Category Archives: Flagstaff for Writers

Several Indisputable Claims and Why I Fear Chainsaws Simulated; by Justin Kanzler

Simulated Reality Theory argues that the universe is actually a simulation created by a computer with powers far beyond our comprehension. That means everything–including the interdimensional loose change that lives in every couch simultaneously–is actually a few imperceptible lines of code for us to blithely accept and complain about. A foundational argument for the possible existence of this omniscient computer is that nobody can prove it doesn’t exist. Also Elon Musk believes in it and that guy made, like, a bunch of cool shit so obviously this is something worth considering. I worry about the logic behind believing something is possible just because it’s impossible to disprove. And my fear of accepting the logic of simulated reality theory is, quite naturally, rooted in my deep fear of chainsaws.

I saw a therapist. He was on a tv show, but that’s the kind of therapy I can afford, and this tele-therapist said it is important to define what your fear is to you, so instead of listening to advice from someone talking directly to me or someone that actually exists, I’m listening to Dr. Television. My fear is chainsaws. To me chainsaws are the unwholesome union of engineering and a profession defined by hitting trees while wearing flannel. They are the product of cleverness and violence just like all of our greatest inventions: unmanned aircrafts, mustard gas, the microwave. What other than a mechanized razor stick could have come from this incongruous matrimony of brilliance and muscles. Other than their obvious utility as tree-murderators, chainsaws have 2 things going for them that frighten me to my nougat core: they are silent until activated, and they can be purchased as most large home improvement stores. Silence and Home Depot create the frightening possibility that everyone around me is quietly hiding a chainsaw behind their backs or in their comically large trench coats or even a teeny tiny chainsaw tucked away in a purse next to 3 mismatched sticks of gum and someone else’s sock. There could be a chainsaw in every hand if that hand is out of my field of view, and nibbles at my piece of mind like a rabbit nibbling at a lost and sorely missed lumberjack thumb.

With the information available to me and with the rationale posed by Simulated Reality, I can make the following indisputable claims:

Claim 1 There is a man with a chainsaw outside my room. The door to my room is closed. The curtains are drawn. It’s that time of night where anybody outside is either a murderer or an astronomer. Outside my door there is a hulking man with a greasy burlap sack over his head, and he is holding a jagged collection of unsympathetic metal teeth powered by internal combustion. There is a silent chainsaw-toting beast-man outside my bedroom door, which I have only now realized is totally inadequate defense against chainsaws because it’s wood and wood is what they eat, and based on the information I have available to me, I cannot possibly prove he’s not there. I can see every corner of my room; I can understand everything I can perceive with however many senses I have. Based on the information my senses give me–limited as they are by damage from loud concerts, reading at night, and sneezing like I fucking mean it–I can’t prove that someone isn’t about to shred my door with an unsympathetic wood-ravager before doing the same thing to me.

Claim 2 I was seconds away from a buzzing evisceration yesterday at my bus stop because the woman by the trash can had the new Echo CS-370 Chainsaw strapped to her back and hidden beneath her coat. That warm smile wasn’t one of greeting when I walked by. It was a smile hiding a graphic secret, a smile that knew she was planning on loudly making my entrails into extrails using a tool that can turn a healthy vertical tree into a horizontal dead one in under a minute. My squishy body wouldn’t provide a third the resistance a tree could, and that smile showed me that maniac knew it. I can never prove that my bus stop companion was mere moments away from hauling 40.2 CCs of slaughter from the trash can before doing to me what she’s probably done to countless blocks of ice: carving me into something wet and misshapen. I can’t prove it, but I am certain she wanted to see what I looked like as a puree.

