in sounds

My playlist of songs and moments of music I listened to a lot this year is both public on my YouTube channel and embedded below.

As in 2021, 2018, and 2017, my picks are loosely based on numbers: streaming service histories from spotify and apple, records left on the floor near my record player, times I looked up information about lyrics or the songwriters, or evidence of wear on cassettes or CDs.

Sometimes they are songs that came out the year I listened to them, sometimes they are just new to me, sometimes they’re old favorites that resonated for some reason in the given year. Sometimes a theme emerges; this year I can see a bit of renewed faith and happiness, along with the very beginnings of longing and happy feelings that you store in your fat as you get to know someone. It’s been a challenge this year but there have been some real gifts from the pain including a new special friend.*

I’ve settled on YouTube as a gathering tool to keep it simple (and also there’s a higher percentage on YT than the streaming services of weird stuff or live weird moments or videos where someone places the needle on the record and then we watch the record playing together – my favorite kind of YouTube video).

I started doing this in late 2017 as a marker during a depressive episode. I generally make playlists based on whim, and like to pretend that I’m programming a late night radio show while doing so. Enjoy.


New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” has now made it into multiple years, it ends up being played a lot as background music as I write, and I did a lot of work on my novel in the last few years. Planning on being finished with the novel in the first half of 2023 so we’ll see if this particular New Order song joins the playlists again next year.

Big Audio Dynamite has joined us multiple times, probably for a bit of the same reason, but there’s definitely the nostalgia wagon working here. All their 90s hits remind me of my early 20s, and seeing them at Market Days here in Chicago playing to a crowd that I remember thinking should have been so much bigger. I went with my childhood friend E and came out to a childhood friend for the first time. (“I might be bisexual,” I told her as we stood next to her friend’s silver jewelry vendor booth. I had already been sowing my oats with multiple genders for a while by then but there was some finality and reality in saying it out loud.)

One of my favorites that made the 2022 list (which as it turns out is a mixture of gospel, pop, a little country, and a little college radio) is the Clark Sisters’s “A Praying Spirit,” which you can hear on their 1978 album Count It All Joy. Their mom Dr. Mattie Moss Clark did the vocal arrangements and I could listen to the transitions in that chorus over and over all day. You don’t have to search far to find a DJ who has included some of the Clark Sisters 70s era output into a mix. I chose the original album version for my list, but this live version of “Nothing to Lose” could have also made the cut, it’s a slow and deliberately unwound presentation, which feels right these days (love watching the huge Florida A&M choir reacting to what they are hearing; kudos to my friend Lenée for including it in one of her lists in 2021).

*I could have included a few tracks from the Roches in 2022’s list but the Modern Lovers song “Hospital” edged “Hammond” out for number of plays. I heard it over the summer on a random hanging out in the yard night and I guess I played it more than a few times over the course of the next months with some irony. I did have a weeklong hospital stay in the spring, after my friends forced me to go to the doctor to check in. My body had been slowly shutting down in the winter, breathing issues, pangs, mobility hindered, but I did the thing where you assume it’s something you understand and pretend you’re controlling it. Then M and Z and several others said my color was off, and then even S, who I count on as someone to reliably talk to me about sports and dumb drivers and amazing noise shows we’ve seen in basements, stopped me in the yard and told me that I needed to go get it checked out because he’d be sorry if I wasn’t there anymore. I went to a doctor visit on a Thursday and on Friday the doctor’s office called and explained that my blood test results indicated a dangerously low hemoglobin count. They wanted me to go check into the ER that day, had set everything up for me to just show up at Northwestern Memorial, and I said “Oh, I don’t know if I can do that, I have work to do, but I’ll try to go on Saturday.” Then a few hours later my friend M burst into my door and told me that the doctor’s office had called her (she’s listed as my emergency contact as she both lives in my building and also will answer any phone call from any number at any time). M said they told her what they had told me and refused to leave my cluttered and dark apartment until we had a plan to go to the ER. Saturday morning R and M drove me to the hospital, where as predicted my count had gotten even worse, and within hours I had the first of several pints of donated blood being transfused into me. I’m still on the journey of working with my doctors to figure out the actual source of my health issues but the real issue here is that a consistent lingering vague feeling of general depression causes me to ignore major pain and punish myself for real or imagined problematic behavior by letting things pile up. But thanks to friends, family, medical professionals, and things I like (music, animals, magazines), I grabbed hold of something the moment I entered the hospital and renewed my ongoing work in addressing my core issues and paying attention to my body. Progress not perfection, better to be here than not. About a month after I returned home from the hospital, I was approached by and started hanging out with a new special friend who makes me happy to await the next and the next and the next times I get to go to a baseball game or eat a meal or read a newspaper next to them and the entire situation feels like a gift from the ancestors. there’s really no other explanation.

