Tag Archives: lgbt writer

More Music to Add to Your Playlist

By Tray Taylor
IG: allusiontoreality

Here’s the thing with me and I’m assuming some other people out there – I didn’t mind not being able to socialize for an entire year. I loved not having to feel the pressure of flaking out on people simply because I did not have the energy. I didn’t feel a sense of guilt for having to come up with an excuse that I just wanted to go home to read a book, listen to music, or watch TV. 

I also know that this year has been really hard for my friends that get their charge from being around others. That’s just…so not me. 

There was no “hitting the wall” for me, except for that one time last month of March 2021 when I was like…I just wish I could go out dancing with my friends again. Then I woke up the next day and was happy to not have any plans on my calendar. 

This is no shade or anything to my friends that I love so much – I love you all deeply and enjoy spending time with you. I’m just a hermit and that’s the truth. 

I do a really stellar job to appear outgoing to most, but that’s all a facade – I promise. 

You know one thing that really recharges my energy?
You probably guessed by the title where this was going to go…yes, yep…it’s music! ….And it’s been far too long since I’ve shared with you what songs I’ve had on repeat lately. 

Through these long drawn out days of what has been so far a gorgeous spring…I offer you a few songs to add to your playlist: 

Starstruck – Years & Years 

This song is to be played when you want to cook dinner, have your own dance party, or that thing called exercise. I was beyond thrilled to see that Years & Years recently released this song, because it has been far too long since they’ve released new music. Olly Alexander was more so recently focused on acting and just starred in the latest Russell T Davies project, It’s a Sin. Which, if you haven’t seen yet – it’s a 5 episode miniseries focused on the AIDS crisis in the UK during the 80s and 90s within the view of 5 characters’ eyes. Highly recommended and available on HBO max. 

To the Class Of – Bleed the Rads (explicit)

I recently discovered this song when watching the romantic comedy Almost Love on Netflix (yes also go watch this lighthearted movie starring some spectacular underrated actors). The lyrics and composition of the song reminded me of a lot of music that I grew up on. I’m a sucker for nostalgia in the form of music, especially when I’m in a rut of sorts about where I am going in life. 

Obsessed – Mariah Carey

There’s just something about that opening line, “and I was like..why are you so obsessed with me” that has felt more appealing to say recently. Even when I’m not saying it to anyone and I’m sitting in a room by myself (okay…maybe all of this alone time during the pandemic has gotten to me). But also, I would never say that to anyone other than my good friends in a sarcastic tone. Anyway – this song is a forever bop.

Fight the Power Pts 1 & 2 – The Isley Brothers

Verzus recently had The Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind, and Fire and like..WOW four hours of legends ..it was totally worth staying up way past my bedtime to witness. Anyway, I was texting my Dad during it because I was introduced to both of these bands through him growing up. His response was to send me multiple different videos of some of his favorites. This was one of them.

Forget Me Nots – Patrice Rushen 

This is another song that I like to put on when I’m cooking or dancing in my apartment by myself. The kind of song that when it comes on is just an instant mood booster – I have a deep appreciation for songs that have the power to do that. Clearly it was such a hit that it was replicated for the Men in Black theme song in 1997. 

Can We Hang On – Cold War Kids

There will always be artists or songs that remind us of certain people in our lives both past and present. I’ve been revisiting this song and thinking about where I was when I first heard it. How different I am now and the new meanings these lyrics have taken on for me. The power of music is incredibly beautiful. 

So, there you have it – add a few, add ‘em all, or don’t add any. A good friend of mine often tells me you should only do what you want to do. I’m merely here to suggest music and share with you my thoughts and reflections to hope it’s entertaining enough that you keep on reading. 

Happy listening folks!

If You Want to Laugh, Watch The Duds

The Duds, a mockumentary short film created, produced, and written by Sean White (the handsome actor, not the red-headed snowboarder from the 90s)  premiered on Friday, April 9th on Youtube. 

I should put a disclaimer on this post about my deep love and appreciation that I have for two of the people in this production (because I know them personally, and they also happen to be married to one another). 

What got me really excited about this short film that made me want to write a piece to get you all to watch it you may be wondering?

For me it was how well the characters are brilliantly written – and the way the actors that portray those characters deliver the words that will have you cracking up from beginning to end. Why wouldn’t you want a chance to chuckle non-stop?

