Monthly Archives: October 2020

Turn Up The Volume

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I tried my best to keep to writing two to three times a week, but life has a funny way of ruining that routine. My goal is to continue on with posting as many times as originally planned, and not allow certain things to get in the way of what makes me happy. Which is writing.

The way things have been going recently, I thought it was best to share another music post. Lately, music and true crime podcasts have been my short head-phone getaway from reality.

So, here a few songs I’d like to share with ya’ll

1. I Remember Her – Ingrid Michaelson

The first time I listened to this song was after my Mom-Mom passed in 2016. She was my rock. I drove down from Philly to visit her and slept overnight in the hospital two nights in a row because I didn’t want her to be alone. When times are tough, I long to be able to give her a call. Since I can’t, I turn to music that reminds me of her to give me a sense of comfort. Songs that comfort us, and remind us of loved ones that are no longer here are so important.

2. Cruel to be Kind – Letters to Cleo

Oh my love for 10 Things I Hate About You – I love the movie and I love the soundtrack. Whenever I hear this song I find it nearly impossible to be in a bad mood. The lines from this movie are timeless. Tell me, can you ever just be…whelmed?

3. Turn Your Lights Down Low – Ms. Lauryn Hill feat. Bob Marley

This song is exquisite AND beautiful. Their two voices balance each other so well even if it is digitally done. If this song was a scene in nature it would be a field of colorful wild flowers set against a vibrant lilac tangerine sky. I needed to listen to this song a few times on repeat to mellow myself out over the past month.

4. Glenn Miller Medley – Judy Garland and Martha Raye

Most people don’t know, but I am a huge Glenn Miller fan. I also have a bit of a soft spot for the classic Gay Icon, Judy Garland. Combining the two just brings me flutters of Gay bliss. If you didn’t know this song existed, and you’re a fan of either – I highly recommend it.

5. Sunshine – Johnathan Edwards

The first time I heard this song I was living in Philly and it was right after I pulled myself out of deep dark rock bottom. I would listen to it frequently just to pep myself up and remind myself there is a bright future ahead. If this doesn’t do that for you, did this remind you of a song that does? Go seek that song out and listen – now.

6. My Chemical Romance

Full disclosure, I thought I was too cool to listen to or like My Chemical Romance when they first came out (I know, lame). However, fun fact – my Dad was and still is a huge MCR fan. It is because of him that I know their albums from start to finish after the many times of riding around with him and their music would be ALWAYS be on in his car. For some reason, I have been playing their songs on full volume lately and it has been centering me more than anything else has been able to. The truth is, I’m not okay (pun may or may not be intended).

7. Effect and Cause – The White Stripes

I hated the White Stripes until a college boyfriend (yes, this was before I came out…. and just a note that relationship taught me a lot about myself. He is a great guy and I will forever be grateful for the bond we did have.) broke down for me the raw talent of both Jack and Meg. I will say it took weeks of convincing though. This is the one song that still sticks with me because of the line, “you can’t take the effect and make it the cause, I didn’t rob a bank because you made up the law.”

8. Got ‘Til It’s Gone – Janet Jackson (Q-Tip, Joni Mitchell)

When I saw Janet perform this (honestly her whole set was flawless) in Vegas over a year ago, my mind was blown. She is a performer in all sense of the word. This song is a true bop and what we all need now is a good song to bop to.

9. It’s a Beautiful Life – Ace of Base

Back in my younger days, like three years old, “I Saw the Sign” was my absolute favorite song. There is video footage to prove this, somewhere. For me now, I love listening to Ace of Base for nostalgia sake but this song I am sharing particular because it takes me back to a time of innocence and bliss.

10. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston remix

Oh Philly Gayborhood days, how I miss you so much. I miss my chosen family there, I miss the environment, I miss all the gays roaming the streets, and I just miss the feeling of blindly belonging to a community. This song represents so many good memories, with some pretty spectacular folks that I miss dearly. So, yep, my next question is…. what song reminds you of great friends and times that you still cherish the memories of?

Please share your stories in the comments, I would love to hear what songs/memories may have popped up in your head after reading this post.

Is This Thing On?

“You Matter, I Promise”
By Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

This past month has been excruciatingly hard for a number of reasons. I’ve been getting by this year at a “meh” pace – but these past few weeks I have felt on the edge of crumbling.

And today, well, I almost felt as if I was drowning.

