Reds of Summer


1. Dolcetto (mid-June through mid-July)

The word Dolcetto sounds like it should be the name of a song, a kind of song, or a story about a song. Or a part of an opera or a style of opera or a sort of symphony.
        It’s a wine grape: the “lesser Piemontese wine grape,” it’s called, which makes me want to love it, because it’s more interesting to love the thing you’re supposed to love less more. Loving something you’re supposed to love less because of the reasons you’re supposed to love it less is one of the most beautiful things that can happen to a person, but it doesn’t make very much sense when it comes to loving wine grapes. It makes the most sense when it comes to loving one-eyed, or three-legged, dogs.

I don’t love Dolcettos the wines, mostly I just like them, but I love one Dolcetto, my Dolcetto: My Summer Red. The first time I ever drank it was in the wintertime, but I didn’t like it then: maybe because it didn’t suit the wintertime, or maybe because it needed six more months to age in bottle, or maybe because it was the first Dolcetto I ever tasted, and I was gearing up for myself to love Dolcetto so much more than I love Nebbiolo— the more-er Piemontese wine grape— and was so disappointed to find out that I didn’t that it temporarily blinded me, or my tongue at least.
        I was tasting it with a bunch of kids whose boss I am. I was mad at the Dolcetto for not being as good as I wanted it to be: I couldn’t slot it into anywhere, couldn’t figure out if it was serious or gluggable or light-bodied or medium-bodied or fruit-forward or medium-tannin or aromatic or fucking anything, at all, besides being a bottle that looked good on a table, with a matte lipsticky dark pink foil and a swishy little watercolour of a rose on the label, which duped all the children into thinking it tasted like flowers— everyone was saying “It’s kind of floral,” but I couldn’t taste it: I suck at being able to taste the tastes of different flowers in wine— I only know rose, because everyone knows rose, and there’s a certain wine-y taste that I’ve come to know as being “white flower,” but it’s not because I know what white flowers smell like, it’s because I’ve been tasting wines for long enough to know that when certain wines taste like a certain something, it’s “white flower.”


Some Wine I Drank In England


1. 2 $14 glasses of NV Bisol Desiderio e Figli 'Belstar' Prosecco DOC

I am at an airport bar, and sadly, it’s not a very good one. But I am, however, here. So that's something!
        At work yesterday, I told my friend how much I was looking forward to having a drink at an airport bar— “If you’re having a drink at an airport bar,” I told her, “It means you have literally nothing, in the world, to do, except have a drink at an airport bar.”
         Even being on holiday is higher-stress than being at an airport bar. On holidays you have to go do something, go look at something, see a building, eat a food you can't get at home. You're supposed to be having a very special time and if for whatever reason at whatever moment you're not, it means you're fucking up your holiday and that kind of thing gets me really skittish. No one would ever ask you to be having a very special time at an airport bar. So I feel very safe here.
       Here I am, me, at this piece of crap. I have fully committed myself to being here, drinking a glass of Prosecco, which I ordered on an iPad, which is bolstered to a wall. I briefly considered giving Wayne Gretzky Estates’ Chardonnay “No. 99” a go, as a joke about being Canadian to myself, but I needed bubbles. I needed this thing I’m doing to be as close to my romantic ideal of “drinking champagne at an airport bar” as I could get it.

Something I often say, and sometimes believe, is that I want it to say It’s only called Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France on my tombstone. Drinking a glass of Prosecco at an airport bar and telling someone you drank a glass of Champagne at an airport bar is, sorry, unacceptable. On instinct I just started writing a sentence that began "Calling Prosecco Champagne is like calling...", but really, there's no comparison more coherent, more profound, than Prosecco v. Champagne itself: "Calling generic-brand club soda Perrier is like calling Prosecco Champagne," you could say, or, "Calling your synthetic velour H&M camisole velvet is like calling Prosecco Champagne" — 
        Calling Prosecco Champagne is like calling Prosecco Champagne. Calling Prosecco Champagne is slightly worse than calling Prosecco Cava. Calling Cava Champagne is slightly better than calling Prosecco Champagne. Calling Cava Prosecco is gauche. Calling Champagne Prosecco is literally the gauchest thing a human being could do. If I ever heard a person call Champagne Prosecco, I would literally die, for seemingly no reason, on the spot. 

(My tasting note for Belstar Prosecco: Sugar on the nose, plain white sugar, the bad stuff. And there’s fruit on it, stupid generic fruit flavour— it’s imprecise. Pears? Tangerines. Synthetic tangerine, some tangerine & acacia flower Bath & Body Works-branded bubble bathy body sprayey thing, but I don’t hate it, in fact I love it, it’s an on-the-nose example of its own horribleness, so I appreciate it for that, and also, okay, here's my thing: it’s better than a Fresca! That’s my tagline for Belstar Prosecco, if I were Don Draper pitching to the Belstar people, just get me in a room... "One hundred percent, unfuckwithably, you literally can’t deny it, the taste of it tastes better in your mouth than the taste of a can of Fresca- though not by much! But by a little.") 


Infinitely Stunned with a Pail of Rainbow Sherbet: A 2017 Thing About Kurt Cobain


If Kurt Cobain were alive he’d be turning 50 on Monday. Here are some Kurt things I’ve been thinking about lately:

i. Last month I listened to a bad recording of the Nirvana show I went to when I was 15. One of the first times Kurt talks to the crowd he says “Please don’t throw shoes” with this great big sigh in his voice - it’s only a few songs in, and he’s already so exasperated with us. He sounds like a sulky babysitter, and in a way he kind of is.

There’s some other good commentary during the show, about gin and AC/DC and the Buzzcocks and being addicted to cigarettes, but I was mostly listening for this thing that happened after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and before “All Apologies.” It starts at 1:13:00 of the video below, when Krist goes off on some guy in the crowd for groping a girl in the pit. He’s yelling and cursing in his big dopey Krist voice, and then Kurt comes in and just serenely eviscerates the guy. I loved him so much for that, and played that moment over and over in my head for so long after that night. I will never get over Kurt Cobain’s speaking voice, how he could be both deeply calm and totally withering at the same time. Some withering stage banter from Kurt Cobain would be so good in 2017.

