Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Empty Seats at London 2012

London 2012
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I had big plans. I really did. For the Olympics. No, no. I wasn't participating in a sport (although I might have made a big splash in diving or been hilarious on the pommel horse, or whatever they call it). I have been a fan of the Olympics since that year in the 80s when the Russians didn't come and the US won all the medals. Or was it the other way around? Either way, I lived on gold-medal Big Macs that summer.

The Tower Bridge. London 2012
So I'm a fan. But I'm also deathly afraid of crowds. As we set out to Stratford on Friday to have a stroll around the Olympic Park, I was all jittery. Announcements in The Tube warned us that many stations would be "exceptionally" busy (read hordes of excited tourists touching me). The Tube was not full at all though. In fact, The Tube was not any more crowded than it ever is. Despite repeated warning the entire weekend, London was not crowded...ever.

Some guy's back
When we arrived at Stratford, the Olympic volunteers outnumbered the excited tourists. And we soon discovered why. Apparently, unless we were given the wrong information (which is entirely possible), you have to have a ticket to an event to enter the Olympic park. I don't think we were being naive (although you know I have big dopey eyes). On the telly the day before, the presenters were talking about how wonderful it would be to take your family and watch the games on the public viewing screens at the Olympic park. At one point, a random woman who was being interviewed said, "Well, I think I'll come down here and have a nice day on the green." At which point the interviewer might have said, "Do you have a ticket to an event?" The poor woman (I feel and know her pain) would have said, "Of course I don't. Only dignitaries and clients of large corporations have those tickets!" And the interviewer would have said (as he slid his own ticket more snugly into his pocket), "I hear Curry's has new wide screens."

And what have these dignitaries and these clients of large corporations done with their tickets? Nothing. Many of them didn't even show up. That's why you see an enormously embarrassing number of EMPTY SEATS, EMPTY SEATS, and more EMPTY SEATS. Here's another informative--albeit very poorly edited--post from The Telegraph that might help you get tickets.

Here's what happened: To order a ticket, you needed to create an account and hope you'd get a ticket (months ago). I actually tried this but didn't get tickets. At the Olympic Park there is no way (unless countless people misinformed us) to purchase one of those empty seats; on site, there is no equipment facilitating that purchase. I'm sure this process was a security measure to ascertain the identify of the spectators, but even this doesn't make much sense if large corporations are buying the tickets and then giving them to someone else. Does it?

Here's what should have happened: Yeah, sure. Let those dignitaries and large corporate sponsors have their tickets, but then also let the people who show up at the Olympic Park (who tried but couldn't get tickets) purchase the EMPTY SEATS when the VIPs don't show. There were hundreds of people begging to get in on Saturday. Strip search me if you want to (I'll make it worth your while!), but why turn me and my money away? It would have been as easy as taking a form of ID at the door and returning it to the person at the EXIT, like some museums do with the audio guide. Then you know who I am, I get to wave my flag, and everyone is happy. And all of those volunteers just standing around and smiling--they are all so lovely, friendly and helpful (or helpless as the case may be)--would have something to actually do. Seriously, the number of people working the Games just about equals the pitiful number of people actually watching them at the venues.

Don't get me wrong. I was happy. I watched as much of the games as I could in the public viewing areas around London. Every TV in every pub had the games on. I watched the men's synchronized diving on the huge monitors in the Duty Free Shop at Gatwick.

And how could anyone have found the Olympic park anyway? We searched everywhere but couldn't find one sign. You'd think the organizers of the games would have thought to put up at least one sign showing people the way.

How's a guy to find a sign to the Park around here?

"Excuse me, sir. I can't find the Park."

Just one sign. One. You'd think the organizers would have been clearer about where the Park is.

Where oh where is the Park?

This is going to sound like sour grapes (as it should), but I don't think the clients from those large corporate sponsors were able to see and understand the opening ceremony as well as I did. So much of it was dependent on seeing individual actors. From the stands I'm sure Kenneth Branagh looked like a tiny black Shakespearean speck against those fake green pastoral hills. The cameras always picked up individual stories going on in the show. Here peasants and working class sods deconstructing the countryside, there lords tipping their hats and doing dreadful choreography. If the spectators had to look at a screen to see this, well they could have stayed home. Yep, them grapes is sour. Not really, just kidding.

The best choreography of the evening. I think this might have been visible from the stands.

