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Part Three: The Things We Carry With Us

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

This is my handbag, a purple Brooklyn Industries mini duffle, with seatbelt material handles. It’s a tough little item that’s built like Doctor Who’s time traveling machine, The Tardis, small on the outside massive within! It was bought for me in Williamsburg by a guy I was dating. I didn’t know I was dating him at the time; it’s all good though, no bad Feng Shui here, it’s a savage bag!

It wasn’t until I emptied my bag out that I realized how much stuff I carry about with me, loads of lady items, writing utensils and audio/visual recording devices. I clearly think it’s important to be moisturized and fresh, and I don’t want to miss anything that happens.

There is an outside zippered pocket on the front in which I keep a few things for easy access, and also pockets on either end.


Itouch – I need music with me always. I hosted and produced a music radio show for 13 years and now write about music. I get access to so much eclectic amazing  music of all genres, I’m one lucky chick.

Book – The First Time I Got Paid For it, A collection of essays written by writers of film and television, in which they discuss the first time they actually got paid for their writing. It’s honest and frankly written; my favorite entries are by Cameron Crowe, Pamela Gray, and Peter Casey. It’s a good read.

HD Flip – This camera is awesome, and for under $400 it provides exceptional HD video footage. The audio is also brilliant. I’ve used it to shoot video at concerts, the quality is unbelievable.

Fruit leather – If my sugar levels dip, I become a psycho. I am Hypoglycemic and have to eat something every 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar levels up, if I don’t I’m a complete unfocused weirdo!

Leatherman Juice – Don’t leave home without it. It’s bright pink, has 18 features, and I use it everyday, everyone should have one, period.

Wallet – Cheap and cheerful.

3 sharpies

3 black ballpoints

Cupcake printed tissues

Woolly $2 pink gloves


One brand condom

EQ  natural peppermint spray hand sanitizer

Pictures of my niece and nephews


3 lip glosses

Burt’s Bees lip-balm

Hand Food crème from Soap & Glory UK

$1 goodwill sunshades

Long distance calling card – You never know when you’re going to have to call a long distance number, a family member overseas, a band you’re supposed to interview, a tour manager you can’t find at a venue. It’s always good to be prepared.

Note book  - For scribbling interview questions, poetry, prose, blog post ideas, random snippets of conversations heard on public transportation etc.

Stamps – International, Canadian and US postage

Make-up – blush and eye shadow compact.

Cyber shot – Sony Camera.

Camouflage mini zippered bag – I put all the little things inside.

Fabric Strawberry – turns into an enviro-bag

Mini agenda – Orange book, keeps me on track.

Glass blue beaded rosary –  from Grandma for good luck. She’s a Jew turned Catholic, wonders never cease.

See parts one and two of The Things We Carry With Us...

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

On Spring & High School Dances

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Spring is here! And so are teenage traumas.

Spring is here! Birds are singing; days are elongating; and prom dresses are hanging on the department store racks once again. Yes, I can always tell it’s spring by the prom dresses. When I know spring has come, when I finally see those prom dresses—those frilly tents o’ tulle and chiffon—hanging haughtily on the department store racks once again, I think back to my high school dance experiences. I think back to the one time I got asked to Homecoming by the great and terrible Lucas Lumbrugdelia IV.

Lucas and I were both freshman and played in the school band together. I played flute; he played saxophone. In general, brass-playing males are an attractive bunch (the horn is an alpha-male instrument and shows off the masculine curve of the bicep), but Lucas was definitely the one exception to the attractive brass-player rule. He literally had a hunched back (bless his heart), a mad mop of red hair, countless freckles and an overall awkwardness to top it off. Discounting maybe my own biological father, there couldn’t have been anyone I would have been more mortified to go with to Homecoming.

Lucas popped the question to me a week before the dance, just after one of our boring band rehearsals. I was walking out of the band room, flute in hand, when I felt his awkward presence come up behind me. He was cumbersomely carrying his saxophone, and the staccato stuttering of his steps, baritone banging of his backpack and cymbalic clashing his saxophone case made when it hit the side of his leg all combined to create a sort of nails-on-the-chalkboard orchestration in my head. I looked straight ahead, purposefully ignoring him and the annoying symphony, and walked faster, faster; but he didn’t relent. Using his long, gangly, freckled legs to gain some ground, he pulled up beside me and took a deep breath. I knew what was coming (I knew by then that he liked me, that he was going to ask me), but I kept on pretending he wasn’t there, kept on looking straight ahead. Acting as if no eye contact or general acknowledgment of the other person is necessary in starting a conversation, he proceeded to unashamedly blurt out—

“Hey, Megan Michelle, are you going to Homecoming?”

