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Alex Carnevale

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Brittany Julious

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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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Entries in chicago (18)


In Which We Checked On His Story And It Was Fake

His Twitch


Q: You came back to Chicago.

A: I don't know how he knew I was in town, but he did.

Q: You were reluctant to go back with him, to his apartment.

A: He told me he wanted to talk. When he said it, I realized that was what I wanted, too. He didn't look like himself, had put on weight. He mentioned it and explained he had given up smoking. I can't explain this, but it felt like someone was watching us.

Q: Did you feel pity?

A: I tried to. He was telling me about his last girlfriend. She had probably had things on the walls, before she left. I said, why did she leave?

Q: There is a myth that smoking reduces the appetite. It isn't true. The act of taking drugs simply mitigates the pleasure we take from food, in contrast. 

A: His mother — when he was a boy — had tied him to a chair when he wouldn't eat.

Q: Did you check on the story? Do you know if it was a lie?

A: That doesn't matter.

Q: I had a boyfriend who was a pathological liar. Eventually I realized when he told a lie he always touched a dimple above his eyebrow. 

A: I think a dimple specifically refers to a cheekbone. Anyplace else, it's a twitch.

Q: In that case, your eye is twitching. But since I always knew when it was a lie, it meant he could no longer effectively lie to me.

A: You told him.

Q: No. Our connection was mostly physical anyway. To make him conscious of his tell would be to make him into an effective liar. Since no woman willingly tolerates that for long, I would have been dooming him to certain unhappiness.

A: So?

Q: We hold the fate of others in our hands. To pretend it is not so...

A: In his apartment, I felt a keening despair. He had nothing on the walls, nothing at all.

Q: That is the mark of someone who is easily distracted from what he should be doing, who could rationalize anything.

A: I know.

Q: Yes, that was good. 

A: He said that it was because she knew he loved me. There was no point in competing with that.

Q: He was probably telling the truth there.

A: Do you know when I lie?

Q: Do you know when I lie?

A: I used to think I did. You have become subtler in the years since we began this. I don't see you as a human. You know what I mean. I see you as a useful, kind, giving abstraction.

Q: You did it there. That kind of blithe summary.  Weak people - your ex, maybe - are addicted to that sort of thing.

A: His father was abusive, also. When he attained some corporate rank at his firm, his father's first question was, "Why aren't you a partner?"

Q: Don't change the subject.

A: This was the subject.

Q: I meant, don't change it again. I do know when you lie, sometimes. At other times, I don't have the slightest idea.

A: You should look for a tell. It was lucky I could see it in his face. Usually the lie is on the body somewhere: the crossing of a legs, cracking of a knuckle, shifting of a tailbone. 

Q: I realized what was happening in the apartment. His girlfriend was watching you. He had to prove something to her?

A: Yes.

Q: Were you angry?

A: No. I felt I deserved it.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn.

Mixed media by Ching Ching Cheng.

"Sprained Ankle" - Julien Baker (mp3)


In Which There Are Absolutely No Substitutes

photograph by jerry siegel

Notes on Changing Direction


When I was young, magnolia trees were synonymous with South. Even though one dove over the driveway of our Wisconsin yard in a frozen, fat-blossomed wave, shedding petals as thick as tongues onto the concrete, the books I read pinned magnolia trees to plantations, weeping Spanish moss, the hot air sick with their perfume. They shaded dust-choked cotton fields and country roads parched by a year-long July, a world thick with grotesques — deaf-mutes, Boo Radleys — and manic preachers, dark secrets and surges of strange violence.

At some point of middle school desperation, I fell hard for Southern Gothic. Stories that moved and unsettled me, writing that, in all its gloriously creepy thematic splendor, was a teething ring for teen angst. I read Wise Blood on the bus. A frenzy of Capote, Jackson, and McCullers that ended shell-shocked over The Heart is A Lonely Hunter in the school library. Through them, the South was slicked with a cartoon glaze, its whimsy grim enough to make depression seem cozy. I considered it an anti-Disneyland, real enough to claim a spot on the map yet doused in a thin magic you willed yourself to believe. The dry facts were skimmed over in history class. Fiction alone informed my understanding of life across an invisible line, the ghost of the Mason Dixon.


