Nerves of Steel returns Dec. 6 w/ Jac Jemc, Natalie Edwards…

After a years’ worth of shows at the Hungry Brain, after the old home week blowout with longtime T2Hers Joe Meno, Marc Baez, Fred Sasaki, C.T. Ballentine and our humble editor (oh a-and Harold Ray, but of course, made his indelible mark on the October night, too), we’re back with a fancy program Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Hungry Brain. Following check out the deets. Follow the links for more about/from the performers.

So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?

8 p.m. Tuesday, December 6, 2011
@Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago, FREE

Blonde Ambition by Jac Jemc (whose first novel is due next year and who published this story in THE2NDHAND a couple years back)
Stand-up w/ a hand-up (your arse) w/ Natalie Edwards
Advice for the Damned from Irby + Ian
Some Kind of Wonderful: Mason Johnson & Daniel Shapiro

MUSIC BY: Harold Ray & the Post-Revolutionary Letdowns, w/ variations on shooting yerself in the face & how it don’t hurt
& HOUSE BAND Good Evening

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Busy several days for ‘All Hands On’ upcoming

We’ve got work to do, with a daylong festival in Nashville on Saturday, a drive to Chicago on Sunday for readings Monday and Tuesday evening at Quimby’s and Hungry Brain, respectively, then back Wednesday. It’s all in the name of celebration of 10 and more years of writing published in these halls, which makes it sweet indeed. Below is a listing of the events upcoming, with links to
more information for those interested. Hope to see you out at one.

And here’s a picture from All Hands On‘s first Chicago date this past Monday — with featured writers Lauren Pretnar, Heather Palmer and Mike Zapata at Katerina’s on Irving Park Road. Jacob Knabb snapped it, of Zapata wearing a most apropos t-shirt for a T2H event, I’d say. Apes unite!

NASHVILLE: Saturday, Oct. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Handmade and Bound Zine Festival, Watkins College of Art & Design, 2298 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN. THE2NDHAND will be tabling with the new book and a new broadsheet and editor Todd Dills will be giving a workshop tour through THE2NDHAND’s history in a practical, conception-to-nuts-and-bolts-type program titled “Toward a self-sufficient, long-lived zine”, 12:30 in room 503: http://handmadeboundnashville.com

CHICAGO: Monday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.: All Hands On released at Quimby’s Books, 1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, featuring AHO contributors Jonathan Messinger (Time Out books editor, Featherproof publisher, Hiding Out author), Jill Summers and Kate Duva, as well as THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills: http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/all-hands-on-launched-at-quimbys-oct-3/

CHICAGO: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m.: All Hands On @ So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?, THE2NDHAND’s monthly variety show at Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago. This month’s installment brings together longtime THE2NDHANDers with new faces, featuring AHO contributors Joe Meno (The Great Perhaps, Hairstyles of the Damned), Rob Funderburk (visual artist/designer, formerly THE2NDHAND’s design man), THE2NDHAND coeditor C.T. Ballentine, editor Todd Dills, Fred Sasaki and Marc Baez. Also featuring Chicago writer Matt Pine, music by Young Coconut, and Nerves host Harold Ray: http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/nerves-of-steels-special-all-hands-on-edition-tuesday-oct-4/

For performer bios and more information about these events, visit http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/category/events
For more information about the new All Hands On anthology, available in both print ($16) and ebook ($6) versions, visit http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/books

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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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THE2NDHAND no. 36.1, featuring Joe Meno

It’s been 20 broadsheets and six years since Joe Meno, once a regular in THE2NDHAND’s sheets, has appeared therein. No surprise for the hiatus, really, given since then he’s put out two shorts collections and at least as many novels, in addition to becoming a father. But: our latest broadsheet features a new story that’s also part of our 10th-anniversary All Hands On collection, due within a month. Order the book and find more information about it here.

As for the new Meno joint, it’s called “In the Avenues of Airplanes and Paper,” captures the struggles of a young woman attempting to deal with a compulsive habit she has of putting “air quotes” around near everything she says — to the point, for instance, that she wears mittens on a date.

Within the peculiarity of it all Meno finds — and the protagonist locates as well, inside and outside of her self —  the very essence of what it is to be human.

