11.6.18

I Still Love The Beatles


WORDS BY LAURA JANE FAULDS & ELIZABETH BARKER,
ART BY JEN MAY

(Last week Strawberry Fields Whatever turned six-years-old. LJ and Liz started SFW as a spinoff of Let It Be Beautiful, a book where we took Beatles songs and rewrote them as stories or essays. Here's a post about how we still love The Beatles.)


LJ: I listened to “Hey Diddle” by Paul McCartney while walking to work last week. The sun was out, and the day was yellow.
        The yellow light reminded me of the yellow on the cover of RAM. And it reminded me of myself, and of a sentence I’d written a long time ago: I like the sun, and I’m like the sun. I reminded myself of RAM
        I was listening to “Hey Diddle” for a reason. I knew there was a lyric in it I’d loved a long time ago, which I’d loved most of all one night, sitting on a kitchen floor in England, drinking a bottle of sparkling rosé I’d bought at a Tesco on my way home from work. I was in the midst of coming to terms with the fact that I was NOT going to be marrying a crazy Scottish guy I'd met one month prior — he asked me to marry him on the second day he knew me, and I said yes— I knew it was an objectively bad decision, but, regardless, I took him seriously. Call me crazy, but if someone asks me to marry them, I assume that they want to marry me. And I like myself, so if someone says they want to marry me, it makes me think that they’re cool, or smart, and have great taste in wives. And so, I want to marry them too.
        It didn’t work out, which made me sad, so I drank the rosé while sitting on my kitchen floor and listening to Paul McCartney. What more can a sad person do?


**

Prior to that night, I’d always held a firm belief that every person who is, you know, an “artist”— or, an artist who makes stuff out of words, at least — is obliged to come up with one punchy-yet-hard-hitting sentence explicitly defining their personal stance on What Love Is. I hadn’t come up with mine yet, and on that night, after hearing Paul’s sentence-about-love in “Hey Diddle,” I renounced my responsibility in favour of adopting his as my own forever. I heard it and thought, “I could never do any better than that.” I thought, “I could never agree with myself more.”
        I remembered that the sentence existed, but I didn’t remember how it goes. I was walking down Dupont Street, the street I work on. I love that street. It’s shabby and s-shaped, serpentine, and the houses look like junk, like the approximation of a city street a child might construct out of cardboard boxes, shoeboxes, then step on. I felt nervous, almost, to hear Paul sing the sentence: I was afraid I wouldn’t like it anymore, though it turned out I had nothing to fear.
        Do you want to find out how it goes?


**

I don’t think so much about love these days, this May. These days, I mostly think about work, and when I’m at work I think so hard about work that I forget my whole world and life outside of it, and when I’m not at work I find it difficult to adjust to not thinking about work, and I have to work very hard to do it. It takes me longer than a day to get there.
        I haven’t been doing much running lately; my body’s too tired from all the working, and I started smoking cigarettes again, and I don’t want to deal with the reality of what that’s done to my lung capacity. The easiest way for me to stop thinking about work is by putting my phone on airplane mode and listening to songs by Paul McCartney. When I listen to songs by Paul McCartney, the only thing I know how to think about is Paul McCartney. I think about the words he wrote, and also I think about Paul McCartney: actual Paul, the guy. 
        Same night as the yellow day, I listened to “Hey Jude” on headphones as I closed up the restaurant. I was alone. There are few things I love more than being alone in an empty restaurant, I love it with the quiet and the lights up, and I feel like I live there. A restaurant is like a home, but better. There’s a better kitchen, better food, cleaner bathrooms, more booze.
         With my phone in my back pocket and my headphones in my ears, I went downstairs to shut the locks. There’s so many locks down there, it drives me crazy. I hate locking doors. I can never remember if I locked them or not, and I always get so worried that I didn’t. I’m always locking doors to places and then walking back to the place ten minutes later to double-check if I did it or not. It’s so dumb. I always locked them. (But, you know, I get why I'm so scared about it: I can be the best General Manager in the world, I can do everything perfect and right all day every day, but if I don't lock the door at night: I didn't do anything.) 
        “Hey Jude” sounded the same as it always sounded, which is exactly how I’d wanted it to sound, and it made me feel the same as how it's always made me feel: majestic, and supported. “I’ve lived a million lives,” I thought, “And I can’t believe I’m still so young!” 
        I thought about myself at that moment, all the things my life is Right Now, the people I care about and the things I like to think about, all the ways that I just am. And I thought about all the other Lauras I’ve been: all the different ages, faces, jobs, friends, men, cities, sizes, jeans, houses, tins of lip balm, phones, and spoons, and how I felt about it, it, the biggest thing that all those tiny other things add up to be— my fucking Life, and whatever it happened to be at that moment, on that day— February 17th, 2003, or November 23rd, 2011, or 04/14/14— the way I used to think about things, or how I wore my hair, how I felt about the past and what I dreamed of, or what I ate for breakfast. I used to eat so much pineapple, and Snickers bars.
         I’ve lived a thousand different lives, and there’s a thousand more to come. I can’t believe I’m still alive, or how long life lasts. It’s so wild to think that, as all those other thousands of Lauras I once was were born and lived and then turned into vapour or folded back into themselves, or exploded, and as all the future ones do, and as this one does too, one thing has always stayed the same—
        “Hey Jude” never didn’t sound good. “Hey Jude” never didn’t work.