I was thirteen the summer my parents unfurled their plans for a proper family expedition. Not five hours tracing the shoreline towards Canada for a sunburnt week in a cabin. Not us, not this time. We were going to drive to South Carolina, our van pinballing its way through landmark cities in the process. Thrill and dread unspooled in my chest. I anticipated a modern version of what I knew South to mean — drawls and Civil War monuments, miscellaneous macabre activities — only now swimming in plenty of asphalt and fast food chains. I wasn't entirely wrong. In memories, most of these exist dimly, spectators that circle a disaster unfolding in slow-motion.

The Trip, and it more than earned its capital letters, will forever exist in fragments. When strung together, these excerpts read like a script, or more specifically, National Lampoon's Vacation as ghostwritten by Flannery O'Connor and directed by David Lynch. It opens at dawn on Family Vacation, Day One. My sister begins retching before our tires touch the street. A flu bug bends her in half, head buried in the bathroom trash can pinched between her knees. Miles pass at a hitching rate, a few hours going, a few hours stopped to sight-see and breath clean air, her misery more infectious than any stomach virus. In the Appalachians, we swelter in stand-still traffic that lasts through an afternoon. Car doors splay open like wings and people wander along the side of the road, queasy from the altitude.

Following dinner at a local restaurant, food poisoning strikes with a vengeance. My mother and I twist in sweaty knots on the bathroom tiles of our hotel. A rooming mistake in Charleston lands us in a party-torn suite, its broken lamp leaning dejectedly in the  corner. We eye the mysterious hubcap-sized stain on the carpet and elect to sleep on top of the beds. Bad luck edges into darker territory.

While touring the Biltmore Estate, my mother goes momentarily blind. What she blames on the sun is, in actuality, a small stroke. Relief requires too much effort by the time we finally touch the ocean. Perched on a sweeping beach, the resort is peaceful, its rooms tidy and smelling sweetly marine. We loosen our shoulders and pick along the sand, hoping to swim, as thunderheads roil merrily behind us. The next three days are a solid unbroken rain. On the fourth, we turn home under a suddenly clearing sky. Fade to black. The End.

There is a particular strangeness to experiencing what you have only read about. Words written and moments lived merge like bodies in a crowd, milling together into indistinguishable details. I remember very little of our surroundings during those two weeks. There are exceptions; Charleston's slicing heat, the view from an Appalachian road, but the rest recedes into shadows skirting my family's immediate chaos. In our time there and afterwards, my impression of the South dissolved further, into something more like a dream. It was the backdrop of a story rehashed at Christmas dinners, it lived in the novels I fell in the love with and surfaced occasionally on the television screen, but otherwise escaped my awareness as anything tangible. A blank plain yawned below the Illinois border, a sketch erased and waiting to be reshaped.


In the lull of this past winter, my boyfriend and I deliberated where to relocate after his graduation in June. It could have been anywhere, but our individual preferences were clear. I missed Chicago. He lobbied for Nashville. We were both surprised when I agreed.

After years circling Lake Michigan, an attempt to settle elsewhere seemed to steady my restlessness. The decision felt like an accident, not in the way of regret but in arriving of its accord. I tried to imagine what a day there would be, the light striping my face as I woke to an strange ceiling, and I realized again how little I knew outside Midwestern life.

Twice in the spring, we drove to Nashville to scout for  housing and visit friends. I tried to shake free of the vacation haze of time off work and nights curled, drunk and satisfied, on an air mattress and make note of this new place, allowing its features to ease slowly into focus. What I saw, what I still see, is a city decidedly in-between. True middle ground, pinned towards the center of the country's chest. Its sprawl spills into the foothills, the simmer between flatlands and the mountains' rolling boil, a landscape that oscillates between marshy groves and sloping rock.

The population is wildly outsourced, natives swallowed by a widening stream of transplants. Music hopefuls and artists, immigrants, entrepreneurs, form a tributary that eddies an indeterminate local culture. I wonder at the result — a pidgin of national identity fed by American's full spectrum, with certain regional distinctions rising more deliberately to the surface. Northern and Southern sensibilities meet and muddle. Tradition keeps anchor in a tide of new ideals. I warmed to the idea of 'Yes, here,' charmed by its confusion, the erratic beating of its heart.


The differences are subtler than expected. It's the heat mostly. All the finer details stem from its heavy pulse. I keep track regardless, slipping every nuance into a mental pocket. The crazed plant life is a marked change, unfamiliar vines and shrubs and low-bowing trees clambering all over each other, made ruthless by the warm damp. Thick boughs muscle their way onto sidewalks and claw desperately towards the curb. A snaking bush ripped our back gate clean off its hinges.