The Sunday of the weekend Kurt died, I went out for my usual Sunday-morning breakfast with my dad and his girlfriend. I wore the shirt I bought the night I went to see Nirvana, and I ordered pancakes and made a big show of being sad about Kurt being dead. While we waited for our food my dad mansplained to me about how Kurt Cobain was the John Lennon of my generation, which I hated: I thought it was a lazy opinion lifted from a lazy description in the local newspaper, and I still feel that way. Kurt Cobain and John Lennon each had his own job to do in this world, and they were both very good at those jobs, but neither has all that much to do with the other.

HOWEVER, one thing that connects Kurt Cobain and John Lennon in my mind now is the likelihood that they’d both be fantastically hateful of the current president of the United States. They’d talk the most amazing shit about that person, and it would comfort us and make us feel cool. One of the qualities I most value in a rock-and-roll musician is the ability to make me feel temporarily protected from the ugly bullshit of the world but also in on some secret way to rise above it, and I suppose John Lennon and Kurt Cobain have each got that in spades.

ii. Once upon a time when I was still a journalist and got paid to go to extravagant places and write about them, I spent a few days at a resort on a mountain by the ocean in Central California. During my stay I went on a hike with one of the guys who ran the resort, whose name was Jonah. Jonah was from Israel and served in the Israeli army and then came to America and got into the wellness industry. On our hike up the mountain and down to the beach he told me how, at some point in the last year of Kurt Cobain’s life, Kurt’s handlers had sent him to stay at the health spa where Jonah used to work. He talked about how he’d met with Kurt and how Kurt was this quiet kid, and how he wished they hadn’t pushed him back out into the world so quickly. He said something like, “They should have just let him be for a while. He was a poet.” I think that's maybe the loveliest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about Kurt Cobain. Kurt doesn't get nearly enough loveliness spoken about him.

I’ve been listening to Bleach and Incesticide a lot lately and you can really feel Kurt being an unhealthy kid, with his weird stomach disease and all that. And there’s this video of the band practicing at Krist’s mom’s house in 1988, and they all remind me of the depressed metalhead boy who sat at my lunch table in ninth grade and always ate the worst lunches. They seem like they take terrible care of themselves, and eat the worst food all the time.

I remember watching a clip of that video when I was about 17 and thinking, “Nirvana are kind of gross.” But now we’re far away enough from their era that the grossness has become romantic. Nirvana makes me miss all the bad food I never eat anymore: foods from being a kid in 1988, like SpaghettiOs and Devil Dogs, ambrosia salad and strawberry Quik, a bologna sandwich on Wonder Bread, rainbow sherbet by the pail. Or how sometimes in school our snack would be a big slice of government cheese, served with a tiny carton of chocolate milk. I never even knew government cheese was called government cheese until I heard Krist say “government cheese” in an interview in 1993. No other band in the world had ever happened on a government-cheese level. Nirvana was the only one who knew those mundane/shitty details of your life, and now they make me remember parts of my life that I might have forgotten otherwise.

I wonder what Kurt ate when he was at the health spa with Jonah. I feel like some miso soup and brown rice and roasted barley tea would have been good for him. I wonder if he would have ever quit smoking or just kept at it forever. I wonder if he would have made an album with Michael Stipe like he talked about, or made a new wave record and brought back breakdancing like he also talked about. I wonder what his hair situation would be these days, and also his facial-hair situation. I wonder if he’d be into music like Grimes or Torres or Sheer Mag, and where he’d exist in relation to Kanye. Part of me thinks that by now he would've just gone off to live in a house in the woods in the middle of nowhere - but that might be because when I was 15 and listened to Nirvana all the time, my main dream was to go off and live in a house in the woods in the middle of nowhere. I wrote stories about that, and in the stories the kids listened to so much Nirvana, despite having got exactly what they wanted.

iii. On Sunday I went to look at the building where Kurt and Courtney lived in 1991/1992. It’s a nice place on a nice quiet street, a few blocks from Canter’s. Someone was playing piano inside and there was a Little Tikes basketball hoop on the front lawn. I took some pictures and walked down to Farmers Market, and on my way I passed the newsstand where there was a chubby little girl in a bathing suit and some ridiculous Pomeranians. At Farmers Market I bought a pint of strawberries and a cup of fountain Diet Coke and wrote for a few hours in my secret writing space, then walked back up Fairfax a little after dusk.

To me the stretch of Fairfax between Beverly and Melrose is one of the most reliably exciting places in Los Angeles. It’s always got this crazy energy that I don't really feel anywhere else in town. There’s Canter’s and a bunch of old bakeries and antique shops, but there’s also Undefeated and Supreme and the sidewalk's always packed with skater kids: they all look like the future, and like they’re having more fun than anyone else in the world.

On Sunday night I stopped at the Canter’s bakery and got a piece of chocolate rugelach, then walked back to my car at Kurt & Courtney's house. All the kids were smoking weed and one of the coffee shops was blasting the Patti Smith version of “Gloria” so that it spilled out onto the street and took over everything. It felt like being in 7 different decades at once, which is my favorite way for a city to feel. I ate my rugelach and thought some deep thoughts like, “I wonder if Kurt Cobain liked to walk down the street.” The air was electric and the rugelach was so super-buttery, it was heavier than heaven.

I don’t know what that stretch of Fairfax was like in 1991 and 1992, or if Kurt liked it there or liked L.A. in general. For the most part I don’t feel much of Kurt in Los Angeles, though some of the guitar parts on Nevermind sound like certain parts of the city – like the snarly riff thing at the intro to “Breed,” and then the fuzzed-up bassline that comes in alongside it. It sounds like going fast on some ugly road in the Valley where there’s nothing but auto shops and donut shops and hamburger stands about 40 years past their prime. You feel Nirvana in the most falling-apart places: falling-apart but totally magic.

