Breakfast for dinner & vanilla syruppy lattes

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Cooking for friends, I decided to serve big platters of breakfast for dinner. I made piles of bacon – made crisp in the oven – and fluffy piles of scrambled eggs. To make the whole thing truly American, I made pancakes. It’s a rare occasion – and I really only do it American style – no super-thin crêpe-style pancakes here.

The recipe I used for American pancakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ¼ cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk dry ingredients together, whisk in the milk until a lumpy batter forms. Add the egg, mix. Melt and add the 3 tablespoons of butter.

Meanwhile heat a griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat and add a small pat of butter for cooking.

Use ¼ cup for each pancake (makes 8 to 10 pancakes). Cook on each side – on the first one, when the top starts to bubble, you will know it’s about time to turn it over. Cook the opposite side and remove to plates. Serve warm with real maple syrup.

Then I decided to make vanilla lattes. I had no vanilla syrup but decided to make some. It’s fairly simple.

Vanilla syrup (for coffee drinks, for example)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (preferably clear but any vanilla will do)

Heat the water and sugar on the stove on medium heat while constantly stirring. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the vanilla. When well-mixed, pour the final product into a bottle. It will probably keep for weeks or even months without being refrigerated. I did not have a good storage bottle so had to use an empty Grey Goose vodka bottle!

Vanilla-flavored simple syrup for coffee drinks

Vanilla-flavored simple syrup for coffee drinks

Then I made happy little vanilla lattes!

Makeshift vanilla latte magnificence

Makeshift vanilla latte magnificence

Wine in the morning
And some breakfast at night.
Well I’m beginning to see the light.

The changing workscape: Going it alone

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Whether picking up freelance projects here and there as a kind of sole proprietor or doing something a bit more formal, setting up a company and running it, the current job market coupled with the difficulty of being “seen” by recruiters (even if you’ve got the experience, talent and skills required) are making more and more people choose to go it alone. Obviously deciding to work for yourself requires a kind of independence, confidence and belief in your skills and ideas that will give you the strength to persevere through lean times. The challenges of launching and marketing a new business – and the need to basically do at least two jobs at all times (the job/specialty you are selling and then the actual selling/marketing of those services) can be daunting. Never mind the bureaucracy and accounting work you will have to consider…

But going into business for yourself isn’t all risk, no reward – or people would not do it, keep doing it and loving it.

Beginning to see the light
The job search has been long and tough – very few interviews, or a lot of interviews that lead nowhere, and you start to think that maybe you would be better off – and much more in control of your professional destiny – if you strike out on your own. This initial “seeing the light” can be deceptive, of course, because on the surface it sounds a lot easier to just take matters into your own hands and go from there. If you’ve never started or run a business, though, you could be in for a few surprises in terms of how difficult it can be. Do your homework. But don’t let the challenges stop you. You will actually be a stronger person and may either become a successful businessperson, recognizing that this is where you belong – or you may just bolster yourself and gain insight and independence enough to know that you do belong in a regular job. But the experience of starting your own business and creating your own job has prepared you in whole new ways you could not even have imagined for the job you eventually seek. You are broadening your horizons no matter what road you take.

But first things first.

How did the “light” first come on that made you consider becoming your own boss?

The hard search – not being seen
The aforementioned “not being seen” in the job hunt is becoming more common. A recent, popular thread on LinkedIn discussed the increasing difficulty of differentiating yourself as a job candidate, particularly when you are something of a jack-of-all-trades. This inspired me to write on the subject of recruitment and HR and the foibles therein. A friend and former professor sent me another article about how HR has begun to embrace “big data” – and this is starting to influence hiring and retention decisions to, as the article points out, an almost creepy degree.

A true jack-of-all-trades, as many people pointed out in the comments to this post on LinkedIn, may be better off channeling all of those myriad skills into his or her own enterprise. If someone else cannot take in and appreciate the generalist, DIY, can-do approach to business, who better to benefit from your work than you – and the stable of clients you eventually cultivate?

