Mickey Hess | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mickey Hess 

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In his memoir, Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory (Pitchfork Battalion), underground publishing advocate Mickey Hess uses deadpan humor and pungent observations to describe the price he pays for pursuing a passion--teaching college students how to write. Unlike one friend who chooses medical school for a high-paying career, Hess ekes out a living as an adjunct lecturer at universities in and around Louisville, Kentucky. As a part-timer, he leads a nomadic existence commuting from school to school and working under less-than-ideal conditions--at one job he shares a five-desk office in a dank basement with 40 other teachers for low pay and no benefits. When summer classes don't fill up, Hess has to wait tables at a Tex-Mex bar and grill, and even after he scores a full-time position he takes on extra work, like a gig as an ice cream truck driver, to make ends meet. That job, like all the others, is detailed with wry affection: A training video tells him to push kids toward the most expensive items. He and his wife play a practical joke on a friend by pretending to steal the truck. On his last day he locks the keys inside the cab. Eventually the jobs that start out as a means to pay the rent turn into an outlet for restlessness--he plays a torturer in a haunted house, performs stand-up comedy, house-sits, and works as an attendant at an amusement park, where he cleans up kids' messes and scrounges for loose change. But ultimately his patched-together existence pays off when he gets an award for excellence in teaching. "I read the notification letter ten times yesterday," he writes. Hess will appear along with Jeb Gleason-Allured and Todd Dills, editors at The2ndHand, at 8 PM on Saturday, August 16, at Quimby's, 1854 W. North; 773-342-0910.

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