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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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Saturday
Jun292013

In Which We Reduce Ourselves To This

photo by Arno Minkkinen

Finnish

by SARAH SALOVAARA

“I don’t even know why it exists.” He drew my eyes to the pin perched on his breast pocket: an Argentine flag and a Finnish flag, their poles crossed at an axis. It’s always made me uncomfortable when someone puts stock in my heritage. 

“Where are you from? Spain? Italy?” 

“No, but I get that a lot. It’s Finnish,” I say of my surname. Or, “I’m Finnish,” even though I have only ever been to Norway, and I only know two words in my grandfather’s language — hyvää päivää — that actually function as one in mine.

photo by Arno Minkkinen

“People always think that, but I don’t think I look Latin at all,” I hear myself say, again and again, like a ritualized prophecy. “But I guess I don’t look very Finnish, either.” I flick my wavy brown hair over my right shoulder, dripping in vanity.

“Where did you get that?” I gape at the pin.

“I—I don’t know.”

“Is it a football thing?”

He laughs. “Who knows.”

“That’s so cute.” 

He orders a pulled pork sandwich, and we talk about how that used to be my weakness before living in Spain made me a vegetarian. (I still eat fish. And birds.) A few nights ago, after he took me to dinner, he went to get ice cream, alone. He texted me that it was delicious, and that we’d have to get some sometime. Familiar with the outpost, I told him it better not have been the vegan flavor. “yo. i’m from argentina,” my screen read. “i get steak flavored ice cream if it’s avails, okay?”

photo by Arno Minkkinen

We talk about how I drink and he doesn’t. We talk about how he lives alone and I don’t. He orders me another Jameson. The bartender stumbles over and I wonder what her BAC is, right at this very moment. Then he kisses me. Hard. Open. And in that second, my attraction to him leaves my center and dissipates down my extremities, till it evaporates from the very tops of my arms.

Later, when he walks me home, and we say goodbye, after a long kiss goodnight, I will turn around in my hallway, and run past my neighbors, back outside, to kiss him once again. And I won’t know if I mean it, or if it’s just another thing I do, like how I act when someone asks if I’m Italian, because I feel like I’m supposed to.

Sarah Salovaara is a writer living in Brooklyn. She blogs about film here, and you can find her twitter here.

"Flowers in Your Hair" - The Lumineers (mp3)

"Stubborn Love" - The Lumineers (mp3)

 

Friday
Jun282013

In Which We Think It Is Great That You Tried It

Transparent Frames

by JEAN HANNAH EDELSTEIN

Field hockey was something that occurred to me as a good idea in the final months before I fell ill, with what felt like madness. With what several doctors agreed was severe clinical depression. The field hockey season began just a few days before being alive became a Sisyphean task, before my first thought in the morning was that I should kill myself and my last thought at night was that I had failed.

When my mother would pick me up from a game and drive me to my psychiatric appointments, still wearing my uniform, depression and hockey seemed separate. But now the connection seems clear to me, that I was immersing myself in something that was so unlikely, in an attempt to swerve and escape the blackness.

As well as a rebellion against my self, field hockey was a rebellion against my family. We were cerebral, not sporting. Our athletic narratives were hued with failure, and that's how we liked it.

On summer trips back to her hometown on the west coast of Scotland, my mother would drive us me and my older brother and younger sister past the field where she was made to play field hockey in her own teenage years.

We had to march two miles there and two miles back in the course of a school day, my mother would say, Just for gym class. It was at the end of the day and one of my friends lived right by the field but they still made her walk all the way home.

That this marching and playing happened in the rain was moot. Everything in Scotland happened in the rain.

My father was on his high school tennis team in one of Chicago’s tony North Shore suburbs. He was the second-worst seed, something he cited with the special pride of someone who wasn’t the worst player, but who would not have wanted to have been any better. The tennis accomplishment of which my father was most proud (the only tennis accomplishment that my father ever mentioned) was the time that he convinced all his teammates to hold their rackets left-handed in the yearbook photo.  He took us to the local public library to show us. There he was, with the other boys, all smiling with their smoothed, side-parted hair and white shorts. The joke was somewhat lost on me because I had never held a tennis racket. 

