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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
Feb262013

In Which Fox’s Grandmother Shows Us Her Beads  

They're Beautiful

by ARIANNE WACK

When I was 22 years old I fell in love for the third time. Her name was Lucy and she was just the thing I never knew I wanted. My collegiate lesbian fling went wrong somewhere in the first three hours, when I began to love her in that deeply fascinated but grounding kind of way. She asked, Did I want to carve a pumpkin? We roasted the seeds and sat on her stoop until the dark hours turned pale. She was gentle and cautious and nudged something latent inside me until it sat on my sleeve. I felt a violent tug — on my heart, yes — but on my belly button, too. I felt fully qualified to love this person.

It took me about five months before I really started tasting the residue of our last conversation. She had been sick and depressed, taking a lot of medications without the talk therapy. I gave her diatribes on how she should eat healthier, not check her phone first thing in the morning, how she should breathe deeper longer better. She stared at me with wet and blank eyes and said all she really wanted was for me to say it would be OK.

People can only give advice in relation to what they know.

After five years, I was unable to identify Lucy by any of her characteristics. She became a knot of emotions — a bundle that lived and breathed memories, a piece of me living somewhere else, and I am still missing some of my parts.

+

I had known Fox for less than 24 hours when I went over to his grandmother’s house. It was one of those big pre-fab, central Florida homes. All cinderblock and linai and hardly any window. Everything was that minty pale color old people’s homes seem to take on as they edge closer to death. The kind of Easter egg hues that have been bleached by too much sun. There was an area rug in the living room, very thick and comfortable to walk on. We had taken off our shoes at the door. The rug was also mint green and had a border of soft pink and white rosemaling. The living room and kitchen were decorated with the porcelain and Murano glass knickknacks people collect on retirement vacations to Europe. The whole house was muffled, sounds and colors blurred at the edges like portraits of babies. Everything was vaguely wrinkled and smelled like talcum powder, the cheeks of old ladies. 

There were two couches; one was white leather and cracked grey along the edges where sweaty knee pits had rubbed up against it. The other couch looked like an heirloom. It had stout, clawed wooden legs with an uncomfortable cushion upholstered in the embroidered fabric of southern colonial furniture. It was the sort of European baroque knock-off you find in fancy nursing homes.

The first thing Fox’s grandmother wanted to know was if my friend and I were sisters. My friend Sara is tall and svelte. She models and has skin peppered with freckles and bright red hair. I am short and blonde, with Mediterranean hips and skin. Sara and I looked each other over, startled, to see if there was something we had missed in our six years of friendship. We were relieved to find each other just the same, and giggled out a “No.” 

I don’t remember what Fox’s grandmother’s name was. 

We were there because Fox had agreed to help his dad install a new TV. The TV was very large and boxy, a model from the 90’s, and was going into a guest room. It seemed unnecessary: the house was so quiet, so muted with age. No one else lived there.

Fox and his dad disappeared down the hallway with the TV, and his grandmother asked Would Sara or I like something to drink? Some Sprite? Coke? Water? I said No thank you, and Sara asked for water. Neither of us drink pop. But we each got a glass of Sprite with ice cubes. Sara and I sat on seperate couches, enjoying the air-conditioning and chatting affably about how we knew her grandson. (Sara had met Fox one summer when she worked at an all girls camp in Maine).

When the introductory conversation had reached its dead end, Fox’s grandmother began asking us questions that weren’t really questions. They were sentences saddled with a puzzled look and a pause just long enough for Sara and I to shift uncomfortably in our seat. I grabbed for a few words I hoped would belie comprehension.

It was obvious she was excited about visitors. To have someone to talk to.

After a little while, Fox came out and said, “You should show them your beads, Grandma — They’ve got to see the beads.”

