In Which This Constitutes A Troubling Question

What I Do


“So, what do you do?”

This is my most dreaded question in a social setting. And it’s an inevitable one when you’re meeting new people, especially in New York City. After everyone in the group has shared where they live and which train they take and how much that train sucks, we all move on to what we “do.” Most people have simple answers:

“I’m a copy editor.”

“I run a catering business.”

“I teach high school English”

And then it comes around to me and I say something dumb like:

“You mean, where I work?  Or what I do outside of work? Or, like, a combination of both? Because it’s complicated.”

But it’s not, really.  The truth is that I work a mentally exhausting day job and I’m not succeeding on a real, tangible level at the things I pursue outside of my day job and honestly: I don’t know what I “do.” But how do you say that to a group of people you’ve just met at a birthday party?

I’ve tried emphasizing just one thing, hoping that would end the conversation, but it never really works.  I often start with my day job:

“I do customer support for a tech company.”

But then people want to know more about the company and I have to try and sound smart about it.  Or, even worse, in a room full of creatives, I just get a small “oh, cool” with a fake smile and then everyone wanders back to where the beers are, with a mixed look of pity and confusion for me being in such a boring industry.  And I want to chase after them and say “I know!  It feels like a waste of brain activity to me too!” but I also don’t want the panic in my voice to come out too quickly.  But it’s too late and they’re all taking about their new web series or podcast or McSweeney’s article so I swallow and smile and try to live vicariously through them for the next hour.

If I try to emphasize my real passions I’m just as doomed:

“I’m a writer.”

Because we all know the next question.

“Oh cool, what do you write?”


“Um, I write a short pieces on websites and stuff but right now I’m really concentrating on blogging.  I’ve got a few Tumblrs. I’m also sort of working on a memoir-ish thing.  Oh, and I do Morning Pages. Have you heard of The Artist’s Way?”

But they’re already backing away towards the beer, desperately trying to make eye contact with someone over my head.  So I smile again and pretend it didn’t happen.

It’s just as bad if I focus on other things:

“I’m a performer.  Mostly comedy stuff.”

Because then, like saying you’re a writer, people want details.

“Oh cool!  Like stand up and stuff?”

“Ummm, yeah, I’ve done stand up before.  Like five or six times.  In my life.”

“Oh.  So you do plays?  Or TV or something?”

“Well… um… I do sketch comedy sometimes.  I use to have a sketch group back in 2011.  Oh, and I did some background work last year!  Do you watch the Investigation Discovery channel?”

And they’re gone.

One of these days I want to tell the real, absolute truth.

“You want to know what I do?  What I really and truly DO?

I ramble in a journal for 30 minutes every morning and I save all the completed books in the hope that someday I might discover a work of genius in their pages.  Or maybe someone else will after I’m dead and I’ll feel fulfilled from the beyond.

I hoard magazines so I can cut them up and make dark and weird collages and birthday cards.

I daydream about the ‘70s music scene, wishing so badly that I could see David Bowie play a Ziggy Stardust show and go to CBGB before it became a John Varvatos.

I imagine what my mom was like at my age and think about how she already had two kids while I still live with two roommates.

I create iTunes playlists for every mood or occasion: wake-up music, concentration music, getting-pumped-to-go-out music, cooking-dinner music, let’s-be-thirteen-right-now music.

I go to hip hop dance classes and fantasize about getting good enough to be a backup dancer for Missy Elliott, whenever she decides to tour again.

I stand in my kitchen and eat chocolate chips out of a shot glass and wonder how the microwave got so gross but I don’t clean it.

I walk around downtown with my boyfriend and we pick out the very old brick houses and try to guess who might have lived there in the 1880s.

I watch that scene in Boogie Nights where they try to rob Alfred Molina just to appreciate the segue from “Sister Christian” to “Jessie’s Girl” and see if the firecrackers still make me jump.  They always do.

I flip through all of my cookbooks and daydream about what I might cook when I decide to spend money on specialty ingredients.

I go to happy hours that last three hours and I drink Jameson and play every Bowie song in the jukebox and laugh with my friends about dumb things we’ve done that day.

I think about what I might be doing right now if I had accepted the offer to train at Circle in the Square in the summer of 2004 instead of getting a job.

I tell embarrassing stories about myself to large groups of people and melt with relief when they laugh.

