Monday, November 26, 2012

Down to the wire . . .

Only one week to go to help print RUNX TALES #3! Spread the word!

Check out this new video I made for the campaign, with the help of woodworker/dramatist/silver drummer girl, Jessie Smith. Click here to see the campaign!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

RUNX TALES needs your help!

I just kicked off an Indiegogo campaign to help with printing costs for RUNX TALES #3! The third issue of this autobio/informational comic will feature a letterpress cover and full-color spread, and I need your help to make it happen! In addition to an interview with Jincy Willett, a metaphysical tour of San Jose, and a memorial to a mythic drugstore, there is a tell-all about two different sugar daddies I had. Here is a detail from the title page:

Click here to learn more about the campaign!

Friday, August 3, 2012

New story in > kill author's final issue!

After three years, it's time to say goodbye to the online journal, > kill author, and I'm excited to be included in its farewell. Click here to read my very short story, "Dawn In the Afternoon," and listen to a recorded reading. The rest of the work included here is really great, so be sure to stop a second and look around!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sarah McCarry on Messiness

Hey, look! I interviewed Sarah McCarry over at SFCB Blog. Sarah—who is creator of Glossolalia (zine), the mastermind behind The Rejectionist (blog), and author of All Our Pretty Songs (forthcoming novel)—is an old pal, and it was great to catch up. She also works as Presse Manager at Ugly Duckling Presse, a publisher dedicated to incorporating handmade elements into the titles it releases. Sarah dishes up the inside scoop on UDP, as well as the dirt on her own life as a writer/blogger/zinester/letterpress printer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You should be in Beecher's

And I am! Just like their first issue, Beecher's 2 is a really beautifully designed and constructed book. I'm proud to have my prose poem, "Pluck," appear in its pages, along with a lot of other great writing. You can order the magazine here!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Photos from SH IFTS

Here are some photos of the broadsides I had on display at Berkeley's James Rowland Shop a couple weeks ago. The space seemed made for them! To read their text, visit my website

Friday, July 6, 2012

To-Done Lists

As I get ready to leave Oakland, it's hard for me not to pay some sort of tribute to the nice situation I've had here: in addition to getting unemployment, I've had my own workspace. Thus, the luxury of enough time to really give some love to the headers of my to-do lists, to grab those doodles and overwork 'em to death. It got to the point where it felt talismanic: the more love I put into the TO-DO, the more items I'd end up crossing off. And maybe there was something to that. I've had a really productive year, and I'm grateful for it. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Letter from Pedestrianica.6

We here in Pedestrianica rarely offer our opinions on cinema, but one movie came down the shit tube off-ramp recently that raised a lot of questions: What is up with Drive? The future of fossil fuels has looked bleak for decades. We know it's making you a lot of money, Corporate America, but look: that aura surrounding the automobile? It's fading fast. And leaving aside Drive's motorcentrism, it seems to have gone unnoticed that this is just another movie about a smug, brooding white dude trying and failing to act tough (bitch, we saw you at the Mormon talent show) as he woos a blandly wholesome and weakly written romantic lead, and forms a relationship with her son that reeks of Indiana Jones-style imperialism. When the love interest's husband comes home from prison, he's punished for failing to appreciate how well our hero has "taken care" of his wife. And when our hero beats up Christina Hendricks, a) it can only be described as extreme slut shaming, and b) it makes his already punchable face fifty times more so. How is this shit even remotely okay, let alone the best movie of the year? While we Pedestrianicans are used to hegemonic car glamor being shoveled at us by the oil lords of sovereign nations, our numbness lessens daily. The gap between what an absolute turd Drive is and the praise it's received is astounding. And (according to one Pedestrianican citizen) the only way to make it through this film is to re-imagine it as an extended Michael Scott fantasy sequence. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dream Poster Featured in YBCA Occupy Show

Wow! This Saturday, July 7, is the opening of the Occupy Everything show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Included will be the Dream poster conceived and designed by Miriam Klein Stahl and Gabby Miller. There were originally a couple versions of this poster, and I had a lot of fun helping typeset and print the letterpress edition. The best thing about it is that we left a dream-space for a whole bunch of other collaborators to fill in, which they did, and the results were first displayed at the WE ARE THE THERE show in April at Rise Above Gallery in Oakland. The collaborations turned out beautiful; look at some of them here (including my own, which features a fold-out essay on San Pablo Avenue you can read here). Miriam is also leading a workshop later this month, where she will print a new batch of Dream posters and invite more collaborators. Come see the original Dream posters this Saturday at YBCA! Meanwhile, here it is featuring Rocco (via Gabby's Nice Dogs tumblr):

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flash Wednesday.8

Here's one last June installment of Flash Wednesday! I made a broadside of this story, which is the title piece for my art show this Friday at James Rowland Shop. Check out the broadside here


My shift starts at 8:30. Belladon’s starts at 11. Sometimes we trade shifts, but always, always, we stay within the realm of our own.

