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What It’s Like To Shop At Target

You’ve seen the memes and the Instagram accounts. The thought crosses your mind frequently that you “just need to stop in for some toothpaste real quick,” but you know it means more.

It always means more.

Do they pump the smell of the Starbucks at the front throughout all of Target? Is their coffee and shopping partnership one that will define our lifetime? Looking back years from now, will we realize how beautiful a duo theirs was – comparing them to Lennon & McCartney, both providing a piece of the song that sounds great alone but even better in harmony?

You weren’t going to commit to a cart, but now you’ve got a beverage in hand and wouldn’t you know it- the Target carts have cupholders, because well, of course they do. Target knows. They know their customer loves to sip while browsing. They know you’ve had a long week and this perk of caffeine and soaking in the sales is your silver lining. They know you.

Oh, how they know you.

The Dollar Spot looms ahead. You’ve resisted its charms before – after all, it’s not going to provide you with the toothpaste you swore you were just running in to snag- and you aren’t going to buy anything, of course, until you spot an adorable 3-pack of pencils. Blinded by cuteness, you convince yourself they’d make such a perfect hostess gift that you’re sure you’ll need in the next month- even though you know you’re going to give in and open them to keep for yourself.

(It’s too bad that Future You can’t send a warning that when you do open them 3 weeks later, you’ll realize that it’s 2016, life is mostly sarcastic comments typed out, and you don’t actually own a pencil sharpener – but they’re so precious at this very moment that it’s like they’re physically calling to you, and yes, you simply must have them.)

Besides, you got a cart. Your first mistake was getting a cart, in fact, but here you are. Pencils tossed gently in and another sip of Starbs down, to the toothpaste you go.

I mean, eventually.

The clothing looks normal and well-stocked from far away- a few printed maxi dresses, some graphic sweatshirts, and affordable leggings in every hue- but you know that within the racks there is that one tank top that you already own in 5 colors because it fits so well and it goes with EVERYTHING and you always get compliments so you might as well just check to see if there’s a 6th color, and whaddya know- there is! There’s actually 8 colors, so you buy a new shade but also a backup black one, because who has too many black tank tops? No one!

(Well, actually, you. The answer is that you have too many black tank tops, but Target wouldn’t judge you for that. Target just wants you to feel confident in sleeveless weather and knows any color other than black is at risk for queso or coffee stains. Target gets it.)

After adding a surprising number of $1.50 printed socks to your cart to join the tanks (you were just here last week, but somehow there’s already new delightful sock designs?!) you stumble upon an familiar shakeup: there’s new Nate Berkus and Threshold homegoods and every 1 out of 3 of them is golden- as in, not only painted gold, but also perfect. Shining. Full of splendor. You think about royalty throughout history and how just the presence of gold could improve your mood and social status immediately. Suddenly, struck by the indicated on-sale price, you are Cleopatra and you simply must indulge, so you gingerly pick up an off-white porcelain ring dish decorated with a gold antler. A warm feeling washes over your whole body. This will be the year of me, you think. The year of me as a royal Egyptian goddess, and better yet, a royal Egyptian goddess who designates a place for her rings instead of almost always nearly knocking them into the sink in the bathroom or losing them amidst your vanity clutter. Queens have their lives together and queens most certainly own woods-inspired jewelry storage. At this rate, $12.99 is peasant’s price to pay for that sort of future-altering ability, you think.

A cough from an employee behind you brings you back to the aisle and you realize you’ve been standing in front of the endcap for close to 7 minutes, debating ruling power and holding said ring dish. You gently place it into your cart and direct your cart towards, what was it again? Oh yes- toothpaste.

Toothpaste that you already know quite well.

You won’t forget the toothpaste this time- you’re no amateur. You found and added the exact toothpaste brand and flavor that you wanted to the Cartwheel app on your phone before you even got to the store, and you’re debating buying more than one just to increase your savings score. Is Target showing off by letting you compete with your friends to see who can save more? Is it getting under your skin that you’re not currently shopping for a family of 5 and therefore will never quite save as much as that girl in the #1 spot on this app? Is this just about the toothpaste or is it something more?

Your Starbucks cup is now empty and you see the irony in having a whole lot of energy as you’re supposedly ‘finishing up’ this ‘quick trip’.

But wait: THE BEAUTY AISLES.

Ahh, the beauty aisles. Once dimly lit, they now glow and pulsate with soft white hues, begging you to come see what seasonal nail colors await. You remember a beauty blogger mentioned something she loved from the drugstore- was it Revlon? Maybe it was a lip pencil. Oh wait, they carry NYX now?! With so many thoughts racing, you quickly pick a new volumizing mascara, promising as you grab it to never be the kind of customer who opens the lipsticks and swatches them out on the sale price placards. Were you raised in a barn, random makeup testers?

I mean, you certainly weren’t raised in a Target.

You laugh at your own pun out loud, to the dismay of the teenage girl waiting for you to stop taking up half the aisle with your cart. What she doesn’t know is that you will now begin to debate 4 different bronzers with only 1 in stock for the next few minutes, cart still in place. This isn’t your first makeup aisle standoff and you won’t back down until you’ve researched each one a little bit on your phone before just giving up and picking another dusty-mauve lipstick. No one’s a hero in the beauty aisles- we’re all just trying to grab something before it sells out or before the teens get to it first.

Checkout is here. This wasn’t that bad, you think. Remember that time you convinced yourself that you needed the same pair of sandals in two different colors and also an entire new sheet set and an adult coloring book and a shower curtain and salt and pepper shakers and teeth whitening strips and also a family-sized bag of Reese’s Pieces? Could have been way worse.

In line, your head is a little woozy from all the joy. How can one store contain so many things you love? You didn’t even visit the clearance accessories, test the throw pillows, or read all the witty birthday cards, because by now you’re hungry and your internal voice that told you, “don’t budge on your budget!” is loud. Checkout locks you in to this decision. And sure, there could be more lanes open, but you’ve come this far and you can’t turn back. This is Target, where abandoned carts are never around, because no one’s going to leave with just toothpaste.

You know it’s not about the toothpaste— it was never about the toothpaste. You go to open your wallet and the friendly cashier asks you if you’d like to apply for the RedCard, as you flash yours, already-in-hand, like a proud club member. The walk back to your car is blissful, tossing your Starbucks cup into a bright red trashcan.

Even the trashcans are cheery here. Is that a metaphor somehow?

“Maybe someday I’ll love a man as much as I love @target,” you tweet later that night, jokingly, right before squeezing your new toothpaste to your brush. You chuckle, but also catch yourself slightly believing your own logic.

If Target was a man, he’d have everything you need. He’d be so helpful and so handy. Your wedding colors would be red and white and you could actually be wheeled down the aisle in a shopping cart. Your cake would be iced to look like a clearance sticker and you’d have one of those cute bull terriers with the logo on his eye as your ring bearer.

Wait, snap out of it. Ring bearer. For the rings. Rings? Why can’t you shake the thought of rings?

Oh yeah, the ring dish you bought. Remember that? You guiltily look over to your dresser, remembering you actually already own a ring dish.

You know, you didn’t even visit the jewelry this time – I wonder if Target carries your ring size?

