Harold Ray may get his record contract yet. A new month brings a new venue for THE2NDHAND’s So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? performance series — Chicago’s Empty Bottle is the destination, and here are the details:
*Nerves alumnus Bob Rok brings the ruckus
Hosted by the one and only Harold Ray w/ deliciously beautiful house band Good Evening
Here’s a little taste of what’s in store, with vid of Ray’s monologue and Good Evening’s opening number, shot at our October edition at the Hungry Brain. Enjoy.
A new half-issue comes with a new format, with page sizes optimized to easy reading on tablets and the various eReaders that are out there — access the 11-page issue (pdf) by clicking through the image of page 1 or 2 below, or scan the QR on page 2 to pull it up.
In any case, great to have an excerpt from one of the 2011′s best books, hands down. I had the opportunity to read what amounts to an homage to Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions after its author, Mickey Hess, and I toured briefly in November. The Nostalgia Echo is the story of Princeton prof and lesser-known “nostalgia theorist” Everett Barnes’ late-life brush with whatever fleeting version of stardom is possible for his ilk in our time, complete with his image stenciled on freeway overpasses — a History Channel TV show having sparked it all, of course. Perhaps more importantly, the book is also the last, most appropriate chance for its narrator to tell his own story. A brush with Barnes in his youth, documented in an old photograph that is his only personal vestige of his birth mother’s existence, provides the impetus for the working narrator’s growing present-tense obsession with the nostalgia theorist, likewise the graffiti artist who is the origin point for the Barnes stencils.
In short, in classic Hess fashion, it’s a wild, hilarious ride of a book. No. 37.1 consists of Chapter 3, with included shorts by T2H coeditor Jacob Knabb (“Pig Sweatin’”) and a poem by Nashville writer Brad King (“Long Lost Pals,” see how they roll).
Lask lives and writes in Chicago.
We’d kept the windows open to fall asleep to the waves splashing the rocks. Late in the night, Jean got up to go lay next to her daughter. I’d tossed for a while, feeling for grooves in the hotel bed and papery pillowcase, and after 20 minutes or so I was about back asleep when this fishing boat started.
It sounded like a big pickup truck, with guys laughing and cracking cans like tailgaters outside a stadium. It wasn’t even 4:30. I moved the stiff blankets over and got up and went outside.
They were down on the concrete pier. Their boat had two lights mounted to a crossbar in the middle, rocking on the dark water. A man wearing a pullover sweatshirt, ballcap on, walked a cooler down the pier, and I understood that this was a guided fishing tour, an outfit. This was why the laminated sign in our room said not to clean fish in the sink. Jean’s father, I thought for the second time that night, would have called us suckers.
I stood there barefoot pretending the floor of dry pine needles felt good. I watched one of the outfitters untie the rope at the front, another the back. I remembered fishing a much smaller lake with Jean’s father, his aluminum boat’s concrete-filled coffee can anchor, him tying a leader onto my line because I was too impatient to learn the knot. Him calling my fingers ladylike. I told him they were guitarist’s fingers, and he handed me a set of pliers and told me to crimp the barbs on the end of my hook. That I’d get squirmy if I had to rip an uncrimped hook out of a fish’s belly.
Watching the boat take off, the lights getting smaller as they disappeared into the oceanic lake, I thought about the old man in his last days, thanking me. I’d asked for what.
For filling in for the boy that knocked his daughter up and ran off, he said.
I told him I loved his daughter and granddaughter, and he nodded and went back to watching the market reports on the hospital room’s hanging TV.
Now that the outfit was gone I thought about waking Jean and Carissa to show them the moon. It was low and round, with a sliver of dark orange in it. Around it were the last of the night’s constellations, unseen back home.
When I came in Carissa was alone next to Jean’s bed indentation. A rush of water from the room above ours travelled through the pipe attached to the ceiling. The pipe was painted white like the cinderblock walls, the low-ceilinged room itself connected to an Ace Hardware store. But from the kitchen table you could see the lake. So they’d called it a “waterfront suite,” and it wasn’t long after I whispered in bed last night that her father would have called us suckers that Jean went into the other room.
I was unsurprised, though a little frustrated, not to see her in our bed either. Since her father passed in June she’s taken to going to her mother’s apartment at night. To check on her, she says, her mom having gotten the three flat in the divorce years earlier. It’s a well lit and busy enough street we live on, but when she leaves I don’t sleep. Carissa has more than once gotten up to say she heard the door shut. And last weekend I canceled playing an out of town show, telling Jean I didn’t really want to play it. She said I was being overprotective.