Still looking straight ahead, I replied with a vague, “Ummm, I’m not sure.”

Capitalizing upon the vagueness, he quickly said, “Well, would you like to go with me?”

By the time that line was out, I was beet red and walking faster than most people jog.

I should have let him down gently. I should have said, “Oh, Lucas, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever asked me, but I really don’t think I can say yes to you. I wouldn’t be any fun, and there are so many other girls who would love to go with you.” Yes, I should have just lied and said something sweet, but I was Megan Michelle, and Megan Michelle doesn’t believe in sugar-coating or burying truths; so instead, I said:


That’s it. I just said, “Naaahhhh,” like a sheep, like a sheep says, “Naaahhhh.”

I said it as I literally sprinted up the stairs to my Algebra class and left him standing alone in the middle of the hallway with that answer, and that answer alone, ringing in both of our ears.

When I think back on it now, I feel kind of bad. When I see those frilly prom dresses now, I feel kind of bad. When spring arrives, I think of dear Lucas Lumbrugdelia IV, of boys who risk it all, who only get a sheep’s bleat in return for their hearts; and I say a prayer, a blessing for all of the poor, pubescent peoples out there who are treading tenaciously through their own teenage traumas:

“May the Lord God Zeusisiah bless you and keep you, Traumatized Teenagers! May He make His face shine down upon you, Poor Pubescent Peoples, and give you grace and/or peace!”

Miss Megan Michelle is a former Classics Major, greatly-skilled Goatherdess and full-time Romantic who has always loved The Living Logos.

Part Two: The Things We Carry with Us

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I used to carry a messenger bag and the straps always got all twisted up and the weight didn’t carry evenly on my back. So I know aesthetically I’m losing with my North Face Recon backpack. What I’m gaining in comfort makes up for it. This particular backpack hasn’t been with me that long, maybe a year, but I have a feeling it’ll be there for me for a long time. It’s sturdy, and that’s one of the things you need with a good bag–you’re putting your life into it, it should be sturdy.

It’s got a lot of straps and a lot of pockets and I like that. I need compartments or I never know where anything is.

There’s usually a water bottle in the side pocket with water or bags of green tea or protein powder waiting to be made into a pre-workout shake. I don’t eat meat in a country that is pretty meat-heavy so I need my protein. I’m not a musclehead. Honest.

The front pocket contains:

Pens of all kinds. Cheap Pilot knockoff black ink rollers, cheap red ballpoints for marking student papers, purple kid markers, Sharpies, really anything I can get my hands on.

A leatherman that isn’t a real leatherman and you can tell the difference, but it’s still extremely useful. That thing has come into play more times than you think. It’s almost like I wouldn’t fix half the things I fix if I didn’t know I had it with me. If you carry it, the fixing will come.

An iPhone that doesn’t work as a phone in Korea, but works as my iPod, my camera, my dictionary, and occasionally my notepad.

A passport-sized photo.

A lock.


In the main pocket I keep the things that I really need, such as:

A pair of slip-on sandals. No one wears shoes inside here, not in their homes, not in restaurants, nowhere. You can usually find sandals to wear when you get places, but not in my size. So I keep my sandals with me.

Sanctuary by William Faulkner. Be thankful that you’ve never been raped by a corn cob.

A leather-bound notebook made in Italy full of illegible writing.

A clementine a student gave me a week ago that I just discovered when I was unpacking it for the picture for this article.

A lightweight rainjacket folded up in the back pocket. I hate carrying umbrellas.

On the top handle is a strap to keep your pants out of the gears when you’re riding a bicycle.

Bart Schaneman is an American writer. He writes about his travels and about Nebraska. Read more of his writing at http://bartschaneman.wordpress.com and http://rainfollowstheplow.wordpress.com.

