Nerves of Steel Feb. 1 at the Empty Bottle

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

Also featuring:
*Past T2Her Ling Ma
*Daniel Shapiro + friends
*The irreplaceable Chris Bower

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.

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THEY WERE GODS — redux, by Kate Duva

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.



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Nerves of Steel 2012: Jan. 3 at Hungry Brain

So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? Audience and performer both will be proving it yet again in the new year — the third day of it, to be exact. Nerves is THE2NDHAND’s Chicago variety series, well into its second year at the Hungry Brain, in which fiction writers, poets, standups, manifestoers, pamphleteers and others are asked to do something outside the bounds of the norm, whether leaving behind the page and pen or picking it up and doing some live origami or …

Be there: Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 8 p.m. on, Jan. 3. Awesome lineup this time round, as always hosted by the charismatic (in more ways than eight) Harold Ray, freshly juiced from a West Virginia Christmas homecoming.

And featuring:
Appalachian death songs by poet Philip Jenks
The suburban angst of Knee Jerk editor Steve Tartaglione
The infamous screeds of past T2H contributor Ling Ma
Bald ambition with Bruce Neal
& Book deck poetry by writer Alexis Buryk

Hip-hop troupe Skech185
Nerves house band Good Evening

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THERE ARE MAYBE 20 MINUTES, by Amanda Faraone

Amanda, a Hyde Parker at heart, now lives and writes in THE2NDHAND’s birthplace off the Blue Line in Chicago.


At the marble countertop, she is struggling to find the words.

“Welcome to the Hotel Grand Royale,” announces a well-pressed, well-groomed clerk.  She says she’s here to meet her husband and that he’ll be there soon.

She’s not sure why she’s lying.

“Ah yes,” the clerk is saying, and there is a key in her hand, and she is on the elevator, and her finger is pressing 16 till it lights up, and she looks at her watch, again, and there are maybe twenty minutes.

In the room, there is a narrow rectangular window looking down onto the street, to the café below, the newsstand, the subway station, a woman walking her dog, some teenagers on the corner smoking.  She could be anywhere, she thinks, but she’s not.

She’s here.

The door key still in her hand.

Slipping off her sandals, her shorts, her sweater, bra, underwear, she jumps into the shower, gasping silently at the shock of cold before the hot.

For a second, she closes her eyes, thinks: this could be my eternity, like Sartre said.  But there’s no time for that: eight minutes already gone, and there is so much to do.

Looking out the window, towel wrapped around her, hair beginning to curl in the hot humid air; a man on a bicycle rides by, unsteadily; two girls run on, followed by an old woman (their grandmother?); a boy, alone, sits on the fountain, earphones on — and does she imagine it? — looks up, at the window, sullenly.

Shit, she thinks.  No one was supposed to see her.

There is lotion to slather on her newly shaven legs, another for her face, arms (it smells like rosewater), chamomile deodorant, perfume.  The room is suddenly filled with flowers.  She sings a song to herself, a Gershwin tune.

“There’s a somebody I’m longing to see…”

At the window again, wearing her black lace bra and underwear, the street is as empty as it was full earlier. Except for that forlorn boy, still sitting there, eyes squinting, looking up at something in the sky.

In front of the mirror, she pulls the pencil hard over her eyelids, patting on foundation, brushing blush onto her cheeks, curling eyelashes, threading inky mascara through each one, coloring in her lips a darkish red, wondering if she’s created a believable rendition of her face, if she’s recognizable anymore, the scar still showing — always showing — bifurcating her symmetrical face, disrupting her geography.

Staring at the watch, only a minute or two left, she sinks onto the floor, back pressed against the bed, kisses its face gently, closes her eyes.

“Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed … follow my lead–”

Rifling through her suitcase, which lies prostrate on the ground, she grabs a dress, pulling it over her head as she stands before the window.  It’s blue, silky, hanging loose on her small frame.

It takes all of her to stand upright: she holds onto the window ledge, just in case.

She is looking for that head, the one that bobs a little to the left when excited — needing to get to her as fast as possible, because time is running out, there are no minutes left, only seconds, growing fewer all the while — and this is her forever.

