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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 The Outfit Requires Control

Six Months of Sequins 



Winter never started. There was snow and ice on occasion, but what I remember most is the dull cold of late fall. We can see the effects of this now. A trip to the farmer’s market introduces higher prices and misshapen fruits or entirely missing vegetables. It felt like a respite from years before to have a winter that settled evenly, that was consistent from day-to-day. I thought about how I spent one year with my head always down, with tears born out of the wind by the lake. Spring never seemed so vital as during that winter. But manageable cold festers. We live in Chicago because we are masochists. We live in Chicago because we know it is all worth it. We live here with a small love of the brutality. If you can make it here, then you will realize everywhere else lacks something real and vital: the narrative of struggle.

The first blouse was purchased in early January, the day of my old friend’s birthday party. We don’t speak anymore. The top was perhaps a going away party, a means of framing the end of a friendship not because hate grew, but because who we are at 17 and 18 and 19 can never be who we are just moments later.


I spent the winter sweeping up black and gold and silver sequins. I leave a trail of glitter and sequins wherever I go. But each sweep is a reminder of what is to be accomplished: brighter days, laughter, a sense of peace.

This black top — structured, tough — hangs in my closet. I’ve worn it once. It’s too thick now for the summer heat, but when it was still bitterly cold only weeks ago, it felt just as wrong. What is freedom if not literal? There is the freedom of choice in which I choose to wear these things. And then there is literal freedom, to be free, to move swiftly and gently, or slowly and roughly. This blouse constricts. It requires straight backs, elongated necks. I’ve sat otherwise and the sequins and beads pierce my skin with precision.

Like many vintage clothing items, it was created for both literal and figurative control. Breasts are covered completely. But also, it can not be worn easily. A zipper in the back is for a lover. But I am alone like always, and so I zip haphazardly, with tools and trouble. I bend and shake until the job is done. And there I stand in this blouse, body set in place and even. I sat in the office of the director of a local dance company and the first thing he said to me was, “And you too were a dancer.” This is right, but most times my posture does little to give me away. I wore the top. It told of a past, a hobby, a possession of the body that had not been mine for years.


I love this dress. I love how it sparkles and I love the cut and the way it melts into my skin, as if it was made only for me. The moment of discovery was intense. It was exactly what I wanted, but was unable to articulate. Something lovely and beautiful and weird. Something that would not cost a lot. Something that was old and had history and character.

Vintage entices because of the imagined history of each dress or blouse or bag. But the way I wear clothing changes the longer I own a favorite piece. A lovely blouse becomes a form of armor, a means of protection from an outside world that conforms and questions. And each time the piece is worn, it is an attempt at recreation and affirmation. What was it like to wear for the first time? How did you feel? How pure was the moment?

All clothing options take confidence. Each blouse or skirt or dress is a statement of purpose. Not just who I am, but also who I want to be and what I want the world to see in me. We think of style — of outrageous style, of complicated style – as courageous. You must believe in yourself so deeply to be able to wear that shirt, those pants, that dress. But I wear those things and I visit a therapist once a week. This is my reality. I am playing at confidence at times, approaching self-esteem as performative. But from the performative, I can build an alternative reality, one that strengthens rather than destroys.

Clothing and style can function as a little pleasure, an everyday pleasure, and a way to appreciate beauty when it feels like there is not much of any in the world. I noticed - I notice - my affinity for things that sparkle and shimmer and glitter. I wear them day and night, but I wear them especially when it is cold outside, when I am feeling down, when I need something to feel good about, if for even a moment. The sequins and beads and sparkle are something nice to look at, but also personally defining. The sparkle is who I am, and if not who I am, then what I want to do and be.


I collect these items to be surrounded by tangible manifestations of beauty and perfection. In the beginning, I saw Marion once a week. I didn’t realize I needed her as much as I did until I was unable to get out of bed one Tuesday morning. I went to work the day before, but I could not remember what I did or how I spent my time there. I used to walk home and the walk was long not because of the distance, but because the blankness of my mind made the measure of time an impossibility. I went to work the day before, but that morning my limbs were heavier than ever. My mind was heavier than ever. My heart, the heaviest. It was just weeks before at my friend’s party, just weeks before when the first blouse was purchased. The next day was unseasonably warm and I walked around my neighborhood with an eye toward the gleaming.