If you write about someone who is dangerously sick and depressed, you might want bigger, more dramatic moments to illustrate the time that they start to get out of those feelings and join the rest of us back in the day to day, but pretty much every time I’ve been there, the things that lifted me out were not big or dramatic. My 2017 playlist is a faithful document of such a time, with the last item on the list a commercial that had been playing on the regular in the fall of that year on Philly TV stations. The drum beat on the backing music would snap me out of my feelings every time I heard it and that was gradually enough to get me through to the next year, which led me back home to Chicago and eventually to all the riches of the world (aforementioned friends, family, and things I like). May you find your own (Furniture) Mecca in 2023.

Sending so many good bell hooks Curtis Mayfield Joan Didion Sandra Cisneros Joan Rivers Whoopi Goldberg Sun Ra vibes to you

Thanks for coming over

I love you

I’m just in progress and not the perfect angel of a being yet to be able to say it out loud.


(note – just found this essay I wrote as a Facebook post 4 years ago in tribute to my Great-Uncle Ignacio “Nacho” Almaguer, who had died a few nights earlier. I’m not sure I want to go for 90 anymore, but 75 might be a good time to start listening to those records and farting with friends)

January 3, 2014 · Philadelphia, PA ·
Remembering my Great-Uncle Nacho. He was a pain in the ass, complicated, a hoarder, had delusions that the Russian Mob was after him. He died on New Year’s Eve after a year or so of being in and out of the hospital, always refusing to comply with the recommendations that his doctors would give. But – he was also a person who charmed my great-aunt Flora into marrying him, a guy who grew up with probably not a lot of money in Mexico and learned 5 languages and climbed rocks and mountains. (literally. like, there’s photos of him taking white guys on tours. Black and white photos, if that means anything.) His mom was supposedly a psychic.

Aunt Flora is also a complicated lady and I like her a lot despite her complications. She had a lot of rich and powerful friends when she was young, traveled the world, and now lives in Chicago where my mom and stepdad are trying to help her figure out what she pays for her apartment and whether or not she can afford it. She never dealt with the bills. It seems tough to keep up appearances as we get older and I’m thankful that someone somewhere taught me to be as o p e n as possible, warts and all, to everyone who really matters. There’s no reason to be ashamed when things get out of hand. Just ask for help, and fix it.

Nacho passed away on New Year’s Eve. The funeral’s tomorrow in the suburbs of Chicago. It’s just a one-day thing and I’m on shift this weekend for my job so I won’t be going. Talked to Flora today and she seemed tired – had a bunch of phone calls from friends, former co-workers, children of friends, etc, that she dealt with. She’s also dealing with her own health issues, being 84 (shh! don’t tell her I told you her age!).

My grandmother is still alive, but she has dementia and it’s hard to tell what her brain registers. She was in some good spirits when I saw her on my Chicagoland visit, but again, I’m not sure if she knows anyone around her now. She really seems to be calm and like the assisted living facility that she lives in though, and her caretakers are all great.

