Songs I Heard At Work And How They Made Me Feel

  • “Therapy” – Mary J Blige
    This song is so, so, so, good if you wanna do an merry-awful little two-step on creaky knees and turned in feet, eyes closed in bliss, and wail out, “when I go therapyyy / when I go therapyyyyyy / when I go therapyyyyy/ two times a day,” in the place where you are paid (barely) to smile and tell people the bathroom is upstairs to their right. If that doesn’t sound like the sort of behavior you would be interested in engaging in, then, like, I’m sorry, Madame President. Sorry for my indignity. Listen to this chill record at a low volume, stiff but silkening in an armchair with a bourbon highball, I don’t know.
  • “Afire Love” – Ed Sheeran
    Look, I am not immune to the wily charms of sad-sad songs about sad-sad boys and their sadder girls, but I do excpect in the face of such reedy faux nice guy fuckery that said sad-sad boy won’t look like he should be under a bridge somewhere making frightened children complete a riddle in order to pass on into the Gumdrop Forest. Anyway, this song is actually about, like, a dead grandpa, but my feelings stand. If my public distaste for Ed Sheeran ultimately keeps me from ever getting that much desired invite to Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island beach house, I suppose I’ll survive. The bar down the street makes brightly colored Bacardi drinks in plastic fishbowls with candy at the bottom, anyway.
  • “Somebody’s Baby” – Jackson Browne
    We played a Jackson Browne greatest hits compilation album all summer and I don’t know why. There is no evidence that this was a new release. I hope it just means the guys who work in the music department were high. Jackson Browne sounds like car rides with my mother and when me and her white Honda were very small. I am not sure that I like Jackson Browne. I don’t really care for his face, and I half-remember that I should hate him for something, on behalf of Daryl Hannah, maybe, but, truthfully, it is hard to keep up with which revered white man did which unforgivable thing and which didn’t, so I choose, largely, to just dislike the lot. I like the sound though. It feels like before and like forever, big and warm, remembered and back again. Mom’s favorite Jackson Brown song is “Running On Empty,” but I prefer “Somebody’s Baby” because I feel I am the most sought after treasure on all this great spinning orb and will suffer no suggestion that the world at large doesn’t feel the same. Plus, it’s really catchy.
  • “Your Green Jacket” – Sinead O’Connor
    Sinead’s desire sounds almost menacing, a little half-cocked, bleary eyed deranged, anyway, and nervous, too. “Is it okay to say I really do adore you?” We could talk about smell more. Something changes once somebody’s smell becomes one you know, one your whole body can catch when it moves through the air. It is awful and intoxicating to feel in your own swooning this proof of the suspected but feared truth that the object of your affection is, in fact, in possession of a real human body. The driving nature of the music beneath the vocals, steady and demanding, that lends her voice a quality of contrasting vulnerability that almost stops me from rolling my eyes when things get a little too lyrically loopy (“meet me at the crazy apple tree in heaven / we’ll go dancing all night”)  for my taste toward the end. On two separate occasions women have come up to me and complained about the inappropriate nature of the line, “makes me wish I had my face buried in you” and I could only look at them with very real and true pity, and then Kanye shrug about it ‘cause I’m making under ten dollars right now, bro. Let’s get real.
  • “Jackie And Wilson” – Hozier
    I like this because it’s fast and fun and it’s not “Take Me To Church.” This in-store play CD begins and ends with “Take Me To Church.” I have no problem with “Take Me To Church” except that churches are free to attend, generally open to the public, and located on, like, every third block all over the goddamn place. Take yourself to church, Hozier. Men, amirite? I prefer for people who aren’t Beyoncé to have and use two names just like every other sap who was taught to write their name in cursive in third grade, otherwise I get the sense that they think they’re more important than me, and that’s unacceptable.
  • “Better Not Wake The Baby” – The Decemberists
    When I hear this song I see a solemn man and woman dancing wildly in hard-soled shoes, and then I feel happy and bright. It is not great or special but it sort of reminds of the music that plays when tiny girls in big wigs drain all the energy from the room, through no fault of their own, but of the culture’s, but of this hideous strain of dance as an entity, with an endless stomping Irish dance in stiff little dresses on the tiled floor of the Knights of Columbus. That doesn’t sound like a pleasant association and, yet, somehow, it is. Life is strange and I like boiled potatoes with mustard. The rest of the album sounds just like the same The Decemberists noise I used to like a lot, but I am not nineteen anymore and I have long since fucked my last delicate lit major with bad manners and a moody brow, so for me these tracks hold no appeal.
  • ”Brain” – BANKS
