Miscellaneous Short Stories

Transgenerational Inheritance (feat. Limp Bizkit): A Personal Essay

In the days after my cousin died, things were chaotic. We gutted her apartment, tossing the groceries that had been left to rot on her countertops — she’d had them delivered, but never made it home to put them away — and sorting through boxes and boxes of glittery soaps, salves, tinctures and ointments.

My extended family, worn out both from the flight down here from New York and the drive down to Myrtle Beach to claim my cousin’s body, had us trash most of it.

Over the course of two days, the dumpster filled with more and more of my cousin’s things: garbage bags packed almost to splitting with sunglasses, costume jewelry and random, unused items from television ads that had long gathered dust.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

My youngest brother uncovered a custom hookah shaped like a badazzled machine gun, and lamented as our mother (“hell no! absolutely not!”) refused to let him keep it. My other brother found a lockbox filled with “miscellaneous pills and powders,” which he quickly resealed. The key (with a fob reading “Italian Girls Have More Fun”) remained jammed inexorably into the keyhole.

We didn’t throw away everything. While my living cousins made off with designer bags, photographs and a glass-blown pineapple-shaped bong (“for sentimental value,” one cousin stressed), I found myself gravitating towards stranger things. Bric-a-brac, tchotchkes and glorified trash.

A box of rave kandi. A bottle of orange liquer shaped like a dachshund. An old ID from the community college she’d dropped out of in 2006.

Scanned kandi

After we emptied her apartment, everyone went back home. My grandparents and great aunt flew back to New York. One of my cousin’s long-time friends came and collected her bereaved yorkie. I went and took my board-op test to become a DJ. They had the memorial service up in New York and everyone got stoned (or so I heard.) So it goes.

Somewhere along all of this (it all feels nonlinear to me, like skipping through a movie in 10-second incremends), I ended up with a bag of CDs.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

“Here, do you want these?” My mother held them out like one does a dirty diaper, pinching the bag (it was one of those plastic sleeves people keep duvet covers in) by the corner so the CDs puddled in the bottom. They were loose and probably scratched to all hell; probably unusable, really; probably trash.

I took them anyways, stuffing the bag under my bed to rot.

Over two years later (specifically, March 30, 2024), I decided to finally work my way through them. Here’s what I learned:

Laying Out the Particulars of My Inheritance

Parsing through my cousin’s CD collection was like cracking open a time capsule from the early 2000s. As I sat on my bedroom floor and fed disc after disc into my cheap CD player, I felt like I was talking to her — and my adolescent self — again.

“God, you really liked Ludacris, didn’t you?” I said to someone who wasn’t there. Not physically, at least.

It was a 21st century seance, a transgenerational ceremony conducted via polycarbonate. I was channeling my cousin’s spirit, and rather than imploring her to answer my burning questions (“What is life like after death?” “Did you understand what was happening?” “Are you at peace?”), I silently judged her drippingly-2010’s music taste.

Like me, she’d constructed most of her young life around music. I could trace her progression of style, the alt rock and grunge of the 90s and early 2000s giving way to the hip-hop renaissance of the 2010s.

I laid out tall stacks of custom CDs with titles like “Summer 2006,” “Hot Sh–” and “My Mix” lettered in girlish sharpie. I imagined how old she had been when she wrote them, whether or not she’d had her nails done and if her wrists were heavy with gaudy beaded bracelets.

Scanned CDs

In a time before iPods and bluetooth and — heavens forbid — Spotify, burning CDs was a sacred practice. Music was corporeal, and one’s affinity for the stuff became something physical — piles of CDs, stacks of vinyl, etc — that demanded real estate. By comparison, my preferred method of music consumption (streaming) seemed compressed.

In my adolescence, I myself burned songs onto discs — pirating the tracks online, then meticulously ordering them by “vibe” — and eventually did the same on my first iPod. But those were all long gone, sublimated into a single app on a phone I often misplaced.

