stayed up recording, taking pre-existing songs that I weaved samples, telephone messages, film dialogue, and original material into. I got the recipe from Steve, but it still took some time to get the blend right by myself. On May 27th, with one week remaining before opening night, I finally got around to my first complete run-thru. For the first show, at least. Popped some more pink pills and trudged on with an insane focus and utter disregard for my health. It made sense, somehow. True to form, I was dying to tell.
      Before long, our Tech night arrived, two days left. The Fringe allowed for only two hours tech time for each performer. Of course, it didn’t dawn on me until too late that I had three times that amount of material to run thru. Nor did we count on the fact that no one would be able to figure out how to get the sound system to work. That it would take us forty-five minutes to so much as set up. Nor that the only inputs to the sound system were the type for microphones. As it stood, this left out using the eight track, the sampler, my voice modulator, and Steve’s guitar, which amounted to about approximately one hundred percent of the first show. And by the time the resourceful folks at the Fringe found a solution, our Tech time had expired. We would have to come back tomorrow, the day before
our opening.
      But first, I was off to Guitar Center again, where I would drop another couple hundred bucks on more cables. All the inputs were stage left, and I was using the entire stage with a massive amount of hookups. Not sure how it happened, but I probably had more equipment surrounding me than most
touring bands.
      That night I spent most of my time labeling chords and equipment, in order to facilitate setting up. As a result, the next day went a bit more smoothly, technically speaking. Then I practiced until the next morning, when I was awakened from my sleepwalk by a telephone that wouldn’t stop ringing. My sister was first to call, complaining that she could have gone the rest of her life without seeing my balls inside her morning paper. Then, my friend Bettina who works where else but at the Contemporary Arts Center, saying she’d recognize my ugly mug no matter how well it was hidden. I ventured out, excitedly picked up a copy of each local paper—The Downtowner notwithstanding—and was elated to discover that I had somehow become the unofficial poster boy of the 2005 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. My picture was everywhere, all of a sudden. Yeah, it was happening, folks. Finally. Gambles, such as quitting my job and plunging full time into the arts, were paying off. Everything I feared all those years wasn’t true. Life was reasonable, did indeed reward those that made certain they were deserving
of its gifts....

      I practiced until I was going to be late for load-in. My voice shattered from sheer use and pharmaceuticals, I felt nonetheless ready. Not at all certain about shows two through five, but this one was in the bag and right on time.
      We had all of an hour to set up. Aaron manically programmed his lighting cues while yet another photographer, James Czar, asked if I would write down the names of all the members of my band. I pointed to my left, saying, “Steven Proctor is The Mark Flanigan Band.” Our sound check lasted two minutes as only fifteen remained before show time, the doors were being opened, and the time had arrived for my pre-recorded pieces. There was no running behind with this train, there was yet another show scheduled right after me with the same time constraints running against it.
      I hit play and stood in the wings, opting to hide behind the curtains instead of in the dressing room. This proved to be a big mistake. The gates open, it was hardly another Who tragedy in the making. Only a stray body or two floated through them. My optimism in effect trampled before I so much had gotten out of the gate. Christ, there was no rhyme or reason to it; I’d had larger audiences while singing in the shower! All that publicity leads to this? Really, what in the hell does it take to make it? I felt foolish, both my legs and confidence shook as the spotlight searched for me behind my silly curtains. I quit looking at the empty seats. Closed my eyes. Huddled with myself. And realized just as my CD was to end—one I had spent more time compiling than actually rehearsing for the show itself, one that no one but me was even around to hear—yeah, just as I was about to go on I realized: I’d have it no other way.
      Being marginalized was my inspiration. Anonymity, or my railing against it, my muse. And these the sole reasons that, on occasion, I am as good as I am:
      My resolve, spurred on by Aaron’s artful use of the six lights he had at his disposal, returned instantly. I traveled with ease from station to station, nailing the key aspects of each piece. Remembered how easy performing actually is when you have good material. An audience of two just fine with me in the end, I nonetheless performed as if I was at the Royal Albert Hall. It was like swimming; you’re on the first laps, struggling with them, doubting that you’ll be able to finish as many as you set out to, when suddenly each successive lap becomes easier as your mind floats elsewhere and before long the show’s over and you’re sitting at the bar and someone yells last call and you yell back, “It’s a little early for that, don’t you think?”
      Yeah, a good night. And as I climbed into my car in the early morning, no one on Earth just then could have convinced me that, when it was all said and done, Mark Flanigan would be banned from ever setting foot inside the CAC again....

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