    Banks sounds like what I thought sex was when I was thirteen in too tight denim shorts with a cherry Slush Puppy mouth looking to fall loose-limbed into trouble but getting by all right on the easy yellow force of luck. These songs have that breathy hot-baby tone, they make you wanna move very slow. They feel like a performance I no longer believe in, which I thought I’d let fall away entirely for something messier that you can dig your nails into. These songs remind me of ninth grade and the tiny bows at the center of stiff new bras. It’s, like, sticky breath, sweaty palm, perfectly flat ironed hair, and I mean that as a compliment, but I guess you’d just have to listen. Her music makes me want to roll my hips in the mirror and I haven’t done that since before anybody had touched them. I like this song in particular because it is about how boys are so stupid that it almost makes you sorry. “I can see you struggling / boy don’t hurt your brain”
  • ”Riptide” – Vance Joy
    Other songs that aren’t “Riptide” are on this album, too, and it’s a real bummer to me and the grandmothers with shopping baskets full of knitting pun titled paperback mysteries (Knit One, Kill Two) because we are only familiar with like three contemporary pop songs and the one that we like best is “Riptide.”
  • Real talk, I have recently been informed that for several months we were playing Beck’s Grammy winning Morning Phase in its entirety at least twice a day. I have absolutely no memory of this.
  • “Take My Number” – Melissa Etheridge
    This song is nuts. I walk up to customers, strangers, herds of glossy-headed teenage girls or harried stay-at-home dads in windbreakers chasing toddlers at ten a.m. and I say, “are you hearing this right now?” “no, no seriously.” “are you listening to this song?” In “Take My Number” which is honestly just one palpably impassioned banger among many bangers on what is a really good album to headbop in the world history section to and mouth on the way up the escalator, is about Melissa Etheridge running into a chick she went to high school with at the bar. The lady is apparently super wasted, and Etheridge offers her some assistance. She says the woman shouldn’t drive, and offers her number, which is useless and transparent, and, please. Come on, Melissa. You are very rich. Buy some game. She says, “or I can take you home,” and I’m like, whoa, I know, I know I told you to, but, hey. Maybe now is not the time. But don’t worry! She only wants to take her out to coffee! They can sit all night and talk! I love this! What a great song! “What did we ever know at twenty three / About what we really want?” Good question, Melis! Not sure why you had to throw a random dig at me in the middle of this jubilant song about scoring with somebody you knew as a teenager by way of a charming, gallant softball approach, but, okay. In other hands this song might have leery vibes that would sap the obviously ebullient joy from an eight hour retail shift, but Melissa Etheridge emanates a sense of soothing competence, and I would trust her to safely take me anywhere at anytime based just on how she sounds more intensely engaged with the varied subject matter of all her songs than I have ever felt about even one thing even once besides maybe when I maybe when I’ve managed to scavenge up just the right amount of filthy, sticky change on the floor of my car to buy a fountain Diet Coke the size of my head. I find enthusiasm soothing and novel, and I’m a big lush, too.
  • “Dust and Bones” – Night Terrors of 1927
    The first time I heard this song I asked a coworker what the hell it was, where’s Linda Ronstadt, and when he said, “Uh, like, the guy from Rilo Kiley, I think?” I began to bleed from every orifice of my body in a manner which no passerby could mistake as being anything but intentional and malevolent.
  • “You Can’t Talk To Me Like That” – Nikki Lane
    Nikki Lane is cool as hell. I want her to come to come to a party at my house and fight people I’ve been holding a grudge against since I was twelve. I’d pour the shots and make all my laughs like hisses. This is smooooooooth country and I could bathe in it. I would like to. “I know you want me / but it’s such a drag” is as clean and sharp and good as the perfectly timed flicker of a curled mascara lash. It made me pause mid-step and grin, to myself and for me, charmed, when it first came over the store’s PA system. It’s a song about deferred desire, no, I won’t. Wanting is such trouble. Don’t say things that make my yeses slip like sand. It’s a song sang like against another plumped mouth, don’t kiss me. And, anyway, it sounds fantastic.
  • “Hard Advice” – Stevie Nicks
    I’m obsessed with this song. I can’t get enough of it. I think, because I get so wild and stupid at the whiff of an ancient scandal, of a tabloid story I wasn’t alive to read in the supermarket checkout line. When I was seven I played Rumours exactly three times through every night before I went to sleep. Now, I listen to this song twenty times a day. It’s not even the best on the album (24 Karat Gold : Songs From the Vault, and for my money the standout track is the opener “Starshine”), but it’s the one that got into my bloodstream. I can no longer walk or speak or regulate body temperature unless I have recently heard Stevie sing, “Another famous friend told me / love doesn’t always make a clean break / didn’t talk about heartache.” Once a very tall grown man in ugly shoes stopped me, with his hand on my forearm, as I was walking across the store while this song was playing and asked if this was Fleetwood Mac. “It’s Stevie Nicks,” I chirped helpfully. I wasn’t even rude. I am sometimes. I was sweet and congenial which is a horrible risk. He said, “Oh, right. Because that’s an important distinction. Thanks, Einstein.” like I wasn’t right there wearing boots I could kick him with, like my job is really worth refraining from doing so. I didn’t, though. I smiled and kept walking because it’s not my fault that his mom didn’t love him and I can’t be responsible for fixing it.