Sitting cross-legged with a plethora of discs fanned out before me, I picked out several names: System of a Down (one of my top artists of 2023), Nirvana (also one of my top artists), Kittie, Korn, Slipknot and an obscene amount of Limp Bizkit.

Cover for “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” by Limp Bizkit

I’ll be honest: I’m not all that familiar with Limp Bizkit’s discography. I’m more familiar with Fred Durst, who I’ve mentally elevated to the status of a sort of mythical folklore hero (or antihero?). Anyways, I decided to put on “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” and was utterly shocked by how awesomely stupid it was. It’s great.

I could imagine my cousin, a teenager or perhaps in her early twenties, speeding down the highway in her little blue SUV and cranking the radio up to full blast, singing along to Fred f–ing Durst and reveling in the invincibility of youth and the heat of a seemingly endless southern summer.

I’m a renegade riot gettin’ out of control
I’m a keepin’ it alive and continue to be
Flyin’ like an eagle to my destiny
So can you feel me? (hell yeah)
Can you feel me? (hell yeah)
Can you feel me? (hell yeah)

“Livin’ it Up” – Limp Bizkit

Transgenerational theory posits rules for the ways in which rrituals, practices, behaviors and philosophies move down generational lines.

Think transgenerational trauma: agony passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter over three lifetimes. Her mother was my mother’s aunt, second eldest of seven first-generation Italian immigrants. Evidently, not a fan of Fred Durst or Serj Tankian or any of the other yelling men my cousin liked to listen to.

And while the CD collection made its way into my hands (unceremoniously, I might add) intergenerationally (i.e., it was literally passed down), the physical discs themselves weren’t the only thing I was given. There was something else in transference, something intangible. A transgenerational impulse.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Energy, maybe. A parasocial connection to a teenager I’d never met who grew up to be an adult I loved and lost, a teenager who probably wasn’t much different (if anything, less emo) than my own teenage self. A teenager who meticulously curated mixes for each season, each new year, each new release.

I pop in a disc without a name — it’s hazy green on the front — and watch it spin, and instead of frenzied guitar and drums, I hear a delicate strumming and familiar, dreamlike voice.

I don’t miss you
I don’t wish you harm
And I forgive you
And I don’t wish you away

“Soothe” – Smashing Pumpkins

It’s “Soothe,” a demo tape by Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve never heard it before, but for a moment, I can imagine I’m my cousin: young, alive, lounging before a CD player. For a moment, two dimensions in time: mine here and hers there, run parallel.

Concert Review Short Stories

Are Concerts in 2023 Really A Bust?

About a month ago, I attended three concerts of different audiences: Lil Yachty, Lana Del Rey and TV Girl. All of these were amazing but, the audiences were all quite unique. Concert culture has been at the forefront of many discussions recently and I can’t help but insert my own perspective into the discourse as an avid concertgoer.

The theory is our concerts have been remodeled by the media and a new generation of concert attendees. Everyone has the right to enjoy a show they paid for in their own way, but it has felt in recent years that people are paying to be there rather than to be in the moment. There is more judgment toward singing and dancing along, with a phone screen in front of you at all times. I decided to observe this theory of concerts during my weeklong show trip across the beautiful state of North Carolina.

Show 1: Lil Yachty

Lil Yachty Singing on stage at The Ritz

The first was Lil Yachty’s Field Trip Tour on September 25 at The Ritz. Lil Yachty brought unmatched energy. He switched between his early Hip hop tunes and newest psychedelic sound from his most recent album Let’s Start Here. It seemed, however, that people were unenthused outside his most popular rap hits. Phones went down and small conversations broke out throughout the crowd. It felt a bit disrespectful, almost as if we begin to focus less on the production and live music more on grasping the moments which bring the most popularity.

When artists rise up due to the internet’s exposure, they are pressured to fit the narrative that put them in the spotlight meaning they have little room for experimentation without some judgment. In this case, it was Lil Yachty’s psychedelic sound. It was as if some audience members didn’t want to try his new sound. Regardless of how audience members felt Lil Yachty put together an amazing production that I would pay to see again.