And what a wonderful idea for the opening ceremony: to cram the history of the British Isles into an hour. That is so creative. I can just hear the pitch from the director: "Yes, well, I thought it would be rather nice to do a sort of chronological swipe, as it were. Like Spamalot or Reduced Shakespeare. That sort of thing. For the clients of corporate sponsors, as it were. And Kenneth Branagh of course. I like the way he holds his mouth. Very Shakespeare, and all that."

The Olympic Cauldron at London 2012

The cauldron was beautiful, though. I woke up three times during the opening ceremony: when the Queen made her acting debut (good on Her), when the young athletes lit the cauldron and when Paul McCartney sang "Hey Jude". I tried to stay awake while the teams were coming in. The last team I remember was the Russian Federation. I missed the US. Damn our alphabet.

The German "Traumschiff" was anchored just around the corner from our flat in Canary Wharf. Apparently it is the largest ship ever allowed to anchor here and also apparently it's going to take the German athletes home to a hero's welcome. We got to see it every time we came home, but alas we were not allowed on board. An Olympic theme, I suppose.

Das Traumschiff at Canary Wharf

I must be off (to buy tickets for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which means I'll need to become a corporate sponsor quickly, Hmmmm),


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wild Scotland -- an Interview with Author Gill Hoffs

Gill Hoffs, author of Wild: a collection
Gill Hoffs (pronounced with a soft G), a writer from Scotland, grew up on the Scottish coast, studied psychology, biology and English literature at the University of Glasgow, then worked with children with a variety of needs (ASD and/or EBD, mainly) throughout the UK. She married her best friend and they now live in Ayr, Scotland with their son Angus, having previously lived in the North of England for the 8 years. Hoffs' first book, Wild, has just been published by Pure Slush.


IMBO: Gill, welcome to I Must Be Off! Reading your stories and non-fiction in your new collection Wild, I can smell the sea air and hear the waves. What is your connection to the sea?

Hoffs: I was raised in towns and villages along the west coast of Scotland, and lived in a 17th century cottage with a seaview from about the age of ten. It had walls deeper than my outstretched arms and the roof leaked whenever it rained. On the west coast, it rains a lot. I could smell the salt sea air and the stink of rotting seaweed in summer as I played in the garden (if I wasn't too near the septic tank), and hear the crash of waves when it was stormy, as it frequently was there. I wasn't happy in that old cottage and tended to spend my time either staring out to sea or wandering about the fields and the shore, mucking about in the streams and caves there and exploring some tumbledown huts which had been used to provide 'Borstal boys' from the Kibble School in Paisley with a holiday before I was born. I'd fill my pockets with books and snacks and hope I didn't need the toilet while I was out - that kind of thing's trickier to deal with when you can't pee standing up without soaking your socks.

IMBO: I sometimes soak my socks anyway. What are Borstal Boys?

Greenan Castle
Hoffs:  Ha!  Well, my understanding is or rather was that there were boys in Borstal (the old version of a Young Offenders' Unit) and sometimes they would be brought to the coast for a holiday. There wasn't much left of the huts when I was growing up, just some wooden frames, partition walls, dirty magazines -- in both senses of the word -- and rusting bed springs. No evidence of toilets or plumbing, but those might have been 'recycled' when the huts were first abandoned. Waste not want not!

IMBO: I remember similar ruins in my teenage years. As you were exploring these places as a teen, were you aware that they'd later become part of your fiction? And your non-fiction?

Hoffs: No - I always thought of writing as something other people did. But then, I thought the same of working in children's homes.  I'm very glad things have panned out as they have, and that I can explore the ruins through my writing and commit them to the page. Especially since the huts have gone now so memories are all that are left apart from a cleared area on the shore where they moved the rocks to make a swimming pool. 

"Having English blood and heritage meant being spat on at school -- one boy had parents who smoked, so it was quite a colourful lungful that stuck to my skirt . . ."

IMBO: Your father is from Northern Ireland, your mother from England, but you grew up "Scottish"--do you feel Scottish? And if you do--and even if you don't--could you describe the feeling for us? 

