Radio Ga Ga: The Origin of the Mixtape

I am going to be explicit, firstly, when I say that this is in no way the definitive history of the mixtape, I have done almost zero research into it, and am using only anecdotal evidence, my own drug-influenced memory, and the memory of others with similar life experiences in which to write this article. In other words, if you try to cite me as a secondary source in your dissertation on the musicological significance of the mixtape, then I am afraid you may have trouble defending it to the panel of experts. Outside of a literature review in a peer-review journal about musical history and pop culture (if such a thing exists) you can however consider this a pretty good source of information on its definition and casual history.

An eleven year old version of myself stood motionless, pointer finger positioned stealthily over the top of a small black radio, waiting anxiously for the radio DJ to shut the fuck up about the crawfish boil/mattress sale happening at Gallery Furniture this Sunday, because he has promised to play, and I am anxiously waiting to capture on cassette, “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure. My music budget as an eleven year old in 1992 was nonexistent. I often recorded songs from the radio in order to play them on my counterfeit walkman I purchased from the Korean Grocery Store by my house.

In the nineties, the worse offense in musical history to my knowledge, was when an overzealous DJ would talk over the beginning or ending of a song, making it impossible to record. On this day, as I waited patiently for Robert Smith to sing the last ‘Just Like Heaven’ of the final chorus which was to be followed by the abrupt ending of the track, I heard instead the obnoxious DJ “Cubby” Bryant’s nasal rendition of the line singing along with Robert, and I had never wanted to murder someone so badly until that moment of my young life. To this day, I could probably punch him in the face with very little remorse.

Outside of angry youthful murder fantasies, I was a happy radio listener, and an avid one, since it was my only avenue for new music at the time. On Houston’s northeast side there was a 5:1 liquor store to grocery store ratio and zero record stores. The closest record store was Vinyl Edge on 1960, which might as well have been on the moon. I could however take the 77 MLK line to downtown, and catch the 86 Westheimer to the many record stores in Montrose if I had babysitting money, and two hours to spare on the bus each way. Coincidentally, my tenacious pursuit of new music, would eventually lead me to my now community of like-minded friends, but in my early adolescence, taking the bus downtown was a rare adventure.

When I began junior high, I started volunteering at the public library after school each day. I discovered that our local librarian had excellent taste in music and would acquire lots of new and old albums on cassette and cd to be checked out by impoverished little music nerds like myself.

What did I do with these albums? I made bootleg copies of course! I soon accumulated a pile of bootleg cassettes. Do I feel bad about stealing all this music, now that I am older, and more aware of how the music industry exploits the artists and their music in the name of capitalism? I do feel a little bad about it, but mostly no. Simply because over the years, I have purchased countless records, band merchandise, and concert tickets which by my calculations has more than made up for my adolescent plundering. However, the real reason there is no cause for shame, is because from those bootleg tapes, I have shared many an overdubbed mixtape of the bands that I loved with others. Thus creating a chain of music nerds who all would go on to buy countless records, band merchandise, and concert tickets as well. This is how we made friends, lovers, partnerships, and if the tape were really terrible maybe a few enemies… A mixtape was the currency of my youth.

I learned how to create a mixtape from my older brother Paul. I watched him go through the same agonising dance with obnoxious DJ’s and favourite songs from the radio. I also used his double tape stereo to dub his tapes, and create mixtapes. I watched him skilfully and quietly record The White Album on cassette using a tape recorder placed strategically in front of our parents’ Hi Fi as the record played through the speaker. I also got yelled at by him for ruining said recording session by “breathing too loudly” as I watched.

At age eleven, I sadly lacked the self awareness and empathy I should have gained from my role reversal, when I snapped at my baby sister EmilyAnn to get out of the living room, for ruining my recording session of Stevie Nick’s Belladonna with her incessant questions. I listened to my version of that album for so many years, that even now, I expect to hear Emily’s voice asking me to play Barbies with her over the intro to After the Glitter Fades.

As an adult, I can appreciate the manner in which I crafted a mixtape, and liken it to my current work as an artist. I took great care, as many did, in the creation of the tape. Creating a mixtape is sort of like collage. You are assembling a work of art, using the works of found materials, in this case the musical work of other artists. Perhaps that’s where my interest in art history began… I think I just learned something about myself you guys!

Curating a mixtape is just like curating an exhibition. First, I begin with an idea. The idea is usually inspired by a life event, memory, experience, or interaction. For example, I had a crush on a boy in the 9th grade, one day he smiled at me in the hallway, I immediately set out to create a mixtape for him. That small interaction planted a seed, the seed grew into an idea, in this instance it was the idea that maybe just maybe, this fool might actually like me back. From the idea, I created a theme. The theme of this tape was, “unrequited love” of course. The key to creating a good mixtape, and specifically one that might make someone fall in love with you is to treat each song like a section of an overall story that you want to tell.

In my work as an artist and curator, I try to stay true to an overall narrative. My goal is tell you a story, to take the viewer or in this case, listener on a journey. While crafting a mixtape, each song is a piece of a puzzle that will eventually reflect the ideas that you want to come across. It’s a collaboration between curator and songwriter.

Much like the way artwork is displayed in a gallery, the distribution of songs on a tape create an atmosphere that can help or hinder the story you want to tell. Transitions are particularly of high importance to me in a mixtape. I love a good transition. A great transition can be a magical experience. For example, my ex-husband once challenged me to create a good mixtape using only ubiquitous, totally over-played songs. I accepted this challenge and created a Spotify playlist called “Just All bangers: Ubiquitous AF”. One of my favourite transitions is contained on this mix, it’s the end of You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrissette paired with the beginning of Tom Sawyer by Rush. It’s hard to form into words why I love that particular transition, but when you hear it, you just know that it was somehow meant to be.