Side note: I’ve struggled with depression the majority of my life and as the years go on anxiety is finding its way into my life too. Not to mention the herniated discs/on-going back issues I’ve had since 23 (when I said I was an old soul, I wasn’t expecting my body to follow suit).

Anyway – it has been a bumpy journey and it has felt like the cycle just won’t stop. And I know I am not alone in any of this, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.

This afternoon I reached a breaking point and I knew I needed to do something.

So, I went outside to clear my head and get some fresh air. For a brief moment I stood beneath my favorite tree just across the street from my apartment that turns beaming bright orange this time of year.

My moment of re-centering

I have felt defeated, voiceless, uncertain, and heavy lately- but in that moment I felt at peace.

After that brief moment of joy – I continued on my walk, turned my headphones up, went back to overthinking just about everything, and strolled to the store to pick up some wine.

So, I lend this moment to you. To everyone who has felt a bit scattered, alone, or just not themselves lately.

Allow yourself a moment to feel and re-center. Whatever that may look like.

(And I’d like to share with ya’ll the song that always seems to soothe my soul in moments such as these … *Joni Mitchell – River*)

Queertober Reads Pt. 2

“Not a choice. Not a preference”
By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

In light of LGBTQIA+ history month and continuing my Queer book suggestions, I want to just put a reminder out there for folks…

Please be mindful of your word choice, because the words that you choose are in fact a choice. Whereas someones gender or sexuality is not, nor is it a preference.

Words have the power to be just as harmful as a fist- so be aware of the language you are using.

And on that note…happy Friday & happy (quee)reading!

Source: Google Images

Funhome by Alison Bechdel
Who is it for? Adults and Young Adults
Why I recommend it: This graphic novel brought me joy, and brought to life the magnificent phrase, “ring of keys moment”. If you say, wait – isn’t that a musical? and haven’t read the book… please go run to your local library or bookstore, now.

Source: Google Images

Pansy by Andrea Gibson
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adults, and Adults
Why I recommend it: Honestly, all of their poetry will leave you in your feelings and wanting more – but this book particularly is just a personal fave. After you read a poem – look up their spoken word performances (their performance really brings their poetry to life).

Source: Google Images

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adults, and Adults
Why I recommend it: Recently released this year – a memoir that needs to be read and one that will make it impossible to put down until you finish. It’s a book that needs to be in ALL libraries.

Source: Google Images

We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
Who is it for? Teens and older
Why I recommend it: Set in the 80’s this book is a coming-of-age, feel good story – but make it gay. And who doesn’t need a good book like that right about now?

Source: Google Images

Fresh Ink: Anthology
Who is it for? Teens and older
Why I recommend it: An anthology of sorts that has dashes of Queerness within – written for Young Adult, but I am an advocate for adults reading more YA.

Source: Google Images

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Who is it for? Pre-teens and above!
Why I recommend it: A Queer book for the younger ones – this story is so Queer positive and I really wish this was required reading in classes. Just look at that beautiful cover.

Source: Google Images
Source: Google Images

If You Could be Mine AND Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Who is it for? Young Adults and Adults
Why I recommend it: I wish I had these books when I was a teen, but unfortunately I had to wait till my twenties. If you want your heart to flutter, insides to feel warm, and fall in love with another author – these books by Sara Farizan are for you.

Source: Google Images

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis
Who is it for? Everyone (especially littles!)
Why I recommend it: The action, the love, the illustrations – this picture book is a winner. While your little is reading a rad book, they are also being shown that the Prince CAN fall in love with the Knight. Because, remember, kids should be taught young that they can like whoever they fancy – and books are sometimes the best teachers for important life lessons!

Source: Google Images

Queer, There, & Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Who is it for? Everyone
Why I recommend it: We should all be learning about the Queer folks who changed our world. LGBTQIA+ history isn’t taught or talked about enough – so if you read this book you are learning & you can teach others. It’s a win-win situation and what an excellent ally move (or if you are Queer you’re learning about pieces of your community’s history, and how badass is that!)

More book suggestions to come next week for Queertober reads!

Queertober Reads Pt. 1

“Authenticity”
by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Two important facts: If you didn’t know, my day job is being a librarian and it’s LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning,Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic, and beyond) history month. This used to be the month that I would head to Philly for Outfest, but that looks different this year (as have many “usual” things).

