Eating & Drinking & Living & Listening in Barcelona

Hello darlings, it's me LJ. Last week, I went on holiday to Barcelona: it was one of the best things I've ever done in my life. In Barcelona I ate a lot of food and drank a lot of wine and lived a lot of life and heard a lot of songs. Here is the scrappily-told tale of all of them. 


The first meal I ate in Barcelona was a crappy chicken salad at a crappy coffee shop around the corner from my airbnb. Before I ate it I was so hungry I wanted to cry and after I ate it I wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to cry anymore- so I guess it was a success. But it was unromantic. I had just taken a taxi from the airport to the city and was worried that I wasn’t going to like Barcelona. It had looked very worryingly ugly from the back of the taxi; unless you think factories or blank brown boxes of buildings are beautiful, every city is at its peak ugliest when you’re driving into it from the airport. I was shaky and confused when the cabbie dropped me off on Carrer de Tamarit a half-hour early for my airbnb check-in, so I wandered around looking for a place to eat. If I'd only turned left instead of right, I would have figured out that Barcelona is beautiful straightaway, but instead I went the ugly way, where I tried to buy some sort of pre-made wiggly yogurt product and a sickly-looking cup of fruit salad at a dreary-looking cafe. But there was a problem with my bank card, and I didn’t have enough euros to pay for my meal, so I left and found a bank and then the chicken salad place. My inability to pay for my food nor speak Spanish at the wiggly yogurt place had been such an unpleasant ordeal that I knew I could never show my face there again.

A few hours later, after checking into my airbnb and doing whatever little things I needed to do to make myself feel like a human again, I decided to walk to a wine bar called La Vinya del Senyor, which I found out about by Googling “best wine bar in Barcelona.” I filled up my iPod shuffle with Blondie’s entire discography and set out on my journey, shortly into which I was overjoyed to discover that Barcelona is earth-shatteringly beautiful! The streets were dark and narrow but still so spirited, so enchanting, or enchanted. One of my favourite things about Barcelona is its commitment to the colour pale pink. Everybody has swaying laundry and expressive foliage hanging off their terraces. I listened to Debbie Harry sing Bang A Gong (Get It On) and felt about as happy as I know how to.

I walked past a tiny bakery with a display of technicolor marzipan fruits in the front window, and knew that if I didn’t eat a marzipan strawberry at that moment I would spend the rest of my life regretting it, and what’s the point of that? I timidly asked the baker for “one of those,” pointing at the strawberries, but he heard my “those” as “dos” and asked “Dos?” and I decided that, yes, dos was the perfect numero of strawberries for me to eat. What a blessing! I can’t believe how much my life would have sucked if I’d only eaten uno strawberry. I probably would have had to go straight back and buy another one.

The man wrapped my strawberries in tinfoil and I ate them in quick succession while walking through a square. There were palm trees in the square. The strawberries were airy and cakey and tasted like my favourite flavour: fake strawberry. The green tops were made of icing sugar, and offered textural contrast to the spongey marzipan, crackling between my teeth. I thought, “The entire point of my life is that I get to Spain sometimes,” and I imagined myself dying, watching a movie of the finest moments from my life in my head: those strawberries would be a part of it.

La Vinya del Senyor was the best wine bar I've ever been to. I sat out on a patio, across the way from an old crumbling church, and drank two glasses of cava, a 2009 Gran Reserva. The best thing about being a person who knows about wine is that, when faced with literally any wine list, even a mediocre one, you’re immediately able to deduce which wine is most to your taste, so you almost never have to deal with drinking wine that you don’t love. There’s probably no wine in the world I could love more than an aged high-quality cava; it tastes like champagne but is cooler, because it's not.  
        Cava's got this sort of sharp, yelpy briskness to it, zippy and nimble, like the sound and feeling of snapping a stalk of celery in half. Champagne is heavier, murkier, romantic but illegible, like an old person long-windedly telling you a story from their past.