Show 2: Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey singing on stage

Lana Del Rey on the other hand still had this phenomenon of viral fame but the experience was slightly different outside the genre aspect. Lana del Rey is a timeless singer therefore, I knew her audience would bring people of all levels of familiarity but what I was most surprised to see was a significant amount of people coming in last minute. Seriously, the person sitting next to me came halfway through the set and was annoyed by the singing fans.

Meanwhile, I sat beside him feeling reborn at seeing Lana Del Rey live. The people in front of me came in late and left twice. It boggled me a bit given tickets were so expensive and some felt nonchalant. I have a suspicion that scalpers who couldn’t sell their tickets decided to attend. There really was just a strange dynamic of people in the crowd at least in my section. The show seemed widely enjoyable regardless of the people around me I observed. I felt judged by some of the people around me but alas I did pay an unspeakable amount.

Show 3: TV Girl

Brad Petering of TV Girl on stage

TV Girl really put the theory of media shaping concerts to the test. They rapidly gained their fame on social media during the past couple of years so I expected the crowd to be a part of this new generation of concertgoers. To my surprise, it was the best crowd out of the shows I attended that week. Everyone seemed to be more in the moment, singing and dancing along. The crowd was respectful and it made the energy quite amazing. On social media, I had seen viral videos complaining about the TV Girl crowd being this model of a new era concertgoer who is always recording or may only know the most popular songs but that proved incorrect. 

Final Thoughts

So, what is my take on concerts in 2023? At the end of the day, you can’t really tell someone how to enjoy a show they paid for. You just have to make the experience enjoyable for yourself and hone in on the performance. Of course, the crowd can impact how much you enjoy the show but at the end of the day regardless of the crowds, I had a great time at all three shows.

Miscellaneous Short Stories

WKNC Goes to an Olive Garden in Orlando After Doing More Important Things

I, and five other of my treasured members of WKNC staff (plus our amazing advisor Jamie) had the special privilege of getting to represent the station at the CBI National Student Electronic Media Convention in Orlando, Florida from Oct. 19 – 21. While there, we scored three awards for how awesome we are, along with an even bigger prize: knowledge that will be applied to make the station better in the near future.

This blog isn’t about that though.

This blog is about Olive Garden.

Short Stories

Being Pretentious (and also Only Twelve)

Much like many other people who frequently listen to the WKNC daytime block, I was raised on the outdated music of my parents. I mistakenly assumed that there had to be a reason I only heard older music at home: it had to be better than new music or something.

I am glad I do not think this way anymore. Amazing music has been made in all kinds of genres and being open minded is what allows you to appreciate as much of it as possible.

Questionable Beatles Appreciation

Album Cover for 1 (compilation album) by The Beatles
Album cover for 1, a compilation album of music by The Beatles

So yeah, when I was younger, I really liked The Beatles. I listened to the “1” album (a compilation album including many of their largest hits) over and over again. For some reason, I thought this made me an authority on music or something.

A few things happened when music was brought up around me during that time which I now think are pretty funny.

Not being the friend you want to talk about music to

I was talking to a friend in seventh grade and he asked me what my favorite Beatles song was because he knew I loved their music. I had a hard time choosing a song so he told me his favorite song. The song was “Across the Universe”.

That song is often though to be one of the best Beatles songs. It has been covered by numerous artists including Fiona Apple, David Bowie and strangely even Evanescence…

Despite the songs critical acclaim, 13 year old me had no clue that the song existed so I told him, “I have never heard it, it probably sucks”.

This was an unfortunate thing for me to say about one of his favorite songs. I definitely did not “win” that conversation.

Music has such an awesome ability to bring people together and I was definitely not utilizing that at 13.

Struggling to know the decades

In sixth grade, my history teacher began talking about music and asked the class what our favorite 80’s bands were. I raised my hand and when I was called on I told the class that The Beatles were my favorite 80’s band. The teacher gave me a look as if I had said something wrong but I was not really sure why.