No one wants the inconvenience of getting old, or having older people in your family, but guess what! It happens to all of us. I hope that wherever I am at 90, it’s surrounded by good records, warm people who humor me, and cats. And I hope you’re there with me too. Because I’ll need someone to blame the farting on.

thought formations & notes for a future larger piece on corruption

Advantages to being a teenager when I was a teenager and *not* now –

  • I did not have access to “print-on-demand” technology
  • I had to either draw or cut out images from clip art journals and literally paste them to my master page and hope the copy machine at the public library could “read” my photos
  • My distribution was limited to the amount of postage I could afford with my after-school job

I’m counting these as advantages because no one seems to have copies of my first zines – Bulldog, Screaming Yellow Zonkers, or Francis Albert. No one gets to read the pain and anguish and vague depression of me at 15, 16, and 17. Full of hate and sadness. And I’m glad for it, because right now I can point you to about fifty blogs written by teens that I had actively read before fully realizing that they were written by teenagers. Everyone should have the opportunity to create and think out loud before being held to standards that they don’t know exist yet.

I’m still personally forming my thoughts about this but this is one of the advantages to not having access to virtual interconnectivity in the same way that the internet and specifically social media work. It’s a tremendous and wonderful gift for adults that still has its own scary or frustrating moments (friends of friends on Facebook piling on during public debate threads, stalkers and old skeevy flames pulling up to the bumper on ya, etc.). Even Tumblr, one of my favorite social media places (at its peak it is full of all meaning and also full of total meaninglessness, you know, like God or whatever), can be the ultimate betrayal as you’ll find that the Tumblr user that has been liking all your posts and giving you great “Ask” feedback also runs three Tumblrs that basically just repost gifs of non-consensual-looking hardcore heterosexual porn. Oh thanks “Fred159showboat”. Glad you re-Tumbled my screenshots from Hiroshima Mon Amour but I really don’t want to return the favor with Bambi and the Huntsman Do Spring Break. 

When I was a teenager I definitely had interactions with adults who were not my parents, friends’ parents, teachers, or coaches. I was desperate to talk to people who were *not* my peers and also desperate to move along in my progress toward being an adult. I consistently did not know what I wanted to do after college (I later proved to be ambivalent about college in general) and would often just tell people that I wanted to “have my own apartment” when they asked me about career aspirations. I read a lot, worked in a bookstore, babysat for a plethora of “with it” middle-aged parents who would give me lists of movies to watch (“to further your film education”) that I would take to the local video rental store and check out for longer than they allowed me. I was the queen of late fees at our local library branch. I would get the books read in time, but sometimes I would just sit with them in my room and imagine myself accumulating more books just like them. Imagine myself with a room full of books. Imagine myself with my own personal access to all of the knowledge in the world. It was hard to give that back.

We had someone or a group of someones at my local library branch who loved rock and roll, the punk rock canon (as it were), and the briefest but most ballistic hint of metal. I knew this because the library had a huge vinyl record collection and a not-as-huge-but important cassette tape collection. I would “check out” three or four records at a time and then go buy blank cassettes at the drugstore and record the albums onto my tapes using my all-in-one Yorx stereo system with ultimately ok but not the greatest speakers (which didn’t matter as I preferred headphones and found listening alone to be the best meditation available to me).

This exercise was 90% for my own music education and 10% so I knew what the older dudes at the jazz, rock, and punk shows I was sneaking into were talking about. I hadn’t really at that point talked *to* any of them, and most of the crowds at that shows were the equivalent of the groups of people I encounter *now* at experimental jazz or “stoner rock” shows I go to. Lots of middle-aged and pushing it folks with that are interconnected by show-going. It would be honestly weird now and perhaps troubling if I were at a house show to see a free jazz ensemble and a random 15-year-old showed up alone, but that was me at 15, drawn to places that I could find from listings in the Chicago Reader and from taking copious notes when older people talked about music around me. Much of the time I had no idea what I was going to see or hear, but the names sounded familiar from the liner notes of another more familiar vinyl record or, as I got older, a review I didn’t understand but remembered from an issue of The Wire or (even later) Forced Exposure. If I didn’t know who a band was, I went to the library and looked them up on microfiche databases and wandered through the music collection until I connected with them.

Thank you random librarians and library workers for being my Tumblr, my Twitter in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thank you Seth from Factsheet Five for keeping up the tradition of “you send me five bucks and I’ll stuff a priority mail envelope full of old zines and mail it to you”. Six to ten packages of three pounds each of zines from all over the country and I was up to my neck in an underground culture that none of the adults I actually knew would have known about.

