Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based fiction writer

Month: May, 2013

This ‘n that

Updates to several recent posts:

-I wrote about the fascinating case of A.J. Richardson, the candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Pittsburgh whose face is covered in tattoos. Others did not find him quite so fascinating, as he came in dead last in Tuesday’s primary election, with a vote total described, variously, as “in the triple digits” and “a smattering.” (Yikes. I’m no politics wonk, but I know you’ve got to get more than a smattering of votes.)

Some interesting links on Richardson:

*A Pittsburgh City Paper (blog) interview with him after the election.

*A City Paper blog photo of Richardson with his tattoos “removed.”

*And here’s the City Paper‘s cover for this week:



-Following this post, about my struggles with plantar fasciitis: this week, I got a cortisone shot in my heel to hopefully get me over the hump by reducing inflammation in my plantar fascia. As mentioned in the prior post, I really did not want to get a shot, let alone have surgery, but over time that opposition eroded enough that I basically asked for the shot.

So far my foot has felt better. The reduced inflammation has allowed the stretching to be more effective (I think), and I’ve done some increased activity. Nothing major: standing up while doing some weightlifting. I’ve been tempted to run over the weekend, but I think I need to hold off.

-And finally, I went ahead and secured the domain name, unfortunately, is taken by another Adam Reger who has had the domain since at least 1998; I had the bad luck to have the same name as an internet-savvy tech guy.

As far as I can tell the new domain name has meant no changes to anything or anyone, and hardly seems worth mentioning except that it feels like a step toward greater permanence.

Rad Website Alert

Today I came across MFA Dayjob, a pretty new site that speaks to an issue I’ve been very interested in, to varying degrees, since the time I started applying to grad school: work, and what kind of work graduates of MFA writing programs do to keep themselves alive; more specifically, what kind of work that is not teaching.

I felt surprisingly exceptional among my MFA program peers when I’d say that I was not interested in teaching, but expected to have some kind of office job, or to make a living as a freelance writer and editor. (NB: Time is having its joke on me, as I’m now pursuing more teaching opportunities.) Having existed outside the teaching economy (so far), I can say the main employment-related benefit to having an MFA has been the leg up it’s given me on BA-possessing English majors; that benefit hasn’t been anything a driven, competent, even brown-nosing recent (BA) graduate couldn’t have equaled through his/her own talents and ambition, however.

Anyway, today’s installment is an interview with Erin Fitzgerald, who edits the Northville Review 
(which published my story “Santo vs. Crushing Grief”). She also wrote one of my favorite stories ever to appear during my time as fiction editor of Hot Metal Bridge, wittily and weightily taking on the cute but in practice seemingly impossible theme of “Headless.” Also, via this interview, I’ve learned she attended Sarah Lawrence College, which is where I started my own post-secondary education.

Anyway, good luck to MFA Dayjob, which fills a very specific niche but one that I think fascinates a vast number of writers.

Signifying Either Nothing or Everything about America Today

Just one day after I wrote this, about a news story that was basically a novel in capsule form, came the news of the three Cleveland women found alive and escaping from a rundown house where they’d been kept captive for about a decade. I imagine somewhere book deals, television rights are being discussed right now, if they have not been finalized, and there are certainly novel-length accounts of the case to be written.

I don’t have anything particularly novel or insightful to add to the story, except to note the weird (or not weird at all, maybe) pervasiveness of fast food restaurants in this story.

For your consideration:

Charles Ramsey, the man who saw Amanda Berry crawling out of the house and went to her aid, said when interviewed, “I heard screaming. I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house. I go on the porch and she says, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time.’”

This was certainly well-noticed on Twitter, where enough people tweeted at McDonald’s that they’ve announced they will “reach out” to Ramsey, whatever that means.

But there’s also the fact that Amanda Berry was abducted at age 16 in 2003 after returning from working a shift at Burger King.

And among the details that have come out subsequently are the seemingly inevitable recriminations and clues missed. One of these pertains to warning signs about Ariel Castro, the man who owned the house where the women were kept captive, and who has been confirmed to be the father of the six-year-old girl found inside the house. In 2004, Castro was suspended from his job as a bus driver for 60 days after leaving a four-year-old boy on his bus for several hours. From the Wall Street Journal: “The report, which doesn’t make clear who called, alleged that Mr. Castro told the boy, ‘Lay down, b—,’ while he went to eat in a Wendy’s restaurant.”

So there you have it. Fast food is somehow intimately connected to this case. Perhaps the hormones in the beef patties affected Ariel Castro’s judgment, or some additive in the McDonald’s Ramsey was eating gave him the momentary courage to—

Nah, not really. Poor neighborhood, cheap and admittedly tasty food, fat nation. Case closed.

But as a writer, it’s hard not to see these details in news stories and think of them as perfect, crucial details that lend texture and atmosphere to the depictions of reality—and of class, especially, in this case—the journalists present. You might knock a fiction writer in this instance for going back to the same well one or two too many times. But in nonfiction terms, these details are superb at telling us something about the world and times we live in.

Free Box #5: Old Testament Beard, Where Have You Been All My Life?

“Old Testament Beard, Where Have You Been All My Life?” is the title of my undergraduate thesis in creative writing. I’m alarmed to find it’s more than 10 years old.