On the rack of a local boutique was a deep blue, sequined and beaded blouse, fluttering and designed to look like a butterfly. I spent the past two years eyeing these blouses suspiciously at local vintage markets. This was a different level of sparkle, one that requested confidence in its owner. The blouses are heavy. They are not to be worn. Rather, the blouse wears you. Long, thick arms and broad shoulders only showcase. The body is hanger.

“I love this. Don’t you?” a salesgirl asked. “No one purchases these, but they’re so beautiful.”

I looked her square in the eye. “Do you have anymore?” I asked.

A day later, I went to Smart Bar with two friends and someone tapped me on the shoulder as I tried to lose my sense of place on the dance floor. The beauty of the dance floor is the beauty of dance music in general. It is why dance music increases in popularity. It allows for an escape and provides a visceral reaction to the music. It takes possession again and again. It delivers you to another place and then you come down, and there is a chance, however small, that what was just felt can linger long after.

I turned around and it was the salesgirl from the day before. She gave me a hug, eagerly. I could not process her reaction.

“I’m glad you got this,” she said.

“So am I,” I responded.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the hooks. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here.

"How Can U Luv Me" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (mp3)

"Ruin" - Cat Power (mp3)


In Which We Regard Our Enemies As Lapsed Friends



The pale lime travel bottle she gave him rested on the round oak table beside the unmade bed, half-empty. His black garment bag lay unfolded on the corner of the comforter unzipped. Three wrinkled button-downs spilled out onto the needlework poinsettias and primroses like the muddy water overflowing the concrete walls of the canal that spun behind his house. His briefcase, latched shut and safely encoded 543, was upright on the floor.

It had been raining since Friday afternoon when he flashed his old dog-eared laminate driver’s license and boarding pass to the perky attendant at gate B39. Her dull gray eyes were less adept at spotting a fake ID than the bifocals of a middle-aged grocery clerk in one of those mid-western towns with no crime save skateboarding. She had smiled at him in his black suit and light blue tie, tossed her blonde encourale off her shoulder and grinned like a filly at the next queued-up businessman, and again at the old woman whose dentures were obvious, and again at the elated pubescent girl whose first time on a plane and with a man would, oddly, soon coincide.

He had walked down the elevated tunnel whistling, reached the end and saw that the platform wasn’t quite touching the Airbus A320. A dangerous chasm waited; but no matter, leaving the jetway he hopped the half-foot gap. In the air as the clement weather ended, the first drops drip-dripped off the curved fuselage onto the back of his neck and continued racing down.

Three days later as he unpacked the clouds still cascaded and the wind still gusted; some ladle still stirred the steaming reduction sauce outside. The branch of a birch tree, a sometime perch for the neighborhood blackbirds, drummed the snare of his window.
   Thunder. Startled, he jumped.

He knocked a dictionary to the ground, picked it up. Read.
    Softly, “I wish I was amphibious. I would swim in the water, breathe it in. Travel all those sinuous rivers and stopped-up by lakes I never look at from my window seat.”
    “What?” she sang from the shower.
    “Nothing. The peanuts they gave me were stale.”
    “Yes, I picked up the mail. It’s on your desk.”
    He laughed, “Anything interesting?”
    Casually, “No.”
    He grabbed the bottle and finished it, “Good, no time to read it anyway,” wondered how it survived so long.
Wondered what she looked like in the shower, almost knowing.
    He asked himself, “Is she soapy? Hair wet? Is it dry somehow? Clinging to her back and shoulders? Is she clean yet? Ever?”
    He wanted to crack the door and look at her, all of her, but didn’t; continued to unpack. The dop kit he left alone, the balled up socks and underwear he tossed to the hamper in the corner. They dirtied the air they displaced, the gadarene smell spreading gradually around the room.

