Friday, September 19, 2014

Crazy Life

I have a crazy life. A crazy wonderful life. Full of surprises. Good ones. Awful ones. And everything in between. Maybe I should stop being so surprised by the loops I'm thrown for, the curveballs I'm thrown--the throes. Aw, hell no. I love surprises.

So Dublin here I come. Yep. Who'd have ever thought it? But it's happening, and I'm excited. Reason number one: they speak English there! I can go to readings and take part in writers' groups and drink cider. OK, the cider doesn't have much to do with speaking English, but I can drink more cider!

Here's what I love about Dublin (and Ireland in general) besides the fact that they speak English!

The Music!

Ireland is on fire with all sorts of music. I can't tell you how long I've sat in a bar and just enjoyed the atmosphere, just felt so at home. Music--doesn't matter much what kind--makes me so happy. Singing is a massive part of me. One of the reasons the music of Ireland touches me so deeply is that I experienced it with my father. We shared such incredible moments listening to traditional pipe music but also live pop music. These are memories that will bring me smiles for more than years. For ever.

The Cider!

OK, stop. I know I've mentioned the cider, but it bears mentioning again. Cider isn't available everywhere here in Munich. In the UK and Ireland, every bar has cider. I love cider (and I can't drink beer). It's got to be healthy too. Hey, all it is is apple juice and a little bit of alcohol. Have you seen the latest Strongbow ad? It's really cool. I'm going to embed it here in the hope that Strongbow will sponsor me and give me a lifetime supply of, um, cider! And, yes yes yes I know. Strongbow is not Irish, but it's not as sweet as Magners. Forgive me. I like my cider a bit drier.



The Writers!

Ireland has been churning out great writers for a very long time, but some recent gems that come to mind are James Claffey, Ethel Rohan, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Robin Graham. If you haven't checked out these writers, well what are you waiting for? Click on their links. Now. I'm looking forward to becoming more familiar with the work of contemporary Irish writers.

The Drama!

The Green Isle? And it's green because it rains and rains and rains and rains. It's going to be rainy. I know. I like the rain, though. Really. I like the drama. Maybe I'm Irish. No, actually I know my ancestors were mostly English with a couple of Native Americans thrown in there for better complexion (ᏩᏙ!). You know, the typical "My great great grandmother was a Cherokee princess." I think Cher started it. I took these pictures. Please don't steal them. If you must though, give me credit. Sweet people.






What do you love about Ireland? I need your ideas. I'm going to be spending a lot of time there in the next few years, and I can't wait to share my experiences with you. But I'd love to hear yours.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.



 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Article at Flash Fiction Chronicles

Flash fiction? What's that? It's different things to different people, but basically it's fiction under 1000 words. The definition has changed over the last few years, and I'm happy to know some of the talented writers who've helped to effect this change. Flash is tight prose that feels immediate, urgent. But before I repeat what I wrote in the Flash Fiction Chronicles article, here you are:


Comments and shares very much appreciated, you sweet wonderful people.

I must be off,
Christopher

_____________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lit Matters

SmokeLong Quarterly has been churning out incredible stories for more than ten years, and they've never asked for one penny from anyone. They've given so much to the world of sudden fiction. You may have seen my post on Facebook about the Best of the First Ten Years Anthology. It's a must read for anyone interested in the genre.

SmokeLong has just initiated a Kickstarter campaign with the intention of vamping up the site. SmokeLong's going to get even better. Old School's going Future School. And you could do your bit to help it. Please do what you can. The world needs lit, and it needs it suddenly.

I must be off,
Christopher

_______________________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Punches are Here to Teach You How to Roll

The least gross picture I could find. Looks more like someone's hair..
Of all Life's lessons, I think I keep repeating the one entitled Punches are Here to Teach You How to Roll. I have been punched before (Rio de Janeiro, Paris). I've also been caught in a neck hold and thrown to a cement floor (Nice, France). My life has been threatened (Munich, Rio)--more than once come to think of it. Flights have been canceled, cars have broken down, airlines have forgotten my gluten-free meal. I've had to eat gluten-free cake when there was no gluten-free bread. The list just goes on and on. Goodness. You'd think I'd be a rolling expert by now.

So when I start feeling odd during breakfast on August 31 at my parents' house in Tennessee, I'm not surprised. At first I think my grandmother has sneaked some flour into the hashbrowns (they are remarkably well bound).

"Um, so Granny--"

"Huh?!"

I raise my voice (she's 93 and doesn't like to wear her hearing aids). "Um! So Granny--"

"Huh?!"