We got up and followed his grandmother down a carpeted hallway. I could see into the room the TV had been installed in. It had a guest bed and the kind of fold out tables used with TV dinners. The TV looked like a giant black stain in sea-foam haze. We turned a corner and I noticed his grandmother was wearing a white moo-moo. It had little pillies on it, like old sheets or vintage t-shirts get. The fabric was sheer from being washed too many times. It had a few holes and I could see she wasn’t wearing anything underneath it. She was thin and marked with sunspots and varicose veins. She had on white socks that crumpled around her ankles as she shuffled along the carpet. 

Her bedroom was full of the shell-shaped furniture that is stylish in Florida timeshares and furnished condos. Everything still that sun-bleached Easter egg color. She went to her closet and opened the doors. It was a walk-in the size of my bedroom in New York. She turned on the light and Sara and I blinked, dazzled by the glitter of thousands of colorful beads, hanging from the two rows of aluminum shelving that lined the walls.

Strings of beads cascaded down, some all the way to the floor. Her closet was lined with an impenetrable armor of plastic and semi-precious stones. It was draped with hundreds of dollars of beads and it had the effect of being in a sparkling Bedouin tent. All the necklaces were hung on circular shower hooks — about six to each hook — and there were at least 400 hooks. It was beautiful to run your hands through them and feel the weight of her work.

Sara and I were in shock. We stared at Fox and his grandmother and then back at each other. 

“How long did all this take?” — “They’re beautiful” — “This is incredible.” — “It’s like a dream.”

Fox’s grandmother smiled kindly and said, “You must take some! Choose any ones you like! I used to make them all the time! 20 years I was making beads!”

We ran our hands along the necklaces like they were prayer wheels, listening to the sound they made, like rain. We fingered through them. I felt like I was two-steps behind my actual self, not understanding what I was seeing while I was seeing it.

“That’s not even half of them,” Fox said, “There’s more in her dressers and in the other rooms.”

His grandmother started opening up all the drawers, it wasn’t clear where she kept any of her clothes, or if she had any other clothes besides the nightgown. A house that had seemed so big and empty was secretly sanctuary to an obsessive hobby. The drawers were tidy piles of necklaces. There were enough beads to fill a beach. Each dresser reminded me of a treasure chest: a pirate’s booty for a little girl playing make-believe.

I asked again, “How long did this take?”

“20 years,” she said.

And then Fox, loud enough for his grandmother to hear, “Like two.”

His grandmother didn’t correct him and she didn’t seem to notice his eulogy to her two years of necklace making. When she picked up the hobby, everyone began bringing her beads. From thrift stores or Michael’s, anywhere they found them. Neighbors and grandchildren brought her beads and she made more and more necklaces.

Two years of filling the empty spaces of her home with jewelry she never wore. Three other bedrooms had closets and dressers of beads. It was a profoundly productive kind of OCD. 

Sara and I began shrouding ourselves in necklaces. Some went past our hips, our knees even, and we had to wrap them around two or three times. I felt like a cheap mermaid. We could have been topless and you’d never know.

As we walked out of her bedroom, Fox’s grandmother looked at me disapprovingly. One of my necklaces was too long, she said. “Honey, you’ve got to wrap that one again otherwise it’s going to get caught up in your hoo-ha,” grabbing me between the legs as she said it. She held her hand there for a few seconds as I turned beet red and giggled in a stalemated way. Sara laughed her ass off.

Fox’s grandmother looked at her grandson, and then back at me.

“But if it does get stuck up there, I know someone who can get it out for you.” And she made that tongue licking motion. “Like that, right?” she asked Fox, continuing to eat out the air. 

“Right Grandma.” 

We went to Denny’s for lunch. Fox’s grandmother must have had a wardrobe somewhere because she suggested that us kids go ahead and reserve a table so she could get changed. Sara and I piled into Fox’s El Camino, next to the old TV.

We arrived at Denny’s still wearing our brocade of beads, looking like a mixed breed of hooker and gypsy all wrapped up in Mardi gras. We took a large booth in the smoking section and suffered the skeptical glances of retirees and vacationing families. Sara and I ordered fries and two glasses of water.

