26.7.18

The 75 Most Beautiful Mick Jagger Pictures To Make You Feel Like 'Let It Bleed' Forever


BY ELIZABETH BARKER

Today is Mick Jagger's 75th birthday. Four years ago Jen May made that art up top for a little storybook I wrote called I Wanna Be Your Man. It was partly about Mick being royalty, about the impenetrable grace of Mick, and in the middle there's this paragraph:

One thing I admire about Mick Jagger is he probably never gets all red-faced and ugly in reaction to someone else's bad behavior. He's cool, calm, collected; he maintains his porcelain complexion and probably can barely be bothered to roll his eyes. If someone does him wrong, he just makes some witheringly funny comment and laughs his big, regal, evil, Mick Jagger-y laugh, and then dashes off a lyric that's bitchy as hell but also kind of lazy. Jonathan Richman writes "Put down the cigarette, and act like a true girl," and when he sings it he shouts it, and he's sort of kidding but sort of not. But Mick Jagger doesn't have time to tell you how to act. You either act right or you don't, and Mick is too busy buying islands or whatever to help those who can't help themselves. It's something to aspire to.

I still agree with 89 percent of that, but today I don't care as much about Mick and meanness: sweetness and Mick seems much more essential to me. One of my favorite qualities in a person is a pure and abiding generosity toward Mick - I love it when people just love him without making some big show of how they find Mick embarrassing, how they're personally offended and deeply put-upon by the ridiculousness of Mick Jagger. I mean - he is embarrassing, sometimes. But he also wrote "Moonlight Mile." And "Sweet Virginia," and "Jigsaw Puzzle" and "Get Off of My Cloud," and at least three dozen other songs that might have a magnanimous effect on your heart. He made Take it easy, babe the last line of "Under My Thumb," and wrote "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in such a way that the movie that plays in my head when I hear it has stayed the same since I was five-years-old, and I still feel too young to watch it. Everything always feels wild and tragic in the most dreamy and thrilling way, whenever "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is in the air. It just gives you this unending wonder.

And Mick wrote "Let It Bleed," which might be the song I always need most? The way it cracks you open and loosens your limbs, pours a warm light into you and makes you sigh the grandest of sighs - to me that means more about love than any other song that's ever been written. If you could sustain the "Let It Bleed" state of mind you'd always be your most generous and unguarded self, totally free of all self-imposed bullshit and rules. And it's the most beautiful balance of dirty and sweet, it's filthy but it's elegant, with that line about the jasmine tea. Sometimes I worry the world's getting less "Let It Bleed"-y by the second, way too clean but also so cold. I don't know what to do about that besides throw your phone in the ocean and start spending all your days lazing about on sumptuous carpets beneath crystal chandeliers, or drinking champagne from the bottle in a magnificent bathtub with the finest of bath oils made of Moroccan rose otto, your eyemakeup perfectly intact. But I can't do that, and I'm guessing you probably can't either. I have no idea what you're supposed to do instead except just listen to "Let It Bleed" whenever you need it, and hopefully it'll never stop working on you.

So in honor of feeling like "Let It Bleed" forever, here are my 75 favorite Mick pictures, with a little commentary here and there.

MICK & KEITH:



It's probably true that Mick loves Keith more than Keith loves Mick, right? Or maybe that's just some tragic romance I made up in my head. But I love this picture of Keith sleeping and Mick watching over him, knowing he's loved less and being all right with that. Another cool form of Mick generosity.





This is a still from one of my favorite Rolling Stones things to watch on the internet, a press conference they did in 1973. It might be my favorite version of Mick, such a perfect harmony of elegant and goofball. I'm especially passionate about the gesture he makes when saying the word "gesture," here.







