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**PRINT: MIXTAPE: THE2NDHANDís 29th issue builds on a concept we introduced to the Chicago reading/performance scene in July 2007 -- the Mixtape reading, wherein several writers cast short-short stories inspired by pop songs. The concept evolved after several incarnations of its live component to include a published series here at the2ndhand.com and, now, a broadsheet. This latest includes 2008 Birmingham Artwalk contest winners Nadria Tucker and Emily Self, both past contributors to THE2NDHAND and both writing from Birmingham, and a story by Zach Plague, author of the art-school satire/adventure novel Boring boring boring..., out now from Chicagoís Featherproof Books. Tracklist: Leaving Batesville, Night Moves, Carousel...

**WEB: DFW, an ongoing tribute Pitchfork Battalion
DFW, Feb. 21, 1962-Sept. 12, 2008 | Todd Dills
A BRIEF QUIZ Stacy Bierlein
MIXTAPE: WARSAW Michael Tesney
STAND Lauren Pretnar
HERMAN: PART 2 Stanley Holditch

an ongoing tribute to David Foster Wallace
Pitchfork Battalion

The tribute concept is of a piece with our Pitchfork Battalion series of collaborations, threading together various writers' short renditions linked by a common attribute. So, we invite anyone reading, had you an interest in the late David Foster Wallace's work, to write a short bit of prose (between a paragraph and a page, as goes our standard recommendations) that includes the phrase "I am in here" as tribute to DFW and send it to todd@the2ndhand.com. We'll be archiving the pieces as they come in here. For further explication of this tribute, visit this page.

Recent events had convinced Thing that a rethink of certain priorities was in order, that careful consideration would need to be applied before selecting his next assignment. He mused that perhaps his own choice of careers had been foolhardy: that the modern age held no space for his particular methodology, that the obscure school of cartography of which he was a follower was without a voice amidst certain prevailing philosophies in the field.

He received the call two days later: a potential assignment, the forgotten corners of a half-abandoned city, its industries relocated or dissipated decades before. It seemed ideal in its conjoining of isolation with metered interaction, a marked contrast to the inspection of boundaries and solitude in solitude that had been his routine for the previous eighteen months.

In the city, graffiti soared across defunct walls -- the only signs of life -- and even that graffiti was by now faded, its best days behind it. Thing walked through myriad neighborhoods, populations in the dozens where there was room for thousands, accompanied only by his charts, devices, and notations.

He saw it in his first days there, inscribed across one wall with an unyielding clarity: I am in here. Not an apparent reference to anything nearby, no secret doors or hidden treasures. And yet it would draw him back at the ends of survey days and at the ends of interview days, to slowly and steadily expand his knowledge of the buildings surrounding it.

Sometimes he would meet residents. The same conversation, held each time he handed over his card. First the look at the name embossed on it, then the glance at him, then the look back at the card, and then: "Thing?"

"Itís short for something I canít even pronounce," he would say each time. "Geographically significant, someone told me."

In the rented room at night he found the pads on which he kept records bulging with renewed considerations of the blocks near the wall, impeccable data, data from which you could reconstruct buildings and alleyways and windows and doorframes at a momentís notice. He stared at it and built up the structures around him, a fevered sweat drawing him inward, accompanied by a series of dry coughs that no one else would hear.

In the morning, he knew, he would proceed back out into the city, again ending his day at the wall, in consideration and repose, awaiting horror or revelation.
--Tobias Carroll

"Well, I was 23. Which is supposed to be some kind of magic number. I was close to done with college. And I was trying very hard to be what I thought was an adult."


"Seems quaint now, doesn't it? I'd been on probation for a year. I spent one summer testing to see how much I could drink, how much blow I could do, before I got, as they used to say [f.f.] in trouble. I never took that seriously, you know? In trouble. Where is that on a map, exactly? How does that end?"


"Whelp, when you're 22, you can get in trouble. And it ain't a dunce cap. You can get put on probation. Which is where I was. It's not that big a deal, or it doesn't seem like it now. You do get a regular piss test. So, if you like smoking pot, that's out for a year."


"And I'd just gotten off probation. And I'd just started smoking pot again. And I'd just moved in with a girl... She moved in when her parents kicked her out. Sweet, sweet girl, really. We started [f.f.] cohabiting way, way too soon. We'd been dating for a month. A month. We've both acknowledged that since. But, at the time, I really wanted to make it work. I wanted responsibility for something."


"And I was taking myself way, way too seriously. Because of pot. And because of youth. And other things."


"And that's when I read Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. I would get up early, when I knew she would be hungover and sleeping late, and I would read that motherfucker."


