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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 Find A Place Where Me And Things Go Together

The Proud Look of It 

None of my memories from childhood involve creaky swings in an overgrown backyard or lemonade on the porch. In fact, our homes rarely had backyards and our porches have never been the kind you drink lemonade on. We've always been apartment-dwelling city folk, and growing up the idea of playing outdoors was so alien to my brother and I that when we finally moved into a house with a honest-to-goodness backyard, we rarely spent any time in it.  

(Before you notify anybody about this, you should know that we both turned out fine.) 

Without a venue for our antics, we had to find unconventional ways to amuse ourselves. So it was always a treat when Mom would disappear shortly after lunch and reappear with lipstick on, a sure sign that adventure was around the corner. We'd buckle into our ancient Honda (named Henri, not to be confused with Henry) and sit in excited discomfort until the air-conditioning kicked in. Then it was wherever the 405 freeway could take us & the sky was the limit. 

Sometimes it involved strolling down Olvera Street. Sometimes we'd drive to a tiny library and check out half of their children’s books. Sometimes we'd visit a really fancy grocery store far away from our house, the only establishment at the time that sold Orangina in individual pear-shaped glass bottles. 

On really good days, we'd visit IKEA. 

When you don't live in one place for very long and you can't afford fancy furniture that might break when you haul it halfway across the world, IKEA becomes a sort of haven. After all, it’s exactly the same everywhere on the planet. You know that if you're in Europe somewhere and you have a sudden hankering for four-dollar Swedish meatballs you can walk in and get a plate of them for four euros. You know that if you’re stranded you can just walk in and collapse onto any sofa and no one will tell you to leave. You know that if you forgot a pen there will always be golf pencils available in a plastic box on the wall. And so on. 

I’m not quite sure how they do it. Somehow, with a few dashes of blue and yellow paint and bizarre Swedish names, something as normal and unexciting as a furniture store can become everything from an exotic wonderland to a comfortable evening at home in front of the fire. As a child I had fantasies of moving in—pitching a tent in the shortcut between the light bulb section and the kids interior décor section and calling it home. Other times I would choose endless combinations of sofas and coffee tables and kitchens, just so that I’d be set when I grew up and got my own place. I still have a crazy habit of classifying furniture in “best look for best price” every time I walk through the showroom. 

Later on, when my family did end up moving halfway across the world, it was comforting to know that most of our furniture would still be from IKEA. Our bookshelves would come in flat boxes and our sofas would come covered in bubble wrap. Our tea lights would still come by the hundred in plastic bags. There would always be exactly the right amount of screws to construct each piece of furniture. IKEA, by far the most empathetic of anybody we came into contact with, understood that we still couldn’t speak French and provided assembly instructions in ten different languages for our convenience. The ice cream was still only fifty cents. 

When I grew up and moved away for college, some of the first things I bought to spruce up a stark dorm room came from IKEA. When we had papers to write and needed an excuse to run away for a while, IKEA offered the cheapest vittles in town. I’ve had dates at IKEA and I’ve had some of the best family dinners over Christmas break at IKEA. There’s no better place to go after a movie, to digest sushi, or to find random odds and ends nobody else sells. It’s there if you need a restroom or if you’re homesick or if you’re PMSing. 

It’s a lot like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Even those who have never seen Blake Edwards’ 1961 film are familiar with the timeless image of Audrey Hepburn smiling enigmatically in a little black dress and pearls, a cigarette just inches from her mouth. Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York socialite who takes interest in her new neighbor Paul Varjak (played by George Peppard) and drags him into a glamorous world of parties and scandalous escapades. While she maintains a poised and elegant front for the men who want her company, she moonlights as a vulnerable and neurotic young woman who just wants to find her place and someone to share it with. 

In an iconic opening sequence, a lone yellow taxicab glides up Fifth Avenue and stops for a young woman to emerge. It’s early in the morning and “Moon River” is playing in the background and before we know anything about Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly, we already feel the displacement and loneliness she feels looking into the windows of Tiffany’s jewelry store. With her pastry and cheap cup of coffee she just doesn’t belong, no matter how she’s dressed or who she entertains. As the movie progresses, the boutique becomes a symbol of everything Holly wants, just out of her reach behind pristine display windows.

