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Entries in brittany julious (22)

Friday
Jan172014

In Which We Can Feel It All Over And Through Us

Places of Escape

by BRITT JULIOUS

“I’m a little tired,” I said to Sonia when we met for the first time at a cafe in Lincoln Park. “I stayed out late.”

“How late is late?” she asked.

“4 a.m.”

But really, 4 a.m. is only the beginning. I have danced until sunrise. I have waited and wandered home during the morning rush, a cup of caffeine in hand, walking against the tide of bodies going to while I'm coming from.

This is not a point of pride or contention, but I can recognize it now. Three years ago, I could not feel even black inside. There is a blankness to a state of depression that can only be understood after the fact. Black is absence of light. Blank is absence of order. But my closet was filled with delicate, sequined tops in blues and reds and greens, a balm for something it would take me years to fully articulate.

The night before, Crystal asked if I was attending a performance at SpyBar by George Fitzgerald, a young house musician and DJ. I wasn’t, but all of the lights were on in my home and all I could see was what I saw the night before.

It is so easy to wallow in your own problems. We often forget other people struggle too. I had forgotten until the night before. How many others do we forget until it is too late, until they are gone?

“In a cab,” I typed while still clothed in a bra and pajama bottoms.

The greatest thing I have learned in the past two years is how to escape myself. I envy those people who can stay inside, comforted with their things and self. I will forever be a work in progress. In the future, I hope I can stay home and have that be enough, but right now, my walls close in on me. At first, they are protective, but quickly, they keep me trapped in thoughts born out of 26 years of insecurity.

Not all places of escape are the same for all people. We each develop something that speaks to our everyday, our tastes, our sorrow. I know mine more than many other things in my life: the dance floor; the blinding, shimmery lights; the weight of the bass.

One of the first things Marion ever said to me was that negativity breeds negativity. Positivity does not act the same. No, positivity takes constant effort. Happiness is effort. Joy is work. People who tell you differently are dangerous and lying to you to mask the things they’d rather not be.

I understand that. It is the illusion of attraction and beauty, things that feel less natural, more the work of the self and how it wants to move through the world.

I think that negative memories work in much the same way. Unless the night was truly spectacular, we rarely remember solid pleasantness. Moments that are just good fade until weeks and months bleed into one another. But the bad has a way of staying, an unwanted acquaintance that takes root on the couch of your mind and forever overstays.

The bad can direct the ways in which you move around in the world. I am learning to unravel the negativity in my soul that has shaped me precisely like millions of other young women in the world. Imagine thinking that unpleasantness is born within you. Thinking that your mind and body are made to be used and discarded and your future is to forever watch other people simply breathe and live. This is what I am trying to escape once and for all.   

We ignore our need for places of escape because if one does not work as it is intended to, then what value could we possibly find in the search? The dance floor is nothing new to me, but I opened myself up to it, all of it, as if discovering dark walls of sound and the pleasures of anonymity for the first time.

I see these sidewalks and storefronts everyday. Keep your head down to tolerate the cold. Keep your head down to not seem too proud, too confident, too sure of yourself. Get into the building and sit down and stay there in front of your screen and your work and your things to do.

We are told to believe in the grind and when we finally wake up from that fever dream of things to do, we realize it is too late. All around you is a world that has moved on.

The escape then is the bridge between the grind. It is the pulse. It keeps you moving. I used to think that I could only find it in another person. But the only person you can ever truly know is yourself. Know yourself and your needs and everything falls into grace.

That is the thing about beginning to know yourself. You can see things as they are and stay the same, or you can see them and try to change. Change is rawness, is destruction of the familiar and the usual. And even if you are forever in pain, it is easier to know pain or anger than it is to try for something better. Eventually, you must confront the things that have caused this state of permanence. Most people hide from the truth. I have and will forever refuse to be most people.

George’s set started late and the more I waited, the more frustrated I felt. Is the dance floor the drug or the cure? Is it pure of intentions or masking reality?

If you repeat something enough times, it can grow from what you need to do to what you want to do. That is what the dance floor became for me, a place that I actually liked and understood more than my own home or the job I fear I will never escape.

