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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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Thursday
Mar142013

In Which We Sing Past A Window

In Unison

by SAMANTHA SCHUYLER

A car cries out from a place far away. Someone is leaning on the horn, squarely and securely, because the sound doesn’t let up for a full ten seconds. After the fourth second the air becomes strained, and faces lift in anticipation of something, or else in concern. Another car chimes in; it has become a chorus. The sound approaches, growing louder, until the two sing past the window: They have merged into one strained, long note. 

I am in a public place and so I look to my fellow man to be assured that I am not the only one whose body lit up at the sound. I am coiled and taut, but I do not want to be that way alone. As it turns out, people lost interest quickly. I am cooling my coffee with my hands. People are industrious and quiet; they pick at pastries and slowly stir drinks both hot and cold. Outside, I can still hear the sound, and my whole body is ready for a collision, a disaster. There is nothing. The sound fades away. I stir my coffee; I contemplate a scone. 
  
+

I had a panic attack the other day. I do not know where it came from. Out of nowhere, I guess. From what I gather, nowhere is an unpleasant place. Generally nothing wants to stick around for long. So I can sympathize with the attack, which had hurtled out of this place, nowhere, and into my synapses. 

When it came, and it hit me, the sensation was physical. I conceived of it as an oncoming train (inevitable, thundering) and myself as something caught in the tracks (trapped, flailing). We wrestled very briefly, but the attack won, settled somewhere behind my respiratory system, and squeezed. My lungs struggled to catch up and siphon its quota of oxygen into my blood; I began to make the sounds of a beached whale.

I stayed up to nurse the attack because we were in this together, the panic attack and I. Nowhere, I realized, must be a terribly lonely place. I laid on my side and curled around the feeling in a way that appeared fetal, embryonic. I wondered briefly if I was coaxing it away or nurturing it closer simply by paying attention to it, like a stray animal. Through the distraction a singular thought made itself very clear to me: The last thing in the world that I wanted was for the feeling to stay. A secondary thought followed: Will it be leaving?  

I closed my eyes and imagined myself floating in dark water, as if this would help. The water spread out infinitely and was difficult to separate from the sky. Being caught in a space that was endless on all sides was overwhelming, and I gave up immediately. But each time I closed my eyes the image appeared again, persistent in its complete neutrality. I wanted to be very far away from endless space, where nothing existed that was immediate or concrete, but if I tried to physically calm myself in what I assumed was a meditative and relaxed pose then there it was again. In fact, the immediacy of such a space thrilled the panic attack. In its excitement it enthusiastically sent a series of alarms up my spine, to which I responded by making fists that pressed five red half-moons into each of my palms.  

I wanted the attack and I to have an agreement that would be binding and secure: I would let it run its course on the condition that it would eventually go away.  I concentrated deeply on these terms. The panic attack responded by flicking a nearby cluster of neurons, and my whole sympathetic nervous system lit up like a pin ball machine.

+

Sometimes Florida weather is hard to bear in a way that the northerner would find insufferable. The warmth is unchanging; the sand is too powdery and fine; the sky is unnervingly blue. The sky, when it is clear and without clouds, is far too blue. Without any object — cloud, plane, tree — to create a point of reference it seems to be without end. It is Lynchian in its saturation, a caricature of real sky. In a way, it is reminiscent of another sky, dim and starless, indistinct from an expanse of dark water.  

Today I step outside into what appears to be a prototypical Florida afternoon, crowned by a layer of swampy heat. The pavement is white and glinting from the sun, oppressively present; immediately my skin acquires a lacquered sheen. I’m getting into the car with friends.  

David rubs his head. It’s been recently shaved, and he will absently touch his new downy skull as though to savor the feeling. He slides behind the wheel while Annie and I take up the rest of the car, where the inside is so hot it hurts to move. His hand plies through his prickly short hair while he recounts to us what a few mutual friends saw at a party last night.  

“So this girl — no one knows who she was — just falls on her face. It’s like 3 a.m., right on the pavement.” He pauses, sliding into midday traffic. “I mean, that’s what they think happened, at least.” 

I can only see the side of Annie’s face from the back, where I stretch my legs across the two empty seats. She appears concerned; her glasses wiggle as she adjusts them.  

“They think? Did they see it happen?” she asks. 

