Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hey All. Welcome. We're back on schedule now, running something every Monday. It'll be on this schedule from now until I fuck up again.

This week, we're featuring a short story by James Nowland along with poetry by Lakewood, Ohio's JACK MC GUANE. It was a pleasure meeting Jack at Wred Fright's FILF festival a couple weeks ago. You'll dig his stuff.

And then, of course, there's the ULA's own James Nowland. Nowland is what Jorge Borges would write like if he had a sense of humor. Hope you enjoy this week's selections.

Poetry by Jack Mc Guane

Should I Join the ULA?

I like to write in the men’s room at the library,
the one in the basement? When I made Poet Laureate
they put a padded seat in my favorite stall with
my picture on the lid. The Jack McGuane

Memorial Convenience. Does that qualify me?
Who else do you know with his own crapper
at the library—with his picture on it? Amazing,
what great stuff I can turn out sitting on that face.

I hate writing in my own basement, where I keep the body,
too distracting. I catch myself having conversations like,
“Did you really have to tell the whole workshop
how sucky my poem is?” She never answers, so lonely.

If they put me away would that be a help or a hindrance?
Does everyone have to be weird and wired or
do you take normal people, like me?
What do I do to become a member?

Do I have to write poems in the Lincoln Tunnel?
If I write one in my bedroom am I disqualified?
Wait a minute, you’re not Catholic,
how the hell would you know what I do in my bedroom?

Underground Literary Alliance, that’s pretty cool.
Could you send me an application?

Here's some stuff I stole from other people:

Stolen Words

She was good at being left
but the distance grows smaller
and nothing exists but the music.
Red is an odd color for an angel.

Every second Thursday I wonder
why I bother because I
live near the city, the donut city
with all the fucking going on,
maybe not too much but then again
more than is good for it.

Sing me a love song, let the poetry
flow, seek legal representation
for the fuck behind your eyes
(that’s four shops and three fucks
just to throw off the rhythms).

No time to worry about climactic events,
drag your dead weight into the
high winds blowing off
the electrical engineer in the Iguana Café
and the growing emptiness of the
Jamaican construction worker.

With the hangover the key is
in the words of the
foreshortened female figuration.
I love her. She loves her.
C’mon over here momma
masturbate this microphone.

And one more

Poetry Night at the Literary Cafe

Lies, heresy, a blissed out cat at the bar,
plastic surgery, hairy manboobs
leaving again, again
left handed people
right handed world
lite beer, heavy news reports
cigarette boats in the torpedo tubes
wimps in office
pants pissers in the pentagon
weenies on the trade routes
flying real heros to the roadside bombs
"You can do it, man--you're trained."
internet wobble wank
don't smoke anything
don't ride motorcycles
wear your helmet in the bathroom
take your shoes off at the airport
bomb the shit out of them
(didn't wanna say fuck)

Arachnids Know No Pity
By James Nowland

It was different than other interviews that I had had. There was no desk between me and the woman giving the interview who was quite attractive in spite of a slight moustache on her upper lip maybe even because of it and had a pair of enticing breasts that I tried desperately not to notice. After a short discussion the content of which I’ve now forgotten I was led to a room where the tasks I was to perform were explained to me.

I understood or I guess I understood this being one of those vast blank moments where memory as it normally is is replaced by something else. Seated before a small screen I was to ask people a series of questions and mark the answers. This was not the difficult part. Convincing people to take part was and keeping them participating was even harder.
The problem was the questions. They started out innocently enough asking about people’s buying habits and leisure activities but entering more and more into their personal life to eventually interrogate them on their sexual practices. They usually hung up between porno and masturbation. After several hang ups a voice came on my headphones.

I thought at first that I had forgotten to hang up the phone but then recognized it as that of the woman who had employed me. In a calm authoritative tone she told me that I must keep the people talking until the end of the survey; the difficulty perhaps being that my voice faltered when I asked uncomfortable questions, I should ask them just as I asked all the others.

Trying to follow her advice I continued but it just got worse because now I was worried about not just the question but how I was sounding. I was stuttering even before I got to personal hygiene and people were hanging up insulting me. The manageress didn’t come back on and I took that as a bad sign. When the end of the day had come I was left staring at a screen not showing one completed interview.

I heard a pair of snickers and I looked up startled because I had thought myself alone. Two men, younger than myself and looking much more fit were looking at me with frat boy nonchalance. “Don’t worry,” said the more Ivy League looking one, “Everybody’s first day is like that. There’s a party downstairs would you like to come?”

I thankfully nodded yes and followed them, forgetting to take off my headphones until they pointed it out to me. I preceded them down some rickety stairs into a dank basement. Through a dusty murk I saw the pale figure of a woman naked except for a black leather bra, panties and boots.

“Bring him here,” said the voice of the manageress.

The two frat boys grabbed my arms and putting painful joint locks on me dragged me across the room until I found myself at the feet of my boss of one day. She nailed my head to the ground with a spiked heel “Naughty boy didn’t want to talk dirty on the telephone today, huh? Think you’re too nice? Too clean? I’ll show you,” and stepping over me while undoing a zipper in her panties she preceded to urinate on my face.

When she was finished she stalked out without a word and the two frat boys helped me up and then with a relatively sympathetic glance left me alone in my stupor. The smell of urine assured me a seat alone on the streetcar ride home and I would have bought a bottle of wine to calm my nerves but the liquor storeowner waved me away thinking that I was a street derelict.

I don’t know why I went back to work the next day other than a desperate need for money. My boss passed with a smile as if nothing had happened. I dreaded being reprimanded anew but surprisingly things passed quite well. I felt just as calm if not calmer asking people the more intimate questions.

The study was soon completed and we passed to another. It was for the behalf of a large real estate firm and the object seemed to be measuring people’s fear of being a victim of violent crime. “Have you ever been assaulted, robbed or do you know someone who has? Do you feel safe walking alone at night? Have you thought about moving out of the city because you’re afraid?” Most of the interviewees answered that they thought the threat was exaggerated.