"And it was a motherfucker. Have we talked about depression? You have some idea what I'm talking about. It's the most boring form of insanity. It's OCD for complete losers. If you're the sort of person who contemplates suicide, it's a fucking airtight case for just doing it. You don't even notice. It eats away. All of a sudden, you're rooting for the visitors. It's Perry Mason for the prosecution."


"Anyway. That book just reeked of depression. The essays... like in A Supposedly Fun Thing..., they're fairly positive, or they try to be. They're, like, conflicted and proud of it. Infinite Jest you know better than I do. But Brief Interviews. Man...."


"That's when I was like, 'This is what adult life is like if you don't take some kind of charge. This kind of relentless shame. It's not going to automatically get better. You're not going to start liking yourself by cultivating habits, asshole. It only gets better if you're, like, fuck this shit, and I am in here, and I take charge of this motherfucker already...'"


"Right? It's funny how obvious..."


"Anyway... I would get stoned, and I would read that book, and I would think about that shit. And at the same time, I would realize that this was a guy who was living somewhere, and I would wonder how he was doing, how he was shouldering this fucking burden of knowing so much, impossible to talk about because it's so dull by its nature, or it seems that way, and you know it seems that way..."


"Well, no. I'm thinking all of this now..."


"Dude's gone. I guess that changes everything. I guess. I know when I go back and read it now, it's going to be a different book."


"Fuck all that. Let's listen to you for a minute..."
--Emerson Dameron

A lesson in defense: A dry-erase board provides something of a frame for the attendees of this evening's meeting of the Regional Safety Council's court-mandated "defensive driving school," which is not so much a school as a course, and the board lends the room, its bureaucratic drop ceiling, fluorescent lighting and metal folding chairs all, an air of urgency, whimsicality, and formality all at once, headed as it is by an all-cap declaration/question of ISN'T THIS FUN! [sic], written in blue dry-erase pen and followed by three driving directives in the same color -- 1) Know and drive < the speed limit. 2) Wear your safety belt. 3) Hold 2-4 seconds following distance [sic]. (1000-1! 1000-2!) I am in here, like the other maybe fifteen humans, most of African descent, a fact that reflects the economic conditions of the majority-white region. I am in here, which means what it says and certainly doesn't mean that I want to be in here, necessarily, though I am game, as goes the expression, for what is to come, which I am entirely unhip to the eventuality of.

Written in a sort of lime greenish-colored dry-erase pen, left of the all-caps legend at the top of the board is the name of the teacher, now introducing himself as Mr. Jake McDonough, former vice principal in one of the local high schools. The revelation brings forth a groan from the young man sitting next to me, who during the first break (about midway through our sophomore year according to former vice principal McDonough's analogy temporally comparing this four-hour endeavor to the four years most of us had in high school) will tell me he remembers McDonough from school just a few years back, and he is a character, the man does say, a character. I will not be altogether sure whether this designation is intended as a good or bad designation w/r/t quality, just as I will not be sure what to make of many of former vice principal McDonough's many analogies, such as his absolutely gleeful reminiscence from his college days, when as a science lab student he and a bunch of friends found a dead mouse and dipped it into a vat of liquid helium, after which they dropped the frozen body onto the ground to shatter into "a million pieces," he said, his voice rising comically in pitch, apropos of illustrating the effect on the human musculoskeletal system during its experience of a high-impact/velocity-type vehicular crash.

Written in the same lime greenish-colored dry-erase pen very faintly to the right of the all-caps ISN'T THIS FUN! [sic] legend at the top of the board is the address of a website, fairtax.org, which former vice principal McDonough, clad in a Hawaiian shirt untucked and hanging over a prodigious belly and baggy jeans, nonverbally references, after introducing himself, by raising a copy, and displaying the book's cover to the assembled, of The Fair Tax: The Truth: Answering the Critics, by Neal Boortz and John Linder, follow-up to the authors' The Fair Tax Book, which detailed said authors' plan for reforming the U.S. tax code to be based on a sales tax on new goods, requiring a repeal of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and encouraging the reuse economy, among other things, and which was former vice principal McDonough's topic of note for most of our sophomore and junior years in the defensive driving course, plus a fair amount of our senior and freshman years as well.

