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Alex Carnevale

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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 lucy morris (19)


In Which While You Were Sleeping I Was Turning The Dials

The Kingdom



If it began when I think it did, it’s the March I am sixteen and he’s the guy who writes his number down for me with a red crayon he happens to have in his pocket. There’ll be a thing downtown later on that night, he says, some poetry and some beer, if you’re into that. He walks me toward home with a limp and an inhaler he stole from a friend, alternating puffs on a cigarette and puffs of Albuterol. The air bears the anxious humidity of pending spring, but the wind tangles with his hair and takes snipes at his extremities. But my hair is matted against my temples and underneath my black pea coat I feel sweaty and nauseous, vaguely feverish in a way that is new to me, in a way I do not yet understand will be a recurring sensation, that this is what the physical manifestation of new possibilities feels like.

There’s early evening traffic on Oakland Avenue, minivans pointing toward Newberry Street and Lake Drive, those avenues of mansions, and old Acuras and Caddies with rims, with turn signals pointing in the direction of the Locust Street Bridge, where we are headed. It’s a relief after the density of exhaust fumes and the pervasive impatience of rush hour, the cars speed up but we hold back: he has an odd limp, which I realize only later is affected, though I never figure out why.  

It’s hard to say, at this point in time, what it is we want from each other, and it is this unresolved quality of our relationship that’s compelling to me, that spits us out onto these city streets together a few times a year even after I no longer live here, sometimes in July’s humidity, sweat rolling down our faces; sometimes on the black ice of Wisconsin winters.

It is the Midwest, two-thousand-and-something, in the dying beer town where I’ve grown up. While we walk, we survey the city’s paper factories and churches of endless denominations, scurry and slide up and down muddy hills with grass traction just about in sync, stubbornly put our faces to the wind and to put our hands in our coat pockets, with no question of what comes when we loop back to North Avenue and part ways. Here, I always walk slower, trying to delay the parting until next time, not knowing how to make things continue and also knowing that our time has expired, that he will go to work and drink on his breaks, that I will go home and read on my porch.


He calls at eleven one night during a summer when I’m home working retail. He asks me to meet him at the bus stop on Locust and Humboldt. I peg my jeans and put on a sweatshirt and I shrug, why not. It’s a straight ten minute walk down the Boulevard, but there have been a lot of muggings this summer and I usually won’t do this alone when it’s dark, but, I am finding in the fast-paced way of young adulthood, that there are exceptions to most rules, it’s just hard to know what they are until they present themselves. He has a bottle of whiskey in his back pocket, a six-pack of Schlitz in hand, and not enough money for a bus ticket. He swears he know where we’re going. The bus charges with the late night freedom of speed down through the Third Ward, blocks of deserted loft spaces stacked upon ground floor galleries and antique shops catering to the rich and the quirky: the stuffed owl in a gilded cage and absurd cast iron sculptures depicting hearts cracked down the middle.

We get off at an empty looking building; he makes a call with my phone. A man with a silkscreen rendering of Jeffrey Dahmer’s mug shot on his wall invites us in and asks me: “Are you a good one?” I cannot begin to answer this question. I am handed a beer.

We are seated in mammoth armchairs; I’m so high my feet don’t touch the ground. The crease of his forehead becomes more pronounced as he drinks and he becomes meaner; I become quieter with every sip, toes tracing invisible points in the air in front of me. The bus stopped running at one and I do not know how to get out of here so we accept rides from a guy who’s tripping and end up across town on Center Street at the home of a guy who in three weeks time will be dead from liver failure. A man is smacking his girlfriend while she moans and everyone is rolling joints.

I wish he would walk me home, so that we can gain some kind of equilibrium to the steady rhythm of our steps, that we could brush shoulders and apologize. We could climb the hill on North Avenue that contains the city’s water supply and looking across the horizon, he might instruct me not to look straight down and in hearing that, I would be moved to do so and I would waver, just briefly, and look back up.