Another terrible offence in musical history is the invention of the shuffle feature. I hate the shuffle feature. Firstly, because how dare you? Do you realise how much time we have spent creating these transitions? Listening to a mix on shuffle is like walking into an art gallery and rearranging all of the works on the wall into a random order. These songs were placed here intentionally, why would you do that?

Sadly, it is a mark of our modern era, I once made a playlist for a guy, and I asked him how far he got into it, and he told me he had listened to four songs, and I said earnestly, “oh so “Fireworks” what did you think?” and he said he had not heard that one yet as he was listening on shuffle…so I immediately broke up with him.

Not really…but it was certainly the beginning of the end for us, I was highly disappointed because he was so dismissive of the importance of listening in order, that it was obvious to me that he didn’t value music in the same way, and to be honest it made me feel a little disgusted. He also had this hang up about pop music which I found dumb and lazy. I think people who shut themselves off to one genre of music are childish and ignorant. There is an entire world to explore, and you just want to stare at these same four walls? Boring.

In addition to shuffle, another musical offence is the people who just throw random songs without concern for order, cohesion, and transition on to a playlist and have the audacity to refer to it as a mix. That’s like throwing a pile of paintings in the middle of the room and calling it an exhibition. It is not a mix, what you have done here is added songs to a pile. You have curated nothing, therefore it is not a mix, I have even heard these people say, “well you just play it on shuffle and it will mix it for you”, and then I fall out of my chair dead at that horrifying suggestion.

Perhaps I am being too harsh, but I told you that I would help to define what a mixtape is and its history, and I cannot do that without talking about what it explicitly isn’t. A mixtape began in the 80s as a cassette assemblage of music to be shared. By the 90s, the mixtape had evolved into a work of art that was crafted with concern for a theme, cohesion, transitions, overall mood, and last but not least narrative arch.

Just like when crafting a story, I believe that a good mixtape has exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. These parts of the narrative arch should capture the listener’s attention and be consistent with the theme of the mix.

The narrative arch of a mixtape is divided by the overall number of songs. The exposition are the first few songs that hook the listener in and enlighten them to the theme and mood of the narrative. It is important to then switch the tone and create rising action, this can include, but is not limited by; a shift in tempo, mood, lyrical rhythms, genre, or lyrical content. Rising Action is followed by the Climax of the narrative theme, this is your absolute banger moment. The song that the Rising Action has been building towards. This is the gratification moment. If the tape’s goal is to be a declaration of love, “Lovesong” by the Cure, or “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton (or Whitney’s amazing version) would go here. This would then be followed by the Falling Action of the narrative, these are the songs that bring you closer to your resolution, it will once again be a definitive shift in tone, tempo, genre or lyrics to create the illusion of an approaching resolution.

Resolution is your final statement on the matter. The conclusion. The reiteration of your thesis statement for this mixtape. This is a song that will bring it all home, wrap it up in a nice bow, or not. Sometimes there is no resolution. Sometimes it’s anti-climactic, it fully depends on the theme of the narrative. Perhaps the narrative is one of tension or ongoing disconnection or complication of the main idea. In which case, you have the anti-resolution, the song that leaves them with a question in their mind, or a call to action.

From the humble dollar store cassette, to the Spotify playlist, a mixtape is still quintessentially a tool for communication as much as it is a work of art. My generation used the mixtape to share our interests, ideals, and as secret messages to high school crushes. Now we use the Spotify list to make a new version of the mixtape. Our old mixtapes are like time capsules into our adolescent psyches and I am hopeful that these platforms can exist in some tangible way for future generations to reminisce in a similar fashion.

I am filled with hope and love for all the nerdy girls (and similarly minded boys) with social anxiety, and vulnerability issues, who can still utilise the mixtape as a device of emotional expression via the playlist. However, there is a part of me that is slightly saddened that the skill and timing required to hit a button faster than a DJ can speak has been lost to history.

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Paris Cemetary. 2022.

October is scary movie month on all your favorite media outlets, and who doesn’t love to be scared? As a lover of all things spooky, (just ask me about my long term crush on David Duchovny for his portrayal of Fox “spooky” Mulder) I have decided to participate by giving you some of my all-time favorite forms of creepy entertainment 2022 has to offer.

In honor of my love of both spooky sobriquets and narratives. I have some spooky recommendations to help you get into the Halloween spirit.

If you want to be truly terrified, beyond all reason, begin by watching 20 minutes of TikTok Live. To be truly whiplashed between reality and surreality with M Night Shyamalan-esc twists and turns, it is imperative that you watch only content from the Post-1 am crew. Whether it’s the Late night wannabe cult leaders of Psychic TikTok or the pure chaos that is Prison TikTok, you are sure to find the thing that frightens you most. It’s algorithms will leave you so unsure of your own autonomy so much that you may begin to question the very concept of free will altogether.

If you prefer a more psychological thriller, check out YouTube for a 20 minute montage of Love Island couples arguing about which one of them is more toxic. It’s like War of the Roses, but if Michael Douglas’ character were played by a young Sylvester Stallone on high doses of steroids, just after suffering a traumatic brain energy, and Kathleen Turner’s character was being portrayed by that drunk girl that spends all of girls night out crying in the club’s bathroom. It will have you questioning not only your sanity, but the sanity of the world at large.