At the bottom of the dry-erase board at the head of the class, in the same blue dry-erase pen that dominates the actual driving pointers included on the board, as well as the ISN'T THIS GREAT! [sic] head, is the directive "Make your adult choices wisely," which brings to my mind the late David Foster Wallace's graduation keynote address to students at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. I do not know whether McDonough has ever heard of DFW, though it will seem clear by the end of our senior year tonight that he is not entirely unself-conscious about the truth of such clichťs and the need to parse them and demonstrate their truth through example, by which practice he, indeed, shares a common link to DFW, who might well too have appreciated former vice principal McDonough's laying bare the structure in which we participate, today, while concurrently placing blame for our demoralizing participation in said structure solely on our very selves by invoking the indignity of the amount of time one has wasted on this "little tiny" [sic] traffic ticket, what with already three or four hours at the court, another four or five hours on the way to and in defensive driving school, yet another return court trip that might take even longer than three-four hours, which is to say nothing of $100-plus court costs we all would pay. "Viva revolution," shouts the early-twentysomething man at my right, his shock of thick curly red hair and wide-eyed expression causing a definite narrowing of the pupils in former vice principal McDonough's eyes -- before, of course, McDonough remembers his favorite pet cause, reaches behind himself to the desk to grab again the copy of The Fair Tax: The Truth: Answering the Critics, by Neal Boortz and John Linder, whereupon he raises the book to display the cover and says "If you want a revolution, read this book" to the young man to my right, who during the second break -- "between your junior and senior years," says former vice principal McDonough -- will engage heartily in fair-tax discussion with McDonough, which discussion will quickly turn to the age of the earth, which McDonough thinks can't be more than 10,000 years, his evidence for which is an aerial view of the Grand Canyon he got on a long flight to Los Angeles that gave him ultimate certainty that said canyon was formed by the great biblical flood described in the story of Noah, to wit: "You can see how the receding waters created the crevasses and streams in one fell swoop," former vice principal McDonough will say. "All this 'billions of years' stuff is right out the window." His right arm will propel its hand back in a quick flourish over his right shoulder, as if to say, To hell with the conventional wisdom, to hell with you, solidifying his ultimate humanity.
--Todd Dills

If there is one definite thing that causes awe in a quiet person, itís another quiet person who speaks. We, for whom even small conversation is like being punched in the jaw, swallowing and then pulling the teeth lodged in our stomach lining, see a Big Conversation and sit very still in its presence. In the headlights of what approaches, straining against being at all noticed is a gross abuse of muscular function. Your teeth hate you. Your jaw is an awesome feat of tensile engineering that grinds imperceptibly along little coffee-stained rails, setting off sparks that start many different small fires. Thatís the constant whooshing sound you hear, of maybe not-so-insignificant things going up in smoke.

Making an account of what you donít say during these periods, of what you just let burn, isnít easy. The debris is indistinguishable, especially after a buildup of years. The underbrush on the forest floor has a sweet-smelling calm when the weather is moist and still and mossy, but the pile is volatile when dry. This is all going on in your mouth, remember, right beneath your tongue.

At some point weíre taught not to talk about these things. There is a list of them spoken to children, hinged on points of weakness, money, accomplishment, family, ambition, fear, a list of personal items that far exceed the personal items banned from your luggage on planes. If youíre like me and see connections everywhere, multiplying, tangling, and collapsing in on each other like an invasive species, you can make this list infinitely long without trying very hard. It becomes a game that you convince yourself will reap valuable rewards if you just learn the central rule that everything is verboten.

So you become afraid to talk and distrustful of what you might say and paralyzed. The idea of trying to make yourself understood is of a piece with colonizing, plowing, and growing fertile, abundant crops on Mars: you realize that at the current rate of destruction weíre pursuing, it will most likely one day be necessary, but not only is our science lacking, so is our will, and our collective willingness to even acknowledge the destruction in the first place and we canít possibly move forward.

I am in here, and there are many in here with me who share this understanding, but few of us will ever speak to it. If you are one of the brave, you might suddenly find yourself flung into an uncomfortable position for someone of our nature: surrounded by a million inarticulate eyes blinked raw, bolting ourselves down to your every written and spoken word, we wait for you to explain to us how we actually feel because weíre too afraid to step forward out of the anonymous line and take it on our own shoulders, for ourselves. I can understand how that can be a burden and how taking that step forward can seem like singling yourself out in front of a firing squad, no matter the beauty or comfort you manage to give the rest of us in that step. Thatís why we, the cowards, hold back and sit very still and slowly set our teeth on fire in silence in the first place, waiting for that one in a million who is every bit as afraid as we are and forces his mouth open anyway. Now that itís closed, weíll have to speak for ourselves, with whatever words we can salvage from the flames.
--Nell Taylor

Believe me, David,
that although I do not know,
I know. It's like pulling
Infinite Jest and feeling
its weight before you
blow the dust off
with a bang of breath.
It's like going into a room
and shutting out
to write a fight
into a fist,
just to gnaw on it.
I am in here,
and it's not quiet,
And I want to leave.
--Doug Milam