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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Robert Altman Week

Saturday
Aug022008

In Which Tess Discovers That There's No Place Like Home

House Hunting

by Tess Lynch

Part One: I Want To Live In These Homes

You know when you see someone at a party, and you think, "Oooh, who's that? They're looking fly." Then you go talk to your friend, and he knows the person you're looking at, and he says "Oh, I know that dude, I saw him at [your favorite band]'s show," or "Oh, sure, that's the girl who has sixteen four-week-old Golden Retriever puppies and wants to meet people to have over to stare at them," or "Sure, that's my friend Jack, he knows how to fix everything and eats cheeseburgers every day."

My point is: you think you're in love.

Anyway, then you talk to Jack or Sally. And you forget about the puppies, the burgers, the promising concert tickets. Because it seemed too good to be true, and now you know that it was. They kick their puppies, they only eat burgers at the Polo Lounge, a friend dragged them to see the concert promising it would be a lot like Coldplay. You give up, but you're sad to have done so, because they coulda been a contender.

This is how I feel about LivingHomes.

LivingHomes are pre-fab, designer-architect single family homes with major LEED approval. Everything about these houses seems amazing: they give you no choice on saving water, since the runoff from your water-use (i.e., shower drain) goes to water your landscaping, which is drought-resistant anyway; low-e glass windows and doors (which insulate to reduce your heating and cooling costs, but are large enough to let in a lot of light, lowering your artificial, energy-eating lamp use); they even use renewable or recycled materials for flooring.

Steve Glenn, founder of LivingHomes, used a Lego metaphor for his concept. Cute, but Legos are cheap, and LivingHomes, though using a construction model which supposedly cuts down on building costs (they claim a quicker building process than traditional, non-pre-fab homes, as well as a comparably low $185/sq ft - $275/sq ft price), are not.

it doesn't get cheaper than a lego prostitute, unless you're into lincoln logs

With few LivingHomes completed (one in Brentwood is on the market, and I'm not sure when the Joshua Tree (admittedly way less expensive, then again, it's in Joshua Tree) development goes up for sale - the website says spring 2007, but my calendar says that that was more than a year ago), the only way to get one is to buy a plot of land and build your own.

Which is cool, because you can design your house with the add-ons and floorplan that you like, but which also sucks because, HELLO! Everybody's broke! And that leaves you homeless for a year in a shitty market that just keeps getting shittier!

When the WIRED house, which is a Ray Kappe-designed LivingHome, went on the market last year, its list price was $4.15 million. Since then, it's been revamped and re-priced and is offered at $3.75 million. The comments on Curbed LA regarding this bit of news are sort of in line with what I'm thinking - if this is a pre-fab house, with lower costs to build the damn thing, why in God's name is it this expensive? There is no pool, no real yard, and with that much glass in a location where the houses are clumped together, no real privacy.

Thinking about who would buy this house is difficult. Take a look; at 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, it's meant for a family or Citizen Kane. Now take a look at this comparable home, also in Brentwood, with an extra bedroom and extra quarter bath, a pool and spa, and a yard - its list price is $3.795 million, and you can't see into it.

If I were a person interested in getting a house to raise a family in, or just to show off about, I think I'd go with option #2.

But I'm still loving the IDEA of LivingHomes. This is why I think their business model could have used a bit more thought. Who would take an active interest in saving money on a cool house? Who cares about the environment enough to forego a running the water when they want (the faucets in LivingHomes are the "little light that senses when a hand is underneath it and only then will it run" variety) and learn to love succulents instead of grass? Who grew up liking the retro-mod style of Urban Outfitters and shunning big, dark, old Victorian architecture? The answer: the generation that is now ready to buy its first homes.

Ecospace Prefab Garden Studio: Way Cheaper Than A LivingHome

Say LivingHomes had been marketed to us, instead of Steve Jobs. What about instead of being introduced to us as a pre-fab mansion that also happens to be environmentally conscious, LivingHomes were offered as uber-eco-friendly Maltman Bungalows (which have almost sold out, with only one left on the market)?

maltman

If you could get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath single family home in Echo Park, Silverlake, Pasadena - anywhere conceivably commutable from the greater metropolitan area for $200 per square foot, roughly $100-300 less than many houses on the market in L.A., wouldn't you?