I sit in coffee shops and tap thoughts like this into my computer to see the white space fill up with words and feel like I’m getting somewhere and accomplishing something.  Now that life isn’t evaluated by good grades or audiences who feel forced to applaud, every period to a sentence is my own tiny award for finishing a coherent thought.  I keep going.  I don’t have a path or a vision board or a career strategy, but I just keep moving in this direction and trusting that something cool will eventually happen.”

That’s what I do.  And if anyone knows how to condense all that into a single, crowd-friendly phrase, please let me know.

Molly Cameron is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She last wrote in these pages about her hospital stay. You can find her website here.

“Sound & Vision” –  David Bowie (mp3)

In Which On The Inside We Are Ascending Glass

Hotel City


The Hyatt Regency, Manila

When I return to Manila, fleeing winter at the age of twenty-three, we drive the main drag looking for the hotel that I grew up in. Josh is ill from something contracted in a previous paradise. He sweats and shivers in the vehicle’s air-conditioned micro-biome, but I’m selfish, and we continue our hunt. We see: the National Theatre, a few casinos, pink high-rises streaked with soot. The ocean is not the blue it ought to be in this weather, but instead a dirty slurry. Trash blows down the grand boulevard. We do not find the Hyatt. Turns out, it had been torn down years ago. I feel this loss as one would a childhood home, despite its existence  as only abstraction.

My memories of the Hyatt are constructed entirely of other places altogether, conflated with murky recollections of the restaurants, casinos, and other hotels our lives circuited around. All these spaces linked in my child-mind to comprise a city-sprawling Grand Hotel. Seeking images of it now, almost none exist. I find four on a blog and see that they’re incongruous with the Viewmaster slides squinted into by my mind’s eye. The cool marble of the nearby Peninsula Manila, where girls in pearl earrings still slurp glasses of rainbow halo-halo, had been subbed for the Hyatt’s capiz shell screens; the Shangri-la’s emerald carpets for the Hyatt’s polished sandstone floors.

Designed by Leandro Locsin, whose modernist leanings gave linear heft to colonial nostalgia, the Hyatt was nine white stripes punched, parkade-like, into the relentlessly blue sky. Its imposing concrete quietude was percussed by the leafy rustle of the coconut palms that flanked each of its blank sides. The lobby was huge in the way that they don’t make them anymore, its treble-height ceilings gridded widely with tropical hardwoods. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in a richness of equatorial light. Guests would leave their sunglasses on to check in.

Hotels in Manila are the locus of both celebrity and political life. You could say that the health of a city’s hotel culture signifies the health of its wealth. Fran Lebowitz would say, What culture? I would say, What wealth? If anything, the revolving door of politicians, celebrities, and the simpering rich that followed them was indicative of our country’s thriving industry of corruption. It was at the Hyatt where my father would be approached by a certain agency. Not such a big ask, they said, regarding a particularly sensitive task. He closed his eyes and heard the shuffle of millions of pesos being siphoned into dollar bank accounts, typhoon wind through the slat blinds. It was a big ask, he said — and, as far as I know it, refused.

Exiting the elevator, away from the lobby’s sheen, we end up treading the hotel’s neutrality. The ascending warren of closed doors and corridors is an architectural predilection within which anonymity lies latent. Save for the numbers, there’s no telling one room from another. It is privacy by design: secrecy that becomes cliché catalyst to illicit desires. To have been raised in such an environment was to learn, firsthand, the world’s duplicitous nature. How else could one approach it, reared in a place where public lives would slide suddenly into private view?

That brutal home was mine and I nearly destroyed it. I can’t remember the fire, though I’ve certainly imagined it into high relief: two stripped wires crossed in an air-conditioner spontaneously combust, thick black smoke a sudden intruder in my room. Mum, in silk nightie, was nearly too modest to descend the fireman’s ladder. Dad mourned the Stones and Beatles records that had surely melted into an unplayable puddle. It was 1991, and the Hyatt Regency was still the centre of the world. Crowds of beautiful mestizas carried on barely eating the famous tempura niblets, dancing until the club closed at 6am — dawn in the tropics, so regular you could set your watch by it, marked by a periwinkling and then a gilding of the sky. And so it came to be that the fire was barely a hiccup in the prelude to the Hyatt’s eventual demolition. But like any defecting Catholics, both parents took this all-consuming conflagration as a sign. If not the end of times, it was the end of a time. And I, with smoke-clogged lungs that I’d never quite recover from, was plucked from the night-dark danger by a vigilant caretaker and delivered, penultimately, to suburbia. Our new house, in its dark woods and shell-tones, reflected Locsin’s Hyatt design.