Take a look at it on the broadsheet’s main page or click through the front-side image below for a pdf:


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‘Leak’ is the new ‘press release’; AHO in Nashville Feb. 12, Rob Funderburk’s ils and more

This year’s Chicago snowmageddon, I’m happy to note, didn’t outrank my personal midwest winter initiation. After moving to the Chi in the fall of 1998 from the humid climes of Rock Hill, S.C., come the holidays I was back in S.C. but left early. A blizzard was predicted, see, and I was to start a new job Jan. 2 in Evanston, of all places. I motored back to Chicago in time for New Year’s Eve, as the snow began sometime early the next morning, not stopping for the next 24 hours. I was at that new job the following day, a near-four-hour public transit nightmare (never been so damn cold in my life, standing hopping foot to foot on the platform at Diversey, running in place, etc. etc.). That, friends, still sits in the history books as the No. 2 biggest Chicago snow, hell of an initiation rite for a Southerner. I have nerves of steel. Nah, but ’twas a great time to pretend.

Fortunately, in 1999 THE2NDHAND was just beginning to rise in my brain — we wouldn’t launch for another year — and there were no readings to cancel.  Our Nerves of Steel event last Tuesday coincided directly with the worst of the recent white torment, and we unfortunately had to cancel as participants, well, faced travel nightmares to and from the Hungry Brain. We’ll be featuring all — Tomorrow Kings, Mairead Case, Marc Baez and more — in upcoming installments of the event, we hope, the next one to take place March 1.

Meantime, disheartened by the decidedly un-nervy cancellation, Chicago writer Mason Johnson reportedly had his own “Mason Johnson has Nerves of Steel” extravaganza at Moe’s on the northwest side (Central Park and Milwaukee).  Check out the partial results.

The final day to preorder a copy of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 (our 10th-anniversary reader) via our Kickstarter campaign is Feb. 16. Reserve your copy. Sometime on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 26, we hit the funding goal, so barring a disaster the project’s a go. Among features will be  special-section author illustrations, some of which are leaked below, in process, by former THE2NDHAND design man Rob Funderburk — my favorite working painter, no doubt, and one of my favorite illustrators (he’s also a longtime and great friend, of course). Working from photos in many cases (most of the subjects he’s trying capture in portraits he’s never met), he’s been experimenting with all manner of techniques on these, as you can see. The technique behind the Michael Peck il Rob describes this way: “Laid paper over source photos on a lightbox, used flat side v. pointy corner of a graphite stick to render.” Makes it sounds simple, right?

Pretty stunning preliminary results, I’ll say. Find more from Rob’s illustration, painting and mural work, as well as framed watercolors and maquettes and a screen-printed study of the Chicago Rookery building, at robfunderburk.com. Or read his blog.







THE2NDHAND anniversary celebration | 11 years to the day after our first-ever release party
Saturday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
@ Portland Brew, 1921 Eastland Ave., Nashville, Tenn.
THE2NDHAND AFTER 10: A NASHVILLE READING Four days before the end of ourKickstarter.com campaign to raise $2,000 to print our 10th-anniversary anthology, All Hands On, THE2NDHAND’s editors and contributors gather at this event to present new writing and work to be published in the book, with performances by:
*T2H shapeshifting collaborative writing crew of the Pitchfork Battalion
*T2H Louisville, Ky.-based coeditor C.T. Ballentine (whose “Friedrich Nietzsche Waits for a Date” novella is featured in its entirety in the All Hands On book)
*Birmingham-based Nadria Tucker, a frequent T2H contributor, with a special section in the book
*Nashville’s own Matt Cahan, whose “Coyote Business,” a short exploring the cultural connections between Mexico and the United States excerpted from his “Straight Commission” novel in progress, via the tale of a group of would-be Mexican migrants and a U.S. chemical salesman, is among new work featured in AHO
*Susannah Felts, Nashville-based author of the novel This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record
*Nashville-based Henry Ronan-Daniell

Nashville-based wood-block printmaker Martin Cadieux will be on-hand showcasing his print work for THE2NDHAND’s Kickstarter campaign, among other work.

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Gone touring this week (west coast denizens, take heed), as they say, and as such I thought it quite an appropriate time to run the following conversation. I met writer Joe Meno when he first contributed to THE2NDHAND in 2000, the year of the magazine’s inception and the beginning for Meno of material that would later become his most recent book, Hairstyles of the Damned, which if you haven’t heard of it by now, well, where have you been? It was out last year as the first title from Punk Planet Books, and has done quite well. But that story, “Jim’s a Punk Rock Loser,” told the tale of the Morlocks, a band, an idea, generated by Jim, a high-school punk rocker who enlists his metal-head buddies to form a punk rock band, all of whose songs, when the Morlocks aren’t playing Misfits covers, are about a gal named Sheryl Landry, a “friend” of Jim’s (he didn’t really know her) who shot herself in the head. Perfect, right?