It’s winter and he needs a job again: He’s worked at the corner store for too long; he’s growing sick of selling porn to methheads and beer to frat boys at Open Pantry. He left his waiter position at the Japanese restaurant on Prospect Ave, the sandwich shop environment was too oppressive, he got fired from the auto repair shop and he stole money from the movie theater he worked at. Lately, I have been far away, I have been occupied by the act of falling in love, and I do not have time to actively worry about him so I channel my concern into party-time anecdotes in which he call me lioness and everyone laughs at his odd walk. I feel vaguely guilt when I think of that now, striding alongside the limp, going from store to store collecting applications, toes numb in our shoes, noses pink from the cold.

The sidewalk lining the Humboldt Bridge is disguised by discolored snow, we trip a little here and there. We brave an unmarked intersection and turn right onto Water Street. Everything here used to be tanneries, now everywhere are condos. He tells me that in ten years they’ll all be empty and it will be an urban playground again, the land rightfully restored to graffiti artists and skaters and homeless dudes and bond fire pits. We slouch by the Technical College’s new glass-ensconced gym, by biker bars, by the new insurance building across from my old middle school on Walnut Street. A girl at the museum’s reception desk is smiling broadly at me, sheepishly; I think she must be wanting him but it turns out she was a friend of my brother and also slept with a boy I was once with. We wave goodbye and in the elevator he is the one who blushes.

He decides we should hit the hotel loop downtown: the Pfister, where the presidents stay; the Wyndham where my grandparents used to visit; the Crown Royale, the Marriot, the Motel 6 and the Howard Johnson’s. I have never before had occasion to step in these lobbies. I see it all, briefly, through his eyes: a blueprint world, a model waiting to be animated, a series of futures waiting to be conceived of. I generally see things instead as the set on which my life has played out, buildings mere markers of events, the many scenes of a couple decades’ worth of anecdotes – here I kissed a boy in the fiction aisles of a used bookstore; there I saw a movie alone for the first time.

In the lobby of the Holiday Inn, a peppy man tries to recruit him for the military. I am uneasy about his indiscriminating decisions, about the books he reads that convince him that anything he may decide to do has potential narrative value, and yet I adopt his stories like they’re my own, I co-opt his quirks and pass them off as products of my imagination. I worry when I hear, six or so months from now, that he may be taking the man up on that offer, that he plans to move to Santa Cruz and join the Navy, but I tell myself there is nothing I can do from a distance, and this is true, but what I do not bother reminding myself is that there is nothing I could do even if we were shoulder to shoulder, climbing the watchtower in Riverside Park.


We meet at the café this time, the one equidistant between our houses. It has decent iced tea and offensively bad local art on the walls, self-portraits of young women done in mirrors, unsubtle and oversaturated political collages. His plan to see the redwoods fell through. This summer, the last one I’ll be around at all, he is keeping in his freezer a cicada, immaculately preserved on a paper plate among the liquor.

I think about the bottles of gin he consumes and how maybe in five years, when he hits thirty or is robbed one more time of the few possessions he has, that the alcohol that seems to be preserving him will instead unwind him, easing the sidewise smile off his face and unfurling the charming, frightening crease of the forehead, and graying the blonde hair, at first imperceptibly then just around the temples, and then everywhere on his head and his soft hands with the hair on the knuckles I always forget exists.

The plated cicada he balances on his fingers is all awkward angles, its eyeballs miniscule glazed over globes. He’s entertaining a robin in his house. He feeds the bird grapes and in response it shits everywhere, in the empty beer bottles lining the windowsill and on the dirty floor and the couch where he passed out so drunk last night he pissed himself.