At the end of the day the two frat boys approached me again. Some exercise equipment had been set up in the basement and they wanted to know if I’d like to go downstairs and work out with them. A day of reciting the same litany had put me into such a trance like state that I allowed my self to be lead off like livestock to the slaughter. Where before the manageress had been waiting a heavy boxing bag was hanging. I caught myself almost feeling disappointed. The less Ivy League looking one handed me a pair of bag gloves and the more Ivy League looking one stepped behind the bag to brace his body against it. “Let’s see your left jab.” I threw something that I thought was what a left jab should look like. “Too much arm get some shoulder into it.” I threw the punch again and this time the one standing behind briskly pushed my shoulder at the same time. The resulting blow staggered the one holding the bag. “That’s a boy keep it up.” I continued hitting while more Ivy league egged me on and less Ivy League propelled my shoulders into the punch and we progressed to the right cross and eventually the left hook. Esteeming that that would be enough, they invited to drive me home.

They drove around for awhile and I didn’t really feel like insisting upon the direction they should take. I was beside more Ivy and less Ivy in the back spoke up, “studies going bad sometimes people just don’t want to think like how they oughta should. You know they all live in this neighborhood?”


“The people that we interviewed today.”

“Looks like a nice area” I answered and it did.

“There’s one now, go make some trouble with him.”

Stunned I stuttered, “How?”

“Ask him for a cigarette and if he doesn’t have one for you get aggressive.”

Not understanding why I let myself be pushed out of the car and onto the pavement the momentum sending me off on a course towards the man.

“Gotta a cigarette?” wondering what I’d do if he answered no politely.

“I don’t smoke homosexual cigarettes so I’ve got nothing for you fag,” came his obliging answer.

When I put my fists up he walked directly into a left jab. He fell back and then rushed forward to be met by a combination that knocked him to his knees. After recovering his senses he stood up and staggered towards me to be knocked on his back for good by a right cross.

The next day we interviewed people living in the same neighborhood that we had visited the night before and they responded in a pronouncedly more cringing manner. Many said they planning to move out of town soon and that they had a friend who had been attacked or they had heard about someone being beaten or felt that the area they were living in was becoming less safe etc.. We’d completed the corrected study by the end of the day and the two Ivys approached me, with more respect now like I was a fellow jock maybe not a jock as jock Ivy jock as them but a jock all the same, offering to drive me home. On the way they asked if I’d like to go to a bar with them and pick up some babes. When I said had some other more important business they gave me a glance that questioned my masculinity but then I had given that man a serious beating the night before and I hadn’t come on to them so maybe I was just planning to get some women on my own in bars better suited for non-Ivy pseudo jocks like myself.

When they left me off I started towards the liquor store with a cursory wave goodbye that they could go ahead and interpret as fruity or not if they wanted could keep them from inviting me places. The liquor owner that had refused to serve me had been replaced by a smiling cousin of a happier tribe from the same country. He recommended a bottle of wine from the shelf and some exotic looking dried sausage.

Back at my cramped apartment I looked out of my kitchen window while carving the sausage into slices and sipping the wine straight from the bottle. The streets of the city spread out like a sinister web and I started to have a feeling of pity for all the poor insects caught in the web but then I remembered that I was one of the spiders weaving that web and arachnids know no mercy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sorry it's been over a week since the last post. Strange things have been happening and I haven't been able to get to a computer with Internet. But I'm very excited about the next few weeks. We've got some great poetry and short stories coming up. Bill Blackolive, James Nowland and Christopher Robin to name a few, plus other non-ULA writers.

It's about time to wind down our FILF coverage. This week's report comes from Edna Million. Edna's one of the best young writers around and it's a pleasure to have her on here. Check out some more of her writing at her website,

Edna Million and FILF

I first found out about the Underground Literary Alliance because of my stint on the Perpetual Motion Roadshow in September of 2003. Now, the Perpetual Motion Roadshow is in no way affiliated with the ULA, but there are many ULA writers who have toured with the Roadshow. One of my tourmates was Fred Wright (aka Wred Fright), and he was already part of the ULA way back then. I guess he told them about me, and must have had nice things to say, because soon after I got back from the tour, I received a letter from Karl Wenclas, asking if I'd like to join the ranks of the ULA. He warned me of things - that the ULA makes some enemies because they are very upfront about their opinions of the mainstream literary world. I joined up, anyway. Maybe it comes from my punk rock background, but I've always thought that if a group like that is pissing people off, they must be doing SOMETHING right.

Like I said, going on the Perpetual Motion Roadshow got me connected to the ULA. Part of the reason I was attracted to the Roadshow in the first place was the description of it as "a traveling carnival of words." That's why, when Jim Munro asked us to come up with our own taglines for the tour, I pegged myself as "Jessica Disobedience, the bizarre and freakish zinester from Chicago." There was a carnival element to the Roadshow, and so it only makes sense that there would be a bit of that in the ULA, as well; that all three things would turn out to be connected, and everything would come full circle.

When Fred asked me to participate in the F Independent Literary Festival in Cleveland, I immediately made sure my schedule was clear for the weekend of July 7. It had been a long, long time since I'd done a reading, and I felt the need to get my words back out into the world, again. I wrote a lot in 2005, but didn't do much of anything with the writing, just let it sit and collect dust on my desk, or take up space on my computer's hard drive. The time had come to throw my words out amongst people again, to stop babying them, to let them fend for themselves. I was also looking forward to seeing Fred, again - he became almost like a big brother to me, when we were on tour with the Roadshow, and I hadn't seen him since then - and I was looking forward to meeting people I'd been communicating with over the past few years, such as Pat King.

I couldn't make it to Cleveland for the first day of the festival, on Thursday the sixth. Cleveland is a long drive straight from Milwaukee, so Sam (who joined me as my travel companion and official photographer) and I crashed in Chicago on Thursday night, and after a properly greasy diner breakfast on Friday morning, headed off toward Cleveland. (Slowing down along the way, of course, to give the finger to the Museum of Science and Industry, which was closed to the public that day because Dubya decided he wanted to spend his birthday there. "It makes sense," I said, "he needs to learn about things like how the human body works and how airplanes are operated.")

We arrived at bela dubby, the cafe where the Friday night event was being held, about 45 minutes after it started. I thought we were going to arrive fifteen minutes EARLY, but when we crossed the border into Ohio, I remembered that I had to flip my clock ahead one hour. Whoops. It turned out okay, although I missed Pat's reading that night, which I was bummed about. When we got there, Eric "Jellyboy" Broomfield was halfway through his reading. I didn't know who he was prior to that night, had never heard of him (ssshhh, don't tell him that!), but was immediately intrigued. His story, which I didn't catch all of, had something to do with getting kicked out of a show for being a clown. And there was a banner behind him, with a painting of himself on it, one half of his face with a leering clownface painted on, holding a cane; the other half, with no make-up, but grinning and holding a drill. Yes, definitely intriguing.