Claim 3 When I closed my eyes during Heads Up Seven Up as a kid, the other children actually stalked the room with chainsaws instead of creeping around touching thumbs. I haven’t been afraid of chainsaws for my whole life, but that just verifies what I always knew: I was a stupid child. Looking back, it’s laughably obvious that the only reason eye-closing was a part of Heads Up Seven Up (HUSU?) was so the other children would have a chance to whip out their child-sized chainsaws–which come in Hello Kitty print, Camo, or faux blood stain–and prowl around the room picking who they want to annihilate. The only comfort I have is that the teacher would have intervened if a child had actually tried to saw another child while they were defenseless–probably because the teacher was saving them all for later. I’m onto you Mrs. Piers; your therapist tone and poofy gray hair can’t hide your secret murderous intent. I can never prove that my seemingly placid and apparently loving 5th grade teacher had a chainsaw hidden under her dress the entire year I knew her, but my 10 year-old senses were less acute back then. I was an amateur to paranoia, but now I am seasoned like a good chicken. Even if there’s no way to prove it, I bet she was poised to attack every time I was distracted during mid-morning journal hour.

So what lesson can we draw from the potential of a simulated reality? Fear. We should be afraid. Absolute bowel-voiding terror should dominate every second of our lives because there is no possible way to prove you are safe from potential chainsaw vivisection or any of the other three thousand and six ways the warranty on our soft ham-bodies can be voided. It is impossible to dispute my chainsaw-inspired fears because the evidence against them just doesn’t exist. I live in fear because I cannot disprove the possibility that someone nearby is hiding a chainsaw and amping themselves up to tear through my supple flesh and transform my walls into a lumberjack-son Pollock painting. I cuddle my cat and weep my terror because we can’t commit to thinking something is ludicrous just because it is difficult to cite common sense to a philosopher. So I’m cowering under blankets–which may or may not be digitally generated–because that seems to be the only viable option.

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra-Credit; (a dispatch from your web-editor)

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra Credit
by Eric Dovigi

I.
A dead skunk is permitted to decompose on the side of a road until it dissolves like a putrid dandelion, yet I’m not allowed to sit on a public bench for more than a half-hour.

II.
On this Earth, to shoot, stab, blow up, push, stone, set on fire, toss in acid, banish, exile, ostracize, discourage, hate, and ridicule are the most ubiquitous methods of empowerment.

III.
In our culture, people are invited and encouraged to commoditize themselves on human-sharing websites that suggest they assign themselves a status, a profile, neat lists of friends, events, and take photos of themselves with squishy faces, let people know what sorts of boring things they will be doing that night and invite other people to share in the boredom; or by means of a carefully chosen quotation, express the intention to spend a lifetime in pursuit of artistic accomplishment of which they will never, ever, in a million years in a million possible universes, be even partly capable.

IV.
People jump on top of alligators for fun, eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, lick frozen aluminum poles, build paper mache wings and leap from the Eiffel Tower, all with more confidence than I have ever had, doing anything, in my entire life.

V.
This morning I walked to work with plastic bags tied around my shoes. My shoes were made for running in the summertime. The right shoe has a large hole in the side.

VI.
It is winter. Snow is everywhere. By the time I got halfway to work the plastic bags had torn mostly off. My right sock was drenched. I stumbled and fell cutting through the dry gully by the graveyard.

VII.
Every day I wake up tired, and I spend so much time during the day just being tired that by the time I go to bed, I’m not really that tired anymore, so I lie awake until it’s morning.

VIII.
You came into class twenty minutes late yesterday. Twenty minutes. Here is a list of pretty much the only people that are ever twenty minutes late on a regular basis: a) employees who are about to get fired, b) people having sex at near-absolute-zero temperatures, c) Gandalf, d) the New York Phil’ under Leonard Bernstein (I don’t expect you to get that joke), e) Kanye West when his watch is set forty minutes ahead, and f) the rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.

IX.
You have not been writing down the word-of-the-day since at least September. I watch you.

X.
I don’t like your Facebook profile picture. Yeah, I looked up your name on Facebook.

XI.
I make less money now, as an instructor at a university, than I did when I worked retail–by a long-shot. Lagavulin ain’t getting any cheaper.

XII.
I’m starting to go a little deaf in my left ear. What’s that? Extra what?

XIII.
I’m afraid of dying. I want those extra-credit points for myself. I want to horde them up. Maybe my inflammation will reduce. Maybe cell-senescence will slow–or reverse. Maybe my traumatic memories will disappear. Let the serotonin flow. Let wine rain from the sky. Give me those extra-credit points! They’re mine! num num num…

XIV.
No. I don’t want them. I don’t want those extra-credit points because they’ll only dull the pain for a moment, child. The elation won’t last. The sense of safety, of accomplishment, of pride, will pass quickly and leave no residue, and the weight of Earth will descend with swift eagerness and you will be utterly crushed, you tiny tiny human. Old people will fuck you over forever, until they die, and then you’ll be old, and the dead skunks will dot the roads and you won’t be allowed to sit on a bench, and cars will hit you, and people will laugh at you, and you’ll have spent your entire life as a teacher making less money than you did when you worked retail, and then you’ll die.