The build up to this mockumentary pulled me in right away with the faux instagram profiles that were made for each character (taken from Sean White’s instagram: @seancwhite): 

*As appears in slideshow: Rosamund played by Zoe Richards, Jared played by Jeremy Konopka, Iris played by Chloe Mollis-Mcbride , Percy played by Sean White*



So I’ve pulled you in with the comedy of the characters backgrounds, but what about this short film is worth pressing play for? Well I’ve already mentioned the fabulously hilarious acting. What I haven’t mentioned is how well the execution of this short film pokes at true crime interviews. Which is a bonus for folks that are true crime fans, but not a necessity in order to appreciate the humor all the way through.

Sounds like a must watch and you’ve probably stopped reading this review and clicked on the link to watch (I wouldn’t blame you…) But if you’re still reading and you’re not yet convinced I want to highlight words from Sean himself on why you should take a moment to watch The Duds:

 
“I’m so proud of this project, especially having made it with the help of my husband and friends. I’m a huge fan of true crime and I got this idea when I started thinking about if there are ever any people who give interviews that don’t make the final cut. I think people should watch it because it’s a fun mix of two genres and I hope everyone has a nice laugh!”
-Sean White

Click here to watch The Duds!

If you are eagerly awaiting the next production..a recommendation of something to do after you’ve watched The Duds on repeat and you’re wanting more: Check out Jeremy Konopka’s (who played Jared Jacobs) hilarious Ron Weasley and Wanda Vision impressions to hold you over in the mean time on Tiktok (jeremykonop) Or Instagram (@jeremykon).

For Your Listening Pleasure: Recently Released 04/02/2021

By Tray Taylor
@allusiontoreality

I have an appreciation for reviewing and sharing songs that I have been listening to on repeat or just songs for the season- aka my infamous Happy Holigays playlist. Today, I think it is time to share and review some new songs that recently dropped that I think you need to add to your latest playlist, if you haven’t already. 

As much as I love reviewing and suggesting songs from throughout the decades and genres – I believe sharing recently released music to recommend is just as important (coming from a person that loves music and being introduced to new music). 

Some of these songs might be ones you have heard about recently, and others never before. Either way, enjoy:

Dancing with the Devil – Demi Lovato

I have been overly excited for the album to drop after hearing this single last week. This woman blows me away with her voice and her talent EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Overall the entire album deserves a listen, but I chose this song because it is what pulled me in. 

Recommend the entire album, but here are some standouts: Butterfly, Anyone, Met Him Last Night

Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X just keeps giving us the music we don’t deserve but absolutely need in our lives. A true Queer anthem with a backstory that will warm your heart (as long as you aren’t one of those people that have been passive aggressive with your homophobia over the video). I couldn’t get this song out of my head for two days straight…and now since I am writing this blurb it’ll probably get stuck in my head again for a few more days.

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) [Nicolaas Remix] – Hall and Oates

There’s no hiding it, I am a sucker for a remix version of a song when it is done well. And it is the right kind of song that can be remixed. This falls into that category for me. The song is already catchy, but with this Nicolaas remix it’ll have you turning up your volume so high that you’ll forget there are other people in the room that then tell you to turn it down (…or maybe that was just me…) 

Amir – Serpentwithfeet

The first time I discovered serpentwithfeet was watching the music video to Same Size Shoe which I loved. Listening to this album in its entirety though, Amir was the standout song for me. Serpentwithfeet is unlike anything I have ever listened to, which is a fantastic thing because it feels original and unique.
Also listen to: Fellowship, Same Size Shoe (and watch the music video)

Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen Cover)- Waxahatchee

Some people have strong opinions on cover songs. I would consider myself to fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Sometimes I have strong opinions on songs that shouldn’t be covered, and sometimes I think the cover of the original is much much better. This is one of those cases where I think the cover is better than the original.

What’s Wrong- half alive

Certain songs remind me of different times in my life and hearing this song instantly transported me back to a spring day in Philadelphia. I haven’t listened to half-alive in awhile- and was excited to see a new song drop. If you enjoy indie, alternative music…give this song a listen.

Live & Direct – Kota the Friend, Statik Selektah

There are few things I love more than discovering a new artist and falling in love with their art instantly. This album provided me with that satisfactory moment. Kota the Friend is a lyricist, a poet …so smooth with his delivery. Listening to every song feels like an experience, which made it hard to pick one or just a few songs.
Also take a listen to: Sunrise, Wolves

What better way to start your weekend …or for those in the service industry your work week...than adding a few of these songs to your playlist?