Cut to August 2004, in Joe’s car on the way to Cleveland, this the first of a series of weekend jaunts to culminate a month later with a weeklong tour on the indie press touring circuit the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, Joe’s new book is out, as is THE2NDHAND’s best-of collection ALL HANDS ON, which among other contributions to the magazine includes that old story about Jim. We got to talking about it on the way out, and Meno told me he’d never write about high school again.

I did not believe him.

But, I told him, I’d never written about high school at all, but for brief nonfiction bits, a digression or two about getting busted smoking my first day ever on lunch grounds, or a made-up thing about racing cars down the main drag of my hometown at 5AM.

Hairstyles of the Damned is Meno’s third novel, and unlike Tender as Hellfire and How the Hula Girl Sings before it, it’s one of those semi-autobiographical works of fiction in which after one quick glance at the author’s history said “semi” comes highly into question. Brian, its protagonist, is a junior at the Brother Rice Catholic school on Chicago’s southwest side in the late-80s. Brian is a metal fiend, his favorite album of all time being Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. (The book is structured like a mix tape, each chapter a little song of sorts from Brian’s life.) As Brian’s creator, Meno shares these characteristics, including another — as his junior year comes to a close, Brian has gotten into punk rock under the influence of his good friend and would-be lover Gretchen. Meno himself had the same transition long ago, and now having entered his fourth decade on this planet (he’s 30), he’s a columnist and interviewer for Chicago’s seminal Punk Planet. The DIY spirit of the culture behind much of the genre informs his life and the book itself. But more importantly, maybe, Meno’s a Chicagoan through and through, and if he’ll never write about high school again, he’s got stories to tell about the city. Our conversation on the road to Cleveland wound around these stories, taking us to an event at Mac’s Backs Paperbacks which also featured the good folks at Clamor magazine, a troop of anarchist cheerleaders, and the arch-ironic Billionaires for Bush (complete with limousine and men in tuxes), an appropriately eclectic beginning. The snippet below begins as we pass the Jay’s potato chip factory on our way south out of Chicago.

1. TD = Todd Dills
2. JM = Joe Meno
3. Meno is also a professor of writing in the program at Columbia College Chicago.
4. TD grew up in Rock Hill, SC, far from his current Chicago home.
5. Cubs = Chicago Cubs, National League professional baseball team, cursed, north side
6. White Sox = Chicago White Sox, American League professional baseball team, less cursed, south side
7. Meno won the Nelson Algren Literary award (via the Chicago Tribune) in 2003 for a short story about an Hispanic plastics-factory worker who gets thrown out of his home.
8. You will note the ineffectual hope in the political talk at the end: remember: August 2004, swift boats, two Americas, freedom, terror, nuclear holy warriors…

TD: OK, South Side Mythology, volume 1, let’s hear it.

JM: Jay’s Potato chip factory, they used to be, in the 40s, called Jap’s–Jap’s potato chips–and then with WWII and all they had to change their name to Jay’s. I went there on a Cub scout trip. They pull the semis out, open the back gates, and there’s this ramp and it locks the wheels of the 18-wheeler, and it just tilts the semi up and all the potatoes come rolling out.

TD: The potatoes?

JM: They make potato chips out of potatoes, man.

TD: So they have semi trailers full of potatoes.

JM: Yeah, and they tilt…

TD: I thought you were gonna say, “And all these bags of chips come rolling out…”

JM: Nah, man, potatoes. That’s where they make the chips.

TD: Well, I understand that. That’s why they’re called potato chips. I heard something about Lay’s and Jay’s having a big rivalry. Actually, Jay’s sued Lay’s because of trademark or copyright infringement? Lay’s–they had these billboards around Chicago saying Lay’s was better than Jay’s but the way they said it was the exact way that Jay’s had copyrighted it, when they’d said the same thing? Does that sound right?

