News

Two years ago, in the wake of the Kim Davis marriage certificate fiasco, I published a follow-up to “An Open Letter to America from a Public School Teacher.” This letter satirized a public servant’s unwillingness to follow the law to serve all taxpayers regardless of gender, race, or creed. The persona I created used Davis’s own religious rhetoric to defend his small-minded belief that LGBTQ students did not deserve to be educated by a Christian teacher. This letter is satirical. I no more hate any of my students than Jonathan Swift wanted to eat the babies of Ireland. The purpose of my letter is to ridicule those who would harm children. I recently removed this satire from my website because too many people took it quite literally.


Back from New York and our short run of One More Fine Day at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Playing the bipolar Polowitz was both energizing and exhausting.

While our opening day competed with the Wildcats, the cast and crew of Translations put on some heartbreaking shows our first weekend. Two more weeks of Translations at Woodford Theatre. 


I love Duotrope, if for no other reason than it helps me find journals that I never would have found otherwise so I can submit stories that I can’t ever seem to find a home for. Such is the case with my story, “Until Your Heart Releases You,” which recently found a home at Don’t Talk to Me About Love (http://donttalktomeaboutlove.org/). They are cleaning its room right now, but once it moves in, I’ll let you know.


If it’s art and donuts you want, then you can have both. I closed up my show at the John G. Irvin Gallery only to move most of the pieces to North Lime Coffee & Donuts. Now this quaint little donut shop (num num num) is finely decorated with reclaimed cardboard, compost, and barn wood. The show runs through February 28.


The cold and snow didn’t stop friends and art enthusiasts from coming out of the John G. Irvin Gallery to the reception for my show “Tossed Out and Cut Up.” Two gallery floors of my work to see, wine to drink, and an assortment of cheeses. I for one was warmed by the reception. Thank you to Patricia Wheatley, Central Bank, and all of the folks who braved the weather.


Thanks to Danny Strong at Brokenfork Designs, I am one of Lexington’s newest muralists. If you are driving south down Broadway, look to your left as you approach 6th Street and you’ll see a camera hanging from the colorful 6th Street West Apartments. It’s not finished yet, and the cold and wet is complicating things, but…I did that.1203162339


Wild Fig Books and Coffee, Lexington’s newest independent bookstore, will be hosting three evenings of dramatic readings featuring local actors performing three short plays by Michael Mau.

The collection, Childhood Disrupted, follows three children as they attempt to navigate youth’s landscape despite the adults in their lives. In “A Child’s War,” Sara, a young Muslim girl, is brutally attacked by a peer who is trying to impress a bigoted teacher. In “Little Bird,” Soldier, the daughter of an Army sergeant, retaliates against bullying friends by recreating the scenes from Abu Graib that her mother has shown her. “Papa” follows Blerta, an Albanian refugee, shares a doll made from the clothing of her deceased father, only to have her Papa stolen by a classmate.

The one-act plays work together to demonstrate the power that adults have over children and the horrifying effects when that power is used to manipulate. However, each tale ends with the idea that children can transcend the world into which they are born.

Two of the plays have already been published as short stories. “Little Bird” won the 2015 Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest.

Featured performers include Meredith Crutcher, a Lexington favorite; poet and teacher Christopher McCurry; and writer Christina Lynch.

Running May 12-14, each performance begins at 7 p.m.. This is a free event.

What: MauNotMao production of Childhood Disrupted, a dramatic reading of three one-act plays by Michael Mau

When: 7 p.m., May 12-14

Where: Wild Fig Books & Coffee, 726 N Limestone

Tickets: Free Event

Online: michaelmau.org


Please come out to Circle of Light for Gallery Hop, March 18. My work is being featured in their cozy gallery.


In the wake of the Kim Davis marriage certificate fiasco, I published a follow-up to An Open Letter from a Public School Teacher. This letter satirized a public servant’s unwillingness to follow the law to serve all taxpayers regardless of gender, race, or creed. The persona I created used Davis’s own religious rhetoric to defend his small-minded belief that LGBTQ students did not deserve to be educated by a Christian teacher. This letter is satirical. I no more hate any of my students than Jonathan Swift wanted to eat the babies of Ireland. The purpose of my letter is to ridicule those who would harm children.


Dear Michael Mau,

We were excited to see your name in the mix for the 2016 Disquiet Literary Contest! It’s always good to hear from Disquiet participants and we hope life and writing are treating you well.

This year’s contest received close to 1,000 entries of exceptional quality. While I am sorry to say that you were not selected as one of this year’s winners, you should know that you finished as one of five finalists in fiction

“To the Touch” was singled out by our judge as outstanding. Our readers called it “a zany love story with two off-kilter superheroes like something out of Amy Hempel.” We especially loved the lines, “The mother drew up a contract. Separate bedrooms. Side hugs only.” — but found so much to admire throughout.