If you prefer a graphic revenge fantasy type horror, I highly recommend 15 minutes of scrolling through literally any dating app. It will leave you feeling partially disgusted, partially aroused, and all the way disheartened, longing for the days when you could quietly fall in love with a fictional character fantasy made real by two fingers, a body pillow, and a dream.

Fox “Spooky” Mulder, fictional character, seen here falling madly in love with me.

For traditional jump scare-lovers, I recommend 10 minutes of reading unsolicited messages from men in my DM Message requests folder. Scary stuff in that folder await you. It’s as if Schrodinger designed a messaging system, where each message simultaneously is and is not what you expected it would be.

Last but not least, if you are lover of Lynchian dystopia and want to experience something that leaves you with that powerful sense of dread rivaled only by a Clive Barker film, conclude your spooky sesh with 25 minutes listening to only the obnoxious guitar solos from rock ballads made by bands only your racist uncle remembers.

These are just a few things I have found truly horrifying over the last year. It is with great hope that I pass them on to you now. Hope that we can all find the fear and anxiety to once again propel us toward panic-buying our way into the Hallow-Thanks-Mas season. Thus propping up billionaires at the expense of our own mental health; like the good, hardworking Americans we are!

—Or we could all wear chunky sweaters, go outside, and play in the lovely fall weather like a bunch of dirty commies.

The choice is yours America.

Continue reading “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”

The Tree & The Child

M. Naomi Fuqua. The Tree. Photograph. (2022) Paris, France.

A child follows the sound of trees creaking and bending in the wind, and finds herself in front of the Tree.

Tree: Look into my eye, I will show you your future, my child.

Child: (weary) Is it safe?

Tree: Yes. Come near to me child, be still and watch closely at its center, you have nothing to fear.

Child: It feels like sleep. I can see a light.

Tree: Let the light envelop you in its warmth my child. You are safe with me.

Child: Where has the light gone? I cannot see.

Tree: Now , you have become the light.

Child: If I am the light, why is it so dark?

Tree: We cannot see ourselves how others perceive us. To the light, the world is darkness.

Child: What is my future then?

Tree: To be consumed by the light.

Child: (faintly) I want to wake up, please let me leave this dream.

Tree: Shhh my child. This is not a dream. Be at peace.

Child: (only a whisper now) How is this peace? I feel nothing.

Tree: You will never feel pain again. You will never again be alone. Here inside the light, you will always be safe child.

The child whimpers softly and goes silent.

The tree extends it branches and shakes its leaves, taking a deep breath of air.

In the distance the tree hears a child crying, the tree stretches and twists its trunk forward. The curious child walks closer to investigate.

Levitate Me: A Romantic Daydream

When I’m on a hotel elevator, I like to hit the close door button on men, specifically if they make eye contact with me as they approach.

Then I like to fantasize that in that moment, when they saw me, and our eyes locked, they fell madly in love with me, but then the elevator closed.

I imagine that they were so desperate to meet me that they decided to run up and down each floor trying to see where I got off only they weren’t able to catch me. I was just gone. Like a ghost.

Then they ran back downstairs, they go to the front desk and describe me to the concierge but the concierge has no idea who I am either.

They pause in the lobby, sweating and out of breath they scan the exits. As their body spins around, they think they catch a glimpse of my hair and overcoat whip around and out the revolving door. They run towards the exit, just as a tour group of seniors enter the lobby wearing matching t-shirts over their sweaters that read, “New York is For Lovers”.

They decide to wait outside the building everyday at the same time hoping to see me again, but they never do. They never give up though, years go by, and now they come every Thursday at that same time. On one such Thursday, the doorman asks them, “Are you waiting for someone?”

And they smile slowly and whisper, “The woman of my dreams.”

After spending a decade coming to the hotel, and comparing every other woman in their lives to me. Their best friends tell them, “You realize that this is insane man. You need to move on and stop searching for this fucking mystery woman on the elevator. It’s unhealthy. Everyone is super worried about you dude.”

They get angry and shout, “I’m in love with her. I know we are meant to be together. Our story is too perfectly romantic. You wouldn’t understand, you met your wife at a Sack n’ Save!”

They turn around and stare longingly out their apartment window, and whisper to the glass, “I know she’s out there.”

Over time, their trips to the hotel become less frequent. On the twentieth anniversary of the day they saw me in the elevator they return to the hotel once again.

They are sitting at the bar sipping whiskey when the bartender comes over and says, “You look like you might have a story or two to tell old timer?” They are now seventy years old.

They begin to recount the time they saw me in the hotel elevator and how much they never forgot about me. The bartender sighs, “Wow. I think I know who you’re talking about!” Their eyes brighten as their body straightens, and they ask, “Where can I find her? Wait… how can you be sure it’s her?”

The bartender wipes the counter and says solemnly, “Because you’re not the only one. Old men are always coming in here and telling the story of the elevator woman. One of them caught her getting off at third floor. She use to live here in the hotel. I don’t know how to tell you this but, she’s dead.”

Their eyes soften and begin to water, they’ve waited for this moment their whole lives and it’s gone. Forever. Confusion sets in, “you mean she… she was… a ghost?”

The old doorman is sitting at a table and all of the sudden he erupts into laughter. It was all a con, the bartender was in on it. They get up from the barstool and throw a twenty on the bar, “Thanks for nothing.” They stumble to the lobby exit.

As they exit, they see me, and even though I’m older now, they immediately recognize me as I’m entering through the opposite side of the revolving door. Time begins to slow down as they watch me on the other side of the glass. They follow me back inside the hotel. I head for the elevator. I can feel that there’s some weird old man following closely behind me.

