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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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Tuesday
Oct212014

In Which We Clean Our Fridge By Food Group

The Host

by NATHAN JOLLY

We are at a house party, walking from room to room, while Charlotte points out the tiny signs that the host is a functional junkie. Things that only someone who had been a drug addict before would ever notice: slightly bent paperclips, odd items in rooms they should have no occasion to visit, snowflakes of ash on bookcases, slight burn marks on pillowcases, the Lost In Translation soundtrack perched on the stereo.

Charlotte was once a drug addict and is now a drug user because even bread has habit-forming qualities and is probably killing us just as quickly. She was right about soy snacks, about plastic and fake sugar and Susan's old boss, and she swears she is right about this, too - so I believe everything she says. Charlotte fell asleep on her arm two nights in a row, and it scared her enough to slide slightly straighter. We split up weeks after that, and neither of us argued hard that this wasn't the real reason.

This kitchen is immaculate, which Charlotte notices and now I notice, and she assures me this also means something, and I nod, and she smiles, and we wonder how firmly we need to ingratiate ourselves with the host before we can change the CD. I like when house parties have CDs rather than iPods, and I like when they have punch, too, because we all learned early from the same ten TV shows that punch equals party and therefore this is a common bond we share with every single host who serves punch - even if she is a closet junkie who spends hours manically cleaning and organising her fridge by food group.

Charlotte tells me you can instantly tell a house party will be filled with terrible people if there isn't a bookcase and a stereo in a common room. We argue for a bit about how books are often kept in bedrooms, especially in share houses, before Charlotte points out there should be more books than bedroom storage, especially in a share house. This presents another wrinkle: does the overflow mean the books in the common room are an accurate representation of tastes - three people's least precious reads - or a greatest hits collection, a boast which vastly overstates each individual's true tastes, making the more-interesting seem less, and the less more? We can't decide. I helpfully point to a cracked tile, but it doesn't mean anything apparently - sometimes tiles crack.

The living room is filled with people I will never know. The stereo is loud and muffled, like it has been ordered to shout but is embarrassed by what it has to say. I take this music as a personal attack on me, but Charlotte sees it as a shortcut, the way she has seen most human behaviour ever since she changed majors from economics to sociology then back again. Charlotte never finished her degree and her mother still doesn't know. She has never needed it, and come to think of it, neither have I. "I need a T-shirt with a photo of Yoko on" she says lazily, before collapsing into a cane chair. Charlotte once told me the best time to interact with society while being on drugs was before 9am, because everyone looks like a shaken mess that early in the morning anyway. It made me skip back over every morning spent with Charlotte to try to remember signs: to remember her eyes, her reaction time, her pale, speckled face. But Charlotte was always quicker and much smarter than me (than I?) and now her eyes are dancing because she caught me looking at them for too long; I realised I didn't know what color they were - or thought I didn't - until I knew of course I did. She kisses me on the lips sharply, then slowly for a few seconds longer. I realise I'm now sitting in her lap, on a cane chair in a lounge room swimming with strangers, so I get up and walk with purpose towards the stereo, but am too scared to stop the music.

There are piles of blankets near the door leading out to the back porch; the evening is stupidly cool for an October and our host is kind in that pure-hearted way where she steps out future scenarios and makes sure she is prepared. I want to tell her that I'd noticed this but since she doesn't know me, it can't have anything resembling a positive effect, so I don't.

The punch looks a different, more troubling color than it was when we first arrived, so I decide not to risk another dip in the bowl; communal anything is a nice idea but it runs a short race. Charlotte's friend Lucy is already asleep, her neck craned uncomfortably, and because the three of us had walked to the party together, we'd signed on to bring each other's bodies home - especially because this house is across from the dark corner of the dog park where the floodlights die and no taxi dare roam.

I grab a bunch of blankets and cover her, and try to find a cup clean enough to fill with water and sit near her. She flinches and grabs my face and whispers to "Charlotte" to "try to bang [me] tonight", because "he is being so obvious" - I stay and stroke her hair until she either falls asleep or stops moving. I slide under her limp, coathanger arm, and head out into the yard to find Charlotte. Past the fire and the five-stringed acoustic guitar, she is scrunched against the fence, her phone shining a light on her face. "I was trying to find you," she smiles, and puts her arms out, as if she needs me to drag her to her feet. 

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about the one. He tumbls here and twitters here.

Paintings by Frances Barth.