Essay by DM Stith

Monday, March 1st, 2010

In 2007, I attended the MusicNow festival in Cincinnati. I hadn’t yet fallen in love with the Dessner brothers’ work with The National, hadn’t met the owners of Asthmatic Kitty, or known Shara well for more than a year. I went because I was tired of a long Buffalo winter. I was lucky enough to attend all three days of the festival–Clogs premiered the songs that finally this year are being released on their new album, and Sufjan played some songs that have yet to be released… so in some ways, it’s not so long ago, but the experience is contained in my mind inside a fine gauze like mold, preserved in embryonic purity like a mosquito in amber or a baby boot in metal. The buildings in that part of Cinci seemed half-drowned. Those that boxed in Washington Park were coated to the top of the first floor windows with some sterile light-blue heavy-grade paint. Probably to cover graffiti marks. The store-fronts were all empty, and I had the impression that the blue line was a watermark, like in the Erie Canal locks near my hometown–the water lowers to meet the level of the lock below, accepts a passenger, and then closes and raises to meet the level of the next lock. The walls when they drain spit and gurgle with zebra mussels deposited in the locks by passing boats. The shells of the mussels are sharp, so you don’t touch them. It was all I could think as I was walking up the long front steps to the music hall. In my memory, those front steps ascended to the tree tops and the building peeked over them, a pantheon dome, a buoy, a great cement pig belly floating in the spume. The whole three days of music was rich. Almost to illness. Three nights of feasting after near starvation for a year. On the final night, husband and wife duo Irena Havlová and Vojtěch Havel performed a tremendously tender piece culminating with a functional embrace as they worked out a piano ostinato together–she holding the inner octaves, and he reaching the highs and lows around her. This only after a full 40 minutes of minimal scrapes and drones on their cellos. In the balcony next to me, a young man stowed a can of PBR under his coat and complained about the monotonous music until that final few minutes in which all the agitation and confusion of the young audience was transformed into a camera draw.

I drove home through a blizzard — an eruption of white and wind through Cleveland. Some angels somewhere are responsible for keeping me awake during the drive. I couldn’t see more than 10 feet ahead of the hood, and the road was entirely white. I rode the rumble strip all the way through Ohio. I was exhausted and I kept the driver’s side window open so that wind would keep me awake. Three times I came in visual contact with the angel itself: first in the form of a sunfish swimming towards me through a squall just north of Dayton, about the size of a bicycle tire. The second it was in the form of a snake with antlers and it scuttled along the rumble strip in front of me. The third time it formed out of a heap of fast food trash, a fox lying on its side. It looked hurt and so I started to pull over to get a better look at it, but as I slowed to a stop, a wind picked up and I was again completely enveloped in the squall. When the winds died down, a squad of snow removal behemoths came up from behind, slow and laboring into view. I followed them out of Ohio and up over the Appalachian ridge of Pennsylvania and into New York State.

The muse is like the scent of a meal being prepared–more intense the closer you get to the source, but the muse isn’t the source itself. I wake up each morning to the smells of food being prepared a floor below me in a soup shop that shares our building. Sometimes I become so accustomed to the smells that I don’t notice them until I’ve left the house or returned from somewhere else.

Essay: How Green Will the Valley Get?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Because I’m editing a summer chapter in my book, I’ve been thinking a lot about what will happen when the thaw comes to the Hard 50 Farm. What will the trees look like around the pond once they have leaves? What is under all that frozen soil and snow by the bones of the old plow? Will it look like spring by the time I’m back from tour? How green will the valley get?

When I initially began writing the book, I was living in Virginia behind an off-limits nature preserve that I would sneak into every day. This second shot was taken alongside a saltwater lagoon in the preserve after the daily monsoon of a thunderstorm came (3pm, like clockwork.) The giant, ancient tree that I’m in grew out over the water and I would climb it, walk along the sidewalk of its massive horizontal trunk, and sit in the V and watch the turtles rise up in the murk. The air after the rain was always hot and wet and rich. By dusk the fireflies would lift up out of the long grass. I was so incredibly depressed.

In the photo it looks like I’m falling out of the tree. It’s not a good photo, but I like the deception of the angle and how it’s hazy and shot up into the light. I like it because that was how the summer in Virginia felt—like a deception, a hideaway disguised as an exile, every day hot and washed-out by sun. Here’s to the good long summer to come and me and you being around for it…

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com

Photo Essay: Good Morning! Good Morning.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Greeting the February Saturday  from the literal backyard of a pharmaceutical giant/feeling downright NPR about the whole thing.

DAVID SANKEY graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State) in the Spring of 2008. He is getting used to splitting his time between north and central New Jersey. He enjoys art making of all kinds. He is a founding member of and frequent contributor to The Fir Coat. For more of his work, visit www.davidsankey.net

Essay: We Die

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The big blond one with the white baseball cap hit me square on the jaw and I went down. As I lay on the ground he and his friend kicked me and the kicks didn’t do much but when they began to stomp on my chest I knew the fight had changed.

After they left me, I lay in the grass under the moon and had a conversation with myself. Broken nose? No. Teeth? Nothing loose. Good. Jaw? Fine. Arms, legs. Fine. Ribs? Yeah, they did the ribs. The ribs again...

The first time I fractured my ribs I was on tour in England. How they were busted isn’t important but the pain built all week and by Bristol it was bad. We had left the venue and were at the after-party when the combination of booze and pain and no sleep joined forces and a panic attack came on. As it got worse, I was sure I was done. I knew without a doubt that my cracked ribs were poking into my organs and that it was only a matter of time before one of them burst and filled my body cavity with bacteria and toxins and bile. Then, naturally, death, and a bad one.