I have forgotten the bird’s name now, though it was something eccentric without being multisyllabic. It feels like a long time ago now, and many cities and streets have intervened, popping up between us to create a landscape of distance and letters and phantom sightings. A few years later, lying in bed across the world, I will think about him and I will try to explain him and the distance makes it easier:

We take walks together. He drinks beer from ten in the morning til three in the morning. I once wanted to know him very badly, more badly than I had wanted to know anyone then or even have since. At one restaurant we would go to he put dinners on his tab even though he overdrew constantly. There were days when he had zero dollars, just some cents on the floor of his bedroom. I never gave him money because he never asked and because it would have ruined everything. He drank whisky and water while I swirled my straw in a can of cranberry juice. In his living room, we break danced until his roommate asked us to read his poetry and we sobered; no two people on each other’s peripheries should enjoy each other this way and so much. Things became muddled when he lifted his hands above his head to remove his sweater, I saw his belly and it looked like a grown man’s belly and I called my brother to ask him to come take me home. There was a church across the street from the house he lived in then on Weil Street, I remember that. I remember the raincoat he wore the last time I saw him before things changed, and the shoes. He wore old man’s shoes when I first met him, beige, thick-soled, and when I left he was wearing child’s sneakers, brightly striped, and a yellow raincoat. He looked like Paddington the Bear with a cigarette in his paw. I never stopped worrying for him.

Lucy Morris is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Iowa City. She last wrote in these pages about Macdonald Hall. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Everything's Gonna Be Undone" - Band of Horses (mp3)

"Slow Cruel Hands Of Time" - Band of Horses (mp3)


In Which This Can't Be Happening At Macdonald Hall

Library Cards


As children my brothers and I attended a Jewish day school. The flavor was a loose mix of denominations, prayer preceded graham cracker snack time, and the basketball team, called Judah and the Maccabees, always beat our Orthodox school rivals, who had to pause and bless their yarmulkes when they fell off during the course of a game. On Fridays we had an assembly called Shabbat Sing, where we sang the Israeli national anthem before adjourning to our classrooms to bless Dixie cups of Manischewitz grape juice.

This all took place in the not overwhelmingly Jewish state of Wisconsin, although where precisely we lived was hard to say, since we commuted between our parents’ two houses, duplexes located on opposite sides of the Milwaukee River. We had a library card for each side of the divide, separate Blockbuster memberships, different breakfast cereals. Children of divorce learn to manufacture their own forms of certainty, and for me that lay in the books I put in the black back-and-forth bag, the alternate universes to which I could depart upon demand. For years, the book I carted with me from one side of the river to the other was Gordon Korman’s This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, the first in a series set, in the way I like my books, somewhere thrillingly just beyond the world I lived in:

Kids love books about boarding school. Before you know anything about class, before you encounter the circles in which examining one’s privilege is the highest form of recreation, boarding school above all represents a world without parents and who wouldn’t want, for at least a little while, to reside in one of those? With the every-other-Wednesday and every-other-weekend custody schedule we were on, my brothers and I spent more time with parents on the brain than our single-home friends, whose parents were mere figures in the background, not acting in careful accordance with a legal mandate. Free of all that — and of daily recitations of the Mourner’s Kaddish, which I found, even for its subject matter, excessively depressing — Macdonald Hall sounded great to me.

Bruno and Boots occupied a world wholly unlike mine, one of flagpoles, panty raids, practical jokes, dish duty. They had a headmaster and a Nurse Hildegard and morning calisthenics. The girls shriek, the boys shrug, and everyone strolls around the picturesque grounds, up to no good and very little actual schoolwork. The characters fit into molds that you don’t yet, as a child, know to identify as archetypes, and therefore can find comforting rather than cliché. There's Elmer Drimsdale (science nerd), George Wexford-Smyth III (rich hypochondriac), Wilbur Hackenschleimer (voracious eater), and Sydney Rampulsky (the clumsy one). No one is truly loathsome, everyone has at their core something that redeems them, which is how it should be in children’s books and—perhaps it’s the years of Yom Kippur atoning that leads me to this conclusion—also in life.