She would take the shirts to be laundered tomorrow. The pink one she called salmon, her favorite dish, was newly tie-dyed with an ‘86 french merlot. The shirt would make the migratory swim back from Ling Weng Cleaners still marked with the hint of a stain so she would not go to them again, never trust their illiberal smiling logo. He wouldn’t notice that his whites eventually got whiter. The sheets blanched as well, and they desperately needed it.
    She would ask him about the stain, “Honey, how’d you get so clumsy?”
    He would play it down, “Nothing special, the old arm misfired.”

He had been checking his watch, ostensibly. Really checking out the waitress over the horizon of the swiss army’s encampment, forgetting it was attached to his wrist, to his hand, which was temporarily attached to the long stemmed glass and the aged opulent grape juice sloshing inside. The waitress was skinny. The girl in the shower, opining, would say too skinny and deride her for suspected anorexia, but he enjoyed the view and wasn’t so concerned with the time or the date or the phase of the moon, waxing, waning, full, or eclipsed. So lunar orbits cycled out of control, tidal wine overflowed its transparent silicate beach.
    The man he was eating dinner with had laughed uncharitably, “Little wet there, huh?”
    Too politely, patronizing, “You’ll have to excuse me.”
    “Have fun.”
    “Thanks for the sympathy, ass,” he thought. He went to the washroom to clean off, padded his chest with wads of white tissue paper.
    The man left waiting at the table reminded him of an amateur comedian he had known in college who married the girl with the best laugh. But he wasn’t nearly as funny.
    The man had ordered filet mignon so well done the chef spat on it (his years of years wasted on a built to order charcoal bomb). The meat kept him company during the delay. His vegetable medley was steamed and the potatoes were mashed, purple flakes of skin pockmarked the white dollop.

She stepped out of the bathroom in a throwaway terrycloth robe he had palmed from some extinct hotel chain. She sipped the last swallow of room-temperature latte from her mug leaving a ring of foam high on the ceramic.
    “If I could ever imagine sleeping on a cloud, it would be like this,” she said.
    “Really? You look bright-eyed, wide awake. You know, you’re even walking.”
    “No, I’m not, too clean, too light.”
    She was floating.
    “Well, come back here,” he demanded, “We’ll be late for dinner.”
    “Oh, sorry.”
    “Don’t be sorry, be quick.”
    “What should I wear?”
    He meant to say, “Anything.”
    Neither of them noticed the rain stop.
    “Get dressed, I’ll be downstairs as soon as I’ve finished putting away the rest of this shit.” He liked unpacking better than packing.
    He carried the dop kit into the bathroom where steam still polished the air. A face smiled at him from the mirror, reflected his work. Silently he took out his toothbrush/paste, deodorant, Bermudian cologne, comb, razor, shaving cream, orange prescription bottle, dropped them all in the top left drawer, his only, and closed it. Opened it immediately, also the bottle that had rolled to the back, swallowed two pills by craning his neck under the faucet’s bubbly stream.
    He flinched.
    “Too hot,” he thought, “This town is too hot.”
    An airplane flying overhead shook the countertop.
    “My stomach,” inhaling, bulging out his belly looking at its profile in the mirror. He adjusted the knob, cupped his hands under to gulp more water, slurping. He walked out of the bathroom, flicked his hands dry, left the door open but abraded against the change in air density and temperature, against the palpable gaseous wall lingering between the warm bathroom and the tepid bedroom.
    He stepped from tile to carpet to see her thigh disappear behind the closet door. She turned and giggled behind all the hanging clothes, smelled the mothballs that smelled like her mother, and coughed.
    “Ready yet?”
    “You’re kidding.”
    “Yes I am,” he mumbled.
    He went down the carpeted stairs, hurtled, leaped, plunged almost, steadied himself with his hand on the wood banister, nearly tripped as he skipped the last step. Filling time he covered a Milano from the cabinet with whipped cream from the fridge. Ate. Then held the red cylinder up to his mouth and bent the plastic top. The dessert sputtered out, more gass than foam. He spied the aluminum maple syrup container as he put away the cream, but thought better of it, turned the TV off just after he picked the remote up to flick it on.
    He leafed through her copy of Elle.
    “Better than People.”
    A few minutes later she came downstairs.
    “You look. Nice.”
    “I know.”
    “Let’s go.”
    “I’m already out the door.”
    He opened the wooden front door for her.
    She noticed, “Look, it finally stopped raining.”
    The sun was setting to the west behind the effulgent hills. The same hills he had flown over for last weekend’s business dinner.

