Looking for some music for your quarantine feels? Check these out.
1. Bettye Swann’s “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”
Great for: shower sing-alongs, light emotional breakdowns.
2. Nina Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” Great for: Feeling bad and good at the same time, light emotional breakdowns.
3. Drake’s “Mob Ties” Great for: getting angry, pretending you’re tough, remembering those times your brother would scream every time he heard you say “OK Google–play Mob Ties,” and light emotional breakdowns.
4. Mala Rodriguez and Stylo G’s “Estar Contigo”
Great for: Getting stuck in your head for actual days, photo-editing, imitating the choreo and feeling like a nerd.
5. The Smiths “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” Great for: those nights when you just want to eat popcorn for dinner.
“Sometimes I just love driving around, blasting Fiona Apple, and crying.”
We used to refer to Bella’s car as Goldie Hon. It was a gold Honda. I liked imagining Bella on Lincoln Drive scream-crying along to “Get Gone” or weeping to the tune of “Never Is A Promise.” It made me feel less insane and a little bit nostalgic for pain. Because pain, in some strange way, often meant clarity–or at least the coming of it.
Sometime in winter, I downloaded the Co-star App, and I also began following the company on Instagram. Yesterday, they uploaded a post detailing how each of the signs “reaches out.”
“Cancer,” it read: “With random Fiona Apple lyrics captioned, ‘so us‘”
This is not the first time that astrology has successfully made a caricature of me.
I remembered reaching out to an ex-boyfriend when we were in the process of tearing one another apart at the messy end of our long-distance non-relationship. I opened Facebook messenger and sent him a link to Fiona’s new song “Werewolf.” My following message read: “reminded me of you.”
He replied quickly, as usual. “Aw, you’re thinking of me!”
Later, he actually listened to the song. I knew this because I received another message in which he had written “you’re an asshole.” Breaking up was new for me, and deliciously reptilian.
Fiona Apple’s first album was released when I was six years old. I don’t think I heard it until I was ten. My cool south-Jersey cousin, or perhaps it was even my own mother, introduced my sister, then at the beginning of her own dark pubescence, to Tidal and When the Pawn… I liked the music then, found it mysterious. I imagined the riffs offered some unique meaning for moody teenage girls, as my sister and my cousin were.
When my own middle-school discontent arrived, I often laid in bed at night and listened to “Fast as You Can” on repeat on my discman. I liked that Fiona was both self-deprecating and righteous. It seemed bold to be a woman expressing anger and sadness, to be accusatory and sensitive at the same time.
Fiona accompanied me through middle and high-school and university, off and on, always giving me permission to be confusing and complete. And now she’s here for my adulthood, too, with Fetch the Bolt Cutters. She’s funnier, more confident somehow, but still 100% Fiona Apple. It’s a piece of art, the sort born of necessity and passion. It ignores marketing tactics and says, “easily-digestible narrative? the fuck is that?”
Dedicated readers, all four of you, please accept my apology, although I never promised you consistency.
How OK I am with being inside worries me, albeit only slightly. In these forty-nine (?) days, I’ve read Marx and Tolstoy and Camus and Hesse and Flaubert. All great guys, really stand-up writers. But I started reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie two days ago, and now the thought of returning to Anna Karenina produces a sensation in me not unlike the one I feel when I think about cleaning out the shower drain.
Read the book, basically. It’s real good.
Other things I’ve been into:
This Jeff Buckley cover of “I Know It’s Over.”
Wondering what my life would have been like had I stayed in America.
Wondering whether I could live in New York City without having a meltdown.
Thinking about the past.
Inexplicably, missing Greyhound buses.
Thinking that education is really, really important.
Feeling pessimistic and optimistic in the same breath.
Before Christmas, I took a flight to Prague to meet Keith, my virtual husband and best college boyfriend. When his sister, who lives in the Czech countryside, gave birth to two precious twins, I knew that it was high time to confront my fear of newborns. What type of woman is afraid of babies, you ask? Well, it’s really their necks that scare me–the fact that they can’t support their own skulls yet. Also, their whole I don’t know how tospeak thing is a bit of a snag for me. I’m a hardcore verbal learner, you know? All jokes aside though, holding a tiny, delicate human just seems like a whole lot of responsibility for someone who rarely gets through a day without running into an inanimate object.