I later realized that The Beatles broke up 10 years before the decade even began.

Bonus story: Being mildly traumatized by recorded music

This story comes from when I was much younger but I thought I should include it. I was probably three or four and I was in the bath with my mom supervising me. A CD Boombox (an AM-FM radio with a built in CD player) was on the bathroom counter and the White Album by The Beatles was inside it playing.

Many people think that the album is too unfocused as it has many songs that are strange diversions, but I loved the stories and sounds in the songs as a child.

My mom briefly left the room and a song from the B side of the record that I had not heard before began playing. The track was “Revolution 9”.

If you have never heard the song, maybe consider listening to it so you could better understand how a three year old brain would react to it. The song sounds like it was designed to scare kids with its reversed dialogue, baby cries, rising orchestral pitches, crashing cymbals, distressed voices and other harsh sounds.

A fun bath time with soap bubbles soon became visceral horror. I was definitely crying and belligerent while this was happening.

What made this even worse was that I happened to be so small that I could not reach the CD player when I got out of the bath to skip the song so I just had to listen to it. I do not remember if the full 8 minutes and 22 seconds of the track played out or if my mom came back and stopped it but either way I was not having a good time.

I am still freaked out by that song (even though I think it is conceptually cool) and have skipped it while alone a few times.


Don’t be pretentious, especially not if you have no clue what you are talking about. You don’t want to sound like a middle-school aged Beatles fan, do you?

Short Stories

Drainuary: A Tragedy in Two Parts

Hope, Part 1

On February 7, 2023, I made a commitment to myself and a small group of friends. For the rest of February, the only music I would listen to would be within the “drain gang”. For anyone who doesn’t know, drain gang includes a plethora of artists including Bladee, Ecco2k, Thaiboy Digital, and Yung Lean. The genre is a blend of hyperpop and trap, which many seem to enjoy.

I had never listened to any of these artists prior to that day. Naively, I assumed that this challenge, called “Drainuary” would be a good introduction to the genre. However, drain gang would soon take its toll on my mental health.

Yung Lean performing at The Hoxton in 2016. Photo courtesy of Drew Yorke, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 1

For context, I listen to approximately 6 hours of music every day. It gets me through both the good times and the bad. Music hypes me up for the gym and puts me to sleep. The issue with listening to this much music arises when I can no longer listen to a diverse music palette. Over the first 24 hours of Drainuary, I listened to about six hours of Bladee alone.

This statistic alone broke me. Exactly at that 24 hour mark, I decided to abandon the challenge, knowing that my mental state would only further deteriorate from there. I wasn’t enjoying the music that much, and I only listened to drain gang out of spite. But, this journey was not yet finished.

Hope, Part 2

One friend of mine suggested that I should instead listen to an artist that I actually enjoyed. After searching through my playlists for artists starting with an F (for February), I finally landed on Fiona Apple. Now, I would listen to no music except for that in which Fiona Apple played a part in creating. Although I hadn’t listened to all of her catalogue, I adored her latest album “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”.

Compared to Drainuary, “Fiona February” was a breath of fresh air. Her music spanned a far greater range of emotions than someone like Bladee, and I could assign an identity to each of her albums. As a result, cycling through her music felt far more natural, allowing me to keep with Fiona February for longer into the month.

Fiona Apple at Damrosch Park Aug 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sachyn Mital, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 2

Longer is a bit misleading of a term though. After five days of listening to nothing except Fiona Apple, I started having a mental breakdown and needed to use other artists to ground myself again. Granted, I was also dealing with other issues at the time, but Fiona February certainly didn’t help.

What I Learned

Despite what I had expected, intentionally limiting my listening to just one type of music is extremely difficult. I was unable to complete many tasks I can normally do just fine, because I felt like I didn’t have the “right” music playing. Additionally, I found out just how heavily I tend to lean into music as a coping mechanism for whatever I’m dealing with at a given time.