The hills they would soon climb languidly, looping up the road to the restaurant on an overlook and inside to their favorite table from which they could see his house and there they would laugh and drink too much strong merlot and overtip and wonder what made the key lime pie so damned good and rich and tasty if not for the key limes and general Florida citrus know-how. She would ask the waiter if the largest limes came from Key Largo. The waiter would say yes because he did not understand the question and wanted a larger tip. They would walk under the portico, the valet seeing them early and scrambling to fetch their ride. They would not talk on the drive down the hill but she would laugh at the sideways gravity of every tight corner, spurring in him something that he let out through the gas peddle.
    One corner, it too wet, the car too fast, would send them through the guardrail and over the hill and off into the air where they would pause then drop, parallel to a diving blackbird and man and woman would look at one another incredulously, terrified but calm, and look out at the bird and ask it what it was to fly and if it was worthwhile.

“It’s evening,” he said on the stoop looking at the clouds, “Do you know what evening means?”
   She laughed, “Of course. Why ask that question, question that?”
   “No, think about it for a second. Think about the word, it means something. It’s not just a time, not just some ending of every day that slides open to the beginning of every night. Evening means...” he paused, scratching his eyebrow.
    “It means the time. No, no. Forget time,” sputtering, “The place. Yes it’s a place. It is the terminator, stationary in space, rotating on the earth, the earth rotating. It is where day and night are evening, you know, actually becoming even, with the world turning both toward and away from that imperfect, fuzzy middle point. The point, the line when day turns into night, the line when color drowns and where everything is mostly black and white and all very gray, the point, I think, on which the world balances.”
    She looked at him.
    “Right?” he asked. It was imperative the she nod. He needed her to nod.
    “Beginning and end, yin and yang, everything and nothing. Eastern transcendentalism and western family values. All that sappy crap. Black and white. Right?”
    She looked away.
    He continued, mildly embarrassed, “Just a sunset, really, happens every damn day. Never mind.”
    She looked up into his eyes and winked.
    He grinned, formed the word deep in his gargling belly, murmured, “Even... ing.”
    “And where do we go from there? Night?” She demanded, “Darkness?”
    “You mean ‘from here.’ Where do we go ‘from here?’ And, the answer is...”
    She listened, fully absorbed.
    “The answer is... that... this whole relationship, you know, I still... just... just let’s go now. Get in the car.”
    “Even... ing,” she whispered once and then repeated.
    A flock of young blackbirds flew in from the hills in an asymmetrical V. The tip pointed toward the couple. The dark creatures landed on the telephone wire above the edge of the yard. Their collective weight bowed the line. It swayed as each tucked in its wings and chirped.
   One landed on the hood of the car.
   “Look,” she pointed.
   “I know,” he mouthed.
    They waited silently until the bird flew back to its brethren, walked to the car and got in.
    That one blackbird flew down, picked a stick off the ground but dropped it and flew after them as they drove up into those steady hills that would not dry.

Robert Rutherford is a writer living in Los Angeles.

drawing by Jill Baroff

"Birds" - We Are Serenades (mp3)

"I Spy" - Mikhael Paskalev (mp3)

drawing by Jill Baroff


In Which The Figure Is Strange On A Number Of Levels

The Taxonomy of the Nerd


I have been using this to entertain people at parties for years, and I’ve finally decided to write it down.  I have to credit my good friend Sam Cooper as the co-creator of this graph. (Check out his band, Horse Feathers.) The very first Nerd Graph was rendered on a napkin at Abo’s Pizza in Boulder, Colorado sometime around the turn of the millennium.