XV.
There is no such thing as extra-credit.

Narrow Chimney, 2016-2017 kickoff

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers and writers, it’s that time again. Your Monday will no longer be that drab, soul-dampening harbinger of yet another tedious workweek that it has been all summer. For the next several months, Monday will mean EXCITEMENT. Monday will mean ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Monday will mean NARROW CHIMNEY.

We kick things off on August 29th–the first day of school. What could be more fitting. Even your students can come; the event welcomes individuals under 21 years of age.

We are lucky to have local writers Nicole Walker and Natalie Rose performing for us on the 29th. Come as you are. Bring your friends. Bring a book so they can sign it. Bring questions for the artists to ask after the performances. Bring a few bucks so you can get a drink and maybe some of that great Irish food. Bring your verve. Bring your zazz. Bring your dog.

Particulars:

Uptown Pubhouse, August 29th (Monday). Natalie Rose, & Nicole Walker. 7pm to 8pm. Free. Weekly spoken word event, every Monday, with MFA students from NAU as well as local figures.

Be there or be square. I will be there. I will also be square. Both are options.

Signed, your thinairmagazine.com pilot,

Eric Dovigi

(photo credit: Remedios Varo)

Stuff the Truck for the Literacy Center and Northern Arizona Book Festival

Full Circle Trade & Thrift is supporting The Literacy Center and Northern Arizona Book Festival this month with their “Stuff the Truck” event.Bring your gently used belongings from 11am – 2pm to the parking lot of the National Bank of Arizona, 211 N. Leroux, – Hint: it’s kitty corner from Uptown Pubhouse! – and Stuff! That! Truck!

And stick around downtown for a few hours so you can join Thin Air at our community reading series kick-off held at Uptown Pubhouse. Before they head off on their reading tour this summer, local authors Eric Dovigi and John Quinonez will treat their hometown to this special sneak preview. The event runs one hour and starts promptly at 6pm. Grab a drink, hear some great literature by two awesome personalities, and meet the friendly staff at Thin Air. We’re always looking for writers to submit to our magazine and participate in our readings!

Thin Air Reading Series Kick-Off!

 

Thin Air is thrilled to kick off our community reading series this Saturday at Uptown Pubhouse with local authors John Quinonez and Eric Dovigi. Before they head off on their reading tour this summer, Eric and John are treating their hometown to this special sneak preview. The event runs one hour and starts promptly at 6pm. Grab a drink, hear some great literature by two awesome personalities, and meet the friendly staff at Thin Air. We’re always looking for writers to submit to our magazine and participate in our readings!

And be sure to support The Literacy Center and Northern Arizona Book Festival with their “Stuff the Truck” event, sponsored by Full Circle Trade & Thrift. Find Full Circle’s colorful truck in the parking lot of the National Bank of Arizona, 211 N. Leroux. (Hint: it’s kitty corner from Uptown Pubhouse!) Bring your gently used belongings from 11am – 2pm and support two great causes!

G.K. Lamb at Bookmans Saturday

By Christine Davis

I remember being seventeen in Ms. Knudsen’s AP Environmental Science class. She was Canadian and had purple streaks in her hair, so everyone wanted to enroll. Each day we learned that the planet was doomed. G.K. Lamb’s dystopian, debut novel is about this inevitable doom as told through the first-person lens of Evelyn, a young girl full of hope and fight. She might have done well in Ms. Knudsen’s course, but in Evelyn’s world free thought is rebellion, family is complicated, and answers come at the ultimate price.