They reach out to hold the elevator doors open and say, “Hello, beautiful. I’ve been waiting a long time to get a chance to talk to you.”

They recount the story to me.

I look at them and politely say, “I’m flattered but I’m not interested, I have a boyfriend.” They let go of the elevator door and say, “You’re a fucking ugly bitch anyway” just as the elevator door slides to a close.

The End.

Fascination Street: A Love Song to The Cure

The first time I felt the presence of god was not in a church, and it wasn’t god at all. It was Robert Smith, and it was at a Cure show in 1996. Let me explain. I can assure you that I am not some weirdo fangirl that is obsessed with Robert Smith’s lipstick stained mouth. Although it is pretty fucking hot. The first time I heard the Cure, I was 12 years old and I was huddled under my covers, headphones on, listening to a local midnight radio show called Exposure hosted by David Sadof. Exposure played the music they never played on the radio during daylight hours. The song was Charlotte Sometimes, and I was in love. I fell in love. I fell deeply and passionately, earnestly in love, with a song. Listening to the swaying rhythm, its sonic sensations captivated me with a romantic illusion of long-encapsulated emotions of nostalgic promise. The music seemed to follow the movement of light and shadow swirling around me as my body crested and fell to the beat. The Cure had a transformative effect on me. I think that if ever I had the opportunity to listen to one last song again before I died, it would most certainly be Charlotte Sometimes. It perfectly expressed my dreamy, wishful, and simultaneously hopeless, emotional state at the time, in a way that only John Lennon had done before. I never thought I would hear another record as good as Plastic Ono Band, until I heard the Cure. 

Plastic Ono Band, you say? Yes. I do prefer a Lennon solo album to every other Beatles’ album. Why? It’s personal. It’s raw. It’s emotional, and to a lonely child without a father, it sounds like recognition. Of course, I love the Beatles, who doesn’t? I only knew one person who claimed to hate the Beatles and he was a douchebag. That was evident in the manner in which he began to explode in a volcanic fury when I broke up with him: 

“You are breaking up with me because I don’t like the Beatles?”  

“No. I am breaking up with you because you “FUCKING HATE” the Beatles.”

“You are out of your fucking mind!”

“You’re the one who HATES the Beatles!”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I could understand if you just preferred the Rolling Stones, or if you didn’t care for their earlier albums. How am I supposed to make love to a man that says he HATES the Beatles? That’s like saying you HATE children. Maybe you don’t want to have children, or you can’t see yourself as a parent, but children are lovely, why would anyone hate them?”

“I love children, and I love you.”

“But you hate the Beatles.”

If you had asked me when I was eight years old, I would have shouted about how the Beatles were the best band to ever come out of the UK. However, that was before I developed a more intellectual approach to music. I am not bashing the Beatles, I love the Beatles, hence the infamous breakup.  Additionally, there are certainly aspects of the Beatles catalog that could give any modern philosopher a run for their money. I just feel, very deeply, that the albums most heralded by critics as being objectively superior, Abbey Road, White Album, and Sgt. Pepper are sort of a collage of music, which conceptually is interesting and fun, but do not truly represent a cohesive artistic vision in the same manner in which The Cure executed almost every album in their catalog. Robert Smith’s ability to create a well crafted album is perhaps second only to Brian Wilson whose masterpiece Pet Sounds is by far the most delicate composition of love and pain that ever graced my turntable. Still, I would argue in a court of law that almost any Cure record is far superior to the remaining Beach Boys’ (as well as most Beatles’) albums. 

By the date of the concert, I had managed to save enough money for a cab ride to the show and back. I don’t think that I have ever been that excited before or since, to see a band play live. When the show started, I was enthralled. Time passed like a dream. I have no idea what or who was near me. I was blind to the world around me. My eyes were transfixed forward. I recall very little physical sensations except for being drenched in the sweat of several people, not just my own. That aspect was atrocious, but I didn’t care. I was mesmerized. I thought to myself, this is what I am supposed to feel in church. This is that feeling. This is what I was missing. I felt happiness, I felt love, I felt peace, I felt connection, but mostly I felt something that I had never before experienced within a plethora of people. I felt like I belonged. Witnessing The Cure live was like being seen for the first time. It was like staring into the eyes of a stranger and seeing your own painful memories reflected back at you, but with a gentle understanding that relaxes anxieties and soothes hurt feelings. 

My relationship with music really began with The Cure. It was the first time I felt a deep connection to music. From their influence, I gained a wider perspective of musicology. I lived at the library. For impoverished music nerds like me, the library is an invaluable resource. I checked out; books, magazines, records, films, anything related to the music I loved. I was an obsessive connoisseur of words and sound. I did a deeper dive on The Beatles as well, discovering their influences, then the influences of their influences, and the influences of their influences’ influences, and so on. I tackled the research of my beloved bands as though I were crafting a dissertation on the Post-Punk Symbolism of Post-War Europe. 

Music became my religion. I felt more self-assured, more at peace, and closer to love than I had ever felt inside of my church. They say everyone has a spiritual path. Maybe some of us just need to walk the righteous path of rock and roll? After writing that sentence, I immediately regret the flippantly abrasive lack of intellectuality in that question, however I enjoy its bit of alliteration far too much to delete it from the record. Upon further reflection, this paragraph perfectly illustrates the delicate balance between the cool musical nerd aspect of my personality and the not so cool belletristic nerd aspect. The point is… music became the thing that saved me from the harshest bits of the world. 

