Monthly Archives: January 2021

Waiting at the Bus Stop

By- Tray Taylor
(IG – allusiontoreality)

Is there any science behind January always feeling like 3 months within a month? I guess I could have researched before actually typing that sentence out…

Seriously though, it seems every January always feels so long in a short amount of time and then we blink and it is March. 

Whatever you are doing this week, may it be focused on taking care of yourself and staying safe. I live in DC and it is a bit surreal right now – I feel like I am inside a movie of The Purge. *I wrote this sentence a couple of weeks ago, just for clarification*

While the earth feels like an over shaken snow globe on fire, I have been trying to rethink back to times when I felt the most connected to music when I was younger. Trying my best to remember times when music sucked me in so deep that I felt extremely connected to what I was listening to.

All I could imagine was a younger me, waiting at a bus stop with my one chosen CD to listen to for the duration on my disc man. 

So yeah, that gives me the opportunity to introduce the musical choice of a younger me on a format that still exists but is rarely chosen over streaming. 

The Jackson 5 (The Best of Jackson 5)

I went through a phase when I was younger when all I wanted to listen to was “older” music. The moment I got my hands on the greatest hits of The Jackson 5 I was thrilled. There was a brief moment in my youth where this was the only CD I listened to. I used to watch the miniseries/movie on VH1 The Jacksons: An American Dream whenever it was on tv (yes, the one with Angela Bassett). The infatuation ran deeper than a greatest hits CD.

All American Rejects

This album triggers one of the most vivid memories I have of standing at the bus stop when it was absolutely freezing out – flurrying almost, and listening to All American Rejects through my discman. Going back and listening to this album now I am impressed with how well I know every song, but also how deeply I felt these lyrics at such a young age. I can’t even lie, I was obsessed with this band and this album. Here are a few favorites: My Paper Heart, Swing Swing *this was their most popular song at the time*, Time Stands Still, One More Sad Song, Why Worry, Happy Endings, The Last Song ….okay I think I just named the almost the entire album…

Dream Street

Most people have never heard of this boy band, but they were my …obsession. I was a member of the fan club, and I even had a Dream Street dedicated wall in my room (yes…this is true..). They were also one of my first concerts at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City with my best friend in the 6th grade and my Dad took us there (still grateful that he was willing to sit through this for me). Anyway, I know this album from beginning to end and I still remember the dance to “It Happens Every Time” but younger me had some embarrassment around my love for them in public. Whenever I would bring this CD to listen to on the way to school I would bring another CD case in my backpack so people didn’t know what it was that I was listening to. Unfortunately one of the members passed away this year from COVID – rest easy Chris Trousdale.

2GETHER

I think one of the funniest things about this band is the fact that they were supposed to be a joke manufactured by MTV. However, people (ahem – me) fell in love with 2GETHER after the movie aired. From the movie, to their albums, to the TV show – I was hooked. I even had my Dad listening to them in the car when I would get dropped off for basketball practice (back when I thought my future was the WNBA…pipe dreams). Anyway, does anyone else know their calculus? Do you further know that U + ME = US?

Taking Back Sunday (Tell All Your Friends)

The moment I got this album I was in awe. An instant flashback to middle school, I remember holding this beautiful teal jewel case album in my hand – I was infatuated. My best friend and I in middle school would listen to this CD on repeat and knew almost every song by heart. I wore this album out going to and from school – plus away games for sports (because that was a thing). And of course as an adult, when I eyed this album on vinyl there was no question on whether or not I had to add it to my collection.