Macdonald Hall’s occupants are endlessly exonerated for their pranks and mistakes, and within my sibling structure I, too, was taught that pardons were not so hard to come by. With my brothers, cruel words could eventually be unsaid without apology, and it was a long time before I learned that this was not how things worked outside of our trio, that with other people in your orbit the damage cannot so easily be undone. But the flipside of a bond tight enough that forgiveness remained unspoken was the thrill of our assembly, what Tolstoy calls “the exceptional feeling that life was possible only in each other’s presence.” When you read about Bruno and Boots, you imagine this is how they also feel, the warmth of their mutual pleasure emanating off the page. 
The origins of Bruno, who spearheads the pranks, and Boots, who reluctantly goes along with them, remain a source of mystery in the first book in the series (Boots’ brother arrives in a much later book: “Were we ever that young?” Bruno asks, hilariously in the manner of Joan Didion). Kids mired in the building of their own roots — even kids who spend an hour a day in Judaica class, studying their ancestry — don’t wonder about backgrounds in the way adults do; it is not the way in which they choose to seek order. When you’re older, everything must have its source. Someone who acts out comes from a troubled home, or is seeking the attention they didn’t get when they needed it. Now, in reality, Bruno and Boots would be fuckup kids whose parents could afford to send them away, the ones we'd alternately pity and roll our eyes at in college. But then they embodied all my unrealized fantasies of childhood, a kind of boundless energy dispensed without care — something that, amid the car rides back and forth across the river and the various anxieties that accompanied them, I never seemed to possess.

Bruno and Boots were nothing like my brothers, who had their select rebellions but not much in the way of innocent mischief — innocent mischief being something that doesn’t really exist in life, where there tend to be greater casualties than in fiction. My brothers now have an adult poise that on occasion surprises even me; it’s difficult to imagine Bruno and Boots eventually acquiring the same, although Bruno would maybe have fit in at Goldman Sachs. But to revisit Macdonald Hall now is to remember vividly a time at which two slightly older, amusing, and often frustrating boys were the center of my world off the page, too: the ones who whispered consolations to me when I couldn’t sleep at night, shared the books we hid inside our siddurs at synagogue, and taught me through example and instruction, in a way more profound than any religion could, how to be and not to be.

Lucy Morris is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Brighton Beach. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Drive" - Wild Cub (mp3)

"Wishing Well" - Wild Cub (mp3)

The new album from Wild Cub is entitled Youth, and it will be released tomorrow.


In Which We Unveil A Mercury-Based Map

This is the conclusion of a two-part series. You can find the first part here.

Dances With Something


New York was the first place I moved in with someone, and also the first place where I moved out. The moving in happened in increments, some clothing here, an extra phone charger there, until everything I owned was in a house I couldn’t recall having made a formal decision to live in. I moved out in just one afternoon. As I steeled myself for it, I thought about how people speak as though making commitments is the hard part, when actually extricating yourself from them is considerably more difficult. But once I knew I could do the latter, once I could see there would always be an out, it seemed suddenly that everything was available to me, that I could try almost anything I pleased without lasting repercussion. New York is a dangerous and ideal place to have this realization: there is no limit on what to try.

I left my boyfriend’s house in Bay Ridge on an unseasonably warm spring day. My best friend had borrowed someone’s SUV in exchange for a bottle of scotch. We drove along a straight stretch of Brooklyn we usually only passed beneath by train. I felt the weight of what had ended pushing against my lungs, making me want to cry in a terrible way that I thought would never end and, in truth, didn’t for a while. But my feet were on the dash — something so rarely experienced in New York that it seemed double the pleasure — and Catherine was next to me, her familiar freckled hand guiding the gearshift, and I could in some small way already sense the breadth of what was ahead, not just the wide avenues laid out before us, Ocean and Flatbush and beyond, but all that might happen next.

What did happen next was someone else. I showed him around my new neighborhood like I owned it, even though I knew that I didn’t, that I would, as always, soon be leaving. We walked from Crown Heights to Bushwick one outrageously hot night, and on the way home he drunkenly smashed a forty on a deserted stretch of Bedford. I had a sudden, strong impulse to run, not because I was scared of him physically but because it seemed that if he could injure these streets I loved — and I knew the cement had no nerve endings, that this was irrational — he could injure anything in his path, anything else I might care for.

