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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Ethan Peterson

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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Friday
Mar242017

In Which We Used To Pinpoint All Our Sadness

The First Full Year

by SARA BIVIGOU

1. Everything I know about drunk dialing I learnt from my father. Of course, the booze is always an excuse.

Once you’ve got it into your head that you are going to call someone then you will. You feel playground emotions: happy, mad, sad, bad, lonely, are overwhelmed by them. Giddy, you pick up your phone. A surge of useless adrenaline when you dial. The beats that your heart skipped when the person answered are now throbbing in your head. Your head is a banging drum. You speak and only listen to respond. What you’re saying matters little, that you’re talking, that the person you are talking to is entertaining this conversation with a drunk you, that’s important. If you’ve done it right and drunk just enough the talking is a blur. Words out of your mouth faster than thoughts. What even are thoughts anymore? Just speak. How do these conversations ever end? You never remember. Regret in the morning.

2. The last time my father called me, slurring but peppy was to catch me up on his day. My father the doctor, the doctor who lives in a small bachelor’s flat in Libreville, Gabon. He lives in the centre of the city alone. But he is thinking of moving to Moanda, now that he is 60. He is thinking of moving to where he has more friends and some family, a cousin maybe. He doesn’t need the fast pace of capital city life anymore, he doesn’t need the big airport. Last time my father called me about a week after his fourth fiancee broke up with him was to tell me he had a brain tumour.

3. A list of the illnesses my father has called to tell me he is afflicted with:

gout

arthritis

pneumonia

presumed heart attack, as in darling I’m calling you now to tell you I am unwell. Your father is sick. His heart is pumping heavy. I can hear the blood in my head. It hurts when I breathe. Listen *and he breathes deeply, exaggerated, strangled* At which point I begin to panic and shout at him. Why is he calling me? He needs to call his doctor. Or an ambulance. I am going to hang up, I say, I am loud and elaborately slow you’re going to call someone to take you to the hospital.

4. I haven’t seen my father since I was three years old. Which is to say I don’t ever in all my life remember seeing him with the eyes in my head. To me he is a voice over the telephone. An idea of a person. A presence felt as an absence. A square of air where a man should be.

5. My favourite family story is the one of how my parents met, in 70s London, on a foursome date gone askew. Good only slightly lapsed Catholic girls that my Mum and her friend (and fellow Modern Languages student) Sylvie were they’d never first date alone, they’d always bring each other. My father asked Sylvie out and respecting her arrangement would invite his friend Didier, for even numbers. The four of them met at some tourist trap restaurant in West London, had drinks and sat down for dinner. By which time Sylvie had demoted my father from conquest to fourth wheel, realised she fancied Didier more. Didier and Sylvie flirted insanely, intensely and are still married with 2 children today. My parents chatted politely, fell in immediate like and all consuming love over the course of the following year. My grandparents begged mum, to the point of almost disowning her, not to drop out of university, to wait to get married. She ignored them. My father was in the process of becoming a doctor, she was going to be a doctor’s wife who could learn many languages at home, while looking after their four children. They had it all planned out like so many 22-year olds do.

A small wedding, maybe 40 people, at mum’s stepdad’s house in Port-Gentil and they moved back to London very shortly after. Within a year my mother was pregnant with her first son and two more after that with me. My father qualified. Something happened. I probably won’t ever know what exactly - his pride, her annoyance, his wandering eye, her hurt. Mother pregnant again in 1984, another boy. But father left before he was born, did not meet him until 2008, when he was taller than him and thin like he used to be and still somehow his exact likenesses. The lesson that my mother drilled into all of us so solemnly that it felt like our family’s pledge: never get married in your twenties.

6. My first full year not in my twenties I got married.

7. Things I’m sure love isn’t:

a feeling

uncalculated

Disney

contagious

singular

8. When you grow up without father a heavy myth engulfs you. There is this gross familiar idea of daddy issues, which is a wariness of your needs. The fear that they are bigger than those of others. Can any man love you enough? Will he be crushed by what you lack? You yourself are constantly checking to see if the hurt is showing. Jutting out like a broken hip bone, revealing itself embarrassingly like spinach between your teeth. You worry that your dadlessness will be used to pinpoint all your sadness. That it is the cause for everything that is wrong with you.