University of Glasgow
Hoffs: Hmm. I don't feel Scottish as such, and I don't understand the concept of national pride, but I think there's a certain roguishness to it. A brazen, cheeky, romantic kinda thing.  Personally, I feel more comfortable in England, but wherever I am, I yearn for the Ayrshire shores I roamed as a teenager. Because I don't feel like I belong anywhere (the theme of not fitting in is, perhaps, apparent in my work) it's a lot easier to live in places where my accent marks me as different. This means that locals accept the differences, write off a lot of my 'quirks' and eccentricities as a cultural variant, and we're all happy. When I live somewhere (as I do now) where my accent and appearance lead locals to believe I'm 'one of them' when I'm really not, but 'a bit of a weirdo' (probably true), I experience a real sense of unease. Having English blood and heritage meant being spat on at school -- one boy had parents who smoked, so it was quite a colourful lungful that stuck to my skirt -- although to the people I respected and gave a toss about, it meant nothing. I found out about my dad when I was 11ish, and have never lived with him (though we talk online several times a week if not more and are VERY alike) so I find it interesting that a lot of people ask whereabouts in Ireland I'm from. Apparently I have a 'lilt' in my voice. It's probably just that I'm trying to stifle the giggles. I get them a lot.

IMBO: I hear that in your writing. You have quite a lot of children in your work, but they don't often giggle. They're more often lost or outsiders.

Hoffs: Well, I really feel for children and animals, and vividly remember as a child being an outsider and feeling terribly lost myself. This is fairly typical for writers of fiction, or so I gather. If you can't escape physically you escape mentally instead, using your imagination or somebody else's. In some people this leads to mental illness, in some it leads to lying or fantasising on the page. Or a combination of both. 

Dunure Shore
The stories that spill out fully formed, surprising me as they take shape on the page, feature characters or situations which include snippets of people and places I was drawn to as a child. "Acceptance" and "Firework Sand" in Wild: a collection are prime examples of this. I suppose it's a kind of lucid dreaming in text. When we were taught the theories behind the purpose of dreaming at Uni, just over a decade ago, there was a school of thought that held dreams are the brain's way of consolidating memories and organising storage (I'm paraphrasing here -- the lectures on abnormal psychology were more my thing). I think the same is true of writing fiction and creative nonfiction.

I knew children who were horribly abused while I was growing up, including a girl who killed herself to escape her brother's 'attentions', and before I had my son I worked in children's homes in Scotland and England. Reading was my salvation, and I tried to pass this coping mechanism onto the kids.

IMBO: I've often commented that reading, especially humor, is curative. In terms of a coping mechanism, does it matter what one reads?

Hoffs: Agreed. I think the act of reading itself is beneficial for a person's mental state: again, I'm paraphrasing (and my memory's dreadful) but studies have shown that the act of moving your eyes from side to side has a beneficial effect on a person's mental state and helps to calm them. I don't know what percentage of the world's readers primarily read horizontally rather than vertically arranged characters or letters, or whether there have been any studies exploring any links with mental health, but I'd be interested to know more if anybody has any information on it. As for subject matter, well, I'd be inclined to suggest that those with depression avoid anything likely to encourage suicidal ideation -- that goes for music, too -- but for me sugar-sweet endings and happy-sappy stories only ever make me feel bored or worse than I did before. Crime thrillers and horror generally include principal characters with mental strength and vigour doing things rather than allowing things to be done to them, fighting their fate, and meeting their adversaries in brave and creative ways. This excited my imagination and spurred me on in my obstinate ways, and these are still my genres of choice for reading material, although I'm drawn to history books which include first person accounts, too. Despite being 33, I'm also a big fan of children's books and I would recommend Michael Rosen's The Sad Book to anybody who is grieving or is likely to be soon. 

IMBO: That makes so much sense: that strong characters who fight fate and adversaries are more important than happy endings. From the non-fiction section of Wild, I can see that you're drawn to history. So many shipwrecks and ship disasters.

Ayr Beach
Hoffs:  I suppose in general it's not what happens to you but what you do with it that counts. Yes, I've always been fascinated by the past -- perhaps because it's 'safe' in that what has happened is done with, and those who were going to die, have, and those who would survive whatever was going on, did. It's interesting, too, to read firsthand accounts and contemporary newspaper reports from periods in history to reinforce the feeling that these people whose fate is long past had no more of a clue of what would happen to them in life than we do now. Intellectually, I know this, but emotionally it's hard to hold onto that fact. As for the shipwrecks, that's all part and parcel of being so keen on the coast, I think. As "Black Fish" shows, you're taking your life in your hands whenever you go out to sea. It's vital to remember and respect the elements wherever you are.

IMBO: Hear, hear, Gill. I have enjoyed this talk so much. Thank you for stopping by. I wish you much success with Wild, which I loved. You've showed me a Scotland that I didn't know.