MICK & CHARLIE:



MICK & RONNIE:


MICK & PAUL:

(I love the way they look at each other. This little photo series is a solid representation of the three key varieties of the Mick/Paul gaze. "Get a man who looks at you the way" blah blah blah blah blah blah)







11.7.18

All the Songs We Loved in June

The Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby" (LJ)



I was walking to work the weird way, on a Wednesday, past the houses with the purple flowers and the park with the little rock climbing wall. The wall is pale and made of stone and I always think, “One day I should come here and lay the back of my head against it.” I would pile up my hair on top of my head. I think the stone would feel cool against the back of my neck.
        I was listening to Endless Summer and Don’t Worry Baby came on. I thought about how on the Astro Poets Twitter that morning they’d written a list of “Zodiac signs as Clueless characters,” and the whole thing was so bang on except for my Zodiac sign, Cancer, was Mr. Hall— lame— and I took it weirdly personally. I thought that if I were going to write a list of “Zodiac signs as Beach Boys songs” I would write Don’t Worry Baby as Cancer and felt vindicated by my decision. Sometimes Cancers get a good thing.
       Don’t Worry Baby is my favourite Beach Boys song and also the most beautiful. That sentence feels redundant to write down because I can’t imagine any person disagreeing with me, at least not with the second part of the sentence: “Don’t Worry Baby is not a beautiful song!”— that’s wrong. It is a beautiful song.
        Tonight I want to write about this song like nobody’s ever heard of it before, like it’s a cool new thing I’m telling you about, this new and beautiful thing that I’m the first person ever to have heard of.
        Every time I listen to Don’t Worry Baby that’s how it makes me feel: like I’m the first person ever to realize how beautiful it is, and like all the past versions of me who heard it and figured out it was beautiful have been erased too.
        It starts off with a bang with the sentence: “Well it’s been building up inside of me for oh I don’t know how long.” “That’s how I feel too!” I think, every time, “That is the first time anyone has ever accurately expressed the way I feel.”
        (When I was a teenager and listened to Don’t Worry Baby on a cassette tape in my bedroom I would write a story in my head about bring grown up and something bad would happen to me and I’d come home to the apartment I imagined I’d live in with the man who lived there and he was in love with me and he’d play me Don’t Worry Baby to perk me up and it would fix things. What I didn’t realize when I was a teenager was that I would grow up to be a rude woman who that sort of gesture wouldn’t work on. In real life if some man tried to solve my problem with Don’t Worry Baby I would fume and say, “How could you think you could fix it all with a song?”)
        Next it switches to a line where he starts to brag about his car— I like that part because it locks the song in time. The band were starting to evolve and write songs about life instead of surfing or drag-racing but they still felt as though they owed it to their fans to throw a drag-racing into a song that doesn’t want to be about drag-racing. And I like that he feels guilty for bragging about his car. I like that he’s afraid he’s fucked things up. I relate to him again.
        For my entire life up until one week ago I thought the drag-racing plotline of the song ended with that lyric, and I only figured out about another drag-racing lyric in this song right now, actual right now, sitting on my bedroom floor at 1 AM next to a trashbag in an apartment I’m about to be moving out of. I am drinking a glass of Muscadet and the floor smells gross because it’s a carpet and the toilet overflowed two nights ago.
        “She makes me come alive, and makes me want to cry,” I thought he was singing, like he felt so strongly toward her that it reduced him to tears, but—
        NO! He says: She makes him want to drive!
        He’s so into driving, this guy. The entire song is about driving. I had to go upstairs and pour myself another splash of wine, soon as I figured that out. I read the lyrics in the part of the Apple Music app where you swipe down and it shows you the lyrics. I can’t believe how much about driving this song is. It’s probably the most beautiful song about driving on Earth.
        Last week, on the day with the purple flowers, I didn’t know about all the driving stuff yet. I just thought it was a regular song about loving somebody.
       I turned the corner next to a red-brick house and it got to the part I like best. The man singing sings, “And if you knew how much I love you baby, nothing could go wrong with you”: but he’s not saying it, he’s repeating what the girl said.
       I have always loved that lyric. I think it’s a particularly lovely way to say something that a million people have already said. “What a non-boring way to say that you love someone,” it makes me think. Like your love is a spell cast for protection.
        On this particular day, I had a very strange reaction to hearing that lyric, a reaction I was surprised by; I surprised myself. I heard it and thought, “That’s exactly how I feel about every single person I know!”
        I flashed through a series of photo-flashcards printed with pictures of every person I know’s face and went through them and nodded, “Yup. Yup. Yup.” It wasn’t just people at the forefront of my life that I know I love and care about. It was also, like, weird peripheral co-workers, people who’d eaten at my restaurant recently, the guy who works at the store. The guy from TouchBistro tech support I had to call the other day.
       I felt overwhelmed and all-consumed by an immense and intense amount of love. It upset me to think that they all don’t know I love them. It was like the time George Harrison said, “With our love, we could save the world. If they only knew…”
        If they only knew!