If you were buying a house, wouldn't you want to save money and feel pious, like when you drive your Prius, you snob? I would.

Pre-fab was designed partially to make homes more affordable. The economy sucks, and the housing market is crashing, and while some pre-fab/modern pre-fab options are available for cheaper than LivingHomes, I think it's a crying shame that a supposedly eco-friendly company should neglect a grass-roots approach to marketing their shiznazz. If your aim is to make an impact on how we, as a city or a society, think of our energy output and offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative to an energy-guzzling model, then why not make it available to all us shmoes, instead of one big glass hulk sitting in "prime Brentwood"?

I'll never get offered a free LivingHome now. Damn it.

Tess Lynch is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles. She is also coincidentally the emperor of ice cream. She tumbls here.

portrait of the author during a glorious period

THE END OF YOU TOO

"The End of You Too" - Metronomy (mp3)

"Radio Ladio" - Metronomy (mp3)

"On the Motorway" - Metronomy (mp3)

website

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

What Molly found amusing.

Viva La Oral History Of The State!

Relive the glorious of our childhood!

Sunday
Jul272008

In Which You Look Like You're Losing A Piece of Your Soul

Waitress

by Jessica Skinner

You know you look like you’re losing a piece of your soul each time you go through the greeting, is how a co-worker described my friend’s expression as she repeated her routine explanatory greeting at The Melting Pot.

Dead on balls accurate if you ask me. Some days that’s exactly what it feels like, too.

Like many twenty-somethingers, I have been dabbling in the service industry for a handful of years, alternating between stifling office positions, in an anti-commitment blur as I moved around and settled into the grind here in Austin.

You have to admit, waitressing does present itself as a pretty good match for wanderlust, right? I can take off for whimsical, irresponsible road trips without too much backlash, and I get free food! Given the quality of food at whatever establishment you find yourself, the perks can be kind of awesome. Plus, in contrast to my recent temping position, I don’t have to sit in a stuffy office full of seniors with candy drawers and boring small talk. Count me in!

So then, why is it that waitressing somehow presents itself as a perfect temporary solution to life’s socioeconomic blunders and leaves me feeling so conquered?

No matter how absurd a request you receive from the customer (I’d like the garlic roasted chicken, but without garlic or chicken), and no matter how much slack you catch in return from the chefs in lieu of the costumer, in order to survive you must file it away into ‘experiments in sociology,’ for future reference. If you can’t swim along unaffected, you will sadly find yourself sinking.

Now I fancy myself as somewhat of a normal person, which likely means I’m crazy, but when push comes to shove I’m pretty understanding and can relate to others on the common grounds of the human condition. Or so I thought. I’ve always been told that I am a fairly personable and outgoing individual, and with this inherited skill I get along pretty well, but I’ve recently discovered that socioeconomic rankings swim against the tide of all my previous universal understandings.

I’m not exactly sure what determines this sad occurrence, but to some people, once I present myself in uniform for my waitressing shift, I am no longer a real person, but more likely a descendant of Cinderella who lives only to serve their unrealistic and often nonsensical evil stepmother-esque desires. That is, thankfully, in the boundaries of my position as their waitress. This allows them to force an exchange of the most awkward discourse imaginable at times, or to avoid acknowledging me as much as possible altogether.

Not too long ago I worked a private party catering to oil tycoons and their fancy friends, and felt as though I had unknowingly sold my soul to the devil, trying to justify my temporary self-disgust for the sake of a momentarily inflated income.

It pained me to pour their champagne only to see them proudly raise their glasses to the rising prices of oil, which had met $100 a barrel that morning. I forced my reactive cringe into a smile and hoped the daggers I felt piercing through my eyes came off as more of a friendly sparkle.

“Those fools,” I thought, “their lives are hollow shams,” then I cataloged the night as another experiment from which I’d hopefully gained something, if nothing more than a case of booze.

Sometimes I feel like waitressing must be a lot like working in the longest running play in history. Each night I go through the same basic motions: orders, small talk, and the chaotic dance around in the kitchen. A good night has no re-fires or complaints on food, the guests are relatively nice, normal people, and when the curtain closes I can walk away without fearing the reviews or agonizing about my performance.