All best,

Laura B., Brendan, & the Disquiet Staff


The first annual Blackout Friday went off without a hitch. Maybe there were a couple of hitches, but they were small ones. Once again, I got to meet new artists, share my wares, and get blackout drunk. Kidding. I didn’t meet anyone. Even if you are just curious about how art is made, you have to check out Kre8Now Makerspace at 903 Manchester St #120. It’s right next to Manchester Music Hall. Doug Clarke is building an artists’ Mecca.

What a fun evening at Fusion Gallery. Met some talented artists, discussed my work, and watched my kids destroy a piñata. Thank you, Vanessa and Chris.


Thank you to the NoLi CDC and the Night Market for providing me with a place to show my work. I hope to be invited back.


Listen to the interview I did with John Cromshow of Politics and Pedagogy for Pacifica Radio. Janury 24:

http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=pop

Have You Ever

John Cromshow

“An Educational Gift for Christmas”

The story at yahoo.com disappeared as fast as Santa and his reindeer dashing through the sky on Christmas Eve. No worries. “An Open Letter to America from a Public School Teacher” by Michael Mau, is still available at:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/…/an-open-letter-to-america-from-…

Mau’s letter is so important that it deserves more than 15 milliseconds of fame. Here’s why. He writes about problems teachers have been struggling with for years. Too few listened. The issues remain standardized testing, top-down curriculum, elimination of the arts in school, and the loss of creative thinking. A cookie-cutter mentality extends from the Department of Education to School Boards around the country. But rather than admit it, those in the educational hierarchy claim just the opposite. The rhetoric of “high expectations” combined with “individualized instruction” is good enough to snooker most of the media. Let’s not forget the lynchpin in this equation, “It’s the teacher’s fault.” Demonizing public education and teachers’ unions paves the way (with gold, I might add) allowing for-profit charters to take over.

There is no substitute for Michael Mau’s words, which get his points across with amusing satire:

“I had this ridiculous idea that art and music and drama and activity breaks would help my students grow…To think, I once had my English class produce a full-length play with original music and student-designed sets…many of them still e-mail me and tell me that was the highlight of their high school experience…” Mau concludes with a tongue-in-cheek analysis, “After all, what did they really learn? How to access their imagination? Developing original thoughts? Teamwork? I may as well have taught them how to file for unemployment.” Sham hope is on the way. “With a nationalized curriculum, so much of the guesswork will be taken out…education is all about job security and competing in a global marketplace…Why else would we send our kids to school? This is a standardized multiple-choice world. I know that now.”

Doing their part, parents, teachers and others don’t have to follow the Pied Piper into the land of mindlessness. They can speak out for the students’ sake.

Now that Christmas is upon us I’ve been getting educational gifts for children. One gift was for my Kindergarten teacher friend. She’ll enjoy reading “Beautiful Bible Stories” to her grandchildren. For her two-year old grandson, I bought a set of nesting, stacking blocks with letters, numbers and colors. When a friend in Wrightwood told me she was going to visit her family in Texas, I recommended “Too Many Tamales” by Gary Soto. Reading to children deserves more attention. In fact, why not start by rewriting some popular holiday songs? We could begin with, “All I want for Christmas are a few good books.” That’s another story.

Have you ever given an educational gift for Christmas? Please e-mail me jcromshow@yahoo.com.


That letter was an indictment of a system, not a school or a small district. I need to say that now before I get fired.

_______________________________________________________________________

Hello Michael,

This note is just to let you know we have nominated your story “Best Launderette”
for a Pushcart Prize for the 2015 issue. If it is selected we will hear about it in late
April or early May. Good luck.

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.

Vern

Fifth Wednesday Journal

___________________________________________________________________

Just received an e-mail from McSweeney’s thanking me for my submission. And, yes, I will finally be McSweeney’d.


I will be portraying adventurous rogue Philip Lombard in the Studio Players production of And Then There Were None, Nov 13-30.
_________________________________
BWR is pleased to announce the winners and runners-up of our 10th Annual Contest in Prose, Poetry, and Nonfiction.
Michael Mau was selected as the fiction winner for his story, “Little Bird.”
Fiction judge Lily Hoang writes:
“Little Bird” is the kind of story that lurks, it creeps. It sets in long after the last period has been forgotten. While reading this story—and after—I kept returning to gendered expectations, especially for children, but this isn’t just another gender swapping story: because, cue it: enter the military industrial complex: enter brainwashing: enter the simple desire of a daughter not wanting to disappoint her father: enter rejection. Enter the violence of emerging sexualities and bullying. Enter the way violence is bred: through heredity. Because when all the terror is set aside, what remains is just a girl, trying to be good by her father’s standards, trying hard to impress. O little girl of realism: why are you just as frightening as a wicked old crone? O little girl of realism: you delight. O little girl of realism: always remain a little girl, even when you are grown. But you, too, must grow up, and this is only the beginning of monstrosity, the birth of insecurity.