After my second glass of cava I got up to go to the bathroom and I knocked over my glass and broke it. The staff were very sweet to me about it: “These things happen!” kinda vibes. They didn’t make me feel like I was stupid or drunk. We all just shrugged and got on with our lives.
        I stayed at La Vinya del Senyor writing for about three and a half hours. I wrote almost the entire India chunk of my novel. Post-cava, I had a glass of white wine called La Planetes de Nin, which I was intrigued by because the grape was listed as Carinenya, which is definitely a red wine grape. It was as weird as seeing a glass of white Cabernet Sauvignon.
        I took a gamble on that glass, but it paid off: it was everything I love in a white wine— nutty, lean, a bit musty, bone-ass dry.
        I spent like 50 euros on those three glasses of wine and regret nothing. After paying up, I went on a drunk and peppy wander around the city, looking for a perfect place to eat some dinner, and I was so happy my heart felt swollen. I wanted to talk to Joe Strummer about it. For dinner I had vermouth and empanadas.

The next morning, I had a chocolate croissant and fresh-squeezed orange juice from the crappy chicken salad coffee shop for breakfast. I love the beautiful Spanish word for orange, naranja. I got ready and did some more wandering, and wondered if maybe I should write a Spain chunk into my novel, but then decided that my novel's clogged up with enough little bits & bobs like that already, and then I wondered if maybe my second novel would be a Spain novel, and then I got stressed out just thinking about it- 
        I can't imagine myself ever becoming a good enough writer to do Spain justice in writing. 
         Maybe I love Spain as much as I do because I can’t express it in words; it’s too beautiful. I fell in love with London because when I experience it I need to write it down, I always know exactly how to write about it, how to describe the way the streets look and the way the air feels and the way it makes me feel— but with Barcelona, same as I felt in Galicia, I can’t even bring myself to try. I can tell you about the food I ate, the wine I drank, the things I did, & the songs I heard- but every word I try to write about Barcelona Itself is just not good enough. It's like looking at an unflattering photograph of a beautiful person.


Our David Bowie Death Day Stories


LJ: I found out that David Bowie died by opening up my Instagram. I was cold, lying in Livia’s bed. Livia was in Italy; I was staying at her flat in Brockley for the week, giving myself a bit of a breather from living with my ex-boyfriend, which is not something I derive a ton of satisfaction from complaining about, but since everyone seems to want to know, here is my review of the situation: “Could be worse!” Then I shrug and wink at you: “Could be a lot better, though.” I'll let you use your imagination to figure out what some of those things could be.
        A bunch of people had posted pictures of David Bowie looking chic and bony-faced to their Instagram accounts, which seemed like a normal enough thing to do, since David Bowie'd been all over the place that week: people were in love his new record, called Blackstar (which perplexed me. There's already a Blackstar: Mos Def & Talib Kweli. Did David Bowie not know about that?) and his birthday, same as Elvis', had just passed. David Bowie's a Capricorn. That's the kind of thing I like to talk to people about. 
         But then I put two and two together, and the world felt very weird then; the day felt uninhabitable. It didn’t seem like it could be true. He seemed so healthy, so dexterous and capable: like a tap-dancer. Golden-cheeked, with a young person’s floppy yellow bangs. I didn’t think of him as a person who would never die; I thought of him as a person who wouldn’t die yet. I thought it was annoying when people on the Internet said they'd thought he'd never die. I thought it was annoying when people on the Internet said shit like he didn't die, he'd just gone back to outer space or something. “He’s not actually from Mars,” I wanted to tell them, but didn’t: it was not my place to say. It was important to me that I exist as a beacon of positive energy on the Internet on David Bowie Death Day. I wanted to honour my relationship with David Bowie. 
         Bowie's never been my favourite-favourite guy- I don't share the same intimate connection with his music and persona that I do with my deeper homies John, Marc, Joe, Bob & Ray: we're more of a surface-y duo, David Bowie & I. My favourite Bowie songs and I are more than just acquaintances, we're proper friends, but we're the kind of friends who exercise bad judgment when it comes to class-A drugs and drink Aperol Spritzes once or twice a year together. We have fun together, and  I value the lightness and ease of that relationship.  Excepting "Conversation Piece"*, my most beloved Space Oddity deep cut, I don’t listen to David Bowie songs to feel anything except pleasure.
        On David Bowie Death Day, I decided to fill up every last inch of my iPod shuffle with David Bowie's entire discog and have an unfuckwithably pleasurable day. I just want to take a moment to shout out how much I love my iPod shuf for a second here. Its name is Rinky-Dink, and it’s such a huge loser. I bought it in early November when my phone broke and I couldn’t deal with musicless existence but was too poor to buy myself a real iPod. I went to the Dalston Kingsland Argos, looked up ‘iPod shuffle’ on the screen-thing, and immediately fell for this hotshotty lil rose-gold number that was, tragically, out of stock. Then I was like, “Oh, okay, fine, I guess I’ll settle for this, like, platinum one”- which was ALSO out of stock. I then went through the frustrating process— carrying many bags, and an Americano, sweating through my jacket— of attempting to settle for another like twenty iPod shuffles, all of which were out of stock. When I finally found Rinky-Dink, an out-of-date hot pink model that for some reason wasn’t on sale like all her out-of-date loser friends, her ‘runt of the litter’ vibes were so potent that I couldn’t help but fall madly in love. Rinky-Dink is the iPod equivalent of an ugly snaggletoothed pit bull with a heart of gold. I saved her from the kill shelter. 