But I reverted back to its core purpose this time and waiting became a test of the self.

“Is that George?” I asked myself, even though I knew it wasn’t true.

Eventually he took to the booth and what I thought would take hours to feel pleasurable took only moments. “Magnetic,” a song that sounded just OK months earlier thumped through the speakers, the bass a complete jolt to the system. I could feel it all over and through me. To know this feeling is to know it can never truly be articulated. But also, to know it is to love it so fiercely.

“I don’t know how you can go out all the time,” a man I cared for said to me once.

But I don’t go out all the time, I thought. I go out enough. I go out when I need to. I go out sometimes and then I come home and then I keep going about my life.

I left barely an hour into his set. That was all I needed. 

Outside, cabs still roamed the neighborhood as if dawn was not quickly approaching. I got a friendly cab driver, something I find happens late at night. There are stories to share and time to listen. This works both ways with both passengers.

“You had a good night?” he asked. 

“Yes!” I said still brimming with enough energy to last me through the rest of the weekend.

“Yeah, yeah. I can tell,” he said. We locked eyes in the mirror and sped down the expressway.

Chicago has something special in its electronic scene, a specialness that is recognized on its surface and for its history, but not for how it connects people, how it keeps something surprisingly warm alive for music felt to be so cold.

I remember standing on the corner of Chicago and Halsted after coming from a party in the River West neighborhood of the city. It was that biting cold you’ll only ever understand if you live here. It was that cold that makes people move away from here, makes people give up on the city, makes people see the city for what it is and believe that it will never get better.

But the party ran very late and like many times before, I was one of the stragglers refusing to go out from what felt warm and good and pure because of the music. Lots of deep house and UKG. Lots of music that feels instantly familiar. Lots of music that sounds from the future and forever.

The wind whipped against my face and I opened my mouth to breathe in deeply the air that finally felt clear. I saw a young man I met earlier in the night, but had forgotten quickly. He found a cab before I did.

“Here, you take it,” he shouted.

“No, it’s fine. I’m going South,” I said.

“Really? You sure you’re okay getting back?” he said. 

I just nodded my head.

Britt Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Orange is the New Black. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by Isabel Muñoz.

"Magnetic" - George Fitzgerald (mp3)

"Bad Aura" - George Fitzgerald (mp3)

"Daily Spirals" - The Cyclist (mp3)

"All I Need" - Daniel Avery (mp3)

"Drone Logic" - Daniel Avery (mp3)

Monday
Aug262013

In Which We Follow Her Inside The Prison

True Nature

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

Orange Is The New Black
creator Jenji Kohan

No one holds Piper Chapman’s hand. Not really. Instead, she is groped and ignored and ridiculed. This stays true to the fish out of water narrative of Orange Is The New Black and Piper is a classic fish out of water. Nice, quiet white ladies do not end up in prison. And if they do, it is because things happen “to” them rather than “because” of them. But as Orange Is The New Black unfolds, we soon learn that Piper is not hapless or innocent or quiet. She is certainly not nice. No, like the other women in the prison, Piper is a woman who made choices and must now face the consequences.

Piper (Taylor Schilling) is serving 13 months in prison for helping smuggle drugs across the border for her ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause. It is no surprise then to learn that Piper must now serve her prison sentence with Alex. For the first few episodes, Piper makes her animosity toward Alex well known, ultimately blaming her for her prison sentence. In true Piper form, she has neglected to take responsibility for her own actions and her complicity in the crime.

Orange Is The New Black is about finding the humanity in people we often assume have none. We stigmatize the experiences of people in prison without knowing what led them to this environment. For Piper, the reality of prison has not sunk in. Her only possibility of survival is to accept both what she’s done and her true nature as a woman who is not as perfect and nice as she thinks she is.

It becomes evident as the show progresses that the most compelling characters and stories have little, if anything, to do with Piper. There are no magical negroes or spiritual guides for Piper’s experience in prison. The show is a powerful and overt representation of race relations both in and outside of prison. The stereotypes are thick with vitriol in the show’s initial episodes, though they dissipate as the show progresses. As Piper begins to acclimate herself to the culture of prison, there is a real possibility that for Piper’s sensibilities, even speaking openly about race (prejudiced or otherwise) is a shock.

