Monthly Archives: October 2011

I Have Seen It

The spirit of the marathon 3rdarm

A Canadian team of journalists stopped by the restaurant for lunch the other day. The point man asked me if I remembered when Obama was running for president, how the word “Hope” was used as a slogan on buildings and billboards. The team was investigating where in America the word “Hope” could still be found. They were optimistic that it may still exist in Chicago. I polled my coworkers, mainly of whom hail from the South side, and my own mental map, culled from my trips around the North side on my bike and in my car. Ultimately, the only spot I remembered seeing it for sure, was in the archives of this blog. The Canadians were not interested in my blog. On their way out, I chased them to the door, and said that just because they may not find what they’re looking for, does not mean it’s not there.



A baked potato shell on a styrofoam plate with plastic fork. It sat by the curb, outside the post office. A scene that described a human being who finished eating a baked potato, set the meal down in the street, and mailed a package.


“He returns after a two year trek to the jungles of Africa with 20 lions and 20 tigers and an intelligent ape called Cheela.”

-Dennis Schwartz’ review of Captive Wild Woman, from 1943 starring Acquanetta, which I saw Monday afternoon at the Music Box

Santa Fe

small cat etta 3rdarm

My sister is married. My family has grown. I cried. My best friend Etta bravely met them all at once, old and new.

Big cat 3rdarm

Santa Fe is good.


ghost jeep 3rdarm

Taos is like a desert version of Cambridge, MA, if you substitute artists, mutants and freaks for the professors, students and academics. The most important thing if driving in from Santa Fe or Albuquerque is to take both the low road and the high road…

Spanish rose 3rdarm

The pita sandwich was good, and so was the local kombucha. The decor is interesting, as is the baklava served wet with rose water.

-from my yelp reviews of Taos, New Mexico, and El Gamal, a restaurant in Taos, respectively


Forest road 3rdarm

My new sister-in-law Sarah was adamant about Abiquiu. The first thing I did with my free time New Mexico was to journey there. The directions were conveyed to Etta by email. We raced the sun in a red pickup from Taos, New Mexico, past the Ghost Ranch, to a barely marked forest road by the sign into town. The road turned to dirt, and the sun crept lower. We took photos of the jewelry on cactus. There were snakes. We followed the roads out into the desert. There was a white horse, and several cows. Then a stone house with no roof. The road disappeared into wilderness. A jeep with no headlights careened downhill behind us, then turned into the creek and raced up the other side, the headlights lost into tree trunks. We forded the river in the Ford F-150, got lost, turned back, retraced our steps for an hour, with the gas tank on empty.

Follow Up

andrew mcgahan 3rdarm

I realized that my interview with Andrew McGahan, the writer who originally inspired me to write stories, had disappeared from the internet, and that I do not have a copy. It was back in 2004, after I dropped out of school and moved back East, and was writing for Eliot and his underground B.U. paper, that I got the opportunity. I remember the last question I asked. It was, “There happen to be bears. What to do about it?” And his reply was, “Um, what the hell are you talking about?” In order to preserve my interview online in some form, I would like to post a follow up email I sent to McGahan’s literary agent at Allen & Unwin:

Hello April,
I was reading the newspaper today and an article reminded me of a
question that Andrew Mcgahan was confused by in the email interview
allowed to the Student Underground a few weeks back. Was wondering if
you wouldn’t mind passing it along to Andrew.
Arthur Mullen

Bigger and Bolder Population of Bears Incites Fear in Japan

By JAMES BROOKE (from the New York Times)
Published: November 7, 2004

HARI, Japan – “Bear Injures 3 in Kimono Shop,” screamed one headline.
“Five Elderly People Injured in Bear Attacks in Three Prefectures,”
read another. “Japan to Conduct Emergency Survey on Rash of Bear
Attacks,” Kyodo News wrote, citing a government tally of one person
killed and more than 90 injured by bears since April.

This fall, rural Japan, with its aging, shrinking population, is
peering with increasing nervousness into the deep, dark woods. A bear
population that is expanding in numbers and range, increasingly cranky
after a record number of typhoons have ruined the acorn harvest, is
glaring back.

“These bears are of the new type, they are not scared of people,” said
Hajime Nakagawa, director of the Shiretoko Museum here, which displays
several stuffed brown bears, their sleek coats evoking a diet rich
from hunting salmon and trout in mountain streams and lakes…

The article goes on and on. April’s reply was the last I ever heard of these people:

Hi Arthur
I will forward your email to Andrew.

The photo is from a far superior and more recent interview in French by the website bibliosurf.