**

It’s not the same night anymore; it’s a different night. Now the part of the story that used to be the present— when I got up to pour myself another splash of wine because I found out she made him want to drive— has become the past, and the present is me sitting at a cute bar drinking a purple-colour beer called Mood Ring. My hands stink of laundry detergent because I spilled laundry detergent on my hands.
        The part when I’m walking in the sun by the purple flowers is so long ago that I can’t remember it anymore, but that’s the day I’m supposed to be writing about, because that was the day I realized that I’d been procrastinating figuring out what he’s saying in the lyric that precedes “And if you knew how much I loved you…” for, you know, about fifteen years. Maybe closer to twenty.
         Here is what I imagined he might be saying: “She told me baby when you wushalaylalayla all my love with you.” I knew he wasn’t saying that. I knew wushalaylalayla wasn’t a thing. But I always forgot to look up what wushalaylalayla was instead of being wushalaylalayla, because then the part about “If you knew how much I loved you baby…” would come on, and I’d get so cuted out and distracted by it. Like seeing a little puppy on the street in the middle of writing a work email, getting up to stratch its ears, and then never finishing the work email. Ever.
        “She told me ‘Baby, when you race today, just take along my love with you,’” is how the song goes. It’s another driving thing! It’s the prettiest driving thing. I was so happy to find out that the sentence ends “along my love with you” and not “all my love with you.” “All my love” is so basic compared to “along my love.” Take along my love with you. Those are such strange syllables to gulp up. Take along my love… with you. I don’t want to fantasize about someone playing me Don’t Worry Baby to cheer me up; I want to fantasize about living in a world where Don’t Worry Baby didn’t exist, and I’m about to run a race, and somebody says that sentence to me. I wish I’m the man from Don’t Worry Baby, and then I write Don’t Worry Baby about my girlfriend who says weird sentences. “Take along my love with you.” Just take it along.


**

The morning after the Muscadet, the plumber came. It was Summer Solstice, and I sat in my backyard listening to Don’t Worry Baby on my phone, and as I went to go inside, I heard someone else start listening to Don’t Worry Baby in an adjacent backyard, evidently inspired by me— what a happening! I imagined, for a moment, that the backyard-stranger was hearing Don’t Worry Baby for the first time in her life when I played it just then, and that she’d then ‘Shazam-ed’ it, and she was only the third person of all time ever to find out about it. First was me, and second was the Shazam guy.

The Ethiopians, “Engine 54” (LJ)