Waiting before the window as the sunlight perishes, molecule by molecule, these maybe 20 minutes in room 163B; that boy smiling up at her, reminding her it’s not a dream, that she is here (not somewhere else); and this version of herself (the one so young, hopeful, humming that song) will stay like this, eyes steady, waiting in ghostly anticipation long after all of this is gone — through the death of this love, and others, marriages, children — there will always be a room locked tight inside her with a narrow window, a wristwatch, and a pain that precedes its own articulation.

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BIRTHDAY, by Dana Jerman

Chicago writer Jerman blogs here.


For Brandon L.

At a party at my neighbors’. She’s wearing a black mini skirt and black tights. I’m a tall banner in a too-short lavender V-neck sweater and jeans.

I don’t know her name. Never met her. She’s not the girl I came with. All I know is by the end of the night I will know her and that could be a problem.

A few hours and the party’s moved from the house to the bar, and we know a few details. Namely that she totally wants me. Including some of the most subtle racist shit I’ve ever heard — but I’m not sure she wants to admit that these aren’t really her own thoughts and words. I’m at least not so drunk I don’t know her heart’s not in it.

So, a number exchange and a cheek-peck later my girl who is not this girl asks to hit it and we go.

Now Tuesday, and last weekend is miles away. Three o’clock and the winter sun bright as summer. I go out to the back deck of our building to smoke a cigarette I must have rolled months ago, the tobacco crisp and dry.

Looking down at the mess of mops, brooms, rags by the doors, a flash of something half remembered: I was drunk and out here with my girl about a month ago. She’d gone in for something and I stayed out catching cold. Out thru one of those back doors downstairs comes bursting this couple. Ejecting themselves from a party with their kisses audible. Their gropes frantic.

It was just sexy and violent enough for me to think later I’d dreamed it up in all my stupor.

One pulled the other back inside after their fevered ritual and I guess I went back inside too.

This time I found myself going straight for the fone to dial her. Black-skirt-black-tights picks up on the fourth ring.

Now here’s “Hullo?” made of equal parts annoyance and obnoxiousness.

I immediately think: fuck. Why am I calling this altogether beautiful, altogether unremarkable girl? What am I going to say? And: Why am I resisting the urge to hang up?

And that’s when the tender wave of freedom realized me: None of this will matter. And it doesn’t have to go anywhere.

I could say whatever I liked.

Then I did:

“Hey! It’s me, the boy you met at the party on Saturday. Yeah, that bar was great. No, you didn’t introduce me to the bartender. Thanks, I thought you were well dressed also. No, really. Right, well it is a beautiful day and… Hmm, I’ve got a steady girlfriend. You know, you met her. Oh, yeah. Yeah, we’d love to. OK, what time and where? Yeah thanks, thanks again.”

Ten minutes tops was all it took to get back in it for another go.

My girl couldn’t wait. She’s not usually into this weekend-after-next-party racket, but her attitude changed. I watched that mouth of hers and it behaved differently.

On the way over she showed her cards:

“Want to play a love game?”

Was this really happening? Tell me this was happening.

“‘Love game?’ Uh, yes?”

“OK. I pick the girl for you. You pick the boy for me. We have to kiss them in front of each other at some point in the evening. No rush.”

I felt suddenly like it was my birthday and that here in the car on the way to a party on a Saturday night, all I had was all I wanted. The girl who was already mine had smiled at me and welcomed me home.

It was a good start.


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Nerves of Steel’s special ‘All Hands On’ edition Tuesday, Oct. 4

Though we be in the business of the creation of new things, it’s old-home-place week at So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? Oct. 4 at Hungry Brain, with THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills, former design man and janitor emeritus Rob Funderburk, writer Joe Meno and a cast of sundry others on hand for a run through the past, present and future. Harold Ray, as always, plays hosts to this reunion of the Chicago Stupidists. Prepare to be browbeaten by Stupidist Manifestos, live art, maybe some ukulele and exquisite storytelling, no doubt, as we celebrate the release of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10.

