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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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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 Have Little Time For You On Our Special Day

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


In September I am planning on marrying my boyfriend of four years, Darren. Recently the wedding preparations have begun in earnest and while I don't have any hesitation about my decision to get married (I hate the expression tie the knot, it is gross), I am a bit worried about how many people seem to be involved in the ceremony. Both of our parents are contributing financially to the event, and understandably they both expect to be a part of the process.

The wedding already seems like it will have to be much larger than I ever imagined it - over 100 people! - and the amount of money and time that is going into one day is starting to bother me. Should I just suck up my feelings or should I try to do something about it?

Jamie P.

Dear Jamie,

Many weddings and genocides share a common trait - they both involve over 100 people. I have attended many weddings in my time, and the only one I really truly enjoyed the bride got incredibly drunk and slept through most of the reception. Basically, as a bride, you are allowed several common expressions that will curtail a lot of this chicanery without coming off as a party pooper:

- "I always imagined a small wedding."

- someone suggests inviting Aunt Helen. "Didn't Aunt Helen once say ADHD was caused by grapefruit juice? She is not welcome on my special day."

- "Whose wedding is this?"

- "Darren and I need to talk that over."

- "Whose special day is this?"

- "Aunt Helen once thought my Armenian friend was a terrorist."

- "They had that at the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise nups. Remind me how that special day worked out."

- "You're not my mother."

- "You might be my mother, but this is not your special day."

- "I need to talk that over with Aunt Helen."

Above all, lie, prevaricate and postpone any decision you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with. No one ever looks back on a bride's behavior before a wedding and says, "She was just so indecisive, Shelia!" It's just par for the course.


A friend of mine, Andrea, recently split with her boyfriend, Steven, of a year. (We all live in Park Slope.) They have stayed on good terms and he sometimes says hi to us both if he sees us, and once he caught a mouse in her apartment with his bare hands when I was there at a screening of The Prince of Tides.

Needless to say I was extremely turned on by this event and I would like to see more of Steven. You asked me why they broke up: it was a mutual thing but I think the main deciding factor was that she felt a bit too domesticated by the relationship and wanted to go out more.

I feel weird asking Andrea's permission to pursue things with Steven, and I'm worried he will feel weird too if he hears I have asked, or even if I suggest hanging out together in general. What's the best way to approach this?

Megan P.

Dear Megan,

If he's still running the pest control game at his ex's apartment, Steve doesn't seem like the most headstrong fellow. Nor would I ever be able to fully divest myself of the notion that the hands stroking my body had touched a mouse's corpse, although I believe that is more my problem than yours.

What you need to do is get Steven to ask Andrea for her permission. That could be a bit farfetched on both their parts, but it will only happen if you can get alone time with Steven on some other pretext. Tell him an endangered condor accidentally flew into your apartment, and you would like him to remand it to a local animal shelter equipped to deal with large birds. Or maybe he knows Spanish and can teach it to you.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Every Age" - Jose Gonzales (mp3)

"What Will" - Jose Gonzales (mp3)


In Which We Prefer The Dim Lighting Of The Torkelsons

Serious Youth


I discovered The Torkelsons where I discovered everything I loved in the nineties - the Disney Channel. Of the two children's networks popular at the time, it was the only one worth watching. Nickelodeon seemed seedy and excessively juvenile. Even at the tender age of seven, I found youth, and the programs that accompany it, a little embarrassing. Neon colored game shows like Wild and Crazy Kids and Double Dare never appealed to me. I preferred dim lighting and convoluted plots. For whatever reason, I thought tears were more sophisticated than laughter. The Torkelsons had a little of both, so I gave it a shot.

I saw myself in Dorothy Jane, the show's 14-year-old protagonist, who describes herself as “a woman trapped in a child's shell.” Unlike the rest of her family she is sensitive and literate. While her hillbilly mom and gaggle of siblings make asses of themselves downstairs, she holes up in her attic bedroom. Sprawled on a window seat, she reads poetry, learns French, and laments the loss of her father, who abandoned the family to work on an oil rig. I guess he spends his money on booze and strippers, because the Torkelsons are dead broke. A washing machine is repossessed in the pilot episode. The children wear clothes made of curtains and dish rags. For a few extra bucks, Mama Torkelson lets a stranger live in the basement. Boarder Hodges is a Mr. Rogers type, but he has the eyes of a murderer. You can never be too careful. Especially when there are kids involved.