The way Belladon does his job is like this: he struts. He’s majestic in his brown paper briefs, a grease spot marking the very nose of their slope. My uniform—which I wear even when I work the 11—my uniform is more modest: a burgundy velvet cloak. The way I do my job is still unclear.

Sometimes working the 11 makes me feel foreign, Belladon tells me. And when we trade shifts, it feels like I’m coming home. Belladon lies a lot. That’s how he gets me to take his shift.

The cook is sorting through tubs of coleslaw with a Sharpie, hastening their expiry dates with crunching strokes of his wrist. Is it a wrist? No. It’s the graceless place where his hand meets his arm, a collision.

Lately, we’ve noticed groundcherries poking out from between the tubs of coleslaw, finishing off their growth with husky bobs. Belladon says it’s because we’ve stopped ordering sauerkraut. The stink kept the weeds at bay.

I’ve never felt foreign, exactly, here inside my cloak, but then I’ve never felt the urge to strut either. Whether I’m the 8:30 or the 11, it’s always been Belladon’s body that explains my own.


Belladon has stopped wearing his briefs. Are you working the 8:30? I ask. He tells me no. We’ve created a new shift, he says, to fill in the gap between the shifts that already exist.

And there’s no uniform?

More like there’s no copyright. We’ve bumped up its expiry date. The sight of a naked man has finally surpassed being embarrassing.

I shuck a groundcherry and pop it in my mouth. I study Belladon’s penis, which is thin and craggy, like a long shred of cabbage. The cook unloads chestnuts from a grease-stained paper bag. The place where his hand meets his arm crackles.

I reach around inside my cloak for my penis. All I can feel is forest, cicada shrieks, the lusty smell of dusk. I stagger, I tear at the night. I brush past a halo of pubic hair, push into the thicket, further until I trip on a freshly cut stump. Horror is lush in my throat. This, I think, is the nature of doom: the restless mortar between plastic tubs of slop.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Broadsides on display this Friday at JRS

I'm moving to Iowa this fall to study at UI Center for the Book, and so am getting ready to say goodbyefor nowto the Bay. If you're in the area this Friday, June 29, come say hi/bye at James Rowland Shop in Berkeley, where, for one night only, they'll be showing a collection of broadsides I letterpress printed. Each one features an original short story or poem, is printed on re-purposed office supplies, and will be selling for cheap! The show, titled             SH IFTS, will be up from 7-10 pm, and there will be pizza and drinks! James Rowland Shop is located at 2447 Dwight Way at Telegraph. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Taco Group now posted!

I finally posted my short story "The Taco Group," along with all its bells and whistles from a performance I gave last year at Headlands Center for the Arts. The piece tells of infighting among the members of a sinister kaffeeklatsch, a group whose goal is to build a utopia out of the remnants of the post-functional city in which they live. As I wrote the story, I realized my aim was similar to that of my characters': I was doing a lot of scavenging in an attempt to make something perfect. I processed this a little in an artist's statement, and used recycled materials to construct slides of the utopian city's streets, as well as fixings for a taco buffet. I also letterpress printed the Taco Group's progress report. All these elements came together to form a not-quite-reading/not-quite-installation. Is it something we could call a book? See for yourself!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flash Wednesday.7

If last week's Flash Wednesday was (allegedly!) about Tom Cruise, this one's (allegedly!) about Lindsey Lohan. To see a letterpress broadside of this story, click here!

I Am So Alone

When I walk, my feet squeak between the balloons that form the surface of this earth: blue and pink and milky yellow. Squeak. Sometimes I fear I’ll fall right through, and feel the slime-coated grit of the stone in the middle, the cherry pit to which the balloons are tethered. I work my tongue around inside my mouth, trying to make myself a map. What else can I do, when beyond each step lies a bog—cleavage squeaking—a bog that longs to absorb what’s left of my career? Squeak.

Toothpaste. Sometimes I find it clinging to the ground, dulling the colored mounds as I stumble my way toward the club. I wonder if I forgot to rinse. My gums taste dry: some blood, maybe, a speck of cocaine. But no sign of mint. I work my tongue around some more. I run my fingers—squeak—along the chalky gunk on the ground. Tastes like melted ice cream. Wait. That’s not the club I’m headed toward—it’s the soda shop. And who’s that outside smoking? Fuck, it’s Drea de Matteo.

