“One Hundred Days” by Andrea Eberly

BLAST, TMR’s online-only prose anthology, features fiction and nonfiction too lively to be confined between the covers of a print journal. In her 2021 Perkoff Prize finalist story “One Hundred Days,” Andrea Eberly gives us an oncologist and new mother whose past rock-star crush comes crashing into her present professional life in the form of a dying patient.

 

One Hundred Days

Andrea Eberly

 

Earlier in my career as an assistant professor of medicine, I would lose myself in charting, reading, writing. I’d imagined myself all mind, just a big brain hitching a ride in a body-machine that I kept running with protein bars, premade cafeteria sandwiches, cup noodles, all washed down with cup after cup of coffee. Now my mammal-body called me back every few hours as my breasts filled with milk, two biological hourglasses that got flipped over after twenty minutes of pumping.

Wichita wichita. The breast pump’s cicada-like chorus filled the clinic’s break room. Today was Thursday, my clinic day. Since I was working as the attending physician at the hospital this month, I spent the rest of the week I was at my research lab. I willed my oxytocin-fogged head to be up to the task of skimming over two years’ worth of chart notes during a single pumping session. I stuffed salmon salad into my mouth while flipping through the electronic chart on my laptop, reviewing chemo regimens, cell counts, CT-scan images. A couple of quinoa kernels fell onto the keyboard, and I brushed them off. I was now responsible for nourishing two bodies, so I’d given up the cup noodles. This next case was new to me; he was coming in for a pretransplant workup.

Wichita wichita wichita. Drip, drip, drip.

When the medical assistant walked in to tell me the patient had arrived, I turned around to his voice. He backed out of the room, hands held up in a Hey, don’t shoot sort of gesture. Strangely bodiless, my swollen nipples pulsed with the suction of the machine, sticking out from the cone-shaped flanges strapped onto me with an elasticized corset. Larry was filling in for Sonya. Sonya was used to the pumping.

I unscrewed the bottles and pulled off the bra, losing a few drops of milk on my pants, and wrapped up the gear before chucking it all into the fridge. I rinsed out my mouth with tap water to conceal stank coffee breath before walking into the exam room. I rubbed some alcohol gel onto my hands.

A man sat on the edge of the paper-covered exam table. Slim dark jeans and a nubby sweater covered a slim body. He appeared closer to my age than his calendar age of fifty-one. But that’s how it is with cancer—the puffiness from IV fluids and steroids can make you look unnaturally young, or the disease can eat away at you and turn you old overnight.

I introduced myself, Dr. Sydney Weaver, and he reached out to shake my hand. A tattoo covered his wrist and half the back of his hand. I’d seen the image before. A blue serpent circled his wrist, scaly body looping on itself with the head eating its own tail. I recognized the ouroboros from the album art of The Invisible City. The poster was still up at my parents’ house, in my old bedroom.

Cool tattoo, I thought, very cool. I was about to say so, when I really looked at the prednisone-puffed face and the postchemo hair fuzz. The cleft in his chin cinched it.

It was him. Mr. Polo.

***

One night in eleventh grade, my friends and I had gone cruising. It was the late ’80s, Phoenix. Tan desert dotted with stuccoed tract houses and green lawns. All the roads at right angles to each other.

Beth, Angela, and I piled into my Ford Escort—stick shift, plastic dash cracked from endless sun, fabric-wrapped visor disintegrating into a swirl of fine powder. We’d just taken the practice SAT and were giddy with having made the first concrete move toward getting into college, which was to say, getting the hell out of Phoenix. I pushed a Mr. Polo tape into the deck, twisted the volume nob, and felt the bass shake the air, even as the warping speakers were all rattle and static. We stopped at Denny’s and ate cheese fries and drank bottomless cherry cokes. Angela smoked some cigarettes she’d stolen from her mother. Menthols. After driving past Jim Delver’s place and launching a couple of eggs at his window, we drove over to the elementary school with the big speed bumps out front. The city had painted HUMP to warn drivers to slow down. We chalked in the word KIDS underneath. After midnight, we stationed the car in the parking lot of the Ross Dress for Less where Beth worked. It was next to the Taco Bell with the late-night drive thru. We stuffed ourselves with fifty-nine-cent tacos, witnessed petty drug deals, and ripped jokes about the creepy guy in fifth period who was always drawing pictures of wolves in trench coats. Beth and I bet on which one of us he’d ask out first. Definitely Angela. We laughed our throats raw, and then we laughed more. All the while, Mr. Polo blasted from the cassette deck and we swore to each other that even when we went to college, we’d never lose touch and would be friends forever.

Back then, I just thought Mr. Polo’s music was the best thing I’d ever heard. If anyone had asked me why I loved it, I would’ve said it was because of the way he wove together the beats and sounds, how he pushed and pulled the tempos. What a dumb and technical answer, but I cared a lot about sounding smart back then. Really, I just I loved how it made me feel, how he made me feel, like he had crawled into my skull and made sense of everything. I could listen and think, Yeah, it’s just like that. Just like that.

***     

Not long after Marco’s first appointment, I dug around in some old boxes and found my Mr. Polo CDs. I hadn’t listened to his stuff in years. With my windows down, the volume up, and my baby Maddie in the back seat, I drove around. Maddie goo goo gah gah’d and bounced her feet to the electronic drums, the synthesizer click, and Mr. Polo’s machine-gun lyrics. The baby seemed to like Mr. Polo’s middle work best, before he returned to real drums and guitar shreds. In the delicious anticipation of the next beat, the next musical structure, feelings poured through me that were both familiar and strange.

Of course, in medical school I’d learned about dopamine and the pleasure and reward centers in the brain, so I figured music was like drugs, food, and sex—big fat dopamine hits in the deepest parts of the brain. I once shared this theory with Ben, my best buddy from med school, when we were studying neurotransmission, and he joked that I had a pretty mechanical view of the best parts of being alive.

Ben and I had ended up living together in San Francisco for our internal medicine residencies. We shared a one-bedroom—I paid more rent to get the bedroom and Ben slept on the couch-bed. We often went to the laundromat together, the nicer one a little farther away called the Lost Sock. When we washed clothes, Ben always came up one sock short. He had an old shoe box filled with the singletons taking up valuable real estate on our bookshelf at the apartment. I guess he was an optimist, believing that someday all the socks would be reunited. Me, I used to put all my socks in a mesh bag, so it was impossible to lose one. I believed in planning, not luck.

We’d watch our clothes spin around in the dryer while dreaming out loud about the next stages of our careers. Classic overachievers, both of us planned on doing fellowships following residency. I told Ben I wanted to go into hematology/oncology. Ben said he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to go into oncology, because so many of those patients were not fixable. That was the appeal of infectious disease, he said. Match the drug to the bug and cure the patient.