Hotel de Nevers, Paris

In my memory, architecturally nonsensical, spiralling up around a staircase from the street. A turret into which would be inserted two unlikely princesses, squinting out the arrowslit. The only bathroom was located halfway down the irregular, wall-hugging stairs. It had a dim light and no mirror. There we’d wash up and get ready, seventeen in Paris, not even the slightest bit trepidatious. We ate mostly bread, drank mostly wine, and went dancing at an ex-pat bar where the second boy I’d ever kissed would slice his hand open trying to feel my ass up. I washed his blood out in that lonely bathroom sink and hung the dress to dry there. I expected it to be gone the next morning. When it wasn’t, I was genuinely surprised.

Last I was in Paris, I stayed in an apartment. I texted a man whose mouth was late enough in my makeout lineage that I’d already lost count. “Last I was in Paris, I hardly left my hotel,” he said, and I thought suddenly of the moldy room where Michelle and I shared our sleepover bed. Drowsily, I looked up the Hotel de Nevers on google images. Renovations had made it unrecognizable — the only familiar thing being its block-lettered sign.

If a hotel is already transportative, why name it after another place? In my Anglo-ignorance I read ‘nevers’ as a multiplicity of refusal; a dream of a hundred neverlands; a fantasy of escape. In truth, Nevers was a separate city that made history around 55 B.C.E., when it was, primarily, Julius Caesar’s war-loot depository. Archaeologists were still pulling medals out of the ground well into our own century. I wondered if the hotel’s proprietors hailed from there, and if in naming their business they had committed themselves to longing for a home they no longer lived in.

When the weather turned on us, we took a train down to Marseilles. Michelle and I skirted the city to get our bearings from a higher point. Squinting through our cheap sunglasses in the dry, flat heat, we watched as sun-bleached ferries to Algeria came and went in the bay. I never found love in the city of lovers, only Jӓger-sticky kisses and a kind of longing I’d come to know so intimately I had no choice but to call it my own. Many years later, watching Hiroshima Mon Amour, I saw one lover mouth to the other: “You are Nevers.” By then, I knew for certain that if I loved someone from somewhere else enough, they’d become the place I lived in.

The Park Lane, Hong Kong

At this point I felt so content in the city that being lost in it felt just like navigating it. Old friends, Ted and Pat, hosted us sweetly in their sky-high hotel. The Park Lane, deep in Causeway Bay, was surrounded by shops so absorbed in vibratory neon it never quite felt like night. My room overlooked a second, lesser building swarmed by air-conditioners; I could get a glimpse of the harbour if I stood at the window’s edge and craned my neck. Kept up by jet-lag, my brother and I would wander this not-night, covet mink coats on mannequins and sliced watermelons under blacklight. There it was: Hong Kong, a chandelier density, infinite credit and a sun-pure playground in the sky. Bodies were conspicuously absent on billboards but French models populated the SoHo streets. The sky fell in ribbons between residences. In certain compositions, one believed their own arrival at a wealthy and limitless future. In others, it all seemed distant; impossibly so.

The Park Lane served noodle soup well past midnight and the steam rising off it warmed cheeks chilled by a winter we never quite expected. Like any dumb tourists we went to see the giant buddha and lucked out because it was sundown, and we were alone. The trams were threatening to close. We have only one picture from this trip, and it’s of my hair whipped over my face in the wind, the dusk just a gradient behind me. Upon returning, we thought ourselves hopelessly lost until we recognized our hotel, spying the driveway crowded with black Bentleys, their surfaces smooth and new enough to suggest a small stoppage in time.

Ted died the next winter in the hotel room that he lived in. I thought about how we were raised in a paradise so absolutely occupied that finding solitude was a wonder alone. His voice was already shorn raw by the time we had met — a lifetime of shouting over the city’s din — and his laugh, a British cackle, was a garrulous encapsulation of his entire personality. Through him, I learned how a city could become the only measure of itself.