Crazy Carl Robinson was next; I'd met him years before, he was the opening act for our Roadshow stop in Cleveland, and I was curious as to what he'd pull out of his sleeve. He did a one-card tarot reading for everyone in the audience. Each person drew a card, and then he interpreted them. I drew the Queen of Pentacles, which in his interpretation means that I am a strong woman, but a touch melancholy. I think that's fairly apt.

During the intermission, Sam and I went outside to smoke. We met Fred's wife, Claudine, and she hugged us and told us how glad she was we were going to be staying at her house. The three of us smoked cigarettes and talked about tattoos and the New York Dolls, and then Frank Walsh came galloping outside and set off firecrackers in the middle of the road. I was a bit jittery - out-of-it from driving all day, nervous about my performance, and also feeling odd because everyone else there had been drinking beer all evening, and I was still completely sober. But as I watched Frank jumping up and down, laughing madly, as smoke and sparks poured down the streets of Lakewood, past the bowling alley with the flickering fuchsia sign, as smoke curled up toward the steelblue sky; and as I watched everyone who was still inside talking and drinking coffee and beer; and saw Pat lean up against the brick wall of the building and light his cigarette with a match, I knew it was going to be a good weekend.

Jack McGuane was next, the poet laureate of Lakewood, Ohio. He's not a ULA member, but he is a wonderful poet - his poems are about simple moments of everyday life, with a touch of oldman romantic cynicism. His speaking voice is gruff and commanding. He was a welcome addition to the troupe.

Then Frank read his politically conscious soundpoems, including one about the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, and I think maybe I'm not intellectual enough to get the full meaning of his work, but I did enjoy listening to them. The way that, even when the words didn't make sense to me, the sounds still did.

And then it was my turn, and I was nervous, but I channeled that energy into the stories, and I think it worked. The first story I read was a story about kids smoking angeldust-and-marijuana joints dipped in embalming fluid and returning from their flights with the memories of dead people. I heard gasps during the story, and one guy clasped his hand to his chest and said "Oh, Jesus." Later, a woman named April told me that when Sam took a picture of me during the performance, she thought the camera flash was lightning, that I had somehow brought lightning into the room. I believe that is one of the best compliments I've ever gotten - to hear that I cast a sort of spell over the audience. My second story was a short one, not quite as intense as the first, but a favorite of mine - a tale of the end of the heyday of the American Traveling Circus, and the carnival barkers being being forced to live in a secluded retirement community. That cast a spell, too, at least on Jellyboy. After the evening's performances were over, he bowed to me and told me my stories were perfect, and then he said: "We're not dead, you know." I wasn't sure what he meant, but then he proceeded to swallow a sword and then snap a mousetrap on his tongue, and I figured it out. That was the moment things came full circle, the whole connection between the circus and the ULA and the Perpetual Motion Roadshow. Have I ever told you that I don't believe in coincidence?

Fred was the finale of Friday night's events. He read from his rock'n'roll novel, "The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus," which I became quite familiar with when we toured together - and it is still, to this day, one of the funniest stories I have ever read. The kind of thing that you should not read on public transportation, because you will laugh out loud, and everyone will turn to stare at you.

It was discovered that Sam and I weren't the only ones staying at Fred and Claudine's place. Frank and Pat and Jelly had stayed at another house the night before, but got kicked out because I guess a concerned parent in the neighborhood didn't like Jelly waving his sword around in front of the children. So they were to be staying at Fred's for the rest of the weekend. Sam and I went to get a quick bite to eat, while everyone else went to buy beer and wine, and then we all met back at the house for an afterparty of sorts. Time for me to end my sobriety. April even joined us; the more the merrier.

It was a wonderful night. It's not often I get to sit around a big table with a bunch of writers and artists, everyone drinking wine or beer, talking about Life, Art, Music. And then Jelly accosted me in the kitchen and we talked about Circus, and he said to me: "Would you like to learn the human blockhead trick?"

"Why, of course," I replied.

"First, I have to teach you the Carny Code."

He told me the Code, which I can not repeat here under penalty of death (!), and besides a true showman doesn't reveal her secrets to just anyone, but I nearly wept tears of joy as he told me the Code, and then as he taught me how to stick a nail into my nose, because by teaching me these things, he was saying that I was worthy of the knowledge. And with that knowledge, I transformed from simply a carnival/circus aficionado, to a real live Carny. (The trick was a success, by the way - soon, everyone was snapping photographs of the two of us with nails up our noses.)
And then there was more drinking and talking, and those off us who do those sorts of things stepped out to the backyard to share cigarettes and other smokeable treats. April told me I was like "The Debbie Harry of poetry" (which was a nice thing to hear, but I'd like to think of myself as more akin to, say, Patti Smith, or at least Joan Jett!); and then she told me I was brave to work with the guys from the ULA. I wasn't quite sure what that meant. "You mean, cos the ULA has lots of enemies?" I asked.

"No," she said, "these guys are just so. . .strange."

I laughed, and responded: "Most of my favorite people are strange. I'm pretty strange, myself."

Saturday morning, we all woke up and sat around the dining room table once again, listening to The Replacements while eating waffles and drinking coffee. I love waking up in houses full of people.

Sam and I had to part ways from the rest of the crew for a few hours. We had to drive into Cleveland so I could make photocopies, and we wanted to make a stop at a comic store. Our tattoo artist here in Milwaukee requested we bring him a present from Cleveland, something "Howard the Duck" related. (You know - "Cleve-land. That WOULD be the name of this planet.") When we returned, there was a cookout going on. Along with those of us who had stayed at Claudine and Fred's the night before, Crazy Carl was there, and Adam Hardin, and Elias from "Bad Touch" zine, and members of a couple of the bands that were going to be playing that night - Kill the Hippies and The Dad of Rock. And there was plenty of beer and salad and hot dogs or veggie burgers for everyone.