Twenty-five years after he graduated, when my father was inducted into his high school’s hall of fame, he was introduced at the awards ceremony by the tennis coach, the only person still working at the school who knew him.

He was not good at tennis, the coach said, So it is a good thing he is good at physics.

Everyone laughed.

‘Organized sports’, as he and maybe no one else called them, were things that my father had strong opinions about; unpopular opinions. My father’s view was that organized sports weren’t good for kids. Coaches were bullies. Adolescent sporting rivalries were unhealthy. Fathers put too much pressure on their children to succeed. Mothers shouldn’t be spending their lives shuttling their offspring from field to field in minivans. My father believed that kids should play disorganized sports, good old-fashioned pick-up games in parks and vacant lots. My father believed this as if good old-fashioned pick-up games existed, as if vacant lots were still a thing.

My father’s prejudices were confirmed when my brother, at seven or eight, played in the community soccer league. My brother was on a team of kids whose fathers were not that interested in organized sports. My brother’s team played against teams of kids whose fathers were very interested in organized sports. These very interested fathers were the coaches; they wore whistles and ran up and down the field, shouting. Some of them wore cleats. These fathers didn’t stand on the sidelines drinking coffee out of styrofoam cups and doing fond chuckles when their children kicked the ball in the wrong direction. During the course of the season, my brother’s team scored zero goals, a fact that my father cited for years to come every time someone suggested that perhaps my brother or I or our younger sister should participate in something athletic.

Zero goals, said my father, This is the problem with organized sports.

My brother’s interest in soccer waned. He moved on to math competitions, which he had a chance of winning. My father approved of organized maths.

And thus my announcement that I was going to play field hockey was received by my parents with the kind of sympathy and swallowed mirth with which they had responded to my request, two years earlier, to attend a Christian summer camp with my best friends. My friends had given me the brochure, a shiny trifold with photos of kids hiking and swimming and praising. I’d hidden it under my mattress, like pornography, for a couple of days, before I mustered the courage to show it to my mother, persuaded myself that she could be persuaded.

You can’t go to church camp, she said, immediately. It’s for Christians.

I’ll ignore the religious parts, I said. I was desperate to go canoeing and make things with macrame; to return to seventh grade in possession of a camp boyfriend who I’d never see again but always talk about.

You can’t go to church camp, said my mother. We’re going to Scotland for the summer, to see your grandmother.

That is so unfair, I said. It’s just going to rain.

My desire to play field hockey was rooted in a similar motivation. I wanted to be normal. To be well-rounded. I wanted to have the kind of American youth I’d learned about in movies: a jacket with a letter sewn on the sleeve; swishy blonde hair; at least a fair shake at being Homecoming Queen. Field hockey was a gateway: a preppy, cute uniform (a red plaid miniskirt; white knee socks for home games, red for away); the fact that it was only played by girls.

While much like Christian summer camp, field hockey was not really for the likes of me, it was hard for my parents to prevent it. The freshman team was a no-cut affair, so I didn’t need to have any athletic ability.  All I needed was a will and a way. The way was simply to spend the last week of summer before high school began doing shuttle runs and drilling dribbles. Plus spending just as many hours trying to style my frizzy hair into a smooth ponytail that would bob back and forth like a pendulum while I ran after the ball, so that from the back I could be mistaken for someone named Brittany.

I was willing.

OK, said my father, Field hockey. Fine. I’ll take you to the sporting goods store for your mouthguard and cleats. But you need to wear eye protection, too.

Eye protection? I said.

You could lose an eye with one of those sticks in your face, my father said.

No one wears eye protection when they play field hockey, I said. It’s not on the equipment list.

They’re making a mistake, said my father. They’ll be sorry when they go blind. Anyway, it’s no problem. I’ll just get you some safety glasses from the lab.

The lab was where my father worked: a large multinational corporation’s global center for research and development, headquartered in the suburb where we lived. Lots of my classmate’s fathers worked in the lab. Probably some of the fathers of the girls on my field hockey team. But no one else’s father made her play field hockey in laboratory safety glasses.