I raise my voice again. "Um!! So!! Granny!! The hashbrowns!! They're remarkably!! Sticky!!"

"The fairgrounds in Reba Johnson City?!"

"Oh God. NO!! THE HASHBROWNS!! DID YOU PUT FLOUR IN THEM?!!"

"DID I PULL FLOWERS IN THE FAIRGROUNDS???!!"

A very loud and long story short, she promises she did not. So with this knowledge, the ever-worsening worry in my gut just gets more and more worrisome as the day goes along. My father even beats me once at Scrabble.

"Did you poison something so you could beat me at Scrabble?" I ask him, holding my belly.

"I wish I'd thought of that," he doesn't say.

So it turns out neither of them has poisoned me. Still, the pains persist. I lose another game of Scrabble. I lie awake all night. The feeling in my gut is like wind that won't pass. I have cramps and little spasms everywhere and nowhere. I've never had pains like these. At 6 a.m. I knock on my parents' bedroom door and tell them that as much as I hate to be a pain, I think I need to go to the ER.

I'm telling you all this because falling ill in a foreign country (foreign to the one where you are insured) is a real danger that you need to be prepared for before you travel. Driving to the emergency room on a Sunday morning 4 hours before you're scheduled to fly back to Munich is not the time to wonder if you're covered.

"So," I say to my father who's careening down a country road, "I sure hope my health insurance will cover this."

"You don't know?"

"Well," I say, "It's not on my Top 10 list of Things I Know For Sure, but it's right up there with Is a bear Catholic? and Do the Marshall Islands belong to Australia?"

"Are you delirious?"

"Probably."

"Wanna play a quick game of Scrabble?" he doesn't say.

Despite fervent prayers that my grandmother was lying about the flour in the fairgrounds, it turns out to be an appendicitis. And despite my pleas to be allowed to fly regardless of whether my appendix ruptures at 30,000 feet, I won't be flying; and on top of all this, I didn't buy the optional travel cancelation insurance. Who does that? Weenies, that's who. Very organized and foresighted weenies.

The silver linings of having an emergeny appendectomy while visiting my parents:

1. I don't have an appendix to worry about anymore. I can go on long ocean voyages in a dinghy if I want and never once have to think, "Hmmm, I wonder what I'd do if my appendix ruptured?"

2. I'm all caught up on my US-American game shows. I just love how US-Americans get so excited about winning. Germans are boring on game shows. A German when he wins 100,000 euros: "Thank you, Generic Game Show Host. This will go nicely with the bezillion euros I already have sitting cross-eyed bored in the bank now." A US-American when he wins 100,000 dollars: "Rahhhhhhh! Rohhhhhh! What????! Ahhhhhhhh. ARRRRRRRR! PRAISE BEJEBUS! SCHWEEEEEEEEEEE! BLARGH!!!!!! GlOOOOOOOO!" And the contestant screams all of these unintelligible expressions of joy as he wraps himself around the host, weeping and salivating on his shoulder. Just ask Bob Barker. It's good to be reminded how my people express their happiness.

3. Seriously, I get to see more of my family. They're sweet. All of them. Thank you for coming to see me in the hospital, and thank you, Teresa, for going to the store and getting me apples.

It turns out that British Airways is happy to reschedule my flight back to Munich once I produce evidence of my medical emergency, so bless them. Also, I'm doing one of those wavy moose antler nanny-nannies to the weenies who bought the travel cancelation insurance. Suckers. All you have to do is have an emergency appendectomy! (While the rescheduling of the flight causes little worry, the health insurance situation is still outstanding, and the total bill has gone beyond the $30,000 mark already.)

Have you been in an emergency medical situation abroad? How did you deal with it. Any tips for the sweet, pretty readers of I Must Be Off! ?

I must be off,
Christopher

_____________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.





Monday, September 8, 2014

Two Reviews at Necessary Fiction Today!

Well, if you haven't been keeping up with recent events on Facebook, you won't have heard about my emergency appendectomy last week when I was visiting my parents in the US. And of course it happened just a few hours before I was scheduled to fly back to Munich. I'll be writing a separate post about these fun times later; now, though, I want to let you know about two book reviews I wrote for the good people at Necessary Fiction. If you enjoy reading short story collections, you'll want to check these out:


and



Stay tuned for that stirring tale of abdominal pain next time at . . .

I Must Be Off,
Christopher

_________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, and Word Riot. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interviewed at Cheryl Howard Dot Com

Ever wonder what it's like to live in another country? To start from scratch? New job. New home. New language. OK, German wasn't completely new to me almost 20 years ago, but it did put some new wrinkles in my brain to become "fluent".