I grabbed the room key off the table. After locking the door I went down to the little iron table where the three of us had dinner in the grass by the shore. I hopped up the low rock wall and stood looking up the sand, thinking we’d come here for Carissa’s fourth birthday. Would she remember having to look for her mom? We’d first gone to the small lake her grandpa and I fished on two summers ago. A huge new fake log cabin was there, and the water was cluttered with slick boats pulling tubes and skiers. So we shot over to this peninsula, and after not finding a campsite we got the hotel. I figured, walking back to the room to wake her up, that if she remembered anything it would be the more general blur of trees and water that was upper Wisconsin.
When I came in she’d been sitting on the edge of the bed, feet hanging off. “Is mama out again?” she said.
“She just went for a walk,” I said. “Probably to find us some donuts. Why don’t you grab your blanket and we’ll go find her.”
As we walked out the sun was showing just above an arm of pines across the bay. A breeze off the lake rustled Carissa’s light hair. We got in the car.
“Seatbelt,” I’d said, putting on mine.
“Mama slept in my bed last night,” she said.
“Was she mad at you?”
“She just wanted to be next to you. Are you having a fun birthday?”
The hardware store’s parking lot fed into the boat landing. The car weighed on its rear wheels as we backed to the steep incline, and I stepped on the brake hard before shifting into drive.
“It’s pretty good,” she said. “But I wish grandpa could be here for it.”
“You still have the Snoopy pole he gave you, right?”
“You’d said his fishing spot was changed yesterday,” she said.
I thought about those slick boats again. One of them was carrying a kid on a wakeboard doing acrobatics, a girl with a handheld camera filming from the back. They had people on shore waiting their turn.
“We might find somewhere today,” I said.
We pulled onto the main street, quiet with floating mist the sun had yet to burn off. We turned south. We drove past the restaurant whose fish boil we skipped because of the price. The big pot, the cauldron, was still sitting on the wood pallet in the side lot. The concrete around it was a different shade of grey, changed from a summer of contact with boiled-over water. We passed a house converted into an antique store, an ancient tractor on its well-clipped lawn, its seat holding a hand-painted sign that said ANTIQUES. We passed the bar where we’d gotten our takeout dinner. We were soon at the end of town, the speed limit sign changing to 45 and the trees starting to tunnel.
“We’ll have to turn around,” I said. “And keep a better eye out for donut shops this time.”
“There she is,” Carissa said, pointing. She was pointing at a clearing in the trees, turning her head to look as we passed it. I eased the car onto the shoulder. Its gravel was still dewy, the tires making slurp sounds as we reversed.
“Yeah, there she is,” I said. The clearing was a small orchard, maybe ten rows, running up a hill. The spindly branches looked to be holding peaches. Jean was walking in the dark dirt, her shoes in one hand, wearing the leather coat that no longer fit her mother.
“How did you see her?” I asked.
“I was looking,” Carissa said, opening the door. A gust of air blew in and she left the door open to walk into the shallow road ditch before starting up the hill.
“Right,” I said to myself.
I got out too. I set my elbows on top of the car and watched. Jean had turned around when I shut my door. She waved, and I nodded. She and her daughter had the same light hair and dark brows, and as the little version scrambled up the other side of the ditch I for some reason thought about where I’d have been at this hour last week had we played the show. Probably awake on a futon in another strange apartment.
“What do you say?” Jean shouted down the hill. “Should we find some birthday donuts?”
I shook my head no. Carissa had by now taken off up the hill and her mom dropped her shoes and crouched a little to receive her.
“That sounds about right,” I shouted.
She caught her and raised her up and let her wrap her arms around her neck. She grabbed her shoes and started toward the car. I got back in. I watched her pale muddy feet and rolled jeans coming down the row, the sound of their voices getting less drifty as they got closer. I leaned over and pushed open the passenger door, inhaling the wet gravel smell, not even hungry.
Join me at the smallest, oldest, dirtiest and yet definitely most kick-ass bar in East Nashville this Thursday for the 3rd edition of the Poetry Sucks reading series. Organized by fellow East Nashvillian Chet Weise, this edition of the series will feature a host of characters from the neighborhood. I’ll be reading some new stuff (if only I can get through that sermon in the finale) and, more importantly, also featured will be all the fine folks noted on the flyer pictured here. Click through it for more from the artist, Rachel Briggs. Of particular note for connections to T2H is past Pitchfork Battalion teamer John Minichillo, whose novel The Snow Whale from Atticus we saw on some of those indies’ best-of lists for the year just past.