I was by then starting to think I could no longer share parts of myself with another person at all, but I especially could not share my time with New York, which was already starting to run out. I wanted New York to be wholly mine and, to my surprise, the more I felt that it was indeed mine — the more familiar I became with the curving streets in different pockets of Brooklyn, the more afternoons I escaped work early to sit alone in the MoMA’s sculpture garden — the less it seemed I needed anyone else there with me. I had no desire for someone next to me on the sidewalk, slowing my pace. I didn’t care for long subway rides with someone leaning on my shoulder, intending for me to nudge them awake at our stop.


On an April evening four or five years in, when I found myself somewhat adrift — I then believed that spending days in an office absolved evenings idled irresponsibly — a former professor took me out for dinner in Nolita. Over a nicer meal than I had had in many months and more wine than I had had, too, she dispensed two pieces of advice. One was: “Never leave your belongings with a spurned lover.” The other was: “Young women need to learn to say fuck you with their mouths and not their bodies.”

I took the subway back to Brooklyn afterward a little tipsy and feeling better than I had been, as if equipped with these recommendations I could now start life, or at least the summer we were on the cusp of, anew. I had already violated the first piece of advice and my possessions had not been burned or dumped on the lawn, as my teacher suggested, but even that might not have been as bad as the consequences of ignoring the second piece, which I continued to do, not in great numbers but for a while longer than I should have. There was a period when I wanted to say fuck you to almost every guy I knew in New York, mainly for their failure to be the one I wanted who was at that time far away, and often I did say it with my mouth but usually only after too many drinks, and then I’d wake up the next day in their beds anyway, thinking about my professor and how I’d disappointed her. That was easier to think about than the fact of having disappointed myself. When you wake up with a thought like that, it is almost impossible to get out of bed.

My weekday commute was over an hour each way, but the Saturday and Sunday mornings when I had to climb out of someone else’s bed and go home seemed to be the longest subway rides of all. I never hated New York more than in those hours: hung over on the R train, slumped in the hard orange seats, eyes shut tightly and hands pressed to my ears, as if that resistance to the present could alone block out the morning mariachi band and whatever awaited me at the end of the line.

Sometime later I became unable to ride the Brooklyn-bound R at all, went dramatically out of my way to avoid its crackly announcements — Next stop Union — that filled me with a disproportionate sense of doom. I developed many of these fastidious avoidances in New York, of entire avenues and certain bars or restaurants and several different movie theaters. I found that these self-imposed restrictions were not limiting but instead enriching: making certain places off limits to myself not only created urban obstacle courses I secretly found satisfying but also made the places I deemed available that much better, that much more mine.


I could make these road maps of places to avoid and places yet to go, but they were constantly changing. The restaurant on Avenue A where Catherine and I often ate lunch one summer mystifyingly moved a single block south without announcement. Bodegas stopped carrying the right ice cream so you had to find another; library and café hours changed; my own place in the city kept rotating and, accordingly, so did the plot of private markers radiating out from where I lived.

The years, whatever new homes and relationships and routines they each contained, began to stack up and I became increasingly aware that for those whose nostalgia is primarily rooted in personal geographies, New York is a complicated place to make your home. You want, selfishly, for a neighborhood, a landmark, a street to stay static as a background to your memories: you may have changed, but you’d like the place to remain as a monument to the person you were there. Twice I moved out of neighborhoods just before many of my friends moved in, and this meant I was often returning to places I had once lived and confronting what had changed (to consider if I had) and to see what had stayed the same (to wonder if I had, too).

I noticed one night on my way home from a party in Brooklyn that my old bodega on Nostrand had acquired a neon sign that flashed “GOURMET.” I thought of all the sandwiches I’d bought there to take home to my dank basement apartment nearby, and also of the produce store down the street where a guy I was seeing bought me a pineapple I later proceeded to vomit on his lap, and the many nights I padded home past the Key Foods, the smoothie joint, the check cashing-turned-pizza place. I had been so finely attuned to my surroundings without even trying that it seemed not inconceivable that it was mutual, that the streets — Sterling and President, Franklin and New York — would still hold some of the mistakes I’d been trying to forget. But everyone knows streets are just streets and after a while they ceased to remind me of anything, were merely courses I followed to barbecues, bars, and readings, not to deeply nested parts of my memory.