 The Vancouver House, Vancouver

Speculative new futures for Vancouver have been hologrammed up for as long as I can remember, for whoever will look. 126 years young, the city is still startlingly new, with mostly-untapped potential beyond its persevering reputation as a haven for extreme-sportsmen and well-heeled retirees. In Massive Change, the 2003 exhibition curated by industrial designer Bruce Mau, models for hyper-density were drafted up in Hong Kong’s shadow, a transmogrified counter to the anti-Chinese xenophobia that stretches from British Columbia’s racist nascence to present-day rallies against too much “foreign investment.” The logic was that Hong Kong, also bounded by the Pacific on one side and a ridge of mountains on another, shared enough with Vancouver to be its premonitory mirror across a gulf of culture and time.

A full decade has passed since that initial optimism. Vancouver has not densified so much as it has diamondized, all ascending glass with nothing in it. One could swear that that, from the right angle, you could see clean through the whole city. A sharp contrast to Hong Kong, which brims with human life at all hours of day or night. (“Forget nature,” said a friend. “Being able to bike down a street with no one on it is what’s bliss.”)

Vancouver’s Vancouver House is the newest development for the super-rich. An exercise in excess, a publicity campaign that excuses the extravagance of its luxury by linking up with the art world: it’s a “living sculpture,” a “gesamtkunstwerk,” a condo development ludicrous enough to stick a Rodney Graham under an overpass. Having lived here for so long, I know the city well enough to guiltlessly witness a common gripe. A new city faithfully entraps itself in wanting to become the kind of place around which culture is realized. It exerts itself in trying to make landmarks where before there were only lowlands, concocting new visions as soon as old ones — in which history has already been latent — are destroyed.

The Vancouver House isn’t a hotel, but it follows in the dream of one. Who, with the means, wouldn’t want luxury twinned with convenience? A fleet of black vehicles, a troop of concierges, a room that defaults to spotless each time you return to it, a lobby where you can see and be seen fetching your mail from a mailbox shaped like a giant, cancelling X… The development is advertised as “as a giant curtain at the moment of being pulled back to reveal the world to Vancouver and Vancouver to the world,” but riding past its showroom, headed eastward on my bicycle, I think it looks just like a tornado twisting back into thin air.

Alex M.F. Quicho is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is the editor of Highway Magazine, and a writer living in Vancouver. You can find her twitter here.

Photographs by the author.

“Wasserfall” – Juli (mp3)

“Hallo Hallo” – Juli (mp3)

In Which We Can Handle You The Way You Are

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


A few weeks ago, I discovered that my best friend’s wife is cheating on him with a neighbor of mine. I’m conflicted on whether or not I should intervene. I’ve been contemplating on telling him, but don’t want to be the one to break his heart. Should I tell him or allow things play out on their own?

Jean B.

Dear Jean,

Ah yes, the insoluble dilemma. This is why it’s important to sit down with your friends and a box of Mike & Ike’s early on and hypothetically hash out whether or not they’d like to know if their partner was cheating on them.

I’d let it play out, at least for a little while longer. Support your friend as much as possible without spilling the beans. If you have any sort of relationship with his partner, gently tell her what you know and give her the opportunity to come clean on her own. Reserve judgment. Unless she is the violent or vengeful type, then emphasize how cool you are with it and suggest she, “Get that ass.”

The bottom line is you don’t want anyone getting murdered over this, and you really don’t know the context of their relationship. So take baby steps, unless there is an actual baby involved, then take no steps.


Two years ago I went on a few dates with a great guy. We had a good time, but I was in a weird mental space and told him I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I haven’t seen him since. Still, I find myself thinking about him all the time and wondering what may have happened if we’d pursued something. Through a mutual friend I recently learned he is single but maybe casually dating someone. I want to give him a call, but I’m not sure it’s the right idea. What should I do?

Megan A.

Dear Megan,

A lot can happen over the span of two years. You may find out that he is not exactly the same as you pictured. Imagine the sense of relief you’ll get after you hear he’s into opera singing. You can spend years wondering the what ifs, which we’re all guilty of, but don’t let it hinder your confidence to move on.

Even if he is seeing someone, there’s no reason you can’t just check in and make sure he can never fully commit to a relationship until he has tried things with you. This is how Jennifer Garner manages to stay in the public eye.

It’s not okay to keep asking Siri if you should call him or not. If you don’t hear back, you know what happened. You shouldn’t be slightly surprised if he has rescued a new puppy named Craig with a significant other. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t get the answer you want. It will be nice to have a sense of closure.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at


“Do You Know” – Pieta Brown (mp3)

“No Not Me” – Pieta Brown (mp3)

In Which We Run Cowardly From The Spectre Of The 1940s

With Garbo

The diaries of Cecil Beaton span the entire first part of the twentieth century. This bisexual photographer’s true talent lay in his writing, but he was also a hell of a picture-taker. His portraits of Churchill at the front and his society snaps of the artists and writers he knew intimately remain masterpieces of composition and setting. Complemented by a talent for written observation that also exceeded most of his peers, Beaton’s investigations into the central figures and places of his era, arranged to diminish his grandiosity and verbosity, are cogent windows into individuals of any time. The following excerpts from his writing concern his relationship with the actress Greta Garbo.

When I first arrived in New York in the late twenties, Frances Wellman, a middle-aged woman of singular ugliness and persistence, had become quite well known for giving parties in her hotel suite in which members of “cafe society” mingled with Broadway celebrities. Of all her pet guests, Noel Coward was perhaps the most cherished. The hostess, who had surprisingly distinguished hands, would “ssh” her guests, with her long index finger to her pouting mouth, to signal the coup of the evening: “darling Noel” at the piano.

Neysa McMein, a most delightful person but a very bad painter, and groups of fans and friends, close and otherwise, would sit on or around the piano in ecstasies, while lesser devotees were “sshed” in the background. Twenty years later the same lady was tonight giving a party to honor Noel Coward. Anita Loos said “It’s awful. No one seems to be going.”

I was being a boor; however much I drank I couldn’t get the “party spirit.” I found this group of older people, insistent on still behaving like the bright young things that have long since ceased to be, really rather offensive. Surely they were now too old to be quite so silly.


Greta Garbo has dropped the bombshell that she must return to the coast. Could I join her there? No, from California she would sail almost immediately to her native Sweden. “Could I meet you in Stockholm?” “Oh, no!” The idea of her departure saddened me greatly. For the last weeks I have lived only in terms of her. She filled my days, and I dreamt of her at night.

Suddenly New York seemed pointless without her. Frederick Ashton wired me from Covent Garden that he had a ballet for me to design if I could return at once. It was the ballet Les Sirenes with music by Gerald Berners. I might as well go home. When I arrived back in England a telegram arrived, unsigned, from Greta bidding me good morning.


Time and again the same mistake is made: nowhere I am immune from the fateful possibility that Greta may be nearby – hidden in the crowd in the theatre or in any surroundings, however unsuitable. Everything I see, every place I go to, brings back to me the times we spent together. Central Park has become an absolute nightmare of memories: each tree has its specific associations, and each mountain and hillock reminds me of that advent of spring when we welcomed the first rays of sun and celebrated the coming warmth by lying full length on the grass.

Now there is only silence.


After many further attempts to speak to Greta on the telephone (I would call at all times of day, and I could hear the operator being told by Greta’s sad voiced servant that Miss Brown was not at home and she did not know when she was expected back) this morning I was again fortunate enough to gain my quarry.

At first she was exasperated and treated me as a tiresome burden that might as well be disposed of once and for all. “This is no good,” she said. “We are too different. By your action you have deprived me of a friend.”

“Who is the friend?”

“You were!”

This was pretty near to disaster for me, but by banter and repartee we returned to better terms.


Now that I am ostensibly busy, Greta is no longer as busy as she was while I was not busy. At 3:30 pm she would meet me at Sixty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue. She was wearing a mink coat. “Isn’t it obnoxious?” she said; “it’s so frauen.” I must admit it wasn’t suitable: it made her appear thick on the bosom with square shoulers. We strode into the park. Soon the lights started to fade and the landscape had no reality. It was like time out of time: a leaden gray sky with scurrying apricot clouds grew dark and tempestuous: it was as if mankind were going to be exterminated in violence for its wickedness.

It was a strange walk and we seemed to have a relaxed feeling that we hadn’t enjoyed before. Occasionally we would stop dead in this cold winter landscape to kiss one another, but Greta was worried in case we were being watched, and when it became quite dark she was scared lest we should be “stood-up” and robbed. At one interval for embraces she said, “Are you eaten up with passion?” and then laughed and explained: “Nobody but myself would say that, and yet it’s quite feasible and natural.”


