Welcome to my world — the last time anybody wanted to interview me about the history of THE2NDHAND before this fall must have been a couple years ago now. And the last – a back-and-forth, emailed affair conducted by Jun Teshima of the Hametuha arts mag in Japan – I can’t even read. I can’t thus promise I was anything like eloquent or sage in my talk in the off chance you get your hands on a copy of the latest edition of Hametuha, but it’s worth a look for the simple joy of seeing Rob Funderburk’s illustrations for Al Burian’s 2006 “Zangara” broadsheet (THE2NDHAND no. 19), about the would-be assassin of FDR who ended up killing Chicago mayor Anton Cermak instead, surrounded by wonderfully complex Japanese characters. The folks at Hametuha were quite taken by Burian’s story (it’s long been a favorite of mine among the work we’ve published as well), so they translated and republished it in their latest edition, devoted to zines from around the world. Above find the cover and a spread from Burian’s piece, the latter with those likely familiar illustrations.
Also, just launched on our part is a new series of mini-broadsheets that is taking further the grand something of an experiment in distribution models that is THE2NDHAND. The physical format is scaled down from our typical 11-by-17-inch sheets to the more standard desktop-printer-compatible 8.5-by-11. As with the others, we’re doing our own runs for select Chicago and Nashville distribution, but we encourage all interested out there to join in the fun — printing double-sided and dropping copies in reading-friendly spaces, from neighborhood bars and coffeeshops to their bathrooms. Online reading via laptop, desktop or mobile phone will be easier as well, in the smaller format.
Which is to say nothing of the excellent story leading the first installment in the series, THE2NDHAND no. 33.1, THE2NDHAND coeditor C.T. Ballentine‘s distillation of a 2007 book project he undertook on tour with Chicago band 1997 (whose nicely allusively titled “Notes From Underground” record came out recently on Victory).
And the date is set for the launch of our coproduction with the folks at Nashville’s Keyhole magazine and press, doing some great stuff lately particularly in the books arena: Friday, Mar. 12 will see the first installment in the Brick Reading Series at the East Nashville Portland Brew (1921 Eastland Avenue, 37206). I’ll be hosting, and am happy to report that, in addition to individual readings, I’ll be collaborating with the participants — Atlanta’s Lydia Ship, Louisville’s Jason Jordan, and Nashville’s own Eric Durchholz — in a Pitchfork Battalion-style collabo on the theme “Building With Brick.” Appropriate, eh? Click on the logo here for the site and full details.
Work in progress:
I postponed my first day fishing for work on 14th Street in favor of sleeping in, such as I could (considering that by 10 a.m. the late-summer Alabama sun was overhead and scorching the pates of the hairless, heating up my little-big cavern of a home here again to near unbearable proportions). Plus, it’d be much less hot out the day next, and I spent the day wandering from Black Hat Books to the grocery store to a taqueria I discovered nearby where no one seemed to mind that all you ever ordered the two hours you sat there and scarfed down free tortilla chips and salsa was a single beer.
King wasn’t around all day long, but the volunteers working the counter past noon told me right when they said he’d been in by sundown. A punk band from New Orleans called Monocle was warming up when I strolled over from my second $3 visit to the taqueria of the day and found King out front of the place arguing with a city cop out in the street, next to one of three orange cones said cop had used to block off the roadway in front of Black Hat, one of just a couple surface routes over the freight tracks and into the downtown business district. “Fucking city bullshit,” King was saying. He’d removed his Lennon-esque glasses and was waving them around like a maniac, smoldering cigarette in his other hand that he jabbed at the cop to emphasize his vulgarity.
The cop was none too pleased. “Deal with it,” he said, then made like to walk away. The second he turned his back King picked up the cone that had stood between them, then walking deliberately to the next one, parked in the center of the middle of this three-lane one-way street. He’d grabbed the last cone before the cop even noticed anything was amiss, then the two waddled at King’s lead down to the end of the block, where King deposited the cones, turning around and doing his best to pretend the cop didn’t exist.