I guess it's weird that it matters to me to be able to feel the presence of a guy who died 23 years when I’m walking down the street in my own city. It’s like that part in High Fidelity when John Cusack says, “Some people never got over Vietnam, or the night their band opened for Nirvana” -- but for me it’s that I just never got over Nirvana, period. I’m still fascinated by them, and I don’t want to ever get over that fascination. Fascination is useful: it keeps you unbored and unboring. The point is to keep fitting the fascination into your life even as your life changes, to use your idols in a new way so that they can accommodate you forever.

Lately my favorite song for walking around L.A. and thinking about Nirvana is “Drive” by R.E.M. To me that song is about Kurt, and what he did to the world and to the kids, with Nevermind. It sounds a million years old, in a dignified/butterfly-trapped-in-amber sort of way, but it still sounds like it’s all happening right now. I love how serious it is, and how it's somehow graceful about being completely over-the-top. But mostly I love it for sounding quietly stunned. Usually stunned is very fleeting, but listening to "Drive" makes me feel like you can go on being stunned forever. Infinitely stunned is a lovely way to be.


Things of the Year: LJ's Wine of the Year, 5 Important Songs, "Planets of the Universe"

LJ'S THING OF THE YEAR: My Wine of the Year 

At my restaurant I sell a wine called Passopisciaro. It is made out of grapes grown on the slope of an active volcano, in Sicily, in the year 2012. It is a crazy wine that reminds me of myself, but it also doesn’t remind me of myself. Sometimes it reminds me of not-myself.
        It’s weird, but not intimidatingly so. It’s not a “somm wine,” which is how sommeliers refer to crazy wines that anyone in the world who isn’t a somm or at least a nerd would hate because they taste like things you’re not supposed to eat, such as dirt. Passopisciaro tastes predominantly of fruit.
        But it also doesn’t taste like fruit. Sometimes it tastes of not-fruit.
        The first time I tried it it reminded me of the ocean— “but, like, gross ocean,” said my bartender, who is insightful. It made me think of a grey day at a beach, but not a good beach, a bad beach: a beach that people don’t go to, a beach with stones instead of sand. It reminded me of the feeling of slurpy seaweed slurping around your bare feet and the water being unpleasantly too cold. Mushy gritty underwater-ground. A “smoothie wine,” my bartender called it, referring to its odd density, the strange thickness of it: a murky, opaque wine that you couldn’t look through a drop of.
        That was two months ago. Two months ago, I rejected the Passopisciaro: I thought it was cool, but I didn’t think people would buy it. But last week I was forced to put it on my by the glass list out of desperation; I needed a high-end Etna to round things out, and it was the only one I had enough of in stock.

(“All I care about is wine,” I so often hear myself say.
        I say it out loud, and I say it in my head. It has at this point usurped everything. It’s the lens through which I view the situation I’m in, as the Beatles used to be.
        Wine is first now, I’m an artist second.)

        All I care about is wine. Here it is, here is the magic of it:

Something happened to that wine over the course of those two extra months it spent aging in bottle. There are sommeliers more sciencey than me who could probably explain why it happened, all that shit about chemical reactions that I will never give a fuck about— I may be a sommelier first, but I’m still an artist second, and I don’t care about chemistry, I care about poetry. I don’t care how the crops were grown or how they pruned the vines. What’s a vine even??? I'm just kidding, I know what a vine is, sort of. But mostly I care about what the winemaker’s face looked like, what her house looks like— I always have to Google Maps the vineyard. I care about which of my childhood memories it conjures up the most, and what song I loved best on the morning of the first day I drank it. There’s a Nebbiolo I know that I first tried within an hour of listening to Venus, my favourite Television song. And so that wine will always taste like a picture of that song, rendered in mechanical pencil, 0.5 weight lead. The picture of the song is a picture of a city, hyper-linear at its core, unfurling into calligraphic frills.
        For her birthday I bought my friend Erin a bottle of Carema made from grapes harvested on her birthday five years prior. I remembered what we were doing on that day, that October 20th we spent together. That wine was the beginning and ending of something: a span of five years and the time we spent inside of it. 
        I drank it for the first time last Friday. My wine director came downstairs and told me that whenever I had a spare moment he had some open treats for me up in the cellar. Eventually, I had a spare moment, and I drank the treats. One of them was that wine, the “Erin wine.” I drank it in the room with the map of the mountain on the wall, next to the cellar, which smells like cedar. I wanted to save a sip of it for my bartender to try but I could not. I could not let it go.
        It was from Piemonte but it reminded me of Austria. December 1899 or some other month or year. I don’t know what the real December 1899 felt like; maybe I’m thinking of something more like February 1691. A little ballerina kid, graphite smeared across her eyes, a tiny wooden box. A pale pink flower woven through a brown tweed buttonhole. Men always call it feminine and they're right, it's feminine and serious; I took it very seriously. It didn’t ask to be taken very seriously, it didn’t command me to take it very seriously. It did nothing. It was an introvert. A church.

