Now that all (or most) 2006 best-of lists are filed or close to being filed by newspaper reporters and critics and soothsayers the world over, I’m thinking over the last year and contemplating one of my own, here. Or, perhaps more accurately, I’ve already contemplated and am at this very second winging one for you. By the seat of my leather pants, which are still in the trunk of my car, put there (perhaps permanently) when we moved in October? Probably.
With all dismissals and uncertain equivocations delivered, let me say it was a momentous year for me and THE2NDHAND, full of joy and love, pain and sorrow and (yes, Universal Water; yes, AT&T, Bellsouth; yes, writers of solicitous and/or caustically antagonistic e-mails) hate, and its highlights deserve their own…
BEST OF 2006 or ‘superlatives’ of the same year caught between regions and love and marriage and death and book tours and the skinny yellow and white-dashed lines of highways the nation, continent, and world over, a rather aggrandized project, surely…
Most Beautifully Low-Key New Years’ Eve Celebration
Though only half situated in the year 2006, our celebration of ’05/’06 began in our apartment with the great Rob Funderburk and Gretchen Kalwinski, who brought the glasses. We supplied the champagne. Our former downstairs neighbors supplied the pop-its, which we took down the street to Stella’s at Western and Walton. It’s a splendid little place, but cops hang out at Stella’s, too. We knew the night was over when one of them started throwing our own pop-its at our own feet.
Most Anticlimactic Sixth-Anniversary Celebration
2NDHANDers gathered on February 26 at my favorite bar the world over, Skylark in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, for our 19th installment release party, featuring the issue’s author, Al Burian, Brian Costello, Jeb Gleason-Allured, and a trio of myself, Susannah Felts, and C.T. Ballentine. Though this was in fact the magazine’s sixth anniversary (almost to the date of our 2000 launch party at what was occasionally unofficially referred to as the Angels’ compound on the fourth floor of 1278 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, and which later became a party and event space known as the Munki Haus — we’d painted and left behind a rendition of THE2NDHAND’s howling chimpanzee logo on the wall space on the top-floor landing), the very fact of the anniversary was never in fact mentioned, which didn’t bother anyone at all, really.
Best Monologue Delivered
Burian’s exegesis on the will to assassination within us all on this very night of February 26 ranks high above the tirades of terrorists, of deposed heads of state, of sitting U.S. presidents, of jilted lovers the world over. I wish we had recorded it. I wish I could hear it again, though its memory lives on without the documentation, something I suspect Al would appreciate.
Longest Distance Traversed to Participate in a THE2NDHAND Event
Lauren Trojniar, author of our 20th installment, traveled the nearly 1200 miles between Chicago and Austin, TX, by aircraft to read at our release party May 20. Folks were stunned, folks were delighted.
Best Bike Wreck
Augusta and Paulina, a block east of where I fractured my right eye socket and cheekbone. This time, I was OK — bruised shin, sore shoulder.
Earliest Advance Book Sales Drive
Though my first novel, Sons of the Rapture (which, incidentally, made a best-local-books list penned by New City Chicago‘s Tom Lynch, according to my spies at rival publication the Chicago Reader and which I approve of in spite of Lynch’s frequently mangled metaphorical descriptions of books in reviews), was due for official release in September, it was back from the printer by late April, and I was punting copies off on my friends by mid-May. I think I read from a copy of the book as early as the June Machine Media Fest event at MoJoe’s Hothouse on California. Then I sold three or four at the…
Caravan to Nashville, boys and girls, for the June 10 marriage of Ms. Susannah Felts and… My crazy SC brother trading shots (and losing miserably, if ’twas a contest) with Dano the greatest bartender of all-time, Will Weikart and Mike the Dogsmasher pumping fists together again, Meno and Munroe and Koren and Susan gathered at the round table like so many knights in my mother-in-law’s grassy front yard. Meanwhile, Pop leads a gnarly conga line to Salt N Pepa’s “Push It.” Mickey and Danielle Hess nod along in approval.
Longest Drive (or Two or Three)
Though a tee shot I hit at Birmingham’s Highland Golf Course last week might well have qualified on a different day, this year’s prize goes to a drive that felt like it was longer than any I’d ever been on. Over a couple days on the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea, Susannah and I maneuvered a tiny yellow Hyundai between Agia Anna and Chora and Halki and Kastraki Beach half-drunk on red wine, suspended blissfully among natural beaches, gigantic yucca-like plants, windy old alleys, and nodding donkeys perched on low stone walls.
Then of course there was the epic struggle that was my route with Todd Taylor and Joe Meno from Davis, CA, to Seattle, WA, on tour in October. After our Davis show, we left (11 PM) and drove through the night, rotating shifts, no one sleeping more than a couple hours in the back of the microsized Chevy Aveo. I woke along the route after nodding off near Portland to find the car submerged in fog. “What is with this…smoke?” I said, incredulously, before realizing my error and giggling like the madman I’d become. The one back from Portland to the Bay Area was rather rough, too.
And who could forget the eight hours from Chicago to Nashville on Thursday, October 26, with the lovely Susannah Felts under the grayest sky imaginable, a persistent driving rain, and with in tow our two angry cats and a little Corrolla-load of stuff from our now-empty apartment?… Maybe you. Not me, or Not I, rather, if that’s right.
Most Enticing View of Trains
From 3rd Floor south-facing terrace in Birmingham.
Califone, Bottletree, Birmingham, AL, November 2006.
Best Online Serialized Novella Begun in November 2006
Without doubt, C.T. Ballentine’s “Friedrich Nietzsche Waits for a Date,” which reminds me, part 3 is imminent.
Most Mythic Highway
The “NAFTA Superhighway,” trumped by many as a hallmark of the end of U.S. sovereignty, which I spent a month researching and writing about for one of the trade mags I now edit, Truckers News, all of which will be featured in the mag’s February 2007 issue, coming quite soon to a truck stop near you. Get on the road, oh roving generation…
Best Best of 2006 List Other Than the Aforementioned Top Five Chicago Books in New City Which Happened to Feature My Own Novel
Though this might better belong on a Best of 2007 list, I think it warrants mention for, yes, aggrandizement purposes. Shauna McKenna, formerly of Pindeldyboz, named her top ten Literary Web Sites at The High Hat, and guess who was named “Best Punket Rocket?” Check it out: http://www.thehighhat.com/Potlatch/007/top10_mckenna.html.
And since we’re on 2007 categories, here’s perhaps the best two ways to open a 2007 publishing schedule in a slightly less-than-obscure Chicago & Birmingham-based online lit mag: