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Archive for October, 2009

Gina Frangello

Pain is a Country

October 31st, 2009
by Gina Frangello


When you enter the country of Pain, they confiscate your passport. You leave behind the things and people that used to feel important and familiar, in which you used to believe. Everyone in the new country is a stranger, though it scarcely matters because pain is really a nation of islands, and everyone who lives there lives alone.

In 1995, while my husband and I were visiting my best friend Tom in Barcelona, I became an unintentional and surprise immigrant in the country of pain. It happened overnight, and at first I did not realize I had “moved.” I believed I had a bladder infection. I’d had them before—many, in fact, even having been hospitalized for one as a child. Sometimes when I got one, I could not close my legs for the burning; I could not stop pacing the room; I urinated blood. But the agony was always temporary. You take your antibiotics, you take your pills that make your pee turn orange, you feel a little crazy for a couple of days and then it is done.

Except this time, it was not.


Megan DiLullo

The Piss Museum

October 31st, 2009
by Megan DiLullo


It was located in the basement of an old craftsman that had virtually no ventilation, directly across from the elementary school on Pine Street. When you walked down the stairs and into the dank space the air was hazy with dust particles that shone in the sunbeams that had bullied their way in through the highly set windows. The fractured yet cheery sunlight being the only reminder of outdoor life to the subdued musty feeling that hung in the underground quarters.

The house itself was a rundown rental: The small front yard was an odd mixture of overgrown weeds and patches of dry bare earth. Plaid couches, rescued from various dumpsters around town, littered the crooked porch of the sinking haven. Discarded empty bottles of whatever cheap alcohol someone managed to shoulder tap and smashed beer cans lay strewn about the base of the discolored sofas like barnacles. Really, the exterior appeared much like the interior, sans the heavily used and abused musical equipment and beer matted shag carpeting. The windows sat askew in their rotting wood frames like the crooked smile of a child who had just lost its first tooth. The filthy glass was covered in punk rock ooze, creating a darkened hue, that you couldn’t see in, or out of. (more…)

Don Mitchell

Beaten by a Fairy

October 30th, 2009
by Don Mitchell


“I got beaten by a fairy,” I said to David, the New York City Marathon finish line director, after I crossed the finish mats, wondering if I was going to puke. A worker put a medal around my neck. I talked instead of puking.

Kristen Elde

All in the Mind

October 30th, 2009
by Kristen Elde


Ahh, the dead accuracy, the universality (I’ve gotta think) of Don Mitchell’s October 15 post—“Looking Good!”—about his experience running the 2002 New York City Marathon.

“Thousands of them, yelling at me: looking good! I couldn’t stand it.” … “Makes it worse, see, I’m dying, I’m already dead, and what, I’m noticing nice asses? And I’m thinking, What’s wrong with you, shithead. Con-cen-trate. Don’t die.”

What’s wrong with you—concentrate—don’t die. I feel ya, Don.

Rather, I felt ya.


Richard Cox

He who controls the past, controls the future

October 30th, 2009
by Richard Cox


A while back I drove to Texas and attended a high school reunion. Events like these are surreal for most everyone, but as I approached Wichita Falls on a cold and still Friday evening, the intensity of it all was overwhelming—the color of the sky, the emptiness of the prairie, the quiet roar of my tires on interstate asphalt. I felt like I was driving into someone else’s dream.


Paul Clayton

Writing From the Gut!

October 29th, 2009
by Paul Clayton


I recently flew south to do a piece for Poets & Writers magazine about a rather unorthodox writers camp. Called The Write Stuff, it’s run by a writer named Rock Adams. Ever hear of him?



Totally Killer Book Trailer Redux

October 29th, 2009

The book trailer for Greg Olear’s terrific debut novel Totally Killer, now available where books are sold. Directed by Kimberly M. Wetherell.

TNB Photo of the Day

Olear & Wetherell - NYC - 06.09.09

October 29th, 2009
by TNB Photo of the Day

Greg Olear & Kimberly M. Wetherell 
Olear and Wetherell, together in New York, following TNB’s first-ever Literary Experience on 9 June 2009. Olear is the author of the acclaimed novel Totally Killer, now out in paperback from Harper Perennial, and Wetherell, in addition to being a longtime TNB contributor, is the director of the award-winning documentary Why We Wax. Recently, they were interviewed by Andrew Parsons of Radio Waves, and you can listen to their conversation HERE. You can also bear witness to the Totally Killer book trailer below. It was directed by Ms. Wetherell.

Brin Friesen

Acque Pericolose

October 29th, 2009
by Brin Friesen


The Cuban girl peeled off a cigar box wouldn’t open the door to her apartment building and over the intercom was listing all the valid, sensible reasons under the circumstances why we would never see each other again.

I stared ahead at the security camera and held a rose against the glass of the front entrance.

