I went to the U of Alabama to study under (wow–that’s a pretentious phrase) Michael Martone. Actually, I went there because they let me in and paid me for years to drink coffee and beer, play bocce, and write. The Martone thing was a bonus. I happen to know many things about him you do not:
1.) He doesn’t drink but I saw him drink once. A cosmopolitan martini.
2.) He admires treadmills and postcards.
3.) He broke someone’s arm, but I won’t tell you whose.
But I digress. My point here is that if you know anything about the M.C. Echerian Michael Martone, you will admire this text by Josh Maday: Distractus Refractus Ontologicus:
The Dissemination of Michael Martone
Very smart, very meta, very Martone.
Speaking of Alabama, I have two regular features I’d like to have for this blog. One is a Top 6 list. Does that sing derivative? Well, I am nothing if not derivative. And I teach at Ball State U, Letterman’s alma mater.
6 REASONS YOU SHOULD ATTEND U OF ALABAMA MFA PROGRAM
1.) They will pay you for years to drink coffee and beer.
2.) The only meteorite to actually hit a human being (it came through the roof and struck Ann Hodges in the thigh) is contained in the museum of natural history on campus. Pretty epic, IMO. One semester, I made a writing class go daily to view and write something about that meteorite. I did the exercises with the class, and one led to a flash fiction publication in Puerto del Sol. I’m not sure all the legal claptrap about posting something online that is published in print elsewhere, but frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a…
The only recorded meteorite to actually hit a human being sits in a glass case on the second floor of Smith Hall, the University of Alabama’s museum of natural history. The meteorite hit a woman with hair wrapped high like a hornet’s nest, in the left thigh. There’s a photo in the glass case. The woman stands on her front steps, hip-handed, clearly not smiling. It makes me think of god and lack of god and luck—good, bad, out of, etc.—and this newspaper story I read last summer about a good Samaritan who pulled over on the highway to help change a woman’s tire and was struck dead by a semi. I think of that exhausted word, destiny.
My friend Paige and I walk past Smith Hall. We are walking, long, aimless walking, like two paper cups blown across a grassy courtyard. Paige spent nine hours yesterday in a teal gown sitting on a cold table. Her ass was often exposed. A nurse took her blood, missing her vein and leaving a bruise in the crook of her arm in the shape of Hawaii’s largest island, Hawaii. A doctor told Paige she had leukemia, a disease wherein the white cells run amuck and drink too much cheap beer and urinate in public and hang from motel balconies and generally harm themselves and others like teenagers on spring break in Florida.
We sit on the patio of a restaurant that serves college kids, and very bad food. It is expensive and comes in tiny portions and leaves a bland, greasy film across your teeth, all of it. I once thought bar food was impossible to ruin, since it is generally dropped into a deep fat fryer and served with plastic cups of ketchup. I was wrong.
Paige and I don’t order food, only tall beers, the bubbles rising like glass elevators. An ambulance drives by slowly, its bells and whistles asleep. It waddles into a parking spot. Two fat paramedics get out and go inside to eat bad bar food. I think of Paige and I drifting off somewhere in glass elevators but the image doesn’t catch and two sorority girls stroll by looking absolutely themselves.
I wonder what I should say to Paige.
I try, “I guess it’ll be rough for a while.”
I try, “You can always use my car, you know, for appointments or whatever. I could pick you up.”
I try, “It doesn’t really mean what it used to, right? I mean, they got treatments.”
I try silence.
Silence works, and eventually Paige pulls a crumpled ball of pamphlets from the pocket of her jeans. She slides the wadded ball across the table and the wind blows it to the ground and I trap two of the pamphlets with my foot. One of the pamphlets has photographs of models wearing wigs. The other is entitled: The Ten Commandments for Cancer Survival.
Commandment # 2: “Thou shalt love thy chemotherapy, thy radiation, and thy other treatments even as thyself, for they are thy friends and champions.”
Commandment # 9: “Thou shalt maintain, at all times and in all circumstances, thy sense of humour, for laughter lightens thy heart and hastens thy recovery.”
I hand Paige the pamphlets, their glossy pages leaving my grip like pin-pulled grenades. She folds them into her empty beer glass and waves the waitress over. Paige orders bar food. She orders Buffalo wings and fried calamari and a basket of French fries and two baskets of cheese sticks and a thing called Triple Play, a platter of fried jalapeno poppers, French fries, and onion rings.
Plastic cups of ketchup sprout like mushrooms on the dried manure disk of our patio table. Paige eats everything and says her stomach kind of hurts and I say I bet it kind of hurts. She says I’d win that bet and then orders the entire dessert menu, including an ice cream pie called Chocolate to Die For.
Commandment # 9 . . .
Two years later I spent my spring break in a small Florida town where you could simply pitch your tent on the beach and lift sand dollars off the ocean bottom like lost Frisbees and see so many stars at night it was stupid.
If you’re into acts of gods, read all about the actual meteorite event here.
3.) Like all SEC schools, the men and women are aesthetically stunning.
4.) There is no number 4.
5.) A lively gay bar downtown, Michael’s Lounge. I once went there with Pulitzer Prize winner and total bad-ass Michael Cunningham and had a great time. One of the drag queens had some type of dwarfing/possibly phocomelia condition (thalidomide?) and had a flipper as opposed to an arm. A rather fascinating show overall.
6.) Dreamland BBQ. Considered one of the best in a land that seriously knows BBQ.
My other feature will be: THE LOUDEST SOUND I HEARD TODAY
Today was a UPS jet taking off from the Louisville hub. A quivering rumble within the arteries of my Subaru. I guess they haven’t perfected the quieter gas-saving glide technique yet.