BAM! She puts out her smoke on a pink balloon, right at its apex, where all its color gathers in a nipple. It shrivels and gasses down a crevasse, and the whole front corner of the soda shop—which was built on this pink balloon—the whole front corner crashes, fizzes, crumbles in a pile. I wait for her to say Come at me, bitch—this is what she always says when she sees me. Instead, she sneers and tells me the power’s out. I watch the empty calories—sorbets, goo ripples, sickly speckled mint—flow out from the rubble in rivulets, pastels veining out across the blistery land.

The thing is, I think I’ve almost got it. My tongue learns from its mistakes, working nonstop, cartographing a path of minimal humiliation. Come at me, bitch, Drea finally says, and to stall for more time, I tell her I’ve been approached by JC Penney to create a fashion line. What the fuck did you just say? She’s so quick to judge. Just like every other person on this earth, she’s planted herself between my happiness and me. In a flash, I envision the pulp, the place between the pit and the skin, the mantle made up of thousands of tautly white strings. This is where the vitamins are. I place my lips in my palm, pucker them so as to birth a map. As Drea claws at my hair, I hold out my hand with a look of triumph. Lying in my palm, cradled by the graceful swoop of my lifeline: a cherry stem in a perfect knot. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Video from WTAW!

There is video up on Vimeo of me reading at WTAW in Sausalito last week. I read several short stories: "The Drift" (which I posted on Flash Wednesday week before last),  "The Hare" (which first appeared on BOMBlog), and "Tammy and the Amaranth" (which first appeared in The Collagist).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flash Wednesday.6

During June I'll be posting a piece of flash fiction—500 words or less—every week. 

No One Is Perfectly Cast

The Order decided he would be the one. Short in stature, sadly, but loved by many, the glare of his teeth blinded them to the shit on his breath. Funny now, from where we stand: a midget sock-sliding across the floor in his briefs. But it’s hard for us to fathom the temporal nature of influence. In his own maniacal minute, he was god.

A wife, ordered the Order, and this is where they faltered. Model after long-legged model, each surpassed him in her glamour, clawing up fame with nails like shrimp tails until she had enough to make it on her own. And the irony: the least towering of the prototypes went solo from the start. Shortly after she hatched, the Order watched her stagger away into the night. She settled in a mossy northwestern town: mysterious villagers, weird diner, a possibly esoteric past.

Years later, a location scout stumbled on this town. Perfect, he told the casting director over a slice of pie. But when she showed him a headshot of the actor she’d picked for the part of the werewolf, the location scout balked: He reminds me of the one. A synthesizer riff hit them both at the nape of the neck, lovingly shoving their faces toward the stage. There she stood, the least successful of the one’s potential wives. She’d found work at this roadhouse as its chanteuse. And even now, from where we stand, her song is wax, is isinglass, is wary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reading at WTAW this Thursday!

Why There Are Words is a monthly reading series at Studio 333 in Sausalito, and I'm part of the lineup this Thursday! Organized by Peg Alford Pursell, the theme for this month's WTAW is Animal. I'll be reading very short stories about several of the following: an iguana, a possum, a complicated tortoise-and-hare relationship, and an undetermined beast. Other readers include Justin Torres, Dani BurlisonAllison Landa, Bruce Genaro, Tami Anderson, James Tipton, and Carolyn Cooke. The event starts at 7 pm and is 5 bucks. See you there!

Friday, June 8, 2012

THREE #3 hot off the press!

I just got THREE #3 in the mail, and it looks beautiful! Edited by Rob Kirby, the third issue of this Ignatz-nominated anthology was funded by a grant from Prism Comics. It has three main features: a high-school memoir by Carrie McNinch; a hilarious all-star jam featuring Ivan Velez, Jr., Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, Ellen Forney, Joan Hilty, and Rob Kirby; and a glimpse at three Wuvable Oaf characters' lives by Ed Luce (who also designed the cover!).

This issue also includes guest features by the fab MariNaomi, Marian Runk (no relation!), and a tribute to Dolly Parton by Janelle Hessig and me!

You can order yourself a copy postage-free here before June 10! OR, if you're in the Chicago area next weekend, Rob will be hawking copies at CAKE (Table 47). Stop by and pick one up!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flash Wednesday.5

It's the return of Flash Wednesday! During June I'll be posting a piece of flash fiction—500 words or less—every week. This one's based on real-life work experience selling tee-shirts.

