Nashville, head out to Portland Brew Friday this week for the next installment in the Brick reading series (the rest of you, tune into the web stream at 7 p.m. CST here), which sees two of my favorite Chicagoans in town — Fred Sasaki, an editor with Poetry mag (a big force behind the conception of the grand and long-running Chicago Printers Ball) who contributed to THE2NDHAND’s 29th broadsheet back in 2008 (see the second page, at the bottom) and my coeditor Jacob Knabb, all-around outstanding photographer and fiction writer — he also edits fiction for the venerable ACM.
What’s more, Gabe Durham, Brick coproducer Keyhole mag‘s new editor, fairly new to Nashville, will be reading from his “Fun Camp” book, a sort of series of unlikely, philosophically madcap monologues surrounding an early-teen summer camp we excerpted in the latest mini-sheet, no. 34.2 (see second page). Gabe’s got a pretty excellent blog, too, in “Gather Round Children,” with a recent post detailing his encounter with the work of writer James Robison, published in the late 1980s, apropos of noting several writers other than Jonathan Franzen worth checking out. The exhilaration of discovery is palpable, better than most blogs (including, er, this one. . .). Gabe’s a fantastic reader, and if I’m reading certain of his e-mails of late you might well expect singalongs of various natures. Or not.
What you can expect in this is another in a series of collabos you may know by the name of Pitchfork Battalion. The last of these I helped debut at the last Brick with Motke Dapp, John Minichillo and my fave Nashville writer (yeah, I’m partial, and we share living space, and more…), Susannah Felts. Check out vid from that reading below. . .
Work in progress…
Huggins disappeared, riding a curse of his own family, now–including crew chief Eddy Huggins, no doubt–into some distant haze at the crown of some nearby mountain. He didn’t show for Talladega racing Saturday, and I got my training on the fly that night, Tacklebox running through the essentials of carrying–“squat, lift with your legs”–careful not to over-exert the new guy. “We don’t want you feeling like a dead mule in the morning,” he said.
If only he knew what I’d been doing all week. The cleanup in Ensley took its toll, and the long night previous hadn’t helped the stiffness at all.
I practiced throwing my legs quickly over the pit wall, a move Tacklebox said wasn’t necessary. “Most guys just get up in a crouching position on the wall, like this,” hopping onto the balls of his feet atop the small wall.
I closed my eyes, sat with my back to the pit road, trying hard to sense Tacklebox’s motion, sound, behind me. “I’ll do it this way,” I said, kicking my feet high and pushing off my right – I raised my body onto my left hand and threw my feet over the wall with the rest of my body.
“Ta-da!” he said. “That’s slick, but one misstep and you’re toast. I’d suggest extreme care. And remember, it might not be exactly easy with a tire and wheel in your hands. Speaking of which…” We walked through the garage area, something of party scene this evening after the junior series race, teams celebrating small victories and ignominious defeats in small groups on folding chairs set up at the back of big team trailers, lined up in two big rows ass to ass like slicker versions of the rigs at the truckstop I’d seen just a week ago with Stonefly Sanders.
Montuck Jr.’s team, Tacklebox pointed out, were “drunker than skunks. They rolled the Busch Chevy today.” Montuck and several other premiere series drivers moonlighted in the junior competition as a way of getting more track time, I figured, but Tacklebox disagreed.
“Every car’s different,” he said. “Practice with one won’t do shit for you with the other. They do it for the money. Not like they need it so badly.” Montuck, he added, speaking softly now as we strolled down the aisle between the two trailer rows, you wouldn’t find imbibing with the junior series team, one of the many indicators of his particular character. “Turner’s a party man, which makes him great for building camaraderie, see–or ‘team love,’ you could say. You’ll see these guys up here and the most relevant point of comparison you might want to make you saw coming at your face last night. Most of us can keep things in check because we like the job, you know. We like our driver. These guys here are just stiffs and, like factory workers or temp slaves, they tend to overcompensate in the off time. I have doubts about whether any of them have even talked to Montuck.”
He motioned their way as we passed–three guys, part of Montuck’s Busch team, still in their red-and-black fire suits, milling about the back of their trailer on folding chairs and looking as if they would fall asleep at any moment. We walked on for 30 seconds or more. “That doesn’t mean we don’t like them, of course,” Tacklebox laughing when we were out of their sight. “A friendly prank is friendly, in the end.”
He turned a 180 abruptly, then, and motioned for me to follow as we doubled back and slipped into the three feet, tops, of lateral space between Montuck’s trailer and the Canadian whiskey logo-emblazoned team house beside it. We stopped halfway to the front of the trailer, where tires were stacked high in several columns under a canopy: “For the race tomorrow,” Tacklebox said, then stopping, turning with his index finger firmly to his lips, before we continued on to walk through the space. In all of it, I could catch just the hint of grin.
When we reached the pile, he hoisted the top tire and passed it back to me. Each in the stacks had M-O-N-T-U-C-K written in fairly large yellow capitals and in repetition around its circumference. Tacklebox pulled a yellow paint pen from a pocket somewhere and, devilish grin spread over his face, directed me in the tires’ defacement. The difficulty was in morphing the C to a K without a black pen, but otherwise the joke was fairly simple. As it turned out, it wasn’t the first time Montuck’s team became the P-O-K-E-M-O-N express.
The sixth tire in for me, maybe the eighth for Tacklebox, we were spotted by a team member from the rear of the trailer, who gave pursuit. We exited at the front of the rig, by the tires–Tacklebox sprinting left, me right, divergent paths back to the main garage area between the rows of trailers. We convened inside the Bascombe trailer, Tacklebox already popping a beer when I entered.
“To a long and productive day,” Tacklebox raising the can, sounding like Trey or Carl or one of the many whose IDs I’d memorized at the Meadowlark. That was where the resemblance stopped.
He leaned from his chair and hit the play button on a stereo system’s CD unit, the opening cello strains of an old Anthrax record swelling through the team “lounge,” this 10’-by-10’ compartment at the back of the rig. “You like noise, you said,” Tacklebox raising his right hand, fingers configured to the horns of the devil, and banging his head a few strokes when the guitar and drums came in.
“Euphoria,” I said, “State of…” remembering the record’s title. We sang along at the chorus. “Be all, and you’ll be the end all / Life can be a real ball / State of mind: Euphoria!”
I popped open my own beer and relished the fatigue growing in my biceps, at the back of my thighs, calf muscles. I attempted to resist the urge to break back in the mind into my childhood’s dirt backyard and the little cassette player and its C batteries, nothing near the Scream’s surely more worthy D-powered behemoth. I nonetheless caught the thread of something fascinating there in the trailer. Tacklebox continued his ridiculous headbanging–ridiculous for his lack of headbanger hair, his ’do close-cropped over the ears and above the eyebrows and tucked under a ball cap–and I popped a beer and channeled the present aggression of the music, closing my eyes to feel the tinny speakers’ whine, dirt on knees and elbows and my muscles in the memory of flailing around the backyard, kicking up more dirt, alone and content and full of undirected rage ultimately false in its very conception.
“I fucking love that shit,” Tacklebox said when the song was over. “Now let’s get back to it a bit.”