I told him that I didn’t want to stop just at regular oncology. I would push further. Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. Every patient on a research protocol as investigators trialed new combinations of medications, new methods of harvesting cells. The fucking Wild West of medicine. In transplant, the goal wasn’t just a feeble extension of life. It was cure.

I wanted to be a goddam cowboy.

***

On the days Mr. Polo, whose given name was Marco Schellenbach, was on my schedule, a fluttery feeling filled my chest. I wore mascara and was careful not to leave the house with a white blob of dried spit-up on my blouse, even as I was less careful about fastening up all that blouse’s buttons. My husband would sometimes even tell me I looked nice as I dashed out of the house.

On one of those days, as I waited for Marco to arrive for his appointment, I massaged the kinks out of a grant application that was due the following day. My grad student, technician, and two postdocs didn’t deserve to end up unemployed because I couldn’t get my act together and secure funding. I yawned. My kid’s first teeth were coming in, so I was getting little to no sleep, even by new parent standards. The only thing that kept Maddie from screaming was constant attachment to my breast. All. Night. Long.

Marco came in and sat down in a chair—not the exam bench—next to the office computer and stared at his hands. I started with the results of his last bone marrow biopsy.

“Your leukemia is no longer detectable.”

“So that means I can get the transplant?”

I nodded.

His lips pulled into a smile that gripped my heart as we hashed out some of the other details—which conditioning regimen he’d get, the brother who was a match, the sister who could come out from Waco to shepherd him through recovery.

“Do you have any more questions?”

Marco picked up one of the two photos on my desk. Since I shared the exam room, I always had to remember to take my photos home at the end of the day.

“Your baby is cute. How old is she?”

“That’s Maddie. She’s six months old.”

“Who’s the guy in the other photo? Your brother?”

He was asking about the one with the blonde in a tux standing next to the redheaded bride. A lot of patients send their doctors cards with family photos, and we put them up in our offices. I knew it blurred the lines of patient confidentiality, but I couldn’t help myself and answered Marco’s question knowing the hope that the photo could inspire.

One of my first patients.

“Did he live?”

“Yeah.”

My fellowship had just started when Jason, the guy in the photo, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia—same diagnosis as Marco. I remember the spring in my step in those days; I’d been driven by my belief that the initial induction and consolidation treatments would work, and even if they didn’t, there was always another step, another treatment, so many different chemotherapy cocktails. I’d prescribed the clotrimazole troches for his thrush during salvage treatment. I’d optimized his antirejection meds. He survived, grew back his hair, got married, and sent me that wedding announcement—the photo on my desk. He’d been the first patient I ushered through the whole process. The first patient I cured.

Marco nodded and pursed his lips as he looked at the photo. His brow twitched. I wondered if he was imagining himself in a similar photo, hair grown back, muscles rounded out. A future without cancer. A posttreatment world.

What was I thinking, leaving the neck of my blouse undone?

***

During our appointments, I kept thinking that Marco would eventually mention music, like Hey, last weekend I was messing around on my Roland 808 drum machine . . .

But he never did. It became a bit like when you’ve been talking to someone at a party all night long and realize you don’t know their name. You can’t ask anymore. In this case, I wanted to tell Marco that I loved his work, but it seemed deceptive to not have said anything for so long. Maybe he valued what he’d believed was a certain anonymity in our interactions. I mean, I’d now seen him naked under a backless hospital gown, taken blood, knew his whole medical history. So intimate, and yet.

It became a secret I watered like a houseplant. But not any houseplant. Maybe an orchid, where the pleasure was married to the toil of keeping it alive.

***

While I waited for Marco to arrive—that patient before him had canceled—I caught up on emails. My grad student almost had enough data to write a paper, but her figures were awful, and I didn’t have the time to really get into it, so I closed the email and opened up Amazon to buy some new clothes for my daughter. No one told me it would be so sad to retire Maddie’s six-month footed pajamas, the ones with the hedgehogs.

Earlier that week, I’d replaced Maddie’s photo with a new one. My husband was holding her, and you could just see his hands. Maddie had two tiny bottom teeth. Marco noticed the new photo immediately when he sat down. He said she looked like me. That was when I asked him about his daughter and immediately felt my face grow three sizes too big, hot and red.

My leukemia patient had never told me about his daughter.

In high school and college, I’d read every article about Mr. Polo in Spin or Rolling Stone or whatever other music rag. My high school binder was covered in a collage of magazine cutouts, and the one taking up the most space was a black-and-white photo of Mr. Polo in sunglasses screaming into a mic. I still had a pair of the same aviators.

“I’m actually a huge fan,” I mumbled and swallowed and drummed my fingers against my leg, and the air in the room was jelly. What would he say?

“My daughter just finished art school,” he said. “Hard to believe she was ever that little.” He motioned toward the photo of Maddie.

“Yeah. It goes by fast,” I said. After a moment, I got my nerve up to meet his eye and asked, “What kind of art does she do?”

“She wants to open a tattoo shop.”

He paused and took a deep breath, almost like he was tired from the talking. He lifted his arm, the one with the ouroboros, and said, “She always liked my tattoos. She likes the idea of living art.”

We went over his lab results before he got onto the exam table. I placed my stethoscope over the jaguar tattoo on his back, and the tip of my finger brushed his ink. My heart skipped into my throat as I listened to his breaths go in and out.

***

Right after graduating college, my roommates and I took a road trip to a big open-air concert near Jackson Hole. Mr. Polo was the headliner. On the stage, Mr. Polo unbuttoned his starched white shirt. Under the stage lights, his muscles rippled, creating the illusion that the stylized jaguar tattooed on his back was alive.

Masses of sweaty bodies, moving to the beat. The violence, the raw physicality of the crowd, edged on sexy. With disassociation from caring and really letting loose, I was for the tiniest moment living life without my mind—I was just a body swimming in thereness, if there even is such a word—synched up with Mr. Polo and his music.

After the concert, we camped for a few nights off a dirt road that lay in the border region between Yellowstone and Grand Teton Park. One night in the tent, my roommate dug out a piece of paper from her bag and wrote the letters MASH on top. It had been ages since any of us had played that schoolgirl game. Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. A game to predict our futures. The game foretold that I would end up in an apartment with five kids, working as a movie star and married to Dr. Richards, our lech biochemistry professor, whom we always saw working out at the campus gym in such short shorts I swear you could see his nut sack. My roommate got a mansion and was married to Mr. Polo. Lucky her.

Our campsite was near a stream. From our tent we heard something splashing in the water, and then it would stop before starting up again. Was it bison charging through the water? A massive grizzly bear catching fish? We’d been hitting the hash pipe, and paranoia tickled the napes of our necks. That fall I would be heading off to medical school—my roommate, too. My other roommate had been accepted to a PhD program in chemical engineering. We snort-laughed as we imagined the headline. “Young talent cut short. Eaten by bears.”

