Happiness Is A Neutral State


Eight years ago I loved the Clash and my nails were painted sparkly turquoise. I flew to New York City to sit around in rooms and bars and talk about the Clash with my Clash-friends. It was around Hallowe’en-time, and it snowed in October and on the news they named the snowfall “Snow-tober” and my friend Charlie said “It would have made a lot more sense if they named it Oct-snow-ber” and we all agreed that Yes, it would have.
        On the day it Oct-snow-bered, which might have been actual Hallowe’en, we went to a Hallowe’en party, and I half-assedly and insincerely dressed up as George Harrison. I wore a black & peach floor-length sari I’d cut into a jagged-hemmed minidress, black stockings, and Beatle boots. It was clearly not an outfit that George Harrison would have worn, under any circumstances, ever. I ignored the sign on the front door asking me to take off my boots and when the host called me on it, “They’re part of my costume,” I explained, and she said “Fine. We’ll make an exception if your shoes are part of your costume,” and I thought, “You’re silly,” which is what I thought Joe Strummer would have thought.
        I have had no interest in dressing up for Hallowe’en for the entirety of my adult life. The thought of deriving pleasure from engaging with that custom is so unfathomable to me that I cannot help but come across as judgmental of those who do. Because I am.


“All your favourite Clash songs are the ones that sound most like reggae,” said Charlie, and I said, “Yeah, you know, that’s true.” He said, “Maybe you should start listening to reggae,” and I said, “Yeah, you know, I should.”
        It was before iPhones then, I just had a little aqua Shuffle that clipped onto my jacket collar, and I deleted every song already on it and filled it up with Trojan Ska & Rocksteady compilations from Charlie and Nadine’s computer--
       It was a nothing moment, meant to mean nothing, which ended up changing everything.

Music, for me, is a companion: a beloved puppy, trotting alongside me, perking things up during life’s dullest moments. Reggae has been the most faithful of pets since I first found it, but I never want talk about it, because when I do, people either want to talk about it or not talk about it, and both outcomes are equally annoying. “Vibes are all there is,” I like to say, and reggae’s are the best. And I worry that if I take them outside of myself, they will be either diluted or dismissed.
        I have been hoarding these precious vibes in my heart for eight years. I am not so brazen to think that these words could match them; I hold myself to a much lower standard than that.
        All I want to do here is explain it.


I love my new apartment & Evan Dando & 17th-century Dutch paintings of lobsters & cake

(Actual footage of the kitchen of my new apartment right at this moment, as painted by Adriaen van Utrecht)


i. For a long time I had this dream that the next place I lived would have a lemon tree right outside the kitchen window, so when people came over and I offered them a drink I could go Hang on a sec, and then lean out the window and pull a lemon from the tree and squeeze the juice into their beer, tequila, seltzer, whatever. I love the snap that happens when you pull a piece of fruit from a tree, and then the rustling of leaves that happens in response to that snap: it's a nice little whispery conversation. And I've never seen a lemon tree run out of lemons but I'm sure this one would keep regenerating itself forever, entirely for the purpose of accommodating my whims.

I moved in April, after living in the same house for six years. There's no lemon tree out my kitchen window; I buy lemons at the store like a normal person. In my old neighborhood people would leave little baskets of lemons on the sidewalk in front of their houses, with a sign saying FREE!, but no one really does that around here. My new life is somewhat less luxurious but it's also more luxurious, cuz I lucked out into moving into a place that's fully furnished with rooms upon rooms and nice little touches like a set of gold Moet goblets and a balcony and the complete Best of Soul Train on DVD and 7-inches of songs by Lavender Diamond and Madonna and Lisa Lisa + Cult Jam.