The Drift

Try to think of something different, Hazel said.

We’d been surrounded by the same slogans for so long, calling out the same prices, answering the same questions, it was really the tallest sort of order.

At this point, as you can imagine, the tee-shirt stand seemed about the extent of the world, let alone the fair. The two of us weren’t a big enough staff to allow for breaks.

I tried to describe to Hazel the former planet of our lives: a cheap, uncrowded coffee shop; a landlord willing to wait till mid month; bi-weekly unemployment checks. As I remembered this planet, though, I began to doubt we’d ever walked its terrain. This, I decided mid sentence, was the planet we hoped to get to, the one that would spin up to meet our feet in the instant we finally got paid.

As I manned the table, fetching sizes, engaging in chatter, my feet became wet with carnival muck. The soles of my boots, I realized, had split.

On the sixth day, the air began to purple, the shadows curled in a fetal sort of way. The rides were being dismantled, tents were sinking in on themselves as if starved. All potential shoppers shifted their interest to the sky.

They should’ve thought of this before, Hazel said. They should’ve manufactured us some pinholes to sell.

I must have known somewhere deep that the moon was now in front of the sun.

Hazel sighed as, for the first time all week, she sat. It felt strange to not be working, the sun now so dark and bright. Like a bomb had gone off, like going blind. I echoed Hazel’s sigh and also sat. I could hear the prize-winning chickens, the only sound now in the otherwise silent weight of the eclipse. I could hear their voices gather in the chambers of their beaks.

I thought about buying a corndog, a bag of roasted nuts. I thought about the golden way such things give upon first bite, the satisfaction when they split. I thought about how much of my check would go toward a new pair of boots.

Boots be damned, I thought, the carnival muck by now such a normal part of having feet. Because: as our new planet spun into view, I began to have time to mold its continents into temperate shapes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

RUNX TALES #3 Preview!

Just finished letterpress printing the cover to RUNX TALES #3. Hopefully, this will inspire me to get crackin' on the contents! Also working out a way to pay for printing costs. The new issue will feature a piece in collaboration with Nora Benson-Glaspey (of "Nora Stories") on the metaphysical underbelly of San Jose. It will also include the story of two less than lucrative sugar-daddy relationships I had. Check out the following links for sneak peeks at a tribute to the old Super Longs drugstore in Oakland and an interview with writer Jincy Willett

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Monkeybicycle features new short story!

In "Columbus Was Named For the Dove," a teacher has an introspective moment in a (haunted? by Thomas Kincaid?) faculty lounge. You can read the story over at Monkeybicycle!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Death On the Highway: An Interview with Ginger Strand

I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, but reading Ginger Strand’s Inventing Niagara made me think I have. The book, which looks at the faded tourist trap that straddles the US-Canadian border, examines the site from every angle: historical, cultural, political, personal, and most importantly, physical. The book is notable for its keen sense of place, a quality that’s rare in this increasingly online world. And it’s a quality that carries over into her new book, Killer On the Road: Violence and the American Interstate (UT Press), which tackles a subject near to my heart: the world we’ve created to accommodate cars.

The effect of cars on our landscape (and our psyches) is vast—something I like to harp on in my Letters from Pedestrianica. And Strand’s book, which mixes true crime and cultural analysis, looks at the various nightmares the US Interstate system has fostered. Not only are its long, lonely, anonymous stretches perceived as breeding grounds for serial killers, it has also irreparably scarred our cities, slashing neighborhoods in half, displacing already vulnerable populations, and making the establishment of long-term urban communities near impossible. I was excited to talk to Strand recently about road rage, the interstate as corporate welfare, and the acquisitiveness of the serial killer.

All photos courtesy of Ginger Strand. See more over at her website!

Matt Runkle: Killer On the Road is much less personal than Inventing Niagara. In Niagara, you relay the experiences surrounding your research, and frankly discuss the way the iconic falls became interwoven with your life. Why did you decide to maintain a more detached point of view in Killer On the Road?

Ginger Strand: Hey, great question! People hardly ever ask questions about form, and it's always disappointing, because form is what writers think about nonstop. Anyway, yes, Killer is far less personal than my last book. In Inventing Niagara, I wrote myself in as a way of giving the book a narrative through-line. And I wanted to convey the excitement of historical discovery—it can be downright exciting to root around in archives! But I used my own obsession as a way of tying the story together. So when I started Killer on the Road, I intended to do something similar, but pretty quickly I realized that I had to get out of the way of this story. The through-line was already complicated enough with the history of the interstates and the rise of the serial killer as an outlaw type, not to mention the serial killers themselves, and having the story of my discovery of all this was just too many threads. So I 86ed myself, because I was the least essential part of the story.  