This, of course, was the panic attack talking but that didn’t matter. I made the fatal mistake of believing the voice. Of course I’m dying. Of course my organs are popping like water balloons and poisoning my bloodstream. Of course.

In the ambulance, they put me on oxygen and my panic attack passed but the pain didn’t. At the hospital I was taken to a room where they ran X-rays and blood tests and gave me an EKG. Beyond that, everything was blurry. I was in the warm, loose, post-panic attack haze, my mind still a jumble of paranoia cycles and memory holes and wormy logic. I knew I wasn’t having a panic attack anymore and I knew I wasn’t going to die but that was all I was sure of.

Three hours later the diagnosis came and I tried to listen to the doctor as he gave it to me. His voice faded in and out, “… full set of fractured ribs, left side… they’ll heal on their own but it will be slow… a year, year and a half … very gradual… try not to exert yourself… try not to cough, sneeze, lift anything heavy, run, walk fast, bend over quickly, sleep in unnatural positions or breathe harder than usual.”

Walking back to the waiting room, a nurse stopped me. Tall. Middle-aged. Swirls of gray and black hair pulled up into a bun. She had the face of a cop, the bulldog jowls, authority and poise.

Okay, I know this part, I thought. Let the hammer fall…

“Wait,” she said, looking down at her clipboard. “I believe we haven’t taken your name.”

“Uh, Adam.” It was a gamble. Act confused. Give your first name. Nothing to trace. I hadn’t filled out any paperwork yet. I’d been wheeled in, worked on, and excused. They hadn’t so much as looked at my passport.

“Alright, Adam. Hope you heal well.”

“Oh, okay, thanks. That’s all?”

“That’s all. Enjoy the rest of your stay in England.”

A few days later the promoter of that night’s show drove me to his house where his friends made me supper.

There was an American girl there. She had been living in the UK long enough to adopt a vaguely British tone but she was still American and she had a nice face and it felt good to talk to someone from home. We sat around the kitchen table and ate penne pasta with tomato sauce.

“Yeah, just like that,” I said. “They asked me my name and I left. I didn’t even give my last name. No paperwork. No questions. Didn’t pay a cent.” I took a forkful of pasta and shoved it in my mouth.

“Back home you would’ve paid … wow, I don’t even remember.

“For the ambulance ride and hospital visit? Ten, fifteen thousand?”

“Totally. God. Have you seen Sicko?” she asked.


“The new Michael Moore.”


“I cried,” she said. “I watched it twice at the cinema and cried both times. You’d think a country would … I don’t know, at least try to keep its people in good shape. Sick people, sick country. It’s bad business. You wouldn’t do that if you were managing a sports team. You’d want everyone healthy so you could win.” She tore the end off a baguette and mopped up the rest of the sauce from her plate. “Money, pharmaceutical companies… it’s such… it’s a rich man’s game.”

We sat in silence finishing our food.

The promoter came in the room with a bottle of red wine and set it in front of us.

“Hiya! Y’alright?” he asked cheerfully.

“I’m good,” I said. “Thank you for dinner. It was really good.”



The girl turned to him. “We were talking about Sicko.”

“Oh, man. I like visiting America but I couldn’t imagine living there. I’d be terrified to do anything,” he said as he struggled with the cork.

“Here, let me,” the girl said and he handed her the bottle. “I still remember how it was when I lived there,” she said as she pulled out the cork and set the opener aside. “You can’t live in fear but it’s always in the back of your mind. Like, what if I just took the wrong step.”

“Does anyone you know in America have health insurance?” the guy asked, sitting down across from me.

“None of my friends,” I said. The girl poured three coffee mugs of wine. I took mine and drank half of it and my face went warm. “Yeah, nobody.”

“That’s crazy, man,” the guy said. “Health care isn’t even something we think about here. I mean I’m well chuffed with NHS but we don’t think about it. It just is.”

“My new plan,” I started to say, and then cleared my throat, “my new plan after what happened in Bristol is if I get hurt in America my friends will put me on a plane, send me to London Heathrow and I’ll take the first cab to the ER. The plane ticket would be expensive of course but I’d save thousands in hospital bills.”

“What happens to people in America without health insurance when they get, y’know, really sick?” the guy asked.

“We die.”

Naw, mate. Really… ” he said.

We die.”

The girl got up and carried her plate to the sink. She ran the tap water but she didn’t rinse the plate. She held it in her hands and the water ran and she stared out the window. She looked back at us and then turned away again. Her shoulders began to shake and I knew she was crying.

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com