(ABOVE: Love how "Dad in 1997" David Bowie's jacket is here. But he works it! Oh how he works it)

I walked out into the world, and the first David Bowie song Rinky-Dink played me was "Rock & Roll Suicide"— Rinky-Dink was on it that day. “You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette,” sang David Bowie the dead person; I’ve always loved that lyric, because I feel like I wrote it: it makes me think of a time in LA when Liz & I were driving along the side of some mountain listening to Torn & Frayed and Mick Jagger sang the bit about ballrooms & smelly bordellos. Liz said, “That line reminds me of something I’d write,” and I thought how lucky we are, to be writers who love rock-and-roll music. Writers who love rock-and-roll music are the only people in the world who get to have that feeling.
        I took a picture of a palm tree against a grey sky on David Bowie Death Day. I took the Overground to Shoreditch and "Heroes" started playing as I pushed through the turnstile with my hipbone. I started to cry a little. It was not an intense bout of tears. It was pretty positive as far as crying goes, though not quite tears of joy.
        I cried because the song was beautiful and the person who wrote it was dead. The words meant more to me than they ever had before. I like the way that couples in David Bowie songs are always a unified whole, fighting against something. They are always fierce warriors together. I encountered many other instances of this lyrical phenomenon in David Bowie songs over the course of David Bowie Death Day and I knew I’d want to write something about them eventually but I didn’t copy any of them down, I didn’t want to have to take off my mitten and dig through my rucksack for my notebook and then kneel down on the street holding a pen-lid between my teeth, and besides at the time it seemed very obvious that I’d remember them all anyway, but I was wrong about that. You’ll just have to take my word for it, or listen to the songs for yourself.

(ABOVE: Amazing cuffs & boots look, David Bowie) 

I got to work and put my shit down and then sighed and picked all my shit up again. I decided to walk to the bank, in Whitechapel, which is where Jack the Ripper used to kill people. I listened to "Fame" and said a little sweet hello to John Lennon as I ran under the overpass where the pavement’s stained with pigeon shit, where I’m so afraid that I’m going to have to interact with a pigeon, but haven't yet. Then Rinky-Dink did me the solid of playing me 1) "Starman" and 2) "Prettiest Star" in a row— "Prettiest Star"’s my third-favourite David Bowie song; I think it’s the David Bowie song I’d do the best job of singing on a stage in front of thousands of people, if I were a David Bowie-style of rock star. I love it when he sings One day, though it might as well be someday— it sounds so cool, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I love how, with David Bowie, it almost never has to mean a thing. He just wants you to have a good time at a wedding and dance.
         My second-favourite David Bowie song is called "Unwashed & Somewhat Slightly Dazed". It’s from Space Oddity, an album that I listened to incessantly in March of 2011, when I dressed baby mannequins at a GapKids/BabyGap for a living and winter just wouldn’t quit. I woke up to a blanket of sparkling snow every morning, and morning was at 5 PM, because I worked overnight shifts. It was always dark out. Lunch was a banana and seventeen diet Red Bulls in the middle of the night. I was unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed myself, and knew, really knew, what a wonderful thing that was to be. Life can be as shitty as it wants, just so long as I can find some way to make it romantic. Just so long as I can think back to it five or six years later and remember that it felt like something.