When you have done your due diligence – and that means, really taking the time to tailor each application you submit (which may mean cutting back on the jack-of-all-trades theme to market yourself as a specialist in a few key areas, targeted for the specific job) – and you still find yourself getting nowhere, it might be time to apply the same efforts you make in the job search to assessing what kind of business you could do on your own using the skills in your toolbox that others have not seemed to cotton to. Do some market analysis – what needs exist that you can address?

This may be the best way to be seen and to make a mark.

The risk of self-employment 
Most things really worth doing do not come without any risk.

The biggest risk – you might fail. Many small businesses fail. It’s par for the course. But is failure in this case really failure? It’s a mixed bag. You may lose your shirt, but you know that there is always another shirt where that one came from. You will never learn as much as fast as you do in starting and running your own business – succeed or fail. If you fail, you take away valuable lessons and experience. You can either apply these lessons to your next business venture (the entrepreneurial bug is strong once you start) or apply the lessons to your next job. You are richer for it. “..a recent survey of 1,000 small business owners (conducted by Deluxe Corp and reported in Business Insider) shows that the vast majority of them are confident in their endeavors and say they’d rather embrace potential failure than never try at all”. Once you make up your mind, you’re pretty sure that you can live with failure – and need to be optimistic about success, regardless of the statistics, or you would not be likely to give the business your all.

Some might argue that it is a risk to work for yourself because you are sort of taking yourself out of the workforce specifically in your field and thus might fall behind on new trends or technologies because you are not active in that field. I doubt this. If you’re leveraging your former experience, chances are, as a self-employed person in a similar field, you have to stay ahead of the curve on trends to be competitive. This is why companies will turn to you – as your own enterprise, you are expected to be on the cutting edge. You might ultimately end up ahead of the game.

Difficulties & hard times
Money, money, money
I think one of the major reasons that more people don’t go into business for themselves, which goes beyond the not knowing how or where to start is the cash flow situation. Not only do you not have start-up costs on hand, but you, like everyone else, have bills to pay. And many people are motivated in large part by the paycheck. A steady job, even one you hate, pays you and ensures that you keep a roof over your head and all the rest. But, while theory won’t keep the wolf from the door, the idea that you work just for a paycheck is the kind of mindset that you should work to change.

Learning curve
You have a lot of skills to apply to the work you eventually want to do in your business. But to get there, there’s a lot to learn about starting, operating and building a business. This kind of knowledge doesn’t come overnight, and you will have to work hard and be patient, embracing what may be a steep and possibly winding learning curve.

Overreaching & lack of planning
You might try to do too much, too fast and overreach. You can easily lose the plot by doing this – and burn yourself out. Be sure to have very specific goals – and don’t stray too far from these, even if you see opportunities to dabble in a bunch of different areas outside your core business. This can lead to trouble, especially in the early days when you struggle to find your footing. You need to have a good plan from the beginning and, while you can exhibit some flexibility, straying too far outside the guidelines can get you into trouble, mired in projects that you cannot fulfill your commitments to. The temptation to do this can be great, especially when money is tight in the beginning, but you’re better off in the long run if you stick to your guns and do not take on something you cannot handle. Does that mean you should not challenge yourself? No, but definitely evaluate whether a project is within the scope of what your business and your expertise can offer. You risk a big bundle of stress, financial losses and a potential hit to your reputation if you don’t manage yourself and your obligations carefully.

Legal trouble
Further on the previous point, if you are careless about making delivery promises or careless in taking care of all the required aspects of establishing a business legally (especially where it concerns intellectual property), you can quickly find yourself in legal trouble. This is somewhere you definitely do not want to go. Failing in a small business is one thing – getting tangled up in lawsuits is entirely another. Always put in the time to make sure everything is above board and legal.

The rewards of self-employment
Flexibility
One of the biggest bonuses of working for yourself is the flexibility you can build into your work life. Sure, you will probably be working most of the time – but it’s your business and your time. When you need to run out and do an errand, no one is looking over your shoulder and asking you to punch a time clock. Your time is your own, and you know that you get what you put into whatever efforts you are making. For me, the home office has been a boon – I have discovered that unknown levels of productivity are possible for me when I am working at home, so the readjustment to office life has just not worked well. Sure, I need to be flexible as well – but having your own business buys you this kind of freedom.