Elsewhere we are drawn into the romantic yet troubling “relationship” of Daya Diaz (Dascha Polanco) and correctional officer John Bennett (Matt McGorry). We are fascinated by Miss Claudette (Michelle Hurst), Piper’s roommate and an older woman who must come to terms with the possibility of her own parole. And Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), a transgender woman and a truer protagonist of the show, is all glamour and wisdom and heart. She could certainly warrant a spin-off on her own.

The opening credits of Orange Is The New Black are particularly compelling. Featuring a theme song by Regina Spektor, we view a series of close-ups of different women’s faces. None are particularly “pretty” and really, that is not the point. The credits go on for a long time and they linger.

What we find ourselves more drawn to is the sheer abundance of faces – young and old, wrinkled and baby-faced – that represent the varying demographics of the prison system. Yes, jails are disproportionately filled with black and hispanic men and women. But there are many different “types” of prisoners, and the circumstances that led to their imprisonment are as diverse and distinct as their faces.

In a recent interview for Fresh Air, Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan noted that a show featuring a rich cast of multidimensional and racially and sexually diverse characters could not “sell” without a protagonist (a white and blonde and pretty protagonist) like Piper. Granted, the initial source material for the television show is the memoir of the same name written by Piper Kerman. But many elements (such as Piper “reuniting” with Alex) were created or altered specifically for the show.

In the interview, Kohan said:

In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful.

Still, Orange is the New Black represents a teachable moment for its lead. It is OK to hate Piper. In fact, as the show progresses, the writers and creators have made sure to highlight Piper’s flaws (and there are many). Within these walls Piper finds herself. And as nauseating as that reads, what she unwraps is someone who is not as great or insightful or “good” as she thought she was and what other people have told her she must be. In prison, Piper discovers what makes her like anyone else. That she must be locked up to understand this only speaks to the ways in which her privileged life has sheltered her from the realities of her own adulthood.

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

"Your Face" - Delorean (mp3)

"Unhold" - Delorean (mp3)


 

Wednesday
Apr032013

In Which Seeing Myself Everywhere Makes Me Want To Crawl

Can You Be Quiet Now?

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

Chicago is not a solitary city. I don’t know why I am just now realizing this. Perhaps because it was so easy to fill my time with friends, half ones and real ones. Once they began to fall away through big moves, growing up and growing apart, I began to realize the reality of this city. Not much has changed since college except that I feel it more now. I see it more. This is a moment of transition. Everyone is moving on in life and love and the solitariness that is fertile most in older age is beginning to settle into normalcy.

This is a city of friendships and communities. When we talk about Chicago as a city of neighborhoods, we mean it truly and deeply. You know your neighbors here. You make your friends and keep them close here. This is not a town for acquaintances. This is not a city for silence and oneness and the self. And yet here I am, alone for years, still surviving, but barely.

There are many activities that people say you must do with other people, but I’ve often found that other people can change the dynamic of environments. I am someone that likes to be with other people and alone. This means two things: I like to go out with actual friends and I like to go out alone. This also means that I like to go out alone, yet be surrounded by other bodies. I like to be one surrounded by groups of many.

I’ve always felt comfortable eating alone, my meals born out of a weird relationship to food: always a little chubby as a child from eating a lot, then obsessive about exercise as a teen and bingeing or not eating much at all, then more or less normal as an adult. A restaurant has been one of the easiest ways to experience the city on my own. I love going out with friends, but costs and coordinating often means that a get together can take a lot of effort. Sometimes I just want to go out and eat a delicious meal and do it right then and there. So I do.

People say you need a book or your cell phone or some other activity to eat alone, but I’ve been at a cafe with just a glass of red wine and a window seat and that’s been enough. That is why a true cafe is my favorite place in the world. Not a restaurant and not a bar. Certainly not a coffee house. Cafes have bits and pieces of everything, but mostly, they have the ability to keep one confident in the face of aloneness. Cafes are for secure aloneness, free most distractions, yet public and surrounded by people not alone. They are perfect places to be lonely because people can see this loneliness, but they won’t question it. In the back of their mind they might think: perhaps I will be in the place too. It is not a place of pity, but a place of understanding.