Wouldn't that look nice on a book jacket?

Wouldn’t that look nice on a book jacket?

12/7/14
Hello Michael,

This note is just to let you know we have nominated your story “Best Launderette”
for a Pushcart Prize for the 2015 issue. If it is selected we will hear about it in late
April or early May. Good luck.

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.

Vern

Fifth Wednesday Journal

10/3/14
So I get a call from an editor who asks if one of my stories has been published yet. I tell him no, and he congratulates me for winning their annual contest. Then he says I can’t tell anyone until they make their announcement.
This doesn’t count, right?

9/30/14
After a fifteen year hiatus, I have returned to the stage to test out my community theatre acting chops.
Rehearsals begin Monday, October 6 for And Then There Were None in which I will be playing the handsome adventurer Philip Lombard.
If you are in the Lexington area November 13-30, come see me woo women with my British accent.

Correndo

THE VIEW FROM MY BALCONY

at the top of Beco do Monte invites me to explore the seven hills of Lisbon. There’s the Jardim de S. Pedro de Alcântara where Ricardo Reis thought about Lydia and Marcenda. There’s the Jardim do Torel where the bust of Viana da Mota stands sentry. If I squint, I can barely see the Praca do Marqués de Pombal at the end of the green carpet of trees lining the Avenida da Liberdade. I have to imagine the icy cold Tejo hidden from view; the Largo de Camões near the strange sculpture of Fernando Pessoa; the Praça do Comércio, crowded with World Cup spectators; the Miradouro de Santa Catarina where Adamastor, the Spirit of the Cape, scowls with shrunken, hollow eyes; and the Café no Chiado with its secret entrance to the Centro Nacional de Cultura. Tomorrow I’ll meet there to workshop writing and get inspired, but today is running day. Today I will head down the hill and get lost in the city that has welcomed me with wine, seafood, bread, and music.
A right here, a left there, up this hill, down that one, and I have no idea where I am. This isn’t exercise so much as exploration, so I don’t mind to stop and take pictures. Sheets dancing from third-story clotheslines. Click. A pedestrian crossing sign, the silhouetted man wearing a fedora. Click. An ancient window on a wind-washed building. Click. A tree blocking the entire sidewalk. Click. Graffiti: buoyant monikers, revolutionary calls to action, spray-painted portraits—Tupac Shakur, Marilyn Monroe, Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago—their eyes following me. Click. Click. Click.

I find myself, strangely, in the Alfama neighborhood even though I am sure I was headed in the opposite direction. Streamers and lights. Fado. Ginga. More fado. I pass the Museum of Fado offering a history of this sometimes-controversial national music. I imagine the fascist Salazar ordering his people to love football, Fatima, and fado, the three Fs symbols of Portuguese nationalism. If I’m in Alfama, I’m close to the Tejo, the Tagus River feeding into the Atlantic. The Avenida Infante Dom Henrique isn’t the most exciting place to run, but I can see that river, Cristo Rei with open arms on the other side, Ponte 25 de Abril spanning the water. That’s where I’m headed.

I find a path closer to the river, and as I pass the Praça do Comércio, I think back to a few nights ago when revelers at the Pride Festival drank Sagres and Superbock and moved as one to the music of George Michael. The drag queen on stilts, the masquerade mask that I found and gave away, the kissing couples, smell of hash, sweat and sand and sangria. This morning, sunbathers sleep by the concrete shoreline.

Ahead of me is Cais do Sodré where I caught the train to Cascais just yesterday (or was it the day before?). Where I took the bus to Belém two days ago (or was it three?). Could I make it the six miles to Belém on foot? Fuel up with a café and two pastels de nata? Unlikely if I want to run back. I could use my Via Viagem card to hop on the train to Cascais and stink up the car. I could kick off my shoes and dive into the water that I can’t believe doesn’t have ice cubes floating in it. I’d rent a chaise lounge and sip a beer as I eyed brown bodies seemingly impervious to the sun. Well-salinated from the sea and sweat, I could stop in at the Duche Bar overlooking the beach and chow down on a bifana. Maybe run out to Boca do Inferno, the Mouth of Hell, where Pessoa helped occultist Aleister Crowley fake his own death in 1930 by pretending to leap into the chasm.

But, no, Cascais is not part of today’s adventure. I want to cross that bridge.