Nothing irrevocably terrible happens to the Torkelsons. Most of their struggles are just momentarily embarrassing. The most iconic episode, according to the three other people besides myself who watched the show, is called “The Cotillion.” It centers around Dorothy Jane's first high school dance. She finds a dress at a thrift store that is perfect aside from an ink stain on the left hip.

Thanks to her mom's sewing abilities, they are able to conceal it with a silk rose. Things are going well until Dreama, the class bitch, recognizes the dress as one she used to own. To prove it, she yanks the rose off the fabric to reveal its imperfection. Dorothy Jane is horrified but smart enough to realize this reflects badly on Dreama, not her. Plus, she's probably a little clairvoyant and knows that in ten years it will be cool to shop at Goodwill.

In addition to her remarkable ability to detect bullshit and predict fashion trends, Dorothy Jane has good taste and big dreams. She is also a little horny. Michael Landes plays the object of her affection, Riley Roberts. The casting is great. With his floppy hair and well-shined Doc Martins he's the ultimate 90s babe.

When he moves next door it's a wonder Dorothy Jane doesn't hump him at once. Rather than act on her desires, she talks about them to the Man on the Moon, a secular stand in for God. “Man on the Moon,” she says in broad daylight, “He's four years older than me and out of reach. The rest of my life will be unending sadness.” The girl is prone to hyperbole. In another episode she doesn’t get a scholarship to study abroad and decides she’ll live in Pyramid Corners, Oklahoma for the rest of her “pitiful existence.” As a reluctant Texan, I could totally relate.

Landes' character never falls for Dorothy Jane because he is an idiot. She possesses all of the traits I covet: curly hair, intelligence, an attractive sort of melancholy. She's the type who goes largely unnoticed in high school but thrives in college when she discovers cigarettes and Derrida. Though the series only documents her failed attempts at romance, I imagine she grows up to have many interesting lovers. Someone like Ben Gibbard would totally dig her.

The Torkelsons existed in its original incarnation for 20 episodes at which point it was re-branded as Almost Home and lost my interest. In the second season, two of Dorothy Jane’s siblings, Steven Floyd and Ruth Ann, disappear without explanation. Mama Torkelson moves the remainder of the family to Seattle where she takes a job nannying Brittany Murphy (R.I.P.). The scenery is better and money is not so tight. It was all a little too hopeful for me, so I switched to Dawson's Creek. Thanks to YouTube, most episodes of The Torkelsons are available for free online. I have attempted to get several friends interested in the show and failed miserably. “It's like Roseanne but not as funny,” one said. Maybe. But who's looking for funny anyway?

Elizabeth Barbee is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Dallas. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about a convincing French woman.


In Which We Fight For Nothing

Other Than Myself


So far, there is a man who expects me to always be brief and too busy. There is a man who expects me to always be there and too much. There are several people who expect that I’ll fill in the silence during car rides. There is a girl who wants me to watch her cats. There is a girl who cancels every time we make plans. I hang their expectations like a hammock in my brain. I go to it when I want to feel good again. Whether they are really expectations or not, I seek comfort there.

I live in a friend’s apartment in an old motel the first week. An acquaintance comes to pick me up and says, “Oh, neat! A re-done motel.” There is nothing changed or improved or remodeled or re-done. The motel rooms are just individual apartments now and I am envious of how easy it is for them to change so completely with just a new name.

I live in a friend’s walk-in closet next. He provides me with a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag, company and meals that he pays for with a “just pay it forward” wave of his hand. He offers me the couch, but I can’t sleep next to the familiar noise of an unfamiliar city.