Damian Marley (Welcome to Jamrock)

Growing up I had a deep appreciation for the Marley family – it started with Bob though, of course. Then, as I always tend to do, I did a deep dive within to discover the other musicians in the Marley family. I was a big fan of many of his children- Damian and Stephen especially. I listened to Damian’s album on repeat all throughout high school. Side fact: my first concert in Philly was seeing Damian and Stephen on South Street (this was either in high school or right after I graduated…)

Saves The Day 

Would I be a true millennial from NJ if I wasn’t a fan of Saves The Day? I first got into them because my sister was a fan. Then somewhere along the way I became a bigger fan of the band and now still own almost every CD they have ever released (as well as vinyl records). There was like this section of bands that were emo/punk/pop and that was 100 percent my favorite genre in high school (see above: TBS). Their lyrics felt like poetry to me when I was in high school and I overplayed almost every album of theirs. A few favorite songs I’ll share if I had to narrow it down: At Your Funeral, Shoulder to the Wheel, You Vandal, As Your Ghost Takes Flight, This is Not an Exit, Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven, Hold, Jessie & My Whetstone, The Way His Collar Falls, Take Our Cars Now!, Z, O….. okay that list was longer than expected & that was me cutting it short.

….mixed CDs

It doesn’t feel right to write a piece about music of my youth without pointing out how much mixed CDs ruled my younger years. I still have stacks of CD books in the closet of my apartment somewhere…but who owns a CD player anymore? (says the person who owns a record player….)

So…what were you listening to when you were younger? Was it on a cassette player, walkman, discman, stereo sound system, boombox, record player, 8-track player…?

To the Books that Shaped Me

By- Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontorealuty

My yearning to be a writer stems from my love of storytelling and the stack of books I used to carry around with me that was always far too big for lil me to even carry down the stairs.  

Here’s the thing though – before I could even read I would sit on the couch with that stack of books and make up a story within the book because I didn’t know what the sentences actually said.

Lately I’ve been thinking back to that memory a lot, trying to remember how passionate younger me was to tell a story. How it all started with a stack of books. 

There have been so many authors and books since then that have further shaped me into the writer I am today. 

So, yes …it’s time to take a trip down memory lane:

Perks of Being a Wallflower

I remember when I first got my hands on this book in middle school. I was what one would classify as an avid reader when I was younger. That definitely faded once I got into my teenage years (except I always read every book my teachers assigned..I still don’t know how people got away with not doing that…). However, I remember not being able to put this book down. The way it is written through letters and how relatable (at least to me, Charlie seemed to be). Filled with quotes that I adore to this day like, “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.” This is the book that made me fall back in love with reading all over again – this is the kind of book that reminded me why I had always dreamed of being a writer.

Virginia Woolf

In my undergrad years I went to Millersville University and majored in English Lit. The most memorable and enjoyable professor I had was Dr. Steven Max Miller (who unfortunately recently passed away before I could ever tell him this). I loved taking his classes because he was an interesting man who knew his sh*t. Why was he so different? I’ve had many (not all) English teachers and professors in the past that have acted “above it all” or never really encouraged me to be a writer or reader. Dr. Steven Miller was different – he introduced me to the great works of Virginia Woolf. One of the first of her works that we read was The Waves and I fell in love. After that semester I felt the need to learn more about Virginia Woolf and read everything she ever wrote. A personal favorite of mine is A Room of One’s Own and of course, The Waves

JD Salinger

No…this isn’t JD Salinger…this is me dressed up as Holden Caulfield for Halloween

Yes, I’ll admit I have a thing for JD Salinger and own almost every piece of literature he has ever written. I’ve once even dressed up as Holden Caulfield for a Halloween party (pictured above). The first time I read Catcher in the Rye I couldn’t get through the first page, it bored me to death. Then, I revisited the book (a more angsty time in my life..because yes Holden is angsty that’s why I adored him) and I fell in love with every word. It was around the time that I came out of the closet, so I somehow was seeing myself through the lens of Holden. The years following I filled my bookshelves with more literature by Salinger and adored his creation of the Glass family. I romanticized JD Salinger and his words – longing to one day write words as relatable to readers as he had written. Knowing what I know now, yes I recognize Salinger wasn’t the greatest human and Holden is misogynistic and problematic. My favorite conversation I’ve ever had was with a former student I used to coach as I was warming her up for a field hockey game and how she called me out on my love for Catcher in the Rye and JD Salinger. She cringed for me, but I can’t help it – I still have to admit his works have influenced me as both a reader and writer. 

Rubyfruit Jungle

I devoured this book the first time I read it and I’ve read it multiple times since then. There are parts of this book that felt relatable, but the true glittery lining for me when reading Rubyfruit Jungle was it was the first book I remember with LGBTQIA+ main characters in it. After having just come out recently, this book was validating. 