“Well they just found her. Sitting in a chair on the porch. Her two front teeth — gone.” David removes a hand from the wheel to gesture to his own face, miming blood running from two holes in his mouth. Annie and I make a noise of disbelief in unison. 

“She was holding the teeth in her hand. People kept asking her if she was okay, if she needed to go somewhere. She just kept holding the teeth in her hand, totally calm. Knocked right out. She only would say that she fell.” 

Maybe it is the sun, but the image is visceral and nauseating. My hand is outstretched on my knee, and in it are two teeth, perfectly white, larger than I expected. I am parallel to the backs of the seats, leaning against the door, so all I can see is the image framed by the window: hot white pavement and unobstructed, infinite sky. Where I was once distantly sorry for the stranger I am now fully engrossed. The investment feels harsh and sour in my throat. It occurs to me that I feel the impulse to cry; the sun presses in on all sides; I feel inescapable contact with it and the car is lit up too bright to bear. If I shut my eyes the backs of my lids are red, lit by dizzying speckles of white.  

“I’m glad we weren’t there to see that. It’s good that we left early,” Annie points out. Her voice is tangible and firm; I sense the feeling loosen and slide off. In my relief I can’t quite slow my heartbeat, but press my hand to my chest anyway.  

“I need water.” I say. 

“We’re here,” says David, setting the car in park.

+

The only other time I have ever had a panic attack was in a plane. I knew going into the flight I’d be vaguely terrified the whole ride, but I outdid my expectations. I sat next to an old woman with gray hair — hard and shiny like a helmet — reading a religious text. I found this ominous, but that was normal. As usual, I looked down hard at the book in my hands as we lifted off and my stomach collapsed into itself. 

Once the plane was level, disorienting and incomprehensible dings sounded throughout the cabin, which were not acknowledged. This, too, was normal. As we cruised in a cloud of white noise, I ventured a peek out of the window. For the second time my stomach made itself as small as possible: I could see all the way down. Before we had climbed — or maybe this was after, I can’t remember — the pilot had mentioned the day was cloudless and clear. Great flying weather. Staring through the window, my whole body became fixed into place, my muscles frozen tense and coiled. I was gripping the arm rests with such force the lady beside me glanced up from her book and over her bifocals.  

Usually when flying I can eventually handle looking outside. The clouds give a false sense of perspective — I can trick my brain into believing that they are the ground, whipped topping earth. Or the floor of heaven, which is my more truthful and childish mental image. But this time I had nothing with which to trick my brain, and it short-circuited. I was frozen in terror. The sucking shriek of the plane fed my anxiety, which had become a feedback loop of death and a very specific freak accident. I felt more convinced of my own doom than ever before; the theoretical horror was real and tangible. I refused to move any part of my body, as though any slight disruption would rock the entire plane and send us spiraling back down to Earth.  

I sat in this way for the three hour flight, my eyes trained out the port hole, trying to think about absolutely nothing, physically and cognitively trapped. I woke up the next day and all of my muscles ached.

+

It took a little over an hour, but the attack went away. I knew because I was finally able to close my eyes and feel comforted by the nothing there. My breathing became inaudible; I was once again fixed and oriented in time and space.   

The relief came from knowing the feeling was not going to last forever. It had ended itself by falling away, back to where it came or onward to occupy itself with someone else. But I do not think that is true, that once it expires the feeling is gone. The anxiety which was so palpable and tormenting was a crystallized form of something that always exists. The world is always a scary and bewildering place, that is a constant. What is variable is our ability to deal with it. Or, more likely, ignore it.  

What I would like to know — and what I do not know the answer to — is what manipulates the variable.  

Outside of the coffee shop it begins to rain. The sound of police sirens is distant, and then searing in its closeness. Pulsing red and blue lights flash by the window; the sky is blurred and gray and swimming with clouds. One head glances up to catch it go. And outside the room where I lay, feeling the absence of the attack as emptiness, it begins to rain as well. The sound, a lulling hush, always puts me to sleep, and I find that I can. I do not know what pushes anxiety to the corner of a person’s consciousness. I don’t know what makes it bearable. It could be inherited, or learned; it might be a temperament, or a behavior. Parsing this matters less as I sink slowly out of consciousness. Tomorrow I will hear the sound of a person leaning hard on their horn. I will look up. A feeling will approach on the outskirts of my brain and pick up a scent. It will become intent. Grow disinterested. Look onward, lope away.