Things That Are (Almost) Always Better On The Internet Than In Real Life

Macarons

I’m going to be as controversial as a 25 year old female can be and lay some rules down: much like Pluto is no longer identified as a planet, I, in my infinite blogging power, have declared macarons no longer be identified as a dessert, and instead, a delightful prop. Don’t get me wrong, I do find them utterly beautiful and adorable and love how they can match with any dreamy color scheme across the world wide web, but it’s time we face facts and accept that their taste is not on par with the major players of the sweets world. Seriously, even the most visually-appealing macaron can’t hold a pastel-colored candle to a rich, freshly-baked brownie paired with vanilla ice cream that’s just beginning to melt atop the warm chocolate morsel, melding the two flavors together. Picking up a macaron between your pointer finger and thumb to bring to your lips will never be as satisfying as holding a spoon between those same fingers that gently breaks the caramelized-sugar top of a fluffy Creme Brûlée. Show me a macaron with an exotic filling and I will show you a Red Velvet Cupcake with homemade cream cheese icing piped inside that will make your tastebuds weep. Take photos of them, pretend you’re in Paris if you indulge in them, but realize macarons’ true worth lies in Instagram likes and iPhone backgrounds, not in caloric joy.

Selfies

First things first: I am unapologetically pro-selfie. I believe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting photos of yourself on the internet and actually am quite the advocate of the self-esteem boost that comes when you are feeling your look that day and want to share it. Learned a new makeup look? Selfie it. Having a good hair day? Selfie that. Simply in love with your own face for a few minutes? By all means, selfie away- but, I do think there’s something so hilariously unspoken in the fact that everyone, both those for and opposed to a feed filled with your own face know: it’s never as effortless as it looks online. Somewhere on this earth (probably a beachside villa) there is a small population of people who can take 1 photo only and have it be up to their standards, but for the rest of us living in real life, there’s several minutes of angles, moving towards the light, moving away from the light, second guessing your features, hoping no one can see you right now, flipping your hair, having small panic attacks when it looks like you grew an extra chin from that one side, cringing, laughing at your own ridiculousness, blurring, pursing your lips, fake-giggling, smiling too big, trying to look serious, trying to look like you don’t care, squinting, editing, and analyzing before you can decide on an appropriate shot to curate your own personal brand from the 242 you ‘casually’ snapped. (Oh, and of course, it always ends up being the first one.)

Arguments (kinda)

So, there’s a double-edged sword with online arguments, because, in a way, internet arguments are actually the worst. Comment wars and twitter rants are so annoying and draining of time, joy, and dignity, but at the same time, so utterly laughable in their ridiculousness. The internet creates this absurd wall that makes people feel bold, since they’re not facing anyone head-on, and in turn, leads to typing striking statements that they’d never actually say out loud. Nearly no one has ever been convinced to change their mind due to a few typed sentences, with no context, empathy, or understanding, so what you’re left with is a bunch of pointless CAPITAL LETTERS on a website that I think our ancestors would laugh at as confrontation, and a sheepish strategy for getting your point across. (Although, I will say that I do wish I could use a gif to express my side of an argument in real life). In a way, they’re better on the internet, because to me, they hardly seem real or effective, so it’s like they don’t even count as a true, gritty, growth-giving, decision-making argument.

Any plane ride, ever

As a rite of passage into making any sort of video or vlog about your life on the Internet, there is bound to be some shot of a sun-filtered airport, peaceful clouds outside a plane window, and a wave from the seat row. I have proof, and am 100% guilty of this footage, too, so I’m coming clean. We see these brief moments of travel and think, “oh, so fabulous!” but the truth is that the 4 seconds of blissful window shots are just that- 4 seconds. In reality, every airport is far from fantastic, and in between the overwhelming Auntie Anne’s smell that lingers whether you indulged in a pretzel bites with icing combo or not (which, no shame if you did, have you had that icing????) and the non-diva experience of removing your clothing, shoes, accessories and damn-near dignity at the TSA checkpoint, there is nothing joyful to be found, no matter how many times the opening monologue in Love, Actually tries to convince us that airports are romantic. On the internet, flying is a visceral experience of wonder, but in real life, it is a far-too-physical experience of hoping that your flight is on time, praying that your suitcase is under 50 pounds, wishing that you could have the whole row to yourself, crossing your fingers that A.) someone nice and possibly cute sits near you and strikes up a good conversation, but doesn’t talk the whole time because you have some good playlists you curated and podcasts you downloaded specifically for this trip B.) no one sits near you, giving you room to breathe and do your crossword in peace without feeling like they are looking over your shoulder and judging you that you didn’t know the clue about Shakespeare plays, like, SORRY that the public school system didn’t require us to read ALL of them C.) please, oh please, don’t let the guy holding the Subway sandwich sit here, PLEASE, I DON’T WANNA SMELL LIKE SUBWAY FOR THE REST OF THIS FLIGHT, CAN WE NOT and pleading with your phone battery to stay alive, if not just long enough to capture yet another photo out of the plane window to post on social media to ease your pain with validation in the form of comments since your good attitude went south as soon as the baby in baggage claim started crying. Oh well.

Chia Seeds

What are they? Why are they healthy? Why can they hold so much water? Why should I eat them? Why are they on every smoothie or acai bowl or frozen yogurt or salad? Do they have a taste? Should I care? Do you care? Do you remember caring about Chia Pets? Would you rather have a Chia Pet or a chia seed? Case closed.

Bangs

I don’t know how to express this without a strong sense of personal failure, but I have always wanted to be a cool girl. In my mind, the things that make a ~cool girl~ actually cool have changed over the years, but at some point, maybe 2011-2014, I assumed that it involved a very thick set of bangs. (I blame Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones for this, as they both seem so effortlessly hip and smart and just the right amount of quirky and boy oh boy do they have the world’s best bangs.) Unfortunately, for several of us not blessed by calmer hair texture, humid-free environments, or simply just willpower in the morning to blow-dry and style them, bangs are truly the best when they’re in a hair inspiration board on Pinterest, and away from our foreheads. Those of you brave souls rocking bangs: know that I salute you and that I am forever jealous of your lovely locks, but if you see me post-breakup or in the middle of a stressful situation holding scissors with a wild look in my eyes, please remove them from my hands and remind me that cowlicks never die and frizz is very real.

Fitness

I’m not trying to deny that getting fit and staying active is a bad thing, but let’s be real: the actual “work” part of working out isn’t glamorous. It’s usually sweaty, uncomfortable, tiring, and just generally seems to never look as carefully curated as we could hope for. ‘Fitness’ on the internet involves intense documentation of before and after shots, toned thighs, counting whatever a macro is, food prep photos, “checking in” at the gym,  and a lot of fun I-look-cute-when-I-sweat images, mostly from Kate Hudson’s new workout clothing line (which, not gonna lie, I have heard wonderful things about, so props to you, Kate, I forever love you as Penny Lane and now as a yoga pant princess, too). Fitness: we get it, you occasionally have your pretty moments. Ain’t nobody got time to be a babe every time you sweat, but wouldn’t it be so magical if the online post-workout glow was as real as those ads every time? For now, me and my heavy breathing and messy bun salute you.

Pranks and Falls

Not a day goes by that I don’t see a short video clip on my various timelines of someone being pranked, tripping, falling, or being startled or scared, and all I can say is that if you actually laugh at someone while this is happening to them in real life, 9 times out of 10, you just look like a jerk. Sure, we all can giggle later or when we see it replayed on the internet, but in the moment, it’s pretty harsh. However, that 10th out of 10th time that someone does laugh aloud at their own dismay in real life is a true blessing, and that person should be rewarded with something wonderful. (Just don’t reward them with a macaron, FOR THE LOVE.)