My favourite David Bowie song is "Time," because it’s so theatrical, the only thing I've ever really asked life to be. I love drama, but hate plays: only "Time" and Keeping Up With The Kardashians deliver. It’s on the album Aladdin Sane. A Lad Insane. That’s the pun; I’m vibing on that pun: every second of my life, I’m vibing on that pun. Rinky-Dink played me Time in Whitechapel too, that afternoon— it played it to me in the Sainsbury’s, the gargantuan Sainsbury’s that reminds me of another grocery store, a grocery store from home. The one with the Joe Fresh attached to it, where I used to buy myself oatmeal muffins on my way to house-sitting my rich friend’s parents’ house. I’d heat them up in the microwave for thirty-five seconds and cut them in half then melt pats of margarine into their bellies. Those weren't the days.
        I went into the Sainsbury’s half to buy a calendar and half to feel like I was home, but I couldn’t find a calendar, and didn't feel like I was home, so I just wandered up and down the aisles— I couldn’t handle a mid-"Time" location change. I committed to it. I gripped my backstrap straps in my fists like if I didn’t I would fly away and bopped my head along to the piano, such heavy piano, and raised my eyebrows, emotively mouthed along to the lyrics and didn’t care how weird I seemed— it felt acceptable, that day, to be as weird as I wanted. Everyone was operating comfortably from the vantage point of their own personal weirdest on David Bowie Death Day. He gave us that permission, and it was really fucking nice of him. We all loved him in our own tiny ways, and we didn't think we cared as much as we did but we did, and on that day we all told each other about it, and it helped. Some of us pretended that he was an alien, but I didn’t. I didn’t want him to be. I never pretended anything. I wanted him to have been a human, which he was, and I bounded up and down the frozen foods aisle of a grocery store in a country I wasn't born in, and wondered if maybe I should buy eggs while I was there, but I didn’t, because David Bowie died, and I didn’t care.

*If you've never heard "Conversation Piece," please go listen to it now. It's so "slice of life" and a lot about the reasonably-chill-sounding Austrian shop owner David Bowie lived above when he was like twenty-three or whatever. In it, he sings I’m invisible and dumb, and no one will recall me, which of course ended up being the LEAST true statement ever! We know this for a fact: he just died, and we're all obsessed with recalling him constantly. I listen to Conversation Piece in moments of self-doubt to remind myself that, once upon a time, even David Bowie was a wide-eyed unsuccessful nobody! Somehow this proves that I too will attain David Bowie-levels of success in my life  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIZ: The night David Bowie died we had people over to watch the Golden Globes. I was late to my own Golden Globes party; I'd been writing at Farmers Market and on the way home I stopped at the Thai place in the strip mall next to my favorite 7-Eleven, the one at at the corner of Sunset and Rosemont, where one night in winter 2009 LJ and I sat on the curb in the parking lot and filmed a short video about dating do's & don'ts. The Thai restaurant is called Sib Song; it's completely average and my favorite restaurant in Echo Park, now that the bastards have driven Pizza Buona out. My general Sib Song move is to order takeout and then sit at the counter and have a glass of mediocre white wine and read the paper until my food's ready. On David Bowie Death Day I read the New York Times, ordered spicy mint noodles, drank a glass of chardonnay. The Sib Song vibes were really good, really Sunday-night-in-winter cozy and chill; some nice woman and I complimented each other on our jackets (I had on my faux-leopard-fur coat, she was wearing a satin Dodgers jacket) and I got real sentimental about everything. I tweeted "L.A. will never be over, but if the Thai place next to my most emotionally loaded 7-Eleven ever closes, that's when L.A. will be over to me." Still true.