“You know those days when you get the mean reds? No, [not the blues], the blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of…well, when I get it the only thing that does me any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there,” says Holly to Paul Varjak the first time they meet. “If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then — then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!”

There are many things I enjoy about the film. No matter what the snobs say, it has a lot to offer as far as critical analysis goes. But on a purely superficial level, that line of Holly’s grabs me every time and won’t let go. Maybe it’s because there is no word in French for home and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not sure if I’m in the aisle seat or in somebody’s spare room. Maybe it’s because I’ve fallen prey to the common female problem of wanting to identify with Audrey Hepburn. In any case, when I discovered Breakfast at Tiffany’s at age sixteen it quickly became my favorite film.   

In college, a lot of other English majors were unsurprisingly surprised to discover this about me. It’s a well-known fact that if you’re an English major you’re supposed to have favorite films like Memento and shun anything resembling a romantic comedy (unless it’s (500) Days of Summer). Second, when you look past the glitz and glamour of Hepburn’s performance, there really isn’t much to be said of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You could complain about the blatant racism, express concern at the excessive drinking, or write it off as a waste of time. Truth is, it just doesn’t have much of a plot. From the moment Holly Golightly emerges from the taxicab to eat her pastry in front of Tiffany’s to the moment she and Cat fall into Paul Varjak’s arms, the film is just a series of seemingly unrelated events that happen to bring two people together in the end.

In reality, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a fantasy. It is a story of two unlikely people falling in love in a New York that only exists in dreams. It’s a world where the streets of Manhattan are empty and mafia members are just kind old men in Sing-Sing. It’s a world where Brazilian politicians fall in love with escort girls, where people in New York actually know their neighbors, where Tiffany’s engraves romantic messages on Cracker Jack prizes, and where happiness is drinking champagne for breakfast. Holly Golightly is a “real phony”, a character so unbelievably believable that we want to have faith in her fantasy. In a world full of divorce and dead younger brothers and financial hardship, we want to believe that going to Tiffany’s can make everything better.   

After all, maybe that’s the reason we do anything — maybe that’s why we go to movies, and make love, and throw pennies into the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. Maybe that’s why we find comfort in Swedish furniture.  

We’re just looking for a real-life place like home.   

But then again, maybe you’re not like me and you’ve already found those people and places that are as comfortable to you as golf pencils and cheap meatballs are to me. I hope you have.

Kara VanderBijl is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her tumblr here.

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"Martha" - Tim Buckley (mp3)

"Martha" - Tom Waits (mp3)

"We All Fall in Love Sometimes" - Jeff Buckley (mp3)


In Which There's A Lady In The Water

Don’t Go in the Swimming Pool


It was day five that I snapped. The swimming pool was stressing me out. I told the Brit that I needed to take a moment and I called him, crying. I wasn't planning on crying. "We're just sitting here, in front of a pool! I don't know what to do! I'm from New England!" When faced with a resort hotel, you're supposed to lounge and read and drink and drink and that's the route to ultimate relaxation. I was all wrong for this lifestyle. My books were neurotic New York things - Arthur Phillips' The Song is You, a stolen lobby copy of Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West, a whole dishy book about hating the Park Slope Coop and wanting to fuck Paul Bettany.

I started walking through the hotel, tears streaming down my face, looking like the messed-up drunk chick at a party. My pasty Irish skin - which had already gone through four bottles of SPF 50 - was bright red, an appropriate look for relaxing poolside. In between my heaves, he reminded me, "Of course you're freaking out. You're at a swimming pool. When have swimming pools not been terrible?" Snottily, I took a look at the pool. A throng of middle management in matching polo shirts had taken over one end, bud lights high, yelling out pleasantries about their dicks. In another corner, a couple had their tiny little dog out, sitting on the plastic floating raft that I had been on a mere half-hour before. I envied that dog, with its joy, natural swimming ability, and lack of control over facilities.