About an hour before we were supposed to be at Pat's In the Flats, there was a mad scramble for the bathroom. Jelly took up a lot of time in there, putting his clownface on. Seeing that made me miss clowning; I told him how I have clown training, did some clowning when I was a preteen/young teenager, how I've even performed at the Clown Museum in Delavan, Wisconsin. (That's the great thing about Wisconsin - you can say whatever you want about how much it sucks, but there certainly is a lot of circus history here.) I told him that I'd like to get back into clowning, but I'd have to come up with a new clown persona, because the one I had when I was younger was named Pumpkin, and was much too sweet for the kind of thing I'm going for, now. "Well, you should come up with a new one," he said. "Yes," I said, "I think I will."

When we got to Pat's, I was already feeling good. The nervousness I'd had the night before was all gone. I was psyched to perform, and, well, I'd taken a Xanax before we left Fred's house. The edges of everything blurred a little. Don't get me wrong, I was still fully functional at this point, just giddy, and the quality of light looked softer than normal.

Pat's In the Flats is a great place, a dive bar/rock club in the industrial part of Cleveland. It's been around in some form or other since the 1930s. Back then, men who worked in the factories would go there to get their lunch. And, since its conversion to a rock club (sometime in the '70s, I believe, but don't quote me on this), a lot of kickass bands have played there. Sam got us whiskey&Cokes, and I scuttled into the dingy bathroom to do a costume change from the jeans & t-shirt I'd been wearing all day to a skirt and strapless top. I also put on bright red lipstick, and when I was putting on mascara, I got the impulse to darken my eyebrows. I've had this thing, lately, with darkening my eyebrows for the purposes of photographs and performances. When I make facial expressions, my eyebrows are a large part of that, so I think that if my eyebrows are exaggerated, it shows up better. When I emerged from the bathroom, Frank said: "You like great! You're like a. . .cheerleader of the apocalypse!" Now, that is a description of myself I would use for publicity.
While others were busy setting up the sound system, I sat and assembled copies of my zines. I had a moment of realizing how god damn lucky I am. Because of the zines I've done over the years - zines which I've lost money on, and which many people have considered a fool's errand from the beginning - because of my zines, I have met so many amazing people. (Not to mention all the action they've gotten me. Ha!)

Show time drew closer, and I grew giddier, the adrenaline and Xanax now mixed with whiskey.

"Man," I said, "I feel lame. I don't have any props. Just my stories."

"I don't have any props, either," Pat said.

"Let's think of it this way," I said, "our stories are good enough that they can stand on their own. We don't NEED props."

The show was terrific. Fred did an excellent job of pairing up bands with writers; it was one of those magical nights were everything just clicks, and you feel like you're creating something much, much bigger than yourself. Particular standouts for me? Crazy Carl with Kill the Hippies - they rocked out punked-up versions of old spirituals. And Jellyboy the Clown with The Dad of Rock. Jelly chased Frank (in disguise as the Evil Professor something-or-other) around the stage, Frank set something on fire, there was sword-swallowing, and I even got to be Jelly's lovely assistant for the mousetrap trick.

My set went so well. The stories and poems I shared that night were about love - my romantic, twisted, tragic take on love. Humphry Clinker played music as I spun my words into the smoky bar air. I felt like a Beat poet, the way the music flowed with the words and then, before I knew it, my words went with the rhythm of the music. (S. told me, later, that he talked with Pat - not Pat King, but Pat the owner of the club - and she said I was her favorite of the night.) Between my stories, Humphry Clinker played their songs, and they fucking rocked. They deserve big kisses for helping my tales come to life.
At one point during my set, I looked out at the crowd, and it all seemed so right - Derek DePrator, rocknroll guitarist, in drag. Punks and clowns and poets. The best minds of my generation, and other generations, indeed - all with a touch of madness, but not destroyed by it. "Angelheaded hipsters," and those "expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull," and those who "danced on broken wineglasses barefoot." Allen Ginsberg woulda been proud.

Pat King's set with Tripolar Faction came after mine; and that went wonderfully, too. I love Pat's stories - dark, and intelligent without being at all pretentious.
And I kept drinking, chugging whiskey; by the time we were all leaving, I was thoroughly fucked up. On the car ride to Fred's, with the moonlight streaming blue and cold through the windows and making all of us shine, someone requested that I sing a Tom Waits song. I belted out "Cold Water," followed by other Tom songs, and then I recited a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem. Well, I did warn them - once you get me started, I don't stop.

Back at the house, the drinks continued to flow. There's a lot I don't remember of that night. From what I do remember, it seems I was still in performance mode - I scared the shit out of Jelly by shoving a kitchen knife down my throat. I did yoga in the driveway; and Jelly and I danced on broken wineglasses barefoot. There are other things I remember, but I'd rather not get into them, here. (Ahem.) I drank too much wine, and the last thing I remember is puking in the front yard with Jelly holding my hair back; then he and Pat carrying me into the house. See, these are the kind of folks that are in the ULA - not only are they great writers, they're good people. They open their homes to strangers, and they'll take care of you if you get sick from drinking too much.

When I woke up the next morning, my neck and face were covered in lipstick and clown make-up. There were bits of gravel embedded in my shoulder, and a pack of cigarettes in my underwear.

After a couple more hours of hanging out and coffee-drinking, everyone had to be on their way. There were hugs, and promises to keep in touch. I hate saying goodbye. It seems, sometimes, that I've spent most of my life making new friends while on the road, and then having to say goodbye to them.

But since my return home, I have received an invite from the Philadelphia faction. I'm going out there in August, to be part of Carnivolution, and to do a reading at a gallery.

