Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**PRINT: MIXTAPE: THE2NDHAND’s 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 Chicago’s Featherproof Books. Tracklist: Leaving Batesville, Night Moves, Carousel...

HERMAN Stanley Holditch
MANDY C.L. Bledsoe

after Sha Na Na
Cassie J. Sneider

Sneider, who lives and writes in Austin, Texas, will appear at our THE2NDHAND Mixtape reading celebrating our 29th broadsheet this Friday, Sept. 5, 2008, in Birmingham. See EVENTS for more.

When I am in the bathroom at work, my gaze jumps between a 30-year-old promotional poster of Sha Na Na and my feet swinging just above the piss encrusted floor. I am the only woman to break the gender barrier at Record Stop in its 34-year history, and the bathroom is pretty gross. A black mold has formed in the sink from a drip that has been active for a generation. Pieces of wet toilet paper have mummified onto the dark wood paneling and the mirror has turned orange between the glass and metallic coating, giving it a haunted appearance. I have cleaned the bathroom twice, and both times were when a coworker smeared feces on the seat. Anyone who has gotten a ride in my car knows that I do not clean unless some surface has been exposed to blood-borne pathogens. The poop lingered for four days until I sprayed it down, gagging and wearing latex gloves.

I try to stay hydrated on the job. Adding "thirsty" to the mix of "generally irritable" and "never sleeps" doesn't make for a positive workday experience. I get hit on by middle-age men all day, and if I was not in constant supply of Poland Spring, my title of Smiling, Cleverly Rude Tattooed Girl would be traded in favor of Openly Hostile, Dehydrated, Alternative-Looking Bitch. As much as I hate my town, I enjoy the novelty of being Ronkonkoma's sweetheart and do not wish to jeopardize that status. I bring five bottles of water to work and usually visit Sha Na Na about six or seven times a shift.


The poster is an unusual choice of décor for a store populated by men. Sha Na Na is taped to the bathroom door, opposite where someone has cleverly graffiti'd, "BEATLES TOURS 1966- PRESENT= 0." Sha Na Na is posed in varied stages of greaser cool, perched on trashcans in an alley, running combs through their hair, sneering or looking indifferent to the lens. They are wearing leather jackets and pedal pushers, cut-off denim vests and muscle shirts, ostentatiously flexing for the camera. There is one nerd, identifiable by his glasses, and one black guy, who is the only one shirtless and looks like he was snatched from darkest Africa and given an iridescent Thriller jacket to pose in. Sha Na Na is young, beautiful, and tormented. Sha Na Na fucks on the first date. The skyscapers rise up over Sha Na Na, laundry lines strewn from fire escape to fire escape, but the urban landscape doesn't get Sha Na Na down. They own everything this side of the tracks.

The LIRR cuts Ronkonkoma in half. I always hoped that that would mean that I lived on the wrong side of the tracks. Though this side has a haunted lake and a trailer park, the other side is home to an industrial park that contains a strip club called Sugar Bush. That other side has an airport, boarded-up buildings, and vacant lots. This side has a retirement home, a candy shop, and the record store, making it less seedy than my imagination wishes it was. There are many bars in Ronkonkoma and an equal amount of Camaros swerving between them at all times of day. Kids skateboard in the bank parking lot. Geriatrics motor along on Rascals and carry heavy gallons of milk like they are sandbags. Ronkonkoma is populated with lawns of crabgrass and no sidewalks, but it is an altogether okay neighborhood.

I really feel like I get Sha Na Na. Not just for the obvious reason that they are the image I wish to cultivate for myself, but because they were of the wrong time. Sha Na Na missed the West Side Story boat by twenty years. They doo-wopped Top 40 radio of the 1970s right over the head, blindsiding the disco movement with sweet harmonies and antiquated hand jives. I work in a record store in 2008. I help people who can't afford Ipods or after-market stereos dig through the cassettes to find Saigon Kick or Tesla tapes.

I hear a lot of great stories of how things used to be. All-night parties, midnight releases, boozing in the store. Home of the bootleg LP. Any live show you could want. In-store performances. Young people with mohawks working the counter in yellowed pictures. Ramones shirts. Plaid jackets. Nothing but vinyl. The New York Dolls played around the corner, you know. Ronkonkoma: 180 grams of balls and possibility, breathing down the neck of Long Island, daring you to start something. Go ahead.

"How about the guy with the moustache? Real quiet?" Albert said to me. It was morning and we were talking about regulars at the store. I didn't know him. "Wears flannel? Comes in every Saturday 10 minutes before close and won't leave and doesn't buy anything?"

"Oh! That guy!"

"Yeah, that guy!" We stood nodding in a moment of mutual recognition. We both knew that guy.