Sculpting in Time


People have often asked me what The Zone is, and what it symbolizes, and have put forward wild conjectures on the subject. I’m reduced to a state of fury and despair by such questions. The Zone doesn’t symbolize anything, any more than anything else does in my films; The Zone is a zone, it’s life, and as he makes his way across it a man may break down or he may come through. Whether he comes through or not depends on his own self-respect and his capacity to distinguish between what matters and what is merely passing.

-Andrei Tarkovsky

Weird New Mexican

The oven 3rdarm

Jonathan, my friend who was born in Mexico, confirmed that my last post was racist. For the record, my people were also present at the marathon. The Lithuanian Runners Club or whatever they call it had a table surrounded by svelte blonde and brunette women and men. Their backs were to the racecourse, a boombox blared techno. They all drank long silver cans of beer that looked like Rockstar Energy, and ignored the runners. I noticed what was on their table and what they were drinking because I was hungry.

the mountains 3rdarm

I’m going to New Mexico in a few hours, for my sister’s wedding. My friend Adrianna kept asking if I would make a visit to Mexico City. New Mexico, I said, New Mexico. Today was my mother’s birthday.

Free Form Form Free

25th hour 3rdarm

My training for the marathon- one training run of 13 miles and 3 months of lying in bed smoking pot. The morning of the event I woke up as late as possible. I hit the snooze button on my alarm several times. I ate nothing and drank one Red Bull. Used no nipple guards or anti-chafe. I put on my bathing suit and Bering Sea pirate teeshirt, and took a train downtown. Queued up in the 5:45 pace group. Still yawning, I spoke to no one and we were off. I listened to the noise of people until we reached the protests at the Federal Reserve Bank, and then I turned on the local npr internet stream on my iphone. Lucky for me it was Weekend Edition Sunday followed by Bob Edwards Weekend. Somewhere in the stream they spoke with the writer of the new film, The Ides of March, about what it was like to work on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. They played the Dean Scream*: “Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico**, and we’re going to California and Texas and New York … And we’re going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we’re going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!”

*Says wikipedia, “This final ‘Yeah!’ with its unusual tone that Dean later said was due to the cracking of his hoarse voice, has become known in American political jargon as the ‘Dean Scream’ or the ‘I Have A Scream’ speech.”

**I myself am going to New Mexico in two days.

hillary 2012 3rdarm

I was hungry. Running is a mental thing, with legs. I remembered eating a lot last year. My legs were tired from the twenty four mile bike ride to pick up my packet the day before. I craved White Castle jalapeno cheeseburgers. No one alongside the course had any food for miles. Sometimes I saw folks cheering and they had set up their own little table with drinks and snacks. I pictured myself running by and snatching a donut. The mental part of running can be hard. The course snaked up through River North and back down through the Loop and then turned straight up North. It was all white people, and they were not sharing their food. There was finally one white woman who rattled a bag of pretzels at me. I was so hungry I ran up and dug my hand in and grabbed as many pretzels as I could and then savored them two at a time for the next few minutes. Other than that I looked forward to the yellow Gatorade sweetness and pictured myself getting high and eating jalapeno cheeseburgers.

Maybe generosity has a racial element, because the only other white person I saw sharing food gave me a red twizzler, which I almost choked to death on*, in mile 17. Timed, intentionally or not, to coincide exactly with what running experts call, “Hitting the wall,” the course turned onto 18th Street. Don’t get me wrong, giving out mini pretzels is generous. A Mexican-American family setting up two banquet tables with ice, melon, a giant plastic bowl of Cocoa Puffs, and candy is generosity on a different level. Despite going it totally alone in this marathon, I think it was the food from Mexican citizens of Chicago and the free goo at mile 18 that ultimately fed the stoned sleeping tiger that I awakened and channeled to run this thing in my personal best time**. Ice cream bars, orange slices, bananas, Skittles, Starburst, sponges. I was hungry and they fed me. By the time I finished the race I was totally full. I did eat all the food in my goodie bag as well as a coconut ice cream treat and one liter of Diet Coke directly after I finished.

Mexican music, to me, is over the top. I’m talking about the traditional music, banda, ranchera. It’s like polka and carnival music in that orchestrated manic way. The trumpets and the keyboards and the voices are on a different level. Frequently, the singer cries out. Aaayyyeee! This is formally called the “Grito Mexicano“. When Americans heard Howard Dean scream, it contributed to his demise in the races. I presume that when many Mexicans first heard the cry, they thought it meant he was a contender.

*But in retrospect whose small energy I judged to be absolutely crucial to my finishing.


It’s Crushing Time

Silver claw 3rdarm

While at my desk… The urgent message [dialog box]: The device “Arthur Mullen’s Iphone” has mysteriously disappeared while trying to import from it.

building crushed 3rdarm

And I mistook the torn-off light green corner from a package of sour Skittles for a leaf of my plant.