Fox’s grandmother came wearing the same transparent moo-moo and crumpled socks, but with high-heels. It was a marvel she could walk given her insubstantial bone mass and the slipperiness of socks in heels. She wore large clip-on earrings and a wonderfully tasteless shade of coral rogue on her cheeks and mouth. I could still see through her dress.

Fox and his Dad ordered omelets even though it was passed noon. Fox’s grandmother ordered a salad with chicken and ate only the chicken. The conversation lollygagged between mouths full of egg and hashbrown. Mostly Fox’s dad talked about his job as a dentist and growing up in Brooklyn. When we left, we kissed Fox’s grandmother’s cheek, breathing in the smell of talcum and loneliness, and said Thank You for the beads.

In Fox’s El Camino, I looked down at my chest and then over at Sara’s and realized I liked her necklaces more, but it was too late.

Arianne Wack is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in New York. You can find more of her work here. You can find her twitter here.

Images by the author.

"When Doves Cry" - Alex Clare (mp3

 

Monday
Feb252013

In Which We Give You A Body

Encounter

by KARA VANDERBIJL 

I have a hard time with art galleries, whether they are very small rooms on the way to work or large museums packed with artifacts. I would like to enjoy my time in them but for the most part, I do not. I have never had a satisfying experience in an art gallery and I would not say that it is the gallery’s fault or even particularly my fault. Why speak of fault at all?  

Art is about embodiment, and the space between the walls where the paintings hang protected and my body is large. I cannot be what I am seeing or do anything about it. I must blindly consume, pronounce a judgment, feign a stronger emotion than I am feeling. This appreciation is dismembered; much like standing in a crowded room, when I do not have enough hands to touch every person around me in greeting, enough mouths to speak to them, I cannot give enough of myself to this experience. I am paralyzed, made unbodied.

What do I mean when I say embodiment? I mean quite simply that the objects we create are incarnational. They are ideas become flesh, dwelling among us. They are real and not deceptive, although they are incredibly disruptive. To create an art object is to endow a beloved or feared thought with arms and legs and a will of its own and watch it build and destroy worlds. This has nothing to do with whether or not it is “good” by any standard. This has something to do with an old, bearded God reaching upside-down across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and touching a human into life. “I know you, come to life,” he says, “now go do.”

Art is incarnation. The only gallery I have enjoyed visiting is the Villa Borghese outside of Rome. Many of Bernini’s sculptures live in this manor, where only small groups of people are permitted to enter at a time. Apollo and Daphne, one of Bernini’s best-loved works, stands in the center of a room. You can walk up quite closely to it and look at the folds of stone cloth and the dimples where Apollo is pressing his fingers into Daphne’s flesh.

Apollo wants to rape Daphne. He has been chasing her through the woods, and when she realizes that she will not be able to outrun him, she calls upon her father to transform her into a laurel tree. As Apollo wraps an arm around her waist, he discovers bark where there was once soft skin. Her fingers and arms turn into branches. Her hair sprouts into the very wreath of leaves that Apollo will later use to decorate the heads of victors, of men become gods...

Only what is incarnate can be violated.

+

Being a body narrows you. Genetics predetermine the star of your face, the hills and valleys nourished below. I cannot be all things, as a body. As a mind, I can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. But my body is a full stop, a contained space, an impermanent expression of creative energy.

Art objects, too, are narrow. “Writing is a little door,” said Susan Sontag, “Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through.” An art object is a slice of the world, a representative, perhaps male or female, of one race or another, a tightly-packaged experience. I want this object to be all things but to ask it to contain more than it does is to deny its very being. As an embodiment, it is bound by its curves and contours.

When I ask, “Why doesn’t this art object embody an experience that is important to me?”, and become angry, it is a bit like shaking a child and screaming, “Why aren’t you a bird?” I may marvel at the fact that this object could have been any number of things, so long as I recognize it for what it is, give it credit for the beautiful disaster that is its embodiment.

Criticizing an art object, faulting it for its lacks and limitations, is a violation; a small one, yes, but a violation nonetheless.

+

“What about bad art?”

Irrelevant question.