I unzipped the tent, and my bare feet felt as though they were floating over the chalky dirt as I padded toward the stream. I parted the willow branches like a curtain just in time to see a cloud of white pelicans landing in an explosion of water. They floated with the current of the creek a stretch before flying upstream to land and float downstream again. Paranoia melted into awe as I stumbled back to the tent.

Safely zipped inside the tent, we listened to the sounds of pelicans taking off and landing in splashes of creek water, and we fell asleep to the rhythm of living things.

***

As usual after working at the lab, I had to get Maddie from day care. The day care teacher told me Maddie had started to point.

Earlier that day I’d reviewed Marco’s chart to see how he was doing. He was two weeks out from his transplant and still admitted to the hospital. His liver enzymes were through the roof, and he was suffering watery diarrhea—graft versus host disease or maybe side effects from the conditioning regimen. We’d know more when the pathology report came back.

My stomach filled with ash.

I strapped Maddie into her car seat. Mostly I was ignoring the stream of garbling sounds emerging from her mouth, when I jammed my finger into one of the buckles. The fingernail of my left middle finger bent back, and pain seared through my hand. It was all I could do to not yell “Fuck!” to not plow my fist into my thigh. I sucked on the finger to dull the ache and inhaled a couple of times. Maddie’s long toes wriggled, taunting me. Goddammit, her sock was off again. What was it with children’s feet and socks? I leaned over, the waistband of my jeans cutting into my belly fat, and picked up the pink-and-white knit thing. Maddie stuck her thumb in her mouth and gave me the stink eye as I pulled the sock over her foot for the eight hundredth time before cinching the straps of her car seat.

***

One Thursday in clinic, after Marco had been discharged from the hospital, he talked to me about his garden.

“Sydney, what is your favorite apple?”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

“Well, a few years back I planted a Gravenstein tree. This year it has two apples, so next year it should really start producing. Maybe enough for a pie. Gravensteins make the best pies. My grandma had a big tree in her yard, and she baked with nothing else.”

During another visit he told me about a novel he was trying to complete. He said this in between body-wracking coughs that he tried to cover with trembling hands.

“I’m about halfway through revising it.”

“I didn’t know you wrote.”

“My head is filled with all these people—my characters. It will be weird to say goodbye when I’m done with the book.”

I kept hoping he’d talk to me about the music, especially now that he knew I was a fan. I wanted to learn about his process for writing songs, choosing samples, what it was like to stand on the stage above a sea of dancing bodies.

Somewhere inside these conversations lurked his real question: Will I get be able to get my book done?

No, deeper.

Am I going to die?

No, deeper still.

When will I die?

***

One hundred days after I had birthed my daughter, my mom watched her while Craig and I went to a café for a glass of wine to celebrate having kept our baby alive for this milestone. As we walked home, the clouds cracked open with a fountain of rain. We ran the last blocks back to the house, and something warm happened between my legs. I knew what it was, but still hoped I was wrong.

My body had fallen apart to bring new life into the world.

I wanted control of my bladder back.

I’ve always wanted control.

***

On day eighty-seven posttransplant, it was confirmed that Marco’s leukemia was back. He didn’t get to one hundred days.

***

Marco paced in the office. Not the violent lunging steps of a healthy man, not the vigorous movements of that man I’d seen so many years before at that festival in Wyoming, but the nervous shuffle of a sick man. A scared man. I explained that the prognosis for people whose leukemias relapsed within one hundred days of transplant was grim.

“What does that mean, Doctor?”

He usually called me Sydney.

I met his question with silence, and that was when he started to cry.

***

The lights in our living room were on a timer. They clicked off at ten thirty. So did the heat. I had already put Maddie to bed. and Craig was upstairs playing on his computer. The baby cried, and I didn’t think it could be that she was hungry; she had just eaten. I hollered at Craig to go in and get her back down.

Ghost-like light from my laptop filled the room as I flipped through the PubMed database, sifting the medical literature for any option that could go after Marco’s leukemia. There had to be something there if you looked hard enough.

My breasts filled with milk.

I saved links, skimmed abstracts, printed a couple of articles, made notes. Normally I would have fed Maddie around midnight, but I kept working until the sky lightened and birds chirped outside the window. My breasts felt like they had become bags filled with stones. Finally, Craig came downstairs and asked why I hadn’t ever come to bed. I couldn’t say much more than that I was trying to help a patient. I couldn’t tell Craig I was treating Mr. Polo. You know, HIPAA and all that.

Craig went back upstairs and returned a few minutes later with the baby.

“Syd, Maddie’s hungry.”

He said it like “hawngree.” It was our joke.

I held Maddie to my breast. The flood of milk made her cough, and pain shot through me as she clamped down on my nipple.

Goddamit, Baby.

She now had four teeth. Two top and two bottom.

Maddie’s swallows made little “kah” sounds. A recent paper outlined how something called a FLT-3 inhibitor could attack the leukemia cells, but the drug was still in clinical trials. Could I procure it for Marco? Sometimes drug companies let you use experimental therapies for what they called “compassionate use.” I had to try. I’d contact the medical science liaison at Novo Nordisk. They’d give me the drug. They had to.

The baby dozed off at my breast. A flutter of guilt rushed through me for ignoring her. I remembered the advice my mother had given me—sleep when the baby sleeps. Don’t fight nature. So I picked up her sleep-limp body and carried her into bed with me. I held her to my chest and breathed in the scent of her hair. My own restlessness seemed so abrupt and harsh next to her sleeping form. Her eyelashes were so long. I had no idea that a baby could have such long eyelashes. Underneath the paper-thin lids, her eyes twitched. What was she dreaming about? What would her dreams be? My body was tired, but my mind resisted sleep, and my thoughts wove in and out and kept coming back to the same place. Physicians were just body mechanics. Why could some bodies be fixed, while others failed? What if I couldn’t patch it up and get it back on the road? A package of bones and tissues and vessels and blood—was that all we were?

***

How many hours did I spend on the phone or drafting emails to the drug company? But inside Marco, his cancer had a schedule of its own.

There hadn’t been time to work through the regulatory hurdle for the experimental drug, so he’d elected to try another transplant. I told him it was a long shot, that it was off protocol and that there was no way his insurance would cover it. Marco didn’t care that his insurance wouldn’t pay. After all, he’d quipped, what else was a gold album for? I tried to be clear and upfront about the risks, about how we were going into unknown territory, that his body hadn’t recovered from the first transplant. But the truth was I never suggested he shouldn’t do it. Not really.