Nonstop learning
If you are anything like me, one of the battles of working in a regular job is that many of them have an initial learning curve (new company, new project) but then once you have mastered a few things, there is not a lot of brain stretching going on. This is not always true – there is always something to learn but you’ve got to be proactive about seeking it out. Sometimes the traditional work environment, even if you are like a sponge, picking up new knowledge and skills, just wants to pigeonhole you into whatever role you are doing, and the lack of growth that results from your gusto to learn leaves the learning less than satisfying. This is never a problem in your own enterprise. You have to learn to keep going, and you will apply everything you learn all the time. For those for whom endless curiosity is a constant nag, self-employment is one salve for the soul.

Building your network, building your reputation
Don’t give yourself a bad reputation! Building up your network of clients is the best way to get more clients. In my own experience, I have tried various types of advertising and marketing, and the single best way – that keeps paying off after literally years – is word of mouth. Former/current clients are asked by friends and peers for recommendations, and even if eight years have gone by, they will remember the work I did and pass my name along.

This leads to the next point – working for yourself, you are the show, so you have to put your best foot forward and manage your reputation. Clearly building a solid reputation with clients makes you memorable, keeps them coming back and will grow your business even without you exerting effort. The effort you make today can pay dividends later.

Satisfaction
You did it! Whether you stick with it forever and keep growing or just do the self-employed thing for a while, you did it. You stuck with it and now have this invaluable experience to show that you’ve got business experience, sense and acumen.

Seeing the signs Do it alone
The way things are going – both in the job market as a whole and in specific industries, and perhaps just in your own field – you should be able to read the writing on the wall to assess whether the time has come to strike out on your own and make a go of it.

It’s not that I am a vocal advocate of starting one’s own business – I have done it because I found myself unemployed and with few options living in a new country. And if it seems like a bureaucratic rat maze navigating the vagaries of legal, financial and other considerations in starting a business in your own city, imagine doing it in a foreign country in a new language. But the fact that I managed means that pretty much anyone can do it if you have a solid plan, a target clientele, a way to market yourself and a lot of patience – and networking skills don’t hurt one bit. It is hard work – perhaps even harder and much more time consuming than going to a regular 9 to 5 job, but it can be a salvation and even an addiction once you start to see positive results and the fruits of your labor.

the sounds of summer

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The Good Goo of Random Gum
Wooded Summer 2011 (playlist on Spotify, where the songs actually exist on Spotify)

01. “Time Never Dies” – Anastasia (Before the Rain soundtrack)
When I think of the film Before the Rain, I will always think of how my friend Mike and I always used to spend our 1990s Friday nights together watching films. This one was told in a roundabout way that still does not totally make sense. The film starred the late Katrin Cartlidge and one of Hollywood’s favorite “eastern European villains”, Rade Serbedzija.

02. “Sometimes” – Beach Fossils …We get lost sometimes/But the reality will keep us sane…
Lost but not lost, a lot of goodbyes, bad byes, telling people off but also enjoying good, new beginnings.

03. “Sun Demon” – Stereolab Actually I like the title “Sun Demon” more than I like the song.

04. “Sorrow” – The National …I don’t wanna get over you… 🙁

05. “The Oh So Protective One” – Girls …And if by now he doesn’t see/Maybe it wasn’t meant to be…
An irresistible, early-Elvis Costello-ballad feel to it. Here’s to unexpressed feelings and how they can tear one up inside.

06. “Ring Ring” – Sleigh Bells …click click saddle up see you on the moon then…
“You’re all alone friend…” Yes, you are all alone, and you might as well be on the moon.

07. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” – Arcade Fire …Living in the sprawl/Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains/And there’s no end in sight/I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights…
“These days my life, I feel it has no purpose/But late at night the feelings swim to the surface”. Continued thanks to Gabriel for the intro. Addictive song, addictive album.

08. “Home” – Glasser …The clouds were dust, raining on us/There was a phantom me in a bed of love…
Reference to a ‘bed of love’ brings to mind an Ingeborg Bachmann poem I have long loved that states, “fearless in religion, for our bed was the church”. For A-x, who gave me hope, titles, dreams, support and then sort of took it all away.

09. “Photojournalist” – Small Black …rise up again/like a ghost…
Like a sexual apparition always haunting for years after the fact, I apparently rise again and again like a ghost.

10. “Swim” – Surfer Blood …swim to reach the end…
SWIM (someone who isn’t me) recommends this song. Thoughts of Jennifer and Esteban!

11. “Ed-Ucation” – Dr Dre …what happened to just fallin in love with a niggah with a bus pass?…
Thank you, Annette, for quoting this for me while waving a bus pass around on a cold Oslo morning.

12. “Core of Nature” – Midlake …I’ll remain no more than is required of me/Until the spirit is gone/I will long to see all that waits to be known/And all that will never be known…
Midlake makes me think of Aurélien and also DB, former colleague and Annette’s “adopted son” in Stockholm.

13. “Wind Me Up” – Eux Autres …Needles and pins/Wait to wind me up again/Summer’s making me late…
Love for my mom and for Annette: Getting late? Needles and pins-uh. 🙂 “Winter’s making me wait/and then”

14. “We Can Get Together” – The Hold Steady …Heaven is whenever we can get together/Lock your bedroom door, and listen to your records…
Remembering the close intensity of youthful friendships and how they all fell apart. The intimacy of pure and simple things being like heaven back in those days (love to GL, LH and TP).

15. “Golden Haze” – Wild Nothing …wild heart surrender to me/what does it take to be like you? …

16. “Up and Down” – Chad Valley
New Year’s Day 2011 and simply struck me for its sound and idea – things really are up and down.

17. “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By” – Love & Rockets …In a city without a soul/Newspaper boys selling you the hard truth…
L&R is like being transported back to junior high school but sounds very different to me now than it did then. For some totally unknown reason, this makes me think of my friend Jill. May you finally escape Ithaca!

18. “Azt Mondta Az Anyukam” – Tamas Somlo & Omega
Strange Hungarian music that just had a cool sound in the resurgence of my love for Hungarian stuff.

19. “All Alone in an Empty House” – Lost in the Trees
What could be more apt? I am all alone in an empty house, lost in the trees, surrounded by deer licking my car.

20. “Love or Loneliness” – Math and Physics Club
“You say there’s only me/then you say it’s sweet/I still believe in monogamy/what am I supposed to think?”

21. “Everything You Wanted” – Kele …I see the pain written over your face/And I know I pushed you too far…

22. “Lille” – Lisa Hannigan
“I went to war every morning/I lost my way, but now I’m following/What you said in my arms/What I read in the charms/that I loved durably/now it’s dead and gone, and I am free…”

23. “Take ‘Em Up” – Shit Robot …Maybe it’s just a little too late/And when you’re close you’re just a little too close/But it’s just as far as you’ll go…

24. “Triumph!!!” – Shit Robot

25. “Own Stunts” – Breathe Owl Breathe …I’m walking down the path/Look down there’s a welcome mat/Over a trap door…
“Cross my heart and hope to live/My blood is boilin’”. This song, for some unknown reason, affects me deeply.

26. “Without a Doubt” – Isbells
With love to Arjen for another stellar recommendation. Belgium has more than just beer and chocolate!:)

27. “In Many Ways I Am Losing” – Joe Wilkes …you shoulda locked me out/when I came in drunk that time…

28. “Miner at the Dial-a-View” – Grandaddy …I’m going home someday…
Longtime friend David gave me this album an eternity ago. I fell in love with it again lately. Tack så mycket, David.

29. “Acid Reign” – Violens …I know I can be so critical at times/When you’re delusional/leaving your loved ones behind…
I somehow associate this band with A-x since his presence swirls around these songs.

30. “My Love” – The Asteroid No. 4 …South of London where the roses seem to grow through the cobblestones/I met my lover at the end of a winding country road…
Middle of the night drives, no other cars, feeling buoyed by this sound.

31. “My Oh My!” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis …fight until the day that God decides to wave us in…
RIP Dave Niehaus and… take me out to the ballgame… and to all my baseball-loving friends.

32. “You Can Count on Me” – Panda Bear
You can never actually count on anyone.

33. “Hey” – The Pixies
For Mathieu – very appropriate.

34. “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais” – Serge Gainsbourg …oui je t’aimais, oui, mais- je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais…
The driving song … my American days. Des adieux à jamais/Farewell forever.

35. “Marathon” – Tennis …we didn’t realize that we had arrived at high tide, high tide/barely made it out alive…
My immortal love for marathons. For JKL, the only capable marathoner I know.

36. “Cold Blooded Old Times” – Smog …the type of memories/that turn your bones to glass…
“How can I stand/And laugh with the man/Who redefined your body?”

37. “The Dawn of Your Happiness is Rising” – Violens …the dawn of your happiness still rising/Still rising, banishing the dark thoughts you have been hiding inside of you…
For A-x. “You lay awake/beside me troubled and afraid/Be calm, you’re safe/the light of day just hours away…”

38. “Pineapple Girl” – Mister Heavenly …I’ve heard you’re evil and I’ve heard you’re wicked/that you do bad things that would frighten children…
Is there anything the pineapple girl cannot do? No! “So be my little pineapple girl”.

39. “A Postcard to Nina” – Jens Lekman …don’t let anyone stand in your way…
I miss Nina! (Great lyrics with a great story. I always love the Swedes!)

40. “What’s In It For?” – Avi Buffalo …you are tiny and your lips are just like little pieces of bacon…
“I walked in on a plan to dissolve all of your wishes…”

41. “Boyfriend” – Best Coast …I’d love him to the very end/But instead he is just a friend…
I used to just think this sounded sort of cool, like something from the 60s. Now it just makes me sad.

42. “Fucking Boyfriend (Peaches Remix)” – The Bird and the Bee …Would you ever be my, would you be my fucking boyfriend?…
Thanks to Esteban in response to “Boyfriend”… should be more in keeping with my angrier, more demanding nature.

43. “It’s Alright” – Junip

44. “Gravity Feels” – Millionyoung
I love to play this LOUD in the car in the middle of the night. I love the shift from instrumental to vocal.

45. “Need You Now” – Cut Copy …hush darling, don’t you cry…
You were there at least once when I really needed you.

46. “Corporeal” – Broadcast …do that to my anatomy…
RIP Trish Keenan of Broadcast. “A thorny red heart/Around a thin arm/Inside a white bone/The love is inborn”

47. “More” – The Sisters of Mercy (Marilyn)
Nightmare experiences that diminish in horror over time: they are as bad as you remember. Never be fooled by the fallacy of a time-softened memory.

48. “Bone China” – 50 Foot Wave …last gasp nymphomania/somehow desexualized/gonna wash that man right out of my hair/soap him into my eyes… (For JKL)

49. “Motorbike to Heaven” – Salad …I don’t know why/but I got a good idea that we’ll meet again someday/it makes me cry/there’s a memory of you standing in the woods…
Thoughts of past (Kathryn, Beth, Olivier) and present (KKK) and memories of not getting what I want in the woods.

50. “Pneuma” – 50 Foot Wave …you know what? you know what? you know what?/SHUT THE FUCK UP!…

51. “Harold and Joe” – The Cure
Failing drafting class and listening to this while daily crossing the field from Japanese class. Thanks to Gary, 1990

52. “Big Wave” – Jenny and Johnny (Thanks to Aurélien)
“And my love’s a lie/’cause the snake, he visits me/When you are away/And your dreams don’t lie/I have been corrupted/’Cause all the lovers I take”

53. “The Chinatown Bus” – Bishop Allen
“And his gloves are pristine white just like the girls I used to know would wear to dance their first cotillion/Every single one of them named Jennifer”

54. “We Were Gonna” – Dengue Fever
I love the sound of this music – Cambodian lyrics remind me of Vietnamese karaoke circa 1996, lost time.

55. “Get Innocuous!” – LCD Soundsystem …to string you along with the pretense/and pave the way for the coming release…

56. “The Youth” – MGMT …This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together…

57. “Povo Que Lavas No Rio” – Amália Rodrigues
“Pode haver quem te defenda/Quem compre o teu chão sagrado/Mas a tua vida não”

58. “The Dustbowl” – Everything but the Girl …am I flattering myself/or was I the one who made you cynical?…
Love to William who put this on a tape for me years and years ago!