MR: This book is great, by the way. I love how you make these larger connections that aren’t usually made in true crime. I rarely hear violence explicitly being linked to the car like this—which is weird to me, since it’s such an essentially violent invention. “Behind the wheel, we are all psychopaths,” you write, referencing studies that show that driving makes it hard for us to be perceived as human, and that we, in turn, dehumanize others when we’re behind the wheel. Are there ways, do you think, for drivers to overcome this dehumanization? Your book covers a lot of geographical territory, and I imagine you had to cover thousands of freeway miles in order to investigate each chapter. Did you learn anything about yourself as a driver during your research?

GS: I would say I became much more aware of what is actually going on when I'm driving. Like most people, I have a tendency to get annoyed and scream obscenities at other cars—now I realize that my road rage is actually a response to being deprived of a sort of recognition that we humans crave from each other. That helps actually! I do think that maybe just by recognizing what's happening somewhat, we can resist the dehumanizing effects of automobility. But our cars—getting bigger and smoother and more encapsulated—are not helping us. Everyone's in his or her own world, zipping along at 75 miles an hour, probably texting to boot. But the car is just one of the many, many features of modernity that is making us less humane.

MR: I’m also curious about how the car serves as a sort of prosthesis, and in what ways this might make people feel disembodied. Could this feeling trigger the gratuitous sort of dismemberment so commonly carried out by serial killers? 

GS: I think that a lot of the gratuitous dismemberment or necrophilia carried out by serial killers is about ownership. They want to completely possess another person. And that's not unlike the acquisitive urges often expressed with respect to cars. In fact, Ted Bundy literally said that what he wanted was to own another person the way you would own a Porsche.
MR: It’s interesting that the interstate was originally pitched as something that would break down class barriers, even as it sped up class stratification. From today’s standpoint, as we see the middle- and lower-classes pretty flagrantly under attack by those at the top, I’m curious: do you feel like there was an explicitly sinister intention behind the interstate plan? Or did those who pushed it forward actually have nobler intentions?

GS: This is, I think, one of the key points of the book. The interstate highway system was a stimulus program, but it was not about creating jobs or helping workers. It was about handing big profits to big corporations: General Motors, Ford, Portland Cement, Bechtel, Haliburton. In that way, it was the first top-down entitlement. That sort of corporate welfare has become pretty central in our economy today. And I think it has failed us as a nation. That's not to say that the conservative economic advisors who shaped this program in the Eisenhower era were ill-willed or malevolent. But I do think they were wrong.

MR: Your observations about the class motivations of serial killers are fascinating: the way their psychoses often seem to be fueled by class resentment, and the way victims’ bodies feed an acquisitiveness patterned after consumer culture. You also point out the class disparity between most real-life serial killers and their fictional counterparts (Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman), as well as the way the media exaggerated Ted Bundy’s cultured image. Why do you think the public prefers their serial killers to be upper class?

GS: It's an interesting question. The "upscaling" of the serial killer coincides with the serial killer becoming a recognized type of anti-hero. It makes him easier to get interested in—people are always more interested in hearing about the lives of rich people than the lives of poor people—and it also makes him more fun to hate and fear. So you can have someone like Hannibal Lecter, who is both terrifying but also weirdly admirable—he's so elegant, so sophisticated, so smart.  

MR: The book ends with the observation that the road, due to its anonymous nature, has always been a dangerous place. At an earlier point, you mention the Thuggee, a cultish group of highwaymen who supposedly killed millions of travelers between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in India. The interstate, through sheer bleakness and velocity, intensifies that intrinsic danger, but I’m curious: How much of the sinister mythos of the road is kind of there in our collective unconscious? I know it’s probably a topic for another book, but I’m wondering if you came across patterns of Dangerous Highway stories in pre-interstate myths and folklore. 

GS: Oh yeah, the road has always been a site of danger. The word "highwayman" predates cars; the ancient Greeks feared crossroads. The road stands for a kind of fundamental unknowability—you don't know where the road goes, you don't know who might come down it. It's a site of mystery. And it's a literal embodiment of the passage of time, and we all know what lies at the end of that: death.