I wasn’t attending the month he got the second transplant, so it wasn’t as a physician that I visited Marco at the hospital. He had a scarf wrapped around his head. He’d been in the room long enough that his family had decorated. A huge line drawing of Marco holding a toddler girl—I had to assume his daughter—was taped to the bathroom door. I had to blink for a moment to control myself. The image so keenly evoked how it felt to hold your child. Marco said his daughter had drawn it and was planning to have it tattooed on her calf.

“Are you able to eat?” I asked.

“Yeah, when I don’t feel too sick.”

“I brought you some pie. The farmer’s market didn’t have Gravensteins, so I got some other kind the guy recommended.” I pulled a Pyrex out of my bag and put a small piece of pie on a paper plate I’d nabbed from the unit’s nourishment room.

“And don’t worry, Marco, it meets criteria for neutropenic precautions.”

Marco smiled and took a small bite.

“I didn’t expect you’d be so good at baking.”

I wasn’t his doctor today. I also wasn’t his friend; that would be presumptuous. There was some sort of blurry relationship between us. I finally asked if we could talk about the music.

***

Marco had been in the hospital for over a month when it was once again my month to attend on the inpatient unit. His head glistened, totally bald from the treatment. Yellow complexion and sunken eyes, knobby hands, jutting collarbones. His skin like a loose suit over his frame. Diarrhea came next, neutropenic fever, a rectal tube, blood-pressure support. He was altered and could no longer hold a conversation. And then came the breathing tube.

His body was still there, however tenuously, but where had he gone?

Marco’s daughter came every day to visit and sometimes asked questions during rounds. Sometimes they weren’t really questions.

“Is he going to wake up?”

“Why aren’t the treatments working?”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?”

***

I was home in bed with my baby and my husband the night Marco coded. I found out the next day that the team had worked on him for over an hour, getting his pulse back a couple times before they called it. I was glad I wasn’t there. I didn’t want my last memory of him to be of his body getting smashed by chest compressions while blood frothed around the breathing tube and his eyes became fixed and dilated. The eyes of the dead aren’t like in the movies. They don’t stay closed when you brush your hands over them. The lids spring back open.

***

That last conversation, the one we had over pie, I’d literally taken notes as Marco talked about his influences. And it wasn’t just other music, but visual artists and novels too. I did mean to look it all up. But as I sat in my office and held the wrinkled piece of notebook paper trying to figure out why I’d scrawled the half sentence, most people like rubbers, I realized I was already remembering it wrong. The notes were meaningless. Sure, I had asked him some questions, but mostly I’d just gushed about how much his music meant to me and how much fun it had been to dance at his shows. Suddenly, a thousand questions leaped into my brain, things I hadn’t asked him. Would never be able to ask him.

Had it been about me all along?

***

Marco had been gone for two weeks when I received a letter in my office mailbox. It was from Marco’s daughter. I held the small blue card for several minutes before I had the courage to open it.

Thanks for taking such good care of my father. He said you were a fan, and I know that shouldn’t make a difference, but it did. 

***

Later that week, on a sunny Saturday morning, I decided to take Maddie to the park. I buckled my seatbelt, turned the ignition, and stuck in a Mr. Polo CD. Maddie yelled, and I craned around. Her staccato laugh filled the car, and she wiggled her legs and feet. One of her socks hung from her toes.

At the next red light, I turned back to Maddie. Her foot was now bare. I didn’t pick up the sock. Instead, I pulled off the other one and released her beautiful baby foot. She kicked and giggled as I tickled her feet. I was laughing so hard that I didn’t notice the light had turned green until the car behind me laid on its horn.

I was laughing so hard, I peed.

And now? When I listen to Mr. Polo, it is like drinking a memory, taking a hit of the way it felt to be seventeen, parked outside of Ross and laughing with my best friends, how it felt to lie in a tent listening to pelicans splash, how it felt to sit in the car tickling the feet of my beautiful daughter, always on the jagged edge of the rest of my life.

***

 

Andrea Eberly works as a clinical pharmacist in emergency medicine. Her stories have appeared in Witness, Southwest Review, Carve, Bellevue Literary Review and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel-length work.

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So You’re Picking Up Adam Smith from the Airport

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By Alison Balaskovits

So, you’re picking up one of your favorite literary figures (poetry or prose, living or dead) from the airport before taking them to dinner and conducting an interview. You’re a huge fan and you’re super excited about the assignment, but also a bit nervous. Relax. The main thing you need to be concerned with is having a kickass playlist going on the tape deck when you roll up to the terminal and I’m here to help. I offer no guarantees, but with some deductive reasoning, digital crate digging, and intuition I think we can manage something that leaves everyone comfortable, happy, and bobbing their heads.

Below is a 12 track set that I think should get you from the airport and back again with some stops in between. You can play it in sequence, but it will work on mix-mode as well (this might even be better). The important thing is to have it already playing when you pick them up and to not discuss it at all unless they bring it up first. Basically, play it cool and act like you’ve been there before. I can in no way guarantee that they’ll actually dig this, but I have my hopes. Worst case scenario, just have NPR locked in as station preset 1 in case things get desperate. Best of luck!

Your passenger this week is none other than Adam Smith the Scottish philosopher and academic, widely recognized as the father of modern economics. Smith was a noted lecturer and considered himself primarily a moral philosopher but his name is indelibly linked to The Wealth of Nations, an econ text that’s been praised or dismissed (or both) by just about every school & faction of economics since it was written. Buckle up! Let’s talk about $$$$$$$.

1. The Clash – Magnificent Seven He’s your guest & passenger so you probably don’t want to get right up in Smith’s face with an outright critique of the worst of capitalism’s excesses and degradations. If you’re going to do it all I say at least throw a mean groove and some Joe Strummer proto-rap vocals in the mix.

2. Devo – Going Under OK, I’ll admit I’m putting this in here largely because I’ve always wanted to live out this particular scene of conspicuous consumption & night driving from the Heart of Darkness episode of Miami Vice with a fellow passenger…and I would be honored to have Smith by my side here (though he’d likely consider the gold chains and Ferrari to be excessive). Devo’s intentions were different, but in context you can consider the title to refer to mountain of debt you’ll be dealing with if trying to maintain this lifestyle with a writer/professor’s income.

3. Big Country – In A Big Country You’re driving Scottish-born Smith along our endless highways on his very 1st visit to America. You really can’t afford to not include this, the biggest track by the hottest Scottish group of the 80s. It’s always been a mystery to me why Big Country never broke bigger in the states. This was a top 10 here and both this and their next album were smashes in the UK. Vagaries of the market I guess… Notice how they get their guitars to sound a lot like bagpipes? Smith will, and it’ll be appreciated.

4. Freeez – I.O.U. Cash is, intrinsically, a debt. Who knows exactly why we as a society decided to print elaborate designs & pictures of dead people on our individual IOU slips, but why ask questions when you can rock your body to this? As good as when Double K was working it into his set in Beat Street.