I go to concerts alone more often than with friends. I had to make a decision around my sophomore year of college: do I love this music enough? And the answer was yes. Often my friends don’t listen to the same music that I do. Often, my relationship to music is deeply personal and raw. I don’t need other friends there to want to go and see my favorite musicians. And often, I’ve found some friends to be a distraction from the music itself. Sometimes I just want to say: Can you be quiet now?

I regularly purchase tickets for myself alone, regardless of whether or not they’ll sell out. I don’t have time to convince people to go with me. As a college student, I regularly reviewed concerts and had multiple +1s. I could sometimes get a friend to go to a show with me if they had to pay, but I could always get them to go if I had a +1. That rubbed me the wrong way. I know why that happens, but I didn’t (and don’t) like it.

I’m surrounded by dive bars that make nice cocktails. No one goes to them during the week. Sometimes I outline my essays with a gin and tonic and my writing notebook. No one bats an eye. But also, there is no one there to say anything to you. Men usually occupy space at the bar, they are alone but not afraid to start a conversation with a stranger next to them. These trips to the bar alone for me are not in pursuit of friendships. Those men feel lonely to me in a way that I could never be publicly, even through my writing. When I go, I go alone and stay alone. I don’t pursue other people. I am there to fulfill a need. I am there to fill a hole that can not be filled inside of my office, my bedroom, or underneath the covers.

Going to a nightclub is weird, but can be done alone. I could never do it at those same dive bars mentioned above on a weekend. But a nightclub? Yes. Certainly. Here, when I say nightclub, I only really mean one place and that is Smart Bar. Maybe because it’s so dark and it is underground. Maybe it is the music rule at play: do you love this DJ enough? Last week I wrote: We are so alone together. I wrote it thinking about technology, how these screens often reveal a longing and loneliness, how we share these feelings with others. But maybe it can also mean the experience of being alone with others around you. Not everyone can handle it. It is intense and scary. The dance floor for me has always been a place of transformation. It doesn’t require knowing the people around me. It is personal.

If I am feeling in control of the situation, I love meeting strangers. I’ve gone to raves and Chinatown disco loft parties alone. I’ve taken cabs at midnight to desolate streets, climbed walls, knocked three times on old metal doors, and said the password alone. I have gone to corners of the city I never knew existed just to listen to Diana Ross and Giorgio Moroder records and I’ve done it alone. And I’ll say hello. I’ll flirt and I’ll make new One Night Only Friends. Or I won’t and that’s okay.

Sometimes I like to stay at home and re-watch My Mad Fat Diary, my favorite television show. Sometimes I’ll cry and wish I saw my real, true friends more. Sometimes I’ll cry a lot and wish I was still 19 when a friend was so easy to find and you were surrounded by these huge groups of people. It didn’t matter that you loved them or even liked them. They were there and that was comforting. But now I’m 25 and everyone is moving away and moving on. I am too. I know this. So sometimes I’ll just say fuck it and do what I want because I need to not be there, wallowing, wondering, getting trapped by the pull of the internet. Online, everyone is having a better time than you. I am not strong enough to deal with that. At the end of the night, at least I can say: I was not here.

My friend Gabriel recently said that I am a very solitary person. This was a compliment. It was about staying in Chicago versus leaving. I don’t want to stay here. I know where I want to go, to places where this solitary life makes more sense. The cities are busy and loud, yet still beautiful. More importantly, they are congested, full of people, full of opportunities to be alone together and not feel worse for it. This solitariness was also about doing the things I’ve always wanted to do. It was about being the person I’ve always wanted to be. It was about seeing things myself, staying curious, learning, laughing, confronting my fears, finding what I love and never letting go.

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

"Without You My Life Would Be Boring" - The Knife (mp3)

"Ready To Lose" - The Knife (mp3)