The Killers Played The Bait Shop : Important Music Moments In TV History #2


At least a dozen times in tenth grade US History, I presented my Friday Current Events report on what had happened on the previous night’s Grey’s Anatomy. Once on a first date in a place that smelled like anthropomorphized grass, I said that Shonda Rhimes is my favorite writer, and then that dude and I went on to date one another miserably for several more months, based almost entirely, I am very certain, around the fact that he thought both [a] that this was a fantastically charming thing to say and that I was going to proceed through the rest of my days filling his world with such fantastically charming asides while also not doing the things I would in reality proceed to do, like throwing his keys in a bonfire on Halloween because he called me a bitch and being a real live human being with skin and opinions and [b] that I was joking. My mother hated and feared the way I, her firstborn child, her strong and bright daughter, known, she had once believed, to be possessed of all her own brave and beautiful thoughts and feelings, so immediately identified with and idolized self-obsessed WASPy waif Meredith Grey with her whining, and her sad tequila drinking, and her horrible rasping voiceovers, and, really, who could blame her.

Grey’s Anatomy is important, even if now, ten whole big fat terrifying years later, in a new decade and newish, new-seeming, as new-as-can-be lives, we are like, wow, how can this show possibly still be on television? How could a mid-season replacement about the personal lives of surgeons possibly have anything left to say eleven seasons later, and why would we want to listen? (To be perfectly clear, I am not of that mind. I love Grey’s Anatomy. If it were up to me, there would be a channel on TV that just aired episodes of Grey’s Anatomy constantly all day everyday, and I would quit my job, and I would buy a lot of Diet Coke, and I would never get off the couch again, and I would hate myself, and I would die in front of that channel, and it would feel right. I hope Grey’s Anatomy continues forever. I hope I’m seventy years old yelling at my grandchildren to shut the eff up and go play with your hovercrafts because there’s a goddamn lot of sexual tension happening across the top of this perforated bowel and you are not about to ruin it for me. Thank God It’s Thursday!!! <3 <3 <3) Grey’s Anatomy is important because it gave us Shonda Rhimes. She wrote Grey’s Anatomy and ABC put it on after their prize pony Desperate Housewives because they’d figured out that middle-aged women who watch TV while they’re winding down from the weekend on Sunday night were pretty horny–I mean, in an emotionally complex and compelling way, right, human interest, um, scrubs. drinking. hospital prom.– and it was a hit, and so we had Shonda Rhimes. And we had Olivia Pope. And we had Annalise Keating. And we had the most consistently diverse casts on television, the meatiest roles for women, the most fully realized women characters. And, a remarkable feat, somehow, even in 2015, “women” here does not mean only skinny straight white ones.  Shonda Rhimes arrived and we had Shondaland: an empire of exciting television that respects its audience by not taking itself too seriously, by remembering this is TV after all and the world is bleak enough, that you can tell important stories without being a boring crotchety dick who everybody can tell wishes that they’d made it as a playwright. Shondaland succeeds and inspires by knowing the importance of being smart and silly in the right measure. Also with a lot of kissing. When Grey’s happened Rhimes had already written the critically-maligned but indubitably important Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads, as well as the second Princess Diaries film, and it warms my heart like nothing else to know that this is the professional pedigree of a woman who has twice been named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People. Shonda Rhimes is the improbable and indefatigable victor of 21st century network television, which is why one might think twice before they seek to mock her tendency to drop a catastrophic disaster onto her made-up hospital and its doctors with improbable reliability right around sweeps. I mean, disasters happen! Personally, I have a major disaster at least three times a week. For example, this morning the only K-cups left for the Keurig coffeemaker were some kind of heinous caramel swirl flavor, as if the universe is operating under the misapprehension that I’m a lilac-haired fairy recently from Candyland with nothing to do but dance around collecting cavities all day. It was horrible. I can barely believe I’m staggering on. Shonda gets it.

Anyway, in the very first big disaster episode, Meredith has her hand on a bomb inside of a man’s chest cavity on a day when she woke up despondent over her breakup with a married neurosurgeon with stupid hair and declared that she could not go to work because she thought she might die today. We are in the back half of the second season of sexy new tv baby Grey’s Anatomy. It’s winter. The first half of this two parter aired in the prestige spot immediately after the Super Bowl. I was nauseous from nachos the whole time, I remember. The first episode is pretty good. Christina Ricci plays the scared young EMT Hannah who comes into the hospital with her arm inserted into a wound in a man’s abdomen made by a homemade WWII era explosive device. She is one of the very first big name guest stars in what will be a very long, and still continuing, line of big name guest stars, and in the role she appears appropriately small and fragile, I imagine because that’s what she is. Many millions of people saw it because after football we are tired and can’t change the channel. Science has proven this and it cost millions of dollars. A lot of dads and boyfriends who had never spent their Sunday nights at Seattle Grace Hospital before were yelling, “what’s happening? should they be having this drawn out, casual conversation about their personal lives while somebody’s brain is literally just like chilling in the open?” from their body-shaped caverns in the couch, and we, the Shondaland loyal, had to throw gnawed on chicken bones or sticky M&Ms across the room at them without moving our eyes from the screen, like, “SHHHHHHH. YOU’RE SO STUPID.  ALEX AND IZZIE ARE GONNA DO. IT.”

There is a bomb in a body in an operating room and our protagonist has her hand wrapped around it. Patrick Dempsey is McDreamy-ing just next door, he and his misty eyes busy cutting up the brain of the injured husband of Dr. Miranda Bailey, arguably the show’s most beloved figure, definitely the hospital’s. Bailey is a couple floors away in labor with their first child. McDreamy’s wife Addison, kind and glamorous redhead who saves babies for a living and is completely impossible to hate even though she first appears on the show wearing a fur coat and crushing Meredith’s little brat heart, and mine along with it, is assisting the delivery. Everybody is very stressed. There is the wife of the dude with the bomb in his body. She screams a lot. Dr. Preston Burke is going to be written off the show one day because of behind the scenes conflict but today he is there being super zen and wearing his watercolored surgical cap. Meredith had to put her hand on the bomb to replace Christina Ricci’s skittish EMT because she is the main character and this is not ours or Shonda’s first day, but it is, really, particularly, a very Meredith thing to do. Even in 2005, there is no real fear that the woman whose last name is featured in this very popular show’s title is about to get blown to smithereens, so the real concern becomes, like, “jesus, girl, you have gotta get yourself sorted already.” The fact is, life goes on even if your parents were super shitty and a crooked nosed New Yorker with a weird boner for ferry boats–who, yes, okay, has a certain something– chose his fabulous wife over you in an attempt to be noble. You just do get the feeling sometimes Meredith doesn’t even know how glossy and manageable her hair is, you know? Just out here grabbing bombs. The second that Kyle Chandler appears on the scene as the head of the bomb squad we know exactly how things are going to end for him, but there’s a lot of time to go, and it’s still very fun.