World building is key in young adult fiction, and Filtered delivers in this arena. The novel centers on the premise that air pollution has resulted in toxicity so severe all citizens must wear masks while outside, and rely upon air filtration systems inside. Lamb creates images of tall buildings, tightly locked doors, and a billboard declaring, “Remember, a fresh filter everyday keeps death at bay!” The Great Society is responsible for regulating safety, but their regulations encroach upon almost every human right. Evelyn’s schooling is a perfect example of The Great Society’s stiff expectations. Students aren’t permitted to look authority figures in the eye, move out of synch, or question anything about their world. When Evelyn encounters her first taste of rebellion, she says, “There’s life here,” and her new companion retorts, “Uncomfortable, isn’t it?” Lines like this capture the psychological world-building Lamb accomplishes alongside the physical landscape.

Readers fall even deeper into the familiar landscape of family, but once again they find a filter. The family lives in an upscale apartment with plenty of fresh filters and store bought food. Her father works late. They watch T.V. However, any displays of “normalcy” are interrupted by the ever-present threat of death. In addition to communicating through literal filtration masks designed to protect them against pollution, they also must communicate through the masks of fear and ignorance. Evelyn’s mother falls deeper into isolation as the novel progresses, leaving Evelyn thinking, “I wish she were someone I could trust…one look at her and I know she can’t be any of the things I wish her to be. Her frame is already withering, no doubt from malnourishment and confinement.” She wonders, “How much of our imprisonment is self-inflicted?” but she is alone with this question, unable to include her family in any quest for answers.

Lamb’s plot and ultimate climax are nicely tied to both the world he creates, and the family Evelyn must break away from in order to come of age in a time of rebellion. Readers will want to engage in her fast-paced adventures, full of villains, broken heroes, and misguided youths. The more Evelyn commits to uncovering the truth, the more she finds herself entrenched in a historical tug-of-war that leaves her fighting for her life in more ways than one.

The result of reading a book like G.K. Lambs’s Filtered is not only to leave entertained, but also educated. At Evelyn’s age I had Ms. Knudsen to tell me about the perils of this world, but did I listen? Filtered provides young readers an intricate look at the results of environmental collapse through a character they will want to follow anywhere.

Saturday, February 27, G.K. Lamb is signing books at Bookmans from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., as part of the Bookmans Flag AZ Author Fair. Lamb joins Mark Bordner and Austin Aslan.

Eat at MartAnne’s; Donate to Thin Air!

MartAnne’s Burrito Palace is donating 10% of its entire sales on Wednesday, February 17 to Thin Air Magazine’s AWP fundraiser.

AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, is holding its 2016 conference and bookfair at the Los Angeles Convention Center, March 30 – April 2.

According to the AWP web site, “The AWP Conference & Bookfair is an essential annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. Each year more than 12,000 attendees join our community for four days of insightful dialogue, networking, and unrivaled access to the organizations and opinion-makers that matter most in contemporary literature.”

Help represent Thin Air Magazine at the 2016 AWP Conference & Bookfair by eating at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace, voted Best Breakfast Place by Arizona Daily Sun readers. And remember: MartAnne’s now has a dinner and cocktail and beer menu and accepts credit cards. Eat well and support literature all day long!

Narrow Chimney Schedule Spring 2016

James Jay and Jesse Sensibar welcome writers and lit lovers to Uptown Pubhouse every Monday night at 7pm for libations and literature. Don’t miss out on this welcoming, homegrown event!

January 25 Elizabeth Hellstern & Jane Armstrong
Feb 1 Bryan Asdel & Sandra Dihlmann
Feb 8 Mathew Henry Hall & Jamison Crabtree
Feb 22 Natalie Rose & Barbara Lane
Feb 29 Lawrence Lenhart & Molly Wood
March 7 Jessica Martini & Beth Alvarado
March 21 Emily Regan & Andie Francis
March 28 Ian Keirsey & Jon Tribble
April 4 Eugene Munger & Laura Kelly
April 11 Jay “Jaybyrd” Willison & Jia Oak Baker
April 18 Seth Muller & Robert Isenberg
April 25 Shelly J Taylor & Renee S Angle
May 2 James Jay & Justin Bigos

“10-4” or “Things I Learned about Cops on my Civilian Ride Along”

by Camille Sinaguinan

When I told an officer of the Flagstaff Police Department last December that I was a writer, and that I was always looking for story, he suggested that I go on a ride along.  I wasn’t sold on the idea at first–couldn’t you get shot at on ride alongs?–but when I mentioned it to a group of writer friends, they insisted that I do it.