The behavior of the audience of course fluctuates, but the common denominator given my current workplace’s ranking as one of the country’s top destination resorts is, and will continue to be, money. The price tag suggests a level of sophistication, which sets the bar of expectations and demeanor one should appropriately assume when interacting with the customer.

While the accolades of the establishment I work for are somewhat highbrow, the general etiquette of the clientèle is not quite up to par with their bankroll. Money, as you know, not only excuses, but also encourages all sorts of eccentric behavior, and suitably the bulk of our women-dominated clientèle get their kicks by patronizing the waitstaff.

For instance, often times their meals have to coincide with their exhaustive spa schedules, and I am expected to test my skills as a magician when they saunter in at 6:45 pm and announce their 7:00 pm appointment. You may not know this, but I am not a skilled magician, nor have I perfected the art of time travel, which never fails to elude my exasperated diner as she is forced to compromise by ordering room service for later in the evening. The horror.

With the emphasis on health comes the freak show of dietary needs the guests pride themselves on like a troop of pedigree dogs. They send the kitchen incessant pages of restrictions to which we must accommodate: gluten free, dairy free, vegan, no salt, no garlic, no taste; and punctuate their needs with claims of allergies in attempt to replace our annoyance with fear or respect.

We have no choice but to dutifully entertain their diet, which only encourages their infantile behavior, then I, their Cinderelli, smilingly place their meal before them, only to receive a commonly used, high-pitched, dismissive “thank you,” which sounds remarkably like, “fuck you,” as they plunge into their dinner. “Oh, you’re welcome,” I reply, as my snide attempt to stick-it-to-‘em. If they looked at me once, perhaps they would notice the dull distaste in my expression.

They are consumed with themselves. Money provides them a huge platform to share their “worldly” perceptions. They flock together to dine in white robes and clink their wine to advances in modern medicine, but it’s not the cure for AIDS, cancer, or MS, it’s the mommy tuck! Who could blame them? The after affects of childbirth are such an eyesore. With such medical marvels, today’s sophisticated woman shouldn’t have to age gracefully or take pride in her natural self-image. How else can a trophy bride survive?

I’ve learned that eavesdropping can be painful. Someone, please shoot me.

In regards to post-Katrina New Orleans, a couple leveled with me about their earnest concerns about crime in cities, and told me they don’t even worry about locking their doors where they live, and could not imagine living in a city with exposure to all sorts of potential dangers. Their description was out of the pages of National Geographic, as if only animalistic Neanderthals lived in places that advised tiresome security measures such as locking doors.

I usually skirt issues, but it was a slow night and I happen to travel to New Orleans to visit a good friend somewhat frequently, so I tried to communicate as best as possible.

There is little room for overlap, and I’m OK with that. Sometimes my discussions with these specimens make me feel more secure, in that I am of sound mind. A recent ill-advised discussion faced me with the ever popular, “Aren’t you afraid he’s really a Muslim?” Game time. I tell myself to keep smiling and disassociate.

It helped that this particular woman, who was half in the bag, put down her glass to cup her face, as if her gesture counteracted the offensive words she thoughtlessly spewed with no fear of censorship or political correctness. I sighed. She told me that an Obama / Clinton ticket is one of her biggest fears.

I don’t know if I’ll ever grow used to the disgusting underbelly, but it does provide for a good laugh on occasion. You just have to take it lightly. And honestly, I get a kick out of the recognizable fact that most of these women exhibit manners more appropriate of someone dining at Medieval Times. Go figure.

At the end of the day, these guys had it right all along:

[vimeo 1238971]

Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Pepsi

Jessica Skinner is a contributor to This Recording. She lives in Austin, Texas. Her blog is here. This is her first appearance in these pages.

SONGS YOU CAN ENJOY ON YOUR FEET

"Desperation Made A Fool of Me" - Belle & Sebastian (mp3)

"Cape Canaveral" - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (mp3)

"Tip Your Way" - The Felice Brothers (mp3)

"Soul Suckin' Jerk" - Beck (mp3)

"Nicotine & Gravy" - Beck (mp3)

"Going On" - Gnarls Barkley (mp3)

"Work Part II" - Gang Starr (mp3)

"I'm Good, I'm Gone" - Lykke Li (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Insane movie projects that are exciting us.

A morality play that This Recording can get behind.

Molly’s Shia posts have aged like whine, here and here.