I learned quite a bit about babies during my trip, however, and even overcame my fear. Generally speaking, infants want just a few things: food, sleep, or a good puke. Do you know what it feels like to have hot, regurgitated breast milk run down your cleavage? No? Well, I do. That’s just another part of the logistics of newborn-rearing, I hear. Other than that, everything else they say is true. Babies are sweet, they smell good, and they bring the circle of life just that much closer.
After I’d spent a few days perfecting my burping skills, I left the gray Czech hills and headed for the big city again. A wonderful little detail: the regional bus between the pueblo and Prague not only employed attendants, but those same hot-pink-uniformed attendants also served complimentary coffee and provided newspapers to those who wanted them. The coffee was bit shite, of course, but the gesture did not go unappreciated.
I’ve always felt that Spain is much too ebullient during the holiday season. Fully grown human beings parade around town in towering Christmas-tree hats made of tinsel. They glisten. They glitter. The Navi-Bus rides by twice an hour blasting los peces en el rio. I don’t know what fish in a river have to do with Christmas, probably because I never went to church. Wigs are also a big thing and the bars are fuller than usual, with company dinners spilling out of doorways, and various HR Josés gearing up to hook up with various Juanas from accounting. There’s a lot of shouting, like always.
Prague at Christmastime was different, though, something I could identify with: a little dark, sweet, sour, weird, and vaguely dangerous. It was all mead and mulled wine. I carried around a cup (or three) for hours, stopping only to marvel at the beautiful architecture, the rain falling in Old Town Square. I kid you not, I nearly cried watching those drops fall. Unfortunately, you can’t really see them on my phone camera.
Another fantastic thing about Prague were these TRDELNÍKS! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I would have eaten a dozen of them. They’re simple: dough wrapped around a thick, wooden stick and slowly rotated and roasted until it is ready to be coated in sugar and almond. Reluctantly, I walked myself back to my hotel after eating this one.
I flew back to Spain on the morning of Christmas Eve and jumped into M’s car immediately upon landing in order to spend the evening with JC’s family and friends. M dropped me directly at the bar, where it is customary to have aperitivo (see: 2 wines and 1 tapa), with friends. Aperitivo turned into lunch, where we met a group of boys who were enjoying one of their new Christmas gifts: a small plastic toilet that, when “flushed,” would eject a cartoon turd. Whoever caught it first was the winner. Lunch turned into cocktails in the middle of the damn day in a bar with no windows and lots of men wearing ties. By 9 o’clock I was hiding in JC’s childhood bedroom, realizing that Spain’s jubilance had played me yet again: noche buena dinner still needed to be eaten, extended family kissed, and gifts opened. And there I was, all disheveled, sending frantic messages to Tuna to tell her I don’t think I can doooo thissss.
When I discovered the newsletter template on Microsoft Word as a child, I began publishing one to distribute to my family on a completely random basis. Visits from cousins were announced there. Requests for new pets–usually, puppies or kittens–were also included, along with hard-hitting reports on labor rights. After all, when our parents were off making money to both feed us and support our greatest hopes and dreams, we were expected to wash wash. And what did we get for it? A dollar a week? The indignity of it!
For the first two weeks of quarantine, I published something similar for the refrigerator. This week, however, I did not, because I was too busy drowning in some Victorian-era melancholy.
Allow me to provide some insight:
I’m reading Anna Karenina and I know that somebody’s definitely gonna die and that Anna is totally gonna get down with Vronsky. There’s no stopping it. Kitty just got snubbed and she’ll probably be sent to a sanatorium because I guess heartbreak has the same symptoms as tuberculosis. What else could happen at this point? With 900+ pages left, there can only be drama. And death. And a healthy dose of social criticism and philosophy, I suppose. At any rate, I feel disproportionately sorry for Kitty for falling in love with the curly-haired count and rejecting the faithful farmer only to realize that the hot count didn’t give a single shit about her–we’ve all been there, girl.
I’ve cried while watching the news twice this week (which, ok, normal enough) and once when I heard the song “Hallelujah” on a commercial (not so much).
I cut my own hair in the bathroom mirror while listening Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2, which felt very Tolstoyesque and more than a little unsettling. Check it out here:
For all of the aforementioned reasons, I fell into an internet black-hole while researching female hysteria. What if the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (imprisoned in her bedroom as a cure for postpartum depression) had had access to Beyonce’s Lemonade album, or like, I don’t know, any of Fiona Apple’s discography? Or Aretha Franklin?
Well, that’s all I’ve got to share this week. If anybody out there is feeling a bit darker than usual, rest assured that you are not alone.