**

Love doesn’t care.
        That’s the thing Paul said, his sentence about love that I love so much. I love how it’s as hyper-romantic as it is coolly indifferent, and I am inspired by its easy acknowledgement of the fundamental and unfuckwithable powerlessness of human existence, the ambling and jarring story of a life, any life: this one just happens to be mine. I myself am a hopeless control freak— a writer of to-do lists and an accomplisher of goals, an earner of money and manager of people, places, things— who is paradoxically incapable of staying in one place, committing to any one thing, or of making a relationship work. Thing is, I suck at love for the exact same reasons I kill it so hard at work: work is a game, and so can be played, and I know how to play it (calmly, kindly, and decisively— that’s the answer. Just so you know). Work-life is manageable, controllable and precise in the exact same way love-life isn’t, and I blow every relationship I’m ever in because I can’t accept that. I come up with a plan for exactly how I think a given relationship should play out before it’s even started, then grow angry or frustrated or lose interest whenever it ventures off course.
        It is freeing and healthy for a me-style person to think long and hard and often about Love Not Caring: half because it encourages me to let go of my type-A tendencies and more-than-half because it doesn’t: inasmuch as I know that what I’m “supposed” to get out of all this love-not-caring-thinking is learning to Let It Be (or whatever), the cooler and more convenient-for-me part of Love Not Caring is that I don’t have to change anything. Nobody does! If love doesn’t care, than… well, fuck it, right? Let’s all keep doing whatever we want, in any and every love-situation we’re ever in, and either we’ll fuck it up or we won’t, or someone else will, or won’t— it honestly doesn’t matter. Love doesn’t care!


**

I’ve lived a thousand different lives, and there’s a thousand more to come. It’s so wild to think that, as all those other Lauras were born and died or turned into vapour or folded back up into themselves, or exploded, and as all the future ones do, and as this one does too, one thing has always stayed the same—
        I still love the Beatles.


**

Love doesn’t care if I have time to think about the Beatles, or if I need them, that day. I can turn it on or turn it off, and I don’t even have to choose to turn it on, or think about it, ever.
         I love The Beatles on rote. On cruise control.