This Is What It Sounds Like When Doves Try To Describe A Personal Musical Hero

What is it about the things you love the most that make them absolutely impossible to write about?

I feel like every college campus from here on out is just going to have to have a mandatory in-depth course on the artist we’ll always know as Prince.

I guess I always thought that if I had kids, they would just be aware of who Prince is, you know? It’s not that I didn’t think he was mortal (okay, sure, I had my doubts) but I just didn’t realize how hard he would be to explain to someone else once he was gone.

Sure, there are some words to describe him. You can (and should) throw around the usual suspects like icon and legend and virtuoso, but there’s just something else that hangs over all of that, and it’s this feeling of upmost respect and warmth and infectious joy that I have for him. How can you sum up accurately that he was the utmost cool being while also being so insanely musically talented while also consistently reinventing his style and look while simultaneously being the most entertaining performer while also making me want to dance like crazy and sing along with reckless abandon to anything he produced?

This is why they’re not asking me to write Prince’s biography. (I mean, YET. Prince’s people: if you have stumbled across this blog, first of all, I’m flattered, and second of all, I’m always open to this.) They would never ask me because I’d just sum it up to say: Prince was himself. He was never a bucket of cheap gimmicks created by a record company, he was never a one-hit wonder, and he was never a bore. Prince wasn’t trying to fit in – he was unapologetically making music as himself, and I think there’s something so magical in that. I think we need more of it. Prince and Freddie Mercury and David Bowie (and so many others that I find myself calling my musical heroes even at 25) weren’t trying to appeal to everyone and they weren’t trying to fake it. I’m not totally jaded and against modern music, but they had a distinctness to everything they did that is much harder to find these days, and weren’t weird or different just for the sake of a title or for the sake of gaining a TMZ headline— they just existed in this gorgeous, outlandish, fantastically fun state of constant self-expression. While today everyone tries to crack the formula for musical success with marketing strategies and stunts, Prince had magnificent meticulously-practiced talent and such a long catalog that at some point it just seems so obvious that he was making art just because it was true to who he was as a person.

Prince owned his look, sound, style, and image with such finesse that it just simply was Prince, and although that sounds somewhat dumb to me and I know it won’t be a ~major revelation~, it makes me feel comforted.

Because really, that’s what it’s all about: feeling.

So, today, like nearly everyone else on the internet and who owned a radio from 1978 until now, I feel sad. I’m not saying I would win in a Prince Trivia Contest (although I already thought of my team name: Paisley Snark) or that I deserve to have the title of #1 diehard devotee because I think that’s something that we trip over when an artist dies, and instead forget the feeling and the reason that we’re so drawn to their art that speaks to us so deeply. Sure, I’m a regular musical snob know-it-all and find a strange satisfaction in recalling facts about my favorite bands and collecting everything they release on vinyl, cd, and in merch form, but, collections and fan club memberships aside— the feeling has always been more important to me.  Feeling like I had inside musical knowledge when my Mom introduced me to “Raspberry Beret” at age 8 and I loved it (even though I originally thought the lyrics were “Raspberry Parade”– which is still an event I would very much like to attend). Feeling absolutely ridiculous yet so entertained at how my high school boyfriend and his friends spent many a Friday night playing “Batdance” on repeat in the car on our way to the movies with accompanying dance moves, substituted “John McCain” to the tune of “Purple Rain” like their own personal SNL skit (2007 was a weird time, okay), all while adding a constant commentary about how no other guitarist in history may ever have as strong a style. Feeling tickled pink (or purple, rather) when my 90 year-old grandmother asked me what was playing when “Kiss” was on the radio and I could see her bobbing her head approvingly in the passenger seat. Feeling an absolute rush of energy when I heard,“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…” from the speakers at one of my favorite dive bars in Austin while the smoke machines kicked in simultaneously and suddenly the dance floor immediately became packed even before the chorus of “Let’s Go Crazy” had started. Feeling bittersweet because no matter if I got the position or not, I would always play “Baby I’m A Star” in my car as a pump-up song before walking into any job interview like a ritual, because “I ain’t got no money, but honey, I’m rich on personality!” is a lyrical statement I personally find extremely hirable and applicable.

My junior year of college, a friend and I got tickets to a concert with a lineup that I cared a lot about at the time, but to be honest, looking back now, I can only tell you 1 of the 4 bands that played that day. What I do remember is that I fought my way through the sea of other millennials to the front and finally secured a spot against the railing, so I could actually see. Upon making it there, my 5’3 frame was overshadowed by a huge, 6-foot-something enormous security guard standing directly in front of me, his back to the stage, chiseled-bicep arms crossed, thick sunglasses on, looking out into the sea of restless, rowdy kids, waiting for the show to start. He was an older gentleman, but his expression was tough and domineering, with a fierce scowl, and he was constantly scanning the crowd like a hungry hawk. There was a speaker next to him and the venue had been spinning pop-punk and alternative 90s music, but then the DJ apparently had a change of heart, and the beginning of “When Doves Cry” started playing. I turned around to my friend (who graciously let me pull the short card and stand in front of him once we wrangled that close) and let out an approvingly girly omg-this-is-my-song! squeal and started to sing along. I was midway through “maybe you’re just like my mother,” when I heard an alarmingly deep voice in front of me. I turned to see this formerly-intimidating security guard belting out Prince unashamedly. We locked eyes, singing in unison, and his stone-faced expression cracked into a huge smile. For the rest of the song, we continued our singalong, and while everyone else around me was yelling, spilling beers, and smoking cigarettes with annoyed expressions, my new Prince pal and I were in sync and grooving. (He even threw in a few shoulder bops!) The song ended, he laughed, and then went back to his serious grimace, and the artists I’d come to see took the stage very shortly after. Again, while I can’t really recall what songs the band played that night, I can tell you that the security guard brought me and my friend water bottles during the set, and after the encore, he reached onstage and grabbed the band’s setlist and a fallen guitar pick and handed them to me, flashing that huge smile again for just a second and then composing himself quickly again, back to keeping an intimidating eye on the audience.

On paper, this security guard and I had nothing in common, and although, if this was a rom-com he would have had a dashingly handsome, single son for me to fall in love with and marry into the Security Guard dynasty and he could become a doting musical father-figure to me, I don’t actually know his name or anything else about him.

And while I also don’t know if he reveres that singalong as I do, I do know that it’s more than okay to talk endlessly about and really connect with someone over something as shallow or seemingly unimportant in the long run as a favorite song or a favorite artist and how they make you both feel, because those feelings stick with you long after the song ends and come back up in the strangest and most wonderful ways.

(I also know that you don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude, which like, thank God, because they have yet to add it to Netflix.)

The Perfect Mac And Cheese

I had the Perfect Mac and Cheese this past Monday night.*

*Or, rather, I should say that it’s the most perfect mac and cheese I’ve been served on this earth so far, and I can’t get it out of my head.

I consider M&C to be a staple dish: as in, I eat it probably too frequently. If it’s offered as a side, it’s like my brain and body have no choice but to pick it, as if it’s programmed into my whole being to ask for mac and cheese without even consciously realizing it, and if it’s listed on the entrees, I’m settled on it and signed, sealed, and delivered in cheesy goodness before the waiter even takes my drink order. I judge a restaurant pretty hardcore based on their mac klout, as if to say that if it’s not a mac that deserves to be served, why advertise it? The years that we get to spend eating are short- why waste our time on chalky, flavorless, sad imitations?