As a result, I felt like I couldn’t process things that arose in my life well, if at all. I don’t know if there’s really a moral or anything of the sort to gleam from this situation. All I know is that I can never actively limit my music listening to one or a couple of artists.

Short Stories

Wildlife I’ve Seen Around NC State Campus

NC State University is right in the middle of a sprawling city. Because of this, it is not very common you will see wildlife around campus. Since the start of last year, I have tried to take a picture whenever I see the fauna of campus. Starting from last fall, I want to share some of the animals I have run into.

Wildlife Pictures and Stories

The animal that started this collection for me is this black cat I ran into at 3:01 in the morning on a late-night walk in August. There was something mystical about running into this little guy at night so late at night when there wasn’t a single person around Centennial Campus. I have not seen this cat since it ran off into the night shortly after I took this blurry picture, but I hope they are doing well, living a full and happy cat life.

The next animal I ran into was a doe and her fawns at night about a month later. Again on a late night walk, I ran into this nice little family at 3:13 in the morning. It’s been almost a full year since this late-night encounter but these deer fawns are probably fully grown now, roaming around campus on their own.

After a winter break away from campus, I went on a run around Lake Raleigh. While on my run I looked over the water and saw these two lovely turtles basking in the sun. Since then, I look out at that log whenever I pass by it, and often another turtle is there, basking.

Seeing this snake peering over at me out of the corner of my eye as I left my building was quite the jump scare. This is probably the largest snake I have ever seen out in the wild. However, when I realized that they meant no harm and were just relaxing out in the evening sun, I relaxed. When I returned to the spot a few hours later, they were gone.


While this is a very small fraction of the wildlife I have seen around NC State’s campus, I think these animals in particular had quite the impact on me.

I am glad that while NC State is in such a big city, there is a lot of nature around, allowing for animals like these to make their way into students’ lives. Taking time to enjoy and appreciate the nature around me on campus has been a great source of stability through difficult coursework.

If you want to experience nature around campus but don’t know where to go, some good places are:

  • Lake Raleigh
  • Pullen Park
  • Yates Mill Park
  • JC Arboretum
  • WRAL Azalea Garden
  • Dorothea Dix Park
  • North Carolina Museum of Art Park
Short Stories

Memories with Albums: Edition One

The year is 2012, I’m 11 years old and in desperate need of braces. However, I have five baby teeth that won’t budge and thus the dentist is going to rip them from my skull. I’m young and scared, and am told that for the duration of this appointment I can listen to music really loud in my earbuds so that I don’t have to hear the tools that are ravaging the insides of my mouth. I have an iPhone 4 and a pretty hefty iTunes library that I had been building for the last couple of years on my iPod touch. I ponder what to listen to, but eventually land on One Direction’s then-brand-new album “Take Me Home.”

As I’ve touched on in previous blog posts, I was a huge fan of One Direction (or as we called it back then, being a Directioner). I was solid in my choice and thought it would be a good time to memorize some of the lyrics better since it had just come out the month before. I don’t remember how long the extraction of my teeth took, but I do remember getting through all of the songs at least once and also being told that some of my teeth were “stubborn.” Did the album succeed in drowning out the dentistry noises? Absolutely not. 

I also remember listening to the album a lot in the week or so after my teeth were pulled in the recovery process. This is my first vivid memory with an album that I chose of my own volition, and I hope to share more memories with albums in the future.

– Caitlin

Short Stories

Random Acts of Kindness: A One Direction Concert Gone Right

When I was a pre-teen, I, like millions of other people, was obsessed- and I don’t use that word lightly- with One Direction. I had posters and random branded merchandise (a toothbrush and toothpaste), I read fanfiction, the whole nine yards. My older sister was also very into them, and our obsessions fed off each other. From their first album all the way until their last, we were invested, although the sparkle did fade after some time.

By the time they were on their third tour titled “Where We Are Tour,” I had been wanting to go to one of their concerts for what felt like forever. As a Christmas gift, my parents got me and my sister lawn tickets at their Charlotte show at PNC Music Pavilion (then known as Verizon Wireless Amphitheater). We were ecstatic.