Two months later, the Passopisciaro bloomed. It laid low and grew. It wasn’t a gross ocean anymore; it wasn’t an ocean at all- it was still a smoothie, though.
        On the nose, it’s all brimstone and ash. That’s the volcanic soil talking, the Etna trademark. If you want to understand what “minerality” means, drink a wine grown down the side of Mt. Etna: they are to minerality as a Paul McCartney song is to melody. (You want to know if a given somm is worth her salt? Ask her if she’s ever sniffed a rock.) I usually taste minerality as being very somber, but in this instance it’s… glam, almost. Glitzy! Sparkly! Rock & Roll. It’s like: imagine if you found out the world was ending tomorrow, and then you threw a party.
        And then there’s licorice, or liquorice as we used to say in England, licorice so snarky it's a permanent marker almost. It reminds me of how when I was a little kid my grandparents ran a business out of their basement, real estate or something, this was the 1980s: all Filofaxes & fax machines; they even had a car phone. I remember sitting in that office, getting makeshift high by simultaneously spinning around in a spinny-chair and sniffing a permanent marker. That’s the permanent marker the Passopisciaro smells like.   
        But then— like I said— there is fruit.
        Here’s what the fruit is like.
        Imagine the juice of a thousand— no, twenty thousands— little baskets of berries—blackberries, raspberries, summer cherries— condensed into one single drop. Imagine the intensity of that fruit flavour! It’s literally sort of sexual, as anything operating at that level of intensity is doomed to be.
        Some wine tastes expensive; this isn’t one of them. It’s better than that.
        Burgundian Pinot Noir tastes expensive. It makes people who aren’t used to paying a premium for great wine understand why people pay a premium for great wine. But the Passopisciaro makes people who haven’t devoted their entire lives to tasting wine understand why somebody might.
        Two months ago it was a scuzzy hunk of pond-scum, and now it’s fucking Ulysses, or maybe it's Finnegan's Wake. I wrote the first draft of this thing eleven days ago and every morning I go back into the document and change Ulysses to Finnegan's Wake, and then the next day I change it back to what it said two days before. But this is me definitively landing on Finnegan's Wake. It's got a good sense of humour. 
         If it were music it would be something from a long time ago that I don't know the name of, something a bunch of drunk Middle Ages people played at a pub in Bavaria on instruments that don't exist anymore, or never existed. But if you heard it with your today-ears it would sound almost unfathomably punk rock. Like maybe the pub was burning down at the same time as they played it, but nobody died. Somebody rescued them. The drummer rescued them.  
        It also sounds like Can, the record with with green beans on the cover, or Ars Vita Longa Brevis by the Nice. "Art is long, life is short," that means. That's nice. It’s smoking cigars, a Scorpio, the corner of Sesame Street inhabited by Oscar the Grouch. It’s the patron saint of every genius who ever broke out of prison using cunning. If it were a person it’d be Ludwig von Beethoven, Mata Hari, or the Marquis de Sade.
        The Passopisciaro is without a shadow of a doubt the most impressive wine I drank in 2016, but that’s not why it’s my Thing of the Year.
       It’s my Thing of the Year because whatever happened to it over the course of those two extra months it spent transforming into some greater, perfect version of itself, whatever cosmic event or chemical reaction occurred—
       In 2016, the same thing happened to me.

LIZ'S THING OF THE YEAR: All of These Songs

Here's a list of songs that were important to me in 2016:


The first week of October I got sick and read Bruce Springsteen’s memoir in six days. All I really wanted from the book was fun stories about Bruce growing up in New Jersey, about girls and Asbury Park and the beach and the boardwalk and all the scuzzy bars he played in back in the day - like this sentence, about the girlfriend he lived with in 1972:

“She was Italian, funny, a beatific tomboy, with just the hint of a lazy eye, and wore a pair of glasses that made me think of the wonders of the library.”

I could live on sentences like that, and on stories like the one about 14-year-old Bruce walking to the bowling alley after school, drinking a Coke and eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, then going to the bowling-alley phone booth to call his girlfriend and talk about the Beatles. But then there’s all this wisdom to the book - he writes a lot about how his inclination is to disappear into his work, and how he recognizes how damaging that is, and how he’s tried to manage it and be present for the people who need him. It seems like something he hasn’t quite figured out yet, like an ongoing tension: how to go about building a good and full and happy life despite his lone-wolf tendencies.

So, that got to me. My favorite Bruce song right now and maybe forever, apart from the Bruce song I have tattooed on my right shoulder, is the version of "Because the Night" from Winterland Ballroom in 1978. Not even the whole song: just the intro, which is this big sprawlingly gorgeous guitar solo that feels like climbing and falling and falling, or just going nowhere but feeling like everywhere. The guitar solo is so much more romantic to me than the words. To me it beats "Desire and hunger is the fire I breathe" a thousand times over, at least.


There's a scene in the penultimate episode of the most recent season of Halt and Catch Fire where the show's two most damaged and semi-tragically-in-love characters reunite after years apart, and then get drunk and dance to "Velouria" by the Pixies in a hotel room in Vegas. They're total goofs and not very good dancers; I feel like they both dance exactly like me. I love how they mirror each other, especially with the shoulder-shaking, but my favorite is when Cameron is dancing alone for a little bit: she does that dumb hopping thing and she's so palpably blissed out on making a big splash with her cool riot-grrrl-y video game and then having this magic night with someone who's equally perfect and terrible for her. When she spins around, you can feel the spinning. I want to see and make more things that feel like spinning like that.


The day after David Bowie died I went to his Walk of Fame star twice. On the second visit, late at night, there was a little "Under Pressure" singalong and it was beautiful and ridiculous. The last minute and a half of "Under Pressure" is the most important music to me of this year; I want it to be important to everyone. Earlier this month I got invited to a birthday party at a karaoke bar and my main plan was to make everybody sing "Under Pressure" and have the last minute and a half be so intense and cathartic - but then by the time the party came around I'd gotten sick and lost my voice. AIN'T THAT JUST LIKE 2016, hahaha


The dumbest yet most emotionally intelligent thing I did this year was take a week off work to go to New York to see Wolf Parade at Bowery Ballroom. They opened with "It's a Curse," so whenever I listen now it's that night again and the lights just went down and the band just walked out to "Magnificent Seven" and then there's that hot clunky guitar intro kind of knifing into the dark and everyone in the room's heart's exploding into a billion shining stars, all in the very same instant!!!! I'm a teenager. When Dan yells that line about "We walked five whole minutes to the dark edge of town/Took a long look at nothing and then turned back around," it sounds like every book I've ever wanted to write.


"The Beast and Dragon, Adored" has lived on my computer for a long time but I didn't really pay attention until I read this thing by Matthew Perpetua, about how people pay to see others believe in themselves. The most important lyrics are: "When you don't feel it, it shows, they tear out your soul" and "And when you believe they call it rock and roll"; they happen in succession and I hear the second lyric as a response to the first, like vanquishing the hell out of any self-doubt and deciding to be totally glorious, because you can. It's so deeply corny, and the corniness is 1,000 percent earned. This song and those lyrics mean more and more to me every single crazy day.