The insect world breeds with the same deranged abandon. Spiders, fat and round as robin's eggs, dangle above doorways on legs substantial enough to be small fingers. If garden variety spiders spin lace, these ogres weave like looms, stretching thick yellow swathes across stray branches. Paper wasps the length of my finger Houdini their way into our apartment. Likewise with tiny ant battalions and enough flies to work a saint into a blind rage. To them, RAID is an adorable joke. I've learned to read the cicadas in the way I once glanced at a thermometer. There isn't a word existing that bottles their sound, the way it swells with each rising degree. Keening comes close. A drone, a grinding of teeth with no teeth to speak of. In the end, it's too alien. I'm spooked by the noise despite small efforts at acceptance. What I hear is a warning, inescapably ominous, like the whisper of something coming. Menacing, simply because it's anonymous.

I slip my fingers through the blinds and peer out at the air cooking above the empty street or the house next door with its own drawn shades to prove to my knotting shoulders that there's no threat at all. Windows are almost always covered here, as if everyone feels under the same siege. In a way, they are. Curtains bunched tight, sheets haphazardly hung and shivering from some unseen fan, anything imaginable to block out the sun. The indoors is sacred ground, blessedly air-conditioned. Outside, even in shade, humidity is as merciless as a wool glove. Porches gape sulkily, empty of anything but a few jilted chairs, a crouching table with a coffee pot glowering at a closed front door. Every house keeps its secrets until sundown. Afternoon cools to evening and windows fly open like eyelids, lit rooms lively with shadows as dinner is made. Figures bathed in porch-lights' murky gold tangle voices and flash the glint of raised bottles. Night feels thicker. Moonbeams clot in the dark air, palpable enough to cup in open palms.

photograph by jerry siegel


It is hard to see the truth of a place through the coating of assumptions. The presupposed smears vision like a dirty pane, enough for me to doubt my observations. Are they honest or influenced by words I clung to more than a decade ago? Down the street, a house built into the hillside stands on a broad, well-kept lawn. Someone has mown the word HOPE into the manicured grass, each letter arching 12 feet long. I stare each time I pass by and fend off a conviction that is this somehow significant. Yards in the city's satellite neighborhoods often dwarf the homes they belong to. The buildings themselves squat low to the ground and bob at the edge of their private expanses like rowboats in a bay, the disproportion a truce with the undergrowth snarling along property lines.

I speculate about these things. I imagine. I swear to myself that the light here is more yellow, that there is a certain weight of mystery that belongs to this climate, this region that has a shared yet separate history to the states that I know well, and then remember that all of it is only unfamiliar. I've romanticized the South with a potency that lingers. It will be winter soon and I wonder how that sense will shift with the seasons. An urge to venture downward and deeper — weekends in Baton Rouge, wandering to Little Rock, Savannah — stirs quietly in me, an emboldening and a need for experience uncolored by outside opinion. First impressions are their own brand of fiction. Stories are held captive on shelves for good reason.


Nowhere is without lacking. I miss the lakeshore, the waves and the wind's cool stroke. Rhubarb and lightly sweetened tea. Wine is no longer bought with groceries; liquor laws confine it to specialty stores that are few and far between. While there are no substitutes, fresh discoveries fill those gaps, things that will become new longings when I leave here. A month has come and gone and I sit motionless in our living room, listening. Underneath the cicadas' whine, I am beginning to hear a song.

Lauren Cierzan is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about claustrogoraphobia. She is a writer living in Nashville. She tumbls here.

photograph by jerry siegel

"Saturday Come Slow" - Massive Attack ft. Damon Albarn (mp3)

"Paradise Circus" - Massive Attack ft. Hope Sandoval (mp3)


In Which Too Much Performance Remains Exhausting

Of My Own Accord



In my parents’ home in the suburbs, after a stranger held me down and sexually assaulted me on the train, leaving a literal trail of his destruction on my black velvet skirt and long brown legs, I thought about how, a month and a half earlier, I would have been sitting through a long meeting at work at that exact time. I would have been keeping notes and shaking my head in disagreement and thinking about all of the things I wished I was doing instead of being at work.