I had a soccer game earlier in the day, but after I came home and showered and got into my concert attire (a flannel, grey t-shirt, and jeans), I was ready to go. Upon arrival, my sister and I quickly realized that my soccer game had impeded us from getting there when doors opened, and that we’d be seated at the back of the lawn. 

My older sister and I at the Charlotte show of One Direction’s “Where We Are Tour” on September 28, 2014.

As disappointment crept up my throat, two middle aged women approached me and my sister, and told us that they had seated tickets that they were not going to use. At first skeptical, we further questioned them, and they explained that for some reason I no longer remember that they were leaving and no longer needed the seats. My sister, the older one, and thus in charge used her best judgement and decided that this was legit. We walked up to the guards scanning the seated tickets and they pointed us in the right direction: we were going to be astronomically closer than we had expected.

I don’t remember a single thing from that concert. The only fragment of a memory I have is that I cried during “What Makes You Beautiful.” Apparently, Harry Styles put on a banana costume. But what I will always remember is those two women making two teen girls’ dreams come true, and that for a while, it was the best night of my life.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I was a Niall girl.

Until next time,


Short Stories

Selena Gomez or Céline Dion?: The Story of My First Concert

When I was in 7th grade, at the awkward age of 12, I got the opportunity to go to my very first concert. I went with my older sister, and to be honest, I don’t remember any of it. However, what I do remember is how we got the tickets.

One morning, I was awoken by my dad way before I was supposed to get ready for school. I was groggy and confused, but once I gained awareness of my surroundings, I realized he was on the phone with my mom. They were frantically trying to tell me that my mother had won tickets to a Selena Gomez concert coming up in October. I was excited, confused, bewildered, but more than anything, I was tired. Thus, I shrugged it off and tried to go back to sleep.

When I woke up for the second time that morning, I quickly remembered what had happened earlier. Had my mom actually won tickets to a Selena Gomez concert? How had she done that? Why did she want tickets to see an emerging Disney star? 

On the way to work on that early morning in 2013, my mom was listening to a local radio station and they were giving away two concert tickets to see Céline Dion. Or, at least that’s what my mom thought when she called in to try to win. Miraculously, my mom was the lucky winner, and in the process of securing the details of when and where she would receive the tickets, she found out that she had won tickets to see Selena Gomez, not the beloved singer of “My Heart Will Go On.”

She figured that her 16 and 12-year-old daughters would be excited to go, as neither of us had gone to a concert before, and boy was she right.

Although I don’t remember a thing from that night, I love telling the story of how a mistake, some luck and a coincidence led to me and my sister going to our very first concert.

Until next time,


Short Stories

Concert Rats at the Coffee Shop Show

My good friend, Doris (a.k.a. DJ Babycakez on WKNC 88.1), told me a story the other week that I’ve thought about every day since. As I remember, when Doris was in high school, she’d go to a local coffee shop to see her friend’s band, among others, perform in a weekly show. The crowd was apparently quite the mixed bag. It really comes down to the rats. 

Among the crowd was a small community of rat owners that would bring their pets to the show each week and allow them to crawl up and down their bodies as they walked around the main floor. As Doris recalls, the owners would sometimes approach groups of people and introduce their rats as if they were people. My favorite rat name that Doris relayed was Stargirl. What a name for a rat. 

This story is a prime example of the generally intriguing nature of a concert crowd. In my experience, and clearly Doris’, concerts tend to draw out some fascinating people with equally fascinating stories. Even among a niche music genre or band, there’s usually a jarring combination of people compared to other sorts of gatherings. 

It is with Doris’ story in mind, I call upon everyone to remember their favorite concert crowd encounters and to savor the fact that you’re likely to meet someone outside your average realm at nearly any concert you attend. 

Here’s to concert rats, unique individuals and Stargirl, of course,

Silya Bennai