MR: I love the chapter on the way hitchhiking was seen by the counterculture of the ‘60s and ‘70s: as a way to reconnect in the increasingly disconnected world being created by freeways. I pretty naively followed in their footsteps in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, hitchhiking back and forth across the country several times, sometimes feeling vaguely afraid, but ultimately deciding (as someone who wanted to write fiction) the insight I got into people’s lives was worth it. I decided that those who stopped to pick me up were either uncommonly nice or uncommonly crazy or both, and the conversation that was expected of me, while sometimes draining, was always worth it. During the hours I spent waiting at onramps, the absurdity of the interstate system really sunk in. The gap between how much constant movement there was and how long it took me to actually get moving seemed ridiculous. Do you think the interstate system could ever be re-imagined as something that more efficiently conveyed people, as a system whose primary function was patterned after mass transit rather than personal convenience?

GS: You never know what might happen as gasoline inches toward being correctly priced. There have been attempts in the past to institute things like official ride-share programs, and these things might come back. In fact, I was at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, a research facility for the Federal Highway Administration, and they had a huge ride-share bulletin board in their lobby! If the FHA can do it, why not the rest of us?
MR: The landscape of the freeway is one of death. Nothing grows there (besides the hardiest of plants, which are a landscaping afterthought). In your chapter on truckers, you detail the lack of nutrients available at truck stops. Is it a leap, do you think, to say that the lack of bounty at the Interstate’s resting points reflects its deathly terrain? And an even bigger leap to say that the killings it hosts are symptoms of a culture that is deprived of proper sustenance?

GS: I don't think either of those statements is too big a leap. The truck stops are helping to dehumanize the truckers who have to use them, and that in turn could very well be encouraging a small subset of them with sociopathic tendencies to go over the edge. They certainly are not creating an environment in which human connection and healthy human life can flourish. One of the most interesting things I learned about while working on this book is the criminological field of "place-based policing," which holds every crime is an interaction between a criminal, a victim and a place. Many of the places we are creating for ourselves—the landscape of the Sprawl is another example—are depriving of us of the humane elements we need to thrive. I might cite Arcade Fire's The Suburbs here.

MR: The book gives a re-cap of the Juarez killings, the series of murders that was an inspiration for Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. Similar to Bolaño’s novel, Killer On the Road looks at these events as a kind of key to the future: as developing countries pattern their economies—and transportation systems—after the US’s, the already gaping class divide is widened even further, which results in violence like that of the Juarez killings. How did you not get depressed during your research, as you witnessed such patterns, and saw the repeated mistakes made at the expense of the disadvantaged, in the interest of those in power? Were there any findings that gave you hope for the future?

GS: I did get depressed!  This book was a total downer to write! So where's the hope? In a funny way, the highway system itself is a sign of one hopeful truth: the world can change. We had a world that was built in a certain way: dense cities and walkable small towns linked by a network of heavy and light rail supplemented by roads. We dismantled that world and built another one—less dense sprawling metropolitan regions surrounded by suburbs and exurbs and large farms, all linked predominantly by highways. We enacted that transformation in less than fifty years. We could do that again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Collection forthcoming from Brooklyn Arts Press!

I'm mega-excited to be included in the catalog at Brooklyn Arts Press, who will be publishing a collection of my short stories in 2013! Founded by poet Joe Pan, BAP publishes the work of both writers and visual artists (including my former teacher, the fantastic Carol Guess!). Their books are beautiful. Click here to read a story that will be included. I can't wait! More details soon . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Business of Staying Alive.4: Hanging Out with Gloria Diaz

Gloria Diaz is a girl who knows how to hang out. Over at her blog, Eat-It-All: The Art of Hanging Out, she tells you how to act. One of my favorite Gloria moments was going to visit her in her Washington Heights apartment, and banging on the door without any response as muffled TV sounds came from inside. She had just returned from an oceanside hang-out session in Puerto Rico, followed by a trip to Chattanooga to kick it with the punks. After back-to-back beach time and wild-ass partying (Chattanooga punks do it like no others), Gloria had felt the need to phase into a hardcore Hang Out Type: Solo, and it took me a while to get her up off the couch.

Gloria also happens to be one of my number one apocalyptic dream comrades—precisely because she’s so damn good at hanging out. Who wouldn’t want to see the world going up in flames in the company of a devoted chiller? Gloria is unflappable, dedicated to hanging out at all costs, and even as she’s being sassy, you know it’s only a matter of time before she gets all sincere and deep. Even as she’s saying, “I can’t deal,” her other motto—“The year of living dangerously”—is never far behind. She’s the perfect person to talk to about The Business of Staying Alive, the type who can keep things casual even as she’s gearing up to get ready for the worst.

me: I was just looking at your blog and I have to say I really dig the pic of you hanging out with the tropical foliage.

Gloria: You should. I look good.

me: Hahaha! K, do you want to start by talking about the blog a little? Like, where did the concept come from? And in what ways has it evolved since you started?