-"Vincent" by Car Seat Headrest, which was playing when I totaled my car on election night
-all of Lemonade obviously
-"Hello Stranger" because of Moonlight
-the new album by my best friends the Red Hot Chili Peppers
-"Down on the Street" by the Stooges because of Diary of a Teenage Girl which was my favorite movie I watched this year by a longshot

JEN'S THING OF THE YEAR: "Planets of the Universe" (Early Demo Version) by Fleetwood Mac on Repeat Forever

I heard this song for the first time this year performed by Justin Vivian Bond. It's devastatingly beautiful and one of Stevie's best songs, for sure. According to JVB's introduction Lindsey Buckingham kept it off of Rumours because he believed it to be a hex. What an asshole. I recommend avoiding Stevie's recent recording of it and listening to this specific recording on repeat for the rest of your life.


Eating Highlights From My Holy Grail of New York Trips

(above: me w/ Lexy, my Holy Grail of beloved pals. 
I don't think I've ever gazed so adoringly at another person) 



I woke up early in a hotel room on Wall Street, well off Wall Street, but it sounds nicer to say Wall Street than the actual name of the street, which was: William (boring). My mother and I went downstairs to eat continental breakfast in the restaurant attached to the hotel but it was a terrible vibe. The only free thing was cereal and the entire operation seemed to be entirely unmanned. I saw a Dunkin Donuts sign flashing outside the window and snapped/sighed, “Let’s just go to Dunkin; you can get a bagel there.” I said the thing about a bagel like an accusation, ragged capitals carved into a speech bubble made of metal. I am a stone cold bitch before coffee and also after. 

We did not go to Dunkin. We went to the place next door to it, which was one of the classic New York deli-bodega hybrids that serves like hundreds of different types of sandwiches on assorted New Yorky breads and also boasts a hot buffet and salad bar. I ate the same breakfast every morning of my trip: an everything bagel toasted with two fried eggs. On the second day I started asking for a bit of salt & pepper on the eggs but I dared not desecrate that sacrosanct breakfast with any further accoutrements. I am feeling aesthetically austere this November and I prefer for my food choices to compliment my life concept.

We ate lunch at the Moma café. I actively loathed it. It was small and phony-Yoko white and I felt like the whole thing was jammed into an awkward place, physically an awkward location at the museum, like they built the entire Moma and then it was a couple days before it was set to open and someone realized that they forgot to build a café so they just crammed one in wherever they could find. The waitstaff were all wearing Keith Haring t-shirts and I thought, “If I never had to see a picture of one of those fingerless faceless Keith Haring little guys again in my life, I would not shed a tear.” I ate a dessert for lunch, a moderately-tacky dessert that was lush as fuck and I adored the act of eating it, I loved assembling all the different parts into different-tasting bites. I love eating with a dessert fork, so delicate, it’s like hugging a thin dog.

The only downside of my dessert is it was a bit too on-the-nose about its having an autumnal flavour profile: pumpkin tart, ricotta cream, toasted marshmallow, praline. Like we get it, pal: you are a campfire, a mitten, a burnt leaf. The pumpkin filling and the ricotta cream were oddly, awesomely savoury— they had a dullness to them, a cardboardy thump. I hadn’t been needing to taste sugar too terribly, it was just that nothing else on the menu sounded very worth eating and dessert tends to be a safer bet than non-dessert if deliciousness is what you're chasing. Whenever people come into restaurants I run and order dessert to eat at the same time as the person they’re dining with has their regular main, I think: You are my people. I feel the same way about any person drinking a glass of white wine alone, or a woman crying across the table from her boyfriend. Asking for the bill early and storming out.


Thing of the Week: Nicotine Withdrawal Day 2K16, Fetishizing Laziness

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: Nicotine Withdrawal Day 2K16 

ABOVE: Some1 being a sad saddo on Nicotine Withdrawal Day :(

I quit smoking last Friday night at 1 or 2 in the morning or something. I smoked my last cigarette sitting on the square foot of sidewalk out back of my dad’s apartment where I used to smoke my seven billion cigarettes per average day. I felt shameful about the way that little patch of land was always littered with my Benson & Hedges Menthol Lights 100s butts and would brush them up into my hand and dispose of them upstairs so that the ex-convict whose community service gig was sweeping them up wouldn’t judge me.

I barely even cared that I was smoking my last cigarette as I was smoking it. I was too distracted by listening to the shitty demo Matt & I made of the song Good Morning Wolf Girl I wrote about my friend Eli and taking selfies of myself. The next morning I woke up and felt a bit weird and antsy and drove up to Prince Edward County to hang out at vineyards with my father all day, which was nice. 

When I woke up the next morning the quitting smoking being hard part of quitting smoking started. It felt so bad. I wanted to crunch up cardboard boxes with my hands and rip beautiful flower-heads off their stalks and slaughter some stupid animals and burn Beatles records and bite people’s wrists until they bled. I wanted to kick walls until I broke my own feet.

I was being stabbed in the brain by all the different kinds of headaches. I was spacey as fuck, could not formulate proper sentences, felt like my whole face and head was barriered off into little sections separated by panels of frosted glass so my brain and my mouth or ears, nose, etc, had no ability to relate or communicate. I spoke quietly and slowly and couldn’t think of a single interesting thing to say or even a non-interesting thing to say. I hated all my friends and my phone became disgusting to me. Like it had this really evil energy about it that still hasn’t completely worn off. Any time I received a text message I wanted to impale myself on whatever impale-able thing was nearest by and whip my phone at whoever the annoying phone wanted me to know was trying to tell me something via some stupid social media platform and in doing so fuck their face up. You have no idea how terribly I wanted to fuck everybody's face up. All my best friends' faces. I wanted to hurt them so badly.