5. The Thamesmen (Spinal Tap) – Gimme Some Money The genius of Spinal Tap is that no matter how much they ratchet up the spoof factor, no matter how outrageous or winking the lyrics become, their tunes are always as catchy as anything they’re poking fun at. Here, with their sights set on early R&B/Skiffle-era Beatles jams they deliver a homage to the noble & acquisitive drive for capital that free markets so gloriously foster. Smith would be proud. And don’t lie: you laugh every time you hear the “bad checks” line.

6. Tracy Chapman – Fast Car If you haven’t sat in the back seat on a late summer night’s cruise while shouting this word-for-word with friends then you’ve lived a woefully diminished existence up until now. The good news is that it’s never too late, act now! Hear it once and you’ll never forget the guitar riff, hear it a hundred times and be filled with sorrow over the existence of embedded poverty cycles.

7. Easy Star All-Stars – Money Want to feel better about not having any of the titular item? Easy. Just dim the lights, follow the audio-instructions included at the beginning of the track, and let this dub cover of Pink Floyd’s classic ride. You’ll be OK.  A lot’s changed in the 224 years that Smith has been gone. Roll up the windows and get ready to blow his mind.

8. Wiley – Numbers in Action RIP Michael Jackson. 5 years gone and I am DEFINITELY still a fan, so Wiley and I have that in common. But aside from the repeated professions of his persistent fandom for the Moonwalker this tune makes the list for being a fantastic deep-bass driving song with a healthy respect for diversification among one’s hard currency holdings (he emphasizes dollars and pounds, but I’d also suggest acquiring some yuan & rubles in the current market).

9. Calloway – I Wanna Be Rich As a true child of the 80s, born under the sign of Reagan, tthe chorus to this song was one of the first chunks of pop music that I ever committed to memory. “I want money/lots and lots of money/I want the pie in the sky…I wanna be RICH!” I knew these words before I knew the Pledge of Allegiance or my own phone number. God Bless America.

10. RuPaul – Supermodel Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased. (The Wealth of Nations Chapter V.) It’s quite clear that both Smith and RuPaul share the same reverence for the value of labor. Whether you’re laying the foundations for a robust national economy with reliable growth that provides for the needs of its citizens or you’re striving to be the baddest diva to strut the runway: You Better Work!!!

11. James Brown – Living In America Smith dropped The Wealth of Nations in 1776, ushering in an economic revolution just as America was beginning her own transformation an ocean away. 209 years later Rocky Balboabeat the crap out of 9-foot-tall Ivan Drago in Drago’s home country, thus asserting the primacy of free-market capitalism over the Soviet planned economy. It was a beautiful thing. There is however no triumph without sacrifice, and The Godfather of Soul’s performance of this song in the movie precedes one of the most heartbreaking defeats in sports cinema: The death of Apollo Creed, American hero.

12. Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M. Any playlist for the foundational theorist of modern capitalism would be a fraud without this track that both affirms his assertions about the power of the market while exposing its brutal realities. It’s the little things (the every-other-bar flourish on the iconic piano sample, the effortless invention of the titular slang, the otherworldly string washes in the background) that served to make this one a hip-hop classic. Smith was a popular lecturer who had astronomical, moral, & historical academic pursuits in addition to his work on political economy, but he would no doubt have to accept the cold hard late capitalist assertion that “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”.

 

weshazard_pubshotWes Hazard is a Boston-based writer, stand up comic and radio DJ. You can follow him on twitter @weshazard and check out his work at www.weshazard.com 

So You’re Picking Up Philip K. Dick from the Airport

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By Alison Balaskovits

So, you’re picking up one of your favorite literary figures (poetry or prose, living or dead) from the airport before taking them to dinner and conducting an interview. You’re a huge fan and you’re super excited about the assignment, but also a bit nervous. Relax. The main thing you need to be concerned with is having a kickass playlist going on the tape deck when you roll up to the terminal and I’m here to help. I offer no guarantees, but with some deductive reasoning, digital crate digging, and intuition I think we can manage something that leaves everyone comfortable, happy, and bobbing their heads.

Below is a 12 track set that I think should get you from the airport and back again with some stops in between. You can play it in sequence, but it will work on mix-mode as well (this might even be better). The important thing is to have it already playing when you pick them up and to not discuss it at all unless they bring it up first. Basically, play it cool and act like you’ve been there before. I can in no way guarantee that they’ll actually dig this, but I have my hopes. Worst case scenario, just have NPR locked in as station preset 1 in case things get desperate. Best of luck!

Your passenger this week is novelist, short-story writer, philosopher, and hyper-prolific sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick whose explorations of identity, reality, perception, drug culture, conspiracies, faith, & post-hippie NoCal culture have resonated for decades after his death with a deep and loyal fandom, literary canonization, and multiple blockbuster film adaptations. Gulp. Here’s to an incredible journey.

1. Peace Orchestra – Who Am I The only answer that most of Dick’s protagonists are able to give to the titular question of this track at the end of his works is Hell if I know. Good thing you won’t have to worry about anything as heady as that as you jump onto the freeway at midnight as this curls out of the stereo making you feel at least 120% cooler about yourselves than you actually are…it’s just got that kind of power. Bonus points for being featured throughout the Animatrix, an underappreciated part of a modern classic film universe that I speculate Dick would’ve been enthralled by.

2. Dr. Octagon – Blue Flowers Revisited Dick was a noted devotee of classical music and his death in 1982 came well before hip-hop had become a national force. That said, if he’d lived long enough I can pretty easily see Kool Keith (aka Dr. Octagon aka Black Elvis aka Dr. Dooom) being his favorite M.C. It’s not everyday you’re going to find a lyrical genius who appreciates science fiction, psychological dissociation, conspiracy theories, and the artistic employment of paranoia as much as you do. Blue Flowers Revisited gets the nod not only for being the perfect track for creeping through the hyper-neon streets of a near future dystopian metropolis, but also because the title never fails to make me think of Mors Ontologica, the sky colored source of A Scanner Darkly’s Substance D.

3. Liars – A Visit From Drum Thick dread that you can’t quite place or reconcile: from Joe Chip’s suspicions about his thanatological status in Ubik to Bob Arctor’s fear over his receding identity in A Scanner Darkly this is a psychological territory that Dick mined throughout his career. With this track the Liars more or less made the soundtrack to it.

4. The Velvet Underground  – The Black Angel’s Death Song In an extreme surface sense The Velvet Underground (New York, heroin) are the musical anthesis of much of Dick’s (Cali, speed/psychedelics) writing. Definitely not with this song. They were definitely on the same wavelength here. The cascading vocal delivery, the hovering presence of a fundamentally unknowable extra-human force, the way you enjoy it even though it kind of terrifies you. Oh yes. The perfect way to ride out into the night with alongside one of the most talented Americans to ever put pen to paper.