JM: I dunno. But Jay’s is the south-side potato chip maker. The other thing is we just passed this bank. Pullman Bank. When I was a kid in grammar school they had this pumpkin contest every year, and my mom, who’s a little crazy–she’s “touched”-she would not let us make our own pumpkins. She would do the pumpkins for us because she wanted to win so bad. So my sister and I won like every year, and in this one photograph of us winning this one particular year, and I’m on one end of this table and my sister’s on the other and there’s this other kid. And our pumpkins looked like they were clearly made by some adult and they were clearly made by the same person, you know. I had a Dracula and my sister had an Indian princess. They were just meticulous; there’s no way a third-grader could have made either one of them. And they took the winners and put them on display in the Pullman Bank. I always feel ashamed by the whole thing. I knew I didn’t win it. I felt bad, because I think those teachers knew that my mom was making the pumpkins, but they also felt bad for her, and thought that if she was that desperate, why not let her win. In that Nelson Algren story, I put that verbatim in there. It so clearly defined my mom, you know.

By a turn inaudible to the low-budget minicassette recorder I used in the car, its deficiencies compounded by an open window roaring at 70 mph, the conversation turned to American cultural segregation. In Hairstyles Brian wants to invite Gretchen to the prom, but knows that she’ll think it’s stupid and, besides, he’s too shy to get it done, anyway. Another issue at stake is that the white and black kids in the junior class can’t agree on the music for the prom, so they decide to have two separate proms, a thing less uncommon in America than you might think.

JM: I think there’s ten states left in the union that still have separate proms for high school students. They’re all below the Mason-Dixon line.

TD: Separate proms for what? Black and white, eh? I’m sure it’s not a state-sanctioned thing, right? It’s up the students, isn’t it?

JM: Oh, I don’t know, dude, the way it was explained on this program I saw was that schools don’t sponsor individual proms, parents’ organizations do.

TD: We had black folks at my prom.

JM: Well, in the book [Hairstyles], the kid…junior class has a segregated prom. It’ll be interesting to see how the people in my old neighborhood take this one.

TD: Do they know? Are they sufficiently aware of that kind of thing to know that you have a book out?

JM: I don’t think they fucking read; I don’t know.

TD: Do you think that if they found out, they would be angry?

JM: I think if they…I don’t know, other than writing nasty reviews on amazon.com, what recourse they would have.

TD: You don’t think they would be mad, right?

JM: Oh yeah, dude. There’s some really strong…

TD: Insults?

JM: No, not insults…

TD: Assholes?

JM: Well, yeah there’s some assholes [laughs]. In the first part of the book, where I’m kind of setting up the neighborhood and stuff, there’s just general commentary talking about these white-power gangs and stuff and how the reason these gangs were able to flourish was because they were the kids of all these Chicago cops and firemen.

TD: And that’s in Evergreen Park?

JM: Yeah, Mt. Greenwood and Evergreen Park, so I don’t know…. It’s real funny, man, about my first book, someone wrote on amazon, “This book is based on the neighborhood Joe Meno grew up in, and all the characters are caricatures” and…they were angry, which is really funny because the book had nothing to do with any of that.

TD: Folks were living in a trailer park in the book, right? There’s no trailers on the southwest side. [Tender as Hellfire was the story of two brothers, told from the point of view of the younger, who are moved with their single mother after a divorce from a medium-sized town to a hot-dog factory’s trailer park in the rural town of Tenderloin. Highly recommended.]

JM: It had nothing to do…even the characters and everything. My mom said people at her church would come up and say, “Oh, well, that character’s supposed to be” so-and-so. And she’s crazy, she’s apt to believe them or whatever. People want to see those connections.

TD: That’s the thing. People want that to be the case. So maybe it gives them something to talk about, a way into the book.

JM: But this one’s obvious, finger-pointing. I use the names of my high school and all that, so…it’ll be interesting. It’s fiction, so, I’m not worried about getting sued or anything.

TD: The stuff in there didn’t necessarily happen like that.

JM: Yeah, there’s events, but none of the characters are based on actual people I knew, really. The girl, Gretchen, didn’t exist. There’s stuff like the kid whose friend’s parents are going through a divorce and the mom puts a lock on the fridge and a payphone in her basement for the kids to use. That’s true, that totally happened.

TD: But that’s not really that unflattering or libelous or anything.

JM: Yeah, it’s just crazy.

TD: How much time do you spend down there anymore?

JM: In that neighborhood? I just go down and visit my mom. I don’t have anything to do with that place. There’s just nothing there, you know.