As a nerd, I have always been interested in nerd anthropology. Non-nerds often fail to understand that not all nerds are created equal. In my years of careful observation I have identified four distinct subspecies of nerd. I believe that all nerds can be generally grouped as follows: geek, dork, creep and loser.

They are identifiable along a Cartesian spectrum:

Keep in mind that these are not static categories; any nerd could be represented as a dot somewhere on this graph. The “perfect nerd” (as dubious and elusive as a cryptozoological creature) would be a dot falling exactly at the intersection of all four categories. I will now detail the distinguishing characteristics of each subspecies of nerd.


Nerds who are both intelligent and social are geeks. The geek is generally the most well-adjusted and successful nerd. His nerdiness usually does not prevent him from, if necessary, “passing” as a non-nerd when interacting with mixed company, although he feels most comfortable in the company of other geeks. I am a geek. Most of my friends are also geeks. But that doesn’t mean we’re not cool. Geeks may, for instance, do drugs.  This does not make them non-nerds.

Identifying characteristics

Obsessive and/or arcane hobbies: photography, backgammon, etc.

Expansive knowledge about a certain subject: for instance, there are music geeks, movie geeks, etc.

Ability to “pass”

Mating habits

Geeks usually have sex with other geeks.  Female heterosexual geeks may have sex with non-nerds, and sometimes male creeps — very rarely with male dorks. Male heterosexual geeks usually only have sex with female geeks, though there are observed instances of male geeks having sex with female dorks. Male geeks also sometimes have sex with non-nerds, but it is observably rarer than with female geeks. However, a relationship between a geek and a non-geek rarely lasts, for at some point the geek’s mask will slip.

Where to find them

Music stores, book stores, liberal arts colleges, graduate programs, “hip” neighborhoods in major metropolitan areas

Quintessential geek

William Jefferson Clinton

Bill Clinton’s ability to “pass” is uncanny, and as for intelligence and sociability, he maxes out both scales.


The dork is social and unintelligent. The dork is social with other dorks.  A dork in isolation becomes a loser (see below). Dorks often have not achieved sufficient self-awareness to realize that they are dorks. Dorks like to think of themselves as geeks—they would. They are not geeks. Unfortunately, they are not at a viable vantage point from which to determine where they stand in relation to other nerds on the chart.  From their position, geeks do not look like nerds. Geeks, however, know the difference, and are rarely fooled when a dork attempts to integrate into geek society.

Identifying characteristics

Non-ironic enjoyment of live-action role-playing games; Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, etc.

Self-identification with subcultures as expressed in style of dress: Goth, Cyberpunk, “Steampunk,” etc. (Usually any subculture with the suffix “punk” fits, as, for that matter, does any deliberately named subculture.)

Nightmare Before Christmas paraphernalia displayed on person

Every dork owns a copy of at least one Neil Gaiman book

Mating habits

Dorks almost exclusively and by necessity have sex with other dorks. There are far fewer female than male dorks, resulting in a bottlenecking effect. Thus dork societies are often matriarchal: an even moderately attractive female dork will rapidly sail to the top of a dork social hierarchy. A heterosexual female who chooses to enter dork society will never want for dork suitors; however, she can never come back.  Dorks also like to brag to one another about their kinky sex practices, which they also embrace non-ironically.  Polyamory, bondage and S/M are particularly popular among dorks.

Where to find them

Attend a Renaissance Festival. You will be unable to throw a rock without hitting one.  Please throw it hard.

Quintessential dork

This guy:

A note on a key difference between the geek and the dork: geeks may partake in dork pleasures, such as comic books, science fiction/fantasy and so on. However, for the geek these pleasures cannot be indulged in without some element (however trace) of irony.  The dork enjoys them unabashedly, seriously, and respectfully. A geek may harbor a Tolkien obsession; dorks are usually into "Fantasy" as a genre and concept. As geeks know and dorks don't, that's a big difference. Arguably, the dork is purer of heart than the geek. This is the dork’s consolation for being objectively dumber.