While it’s true sentimental people are cruel, they’re also quite gullible.

Eventually she came down and slipped out the glass entrance and gave me a kiss goodbye. While she was mumbling apologies about it not working out and staring at me with her cigar stain eyes, I gently reached my hand into her coat pocket and stole her phone.

I kissed her goodbye, grinding a slightly devious smile against her frown, and hailed a cab to get me back into the city until she gave me a call. After all, she had my new number.


Matthew Gavin Frank

Red Beard’s Silent Deal

October 29th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank


In Alba, Italy’s rain, my hair flattens wet against my skull. Hugging the shopfronts of Via Vittorio Emanuele, I see a white triangular peak in the distance. It could be anything—a downed mountain bowing to commune with this street, the cobblestone river that carved it—except, glowing with rain, it looks to be made of canvas. I know.


Ducky Wilson

Possession Is No Laughing Matter

October 28th, 2009
by Ducky Wilson


A bead of sweat pools on the tip of my nose. I want to wipe it, but I can’t move. Light pinwheels around my eyes like a kaleidoscope at a carnival. I hear my breath quickening, but I don’t know why. Other sounds morph into a distant drone punctuated by organ interludes.

Am I in church?


Through pinholes in my delirium, I can see Father Tassio talking behind the pulpit, his hands working the sermon like a potter would clay on a wheel. Behind him, I can see the cross where Jesus bleeds, the holes in his hands pulsing dark tunnels to another dimension. I look away so I’m not sucked into them.


Slade Ham

I’m Taking a Drive

October 28th, 2009
by Slade Ham


I didn’t even get to finish my slushee. If you haven’t had a Sonic slushee, particularly a grape one, it will totally fix even the worst day. If I misplace mine or drop it or otherwise don’t get to finish it, it can put me in a horrible mood. Normally I reserve them for road trips when I can keep it right next to me for the entire drive. It’s hard for me to be in a bad mood when I have one though.

I was sipping one yesterday when a silver SUV swerved in front of me, violently.


Marni Grossman

Taking it Day-by-Day

October 27th, 2009
by Marni Grossman


He leaned in close.  Like they do in the movies.  He leaned in close and I could see his every pore, his every hair follicle.  He leaned in close and I didn’t move away.  He leaned in close and then, without preamble, he began to sing.


Col. Hector Bravado

How Donnybrook Writing Academy Will Manage the Stupid Band Name Shortage

October 27th, 2009
by Col. Hector Bravado


After extensive research on the Donnybrook Super Internet — it’s a lot like the crappy internet that you use, except everything on it is true — we have determined that these are the only remaining names available for new musical acts:


Adam Cushman

Film Review: Funny Guy

October 27th, 2009
by Adam Cushman


A light bulb dangles in a Northridge, California motel room. Streetlights glow through cracks in the blinds. Trembling hands dump a bottle of Bacardi 151 on the head of a shirtless Philip Seymour Hoffman. Said hands strike a match. Enter the flames. The screams.

A revolutionary comedian’s head has just caught fire.


Colleen McGrath

The Crack in my Mac

October 27th, 2009
by Colleen McGrath


There’s a crack in my Mac

In the casing to be exact

And I wonder what I am to do



Claire Bidwell Smith at TNB’s Literary Experience - Chicago - 09.22.09

October 27th, 2009

Claire Bidwell Smith reads a piece called “Breaking Leather: Two Co-Ed Grad Students Go on a Ride-Along with the Inglewood PD” at The Nervous Breakdown’s Literary Experience in Chicago on 09.22.09 at The Whistler. Video by Michael J. Weldon.

TNB Photo of the Day

Claire Bidwell Smith

October 27th, 2009
by TNB Photo of the Day

Claire Bidwell Smith 
In addition to her work here at TNB, Smith writes the award-winning blog Life in Chicago and has also written for a variety of publications, including The Huffington Post, Bicycling, Travel Age West, Road and Travel, and Food and Wine.

Sung J. Woo


October 27th, 2009
by Sung J. Woo


At this point in my life, I’m used to getting lost.  There are some people who have no idea how lucky they are, blessed with an organic compass embedded into their brains, but I’m not one of them.  To give you an idea of how easily I can lose my bearings, at my neighborhood mall, once I enter a store, on the way back out, I have to pause and remember and look around and figure out whether I need to take a left or a right to begin the always-challenging journey back to my car.  And most likely, there will be more dithering at the parking lot as I struggle to recall just where I parked. (more…)

Oksana Marafioti

The Time I Walked Away from Mel Gibson

October 26th, 2009
by Oksana Marafioti


When I was twenty-eight I saw Jesus Christ give a speech from the back of a pickup truck.

Immediately I called my husband and told him to get his ass over there so that, like me, he might also bask in the glory of Christ. Plus, I needed a witness. Someone my family trusted.