Here’s the digs:

Live viz-art by Rob Funderburk, former THE2NDHAND illustrator and design man, known for murals, interior performance spaces, paintings, and more, Funderburk’s illustrations are featured in All Hands On.

Master swordsman Joe Meno (depicted here in an illustration by Rob Funderburk featured in All Hands On), author most recently of the novel The Great Perhaps. (And also: Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, a few different short story collections as well as stories going back to THE2NDHAND’s third issue.)

T2H coeditor C.T. Ballentine (featured also in All Hands On) with his band Young Coconut.

And T2H editor Todd Dills up from Nashville to perform with a crew of T2H writers including Balletine, Matt Pine and others. Leather may be involved. Perhaps pink bandanas.

All Hands On contributors Marc Baez and Nerves alumnus Fred Sasaki round out the blowout.

ALL HANDS ON @ So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago — Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m.

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‘All Hands On’ launched at Quimby’s in Chicago, Oct. 3

THE2NDHAND began its life in the year 2000 as an 11-by-17-inch block of black text on white paper peppered variously with photo-illustrations, comics, line drawings and distributed in storefronts first in Chicago, then in an ever-growing list of cities around the U.S. New writing, simply, has been its focus since editor and publisher Todd Dills (author of the novel Sons of the Rapture) founded it—a small format its physicality, but a loud mouth and a big heart its most important parts. And without Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago (1854 W. North Ave.), where we began hosting readings shortly after we launched, we would never have built the community of writers and readers we now enjoy.

We return to Quimby’s with our new 10th-anniversary collection, All Hands On: THE2NDHAND after 10, on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. with an all-star cast (all contributors with special sections in the collection) joining Todd Dills, up from Nashville, for the program. Details follow (all illustrations here by Martin Cadieux):

All Hands On @ Quimby’s Book, 1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, 7 p.m. Oct. 3.

Jill Summers‘ work has been featured on National Public Radio and in Stop Smiling, Ninth Letter, Make and others, including THE2NDHAND. Find more in her special section in All Hands On.

Jonathan Messinger is one of the driving forces behind Chicago-based Featherproof Books. A prolific short-story writer in his own right, his first collection, Hiding Out, was released in 2007. Messinger you’ll also know as Time Out Chicago‘s books editor.

Kate Duva grew up in Chicago in a bar; she still lives in the city. Outside the pages of All Hands On, her work can be found at, among other spots, her blog.

Todd Dills plays host for the night, joining the others in a collaborative effort at its nadir, part of THE2NDHAND’s ongoing Pitchfork Battalion series of collabos, also featured in All Hands On. Today, Dills lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife and daughter. He is the author of a novel, Sons of the Rapture, and edited All Hands On‘s predecessor collection in 2004.

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THE2NDHAND at Chicago ‘Sunday Salon’ on Monday, Sept. 26

We’re happy to announce that All Hands On contributors Lauren Pretnar, Heather Palmer and Michael Zapata will join novelist Brigid  Pasulka for an event of the Chicago Sunday Salon series on, well, a Monday. Details follow in the press release, but a big thanks goes out to the organizers for keeping this series going. Pick up a copy of the book there, or order here.

Event Moves to Monday this Month
In its ongoing efforts to showcase outstanding local literary organizations and publications as well as writers, Sunday Salon Chicago dedicates September’s reading to THE2NDHAND, a Chicago/Nashville literary magazine. Three writers featured in All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, will read at this month’s event: Heather Palmer, Lauren Pretnar and Michael Zapata. And, to celebrate the return of school here in Chicago, novelist and Whitney Young teacher Brigid Pasulka will also read.

Sunday Salon Chicago is a monthly literary reading series featuring local and national authors.

When: Monday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Katerina’s, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.


Heather Palmer, author of Complements, Of Us and contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Lauren Pretnar, contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Michael Zapata, co-founder, MAKE magazine, editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB and contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Brigid Pasulka, author of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.

Admission: FREE

For more information, visit http://www.sundaysalon.com/chicago-salon.