Monday
Jun092008

In Which A Conversation With My Little Brother Violates His Facebook Privacy

Brotherly Love

by Alex Carnevale

My little brother Danny drove me to the train station in Mystic recently, when it wasn't so hot that I had to duct tape ice cubes to my balls to resist murder.

We had a conversation that had me a little upset. It wasn't anything he did; it was simply the nobility of his plight. Also he was playing some extremely terrible music.

We were headed over the drawbridge into downtown Mystic:

to the train station.

Here was the hard-hitting interview between myself and my brother Dan, who is quite probably about to turn 21 in January:

Me: How are things with you and the gf?

Dan: There is no gf.

Me: Eventually you'll learn why calling it that doesn't make me a huge loser. In time.

Dan: She doesn't want to be exclusive.

Me: That's probably incorrect, women just want to nest.

Dan: She doesn't want to nest right now.

Me: Just wait until you turn 24, all women want to know is if you have your Jew card (you do, barely), and if you make money at your job. Then they'll just criticize you for approximately ever. You're all set, though. Women will be asking you to pull their hair for the next fifty years. You're cute as a button, you're like the white Malcolm X except way less of a revolutionary.

Dan: I'll keep that in mind.

Memo to my brother: Dan, Saw you were Donatello in your facebook pictures. I mean at least you're not Leonardo, but it's close, that's all I'm saying. Sunshine, Alex

Me: Have you tried telling her your brother has a Prezler Award-winning blog?

Dan: Not yet.

Me: Might want to throw that in there, see if it sparkles with the girl. Have you tried the silent treatment?

Dan: That may be my next option.

Me: I recently invented a variation on the silent treatment, I will permit you to license it for use. It's the silent treatment, except you talk about the feelings you aren't expressing via veiled references on your blog.

Dan: I don't have a blog.

Me: What about the one you made about the Patriots?

Dan: I forgot about that.

He's half Jewish that's just the way it is some things will never change

Me: I haven't, everyone has a blog. She probably doesn't read Dan the Man Sports, though. You should make a new blog, this time making it all about your feelings and/or health care problems. Hillary Clinton has a secret livejournal that she uses to post video satires of the Taxicab Confessions and pictures of Bill's cysts. I believe it's up for a Webby this year. Did you see our dog Rosie's blog?

Dan: No, Rosie has a blog?

Me: She didn't give you the password? This is embarrassing. I am embarrassed for you. (pause) Her password is squeaktoy. Don't say I told you.

We arrive at the train station, where we are ten minutes early. My brother acts like I'm going to make him wait for ten minutes because his new car has heat. He's lived with me for many years, he should know I'm a cuddly polar bear.

Me: OK, see you later. Thanks for Halo 2, feel better. Here is my last piece of advice for you, and I hope it lasts you the next forty years until I die and the sorrow of my death overwhelms the importance of this lesson. People only want what they feel they can lose. Here's a copy of the new Coldplay. Listen to "Strawberry String," I think it will properly convey the rest of my message. Sunshine!

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Strawberry String" - Coldplay (mp3)

"Cemeteries of London" - Coldplay (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Danish's first post ever. I'll have to rerun this one with DVD commentary at some point.

Molly shined on like a crazy diamond.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday
Jun042008

In Which We Revisit A Moment Alive And Lost

This is the second installment of guest contributor Yvonne Georgina Puig's 3-part series on visiting her grandmother in Houston. You can read part one here. The third part is here.

Couple On Beach

Couple on Beach by Alex Colville

Are You My Granddaughter?

by Yvonne Georgina Puig

Hedwig Village, where I grew up in Houston, is not in fact a village.

It is .9 square miles of flat, wooded neighborhood, set among three other similar and indistinguishable “villages.” Oma lives in Piney Point Village. I went to elementary school in Bunker Hill Village. My mother used to teach in Hunter’s Creek Village. I ride my bike to Oma’s house through these “villages” and note, in the eight years I’ve lived away, how little has changed. The woman two doors over still stands in place on her front lawn, watering the St. Augustine and peddling gossip. Teenagers in jacked-up F-150s still run the stop sign outside our house. The parking lot of St. Cecilia Catholic Church down the block remains dutifully at capacity on Sunday morning.

These villages comprise a community where good ol’ boys with questionable Enron ties share property lines with gray-beards in khaki jumpsuits, where quiet modernist gems….