5. The Big Pink – Sweet Dreams Too many pop/rock/indie covers of hip-hop/ R&B songs exist purely because of irony. They’re often as catchy as the originals but it’s often impossible to shake the smirking “isn’t it crazy that we’re playing mandolins while belting out the lyrics to a nightclub banger?!” sentiment lurking underneath. This isn’t one of those songs. The Big Pink plays this Beyonce hit totally straight, adding a creepy melancholy that will have you questioning the nature of perception & reality along with the best of Dick’s protagonists. Caution: Dick will likely be inclined to write 100 pages of exegesis connecting the group’s name to the dazzling “pink beam of light” that twice visited him to impart mystical knowledge.

6. The Flaming Lips – In The Morning of the Magicians You can pretty easily (lazily?) spin The Flaming Lips as the perfect contemporary group for Philip K. Dick enthusiasts. After all, they make albums about androids, robots, psychedelics, religious mysticism, & sci-fi in general. But include this here first & foremost because it’s an ideal wee hours cruising song, hell, your passenger may even be asleep after picking him up from a red eye flight. If not,  think he’d agree that there’s no better way to greet the dawn than with a song referencing a left-field classic on occultism & conspiracy theories.

7. Burkhard Dallwitz – A New Life It’s only two minutes long and it’s the music played on the main menu screen of the Truman Show DVD so it’s possible I’ve heard this more than maybe any other track ever recorded. Personal bias aside, this one makes the list for the possibility/gravitas/metamorphosis it hints at, never beating you over the head. Probably put this one on repeat and loop it 3-4 times for the full effect. Those strings in the last half…something is on the horizon, let’s just hope it’s good.

8. Panda Bear – I’m Not Usually when I acknowledge the possibility that reality as we know it is an accident of perception & that my firmly held conviction of selfhood is quite probably a total sham it’s an…unsettling experience. This song works miracles by making that thought acceptable…if not downright pleasant. You’re going to have to do your best to maintain control of the vehicle instead of easing into a meditative trance of acceptance at 70 mph. Good luck.

9. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me This one’s a risk given Dick’s well noted surveillance paranoia (though at least some of that was based on legitimate threats). But in the end I think he’ll end up enjoying some of the finest that 1980s mainstream novelty pop had to offer. Would this have gotten released if Rockwell wasn’t Motown founder Berry Gordy’s son? Quite possibly. Would it have featured Michael Jackson doing the chorus in the weirdest/awesomest uncredited vocal performance of the decade? DEFINITELY NOT. You pretty much owe it to history to do a duet w/ Philip…full blast.

10. Disco Inferno – Starbound: All Burnt Out & Nowhere To Go “By now the epoch of drug-taking had ended, and everyone had begun casting about for a new obsession.” These words from Valis capture much of the feel of Dick’s later Northern California-bound, theologically oriented later work where various characters still hungover from the sixties had to deal with the deterioration of their bodies, minds, & realities. This is post-rock those people can get with.

11. F*** Buttons – Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic Play this at your own risk. You might just end up finding yourself swelling with a fierce, if undefinable, sense of noble purpose. Once the drums come in you’ll be ready for amission…whatever it might be. I’ve never been so hyped listening to distortion, use the force wisely.

12. Sufjan Stevens – Impossible Soul Buckle Up, this is going to be more than a bit epic. 25 minutes of tape effects, autotune, self-reproach, a children’s chorus, and spiritual affirmation across what could’ve easily been 5-7 distinct songs jam-packed into a single/magisterial stunner. I’m down. One of the more blatantly faith-affirming releases on the indie scene in a while. I think Philip K. would appreciate that, he definitely appreciated the essence of faith when he wrote “Faith is strange. It has to do, by definition, with things you can’t prove.” That never once stopped him from obsessing over it.

 

weshazard_pubshotWes Hazard is a Boston-based writer, stand up comic and radio DJ. You can follow him on twitter @weshazard and check out his work atwww.weshazard.com 

 

So You’re Picking Up Tracy K. Smith From the Airport

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By Alison Balaskovits

So, you’re picking up one of your favorite literary figures from the airport before taking them to dinner and conducting an interview. You’re a huge fan and you’re super excited about the assignment, but also a bit nervous. Relax. The main thing you need to be concerned with is having a kickass playlist going on the tape deck when you roll up to the terminal and I’m here to help. I offer no guarantees, but with some deductive reasoning, digital crate digging, and intuition I think we can manage something that leaves everyone comfortable, happy, and bobbing their heads.

Below is a 12 track set that I think should get you from the airport and back again with some stops in between. You can play it in sequence, but it will work on mix-mode as well (this might even be better). The important thing is to have it already playing when you pick them up and to not discuss it at all unless they bring it up first. Basically, play it cool and act like you’ve been there before. I can in no way guarantee that they’ll actually dig this, but I have my hopes. Worst case scenario, just have NPR locked in as station preset 1 in case things get desperate. Best of luck!

This week your passenger is uber-talented Pulitzer Prize winning poet Tracy. K. Smith. As a musical base for this particular list I’m using Smith’s most recent volume of work Life on Mars (and, to a lesser extent, her preceding book Duende) along with a recent opportunity I took to see her read. We can definitely work with this.

Life on Mars is an incredibly worthwhile and nuanced work that bears multiple readings, but for dashboard DJing purposes I’m going to boil it down to a handful of convenient (and woefully inadequate) terms. Namely: loss, hope, outer space, social justice & David Bowie. Definitely David Bowie.

Here we go:

1. Joy Division – Disorder

Insanely reductive genre cohabitation allows us to refer to both this song and Bowie’s output between The Man Who Sold The World and Lodger as “70s British Rock”, so at a trivial level there’s that. More importantly this is a jumpy and impassioned tune that it’s impossible to sit still through — perfect energy music. There’s also the appreciation of the cosmos held in common by Smith and Joy Division, as evidenced by the band’s choice to usean image of a pulsar’s radio waves for their album cover. If, against all reason, the song is a bust, you can always have a nice chat about the recent internet hoax involving Bowie supposedly having done a cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart with New Order in the 80s (if only!). P.S. Try not to let the fact that the lyrics reference cars crashing get to you.

2. Janet Jackson – Alright

Crank it. Totally appropriate for either barreling along the freeway unimpeded with the windows down or seat-dancing in an effort to forget your troubles while crawling through rush hour apocalypse. Off Rhythm Nation 1814, undoubtedly the most socially conscious new jack swing album ever recorded, a fact that you can use for cover should anyone question you playing this (at least that’s what I always do…)

3. Madvillain – Shadows of Tomorrow

Much respect to Guion Bluford, Ronald McNair, & Mae Jemison, pioneers all. But Sun Ra is the patron saint of African-American space travel. The cryptic, space-obsessed jazz visionary & peace prophet is heavily sampled here musing about time and the harsher realities of our earthly existence. This, layered over an insistent beat while Madlib and his alter-ego Quasimoto trade verses, is the perfect cruising jam to shake out any possible jet lag cobwebs.