Bossypants

There are two celebrities that I I absolutely adore – the first is Christine Baranski and the second is Tina f**king Fey. When she was on SNL (AHEM the first woman to be THE headwriter) – I sometimes only watched just to see her on Weekend Update (because she was rarely in skits – all of her work was mostly behind the scenes as a writer.) Then she left and started 30 Rock, which I didn’t get into until the second or third season (which then I became obsessed with and still today quote that show like some people will know what I mean when I say BLERGH!) Anyway, when she came out with this book I read it in on the couch in just three hours – I never got up to eat or go to the bathroom. I was that entranced and I remember laughing out loud page after page – and I can count on one hand the amount of times a book has made me do that (Cry? Yes…but laugh? RARELY). If you’ve never read her book, I recommend it. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her twice and I can only one day hope I can thank her again someday for inspiring me to pursue my dreams of being a writer …and that she won’t remember me as the frazzled waitress that left her own tables to go into another restaurant to get a family photo with Tina Fey (see below). 

Chuck Klosterman

This is one of the MANY Chuck Klosterman books I own..this just so happens to be the first one I read

There was a time when my dream was to be a rock journalist and reading Chuck Klosterman books fueled that desire. I was hooked on almost every word he used to write, and still own all of his books. I’m not his usual fan-base, I recognize his books can be seen as a bit “bro-ish”. However, I still think it’s important to highlight the impact his books had on me wanting to be a writer. If it wasn’t for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs I may have given up on my dreams (as silly as that sentence sounds). 

David Levithan

One of my favorites…I recommend more in the paragraph below

If you’ve never read anything by David Levithan, please go buy one of his books or check out a title of his at your local library. Here are some that I recommend: Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, The Realm of Possibility, and The Lover’s Dictionary. My first librarian job was when I stumbled upon David Levithan books. It was that same feeling warm and fuzzy feeling I remembered getting when I first read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Except the difference was, I could relate to the main characters directly because they too identified within the LGBTQIA+ community. Discovering David Levithan was refueling my fire of falling in love with wanting to write my first book, and wishing I had his books to read as a teen instead of only having access to books with straight characters. 

Sara Farizan

At the time I first read Sara Farizan I hadn’t read any recently published books that had Queer women as the main focus. So, discovering both Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel and If You Could Be Mine rocked me with all the gay feelings. Please if you’ve never read these books, I highly recommend checking one or both of them out. I should note I discovered her books before there were so many new LGBTQIA+ titles coming out every month or so (which is a beautiful thing!) It just feels important to note this, because for me discovering these books felt like a special moment for me as a reader, writer, and Queer. 

Adam Silvera

Adam is a writer that I imagine throws his entire being and emotion into his words – you can feel that when you read his work. History is All You Left Me was the first book I read of his, and it was perfect timing because my first breakup since coming out had just happened. When you finish his stories you really do wish you were best friends with him at the end. That kind of impact is what I wish I will one day accomplish as a writer, and that alone should encourage you to read some of Adam’s work. 

There are other book titles and authors that I could highlight that have influenced me over the years – but who would want to read a post THAT long?…

Music is Meditation

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Poetry has always felt like meditation in a way, from my perspective. Words that paint a landscape for us if only just for a few stanzas. 

When I write my poetry I feel like I am in a zone of only my thoughts and for those moments – I am at total peace. 

I have tried to bring meditation into my everyday life for the past few years (recommendation from my therapist, and just something I thought would be better for my mental well being). I started to keep track of the days I meditated back in December, then a good friend invited me to do a meditation challenge for 15 days. *which I was doing well with, until the weekend hit* 

Music does something similar – it gives us different perspectives into different worlds if only for a few minutes in a song. 