59. “Going Blind” – The Go-Betweens …sometimes change is a dirty word/yeah, that’s what I heard…
I miss the Go-Betweens. Here’s to more change, which is never a dirty word in my vocabulary.

60. “Beginning to See the Light” – The Velvet Underground …some people work very hard/but still they never get it right…
Timeless, with passion. “There are problems in these times/but woooooo, none of them are mine!”

61. “Running from the Cops” – Phantogram …my dreams they never come true/and if they ever, ever do it’s never you…
For KKK, who has assumed an inexplicable amount of importance in my life

62. “Winter’s Ruin” – Ghosts I’ve Met …I never really knew you at all… (For A-x.)

63. “Dead Man Walking” – Sara Petite
Something peculiar for me. Ms Petite was one of my high school classmates (slightly reminiscent of Victoria Williams).

64. “Under Their Thumb… is under my thumb” – The Boomtown Rats …revenge is sweet/but it’s sugar free…
Love to Angelika, to Annette, and to long lost friends…

65. “The High Road” – Broken Bells …it’s too late to change your mind…

66. “Nobody’s Diary” – Yazoo …For the happy, the sad – I don’t want to be just another page in your history…

67. “Water Ran” – Lilly Wood & the Prick …it’s too early to say I would have liked to love you, I know…
For A-x. “It’s too far to say I would have liked to hold you…”

68. “Hourglass” – Squeeze

69. “It’s Working” – MGMT …no, it’s working…
“It’s working in your blood/which you know is not the same as love/love is only in your mind and not your heart”

70. “Senses Working Overtime” – XTC …and all the world is biscuit shaped/it’s just for me to feed my face…

71. “Pendulum” – Broadcast …Caught between the day and night/And a knot that pulls too tight…
“Logic offers no defense/Underneath this influence/While this puzzle of intent/Holds emotion in suspense”

72. “Little Marriage” – Lia Ices …I started minding not having it all/one little marriage or big love…
Here’s to all the things I just cannot bear to do anymore.

73. “I’ll Try Anything Once” – The Strokes (With love for Tara)

74. “No Surprises” – Radiohead …no alarms and no surprises…
Always the way things end. No alarms and no surprises…

75. “Sacrifice” – Sinéad O’Connor …Cold, cold heart/hardened by you/some things look better, baby/just passing through…
Driving I-5 away from Seattle in summer, 1996, aimless, restless, being torn apart. The sound of a busy signal.

76. “Flower” – Liz Phair (For JKL) …every time you pass me by, I heave a sigh of pain…
Lyrics are self-explanatorily graphic, “impure” and “unchaste”…

77. “Bad Luck Heels” – DeVotchKa

78. “The Night” – Morphine …You’re the night, Lilah/A little girl lost in the woods/You’re a folk tale/The unexplainable…

79. “Heroes” – TV on the Radio (RIP Gerard Smith of TVotR – one of David Bowie’s best is a fitting tribute…)

80. “At the Start” – Shelby Earl …I’m tired of letting go with a smile/when you kissed my hand and said, you’re all right…
“I am right where I’ve always been/at the start, I could see the end/I am right where I always am/at the start, I’m at the end”

81. “Don’t Shake It” – Cornershop

82. “Fly Me Away” – Goldfrapp …And I wanna be the/One that you call/When you get down/No matter where you/Are in the world I’ll be around…
This had a faintly Saint Etienne quality, made me think very much of beloved, illustrious Ben and of A-x. “Don’t wanna live a life/In a world that’s all the same/The crazy little things/That you do are magical”

83. “Flower” – The Charlatans …it’s time to say goodbye,/bye to the bad, bad girl…

84. “Make a Plan to Love Me” – Bright Eyes …some things you lose/you don’t get back/So just know what you have…
“When you are young the world is a ferris wheel/I know we will grow old it is lovely, still/Make a plan to love me…”

85. “Pretend I Don’t Exist” – Melody Gardot (For A-x)
“I waited for love to call/But got none at all/So I should stay/While you wander away/From the warmth of my lips/Just try to forget my kiss/Pretend I don’t exist”

86. “New Myth” – Lia Ices …say my name like it’s never been before…
Beauty, raw emotion. For A-x, for Jane. “New myth just been born has never felt so old.”