"I Cover The Waterfront" - Annie Lennox (mp3)

"September in the Rain" - Annie Lennox (mp3)

Monday
Oct202014

In Which The Inside Of Pacey Is Everything I Expected

You Make A Beautiful Ranchhand, Pacey

by DICK CHENEY

The Affair
creators Habai Levi & Sarah Treem

Noah Solloway (a craggy Dominic West doing his usual terrible American accent) has sex with his wife on a Thursday. He is on top of her when she starts laughing. He asks what's funny? "You were making a weird face," she explains. They have three kids together, but he uses this as a reason to cheat on her with a depressed waitress named Alison Lockhart (the English actress Ruth Wilson, whose accent is better but barely passable).

I have always been kind of a Wuthering Heights guy, but the new Showtime series The Affair is entirely uninteresting until Joshua Jackson takes the stage. He plays Alison Lockhart's husband Cole, and he has kind of rapey sex with her in their driveway. Alison lost her child, and visits the grave often. It's clear she wants to be with the more English of the two men, but she can't because reasons.

Pacey lets his wife work catering jobs to pay for his Xanax smh

Noah witnesses one of the more disturbing sexual escapades of Alison and Pacey as he is out for a scenic stroll on in the greater Montauk area of Long Island. "Cole and I had anal sex," Alison blurts out to her sister-in-law. When someone confesses one thing to you, they are nearly always hiding something more. Infidelity is only actually feasible in urban settings or beach towns; otherwise too many people see your car.

Noah masturbates in the shower while thinking of the borderline crime he has accidentally strolled upon. His wife (a gorgeous Maura Tierney) offers to join him, but since he has just ejaculated on the floor of the shower, he declines. Are you really all that surprised that Fiona Apple sings the theme for this show?

Wife and girlfriend are in Montauk, heart is in B-more

Noah and his wife are staying with her parents, and they are not all that nice to him, I guess because they think he is faking the accent? When he is out with the kids he sees Alison selling jam at a local fair and dramatic piano music starts playing. He is completely nonfunctional for the rest of the day. The Affair replays some of its scenes twice, once from the male perspective and once from the female. You only get to see Dominic West masturbate the once however.

But honestly who cares about all this, Pacey is back and he's a creepy ranchhand! I dreamed of this; I even wrote weird fan fiction where Pacey was the president of the United States and the First Lady cheated on him: it was so sad.

"I met my wife at Williams" is the beginning of most murder mysteries.

Even though Noah has a Macbook Air (2013 edition) and a loving family, this is still not enough for him. "I'm just bored," he whines to his wife. He has a lot of balls to cheat on her and complain about her, he should really pick one. He also tells his daughter her dress is too short, which I regard as inappropriate. The Affair feels like something that happened in the late 1990s; people are reading print books (wtf?) and no one has a Galaxy Note.

The irony of course is that Noah's wife is actually a great deal more alluring than his mistress. It is more that Noah is really tired of her parents, but that's the thing about dissatisfaction. It is incredibly contagious. The mistress actually has kind of a weird, off-putting set of lips and her shape looks like a smoothed out dumpling. "Marriage means different things to different people," Alison explains to Noah. "Not to me," he says, unaware perhaps that this makes no fucking sense at all.

riding without a helmet is the dumbest thing anyone can do

It's amazing that white people have all this time to cheat on each other, or even that anyone would want to cheat on Pacey. "How many times have we had sex?" Pacey's wife asks him. "10,000?" Who would ever get bored of that smooth beard rubbing up against their thighs, except everyone Joshua Jackson has ever loved?

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. Experience the This Recording mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

"No Shadow" - Young Statues (mp3)

"Flood" - Young Statues (mp3)


Friday
Oct172014

In Which He Stops Himself Just When You Need Him To

Before He Opened His Mouth

by SARI BOTTON

Somehow you wind up on the topic of his wife’s vagina.

“It took Terry three months to even lubricate again after the baby was born,” he says, and you’re shocked.

But more than shocked, you’re buzzed from the two glasses of house Chablis he poured you. And so you notice that as Steve Alessi’s mouth forms the “lu” in “lubricate,” his lips round off into this cushiony, slightly lopsided ring. You want him to say that word again, or anything with an “oo” sound, so you can estimate just how much play there is in the spongy matter beneath that very soft-looking pink skin. You hope he says something “oo” soon, before the wine makes you forget to watch his lips.

“She also suffered post-partum blues,” he informs you. There you go – “blooooos.”