Dare to join the T2H crew at Quimby’s Thursday for the relaunch of the newest bit player on the crowded Chicago reading series scene, our own “So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?” which I blogged about when expecting it to launch back last November. Delays, delays, I know. This time round, rumor and innuendo have been less at the front of plans and in their place, well, think monstrous love and well-being and fortitude and general comeuppance, perhaps, all qualities I might well like to better associate with the alloy that gave the city of the series’ birth the fair (or fairly grim) architectural bombast that it holds today.
Couldn’t have picked a better bookstore for it, that’s for sure. THE2NDHAND’s first-ever bookstore-sited reading took place encased in those walls April Fool’s Day, 2001. I can guarantee your memory, such as it may be, of that Sunday will be blown well out of your pants by Thursday’s event, if that makes sense.
Come out, ye readers. Details here:
SO YOU THINK YOU HAVE NERVES OF STEEL?
WHERE: QUIMBY’S BOOKS, 1854 W.North Ave., Wicker Park, Chicago
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 14, 7 PM,
*Host Harold Ray (aka ACM fiction editor and THE2NDHAND coeditor Jacob Knabb)
*Chicago playwright and past THE2NDHAND contributor Chris Bower
*THE2NDHAND repeat performer and writer Jill Summers
*& Literary stalker extraordinaire Amanda Marbais
There’s more at THE2NDHAND site: www.the2ndhand.com/events/events.html; the Facebook page for the event via THE2NDHAND’s group there is here. You can grab a copy of the new broadsheet, featuring Kate Duva, there too. Speaking of Duva, she’s on the program for the next series event at Whistler on Feb. 8.
And now for a new addition to this blog, a fragment of some work in progress, for kicks. Thoughts appreciated. Here goes. . .
Food enough to last several days, in the end, I thought, cigarettes too. Tobacco was but of course miraculously cheap in Alabama, after Chicago’s $6-$8 a pack, and the canned vegetables and meats were dirt cheap themselves; For his absence, the Suited Man couldn’t have led me a more well economically suited place.
I made my way back to Ingalls through the Five Points central business district – with the exception of Charlotte, every Southern city looking to be considered someplace important has to have a Five Points central business district, modeled on the example perhaps of Atlanta, granddaddy of them all. It’s where the urban freaks and weirdos meet with the town’s shuffling, decaying old guard, a clash made manifest for me today as I descended the large hill into the district from the grocery in the presence of both Iraq War-protesting peaceniks (from middle-age-looking soccer mom types to your more typical punks and anarchists) on one side of the circle where met 20th Street, Magnolia and 11th Avenue, and directly across from them a slightly larger coterie of anti-abortion activists. Among them was a decidedly demonic-looking cross between Abraham Lincoln and Ghandi (with the latter’s trademark spectacles) preaching from atop a milk crate clad in what I could only assume was Amish garb, tophat a’flourish. He was flanked mostly by women bearing signs that read gorily and variously, some including pictures of the bloody mess of aborted fetuses and such.
I watched them warily, grimly the latter crew as I strode by on the other side of the street.
WHAT DO WE WANT? /
WHEN DO WE WANT IT? /
“Peace my brother!” Lincoln/Ghandi, of the anti-abortion party, attempted to boom, though the peaceniks were surely louder. I was close enough to make out his message. “Peace indeed for the unborn souls of the world’s wicked, who blaspheme the teaching and the omnipotence of God; only God gives life, and only he taketh away, in the name of the Lord!” There was a guy in a Harley-Davidson shirt next to the street preacher holding a piece of poster board printed with a variously red, black and brown-colored blob of an image of what would have been indeterminate content if it weren’t for the “GOT A SMOKE?” tag at it’s top, “Tobacco is a the devil’s killer of choice” in smaller lettering below the picture. I pulled hard on my cigarette. The guy holding the sign then did the same, incongruously, with his own, looked me square in the eye, then to his poster, his cigarette and back to me again. He shrugged, puffed, and smiled.
I felt my head expand. I conspicuous, after all, one of the single bystanders not rolling through in a car. The man in his Harley shirt then shrugged, extinguishing his cigarette in the gutter, breaking away in short order from the preacher to confide to me that he got paid for what he was doing. “If you’re out of work,” said the man, “there’s money in this poster.” The anti-arbotion types tended to limit their appearances here, thus every time they showed up the television newscasters followed, ever to make references to the 1990s Eric Rudolph clinic bombing of a still-extant just a couple blocks from Five Points, I learned.