In my interview with Cheryl Howard at her blog of the same name, I talk about blending in and not blending in, accepting--and loving--other people's differences. I talk about hollandaise.

Check Cheryl Howard Dot Com out. If you love traveling and reading about interesting--sometimes wacky--places, you'll love her site.

Here you are:

Expat Living: Christopher Allen in Munich, Germany

I must be off,
Christopher

______________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catching Up with David Brazier -- The Expat Author Interview Series

David Brazier
"Each of us is moved by [Love] in different ways and every day we are confronted by more possibilities for testing or expressing it. This is what keeps me flying, meeting people, spreading this understanding around."

-- David Brazier, Buddhist priest, teacher, prolific author and world traveler. His latest book is Not Everything is Impermanent.


___________________________

IMBO: Welcome, David! The last I heard of you, I was sitting in front of my TV in London on a Sunday morning, and you were a call-in guest on a talk show. That must have been two or three years ago. I'm curious. What have you been up to the last two years?

Brazier: Around that time we were setting up a new organisation called ITZI, the International Zen Therapy Institute, well, actually, Instituto Terapia Zen Internacional, since it is legally established in Spain. It builds on the Buddhist psychology teaching I have been doing for the past twenty years. I was also moving house, then to Belgium and later to France. ITZI has been quite successful opening doors in a number of areas so that my teaching and travelling have expanded recently. "I must be off" is more and more the theme tune of my life at the moment. I'm not often in one country more than three weeks, often much less. This year I was in South America for the first time, which was very interesting. My Spanish is improving too. Every August I am in Korea and this autumn I'll be in Hawaii and California. Then there is a lot of work around Western Europe. Many people are very interested in a spiritually based psychology because it can improve the quality and intensity of life, keep you young at heart, and help people to help one another.

IMBO: Your work sounds so inspiring. I would love to know more about it, the Buddhist communities you interact with, the people.

Brazier: My work is three pronged, you might say. What I am publicly known for is firstly my writing and secondly the teaching, but then, slightly less publicly, I am head of a Buddhist Order that practises a branch of Buddhism that, although widespread in the East, is less well known in the West. It is called Pureland or Amidism and the group is Amida Shu. The Amida people are a close, caring, faith based, practice community, though they are also scattered across the globe now. The psychological teaching, on the other hand, can bring me into contact with a wide variety of groups, existential and humanistic as well as different branches of Buddhism, people who are not necessarily communities as such, but are interested in learning a skill or knowledge. Many years ago I knew the famous American psychologist Carl Rogers and was involved in the development of his work, so that also leads to interesting contacts, especially in Latin America where his work has a particularly strong following. Then, too, currently there is a popular enthusiasm for "mindfulness" that has made many more people interested in Buddhist psychology. My take on the issue is a bit out of the mainstream in the western context, but that also makes for interesting debates. I'm more interested in getting people to think intelligently, feel deeply and live authentically than in selling a single theory or system. It is all about waking people up in a certain way.

IMBO: For my readers who might not know what “mindfulness” refers to specifically, could you tell us a bit more about this?

Brazier: “Mindfulness” is a principle in the Buddhist tradition. In recent years it has come to be identified with awareness and “living in the here and now” -- an exercise that can be learnt and is thought to be useful in combatting stress, anxiety, depression and some other conditions. However, in the original Buddhist tradition, mindfulness meant keeping holy things in mind. Really it was not so much a matter of attending to the present moment as of protecting oneself from being carried away by the present moment. Buddhism should not be simply living in the here and now but rather knowing what is important in life, things that transcend the immediate and give meaning and purpose. I think all spiritual people have a sense that life is meaningful and purposeful, that it is the emergence of compassion, love, joy and peace. The work of spirituality lies in the tension between authenticity and such ideals. Awareness is for seeing how we actually are. Mindfulness is for keeping the ideal in view. When we study ourselves honestly we find that we are far from being wholly compassionate, loving and wise. So the practitioner does his or her best to act authentically, but within mindfulness. One might observe that one is angry, while being mindful of one's faith. Thus a certain tension is created. This does not mean that the anger goes away necessarily, but it means that one becomes more honest about one's real condition and realises that it must be similar for others. This recognition that we are all in the same boat in being vulnerable, emotional, prone to error and so on is the real basis for compassion and fellow-feeling.

IMBO: So what is the core of your personal philosophy? What inspires you? Tell me more about your own ideas about living “deeply”?

