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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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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In Which We Award Elvis Presley A Black Belt

Dr. John Carpenter


Thanks to Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen's supremely detailed 1999 book, Elvis, Day by Day, the trivial details of Elvis Presley's life are open and accessible to any inquiring fan. Guralnick and Jorgensen used letters, receipts and financial records to tell Elvis' story. The end wasn't maybe the greatest portion of the man's life.

September 28th, 1970

Someone calls up Elvis' road manager and demands $50,000 to reveal the name of the assassin who will kill Elvis during his Saturday evening show.

December 20th, 1970

When his father and his wife Priscilla confront him about his overspending, Elvis freaks out and hops a plane to Washington D.C. He fails in a bid to meet up with J. Edgar Hoover, but he does get facetime with President Nixon. The two like each other immediately.

March 1st, 1971

A surveillance system is installed at Graceland. Elvis places the four monitors next to his television.

September 22nd, 1971

Elvis takes in a movie in his private theater almost every night.

February 23rd, 1972

Over the last year he has grown increasingly distant from his wife. She lets him know she is hooking up with karate champion Mike Stone. In response, Elvis has someone award him a fifth degree black belt.

May 7th, 1972

Elvis heads to Los Angeles, flying on the ticket of one "Dr. John Carpenter." By the end of July Elvis and Priscilla are legally separated.

September 31th, 1973

Elvis picks up the newly crowned Miss Tennessee in Los Angeles, brings her to Las Vegas. While she is out shopping he invites Cybill Shepherd over.

February 2nd, 1973

Elvis presents Muhammed Ali with one of his robes. Ali later reflects, "I felt sorry for Elvis because he didn't enjoy life the way he should. He stayed indoors all the time. I told him he should go out and see people."

February 18th, 1973

Men rush the stage during Elvis' midnight Las Vegas show. Elvis punches one of them in the face. Afterwards, he informs the audience that, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I didn't break his goddamned neck is what I'm sorry about."

May 27th, 1974

The Jackson Five appear at the Sahara. Elvis has two of his people take his daughter Lisa Marie to the show.

August 29th, 1974

Elvis awards karate certificates to every member of his band.

November 19th, 1974

The National Enquirer runs a headline "Elvis at 40 - Paunchy, Depressed, and Living in Fear." By next year Elvis will be hospitalized for shortness of breath. He and Linda spent most of the time in the hospital watching the nursery over closed-circuit television. He spends three weeks there, and when Linda is not around he passes the hours by watching Monty Python.

July 22nd, 1975

Elvis shoots his doctor in the chest, off a ricochet, while waiving around a handgun in the examination room. Later, he forks over $200,000 without interest for the construction of Dr. Nick's new home.

with Ginger Alden

August 28th, 1976

A review of Elvis' show at The Summit in Houston reads like this: "The show was a depressingly incoherent, amateurish mess served up by a bloated, stumbling and mumbling figure who didn't act like 'The King' of anything, least of all rock 'n' roll."

December 21st, 1976

In San Francisco, Elvis tries to get Linda Thompson to leave for Memphis by telling her she looks "worn out." He keeps his other squeeze, Ginger Alden, in a private room until he persuades Linda to take a flight out of town. After she does, they never see each other again.

August 16th, 1977

Elvis dies in a pool of his own vomit.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find the first part of this series here. She last wrote in these pages about Dorothea Lange.

"An American Trilogy" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

"The Girl Of My Best Friend" - Elvis Presley (mp3)

The Best of Ellen Copperfield on This Recording

Dorothea Lange's Failed Marriage

Sex Life Of Marlon Brando

The Onset Of The Western Canon

Entitled To Madonna's Opinion

The Kurt Cobain Experience Unfolds

Barbra Streisand Grows Up In Flatbush

A Sneaking Suspicion of Literature

Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse

Prefer To Be Simone de Beauvoir

The Marriage of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra

Elongated Childhood of Jorge Luis Borges

Jokes At The Expense Of Tom Hanks

Which One Is The Gay?


In Which We Become A Mystery To Ourselves

I Sometimes Really Feel That Way


My first day teaching creative writing to middle schoolers, I walked into the room where my class would meet, normally a health classroom, and found a large piece of butcher paper taped to the blackboard. Written in teacher handwriting across the top of the paper was the question “WHAT IS UNINTENTIONAL INJURIES.” I was on my laptop, trying frantically to record all the examples of unintentional injuries that had resulted from the health class’ brainstorm (“to accidently drop a baby,” “committing suicide on accident,” “accidentl death”), when my group of eighth graders started trickling into the classroom.