The point is that my output during this time was precocious, not well-formed, full of terror and ready for being absorbed into an adult culture that wouldn’t have necessarily looked out for me. I remember sneaking into a club in Chicago to see a band I thought highly of. I was sixteen, no fake ID, just walked in past a door guy who was distracted. Insanely I was one of only ten people there. The door guy wasn’t really a door guy because he was also the bar guy and perhaps the sound guy, which was standard for a weird show on a weeknight. By this time I had taken to going out to at least one or two shows a week but never really on the weekend. My friends from high school all had curfews and I think my parents thought I was at their houses but I just had a good memory for the public transportation schedule and at that point no fear about walking by myself.

I think most shows I would go to would be full of adults that would have been possibly a bit troubled to see a young teenager just by herself but when you’re at a BYOB free jazz show in an underground community center of sorts, who cares? I wouldn’t talk to anyone and usually had a book with me so I kind of mastered the art of looking like I was supposed to be there. There were occasional older men who were a little too chatty, but the other older men and women would be able to shut that down pretty quickly. It was obvious to most of them that I was young and therefore “it wasn’t right” for someone to try to pick me up. Perhaps I just managed to go exclusively to literary nerd and music nerd venues for these weeknight shows. This protective dynamic was non-existent for me in the neocon hippie crowds I experienced while trying my hand at following Grateful Dead shows. Many of my horror stories and cautionary sexual harassment tales come from Deadhead Nation.

It’s not an absolute of course, and there are nimrods and dildo men anywhere you choose to listen to music. There’s always going to be someone. At that show when I was 16, I managed to stand next to a someone who inexplicably grabbed my arm during a mundane music moment while the math rock band that I was trying to listen to droned on. I didn’t really even know he was there until he grabbed my arm, and then my butt and thigh. Then I looked at him and went to hit him with my other arm and he grabbed my small ball of fist as it came toward him. And he winked.

I pushed his other hand back and scurried toward the door, where the distracted door guy had no idea what had just transpired. It was dark, and somehow I had stayed silent throughout this endeavor. I didn’t want to make a sound, because I didn’t want to get kicked out of the bar. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there and I guess that someone guy had known that too. But now I needed help. The door guy must have thought I was sick or drunk, or maybe he just realized that an underage girl was in the bar. He insisted on getting me a cab, which I didn’t want to pay for, so he threw some money in with me as he tossed me in. I had the cab driver stop about three blocks away and then walked back to the train station that I was familiar with and took the train back home.

I remember thinking that I had done many many wrong things. And that I wore terrible shoes for the night and that I should have been more ready to fight or run. And then a few weeks later I went to another show at the same club and no one did anything to me. I watched another band, drank water, and headed home. I got into a conversation with a group of people who were probably ten years older than me. They were sitting outside of a bar called the Artful Dodger and they were all pretty loaded. One of them recognized me from the two of us being two out of maybe twenty people who had attended an NRG Ensemble concert at Lower Links earlier in the year. And from that moment on, I had show parents, a handful of people a decade or so older who would say hello and ask me if I was coming out to the next gig. Some of those friendships lasted decades.

All of this is to say – I’m glad to have had the opportunity to flounder, face fear, see new things, and get a musical education from well-meaning fans when I was young. I’m glad that there was a search to find my people and that it wasn’t as easy as pushing a button. I’m glad that I had to face some demons live and in person. I feel like having to deal with anonymous comment trolls and chat room friends that turned out to be married middle-aged predators would have been way too much for me to handle spiritually. Of course I didn’t get out unscathed. My story above is pretty tame compared to other assaults I endured as a child and a teenager. But nothing was documented on “Facebook Live”. None of these moments are available for me to relive again and again on a saved Insta-story from a friend of a friend who may mean well but have no idea that yeah, that wasn’t a fun show for me. I can’t really find any random photos or videos from that time that document my burgeoning fandom or mispronunciation of band names. Just yearbooks from my high school and family photos that show a good girl that occasionally is wearing a band t-shirt. I’m in my 40s now and still struggle sometimes with figuring out the right thing to say or defending my opinions. How would I have possibly dealt with the rejection of my self from millions of people all at once, all in the comments?

old news

Here’s a video I made with Marc & Brett, my old collaborators in Temporary Services, in 2005

I live for the day that someone says “Whaddya call it?” to me so I can reply with “Ode To Hero of the Future, Number 5”.