Final conclusion? Cleveland does, in fact, rock. And so does the ULA.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Crazy Carl Robinson gets FILFY

dateline cleveland filthfest: girls, I’m feeling fairly middle-aged and repentant these days, so forgive me if my story lacks the prerequisite assblood…..i haven’t written anything in 6 weeks (the longest period of time I’ve gone without writing anything sine 1997) and my summer has been spent hiding in the basement as mama whirls in concentric circles singing “lift jesus higher” while reminding me that I’d be “on the street sucking my thumb if it wasn’t for her”----well, I finally got a job, mama…..i’m not all that happy (dead in the head, ya know), but I think there is room for grace……and if the lil worm in my brain were to argue that wred fright’s filthfest were my 3 favorite days of 2006, I don’t think I’d disagree…..i liked everyone in the room (which is rare for me)…..i liked the fact that we were building something positive on our own and that no supervillains were needed…..i wasn’t born a punkrocker or a renegade poet, but the crowd at pat’s-in-the-flats on saturday night instinctively knew that I was both……anyway, onto the shows…..first of all, I’d like to give a shot out to barry-the-blade (who is currently recuperating in the virginia state psychiatric hospital) for the 200 mg adderol that kept me on such an even keel all weekend----blade, let me just say that the drive-by-truckers know a good man when they see one……secondly, I’d like to thank jesse (the drummer from kill-the-hippies) for the acid----it didn’t make me feel like 1996, but at my age, feeling 1986 works too……..thursday night’s show at mac’s backs was all about the nuns in the crowd----and to make matters worse, the sisters were wred fright’s coworkers and I planned to hold up/discuss my stolen panty collection onstage…..and you might not have seen me, but, no doubt, I was in the back with my hands together praying to the babyjesus that the nuns would leave…..i obviously would have done my act nuns or no nuns, but the weekend kinda opened up for me when the sisters decided to leave after alabama pat’s tales of lesbian debauchery… for the panties, it’s no problem talking to an audience full of dudes about the panties you’ve stolen, but having to look a strange chick in the eye and tell the story of how you traded a 16-year-old, boarding school girl jaggermeister for her panties (when you’re the teacher) can be a bit embarrassing……stonecold honestly is good for the soul though and I think I came across as (almost) sexy to the girls in the room…..other memories of the night: I liked the look in ken picklestein’s eyes when he first saw frank, alabama pat and jellyboy (who was swinging a sword) roll up into his yard at 1 am-----like I’m rather fond of geminis to begin with, but I was particularly pleased to see old man picklestein contemplating the night which lay ahead as dreams of naked, street sword-swallowing danced through his head……friday afternoon: I spent most of friday afternoon taking shits (ie: don’t do the crime if you cant do the time)…..i’d guesstimate that I took 14 shits in 6 hours and then it was back to oldschool friends like whippets, weed and immodium a.d…….friday night might have been my favorite night of the 3---not for the rowdiness, but for the karma… I read tarot cards for the house and 30 cards out of 30 were positive (like I know buttpirate luke got “death,” but what other card would a zombie filmmaker want?)…..frank walsh got “the fool” and the house nodded its’ kosmic approval in unison…..alabama pat got “the sun” (a naked baby riding a unicorn with the sun in the background) and what is alabama pat if not a naked-baby-riding-a-unicorn with the sun at his back?……I thought the night worked perfectly…..i may have even gotten laid if not for the fact that I had to go throw up in the hotel bathtub for an hour or two (fuck it, I think my readers would be disappointed now if I actually did get laid)….and the 2nd best feeling for a fat man is having your friends think that you did…..saturday afternoon was much like friday afternoon just with more shits per capita (20? 22?… who fucking knows?)……wred fright’s cookout appeared to be rocking, but by the time we cracked a box of whippets in the garage, it was time for the show……jesse’s gift trip began to kick in around that time, so I asked to go on near the beginning lest I sweat my brain away…..and I know I’ve done many things onstage before, but last saturday night with kill-the-hippies was the first time that I had ever actually sang in front of a group of people…..everyone said my versions of “three biggest lies’ and “coalminer’s daughter” went well, but to tell ya the truth, I just wanted to get it over with… tell ya more truth, the part of the trip I was struggling with the most had to do with my humanity… how do you pretend to care about someone’s band or book when you desperately want them to talk you down from (imagined) chest pains?… me pretending to give a shit about someone’s job or wife more important than the stabbing pain in my rectum?---I don’t know, baby bitches, but I was certainly struggling with that concept on saturday night… I know claudine peed her pants and nate was rolling around on the grass beside the refinery, but the lil worm in my head was kinda worried about me making it through the night without dying…..and I knew enough to drink lots of water and take another blood pressure pill, but it’s always scary in real time……anyway, I sucked it up and I’m glad I did---and if the pain did cloud my brain, I’m sure the pictures from that night wont disappoint…..i think I could have gotten laid for the 2nd night in a row, but the boss did a header off wred fright’s step and twisted her ankle (roughly 30 minutes before jessica disobedience supposedly fell out of her top while puking purple on the exact same devilspot)……um…..ugly-old-man-saturday-night or no, I think the cleveland filthfest worked the way it was supposed to----no pollyanna here, but I had a fine time…..there were moments when I felt like a real writer….there were moments when I looked around a crowded room and knew everyone’s name…..there were moments when I felt as if my peers were genuinely interested in what I had to say… souls were saved (except for maybe that 17-year-old kid in bela dubby), but it was a nice feeling nonetheless…..

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hey all. Welcome to this week's Underground Literary Adventure. As some of you might know, Wred Fright hosted ULA and Underground writers in Cleveland last week for the three-day F! Independent (FILF). Over the next few weeks, various participants in the festival will share their experiences on this site. The first report comes from Jelly the Clown (Eric Broomfield). After that, we have a short story from one of my favorite underground writers, Karl Koweski. Enjoy.

Eric "Jelly Boy" Broomfield and the Attack of FILF

The ULA is a family.
Road Tripping for literature.
Standing up for sanity and the imagination.

The Cleveland three-day festival was heard loud and clear in a bookstore basement, a coffee house that served beer and in Pat's bar at the Flats industrial wasteland blooming underground. The writers and bands came together and were gratiously hosted by Wred Fright and Mrs. Fright. Plenty of food and friendliness to go around the Underground for readers and people with ears. The circus came to town in the form of words that reached out and grabbed at real magic.

Frank Walsh, Pat King and I came up from Philthadelphia to see the FILF of Cleveland. Ken from the Dad Of Rock put us up the first night. After a glimpse into his consiousness we knew things would be better than expected. Wred Fright, being the conduit ended up hosting headquarters for the next few days. Edna Million Jessica Disobedience captured my imagination with dreams of the old times before television and circuit board highways. We all traded zines, pipes, eyeballs and knowledge.

Proud to say that Ms. Edna Million became a human blockhead nail up the nose and learned the legacy of the Carnie Code to carry around the world. Glass walking acordian playing burlesque tatooed zinester trickster of the ULA, is now ready to weave a circus tent with her words.

I was proud to perform with the Dad Of Rock. It was a breakthrough for the Jelly Boy who took his skulled sword and shoved it down his throat. No, he's not a cock sucker. He's just a circus goat. We put the zygote in the boat and pushed it down the river.