The creep has the respect of the geek, but cannot — usually by choice — enter geek society. The creep can even be social with nerds and non-nerds alike, but if you meet a creep you will feel an impenetrable wall around him. There are, obviously, far fewer creeps than geeks. The creep is usually a man of few words —that’s part of what makes him creepy. The creep is a creature of extremes: for instance, the creep is more likely than other nerds to be a complete teetotaler, but the creep is also more likely to be a severe alcoholic. The creep may have a mild autism-spectrum disorder, such as Asperger’s. The creep is far more likely than the geek to be politically conservative.  Libertarianism is an especially popular political sympathy among creeps. The overwhelming majority of creeps are male, though there are anecdotal accounts of female creeps.

Identifying characteristics

Distant, scary look in eyes. Otherwise, most creeps dress and behave much like ordinary people. Creeps usually have no sense of humor: they do not tell jokes or laugh, unless to express derision.

Mating habits

We’re not saying it has never happened, but there has never been a confirmed incident of a creep having sex with another creep. However, the male creep may sometimes have a certain sexual allure to female nerds and non-nerds alike. Often the creep seems entirely asexual—or worse, to have secret sexual proclivities far “kinkier” than the silly and self-congratulatory “kink” of the dork.

Where to find them

Your IT department; houses with Ron Paul campaign signs on lawns; suspiciously sitting alone at unusual times of day in public parks.

Quintessential creep

Theodore Kaczynski, AKA the “Unabomber”


The loser (AKA “tool”) is a nerd so socially undesirable, not even the dorks will have him.  The loser is cursed with both low intelligence and poor social skills. He walks the earth like a pariah, pitifully glomming onto social groups who always eventually reject him. Unlike the creep — who is usually solitary by choice — the loser’s solitude is unwanted. Nobody wants to be friends with him.  He is not smart or interesting or fun in any way. He is annoying and occasionally creepy, but unlike the creep, he is creepy in a way that no one could ever fear or respect.

Much like the dork imagines himself to be a geek, as a reaction to his loserhood, a loser will assume that he is an inwardly tortured genius merely because he is a social outcast.  He is wrong.  His self-projected dark genius is mere poseury, fooling only himself (self-deception is easy when you’re a loser). This is why the loser is actually more dangerous than the creep. Many assassinations, mass murders and acts of domestic terrorism are not actually committed by creeps, but by self-deluded losers presumptuously striving to be creeps.

Identifying characteristics

Irritating voice

Seeming ubiquity

Uncanny inability to tell when his presence is unwanted (for example, a loser may obliviously remain in the company of a couple who clearly want to have sex until he has to be told to leave)

The loser usually has some inexplicably repulsive physical trait: for instance, a permanently chapped lower lip

A zero-level fashion sense: dorks, despite looking very silly, often do dress well in their own way.  Sometimes when trying to infiltrate dork society, the loser will don the vampire cape/top hat/Doc Martins of the dork, but somehow be unable to pull it off.

Mating habits

None to speak of.  The loser will, however, discourse at eye-rolling length on his sexual exploits, which all non-losers—even dorks—will immediately perceive, with embarrassing obviousness, as made-up.

Where to find them

Anywhere you don’t want them to be.

Quintessential loser

Mark David Chapman, assassin of John Lennon

How to identify a nerd

What is a nerd?  How can we determine whether or not someone belongs on the graph at all?  This is a difficult question, and I have devised only one surefire answer, although it is an admittedly subjective and sociologically unsatisfactory one. It is a simple litmus test: whether or not one is interested in the graph. If I draw the graph and begin to explain it, I can tell who is a nerd and who is not based on who pays attention. If I draw the graph and someone shrugs and turns away, I know that person is not a nerd. If I draw the graph and begin explaining it and someone displays even remote interest, then I know that person is probably on the graph. If you have read all the way to this last sentence, then you may rest assured that you are a nerd.

Benjamin Hale is a contributor to This Recording. You can find his website here. You can purchase his novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, here.