Nerves Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Hungry Brain to feature Paul Lask, Amanda Faraone…

Join us for this last of our regular first-Tuesday-of-the-month installments at the Hungry Brain in Chicago. This one brings house band Good Evening and our inveterate redneck crooner of a host, Harold Ray, together with several quite recent THE2NDHAND contributors. Y’all, we couldn’t be no prouder.

So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?
Feb. 7, 8:30 p.m. @ Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago

Featuring, with tales of misery and intrigue, T2Hers all:
The intersection of rock and lit: Paul Lask
Experimentation personified: Amanda Faraone
And the beast himself: Untoward editor Matt Rowan

Click through the text links on their names for recent work from the three. And don’t miss it… (A-and keep an eye out for a late-March blowout at the Brain to thank the kind staff there for the great year-and-a-half-or-so we’ve resided there.)

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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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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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THE BUMP, by Mason Johnson

Catch Chicago writer and editor Mason Johnson live, performing with Daniel Shapiro, at our Nerves of Steel event Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Hungry Brain in Chi. Details here.

3/8, 2:38 p.m.
I found a bump — a pimple or wart or something — while pooping at 2:30 p.m.: the optimal time to poop. Even though the bump is not on my penis, it is in the general penis vicinity, which is a little worrying.
I think that I will keep this bump a secret.

I’d have investigated the bump more, but I had to get back to my desk before Miranda saw that I was gone. I’ve realized that I take too many washroom breaks. That I pee a lot. I fear Miranda will notice how often I urinate. That, because of my geriatric bladder, she will find me an unsuitable mate. Will not want to fuck me.

Miranda cannot know how often I pee.

3/8, 6:45 p.m.
At home, I stare at the bump amongst my brown, wire-like pubes. It’s a lone bump on an otherwise flat surface. A lonely bump. I worry that it might be too lonely, being the only one of its kind on my lanky, alabaster body, but have no desire for it to multiply.

I am torn.

3/10, 3 p.m.
The bump has grown to three times its initial size; it shadows my pubic hair, reaching for the sky to fly to freedom, but it’s grounded and weighed down. Weighed down by me.

Weighed down like me.

I feel for it.

My belt rubs against it. Shocks of pain emanate through my body. Like a message. Like the bump is trying to say something.

Maybe I should stop wearing belts, but my slacks would look ridiculous. What would Miranda think?

What would Miranda think? Is she pro-belt?

Suspenders… ?

I saw her in the elevator earlier. Stood in the back, debating whether to make small talk or not, but I couldn’t stop wondering if that liquid I was leaning in was urine. Sometimes the delivery boy pees in the elevator. Sometimes I lean in it.

Not on purpose.

I didn’t end up talking to Miranda. I did notice that she’s shaped like a shell-less turtle though. A beautiful, shell-less turtle.

I want to be her shell.

3/16, 10:43 a.m.
And then it was gone. The bump and its voice, whispering in electronic vibrations, the sound of digital watches. Yes, the bump hurt, but the pain spoke to me. The bump told me it loved me, it triumphed through my days with me, the bump complained with me — the weather, the traffic, the assholes, complaining about the asshole who pisses in the elevator. Together the bump and I would imagine punishing this man, tying this man’s penis to the back of a Ford truck, driving off at full speed, his penis still attached, let’s see if he pisses in the elevator now, we’d imagine saying. The bump and I talked about how we would record this, making it into the single most effective piece of advertising in existence, selling Ford trucks like they were hot cakes, the hottest cakes, making millions. Most of all, what was missing after the bump seemed to disappear was that feeling of longing we shared. The lemmings we would send each other, our sighs, pronounced Miranda.

I saw Miranda in the hallway on my way to the washroom. She said hey and I replied by saying, “I wanted to give you everything, but I no longer have it. It has popped out of existence. I am so sorry.”

I didn’t say this with words. Obviously. I said this with my eyes. I have very descriptive eyes.

They’re blue.

In a bathroom stall I saw that the entirety of my crotch was covered in goo. Green, like Chicago relish. I put my finger in it — it was viscous. I put my finger in my mouth — it was tasty, like cheap candy, like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. The taste brought the beat of the bump back tenfold, the tap-tap-tapping of the bump on my brain, like fingernails on a wooden table.

I knew what to do.

3/19, 12:36 p.m.
Miranda’s birthday: our boss brought a platter of cookies and made Miranda wear the office sombrero as everyone sang to her.

People introduced themselves to me.

“Hi, when’d you start workin’ here?”

“Two years ago.”


I didn’t have a present for Miranda, per se, but I did have something I wanted her to have inside of her.

As everyone sang, I put my hand down my pants, touching the bump that was now constantly leaking ooze, and rubbed said ooze onto two cookies from the platter.

The moment everyone was done singing, I handed Miranda the cookies.

“Two-cookie minimum for the birthday girl,” I said

She’d have smiled, but she was too touched to show an expression.

She took the plate and bit into a cookie and then, well, she choked.


Her mouth made the shape of an O, but no scream came out. “Somebody help!” one coworker yelled.

“Is there a doctor here?” I imagined another coworker screaming, to make things more dramatic.

We didn’t need a doctor, though. I knew exactly what to do.