If We Could Turn Back Time (no..nope..not a Cher post…)

This past weekend I was having a talk with my partner about what things would be like if we didn’t have the current technology we have. If somehow the world time traveled back to before cellphones, streaming services, Google searches, and all that jazz. There are many benefits about the world we live in today, but in a world that is so deeply nostalgic for the past…there is no denying there are certain things that would be nice to still have around. 

The conversation had me really thinking about things that I wouldn’t mind from the past being more relevant in the future. And no… I’m definitely not going to be referring to the fashion sense that is recycling itself back around again (no shade, just my own truth) 

Anyway – there are many things I could have added to this list I am sure, but this is what I came up with late at night when I couldn’t think. 

+Landlines

No, you can’t access me everywhere and anywhere at anytime. I love cellphones, I think they are great – especially being able to download games other than snake on your phone. Part of me does fantasize about what it would be like to live as an adult in my 20s and 30s without people constantly having access to me. Maybe it is in the introvert in me, but sometimes it would be nice to say *sorry I missed your call I have been out all day*…knowing darn well I was sitting on the couch watching another re-run of the Golden Girls on Hallmark.

+Pizza Hut Buffets

Salad, pizza, and 90s aesthetic …. do I miss it? Absolutely. Pizza Hut used to be a whole experience, I don’t know how to describe it – you just had to be there. No other pepperocinis tasted as good as the ones in that salad bar.

+AOL instant messenger

The woes of my youth exist in the away messages I saved to use on a regular rotation. Was I ever actually away from the computer? No I shared a computer with my entire family – so away messages were more like the birth of my pettiness used to subtlety tell that person who just came online (because the AOL guy just made that door opening noise so I know) how I was feeling. And to add insult or a sign of the times..whichever way you’d like to interpret my usernames were: ripcurlgurl6675 and tdawg6675. Anyway my point is in its simplicity- it was almost like limited texting time with the option of telling people you were away so they won’t get a response right away. Why hasn’t that been invented for texting yet….

+MTV shows

Yes, there was a time when MTV played shows other than Ridiculousness on repeat. There was EVEN in a time when the Challenge did not look like an over the top action movie and was entertaining (yes I am looking forward to Challenge All Stars airing on April 1st). Looking back I feel lucky to have grown up when MTV had TRL (Total Request Live) and other ridiculous reality shows as well as some decent original shows as well.

+Speaking of MTV….MTV New Years, where’d that go?

Since ABC doesn’t allow anyone to watch their New Years Eve special unless you have actual cable we are stuck with some pretty awful specials that are sometimes cringe worthy. I miss when MTV used to have their special – would I know or like all of the content? Maybe not…but it would probably be better than what is offered now and would actually be filled with music acts.

+Okay so you’re bringing back video game systems but not the games I loved like Skitchin and California games…sure I love Mario and Sonic…but can’t we highlight the classic underrated games too?

+Skip-it

Some may be split down the middle on this – as I know this caused some people bruises and shin pain. But really, if you think about it, what a fun adult work out this could be…

+TV VHS Set-Up in the Classroom

To this day I am trying to seek the happiness adult equivalent to seeing this set-up in the classroom when I walked in.

What are some things you wish could make a come back from when you grew up? If not permanently maybe for like, a day? Like a Back to the Future kind of experience.

I’d Rather Be Dancing

By – Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I’ve hit the wall of my introvert-ness where I desperately miss going out to the gay bar dancing the night away with friends. It feels like such a distant memory- but I long for the days where we can return safely to storming the dance floor again. Or even take over the streets at Outfest and dance until we can no longer stand. 

So, in all of this grieving of times that used to be- I’ve been trying to think what would we all be dancing to right now? What would get my friends to grab my arm to join them on the dance floor (as if we ever really leave it)?

In the club that has existed in my mind for the past year this is what I assumed we would have been listening to had we been *safely* allowed to dance the night away together:

Up – Cardi B (explicit)

When this song recently came out I just imagined how excited I would’ve been to go out this weekend (if that was a thing I was doing right now or in the past). With all the new music that has come out this past year it has made me truly mourn the times that would’ve been in any other circumstance. Songs like this make me really wish I could substitute dancing by myself in my apartment to being on a dance floor surrounded by my friends.

Best Friend – Saweetie, Doja Cat (explicit)

This hype music is needed right now, but it also makes me so sad because I miss my friends. In the club of my mind I am playing this song surrounded by my friends and we’re just happy to be together. If you’re not into dancing on the floor and prefer dancing in your car – this song is also suitable for that.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

This was actually the last song I danced to at a bar. I was at ALOHO (A League of Her Own) in DC with my partner and the whole dance floor went wild when the song came on, because well, duh – Whitney. I’ve suggested this song before, and I will probably suggest it again. When this song comes on my body needs to dance. My acceptance of my Queerness is so intertwined with Whitney and her music that it just instantly puts me in a good mood. It’s also a gay bar classic.