Hoffs: Thank you! It's been very stimulating, and if you're ever up here, I hope you'll let me show you the Wild side of Scotland in person. But only if you promise to wear clean socks!


Gill Hoff's Wild: a collection is available from Pure Slush HERE.

Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This is a test of the IMBO System. This is only a test.

Recently when I was home visiting my adorable parents (and beating them at Scrabble), I heard, for the first time in decades, that test of the emergency broadcasting system. I also heard the emergency storm warning tone. The devastating drought was giving way to a storm system of even more devastating magnitude. So this gave me an idea.

If this had been an actual IMBO emergency, I would have been running for the hills (i.e. I wouldn't have written this post at all). Seriously. All joking and annoying Emergency Broadcasting tones aside, some readers have told me that the bottoms of the posts (down there) are cut off by the homepage pictures. It's not happening to everyone. Apparently, if you use Safari, you're immune (i.e. that bomb shelter you paid so much for is a very expensive pantry now. Hey, you could make a wine cellar out of it!). What about the bottom to this post? Do you see the comments and the share buttons? Would you like to test them? If you don't see them, could you try reloading this page? Do you see them now? And would you like to test them? Just kidding. I would love to hear whether or not they show up, though. Big things are happening in the next few weeks, so I'd like to get this bug fixed as soon as possible. I appreciate your help. I must be off, Christopher

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Worst Air Passengers of 2012

(Important! If the bottom of this post is cut off by the homepage pictures, try reloading the page. This usually helps.)

Another installment of Lessons from a Wise Sky

Yes, I know we're only done with half of 2012, but I'm feeling particularly surly after my trip to the US--surly in an adorable way of course.

Yesterday I read an article from the International Herald Tribune about Airplane Etiquette. Is there such a thing? Has flying become a particular socio-anthropological experience? I'm not sure whether socio-anthropological is a word (looking it up right now: um, yes, it is. Social anthropology is the study of how people act in groups). I'm going to create a sub field: aerosocio-anthropology, or the way people behave in groups on a plane.

Most people behave themselves splendidly. Most people are sweet and wonderful, respectful and, well, washed. Most people are a bit boring when it comes to a list of the worst passengers of 2012, so we'll leave most people out for now. I love you, most people!

My list of the worst passengers (so far) in 2012 in reverse:

10. The Fasten Seat Belt sign means nothing these days. And I think I know why. A few minutes after the plane reaches cruising altitude, the pilot beeps the flight attendants to let them know THEY can get up. The passengers see this and think it's OK for them as well. Yet this, in and of itself, is not enough for a social group to alter its behavior; it must first be condoned by the authoritative presence (i.e. the flight attendants). Flight attendants have largely stopped scolding passengers for standing up before the pilot turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. One passenger goes to the bathroom unimpeded (pun intended, thank you), thus twenty go. And so on. Chaos. As we landed in Lisbon, at least ten passengers were getting their bags out of the overhead bin--before the plane had reached its final parking position! And no one said anything to them. Nada.

9. When the flight attendant approaches your seat with a trolley of drinks, what do you think she's going to ask you? Take a wild guess. Go on. I bet you'll get it. To make it easier for you I'll make it multiple choice:

a. Good evening, sir. Would you like a battery-operated monkey eviscerator?
b. Good evening. sir. Would you care to stand up and do the hokey-pokey?
c. Good evening, sir. How's the folks back home?
d. Good evening, sir. Can I change your colostomy bag?
e. None of the above

Considering the average IQ of my readers is around 150, I'll cut to the chase: e. The flight attendant could say 'blah, blah, blah, blah, blah' and it would still mean, 'What would you like to drink?' so why do countless passengers look at her/him like the choices are insurmountably confusing? OK, she doesn't have papaya juice. She can't mix you a mojito (not true! On one of my recent flights they had a mojito in a baggy thing). But all the usual suspects--coffee, tea, me--are there. If you can't order your OJ in English, just order it in French or Spanish or German. Trust me, the flight attendant knows the words for orange juice, coffee and water in 45 languages.