I guess maybe you’re wondering why Nicotine Withdrawal Day is my Thing of the Week when it was very clearly and obviously one of the worst days of my life. That’s a good question. I guess I just like it a lot, in my memory, because it was so different from all the other days. It was very unique unto itself, and made a very big deal out of being itself in a way that I respect. It was no wallflower, nicotine withdrawal, that's for sure. 

ABOVE: druggy face-vibes on Nicotine Withdrawal Day, starring Laura Jane Faulds as the owner of her own druggy face

On Nicotine Withdrawal Day my poison headache & I watched the Zac Efron/Seth Rogen vehicle Bad Neighbours at 6:30 in the morning while eating raw raspberries smushed into peanut butter on an English muffin because I’m trying to avoid the sugar in jam. I was jealous of Zac’s inguinal ligaments and wanted to beat the fucking crap out of Seth Rogen for having such a stupid ugs voice that sounds like if a yellow lab with thick spit and bluish gums could talk. It also co-starred James Franco’s brother as a different frat boy who looked like a ceramic figurine of a squirrel. He was my favourite character in the movie.

After it was over I screamed at my dad for a bit maybe and then went for a run. A lot of the time when I tell people I went for a run I am lying and actually just went for a jog, or like a slow walk, but this time I fucking RAN. I ran like I was fighting with the air, like I was trying to teach the air a lesson, or do something to it: make it not be air anymore. Or turn myself into being air too. I felt like my lungs were faring better than their usual smokery selves, and that was a very good feeling. I want to say I transcended but realistically I was too spacey from the nicotine withdrawal to transcend; I opposite of transcended, landed back inside myself. I probably cried. I like and liked life, I love and loved life, it felt good to know I’m probably not going to die of lung cancer, I’m going to run really fast and far forever. I ran along the side of the lake past the hotels and into the financial district which was grey and dead on a Sunday. I listened to Psychotic Reaction over and over and came home and signed myself up to run a half-marathon next May either 7th or 17th and then felt like shit and wished I was abusing my loved ones again.

I don’t remember what clothes I wore. I showered and walked to Zara and tried on a zippery rose-gold leather bomber jacket that looked cartoonish on me. I walked to the convenience store on the corner of Queen & John so I could buy a bland square of carrot poppyseed cake wrapped in saran wrap. I used to eat those squares for breakfast when I was ill and depressed the winter I was twenty-two. I bought one and and a Fresca and sat and ate them on a bench in a parking lot listening to Syd Barrett and either crying or trying not to cry. I walked over to Kritty’s house and some new neighbour I’d never seen before was standing outside her house repairing a fan or something. He asked me if I lived at Kritty’s house and I replied so quietly he couldn’t hear me so as not to further fuck my brain up— my voice, out of all the voices, was the most abrasive voice of all. The yelpy sound of it made me want to beat myself up. 

Kritty has a little lock-box with a key in it on her front porch so I can let myself into her house while she’s not there but there was a bike blocking my normal route to the lock-box and my brain was too muggy and slow to know how to deal with it. The dude was like, "Can I help you with something?"- I think he thought I was high on drugs. I said some mean things to him. If my voice were in an Archie comic it would have been surrounded by a speech bubble that looked like it was dripping with icicles. My head felt like I’d just smashed it into something. I ignored the guy and walked away. I forgot to mention that I hadn’t brought my phone with me because its evil energy was just too horrible for me to deal with. So I couldn’t text Kritty to say I was out front, so I didn’t. It was so weird of me to do that. I walked all the way there, and then just left.

I was too distressed and disoriented to listen to music so I didn’t. I walked to a movie theatre and learned at the movie theatre that Joseph Gordon Levitt is an actor in a movie they've made about Edward Snowden even though Edward Snowden’s story isn’t even over yet. It’s so stupid, how desperate they are to make a movie about fucking anything. That was really upsetting to me, and I couldn't make heads nor tails out of what any of the other movies were about, so I walked all the way back home and lay in bed and cried and my dad was very nice and hugged me and told me I could do it but I really had my doubts at that point. I was angry with cigarette companies for being evil and angry at every smoker and at every non-smoker. I was angry at my little kid self for having absorbed pro-smoker rhetoric at such a young age, I kept remembering this memory of being at daycare and watching a group of punk smokers who were teenagers smoking beneath a tree. I knew then, when I was five or three or whatever, that I'd grow up to be a cool smoker myself one day. 

"This is what has become of that day," I thought. The start and end of the same story. I couldn’t move or barely breathe or think. I dealt with it as actively as I could, because that's what I do, and made a little movie on my phone for myself to watch any time I ever want to smoke again in the future. Here is a very earnest excerpt from it:

That night I blew off all my plans and put my phone on airplane mode and walked down to Sherbourne Common, the little park by the lake where the fountains look like brontosauruses. Brontosauri. I swang on a swing and listened to my favourite song Miss O’Dell by George Harrison.

In the song George is living in Los Angeles and feels isolated, struggles with relating to his peers, and wishes a girl was calling him on the telephone, which all sound like negative things to be dealing with but the song is very chilled and easy and he laughs a lot in it. It’s the most perfect song I ever heard and it always helps me understand why I’m alive. I didn’t choose to listen to it, my iPod shuf just played it for me. Swinging felt good because the air was a little bit astringent the way it whipped at my face and my legs were pumping back and forth, I was eating up some energy. I was doing something.

By the time I got off the swing the worst of it was over. My legs felt a bit shakey and I walked down to the lake. I tranced out into watching the white & navy tie-dyed waves, looked at all the yachts and schooners and wished I was on one. I never used to look at the lake before I moved to England but then I came home from England and now I look at the lake all the time. It’s a beautiful lake, just like every lake. I'm going to die old, I think. I'm going to look out at so many lakes, and I'm going to take all the money I save from not buying cigarettes, I'm gonna buy myself a boat. 

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: Fetishizing Laziness

The other morning I started thinking about how it'd be nice to be lazy like Neil Young, or like one of those super-lazy Neil Young songs, like "Round & Round" or "Out on the Weekend." I'm rarely lazy; I work a whole lot and when I'm not working I try to spend time doing things that keep my head on straight, like hanging out with pals and going running or for big long walks and reading good stuff, and trying to write good stuff too. It doesn't leave much room for true laziness, which I want to clarify as different from that thing of working too much and then collapsing into a heap and Netflix-ing for like seven hours straight.* That's just exhaustion, or at least the performance of exhaustion. Boring.