This Friday, July 14th, the Hydrogen Jukebox presents Carnivalution, another ULA-affiliated event. 3819 Hamilton Street in West Philly. 8pm for a five dollar donation. With very special guest The Enigma, the blue-horned puzzle-piece human marvel sword swallower with a chainsaw. Frank Walsh and Pat King will read and the Clowncentric sideshow will give birth to a naked, fully-grown clown woman named Bitterness, through the man-sized dialated vagina dentada of Snarleena Parana. Not a show to be missed if you can help it.

Power to the ULA
Jelly Boy.

By Karl Koweski

At work, Larry looked paler than usual; a fact I attributed to a heavy intake of alcohol rather than night shift employment and a healthy aversion to the sun.

When I asked him for a pull from whatever bottle he had hidden away he treated me to an undeserved sneer.

“Ain’t been drinking. I just ain’t been sleeping, neither.”

I wasn’t buying it. Walking exhaustion came with the night shift program. You just washed down a handful of yellow jackets with three cans of Red Bull and you’re good to go. I’d been around booze since conception. He had a bottle stashed somewhere and from a whiff of his pastrami-inflected breath, I surmised he was rocking the vodka.

“Come on, man. All I’m asking for is a couple long deep swallows. It ain’t right, you getting greedy on me all of the sudden.”

“First of all, I have every right to be greedy after you and Harley drank sixty dollars worth of my liquor without so much as a ‘fuck you, see you later’.”

“Hey, now, I’m the one who brought the chocolate flavored cigars.”

“And, secondly, I ain’t even got any liquor tonight. The fucking fumes from the rubbing alcohol would probably knock me out, right now, which ain’t an option cause we still got another six hours of pretending to work ahead of us.”

I guess I sulked. I might have even pouted. I knew for bedrock fact I wasn’t getting drunk.

“I don’t see you bringing any booze,” he added.

“I’ve got my money tired up in the football pools. You know this.”

“Anyway, it don’t matter. Except for napping my car at work, I ain’t slept a rightful wink in five days.”

I raised an eyebrow. Would I have to start pestering him for crystal meth? Cause an addiction is not an addiction if you don’t have to pay for it.

Apparently I left my poker face at the house. “And I’m not on the dope,” he said. “I can’t sleep cause my goddam trailer’s haunted.”

My eyebrow, all ready raised to full mast, managed to climb an inch higher on the flagpole of my forehead and wavered there. A flag of utter disbelief. I don’t think my eyebrow had ever reached such heights before. And I’ve heard some bullshit in my time.

“I don’t give a fuck you believe me or not. I’m the one gots to live with it.”

“No, Larry, I... uh... believe you. I’m just thinking I should investigate. You know, on a professional level and shit.”

Harley finally answered his cell phone on the eighth ring, the fourth time I called.

“It’s three o’clock in the morning,” he hissed. “What the fuck you want?”

“I’m at work,” I said by way of explanation. “So it’s like three o’clock in the afternoon for me.”

“You’ve got five seconds to say what you gotta say. And it better be good. And even if it is good, I’m still gonna slap your mouth come tomorrow.”

“Ok. Take a wild guess what Larry just told me.”

“That he likes hog-tying midgets and blow-torching their feet?”

“No. What? No. Even better, I think. He says his trailer’s haunted.”

Obviously, Harley was blown away by this nugget of information. It took him a full minute to respond. “How the fuck can this not wait til morning?”

“Look, man, this is a golden opportunity to get back at Larry for letting us drink all his liquor and trash his trailer. He’s pretty spooked about this haunting. I figure I’ll go over there and you can hang around outside. When the time’s right you can make some ghostly noises and shit like the phantom of the okra. Rattling chains and what not.”

“Fuck that. I still got buckshot lodged in my legs from the time you talked me into getting on old man Alldredge’s roof with a slide whistle and high beam flashlight, pretending to be a UFO.”

“Oh yeah. Ha ha. Good point,” I conceded, noting that he still held me at least partly responsible for the Cullman County Alien Visitation Fiasco. “We’ll just go over there and get fucked up again like we did before. You can bring a bottle of Bacardi, maybe. Worse that can happen is that we make contact with the other side... of consciousness.”

“Worse that can happen is I get alcohol poisoning again. My weight training routine’s still fucked. And somebody puked on my cell phone; fucked it all up.”

“Well, bring some Hennessey, then. We’d’ve been all right if we’d just stuck to cognac.”

“I ain’t got money for liquor.”

“You got money for steroids. It’s the same thing; in fact liquor enlarges and enhances your liver just like a steroid.”

“What are you bringing? Cigars?”

“My expertise for one thing. Anyway, I told you. If Alabama beats the spread I’ll be good. And if I get a 5 and a 2 lined up during the end of any quarters I’ll be real good. Hell, I’ll be bringing fifths of Wild Irish Rose for everyone. In the meantime, I’m gonna hafta ask you to bite the bullet and bring me some goddam booze.”

“All right, fucker, I’m in. But I’m still gonna slap your mouth.”

“Friday night, then. And wear some normal fucking clothes, all right? It’s just gonna be us guys and ghosts and none of us are interested in seeing your musculature. So leave your Under Armor at the house, deal?”

“I see I’m gonna hafta slap your mouth two times.”

Undaunted, I called Nick’s house next. He answered with the quickness of the terminally needy. “What up, Buttercup?”

“S’up, bitch.”

“Shit, chillin. Me and Dan’s smoking a bowl, listening to some tunes. What are you doing?”

“I’m working... I’m always working.”

“That’s tragic, man. Like a fat woman with small tits. Tragic.”

“Listen, Nick, how would you like to see a ghost? ... Hello? Nick?”

He refused to answer his phone the next twenty two times I called. I had to stop by his mom’s house after work.

“We got disconnected,” I offered weakly when he opened the back door.

“I hung up on your ass. What the hell’s wrong with you? You know about my incident.”

In the bedroom Dan laid unconscious in the corner with neither pillow nor blanket for comfort. The magenta lava lamp reflected against the bald spot insatiably devouring Dan’s dome.

Nick, drunk and stoned to the point of terminal hippiosis, did not look pleased to see me.

I quickly explained the situation, adding “look, man, there ain’t no ghosts, ok? Larry’s like this cause it’s a biological fact he can’t go two straight hours without jerking off. Those dark circles under his eyes – it’s the result of chronic masturbation.”