8. And then there's the passenger from a little country in the South Pacific who's in his/her own tiny universe, seems awfully confused by everything and everyone on the flight. It's usually a woman wrapped in 12 saris, which is fine. Saris are pretty. Problem is, this person (usually nestled into her saris at a window seat) whispers to the flight attendant and expects the flight attendant to hear her above the engine noise. 'I can't hear you!' the flight attendant shouts. 'Do you want water? Water!' Holding up the bottle of water: 'Agua!' Wah! Ter! Oh, for Chrissakes. Coffee? CAW-FEE!?' By this time the people sitting next to the bundle of saris are involved. Translators are requested. She wants a Coke. The trolley moves on.

7. I have always resisted putting children on my list because children--the sweet little things--should be beyond reproach. But parents are fair game, right? An airplane is not a playground or a child care center. On my flight from Newark to Lisbon recently, I changed seats because the man sitting next to me had a broken tray. When the flight attendant said there was an empty seat farther back with more leg room, I graciously (hee hee) said I'd move. A mistake of course. Selfishness.

My punishment (well, besides ending up sitting next to the two 22-year-old faux comedians, our number one worst passengers of 2012 below): the space in front of my seat was wide enough for people to walk through. Two children used it as a thoroughfare all night. They clambered over my feet at least ten times before I--and the French woman sitting next to me--got huffy with them. Again, where are the parents? Finally, the flight attendant asked me if the children were annoying me. 'Not as much as Abbot and Costello on crack across the aisle,' I said, only confusing her and making myself look a bit crazy.

6. Me   

5. The person who puts her bag--sorry, ladies, it's usually a woman--twelve rows BEHIND her. Why? If you can't put your bag in the overhead bin above your seat, you should always put it in front of you. OK, rarely it's possible to leave the plane from the back, but usually it's almost impossible to go backwards in a plane once everyone has stood up. I have come to my own conclusions about why this person behaves in this way (aerosocio-anthropological tie-in!). She did not receive enough affection from her father. Far-fetched? Not at all. See, to get that bag, she'll have to involve a chain of around twelve men, all doing their part for the pouty, sweet woman in the front. 'Thank you!" she cries to each one of them from the bottom of her love-starved heart. They all think she's an idiot.

4. Me?

3. (Actually a subgroup of number one above, but hey.) People who rush to the front of the plane before it has reached its final position at the terminal because they are scared shitless that they will miss their connecting flight. Yes, they'll probably miss it and I do feel for them. I've been in this situation so many times. But you know, people miss flights. It happens. It is so much more important to remain calm. Wine helps.

2. I'm an aisle person. If you're also an aisle person, you'll understand what I'm about to say. 'Stop bumping into me!' It's not like I'm four feet wide and sticking out into the aisle ten inches. I'm a short, demure, adorable man whose left shoulder has been through the mill this year, but passengers and flight attendants alike don't seem to get this. Should I wear a sign? Something like I HIT BACK?

I'm not perfect. I rolled my suitcase over a woman's toe yesterday in Lisbon. She moved forward just as I was moving from one queue to another. It was my fault. I should have been watching where she was going. That to say: people bump into each other. This is the nature of a social group. A simple 'I'm sorry (and here's twenty bucks),' would cover a multitude of sins.

1. Dudes sitting across the aisle from me on my flight from Newark to Lisbon. What is it about 22-year-old Americans who have no thoughts of their own but can only parrot moderately humorous American comedians' sticks and awful lines from bad Adam Sandler movies? I don't find Adam Sandler funny, so why do you think I'll find you funny impersonating him? Dudes, you are not there to entertain the entire cabin. All night. Non-stop. I even put my headphones on and turned up the volume as high as it would go, and I could still hear you. I could hear you from the lavatory! I can still hear you. There should be an aerosocio-anthropological rule against you! In fact, people who talk very loudly and laugh explosively at their own lame jokes all night on a transatlantic flight when people are trying to sleep in the most uncomfortable position possible should have to fly in the hull with the Cocker Spaniels and pet snakes. There.

I must be off!


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). He writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Home for the Drought

My US trip is coming to a close. It's been hot. No, I mean really hot. This year it was so hot and dry on July 4th that the counties surrounding Nashville banned the private use of fireworks. The result of this intense heat is that my body--in effect me--has had to yo-yo between baking and freezing, freezing and baking every day. The air-conditioning is killing me.

This reminds me of a trip to Dubai probably ten years ago. It must have been 110 degrees in the shade (and there is precious little shade in Dubai). On the first day of our trip, we thought swimming in the hotel's pool would provide some relief from the heat. We were wrong. In Dubai the pools are cooled (ala freezing-baking, baking-freezing from above). I suppose this might be great for your immune system (or if you're undergoing therapy for schizophrenia), but I found it unhelpful in both cases.