TD: All of your old friends are elsewhere at this point?

JM: You know, people I was in bands with and stuff, they’re still down there, but it’s in a bad way. One guy works at a video store, on and off cocaine for a while.

TD: Sounds like some people I know in my hometown.

JM: It’s funny, you know, because it’s Chicago, but the mind-set there is like that of a small town. My grandma died a couple months ago, and we went to the funeral and everything, and friends of the family I haven’t seen in like fifteen years, they come up and they’re like, “Oh, I heard about you being a writer and this and that and where are you living?” “By the ballpark, Wrigley.” And that’s a big thing, that you live on the north side by the Cubs field and not by the White Sox field. And this one guy goes, “You know, I couldn’t handle living with all those faggots, man, doesn’t that make you sick every day?” And I said, “I’ve never been threatened, beat up, or made to feel uncomfortable by homosexuals.” You know what I mean? “No homosexual ever took a swing at me.” You know what I mean? And then there’s this moment where my mom glared at me. I should have held my tongue, I guess.

TD: “Agree ‘em to death and destruction,” as [Ralph Ellison's] Invisible Man says, or rather his grandfather.

JM: That’s what he tells him on his deathbed, yeah? That’s a big difference, man, because that’s not what the Invisible Man did at all. But that book…we read it in my first novels class, which was totally white, and none of them had read it before. So they get into it, and you know, the first hundred pages you get this feeling like, oh, this guy’s angry, you know, you kinda have this white guilt while you’re reading it, you know they’re jerking him around, they give him that fucking letter. And we’re reading it, and we get down to the end where there’s a big fire and riots and shit. And I brought in a documentary about the L.A. riots from 1991 or ’92, or whenever that was, and I was just talking about, Invisible Man was written in the 50s, you know, and still, not much has changed, man, that same feeling.

TD: That book’s got this whole racial thing, but the main thing is that it’s a critique of this society that encourages you to commit yourself to something outside of yourself, an ideology or, whatever it may be, an ideology or a way of thinking that subsumes any sort of individuality.

JM: Right, where you give up your name, the whole working at a factory, for better or for worse, and whether it be left-wing or right-wing. He was a leftist…

TD: And then he’s like, “Yeah, this sucks…” And then Ras the Destroyer’s coming after him…

JM: With the spear and the horse and everything.

TD: The crusading nationalist.

JM: Marcus Garvey or something. It’s a wonderfully strange book.

TD: But yeah, that never changes. America today is almost worse in that respect. When you get the evening news as a propaganda tool. Fox News, it’s sick.

JM: Oh, they’re so far right, man.

TD: It’s laughable, you know. “Fair and Balanced.” It’s silly.

JM: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see… I think John Kerry made a good choice with John Edwards, man.

TD: I can’t stand listening to him, to tell you the truth. He sounds like a caricature to me.

JM: Of “The Southerner.”

TD: Yeah.

JM: I think that’s all right, though, too. I think that’s why George Bush got voted in in the first place, because he’s a character. He’s got this whole fucking cowboy, simple folk… You know, “I don’t know much about these things, but…” You know?

TD: Yeah. [sigh, laugh]

JM: People react to that, they wanna feel like, ‘Oh, that guy’s one of us.’ But listen, I don’t want a president that’s one of us.

TD: Yeah, I want somebody that’s got a magnificent brain in their head.

JM: A higher power, man. I want somebody who’s capable of things I’m not.

TD: Capable of making decisions…

JM: That I can’t. Right, like when you look at…

TD: …who can look at the world and realize what’s happening, because I can’t, because I can’t take it all in and make sense of it, really.

JM: It seems like John Kerry’s starting to coalesce, his personality’s starting to develop a little more with the public. He served, he really served, not on the National Guard or whatever. And fucking put his ribbons or whatever down. That’s balls, dude. And he got in with these Vietnam Vets against the war and everything. And he’s pretty fucking left, not in a bad way or anything. I appreciate that guy, you know. It’s interesting. You don’t wanna just vote the opposite of Bush. You wanna vote for somebody. People will do it anyway, but it’d be nice to want to…. You know, I didn’t really want to vote for Gore, but I did.

Books by Joe Meno
Hairstyles of the Damned, Punk Planet/Akashic Books akashicbooks.com
How the Hula Girl Sings, Akashic Books
Tender as Hellfire, St. Martin’s

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