So, this week I’m putting on my librarian hat and throwing some Queer books out there for you all to read.

A note of my own experience with why I believe it is important for Queer books to exist and to be read: Growing up, I tried to find myself in books like Perks of Being a Wallflower or Catcher in the Rye – ultimately forcing myself to believe the main characters were actually Queer and not cis hetero men.

Thankfully we live in a time where LGBTQIA+ books are being published more often now so that there are options to read characters that are reflective for some or can be a window for others.

Here are some of my favorite Queer books both classic and new that I suggest you add to your to-read list (or some to add to your little humans lives, if you have any little humans in your life):
*I will break this up into separate posts over the month of October because my list is incredibly long*

Source:Google Images

Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran
Who is it for? Adults
Why I recommend it: The feelings, the love, the twists, and the letters. I’ve read this book many times over and my hopeless romantic queer-self feels extremely connected to this book every single time. Read it if you’re a sucker for love or books told throughout different periods of time. (CW: mentions of rape)

Source: Google Images

Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Who is it for? Everyone! (minus maybe the littles, but even they would enjoy the graphics)
Why I recommend it: It’s October and this graphic novel is ’tis the season! If you are in need of a lighthearted, quick, and beautifully illustrated read – Pick. Up. This. Book.

Source: Google Images

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
Who is it for? Adults and Young Adults
Why I recommend it: This book is a collection of essays and it is brilliantly entertaining. If you need a laugh and a book that’ll be nearly impossible to put down – this is the book for you.

Source: Google Images

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Who is it for? Adults
Why I recommend it: A true classic of Queer womxn literature – which i didn’t discover until my twenties. This is the book I wish I had instead of Catcher in the Rye because Rita Mae writes in such an elegant way the obstacles and events of growing up and discovering the journey of your sexuality.

Source: Google Images

Lumberjanes series
Who is it for? Everyone!
Why I recommend it: The best of the best – a fun, lovely graphic novel series that made my Queer heart flutter when I first discovered it. Without a doubt you will fall in love with the characters and the adventures the campers go on. This is one truthfully for all ages, so go ahead and buy it for the family or nephews/nieces/niblings.

Source: Google Images

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Who is it for? Adults and Older Teens
Why I recommend it: One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – this is a book that the main character is one you’ll fall in love with, root for, and want to be best friends with at the end. A book of discovering identity and a demonstration that that discovery is never a linear one.

Source: Google Images

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adult, and Adult
Why I recommend it: Honestly, I recommend anything and everything Adam Silvera has written – this is just a personal favorite. The story is beautifully written and heartbreaking at times – for my fellow Queers it is at times eerily relatable. Read this title or any other by Adam Silvera and I gurantee he will become on of your favorite new authors.

Source: Google Images

Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids
Who is it for? Littles (and really, everyone!)
Why I recommend it: This cover is everything and the minute I saw this picture book I wished it existed when I was younger. This is a great read for littles and adults alike to get a glimpse into gender identity (which is a spectrum) as well as individuality.

Source: Google Images

Julián Is a Mermaid Jessica Love
Who is it for? Littles (and really, everyone!)
Why I recommend it: A fabulous picture book that reminds us as readers the importance of allowing everyone (especially littles) that they should be free to be who they are. This is worth reading for a glimpse into letting littles be the little humans they are outside of (stereotypical, and harmful) gender norms and binaries.

Can You Smell That?

“The Intimacy of Heartbeats”
by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

What I intended to write about today no longer resonated with me after the end of the workday I just had. I felt I needed to write about something that would bring me pleasure and pass that on.

Some Mondays really are prickly than others.

I went out walking earlier this morning (during my break from virtually working) and I kept thinking how much I enjoy going for a walk this time of year. Mostly for the way the air smells so cold, crisp, and fresh in its own way. The skies seem bluer and the scenery more honest.

The walk reminded me of the way particular scents have a way of grounding and relaxing me.

My Dad was a chef (he is now retired) when I was growing up and he was always cooking or baking something which would smell throughout our house. Even on his days off he never stayed out of the kitchen for too long (as an adult I miss his cooking which has forced me into trying to emulate what I learned and continue to learn from him in the kitchen).

The humor, looks, charm, and culinary skills I possess I owe to this guy (my Dad).

I vividly remember the times I would come home from school, work, or practice and I could smell dinner from the moment my car pulled up to the driveway. And if he wasn’t cooking or baking – he was always burning a candle.