Shonda Rhimes obviously had a very clear musical concept for this show from the outset, the high number of Tegan and Sara songs that have scored scenes over the years gives you a fair idea of what that concept sounds like. Once, Grey’s featured a little song called “White Horse” by a certain coltish young would-be superstar with a mop of wild blonde hair who would go on to name her pet cat after the show’s lead character, and she was so excited she posted a video of her reaction on MySpace, which you can see here, though somebody’s messed with the audio as the internet is wont. The first song that ever played on the show is Rilo Kiley’s “Portions For Foxes” which was pretty cool for 2005. And for the show’s biggest moment up until that point, the climax of it’s first Big Plot, the thrilling conclusion that had sizable shreds of the previous week’s Super Bowl audience tuning in, the chosen song was momentary buzz tune “Breathe (2 AM)” by Anna Nalick. This song checks all the requisite boxes for a Grey’s Anatomy track, which is not hard, because, generally speaking, “all the boxes,” means a melancholy white girl warbling lightly. I have a soft spot for songs like “Breathe (2 AM)”  that are everywhere, from nowhere, and then disappear, no followup act, because I love nothing, really, I think, nothing, more than a good toss-away pop moment. Remember that? I mean, kinda. Reality shows that last half a season and trucker hats for me, though others have chosen to revisit that one repeatedly. There was a second here on this spinning disaster of hope and water where everybody and their grandma was singing along to Anna Nalick’s song three times a day everyday while they were stuck behind some idiot who doesn’t know about right on red. And, then it was over. Just breathe

The song playing is almost all this happening when the song is playing. There is a bomb but you are very much inside of the song that is playing. So, also there’s a bomb. Winter just wa-a-asn’t my-y-y seaaasooon. Meredith removes the device from the man’s body in tiny movements. The bomb squad guy takes it from her, thanks her, move slowly away. The song says breathe but they’re not. “So cradle your head in your hands and breathe just breathe” is what she says over and over, and it’s so strange. You forget. Even now, I found myself washed away. I got so distracted just like I was supposed do. I know that a bomb on television, talked about for two hours, needs to explode, but you lost that for a second or two in the music and the bright light of the hallway when the door opens and the relief on Ellen Pompeo’s tired face. But then it goes. The deafening noise we took a break from anticipating, and then that awful chasing quiet, blow Anna Nalick’s gentle crooning away mid-phrase. Coach Taylor is pink mist right before Meredith’s eyes, and Cristina and Izzie will shower her off in an oddly affecting callback to poor trodden upon George’s sexy dream sequence that opened the two-parter. The guy with the bomb in his chest lives. Bailey’s husband will be okay, too. They have their baby. Nobody’s dead who we’d known for longer than an hour because this is only the show’s second season and there are simply rules about that sort of thing. McDreamy’s gonna come by the house in the dark to say he’s glad she didn’t die. I like to hear “Breathe (2 AM)” on the radio, like on the highway, when you’re flipping to avoid the static and say inside the safer sounds. It is of a moment. It was on my first iPod, which was a long white Shuffle with no screen. It’s the kind of song that sometimes got selected from YouTube on a laptop on a twin bed under an Eiffel tower poster, somewhere, so many somewheres, like, oh, this, like, oh, laugh and get all weird, like, wow, we used to be thirteen. I like to catch at least two thirds of it on a road where you can speed a little, and then I can’t do anything but remember the way this soft song gets smacked away to allow for the stunning arrival of just what we’d been waiting for, this perfect graceful execution of exact rule-following, perfect order, that feels new and thrilling somehow, in all its rightness, like a ballet you’d say awake through, and how a hundred thousand teary elevator rides on TV later, I do really sort of think that’s art.

i ain’t coming back : a “Tik Tok” time capsule

This is not the story it sounds like, though it begins with a seventeen year old girl on a roof with a man in a backwards hat. Players in this story threw up in train station trash cans sometimes and washed off whole weeks in public bathrooms before reconstructing themselves in a Sephora, laughed and licked their lips when cops stopped them on the street with knuckles out on beer cars wearing some boy’s high school hockey coat, but that’s not what it’s about. This is not a sad story. It was so long ago. It was long ago when every fit of high pitched laughter tumbled forth gracelessly pretty like a wobbling tower of stacked fine china, almost giddy to crash, and Tuesdays did cartwheels over into Saturdays like any day. It wasn’t anything. I did everything. It is so strange to have been a ghost, to tell and tell and never feel it. The strange plague of a strong memory. I say, this is what we drank, let me remind you of how we got it, the way you did your hair the night we would be walking back into the building barefoot at sunrise, the cab driver sang along to Billy Joel and we couldn’t stop laughing– was it real? I wish I’d been grateful for that sequined skirt that took all I spilled out but I am not sorry I failed the seminar on Paradise Lost.