Gloria: Sure. I talked about it in my first post a little but the idea was born at the end of an EPIC hang out day I was having with my buddy Janelle. She complimented me saying I was the queen of hanging out and I brushed it off and she was like, "No I am serious. You should write a book about it". And I realized I did want to write a book about it. But that idea seemed daunting so I thought as a beginning point I would start to write about the topic via blog so I could flesh out some concepts and also just to get in the habit of writing regularly.

me: And how has it been?

Gloria: It's been rad!! I use to do a zine and it's nice to have a platform to discuss different issues again.

me: Omg, I'm sorry, I feel so groggy. Hold on!

Gloria: Haha, you're fine. Robo tripping.

me: Hahaha! Have you noticed things being extra dramatic the past couple days?

Gloria: Haha. Yes, I believe we are in a transitional period.

me: Really?!

Gloria: Yes , I think there are times through the year we have to recalibrate and I think we are in one right now.

me: Why do you think that? And is it going to slow down any time soon?

Gloria: Instinctual. Spring cleaning. And things never slow down, this is life.

me: Got it. You just gave me a good segue. How do you hang out with grace in the midst of chaos? For example, do you ever picture yourself hanging out in apocalyptic scenarios?

Gloria: Hmmm, grace in chaos. I think that the world, while beautiful, is fairly chaotic and I like to think that my philosophy behind hanging out is about maintaining grace over all in general. I am not sure what type of apocalyptic scenario you are thinking of but of course I think of the world after "the shit hits the fan" and my place in it. But if it's like the Thunderdome, then I am not sure how I will pull through that because that certainly seems like a stressful life but I would figure it out eventually.

me: So what are some different ways you've pictured yourself in that world after the shit hits the fan? I know you have this tension between city and country living. Do you have any "Escape from New York" plans in mind?

Gloria: I moved to Brooklyn about six months ago and it has thrown me for a loop as far as escape plans. I used to live in Washington Heights right by the George Washington Bridge and it gave me some piece of mind to think if NYC went bat shit I could just walk right out of the city. In Brooklyn I feel a little deeper in the shit. I guess I like to think that I will be prepared for anything and I think inherently my interest is drawn by some sort of idea of post-civilization survival. For example, I took a First Aid class this past winter and I have begun to work out a lot. Part of the working out is I want to look extra fly but definitely part of it is that I want to be ready for anything. I had a friend recently say the same thing to me about their own motivation for working out and in that moment I just wondered if other people have similar motivation for working out or are my friend and I just kinda nuts? But it is not something people talk about often—how ready are you for difficult situations where your actual physical safety may be at risk.

me: It's true. There's kind of a stigma, I think, to being prepared for the worst. Like you're paranoid or something. Do you have a disaster kit?

Gloria: I don't!! I am just up to a First Aid kit and a "go bag". In actuality I wish I had a better supply of back-up food and water. There is a stigma—or people think it is a joke, but for those of us who have been through natural disasters you know that shit is very real. But perhaps also people are uncomfortable with their own mortality and just laugh to brush off the idea that they should be ready for anything. Because reality is that your life can change in a minute.

me: So you've lived through a natural disaster. Was that in Florida?

Gloria: Yes. I was living in Pensacola, Florida and we got hit with a Category 5 hurricane.

me: Can you talk about that a little bit?

Gloria: Yes, it was in 2004, the year that several large hurricanes hit Florida and the Gulf Coast region Hurricane Ivan. Me and my housemates at the time decided to ride out the storm. You have to understand hurricane culture in Florida and the Gulf Coast—it is really about brushing it off and riding it out. So we rode it out. But I think that mentality has changed since that year for Florida and after Hurricane Katrina.

me: Yeah. So talk about that culture. People are taking precautions even as they're riding it out, right? Like stocking up on food and boarding up the windows, etc?

Gloria: Yeah, there is that. What used to drive me a little nuts about people being prepared for disasters is that everyone waits until the last minute. So every major hurricane the local news is just showing images of long lines at stores and empty store shelves, of people rushing out to get water and flashlights. Hurricane season is the same time every year, people!

Things like having water and food are just more ways to make your life comfortable after the storm because the water may not be clean enough to drink or access to food may be affected depending on the roads, etc.