"Yeah, I hate that guy," he said. I had never noticed that That Guy didn't buy anything, or that he lingered after close on Saturdays. I thought I knew every regular customer, their likes and dislikes, the offish characteristics they had that come from staying in one place your whole life. Technically, as Tattoo Girl from Record Stop, I was no better they were. I was like a bookmark, keeping a page on the main drag of town for the people with bleachy perms and acid-washed jeans. I fit in somewhere between cashing their check and losing it at The Dirty Martini.

"I never really noticed," I said.

"Yeah. Can't stand him," Albert said. "I tell him I'm closing, he stays 20 more minutes and says he'll come back on Tuesday to buy stuff. He never comes back, and he never buys anything."

I shook my head in disapproval, but I inside I felt like I had let That Guy down in not noticing him. Part of the psychology of being a regular anywhere is that you have both an identifiable characteristic and specific timeframe in which you exist. This guy had both, and I had failed him. I vowed to take note the next time.

Albert left, and I loafed through the rest of my day. I was on three hours of sleep, which used to cut it until about three years ago. I didn't even drink coffee then, but managed to stay alert for 20 hours a day. I was on edge all the time, but it never occurred to me to sleep.

"Sleep is for the weak! I've got better things to do!" I would say. My logic was that while the world was sleeping, I was maintaining a higher productivity rate than everyone else. This gave me the upper hand over the somnambulistic public whose bodies were repairing themselves by processing memories and white blood cells while I was making tapes and sewing handbags. As a result, I cannot remember anything that happened from the ages of nineteen until twenty-four. I don't think I should be held accountable for my actions during those years, but that is like an alcoholic parent asking his cigar-burned children for amnesty. Sorry, guys.

There were a lot of regulars where I worked then, but I am sure I only noticed half of them as I stumbled around in a tweaker's insomnia. At the record store, I notice everyone. The irregular stitching on their jeans. The strange urine smells. If it's tar or asphalt or concrete spotting their steel-toed boots. What union logo adorns the pockets of their shirts. The memories they share with me because I am friendly and they have no one else to talk to.

"I bet you've never even heard of Motorhead!" Or Hot Tuna. Or Foreigner. Or Steve Winwood. Or any other artist that came out before the turn of the century. "Saw them at the Commack Arena in '78. Quiet Riot opened. Fuck, that was a long time ago. How old are you? Eighteen? Yeah. I remember that age. Shit, that was a good show."

No one seems to notice that I am not eighteen, that I have bags under my eyes and enough body modifications to indicate that I am probably not a teenager, but a displaced Aborigine. But I nod, taking their memory and tucking it away in my brain where it will one day replace long division or my mother's birthday. Each story that slips out when someone spies the first record they ever bought or rolls through town for the first time in 20 years to ask if Bruce still owns the place settles somewhere in my brain like the snow in a souvenir globe. I listen, sometimes irritated, sometimes intently, drinking my coffee and wondering how they ended up there, spilling their memories on long play for a total stranger.

I am flossing my teeth in the orange bathroom mirror, thinking about Sha Na Na. We were both placed here accidentally on purpose by something beyond our control. They gaze at me while I floss, saying, "Aaaay! You're gonna miss this place!" and "Rock and roll is here to stay!"

I hear someone enter the store and toss the floss. It's ten to seven and That Guy is here to check out records.

"Hey, man," I say, playing it cool. "Ten minutes."

He nods. We are there until 7:20, but I do not get angry. We both have our parts to play. Mine is to drink enough liquids, narrate everything in my head, and listen.

"Are these bootlegs pressed or burned?"

"Can you get Van Halen at the Coliseum in 1980?"

"Is it soundboard?"

"That was such a good show."

"I had fourth row. Went with my best friend."

"Haven't seen him in 20 years."

"Heard you say on the phone you only got three hours sleep."

"You gotta get home and sleep, so I'll come back Tuesday."

"...see ya."

His car is filled with trash. Bags and clothes. He drives away and I turn out the light. I count the drawer and set the alarm. I walk to my car and drive to the all-night diner on the other side of the Ronkonkoma train tracks.

"Isn't it a little early for you?" the owner says in broken Greek.

"I just got out of work," says The Girl with Tattoos and Laptop, settling into her usual booth. She orders black coffee and one slice of cheesecake, nursing them until she is done pecking out a story, leaving a five-dollar tip and making small talk with the waiters, busboys, and anyone else who will talk to her. She goes home, crossing over the tracks again, passing the bars, and the people, and the neon lights advertising COMPACT DISCS, LPs, TAPES BOUGHT AND SOLD, and thinks about how the timing is always all wrong.