If I had the opportunity to remake this, I would cut out several of these excerpts altogether. Not happy about including the Allen work or the Family Guy stuff, but this is years later so retrospect is embarrassment/20/20

My Writings elsewhere

(a continually updated post as I link items)

You can find evidence of my humanity in –

Visions For Chicago (also readable in full here)

The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest (article about The Free Store)

“The Power to Transform” (article/interview I wrote about Lauren Sugerman of Chicago Women in Trades)

that said, you can go to the Windy City Media Group website and see a handful of reviews and articles I wrote there years ago by searching for my name in the search bar…here’s one about a queer scholars conference at the University of Chicago in the year 2000

More to come!

music, soothing, beasts, 2016, etc.

My friend Mike P posted his music picks new and old for 2016 on the old FB mess-site and I’d like to follow suit … Here is new or old-but-new-to-me music I listened to and greatly enjoyed in 2016:

New (in no order):

Jamila Woods – HEAVN
Maxx Katz’s Floom project
David Bowie – Blackstar
Anthony Hamilton – What I’m Feelin’
James Blake – The Colour in Anything
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Thalia Zedek Band – Eve
Moor Mother – Fetish Bones
Shirley Collins – Lodestar

NOTE – I obviously am privileged to live with and be friends with many wonderful music makers that are always on constant rotation because they are great. But I wouldn’t expect them/you to post “Salem’s stand-up routine that I haven’t seen because she won’t let me go yet” on a 2016 list either.

Old-but-new-to-me (in no particular order):

Little Howlin’ Wolf – The Guardian (just reissued but orig 1982, does that make it new? re-new?)
Nick Jonas – Nick Jonas (2014)
Lida Husik – Bozo (1991)
Magazine – Real Life (1978)
Sabú (Héctor Jorge Ruiz, singer from Argentina) – Mon Amour (1974)
XTC – White Music (1978)
Judas Priest – Live on Old Grey Whistle Test (not an album as far as I know but the transmission is online, 1975)
Tink – Wet Dollars (2015 – single, yes)
ONO – Diegesis (2014)

You can also always listen to the mixes (sorry about the ads, that’s their bag!) I throw together on Youtube here:

Or come over to my house and listen to records! Shoot me a line if you ever are in Philadelphia and want to drink tea and listen up.

good time had by all scene reports #1

scene report from last night’s Richard Thompson / Bonnie Raitt concert:
RT was on point as always. The drummer in his touring band has really good posture. I can’t say anything bad about Richard Thompson, or even his beret, so I’ll just say that some of his fans were put on this earth to remind me why I didn’t join the Pep Squad in high school. The guy sitting next to S really loved to clap along in syncopation.
Several groups of middle-aged to older ladies in attendance. Group of ladies smoking by the will call were already drunk by the time I got there to find S and our tickets. One of them almost fell on the ground and another one grabbed her real quick and announced “Maureen’s already loaded!”
Bonnie Raitt is in really good shape and seemed honestly grateful for her fans. She opened with a cover of Inxs’ “Need You Tonight”, which is odd. The crowd was Dork Rock Lite which means that when Bonnie Raitt did her “I Can’t Make You Love Me” encore, one lady in front of me jumped up and pointed at her and screamed “YES – THAT’S MY SONG.”
The crowd also really loved Bonnie Raitt’s cover version of Rufus (ft. Chaka Khan)’s song “You’ve Got The Love” and showed their love by getting up out of their seats and jamming. A bunch of hips and butts moving around that probably haven’t moved like that in a few years means there was a super duper blast of ass sweat.
Bonnie’s drummer was in The Rutles. Bonnie did a Skip James cover. Richard Thompson came out and backed her up on “Dimming of the Day”. In the car on the way home, S and I discussed John Prine and the fact that we went to 5 or 6 weddings last year and this year have not been invited to one and that’s perfectly ok with us.