My parents have about twenty gallons of water and a week’s worth of food at any given moment. People take some precautions, especially boarding up windows, etc., but really, folks at risk are those who live on the coast or near large bodies of water—the risk is drowning. I think people think about the winds, but one thing that blew my mind about my experience in Pensacola is the damage the water had done. Flooding the whole downtown and just really damaging infrastructure in a way that the town was recovering from for years to come.

me: Ok, you mentioned earlier the psychology behind not being prepared: people not wanting to confront their mortality. I know you've been kind of on a spiritual quest lately—is this too embarrassing for me to bring up? Is seeking a spiritual path part of acknowledging this end we'd rather not think about? Do you feel like, similar to stocking up on food and water, it makes the inevitable chaos any easier?

Gloria: Yeah, let's get deep! People's spiritual beliefs are a complex thing. Certainly
there are people who use their spiritual practices as an escape from reality. So I think it can be used to escape the idea of one's own mortality, for example the promise of an eternal life. But I think that if practiced correctly you would use spirituality to face the reality of being here and being human. Like being prepared with food and water for a storm—it doesn't make the experience easier, per se, because seeing your whole town get torn up and the way the storm affects people's lives is an intense experience. But it makes the coping with that event easier, like you have something to eat. So for me, spirituality holds a similar importance, it helps with the coping. It doesn't justify, negate or change the severity of the situation.

me: Love getting deep. Ok, I know on your blog you've stressed the importance of adaptability (Rule #1: Always do what you never would have thought of doing, especially if you have an in). You've also talked about nomadism, which I think requires being pretty adaptable. You have some nomadic plans coming up in the next year—do you wanna talk about these and how you're getting ready to adapt?

Gloria: I am making moves to leave the country because I have not done that since I was five and it's about damn time. But other than that, I am planning on visiting towns where I have large groups of friends and visiting for a time. I wanted to spend part of this year spending real intentional time with long-distance friends and be part of their day-to-day lives, even if just momentarily—helping them with whatever projects they have going on. Really, the main thing I am doing to get ready to adapt, besides saving up money, is letting go of my doubts and fears about being 33 with a master's degree and taking time for myself to just be a punk. It is hard to let go of what society says about you when you choose to live your life the way you want it. But I have followed my gut so far and shit has been awesome, so fuck it. Being able to have the type of life that requires adaptability is a gift.

me: True! Ok, last question: When you finally decide to beef up your disaster kit, are there any "luxury" items you're going to put in there? Like anything to boost your morale in the middle of all that shit hitting the fan?

Gloria: Lube. And some really fly finger nail polish!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writing In Public

In Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge, which was published in 1968, the title character/narrator observes “…to write in public in the electronic age is to commit an antisocial obscenity.” This, of course, was years before ubiquitous personal devices, before it became a social norm to check in on facebook and check out of the physically proximate: those who may be asking you how you’re doing or trying to take your coffee order or warn you of an approaching bear.

So why does writing in public still feel so dangerous? I’m talking about writing, not pressing buttons, I’m talking scribe, the act of leveraging a pen between three fingers and moving it along a surface. Why is it that when I walk down the street and get an idea and try to record it by putting pen against paper against the wall of the nearest building, it feels like an alarm is going to go off?

There’s a reason why writing can mean graffiti. Even when a piece of paper separates your pen from the building’s wall, though, cars slow, necks crane. Heads shake? Why would you have an idea, people wonder, and why would you use someone else’s property as a means—however indirect—of capturing it?

Or am I just that self-conscious? In reality, how can anyone care? This is a tension I’m used to, the one between wanting to be read and wanting to be ignored. That’s why I lock myself in a room to write: some day someone will read this, some day this will be public. Just not right now. This thing is too fragile right now, will shrivel in the sunlight, will shrink at the sound of sirens.

The public realm is not one of creativity. That’s why performance art is both so compelling and so disparaged. Keep that shit in your books, in your ipods, plug it into the zeros and ones that compose your blogs. Our range of creativity, by design, is limited.

All around us is a culture on autopilot, made manifest in the landscape, one that repeats and re-repeats the same mistakes, that is “created” and re-“created” not for us to exist in or bounce off of but rather for us to stick to our path and turn a profit for a select few, who then hand a cut over to our legislators, who in return shirk their responsibility of creative solutions, as do we, this is, after all, a democracy, and it’s our duty as its citizens to stay informed, and we see via our personal devices that drones will now populate our own skies as well as those of our enemies, that the cameras now trained on us are there to keep us safe.

Creativity, when not in service of making these dudes a buck, is not good for capitalism. So stay numb. I know I do. When outside, I avoid interaction, and thus potential confrontation, whenever possible. And when I go to bed at night, rather than interrupting my eight hours and taking the time to write down my dreams, I wake in the morning and, first thing, I let them flee my mind.