I do not remember, ever, the sensation that I was only all right. I cultivated no delusion of grandeur. I built skin outside of it because it was me the whole time. What has been inside of me, always, like a hard hot marble the weight of which I can’t explain or describe– like a teasing pearl, pre-formed– is not confidence. It is certainty. Legless and run-hungry, still. I don’t know how to say that I have seen so many futures and each one makes me scared. Once I was a little girl with a loud brain and a small voice and I was staring at the whole world hungry. I almost never slept. And now, though, I can remember how I was so hopeful, how it was only harder since. It’s stupid, because I never even got any participation trophies. No one  made me this way. It’s pathological and only good for burning holes in stomachs and winning spelling bees. When I was eight I cried because I hadn’t published a novel. I can’t remember why it seemed so awful, then, when I was young and new in a college library, on the grass, why I thought I would die under the crushing weight of disappointments that had only yet begun to roll in. Pre-doomed by my own melodrama, I was the thwarted queen awash in a great and terrible sadness. I was also a girl in threadbare leggings crying on a wrought iron bench. Every morning meant the little death of some part of a dream I’d dreamed once where I was glowing powerful and would have everything I want. I have believed like breathing from the beginning that I would and could and must be and (was, am, have been, this strange settled conviction inside all the mess) great and it has been terrible everyday.

Ke$ha didn’t come to make me float up out of my body because I was already gone. “Tik Tok” was everywhere out of nowhere. I was growing out a bad haircut at the wrong college. The careful compartments of sadness I’d been vaguely half-explaining to licensed clinical social workers in cruelty-free shoes between heavy sighs since I was fourteen melted into something like a mist, a noxious gas now everywhere, spread all over, these damp cells, and whatever had kept me okay at high school track practices and proms was gone. My brain was all wet and I was away, so I poured anything on it and let it sleep while I danced. I know everywhere my skin and bones went then because I saw myself there. put your hands up put your hands up put your hands up. Okay. I can. At any given point in time there are only like five songs. The vibrations feel almost the same no matter what–that’s the art of it– but I hear “Tik Tok” sometimes now when there’s a party but it isn’t playing. Every mascara smeared morning was just Ke$ha for a second. This punchy party girl from the blow job song, she sounded like she’d throw a punch after tossing her top off on the deck doing shotguns in a circle. She sounded like she was literally always doing exactly that, in chunky platform pumps and Thursday’s underwear, big smile, fuck you. I had sticky costume glitter on my cheeks by six pm before I changed from my leggings, just to erase the in-between, lean into the after, and the basketball team. It’s strange to know I only infused vodka with Skittles in my friend’s minifridge because I wanted my family to see me laughing on Facebook. At least there could be that and there had to be something.

“Tik Tok” was playing in the basement three blocks from Kayla’s where a band was shotgunning beers and the Forever 21 for one-time dresses and the sprawling wooden kitchen I didn’t know enough then to know how much it had to cost. It was a brownstone with a laptop on table in a pink plastic skin. This was someone sister’s friends party and every skinny hallway had beer pong in it. Beirut. Pong. Someone always wants to tell you which while you choke down PBR; aren’t things already bad enough? I had a need then to take anything anyone gave to me, to say thank you, I hope this makes me move fast. In Worcester once I breathed from a glass bottle a small handsome boy stole from a chemistry lab. “My fifth grade teacher told me seventy percent of people who try inhalants die the first time.” I was already holding the bottle. “That’s wrong,” he told me. He had long eyelashes and a lofted bed. “Shut up, nerd.” The part of “Tik Tok” that I liked best was “ain’t got no money in my pocket but I’m already here.” A life lived like letting your spin spin loose on a green suede couch in someone’s rental that has gum hardened in the corner of one cushion and it scratches the back of your thigh. I liked the lethargy. I liked to say yes yes yes with my eyes rolled back. I was quite militant about having, which is not the same as wanting, at all.

It was a cold October and I don’t know what started the kissing. I don’t know what started the wound that spread my center until I was just hair and nail polish around the edges of places to bleed. I got farther from fragile every night because you can unlearn aching. My heart it pounds / Yeah you got me. Some long creature with freckles who was almost twenty-five, told me about his apartment by the water, The Kennedy museum, how he dropped out of UMass Boston but he was going back, oh yeah yeah of course. That’s, yeah. Uh huh. I’ll come by someday. I pinched the apples of my own cheeks to the sweet middle ache that hurts and goes pink but won’t bruises, sat on the brick ledge and thought about having whipped cream in my coffee the next day. On top of the building there was so much air I could open my mouth and almost be alone and I heard the song through the soles of my pleather shoes. I could watch the sky. I liked distractions, and then being distracted. I would not meet the gaze of boys I made look at me.  When I saw my own pink bedspread on Thanksgiving I cried for five days. “Tik Tok” wasn’t always playing but it’s all I remember beyond myself besides that sometimes we watched The Jersey Shore in tank tops to our knees and drank vodka from Sprite bottles when somebody got punched.

It was almost no time. It was almost nothing. It was before my body learned to scab and it’s alright now. One day you are in the dress from senior pictures riding through Southie with Ke$ha on the radio with fruit flavors in your mouth that burn your throat, and then later you’re okay. Blood inside shoes doesn’t even ruin them. It’s fine now. It was worse later, it was forever ago, I don’t know where I was or walked from. I remember nothing except what I put on my eyelids then so I would see a reflection in the mirror when I looked. I remember KISS 108, Diet Dr. Pepper and Bacardi, iridescent palm prints on dark jeans from hair serum shared in the dorm hallway, my phone under clean, crinkled underwear in a wood drawer for three days so that no one would come when I refused to move. Kesha Rose is a sentence and most of what I’ve ever been I barely recognize now. I came home carved out in the middle and washed myself out of my hair. I had to go to community college so I listened to Joni Mitchell for awhile but I’ve repented, hold my girl back in my heart now without her dollar sign or my gritted teeth in a miniskirt anywhere, like, let’s have it, that growling need. It’s been forever and my mouth is pink lemonade plastic most days again but I’m too old to say the word crunk and that feels nice.