And it's luxurious cuz I get to fill it up with stuff that's mine all mine, pictures & trinkets & bottles & flowers. And I love my bookshelf, and I love my bathroom shelf, and I love the side of my refrigerator. My house is a jewel box or a diorama or a Tumblr from 2009, a collage you made in seventh grade with pages from Rolling Stone and Tiger Beat. The first thing I did when I moved in was tape a picture of mid-'70s Freddie Mercury to my closet door: I wanted him to watch over me as I was unpacking, to keep me on my toes and make sure I stayed true to a very Freddie sense of splendor/kookiness. But then I liked the way it looked, and 2 months 13 days later it’s still up. It's good to get to some guardian angels on your side, some patron saints of living your most splendid and kooky life.

ii. I deleted my Instagram last month cuz it was making me embarrassed all the time, and what kind of way to live is that. And then I reactivated my Instagram three Fridays ago cuz I took all these pictures of Evan Dando and it's important for me to effusively communicate my love for Evan Dando to the world: it's an important part of my function or identity as a human being, to love Evan Dando and let everybody know it. At the Lemonheads show there were all these men older than me who loved Evan Dando too, and I didn't like the way they communicated it - there was no glow or softness or openness to their faces. I feel like some men get mad at Evan Dando for being the same age as they are, but still extremely good-looking and obviously untethered to the demands of some boring existence where you go to a job in an office basically every day of your life forever. I feel like men are generally bad at having crushes on other men. I low-key despised those dudes at the show, for harboring some bitchy hostility toward Evan Dando but also standing right in front of me while Evan's singing "Hannah & Gabi" when I'm barely 5'4" and they're all giant mountains made of fleece and flannel. I need to be gazing directly at Evan the entire time he's singing the words Though it wasn't hard or far/I walked you to your car.


Things of the Year: The First 15 Seconds of "Little Miss Sunshine (Little Miss Rain)" by Lee Hazlewood; Being Charming Like Freddie Mercury; Nine Inch Nails & Terrace House

LJ'S THING OF THE YEAR: The First 15 Seconds of "Little Miss Sunshine (Little Miss Rain)" by Lee Hazlewood 

To be honest, I had a really bad 2018. December 31st of last year was the most disgusting & ominous day of my entire life, and as a result of its legendary shittiness my 2018 became a nonstop rollercoaster fireworks explosion of annoying life challenges constantly raining down on me only the rain was made of blood & shrapnel and the rollercoaster car was broken & the track broke into bits & the car derailed and I went flying into the air & flew away forever. Sorry to be dramatic. 

I was initially going to write my Thing of the Year about how I had a shit year but it helped me grow as a person or whatever but, you know, I don't really want to write about how my year sucked and here is my little self-help lesson about all the ways in which I grew as a person. Not because it isn't true- it, like, shockingly is- but it just sounds really boring to write about. 

This morning (December 30th, 2018) I was a doing a high intensity interval training workout while listening to Requiem For An Almost Lady by Lee Hazlewood & Liz texted asking if we were still going to post Thing of the Year tomorrow, and at the exact moment she texted, the first fifteen seconds of "Little Miss Sunshine (Little Miss Rain)" were playing, and Lee Hazlewood said-sang, Sometimes it's difficult to remember the good times, but I know there were some. There was your birthday, and Christmases, and rabbits named Friday, and once I start remembering the good times, it seems: there were only good times, and I felt really inspired by that. 

So here is a list of all the good times. 

1. On Valentine's Day I went to a job interview and I was in such a terrible mood before the job interview, but then I went to it and liked it, and got the job (though I didn't know it right yet, but, you know- sort of did), and walking home from the job interview I decided I was going to call a man and tell him all about how much I hated him, and then I called and he answered the phone and as it turned out I didn't hate him as much as I thought, and at the end of the conversation I asked, "Can we just go back to the way things were before?" and he said "Yes," and it felt like the end of a movie.

2. This night at the end of summer I was walking home from my friend Robin's house wearing a cut-up Augustus Pablo t-shirt and a giant gold pendant of a female lion that sort of looks like the drawing of baby Simba Rafiki draws on the wall of a cave, and the heat felt like a cave. It was one of those ravishing summer nights that they wrote the words Endless Summer to describe, when it is TRULY impossible to believe that it won't be summer forever.  