Brazier. Love, in a word. It is all love really. Everything in the universe is attracted to everything else. Scientists like to use impersonal language for it, but love is the basic substance and meaning of it all. Each of us is moved by it in different ways and every day we are confronted by more possibilities for testing or expressing it. This is what keeps me flying, meeting people, spreading this understanding around. Love inevitably gets us into trouble, disappointments, conflicts even, but being mindful of the fact that even the cruellest things in this paradoxical world have their roots in love somehow or other gives a sense of a much grander purpose within which we all have some part to play.

IMBO: Thank you for that. Great point. Have you been writing? Can you share something with us?

Brazier: Yes, I published a book called Not Everything is Impermanent a year or so back. The title is deliberately provocative in the Western Buddhist context where people think that everything being impermanent is a kind of bedrock Buddhist dogma. It's a collection of teachings put together by my disciples and students from talks I've given in recent years. Then I've a work in press to be titled You can believe it: Buddhism is a religion, also intended to make people rethink. One so often hears "Buddhism is not a religion." All of this relates to my broad opposition to the tendency in contemporary Western thought to see reductionism as the way to truth... scientific, explanation as coming from dissection, and technique being more important than purpose, all of which ultimately leads to complete meaninglessness. Meaning comes from context, not content. In this respect I share many of the views of my friend the philosopher Mary Midgley. Her recent book Are You an Illusion? is wonderful and especially inspiring for being from a woman in her mid-nineties.

IMBO: A lot of my readers are writers themselves and are always interested in the writing habits of other writers. What are yours?

Brazier: I am always writing. Some of my scribbling finds its way onto the internet. Some gets into books. Some goes to my students. Some never leaves the memory of my computer, but it all contributes to my own creative process. I'm always criticising my own ideas. The challenge is to find chunks of continuous time in which to write longer works. My schedule is always pretty full. People say, “Where were you when you wrote this book?” and I say, “Mostly in airport lounges waiting for  connection.” My best known book is Zen Therapy, but it is now eighteen years old and it is about time to write an update of where I have got to with that material. I have made a start but it will take a while. If I get it right it might be my most important book – I hope so.

IMBO: This sounds exciting. Could you give us a taste of it? An updated taste?

Brazier: The Zen Therapy book has been one of the main works that have got me invited to different countries to teach. There are nowadays many books that offer integrations of Buddhism and psychology, but what I tried to do in Zen Therapy was present the basic teaching of Buddhism as psychology. Buddhism is many things – religion, culture, training –  it is also a means of psychological transformation. So I presented some of the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, such as those on the conditioning of the mind, in a manner that makes them useful to practising counsellors and therapists. I followed it up with a book called The Feeling Buddha which has also been popular. Since then I have been teaching the stuff in many different parts of the world and ideas develop so it is time to take stock. I shall be writing more about the nature of consciousness, about how Buddhism integrates humanistic, existential, analytical and spiritual dimensions that are often kept apart, about love, liberation and authenticity, but chiefly I want to integrate some of the practical wisdom about how you actually use these principles when face to face with a person in distress – how to heal human relationships.

IMBO: I wish you much success with the new book, David. One last thing before we close: Three of my nephew’s wife’s brothers—I know that’s a mouthful—have just become Buddhist monks. What’s it like to be a monk? I’m curious. I don’t know them personally, but I wonder what this life is like.

Brazier: Strictly speaking – I'm a bit of a stickler for correct use of the English language – there are no monks in Buddhism because a monk has a rule of stabilitas – he stays in one place – and Buddhist 'monks', by definition, are homeless wanderers, in other words they should be called friars. Nowadays the term Buddhist monk is often used to include persons like myself, but I am really a priest and teacher, not a monk. I have rules, but not chastity, poverty and obedience. My role is to go wherever I am needed in order to teach the Dharma, which is the name for the Buddhist teaching. So it is a life of being in other people's hands. They invite me, feed me, ask me to teach, and then send me on my way to the next destination. You have to be very flexible about all manner of ordinary practical things, like diet, beds, transport, standard of accommodation, local customs and so on. One's hosts might be anything from extremely rich to extremely poor. Sometimes people are envious of this life, and with reason. I meet many many amazing people, travel all over the globe, and have no worries worth talking about. On the other hand, most people would not be willing to be so out of control and could not adapt to the continual changes. 

IMBO: Thank you for the clarification, David! And thank you so much for sharing your life with me and the readers of I Must Be Off!

I must be off,
Christopher

_____________________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.