Is it possible to be in love with something that is intangible? I love the words that pour into my ears. I love the melody, the rhythmic patterns, the cracking sounds of irreverence and pain, most of all I love the way that music makes me feel. I became obsessive in my pursuit of music both new and old. Music became an education for me. It taught me things that I could never learn in school, and most definitely not from my family. Otis Redding taught me how to feel, deeply and passionately. I learned to give all of myself from Billie Holiday. I learned to be skeptical and think for myself from the Beatles. David Bowie taught me how to dance and how to make my dreams come alive with imagination. Robert Smith gave me something that I needed most, his music gave me hope. The Cure taught me that I wasn’t alone in the world. How could I not fall in love? 

After I had digested every inch of diaphanous noise that was The Cure. I became a dancer. Not a professional of course, not an illicit one either. I spent a great deal of time at a club called Numbers. This club was filthy, the product of a lifetime of punk and post-punk patronage. When the lights came on at 2 am, you sobered up fairly quickly once you’ve been confronted by the harsh reality of your surroundings. Was I sitting on that? Jesus! Still, it was the only place in Houston where a girl like me could dance to the sweet subcultural sounds of 70s and 80s Britain.

It was in this club that I danced until sweat ran down my legs, occasionally made out with like minded individuals, and explored the eye-widening world of psychedelics. Drugs were not so taboo in my universe, my parents did drugs, so when I was offered the opportunity to “expand my mind,” I took it. Drug dealers are nothing like they are in the awkward after school specials. No one pressures you to take it, they offer and if you aren’t interested, they move on. I was very interested. I was always interested in escaping reality whenever given the chance. I took the tiny black square of gel and placed it on my tongue. Just when I thought it wasn’t working, I noticed a darkened tunnel leading to the corner of the ceiling that I hadn’t noticed previously. I was intrigued so I looked for a staircase, or some way up. That’s when I heard DJ Wes was finally playing my song request, Lullaby. I ended my search for the entrance to the portal and went immediately to the dance floor. I followed the music as it swirled around me. I felt the rhythm in my body. I heard the breathing of my fellow dancers becoming one with my own shuttered breaths. I felt so happy. I felt so in love. I felt the sweat on my body escaping and tearing with it, all of the wretched, hateful memories that had embedded themselves inside my pores. I was cleansed. Rinsed of all the anger and hate I held inside. I prayed to the glittery red portal forming near the video screens projecting Robert Smith’s smudged red lips and tangled mess of hair, that it would last.

Bring on the Dancing Horses

From Scripture. A Mixed Media Sculpture of Corset Created from my childhood bible.

Are you in a relationship? Do you have a personal relationship with our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ? Or is it just a casual thing? That was the basic pentecost pick-up line: Do you have a personal relationship with god? Are you ready to let God into your heart? She was raised pentecostal. If you don’t know Pentecostalism, there are two kinds. There are the ones that wear buns in their hair, super long skirts, and turtlenecks in the summer, that’s of course just the women though, the men wear whatever they want—they aren’t total savages. Then there’s the nuevo-Pentecostals, or the Assembly of God faction. They are essentially Pentecostalism’s “cool uncle”. They have long hair, play electric guitars, wear jeans to church, and sing 80s hair band covers of gospels. The common link between them is that they believe in a personal relationship with God, that priests are unnecessary, and that you can get ‘touched by the holy spirit’ through prayer. 

Getting ‘blessed’ by the holy spirit essentially involves gyrating uncontrollably and shouting incoherent gibberish. She would often describe it as “epileptic Jesus-tourettes”.  After an individual had experienced the blessing of the holy spirit, another member would stand up to translate the anointed soul’s fit into English and the congregation would shout in unison, ‘So sayeth Lord’. That is what happens in a pentecostal church. Church is pretty boring for most kids, but she actually enjoyed going to church as a child because it seemed crazy, and crazy was exciting.

For most people, church was something they endured until they were old enough to feel the guilt, shame, and fear required to force them to willingly participate. The pentecostals had a different approach to church. Until the age of twelve, children participated in children’s church. Separated from the adults in children’s church, young impressionable minds were seduced by elaborate puppet shows and sing-a-longs drenched in bible-related propaganda.

Children’s church was like a psychedelic experience. The wildly strange puppet shows contained elaborately themed costumes and relatable storylines like the story of “Sodom & Gamora”, you know the one where Lot’s two young daughters get him drunk, because they wanted to have sex with their own father to help repopulate the earth? A story that she found disturbingly suspicious. The first time you arrived at Children’s Church, the candy was free flowing. The next Sunday you visited however, you had to recite a bible verse to get the candy. Most of the kids just chose random passages to memorize and got their candy. She actually read the whole Bible, making notes, and came prepared with questions. After reading Genesis and Exodus, she had a lot of questions. 

She asked her youth pastor, “You said that God is forgiving, but in Genesis 3:14-19, God curses all women to bear children in pain and to serve their husbands, just because Eve fell for the Devil’s trick.”  The youth pastor’s demeanor changed. His eyes narrowed. A look developed on his face, which is difficult to describe, but it’s the same look that the lady at the DMV gives you when you ask if it’s possible for her to take another photo. It’s the ‘just fucking accept this bullshit I’m giving you and get out of my face’ look.  Afterall, didn’t she want the candy like the other children?  He seemed annoyed, angry even, he mistook her earnestness for levity. The youth pastor said, “Eve’s curiosity was sinful, because we have to have faith in God to get into heaven.” She left Children’s Church that day with the impression that it was sinful to ask questions, and learned that church was not the place to find answers. 