Anyway, back to the Perfect Mac and Cheese from Monday. Seriously, I tried to consume it as slowly as possible to savor it, but the way the flavors sang so perfectly together made me nearly shovel it in my mouth as I closed my eyes– in a real restaurant, in front of real people, in public– because the sensation of cheddar on noodles was just that good. I had a moment. I mean, I had a moment with each bite and I’m only slightly ashamed to share that when it was over and my cheese coma had somewhat subsided, I scraped my fork against the dish to get the last of the sauce. This mac and cheese spoke to me in my innermost being, letting me know that the world was a place full of possibilities, that I haven’t used up all chances yet on other sub-par foods, and that there are still surprises on menus and just around your next corner of a finely-decorated table for 2.

What makes a mac and cheese so perfect? I wish I could tell you in a few words– okay, well actually, I don’t. I’ve tried to narrow it down to a few points that make this particular dish impeccable in my mind, and bringing in both science and emotion, I’m happy to share my heavily-researched findings.

Without further adieu, the Perfect Mac And Cheese:

  • has a lot of salt. Sure, there are other spices in there, too, but a little brine is so important. Salt is what gently awakens your taste buds and lets them know that they’re ARRIVED at an addictive place and should stick around. Ideally, the pasta should be boiled in heavily salted water and the whole beautiful serving should be salted gently as it is assembled gorgeously.
  • has more than one kind of cheese!!! SERIOUSLY. Sure, you can argue that it’s “Mac And Cheese” and not “Mac And Cheeses” but I find that if we’re celebrating cheese by putting it in the title of the dish, you should do just that. Heck, throw a cheese party! Invite a really rich one, a really salty one, and a really creamy one to this party and let them all choreograph a dance to “Return of the Mac(k)”  and get dowwwwwwn and get to know each other and get melty and become stronger together. This is a supergroup of cheeses and they’re going on tour and they’re coming to your city to bring the glorious gooey WARMTH.
  • has the decency to use a good noodle. Sure, M&C calls for a certain softness of noodles (they’re sensitive) but they shouldn’t be absolute mush. Give the pasta element the littlest amount of al dente. I might upset some purists, (although, if I’m not going to upset some m&c purists, what’s the point in blogging about mac and cheese, right?) but I think it’s perfectly acceptable to stray outside the traditional macaroni shape and go with something that catches the sauce in little noodley vessels; aka, go with shells! Try out campanelle! Say yes to bowtie! Reach for cavatappi!  We’ve all had elbows- be the change!
  • has seen the inside of an oven. Listen, I get that baking your mac and cheese delays the gratification of eating it straight from the stovetop, but there is something so magically confusing about a decadently creamy Mac that has a little broil on it. It’s like a marriage of soft and crunchy that works perfectly, which brings me to my next point:
  • has BREADCRUMBS!!!! Okay, okay, to be honest, they don’t have to be atop your mac and cheese but if you are already subjecting your body to consuming what we as a society have decided is “not healthy” (ie, cheesy carbs, ie CHARBS) at an alarmingly large rate, why not add even more carbs on top and treat yourself to a crisp and crumbly topping that deepens the salt factor and also the texture and also maybe the cheese in general if you add parmesan to your breadcrumbs and also the golden brown perfection that brings a peace to my soul just thinking about it. Breadcrumbs are sneaky: you don’t reach for them right away when cooking, but once you’ve indulged, there’s no going back and you will dream of adding them to nearly everything, but especially Perfect M&C.
  • has never tried to parallel park somewhere that it knows it can’t fit. Perfect Mac and Cheese isn’t trying to impress you so hard that it’s going to try and take the small spot and then get embarrassed and flustered when it can’t turn the wheel right and other cars around it are getting annoyed and honking, making the situation worse and eventually it just gives up and drives away, cursing under its gruyere breath.
  • has never once made fun of you for going to bed at 8 PM because the day-to-day gets overwhelming and your pillow has been there all along, waiting for you since you left it this morning. Perfect Mac and Cheese will make you Sleepytime Tea and tuck you in and turn up the volume on your white noise app that helps you reach the appropriate REM cycles.
  • would never abandon you at a social event when it said it was just going to be gone for a second but it’s clearly going to be longer than a second. Perfect Mac and Cheese would understand that you don’t know anyone else there and that though you would try to make conversation by asking if anyone remembers the Animorphs book series, it would ultimately fail and Perfect Mac and Cheese would instead introduce you to their acquaintances or stay closeby, maybe holding your needy arm with its noodle arm(s).
  • would tell you the honest, hard truth and therefore would never let you leave the house in a poorly-fitted pencil skirt that you will immediately regret and untag so many photos of yourself in later.
  • does not try and take the aux cord when you have decided on a pre-established playlist that maybe you built exactly for this moment. The Perfect Mac and Cheese understands that it’s okay to have one for every occasion, even if they are obsessively labeled “Driving To The Airport” or “Songs For When It Rains” or ” Trying To Act Casual While Waiting For The Food Delivery Person To Arrive”.
  • has never just casually used your Netflix or HBO GO accounts for months without at least informing you, therefore not secretly judging how many ABC Family Original Movies seem to be on the “Recently Watched” tab.
  • does not find joy in arguing angry rants in Facebook comments. Perfect Mac and Cheese believes in face-to-face real conversation with heart behind it and also realizes that debating politics with strangers on the internet is the WORRRRST.
  • probably already has a girlfriend.
  • wait, what?
  • can be eaten with a fork or a spoon. Let’s be real, utensils for M&C is a hot-button issue (to whom, I’m actually unsure, but I am sure someone cares) and the consistency of this casserole should be bound together enough that you can enjoy it with a fork or spoon, or spork, or really even with whatever piece of silverware that you can find by the dim light of the fridge at night when your roommates are already asleep and you are hunched over, snacking on noodles and cheese cold from to-go container because what are leftovers, really, when the Perfect Mac and Cheese is so perfect that you can’t even leave it alone until the next day because you are powerless, fatally bound to its marvelously addicting ways.
  • is perfect because it exists simply to make you happy and fill you with joy, both literally, and calorically, and maybe, when everything in your life suddenly gets complicated, it’s okay to look forward to the simple (yet difficult to cook perfectly) things.

 

(P.S. the inspiration for all of this came from a deep-seated love of cheese since childhood and also the mac and cheese from Hillside Farmacy, quick, go order it now!!!!)

Trends That Are Gonna Be Really Big in 2016 (Probably)

Replacing our names with our favorite emojis in a row, which sounds quirky and millennial and somewhat cute, but will probably cause mass chaos and a loss of the written word that frankly, is a bit startling. (Mine will be the hairflip girl, the block of cheese and the cactus)

A Starbucks drink that’s just their biodegradable napkins torn up and drenched in vanilla syrup with espresso poured on top, because at this point they are out of ideas, yet the flavor-hungry masses must be kept on the edge of their Frappuccino-stained car seats in the drive-thru, ya know?

Selfie-ships; you won’t actually date this person or be in a relationship with this person, but you’ll both be in a binding pact to always like each other’s selfies from multiple accounts in order to bolster a fake and yet real self confidence. You’ll know it’s getting serious when they leave casual comments about the filter you chose as well.