Good

… are leveled in favor of monuments to the marriage of new money and poor taste.

Bad

This is not the neighborhood to which Oma and my grandfather, Opa, moved in 1954. This is a place made vulgar by lack of nuance. Oma’s modest brick house, once one of many modest brick houses on a shady cul-de-sac, will soon be sandwiched by towering faux-Tuscan boxes. She reconciles this notion of progress by shaking her head rhetorically when she opens the door for me, “What are they doing out there?” she says.

Today she is confused. “What day is it?” she asks. “I’m such a zombie. I’m so mad at myself.”

Mornings tend to be this way. She sits on the couch, leans forward, rubs her temples, scolds herself. “I’m so vervalant,” she says. Loosely translated as “ornery,” vervalant is a word Oma uses often to make light of her situation. Watching her, I see that she understands her mind is losing hold of things that she knows, even at her age, she should remember. Beyond this, I’m not sure what she makes of it. I imagine the Proustian disorientation of waking up in an unfamiliar room, believing it at first to be familiar. The fog of sleeping too late. But for Oma the room rearranges itself only the slightest bit, the fogs lifts but leaves behind a mist. In the mornings, she doesn’t want to move, she doesn’t want to speak. If I ask how she slept, or what she ate for breakfast, she waves her hand and sighs, “Past history.”

We listen to audio her parents sent from Holland to Houston in the fifties, back when long-distance phone calls were glamorous. The tapes were a way for them to hear one another’s voices without the expense. My great-grandmother, Over-Oma we call her, sounds far away on the recording, in time and distance. She speaks Dutch, laughs, asks questions of my young mother in English; her voice is kind.

Though she has listened to these tapes before, Oma seems astonished to hear her mother’s voice. “My mother!” she says, “So sweet.” My great-grandfather, Over-Opa, takes his turn on the tape. I barely understand a word, but his low voice is magic. Oma’s brother, Bert, tells a funny story. These are the voices oldest and most familiar to Oma, and we are in the room with them. “It makes me sad,” she says. But she doesn’t want to turn it off.

Over-Oma begins to play Chopin. The song is muffled and haunting, a waltz. “I still see her playing,” Oma says, running her fingers over a ghost piano. Oma is saddened by these memories, but she is also momentarily pulled from the stress of forgetting. Do these years seem closer to her than the present? The saddest and strangest part is that the future, with its necessity for context and pattern, is lost. I move forward, and Oma is thrust back. I close my eyes and see her suspended over a great funnel, growing darker as it narrows. I reach for her hand, and pull her out just in time.

It’s early afternoon now. Jeopardy! isn’t on for a couple of hours. The Houston Chronicle is dreadful reading. Oma wants to sit. But even in this mood, she’ll talk about the war. She will always talk about the war.

February 5, 1941: Oma’s first love, Fritz, is shot down at 19 in the Battle of Singapore. His framed photograph hangs in her kitchen. March 9, 1942: the Dutch surrender the islands to the Japanese.

Fritz

Fritz

Oma and the family fill a chest with valuables and bury it beneath the garage. Bert goes on a bike ride one afternoon and doesn’t return home. Shortly after, Over-Opa is taken away by Japanese soldiers. Both he and Bert are sent to work camps; it will be four years before Oma and her mother see them again. Over-Oma sends secret letters, rolled up inside bars of soap, until the Japanese cut off communication. Japanese officials move into the house, and she and her mother are sent to cordoned-off housing for Dutch women.

Battle Of The Java Sea

Battle of the Java Sea

The stories are not glad until after the war, when she meets Opa, a pilot in the Dutch Air Force. We stare at a picture of the two of them, walking arm-in-arm in Sydney. Oma touches the photo, in love with him. He is striking. “So handsome!” she exclaims. She wishes I could have known him, and I do too. I tell her what scattered memories I do have, of him throwing a beachball to me in the backyard, of him, after he got sick, shuffling across her living room in a plaid robe and a pair of slippers with sailboats on the top.

Oma Opa

Oma and Opa

To this day, Oma puts cotton balls in her ears during thunderstorms, dreams of the war. If she loses these memories, I worry that she’ll lose herself. When I think of the possibility that she’ll lose Opa, I stop short.
Tom Cruise is on Oprah now, so the conversation turns to Oma’s devoted crush on Paul Newman, our mutual soft-spot for blue eyes, and boys in general. “Don’t make them jealous,” Oma says, then raises her shoulders. “Well, maybe a little bit.” We conclude that Tom Cruise, while cute in Risky Business, is no Robert Redford.