The Ethiopians are my favourite band. That’s a lie. My favourite band is The Beatles. The Ethiopians are my second-favourite band, but that’s not what the algorithm thinks. The algorithm is like, “There’s no way that’s true.” The algorithm knows The Ethiopians are my favourite band, because The Ethiopians are pretty much the only band I listen to, not counting those couple of days last week when I listened to Don’t Worry Baby seventy-five times a day for two days. But I definitely didn’t stop listening to The Ethiopians during Don’t Worry Baby era. I just listened to more music, at more times, to make up for the Ethiopians deficit it triggered.
        The Ethiopians are from Jamaica in the nineteen-sixties. I think they self-identified as being a ska act, but I count them more as being rocksteady in my head. Sometimes I find it difficult to designate ska from rocksteady but other day I read this tweet saying that “Ska is the sound of a thirteen year old boy realizing he is about to get more mozzarella sticks,” which is disrespectful to ska, but apt nevertheless. There’s a song by the Ethiopians called “Train to Skaville,” but it doesn’t sound like the mozzarella sticks sound. It’s so beautiful. All the great Ethiopians songs are about trains, taking a train to somewhere. Taking a train around Jamaica.
        When I listen to Ethiopians songs about trains, I don’t think about trains. I imagine that I am in a hut on a beach, and the Ethiopians are in the next room over, recording their song. I imagine myself with my ear up against the wall and in my head I can smell the wet wood of the wall. All their recordings sound a little bit faraway.
       “Train to Skaville” is useful to me because it is the song I listen to when I am in a phase of depriving myself of “Engine 54,” which is something I have to do from time to time. I am an anxious and high-strung person, and listening “Engine 54” is the most effective and immediate antidote to anxiety I have found. It is so much cheaper than therapy.
       When I feel anxious, I think of myself as an X-ray fish. I can feel and see my skeleton lit up with energy inside of me. I feel like the flickering filament of a lightbulb, hot with its own crazy juice. It is necessary for that filament to be on fire, but it’s bad to be the filament. You have to cool yourself down and turn into the light that radiates off of it. Cool light.
        “Engine 54” does that; it makes me into cool white light. I wish I could write down a list of every time listening to “Engine 54” has saved my life in the past year, but it would be so long and dull, and I can’t even remember. I’m always freaking out about something— now, when it happens, I don’t even mind. I know what to do:
        Put my phone on airplane mode, stop moving, sit on a curb and listen to “Engine 54” and either smoke a cigarette or breathe. Usually cigarette. Or, sometimes I don’t even make it that far. Sometimes I’m using the restroom at an establishment I’ve popped into on my way to walking to work, and I can’t even make it long enough to get outside the restroom to begin the “Engine 54” part of my day. I need it now!


**

The beginning of the song sounds like exhaling. It is a train breathing. The first lyrics to the song go “Beep Beep,” and then someone says “Shhhh” in the background. The person saying “Shhhh” is the unsung hero of that song. I spend my entire life running after the guy saying “Shhhh.” I am picturing myself running down the coast of a beach. I am picturing myself grabbing him by the shoulders and telling him that if he knew how much I loved him baby nothing could go wrong with him.
        The rest of the lyrics to the song are equally uncomplicated. It is a list of all the stops the train makes on its journey round Jamaica. They don’t even bother starting the proper lyrics to the song until the song is halfway through.
        The train leaves from Kingston, and then goes to a place called Spanish Town, by the wall— and then it goes to Montego Bay. My favourite part of the song used to be when they sing about Montego Bay, but now I prefer Spanish Town.
        After Montego Bay, the train goes to Portland, then back to Kingston. Then the song is over. A simple and easy story.
        Sometimes, when I know I have something stressful to do on the horizon, I will— like I said— purposely and purposefully withhold myself from listening to this song, accumulating its potential power for a period of time so that I can unleash it upon an extra-stressful situation in three weeks from now, or whatever. In such situations, I use “Train to Skaville” as a placeholder. It’s not as good.


Spoon, “June's Foreign Spell” (Liz)


I think Britt Daniel wrote “June's Foreign Spell” about the record industry or something, but to me it sounds like when you work all week and then get to Saturday and it's a total ripoff: one of those worst-case-scenario summer days that's gray sky and hotter than hell, and the air's so heavy it makes your hair feel like a large cat curled up on your head and took a nap. And the weather's being so passive-aggressive, so deeply pass-agg, it never even bothers to storm. You don't even get the fun or drama of a 4 o'clock thunderstorm with some razzle-dazzle lightning and the kind of over-the-top thunder that makes you feel like a five-year-old, like a dumb little baby who doesn't understand yet that scary noises can't hurt you. The whole day just drags and mostly you hate everything, but there's also a little satisfaction in being denied your perfect summer day - some residual moody-teen thing of taking pleasure in new proof that the whole world's against you. That's exactly what “June's Foreign Spell” sounds like to me: something like sulking but slightly more thrilling and active, although not fiery enough to be a full-on tantrum. It's radical moping, basking in the unfairness of losing out on some glory or magnificence you'd imagined for yourself, but was never truly promised to you in the first place.

