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 work 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

May 2009: Exiled...XXIX: The Ticket

Feb 2009: Exiled...XXVIII: Dispatch from Outside
Jan 2009:Self Portrait (Out of the Emptiness)
Dec 2008: This Film is Not Yet Rated
Feb 2008: The Salmon Dance
Jan. 2008: A Greater Force
Dec. 2007: And Sometimes It Just Happens
Nov. 2007: Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Happen
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 2006: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

About Artist:

Driving Blind

Mr. Flanigan:
       I am writing in order to express my dismay at the contents of one of your Exiled from Main Street pieces.  I quote: “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 (italics mine), I popped open a beer and quickly wrote this...”
      As a coordinating member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I feel it is my duty to inform you that such a statement and its attendant action is, at base, morally reprehensible and insensitive to victims of this violent crime.  I wonder if you are aware that there will be an estimated 16,000 deaths in the U.S. alone by year’s end caused by drunk drivers.  If so, how can you justify wearing your irresponsibility on your sleeve and in an—ostensibly anyway—humorous piece? 
            I, for one, find a shortage of humor in any glorification of an act I know from personal experience shatters families and destroys people’s dreams.  Impaired driving is unacceptable and criminal, not some thing in which one should take pride.  Please consider that in this case shame may be more appropriate.   
                                                                                                                --Janet B., Richmond, VA