**

I listened to the Beatles when I walked to manager’s meeting last Thursday. It was a very grey day out, and the air was heavy like grapes about to burst flat open. I listened to an English woman on an app tell me a monologue about confidence-building, and then switched over to the Beatles. I ate a protein bar, a stick of stuff flavoured to taste like other stuff, and shoved a sack of yellow apples into my red canvas backpack. I smoked a bunch of cigarettes, and chewed a bunch of gum. I relished in the happy familiarity of being this singular Laura in a very long line of equally-singular but now-very-different Lauras, loping around the streets of Toronto in the very-early days of summertime, listening to the Beatles the same way I always listen to the Beatles after not having listened to the Beatles for a very long time. Their entire discography, on shuffle—
        Disgusting, I know.
        “There are certain things about you that are more you than you yourself,” I thought, and liked, but I didn’t write it down, because, like John and Paul used to say: “If it’s that good, you’ll remember it tomorrow.”
         The way I can wear a brand-new pair of shoes for half a week and scratch and scuff them up so bad they look like I’ve worn them every day for the past twenty years. And I sometimes thought-hallucinate my mother’s laugh in the middle of a crowded room, turn around and look for her, and feel so glum when I realize it didn’t happen. I can’t pronounce “rth”s comfortably, I can’t do accents, and I start crying any time I think too hard about some asshole killing John Lennon. The other day, somebody called me “Kid,” and I reacted by thinking, “I will trust and adore you implicitly forever,” because my Dad calls me Kid, and it makes me feel really cool and safe when he does it, but if anybody ever called me by the pet name my grandmother used to call me, words too sacred and scary to even write down, all the blood would drain from my body, and I’d punch their nose-bones into confetti. And have you ever heard a person accurately describe the way you fuck? It’s bone-chilling. I bought a new white purse six hours ago and there’s already a stain on it. And I still love the Beatles.


**

I listened to “Savoy Truffle” and realized, “Oh. This is why I write about wine the way I do.” I understood how, and why, I figured out how to write about wine at all. Cool cherry cream, nice apple tart, sang George, and I thought of it as a tasting note. But no wine could ever taste like both those things at once— a lot of wines taste like “nice apple tart”— Cremant d’Alsace springs immediately to mind—and I challenged myself to brainiac up a wine that could be accurately described as tasting of “cool cherry cream”: a medium-bodied Garnacha, perhaps, Spanish and aged in new oak, or else a New World Pinot Noir: cool-climate, fruit-forward, and it, too, would have to have spent time in American oak— really, that’s the ticket: it’s the only way to get the cream in there.
        A ginger sling with a pineapple heart, sang George, and I thought “I wish I could taste that wine!”
        I will! One day. It’s going to be a Malvasia.


**

"Are you ever going to write about wine and the Beatles?” people often ask me, meaning wine-and-they-Beatles together, as one thing, because those are the two things everybody who knows me knows I like. 
         “NO,” I tell them, and then I say something forcefully dramatic like “I’d rather die,” playing it like I don’t want to write about wine-and-the-Beatles because I’m too serious of a wine-writer to write about something so obvious, like it would be regressive, or something, for me.
        But that’s not true. The reason I don’t want to write about wine & the Beatles is because it would be too earnest; because, I think: The Beatles are wine. That’s how good I think the Beatles are! I don’t think they’re, like, Puligny-Montrachet or St. Emilion or Sauternes or whatever, and I don’t think that “music is wine,” either; I think that music is more like, the concept of eating in drinking in general.
        I think the Beatles are wine, and that every Beatles song is a different kind of wine— “Because,” for instance, is a Savennières, and “I Me Mine” is a lesser Savennières, and “Here Comes The Sun” is Madeira, and “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” is a juice-boxy Zinfandel, “I Feel Fine” is a Moscato d’Asti, and “Strawberry Fields Forever”— “Strawberry Fields Forever” is a Puligny-Montrachet. No! It’s a Chassagne-Montrachet. (Slightly weirder.)
         I’m just going to do this, right now, semi-drunk on on-tap Negronis at the wonderful/terrible bar on Bloor Street, the one with the red velvet banquettes. I’m going to bang out “If The Beatles Were Wine” really fast and get it over with, tonight, and from here on out, if anybody ever asks me if I’m going to write about The Beatles-and-wine, I can say, “I already did it.”
        Okay.
        If John Lennon and Paul McCartney as a collaborative duo were wine grapes, they would NOT be Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon is much too stately and conventional to be John Lennon. They’re kinda Syrah & Grenache, but mostly they’re Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon, the white Bordeaux Blend— Sauvignon Blanc is the only grape acidic and acerbic enough to be John. Also, it’s fucking weird. It tastes like lychees and green pepper, but basics weirdly love it, just like John Lennon himself: “Imagine” is the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of modern pop classics.
         So, yeah. Crazy John Lennon is crazy Sauvignon Blanc, a nervy, acid reflux-inducing and aromatic wine grape as logically unappealing but somehow universally accessible as an aggro freak from the North of England. Paul McCartney is only waxy, glycolic Sémillon when he's part of the Lennon/McCartney duo; Paul solo is either a boozy and strawberryey single-varietal Southern French Grenache or a dusty, Christmas cake-y Merlot-dominant Right Bank Bordeaux— all or any of which Your Mother Should Adore. George is a Burgundian Pinot Noir, thin and infinite, and Ringo is a sparkling rosé— no particular grape, no particular region. Just sparkling rosé, as a concept, in general.
         “Helter Skelter” is the thickest, richest, meanest, cheek-scraping-est Tannat. “Revolution 9” is a Vin Jaune— they’re equally ungettable. Abbey Road is a study in the aging potential of Loire Valley Chenin Blancs, and Revolver is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. The White Album is the greatest wine list ever written, and the early Beatles are alternately Lambrusco, Clairette, or a sweaty green bottle of Heineken. Solo John is Austrian Blaufrankisch, solo Ringo is… sparkling rosé. All Things Must Pass is Alsatian Pinot Gris, but Living In The Material World is a Spatlese Riesling. George’s “Miss O’Dell,” my favourite song that’s ever been written, is the best wine I ever drank. (I haven’t drank it yet.)
        Wings aren’t wine, they’re Cherry Coke. Solo Paul records are generally made of Chardonnay: sometimes mind-blowing, sometimes very bland. “Hey Diddle,” the Love Doesn’t Care song, is the wine my father’s neighbour used to make out of apricots while he was growing up in Lethbridge, Alberta. Yoko Ono and Stuart Sutcliffe are both Spatburgunders, and Linda McCartney is a white Sancerre. “Sexy Sadie” is a Sancerre Rouge, the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” reprise is the drug cocaine, George Martin is Chablis, and “Baby You’re A Rich Man” is Champagne.