Anyway, here's a playlist of other summer moping songs, because it's important not to waste even the stupidest of energies. These are a few of the songs on that playlist:

-“Perfume-V” by Pavement. I want this song to be about a guy who's caught in some bad-news affair-type thing with a girl who's got a boyfriend, about their late-afternoon rendezvous-ing in her gross apartment, the kind of apartment you have when you're about 22, where you make a coffee table out of milk crates and duct-tape tapestries to the windows instead of hanging curtains. But I was reading things on the internet and apparently the general consensus is that Stephen Malkmus wrote “Perfume-V” about murdering a sex worker- which, okay, maybe he did. But I don't care what Stephen Malkmus wrote it about! I care about Stephen Malkmus's inner life exactly zero percent. Stephen Malkmus is there to write his hot/drab guitar parts and to slant-rhyme Like a docent's lisp with Like a damsel's spit, and the rest of the picture you just color in yourself.

-“Calm E” by Culture Abuse. Last week I listened to an interview with a writer for the New Yorker who talked about how, if you're trying to make it as a writer, it's helpful to get a rich husband and have your dad pay your phone bill. And that's probably true but to me it seems like a bad point to make, and also kind of tacky. I love Culture Abuse's new album Bay Dream cuz it sounds like the opposite of getting your dad to pay your phone bill so you can write for the New Yorker; it sounds like the album equivalent of a zine you'd make when you're 19 or 20 or 33, fantastically ramshackle but elegant where it counts. Ramshackle/elegant is the most unstoppable dynamic.

-“Drag Queen” by The Strokes & “Out of the Blue” by Julian Casablancas. I liked it so much when everyone was mad at Julian Casablancas for saying he doesn't get why Ariel Pink isn't wildly popular, in that Vulture interview from a few months back. I scrolled past all the bores getting worked up about some whatever-y bullshit, and then I Insta-storied a pic of Julian with the words I LIKE YOU, JULES typed in all caps. In truth, I love Jules, with his acne and his weight fluctuations and his bonkers fashion sense, like a clip I just saw of him playing a recent show wearing a Canadian flag T-shirt and goddamn suspenders. What a jerk! He's perfect. The bassline to “Drag Queen” makes my molars hurt, but exquisitely so.

-“My Curse” by The Afghan Whigs“My Curse” is one of those songs you need to listen to very sparingly, so you can preserve its ability to completely destroy you. Like how when Extraordinary Machine came out I burned myself a copy that excluded “Parting Gift” because I couldn't deal with it, especially the part that says It is my fault, you see, you never learned that much from me. And then years later “Parting Gift” came on in a cafe and it was such a beautiful surprise, such a transcendent moment of having my heart shattered on the floor of some bougie coffee place in Los Feliz. A little while ago I read a thing in Spin where Greg Dulli talks about how he had Marcy Mays do the vocals on “My Curse” because the song needed to be sung by a woman, which is so wise. You totally need a woman to sing the word hyssop, and to drag out the word me on You look like me/And I look like no one else - although one time when I was 18 and riding home from a party off-campus, the drunk and hot boy in the passenger's seat sang the hell out of that line, and that was pretty gorgeous too.

-“Coming Down Again” by The Rolling Stones“Coming Down Again is on Goats Head Soup, which is the quintessential summer-moping album. It's so listless and languid and lethargic, but with a cool/disgusting veneer of sleaze superimposed onto everything. You can't listen to Goats Head Soup and not instantly transform into an irredeemable dirtbag; the first notes of “Dancing with Mr. D just automatically sap you of all respectability. But then it's so sweet, like when Mick gets all Van Morrison-y on “Winter,” which I wrote a short story about six summers ago. And “100 Years Ago, which always reminds me of the kind of story I want to write forever: exorbitantly romantic, nostalgia-addled, heavily focused on cheap wine and constellations. 
       But yeah: “Coming Down Again falls on a nice warm place on the sweet/sleazy continuum, with a dollop of self-pity to really drive it all home. It feels like drinking whiskey on the floor of an AC-less bedroom on the hottest day of the year, and then switching to some sort of shitty beer after a while, because drinking whiskey all day will make you mean (and people attuned to the Goats Head Soup way of things absolutely understand how to achieve the ideal drunkness texture). It could be argued that the Rolling Stones are indifferent to your temperament or emotional character - but I'd prefer to think they want you to be sweet, even when everything feels gross and terrible. 

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.