People will nominate and write-in popular food pins from Pinterest for President as a joke (zoodles, mini pizzas in cupcake pans, chik-fil-a sauce recipe knockoffs, crockpot everything) but a slice of avocado toast end up taking the popular vote in at least 3 states, unashamedly

Shoes that actually morph into those ridiculous hoverboards that apparently every child and Internet Celebrity got for Christmas, which, I think will rule out guys that I see as potential dating partners, since I’ll just be able to look down and immediately judge. Also, while we’re on the subject, those lil Segway skateboard contraptions are NOT actually hoverboards because they have WHEELS and Marty McFly did not go into the future to settle for a sub-par hover experience, so maybe call them something else, okay, America??? Can we at least reserve “Hoverboard” for the Year 2022 invention that finally comes along when we defeat Bif Tannen and also finally get Jaws in 3D??? Is nothing sacred?!

Nutella, but packaged in those E-Z Cheese squeezy cans

Skill-learning educational classes streaming on Netflix that actually teach you the basic principles of detective work/police investigation/the American Justice System/med school/therapy/human psychology/computer hacking so that the feeling we all get of “Now that I have watched this fictional show about a subject, I am an expert on this subject” can be real. Looking at you, people who watch: How To Get Away With Murder, Making A Murderer, generally all shows with “murder” in the title, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, Dexter, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Oh, you didn’t need some type of therapy for the emotional highs and lows of Buffy??? What are you, an emotionless robot?) Mr. Robot, Lost, Six Feet Under, etc.

Rose gold everything, because there is never enough rose gold and you cannot stop me from buying it obsessively

Whole slices of cake. Listen, donuts have had their fun this year with National Donut Day, toppings of cereal and bacon and fried chicken and probably diamonds. They have appeared in so many staged Instagrams, they have been printed on every mug, notebook, phone case, and t-shirt at Forever21 so that the teenage girl wearing said shirt can tell the world “I Donut Care” or “I Donut Have Time For That” but how satisfying would it be to see people just carrying around huge slices of cake as breakfast on their morning commute and making them go viral with adorable icing-smeared photoshoots? Cake stays good a lot longer, cake is even good cold, and here’s a free t-shirt slogan for you: “Don’t Cake On My Plans” (It needs some work, I know)

Earmuffs. Nothing says classy like intentional fuzz in and around your ears

People actually put down their phones and talk to each other and pay attention to how fast our days go by and how much of life is spent alone on the internet when there is a rich, beautiful world out there!!!! (Except the time that you spend reading this blog. That internet alone time is very important in making me go viral)

This blog and I will go viral (but it’ll be for something stupid like a video of me ugly crying at another video of pug puppies or that one of my tweets to Oprah is finally replied to)

What October 2015 Looked Like

So, I cheated.

This sweet little corner of the internet that I call my own is usually reserved for strictly words, because pictures take too much time and editing and feel like work, where as words usually flow through me like a freshly opened mild sauce packet on a hot Cheesy Gordita Crunch or like a billowing unicorn mane in the breeze or even like a rushing, raging river that you definitely struggled to ford in the popular computer game,  Oregon Trail. What I mean to say is: writing is kinda my thing.

Anyway: I cheated.

Writer’s block has been taking over my 5’3 3/4″ (to be exact) frame like a plague lately, and I can’t seem to finish a sentence without my brain trailing off in 8 different directions, so rather than chastise my lack of words, I just channeled my millennial nature and decided to say “Why use words when you could use video?”

So, here’s the last month-ish of my life, written through an iPhone lens. It’s certainly not going to win any Oscars, but sometimes you just need a new creative outlet when your usual go-to is shaky or running low or just not flowin’.

Octoberish from Kelsey Manning on Vimeo.

Beauty Tips That I Didn’t Know But Now I Know

Matching your fingernail and toenail colors makes it look like you have your life organized and planned out and makes your typing much more productive at work, even when you just had to google a basic Microsoft Excel function because adulthood doesn’t come with a manual

Dark lipstick is great for intimidating men who walk up to you at a bar and say something like, “Why is your lipstick so dark?” as if this is what they perceive to be a clever pickup line when you know it’s dark because when that particular color hits your lips you look like a flawless goddess from an island of angels who somehow live half in heaven and half on earth so clearly it’s my earth-half time right now which is how I ended up in this bar in the first place; in other words, my lipstick is so dark because it looks GREAT, THANKS

On that same note, here is a list of people who can wear dark lipstick:

  • happy people
  • sad people
  • nice people
  • mean people
  • quiet people
  • loud people
  • people with a light complexion
  • people with a dark complexion
  • people who love socializing
  • people who hate socializing
  • people with hair of any color
  • people with no hair
  • people who own dark lipstick
  • people who don’t own dark lipstick yet

The Cosmetic Gods only allow your eyeliner wings to completely perfectly match approximately 10 times in your entire life- no more than that, no matter how many Sephora points you have. You’ll never exactly know when one of the 10 is about to happen, but when it does, take a step back and take it all in and take a selfie or two. You don’t even have to post said selfie, but you can keep it in a folder and look back at the one time everything came together for the good and made sense for just a few seconds, just a few beautiful seconds of perfection (Just don’t get too emotional unless your liner is waterproof)

17-year-old makeup blogger gurus on Youtube will somehow always know more  about contouring and strobing and baking and undertones than you. Don’t question it, don’t try to figure out why, but instead accept it and let it happen beyond your control like you do ATM fees, traffic jams, older people who post articles from The Onion on Facebook thinking they’re real, the sandwich artist who adds too much mustard to your sandwich when you clearly asked for light mustard, Justin Bieber’s choices in haircuts, Justin Bieber’s life choices in general, rain, allergies, etc.

Your eyebrows are sisters, not twins (that being said, there’s probably one sister you’d like to send off to boarding school until she gets her life together because honestly how is it so hard to grow the right way, you have one job, sister, and you’re not even showing up for work, I mean, it’s like you took a vacation without inviting the rest of my face and it’s all going south, much like this entire brow metaphor)

The face you make when you put on mascara is a gift to be shared with the world and you should never apologize for it

That being said, the lipstick-off-the-teeth-around-the-finger trick is best executed indoors, alone, away from judgy eyes

Blush is fun because blush can make it look like you worked out and got your blood pumping and became flushed with energy when actually the most physical thing you did today was heavy breathing from almost accidentally liking your ex’s 17-week-old photo on Instagram

Washing your makeup brushes at least once a week will help your skin breathe and make your products go on so much better and smoother, but also will therapeutically remove all the grossness of the last week and welcome the new fierceness that is just around the corner because maybe the money you could have spent on actual therapy you have actually spent on makeup, so it all balances out in way, I think

One time I thought it would be funny for Halloween to put on really heavy eye shadow and mascara and then cry some of it off or splash it with water and then when people asked, “What are you supposed to be?” I could just start singing that song that goes, “CAUSE YA HAD A BAD DAY, YOU’RE TAKIN ONE DOWN, YOU SING A SAD SONG JUST TO TURN IT AROUND” and I was convinced it would be so hilarious but I never really executed the idea, so there’s a freebie if you’d like to use it this year, also what ever happened to that guy who sang Bad Day? Is he still around? How much did he make from competitive singing reality shows that used to play that song every time someone lost? Did his day ever improve?