**

I honestly can’t believe how good it is, how good life is, how insanely fucking lucky I am to be alive in a world I get to listen to “Hey Jude” in. Even if there was none of the other stuff, “Hey Jude” alone would make it all worthwhile.
        The Beatles are wine, but “Hey Jude” is better. “Hey Jude” is water.




LIZ: My favorite Beatles song lately is the Anthology version of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window." It's a song about the girls who used to hang around outside Paul McCartney's house, and one girl in particular who took a ladder from the garden, climbed up into the bathroom window, and stole a picture that meant a lot to Paul- a photo of his dad. The Anthology version is more slow and sleepy and stoned than the Abbey Road version, but the essential difference is in the line that goes Now she sucks her thumb and wanders by the banks of her own lagoon. When the girl in the Abbey Road version sucks her thumb she's being a brat, she's pouting about not getting her way. But the thumbsucking in the Anthology version is just some bad habit she never bothered to get rid of. It has nothing to do with sulking, because the "She" in the Anthology version isn't a girl, she's a grown-up, a woman. She's got a self-possession that the Abbey Road girl isn't even close to finding yet, and "by the banks of her own lagoon" is one of her very favorite places to be.

Earlier this year I got the Spolia tarot deck (made by Jessa Crispin, and Jen May!!!!), and it's been the life-changing-est thing for me so far in 2018. Writing this post, I listened to the Anthology version of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" about five thousand times and tried to figure out its corresponding tarot card, and I think it's partly the Queen of Coins* but mostly it's the 9 of cups. Nine of cups is the "alone in your splendor" card, according to Jessa Crispin's book The Creative Tarot, and wandering by the banks of your own lagoon seems like a very alone-in-your-splendor thing to me. It's about existing in a space that belongs to you and indulges you, lets you live according to your own rhythm, rather than the fucked-up and terrible rhythm of the wider world.

In my head I have this dream bathroom that I invented a little while after pulling the 9 of cups the first time I opened the Spolia deck. My dream-bathroom tub is cast-iron and lion foot, and somehow there's a bookshelf built up all around it: a wooden bookshelf, and the wood is waterlogged and so are all the books, and the books are mixed up with all these gooey/tropically-scented body scrubs and bubble baths and other ridiculous potions, and there's candles and seashells and candles burning in seashells. And a radio, obvs, and the radio plays lots of lagoon-y music, like late-'70s/early-'80s Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones, and the beautiful album Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Bill Fay which I bought a couple years ago cuz this weirdo-genius teenage piano-player told me she loved it. And maybe a potted plant, like a spider plant, because spider plants are extremely early-'80s-Joni Mitchell-chic. And nag champa just burning all the time, everywhere forever.