The laboratory safety glasses my father gave me were massive things with thick, transparent plastic frames. They were not the laboratory safety glasses of a Brittany. They were the laboratory safety glasses of the daughter of a Scottish immigrant and and Ashkenazi Jew, of someone who’d never gotten a tan by the pool at a country club, drunk a wine cooler, loved a soccer player named Bryce. They were laboratory safety glasses that didn’t say In a couple of years I will be an unbeatable candidate for Homecoming Queen. My laboratory safety glasses said I am the kind of person who once tried to impress the boy I had a crush on by showily turning the pages of my unabridged edition of Anna Karenina.

They’ll fall off when I run, I said.

Ah, said my father. I’ll fix that.

He pulled a beige rubber band out of a junk drawer and cut the loop with a pair of scissors. He knotted the ends of the rubber band to the arms of the laboratory safety glasses, so that the rubber would wrap around my head, leaving a dent in my straight-ironed hair.

Hockey season started in earnest on the first day of high school. Depression arrived in the second week, when I woke with my alarm and found that the sense of self-loathing that had been slowly rising was now suffocating me. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to go to math class. It was that I never wanted to wake up.

At first the diagnosis was ‘school refusal’. At first I just cried. Then I screamed until I could not breathe. My parents, exasperated, turned on the light and pulled the blankets off. I lay face down and tried to cry out enough tears to drown in. I screamed that I hated them, which was also a way of saying that I hated myself, and I screamed that I wanted to die, which was also a way of saying that I hated my parents.

Eventually, my parents would get tired. We’d all get tired. One of them would stay at home with me and then the next morning, maybe, after an hour or so, I’d gather the strength to go in to school. My father would drive me there, on his way to the lab. I’d be crying as we left the house and still crying when we pulled up to the school. Some mornings he’d stop in the parking lot of the grocery store next door to the school; I’d cry and he’d try to comfort me and he’d have a look on his face that I’d never seen before. My father looked helpless.

Some mornings when my shoulders stopped heaving and I caught my breath, I’d make it in to catch half of my second-period English class.

Some mornings my father had to drive me home again.

My parents started taking me to see some experts. The experts asked questions, looked for reasonss. The experts picked through all of my fourteen years of experience, searching for some probable cause. There wasn’t one.  Just an all-encompassing sense of horror at being alive.

Are you having a difficult time in school? the experts said, How are your grades?

No, I said, I wasn’t. I am now, because I don’t really go to school. I can’t.

Do you have many friends? the experts said.

Yes, I said.

Do you get along with your parents? the experts said.

Yes, I said. For all that I said that I hated them, the truth was that I loved my parents. The truth was that making me wear laboratory safety glasses while I played field hockey was maybe the worst thing that my parents had ever done to me.

The experts were stumped. They gave way to new, escalating experts.

My guidance counselor ceded to the school psychologist. The school psychologist suggested we consult my pediatrician. The pediatrician sent me to an adolescent psychologist. The adolescent psychologist suggested I should see a psychiatrist.

I lay with the family dog on the kitchen floor while my mother was on hold with the insurance company, with various doctors, her jaw set and determined. I watched her dial and take notes and through the fog I knew that it was a sign of how much she loved me. But when one of the psychiatrists at last agreed to see me, when my mother heaved that sigh of relief and called my father to come home at once, I refused to walk to the car. And when between them my parents strong-armed me into it I hurled my shoes out the window, and when my parents hurled my shoes back in and drove me to the psychiatrist’s office, I lay across the back seat of the car and I cried, and I cried.

The psychiatrist was a kind middle-aged man with a voice like a children’s television host. Not an obvious kind of person to understand a fourteen-year-old girl, but he listened to me tell him the things that I had told the other experts and he told me that he was going to prescribe anti-depressants. And then I cried some more. Still with self-hatred, but also with something like relief: relief that this wasn’t just how I was. Relief to be told, to just begin to believe, that hating myself was not just the way that I was supposed to be, but an illness.

If you have never suffered from clinical depression you might be surprised that I stayed on the field hockey team. On the days when I did make it to school, which were about half of the days, I attended the practices, I got on the bus to be driven to the games, I played my ten minutes before the coach put me back on the bench because I was terrible at field hockey. But if you have been depressed, then you might not be surprised that I stayed on the field hockey team: my brain felt like hell  but my public face remained, for the most part, intact. Quitting the team would mean admitting what was wrong with me: I had a mental illness. I was mentally ill. I was crazy. The thought of anyone knowing this made me want to die in a different way from how I generally wanted to die.