A temporary pleasure would have been the ride home on public transportation with the knowledge that the day was officially over. That despite being crammed in an oversized bus rolling slowly down Chicago Avenue past the quiet, industrial warehouses of Goose Island and the quaint Cuban restaurants and the abundance of taquerias, I was near my own little home. But instead, I was alone and it was the middle of the afternoon and I was there, a foreign place, the quiet of mid afternoon.

Instead of being in the office, I am out and about in the world, trying to make sense of my decision. I always thought I would leave my job of my own accord after finding the next perfect thing. But I didn't and I couldn't. Life has never worked out the way I wanted it to and instead, I've had to recreate the things I want for myself haphazardly, shoddily, without a clear idea of what comes next and what the end product or idea or goal will look like.

I made the choice to leave, and the weaker part of me thinks that all of this, even the worst (which I've thrown out in the beginning of this essay to give it less stature than it had these last six weeks) was meant to happen for a reason. I don't know if it made me stronger, but it did make me more curious about the distance between the world in our minds and our realities. I have a few more weeks of playing into the fantasy of my imagined self before reality settles in. I am getting prepared. But hopefully, that won't be an issue.


I didn’t realize how much I would be alone when I left my old job. I met some of the greatest people I will ever know and some of the worst imaginable. I fell in love. I was challenged. But I also had to challenge myself. That had never been my reality.

I forgot how much I relied on the consistency of 9-5 to get me through the moments when I am alone, and life does not feel as warm and welcoming as it should. But it settled in soon enough and I began to notice the things around me more profoundly: the dusty covers of my myriad of books, the old containers of food in my refrigerator, the piles of laundry that were organized at some point, but only occasionally attended to during the workweek.

I am the only one responsible and accounting for my life outside of an office. This thought used to cross my mind, but not consistently. Now I think about it constantly. You are responsible for these tasks and these things and where you are, even if you resist again and again.

I live alone and always have. The older I am, the more I profoundly recognize that aloneness. Age asks of us the ability to connect with the few. It asks us to move on.

A night out never feels like enough.

Conversations have changed from, “You will be fine,” to, “What are you doing all day?” These are my friends.

I have friends who have it all and friends who are so hungry, literally. I have friends who only want the things that will give them more. I have friends who create and look at the things around them and wonder if any of it will matter.

Living alone never felt so alone. I enjoyed being able to come home to just myself. But now it is just me all of the time. You are forced to confront things about yourself that were easier to push aside because there was another impenetrable force weighing heavily on your shoulders.

photograph by dieter rehm

Sometimes I leave the house just to go to a store just to talk to someone. When you are emotionally unhappy, you cling to people who make the day better. When I ended a relationship earlier this year, I found comfort in my friends at work. Each night was lonely, but I had something  people  to look forward to everyday. Now it’s just me. That’s a lot to process. I am burdened with my own thoughts and actions. Everything is bottled up for when we are free. By then, nothing feels as grave, but also nothing feels as relevant.

I spend a lot of time in The Winchester, a local restaurant and cafe near my apartment. I’ve made acquaintance with the cafe’s employees. This is something I always do at places I like to frequent. Creating and recreating home feels necessary in a city. There are so many people here. What I need is to make sure I have found a slice of life that challenges me greatly, but also wraps me gently like my grandmother’s arms. I need to know that I can create something for myself, even if it is just a routine. I always say “Hello!” I love a good “Hello!” Talking online is not the same thing. Anyone that says so is lying. I have always been the sort of person that can’t stay in my head for two long. I slip easily into a trail of thoughts. What started off as a question in my mind morphed into a worry, a panic, a terror.

After ending a relationship, I relied on the comforts of familiar faces, people and friends I could trust. What I knew is that they would be “there,” if only because they were required to do so.

You form family and bonds out of strife. You connect with people because you need something greater than your current situation and because that stability is a life force.

I know now that there is always something to believe in during times when we think there is nothing. Life can never be black and white.

What I miss most is the compulsion to speak, the knowledge that I was heard. Everyday, I came to work and spoke to my friends and then began my day. Every moment the night before was a chance for rapturous summary. It was not about what happened so much as the need to engage with others, if only temporarily.


After a couple of weeks, my next instinct was to read one of my favorite books. I wrote that when you are lost, you should return to the works that changed your life. I don’t think it’s cliche. Favorites exist for a reason. Seeing is specific. My world is constantly informed and shaped by the voices I once knew and now hold in high, distant regard.