I’ve been trying to think of the songs I turn on when I need to just get lost in the music and be present in reflection. These were some of the songs that came to mind right away for myself:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies

I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with this song, but I think it happens every single time I listen to it. As I type this and have this song playing in the background – I am reminded how similar poetry and music are. Lyrics are poetry, and I think this song is a testament to that. “And the world spins madly on…” 

Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman


Oh Tracy Chapman, how I could listen to her sing for hours upon hours of any day of the week. When I need to really “feel” I will put on certain songs of Tracy’s. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the song I like to play when I just want to get lost in her voice and her lyrics. A perfect three minute meditation of Tracy Chapman.

Brace feat. Rainsford – Twin Shadow

A couple of years ago I used to listen to this song on repeat on my way to work whenever I was trying to channel myself into a good headspace. I went through a solid few months where I only listened to Twin Shadow. If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend adding them to your playlist. I like to seek songs that remind me I am not alone in the way I am feeling, and Twin Shadow tends to have those lyrics I need in the right moments.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens

This is a song I had on repeat for awhile after discovering it on the season finale of Better Things (have you seen this show? Go watch it. Pamela Adlon is a treasure). Mostly because that scene brought me so much joy, but also the lyrics (that are originally in French) are like damn yes a message we all need 100 percent.

Ship to Wreck – Florence and the Machine

I didn’t fully appreciate Florence and the Machine until I saw them live a couple of years ago with a few good friends. It was a special night that I really needed at the time, and I’ll say they were the right group of friends to experience this concert with. I fell in love with this song that night. Also grew a greater appreciation for Florence as an artist. This song pulls me into myself for a couple of minutes and allows me to sing out loud in meditation to cleanse my soul & feel my heart beat a little louder.

Runaway Goliath – Mantaraybryn

No clue how I found this song, I assume it was from a Spotify rabbithole that I tend to go down. For a whole year I had this song on repeat (because my self esteem needed it bad). I loved getting lost in this song- and I still appreciate getting lost in it every now and again. The beauty of music is the power it has of reminding us of our worth or it can just give us hope that darkness isn’t meant to be permanent.

A Better Son/Daughter – Rilo Kiley

Jenny Lewis is everything and Rilo Kiley is a musical gift. There are many Rilo Kiley songs that I like to play, so it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a song that, if you aren’t a huge fan, many people don’t know. I think my favorite part is hearing the emotion of Jenny Lewis in the song, how it breaks from her speaking in the beginning and then her emotion continues to build throughout the song. And you can feel it – in the lyrics and her voice.

I Got a Name – Jim Croce

My favorite artist to listen to on vinyl is Jim Croce. I love almost every single one of his songs and know them all by heart. “I Got a Name” always brings me back to my college years and listening to this record in my old apartment when I didn’t know what the future held (I mean, do I know now? No..but you get what I mean). I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think this song sums it up for me….”Like the fool I am, and I’ll always be/I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream/ They can change their minds, but they can’t change me.”

Do you have any of those kinds of songs that you find putting on in time when you need to recenter?

To Do List: You

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Things I have realized about myself in the past several months since the lockdown of March 2020: 

  • I love lists (and they help keep me sane)
  • My anxiety has increased with age (or I always had anxiety & just never had the language…but it most definitely has still increased with age either way)
  • I am happier when I am reading (since I have started to pick up reading more and binge tv less I have noticed I feel more grounded) 
  • Stretching is a necessity for a person like me (who has severe herniated and bulging discs) 
  • Listening to music increases my productivity and brings me joy
  • I don’t need to completely cut off coffee (I love it too much – there is a thing of balance between coffee & tea) 
  • Creating new recipes & cooking is a way to show my love for others and gets my creative juices flowing in the kitchen (grateful that I have been able to cook for not just myself, but my partner over this time in quarantine..) 
  • Above all else – writing makes me feel whole

I’m sure the list could go on and on (see above, cause ya know…I love lists). The point is though, I’m not sure I fall amongst those that have “accomplished so much over this time” but I know I have learned a lot about myself. I’m sure you all have too, if you take some time to reflect. Sometimes the tiniest of things are actually rewards, just depends on your point of view. 

The world is still in chaos, whether we are choosing to be aware of that or not. It just is, and more than likely will be for a bit. 

In knowing that, the most important question is – how are you taking care of you?