The sirens and shouts and garbage trucks are the same everywhere, but I am different now. I want dark and quiet. I want to listen to the other tenants climb the stairs through the walls at night. I want to hear the bones of this place, not the world outside of it. I want to be familiar with something, even if it’s just the way the dog next door hates the tenant two doors over.

When I go to battle with myself I bring a dictionary and my to-do list. Since I moved to Seattle, I have neither.


I drink coffee because I am not sure what else to do here without a car. Someone tells me about a French bakery in walking distance that has good croissants. There is one open table when I arrive. Next to me, a woman pecks at her children, "Are we mean to mommy? Are we mean to mommy?" and the father spins circles around them, a whirlwind of grabbing a fork, then the cream, then napkins, then a fallen pacifier, then napkins again. He bumps the back of his chair into the side of me each time he rises.

A middle-aged woman asks to join me and I can barely contain my excitement. 

"Yes! Of course! I felt bad taking this whole table! Join!"

I'm all exclamation points. I just want to please someone other than myself. She is reading a book and I want to ask her what it is, if it’s any good, but I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed. When she gets up to grab her cheese danish and I see the title, I am.

I watch everything around me and hope nothing is watching me.


I purchase a card with an illustration of the typography of a bird on it. It flies out of my purse whenever I dig for a book or my wallet. I trace its body with my eyes in a way I cannot look at myself in a photograph or a mirror lately. The fragile auricular just below his tiny eye, the wing coverts, the scapulars. Flattened on paper he looks unbreakable and incapable of flight.

My father loves birds. One Christmas, a Christmas that we picked names to exchange gifts with a fifty-dollar limit, a Christmas that must have been a decade ago, my cousin’s husband bought him a cheap blue and white birdhouse. I was hurt on his behalf, especially when I saw the price tag for $9.99. No part of receiving it was hard or sad for him. It stills hangs in my parent's backyard. I am always trying to feel things for others first so that they might not have to.

Here, I don’t know who to feel for other than myself and I am not blind, for once, to what it means to be selfish.


It takes exactly two hits of Obama Kush from a weed shop in Bellevue to make me think my hair looks very good. I stick my head inside of the built-in shelves in the walk-in closet and think about how beautiful it is in there. Leonardo DaVinci said, “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.” I want the smallest room.

A friend offers to help me create goals for my year and, five days after I first feel disappointed in not having thought of it myself, I realize we are not the same. I am incapable of shaping my year with a path laid down to larger themes. I achieve in bursts or not at all.

Driving, a new friend asks me what my favorite movie is and I say I don’t have one. He asks “Well, what movies don’t you like?” And I have no answer for that, either. “Well, do you like music?” I tell him I do. I tell him I like to watch movies sometimes and I don’t rank them. I tell him there are certain bands I listen to when I write. He wants names. I give him three. He asks me if I have a favorite type of movie and I try to explain that I’ll give most everything a try. He finally tells me he doesn’t have a favorite movie and that he hates the question. I find myself barking back “So why did you ask me?”

I can chew the fat until it’s lean meat. I am learning that I can spit it out, too.

I read several essays about travel and home and all of them make me cry. I am exhausted with constantly bathing myself in nostalgia and rinsing it off with other people’s well-crafted sentences. Cities are beginning to mean less to me. Nostalgia is, too. You can be miserable anywhere. You can be happy, too. I am tired of tallying up my sins and organizing them by zip code.

“I think you’ll feel better when you have a job here,” a friend advises.

The clock above Safeway has been stuck at 7:45 for weeks, perhaps longer. Twice a day, it is correct. Twice a day, it is correct. It becomes my mantra. One morning, it’s correct again all day. It feels like a betrayal.

For my part-time work, I send the wrong e-mail to the wrong person. I follow up with an apology and I write the word “form” instead of “from". There were whole years I refused to apologize for anything. Now all I want to say is I got it wrong and I’m sorry.

Amanda Oliver is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Seattle. She last wrote in these pages about writing back. You can find her website here.

Photographs by the author.

"Summer of Love" - Waxahatchee (mp3)

"The Dirt" - Waxahatchee (mp3)