Nick glanced at the bruised skin beneath my eyes. Wisely, he held his tongue. “If there ain’t no ghosts then I don’t see why I need to go over there. I can get fucked up just as easily here.”

“Well, because Larry thinks there’s a ghost, see. And we have to prove him wrong. And since you’ve seen that movie White Noise and given what happened at the cemetery, you’re the closest thing we have to an expert. You know what’s needed to investigate this shit. Like barometers and magnetic compass readers and those green night vision cameras like the kind Paris Hilton films her fucking with.”

“Yeah, but I don’t actually own any of that shit.”

“But you always have good dope. And wouldn’t you like to get chemically and herbally deranged without that bald-headed albatross hanging around your neck?”

“Dan can’t go?”

“Hell, no. I hate that sumbitch. Always talking trash and trying to mooch off everyone. I can’t stand him.”

“All right, I’m in. Just as long as there really ain’t no ghosts there. I don’t think I could take another encounter.”

“Heh heh. Nothing to worry about, Nick.” Silly bastard.

Nick picked me up the next evening. Though I only lived a mile or two down the road, I insisted he drive. For one thing, I didn’t have much gas in the Dodge Neon and I wasn’t about to spend $2.50 for a gallon of anything, except maybe real cheap whiskey. As we approached Larry’s trailer I was reminded how forbidding the trailer appeared at night, surrounding by twisted scoliosis trees, creating a sort of cavern from which no road or neighbor could be discerned.

“I can see why Larry might think his place is haunted,” Nick muttered.

Had I not been seated beside him, he’d never have made it any further.

“If it’s haunted, then it’s by the ghosts of binge drinkers past,” I offered weakly.

It came out sounding silly, but I thought something needed to be said to cut the tension. Nick and I started off the evening at odds. It began with Nick having the nerve to approach me empty-handed, not so much as a lone joint nestled in his pack of generics. Our war of wills continued with a trip to the liquor store, a disneyland of malt beverages from which he exited bearing a twelve pack of Coors Lite.

“What the hell’s this,” I sputtered. “I use to drink Coors out of my sippy cup when I was three years old, watching Tom and Jerry. There’s not even enough bullets there to protect us from the indians of sobriety, cowboy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s plenty here for me.”

“So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?”

He didn’t answer. But I knew that’s how he wanted it to be.

Harley’s truck was parked next to Larry’s beat-up Honda. Larry often brought Honda magazines to work, catalogues of high performance components that would help him realize his Fast and Furious dreams one cost prohibitive piece at a time, but so long as I’ve known him I’ve never seen Larry add anything more than a CD holder to the Honda’s sun visor. The kitchen and front room lights blazed. Music blared loud enough to frighten even the most hardened phantom. Nick visibly relaxed. The atmosphere was more Animal House than Amityville.

“I hope Harley’s got his shirt on,” I said. I didn’t want to have to compete with his muscles for conversational supremacy.

We let ourselves in finding Larry and Harley sitting on the couch with a decently heterosexual space between the two of them. They passed a bottle of malibu rum as a pirate movie played mutely on the television.

There were no spinning plates, no apparitions shimmying on the kitchen table, or any other paranormal activity I associated with haunted trailers. Nonetheless, I was scared out of my wits.

“Why the fuck are you guys in your underwear? And why is it so damn hot in here?”

The front room was like a sauna, you could practically see the moisture condensing on the walls. My mind reeled with the heat. Nick acted as though finding two guys sitting around the trailer in their briefs was the most natural act in the world. He set down the beer on the crooked coffee table next to an ouija board fanned open like a porno mag. He pulled off a can from the tab ring and cracked it open, drinking it down like Gatorade after a grueling basketball game.

“The central air unit’s broke down,” Larry said. “Wooten’s suppose to come out here and look at it tomorrow or the day after.”

Harley was a bit more antagonistic. “What’s wrong with sitting around in your skivvies? You not sit around the house in your underwear?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Then what’s the difference sitting around in your skivvies among friends? It’s fucking hot in here and it’s not like we’re beating bongos naked here.”

“I know. I know. It’s cool. It’s not like you guys are watching Brokeback Mountain or anything.”

Nick really didn’t have a problem. He immediately stripped down to his Snoopy drawers. Harley passed him a bottle and he took a baby nip, quickly passing it back. I stood there, fully clothed, sweating and uncomfortable and painfully sober.

I placed a handful of chocolate flavored cigars next to the Coors. Still, no bottle was forthcoming.

“You know, when Jesus turned the water into wine, he didn’t ask anybody else what they could contribute. You should be more like Jesus.”

“Jesus probably didn’t judge his friends so harshly for sitting around in their skivvies, either,” Harley said.

“All right, goddammit.” If that’s what it took to get some booze around here. I took off my shirt and mopped my face with it. I unbuckled my belt, kicked off my shoes and stepped out of my pants. Fortunately, I wore an old pair of Hanes boxers. Fifty percent of the time I went without underwear depending on whether or not the wife felt like washing clothes. Really, I approached every aspect in life arbitrarily. Seat belts, for instance. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. Same with underwear. It all depended on what I thought my chances of a collision was during any given day.

The moment I stripped down and sat at the coffee table, Harley passed the rum and I took a long swallow.

“There won’t be no mixing liquor tonight,” Harley said. “That’s what fucked me up so bad last time. Mixing liquor.”

Bullshit. What fucked him up so bad last time was his inability to hold his liquor like a man.

“I can’t handle liquor,” Nick said. “It gets me violent. I gotta stick with the beer.”

Violent? Did he go home after a night of tequila shots and beat the shit out of his stuffed unicorn?

All this good material and I had to hold my tongue because Harley was looking at me like he might revoke my liquor privileges if I stepped out of line.

As the liquor settled into our skins, Harley clicked off the music and the television. He shut off all the lights, dousing the bug zapper last. With only the mulberry-scented candle flickering, the trailer took on a sinister aspect. Then again, considering I was five years old the first time I watched The Exorcist, my favorite strip joint would make me uneasy if the lights were dimmed too far.

We crouched closer to the ouija board, scrunching as close as I could without actually touching thighs with the person next to me.

“Do you all know how to use the ouija board?” I asked. I couldn’t help but think my expertise in the paranormal was at least marginally undermined by the fact I was stripped down to my underwear.