I did this thing I periodically do of checking YouTube to see if my favourite song "Black Fjord" by Kaleidoscope has come back on it- it used to be there, the whole song, and then it wasn't there for like seven years, and I couldn't find it anywhere on the entire Internet- and then, that night- it was! It was there! And I got to hear it again! And I just ran around the city drunk like I was twenty-four years old again, mouthing along to the lyrics and punching the air and I swang on a swingset like a maniac, and I was so, so happy, to get to have that song again. (And I still have it! It's still there!) 

3. I was so sad, like two weeks ago, I was so, so sad, and I went to work and I had to say to a bunch of people whose boss I am, "Listen up, I'm really sad. I'm sorry, I know I'm your boss and having a sad boss is sort of like being a little kid and seeing one of your parents cry for the first time, but this is the person I have to be tonight, because it's true." 

At the end of the night, the longest and most atrocious night and my eyes looked all fucked up from crying with giant hot-pink half-moons underneath, we were closing up the restaurant, and one of my servers put on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which is a song we usually listen to before service, to rev ourselves up. But we hadn't listened to it before service that night: not because I was sad, but rather for a more boring reason: because my server who's most into it with me started late. 

There's one part of the song that hypes me up particularly; it comes at the very end, approx. two minutes and five seconds into it, where the singer goes "Hup, hup, whoa-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh," I like to sing along to it, and that night we were cleaning up like crazy because on top of everything we had to do a deep-clean for some reason and my server put the song on and said, "Laura needs to listen to her part!" and it was so sweet and wonderful, so easy but so thoughtful. I felt so cared for and un-alone in that moment, and of everything that happened to me all year this year, that is the moment I will remember deepest hardest and most forever. 

4. The way Willem Dafoe's jeans fit in The Florida Project, and also the way his t-shirts fit him

5. Being in love with Nicki Minaj throughout June and July, how exciting it felt when Queen came out a week earlier than we thought it would, walking into this fancy clothing store wearing a cute flouncy denim top with jeans listening to "Chun-Li" and feeling like I'd fully self-actualized, and also the time I was walking down a moving sidewalk at the airport drinking an iced coffee and listening to "I'm The Best" and feeling like I hadn't self-actualized at all, but I was into it

6. Sitting in front of a Greek Orthodox church in Brooklyn with a man and these three young women who I felt so much older than walked by and the man I was sitting next to said "Look at those cuties" and it was so funny and weird and I loved it

7. The time my ex-head chef surprised me with a chocolate & cardamom tarte in the middle of the afternoon and there was pistachio ice cream with lime in it on top and it was late spring and everything in the world felt like pistachio and lime, the colour of the leaves

8. This meal Robin & I ate at Bar Raval a few weeks ago: the boldest, most attractively-soggy & garlicky tomato bread, Spanish tinned mackerel in olive oil that was so creamy you could spread it onto bread and make decently successful "like buttah!" jokes about it, and a dish of broken-up morcilla with chickpeas that tasted like the smell of walking past some stranger's house in Spain and they're cooking the most delicious-smelling food inside and you'll never eat it or even know what it is and you wish so bad that you were from that family, but you're not, and if you were you'd probably hate it 

9. Leaving Madeleine's birthday party early tonight because I knew if I stayed any longer I'd get too drunk to walk home, I'd Uber, and all I wanted to do was walk home drunk listening to Lee Hazlewood, and it had been so long since I'd felt like that- like a song is pulling me toward myself, like a song means anything at all.

I feel so jealous of my twenty-four year old self all the time, how much music used to mean to me, how much the words the people sang used to mean to me, how much they meant about my life. And it's so nice to know that I can be my now-self, this serious work person, keener, business bitch, answerer of emails and rememberer of things, a good boss who is sometimes sad but still always fixes problems (other people's, and sometimes even my own), but, underneath it all, I'm still the same idiot I always was and always will be.

