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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

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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Entries in kara vanderbijl (81)


In Which This Is A Portrait Of Our Summer



It was summer; we feasted.

I took up drinking coffee so there would be no tea leaves to read. I spent hot afternoons fielding prophecies of the future. As butter melted in the hollow of a skillet, I thought no further ahead than what it would taste like in my morning eggs. Big things happened when I stopped blaming my circumstances for my unhappiness. For one thing, I got mono. I raged against the quiet windows, the kind flowers, the soft bland flood of my convalescence. When all of that broke, I had broken too, into subdued pieces, a child with an appetite only for milk and manna.

J said, “I could cook for you every night.” I wasn’t surprised to hear he’d been visited by an angel. Octopus tendrils trailed off the fork, doused in spicy tomato sauce. The brine of it on my tongue reminded me of my childhood by the sea. Aren’t we all prophets of the impossibilities of our youth?

The French poet Baudelaire uses the word “spleen” to describe a particular melancholy, a gray mood brought on by the dirt of Paris and the rotting carcass of a dog. With the onset of infectious mononucleosis, lymphocytes abound in the bloodstream. The liver and spleen are tender and enlarged. When the doctor pressed her fingers into the skin beneath my ribcage and told me she couldn’t feel my spleen, I laughed. My mouth was dry. Later, I lay in a bath so hot that red flowers bloomed on my legs.

I decided not to be suspicious. I wanted to enjoy things with the innocent fervor that assigns a mythical quality to even the most basic things. I wanted to believe in basic good, in excitement, in childlike wonder. I wanted to change, to become the prompt for a better story.  

Illness was a big frame for the small, stifled narrative I’d built into myself, the lie I had told myself: “You are better off alone.” There were ins and outs to my physical failings that I couldn’t predict. One morning after a shower I sat next to the toilet and dry-heaved before tremblingly climbing back into bed, hair sopping, the damp spreading in waves across two pillows. J whispered to me, concerned.  A good friend sat with me at my sickest and read Mary Oliver poems out loud while I sobbed. I was weak. It takes the bigness of a sickness to belittle you, sometimes, when you’ve made yourself grand and others small, when you’ve let a lie swallow you whole and chew you up.

I slept very deeply when I did sleep, and waking up felt like breaking the surface of a viscous, tepid pond. I did not dream.

J told me about his dreams and about his father. I cried and touched his hand. We shared a cigarette on his back porch at the time of summer night when the air is thick and warm and purple. I had to wash it from my hair afterwards. I fell into dozes on the dark, oblong couch in his living room, while he cooked me noodles with butter and freshly ground pepper.

I never considered the space between two people as a safe place to rest. I had always trusted my surroundings to save me from the people in my life: a forest to envelop the wolves, a house with a picket fence to be home when mother and father’s arms weren’t long enough to reach. But you can move from forest or glen or house; you can’t move from your own blood that teaches you to care even when you think you can’t. Welling up within me was the grace that knew I’d be hurt and the grace that somehow still wouldn’t expect to be hurt. They fought gently.

When it came time, I purchased eucalyptus and hydrangea to mourn my girlhood. I said goodbye with tears. I have always believed in making one’s life a sacred space, in dragging out ornaments and holy oils to mark the demise of something in favor of something else. Even the happiest things hurt.

I didn’t read much. I was too distracted, and there were not many books readily at my fingertips. Like talismans, I’ve always trusted them to take me to who I need to become. But instead of this looking-forward I got caught up in the poetry of the present. It was too beautiful to abandon for even a small amount of time. I sat for long quiet periods, nothing to occupy me, without restlessness. After my recovery, the importance of cultivating an inner serenity seemed paramount.

This summer, Presence was my Holiest idea. Like bread and wine, it’s an old thing that has been made to look simple in the light of new spells. But I won’t take an hour-long half-glance for an instant-long hold of your fingers, for your kiss goodbye after breakfast, all of it bacon and sunshine and whatever other crumbs we’ve been leaving behind to find our way back to one another.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about how to become a foodie. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Here's Where The Story Ends" - The Sundays (mp3)

"You're Not The Only One I Know" - The Sundays (mp3)


In Which We Ask If You're Still Doing All Right Over Here

Fast Foodie            


Yesterday your palate was as sophisticated as a half-eaten Hot-N-Ready® pizza and a flat Red Bull. Yesterday your palate was wearing sweatpants and double-fisting Ben & Jerry’s and episodes of Breaking Bad. But today, you’re going out to eat. You may be meeting friends for lunch, taking someone to dinner, or grabbing brunch before a jaunt at a modern art gallery. Needless to say, your palate needs to update its resumé. Today we give you a few tips on how to become a foodie, fast.