So then I went home to watch the stupid Golden Globes with stupid Ricky Gervais. Ricky Gervais is one of my very least favorite people in all the world; I agree with every word of the song that David Bowie sang about him. But the company was good, and Shaz brought a See's Candies chocolate sampler, and I had some chocolates and some nice wine. Let's all bring chocolate samplers to parties all the time from now on - especially that Whitman's sampler that's all cake-themed chocolates, like Wedding Cake and Red Velvet and Carrot and all that. 

After everyone left I was getting ready for bed, and I looked at my phone and people on the Internet were talking about how David Bowie died but most of them were saying it was a hoax. So I went downstairs and said to John, "I think David Bowie died?" and John was like, "But it's a hoax though, I think." So I went back to my room and did some research and got some text messages and pretty soon we all knew it was true. I looked at the Internet for a while, and then I put my earbuds in and opened up my phone iTunes and put David Bowie on shuffle, and listened to David Bowie songs for a long time. "Heroes" was the one that made me cry. I never even liked "Heroes" all that much before, but it was like every moment I'd ever spent not caring about "Heroes" was just building up to this weird new moment of listening to "Heroes" way too loud on the night David Bowie died and letting the intensity and generosity of the song be magnified by millions and loving David Bowie more than ever before. 

I've been trying to figure out why David Bowie dying feels so strange, and I think it's got to do with David Bowie being an artist I've known my whole life and who's meant more and more to me as time goes on. It's different from when Michael Jackson died, partly because I didn't love Michael Jackson until the late-in-life age of five, but mostly because my connection to Michael Jackson never got deeper than it was when I was a little kid. I never really use Michael Jackson songs for anything beyond pure joy and nostalgia, but I use David Bowie for so many things, all the time, maybe every day. It's good to look at life through the David Bowie lens and see it all in better colors or brighter colors, or sometimes colors that are totally drab but in some cool weird way.

But yeah - on that Sunday night I stayed up till four in the morning or something, having decided to take a half-day the next day. I listened to more David Bowie songs and reread my "5 David Bowie Songs I'd Rather Die Than Live Without" thing to see if I still agreed with it, which I did, especially the part about how it's better to rise than fade away. At some point I went outside and stood on the porch and listened to "Memory of a Free Festival" and took pictures of the sky like a goof. And then I watched Velvet Goldmine for the first time in a few years. I just wanted to be around Christian Bale being an uncool rosy-cheeked teenager who loves his possibly David Bowie-ish pop idol above all things.

The next morning I slept late, got up and made some eggs and tea, put on the David Bowie shirt my mom gave me after she went to see the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983. I did some boring errands and then drove out to Hollywood Boulevard, to see David Bowie's star on the Walk of Fame. It's right near the Chinese Theater and there were a few dozen people there, many of them making a big show of being sad about David Bowie dying. My usual reaction to people making a big show of being sad about a famous person dying is to feel superior in my reservedness, but that's not how I felt at David Bowie's star. Fighting with people in your head about who's more authentically grieving over the death of a famous person is crass and gauche and, more than anything, just an incredibly boring use of your head. Plus if you can find yourself in a situation where everyone's just standing around and thinking/talking about how much they love David Bowie, then that's really not so bad.

After David Bowie's star I went to Starbucks to do some work, and then I met Sarah at Figaro. Sarah bought me pink champagne and we had French fries and the waiter gave us free chocolate truffles because my birthday was three weeks ago. And then I went back to David Bowie's star, to see what the nighttime scene would be like. There were more people there this time but the mood was mellower and someone was playing David Bowie songs on their phone and all the people sang along to "Under Pressure." I loved the "Under Pressure" sing-along. That "And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night" lyric really got to me. 