Finding a foundation shade that you love forever is hard, and when you finally find it, somewhere down the rocky road of loving your look, it will be discontinued or the price will increase or the formula will be altered and you’ll be back at square one, but, much like life, there are endless options available. You can start fresh and new whenever you want, no matter how much it seems like you’re stuck. Every single minute is a chance to break a bad habit or expand your knowledge or hold open a door for someone else or apply for a new opportunity or write a blog post for the first time in months or do just 10 more minutes on that treadmill. Changing your path isn’t as hard or heartbreaking as it seems, as long as you keep your chin up

(…and blended. For the love, please please please blend your foundation along your chin and jawline and fade it into your neck, please just do this one thing, I swear I’m not an expert but I love you and I want the best for you and your face and it looks so much better when there’s not a chin line, promise.)

LHG’s Top 14 Albums of 2014!

Okay, so I’m a week late, but hey, better late than never, right? It was once my all-time dream to write for SPIN Magazine and be the female Chuck Klosterman (okay, it still is my dream) but sometimes I realize that when I write about music, I am anything but objective. I’m usually emotional and my own feelings stem into the songs I love the most, so I guess what I’m really getting at is that if you’re looking for an unbiased report of the “best albums in 2014” you might want to click away. Below is the list of tracks that I loved, unashamedly, and probably obsessively talked my friends’ ears off about while they politely nodded.

Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff! Because I was raised in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation, I have to start by saying that there were a few albums that just missed my countdown, and are as such, “honorable mentions” of my year. In no particular order, they are:

All were excellent, and yes, all are linked to Spotify for your listening pleasure- but remember, vinyl is best!

What really went into permanent rotation and obsession in 2014? To the countdown!

14. Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits

These are the kids who were actually successful music majors and had fun while they were at it. Play this album at a dinner party, play this album in the car, but mostly play this album when you’re alone, because your attempts to singalong to Rachel Price and try to master her smooth, incredible voice might be in vain, but it’s still an amazing mix of songs to make you feel like you’re living in your own personal modern jazz club. (But seriously, when do I get to sound like her?)

Key Tracks: You Go Down Smooth, Seventeen, Bad Self Portraits, Rabid Animal

13. Bleachers, Strange Desire

Take the best things about the 80s- power rock, singalongs, John Hughes-esque scores, Yoko Ono, and whoa-whoa’s- and put them with the sharpest indie songwriter producer on the block currently and you’ll get Jack Antonoff’s baby: this album. Just reread that sentence, say yes, and play it.

Key Tracks: Wild Heart, Rollercoaster, I Wanna Get Better, You’re Still A Mystery

12. Miranda Lambert, Platinum 

There’s a reason this girl can do whatever she wants and is at the top of her game, and that’s song selection and vocal range. Miranda can do twang mixed with powerhouse guitars mixed with major harmonies and it all comes out perfect. Her clever songwriting has only gotten better, too, and I’m forever a fan.

Key Tracks: Platinum, Priscilla, Bathroom Sink, Old Sh!t, All That’s Left, Hard Staying Sober

11. Shakey Graves, And The War Came

A little local Austin love that’s going to be big this year. I can’t wait to see how 2015 treats him. You know that artist that weird indie kids who go to art school and your Dad’s best classic-rock-inclined friends both love? Oh, you don’t? Put on this album and find out.

Key Tracks: Only Son, Dearly Departed, The Perfect Parts, Hard Wired

10. Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

Hello country music and a woman- two things I have desperately missed out on seeing together in the same sentence. Lately the genre hasn’t put many women at the forefront, but Lee Ann Womack is leading the charge without even campaigning- just on the laurels of this album alone. If nothing else, I am convinced that she has the hands-down best voice in country music and that she is also a vocal angel sent here to save us all. Moreso, this album lets her take us to church (more on that metaphor later, though) with bluegrass-y goodness and sassy lyrics. What a lady.

Key Tracks: Chances Are, The Way I’m Livin’, Tomorrow Night in Baltimore

9. Noah Gundersen, Ledges

Warning: you might cry. This may not be the soundtrack to any sunny days, but when it rains it pours, and Ledges is a good flood to be caught in. Noah Gundersen writes honest songs that cut deep, but isn’t that why we love music? To help us express things, or at the very least, give us the means to say, “me too” to any revealing lyric? I hope so. Crack open a bottle of whiskey before you start this one, but don’t make any immediate plans, because you’ll need to digest feelings of love lost, worn childhood, addiction and bleak hope. Also, maybe turn your phone off to avoid that temptation to text your ex.

Key Tracks: Ledges, First Defeat, Liberator, Cigarettes

8. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else

It’s so hard for me to find women songwriters that I love, but when I do, I love them with the ferocity of a mother lion protecting her cubs, since I feel like the music industry doesn’t do a good job keeping them around. Fiercely so, Lydia Loveless earns her place in my heart and in this list as an all around badass. She and I are the same age, and for better or worse, her lyrics feel like I could have come out of my own journal, so for that fact I love her like she’s my own personal, darker and more relevant Taylor Swift (although, I have to admit that even though I’ve never been a T.S. kind gal, I actually liked 1989.) Regardless, hooray girl power! She’s the type of girl who’ll shoot a gun (and some whiskey) with you. She’s the type of girl with a killer record collection. She’s the type of girl who can make a song about drunkenly calling your ex sound almost romantic, and for that, I applaud her (and also realize drunk texts/calls are becoming a theme in this list? Oops.)

Key Tracks: Really Wanna See You, Wine Lips, To Love Somebody, Head, Somewhere Else

7. Eric Church, The Outsiders

If you didn’t know better, someone might try to tell you that Eric Church was a major country star. While that’s partially true, he’s also apparently a fan of every other genre, as he mixes them in this gem of an album. There’s nods of Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and yes, even some Hank Williams Jr in these tracks, but mostly, there’s a man who just loves music and songwriting and can’t stay in one place, and trust me when I say that I’m so thankful he doesn’t.

Key Tracks: Cold One, Talladega, Broke Record, That’s Damn Rock & Roll, Give Me Back My Hometown

6. St Paul & The Broken Bones, Half The City

Get ready for your ears to be rocked and taken back to a time when vocals and horns married together for a big-band-whoa-is-this-real-music-or-what moment that lasted. I dare you to not be blown away by the raw vocal talent of Paul Janeway (like how he completely nailed this Otis Redding cover!) Oh, and when his band joins in? Mm. HMM. You just go ahead and try not feel something. You feel it, don’t you? Feel it in your soul? That’s what this album does. Every song is a ride of funk mixed with fun that hits you in the insides. SPATBB mix lighthearted flirting in Call Me with pure, tear-me-in-half heartache on Broken Bones and Pocket Change, and  you’ll thank them for both. You’ll love this album, your Mom and Dad will love this album, and anyone nearby while you play it might just start dancing, so be warned. Oh, and seeing them live? You’re not even prepared.

Key Tracks: Like A Mighty River, Call Me, Broken Bones & Pocket Change, I’m Torn Up

5. Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time

If you don’t know, you might think this married couple has an entire backing band, but it’s just the two of them, consistently making music that’ll knock your socks off. This album is an instant classic (along with their 2012 release O’ Be Joyful) mostly because they mix the love of Johnny and June with the unhinged nature of Sid and Nancy, and the result is music that makes me so happy we don’t have to pick one genre. Go ahead and have em all: swamp, americana, rock, country, singer-songwriter, comical, sincere, and just simply, Shovels and Rope, preferable banging on drums and guitars all day long.