Samantha Schuyler is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Gainesville. You can find her website here and her twitter here.

"Jour de Chance" - Maissiat (mp3)

"Les Fins de Nuit" - Maissiat (mp3)

 

Wednesday
Mar132013

In Which If We Close Our Eyes Maybe They Can't See Us

Greater Power

by NATHAN JOLLY

Recently I have been coming up with different ways for Steve to die. The first sees him wander, drunk on some overpriced local beer, in front of an ambulance. It is instant and public, voyeurs spilling onto the sidewalk, a few strangers crying from the terrible, sudden shock of it all. The second involves him crumpling his car into a power line, coming in from the west side of the city on a wet night. All the deaths involve traffic accidents: this form of death being both realistic and instant. I have always been aware that at any moment a car could come veering over the sidewalk and engulf me, so this completely reasonable fear entered into all my scenarios. I bet it doesn’t hurt a bit; you would pass out the minute you heard yourself scraping across the road. One flash and you are erased.

Steve is Penelope’s lumbering, hulking, philandering [citation pending] boyfriend. A mere footnote in her dating life prior to her seeing through the ruse. He enters my life far too often; first as a leech attached to Penelope at the traffic lights near King Street  which threw me to the extent that I literally hid behind a poster pole for a minute like the little cartoon character that I feel like whenever he is around  then in odd, impossible places, sneaking up on me like a phantom: in the line at the post office, standing on the corner outside Coopers (where fantasy death number one is set in my head; the blocking getting more and more precise as time goes on), even in a fucking pet store! It is always unsettling, like being caught readjusting yourself, and I am always hyperaware of how robotic my moments are during these brief windows when I can feel his eyes burning through my body, mockingly. He doesn’t know I exist. I know this. I imagine Penelope loosely refers to hanging out with ‘friends’ when she arranges to meet me; the illicit thrill I get from the knowledge that she keeps me hidden, and the implied meaning behind this, makes me feel like I have a greater level of power than I do on paper.

Penelope was different from all the other girls. For one, I didn't need to try. She was a whirlwind of non-sequiturs, questions to which she was interested in finding the answers, witty, straight-faced jokes and a superb stream of pop culture references that made me fall in love with her almost instantly. Not real love, mind  rather, a form of giddy infatuation that had me marching her down the aisle in my head and learning how to cook to impress her. And of course, she had a boyfriend, a fact she dropped in at the start of every conversation as a brief disclaimer, before launching into a flirtatious diatribe that made me wish terrible things: that Steve would cheat on her, grab her wrist too hard one evening when she went to walk away from him after some fight that started because he was insensitive and she was “mouthy”. She was all porcelain and lace, and I bet she easily bruises when he pushes her against the door.

+

Sydney is secretly aware it is the cultural center of the world and that once everyone else catches on, this era will be inundated with forensic journalists combing for revisionist rubbish until everything is stripped to its basic elements. Style matters, looks matter, but documenting it all matters more. Street press matters. Photographs matter. Records matter. We are kids at bars: California in the ‘50s, London in ’66, New York in ’77 – only geography gracelessly sloshed us half a world away. Sydney is full of girls who hide their self-consciousness in a multitude of ways: by brash heels and red lips; by jokes and sass; by miniskirts and Cosby sweaters. But sometimes the guards go to sleep, and the comments ring too true. I must admit I am drawn to these scared/swaggering Sydney girls, because they are always the most interesting.

Charlotte was one of these. Stripped to the bone within a week of knowing her, she had told me all her secrets, through cryptic asides, through her record collection, through her refusal to let me watch her get dressed after we first slept together, and through a number of other day-to-day rituals and comments that would go unnoticed by anybody who wasn't momentarily entranced by her. But as we slid out of courtship (if you call it courtship, life’s like a Bronte novel, you see?) and into an easy friendship I realized I was collecting postcards of Charlotte rather than actually relishing spending any real romantic time with her. Charlotte’s appeal was better understood in shoebox-photos of her dressed like a junkie Mickey Mouse Club kid; in videos of us at the pub waiting in the front room for the terrible bands to stop playing in the back room; in that stoned conversation we taped on my Dictaphone one evening in a townhouse that had never seen bed frames. Charlotte always dressed up in case somebody took her photo.