But he’s been talking about how he almost lost his wife during childbirth two years ago – gets this super sad look on his face every time he says “summer of ’90”  – so you feel guilty for ever having flirted with him, and you question what the hell you’re doing there. You begin to wonder if you’ve misinterpreted all the looks you’ve received from Steve Alessi across the office over the past six months. You review all the looks you’ve volleyed back, and want to shoot yourself.

Then you consider where you are – a dimly lit midtown bar on a Friday evening – that there’s only a carafe of cheap wine and a small wobbly table between the two of you, and that it was Steve’s invitation.

Of course, you prompted his offer to go for a drink. You were a basket case when you hung up with your ex-boyfriend at the end of the day. Before pulling yourself together in the bathroom, you took a detour to the water fountain near Steve’s cubicle and did a little extra pouting in his line of view.

 

A few weeks back you wouldn’t have done that. You had gotten to know Steve Alessi better, and you thought you’d lost whatever interest you’d ever had in him – even though you never imagined anything would have happened anyway, him being, like, a real grownup, and you being just out of college. You continued to flirt with him even after you lost interest, because it was the only fun part of your job, and because for some reason it felt important – really important – to keep him liking you. 

To your friends from college, Steve Alessi is known as your “flirt partner” at work. Your magazine works on a buddy system. You share your Tandy IBM clone desktop computer with a computer partner. You share the monthly task of filing photographs after they’ve run in the magazine with a photo partner. And you share looks and lines with Steve Alessi, your flirt partner. You have always believed it means absolutely nothing. All you think you’ve ever wanted from him is attention. It’s not like you actually wanted him to touch you.

Tonight at the bar you can’t help but wonder whether it’s more than attention he wants to give you, and more than attention that you want. You wonder if it’s entirely far-fetched to think he thinks something could happen tonight.

He is doing his best flirting. It’s much more effective than his usual office routine, because tonight he’s not clumsy and obvious, and because tonight there is wine numbing your brain, and because tonight you need a big boost – your ex-boyfriend blew off the date you made to talk about maybe working things out after all. You’ve been living out of an old gym bag all week, sleeping on friends’ couches, waiting for the chance to talk, and hopefully go back to your boyfriend's apartment - to go back “home.”

And so tonight you forget that at the office, Steve’s gotten to be nervous and awkward when he has the opportunity to talk to you, that he tries too hard to impress you. He knows you studied dramatic writing in college, and so he drops the names of obscure playwrights he thinks you think are cool. But you’ve never even heard of them. And he actually shakes when he comes close enough to offer you a Breath Saver. In fact once he dropped the roll as soon as your finger touched it. That was when you thought you’d lost interest for good.

“Oopsie daisy!” he said, as he bent over, reminding you of his age. Eesh.

But before he opened his mouth, Steve Alessi was perfect. You felt strangely electrified every time you caught him staring at you from the other side of the office. Sometimes when you were bored, you’d stare off on purpose, making the better side of your profile available to his gaze.

He at first seemed way too attractive and cool to be writing about the insecticide business for a trade magazine called Pest Control Monthly – which is the way you’d like to think of yourself, too. You used to like that he had a whimsical twist to his yuppie style – the too-wide vintage ties, the retro hair cut, short on the sides, long on the top, like Michael Steadman on thirtysomething. You liked that on Fridays he wore his old Levi’s that you imagined he still had from college in the 70s with a sport jacket, and you liked that he wore them with worn out hiking boots instead of Top-Siders or penny loafers like the other grown up men in the office who were too daddyish, especially when they tried to pull off that end-of-the-week relaxed, casual look. Steve Alessi seemed, when you first started writing for Pest Control Monthly, genuinely relaxed and casual. And – just – hot.

 

This evening he is somehow hot again. At the bar, there are no clumsy Breath Saver offerings, no absurdist or Situationist playwright name-droppings. Steve Alessi’s flirting is subtler than ever before.

In fact, you’re not even sure he’s flirting. After all, he’s talking about his wife, his marriage. He’s giving you advice on how to get your boyfriend back, how to convey to him that commitment is not such a difficult thing, even in your early twenties, take it from a guy. He blushes every time he says his wife’s name, Terry. And every time “Terry” passes through those plush lips, you hate yourself for thinking he might have ever been flirting with you. He becomes more appealing with every soft utterance.

Then, somehow you get on the topic of childbirth, and somehow that leads to the climate in Terry’s vagina, and there’s something about the way he’s telling you that makes you wonder whether this means he’s thinking at all about yours, and whether you’d even want him to be. You try hard not to think of that TV movie about a burn victim whose lips are repaired with grafts of her vaginal tissue. Trying to not think about it makes you laugh out loud.

