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...

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

Americana Va-Ca 2007
Megan Mercier

Mercier grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, but today lives and writes in Chicago. She am an ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists, a Chicago theater company known particularly for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes, now in it's 20th season. Megan blogs regularly here.

I can only imagine the celebratory state that our funky forefathers must have willed themselves into after signing that declarative document. Can't you see Benjamin Franklin stirring to, in the early morning hours of July 4, 1776, sandwiched between two saucy French tarts and rattling casks of once-brandy? "My god, that was quite the throw down," he would say, shaking the painful hang-around from his balding brow. Snatching up a pink Razr that lay atop a pile of silk pantaloons he would dial fellow forefather (at this point in history a mere forebrother) Thomas Jefferson to see that he too returned safely home and did he have his way with that spirited slave girl? They would swap tales to fill in the sprawling time gaps before deciding that, since they could not remember if the historic events had occurred on the 2nd or the 3rd, that perhaps future generations would be just as well to eat hot dogs and blow things up on this the 4th. "Hell," groans T.J., as Sally kneads his back, "I can't even remember where I left that damn declaration." They find it a week later wedged under the backseat of John Quincy Adams' wagon. Jefferson promptly purchases a key-chain flash drive.

It is Independence Day 2007 and I spend my highest of American holy days driving directionally impaired circles around the greater southwestern Chicago townships in search of the Kwik-E Mart, a 7-Eleven/Simpsons movie promotion that takes me through Oak Park, Forest Park, Bedford Park, Bridgeview, and finally Brookfield, before I finally find my way back to the corner of west 63rd and Rutherford. Why do I always insist on presuming that I am more knowledgeable of topography than Google maps? It seems I never am. Doh. There is a line into the parking lot and a makeshift sign apologizing for the exhausted stock of Buzz Cola and Krusty-Os. I take obligatory photos, drink an orange Fanta "Squishee," and munch on a neon pink donut that makes me sick. I’ve made the entire three-hour trip without a wallet, my driver's license laying absentmindedly in the folds of my unmade bed. I am currently in the process of having my middle name legally changed to “incompetence.”

I spent the latter leg of my Independence Day wrestling a Wiffleball bat from my roommate's inebriated hands as he tried valiantly to ignite a brawl with the hipsters of 906 West Addison. I took a blow to the cheek and left my roommate and his brother whence efforts to corral them proved futile. The yellow plastic weapon stayed hidden in the trunk of my car until he moved away from the city one month later. I am a firm believer in reprimand and strongly opposed to fighting for the drunken fuck of it.

And this, my friends, is how I spent only part of my summer vacation. The rest I spent schooling, babysitting, & working a just-above-minimum-wage customer service job on Navy Pier.

Navy Pier is your layabout friend who loves unemployment and crashing on your couch. Overall, he's pretty worthless. He drinks all of your beer, pees on the seat, and loves to jam out on your guitar, hashing out painful renditions of "whipping post" while you try to carry on a conversation with your girlfriend. But you keep him around because, when he's not testing your dwindling patience, he's a hell of a lot of fun and loves quoting The Big Lebowski with you. But sometimes you can't help but wish him struck down by a stray meteor.

This is tourist domain. I respect that. It’s charming, it's fun, and had I visited this Midwestern compliment to Disney’s "It's a Small World" at the age of seven, I too would have pitched a raging fit over a bag of cotton candy all the way down South Dock Street. I would have eventually persuaded my dad to purchase the pastel confection, devoured it, and promptly vomited all of it into the centrifugal field of the Wave Swinger Swing Ride. My mom would have been thoroughly pissed -- first at my father for giving into my shameful outburst and second, also at my father, because I was now crying and had ruined my appliquéd Kelly's Kids outfit with the matching bow and matching Keds and a matching sister who, by this time, is halfway across the pier, dangling over Lake Michigan and chewing on a cigarette butt. A Doral, most likely. But in truth my sister and I grew up in north Alabama, light years away from Navy Pier. My parents barely got us to Rock City and Ruby Falls without us killing each other. Or them killing each other, for that matter.

It is what family vacations in the free world are built upon. Culinary poison overpriced kitschy souvenirs, and bitching. Lots of bitching. Somewhere between the polar extreme of emotions on Navy Pier there sits man on any number of benches, the languid father straddling the void between what his family is and what he dreamed they would be as he slurps a $10 hurricane and sucks his woeful cigarette. His 14-year-old daughter, with the fungal eye makeup and an agile texting thumb, rolls her eyes and short shorts simultaneously when he asks her if she wants ice cream. His wife tries with all her sweaty and tuckered-out might to drag their overweight 8-year-old son away from the IMAX theater, because they did not drive all the way from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to see Transformers. She wants to go window-shopping at a snail's pace on Michigan Avenue. Father wants to swan dive from the top of the Sears Tower but for now, he tells his wife, he will be lying in repose on aforementioned bench until they decide which family member to sacrifice for provisions.

The most perplexing phenomenon on Navy Pier is the line to walk. It has been my experience that the line to pee is significantly shorter than the line to walk, to simply get from one destination to another. I know there are lots of flashy, magical things at which to ogle and subsequently purchase. Bavarian cashews. Airbrushed license plates. Caricatures. Mood rings shaped like Jesus fish. Indeed, it is the poor man's Portobello Road, but if you please, I would very much like to acquire a sandwich in the 30 minutes that I have for my break, and you are making it most difficult what with your opposition to putting one foot in front of the other. I would imagine that you are of the kind that likes to ride the escalator as if it were the pre-ambular climb on the latest roller coaster. You are likely to remain stationary on the moving walkway at the airport. If you wouldn't mind noting the name of this contraption...

On the freeway in many cities the DOT installs what is known as the "carpool lane," often marked with a diamond (perhaps because it is the most prized lane in all the metropolis). The carpool lane is a way for people on a mission to arrive at their place of employment in a timely fashion, sans lollygagging, without having to fight with travelers in minivans looking aimlessly for exit 47C so that they can sit in a rocking chair at the Cracker Barrel. It’s a way to keep things moving in a world that can't decide whether it wants to speed up or slow down, soy or skim, Verizon or T-Mobile.

But who am I kidding? This is the U.S. of A. Land of the free and home of the brave, brazen, and brash. Like your drunk Uncle George on a bullhorn during the Fourth of July barbeque. Try as you may, you’re never going to shut him up. So fill up on ribs before the obese cousins eat them all and wash them down with sweaty cans of Coors Light that you sneak out of Uncle George’s cooler. Celebrate summer. Celebrate independence. Celebrate America.