Janet B.:
            I am sorry, primarily for the fact that you do not find me funny.  No one—except for my publisher maybe—knows better that I can ill-afford to alienate any member of my audience.  And although I salute your good work and feel sympathy for any victims of drunk driving, I nonetheless disagree with your assertion that impaired driving is inherently criminal.  I do not subscribe to the idea of preventive law; it is my opinion that one shouldn’t be punished because of a greater possibility (italics mine) of injuring someone exists.  However, I do believe in anything short of execution for those who do in fact injure or kill while driving impaired. 
            Which reminds me:
            Very few people know this, but I’ve been blessed with another similarly useless talent to go along with writing: air hockey.  I’ll be the first to tell you, I am one bad mother my damn self at air hockey.  Then, if you’re like most others, you will probably answer that you are confident that you can beat me.  At which point we drive thirty miles to the nearest table and I proceed to beat you 7-0, left-handed.  I am not being arrogant; I’m that good.  I’ve lost some games in my lifetime, but I’ve never lost two in a row. 
            What’s more, back in the day I almost always worked the nightshift.  Nevertheless, at one point the company where I was employed had a surprise inspection and, as a result of failing it, needed a safety director to correct things.  Being the only one who could read, the job was mine, as was a whole new world of nightlife and bars.  Oh, the joy of driving past a drinking establishment and finding the lights on!  With all those people inside speaking heatedly!
            One such place, the Loft, just so happened to procure an air hockey table around this time.  And imagine my joy when it was announced that every Wednesday night they were going to hold a two and out tournament in which everyone would ante up five or ten bucks to enter.  The winner took all, and I won every time I was there, a hundred plus bucks each week. 
            (Sadly, I just realized I probably have made more money playing air hockey than I have writing.)
            Anyway, after a few months of this, one particular tournament began just like all the others.  I dispatched my opponents one by one, and then looked on as the other players made their way through the loser’s bracket to see who would meet me in the finals.  This could take hours, and one doesn’t have to be a genius to realize a few hours in a bar with nothing to do could be dangerous for me.  I knew as much but was cocky enough to ignore it. 
            By the time my opponent emerged, I was—as we say—Pollarded, a word coined after the inspired but oft-drunk lead singer Robert Pollard, of Guided by Voices.  My head was bobbing, my legs spaghetti-like, my vision blurry, and apparently I was the last to figure out that I was in trouble as suddenly there was electricity in the air and those who had bought me shots smiled and blinked knowingly.  I’d definitely be playing right-handed this time.
            The crowd gathered around the table.  I forget who my opponent was, but not the fact that he quickly scored two goals.  I started sweating, my cousin Kevin came up and gave me a couple of swift slaps in the face.  My opponent responded by scoring again.
            Then, Alice In Chains’ “Dirt” came on the jukebox, and somehow it bulwarked me.  I started zoning in on the puck and playing purely by instinct.  I scored, and then the two of us proceeded to trade goals.   My shins, planted up against the table, hurt from the force of the game, which was tightening.  I eventually willed things to a tie: 6-6, the next point deciding the match.  Aside from the jukebox, there was only silence as my foe and I bandied the puck about the table at a furious clip.  I was more confident now, as I always had a trick up my sleeve to close out the show.
            And as I heard the puck enter my goal instead of his, the crowd immediately erupted in a mass orgasm of ecstasy and pandemonium.  Men leapt to their feet, high fiving and hugging each other as if peace had been declared and we had won the war.  Women merely hissed silently while sneering snake-like.  I crossed the table with outstretched hand, congratulated the winner.
            Then Kevin and I went to the bar and ordered a drink.  It was there that it hit me: Earlier that day, while at work, I had been told I was going back on nights that next Monday.  My project finished, it hadn’t dawned on me until just then what exactly that meant.  For one, this was my last tournament.  And I had lost it, along with so much else. 
            My mood soured further.  When we left, I got into my little red Honda Civic and proceeded to drive it like the go-cart that it was, only faster.  My frustration boiling out onto the pavement, I barreled up Vine, burned rubber at each light on Liberty, turned onto Sycamore at full speed and didn’t stop until I had terrorized 12th Street and pulled onto Main, parking at a meter outside the Iris, my home at the time.  The flashing lights followed shortly thereafter.
            “Oh shit,” I said to Kevin.  “This is it.”
            I gathered my license and registration.  “Just be cool,” Kevin instructed.
            The officer came to my door.  “Why you driving like an asshole?” he asked.
            “HAVEN’T YOU EVER HAD A BAD NIGHT ON THE BEAT?!” I snapped.  “I just lost a goddamn air hockey tournament and I’m pissed!”
            Kevin laughed a high-pitched, guttural laugh, however muted. 
            “Something funny happening over there?” the officer admonished him.
            Then he looked at my license and pointed to my apartment building.  “You almost made it there,” he said.  “I’ll be back.”
            As soon as he was out of earshot, Kevin said matter-of-factly, “Well, that went well.”   While we waited, I gave Kevin my ATM card, pin, and my parents’ phone numbers.
            Once he returned, the officer asked, “Did you by any chance go to Elder High?”
            “Yeah,” I answered.
            “Run for class president?”
            “Well, it’s you’re lucky night.  My partner voted for you.”  He handed me my license.  I looked back to see who his partner was but couldn’t see anything.  Then I threw my license up in the air and hooted as if I had won the lottery, which I guess I had. 
            And it wasn’t until morning that I realized I hadn’t truly lost the tournament.  Having already lost a game, my opponent should have had to beat me twice. 
            The next time anything similar occurred would be two cars later.  I was coming off a bit of a dry spell—if two years without can be considered that—in the romance department.  But I had met a fine, young woman somehow, and after having a few drinks, Bettina and I ended up making out in the car.  We had just met, so the where and the when was still hanging in the balance.  All we knew was the car wasn’t working, not for what we wanted to do.  And there was no way she was coming to my apartment—not in its present state—because that would have been too great of a cockblock to overcome.      
           It was decided we would go to her house, which was across the river in Covington, KY.  Relatively unfamiliar with the area, she directed me as we proceeded.
            At one point, she asked, “Do you have a condom?”
            Not one to use condoms, let alone carry them, I replied, “No.”
            “We need to get some,” she said.
            “It’s okay, there’s a Walgreen’s on the way.”
            Moments later, I spied the Walgreen’s on the left and, without direction, turned left onto the street preceding it.  “Oh no, this is a one-way street!” Bettina warned.  It was a short street with no entrance into the drug store, so I sped up and immediately saw a parked police cruiser at the intersection of the next street.  At the crossroad, I quickly turned right and realized as the lights came on behind me that it, too, was a one-way street and I had chosen the wrong way again.
            Walgreen’s was immediately to the right of us.  It was dark on the inside. 
            I offered my license and registration.  The officer asked if I had been drinking.  “A little,” I replied.
            “What are you doing out at this hour?”
            “Looking for condoms,” I answered. 
            He bent his head into the car and gave Bettina the once-over.  Then he said, “Go that way” as he pointed in the opposite direction.
            The third and final time wasn’t all that long ago.  I was out in Rossmoyne, where I’ve been working on the same E.P. for five years with my guitarist friend, Steven Proctor.  I was off the sauce then, which I do periodically, so I don’t hang myself. 
            Nonetheless, Steve had a brother, Phillip, who passed away at much too young of an age, and we have a ritual of going out for a drink in honor of his birthday.  As a result, we went to one of the neighborhood saloons—Stagge’s—and Steve drank what his brother drank, amaretto sour, while I made myself drink beer—which, in my estimation, isn’t really drinking. 
            We hung out for a while; the place was rather lively.  And the closer it got to closing time, the more raucous it became, culminating in one bartender getting on the other’s shoulders while the former pulled bottles off the top shelf pell-mell.  They would then walk the length of the bar and pour streams of whatever into the open mouths of any customer who deigned to take the sacrament.  I passed on the offerings, repeatedly, even though it went against my nature.  I suckled on my beer mug instead.
            My resolve held exactly until the moment the bastard reached for the Jameson. 
            I opened my mouth like the other hyenas and was rewarded with the Holy Spirit, a few ounces of it anyway.  Then, before you knew it, the lights were up and the party was over.  I walked to my car and headed back towards town.  I got as far as Pleasant Ridge when a cop passed me in the opposite direction.  There was no surprise this time; as soon as he passed me he did a u-turn and gunned it towards me.
            I had my license and registration ready. 
            “Have you been drinking?” he asked, sternly.
            “Yes, I had some beer and a little whiskey.”
            “I’m glad you said that ‘cause I can smell it from here.  You know why I pulled you over?”
            “You don’t have a front license plate.”
            “Sure, I do.  It’s in my dash.”
            “That’s not legal,” he said.  He then had me step out.
            “You mind if I search your car?”
            “Have at it, I got nothing to hide.  I quit doing those kind of things years ago!”
            I watched as he tore through my car; he was convinced he would find something.  Once he resigned himself to being wrong, he handed me back my license and warned that if he saw me again without a front plate, I would most certainly get a ticket.
            After that, I vowed “Never again.”
            Of course, this past Thanksgiving I woke up with no passenger mirror.  Then a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t find where I parked my car.  None of that involved police, though.  I called the impound lot, but found my car before I reported it stolen.  Mysteriously, I had parked three blocks away and walked home. 
            And I guess that is my point, Janet.  We are all evolving.  One day I will be responsible, sensitive and morally sound, just like you; hell, one morning I might even wake up to discover I’m funny.  We will just have to wait and see. 
           In the meantime, keep reading, ladies.  Just not while driving.