So that's all very messy and cluttered- but I think messy and cluttered can be good for your soul and your heart, if there's a purpose to it. There's too much pristineness in the world nowadays, like how coffee places are all sleek and blonde wood and stainless steel and white walls, when really coffee places are supposed to be full of ratty furniture and bad watercolor paintings and strange muffins in overly ambitious flavors like Pineapple Coconut White Chocolate Chip, and overstuffed bookcases where there's always a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or whatever the hell. I don't want to ever spend time or money in places that feel like they were made by and for robots on laptops. The Blue Bottle-ization of America grosses me out and worries me.

(P.S. also in my bathtub-bookshelf dream house there's a garden that's a total ripoff of this little house down the street from where I live now- the yard's like a cave of flowers, roses and daisies and a million other flower species I can't identify, and sometimes on my morning run I see the owner lady outside watering the flowers in her burgundy velvet housecoat and slippers. I want a flower cave like that, and I want a couch and a coffee table and an easy chair in the backyard, like the yard's a second living room. And in the kitchen there's lots of jars filled with teas made from flower petals, and a raku bowl full of bananas and mangoes, and a blender so I can be like the part in Klute where Jane Fonda makes herself a health shake for breakfast and then drinks the shake right from the blender pitcher while putting on her makeup. It's the kind of kitchen that's made for dinner parties where you drink white wine from a carafe and serve recklessly assembled stir-fries, and maybe use pineapple shells as dishware. And along with the mangoes in the raku bowl there'd be mangoes in the freezer, so you can eat frozen mango whenever you want. I don't know- I just feel like constantly eating mangoes has a really nice effect on your disposition and overall presence in the world.)

I think what I'm going for with all this is something like hygge, only kind of trashy and grunge and wacky and groovy. It feels like every day that goes by there's more of a need to have your own little space that lets you hide away from the world for a while, like a grown-up version of a treehouse or a secret fort. You've got to make your own lagoon happen, and find that little space and fill it up with things you love. It's good to love a lot of things and love them too much, to love more and more all the time, and gush about everything so maybe other people will fall in love too. That is the most Strawberry Fields Whatever-y thing to me.


-

*One of my favorite things I've read and reread his year is Jessa Crispin's tinyletter from 2017 about how Anthony Bourdain is the Queen of Coins, which includes these paragraphs:

The Queen of Coins works from love and expresses it through work, through the body, through pleasure, through presence. And it's easier to copy the form of embodiment (the leather jacket, the forms that pleasure takes) than what is being embodied.

All Queens come from places of love, empathy, intuition. It's not about gender, it's about the source material. And you see it in Bourdain's show, the way he never tries to make himself look better by humiliating someone else, the quality of his attention given to whoever he is talking to, his sincerity and frankness. He's not trying to make himself look clever or like the expert about something (a Kingly attribute), nor is he a dilettante (a Knightly one). He's a Queen.

I think a lot about the segment of the Koreatown episode of Parts Unknown when Dave Choe takes Anthony Bourdain to Sizzler, and at the end Anthony Bourdain says something about understanding why Sizzler would be a wonderland to Dave Choe. That's such an advanced form of generosity: to be fascinated by what other people love and to dedicate yourself to trying to understand that love, instead of just automatically dismissing something that doesn't make sense to you or that you've never considered to be of value. It's almost radically open-hearted.