She went back every Sunday hoping to find clarity, instead she found only more questions. She kept thinking about the relationship that she was told to have with god. “God the father. That is how we are meant to see god.” her youth pastor said. “To be obedient servants to God, just as we are to our fathers.” 

That was a complicated topic for her. Her real father had abandoned her as a child. Her stepfather was a nightmare of a human being. She began to ponder that relationship more intensely, after hearing the flood story. That’s when it all clicked for her. In addition to the fact that the story was as implausible as it was ridiculous, it caused her to reflect on the relationship she was meant to have with God. 

The more she read, the more she began to recognize the similarities between the human-god relationship and her family’s abusive relationship with her step-father Craig. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Craig was also jealous. Only yesterday, had she seen him throw an adult temper tantrum, because her mother laughed a little too hard at his friend Ronald’s joke about the waitress with the considerably large breasts. “No meat on Fridays”. Craig too had a series of nonsensical rules. Everyone had to be wearing shoes at all times, even in the house. “God is vengeful and punishes the wicked.” Killing the first born child of the Egyptians. Turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. If you didn’t obey the arbitrary shoe rule, Craig liked to step on your toes with his boots, in order to remind you that you were barefoot. Craig is a dick. God is a dick.

The more she read the bible, the more she realized how much god was like her abusive stepfather. “Are rainbows really god wanting to apologize for the great flood? Or is it a threat?” she thought. Why else would he show it to the world everytime it rains? ‘Remember that time I murdered the world by drowning them in rainwater?’ Craig had a similar threatening promise, if he didn’t like what you were saying, he’d show you his belt. ‘Remember that time I whipped your ass so hard you couldn’t sit down for 2 weeks? 

She poured her thoughts into her Lisa Frank journal:

“Like any abusive partner you’re always calling god, and he can’t be bothered to answer, and if he does answer you, he just makes you look crazy. If you think about it, the rainbow is really just god’s version of shitty apology flowers. He’s supposedly this all powerful being with the capacity to create infinity out of nothing and the best thing he can come up with to say sorry for killing everyone you know, is the same thing they use on Lisa Frank stationary?”  

Lisa Frank, the gift every girl got, that no girl ever asked for. “Why would we take God back?” she wrote. He can turn water into wine. #whyIstayed 

The parallels are too obvious to ignore. Each time her family would go through a traumatizing ordeal with Craig, her mother dragged them out of the house in the middle of the night shouting, “Put everything you want in a bag now! We’re leaving and we’re never coming back…”  She would choke back tears as she shoved half-naked Barbies and days of the week panties in a trash bag lamenting the loss of her Lisa Frank journal which is definitely under the sofa somewhere and will likely never be recovered—only to return a day after Craig sweet-talked her mother for five whole minutes. 

When she heard that Noah had to hastily build this giant fucking ark because god was losing his shit on the world and Noah’s having to make last minute choices like: Do we really need Zebras? Then a few days later, god comes knocking on the ark in a nice suit, carrying a rainbow and a box of Russell Stover’s:

“I’m sorry about destroying the entirety of civilization. I had a lot to drink for those 40 days and 40 nights. It’s been crazy stressful at work lately. My son keeps begging me to become a human, and I have no idea what the holy spirit is doing half the time. Somebody told me he was pranking motherfuckers by making them flail around speaking in tongues… They’re both making me look bad, you know? I just wanted to apologize, but honestly you know that I am the light and the way and you need me. I love you, no one else loves you, like I love you. I know I murdered your extended family, but you know your brother never liked me anyway. Your family was always worshiping those false idols just to spite me. Let me make it up to you though. I promise I’ll never hurt you again. I got you this cute rainbow. It has all the colors that you like…  Come on, let me back into your heart. I love you… don’t be a bitch.”

She was 12 years old when she finally realized there was no god. 

The congregation sang “Our God is an Awesome God.” She sang too. Swaying her arms in time with the rest of her pew. The songs were her favourite part. Then everyone sat. The preacher preached, “Homosexuality is an abomination. The bible says that God burned Sodom because it was a sin then, and it’s still a sin now.” The congregation shouted “Amen”. Her heart began to palpitate, and she shifted nervously, because on Saturday, she had definitely gotten aroused by that Herbal Essences commercial where the lady moans in the shower. The preacher said, “It’s a sin to even think homosexual thoughts.”

As she twisted anxiously, her brother stood abruptly in their pew. He began to shout unfamiliar and peculiar linguistic phrases as the elder members of the church looked on in amazement. She too was amazed, at how completely full of shit he was, she knew that he was pretending and was terrified that she might get in trouble as well, for just being adjacent to his blasphemy. She glared at him through the side of her eyes as his false fit subsided.

As she waited patiently for the elder members to chastise her brother. She felt ashamed. His lack of faith reflected her own failings as a follower of the pentecost. Why doesn’t she ever feel moved by the spirit? Why doesn’t god fill the emptiness inside of her? Most nights she cried as she prayed. She thought she might be evil. Is this why she felt so different from her peers? Her family? The other members of her church? She prayed that God would save her mother from Craig when he beat her. She prayed that God would bring her father home. She prayed that God would make her feel better. Not so lonely and lost. She prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Why doesn’t God answer her? 

On the other side of the cathedral, another church member rose. A nameless brother of the Pentecost, he turned and looked toward the heavens, arms raised in rapture, and translated her brother’s rubbish tongues into English: “And the Lord said, I am the light and the way. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Whomsoever denies me, will be denied a seat in my kingdom. So saith the Lord. Amen.”  “AMEN”, shouted the congregation. She turned to her brother, astonished. He looked down with a grin. That’s when she learned that she wasn’t broken. She never felt God in this church, because God wasn’t there. There was nothing wrong with her at all. Everyone else was just full of shit. 