And as I stared at that dog, it was like biting into a madeline. All of my swimming pool memories came flooding back. The time I was shot in the back and left for dead by some delusional diva. The time I dived into the pool and was infused with an alien life force that made me feel like young, hot Don Ameche.The time I did it with Elizabeth Berkley and she had an epileptic seizure while she was coming. The time I was writing my pulp English mystery novel in a remote French cottage and this slatternly teenage popped up, proceeding to sunbathe topless poolside while doing every skeevy French construction worker in sight. It was like being stuck in a sauna with the French Paz de la Huerta. It was hell.

But besides reminiscing about days of wanton sexuality, murder, and fountains of youth, I thought about my most salient swimming pool memory: as the locus for "is that all there is?"-style ennui. Benjamin Braddock floating to nowhere, in his scuba gear, diving to the bottom. Mr. Blume in the fetal position in his pool, a curious fish of a kid swimming by in swimmies. A swimming pool may be wealth and achievement, but if you can't grasp happiness in its murky waters, than what's the point? My resort pool mocked me. I should've been happy to see it, ready to party, but I thought too much.

I thought about John Cheever's "The Swimmer": Neddy Merrill swimming home through his neighbors' backyards, swimming through the seasons, ending in the winter of his life; coming home to a deserted and locked home, and, crucially, forgetting all the details. Like poor ever-swimming Neddy my swimming pool was a place of reckoning where I could figure out what I was doing with my life--but I had no answer for it. I wasn't going anywhere. I wasn't even going into the pool.

When dusk fell, the pool and I were going to have a showdown. It was prettier in the night, glowing with an unearthly turquoise light. I thought of one more genre of swimming pool scenes, the only ones that don't suck: they involve break-ins and skinny dipping, from Felicity finally getting Ben in the pool, late night on the WB or that hot makeout scene in Whip It set to Jens Lekman.

The Brit and I got sloshed on desert cocktails. We wore our prettiest girl outfits and flirted shamelessly with the bartenders. Fortified with cucumber and rum, we ran outside and jumped into the pool, wearing our clothes and shoes and ruining our hair. My sequined leopard-print dress, the outfit of a slutty granny's dreams, thanks to Rodarte for Target, grey heavy in the water. The Brit grinned. We ran into the hot tub to warm up, and some local kids started chatting us up. Aware that to them, we were potential manic pixie dream girls, we left quickly with a thanks and a goodbye, running back to our rooms. With the help of the Brit, I said goodbye to being the depressed hero in some statement on the emptiness of modern life. It was time to be my own hero.

Elisabeth Donnelly is a contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about the AMC series Breaking Bad. She is a writer living in New York, and she tumbls here.

"Sensitive Euro Man" - Pavement (mp3)

"The Man in Me (Bob Dylan cover)" - David Bazan (mp3)

"The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" - Sia (mp3)


In Which You Have To Ask The Price of Orange Juice

The Keyboard Company


Los Angeles is large and spread out. It is impossible to see it as one entity. When you’re on the west side, it’s as if the east side doesn’t even exist. There is no big picture.

During high school, after a few of us got cars, we tried to see other parts of L.A. It was like we were lab rats let out of a cage, eager but blind, bumping into walls, stranded in the middle of a giant maze. My best friend Jeff would often make an effort to find new places for us to eat. He would research restaurants on Yelp — a website I had only heard rumors about — and drive me somewhere foreign for dinner. Jeff and I have always been similarly sized (size small, or XS perhaps.) At the time, we were sixteen and we both could have passed for twelve. Now that we’re twenty-three, we could both pass for sixteen.

We would kidnap his parents’ car and if Jeff forgot to make one of his famous mixes, we would have to listen to Celine Dion or Enya, or whatever his father was listening to that week. If Jeff did remember a mix, we’d groove to Dave Matthews and The White Stripes the whole way there (obviously an eclectic taste) — to a place that supposedly had the best chicken sandwich or the best fries or the biggest selection of hot sauces.

But even after our attempts at exploration, I still didn’t know which thing was Burbank and what was Los Feliz and where did the Valley even start and where were people who weren’t us hanging out? As a result of the myriad possibilities, most weekends were spent on my bedroom floor watching Sandy Bullock flicks alone, my car seldom seeing the outside of our garage except when I felt obliged to make cameos at high school house parties where boys named Josh smoked hookahs and pretty girls compulsively yanked at tube tops.