“Oh yeah,” Nick said. “We’re all occultists from way back.”

“That’s what I thought. Basically we put our fingertips on that pointer thing and pass around the bottle with our free hands. Then we ask the ghost some invasive questions.”

“Shouldn’t we be doing this in the room Larry thinks is haunted?”

“Fuck that,” Larry and Nick said with eerie synchronicity.

“That’s not a good idea,” I warned. “When investigating a haunting, it’s always best to keep your distance from the actual site.”

“Why are you talking like that? All professional and shit?” Larry asked.

I dismissed the question out of hand. Our hands touching the pointer trembled. This I attributed to the anabolic steroids coursing through Harley’s bloodstream, my own nervous system twisted by too many psychedelic drugs in my youth, and raw unadulterated fear on Nick and Larry’s part.

“I am speaking to the spirit residing in this broken down house trailer,” I spoke to the spirit residing in the broken down house trailer. My voice wavered as though I were an under-aged punk hitting up the liquor store clerk for a sixer of Schlitz. “Can you tell us your name?”

The pointer clattered but remained stationary. The tin walls surfing waves of heat crowded in around us. The sweat stench cloyed my nostrils and mouth. A vague sense of suffocation lingered.

“Can you tell us what you want in this piece of shit trailer?”

I tried to keep my eyes focused on the board. The darkness around us swirled with what could only be a legion of phantoms waiting patiently to do whatever it is phantoms do.

Suddenly the pointer shifted violently, coming to a momentary rest on the C.

Seated directly across from me, Larry’s eyes bugged out of his narrow skull. The pointer shot over to the O, then back to the neutral center before lancing back to the O. I couldn’t sense any pressure being applied by our fingers yet the pointer moved like a dowsing rod to water. It tagged the R next and then the S. After a brief pause, the pointer went from the L to the I, then the T to the E.

“Oh hells no,” Nick sputtered. “Ain’t nobody getting my Silver Bullets. Dead or alive.”


The bedroom door rocked shut, reverberating through the entire trailer. The pointer jumped off the board. The rum, the precious rum, fell over. The contents gurgled onto the dirty carpet like blood from a corpse heart.

It emerged from the periphery of my vision. A white specter with arms out-stretched. At the angle I was seated only I could see it. A ghost. A goddam ghost with a taste for the hops of the variety provided by Coors Lite.

I screamed and broke for the back door. I ran all the way home. A two mile gauntlet of neighbors and acquaintances. The summer breeze chilled my sweaty flesh. And I ran as if the phantom of Larry’s broken down house trailer were giving chase even though common sense told me the ghost likely lingered behind, keeping company with the scared-to-death and mostly unclothed remains of Harley, Larry and Nick, drinking the Coors Lite.

It wasn’t until I returned to my own house trailer, standing in the kitchen, bent over with my hands on my knees, dry-heaving from fear and exertion, trying to ignore my wife demanding to know what happened to my clothes, that it occurred to me the spirit with its dodgy hairline and woeful lack of height and dignity resembled none other than Nick’s friend, Dan.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

We're back!

Hey all, this is Pat King, co-founder of Underground Literary Adventures, the blog you're reading right now. I'm back in the role of editor and very excited. Every Monday, I'll have some great stuff up from both regulars and writers that are new to this blog. This week, we're featuring a recent collection of poems by Frank Walsh, an Underground Literay Alliance member since 2003. We're allowing comments now, so you can tell us what you think.

(Tso- wang)


I have been visiting
with Cause and Effect
in the House Thought Built

it was memorable since
memories arise in plain sight
individually split surface tensions

the rhyme is barely noticeable
below the threshold but not so subtle:
too much thought would spoil the soup

in the same measure entirely on the surface
somewhere the pleasure around someone listens


seeing how, in the dark
the body remembers space
the mind its time
and the soul too late

I know the red but cleave to the blue”
Also how in the abstract goes I have
kept them at a distance whose idea
of right is to do wrong because they
can get away with doing wrong
on others backs and still others do
wrong knowing the right is abstract.
But being appropriate and fair will be
considered wrong or not right by all.



Your satisfaction
lasts for a bit
what is it you don’t fear
everything but giving in love
I’d rather the company of children
and animals and holding the door for her
otherwise deciding to be alone
between heaven and earth,
the possible reason for both.


the green lion
the chemist waking
among poppies
crimson as bee- balm.


I mute
I recoil from
the static flash
and consolidated,
of surfaces
I mage
working to get beyond
while the surfaces
sink below


I combine with the changing light
across the board I am falling away
from loses and gains as the back
road swerves into the high- beams
nothing I’ve passed remembers me,
nothing up ahead cares I am coming
from where I sit the sense is one of reflex.
My energy levels hover around their potentials
the needle in the sealed gauge is unmoving
and blunt. You may wonder why
so much of what I say off the top
of my head, heads out then circles back
around when no one else is looking, not even
me, and splits, again, in the opposite direction.


A young stud banks on hungrier fields
and the enfeebled only think of thought
while I fade beyond even recognition
without hope or fear but a taste of snow
floods my nerves from head to foot
the loss I am left with only images,
mysteriously the bad day and I are one,
but cut loose from near every chain
or hot wire noosed to keep me in line,
no more under the thumb of un-natural
orders, I unlocked the door to this room
long ago as I would remember so that,
whether some lover or murderer enter, there’s no difference in the bigger picture.


You had the pot-pie TV dinner drummed into your head

anxieties of mass starvation chipped beef stuck like a pig

shell shocked by the authorities in spades at every turn

still you came out swinging full of faith and god awful

but the envelope they delivered was stuffed with meat

the school that gave you the best deal science for war

on the lam the belly of the beast proved quite comfortable

commercial breaks of happiness came on the side love even

the casualties mounted the artists buried in their holes

when facing the deep fried they choose to smoke bowls

the giant spider busy, making settlement with the Diocese,

questioned the existence of dogs and leased extra police

to roll out the red carpet over the remaining Indian Land

inflated bread for oil preempted a final one night stand.



The cold can burn you
just the same
as what your relatives consider flame
between the covers I could
what in some future
was the fifth degree,
the higher plane,
by speaking out into the night
in which all who slept
had taken flight
or were too dull to take up
arms for love, or even love
the good fight.


frank walsh