Paul Newman

Yes.

So Beautiful

And yes.

Later, as I’m leaving, she lets me ring the big bronze dinner bell by her front door, a treasure unearthed from beneath her childhood garage. On the ride home, I pass beneath old oaks and razed lots where I remember old oaks to have been. The woman two doors down is pulling into her driveway when I get home, and I think of the time she called my mother after a thunderstorm. The power had been out for a few hours. “What is going on here?” she said, angry. “It’s like we’re living in a third-world country.”

Yvonne Georgina Puig is a contributor to This Recording. She also (wo)mans the lovely It Was Evening All Afternoon, where you can indulge your raging girlcrush on her. She is a writer living in Austin, Texas; her work has appeared in Anthem, The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman, GOOD Magazine, Metromix and Variety.


Are You My Granddaughter? Part One


Are You My Granddaughter? Part Three

Yvonne

chilly scenes of winter

"Real Love" (acoustic) - John Lennon (mp3)

"Honky Tonkin'" - Hank Williams, Sr. (mp3)]

"Pale Blue Eyes" - Lou Reed (mp3)

"Always Returning" - Brian Eno (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Robots have no memories.

This is not about Sex and the City.

This is about Sex and the City.

Monday
Jun022008

In Which The Moment Is Alive And Lost

This is part one of a three-part series in which guest contributor Yvonne Georgina Puig visits her grandmother in Houston. Warning: playing the track "Audrey's Dance" may cause you to lose a giant part of your life to rewatching Twin Peaks. Enjoy.

Oma Portrait

Are You My Granddaughter?

by Yvonne Georgina Puig

Right now I feel like am sitting in my grandmother’s living room, looking at the world through her lace curtains. From time to time, a gentle wind blows the curtains and changes the patterns through which I see the world. There are large knots in the curtains, and I cannot see through them.

Richard Taylor, Alzheimer’s From The Inside Out

Right now I am sitting in my grandmother’s living room. Her curtains are mossy green; her picture window looks out onto an afternoon lush with Houston spring. She watches Cardinals and Blue Jays peck at seed in the grass. My grandmother, Gerda, is lovely. Her skin, olive, still smooth, belies her age. Her hands are strong, her eyes clear, her laugh charming and high, and we are losing her.

My grandmother, Oma as we call her, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year. It would, however, be difficult to know this, sitting beside her in her living room, watching her admire the birds. The disease grips her in subtle ways today, in perhaps less subtle ways tomorrow.

She still knows who I am, of course. She knows the family, the basic facts. Details come and go. What she cannot retain are the immediacies, and what she asks me each time I arrive at her door is, why are you here? Where is Mommy?

Oma With Boys

“California,” I say. “I’m in town to spend time with you this week.”

She grips her forehead, asks me when my mom is coming back.

“Tuesday,” I say, again. “She’ll be back Tuesday morning.”

I cannot know how deep this disease will pull her, and how fast. For now I am grateful for having only to remind her of the little things, and we flip through photo albums, side by side on the couch, her fat, white cat named Tootie asleep in the space between us. Doctors say old photographs are good for the Alzheimer’s mind.

Her childhood remains vivid: holidays atop jungle mountains, resorts shrouded in clouds, trans-Atlantic ocean liners, flowing gowns the colors of which I must imagine through black and white. Oma was raised between Holland and the island of Java, in Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies. For the Dutch, it was a prosperous time. Hers was a childhood spent in rooms without walls, with lounging cats and idle breezes.

Oma Friends


Here now in Houston, her accent still pronounced after five decades in Texas, Oma recalls the names of cute boys in old-fashioned bathing suits, the details of her favorite outfits (“Oh, this one was brown,” she says, smiling. “So cute!” we squeal in unison), and the opening moments of her dance revues. Oma loved to dance. “I would dance by myself in an empty house,” she says, and closes her eyes. “I see myself dance.”