To me lazy means living according to your own easy-breezy pace instead of conforming to the pace of the world. (Or to the pace of people in the world, I guess is what I mean- I think the actual world wants us to be lazy more often; that's why there are meadows and beaches and other great expanses of natural beauty to wander around in.) It's a state of existence that's conducive to a deep and heavy zoning-out, the kind where you're not even monitoring your daydreaming for possible material to use later on. You're just on another plane, and magic things happen there, and they change your head in a really cool way.

In one ideal version of my life I'd live right by the sea, and on a weekday I'd wake up whenever I felt like waking up, and spend a lot of my morning drinking coffee and reading the paper on the porch. And then I'd take the dog for a walk, and the dog's an English sheepdog, because recently I decided that when I'm older I'm going to go Full Paul and get myself a Martha.** Work itself would be writing things I wanted to write, possibly at some crazy old writing desk, and while writing I'd drink about 800 cups of Christmas tea (which is black tea with cinnamon and cloves and tiny pieces of orange peel) and probably eat a banana or a Pink Lady apple. In the afternoon I'd take a break and make myself a great sandwich, like a walnutty chicken salad on crazy-thick brown bread from the bakery down the road, which also would bake some killer pineapple scones or maybe raspberry muffins. And then my Martha dog and I would walk the beach some more, and then I'd get a little more writing done, if I felt like it. And in the evening there'd be hanging out at the kitchen table with sweet people, and drinking halfway-decent wine and eating an amazing dinner that someone else cooked for me, and listening to the kind of music that people listen to in reasonably perfect lives- like Astral Weeks, or The Hissing of Summer Lawns. That'd be my Monday, or my Tuesday: by far the most high-stress day of my week.

I like my job and I keep getting better at it. The other day for work I met a band for lunch on Ventura Boulevard; the singer boy was a total angel and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and told me about listening to the Cranberries with his dad when he was little, and about how he wants to make songs to help shy goofs believe in love. I was like, "I can't believe this is my job, to talk to this adorable kid and then write some paragraphs so that people will pay attention to his record." Not a bad gig at all.

But it's also the kind of gig where you've gotta work a lot to make any real money- and I need real money, which means a lazier life feels very far away from me. It's not likely to get all that much closer any time soon, so for now I'm trying to slip into little moments of laziness whenever I can. And when I can't do that, I rely on fetishizing the laziness of others, like Neil Young in 1969 or 1972, or Keith Richards sunbathing at Nellcôte, or Paul McCartney hanging around with good ol Martha. Paul is the best because you know he's a total go-getter and an industrious weirdo, but he's also so good at cultivating a happy-lazy vibe, like the vibe of Ram. I used to believe in "I'm gonna make a lot of money, then I'm gonna quit this crazy scene," but now it's more like "I'm gonna make a medium amount of money, and then go hang out on my Scottish dream farm a while and eventually write 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.'" Dream Farm Paul is my number-one laziness role model. He totally happens on a pineapple-scone level.

*I'm not anti-Netflix or anything, and mostly I'm telling you that so I can work in a line or two about how in love I am with BoJack and how, the morning after watching the most recent season finale, "Stars" by Nina Simone came on my iTunes at the gym and then I had this cool moment of getting all teary-eyed on the treadmill, especially at the "And the latest story that I know is the one that I'm supposed to go out with" lyric; OH MY GOD

**I want to acknowledge that my English sheepdog obsession was also very much inspired by a dog named Rocco Roni, who I first discovered via this wonderful video wherein Rocco tries to climb up a chair but keeps slipping off. Rocco is an excellent Instagram follow; so many of his posts are focused on his butt, which is fantastic - both the choice to be butt-centric, and the butt itself.


Thing of the Week: The Night LJ Got Back To Toronto, "Your Summer" by Strawberry Whatevs

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: The Night I Got Back To Toronto

I arrived in Toronto last Sunday evening after an arduous plane jouney that, while arduous, was less arduous than anticipated— the itinerary the plane company sent me listed my Toronto arrival time as 10 PM, but they meant 10 PM London time, not Toronto time, which was confusing and irresponsible of them. Also, one of my two layovers turned out to not be an actual layover but rather just a brief interlude of plane chilling on tarmac for twenty-odd minutes during a crew-change in Halifax. But to give credit where credit is due, it was a bullshit fourteen-hour commute, the only bright spots being 1) the blueberry & Greek yoghurt-flav Tim Horton’s bagel I ate during my layover in Newfoundland, 2) the little caper I got to participate in with myself after briefly misplacing my luggage during the aforementioned Newfoundland layover, and 3) the time on my London to Newfoundland flight when a man passed out and the girl sitting next to me, who had evidently seen a movie in her life, took it upon herself to be the hero who stood up and shouted, “IS THERE A DOCTOR ON THE PLANE???”— when no one replied, she muttered “This is ridiculous” to herself— that was the highlight, not the man passing out. That was sad and sort of scary. I just really dug her “This is ridiculous”; it was so unnecessarily dramatic. Like, dude, it’s not ridiculous. There just happened to not be a doctor on the plane. You can’t blame people for not being doctors. You’re not a doctor either. Anyway, the man was fine.