After that I drove down Sunset Strip to see what the rock clubs had written for David Bowie on their marquees, but it was all pretty boring - very little poetry on the Sunset Strip marquees. On the way home I stopped to get a milkshake, a strawberry-flavor one from the McDonald's at Sunset and Vine, in tribute to the part in "Five Years" where David Bowie sings about "drinking milkshakes cold and long" and the part in "Cracked Actor" where he sings about Sunset and Vine. And then I drove back to Echo Park, drinking my milkshake, listening to David Bowie. When I got home I watched an Instagram video of Flea listening to "Fill Your Heart" and showing the world his new David Bowie tattoo. I watched it about 20 times. My heart was already light, but that little ten-second video made the lightness even lighter. Flea's big cute gap-tooth-smiley face at the end: he's so happy about how much he loves David Bowie, which is the perfect way to be. The best way to use David Bowie is to just radiate light.


Han Solo is Joe Strummer and John Lennon

(On January 10th, Liz and LJ talked on the phone for two hours about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, our new favorite movie. Here's a transcript of KyloRenCon 2016, with beautiful binary-sunset illustration by Jen May. P.S. CONTAINS SPOILERS, kind of!)

LIZ: Why did you like Star Wars so much?

LJ: Great question! Because it was the best movie ever. I was just taken on a ride. Matt King and I went to see it on New Year's Eve day and I was jazzed to see an entertaining movie in a movie theater and drink a Diet Coke and have popcorn and Snickers bites- so I went in with a positive attitude, but I was also afraid I might just think it was boring. And I thought I might hate BB-8. But as soon as it happened I was just so into it. I loved all the characters so much. I wanted to be in that world with them forever; I wanted to know all of them and exist with them. I liked that it was sort of camp - like how it played a very ham-fisted homage to the aesthetic of the original three, but with a cool 2015 twist. So yeah, I basically loved everything about it. Why did you like it so much?

LIZ: It's funny- I went to see it with my brother for the first time, a couple days after I got home for Christmas, like the Sunday of opening weekend. And we sat down in the theater and I realized I hadn't thought at all about whether I would like it or not. I just somehow completely avoided having any expectations. When I was little Star Wars was my number-one thing. Like I had this record that was all just dialogue from Return of the Jedi and I listened to it all the time in first grade-

LJ: Was it like a best-of album?

LIZ: Yeah, it was Best of Return of the Jedi. No- it was like one of those kids' books where you put a record on and read along with the book and it tells you when to turn the page. But I just listened to the record, every single day as soon as I got home from school. So I really liked Star Wars is my point. In Rolling Stone there was a cover story on Star Wars and Mark Hamill was like, "If you're 38-years-old and you think this movie's gonna make you feel like you're 10 again, dream on!" And I was like, "But I'm 38-years-old, Mark Hamill! And it did make me feel like I was 10 again!"

LJ: Why would he say such a thing? That's not true at all.

LIZ: Because he's weird. Mark Hamill's just this weird guy.

LJ: Did you know he's really good friends with the Davies brothers? I found that out when I was home. And I was like, "Which one is he better friends with?"

LIZ: It has to be Dave.

LJ: No, I think he's like equally good friends with both of them! My friends and I were looking at all these tweets that the trio of them had tweeted to each other, and I feel like if you asked Mark Hamill "Which one of the Davies brothers are you better friends with?", he'd be like, "I couldn't say! They're both equally good friends of mine!" And that's so weird. But yeah, it's probably Dave. Mark Hamill wishes it was Ray.

(No good pictures of Mark Hamill + the Kinks exist, but here's a picture of Mark Hamill & Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop) 

LIZ: I'd forgotten how in love with Mark Hamill I was when I was little. He was my first love.

LJ: What about Han Solo?

LIZ: I love him, but I was in love with Mark Hamill. And in the movie, that last moment of him - oh my god I died.

LJ:  I'm definitely more of a Han-centric girl. Clearly Han is the John and Luke is the Paul.

LIZ: I don't feel like Luke is much of a Paul. I think he's a George. He's serious. The Dagobah System is his India.

LJ: What I mean is that obviously a Paul fan would like Luke Skywalker and a John fan would like Han Solo. Han Solo is a John.

LIZ: Who was your favorite?

LJ: My favorite was Han Solo in a major way. I loved everything about Harrison Ford's performance. I was absolutely delighted by him. In my head I was like, "That's what you're like, Laura."