The Killers Played The Bait Shop : Important Music Moments in TV History

“Yeah, I am sorry, but Avril Lavigne doesn’t count as punk.”

Last year a guy I worked with asked if he could take me to his friend’s folk show at some cafe in a place people visit to see leaves, and what I thought was, “don’t you know I charged three hundred dollars to my credit card for One Direction tickets ???” but what I said was, “okay, sure.” The ride was a much longer ride than I believe in taking in the dark with a boy at the wheel whose middle name I don’t know, but then we got there and a girl with exactly the kind of middle-parted long blond hair you’re imagining was singing a slow song about a boyfriend who left her to go “out west.” This meant California like it does in every story and she was being very sporting about the whole ordeal, a pretty little mensch, about to rise above and remember him fondly in the liner notes, until the last chorus when she wailed, let her pain be graceless so everyone would have to know, sang sloppy and wondrous, and it felt wrong, then, how we clapped our hands sedately over tiny candles in red glass jars. I spilled my beer all over myself trying to wiggle out of my jacket in the cramped room, and when I made a big show of reenacting the incident for the group it was just a practiced aw-shucks aren’t I such a silly, clumsy girl, an easy song and dance routine that becomes like what your bones were made from if you aren’t careful, performed without even trying, which is trying, but the subtext was that the dude should go buy me another one immediately. He didn’t, and then the next act played seven songs.

Outside, finally, it was the kind of early March night that’s dry but tastes wet, and you can go without a jacket when your skin really wants you to. It’s still cold enough that you should be wearing one, that you’re stupid and an embarrassment to your practical New England upbringing not to, like, what, suddenly you’ve never worn triple socks to shovel on snow days that arrived after it was meant to be Spring, but the bone-aching chill of January that made bundling an imperative begins to slip away for secret, tiny moments in that liminal month, and suddenly you can under dress comically, and feel romantic about goosebumps again if you’re the right kind of ridiculous. I had on this stupid see-thru black sweater with a pink bra and, twirling pirouettes on my boot heels, I kept saying the empty street of this tiny town, with its lantern lights and the wooden signs pointing to the quarry, the hand-painted hair salon window display, looked like a movie set more than any real place for real people to live. This earned from these locals, born and raised there, alternately, grumbles of complaint or comments about how, well, actually, a Robert Downey Jr. movie had just been filmed there. It’s like a fairy land, I said to my own prints on the pavement, and I meant the one that’s three thousand miles away, knowing and liking how it doesn’t really exist.


I knew a boy from California for one yellow night and for several more days and darknesses that I wish I could erase away, or cut and doom to the DVD special features, at least. He was more beautiful than any other human being I have ever seen up close and I say that as someone who has spent an entire lifetime filling diaries with detailed descriptions of the hands and haircuts of boys in big shoes who still looked like their little league team photo that wandered into my path. All his pores had light beneath them and he was silly in a knit hat on the walk home and boring in the morning when there was a French III quiz and rain. I asked him with a whiskey sour mouth if he’d ever been to Newport Beach, just to let him roll his eyes at me before he made a thumbprint in my hip, and when he said words about my skin against my skin I could reply, no, it’s not, I’m, it’s just I’ve never really seen the sun.


If I am awake at three am for no reason and no reason is seventy reasons and I could choke on them, I like to watch the episode of The O.C. when Seth remembers Summer’s poem from third grade about the skinny squirrel, when she kisses him and feels disgusted with herself about it, ‘cause we’re not meant to remember it’s really Adam Brody and that for the next stretch of years his face will wallpaper teenage bedrooms. Emo geek. He was, though. Godawful. I also like to scroll through the Los Angeles apartment listings on Craigslist. The only place in California where I could have my California, because my California’s made-up. I imagine the exciting ways in which I might come to be murdered in any given one, had I the money to move, and this allows me to settle heavily into both the irrational sense of having been cosmically wronged and the creak in the double bed I’ve slept in since I was two. (more…)


Sometimes when I’m on one knee on my bedroom floor wearing tights and a bra, mascara but no deodorant, bangs brushed but hair sweat-snarled, one hand wrapped around a mug of lukewarm coffee, the other digging deep within a mountain of dirty laundry hoping to find a shirt that I can fry into presentability with the help of only a fifteen dollar CVS hair straightener that stinks like fire all the time, I wonder what Kristen Stewart is doing.

Sometimes when I’ve got “F**kin Problems” yelling through my headphones as loud as it goes, but not loud enough, for the third time in a row as I scrape never-ending ice from my loud and senile silver car with only one glove–because I lost one out the window last winter on the highway and took it as a sign that my left hand must be made to endure the cold– as I slip and almost fall in the rain, in the sleet, in suede slip-on shoes, in the parking lot of my job where old men in sweatpants tell me how to spell Hemingway, I wonder what Kristen Stewart is doing.

Sometimes when I enter a bar and see too many people who witnessed me playing government mandated games of volleyball as a teenager, or really just anybody in fake glasses, I’m obligated to take over the jukebox in the most crowd alienating manner that I can conceive. I like to do, like, “Closer to Fine” straight into “99 Problems.” “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb a costly five times in a row but only if nobody looks like they’ve got their ironic pleasure pants on. That horrific one hundred years to live song followed by Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.” Or “American Pie.” It’s a game I play for myself and whoever I’ve hooked to me by the elbows, made them endure and made them tell me I’m clever. I like to go on like that for awhile, I like to have three or four drinks on somebody else’s dime, ask them did they like my music, and then, when my hinges are greased loose and swinging wide, to, fro, I like to play “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac, and I wonder what Kristen Stewart is doing.