Self-deprecation. Nothing is more pretentious than someone who claims to have always had stellar taste in food. Describe the joy with which you ate the McRib in your youth. Refer to your past self as an “Olive Garden-variety eater”. Then, wink at the waiter and order something involving paté.

Notice the location. Every self-respecting foodie knows that the atmosphere lends as much to the experience of the meal as the food itself. Say, “I really love this space.” Elements to be admired: exposed brick walls, naked light bulbs, ambivalent industrial fixtures. Elements to be derided: menus not printed in typewriter font, flowers that aren’t in mason jars, a lack of cork sculptures.

Think small. You may have grown up going to restaurants with confused medieval decor and Grecian-inspired menus that spanned twenty or more pages. You may have fallen prey to television advertisements promising juicy lobster, sizzling steaks, and reduced-price appetizers. It was entirely possible to receive not only a bowl of popcorn as a free starter but also a basket containing various kinds of carbohydrates. Your meal came on a plate as big as a pizza pan, and you did not share. Those days are over. You will learn to navigate plates smaller than those on which toddlers receive their evening portion. “Small plates” will offer you four bites of something doused in balsamic vinegar that costs $12. Never mind. It has a “surprising flavor.” This will be your mantra.

Drink slowly. And heavily. Grab a Bud Light at one of these places and you’ll be thrown out or looked on as an immaturely ironic hipster. No, it’s to the mixologist you must go, which he’ll call himself, even though he’s just a bartender dressed in an unironic beard and cryptic arm tattoos. Keep a straight face while he tells you that yes, the rosemary is organic, it’s grown right in the back alley.

Know your oil. E.V.O.O. isn’t a new FDA certification, it’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You will refrain from mentioning the adulteration of olive oil in Europe as you pepper it expertly and dip your perfectly toasted bread into it. You have two options with truffle oil: go along with the con of faux luxury, or educate your peers. Either way, you will often find yourself in front of a giant plate of fries doused in the stuff. It’s also in the pasta, the aioli and the salad dressing. Great news, everyone! Truffles are now so abundant that we’re just throwing them in the condiments.

Story time. There comes a time in every server’s life, especially if he or she started out by wearing orthopedic shoes and throwing $5 Applebees apps in front of drunk college students, when they can get revenge tenfold against the nibbling, “dressing on the side” masses. It’s called reading the menu. They’ll do this with an aching precision, asking after each section whether or not you have any questions, if you’re doing okay, if everything is still all right over here. They’ll leave a full bottle of water on the table for you to use at your leisure, and will still stop by every three minutes to refill glasses you’ve barely sipped out of, all in the name of protecting the nebulous 20% tip that will pay their rent. Do them (and yourself) a favor: listen to them. Indulge them. That we as a foodie culture have managed to lasso an entire population of the workforce with such fear of losing a few extra dollars on the bottom of a damp receipt at the end of a boozy night is a crime worthy of severe punishment. I vote that the offenders sit in a dark room and have their unfavorable Yelp reviews read into their ear at a deafening decibel.

Brunch is your safe word.  Food-wise, brunch is nothing but the breakfast you had time to make because you didn’t press snooze three times before getting ready in five minutes and going to work. The power of brunch is in the idea that those who eat it belong to an exclusive club of people who wear J. Crew and get up late because they spent all night partying, drinking pricey cocktails and most likely eating fine foods that will show up in a different form on their brunch plate. When you text, “Brunch?” to your friends at an acceptable hour on Saturday morning you can all for one moment believe you belong to that club.

Fads. You’ll want to log into Pinterest at some point and check out what hybrid freak of nature desserts are stirring people into a frenzy these days. Don’t.

Purism. Long ago, a man was judged by the content of his character, then by the car in his garage, and now he’s judged by the contents of his plate (and if we’re being really honest, the contents of the contents of his plate.) You may have been wondering why your coworker is staring you down while you pop your sad pocket change into the vending machine at work. “Ugh,” she says, “don’t you know that granola bar is full of chemicals?” The correct answer to this and all other similar questions is, “Oh, I know. It’s my guilty pleasure.” Guilty pleasure will let you get away with bathing in a tub full of high fructose corn syrup with an aspartame syringe shoved up your arm. Guilty pleasure will save you from judgment when you’re caught by your roommate with your arm covered in Cheeto dust. Guilty pleasure will shield you with invisibility when you find yourself in the suburbs drinking a blue raspberry margarita at Chili’s.  Use it wisely, though, because it’s only guilty if it’s rare. 