My fear of humiliation may have been a sign that a small bit of me did still want to live.

Expending all of my aggression on myself meant that in hockey, I was a natural at defense. I played fullback, so that I could stand by the goal and defer to my more strident teammates, their swinging hooked wooden sticks and their substantial, immovable calves.

That’s my ball! my teammates would shout, and I’d shrug step out of their way, dainty and compliant, because the truth was that I didn’t really want to hit the ball at all. What I really did want was a crippling sports injury: one that would require some kind of lavish bandaging, or even a cast. Crutches, a wheelchair, an inpatient hospital stay. I wanted to sit on the sidelines at our games with my visible injury, a vision of martyrdom, and I wanted people to feel sorry for me.

Look at Jean, they would say. Isn’t she brave? Taking one for the team, and now sitting on the bench, a vision of martyrdom! We feel sorry for her.

I wanted this because when you are fourteen years old and you have severe clinical depression, no one outside of your family tells you that you that you are brave. No one tells you that they are sorry that you’re not well. No one congratulates you for staying alive every day that you do it. No one tells you that they hope you will feel better soon. None of these things happen because no one knows that you are very ill, because you don’t tell anyone, because you don’t want anyone to know that you are crazy. 

On the day when the girl who played left forward took a stick to the face, breaking her nose, I gathered around her with the other girls as she wept. We screamed sympathetic screams while the coach applied first aid and flagged down a parent to drive her to the emergency room. I watched the hot red blood gush out of my teammate’s face and stain her white jersey. I wished it was mine.

She should have been wearing safety glasses, my father said, when I told him what happened. She’s lucky she didn’t lose an eye.

My father only came to watch one of my field hockey games; he and my mother had both missed many days of work to look after me. They would not leave me home alone when I was at my worst, for a reason that neither of them ever stated, but which we all knew.

But he left the laboratory early one afternoon and drove to the field to watch me in the final game of the season. It was one of those sunny, crisp days made for apple-cheeked girls named Brittany, and as I laced up my cleats and put on my shinguards I felt for a moment as if I liked myself. I ran after the ball and I hit it a couple of times, good noisy thwacks, and my father cheered, took photos, did fond chuckles.

Afterwards, my father hugged me, and it was like we hadn’t spent three mornings the previous week screaming at each other; like he and my mother hadn’t had to beg me the night before to take my medication; like they weren’t trying every day to save my life. It was like I was a normal American teenage girl, playing field hockey in a kicky little miniskirt, the light of a late-October afternoon glinting golden in the lenses of her laboratory safety glasses.

We got into the car for the drive home.

So, said my father, that’s field hockey.

Yes, I said.

It’s kind of like golf while running, he said.

It is, I said. It’s kind of ridiculous.

It’s great that you tried it! my father said.

Thanks, Dad, I said.

I took antidepressants for 14 years. I never played field hockey again.

Jean Hannah Edelstein is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Berlin. You can find her website here.

Paintings by Morris Louis.

"Laughlines" - The Everywheres (mp3)

"Little Stone" - The Everywheres (mp3)

Thursday
Jun272013

In Which We Travel From One Bazaar To Another

Full Blast

by HAFSA ARAIN

1

I left a ten-day long stay in Turkey almost as soon as the protests had begun there. I traveled with a group of fellow graduate students and our Turkish-American hosts who had set up a series of informational meetings and tourist activities so that we could learn more about the country. On our boat ride on the Bosphorus, we saw bright red flares reach the sky. The morning earlier, on a bus ride to a mosque for the dawn prayers, we saw about a hundred young men chanting and waving the red Turkish flag. I saw no gun-toting men, no real indication that danger was ahead.

And yet, I told the others on the bus, “The Pakistani instinct in me is telling me to run and hide. To get away from protests – this is how people get killed.”

According to my parents, a large gathering of people for political demonstration will inevitably turn out violent. They have told me this on the phone as I made my way to Occupy Chicago demonstrations, as I rallied to save the job of a professor in college, even as we watched Obama’s election on television witnessing strangers hug one another in Grant Park.