“Are you feeling better?” he asks. “You seemed so sad earlier. Like a little girl with a broken heart.”

You tell him that this breakup is the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through, harder than your parents’ divorce when you were ten.

“Some days, getting out of bed, or even doing the smallest tasks, seems impossible,” you say, a throat-lump forming, your voice cracking, your eyes filling. “You know what I mean?” You’re afraid if you say more, you’ll cry.

Oh, fuck it.

“Like, the other morning? I found getting dressed a major challenge,” you add, one tear escaping from your left eye, “and I was just putting on this one-piece jumper thingy.”

He hands you a tissue, and tells you he knows that jumper thingy. And he likes it.

“Does my flirting help or hurt?” he asks.

You think he’s just admitted to his half of your flirting partnership. But you’re a bit drowsy from the third glass of wine he poured for you, which killed the carafe. He is studying you, smiling at you in this warm way.

“Um…I mean, it’s flattering, the flirting. You know? It’s fun.” You hear yourself giggling, but you don’t feel as if you have anything to do with that. It’s just happening; it’s something you’re hearing. The laughter stops when you see Steve Alessi’s hand reach across the table. It is aimed directly at your face, head on, and you can’t imagine where it’s going to land…until two of his knuckles gently clip your nose in that got-your-nose way your dad used to grab it.

“You’re a good kid,” he’s saying – not really what you want to hear right now, but it doesn’t matter, because he looks like he wants to be saying, “I love you.” You don’t want to like that. But you do. So you’re just sitting there, smiling this relentless smile and not moving.

You and Steve are staring at each other, dead on. If you weren’t drunk, you would be uncomfortable right now. The waiter seems uncomfortable. He drops the check and you and Steve reach for it simultaneously. His hand lands on yours and you both laugh and say, “No, I’ll get this,” at the same time, and then Steve picks up your hand and the next thing you know, he is kissing the back of it. Those lips are pressed against your skin and they’re as warm and as spongy as they seemed.

It’s not just one of those, like, courtesy kisses, either. Steve’s eyes are closed. He is not letting go. And you are not pulling your hand away. You wonder whether you should be. You know you should be. But this kiss is warm, and, well, warming. You wonder what this hand-kiss could possibly mean to Steve Alessi.

“Why don’t you let me make you dinner,” he says to you with your hand still in his. And before you can even think of dry-crotched Terry, Steve adds, “My wife stays in Sag Harbor for the summer,” which puts a look of shock on your face, even though you are trying very hard not to look that way. And so Steve places your hand gently but purposefully back on your side of the table and begins to nervously laugh and explain away. No, he didn’t mean it that way, and of course nothing would happen between the two of you, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.

“I’ll tell you what – you can even stay over if you want,” he says. “I’ve got a two-bedroom, and so you’d have your own room. You know, then you won’t have to go all the way downtown later. It would just be better for you since you seemed so lost earlier. I don’t think you should be alone tonight…”

You want him to stop talking. You wish he weren’t trying so hard to cover up and seem so unmistakably platonic, because he’s making a fool of himself and confusing you all at once. Wasn’t he just kissing your hand with his eyes closed? Wasn’t he stunning just a minute ago? You can’t imagine how the same man can seem alternately so attractive and so repulsive from one minute to the next. You wish he would just pick one and stick with it.

In the subway on the way to his apartment, you and Steve bitch about your jobs at Pest Control Monthly and generally concur on which geeky reporters remind you of certain insects. It would be funny if you hadn’t had this exact conversation with him three times already. Even with a heavy buzz, you don’t need to think in order to feed him your lines on cue, and so you use your time between responses to wonder…Is it at all possible that you will sleep with Steve Alessi tonight? Do you even want to sleep with Steve Alessi? Will you go to work Monday knowing what Steve Alessi, your flirt partner, looks like naked?

Steve steers you into an Upper West Side liquor store a block from the Alessi residence and grabs a bottle of some special Chardonnay he likes, on which he then delivers an entire dissertation. In the elevator, though, he’s back to the business of bugs, expounding on his fascination with the mating habits of the Kalotermitidae termites.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “The king will work and work to get the queen’s attention, but in the end, it’s all about his scent. After a while, based strictly on that, she’ll either kiss him or diss him.”

You think he’s just used the word “diss” to show he can relate to people your age, and you hate that. If you weren’t right at his door, and deeply intoxicated, you’d probably find a way to escape. But here you are.