At eighteen, I handed in my driver’s license and my inability to parallel park, and moved to New York. A city full of culture, history, full of places where You’ve Got Mail I mean Manhattan was filmed, full of excitement, yet still accessible. I could walk the length of the city in a day. Streets formed grids, neighborhoods were named in a literal fashion — the Upper West Side was on the upper west side, exactly where it said it was going to be! Go figure.   

To celebrate my 23rd birthday, I decided to go back home for a few days to see my family. I was especially excited to see my grandmother, DeeDee, who I had heard was learning to use the Internet for the first time, something I definitely wanted to get recorded evidence of. My brother and I think everything she does is funny. She’ll offer us snap peas or watermelon in the middle of sentences, pull twenty-dollar bills out of her filing cabinet (M for Money!) and put them in our pockets, and there’s also her obsession with cartoons.  Most of her clothes have Snoopy or Tommy (of the Rugrats gang) sewn on them, somewhere.

DeeDee is the only person I know aside from Chase Bank and National Grid who still sends real mail. She uses a giant, old Xerox machine to make copies of articles from health magazines, then highlights names of vitamins or headlines that read, “Scientists Discover Laughter Truly IS The Best Medicine,” folds them up, and mails them to me. She also sends me pages ripped out of her Nordstrom’s catalogue, with “You’re so much prettier than her!” scrawled next to a model’s face.

So naturally, I thought that with the power of immediate mail and endless articles at her fingertips 24 hours a day, she’d grow to love the web. And my whole family would probably grow to hate it. I could already see my Gmail Inbox full of 100 unread messages. Messages with subject headings such as: Live Love Laugh, I Almost Forgot, Do You Drink Snapple? and 50 Ways to Cure Menstrual Cramps without Medication.

I arrived in L.A. My mother drove me home from the airport, only taking the side streets, as she finds freeways to be overwhelming. We got to the house and I walked through our jungle of backyard to our guesthouse, where DeeDee lives.


“Hi DeeDee,” I said and gave her a hug.

“A hug! How did I get so lucky!”

The first thing I noticed as I walked in was DeeDee’s new keyboard.  My mother had purchased a giant yellow keyboard for her, so that she could see the keys. It was appropriately called KEYS-U-SEE, obviously trying to integrate internet abbreviations into old people’s vernacular. Never too late to start, the KEYS-U-SEE manufacturer probably said one day.

I asked my grandmother what she wanted to look up so that I could show her how to use Google.

“Clark Gable!”

The rest of the night was filled with gasps of marvel and wonder. And stale licorice, loose in a drawer.

The next morning, Jeff and I decided to go to brunch at a place in Venice he had heard about from a co-worker. Jeff and I view things in a similar way and tend to have the same neuroses. We both read e-mails about fifty times before we send them. We both claim to hate bands we’ve never heard or movies we’ve never seen. We both spend twenty minutes looking at a pair of jeans in the mirror before we decide to buy them, and then when we get home we put them back on and realize we look stupid. And I know we have similar issues with L.A., so at brunch I was hoping to bounce some ideas off him for this L.A. article I was trying to write.

We walked in to the Venice restaurant and could immediately tell it was a few notches too nice for us. We had sneakers and cut-off shorts and phony Ray-Bans. They had real, white cloth tablecloths and fancy mimosa glasses. We sat down anyway.

“How much is the orange juice?” Jeff asked the waitress. She looked baffled.

“I’ll have to check,” she said, and backed away slowly. I slumped in my seat, embarrassed.

“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” I said. We ordered food that was too expensive. He gave the waitress a literal thumbs up on the $3 orange juice. I itched to get out.

“So do you like living here?” I asked him.

"Living at home is hard. And L.A. is a mess,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Everything here is just so confusing.”

“Literally or metaphorically?”

“Both. Everything about it. The layout of it all, what I’m supposed to do day to day.”

“Do you think you’ll leave?”


“Can I quote you on this?”

“Yes. I think it also has to be taken into account that I’m outrageously neurotic.”


I got back home and went over to DeeDee’s house. She regaled me with stories of Clark Gable’s life and did you know his mother died when he was ten months old, and did you know he was accidentally listed as a girl on his birth certificate?

“You know you can look up other stuff too,” I said.