I wonder if my romantic history would be the same. So full of silly strife, of messy longing. I have stalked boys. Been infatuated too many times. Let them cheat on or with me. Shimmed up drainpipes into their bedrooms. Done everything they’ve asked me to, even when that’s meant nothing that felt good. I collected their moods and eventually always took revenge whether it was offered or I had to hunt it down. Found a way to cut the sleeves of all shirts, thrown a lot of records at walls. I’ve been hung up on too many feelings, belly full off useless pride. For a time the saddest most sentimental sort, bad at letting go, even of the worst fucking stuff. And always tired. Eyes either sore from crying. Or itching from the need to cry.

I only know for sure that when you grow up without your father it is possible to fantasize him out of all proportion. The first lies I ever told were all about my dad. He was an astronaut, then he was the one who put the pictures in children’s books, then he was busy and I saw him yesterday and he’d be back soon. And now what?

9. Things I'm sure love is:

amorphous

10. One long afternoon-evening home alone, two-thirds of a bottle of medium sweet merlot down. I don’t know why I dialed my father’s number. 11 digits. What did I want to say to him? Maybe I was sick now? No, I was angry. I had a story to tell. The click that connects an international call, then ring ring, ring ring.

The giddiness, the banging in my head.

Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.

11. He did not pick up.

Sara Bivigou is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in London.

 

Thursday
Mar232017

In Which Josephine Baker Endures An Overlong Childhood

So Far

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Before he permanently disappeared from her life, Josephine Baker's white father did her one favor. He paid for her mother Carrie to receive six weeks of treatment in a white hospital in St. Louis. Josephine Baker's given name, Freda, was German and so, probably, was her father. Three letters on her birth certificate testified to his identity, letters she would not see until the document had to be procured when she left the United States: edw.

When she was five, Josephine Baker's mother was finally ready to take her and her brother Richard into her own home. They called their mother's new husband Papa. The poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis were composed largely of Russian Jews, Italians or blacks. Josephine and Richard slept with Carrie's two other children on one mattress, riddled with bedbugs. For food they raided the trash of a local outdoor market. Oddjobs occasionally made them a dime. With her brother, she tossed coal to the rest of the kids from freight cars.

As Josephine got older, babysitting was a safer way to make money. Sometimes she would be screamed at by black housekeepers for kissing their white babies. Weekends brought the ghetto alive with massive street parties. Josephine told a redheaded street urchin that she considered him romantically. He responded, "You're a nigger!" and dashed off.

She found consolation in animals, once picking up a snake she found and bringing it into the house, where it was quickly stepped on. Later, she was very close to a pet pig. At seven, her mother sent her away to work in a white family's house.

with Golda Meir

Her new mistress beat her ferociously, and then woke her up at 5 a.m. to start work the next day. She did not last long in service, and was sent back. Her next employment was nearly as brief: she screamed when the man of the house tried to fuck her at night. Her mother only asked her, "How could you ruin such a wonderful chance?"

Josephine Baker's first experience of school was at the segregated institution sometimes called Dumas, often referred to as Colored School No. 1. Richard and Josephine had to pass by white schools to get there, and would be heckled with various slurs on their way. Meanwhile, Josephine's mother's drinking had gotten out of control, and she criticized her daughter for the girl's lighter skin color whenever she could. The girl's only relief from this life was the local black theater, named after Booker Washington. Her friends there would cover for her when she ditched school.

A local family of musicians offered to take Josephine in for a time, and her mother instantly agreed. The matriarch of the Jones family was a virtuoso on trumpet, and the Jones children played instruments as well. She was relieved to be out of the company of her natural family, which was further ripped apart by her mother's frequent infidelity, but she was still dreadfully poor. "When I think about the troubled days," she wrote in her autobiography, "I feel like crying: it is so far."

Many whites in St. Louis were convinced of their racial superiority; they harassed black woman and men in the streets without fear of reprisal. Riots broke out frequently, killing as many as seventy people of color. Many blacks were driven from their homes into Josephine's neighborhood. The year 1917 accounted for 38 lynchings in St. Louis.

By the time Josephine was 13, her mother decided it was best to simply marry her off. Her new husband Willie Wells was nearing thirty, and he had a job as a steelworker. Their furnished room cost $1.50 per week. This marriage lasted a better part of a year before Josephine cut Wells' head open with a beer bottle. Her next job was that of a waitress at the Old Chaffeur's Club. She performed at the Booker Washington when she was allowed.