I pulled out my copy of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover. It is beat up, truly. The cover tore off of the seam at some point. I found it in between a stack of bills I stuffed in my black leather backpack. It fit in well, just another thing I didn’t take care of in time and must now face the consequences.

Pages are dog-eared with gusto, especially in the beginning. Despite what other people say, that is when I am most engaged with a book. I feel the need to pay attention to every page and every line. It assures me whether to keep reading. After that, the words and plots almost bleed into one another. The story situates itself in my mind. I don’t need to pay attention to everything. I am in it, completely.

photograph by dieter rehm

Like a job, the diction becomes familiar. I have developed a routine, gotten used to these people, felt connected to the ins and outs of the author’s words. I have read more now than I have in months. It is not because I am free, but because my mind craves that familiar structure of one page after another, one day after another.

I have written all over the margins and formed the basis for essays along Duras’ own thoughts. “That reminds me…” I will usually begin.

I go out more now than I ever did before. The absence of a full-time schedule makes even the most mundane of activities enthralling. I’m revisiting museums, becoming acquainted with their layouts like old friends.

I found the above paragraph written in my half-print, half-chicken scratch while getting ready for another reread. It was written the last time I lost a job, in the summer of 2010. I had a lot of hope. I saw a bright side.

But now, half of the time, I don’t even know what I am applying for during the day. I am more concerned with action than specifics.


I don’t want to be back there. I wish I could tell you what I went through, how I was broken, how I am still broken. A bad situation will continue to sneak up on you for days and weeks and months and years to come. I’m learning that for sure.

I feel betrayed by myself. We have ideas of ourselves and then we have the reality. My goal has always been to combine the two, or to discover that they are one in the same. I would want to be complex, yet valuable or perfect. To know that one outweighs the other, that one practically dominates the other, feels like a failure.

You will end up someplace better. I hate when people say that. Will I? For most people, that is not the case. The things we tell ourselves and our realities are two different things. I would prefer coldness. Shit is scary.

And DAMN IT! Maybe they were right. Maybe they were right all along. If I was in a place of emotional greatness, I don’t know if I would have been able to dig deep into my words. I don’t know if I would have kept writing just to write just to let it flow just to find some relief.

I expected to be able to create all of these pieces as a writer now that I have so much free time, but instead, I feel stunted and scared. It is easier to believe in your voice when the stakes are low. I always had something in the background to sustain me if a thought was rejected. Now it is just me, open and raw.


I used to tell people my quarter-life crisis started early. I moved out of my parents’ home at 23 and into an apartment that felt wrong immediately and never quite got better. The following summer was quiet and the winter lonely. I fell in love with a man who, from the beginning, made it explicit that he would never love me. A part of me thought I could change him. A month later, I realized I had never even changed myself. I was still the same woman thinking too much and saying too little.

My true quarter-life crisis is right now. It is in this essay and these words. It is a pivotal moment.

photography by dieter rehm

The outplacement firm assigned to me from my last job said to use this time to figure out what I want, but that suggests that I stayed in a bad place  mental and otherwise  because I was lost. I was not lost. I was trying to make something out of nothing. I have always done that. It is my life.

I want to write. But more importantly, I want to write without the fear of myself. That is holding me back. That is my greatest challenge. What happens next is a matter of confidence and purpose and overcoming the shackles of “no” and “can’t” and “impossible.”

I never cared about edits from my editor before, but each one feels like a personal attack, an affirmation of the sense of lostness one feels in a space like this.


The day after I left my job, I met with my friend Sarah who also left the company at the same time I did. We sat in Lula, a quiet cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood where everyone is thin and beautiful and seemingly without a day job to tie them down. Or maybe they were like me, at a loss of what to do next, but trying my best to look the part of success.

“This is like, a really important moment for us,” I said.

“Yeah, I think I feel good about this,” Sarah said.

Sometimes I feel like I am performing confidence rather than just exuding it. I have always had to fake it until I make it. I have always had to believe in my weirdness, even if it seemed futile, because I saw everything else and I hated it. But too much performance is exhausting. Sometimes I come home and I want to crawl up on my couch and forget this whole month, but instead I keep looking, keep looking, keep looking.

“Now’s the time to figure out what we want to do with our lives. We can actually pursue it instead of going another year outside of it.”

Sarah smiled and I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe if I said these things enough, they would finally come true.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by Dieter Rehm.