It makes me so happy to realize that, even if I was too dumb to notice it at the time, the happiest moments of my year were just me walking down the street, listening to a song. And it makes me even happier to find out that, as it turns into the last day of the year, I'm the happiest I could ever possibly be: just sitting here writing, alone. (But the glass of wine I'm drinking now is so much better than the garbage I used to drink, and if that's what it's all for, then that is FINE.)  

LIZ'S THING OF THE YEAR: Being Charming Like Freddie Mercury 

On Saturday, the day after my birthday, my sister and I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody and I loved it and now I can't really think past that, even though I know there was a whole year that happened before two days ago. All I listen to now is Queen; the magnificence of all other music is so insufficient it's almost profane. I just want to bask in the charm of Freddie Mercury, or Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, or both- their totally outlandish and over-the-top charm, more charm than anyone has a right to. Charm can get you what you want but there's something deeper or simpler happening in Bohemian Rhapsody: it's charm for charm's sake, because ultimately it's more fun and lovely to be charming. It's just a nicer way of getting around the world, compared to being uptight, aggro, joyless, bitter, and all those other unimaginative moods.

One of the things that struck me most about Bohemian Rhapsody was how sweet the Queen dudes were to each other, which I've chosen to accept as truth rather than something fabricated for cinematic purposes. I like the idea of sweetness being essential to Freddie Mercury's presence in the world, the natural outcome of living in such a splashy and flashy and effervescent way. I believe in that thing of PLEASURE MAKES YOU PLEASANT, and so I don't think it's entirely self-serving or frivolous to do what you can to make life feel good, especially when it feels like the world's getting more and more charmless all the time.

What is the point of living with anything less than a Freddie Mercury level of joie de vivre is a question I emailed myself in line at the airport yesterday. And part of the reason that people like Freddie Mercury exist is to show you what's possible, so in a way it's rude not to steal from them and put it all back into the world. Like the John Lurie painting says: Try to give back on what you got.

Anyway- here are some other favorite things from 2018:

-The Saturday my friends and I drove down to San Ysidro and walked across the border and spent the day in Mexico, drinking palomas and beer and eating octopus gorditas and tiger's milk ceviche and crickets and Hostess Cupcakes, and then walked back to America and drove back home

-When I met up with my brother and his fiancĂ© in Seattle and hung out there a few days and went on a giant solo walk across the city and sat on that bench outside Kurt Cobain's house. And then I took the train to Vancouver and ate pizza with Liina and bought some weird poetry zines from the '70s at the Paper Hound, which is now one of my top 3 fave bookstores of all time

-The time I talked to David Crosby for a half an hour at six in the morning while he was eating an apple in Copenhagen

-My red satin Adidas track pants which I bought as a treat to myself after working like 47 days in a row; they are so beautiful and never not make me feel like my most amazing self a la Carrie Bradshaw at the Women in the Arts luncheon. My other best purchases from 2018 include a shower radio, a CineFile Video membership, a jar of banana body butter & an insane wine glass:

-However the most life-changing thing I bought this year was the SPOLIA DECK, a tarot deck made by Jen May and Jessa Crispin. I also got Jessa's book The Creative Tarot and there's so much wisdom in it. It changed my head & I deeply recommend getting your head changed by it too

-Here is a playlist of some songs that meant a lot to me in 2018. 14 of the songs are by people I worked for this year; I love them all & love FIDLAR the most

-The part in Blaze where Alia Shawkat does TV aerobics while smoking a cigarette, the part in Sorry to Bother You where Tessa Thompson gives Lakeith Stanfield a piggyback ride, the part in Tully where Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis listen to all of She's So Unusual, and every single part of Won't You Be My Neighbor?

-The Beastie Boys book and the night I went to the Beastie Boys book event, which was so sweet and happy-making and full of love; Mike D and Ad-Rock are the most glorious goofs. Around that time I went through a phase of watching the "So What'cha Want" video every morning just to bask in the weird safety of knowing that "So What'cha Want" will never diminish in coolness to me: the part where MCA kind of backs up slowly so he can jump right into the frame for his first line is as exciting as when I was 14, if not more exciting. That "I love you more today than yesterday" song from the '60s is exactly how I feel about all three Beastie Boys.