It was doing absolutely nothing, hanging out in a filing cabinet, so since I have a scanner and a website, I thought I’d post it. It’s quite a bit of writing, especially for an undergrad: 60 pages comprising two stories, three poems, one essay, and a tough-to-define thing that I guess you could call a story. (It’s text that was screen-printed onto a t-shirt as part of a group art project; see the very last page of the document and decide for yourself.) I’ve improved as a writer since then, certainly, but I remain fairly proud of a lot of this writing

Anyway, here’s Old Testament Beard Where Have You Been All My Life?.


Feet of clay; or, “Plantar fasciitis sucks”

I’ve been weirdly heartened, the last week or so, to hear that Joakim Noah, center for the Chicago Bulls, has been suffering from plantar fasciitis for the last couple weeks. “Plantar fasciitis sucks,” Noah said. “It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you’re playing.”

Heartened not because I dislike Noah; he’s one of those pain-in-the-ass players whose yelling and physical defense would bug the hell out of you if he were going against your team, but who you’ve got to be happy to have on your side.

Rather, heartened because I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for about 18 months, off and on, and it’s sort of nice to see it getting some attention.

Some time in the fall of 2012 I started noticing that the sole of my right foot would hurt when I first started to run, and often in the morning. I didn’t know enough to stop running, or even run less frequently, and anyway the pain usually stopped once I’d gotten into a run. I kept running until some time in October, when I went to the excellent Fleet Feet running store in Pittsburgh’s South Hills and they suggested I try some various calf stretches.

I did, to no effect. Over the next few months I’d go to a podiatrist, then go back to Fleet Feet for some shoe inserts. The 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon bib I’d bought some time before was sold on race weekend to an out-of-town runner. Six months later, the 2012 Philadelphia Half-Marathon bib I’d bought many months before I passed on to my sister.

Significantly, I am writing about plantar fasciitis all these months later because of my own stupidity and impatience. I’d heard good things about CrossFit, and there was a gym near my office, so I signed up. I loved it, and didn’t pay too much attention to the impact of Olympic-style weightlifting on my foot and Achilles. The CrossFit gym I went to offered a running class that taught the Pose method of running, and I went to that as often as I could manage. I figured I was pretty much back to normal, if I was doing CrossFit and running, so I began doing occasional running workouts at an indoor track: sprints, intervals, barefoot running, even backward running.

Some time over this past winter I decided I was kidding myself if I thought CrossFit and running were not bad for my foot. I went to a physiatrist and was prescribed six weeks of physical therapy. I did that. I’ve gotten inserts in my shoes, have been faithfully doing the stretches my physical therapist recommended, and as often and for as long as I can I sleep with my right foot in a brace to gently stretch the plantar fascia.

The results are, at best, middling. The thing that really sucks about plantar fasciitis is how sensitive it is even when you do all the right things. I’ve been doing home workouts over the last two and a half weeks that have involved things like jumping jacks, jogging in place, just to warm up. Those have tweaked my foot; it hurts as much now as it did the day I stopped running. I am inching toward a Cortisone shot and, beyond that, toward surgery. The notion of surgery seemed like a joke when the physiatrist suggested it: he made a point of saying that he did not recommend it, and I made a point of letting him know I wanted to avoid surgery if at all possible. It’s weird to acknowledge but it’s gone on long enough now that I’m in a place where I wouldn’t dismiss surgery out of hand. The idea of running again isn’t even particularly in my mind, either. It’s just a matter of being able to walk for a long time without the certainty that it will aggravate my foot, and down the road of being able to do a workout where I jump, or lift weights standing up, or run from home plate to first base.

A lot of bellyaching, I know. But this is just to substantiate Noah’s statement, a true one, that plantar fasciitis sucks.

Update: It’s almost a year later but I am back to fairly normal health, foot-wise, and have just posted an extremely lengthy account of how I got there.

Novel idea expressed as a paragraph in a news story

You may have seen this story, about a Pennsylvania woman who disappeared, was declared dead, and subsequently turned up in Florida.

I’ve been fascinated by it, and in particular the impetus for the woman’s, Brenda Heist’s, disappearing in the first place. Here’s the Associated Press’s account:

Heist was going through an amicable divorce in 2002 when she got some bad news about future housing plans, Schofield said. She was crying in a park when some strangers befriended her, then invited her to join them as they began a monthlong hitchhiking journey to south Florida, he said.

I don’t mean to minimize the heartache Heist caused her husband and children, but—doesn’t that sound kind of magical? Friendly strangers comfort you as you cry in a public park, and on a whim you decide to change your life completely. Wow. If I were casting about for a new fiction project to start on, I would have just found it. The themes would be the tenuousness of modern life, this American willingness to throw everything aside and start over, the adaptability of personality. Stuff like that.

Free Box #4: “The Saga of Gallagher, Book the First, Verses 1-56”

Nothing I can say about this one will adequately prepare you for what a weird piece of writing this is.

. . . Except maybe the fact that I wrote it for a poetry slam at Sarah Lawrence College in the spring of 1999, and “performed” it by putting the pages inside the biggest, oldest-looking book I could find in the library, and read to the (pretty large) audience as if reading from some ancient tome.

And also that, yes, it is about that Gallagher, the watermelon-smashing comedian. (Here is a phenomenal review of an ill-advised Spanish language show Gallagher put on some time ago.)

Anyway, beside that, there’s nothing I can really say. Here’s the poem:



The still unceasing wonder of the internet

In a coincidence too noteworthy not to write about, yesterday, just several hours after I posted this, about the subject of a blog post finding and commenting on said blog post, I logged into my Facebook account and saw this:


Someone at Szmidt’s saw this post I wrote about them.