Lovesong: A Collection of Poetry & Photographs in Honour of Love Day


I’m warm and a shutter
Faintly a flutter
Hardly aware
Gripped by your stare
Standing stark and nervous
Letting go,
You lay me still and quiet
Then all at once, your love is violent
A tumble of lust,
Engagingly rough
And cluttered with intent
A sinful retreat,
An amorous defeat.


Fold me up, like pockets of blue-love
Wiggle my arms and legs
I will wait softly and earnestly
You’ll be high among my mountains

Finger my indecision
Wait for that precious moment of sweetness
Of enveloping laziness
Basking in your deliverance
Imagine me, folded in your pocket
Holding you, softly
Keeping your hands warm.

Not Love Poetry

Do not compare me to a summer’s breeze,
A sweet rose, or crashing sea,
I’ve not the patience or the time,
To listen to incessant rhyme
About my warm embrace,
And impetuous moods,
Careworn hands, 
And illustrious swoons,
You have no truth offering to extend,
Just silly metaphors and the opening of hands.


Swallow you up
Inside me
Wrap you in my skin
There is so much magic here
Hidden deep within

I can make you lost
Cast you in a warming glow
I have so much magic baby
More than you could ever know

Taste my smile
Let me eyes
Guide you here
Between my thighs

I can help you find yourself
I can save your soul
I have so much magic darling
More than you could ever know

Relax, don’t do it.

Photo by Naomi Fuqua

Veronica walks into her home from an exhausting day. Sighing heavily, she shakes off her coat and bag and angrily peels off the layers of business casual. Gleefully, she remembers her husband has taken the kids to visit his parents. What will she do with all this spare time? There’s nothing like a hot soothing bath she thinks to herself. She turns on the bath, full steam. The hot water gurgles, then gushes out of the pipe. She sits on the toilet as she removes her shoes, that’s when she sees it. The giant hair ball covered in black goo surfing the bubbles of her soothing bath to be. She scoops it out and flips into the waste basket. Drains the tub and wipes it down after spraying it with some chemicals from under the sink. She turns on the shower to rinse it away. Drains the tub a second time, then starts the process again.

You know what would be nice, she thinks? Some candles. A bit of candlelight would really make for a calming mood. Where is the sensibly decorative and delightfully scented candle she always has in here? In a flash she recalls the moment she caught little Andrew scraping the wax out of it with an alarmingly accurate stabbing motion and her good tweezers. That’s okay, there are the emergency power outage candles in the basement, those will work. She walks down the rickety staircase nude, and confronts the stale chill of the poorly lit basement. In a brisk motion, she rummages through the boxes searching for the boring white candles she thoughtfully remembered to pack for emergency situations such as this. When out of the corner of her eye she catches the glimpse of the bulging man staring at her vulnerable naked frame. His scraggly beard still under his guarded breath, he stood motionless and silent. Terror quaked through her body, she was unarmed! She reached out for the closest blunt object she could find, a 24inch wooden baby Jesus from her vintage, gold-leaf laden, nativity lawnscaping set! She wields baby Jesus with the might of a thousand Veronicas and squares his bearded jaw, decapitating him instantly! His head rolls toward her feet and his body stays aloft motionless.

She squints. She realizes she has just murdered baby Jesus’s stepdaddy, the beautifully appointed but surprisingly weak-necked wooden Joseph. After scrubbing the basement clean of her grizzly murder. She grabs the boring white candles and ascends the basement stairs, triumphant in the knowledge that had there in fact been a beard clad assailant down there she could have definitely handled it.

She enters the bathroom with a squish, and immediately remembers she neglected to turn off the hot water before her basement encounter. She turns off the water and pulls every towel out of the cabinet to dry up the mess, then dutifully she scoops and carries the soggy ball to the washer and sets it to run while she claims her soothing bath.

Boring white candles are go, and she is opening up that amazing bath bomb her Hubbie got her for Christmas this year. The one she’s been saving for a special night like this, if only she could just get the damn plastic wrap off. She picks at it with her nails, she bites at it ( even though she can hear her mother’s voice reminding her how terrible that is for her pretty teeth), nothing! This fucking thing is impenetrable! She squats down to search through the lower cabinets for the scissors she uses to cut the boys’ hair. Aha! With a quick stabbing motion (that must be where Andrew gets it) she reveals the battered bomb, and throws it into the bath before it crumbles in her hands. Turning off the lights, she steps into warm water and lies down until all but her head is covered. The steam flushed her face, you can almost hear her tightened muscles sigh as they begin to un-ache themselves. She closes her eyes letting the silence envelop her. Buzzzzz! The doorbell screaches through with a sonic boom. Her family is home, and she has the deadbolt engaged.

Despite her grave error, she was determined to settle in for her well earned relaxation. Veronica ignored the increasingly louder knocks and ringing bell and dunked her head under the water making a conscious effort to breathe.

Ode to Paper

Ever since I can remember, I have always had an obsession with stationary. Many times as a girl, I would slip away from my mother, and could be found wandering the aisle of the office supply section of the grocery store. To this day, I cannot leave a store without perusing the aisle of pens, pencils, and paper. I appreciate a good pen, a quality pencil, and nicely textured sheet of paper.