There I was, strange adult, rapt by the results of a seventh grade health class activity and clearly taken off guard by their appearance in my classroom. The eighth graders didn’t laugh at me, didn’t even smile, only stared at me skeptically. I scrambled to put my computer back in my bag and stand at the front of the room like some sort of authority, but the damage was done — it is a particular kind of indignity to be regarded as freakish by a group of nerdy pre-teens, one of whom is actually named Anakin.

There was just no way to explain to them what I was doing. “Look at this thing,” I said, pointing to the butcher paper. “Isn’t it funny?” They only eyed me more dubiously. In my first act as their teacher, I had inadvertently revealed my strongest personal compulsion, which is to hoard verbal matter, overheard conversation, stray remarks, stray thoughts, notes, lists, e-mails, gchats, text messages, diaries, notebooks, any and every piece of paper on which something mysterious or funny is written.

For instance: I have in my pocket at this moment a note I don’t remember writing to myself that I found recently on my floor. It reads, “Landscape quote: O pardon me thou bleeding piece of Earth.” (Googling reveals this is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.) Also in my pocket is a note card where it says in my graduate thesis advisor’s handwriting, “Question / Is there a historical reason for the great number of rear/alley entrances/exits in Missoula bars?” Also: a stranger’s to-do list I found tucked in a book I ordered online; its only noteworthy item is “Return Cal’s pants!”

Why I keep these things, why I needed to document “What Is Unintentional Injuries,” why I write down any interesting group of words that I hear or see, even just phrases that materialize in my brain suddenly but insistently — it is impossible to account for this practice completely, even to myself. As Joan Didion writes in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook,” “The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”

The easy justification, the one Didion is referring to, is that these random words might some day make it into a piece of writing, and of course they might. But I can tell you this happens for me remarkably rarely: the sentences I treasure most as found artifacts do not transform gracefully to components of writing, either poetry or prose, that could be judged as traditionally “good.” For over a year I kept a file on my computer where I recorded my most emphatic thoughts, in an attempt to identify my mental refrains. I believed this file might become a useful reserve of poetic lines; instead it only serves to illustrate my incredibly vulnerable self-talk.

“Why do I keep forcing myself to think about this?” reads one item in the list. Another reads, “I have to not think about it.” “We have all learned to ignore it” and “It’s no one’s fault,” read others. There are pleas: “Don’t get some other girl.” “Don’t bring your girlfriend.” “Don’t kiss where I can see you.” And confessions: “I’m fairly obsessed with you.” “Sorry I’m so obsessed with you today.” But most of all there are just so, so, so many feelings: “I sometimes really feel that way.” “I am a happy person always.” “I’m always sad, but it’s okay.” “Am I sad or happy?” “I am sad or happy.” “I have no feelings.” “I’m a thing, I’m a feeling.” “I’m a thing.”

Didion also mostly records cryptic phrases, but she relates the strange items that she writes in her notebook as guideposts to memories, the one detail needed to evoke an entire place, time, and mood. The phrase “So what’s new in the whiskey business” written in Didion’s notebook calls to her mind a blonde woman conversing with two fat men by the swimming pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel — an intact context exists in her memory. “'So what’s new in the whiskey business?'” Didion writes. “What could that possibly mean to you?” But for me it is exactly the lost significance, the sentiment that is not meaningless but only unmoored from its origins, that appeals to me about this kind of collecting.

I suppose this can’t be separated from my relationship to poetry: that I love the way that poetry makes words strange and frees everyday speech from its everyday uses. Any carefully written thing can be loved for the beauty and ingenuity of its language, but it is poetry’s main selling point that we may enjoy it at the level of the poem, the stanza, the sentence, the line, the word, the syllable. And much of contemporary poetry is explicitly about divorcing words from their contexts, evoking emotion without a discernible story. So while the sentences I write down rarely become poetry, I have noticed that it is often other people who love poetry who I see also grabbing their notebooks after hearing a startling turn of phrase.

And it is often these same poetry lovers who produce fodder for notebooks: my experience in grad school for poetry was remarkable for the incredible sentences I heard and read delivered offhand. I have recorded in old class notes countless statements like, “Pennies are probably our most happy coins,” “‘I don't want to think about that’ is what my sisters say,” and “Debra says squirrels smell like mice with rotten teeth.” My colleagues annotated my work with comments like “Sexy connotations!” and “I read your movements as ‘begat, begat, begat’ and also ‘subsumes, subsumes.’” Taken in context, none of these remarks are as odd as they seem written here; that’s why it’s so important for me to remove the context, so I can delight in them.