-The night I went to see Keanu Reeves read books in a cemetery and took this amazing photograph of him and brought him a present from Jen May and a beautiful cycle of Jen May/Elizabeth Barker/Keanu Reeves cosmic connectedness was set in motion & shall continue for all eternity 

-The night I saw Mary Ruefle read at the Hammer and met her afterward and she did this poem with the line: You have all the colors of October in your hair, come and have a donut in my car

-The night my brother and sister and I went to see Lorde in Boston, + this thing that Lorde said to Tavi which I keep saved on my desktop:

-Seeing Call Me By Your Name for the first time and entering this new state of existence where I just constantly watch Call Me By Your Name, for the love of the delicate galumph Timothee Chalamet and his friendship bracelets and notebooks and his goofy moves, like how sometimes he spins in a circle for no reason. I'm excited for when Bohemian Rhapsody becomes available for home viewing and I can constantly watch that, and have Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in the background of my life at all times. I need to move soon and once I'm settled wherever I land I want to get a robe with major Bohemian Rhapsody vibes and spend a lot of time lazing about in said robe, drinking tea from an extravagant teapot or wine from my dumb wine glass, being all Nine of Cups-y and low-key splendid- charming for no big reason at all.

JEN'S THING OF THE YEAR: Nine Inch Nails, Terrace House, etc.

1. Nine Inch Nails. I am beyond the beyond obsessed with Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor and there is no end in sight for this. I was lucky to see them live this fall and it was incredible. God is dead and no one cares.

Also 1: Terrace House Opening New Doors: This Japanese reality show brings me an obscene amount of joy. I consider the panel of commentators to be my closest friends and I am absolutely addicted to it.

2. A very meaningful and surprising thank you note I received on the full strawberry moon in June.

3. Bloodroot: After desperately wanting to go for many years, I finally went to Bloodroot, a feminist vegetarian restaurant in Connecticut this Spring. It did not disappoint.

4. The exhibit of drawings/gifts by Shaker women at Hancock Shaker Village. Also the Eileen Myles poem Ann Lee.

5. Being blessed with the publication of a 600 page David Lynch biography

6. An October trip to Baltimore to see the John Waters Exhibit at BMA, spend as much time at Club Charles as possible, and to walk by then unfinished Divine Mural by chance.

7. Black tea and Black Sesame flavored soy milks I had in Tokyo in January

8. The socialist sliding scale breakfast soup at Commissary with lots of shichimi togarashi added on multiple New Paltz visits.

9. LA - I finally visited and I get it. The light David Lynch is obsessed with, kind of creepy vibes, Liz Barker, a super good mushroom pizza at Gjelina, Bob's Big Boy, a dog named Bowie, the balcony at the place we stayed.

10. Everything I ate from Superiority Burger this year. Special shout out to TFTs (Mondays after 6- go!!!).

11. Mandy the movie, Mandy the character, Mandy the character's hair, Nicolas Cage in general.

12. Oh my god, did you see Destination Wedding?

13. Meet My Friends The Friends: Tom Scharpling's Friends recap podcast about friendship, collaboration, podcasts, advertising, many other things. It is brilliant.

14. Seeing Slayer live on Long Island.

15. Purple radishes.

16. Seeing Keanu Reeves filming John Wick 3 in Times Square by chance after leaving a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu show.

17. The fog and tea and sheep of Ireland.


10 Essential Food and Drinks by LJ & Liz & Jen

(There's a Beastie Boys thing from '09 where instead of doing a normal interview, they all talked about what they eat for each meal of the day. This is our version of that, only with dream foods.)