Who exactly paid him? I asked.
“It’s cash, man, how do I know?” he said. “Does it matter? They want us to help swell the ranks, make a good show.”
I pointed to the peaceniks across the square. “They do the same?” I said.
“No way,” he said. “They’ve got real balls and blood behind them. They’re out here every freaking day – new crew every time. No money in it, as you could say about most so-called liberal endeavors. Got a cigarette?”
Lincoln/Ghandi took final notice of us talking and turned his bile in our direction. “…and we were talking about sin, yes, and even among our own here today are vile prognosticators, fornicators and partakers of the vile weed that is the tobacco plant and worse, most surely,” he said. “Take the example here, of Winston Grubbs, 50-year-old homeless black cancer victim who continues spreading the message of the destructiveness of his habit while continue to engage it, proselytize it to the youth community as only a Promissory member can.” I took it he made reference to me as a member of the “youth community.”
“I’m nearly 30,” I said, loud enough that he could hear, and lit another smoke for myself, passing a fresh one to my companion, whose eyes lit up as if prepared to offer a profuse Southern message of thanks and, perhaps, an apology. “Don’t sweat it,” I cut him off, and schlepped my groceries on down the street. Lincoln/Gandhi never skipped a beat.
Back in the Suited Man’s lair I combed the environs for clues, messages from Rinckoff or signs of my father. I came up empty. Whomever it was I was chasing was long gone, though clearly the bed had been laid for my existence here. I took it as a matter of course for a Shining Man, I guess, and laid the groundwork for some time in Birmingham, enjoying the beers and a hot meal of sliced bread, one can spinach warmed on the, thankfully, fully functional hotplate. A background of smooth jazz served musings on a Southern networked cabal of radical-right mercenaries known as the Promissory well before it took me off to dreams upright at the computer.
Then I woke, having slept sitting for several hours, and the radio was off. . .
These past several days, I’ve taken the opportunity of time off to run copies of THE2NDHAND around Nashville, to lunch in a bookstore basement cafe in a decidedly suburban setting, to browse the better-than-average jazz vinyl selection at a more urban-feeling record shop, clean a car soon to be up for sale, and plot the redesign of a website long overdue for an overhaul, a word that rings more literally and, better, I think, in conversations about trucking businesses.
Been one wild and surely fruitful decade (out of strife, comes life, perhaps) for me in so many ways, not the least of which includes the birth of my daughter, Thalia, and the continuing wonder of a life partner I have in my wife, Susannah Felts. And who could have predicted at the ten years’ inception when I launched THE2NDHAND, in Feb. 2000, that it would now still be going strong, still evolving (on that front, look for a series of mini-broadsheets to launch in the next month or so). My thanks goes out to the numerous co-conspirators who’ve come on-board at various times over the years, from Jeremy Bacharach in the begining to Matt Cordell, Rob Funderburk, Evan Sult, Jeb Gleason-Allured, Andrew Davis and more recently C.T. Ballentine, Jacob Knabb and Alan Snider, without whom none of it would have been possible (to say nothing of the hundreds of writers we’ve published, but of course).
The new year starts off well on other fronts, as well. My three-year sojourn in Birmingham, Ala., occasioned a great deal of new work, and two of those stories are now available via the current issues of Birmingham-based Red Mountain Review and L.A.’s (that’s Lower Alabama, but of course) Ocho. Of my stories featured therein, one (“The Color of Magic”) was originally written for the Chicago Dollar Store reading series proceeding from a book of the same title by Terry Pratchett, and the other is a meditation on sleep disorders, fear of fatherhood and generational touchstones called “Ecstasy of an Old Hag.” Check them out — the Ocho issue was guest-edited by Kirk Curnutt, a pretty great writer, and likewise includes a rare piece of prose from poet and THE2NDHAND contributor Jim Murphy. The Red Mountain issue’s prose is phenomenal, too, particularly Tommy Zurhellen’s “Song of Simeon,” near epic in its expansiveness, a quality quite refreshing in its uncommon nature in the particularized, sometime morass of the current fictional landscape. These are epic times, after all. My two cents. See you at a reading somewhere soon, mehopes. . .