Laura first told me about her idea for Strawberry Fields Whatever when she was visiting L.A. in March or February of 2012, and on that trip we went to this restaurant in Koreatown because Anthony Bourdain had gone there on The Layover, a place called Dan Sung Sa. I remember eating some kind of pancake and drinking blackberry wine and ordering Yellow Peach on Ice for dessert, and when the ice melted we used our spoons to drink the peachy icemelt. We were still doing Beatles-book things back then, and one of the things I remember most fondly about the Beatles-book era of my life is the way that constantly thinking about the Beatles changed my head and gave everything a Beatlesy glow. I don't live in that way anymore, but lately when I listen to the Beatles I notice so much I never noticed in 2010. There are so many song parts I never paid attention to before, like the way George's backing vocals on "The Night Before" rise and fall and go on forever, and so many lyrics I never bothered to care about because I couldn't immediately make them mean something about me. Like on "Penny Lane" when Paul sings He likes to keep his fire engine clean/It's a clean machine- I don't think I even heard that lyric until two Sundays ago, but now I know it's as good as William Carlos Williams. Part of me's like God, Barker, what the hell were you even doing all that time?, but mostly I love that I was so out of it back then, such a spaced-out little jerk, and over the past 8 years or whatever I've gotten a little better at getting out of my own way. Now I get to hear all of Paul's basslines that never meant much to me, and they always work, they always unlock the Beatlesy part of my heart. That's really the only advice I have for anyone: if you're lost just find the bassline, and hopefully it'll do something cool to your head.

24.4.18

The White Wine List Of My Dreams


BY LAURA JANE FAULDS/ ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY

There are worse things to write than a wine list, but I’d rather write about a wine list, since a wine list doesn’t have enough words. Once I had a wine list where I wrote little descriptions of what the wines tasted like underneath their names, but that still wasn’t enough: when it comes to words, I need at least a thousand to really get me going.
        Now, I don’t think wine lists should have descriptions of the wines at all, especially not cutesy or clever ones. It’s pointless: there’s nothing any writer could do to stop the names of the wines from being the most beautiful words on the page. Just try and write a sentence that looks as good as, for instance, Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée Premier— no— 1er Cru, or even just ‘1er Cru,’ when you write it like that, with the 1. Imagine opening up a pretty old book to any page and seeing those beautiful words written down in the middle of it. Your eye would be drawn to them. See how ugly the sentence "Your eye would be drawn to them" looks comparatively?
        So that’s the first thing I want to say about the imaginary wine list I'm writing about: it doesn’t have descriptions. And it would be shaped like a book, and bound. It’s alright when wine lists are just one long piece of paper but I hate when they’re something so precious, a clipboard or a duo-tang or whatever. Some “fresh new take” on a wine list being a wine list. Give me a break.
       The wine list I'm writing about doesn't exist because, if it did, I would have to write it, it would have to belong to my wine bar, and I don't want to have a wine bar. I’m too lazy, not rich enough, and also, I don’t really like wine bars. I go to them because I have to, because I’m a person who lives in a city in North America and likes to drink good wine— but I also think that no wine can be enjoyed to its fullest at a WINE BAR in a CITY in NORTH AMERICA. Wine tastes first-best on the vineyard where it’s made, second-best in a bar/restaurant close to where it’s made (which would probably never be called a “wine bar,” unless you’re in California), third-best in a person’s home close to where it’s made, a hundredth-best in some drippy wine bar in Cleveland or Vancouver or whatever. Whenever a new wine bar opens up in Toronto and a person tells me it’s “good,” I take it with a grain of salt. You have to assume that every wine bar in your city is necessarily an abomination, and then grade it on a curve.
        If I were ever rich enough to open up a wine bar, I’d also have to be bored. Like, the richest, boredest person you could imagine. If I were just regular rich and bored, I’d want to go work on a vineyard and do physical labour for the love of the game; if I were very rich and bored, I'd get a job working as a food runner at a restaurant. Food runner is my favourite job— it’s so easy, and you never have to talk to a person. So, in this fake scenario, I would already have had to carry out those two phases of rich person boredom for long enough that I’d have reached a point of no longer being satisfied by my food-running gig, which seems impossible, but, you know. Stranger things have happened, I guess. 
        So that’s the back-story. I’d quit my job as a fifty-five year old food runner, move back to Toronto, and open up a wine bar. I’d call it John F. Kennedy International Airport— no, John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport, Int’l, with the apostrophe. Not for any real reason: I just think it’s a solid name. And I hate when wine bar names are so transparent about the wine bar being a wine bar. Like, calm down. If your wine bar is a wine bar, we’ll figure out that it’s a wine bar. You don’t have to name it “Tannin.”
       At John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport, the wine by the glass list would be a small slip of paper paper-clipped to the front of the wine-book wine-list. It would be written in inky black Micron pen in my cutesy loopy penmanship, then photocopied using an inky-smelling Xerox machine from twenty-five years ago (or, fifty years ago, since my wine bar is set twenty-five years in the future), and the belly of the machine would overheat, and you could warm your hands on it, and when the paper printed out it would feel hot too.