We were going to a theatre and were late, but luckily Eugene hurried a room service meal through in record time. Eugene is a nice, ugly little man with sad eyes and an nose like a toucan. Perhaps he is sad because he intended to be an electrical engineer, but after eleven years he gave it up for “waitering.” He could not resist six dollars a day plus tips. “It’s not much of a life,” he says, “and I haven’t got far, but my son is nine years old, and will do better.”

Eugene is helpful and treats me as a favorite, but even he cannot improve the hotel food. We ate lamb that was rather like discarded chewing gum as we talked about ourselves in slightly veiled terms. I was enjoying turning the tables on her. “You are so unreliable,” I said, “I couldn’t ever marry you. You aren’t serious about me.”

“What a rebuff! And I adore you, Cecil – I love you – I am in love with you!”

We both laughed.


The night descended. It was too late to go into the park: she was scared – quite rightly – of unseen things. So we walked along looking into more windows, although we did once enter a shop to buy some Swedish bread and cakes. Here Greta was served by a young Swedish blonde and, for the first time, I heard her talking her native tongue. It was both delightful and comic to my ears – like birds spitting.


Out into the ice-cold night for a dinner at a Brazilian restaurant called Semon. The atmosphere was convivial, the food savory, and we both hungry. Greta’s mood was joyful and I was in good spirits. She told comic stories – she has a fount of them – the sort that no matter how many times I hear I can never remember later. If I try to tell a comic story in return, she stops me if the premise is not probable. “Nothing is funny to me that isn’t a possibility.”


After our picnic I set Greta to work drawing with some colored chalks. She started to do a pot of hyacinths, looked very hard at the flowers, and did a quite skillful representation of them. She was rather self-conscious and excited like a ten year old, but soon gave up and perpetrated infantile likenesses of myself with a great number of buttons on my suit. Before throwing the drawing block aside she ruthlessly scratched out her efforts, leaving only a careful drawing of a pink walnut as a relic of her talent.


“North London” – Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)

“The Times They Are A-Changin” – Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)

In Which Gregg Araki Maintains A Physical Trajectory

Better Off


White Bird in a Blizzard
dir. Gregg Araki
91 minutes

Most of White Bird in a Blizzard has the style and pace of a lucid dream sequence. In this film, which was adapted from a novel by Laura Kasischke, director Gregg Araki revisits his niche focus: adolescence. Employing 1980s elements to paint the scene, he also incorporates romantic pastel color schemes to illuminate the mediocrity of suburbia. Araki develops strong connections with his characters and creates a mystery that is both alluring and magnetic.

Kat (Shailene Woodley) comes home from school one day to discover that her mother has disappeared. Kat speculates that her mother grew tired of passing the butter and cooking dinner for her father. She doesn’t expect for her mother to return and thinks she may be better off.

Eve (Eva Green), Kat’s mother, is a neurotic and psychotic housewife. In some scenes, she competes with her daughter’s beauty. She makes a game out of it when Kat starts dating. Except for a flashback in which the two of them play cat-and-mouse under a white linen sheet, there isn’t much of an emotional bond between the mother-daughter pair.

Kat’s father, Brock (Christopher Meloni) doesn’t offer much value to his wife’s happiness or to his marriage. His presence makes his wife want to vomit. It’s suspected that the last time the two had sex was when Kat was conceived. Their loveless and sexless marriage is drier than a bottle of gin.

Kat discovers sexual frustrations of her own. After shedding her awkward butterball appearance, Kat experiments with being a seductress. She discovers the power of sex after losing her virginity to the boy next door, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez). Afterwards, she yearns for it every second and tries to influence him to follow suit.

Soon after her mother’s disappearance, Phil halts all sexual advances altogether, but closely identifies himself as her boyfriend. Phil can be easily be compared to a Neanderthal version of James Dean. He’s a chainsmoker who doesn’t add much to the conversation.

Kat doesn’t hesitate for a second to find a way to fulfill her carnal desires. She shows up on Detective Scieziesciez’s (Thomas Jane) doorstep to seduce him in a skin-tight purple dress. His last name sounds like someone trying to say “sleazy” after having one too many.

During her college breaks, she invites herself over for more coital exchanges with the detective. Years have gone by since her mother’s disappearance, and her father appears to be the sole suspect, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove him guilty.