If I Could Turn Back Time – Cher


If this were one of the first songs to play when everyone is allowed to return to being *safely* packed like sardines at the bar, I think the gaggle of gays would lose it. We lost an entire year of being together, and in that year we lost a lot of people that we loved. If there’s anytime to wish we could turn back time, I think it is now. Whenever Cher comes on though, my friend and I absolutely lose it – and I love that he loves her just as much as I. Fun fact: did you know I have a Cher pillow in my apartment? Furthermore did you know my friends put a Cher cut-out at the head of the table of my going away party in Philly? Yeah…it’s that real.

Savage Remix – Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyonce (explicit)

Okay so when this dropped we missed out on being able to celebrate this track together on the dance floor, but we also missed out on what would’ve been a mind-blowing concert. Although the one she put on virtually was spectacular. This song was out of this world, but the remix? Speechless, no words.

34+35 – Ariana Grande (explicit)

Would it be a night out if you don’t hear Ariana Grande playing? Not in the Gayborhood, I’ll tell you that. She dropped an album and we weren’t even allowed to fully appreciate it by dancing the night away together. I miss the nights where the music hasn’t been great and then an Ariana Grande song comes on and everyone suddenly becomes alive again.

Rain on Me- Lady Gaga feat. Ariana Grande

I was indifferent about this song when it first dropped, but then it slowly was the song I had on repeat that was getting me through quarantine (or queerantine as I like to call it). This would have been the perfect song to dance to at Pride or even Outfest – but instead we all danced by ourselves in our homes or watched virtual Drag shows with this song being performed. This is one song I cannot wait to hear whenever we allowed to safely crowd together on the dance floor. Also this is my nephew’s favorite song and his fabulous video performance made up for the sadness that I was not able to dance the night away with friends to this song.

Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey


Mostly this just reminds me of the one time I was sitting at a bar in the Fruit Loop of Vegas and everyone began singing this song word for word. This was summer 2019 – so one of the last big trips I had taken and probably one of the highlights for me from the trip (minus seeing Janet Jacket because – that takes all the cakes). Did it make me adore the gay scene in Vegas? Sure…but more importantly it was a reminder to me about how much I love belonging to the Queer community. Even strangers can feel like family for an entire length of a Mariah Carey song.

Disclaimer: There are many more songs that came out and classics that often play that I know I didn’t include in this list.These tracks just happened to come to my mind first.

I love a night in. Who am I kidding? I love an entire weekend in. Part of me though loves a night out – I can manage to muster the energy especially for friends and a night of dancing. The introvert in me hasn’t minded being at home for the past year, but there is a huge part of me that has grieved all of the usual outings that may have happened (Pride, Outfest, and a few trips to other cities – especially my first love Philadelphia). 

My Queer family – I love you deeply and I can’t wait to dance with you all again.

In a World of Influencers, I’d Rather Be Fran Lebowitz

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Through all of my feelings of disconnection these past few weeks, I have been searching for something to ground me. Better yet – inspire me to get back to writing. 

So, what did I do? I decided to finally watch the Fran Lebowitz docuseries – Pretend It’s a City on Netflix. I’ve heard her name throughout my life, but never truly knew who she was. I should mention I’m only two episodes in, already I am hooked and completely fascinated. 

Maybe it is because I see a lot of myself in Fran – she’s from NJ, she was horrible at math, she’s sarcastic, and she’s gay…I could go on but I feel like even she would make a joke that these similarities are more common than rare.

Anyway…. the episodes have put a fire under me to keep moving forward with writing. 

Forcing myself to wonder what else should this writing space contain – or should I shift my focus back to writing my manuscript and just talk about the journey of writing that here. 

The little kid in me who used to create newspapers filled with drawings and stories that I would sell to my neighbors is urging me to keep at the dream of being a published writer. Trying to figure out where I lost that spark of just creating because I wanted to and being certain others would enjoy my creation. 

There is one other thing that struck me in the series thus far. In the second episode the documentary flashes to Marvin Gaye talking about a true artist has the intentions of impacting change in the world with their work (or something along the lines of that) and it really sparked something in me. That has always been my reasoning for sharing my words with the world – in hoping that it would make a difference in someone’s life – even a little bit. 