30.3.18

Champagne & Egg Yolk

WORDS BY LAURA JANE FAULDS
ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY

A cook at my restaurant was experimenting with sous-vide-ing egg yolks; I was polishing wine glasses and watching him. A shell was cracked open, and a white had not set. The gluey white fell dramatically, in ribbons, away from the yolk and into the sink, reminding me of once-melted, now-set candlewax. The clean orbs of yolk, barely-translucent marbles made of sunset, were a greater success. They sat sweetly on a small white plate. They were perfect.
        We ate the egg yolks smeared on ripped-off hunks of baguette with butter and fleur de sel. Oily and plush, fat, almost fudge-like in texture. The salt was spunky, like pop-rocks, and the butter was unnecessary but so necessary: a silky, deafening indulgence, cream on cream—
        It was perfect. That bite of food was perfect.
        I went downstairs and packed up my things. I put on my coat, and came upstairs to find a runnier execution: this time, the yolk was flat, as if tidily cut out of the middle of a classic fried egg, and its juicy innards were contained only by a thin, frail skin. Pierced with the tip of a butter knife, the yolk oozed out of itself. It was dementedly satisyfing to watch, like one of those zit-popping videos on YouTube.
       I walked home, and later received a text message asking me what wine pairs best with runny egg yolk. I knew the answer without having to think of it.


21.3.18

Some Rieslings I Have Known



WORDS BY LAURA JANE FAULDS
ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY 

I wanted to get a gold nameplate necklace spelling out the name of a wine grape, but I couldn’t decide which one. My two favourites, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, are each two words long, which posed a problem: I would have to jarringly interrupt the flow of the pendant’s perfect cursive to introduce a capital letter mid-word, CabernetFranc or CheninBlanc, which are both horrible-looking and remind me of names of mid-nineties tech start-ups: HydraSonic, IntraTek, UniCorp. Alternately, I could buy two necklaces (say: one Chenin and one Blanc), with one chain slightly longer, but then the chains would get tangled up in each other, and I’d have to wear two necklaces.
        I (truly) spent years mulling over which one-word wine grape I’d most like to champion: Chardonnay was too on-the-nose, and somehow the physicality of the word itself connotes a trash-glam aesthetic I don’t really relate to. Nebbiolo would be too loopy-looking: same goes for Tempranillo. Lord knows I love a single-varietal Carignan, but nobody’s ever heard of it, and I didn’t feel like explaining it to people all the time. Malbec? Sangiovese? Regal, yes, but not in my wheelhouse, non-options. Mourvèdre I adore, but like Carignan, it’s too niche. Syrah looks like Mynah bird and I don’t even love it; Shiraz I don’t acknowledge as being a real thing. When people talk to me about Shiraz, I assholeishly repeat it as “Syrah” back to them. 
        Viognier, Grenache, Riesling, Dolcetto. These were my last grapes standing.

**

Late last spring, I co-hosted a staff wine tasting with my ex-wine boss, who was visiting from LA. We tasted a dry, weirdly-minerally Riesling from Piemonte, and he told us the story of the time he’d met an Austrian Riesling producer with a tattoo on his inner forearm of the word “RIESLING” in a garish, fifties-horror-movie style font, surrounded by images of skulls, demons, lightning bolts and the flames of hell.
        The staff were delighted, and I asked “Can I date him?” to make them laugh. In my head, I thought, “If someone believes in Riesling enough to ink it onto their body for the entire rest of their life, the least I can do is write it on a necklace,” and the next day I finally purchased my wine-grape-nameplate, off a poorly-designed website called MyNameNecklace.com.
        Once it arrived, I never took it of. I wore it every single day for the next eight months— “Is that your name?” people sometimes asked, and I would say “I wish!”
        Even more frequently, and expectedly, “Is Riesling your favourite?” people would ask, to which I always replied:
        “It’s not my favourite wine grape, but it’s certainly the noblest.”