Overall, this coming-of-age story captures the emotional and physical trajectory of sexual and gender identity, but leaves the audience more confused with their own spatial awareness. Araki’s plot twist resembles the feeling of getting up too fast, feeling dizzy, and forgetting where you are.

Mia Nguyen is the features editor of This Recording. You can find her website here.

“Pills I Swallow” – The Twilight Sad (mp3)

“I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want” – The Twilight Sad (mp3)

In Which Laura Riding Can Move Like A Bolt From A Bow

This is the second in a series. You can find the first part here.

Coming Back


I am glad women are going mad. It’s about time they did.

- Robert Graves in June of 1929

Laura Riding had taken Nancy Graves’ husband from her and had tried to arrange a three-way marriage. It wasn’t working out: Nancy had taken up with Geoffrey Phibbs, the intern who Laura had been fucking with Graves’ permission. Riding wrote:

There is a woman in this city who loathes me. What is to her irritation is to me myself. She has therefore a very direct sense of me, as I have a very direct sense of her, from being a kind of focus of her nervous system. There is no sentiment, no irony between us, nothing but feeling: it is an utterly serious relationship.

I think of her often. She is a painter – not a very good painter. I understand this too: it is difficult to explain, but quite clear to myself that one of the reasons I am attached to her is that she is not a good painter.

Also her clothes which do not fit her well: this again makes me even more attached to her. If she knew this she would be exasperated against me all the more, and I should like it, not because I want to annoy her but because this would make our relationship still more intense. It would be terrible to me if we ever became friends, like a divorce.

When she found about the destruction of her carefully arranged Trinity, Laura Riding drank Lysol. In front of Robert Graves, his wife, and the intern Geoff Phibbs with whom she had been sleeping with until his rejection of her, Laura hurled herself from a fourth floor window. She broke her her pelvis and suffered a compound fracture of her spine. “She is a great natural fact,” Graves would later say of Laura Riding, “like fire or trees. Either one appreciates her or one doesn’t but it is quite useless trying to argue that she should be other than she is.” The police called her a vampire.

The initial diagnosis was total paralysis. The attending surgeon, a certain Dr. Lake, commented: “It is rarely that one sees the spinal cord exposed to view – especially at right angles to itself.” The police hoped to charge Robert Graves with attempted murder, but he also had to obscure the suicidal purpose of his girlfriend’s jump, lest she be deported as an American citizen. Laid up in the hospital, pumped full of too much morphine to speak, Laura Riding asked for Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude wrote to Graves:

Laura is so poignant and so upright and she gets into your tenderness as well as your interest and I am altogether heartbroken about her, I cannot come now. But tell her and keep telling her that we want her with us. I had an unhappy feeling that Laura would have sooner or later a great disillusionment and it would have to come through a certain vulgarity in another and it will make Laura a very wonderful person, in a strange way, a destruction and recreation of her purification but all this does not help pain and I am very closely fond of you all. Tell her all and everything from me and tell her above all that she will come to us and reasonably soon and all my love.

Riding, Graves and friends socializing in Majorca

The poems she wrote in the wake of her attempt to end her life took on a Steinian tinge.

What to say when the spider
Say when the spider what
The spider does what
Does does dies does it not
Not live and then not
Legs legs then none

When Laura was well enough to receive her letters, Stein sent this missive.

I have been thinking of you a lot lately back home, and I hope going on, and not too bad and not too anything but alright. I do hope to hear that everything is coming back, and that it would be good for you to take treatment at Aix or or somewhere near us, a something that would be a pleasure to us all. Do let me hear how everything is going.

When Laura was finally ready to travel, she met Stein, whom she had praised in a long essay, and found her a tremendous disappointment. Gertrude’s sermons on the day’s weather, she felt, bordered on madness. She described the older woman as “nervous with a continually aborted generosity.” Most things she idealized ended up disappointing Laura, and Stein was no different. Riding would write about her again decades later, saying, “She was by her own created image of herself, as a compendium of human versatility compressing the range of diversity within it to so abbreviated a representation that she was the God of herself.”

“Perhaps,” Riding added, “everyone up to the time of her self-deification was to blame, for the great emptiness that accumulated in human self-knowledge which Gertrude Stein tried to fill with herself for everyone’s edification.”