+

When me and Penelope collide on evenings like this, I feel that this is romance as it is meant to be played out. Not a chance meeting in a group of friends, where boredom and proximity pairs people off in a male, female, male, female march, but rather a table, a bottle of wine (each) and the knowledge that whatever twisted web we have weaved ourselves into with other lovers  who we love because we have woken up to find another year has passed and the clock now says this is a long-term, Serious Relationship with joint invitations, the meeting of mothers, and the melding of social groups until it all becomes such a blur that you can't even think of climbing out of without feeing the weight of it all  this here, with a table and a jukebox and a bottle of wine (each), is how things are meant to be, and how things Are Right Now. All the rest is just a full-time distraction, the formalities and paperwork of life, the boxes that need to be ticked in order to shuffle through your twenties.

Now is the age where you are meant to get serious about things; even if the ducks aren't all in a row, there is a loud ticking that can quite easily accent the sound of slowly-closing doors which, up until you actually thought about it, seemed wide open. All these things run through my mind, and yet, I have never actually met Steve, the subject of her hasty disclaimer (this time tossed into a rudimentary sentence surrounded by a jumble of jokes and nonsense), never seen their interplay. I don’t exist in his world. He is a major character in mine. I try hard not to watch her lips as she speaks, as I am aware this is distracting. Luckily she is leaning far too close to notice.

We shared a seat in a crowded bar one evening. I was seeing “a girl named Charlotte” as I referred to her to my friends in the months before she had become intrinsically linked to each of them. She wasn’t out the evening I first meet Penelope, because by this stage it had become apparent that we’d rather watch Wonder Years in bed than do anything else. We were sliding out of a warm drug into a warm hug. So I was out with my friends and open to any possibility  in retrospect at least. I was seated a good meter or two from Penelope at first, but as our respective friends bordered the table, starting at each end and slowly marching closer as others came in off the street, we were soon the intimately-squashed meeting point, where the forest meets the sea. From that moment on, our friends were mere auxiliary brackets, adding to the buzz, buzz, buzz of voices and glasses, the background din to Penelope’s thousand-mile-an-hour dialogue and my gin-soaked smile and attempt to keep afloat.

I love that feeling that comes when you sense you are hurtling unchecked towards someone or something. Running to something, as opposed to away from it. I had never scrambled to keep up before; I usually edit the obscurities and extremities out of most conversations, a thesaurus turning over and over in my brain, a red pen sub-editing my thoughts until I realise I am limboing too low and hop over the bar, burn the winners sash and catch a late night bus home, alone. A giddy rush or a tragic crush  it’s all the same. Falling for someone can be such a relief, despite the mess that floats around it. If we close our eyes, maybe they can’t see us.

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about a box without a bow. He tumbls here and twitters here.

Images by Andrew Stevovich.

"The Radio" - Pamela Hute (mp3)

"Running Away" - Pamela Hute (mp3)

Tuesday
Mar122013

In Which We Are Slumped On The Couch By Ourselves

Come On In

by VICTORIA HETHERINGTON

“You’re sort of breaking up, just  hold on. So  ah  so you’re theorizing that social conformity and transgression exists in mice

“Not mice with this one, we’re using actual people now. Just really little ones. Babies, darling. OK, the bus just came

“Hey sorry, I didn’t mean to

“I’m not frustrated with you 

“I know, hey, I’ve been a little short with you too. It’s just I’m pretty hungover.”

“Oh, right. How’d the party go?”

“Wild  I got too drunk. Like to the point where you lean back and brood. People could tell, because nobody mentioned you, or the States even.”

I had brought your umbrella to the party, and gripped it all night. I kept shrinking away from mirrors, remembering when once I’d caught you glance in a mirror as I joked and you laughed, flashing your teeth at your reflection, dazzled by your own performance of self.

“Your last letter. The paper was different.”

“Stolen from the Xerox machine, but I borrowed my coworkers’ nicest pen for it. You flattered?”