Remember the flight attendant reminds us (remember flights? Airplanes?…those things in the sky?) before trying to save others we must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. 

If you set goals for yourself in the age old “New Year, New Me” mindset – good for you. If you didn’t, eh no worries – I didn’t either. One thing I will propose you do after you finish reading this post is: think of one thing you promise to do that will be taking care of you this year – one thing that will leave you feeling happier, more loved, healthier, or better taken care of. 

What’s that one thing?

And I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favorite poets: 

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to you”
– Andrea Gibson, ‘Boomerang Valentine’

When I Thought I Was Punk

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Sometimes our younger years feel so long ago, and other times they feel a “blink of an eye” away.

A particular song did that for me this past week, and then I, of course,found myself going down a rabbit hole of old songs that I associate with that period of my life. 

In middle school and high school I listened to a lot of “punk” or “skaterboy”  or “Tony Hawk video game” music. However you want to classify it. It was a reflection of the company I kept and the town in which I grew up in. 

Anything Volcom I wanted to own and every Tony Hawk game I needed to have. Some of my favorite past times were riding my bike over the bridge to the beach to meet up with friends in Cape May to hang out all day or just cruise around the neighborhood on my skateboard. 

Let me just note, this was merely a part of who I was – I was also an athlete, a homebody, a reader, and a hippie loving child amongst many other things. I swear my vast music taste that spreads across genres & decades is a reflection of how I was able to become a chameleon to many different friend groups. 

Anyway, I somehow found myself listening to Pennywise – then I stumbled into Bad Religion, Millencolin, NOFX, and I just got lost in it all. Instantly transported to a time where my biggest worry was if I was going to be able to meet up with my friends over the weekend. 

I could spare you all the trip down memory lane and just say go listen to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack (which you should do anyway) – but instead I’ll highlight some of the classics that had me laughing at imagining 13 year old angsty me rocking out to the following songs. 

Yesterdays – Pennywise

As I was browsing in Spotify, I looked up an old band I used to love when I was in my middle school years. I haven’t listened to Pennywise in so long, but seeing the albums Full Circle and From the Ashes I was transported back to a younger, angstier time in my life. When all that mattered was playing Tony Hawk and longboarding to meet up with my neighborhood friends. Sometimes I wish my muscle memory for music was something I could apply to a few other things in my life that could use it. Anyway, this took me back to a fond time in my life where I had to listen to every track on an album because I was only allowed to take on CD to play in my Discman while riding the bus to school. So bada**. (Also listen to – Society)

Los Angeles is Burning – Bad Religion

Listening to this music again is making me feel like I am stuck in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, and I don’t hate it. A true nostalgic moment for myself, interesting to listen to it as an adult. Realizing the truth of the song and meaning behind it – how sensationalistic the media is (said by bassist Jay Bentley). (Also listen to – You)

No Cigar – Millencolin

This was definitely one of my favorite songs from this music era in my life. As soon as I hit the play button I felt something ignite in me that just wanted to sing along and jam out. It also made me really miss the group of guy friends I had that influenced this music on me at the time. They all had big dreams of moving out West (which they all ended up following through with for the most part & chasing their dreams). Funny how music can pull you back into a certain time period of your life, or old friends. 

Timmy the Turtle – NOFX

Well, this is just for humor and pure appreciation for how catchy this song is. I remember I got this album the summer I was going into 8th grade as a birthday gift. That album cover is forever burned into my memory. 

Superman – Goldfinger

If there is one song that encompasses Tony Hawk Pro Skater it has to be Superman by Goldfinger. This is a song that always puts me in a good mood and I like to return to it from time to time ….All of a sudden I have an urge to watch the movie Brink. 

Seein’ Red – Unwritten Law

The movie Grind. *that’s it, that’s the story*

Die For Your Government – Anti-Flag

In a way, it cracks me up that 13 year old me was seeing these songs. Like, I lived in a split-level house in a small beachtown in New Jersey – who did I think I was? I loved this song so much though. I know younger me didn’t fully comprehend this song as I do now, but oh I would love to meet younger me to have a chat about their thoughts on this song. 

….and with that I wish you a Happy New Year