Key Tracks: The Devil Is All Around, Evil, After The Storm, Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan, Coping Mechanism

4. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

If you know me at all, it’s that I’m tired of apologizing for my love of country music, and I’ll be damned if this album didn’t help me overcome that. This album (literally) sounds like Waylon is living inside of every song, so of course I love it,  but it’s the way that Sturgill just did the whole thing- big labels be damned and released it independently. It sounds like old mixed with new, from lyrics about drug trips to  You don’t have to work on a farm to be authentic to the style, but the truth’s in the delivery and the sentiment, and Sturgill’s songwriting and musicianship proudly seal him with the title of “country” – a word that’s been tarnished and stepped on and redefined all the time. This new title is one that he won’t apologize for and I think it fits pretty damn well (not to mention the fact that it’s also a kickass album musically and his voice is a near-perfect gravel to tell you about the hard life he’s lived.)

Key Tracks: Turtles All The Way Down, Life of Sin, Living The Dream, Long White Line, The Promise

3. Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

If you’ve loved Ryan Adams even a little, then this album is for you (and since I love him like a lot, I’m still preaching on its perfection). He’s struck several chords between rock and roll to Americana to sad-drunk-guy-serenading you and this album has all of them mixed together. I finally got the chance to see him live this year, too, so hearing these on stage mixed with “My Winding Wheel” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Magnolia Mountain” along with his sincerity and excitement to be playing in Austin also makes this album a sentimental pick. But more than that, it’s always amazing to see someone who’s been around so long still make consistently great music, and this collection of tracks makes me just as excited for whatever he puts out next. Plus, ask any fan of Tom Petty and/or sound-engineer friend you have and they’ll rave about this one for a while. (Oh, you didn’t know all sound engineers loved Tom Petty or you don’t have sound engineer friends who talk about gear all day? Lucky you.)

Key Tracks: Kim, Shadows, My Wrecking Ball, Feels Like Fire

2. Damien Rice, My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Ahh yes. For 8 years, 8 LONG YEARS, I have waited for this day. I have blogged multiple times (embarrassingly) about how much I wanted a new Damien Rice album to happen. I have set @damienrice’s tweets to be delivered to my phone in case he announced anything new, partly in fact that I am overcoming a 9th grade fangirl love of him, and partly because his old albums meant so much to me that I could hardly imagine a new one, and this one….well, sigh. It wasn’t the same—but that’s what made it even more perfect! It was Damien 8 years later, broken up with his longtime collaborator Lisa Hannigan, and I was me 8 years later, also having broken up with a few people and habits since he last gave me an album to love in 2006. This album was new for both of us, short but sweet, packing honest-to-a-fault lyrics with sweeping instrumentals and gorgeous vocals and sentiments that put him on the map in the first place. You feel like you could crush the sincerity of this album with its delicate moments, but at the same time, it’s so comfortable to fall back into his emotionally-charged world that you might not leave. Maybe someday I’ll stop loving sad music, but probably not.

Key Tracks: ALL OF IT! But, if you make me choose: The Greatest Bastard, I Don’t Want To Change You, Colour Me In, It Takes A Lot To Know A Man

1. Hozier, Hozier

It takes a lot of soul and goosebumps-inducing sounds to steal the top spot as a new artist from all my other favorites, but this album did it in a huge way. Besides my obvious crush on Hozier, his voice and his man bun, these tracks all hit me right in my heart and ears and didn’t leave. Before the world caught on to Take Me To Church (and yes, I admitedly sound totally hipster with that sentence) I was living in Nashville and uncomfortable with my life, relationships and job, and I remember the local radio station started playing this amazing song that bowled me over the first time I heard it, driving down 8th avenue to work at 4 AM. It swelled and it felt emotional and it felt like something brand new,  and has stuck with me since. There’s a joy in getting wrapped up in an album and this one did it for me from start to finish, and well into all the live performance videos I researched on Youtube, too. Hozier’s the real deal, putting everything into live performances while also making artful albums with both rock and soul, and I have a feeling 2015 is going to be good to him and to my new obsession with him.  Speaking of, if any of you know of any cute single guys with man buns and guitars, well…

Key Tracks: NO, SERIOUSLY, ALL OF IT. but if you make me pick: Jackie and Wilson, Someone New, Work Song, To Be Alone

Whew! Since you made it this far- 2 things:

1. Here’s a playlist of my key tracks as a reward:

2. I want to hear from you! Surely I can’t be alone in my music snobbery! What were your favorite albums of 2014?

Hannah Hunt

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a “Best Albums and Songs of 2014” list as a blog post, which I will invariably have to make because it would be a tragedy to you as the internet to not hear what a 24-year-old music snob considers the best few minutes of instruments and voices to be released this year, and also because this was actually a year in which two of my favorite musicians of all time put out highly-anticipated new albums that both gave me a lump in my throat upon listening. However, before talking about the good, I guess you have to talk about the other stuff, right?

I didn’t make a “Best Albums of 2013” blog post last year, but if I did, I’m sure Modern Vampires Of the City would be on it. MVOTC is an album that came out last year by a band called Vampire Weekend that has probably been the butt off too many “so-called” hipster jokes (but also one I personally never wrote about, so I guess not every hipster joke, right?). It was well-received in the indie music circles that obsess over 4-piece scruffy white dude bands and way-too-highly paid music critics who work for Rolling Stone and SPIN alike. It was a slightly different sound for Vampire Weekend and I know that there’s some technical term that escapes me for the way the audio engineer mixed the tracks, but suffice it to say that it sounded more “recorded” and “new age”. It still had bouncy melodies and tribal drums and nonsense lyrics that were fun to guess like Vampire Weekend’s older 2 albums and it ended up as a huge spring-to-summer playlist pick of 2013.

I guess it was a small bit personal, too.

I remember that you bought the album before I did, since you were always reliable at doing so. My memories are a little shaky, but I would almost go so far as to say that I think you preordered it on vinyl, as that was a habit that only solidified our chemistry, because we both valued tangible old-school technology and actually paying for music we loved. Living in Nashville at the time gave us this automatic veil of respect for the art of an album that we carried like a banner everywhere we went, and liner notes were our bibles. “Music City” is a nickname we hate but love in its simple perfection, because it fit our favorite thing to talk about. This unbridled passion for talented artists and very lifeblood of discussing new songs we heard on the local radio station that were about to blow up or how every band was trying to be the Lumineers in 2013 (which sucked) or how the Grammys were a joke yet somewhat important fueled our conversations at Tennessee coffeehouses and off-the-highway dive bars, which were, coincidentally, also full of other critics and songwriters drinking and discussing and karaoke-ing, too.

But, I digress.

Before I purchased Modern Vampires Of The City, a good friend of ours had told me that she’d nearly been moved to tears upon the first listen, which wasn’t an uncommon compliment in our musically-saavy community, but still stuck out in my mind. A few days later, you had listened to the whole album one night (with a glass of whiskey nearby and the candle I convinced you to buy at Target burning) and told me all about it over the phone in a tone of almost-reverence. It may not have been the most important album your well-tuned ears had heard, but you convinced me that I needed to listen to it because it was really something. 

And so, I did listen to it in your car the next day. We were driving around Interstate 440 with multiple people in the backseat- naturally, I was riding shotgun, as my neediness was in full swing- and Modern Vampires Of The City was playing as our background music, which isn’t terrible, but, as we both agreed, isn’t ideal for the first listen of an album when you’re trying to analyze it and see if it stands out. Oddly enough, you kept skipping Track 6 with little explanation, just mentioning that neither you nor I was  “ready” for it. About an hour or so later, we’d dropped off our caravan of riders and were alone the car. You looked at me with a seriousness that felt odd for a midday drive, and then you skipped to Track 6 with the dashboard controls.

