Tag Archives: records


convenience noun, the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty

record player

I’ve been turning over a blog post in my brain for several weeks now and am finally writing these few words down after such a long hiatus from this site. I toyed with the word “analog” after using my old typewriter a few weeks ago for an unrelated project…and then the other morning I was rather peeved on the drive into work so I wanted to write a post about wanting to be Kanye West. Then this morning I was in the shower using a bar of lavender soap and thinking to myself about the pros and cons of shower gel versus bar soap. My brain jumped back to my thoughts about analog and I realized that I didn’t want to write about analog at all. The word I was searching for was convenience…and so here we are. (I still want to write about being Kanye though.)

I’m an odd bird, which you will know if you really get to know me – or just talk to me for an hour over a bottle of wine. I collect antiques and watch a lot of PBS. I paint and sketch. I like, and work, in jewelry but not because I like the glamour but rather because I crave the tradition, process of fabricating and long history of jewelry. I’m addicted to the making of things in general. Sometimes I wonder if I watched the crayon factory video on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood too many times and it created too much of an impression. I appreciate the process, the history and the story behind physical objects – to the point where I can’t sleep some nights because I think about the details of things too much. I haven’t discovered what I am meant to create in this world or what the culmination of my obsessions might be. I’ve been a part of the back story for many things that people purchase and enjoy, but cannot take credit for their entire creation. In a lot of ways, I am a mother to the products I have worked on much in the way I am the mother of my children. I have ushered them through their troubles and tough spots until they have grown into adulthood and landed on Amazon or a store shelf somewhere.  I haven’t decided if that is enough of an accomplishment yet. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway – I like the time and attention it takes to make a physical thing.

So when I think about the world today and the things we use the theme I most often happen upon is convenience. We use shower gel instead of soap because it’s easier to lather and friendlier than a hard rectangle of lard that you glaze your body with and then rinse off. We type on keyboards now and rarely write in handwriting so much so that schools have ceased to teach cursive or penmanship. Baby food comes in easy to squeeze pouches instead of jars and you can buy entire meals chopped to arrive at your home to make an authentic home cooked dinner easily and fast. We are creatures of convenience. Even as a working mom, I often wonder why we feel the need to save so much time. For more stalking time on Facebook and Instagram, judging by the world’s obsession with social media. We don’t seem to be connecting with people more with all of this time we have gained. Sometimes I think that it’s the greatest marketing ploy of all time – to get us all to think we are too, too busy and that we need all of these things to save us time when what we actually need is to use our time actually doing something. Using our senses or hands or brains instead of focusing on efficiency and convenience.

Some things are greatly lost in this quest for convenience. The process, the details, the work – all of those things that make great things great – are lost in making some things easier. Take oil painting for an example. There is acrylic paint now that dries faster and blends easier than what the great masters used, but there is something lost in that medium when you compare it to traditional oil painting. The color is not as rich and the texture is like plastic – because that is what it is – plastic. Painting in oil requires patience. You can only load so much paint onto a canvas until everything blends and turns brown. You have to thin it with Gamsol – but not too much or you lose the thickness for building it up and creating that impressionistic texture. You have to wait for the first layer to dry to add the second, more accurate and refined attempt. And there is the key – the waiting. In that waiting – in which if you were to try and continue hard headedly to fix the layer you’ve put down you would only make things worse – you learn what you must do that will make the painting good. Because you are forced for days to look at your errors in the shadows and light, in tones, you figure it out. You reach a different perspective and in reaching it are able to approach things in a better more enlightened way. The convenience of the paint drying quickly eliminates the most important element of oil painting – the standing and looking back. The reflection on what you’ve done. The reassessing and having another go at it. That is what makes the painting better.