“Everywhere” is a perfect bar song. Low-key crowd pleaser. Perfect ar song. Sing-along in a blurry headspace, not quite like singing, sounds. Perfect backyard party after the sun’s down song. Breathe it in like citronella and sunk-in sunblock familiar. Perfect living room song when you’re kinda warm-buzzed and you’re gonna definitely dance and you’re gonna probably take your top off. Sexy in an easy way, streams all through you like it’s been to all your spots a million times before, like a sunny morning after, clean sheets and somebody good. “Everywhere” feels good and you can always, always, every time, move yourself and move along, moved and lean in to whisper scream at the place right below the ear that’s almost the neck that, “god, I LOVE Stevie Nicks!” and that’s why it is the first song on the official witchsong KSTEWSDAY MIX: a collective effort on the part of the writers of this illustrious site to use our playlist making powers to woo America’s favorite ex-vampire, rat rights activist, and Alton Brown enthusiast. We’re just a music blog standing in front of a dirtbag princess asking her to love us, you know?

Of course, you want to start with Joan Jett. Right now you’re reading this and you’re like, really, this girl is picking songs for Kristen Stewart and she’s gonna let that slow pitch roll right by her face? But that’s hasty. Jett’s cover of Crimson and Clover, for example, is cool as shit and whenever I listen to it once I listen to it seven times, and its use makes sense in the pursuit of Kristen Stewart’s affection, but, actually, the track sounds like the background music at a really chill sex party I won’t ever be low-maintainence enough to get invited to, and, anyway, there is a science to playlist making which must be respected, and the first rule is to pace yourself. Do not come out of the gates all wild on the first song because you can’t take it back and you’re gonna make everybody feel weird. The selection of the opening track demands tact. The sweeping declarations can come later, the big guns, nestled around track six or seven after a couple whiny dude guitar tunes that are only pretty on the right day and keep things smooth, and with something uptempo coming through right after as a salve, if need be. It’s complicated business. I’m never gonna forgive the dude who gave me a mix that opened with the Ryan Adams cover of “Wonderwall,” even though the rest of the CD was all right. It was too much and too weird and also it was the Ryan Adams cover of “Wonderwall,” a song which I have been made to endure enough as a human being who sometimes dares to venture into parties where beer-soaked young men have been allowed to bring acoustic guitars. Granted, me and this bro were already well beyond the get-to-know-you-tape phase, the mines and yours already long shown to you and me, but that’s only all the more reason to show a little respect. If the goal of a mix is to let your friend (or, say, a hugely wealthy and famous young actress who worked with David Fincher and Jodi Foster when she was twelve) know that you’re into them,  then the tone you wanna strike with that first song is, like, “Hey, c’mere. Let’s get kinda close with our faces and everything that’s attached and we’ll look at each other for what is either gonna feel like a bit too long, or like it might be the start of something, depending on how the chemistry that I’m banking on plays out.” A track like “Everywhere” puts that vibe into the world just a little more succinctly.

Someday I’m going to direct Kristen Stewart as Hamlet in my modern-day, genderbent film interpretation of Hamlet, and I’ll ask her what her favorite Fleetwood Mac song is. I’ll ask Kristen Stewart what her favorite Fleetwood Mac song is while we’re standing on hot asphalt near her trailer, under some California sunshine I still can’t quite picture as anything but magic, and I’ll be trying to stare at her glowing complexion in a manner that projects only admiration, not full-scale creepiness, and when she tells me what it is I will lock that information away in the secret vault inside of my mind, which at present exists only to wait, empty, for the arrival of a future wherein it will be used to contain all the facts I intend to someday know about Kristen Stewart. Wait, I mean, what? Anyway, she’d tell me and I’d make her a mix that opened with that song and send it to her via whatever means she’s using after a few more bizarro 21st century years. Someday, I’ll ask Kristen Stewart what her favorite Fleetwood Mac song is. And how she likes her eggs and what products she uses in her hair and does she ever feel so afraid out of nowhere it seems impossible that the only cause is simply being alive and did A Little Princess make her cry when she was small, and does she want to come home to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, do shots of Fireball on the back porch with my aunts, see my childhood bedroom, burn a cherry pie. But in the meantime, “Everywhere” will get us going.

“But I wanna gotta go the way my blood beats” : still becoming with Sleater-Kinney.

Sleater-Kinney makes me feel like a cooler person, which is deeply uncool.

In eighth grade I talked my way onto a field trip to Yale University. At my middle school we received grades but we also received a number between one and three indicating our performance in the areas of conduct and effort. It’s basically a system for quantifying the amount of maintenance a given twelve-year-old requires. The Ones do all their homework and are at least subtle about chewing gum in class, like a five-year-old adopted dog with a happy disposition who is already house-trained and good with kids. The Twos are new puppies, talking too much, starting to get worryingly convinced they’re hilarious, eating your shoes but you get over it. Three means a special needs shelter mutt, a pit bull rescued from dog fights, the dog that only weird aunts with big hearts and cool twenty year old celebrities with big bank accounts pick. When Spring arrived that year, The Ones were being taken to visit Yale. The Twos couldn’t go because you have to teach your baby dog that her actions have consequences. The Threes couldn’t go because the education system is deeply flawed and they never got to do anything. I was a kinda loopy circle-talking girl in a suddenly too tall weirdo half-child body who watched a lot of HBO and was sometimes sent to the library during Algebra for expressing too often to Mr. O’Driscoll the ways in which I fundamentally disagreed with his teaching methods (he was a nice man and I’m sorry.), so I was a Two and I couldn’t go, so I was a Two and I could swirl myself around this rule in the guidance counselor’s office, which is how it happened that a blond tour guide named Anna should introduce me to Sleater-Kinney.