She was equally incensed in the days of her recovery by evidence of the burgeoning relationship of her now-former lover Geoffrey Phibbs and Graves’ wife Nancy. Their coming together had not merely been revenge; they would live together for the next five years. When Nancy and Geoff arrived in the hospital to visit her with a small plastic statue of Nefertiti, Riding had them thrown out of the room.

Out of loyalty to Laura, Graves refused to pay any child support while his wife and Phibbs were together. Even though he had basically left his wife for Riding, Nancy’s betrayal of him loomed larger.

His wife tried to convince him otherwise, writing, “I know what you feel about us and what you know about us and I know just how much you can’t afford to feel about or acknowledge to yourself or anyone the truth about the whole thing. I know you have to, being you – but curse the you that does it.” For his part, Phibbs was a fantastic stepfather for five years before Nancy dumped him.

with his wife Nancy 

Hart Crane wrote to Laura to ask what had occurred. She explained, “We had all been sleeping with the Devil.” Riding’s main enemy Louise Bogan spread all kinds of stories about her, resulting in William Carlos Williams’ famous appraisal of Riding as a “prize bitch.” Graves’ family called Laura a she-devil, and Graves’ friend Siegfried Sassoon complained that he was tired of hearing from Robert “through a bonnet.” It was necessary to leave this environment to preserve what remained of the love between them.

Through Graves’ intervention, charges of attempted suicide were dropped, but Laura Riding still had to leave England. Finally free of all his responsiblities and entanglements, Graves took the recovering twenty-nine year old to Majorca. “Majorca,” Stein had told them both, “is paradise, if you can stand it.”

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. The next part of the Laura Riding journey will appear a week from today.

“Spend Christmas With You” – Anthony Hamilton (mp3)

“Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” – Anthony Hamilton (mp3)

In Which We Try Not To Make This More Than It Was

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


My friend Sheila is getting married in January to a guy she met on an online dating website. I haven’t spent much time with them as a couple, but from what I have seen they get along really well and he’s a genuinely nice person who cares a lot about Sheila. With that said, I have only socialized with both of them a handful of times.

Sheila recently approached me and confessed a number of hesitations about the wedding. She is worried that she and her fiancee don’t have enough in common, and wonders if she is moving a bit too fast. I told her it was just cold feet, but she wants to talk to me about it again soon and I feel like I need a better answer for her. Do I blindly push her towards the altar or give credence to her concerns?

Teresa T.

Dear Teresa,

I remember when I used to date online; like half my dates informed me with a straight face that they were taking improv classes.

Marriage is a serious commitment, but moreso for a man than a woman, because Halle Berry is one of only twenty-five women in the entire country to pay child support. But seriously, Sheila can always get an annulment, unless she actually believes the death do us part bullshit.

If she doesn’t marry him, the relationship is pretty much over. There js no coming back from that, even if you explain to the groom that “you just need more time.” Eminem was married once, and he seemed happier single. Some people are just afraid to be alone I guess.

I would lie to your friend and tell her everything will be fine. If it does work out, you will be the heroine who encouraged Sheila at her darkest moment. And if it doesn’t work out, you can be damn sure she will blame him and not you.


My daughter recently became pregnant by her longtime boyfriend, Anthony. They decided that they should get married and had a bridal shower, bachelor party and a lovely wedding. The expense to our family was considerable, and even more so because my husband recently had to take a lower-paying job.

Last month I found out from my daughter that her and Anthony had not actually gotten legally married in this ceremony. When I confronted her about this lie, she blew me off and told me that “marriage means different things to different people.” Am I right to be upset?

Louisa F.

Dear Louisa,

No. The American Wedding Industry exists to take money from vulnerable, naive individuals such as yourself. Did you know that in some cultures, such as those of the Incans, a married couple was required to administer blow jobs to everyone who showed up at their nuptials? A gift bag was also provided.

You gave a gift of your own free will. If it was conditional on something, you should not have given it. If it bothers you that much, ask for your money back. You won’t get it, but everyone will know you’re an insanely gullible person whose devotion to cultural norms will only be eradicated through shock therapy or divorce.

Lately, people have been asking me a lot, “How do I know when it is the right time to marry my partner?” The answer is twofold:

1) when you can’t imagine life without them

2) you ask them if they want to watch Scorpion, and they say, “What’s that?” or “No”

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at


“Whispers” – Tina Dico (mp3)

“You Don’t Step Into Now” – Tina Dico (mp3)