Saturday, April 29, 2017
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Smells like victory

Matthew Gavin Frank Archive

Matthew Gavin Frank

Red Beard’s Silent Deal

October 29th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

ALBA, ITALY-

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.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

The Truffle of the Barn

September 29th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

TORINO, ITALY-

The fluorescence of one room bleeds into another with only minor differences: a blinking flicker here, a snoring hum there. I sit again beneath these flickers and hums, just past 9:00 pm, in the salamina da sugo workshop, ready for the gentle myth, ready for some anarchy. This is the Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food Movement’s Salon of Taste and, while this is also Torino, Italy, the rest of the world, via its respective culinary delights, trickles in through the cracks in the mortar.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Evolution

August 24th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

BAROLO, ITALY-

At the end of Via Crosia, at least a kilometer past the Macelleria, but before the vineyards, the street’s rose cobblestone is cracked with anthills.  Surely these bugs are, right now even, communing under the town, perhaps under a single block, waiting to bore holes through the bathtubs of Barolo.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

A Thousand Words: Catalina

July 20th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

OAXACA CITY-

This is Rock ‘n’ Roll, but not rock ‘n’ roll music.  This is some heroin addict losing a thumbnail on a G string, Al Green on his knees, Sleepy John Estes alone beneath a streetlight screaming, “Aaahh’m just a pris’ner!” into a Coors Light bottleneck.  This is Mick Jagger finally castrated and Marianne Faithfull juggling his balls and a chainsaw.  And this is accordion.  Just accordion played by a Zapotec girl in a night alley that has no business being this orange.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Pot Farm: Part 4

July 15th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

SOMEWHERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA-

In the Residents’ Camp, rain and digestion.  It’s pushing midnight, but still, Johanna and I are captivated by our stomachs, engaged in a croaking call-and-response symphony, likely spawned by Antonio’s corn cakes.  We’re huddled in the center of our Coleman Cimarron tent, trying to stay dry as the weather knocks at the side walls.  

We listen to the Camp’s shutting-down sounds—the series of “goodnights,” the zippered closings of the final few tent doors.  I can tell that, for me, sleep is still a long way away.  I have a head full of pot smoke, and it’s beginning to ache. This does not bode well; tomorrow is a cutting day.  I am Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, getting waayy to old for this shit.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Pot Farm: Part 3

June 17th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

SOMEWHERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA-

For dinner we have masa harina corn cakes with herb sauce and a dilled potato salad.  Johanna, though dejected at another day of meatlessness, eats voraciously.  We all do really.  She and I sit at a rust-painted picnic table with Lance, Crazy Jeff and Gloria, Hector, and Charlie the Mechanic.  The field crew eats with hunched shoulders, cramped forearms, aching lower backs. Johanna sits abnormally straight, exhibiting her self-described “perfect body mechanics.”   We all swat at the flies and mosquitoes as we eat with the exception of Charlie the Mechanic who seems oblivious to them.  He is oblivious also to the mayonnaise in his beard.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Pot Farm: Part Two

April 24th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

SOMEWHERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA-

Of course, it took more than Robbi’s job offers to bring Johanna and me out here to the marijuana farm.  Should I write about this part in any sort of detail?  Will I be defying my own vow to keep such things relegated to the realm of “backdrop?”  Should I discuss how, in 2006, I found myself living in my parents’ house in suburban Chicago for the first time since I was seventeen, this time with Johanna in tow, due to my mom’s diagnosis?  How, after having lived in Alaska, Italy, Key West, New Mexico, Arizona, and a failed attempt in Vermont, that reentering Buffalo Grove, Illinois gave me the alcoholic shakes, the soothing drink to quell them being the swallowed desire to flee to some distant mountaintop, some beach bungalow, some bomb shelter in which I could grow, with impunity, a wizard’s beard beneath which to hide?  Oh shit, oh shit.  This is one of those stories, isn’t it?

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Pot Farm: Part One

April 9th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

SOMEWHERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA-

I would say: At dusk, the crops’ silhouettes held to the sky like herons cemented into the earth, leaves flapping feebly in the Northern California wind, unable to lift themselves from the forthcoming hands of the Morning Pickers, and the watchful green eyes of Lady Wanda—I would say that, but I was likely stoned.  It’s just as likely, the crops didn’t look like herons at all, there was no wind, and it may not have even been dusk.  It could have been morning.  It could have been afternoon.  Having worked on a medical marijuana farm, filling six notebooks with scrbblings of varying degrees of sense, and engaging in the attendant and standard subcultural vices, I have made of myself an unreliable narrator.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

A Fat Hungry Nerd in Chicago

March 16th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

CHICAGO, IL-

Growing up in my family, food was the thing that emerged from the microwave, steaming and soggy.  A rubbery omelette.  A desiccated matzo ball in watery broth.  But my mother treated our crap with ceremony.  It was with bad food that we dealt with tragedy or comedy or mediocrity.  For my birthday, microwaved hamburgers with iceberg lettuce; for my father’s, microwaved lamb shanks.  It was always something that once had a bone or an entire skeleton.  We loved meat.  In my family, to die young and full was expected.  We gracefully upheld the pillars of heart disease and diabetes.  Saturated fat and clogged arteries kept us warm through the winter.  In my family, enjoying food meant overeating.  I became a fat teenager.

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Matthew Gavin Frank

On Creativity, the Economic Crisis, and the Amazon Gavel

March 13th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

GRAND RAPIDS, MI- 

This past February, at this year’s AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Chicago, many of the overheard conversations did not involve the usual topics—Where’s the best place in the city to score a discount bottle of Booker’s bourbon?  Do you know anyone who brought a bag of weed?  

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Matthew Gavin Frank

Memories of Ruthie, or, Why I Eat Canned Fish

March 4th, 2009
by Matthew Gavin Frank

GRAND RAPIDS, MI-

My grandma Ruth is, in memory, among other sour smells, canned salmon and mothballs.  She kept the latter in every enclosed space of her East Meadow, New York home, the home my father lamentably declared cost her less than he had just paid for his 1984 Datsun 300ZX.

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