His apartment is filled with a cozy mix of garage sale antiques, functional Formica and pseudo-country natural wood Door Store furniture. In a corner of the living room sits a Pack-N-Play, littered with colorful toys. You sink into an over-stuffed, pseudo-shabby, vintage-looking sofa while Steve opens the wine bottle in the kitchen. You try sitting all the way back, with your butt in the crevice between the couch’s back and seat, but your feet don’t reach the floor, so you lean forward. You search for some object to get involved in so that when Steve comes back into the living room, you won’t look like you’ve just been sitting there, wondering what he thinks you think your being there actually means. You choose the big coffee-table book about Florence.

“GREAT city,” says a smiling Steve Alessi as he returns to you with two very full wine glasses. He has removed his sport jacket and his oxford shirt, so he’s down to a Hanes on top, old Levi’s on bottom. “Ever been to Firenze?” he asks, rolling the R, in case you forgot he was Italian.

You take a huge swallow of wine and then tell him you were there two summers ago, with your boyfriend. You mean your ex-boyfriend.

The word “ex-boyfriend” has a hard time making it out of your mouth. You’ve said it, but it feels like it’s still in your throat, and then it goes down into your stomach, which starts to ache, and then it goes back and forth. It’s like one of those vomit burps. The word “ex-boyfriend” is like one of those awful vomit burps.

“It’s his loss,” Steve Alessi says as he puts his wine down and moves a little closer to you on the shabby-chic couch. “He doesn’t know what a great girl he’s giving up.”

Now he starts to rub your back with one hand. He begins in big, consoling circles around your frame, then wide stripes up and down your spine, and then he concentrates on your neck, opening and closing his palm around it. At first you resist but then you let your shoulders down and lean your head forward. You close your eyes and Steve brings in his other hand. He lifts your shirt a little and starts making tiny circles with his thumb in the small of your back. This makes you a little nervous, and reminds you of junior high over-the-shirt/under-the-shirt distinctions.

You realize you should put your wine down. You are holding your glass with both hands between your knees, and every time Steve Alessi kneads your body forward, something gets splashed – your tights, the pastel Dhurrie rug, the Florence book.

Steve takes one hand away and you look up to see what other task he’s found for it. He is dabbing splattered wine off a full-page photo of a Botticelli in the Florence book. He looks concerned. But that doesn’t stop his other hand from massaging your neck.

“Which gallery did you like better,” he asks, “the Uffizi, or the Pitti Palace?”

You take another swallow of wine and ask him to repeat the question. It’s not that you didn’t hear it – you just want to watch his mouth maneuver the “U” in Uffizi one more time.

“Did you do both, the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi?” Yes, you tell him, while noting that that the “oo” view is even better in profile. “They’re both overwhelming,” he continues, “but I prefer the Uffizi because it’s curated more categorically.” Here we go again – he’s trying to impress you, and you wish he would just kiss you instead, before his charm wears off once more.

More wine. You’re so mellow. Almost numb. (What was that about him making you dinner?) You are staring at those lips with eyes that are way out of focus. Steve’s hand has stopped moving. It’s just holding the back of your neck, warmly.

He moves in.

You move in.

The kiss begins.

It is so soft and warm.

And it is cut off by the fucking phone.

Steve jumps up abruptly to grab the extension by the window, which throws you off balance, and so you drop your wine glass. It hits the edge of the blonde wood Door Store coffee table and shatters all over the parquet floor and Dhurrie rug. The Botticelli is soaked and so are you.

“Hi, Baby!” Steve Alessi exclaims over-enthusiastically into the receiver, and then mouths, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it,” to you, about the spill.

Steve is dabbing your kiss off those spongy lips with a pink paper napkin, and he’s pacing and talking fast. “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you until tomorrow, but what does that matter? How’s my beauty?”

The word “beauty” sticks you in the gut. Then the throat. Then the gut. You run in search of a bathroom. You make it just in time to throw up neatly, without making a bigger mess than you already have in the Alessi household.

As you’re leaving, Steve actually begins to try and convince you that it would still be a good idea for you to stay, but he stops himself just when you need him to.

You ask him to put you in a cab. He offers you a Breath Saver. You could use one. But you decline.

Sari Botton is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Rosendale, NY. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Paintings by Fiona Ackerman.

the author

"Hotel Anywhere" - Cold War Kids (mp3)

"Hold My Home" - Cold War Kids (mp3)