My collecting is not only about enjoying language in its mystery but also becoming a mystery to myself. I often write things on my cell phone’s Notepad feature late at night, when I am half-asleep or drunk, that I puzzle over in the morning.  There are two identical entries that say, “Rom com: woman lives in vegas and is a court reporter.” Another: “Hersheys kisses mutant chocolate chip something.” One of the things I am most grateful for in life is to find traces of my own former thought processes and feelings that I could not possibly replicate or inhabit again. I read “I’m fairly obsessed with you” written in the file of my thoughts and I have no idea whom I was addressing.

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget,” Didion writes. “We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” She ignores that to forget can be a supreme grace.  I treasure all of the diaries I kept when I was a child precisely because of the distance I feel from the girl who wrote them. Seventh grade Alice: “It’s totally cool because it’s like we’ve moved on to another level of flirting.” Eighth grade Alice: “You know I’ve been thinking way deep things lately.” First grade Alice: “Dear Alice, I don’t know. Love, Alice.”

I have always been a person who is “sensitive,” and I take too long to get over everything. Reading old journals and notebooks, I am reminded that feelings are, in their essence, immediate, and they pass over us like shadows. All the words I collect are artifacts of sentiments that do not exist and could not even be conceived of again — ideas that once desperately needed to be expressed disappear, leaving husks of language that I save, I care for.

Alice Bolin is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Missoula. She last wrote in these pages about baby giraffes.You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Images by Yayoi Kusama.

"Met Your Match" - Brendan Benson (mp3)

"Thru The Ceiling" - Brendan Benson (mp3)

The new album from Brendan Benson, What Kind Of World, was released on April 21st.


In Which We Are Knocked Out Completely

You can enjoy the Saturday fiction archive here at your own leisure.



He woke with the faintest memory of a good time, the half-addled recollection of something pleasant in the ether. Beside the bed were two comely ovals, and when he scraped his fingernail against them not even the faintest trace lodged underneath. His sigh of relief that they were likely potent elongated his desire for the morning. Light was only beginning to drift through the curtains.

She said, "Do you think it's valid if I just ask her to tell me what happened?"

No glass of water was in evidence, so the first pill slipped dry down his throat, lodging briefly in the deep south of his esophagus before absorbing directly into his cerebrum.

She said, "I don't want it to remain a mystery. If I ask -" she had been wearing sandals (to bed?) and one of them dangled from the end of her foot - "later it will be obvious, so evident that's it's something I had been thinking about for awhile."

He turned to her and nodded and noticed a Sprite hovering on a guitar case. He did not know she played, but he should have known, really, so he did not want to say, but found himself saying, "You play the guitar?" He walked over to the Sprite and washed down the second pill with it. What kind of name was that, Sprite. If an object has the identical name as something else...there should ideally be a law, that no two things could have the same name.

She said, "My ex-boyfriend did. He gave me the case to keep my trombone in." She laughed, but he was not entirely sure if that was a joke or if she actually played the trombone. "She walked in when we were, you know. It was so awkward."

Her hair was bright blonde, sandy at the ends. It might have been intentional. The thought of the style as so calculatedly haphazard should have roused something in him, so he waited to feel it.

She said, "She doesn't care for other people's feelings. She regards pity as a weakness. Not pity, empathy."

She said, "She'll be here any minute. You have to help me figure out what to say." She took the can from him and sipped on it, at first hesitantly, but then greedily. He felt he better understood why things were called what they were.

She said, "If I speak to her. On occasion I find myself talking to her as if she's a child. Not just any child that you might correct for eating something she shouldn't, or taking something that did not belong to her, but the way you might reprimand your own child for doing so."

He said, "I would never just give a kid sugar." She nodded sympathetically. He followed this up by saying, "The only way to raise one of them is in isolation. That way they have nothing at all to compare their lives to."

There was a commotion outside in the street, and while his attention was thus directed, she sat up in bed and wrapped her legs around his arm. He mock-pounced on her and tasted the leftover Sprite, shuddering inwardly. It was like sampling himself. Her limbs were hairer than he could have imagined.

She said, "She's never had a roommate before. I think people learn, given time. They can improve. She would have a chance."