4. Parliament – Presence of a Brain

Toggle the cruise control, lean the seat back and let this one take you where it will. The title alone is flattering to any passenger and particularly accurate here. Aside from that, who can disagree with George Clinton? You just don’t argue with a man whose hair has been 83% yarn for three decades.

5. Camaron De La Isla – Al Verte Las Flores Lloran

If you name one of your poetry collections Duende I’m going assume that you’re a fan of, or at least quite amenable to, flamenco music. Even if that’s not the cause it won’t make much of a difference because anyone possessing a beating heart can’t help but get caught up in this tune. The guitar is fierce (RIP Paco De Lucia) and though I personally can only catch bits of what Don Camaron is singing about, there’s no doubt that the manmeans it. Roll down the windows for this one, you’ll need the extra room for the air castanets.

6. Africa HiTech – Light The Way

We’re going to keep going on the Sun Ra/outer space mother ship with this 2011 single. Africa HiTech here uses a much shorter Sun Ra sample and accomplishes the notable feat of crafting an incredibly hopeful and light-filled track from a song titled The Sky is a Sea of Darkness When There is No Sun. Your soul will smile. It was neck and neck between this and another AHt cut from one of their EPs, The Sound of Tomorrow, which is equally appropriate for this drive. If you’re feeling hesitant I say either include both or use this one for the AM and that track for nighttime.

7. Brian Eno – Baby’s On Fire

Most of the Bowie music directly referenced in Life on Mars either just precedes or postdates his full-tilt shiny boots glam phase, but I feel good about dropping this gem here. Truth be told, I first heard it watching the Velvet Goldmine DVD in high school, there with vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. This version preserves the entire legendary guitar solo and, you know, ISN’T voiced by the guy playing Dracula on NBC.

8. Warpaint – Ashes To Ashes

Bowie gets covered a lot. After all the stuff Seu Jorge did for the Life Aquatic soundtrack, and Vanilla Ice’s vivid interpolation of his collaboration with Queen, this is probably my favorite instance of that happening. If you hit traffic while it’s playing you simply won’t mind.

9. The Band – Don’t Do It (2000 Cahoots Outtake Version)

Alternate Take, a poem about art helping to make art, is dedicated to Levon Helm. That, and this song’s intrinsic awesomeness, mean it has to be here. Originally a Marvin Gaye track (courtesy of Motown titans Holland-Dozier-Holland) this was recorded by The Band for the 1972 live release Rock of Ages. I like this shorter/chunkier version from the 2000 re-release of Cahoots more though. (Note: This cut is definitely necessary in the unlikely event that you have to go off-road and cut through an untamed patch of Arkansas back road to make it to dinner).

10. Osvaldo Golijov – Balada/Quiero Arrancarme Los Ojos

I only ever heard this because my library is in the same town as the composer’s house. Modern day opera, steeped in flamenco, presenting the last days of Lorca. Beautiful music. I suggest playing these 2 tracks in sequence (the 1st is very brief). Chills are possible. [Note: The CD is readily available but individual tracks of this are a bit elusive streaming-wise. The above link isn’t for these tracks specifically, but it gives a solid taste.]

11. Cliff Martinez – Will She Come Back

Loss and hope and faith in space? I don’t think we can have this conversation unless you’ve watched Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the Russian sci-fi classic Solaris. It’s the best romance flick I’ve ever seen that also happens to take place in a space station orbiting an alien world that reads & incarnates people’s dreams. Oh man, the whole soundtrack is pretty stunning, but this piece in particular…man. Deep space! Longing! George ClooneyPolish speculative fiction legends! The discussions you can have based on this track alone make it a must-play. Keep in mind though: this is NOT a high-energy tune.

12. David Bowie – Subterraneans

Bowie (as lyricist, inspiration, & public figure) weaves in and out of Life on Mars in ways that are as sorrowful as the demise of his centuries-old vampire inamorato in that movie The Hunger and as joyful as the “Magic Dance” sequence in Labyrinth (if you ignore Jareth’s bulge). When it comes to Bowie classics that you might include on a driving playlist you could curate a whole boxed set if you wanted, but here I’m going with something much more reserved (mournful?) than say Golden Years or Moonage Daydream. The last track on Low, this mostly instrumental cut works best as a closer for when you’re just pulling up to the terminal for the drop-off journey. Not quite “sad”, but definitely final, it provides the perfect sense of an ending.

Like I said, no guarantees, but I think you’re on good footing here. Drive safe and play it loud.

 

weshazard_pubshotWes Hazard is a Boston-based writer, stand-up comic & radio DJ. You can follow him on Twitter @weshazard

A Culmination of Rejection, Street Musicians, and TMR Interning

Publication is a bit of an anomaly. In fiction alone we read thousands of manuscripts for each issue, selecting, say, four to be published. The odds of acceptance are minuscule. Popular database site Duotrope lists our acceptance rate at a modest .63 percent. Anyone quick with numbers could guess a truer percentage would fall closer to .001-.002. And this is simply for fiction.

Before anyone closes forever The Missouri Review‘s submission guidelines page, consider for a moment the relativity of those odds. There are magazines who see, easily, double our amount, maybe more, yet still publish the same number (or less) of stories.

The easy consolation? The pool of writers exponentially outnumbers the available literary magazines. There are only so many slots in the industry to fill. Having read through the slush pile for two semesters now, one of the quickest takeaways is the overall quality of submissions we receive at TMR. We could attribute this to many possible reasons, but let me say this, in my parting days as a TMR intern, because the overall quality so much complicates our job: damn you, writers.

“Your story does not meet our needs” is the rejection letter equivalent to “I still want to be friends.” It’s supposed to comfort. But since those involved know its hollow intent, the condolence becomes that much more scathing. Of course I’ve received it myself (to which side of the equivalency I refer is…unimportant). However, there may not be a more articulate phrase befitting the vast majority of rejections we send. Much of what we reject is publishable. We have only four slots.

I don’t want to try to marginalize the disappointment of our rejected, and I thankfully never received a fuming reply from a rejected and insulted writer, so this isn’t an anonymous apology. As I’m sure many understand, no matter how sincere or invested the rejection letter, the inescapable stamp on its forehead is: “We liked too many pieces more than yours.” Ouch.