This job let her leave St. Louis on a tour, and she could not have been happier to be gone. In Memphis every hotel had bedbugs and the traveling blacks weren't welcome anyplace decent. The "theaters" Josephine played in usually served other masters: one was a blacksmith's shop, another a salon. New Orleans excited her more, and Philadelphia the most. She could not follow the cast to New York, since you had to be sixteen to perform there. So she stayed behind in Philadelphia and married a light-skinned dancer named Billy Baker.

After Josephine was old enough to hit Broadway, she made her way to Boston, too, where local families would take in chorus girls. Critics noticed Josephine's act even in the background. "One of the chorus girls is without question the most limber lady of whatever hue the stage has yet disclosed," wrote one admirer. In racially divided Chicago the production had to advertise that it did not want. blacks to attend.

Instead of returning to St. Louis, Josephine went to Atlantic City for the summer, where she hit the stage at the ominously named Plantation Cafe. Atlantic City was also deeply segregated, and hotels had signs that read "NO DOGS, NO JEWS." That no blacks were permitted to enter was implied.

Josephine Baker was living in Harlem when she was discovered by a rich American woman named Caroline Reagan. Mrs. Reagan had an amorphous gender identity – Gertrude Stein said of her that she was "neither fish nor flesh nor fowl." Lacking any appreciable identity, she looked to black culture to provide one for her. This plan entailed bringing African-Americans to Paris, where they would entertain the French with their very different type of show. Mrs. Reagan offered Josephine $150 a week and was turned down, but $250 sealed it.

In order to get her new black friends to Paris, Mrs. Reagan used all the connections her diplomat husband possessed. Josephine had never been divorced, but that is not what her passport said. She was terrified the amorphous circumstances of her marital past would prevent her from setting sail on the massive Berengaria.

Josephine's farewell happened at Club Bamville on 129th Street. She was deeply ambivalent about leaving the only country she had ever known. "I can only recall one single day of fear in my life," she wrote. "One day, which lasted only one hour, maybe one minute... it was over between America and me." Caroline Reagan described the scene of the Berengaria's departure: "A quarter of Harlem was on the docks."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Wednesday
Mar222017

In Which There Are A Variety Of Simple Ways To Fly

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

At the company I work for, new employees are brought into the flow in groups. My group had a lot of people around the same age and we all bonded and became friends quickly. (My company allows relationships in the workforce as long as they two people aren't in the same section.) In those early months I became close to Becca and we started to go out. After around a year, we decided to break up.

Recently Becca has started dating another employee who I work closely with. I have tried not to let this bother me but I think my true feelings are starting to show. In the end, it seems difficult to see her every day and I feel that I have not really gotten over the relationship even though I pretend otherwise. Do you have solutions to this issue?

Craig A.

Rk5TFxA.jpg

Dear Craig,

The idea of someone we were with being with someone else is always a traumatic situation. When Becca's new relationship turns into a steaming pile of garbage, you will perhaps be somewhat reassured, but the pain will never fully go away. That fact that Becca is moving on in front of you is what John Ashbery termed a blessing in disguise.

Moving on is difficult, but until you have accomplished that long term goal, there are some things you can do to alleviate this present pain. Conventional wisdom would have it that the less you know about the situation the better, but considering your circumstances, that is never going to be possible. Take things in the entirely opposite direction: be incredibly supportive of your co-worker's relationship and try to establish a friendship with Becca, if possible. This will take the edge off until the pain eventually just fades away.

Hey,

Lately I find that I am really quick to anger. When passengers were very slow to disembark a recent plane I was on, I felt myself wanting to lash out at them. This is balanced against a deep desire not to enter into open conflict with others, especially strangers I do not know.

I'm starting to think that there must be something wrong with me, to be made so angry but such routine and common frustrations.

Jackie R.

rRHTNDC.jpg

Dear Jackie,

Such anger feels like the fancy of a negative moment, but it is in reality a product of prolonged frustration, bubbling to the surface. If you travel a lot, you can see how people let off their frustrations in various ways. Recently, I watched a man who missed his flight throw a temper tantrum by stomping and crying in front of the flight agent. A security guard covertly approached from the rear, sensing that a further breakdown was perhaps in the making. Eventually the guy settled down - his feelings were completely out of his system, and he had moved on to the next way he made other people's lives as unhappy as his own.

I am not saying you should throw a tantrum, but it is important to let people know if they have annoyed you in a specific way. You might as well start becoming the kind of person who frequently tells other people how the world should be, and it is better that you make this change in the company of people who you will never see again in your life rather than your close friends and relatives.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.