Back to Tennessee and the drought of 2012. My parents live out in the country barely inside the "city" limits of a tiny town called Nolensville. They haven't had to mow their football field-sized lawn in weeks and weeks because it hasn't rained in weeks and weeks. They have sparingly watered their organic garden. Two days ago a letter came from the city instructing residents when they are allowed to water their lawns and gardens: odd-numbered addresses M-W-F, even-numbered address T-Th-Sa for three hours between midnight and 3 a.m. I'm sure there was a run on sprinkler timers at the hardware store after the good residents of Williamson county read this missive.

The drought has devastated crops across the state. Mercifully, my father's green beans made early this year, a week before the drought started. My father's green beans become my mother's green beans when she puts them up--in jars for those of you unfamiliar with Southern idiom. This year my mother put up 131 quarts of green beans. Her green beans are the tastiest green beans in the world.

On Friday, my father harvested the corn, which meant I had to shuck it. I haven't shucked corn in decades, but it's kind of like riding a bike or singing Amazing Grace. It comes back to you. I kept a ladybug jar at my feet, and I set them free among the tomato plants after I shucked 100 ears of corn, each ear kernel-less from the tip down an inch from the drought. Have you ever had corn on the cob fresh from the garden? I have . . . at least ten times this week. And tomatoes. And okra. And beets. And potatoes. And kale. And spinach. And squash. God bless my organic-farmer daddy.

My parents compost everything. They waste not. And they try to stay as organic as possible when it comes to the garden. And now they have help. A battalion of purple martins has moved in to the martin house at the corner of the garden. They whir and buzz overhead, often swooping down within a foot of my father's head. He seems to like it. There are about ten of them right now, but I've told him if the power lines start filling up with them, he should run for the hills.

Last night, the heavens opened up, at least in Hillsboro Village in Nashville, and it lashed for at least 20 minutes outside Boscos where I was having a great time with a close friend. Still, not a drop in Nolensville.

If you haven't already read my story "When Chase Prays Chocolate" at SmokeLong Quarterly, swing by. HERE

I must be off,


Christopher Allen writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fond Memories of the KGB

I've been silent for the last couple weeks because I've been on the road (and then in bed with a cold). Or I think I might just be allergic to the US. The condition which I have chosen to call "The Amazing and Prolific Sinus Production of 2012" (or ASPSP12) began in NYC the day of the reading at the KGB bar--which was such great fun (the reading not ASPSP12).

Contrary to the excellent advice I got from seasoned public speakers, I ate Indian food before the reading. There was no way I was going to miss Indian food. Why? Well, Indian food makes me happy. Also Mexican. And Thai. And Turkish. And I think we see a pattern. Spicy food makes me smile. I ordered lamb vindaloo, which I exchanged for a bit of bindi gosht with Ann Bogle (the friendship was immediate). Thank you, Susan Tepper, for choosing an Indian restaurant for the pre-reading dinner; and of course THANK YOU for inviting me to read.

The KGB Bar is small and dark. In former times, I'm sure this space was a dank, cloudy fishbowl of the smoking intelligentsia. I believe the euphemism for this is intimate. It was all these things except smoky. There were so many fine writers crammed into this little room, and most of them have graced the pages of Metazen (the literary ezine I edit along with eight other editors including Frank Hinton, its creator): Helen Vitoria (my first hug of the evening), Bill Yarrow, Robert Vaughan, Matt Potter (the other featured reader), Danny Goodman, Ann Bogle, Michelle Elvy (present through the voice of Susan Tepper), Ilana C. Myer (Ilana Teitelbaum Reichert), Kyle Hemmings and of course the sweetest surprise of the evening . . . Tania Hershman, who dedicated the story "48 Dogs" to me at the reading. Such a great micro, and Tania read it so beautifully. 

Other great readers: Bill Lantry (whose book of poetry The Structure of Desire is shooting up the charts), Gloria Mindock, Derek Osborne, Tina Barry, Lucinda Kempe, Ben Loory, Neil Serven, Deborah Henry, Stanley Hoffman and Martha Rand. And then of course there were the people above us who were either killing one another or practicing for the World Wrestling Federation.

Here a few glimpses of the evening, all lovingly filmed and edited by Bill Yarrow . . .

I must be off,


Christopher Allen writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.