1. The First Drink of the Day

LJ: I hate coffee. In my opinion, nothing about it is good. Sometimes people assume that because I’m into wine I must identify as some sort of coffee-gourmand but the only coffee I have time for is the lowest-brow coffee that exists. I like my coffee weak, black, iced, and full of sugar. I drink iced coffee as far into the winter as I can make it without my fingers falling off; if it’s too cold for iced coffee, my favourite kind of coffee is the kind they give you at a diner, that comes in a clear pot. That is nice coffee.
        I don’t like warm beverages in general, or soup even. I don’t like the feeling of warm liquid dribbling down my esophagus, I am offended by its invasive little journey through my body. But the grossest thing of all is coffee with milk in it, mixing milk and water— I just can’t. I can’t understand why people like mixing their bitter acid bean-water with dairy fat. I can’t.
        I drink one coffee a day, and I drink it in the morning, and I don’t enjoy it. I do it because I’m addicted to caffeine and I have to, and also I do it to get it over with. If I drink a coffee past noon, my life is over. I have a creepy panic attack and get really sweaty, and then I burn out. I am so excited to reach the point in my life where circumstances are chill enough for me to endure a couple weeks of caffeine withdrawal and never drink a coffee again, but that seems too far away for me to even dream about, so for my first drink of the day I will go with a nice big iced coffee, in a big clear cup, flavoured if possible— ideally vanilla, but hazelnut is fine too— the kind you get from a bodega in New York City, where they kindly put the straw in the hole for you, but then leave a little inch-and-a-half of paper around the top of a straw. Sometimes they even put your coffee in a bag! A cute paper bag. That always blows my mind, as a Canadian, where we’re so hyper-conscious of waste— I’m like, “No no no! No bag, no bag! I don’t need the bag! For this coffee that I’m immediately going to start drinking in one second.” But then, I kind of want the bag, because it’s so cute. I like that the option is there for me. Anyway, then I would dump like seven Splendas in it. It's really hot outside. 

LIZ: A single-serving can of Dole's pineapple juice and one of those airplane bottles of champagne, on a flight to some city I'm in love with, like New York or Seattle. You pour the pineapple juice into the plastic cup of ice (in this case, CRUSHED), then you drink the iced pineapple juice and when it's all gone you pour the champagne into the cup. So it's like champagne with essence of pineapple, a little bit of pineapple flash. The plane is blessedly wi-fi-free as all airplanes should be, because airplanes are for reading novels and crying at movies you would ordinarily never even want to watch. On my dream flight I would read some sprawling trashy heartbreaking novel featuring a finely wired character I could picture to look like mid-'80s James Spader, or maybe play solitaire on my tray table: the most elegant thing a woman could ever do while drinking champagne on a solo flight. 

JEN: Matcha latte with cashew milk from Commissary in New Paltz, NY, in their handle-less ceramic mugs on a saucer but in my apartment.

2. Breakfast

LJ: The first thing is a soft-boiled egg, soft-to-medium, just a perfect stinky glistening little orb on the plate there. I would cut in half with the side of a fork, then leave it for a moment, to be admired.
        The second thing would be a wee pyramid of arugula salad, demurely dressed with lemon and olive oil. It could have some nice tomatoes in it, if tomatoes were in season: cherry tomatoes, cut in half. I am weird about tomatoes, but when they’re good, they’re good. But with very few seeds. If there are seeds, I have to take them away. I have to put them in a napkin and then throw the napkin away in another room. They have to be very far away from me.
        The third thing is the most complicated, and the least realistic component that I would ever, like, chilling in my fridge: sticky rice, the kind you get at dim sum, in a lotus leaf, with stuff in it. But no chicken! That’s my new thing, not being able to eat chicken. I’ve had a recent string of extremely disturbing run-ins with gross chicken, and now I just CAN’T. I can eat a boneless chicken breast, and potentially a high-quality chicken finger, and that’s where my relationship with chicken begins and ends. I can’t eat a nugget, I can’t eat a thigh, I can’t eat a wing.
       So, no chicken. This is my dream sticky rice fantasy, so it can have anything I want. Some mushrooms, enoki mushrooms— little cuties! Definitely some shrimp vibes, a little squid perhaps. No, dream bigger Laura- lobster. Can I put truffle oil in it too? You bet I can! And lots of scallion. There would be a little dish on the side, too, with extra chopped raw scallion for me to sprinkle on top.
        Then I’d put tons of salt and pepper all over the salad and egg, insane amounts of salt and pepper, which is how I roll when I’m alone but I’m too ashamed to share that part of myself with another person, and in my opinion breakfast should always be eaten alone. Breakfast-time is for realigning your brain and body and you can’t include another person in that process, even if you love them, you have to shoo them away during breakfast, into the other room, with the tomato seeds.
        I would mix the salad into the rice, and savour the egg. I would save my perfect bite for last, and it would be the yolk with a chunk of lobster.