The record player is another example. I have had one since we purchased our first home in Pawtucket over a decade ago. My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it home from the Homegoods for $50 with an old record of traditional Italian music from the Salvation Army. But once he heard the crackles and pops, the imperfections, the way it sounded bouncing off the walls of our new house, he was hooked as well – more so than me at this point. Now, streaming music is a beautiful thing that I enjoy, especially when listening to very loud Notorious B.I.G. on the way to work on a Monday morning. However, it never makes you listen to an entire album the way a record does. You gain the convenience of hearing any song you want to at any moment, but you don’t get to know that artist in the same way that a record forces you to. For example, Radiohead –the bends. Radiohead is pure genius listened to on any format, but when you listen to it on vinyl and it’s not convenient to skip past your least favorite track, the music becomes a statement that the artist is making rather than a few songs that are great. In the case of the bends, Radiohead creates a mood that is only captured when listened to as an inclusive album.  It changes your perspective on what it was you thought you were liking and captures a rainy day with a beauty that cannot be described with words. It also makes you appreciate how amazing their music really is.

My last example is probably my favorite – the Moleskine notebook. I have for many years, and always will, take my work notes in a Moleskine notebook. I have all of my old ones from my many jobs piled up in the furnace room of our home. Sometimes, when I am struggling to remember why I do what I do or I see something that was a project I worked on at a store or online, I will go down to my stacks and pull an old Moleskine. I almost always remember which one it is in. They are a history of my career. I’ve never been able to journal in a book but can and will only take work notes in one of these durable, black leather books. This blog is the closest I have come to chronicling anything digitally, but my Moleskines record the winding and odd journey of my career from my very first job here in Rhode Island. I find it magical to flip through the pages and remember where I was when I was writing those notes and how my handwriting changes from page to page, year to year. Sometimes there are sketches or other peoples writing – you know those times where your coworker wants to tell you something but has to write it on your page? Sometimes I remember what those comments were about. Other times I can’t remember who wrote them or what they were about, but they are always amusing nevertheless.  All of those moments, thoughts and places are in these black leather books in a way that typing something on a computer will never be. More convenient to type? Of course. But not nearly as important or as special in my life.

I saw that our local bookstore is selling records and the record stores we visit are all bustling with customers where not too long ago I was the only one there. I also saw a Moleskine store at the Short Hills mall during a recent visit. (I’m not so sure about bar soap vs. shower gel as I am still on the fence about that one.) I think that people like convenience and the ease it adds to their life and I do as well.  But I also think that people secretly crave and need something else. They need the experience, time, perspective and manual work that only analog, old things and tradition can offer to fill in the details of life.

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jibe v. to be compatible with or similar to


There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway,
a song that they sing when they take to the sea,
a song that they sing of their home in the sky, maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep,
but singing works just fine for me.

-James Taylor, Sweet Baby James

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve heard this word a number of times in my life and not exactly known what it meant…well not enough to explain it with words. I sort of knew, but I think I thought it was “jive” and didn’t realize it was a B instead of a V. It always reminded me of dancing or catching some musical vibe. In a way, jibe is a combination of jive and vibe and I consider it a pretty musical word.

I listen to music a lot. With my depressive personality, it’s pretty much a form of self-medication. I love wine and I love music, and I love them together, but I would give up wine before music. I don’t think I could ever do without music…ever. I think I’d rather die. There are a few things in life that serve as fuel for my melancholy soul – music, exercise and books are three of them and in order to “jibe” with me, you need to agree with at least one of them. If it’s music, you’d be considered a close friend.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have an abundance of friends. My parents didn’t have to time to drive me back and forth to school, so I walked a lot. It wasn’t a short walk either. My first “Walkman” was not a Sony, but a Radio Shack Realistic brand that was about the size and weight of a VHS tape. It had a cassette player and AM/FM receiver and it came with a pair of cheap foam covered, tinny sounding headphones that didn’t fold up and broke in a week. The kind with the metal adjustment sliders that caught your hair in them and hurt like a bitch. Nonetheless, I’d tape my favorite songs off of Z100  or HOT97 and keep that cassette in it or I would sometimes buy a single cassette from time to time to change things up. Sometimes I’d listen to the radio, but for the most part it was pretty homogenous and there wasn’t a lot to listen to. Whatever it was I was listening to created the soundtrack in my head as I walked. When I first started this practice, I listened to a lot of Belinda Carlisle and the GoGos. Later, I was really into hip hop and rap. Whatever the genre,  I would walk a daydream set to my soundtrack the entire way home. It relaxed and balanced me for all that I had to face. I still walk this way to and from work every day. Those foam headphones have been replaced by purple Beats and it’s my Iphone playing a curated playlist or shuffle instead of that old brick of a Realistic. I’m a seasoned practitioner now, but my tunes still get me through whatever the day holds.