He ran his tongue along her neck. There was the faint residual sweetness from the exertion of sleep, but it possessed no odor, no scent. If all secretions were voluntary, he would have sought no other, and truth be told, preferred it as a method of communication. There was no mistaking it. Then again, perhaps all her secretions were by choice, or simply guided by an external force beyond his capacity to understand.

In his head arose that light burning sensation, and then another, more intellectual pleasure at its recognition, knowing for sure he had not merely swallowed someone's leftover rejected vitamins.

She said, "I just hate when there are all these unsaid ghosts. Its drive me insane to know I have to hold back. I don't know if that's something I'm capable of."

"You've done it before," he said. She laughed lightly at first, and then giggles took over like a seizure. It was all he could do to keep her in his arms.

She said, "She's been seeing a therapist. When she first told me, I thought, great...well I didn't just think that, I told her that was wonderful. And she said I showed too much emotion in my reaction." He nodded. "Because this wasn't an eventuality to be happy about, is what she told me."

"Imagine that," he said, pressing himself against her. "I could listen to you talk like this for hours." With his foot he slid the guitar case under the bed. The mere touch of it brought intense pleasure, like a discrete, painful scrape on the underside of his testicles. As suddenly he drifted out of his reverie. He said, "What you ought to do is, say what you need to say. Don't make it sound like an apology."


"People hate being apologized to. Inside every person," he said, pressing on his rear tooth with his tongue in misguided curiosity about what excitement it might bring, "is this mostly dormant but everpresent sense they are completely in the wrong. It's what separates us from the animals." He coughed. "Make it sound like a compliment." She asked who had told him this. Then she said she thought she heard voices, and a doorbell rang, the sound settling in the air.

When he opened the door standing before him was a salty, short man between the age of 17 and 21, featuring a beggar's haircut. Raindrops issued from his forehead. In the individual's left hand was a vase, probably not a nice one if the accompanying clothes were any evidence. The idea of matching everything to the particular tenor of a vase, of letting things revolve entirely around a craft to hold flowers, struck him as an eminently desirable approach.

"Who are you?" the figure said.

"Terence," he replied. He felt it would unwise to give his real name.

"Okay Terence, is Marla there?"

"Is she about 5'5" with blonde hair and a tattoo of a eucharist?"

"No," the figure said. Terence stepped wide of the door and said, "Marla will be here soon. I invite you to wait indoors. I understand it's raining."

The girl in the apartment - Marla's roommate, he had concluded - took one look at this vase-bearing phenomenon and shrieked, "Where the fuck is Marla, Greg?", picked up a small blanket, and stomped into the bathroom. Greg at first moved as if to follow her but instead he sheepishly set the vase on a coffee table shaped like a machete.

"Greg," Terence said, "you may be having a rough morning. I don't know this for a fact."

Greg grunted.

"Do you have any cigarettes?" Terence asked. Greg just looked at him. Terence fished in the pocket of a woman's robe. "Here. You may require it more urgently than I do."

"I don't take x," Greg said.

"It's 8:30 on a Sunday and I'm appalled by your insinuation. Happiness, you will eventually decide, is the least of your desires. Does that hurt?" Greg's left ear, he had noticed, featured a small silver hoop that looked borderline infected.

"It's not what it looks like," Greg said, accepted the pill and reached into his jacket pocket for what Terence hoped very much was not a weapon. It was a joint. They both swallowed.

The door to the apartment opened and in walked Marla. Had he seen her in the flesh before he would surely have paid more attention to the talk. It made a great deal of sense in retrospect. Her very skin shone, her brunette hair lingered at her hips, a magnificent ballpoint pen extruded from her mouth. People were always talking fervently about what they desired most. As soon as she saw the intimate gathering in her living room, Marla grabbed the vase. Greg opened his mouth, saying, "I was waiting" - but this was all he said. Marla let the vase fly right toward his face. It struck Greg directly on his right temple. Terence was shocked it did not knock the man out completely, but he simply writhed around on the ground like a phantom was inhabiting his body, and sobbed. The girl with the tattoo of the eucharist came out of the bathroom, and seeing what had happened, the two women hugged and touched the tips of their fingers together, as if they had newly discovered a way of conducting electricity. He placed the joint on the table, dragged the guitar case from under the bed, and let himself out.

Andrew Davis is a writer living in New York.

"Let Her Go" - Eyas (mp3)

"Unfold In Dreams" - Eyas (mp3)

The new album from Eyas is entiteld It Will Become, and it was released on March 20th.