Matt King met me at the airport and we had a cute little bit where I was waiting for my luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt and then the automatic door to the Arrivals hallway opened and we saw each other and I ran to him and we hugged and he said “I can’t go in there, and you can’t come out here,” and then he gave me a Grande iced BAM.
        I met back up with my disgusting heel of a cumbersome suitcase, who was named Barry, and Matt & Barry & Abigail (my other suitcase) & I commuted from the airport to my dad’s flat apartment. While walking Barry & Abigail from Union Station to my dad’s, Matt & I had a cool conversation about the lyric from Fun, Fun, Fun by the Beach Boys that goes “It seems like she forgot all about the library like she told her old man now,” the crux of our discussion being how fair it was of the Beach Boys to give Fun Fun Fun-girl the benefit of the doubt in the situation— “it seems like”— rather than straight up accusing her of lying. But the following day we realized that the next lyric goes “You shouldn’t have lied,” so it "seems" like we were giving the Beach Boys unwarranted credit on that one.
        At my dad’s I drank a glass of white wine and we listened to Rhapsody in Blue on his tricked out stereo system. I changed into the t-shirt Ivy gave me in Barcelona that says “New Experiences on Old Hardware” and announced that my t-shirt was a metaphor for how I felt about being back in Toronto. Matt and I peaced out, took the King streetcar up to Bathurst, and walked to the new Nando’s that just opened up on Queen Street West. Toronto felt clean and spacious. It didn’t look as ugly as I’d thought it would. I felt further away from London than I could have imagined while living in London and trying to imagine how being in Toronto would feel, I felt released from the weight of some shitty ghosts that had been mutely haunting my life without my noticing it, and it was summer, proper summer, and I said “I feel like such hot shit in Toronto.” Matt asked “How so?” and I said “Well, my hotness just goes further in this city. Like, Sienna Miller doesn’t live here.”

We met Kritty at Nando’s and there was a whole annoying debacle about their credit card machine being down. I was hungry and snapped into Type A personality restaurant manager mode so we could get our food faster. While we ate, I thought, “It’s so nice not to be the only boorish North American at the table who eats with her fork in her right hand.”
        We went back to Kritty’s and drank white wine and listened to rock & roll music and talked about whatevs in her backyard. I reacquainted myself with the drunk-rich-old-lady vibes of my beloved Canadian cigarette brand: Benson & Hedges Menthol Light 100s. Kritty referred to all people who read books as “nerds” and I felt very, very faraway from Southeast London. I felt like the shooting star emoji.

I feel very lucky to have met the sparkling handful of deep homies that came into my life in London- creating the relationships I’ve created with those people has been fun, and cool, because I like new things, and it’s thrilling to feel new to someone, to have a person feel new to you. Conversations are spent piecing together the puzzle of what that person’s life was like before they met you, and all your tiredest old anecdotes get a second wind. You meet each other and you’re not yourselves yet, you’re a picture of yourself, a picture of the other person, until eventually you’ve hit a point where you’ve said enough words to erase the picture and then the person knows you, you know them, and that procedure’s thrilling too.
         But there ain't nothin' like being back with the people who know you best. There is never new news, and everything everyone says is hilarious not because you happen to share fundamentally similar senses of humor but rather because your senses of humor have spent the past decade developing concurrently: they are literally the same thing. It’s not a cool coincidence that you’re able to have that ridiculous niche conversation about Fun, Fun, Fun; you’re able to have it because that’s the kind of conversation you have, because you’re Matt King and Laura Jane, and the dynamic has already been established. You never have to think about anything. Nobody cares.

We moved indoors, to Baby Pineapple Studio, which is what Kritty’s studio is called, and I played the bass for the first time. Since that night I have played so much bass, that’s my main vibe right now, becoming a bass player. In Barcelona Ivy called me a “latent bass player” and now it’s all bubbling up to the surface. I have worshipped the bass for fifteen years and I can’t believe how lucky I am, how cool it feels, learning to speak this new language. Basslines are snakey sneaky little stories that meander underneath the rest of a song, they are punchy and crunchy and don’t have to resolve themselves but when they do it’s a treat.
        After we left Matt King and I went into the Queen & Bellwoods 7-11 and I checked out all the cool beverage options I’d forgotten about, made sure they still sell those cherry crullers I’m so obsessed with (they do). I bought a grapefruit Perrier and drank it while walking back to my Dad’s listening to music I forget now. I listened to all the basslines and knew that in some amount of time I’d be able to make sense of those sounds the same way I can make sense out of letters and words and spaces. I thought of London and how scared and sad I’d been the last couple weeks, how irritated I’d felt by the inconvenience of having to uproot my entire life simply because of the cosmically arbitrary event of my Visa expiring.
        I didn’t have to feel like that anymore. It was over, the ghosts were gone, and when the sun woke up it would be shining. It was eleven PM in Toronto, the air was swampy and I didn’t need a jumper, which is called a sweater again. All my friends in London were asleep.      

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: "Your Summer" by Strawberry Whatevs, A Tulip of Pineapple Cider

I was going to write a thing about summertime and romance and rock-and-roll but instead I just want to share three things, the first being a passage from Life After God by Douglas Coupland. I underlined all these sentences when I was 16, and just reread them and realized it's maybe the most formative paragraph-and-a-half of my whole crazy life:

It's from a beautiful heartbreaker of a story called "Patty Hearst," which you can read here, excerpted in a 1994 issue of Spin with good old Evvers Dando on the cover. Beauty all around.

The second thing is this poem that a robot made by using words from Strawberry Fields Whatever's Twitter account:

If we were going to workshop this poem, I'd suggest making a few tweaks so it reads like this:

Covered in 1000-island dressing
Butters & sunshine raspberries
What else would I spend my time doing?
Stars, society, and bunnies

An extremely disgusting apartment
Paul Simon, Jack White, T. Rex, and MORE
*chill sommelier* movement
Kim Gordon in the Marc Jacobs store

Being the Norwegian Wood of her,
I'm just gonna be a DESSERTS-WRITER
Plus some cool news about Jen and Cher-
Shit, is there anything better

But it's basically all there. The robot poet really nailed it. The William Blake of robot poets, seriously.

Apart from "Your summer," my number-one jam of summer 2016 is "Higher" by Nice as Fuck, which is Jenny Lewis's new band:

Also I think my summer drink might be pineapple cider? I had a tulip of that last night at Mohawk Bend, and mid-tulip the bar started playing "Gates of the West" by the Clash, which is definitely some kind of sign. Pineapple cider + Mick Jones deep cuts forevs <3 <3