My memories are also cataloged according to music and some days when I feel like the world is just being a bitch, I can pull them out like shelved records and play one to feel better. Just the other day someone was describing how Billy Joel no longer sings “Uptown Girl” because he divorced Christy Brinkley. I really didn’t want to hear this conversation so I just took that single down from the shelf in my brain. In my mind I was transported to my living room, to around 7 years old, listening to that song and getting ready for school, dancing around in my plaid uniform and knee socks. I remember having seen the video on television with Christy Brinkley in a sleeveless black dress dancing cheesily around with Billy Joel.  I wanted to be the uptown girl. Sometimes I still do.

Then there’s the Barbara Streisand, Barry Gibb “What Kind of Fool” memory of what I believe was my brother’s christening party at my Grandmother’s house in Bergenfield. It was in the basement – which was awesomely disco. It must have been around 1981.  I remember hearing this duet while watching the purple, plastic, beaded curtain sway amongst cocktail carrying relatives wearing fabulously large polyester collars. I can still see the red velvet wallpapered walls and burgundy sombreros that my aunt used as decoration. (She loved Acapulco.) I was playing with one of those plastic slot machine toys that squirted water in your face when you hit the jackpot and remember faintly of someone trying to explain to me what the party was all about. I apparently had a brother…or whatever that meant. Years later I heard this song in my head while we packed up that old basement and I carried away crates of old records that are now a personal prized possession. I feel authentically 70’s when I reminisce on this one.

But my most treasured, catalogued song is by James Taylor, whom my husband hates. It doesn’t bother me that he hates him and doesn’t enjoy this particular song, though. This song belongs to my father and I and I’m not interested in sharing it with anyone, so it’s fine that we don’t particularly jibe on this tune. When I listen to it, I feel like he’s with me the way he used to be, driving along in our beat up old Isuzu Trooper singing along on the way to who knows where. The sound and the sentiment embody who my dad was and listening to it feels more like a hug than a collection of harmonically pleasant notes.

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kitsch n. art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way

my salt and pepper shakers

I thought of this word a few weeks ago while dusting my collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers. I suppose if you walked around my home you would call some of the decor kitschy. But I started my collection of strange and “ironic” things a long time ago before the hipsters stole my style and turned it into an insult. Now when I think about the word “kitsch” I don’t think about my cheeky, cute salt and pepper shakers or my vintage 60’s self help books. I think about hipsters. I have a love / hate relationship with these smelly, overindulged beings. I am definitely not a hipster. I shower regularly and I tend not to take myself too seriously. However, I listen to hipster approved music, enjoy ironic art and tchochkes, and once lived in Brooklyn. It seems my life is irrevocably intertwined with them.

It all started back in Rhode Island, maybe around 2002 or so. I had my first apartment in the attic of a building on Medway Street in the Wayland Square neighborhood of Providence. I graduated with an English degree from Providence College and wanted to live on my own, but really had no money. I fancied that I would become a journalist since I had interned at the Providence Phoenix and Providence Monthly Magazine, but quickly found out that writing for a paper meant a salary of about $500 (before taxes) and no health insurance. I also had a series of bad interview experiences, one in particular where I didn’t get the job because my hand shake wasn’t firm enough. So I commuted to Boston, trained and became a mutual fund accountant – the most bland and boring job I could have ever conceived for myself – but it paid the bills. Because money was tight and my apartment was pretty small, I began decorating with cheap things I found at tag sales and thrift stores. My boyfriend (future husband) and I couldn’t afford to eat out at expensive restaurants, so we frequented a dive bar on the corner of my street called Mavericks and a little breakfast spot – Ruffuls. We would always pray that the Starbucks a block away from where I lived would screw up and give us the free drink coupon so we could get the vente frappuccino –  which counted as an entire meal. This is as close as I got to a hipster lifestyle – but I wasn’t cool and I always showered. And I respected other people. Back then this was just called “poor.”