Having never been trained in the Heimlich maneuver, I went to the only important training I’ve obtained in my life: my karate training. For my 12th birthday, my uncle Joe had gotten me a month’s worth of lessons. I learned only one thing in that month: how to thrust my fist into someone’s solar plexus, popping their lungs like rubber balloons, forcing every air molecule out of their body.

Finally, I thought. I can use my deadly hands for something good.

I wasn’t going to waste any time, I punched Miranda immediately. Hard. Quickly. In the middle of her chest.

That bitch went down like a ton of bricks.

On the ground she was red cheeked and winded, but alive. She stared up at me, her eyes wet, her two chins miserable, but she was grateful for her savior.

She was grateful for me.

3/20, 10:32 p.m.
HR sent me home for the rest of the week. Said I needed “a rest.” They are rewarding me. I’ve saved the life of a valued employee. They owe me. They said we’d talk come Monday about my future with the company.

This can only mean good things.

I will walk in Monday morning and, for once, I will not rush to my desk, avoiding the gaze of strangers. Instead, the strangers will meet my eyes. They well pat me on the back, one after another. Standing before my cubicle will be Miranda. She will be blushing, her eyes will be looking down at her feet, in her hands will be a box of chocolates. “I wasn’t sure how to say thank you,” she’ll whisper.

“Silly,” I’ll say. “I’m supposed to give you candy, Sugar.”

Yes, I will call her Sugar. It will become my nickname for her, both in and out of the bedroom.

And then I will take her in my arms. I will lean her to the side. I will kiss her.

Then I’ll get a promotion.

My life with Miranda will be wonderful. The bump might be a third wheel, yes, but a good third wheel. Like a tricycle. She may even grow little bumps of her own, scattered around her body like treasures that I’ll search out as if I’m on an Easter egg hunt.

Most of all, we’ll be happy. Together. Perfect.

Miranda, the bump and I.

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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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Catch Pine live with THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills, Joe Meno, Rob Funderburk, Fred Sasaki, Marc Baez and others at our Nerves of Steel event Oct. 4, 2011.


Did you hear the news yesterday? Did you read about the latest trends in financial crises? Did you hear the news the day before yesterday? Did you learn about children using technology more sexually? Or about the tense negotiations about the price of money?

Let’s be blunt. You spent five minutes, or thirty minutes, or perhaps only ten second learning about industrial nocturnal emissions, about short selling votes, or about das capital punishment. While doing dishes, you turned on NPR. When fortifying yourself for another hour of desk work, you skimmed the New York Times. Let’s ask the unasked question: why? What is different in the world today, because you heard the news yesterday? What has ever changed in the world because of your knowing more about it? Let me answer this for you. Nothing.

Certainly, you could argue, there’ve been small changes. The biggest one? The one you can immediately observe? Depression, yours. Distraction, you at work. Apprehension, constant — about large things that change too quickly, or about diffuse things that cannot be changed.

You are wasting the great cycles of your mind. Preoccupation with manufactured powerlessness has made you unhappy. But there’s a cure for this. And that cure is Stupidism.

Who is most happy? A person who, on hearing information, can act to rectify wrongs or prolong righteousness. And what’s the opposite of the news? Art. Therefore, the most meaningful art addresses a place that you can change immediately, with the powers of a feudal lord. Yes, my friends, consider restaurants. The specials are reported, and you make a choice. You have the powers of edict, be it food allergies or mere distaste for, perhaps, cilantro. It is as if by will alone that a pepper grinder becomes manifests and seasons your food. The dessert menu arrives like a late-breaking bulletin. You choose what you want. At the end of a meal, your thoughts have been about what you can control, and nothing else. This is Stupidism. This is happiness. Join me, and we will photograph our food, which has been subjected to advanced foaming technology, and we will photograph our lattes, which have been decorated with foam leaves, and we will eat and drink our foams. We will write great exegeses from the plate, memoirs of snacking.  This is the highest art, because it is art of the tangible, art of the changeable, art of the stupidly present.

Stupidism doesn’t end at eating out. Another terrain of total domination is my sofa, and whether I’m seated or lying back. We will sketch, with charcoal on drafting paper, our physical inclinations. What station my television is set to, and what six or seven or perhaps twenty tabs are open on my web browser — these are entirely under my control. We will write sestinas about web surfing and compose sonnets of ass scratching. We will consider living rooms the same way transcendentalists looked upon nature. All we describe will be within our control. All art will make you think of yourself as more powerful.

We are in charge. We will be in total awe of ourselves so long as the little things comprise our art. Because nobody, not even the rain, says how I put things in my mouth or sit on my ass. Stupidism — we savor like champs.


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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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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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Nerves of Steel July 5 back at Hungry Brain in Chi

This installment of THE2NDHAND’s Chicago “So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?” performance series brings host Harold Ray back from the home front in West Virginia to Chicago for an evening program combining two fiction writers, a poet, comic duo and more than one band for more of the now prototypical mixture sure to rattle your sensibility, if you had one. The show gets started after 8 p.m. at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago on Tuesday, July 5. This installment features:

**A live performance of Jennifer Karmin’s Aaaaalice, with friends.
**Tales of the sins of notable Chicagoans told by Michael Czyzniejewski, author of Elephants in Our Bedroom
**An experimental freakout w/ extended kazoo patriotics by the Post-revolutionary Letdowns
**Song & dance w/ the comedic team of the Puterbaugh Sisters
**Wizardry by James Kennedy
**And house band Good Evening

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