“It’s time. You ready?”

(Sidenote: This was always something I admired about you: how you let things speak for themselves. I always feel the need to upsell my favorite things to people before letting them dive in, as if they require rationalization, but you were convinced great things held their own weight. I would have given a speech on why Track 6 would change your life, but you just pressed play with a confidence and the tiniest hint of a “you’ll-thank-me” smirk.)

It began. We listened to 3 minutes and 58 seconds of indie-music-somewhat-love-song bliss in full with the sun shining through the car windows, like we were scoring the soundtrack our own poorly-directed episode of Girls or a dollar-store imitation of Garden State. It was my first listen to this particular track but it sure-as-hell hit me. This was so different for this band we’d both loved- it sounded so personal. With the speakers up high and Ezra Koenig’s voice pleading with me about being afraid of growing older and trust and time and money, I felt very 23 and just a little emotional. Suddenly, at the 2:39 mark, the song just changed oh-so-slightly and that was it- I was hooked. I wanted this song in my back pocket at all times and I wanted to hear it again and I wanted to talk about it, but also not talk about it right away as to not ruin the magic or the moment.

You sighed pretty heavily as it faded out and simply said, “…and that’s Hannah Hurt” after the song finished playing, and we drove around some more without speaking for a few minutes, as if it was still all sinking in. I’m sure eventually we changed the conversation to Instagram or other records out that week or where we wanted to eat that night, but I remember that 3 minute and 58 second nothing-but-music moment as clear as day. Oddly enough, your original song title was actually incorrect. The song’s name is actually “Hannah Hunt” but your substitution of “Hurt” was an interesting quirk and a point that I’d try to write into every later story of us I told, but could never do successfully, as if it was supposed to be foreshadowing or mean something deeper.

It didn’t.

Regardless, “Hannah Hunt” (/Hurt) would stay with me heavily for several months, whether I wanted it to or not. It would be a song that I would turn to if I wanted to think about you when you were gone, a song that I’d play if I wanted to cheaply exploit my own emotions, and a song that I’d listen to on repeat on both good and bad days. Every time I heard it I went bittersweetly back to your car and that lazy afternoon and listening to something beautiful and sad that I loved all at the same time, with someone I loved at the same time who was a little sad and beautiful, too.

I heard it again last week and it wasn’t the same. I was driving home from work on a particularly windy Austin road and my shuffle-mode iPod decided to grace me with the same quiet beginning and light driving piano I know oh-so-well. I instantly remembered that day over a year ago in a different state and I remembered sitting shotgun in your car and I remembered seeing your face and your haircut I loved that you got after we’d met, but it wasn’t overpowering. It was simply a song that brought something back and though my heart still swelled in my chest at the 2:39 mark, I was okay after it ended. All the hard stuff about reliving the past and relationships ending and moving on and moving away wasn’t attached to it anymore. It was just track 6 on Modern Vampires Of The City, a track I liked, a track I could singalong to and talk about, and most of all, a track that told a story and let a memory exist again for 3 minutes and 58 seconds peacefully. You know, without hurting.

My eventual “Best Songs of 2014” List is full of singer-songwriters and high-rated indie releases that I’ll claim took the most out of me these 12 months and captured my attention and ears and heart, but I’m sure that tucked into the mixtape of songs that really stuck with me this year, “Hannah Hunt” will exist, as it has for over a year now.

And, maybe just as a personal gesture, I’ll go for a drive with it playing and think about sunshine on dashboards and breathe in every note, because I can, and because things are okay. Time changes your favorite things but also heals them.

Plus, when you really think about it, my car speakers are just as loud, there’s a lot of road ahead, and the album doesn’t stop after Track 6.

Things We Need To Start Complimenting Each Other On In Our Twenties

That parallel parking job you did was so expert! The whole time you were googling the restaurant before we left to see if they had a lot and then when you found out it was only street parking, you tried to casually suggest somewhere else for brunch, but regardless, when we arrived, you pulled between two large oddly-spaced vehicles with such ease, never losing your cool. You even kept the in-car conversation going, pretending as if you weren’t internally panicking about accidentally backing up 3 centimeters too far and totally embarrassing yourself! You’ll surely be able to get out of that spot, too, without having to walk home. Kudos!

Way to go on your salad! We all saw you chomping down on several green leaves of lettuce at lunch and could actually manage to still make out the colors of the vegetables present, instead of only seeing a pool of ranch dressing. We hope this isn’t too forward, but are you going all organic? Are you participating in a clean eating challenge on social media? Regardless, your choice in lunchtime wellness is truly an inspiring choice to us all. Get yourself a pizza for dinner, you health guru, you.

You put on actual pants today! I know you had the option to walk out of your house in pajama material or stay home and disregard them altogether for some terrible Lifetime made-for-tv movie that somehow sucks you in every time, but you, by an act of your own selflessness and determination, truly took it to the next level and wore actual fabric with a zipper attached out into the world. Your extra effort to clothe yourself will never go in vain. We are all proud of how you pulled it together and put on a professional front…and back, technically.

Your email response time was impeccable! You may be a pro at avoiding long work message-chains that require a thought-out and spellchecked response, but you tackled this one with sincerity, speed and aplomb, instead of letting it hang over your head all afternoon. I don’t want to presume anything, but are you going to check your voicemails next, too? An overachiever like you is hard to find, so keep up the perfect pace.

Congrats on not bringing up your past failed relationships! I know that it was really tempting to harp on your ex that you can’t forget or share your breakup stories again at a volume that the whole rest of the coffee shop could hear, but you managed to politely continue the conversation without resurrecting your emotional baggage! Even when those friends you were with brought up engagement rings and babies, you kept smiling like the token “cool girl” from a movie that doesn’t have insecurities, and remained somewhat calm in your own single skin. Hip, hip, hooray for you and your heart!

How about that fancy drink you just consumed?! We may still be young, but you truly pulled a sophistication card by ordering something other than PBR, bottom-shelf wine, and “just whatever is the well liquor”. Did you just ask for a cocktail that didn’t have “bomb” in the name and decide to also sip on a water at a bar that has some actual lighting instead of only neon signs? Adulthood looks good on you.

Let’s hear it for you NOT bailing on plans! First pants, now this- wow! Fighting the temptation to stay in and watch another season of the ever-addictive Game Of Thrones (because, dragons) is a tough task, but you actually followed through with the invitation to be outside your house- in public!– and faced the fear of not knowing enough people where you were going or being over or underdressed, and you did it in style. Think of the memories you made tonight, think of the Instagram-worthy moments that happened, and think about how even if you still watched an episode of Game Of Thrones when you got home, you still maintained a friendship or two just by showing up. Good job, pro.

You made a thing! You put effort and time and your own talents into making a business plan, a painting, a screenplay, a big event, a comic book, an album, a poem, a casserole, a thesis, a fun youtube video, the first draft of a novel, a cheap bookshelf for your apartment, a killer resume, a handmade gift, an important speech, or just a great outfit, and you made that thing with your own two hands. You might have had help, you might have failed once or twice (or forty times) getting it there, but you actually created in a world that tells you that our generation doesn’t create anymore. It doesn’t matter how small an accomplishment, because you crafted and labored and put actual thought into something beyond yourself, and for that, the best compliment I can give is, Fantastic! Splendid! Delightful! Delicious! Crazy-Good! Life-Changing!

Now, go do it all again.