In a few years we moved to a lovely home in Oak Hill, Pawtucket. I ended up working in Product Development for a watchband company called Speidel and found my career path. We kept our ironic sense of decor and our love for indie music. In 2004, I came home with a record player I found at Home Goods in Seekonk, Ma. My husband thought I was crazy until we went to the Salvation Army and spent a few dollars on some old records and I convinced him that it was a wonderful thing to hear the crackling and static. We also inherited a huge and wonderful collection from my aunt which makes up the basis of our growing collection. These days my husband brings home more records than I do, traveling to places on business and seeking out strange (and kitschy) vinyls. Our neighbors back in Pawtucket were also a little strange and crazy. One always smoked a pipe and let his yard grow like a jungle. The other had vines growing through her roof and played the piano all day. You could always hear various concertos wafting out of her window. We adopted a dog, the infamous Stella, from Petfinder.com. She was a rescue born in a Kentucky shelter who we picked up in the parking lot of a hotel in Connecticut. She was supposed to be 40 pounds full grown, but was 40 pounds at 5 months old when we picked her up. She, our red leather sofa, our record player and records, and my collections of various kitschy junk lived a happy life – until we made the leap to NYC. We still showered and respected people, but we were ready for a change.

Our first apartment was in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn right near Fort Hamilton Parkway. We rented it from a landlord named Forest who we found through a tank top, lip gloss, flip flop wearing lesbian who drove the biggest Mercedes I have ever seen on the hottest August day ever. It was a duplex with a yard and no sub floor. When we moved in our dog Stella used to pee because she hated the city and it would drip through the slats in the wood flooring to the downstairs. For weeks we would come home to find what seems like aerosol sprayed urine on the downstairs floor. I thought we had rats or animals, until I spilled some red wine one evening and my husband saw it dripping from the ceiling while downstairs. Nevertheless, all of our kitsch fit perfectly into our first apartment – as if made for it. We enjoyed all that Brooklyn had to offer…loved Williamsburg and it’s strange hipster people that dressed funny and wore face paint – until the hipsters moved in upstairs. Until then, hipsters were just people that liked the same things as us – just showered a lot less and didn’t have serious jobs. Suddenly, there were random cats strolling around the duplex…and beer cans in our vegetable garden. The door would slam at 5 am…repeatedly…and we were never sure exactly how many people actually lived there. One day, we went upstairs to knock to have a reasonable conversation about what was going on – and found the door open with no one home. I will confess, we walked in…just for a peak. It smelled. There were full plates of food on the floor amidst piles of clothes. A cat carrier, little to no furniture. It looks like a bad version of a homeless shelter or drug den. And apparently these people went to Cooper Union…? We took our showering, respectable selves and all of our kitsch to Carroll Gardens, where the hipsters couldn’t afford to live and the Park Slope mommies hadn’t fully discovered yet.

We now live in Maplewood, NJ and it’s hard some days to live in such a distilled environment. I confess that there are days where I miss the crazy hipsters and their artwork and kitschy ways. We have a child now and Stella will be turning 10 soon. We now have a whole house to house our collections of music and kitschy decor. We have a hipster in the family now…my brother in law is an artist in Bed Sty – so if we ever feel like we are losing our edge, we have him over to do a spot check. I guess you could say we are kitschy suburbanites – “kitschanites.” But it isn’t about being ironic or cool for us. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s just a vein that runs through a lot of the stuff we like. We don’t even curate it on purpose. It just happens. We sort of resent that the hipsters turned the things we like into a “thing” that a lot of people despise. If they would just shower, we could try to be friends…swap Instagram photos, make ironic Itunes playlists…

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