22.12.17

Desperately Seeking Susan Taught Me How to Walk Down the Street

WORDS BY ELIZABETH BARKER
ART BY JEN MAY

When I was a teenager I read a semi-trashy unauthorized biography of Patti Smith, and there was a story about Patti being a kid and finding a book of Arthur Rimbaud's poetry, in French. Patti said something about how she didn't know French but she knew the book was going to be important to her, and how the words glittered even though she couldn't understand them. 

I saw Desperately Seeking Susan for the first time when I was seven, in the theater, with my mom and my best friend. I loved it immediately and continued to love it the 800 times I watched it on VHS throughout my childhood, but now I love it more than ever. It's a glittering poem, or a treasure box whose treasure I couldn't fully appreciate at first, because when I was seven I hadn't seen Stranger Than Paradise or listened to Blank Generation. All the pieces of treasure are things that I've grown up to love and need, many of them in the last year or so. Each time I watch it now I notice something new, the most recent catch being a copy of Adventure by Television on the floor of Dez's apartment. It's infinitely formative, in ways that never stop revealing themselves. So here's a scattershot little post about my current fave movie, and all the things I love most about it today:

i. Look at this beautiful cast photo. I love that it's bookended by Richard Hell and John Lurie whose song "Small Car" I've listened to 500 zillion times since first hearing it this summer. My birthday's in six days and I'd love to be given an exclusive behind-the-scenes video documenting this photo shoot.


The only failure of that photo is that Richard Hell doesn't look so great, which makes no sense, because how hard can it be to make Richard Hell look great? The movie calls him a gangster, but I prefer to think of him as a jewel thief- Richard Hell makes me romantic about everything. Let's look at some pictures of him looking good:



Ever since Richard Hell became one of my favorite people I've wished there were a Desperately Seeking Susan prequel starring him and Madonna, about all the fun they had till he started getting serious. It would correct the one tragedy of the movie, which is that Richard Hell never actually speaks. You know the part on At Folsom Prison when Johnny Cash tells June Carter "I love to watch you talk"? That's how I feel about Richard Hell. His speech is so loose and lazy but there's still some kind of spark to it, because he's a Roman candle and a comet and 12 other kinds of fireworks. Give yourself an early Christmas present and spend a few seconds watching Richard Hell talk. Watch him say "You know I don't care about money" in 1979

Earlier this year I had a moment of deep clarity and recognized that my all-time favorite song lyric is the part in "Venus" by Television that goes Richie said, "Hey man, let's dress up like cops, think of what we could do." It's a true story about when Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine lived together and Richard wanted to dress up like cops and go out and raise hell, but Tom wouldn't go along with it. I love the accuracy of Tom Verlaine's Richard Hell impression, his use of the diminutive, his willingness to admit to being the uptight one. You know that movie Let's Be Cops that came out a few years ago? I wish that were a documentary starring Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, filmed on a night that never happened. 

My favorite Richard Hell song this year was "You Gotta Lose," from that great big Ork Records compilation which I love. It's a poem and a bop, it's a little mean but it never not brightens my head and punches me up: listening to Richard Hell gives you good attitude. Let's live life like a movie where Richard Hell is forever passed out in our trashed hotel room with the red velvet flocked wallpaper, a bottle of champagne by the bed and a box of chocolates on the floor.




(BTW, "anecdotes about when Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine lived together" is my favorite genre of literature. Richard Hell wasn't the best roommate- the two of them shared a bed, and whenever Richard brought a girl home Tom would have to go sleep on the roof. There's also a story about the time their refrigerator broke and the landlord wouldn't fix it, so then they threw it out the window. You can read all this in the beautiful book I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, by Richard Hell.)

28.8.17

Reds of Summer


WORDS BY LJ/ ILLO BY JEN


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.”


3.7.17

Some Wine I Drank In England

WORDS BY LJ/ DRAWING BY JEN

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.")