This ability to detach on demand, familiar to people who move frequently as children, is superbly freeing. It’s also hard not to imagine that it is in some way deeply damaging, that after a while it starts to ruin you for a more fixed, a more definite type of life.


I know that eventually I will force myself to forget these things — erasure being the simplest way to reconcile the past with the present — which is why I make note of them now:

There was a Thai restaurant on Second Avenue that I thought resembled a spaceship where I ate immediately before and immediately after the dissolution of my most significant relationship. In the midst of an early July heatwave my brother came to visit and we walked from 23rd Street down to Chinatown and back up, stopping for two movies and three meals along the way, all the while groaning and blaming each other for our discomfort. We had large parties in our narrow St. Marks Place apartment, with cases of $5 champagne and 5 lb. boxes of pastries, and there was always a moment when I sank into the couch in my party dress as things wound down around 3 or 4 AM, resting my head in my hands, listening to the late night chatter of those who had stayed. There was the birthday I spent at the Russian baths on 10th street and this one Ethiopian restaurant on 6th Street I took boyfriends to, while keeping a different one on 4th Street to myself. Once in a rainstorm I was walking down Broadway when a stranger offered me an umbrella for free: “It’s janky but it works,” he said. There was the time Catherine and I ended up at the North 3rd Street sublet of two 30-something men new to the city, whose financial limitations meant they shared bunk beds, although their budget did seem to afford them the sprouted wheat bread, the Irish butter, the artisan jam they offered us late that night — this being the kind of mildly insane New York contradiction that you can’t get bogged down in if you want to survive.

And then there were the days — in fact, the vast majority — that were totally un-extraordinary, were just going to work and coming home and cooking dinner. But those days were also New York in their own small ways that won’t exist where I’m going next: the exasperating struggle for a seat on the subway, the vegetables picked up at the corner produce store where exotic fruits loomed in crated pyramids, the disturbingly proximate sound of the neighbors’ TV as we turned on our own.

I remember all this and one day I won’t, which is maybe the most New York thing of all, because for a while you can still note that this nail salon used to be a record store you liked, but then the nail salon becomes a trendy bar, and eventually there are only so many incarnations you can hold onto. At some point you move to a different neighborhood, you get busy acclimating to its own distinct features, and you can no longer be bothered with some memory-based map of what was, somewhere you no longer are.

In preparing to leave now for several years, my worry is not that things will have changed when I get back — because inevitably they will — but rather my concern is that I will have changed, that it will all mean and be something different, something lesser when I return. The potential of this loss is overwhelming for me to consider, certainly greater than the loss of boyfriends, friends, belongings along the way. The simplest way to describe it is as the loss of a place where I was very young and where then, in tiny, painful increments, I became a little older. And in leaving the place where I came of age — and the apartments, parks, offices, and avenues therein — it is unavoidable that all the ages I was before will slowly start to fade away.

I believed at the start that the purpose of these paragraphs was to say, in the tradition of many before me, goodbye to a place. But it turns out that these paragraphs instead exist to say goodbye to a certain time. And already things are not what they were when it began for me. For one thing, I ride the R again without second thought; my list of avoidances has, overall, gotten shorter and the list of places I love longer. I see now that there are consequences, but this doesn’t bother me as I might have expected. That skyline-induced rush of good feeling, which comes to me now more frequently than it once did, does not curdle as it did before. It seems I’ve finally found the formula to make it last. That this occurred only shortly before departing is not lost on me, but that’s just it: the great certainty of New York is its uncertainty, the turnover and changes and late-coming revelations being the only guarantees there are. And this is what I fear I will miss the most.

Lucy Morris is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find the first part of Dances With Something here. She is a writer leaving New York. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Brighton Beach. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"This Is The Kiss" - Gareth Dickson (mp3)

"Get Together" - Gareth Dickson (mp3)

The latest album from Gareth Dickson is entitled Quite A Ways Away.

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