I’ve never known a lot about music. My favorite album has been Carole King’s Tapestry since I was six years old. I really liked Ashlee Simpson because she had her own MTV show and her mom was so upset when she dyed her hair black in the bathroom sink. A boy burned me a copy of The Eminem Show and a decade later I am still trying to unpack what he was saying to me. I stood in a huddle of Axe and hoodies in the hallway outside a college radio station control room and Anna and her big green sweater, heavy shoes, crisp voice said a bunch of things and then said, “Sleater-Kinney. Pretty nice, huh?” and we were into The College Dropout and did not care at all– a position I still hold, conceptually, about everything, anything– and then she led us to some place where we could eat free french fries and whisper about each other. I don’t know. Anyway. This isn’t some great origin story. That’s not the point. I went home and Googled them. We still had dial-up Internet. Screech and crunch and a bathroom break waiting for the page to load. I’ve never known a lot about music but that day I found Sleater-Kinney is the first time I remember trying.

I’ve never known a lot about music and what I mean when I say that is: I’m not a Music Person. What I mean when I say that is sometimes when men ask me what kind of music I listen to I unblinkingly reply that I don’t like music. I do, though. I’m not a robot. I like music, but I don’t feel easy or sure or confident about it and I get a little suspicious of those who appear to. I’ve never known a lot about music. What I mean when I say that is that all my life I have been finding reflections of myself in stories. Ravenous reading and tv lullabies, I looked at pretend people and said, “oh, yes.” Another corner of myself and all my caverns, shine a light to understand. There, look at me. In music, I don’t hear myself. The experience is not the same. I’ve come to think this is because music is more immediately performative, the creative labor a more obvious part of the final product. Another human being stands before you (through whatever medium, you know, but) and creates noise that has meaning. It’s so bizarre, intimate. Even songs crafted by a full bench of producers and writers and recording engineers have a face at their center and I cannot divorce my experience of that song from the physical, personal reality of that face. Somebody’s song. A real somebody. When I listen to music I do not hear myself, I hear what I could be.


Special Intentions

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A playlist for trying something in 2015.

Pink Champagne – Caitlin Rose
Every Year Until We Die – Lisa Bouvier
Spaceship – Kanye West, GLC & Consequence
Slippery Slopes – Jenny Lewis
I Am A Soul – Little Janice
Peach, Plum, Pear – Joanna Newsom
I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers
I Am Waiting – The Rolling Stones
Upgrade U – Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z
Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls
Name That Thing – Chumped
Body of My Own – Charli XCX
Help Me Mary – Liz Phair
Way Over Yonder – Carole King
Oblivion – Grimes
I Won’t Be Left – Tegan and Sara
Change Your Ticket – One Direction
Can’t Ever Sleep – Saturday Looks Good To Me
Peaches – The Orchids
Modern Girl – Sleater-Kinney
New Romantics – Taylor Swift
Torpedo – Jillette Johnson
This Year – The Mountain Goats

I got a tracksuit for fourth grade that was green and made sounds when I walked. I wanted to be President then. It was a vest and pants with a long stripe down the legs and my arms inside a long-sleeve white t-shirt looked like wiggling wet rubber from outside the school windows that were plastic for safety and made the whole reflected world seem round with possibility. New Year’s Eve, I turned nine. I remember that my birthday cake had a grinning clock on it instead of my name. That didn’t even seem depressing. It was 2000 and almost 1.

It seems okay not to know what you want to be. How many movies have made me promise to the tune of that pop song you already know from the Honda commercial that people don’t know what they want? It’s charming. All that falling into one’s own life, fingers laced like by surprise. I don’t mind that I can’t decide who I should wish I was, but I get a little hot at the edges– I become something that needs a sign please do not touch, I begin to shake, and it starts low in parts of me the sun won’t ever touch, before suddenly I’m vibrating the chair, the room, your car, his hands, I can’t breathe– when I let myself wonder what exactly it is that I already am.

Britney Spears was a birthday present when I was small and it snowed all day. My hands and my t-shirt were red just walking from the car. Everybody grinning with their coats on while we shuffled across the streets. From our nosebleeds half a nation away I could taste the rising pyrotechnic smoke better than I could see the performance. She was sparkling. I already knew that. I could watch a thousand heads follow her body when it moved. I gave the t-shirt to my sister who had cried when we left the house and woke up the next day only half-forgiving. Bitney Spee-uhs. She cried but didn’t have her Rs yet. She was sparkling. A spring night when I was nineteen I drank wine five feet from a folksinger by accident. And we were blessed, all of us, even though mostly what everybody was was high, because she carved herself open under a shoddy orange spotlight and didn’t seem embarrassed at all. Me, I was mortified when I saw my own face everyday, when I remembered other people saw it too. I hated my shoes that night. My date wasn’t blinking often enough. The girl with the guitar didn’t care. She made me feel brave and all my skin hurt. I wanted to be lost somewhere alone after that just moving but I left with who I came with like the rules say, I tried to walk my way back to it in the morning but it was already too late. That whole year my mouth was always stained purple from something, for staining. I needed all the marks. When I turned twenty-one I saw Pauly D from the Jersey Shore bowling. They played the “1985” music video three times that night and I drank something banana three times because I didn’t say no to the first when it made my whole body wince. My dress was all sad mosquito net and that seemed honest.