It is something my parents always say with a little bit of shame in their voices. That we should come from a place like Pakistan – with all its corrupt politicians, bomb blasts, and rivalry with the bigger, richer India – and not from somewhere else. They have only ever wanted us to feel proud of where we came from.

2

My flight from Istanbul to Karachi was shorter than I had imagined it would feel. Out the window, I watched the blinking lights of Iranian cities flash as the sun set behind us. I left California a month and a half ago, eagerly making my way farther and farther east. Karachi is my last stop before I go back. It is the farthest east I have ever been.

It is also the city in which I was born. When we came back to visit Pakistan as children – with our full American accents – my parents drove us past our old apartment building in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. I saw from the car a shattered window pane on the top floor. I drove past it again, more recently. My cousin Sara, who is years older than me, pointed out the building to me from the road – the brown earth and the brown buildings sometimes blend into one. I looked at it but did not recognize anything. It has been nearly 23 years since we lived there.

“This one?” I pointed at the building next to it.

“Yeah, it was one of these. I think that one over there,” she said, “I remember when you guys used to live there. Your taya and taijan [uncle and aunt] lived just upstairs.”

I told her I wanted to take a picture the next time we drove past.

3

A computerized image of a drone flashes on the television as we flip through channels. We never rest on the bad news – we almost reel past it. I sometimes will myself to forget that it exists. I will myself in the way I did when I lived in Chicago – when I heard of dozens of murders happening just miles away from me, I would will myself to think of something else. My first week back in Pakistan, I thought of myself as cruel for attempting to forget the innocent lives lost. By my second week I had decided it was the only way to keep going.

4

Occasionally, I will see an advertisement on television for USAID’s educational facilities in Pakistan. I have not seen any public mention of programs like this in Pakistan any other time I have visited, even though they have existed for a long time. In the commercial, a brown man dressed in shalwar kameez escorts a young girl wearing a school uniform into a brightly lit classroom. The entire ad is in Urdu, emphasizing that the curriculum is all Pakistani. I have seen this advertisement appear on the news networks mostly, after mentions of drone attacks in the north or when a news anchor reports on Taliban activities.

5

I spend my days studying languages – Arabic and Urdu – with private tutors, and my evenings accompanying Sara to the various bazaars to buy fabric and appliques for her clothing business. She is often telling me to avoid the puddles of brown spit on the ground – stains from paan, sweet chewing tobacco – and placing brightly colored fabric against my skin to see how it would look on me. My sister is getting married in autumn, and Sara is making nearly all of my outfits. We travel from one bazaar to another, meeting with tailors and the men who will sew all of the beads by hand onto my outfits. In their little shops, I fan myself as I am measured. As a reward for our hard work, we eat street food in the car with the air conditioning on full blast.

As we wind through traffic on the streets, I look closely at the Urdu script on the buildings and medians. Since the reason I am in Pakistan to begin with is to learn to read and write Urdu, I attempt to take some pictures of the graffiti so that I can read it as practice later. I mostly end up with snapshots of the political signs that line the medians on the roads. Benazir Bhutto’s face is still everywhere. I saw a particularly large poster of her, her eyes glinting with a faraway look and her white dupatta draped loosely over her head. The last time I was in Pakistan, in December of 2007, she had been assassinated brutally during a political parade in Rawalpindi.

6

When a bomb goes off in Boston, the world is shaken up. I had stared at my laptop all day when it happened, asked all of my friends in the area if they were okay. The days that they had shut down the entire city, I was glued to my twitter feed, unable to accomplish any of the tasks I had meant to do that day.

When a bomb goes off in Quetta, a city on the border with Iran in Pakistan, and 12 young women on their way to university die tragically, no one looks, notices, or even cares.

“We are used to it,” we tell each other as much as we tell ourselves. What else are we to expect of the rest of the world?

Hafsa Arain is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She last wrote in these pages about the conversation. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"I Thought I Knew" - Alela Diane (mp3)

"Lost Land" - Alela Diane (mp3)

The new album from Alela Diane, About Farewell, was released on June 25th.