Founded in Chicago in the year 2000, THE2NDHAND’s literary broadsheet and online magazine has been in the business of publishing fiction writing in various forms since the year 2000. This year, THE2NDHAND celebrates its first decade in existence with the publication of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, a reader including a large amount of unpublished work as well as previously published writing.

Chicago-based Heather Palmer (illustrated here by Rob Funderburk) is the author of Complements, Of Us, out in 2011 from Spork Press; her work has been published in a variety of magazines. In 2010 THE2NDHAND serialized her novella “Charlie’s Train” at THE2NDHAND.com, parts of which were excerpted in All Hands On.

Lauren Pretnar, who first contributed to THE2NDHAND in 2007, lives with her family in Chicago, where she remains hard at work on a book-length domestic horror. Past work in the Chicago arts community includes extensive experience in theater.

Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a co-founder of MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine and works as an editor for ANTIBOOKCLUB. He is also a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship recipient for prose. Currently, he has been nominated for a Puschart Prize and is working on a novel entitled Children of Orleans.

The descendant of Polish immigrants, Brigid Pasulka spent most of her childhood in a farming township in Northern Illinois, population 500. In 1994 at the age of 22, she arrived in Krakow with no place to stay, no job, no contacts and no knowledge of the language. She quickly fell in love with the place, learned Polish, and decided to live there for one year. Brigid is still a frequent visitor to Krakow; she has also worked, studied or volunteered in Italy, Germany, Russia, England and Ukraine. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MA) and currently teaches at Whitney Young Magnet High School in the Chicago Public Schools. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is her first novel. It won the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.


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NERVES OF STEEL in Chicago Sept. 6 / ARTWALK in Birmingham Sept. 9/10

The September 6 edition of THE2NDHAND’s So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? variety affair — the first Tuesday of the month at Chicago’s Hungry Brain — is, simply put, “Jokes.” As such, among the requisite litterateurs and musical acts this time around are a coterie of funnymen / -women, among them the great Emerson Dameron (featured in our new book), who delivers the special public service announcement to open the show. Among others:
*Brandon Will and Nick Bitonti deliver Dead Peckers w/ Puppets
*Dirtiest of the Dirties Dave Snyder
*Manic one-liners from Daniel Shapiro
*Sickness Personified in James Tadd Adcox with Andy Farkas

PLUS: A scatological screening of a short film you won’t want to miss, including a talk by Xan Aranda of Chicago Short Film Brigade.

As always, the indigent Harold Ray hosts. Let’s give him something to laugh about. Show up!

September 6, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago, 8 p.m. See you there….


We’ll be tabling with the new book, All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 (click on the cover image to order for $15 here), marking our 10th anniversary with work from scores of our best writers, outside What’s on Second on 2nd Avenue downtown (corner of 23rd). We’ve got a rich history with the Friday evening/Saturday art fest, which opens up spaces in downtown Birmingham businesses to transform them in art galleries; for more of that. If you’re lucky, we might take on our literary busker roles of the days of yore (tip of the hat to you, Jonny Messinger); hope to see you on the street.

Friday, Sept. 9, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 10, noon-6 p.m. For more.

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NERVES OF STEEL back Aug. 2 @ Hungry Brain, Chicago

Nerves is back at the Brain August 2 w/ host Harold Ray and house band Good Evening. And:

Bad Bad Badness by Jesus Angel Garcia, author of the novel badbadbad.

Dr. Huckleberry Persimmon Explains Very Little for You
Dr. Persimmon made a deal with a demon to have brilliant thoughts. Unfortunately, he didn’t specify “significant” or “useful,” and things therefore haven’t really worked out. Now he’s got just 44 thoughts left before it’s time to pay up. By Mark Chrisler
Starring Brian Nemtusak and Kevlyn Hayes

Appalachian Antics by Jay Hill & Richie Ray Gene Bull Tipton (vets of our W.Va. edition from June)

Punk, Suffering (w/ Banjo) by writer Chris Terry

w/ Backup Dancers in Tim Jones Yelvington

& Piano Musics by Azita Youseffi

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