“Such as…” she began, and squinted her eyes suspiciously, not understanding what I was getting at.

“Such as anything! Think of it as a giant library, with anything you could possibly want to see or read about.”

“I’m spending this week on Clark Gable. Maybe next week,” she said, stubbornly. “Now teach me how to make the print bigger. My eyes hurt. I can barely read anything!”

I showed her how to enlarge the print. She needed it to be so large that only twenty or so of these giant words were visible at a time. She’d have to constantly drag her cursor across the screen to finish a whole sentence. The borders to Firefox pages were lost. The toolbar was gone. It was disorienting, even for me.

That night, my mother invited me to a dinner party a friend of hers was having. I was the youngest person there by about 30 years. It has occurred to me that when a group of adults get together, they almost always form a panel discussion on the topic of Is The Internet Ruining The Way We Live? (See also: Is The Kindle Ruining The Way We Read?) All of these discussions and debates are inevitably a waste of energy and time. But we have them.

“Is Facebook replacing real personal friendships?” a man asked.

“Maybe Twitter is contributing to ADHD,” someone said.

“I have GPS and navigation and all that stuff,” one woman said. “But I miss just being able to get lost!  Remember when we would just get lost?!”

I wanted to tell her I still get lost even with all this technology. That Los Angeles will always be hiding something. It will still be just as scattered. There will still be streets that magically turn into other streets and sections meant to imitate other parts of the world and places named after what they aren’t. There will still be minimal parking so that you have to have to leave your car in another neighborhood, and towering homes that conceal everyone inside so you never know where the party’s at. L.A. is a city full of secrets.

And also, surprise surprise, there are hip parts of L.A. I didn’t find that out until about a year or two ago when someone let me in on it. That L.A. is hip. That hipsters even live there, and call it home, and have tattoos of the contour of California behind their ears and on their biceps. They wear skinny jeans and play shows together and buy “spaces” and turn them into “venues.” I had no idea I didn’t have to go all the way to Brooklyn for this. Thanks for keeping me in the dark for so long, L.A.  Thanks a million.

The rest of my trip went by in a blur. I had almost forgotten that my birthday was my reason for returning home. I had dinner with my father’s family. My stepmother bought me a polka dotted thong and I unknowingly opened it up at the table of the nice Italian restaurant. Something chocolate and mushy came with a candle in it. My brother and I watched Sweet Home Alabama and argued about whether it was good or not (spoiler alert: it is not). He got me a $50 gift certificate to Amoeba, a music store only on the west coast. I was leaving the next day. My grandmother shelled peas for me to eat as we played some game with tiles. She put twenties in my palm “for ice cream.” My mother got me to start taking acidophilus. I made a joke about it being a kind of dinosaur. It was all funny at the time.

Before leaving for the airport, I went to say goodbye to DeeDee. To see how she was doing with her new friend, The Internet.

“Phooey,” she said.

“Phooey?” I asked.

“I’m done. Get this thing out of here.” She motioned at the laptop and the KEYS-U-SEE.

“What happened?”

“It’s too much! It’s too confusing!  Everything is all over the place and it’s exhausting. I can’t even think of what I would want to look for, and when I can, I can’t find the thing to search them with! There’s too much information. And nothing is organized, I don’t understand it.”

“You don’t want to give it another go?  It will take some time, but--”

“Phooey,” she said. “I’m throwing in the towel. Now try this juice I made in my new juicer! It’s full of antioxidants!"

At the airport, I realized that my moving to New York wasn’t so different from my grandmother deciding she would just rather watch VHS tapes and organize her filing cabinet than try to figure out the internet. In a sense, I had given up on L.A. Neither of us could handle the overwhelming plethora of possibilities. We both lost our bearings while trying too hard to understand. I’m pretty sure DeeDee is done with the internet for good, but maybe I’ll go back someday and give L.A. another go.   

I texted Jeff.

Me: Do you think L.A. is like the internet?

Jeff: Lol. Internet is easier to navigate I think. No search function in L.A.

Emma Barrie is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York and one half of Paper Cone Stories. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

"Lunar Sea" - Camera Obscura (mp3)

"California" - Dr. Dog (mp3)

"Summer Holiday" - Wild Nothing (mp3)