I just finished a novel by a more longtime and frequent T2Her, Floridian (former Flint, Michigander) Paul A. Toth, that I’ve been just floored by, given by the general lack of ink it’s gotten, far as I can tell (though I do see where USA Today of all places named it one of the best indies of 2011). The book, Airplane Novel, is a joyous read, the best of the 9/11 books — experimental in all the good ways (metafictional w/o being goofy, polyphonic via a quixotic omniscience to the narration but with a strong singular narrative consciousness in the end). And, ultimately, its humanity is its most important part.
It’s not an exactly simple task Toth has pulled off, given that the book is told from the point of view of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, a building — and one that, it is acknowledged quite early on by the narrator itself (or “himself,” given that the South Tower prefers to call itself “Cary Grant,” and the North Tower “Gary Cooper”), no longer exists in any physical sense, but of course. But even in death, the tower filters the consciousnesses that made its history, those of the humans — “spider monkeys,” from its perspective — having populated its floors, having operated the Radio Row shops uprooted by the its construction, having created the information that soars through its fiberoptics and still flits in jagged form through its own post-mortem version of consciousness (which Toth expertly re-creates in the end of the book, after the “big event,” the “you know what”…).
I won’t go farther into specifics here, but I’ll say that I think I can definitely recommend it as one of the three or four best books of 2011 (with particular segments of DFW’s The Pale King as well as Mickey Hess’ great Nostalgia Echo — more about that one later, as we’re publishing an excerpt in the next minisheet). In any case, I can’t recommend a book any more highly. Go pick up a copy — available in print and as an eBook (the Kindle edition is available for just $2.99).
Toth also had a fair amount of work in a special section of All Hands On, our 10th anniversary book out in the fall. You can order it here.
Kate Duva (pictured, with chinchilla) performed this piece, with considerable laughter as part, alongside Jonathan Messinger, Jill Summers and THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills‘ own “They Were Gods” riffs, published as a unit here. The performance was on the occasion of release of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, where you can find more of Duva’s work.
They were gods. King Tut. Genghis Khan. Crazy Horse. Erik the Red. Bootsy Collins, Elvis Presley, the Backstreet Boys. And I slept with them all.
It all opened up for me shortly after my 969th birthday. I was still active in my local singles’ adventure club, where a swing dance or a mystery dinner theater or haunted hay ride inevitably ended in a love marathon — but — I just burned out on the physical demands of it all, not to mention the danger of modern day cooties.
And then the perfect solution to the hassles of dating hit me — virtual sex. No technology involved — I’m talking séances. Ethical séances! — lest you think I raped Genghis Khan. I’m not a succubus. If anything, Mr. Khan had his way with me, but I can’t say I didn’t have fun. I always ask for permission, and I always get it.
Seances aren’t limited to the dead, I call in the spirit of my neighbor, the guy with a wife and newborn triplets and a dog that squirts its way around the block four times a day, and believe me, he’s always ready for a little action.
On September 3, 1988, Little Richard made an announcement that he had seen the light of the Lord and could proclaim himself a proud ex-gay — and you’d best believe I was in his bedroom the night of September 2.
My man-journeys do go beyond the strictly erotic. I don’t do it just to get my rocks off anymore. I had big plans when I seduced Donald Rumsfeld, for example, or when I appeared in Karl Rove’s secret chamber — those were genuine missions to dig up the dirt we need exposed to set America back on track, but I have to admit I found myself getting a little sidetracked by the humanity I found lurking under the surface both in Karlitos and Donny Boy.
I’m a bleedin’ heart. I’ll give a demon my breast. In fact, when I lived in Kathmandu I had a volunteer job doing just that. That is one culture in which they’ve recognized that it’s more cost-effective to suckle demons than to lock them up.
I did — get — a temporary case of gonorrhea when I slept with (God, I have selective amnesia when it comes to certain tortured souls) the vice president who shot someone and had the lesbian romance novelist wife — Cheney! Dick Cheney gave me the clap, a full-blown case of it, then POOF! It disappeared. No antibiotics. Just prayer, and a little shamanic healing from my meerkat guides. Clearly that was a psychic illness that manifested, ever so briefly, on a physical level.
It taught me that I can use that physical level wisely for erotic multi-tasking. I call in the spirits of men to help me open jars, or show me how to use tools — take a peek at my engine, check my oil — and one thing leads to another. Just think about who you could call in to check your oil. Ramses. Sun Ra. Alexander the Great. Homer. Rumi. Poseidon. Jesus. Vlad the Impaler.
So — moving along! What I’d like to do this evening is share some of my techniques in seductive séance with all of you so that you too can benefit from this sustainable technology of safe and pleasurable lovem– did you hear that? Whoa, did you feel that? Hahaha. Yeah, I actually need to get going now. It’s Genghis paging me. Ladies and gentlemen — I think I have a booty call.