Someone (whom for the life of me I can’t recall or find) asked on Twitter last week, who is the best living writer never to have been published in the New Yorker–historically one of the biggest career makers. Immediately I thought of Cormac McCarthy. Maybe unfair, given he’s never professionally published a short story, but I couldn’t shake it. If interested, one can easily find two short stories of his from his undergraduate years at Tennessee. I’ve read them. They’re impressive. Maybe not beyond the “undergraduate” scope, but that’s home enough for me. His language is there–his cadence, his sentence weaving, the mythos, Gothic mysticism, it’s all vibrantly there. Even though he was a couple years older than myself when he wrote them, I added the shaming experience of reading those stories to a pantheon that already included the reluctant knowledge of Mary Shelly publishing Frankenstein at age 19, and T.S. Elliot Prufrock at 23. What am I doing with my life? Damn you, literary legends.

The early successes of all-timers should not be as disheartening as I goodheartedly allow them to be. They are, after all, the best of the best. However, as a writer, I believe I can write to any of their levels. It’s an inherent competition in me.

This is by no means to say I think I ever actually could. Merely, my mindset is that, if I invest, if I care, if I work, and if I do it all painstakingly, I can write with them. This may or may not be true, and whether it is, is irrelevant. I believe thoroughly every writer should possess some sort of confidence that pins them, if fantastically, against their most revered predecessors. We should neither disregard nor take for granted their impact, but we should believe that our work, in its own right, could one day demolish the greats of past and present. And in that same breath, no acceptance percentage should ever deter someone.

There’s a modesty to reading early works from the masters or recognizing similarities between your work and the work you’re rejecting. It’s humbling. Alison, in her post Tuesday, captured the sentiment well: “Are you bored when you go over [your] work? Then it’s boring.” Such an awareness of our own prose, over time, should allow us the means to reconcile our weaknesses and charge forward. Some authors, presumably like the aforementioned three, find that reconciliation earlier than others. We can hate our own work. Doesn’t mean we relinquish confidence or, therefore, approach. No, not every writer is capable of great writing, but the inward process in which we reach for it is personal and dependent on mindset.

This last weekend, I made my first excursion to California (woah). During a weekend that included, among many other things, an outrageously anticipated film release, getting a picture with the SAG star on Hollywood Boulevard, a macabre intrusion of mortality, a simple, nondescript encounter with a street musician on the Santa Monica pier struck me most. LA street musicians are like Nora Roberts novels in a Barnes and Noble (except the novels actually tend to receive the money for which they are there). This one was just a guy and his electric guitar, amp, and small poster propped up advertising his CD. He played songs like a slowed Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Leonard Cohen’s (via Jeff Buckley) “Hallelujah”. Typical. Quiet. Nice. The latter two, in particular, unsurprisingly beautiful. Even with the local indie record company logo slapped onto his CD’s miniature poster, the dude just played. Proportionally, there’s about as much money in music as there is in writing. He’d scored the music world equivalent to notable graduate school literary magazine–a respectable stepping stone. Regardless, though, of the money it brought him, his contractual or aspiring future plans, he came out at night, with only the prospect of passersby’s extra change, to play music in front of, at any given time, maybe fifteen people. He played recognizable songs, but he played and sang them his way. You could see in his weary but unbeaten eyes honesty–an honesty which emanated an infectious pathos. His passion and easy love for what he was doing was visually obvious. Not even an eccentric, probably tripping character dressed in Jesus attire and dancing with his multicolored glow stick partner could distract the musician. Not much mattered outside of him playing, and that he was playing for a handful of people intently listening.

He is the perfect image I keep in my head with regard to what the TMR experience has added to me. While the development of an objective muscle in evaluating writing is vital and variously practical, my readings, fellow interns, and the staff here reinforced that there is more to the experience than the acquisition of skill. The essence, rather, of it all is to affect others, the only way you know–to enliven in others what the art enlivens in you. The skills will without a doubt assist me in future writing and editorial adventures. Skill is an outward thing. The essence will guide the rest. Thank you, Missouri Review.

 

Follow Kyle @KyleBurton9106, or at [im]perfectmovies.com.

The Summer Launch!

We’re delighted to announce our summer launch party! In celebration of the release of our Summer 2011 issue, Significant Others, we’d like to invite you to join us in sunny downtown Columbia on July 28th at The Bridge, the new live music venue featuring local, regional and national music acts and located within the Columbia Academy of Music. For those of you who like maps and directions and such, The Bridge is at 1020 East Walnut Street. For those of you who don’t like maps, it’s right across the street from Ernie’s. This event is free and open to the public. Get after it!

Our event kicks off at 7 pm, and runs until The Bridge throws us out. Technically, our launch will be “over” at 9 pm, but like our fabulous spring launch, we really just stay hanging out until the doors are closed and the bright lights are thrown on. The Jazz Odyssey hits the stage at 9 pm, and there is a great patio where you can come and meet our entire staff (and, of course, former staff members who are certain to show up and say “Yo!”)

The summer issue has just shipped this week, and should be in your hands soon. The issue includes fiction by Amin Ahma, Tom Barbash, Arna Bontemps Hemenway (yes, that’s his real name, and his story is, believe it or not, even better than his name!), A.R. Rea, and Elisabeth Fairchild’s first published story; nonfiction by Daniel Anderson, Anthony Aycock, and John “Let’s Play Two!” W. Evans; poetry by Diane Seuss, Steve Gehrke, and Peter Jay Shippy; and Patrick Hicks sits down with Brian Turner to talk about the poetry of war.

You can snag copies of the issue at the summer launch. More important is that you come to the launch and have a good time. Like spring. Remember?

The first of many bands. We're just warming up...

We had lots of music. Like seventy five bands. Okay, not that many. But we did have music from Shoreside, Andre and the Giants, Mary and the Giant, and Belligerent, to name just a few. We kept it cool to start off the evening and then got progressive louder. Which is always a good thing.

We're always happy when people we like show up.

People rolled in at all times, which is the idea. Show up early, show up fashionably late, it doesn’t matter. You will get this kind of delighted greeting no matter what. And as long as you stay and hang out for a bit, well, what more can we ask?

The conversations at the bar can get pretty deep.

Here, I’m talking basketball with Jesse Garcia, the owner of Sideshow. I’m a Celtics fan, he’s a Bulls fan. We both had a rough 2011 NBA Playoffs (though on this evening, his Bulls were looking pretty good). Not that this dampened our spirits one iota.

We're toasting the evening. Not ourselves. Really.

I was asked to get on stage and say something. I have no idea what I said. Basically, it was something like “You guys are the best!” and You Guys all agreed with that sentiment and held their beverages high in the air. Good call.

See? We throw a good party! More photos from our Spring Launch: PERIL are available on our Facebook page; come check ’em out. And don’t forget to come to our Summer Launch. The Bridge, July 28th, 7 pm. We’d love to see you there!