So, when I got back from California, I went to the Flagstaff Police Department and filled out an orchid-colored form.  I would not be issued a bullet-proof vest.  I would obey all commands given to me by my officer.

The next day, I received a call: my request was approved.  When would I like to schedule my ride along?  I chose a Thursday night from 5:30pm-9:00pm.  Our dispatch handle was “David 20”, and here are some of the things I learned:

  • The cops are the good guys.  At least in Flagstaff.  The officer I shadowed that night pulled over two vehicles for traffic violations.  Both drove away with warnings.  When I told the cop that I’d never been pulled over in California without getting an actual ticket, he said it’s probably different in larger cities.  I was both pleased by his kindness and disappointed in my hometown.
  • It is an unspoken rule that the older cops get the better patrol cars when on duty.
  • If you are accompanying a cop on a ride along, you are referred to as a CO or Civilian Observer.
  • Everyone knows everything that’s going on all the time.  It’s called dispatch.  There are no secrets in police work.  Also, a good dispatcher can save a cop’s life.
  • Civilians often use the police to do the dirty work for them.  Our first call was made by a woman who sent us to her ex-husband’s house so we could ask why he hadn’t returned her two-year-old daughter.  We find out after meeting the man that he always keeps their daughter until Sunday per their custody agreement, and he’s tired of the police coming over all the time to heckle him at his ex-wife’s behest.
  • Traffic stops–when a cop pulls a vehicle over–can be more dangerous than actual calls.  We did two on my ride along.  Both times I was told to stay in the car.  The second time he radioed for backup and approached the truck with his hand over his holster.
  • Cops wear around 40 lbs of gear when on duty.
  • Because of the nature of their work, cops have above average adrenaline levels when they are on duty.  When they’re off duty, their levels drop below average to allow the body to recuperate.  This constant high to low shift can cause real problems for officers.  Some manage the imbalance by working out and taking on hobbies.  The less fortunate can become alcoholics.
  • A lot of patrolling is driving the same route over and over.  This doesn’t mean the job is easy, though, because…
  • Cops are crazy multi-taskers.  Here was what my officer was doing minute-by-minute while we were in the car together: driving, checking vehicle registrations on his laptop with one hand, talking to me about the necessity of a police force, listening to the dispatch radio, listening to the regular radio, and looking out for traffic violations.  There were times when we would be talking and he’d stop abruptly, hearing something only he understood from dispatch.  Then the next second he’s making a U-turn to pull over a guy with a busted headlight.  After completing his calls or traffic stops, he would continue our conversation as if we’d never been interrupted.  It was really impressive, but it made me seriously wonder how adequate I was at life in comparison.
  • Working for the police can be like any other job.  Some people actually work, some don’t.  Some can be trusted, some can’t.  Bonds made doing difficult work are some of the strongest bonds around.
  • We let cops into our most private lives, sometimes without even knowing it.  One of our calls was a student who thought she heard someone inside her apartment when nobody should have been there.  My officer and one other did a sweep of her apartment before deeming it safe.  The girl was so grateful, and on the way back down to the patrol cars, the cops talked about how nice her apartment was.  When cops check our registrations from their patrol cars–and this happens every free minute they have–pulling up our license plate numbers brings up all our information: name, age, eye color, home address.  And we don’t even know our plates were run.  I watched my officer run a plate once.  I didn’t look long–it felt wrong, seeing that person’s information without them knowing.
  • Cops don’t have ticket quotas.
  • “10-4” is the most common code I heard over the radio.  It means something like, “Got it” or “Understood.”  When I asked the cop where the codes came from he laughed and said, “I don’t know.  I just work here.”

Not much happened on my ride along in terms of violence or crazy people, but I got as much as I could about the day-to-day.  For those of you that are curious, anyone can go on a ride along.  You just need to go to the Police Station and fill out that form.  Usually you can schedule to shadow the same week.

It’s a good thing to do, if you’re looking for story.  Getting to know the people we trust with our lives doesn’t hurt either.