I don’t have any answers this week or words of wisdom. I’m mentally hanging on by a thread. However, I do suggest checking out this docuseries if you haven’t already.

Until next time – now go call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.

Keep Going

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I researched a lot before I created this website.

There were common repetitive things that I kept stumbling upon that revolved around consistency, endurance, and don’t aim for perfection when posting.

Since going into hybrid mode with work, I haven’t been able to keep up with my original goals that I set to keep. So, I have to admit it may be time to adjust with how often I produce posts – at least for now

Instead of a couple of times a week, it may only be once a week that I can manage to write something to share with you all. Writing is my true passion, and it is what brings me joy. I won’t let responsibilities of growing older hinder the goals I have set out for this website, and myself.

The other thing is, my creative tank has also been closer to zero percent, but I think that has more to do with the grey skies of winter. I write this all in hopes that whoever reads this, if you’ve been feeling a similar sort of way – that you aren’t alone.

And I’ll leave you all with a song that can sum up how my feelings have been feeling lately:

What song have you had on repeat lately that’s been getting you through the days?

In the Midst of Chaos

By – Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

In the most chaotic of times you would think we as humans would take a minute to grow in self awareness of the happenings in the world that surrounds us. 

As the calendar keeps on creeping by I realize that it has almost been a year since the last time I functioned in the world without a mask, around my friends, and in a restaurant. 

Now that it’s been snowing for the past three days in DC, it’s really *snowballed* me in the face with how desperate we’ve been all trying to reach for normal…when there is no such thing as normal

Suddenly we are pressing on the gas pedal harder than ever before (and believe me, before we were still pressing it way too hard). Snow days used to be enjoyable and relaxing days at home – things we look forward to. Now it is much like how we’ve been living through this entire pandemic .. doing too much instead of taking a moment to just….be. 

In a world full of chaos (and a whole lot lacking in self-awareness of the going-ons around us…) I wish for you that you give yourself space to re-center. 

When the world is on overdrive to destination insanity – do yourself a favor and wait for the next bus. 

Finding the things that center you can be so vital to thriving in this life. Here are some examples of my own:

+Coffee (iced) – Iced black coffee soothes my soul, and yes it must be iced …even when it is snowing outside. *side note: there are times when my anxiety is far too high for the beverage I adore the most, so I have to switch to matcha tea*

+Naps – I hated naps as a kid. In daycare I would just lay there in the dark waiting for one of my parents to come pick me up. Now? I love them. I learned the hard way though that is is best to take short power naps and avoid napping for too long – the best reset button for the afternoon (or anytime) 

+Fresh air – It hasn’t always been easy to get myself to go outside, I won’t lie about that. When I do though? Sometimes I still regret it …but sometimes I also love it and take enjoyment in just being outside and smelling the fresh air.

+My favorite food – The one thing that can turn my day around is knowing I will be having pizza for dinner – no joke. Living in DC for four years though…I make my pizza at home mostly because well..I’m from NJ and I didn’t realize how good I had it until I no longer lived in the areas of NY, NJ, and Philly.

+Listening to music on vinyl – This is an experience of finding a comfortable center for me – going through my collection and trying to find the right record to play. Mostly I just lay and listen for a little bit – or I clean my apartment while it plays. 

+Cooking – This is a new one for me… sort of. I used to bake and I enjoyed doing that more than anything – especially baking for others. Now I cook significantly more than I ever have, and I realize how creating recipes and trying to cook different things is enjoyable for me (guess that’s another thing I got from my Chef of a Dad) 

+Writing Poetry – The creative in me needs to put words on paper when I am feeling almost any kind of emotion. Writing poetry is my way of dancing out my emotions – but on paper.

+Watching an old favorite TV show – Golden Girls anyone? Maybe some Living Single? Old sitcoms bring me so much joy and they are a great way, especially now, to just let ourselves laugh and not be consumed with so many thoughts. 

+Listening to voicemails I saved from my Mom Mom – My Mom-Mom was my rock. And I am extremely grateful that I had saved some of her voicemails before she passed a few years back. This year especially was one where I found myself going back and listening to them – mostly because I wanted so badly to just call her up, but couldn’t. 

There are many things out there other than those that I listed that have gotten me through this year. Some in a greater deal than others – but that’s the point…no matter how big or small… there are things we can turn to to center ourselves. 

…and just one final thought, as Margaret Atwood wrote in Handmaid’s Tale:
Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum = “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”

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?…