Kara Vanderbijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about manual labor. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


In Which We Have A Brush With Beauty

Manual Labor


We stayed with a lot of strangers when we returned to Southern California for the summer after our first four years in France. It was as uncomfortable as you can imagine, with moments of gut-squeezing anxiety, like when your suitcase looks the same as every other suitcase on the baggage claim carousel. 

Our first hostess was the sort of woman who flapped around the house in an expensive, colorful kimono and made margaritas before lunch. She also preferred that we fold down the duvet before sitting down on a bed in one of her many guest rooms. Naturally my mother and I were slightly reluctant when she invited us to join her at her favorite nail salon one morning. It was in a stucco strip mall; across the parking lot was a Starbucks and a Cold Stone Creamery. On the other side of a newly-paved street and a stretch of landscaping so young the saplings were still braced — sat another nail salon, Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. Mom parked our rental car and we flip-flopped our way into the salon.

We leaned against the counter as we waited to be assigned to both a chair and the unfortunate human squatting in front of it. In a small alcove, the ladies had erected some sort of crude shrine in which a fat Buddha stared benignly at a pile of day-old donuts. My head began to spin. It was perhaps the acetone or that season’s newest shade. Mom and I got French tips, which we laughed about, because in France they call any kind of manicure “American nails”, just like they call French braids “Indian braids”.

Years ago, I read a children’s historical novel about China. One of the minor characters was an old man who had never cut his pinkie fingernail because it was a symbol of his wealth, the fact that he never had to do any manual labor. It grew in on itself, curled and brown.

This fact about ancient China is passed around like an urban legend, a sort of disgusting anecdote that amuses and impresses. What's funny to me is that although they are less physically repulsive, we still cherish these status symbols. We still like having an extra $30 to burn so that it looks like we spend all day sipping mimosas over brunch, gripping phones and flipping perfect beachy waves. It's like, have you ever done the dishes? Rolled out a pie crust? Picked up something? I don't understand the desire to look like someone who has never stepped off the pages of a lifestyle blog. 

Is there only beauty in the immobile, the indestructible, the unchipped? 

From an early age, I became obsessed with a picture book about the demise of Pompeii that the local library left at child’s-eye view. The images filled my thoughts. I was not afraid of volcanoes (there were more important things to be afraid of, like rattlesnakes in the backyard and earthquakes) but I was fascinated with the images of the people who had lived in Pompeii, the people who had without warning been torn from their pleasures.

Vesuvius left only traces: lewd sketches above doorways in what used to be a brothel, large paintings of penises in inner courtyards. The residents of Pompeii died with eating utensils in their hands. Locked in an embrace. Curled up into themselves, hands over their ears.

For a few years, I considered the merits of living by what I came to call the “Pompeii test”: I would only do things that would be instantly recognizable if I were instantly encased in molten lava for all time. Had a volcano magically erupted in Southern California on the day my mother and I were getting manicures, archeologists would have found us thousands of years later forever locking hands with the nail technicians. “Look,” the archeologists would say, “these women were comforting one another in their last moments,” or, “Look, these women were performing sign language” or “Look, these women were handing primitive tools to one another.”

It isn’t remembering Pompeii that keeps me from getting manicures these days, though. I feel unlike myself when I walk into salons featuring the same peach-colored walls, faux Grecian columns and flat-screen televisions playing daytime soaps. Women with perfectly straightened hair in yoga pants read fashion magazines while they get their bunions rubbed, then walk out gingerly in rhinestone-covered sandals. I have nothing against these women, but I am not one of them. I haven’t brushed my hair in a year.

It is fascinating to me that we develop beauty products that completely deny the ever-evolving, ever-moldable aspects of our bodies. We take our live fluid hair and fill it with products so it won't move. We dutifully hydrate with special creams to prevent wrinkles that we know we'll get anyways. To me, this is a lot like closing the curtains on an ocean view and plastering them with pictures of motionless waves. 

Something must be said for allowing yourself to be ruined and ripened by your environment.

A few weeks ago I listened to a woman in the bus complain about her most recent manicure over the phone. She expressed disdain for the salon and called the technician who had performed the manicure a string of adjectives I wouldn't even assign to my worst enemy. I snuck a look at the toes peeping out of her T-strap sandals. They were painted a trendy neon orange. I couldn't pick up any visible flaws, except that she had none.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about insult to injury. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Will We Ever Be Friends Again?" - Ida Maria (mp3)

"I Just Need A Hug" - Ida Maria (mp3)