+

Dance, then, is absolutely pure. And isn’t it ironic that it is this form of art, this form of expression, that causes the most panic and self-consciousness? We dance in small, dim spaces, mostly hidden from view. The act has been called frivolous, childish, dangerous, yet there is no form of embodiment more intense than dancing. Here, various incarnations touch, interact, share a moment in time. If anything this is the only place where art can be panoramic: bigger than itself, more than a single voice, experience or expression.

+

 

Tastes and preferences change over time. If I am starving, I will eat what is put on the table in front of me, even if the meat is tainted or the fruit is rotten. Given the choice, though, I will eat what is satisfying, nutritious. Given a myriad of choices, I will eat what is popular, easily acquired.

Like so many people, I am secretly starving for companionship. I will listen to what voices I can get, at the press of a button, at the recommendation of a web site. I will not necessarily go looking for the relationships that truly fulfill me. Then, poorly satisfied, the words mal-absorbed into my system, I will complain that what I found was not what I was looking for.

When I learn that an object is poisonous, I know I should stay away from it. But it doesn’t take much pride for me to continue consuming it, believing as I do that my body is above corruption and violation.

I ask, “What will this do to me? What will I do with this?”

+

Is it important that I identify with an art object? In my view, I am simultaneously the most beautiful and the most foul being imaginable. This double vision applies, too, to art; what enamors me can in its own time become frightening. What is delicious can be too rich, too much for me to handle. I am not always ready to encounter what I observe. Like my relationships, the traumas of which mold and shape my personality, my interactions with art have taken me out of myself, made me intensely uncomfortable. The ones that have not done so, the ones that have been too cloying, too reassuring, I have not been able to trust.

This is, after all, a personality flaw.

But in the same way that I would not want a friend who would not tell me true — even if it meant that I had to see myself in a garish new light, hang in a different, less-visited corner of a gallery — I do not want to surround myself with art that does not occasionally put me on edge, or break my heart.

+

It takes two to create: myself, and the strain of thought inside of me that won’t be still until it has been given a body. 

Kara Vanderbijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Tumblr. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Saturday
Feb232013

In Which We Left This House Empty

You can find the archive of our Saturday fiction series here.

Proper Business

by DAN CARVILLE

Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness. - John Cage

"Let go of it at the end," he said. "Now come here and sit down." David pulled his niece away from the blind.

"Is there any left over?" she said.

"There isn't," David said. "You ate it all." On the television a woman explained how to hold on a knife. He showed Bernice the particulars of operating a hula hoop and looked out the window. It was some kind of regional parade, and shriners bumped into each other.

"It's very loud," he said absently. "I wonder how long they will go on."

The television was communicating the story of an ape who was able to state a logical paradox. He put his head against a decorative pillow for a bit.

When he woke up a man was explained the future significance of the War of 1812. He changed the channel to a documentary about skateboarding. The central figure was describing how to spin so fast you could do a certain revolution at the height of your run.

"It's time to watch Diego," his niece said. He told her to go stand on a stool. In time she became occupied with a bird outside, flapping about the grass. It either couldn't fly or was taking a break. She begged him to let her go to it. While she was in the bathroom he picked up the bird by its healthy wing and dumped it into the next yard. After awhile it flew away.

His sister came back for a bit so he went to the local store to buy some things for dinner. A group of girl scouts knocked over a display revealing a new cheese cracker. One of the scouts held a very determined expression that left little to the imagination. At the supermarket he bought anything he saw which featuring a price not ending in .99.

He couldn't drive his usual route home because a tractor trailer had run into a telephone pole, so he killed thirty minutes at Dunkin' Donuts reading a book. He read, "Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school? Are the people inside the school musical and the ones outside unmusical?"

When he returned to the house his sister complained of his lateness. When he explained the situation to her she apologized. His niece went to sleep watching a vet repair the coccyx of a baboon. He turned out all the lights in the house but one.

You have to be at the apex of your jump.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

Images by Bruce Cohen.

"Not No More" - Cocaine 80s (mp3)

"The Fall" - Cocaine 80s (mp3)