My biological mother gifted me a bag of trinkets saved from my early childhood, from a time before trauma had fully engulfed my family and I was still living at home with her. Among the old pictures, standardised test results, report cards, and drawings, I discovered what is most likely the first poem I had ever written, given my handwriting, inability to properly write my own name, and the phonetic spelling of words, I would place it somewhere around age 5.

The poem is not particularly well crafted, it kind of stinks, actually, however the emotional sentiment expressed is compelling. More interesting to me, however was the paper on which it was scribed. As I looked at the poem, I felt a sensual memory coming to the front of my mind, driven by the texture and scent of the damaged paper.

I recalled that paper was often in short supply at my house, since paper was expensive for my family, it wasn’t something with which my mother readily parted. I can imagine, my mother sitting in the dining room at her makeshift office, making cold calls. One of my mother’s three jobs was to work at home as a telemarketer for an independent insurance agent setting appointment leads with businesses.

I would listen to her professional phone voice and marvel at her ability to switch dramatically between that serene tone, and the shrill screech she used to correct my brother, as he attempted to lift my body high in the air by my arms while I cried out in terror.

She’d mark her notations on a yellow legal pad, and make doodles along the edges of the margins as she ran through her well rehearsed pitch. I remember asking her for a sheet of paper, and she looked at me and sighed, “If I give this to you, you need to take it in to the other room, and let Mama work.” I took the long floppy piece of yellow and ran with it gleefully into my room. I lied down on my stomach as I always did when I wrote. I used my pencil to scrawl a picture of her. After my creation was complete, I ran back into the dining room, and gifted her my masterpiece. She sighed, and watched my beaming face, slightly annoyed that I had once again interrupted her phone calls, but also happy to review my work of art. I asked for another sheet of paper.

“No more paper, that’s enough. Go play.” She stated firmly. I begged her to play ‘Barbies’ with me, and she replied, “Play with your sister.” Which of course, I did not want to do, because she was a baby, and she would only break in her new baby teeth all over them. The few Barbies I had, were littered with bite marks, and their hands and feet had already become a mangled mass of flesh coloured plastic.

As I continued to plea with her, she handed me a book, and told me to go read it to my sister, and play school. Under normal circumstances, I would have done just that. As playing school, was among one of my favourite games. On this particular occasion however, I opened the front of the book, and saw that the first page was blank. The texture of the paper wasn’t like the waxy pages found in my picture books, it felt soft, like real paper. I took the book into my room, and slowly peeled the page out of the book as carefully as I could. A fresh sheet of paper!

I decided that in order to justify my crime, I had to make this ill gotten piece of paper into something spectacular. My mother often wrote poetry, and read it aloud to hear the pattern and flow of the words as they fell into the air. I thought I might write a poem about her, and that was sure to impress.

I wanted to make it official though, so I created a title page, complete with a picture of the author. On the reverse side, I wrote my poem:

the sun is rising
just like the flowers bloom
and you are sitting
all day long
just like the flowers are still
but you are still, like a flower
and I like you
you, you, you, you

While, “The Sun is Rising” certainly isn’t going to start a new poetic renaissance, the poem did illuminate my fascination, and I no longer wonder at my proclivity for paper, or why I am drawn to the shelves brimming with school supplies. The tactile expression of paper has the power to recall memories buried deep inside ourselves, in a way that my MacBook will never be able to emulate.

The immense joy and pride that I felt hanging on to my very own pad of paper, and pack of Crayola jumbo crayons, as I ran into my first day of Kindergarten, will likely never be matched. Perhaps, the joy I feel as I watch my students transform a blank page into a work of art, or the pride I have felt as I watched my own children craft a piece of paper into a creative work comes closest.

The power of autonomy that comes from creating something out of nothing, and the simple pleasure of the tactile sensation of paper, creates a memory that can be recalled through our senses and experienced again, decades after we thought we had forgotten.

Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me

I dreamt last night that I died.

I was waiting for the CTA red line, and a man approached me from behind with a gun. He called out a name that was not my own. I attempted to explain that it was a case of mistaken identity, but the terror I felt, as the gun pressed against the back of my head, only allowed for one word. “Wait!” I cried, but it was too late. I heard the gun shot, and within the next moment I was blind.

The world had become like television static. I could hear only the sound of my own voice, and this was terribly frightening. I thought, is this all there is? I will never see again, and be trapped inside my own mind forever? The idea of being lost in my own thoughts for eternity was crippling. I began to cry. I cursed. I howled. To myself. Alone. I felt more hollow than any moment ever in my living life.

I kept anxiously throttling between fear and anger, wondering how or why this could have happened. I was lost in my own desperation and worry. I let it consume me, until I finally fell silent. The echos of my own voice were all I could hear as I shouted and fought with myself. When I became silent, I heard a quite voice coming from outside of the nothingness.

It said, “Open your eyes.”

Throughout my anxious fury, I had not realised that I was holding my eyes shut. As I opened my eyes, I realised that I was surrounded by others. People. All around me in this space. The wider my eyes became, the more I could hear the voices greeting me, encouraging me.

I was not alone.

I stood in the dream, relieved that I was surrounded by people who seemed happy to see me. I sighed heavily, as I caught the smiling faces of those around me. The memory of terror in the static space where I was trapped in loneliness, compounded my elation. My last thought before I awoke: How many people stay in the static, in that terror, panicked and afraid, never realising that all they have to do is open their eyes?

Many indigenous people believe that dreams are messages from a higher plane, whether it be ancestors, spirit guides, or just your own higher consciousness reaching out to provide guidance. I don’t know what I believe, but last night I dreamt that someone, maybe me, wanted to tell me something.