These sense of smell memories keep flooding back and suddenly I feel calmer than I did at the start of this post (writing is magic).

As my mind continues to wander down scent memory lane – there are the times I remember waking up with my window open and the smell of him cutting the grass. It’s funny to recall all of the smells that take me back to that yellow house and younger times.

What are the other scents that I can recall in this moment and the feelings/words I associate with them?

  • Ocean/Beach (home)
  • Campfire (warmth)
  • Mom-mom’s Sunday cooking (love)
  • Vanilla (childhood)
  • Lavender (growing up)
  • Coffee (Dad)
  • Books (inspiration)
  • Apple-cinnamon (comfort)

Honestly, my list is more than likely longer than this – but the point is to just list and relax. So, I encourage you – can you think of 5, 10, or more smells that bring you comfort?

My next task is to go cook dinner and hope that my apartment will fill up with some delicious, comforting smells.

Seek joy and sit with it (or smell it).  

More Music. Less Social Media.

By Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

I tried to hold myself accountable this week by listening to more music and being on social media less. My conclusion was that I need to do this more often.

This wasn’t something where I attempted to avoid social media all together, just being aware of intentionally using it less. There were definite times when I had to check myself. Like when I would find my finger subconsciously hitting the Instagram button when I was just trying to check the weather app.

Making this intentional change for the week was important because I wanted to be focusing on doing things for myself. Not letting work or other obstacles deteriorate my mental health.

So, I revisited an old habit of mine that allows me to recenter. I was listening to music that reminds me of bright moments throughout my life. One thing I truthfully love about music is how a song or an artist can sort of transform us back to a “back when” moment or remind of us a certain person.

Here are a few songs that have taken me back this week to more delightful moments

1. Mother We Share – Chvrches

Okay, so I am a fan of the entire album and I highly recommend it if you haven’t listened to it before. This song particularly though transforms me back to my first year in Philly – my first year of “independence” as an adult. They were definitely times of struggle for various reasons, but overall this song brings me feelings of nostalgia for a time in my life that I will forever be grateful for. A time in my life that helped me grow.

2. Naked Kids – Grouplove


This is another song that takes me back to Philly. A time when I was waiting tables, running food, and making cocktails. I thought I was going to be in the restaurant industry forever, I didn’t realize how special the moments I was living in would end up being. I met a handful of spectacular folks working in the industry in Philly – the job itself wasn’t always pretty. The memories we made both on and after the shifts were over – those are the moments I will cherish forever.


3. The Garden State Soundtrack


Did I mention I was from New Jersey? Don’t hold it against me, please. Well, I was in high school when I fell in love with the movie Garden State (that was Zach Braff’s love letter to NJ) and I fell even deeper in love with the soundtrack. I am pretty sure my senior year quote was straight from this movie, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s gonna seem a whole lot longer than you like.” Anyway, this entire soundtrack is beautiful and it needs to be listened to in its entirety (I have it on vinyl, and I highly recommend it). It’s important for me to note, I hated high school and I would never ever want to relive the experience. This music takes me back to the house that I grew up in for 23 years, and driving around in my old Jeep Cherokee Sport getting lost in the music driving along the back bay roads.

4. Cake – Flo Rida

Pure joy and silliness is what feeling this song ignites for me. 2017 was my last year in Philly and it was also my last year coaching the team that meant a lot to me – which is when this song was brought into my life. The team was in a van, on a spring break road trip, as the other assistant coach was driving she turns this song on. It was followed by a lot of laughter and memories I keep with me on days when I need to be taken back to that time in my life.

5. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John

My first New Years in DC, I didn’t know many people other than those I worked with. I was invited to a (now very dear) friends house and at some point in the night I think this song played a couple of times. For whatever reason, I’ve held onto this song because of the line “I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you” those words remind me of the close friends I have made in DC. Living here hasn’t always been easy- but I know life brought me to this city for a reason. I truthfully believe a majority of that reason is because of the people that entered my life while I have been here and changed it for the better in ways they may not be aware of. Those folks are some pretty tremendous humans that I am reminded of whenever I hear this song. *Also highly recommend Mandy Moore’s cover of this song*

Be sure to share in the comments a song that brings you back to a time or person in your life that brings a smile to your face.

Now, I am going to go get lost in some music and Mariah Carey’s memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey that arrived in the mail earlier this week.