 "Audrey's Dance" - Angelo Badalamenti (mp3)

"No. 3 in E Major" - Chopin (mp3)


"Drivin' on 9" - The Breeders (mp3)



Oma's Room

Oma's childhood room

I get up to show her my rudimentary and ineptly-executed ballet moves. Tendu, piqué, grand plié.

“No elbows!” she exclaims, positioning her arms, patiently, as if strumming a harp. I try again. She watches, clasps her hands beneath her chin. “Ah,” she sighs, delighted. “Very nice!”

Oma and I have always been close. Her house is two miles from my parents’ house, and my sister and I grew up seeing her every day, pulling up the driveway in her Ford Fairmont, the Omamobile, delivering us strange and delicious Indonesian dishes for dinner.

Of the nine members of my immediate family, I have always felt most like Oma: daydreaming, skeptical, in love with the arts, hostile toward math, quick to judge and then laugh about it, Oma and I are cut from the same passionate and somewhat astringent cloth. We are the only two women in the family who covet jewelry. When something is absurd, we think it’s absurd. I love Oma’s beauty, her wit, her perfection of manners. I see in Oma, unfailingly, the woman like whom I hope to age. But now I think of her mind, and I’m frightened of what her genes imply.

"Arabian Dance" - Tchaikovsky (mp3)

Oma's House

The house on Java

I remind her to take her afternoon pills, to eat. Alzheimer’s makes its sufferers obstinate and irritable. That she resists food is troubling. One must eat everything on one’s plate, she’s always told us. One must try all foods in order to be worldly, refined, poised.

“Don’t boss me,” she replies. “I’m not 100.” Then she asks me if I’m alone at my parents’ house. She remembered they were traveling. When I say yes, she shakes her head in disapproval.

“If you’re not 100,” I say, “then I’m not ten.”

We laugh and decide to play Scrabble. The highlight is my construction of the word “vagina,” followed by Oma’s addition of an “s,” making this bit of plural anatomy the vertical center point and constant amusement of our game.



Today, Oma plays Scrabble with relative ease, but it makes me sad. Tomorrow her memory of this game will have vanished. It will, in fact, never have become a memory. It is my challenge, not hers, to linger in the moment. To enjoy this, and later, to etch it onto my heart. Memories held here seem to cling more firmly to the mind.

I coax her into eating a McDonald’s Asian Chicken Salad, and she settles in with her slokje. Two parts vodka to one part dry vermouth, and ice. In a tall glass. A long drink, she says. Wheel of Fortune flickers on the television, the volume low, the arrows thrumming quietly against the pegs of the wheel. We both used to be so good at this show; it’s our tradition to watch it. But tonight we are terrible, and I have no excuse.

The room is cozy when I switch on a few lamps. Oma, from her spot on the couch, sits across from an antique wooden cabinet boasting twenty-two photographs of cats — my cats, my mom’s cats, my sister’s cats, my cousin’s cats, anonymous greeting card cats. “I looove my toeteladis,” she says. I wonder how I might memorize the sound of her elongated O’s, the beguiling and particular sing-song of her accent when she’s feeling good.

Oma At The Pool

I finish off a McFlurry with M&Ms, and pour a glass of Chardonnay. We marvel at the globularity of Pat Sajak’s head, and move on to discuss the merits of the early-evening cocktail. “My father was suspicious of a man who wouldn’t have a drink,” Oma says. “We should be having this with a little hapje, a little cheese and bread.”

“And salami,” I add, and we both take a sip. The chardonnay is extra-sweet paired with the aftertaste of soft-serve.

“When I was young it seems like we were always drinking and eating,” she says. “Before your evening drink you had tea, with cake, and before that lunch. And you had your wine with dinner.”

"The meals must have been so long," I say.

Oma scratches the top of Tootie’s head. “Oh yes,” she says, nodding, “and then you had your coffee afterwards of course, and always your dessert.”

Tootie

We are quiet for a few moments now, she with her numbered recollections, me gathering them up into my own reveries, of fine, languid dinners in the Far East. Alzheimer’s takes often, and seldom gives. Today was a gift.


Yvonne Georgina Puig is a contributor to This Recording. She also (wo)mans the lovely It Was Evening All Afternoon, where you can indulge your raging girlcrush on her. She is a writer living in Austin, Texas; her work has appeared in Anthem, The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman, GOOD Magazine, Metromix and Variety. Click here for the second part of Yvonne's series.

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