Today I rush through my morning work, carving out some time to close my office door to write today’s letter, arranging my day around you. Since you’re studying really elevated things I remember all the academic stuff we’ve talked about and try mentioning them in your letters:

I remember when we discussed our earliest ancestors triumphing over Neanderthals  our mysterious set of advances that devastated & extinguished them, and which almost certainly centered around the birth of human consciousness.

I pause, watch my coworkers bare their teeth at one another.

The birth of articulate selfhood and its barrier between self & everything else marked our separation from animals, as documented  (you argued)  through lively painted animals that still dance along thousands of cave walls in France. For thirty thousand years, we kept fervently going, painting animals over & over. You thought it was amazing, these sustained and collective meditations, a new intermediary between life & death.

Yash, knuckle-cracking and leaning against my door, says how about this rain, and I’m like ho yeah, and then rotate the pen in my fingers, pointedly.

But life & death are all that’s real, & animals cannot contemplate, they only embody. So now, darling, I find it terribly sad & romantic: tens of thousands of years of mourning an inexplicable loss which came into being as soon as it was understood.

It’s no fun talking about consciousness when the truth of my entire life is that, since you left, I think about you, write to you, gchat you, wait to call you, and do almost nothing else. I wake up feeling the rhythm of the day’s letters; before I know the sentences semantically, I see the shapes of them, the undulations of the words. Soft words with thick middles, soft sounds and few consonants, perfect for you. I could whisper them all in shhs, water-speak, to you, and it’d be primal as sleeping.

Yash comes by again, watches me lick the envelope, then asks if I’m into grabbing dinner or whatever  Where was I? Where are you?  and as I’m getting my coat on, folded in a waterproof flap of your umbrella, I find a scrap with your writing  121 Rideau. Where did that come from? You know what I did? I Google-mapped it and went there.

Leaving the office and shucking my sweat-lined coat, I post one more letter. I open your umbrella and pass a bright yellow and orange hot dog stand, its steel sides gleaming with rain. The man inside darts glances both ways, then lifts a cigarette from below the counter and sucks deep, then exhales thick, white smoke  he looks at me and I jump. On the bus I squeeze past bodies that are limp with staring, and I grip a hot infected bar as the windows blaze with sunset, and people flash their white necks, turning their faces around to meet an Every Thing Must Go sign – and nothing can be done. And as empty as hours and hours can be, the buses come and come, and weeks can pass this way.

You know who I found at 121 Rideau, of course. He leans against the doorframe like Yash did, only he’s big and long, built like a lion. Auditions are over, we’ve already found our Olivia, he says, and I glimpse, taped on the banister behind him, a grubby piece of paper with All Wounds & a Quiet Place: Auditions This Way PLEASE & THANKYOU block-lettered in red.

“No, I’m Victoria,” I say. “Uh, Chris’s girlfriend?”

He reads my face and I read his, and I see kindness there. Victoria, of course  great to finally meet you. Come on in. We sit out back on a ratty couch covered in rattier blankets in the air with its trace of frost and its persistent twilight and graceful naked trees spread behind us, still sparsely decorated with brown leaves. He rolls a joint one-handedly and we get high all evening, all night, with a revolving cast of his friends, roommates, and clients (he sells out of his tiny bedroom with a dirty white desk packed with illicit items), plugging their phones into a big, ashtray-covered speaker for music. “What do you think,” his roommate muffles, pinching a new joint in his lips, “it’ll be like to remember websites like places?” Everyone huhs and he lights the joint, his downturned profile sticking out from his folded-up coat.

Another roommate shows us different kinds of repurposed tanks on his iPad and I think, I want to leave evidence of my presence like you do with the mice, the babies, and like these guys do too; I want to have forever the unspooling, quick-melting specificity of today. Eventually it’s almost 2 a.m., and most of his friends and clients have left; we’re slumped on the couch by ourselves. He leans in to kiss me but then hesitates, and decides against it  melancholy has a smell. I don’t mind. I know I’m welcome to huddle here forever with these grown-up kids, resisting the tides of ambiguous change that are, I am realizing, an unacknowledged part of adult life.

Victoria Hetherington is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Toronto. She last wrote in these pages about doing it over the birdbathYou can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Paintings by Ian Hartshorne.

"Angel, Please" - Ra Ra Riot (mp3)

"That Much" - Ra Ra Riot (mp3