That bridge, the one that looks so much like the Golden Gate, was once called Ponte Salazar. The 1974 Carnation Revolution gave the structure a new appellation to memorialize the day that Lisboans took to the streets with carnations to celebrate the nonviolent overthrow the corporatist Estado Novo regime. Just ten days after our tax day, the Portuguese celebrate Freedom Day. Today I want to celebrate by running across Ponte 25 de Abril to stand at the foot of Cristo Rei in Almada.

As I near the bridge, I fear that it may be inaccessible by foot, and just like everything in Lisbon, there is no direct route to get there. I turn away from the river and up an uneven hill back into the city. The climb seems interminable, but if I can just cut over I could get closer to road leading to the bridge. It’s on my left, then it’s directly ahead, then it disappears behind office buildings that look like they would be more at home in communist Leningrad. I turn down what I hope will be a shortcut and end up in a dead-end alley where a mother cat lying near a festering pile of old spaghetti, feeds her feral kittens. This is a sign.

Ponte 25 de Abril is now to me a rainbow whose pot of gold I shall never discover. I check the GPS on my phone to find a route home. A blank grid. No service. Lost in Lisbon. Deflated.

Directionless, I scale another hill. Women in sun dresses sip wine and watch the American sweating profusely, the look of loss on his glistening mug drawing their sympathy. Then I see it: Aqueduto da Águas Livres. My faith in Cristo Rei dashed, I set my tired feet in the direction of the great aqueduct.
I pass the Cemitério dos Prazeres whose visitors’ sign tells tourists that the guided tours are “Trageted to interessent institutions and individuals, they pretend to be cultural tours through the alleys of the cemetery.” For a city whose residents speak English so well, someone should have consulted a translator.
A horse with blinders, I gallop towards my goal, disregarding architecture and art. I blend in, disappear.

I am a crumbling neighborhood. I’m a highway. I’m a park.

Some tattooed teens kick a deflated soccer ball back and forth. Collectively they eye me; who is this dripping red monster?
I pretend to ignore them as I make my way up yet another hill to the far end of the aqueduct. There I climb atop the over 250-year-old structure and look towards Lisbon. Dehydrated and delusional, I imagine myself as Diogo Alves, “The Assassin of Águas Livres Aqueduct.” It’s 1839, and I have just robbed a middle-aged woman of her escudos. Here atop the aqueduct, I will drag her to the middle of my perch over the Alcantara valley and push her to her death. They’ll call it a suicide, but I’ll know better.
I am not Diogo Alves though. I am just a writer, tired, thirsty, hungry, and in need of a shower. It is time to head back.
Every street I take ends at a fence or winds back in the direction of the park. Adventure is quickly turning to misadventure.
Why is there a horse chained in the middle of a field of dead grass? Another sign? Just as I am accepting that I will die panting on Rua Miguel Ângelo de Blasco, I see salvation: a bus stop.
The schedule at the bus stop assures me that this bus will take me back to the Praca do Marqués de Pombal where I watched Brazil take a German beating that left Lisboans in tears. As I wait for the bus, two elderly men take their seats besides me. My odor is pungent, and I am more aware than ever that when I stand up, I will leave a puddle.
The bus is early. The bus is crowded. The crowd is not as excited to see me as I am to be on that bus.
An Asian couple clings to one another, and when she kisses him, I shiver. Maybe it is the cool air on my hot skin.

At my stop, I remove my shirt as I step off the bus. I am still nearly three miles from home. Jogging unsteadily down Avenida da Liberdade, I pass the hotel that Denis Johnson and his wife made their home for two weeks. I think of him sitting at all of those readings and lectures, cane propped beside him, socked feet strapped into sandals. It took me days to work up the courage to approach him.

Down a side street that I hope will cut off some time, I pass a fruit stand with navel oranges the size of cabbages. I must. I do. Thank god I brought money. There I am standing shirtless in dripping short shorts, earphones dangling from my head, ripping into an orange like Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live. I want another and another, but I know what that will do to my already churning stomach. A quick “Obrigado” to the owner, and I am off again.

When I reach the foot of Beco do Monte, I stop my pedometer. Eleven miles, almost to the foot. The cat that I have dubbed Fernando Pessoa rubs against my sticky leg and licks me. “What a life, Fernando,” I tell him and walk towards a warm shower, a cold beer, and a nap.

IMG_5613 _MG_8522 _MG_8503 _MG_8470 _MG_8465 IMG_5816 IMG_5813 IMG_5806 IMG_5793 _MG_8475 IMG_5207 IMG_5347 IMG_5802 IMG_5797 IMG_5370 IMG_5365 IMG_5358 IMG_5355 IMG_5351

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