LIZ: These banana-cinnamon pancakes I ate at Duke's Coffee Shop on Sunset Strip in March 2003, on my second-ever trip to L.A. I'd gotten flown to Orange County for a work thing and afterward I took the bus up to Hollywood and stayed at the Best Western near the Hollywood Bowl, and the next morning I insanely walked from there to the Strip. Duke's is dead now; it was right next to the Whisky a Go-Go, it was a "rock & roll coffee shop." I barely even remember the pancakes - at this point I've gotten them mixed up with every banana-cinnamon pancake I've ever made for myself, like a few years ago when I won a pot of weed butter in a Yankee swap, after stealing it from a famous musician guy who ended up with a sweater with a cat on it, and then went through a phase of making weed butter banana-cinnamon pancakes. All I really remember of my Duke's pancakes is the banana was so melty and gooey, and there was a ripped poster for River's Edge above my table. I believed the poster meant something about me and Los Angeles and fate and love, and I absolutely still believe that. 

(P.S. I want to give a shout-out to some of the other great pancakes of my life, including: the dulce de leche panqueques I ate with my brother and sister in Buenos Aires in February 2012, the Snickers pancakes at Snooze in Denver, whatever the hell those pancakes were that I ate at Pancake Pantry when Alissa and I went to Nashville in 2013, the White Russian pancakes from the Black Dog on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts <3) 

JEN: Miso soup with greens, seaweed, and mushrooms topped with a decent amount of shichimi togarashi and a tiny bit of tamari. Alternatively, a whole-wheat everything bagel toasted with tofu sun-dried cream cheese from Bergen Bagels. A life of balance.

3. Elevenses

LJ: Even on a perfect holiday-day when I’m like “Fuck it, I can eat whatever I want,” it sounds gross and lumpy to spoil my lunch-appetite by eating a snack too soon after my sticky rice breakfast, so I’m going to be a more realistically me-style decadent for my eleven AM snack and have a glass of champagne. I don’t want it to be too weird or old, I want it to be stylish and lithe, and the first sip of it tastes like opening up your eyes. It’s a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, citric and mineral, a tad severe but fuck it that’s what I’m in the mood for, and it makes me want a couple of oysters, but I already made the stupid decision to not eat at this fake meal, so I don’t have any, but I’m sitting out on a balcony and there’s an ocean nearby, so I can smell the ocean and pretend I’m eating an oyster, and it’s a little bit cold out, and I’m alone still. Just me and my champagne. I write a wine_child about it.

LIZ: A pot of this cinnamon tea they used to sell at Super King but it's gone now. It was a black tea spiced with cinnamon and it was the exact flavor of "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young: slightly cinnamon-bear-y but earthier, more subtle. It'd be served in one of those nice utilitarian silver pots from the Chinese restaurant, which are always the best teapots in town. The tea would happen with a splash of cream and spoonful of white sugar, in a big clunky mug.

JEN: A slice of vaguely healthy but still delicious spelt banana bread with dark chocolate chunks and pecans and a lil peanut butter spread on it with a cup of genmaicha.


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


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.


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.




(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)


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.