LIZ: Who's the Chewbacca of your life?

LJ: I guess Matt King. He's by my side, being stoic and fun. But I'm also just a big Oscar Isaac fan. Although I don't like saying that character's name out loud.

LIZ: Poe Dameron?

LJ: Yeah. I don't think Poe is an acceptable name for an adult male. But I liked him. I loved at the end when he was piloting and just so in his element, being the best pilot in the galaxy. Who's your favorite?

LIZ: I'm pretty into Kylo Ren. Good ol' Kylo ren. All my guy friends are really not into Kylo Ren. One of them was like, "I didn't want him to take the mask off. I didn't wanna see Adam Driver's face!"

LJ: That's the exact opposite of how I felt. I was worried at the beginning that we weren't ever going to see Adam Driver's face.

LIZ: But we did and it was perfect.

LJ: It was beautiful. A great thing. My thing I like to say about Adam Driver is he's got the X factor. You can't put your finger on it.

LIZ: He's so strange. He's so boring in interviews. It's like he has no inner life. But I'm like, "You obviously have a very rich inner life, 'cause you're fucking weird, you're so weird!"

LJ: I feel like he's really serious about acting. He might just kind of suck in real life 'cause he's so into acting.

LIZ: The weirdest thing about him to me is he joined the Marines after September 11th. That's the strangest thing I can think of for any person to ever do.

LJ: But he was only like 18 at the time. We all make weird decisions when we're young. But I guess none that are so intensely misaligned with who I perceive Adam Driver to be.

LIZ: I re-watched the first season of Girls recently to get some more Adam Driver into my life, and he's really not very attractive for most of it.

LJ: I don't like him in Girls. I like him in everything except Girls. I feel like his character in Girls is the worst person I could possibly imagine. I fell in love with him in Inside Llewyn Davis. He stole the movie.

LIZ: I wasn't gonna see that, but then you texted me and said to watch "Please Mr. Kennedy," and then I knew I had to.

LJ: It's a really important piece of information to pass on. I, like, listen to "Please Mr. Kennedy."

LIZ: Yeah, I have it on my phone.

LJ:  I listen to it to get hyped for work.

LIZ: I listened to it at the gym today.

LJ: I listened to it on Wednesday for my first day back to work. It's light but also invigorating.

LIZ: I like that it's them and then stupid Justin Timberlake being so Justin Timberlake-y. I'm so glad he didn't get to be in Star Wars but Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac did.

LJ: Justin Timberlake is so boring. He's such a basic. He's like King Basic, with his dumb wife and his stupid baby named Silas. Jessica Biel posted a selfie holding the baby and wearing a baseball cap, and I have never related to any person less in my life.

LIZ: Yeah. There's really no mystique there.

LJ: But so yeah, Adam Driver is fabulous in Star Wars. I was having this conversation about how if you were a polygamist and had four husbands and you could choose any four husbands in the world, I would definitely choose Adam Driver as one of my four. I feel like he would bring a lot to the table. And I'm sure he'd just be automatically be up for it.

LIZ: Last year Ray from Girls lived next door to me for a little while, and I'd tell people "That guy from Girls is living next door to me," and they'd always say, "Who, Adam Driver?" And I'd be like, "No, obviously not Adam Driver! If Adam Driver was living next door to me, I'd just be running around yelling about Adam Driver all the time." My hope for Star Wars is that Kylo Ren will fall in love with Rey. But then I kind of feel like they're brother and sister.

LJ: Or cousins.

LIZ: Related in some way. But I really like the idea of a love triangle. That's my thing.

LJ: But what if instead they introduce a weird dark love interest for Kylo Ren? Just some cool bad-ass chick who did weird evil with him, and they were just happy and in a functional relationship and had really similar interests? And she was really cool and well-styled and gothy.

LIZ: I guess that could work.

LJ: What about Finn?

LIZ: I'm not in love with Finn.

LJ: I loved him so much while I was watching it, but he hasn't really stood the test of time in my head.

LIZ: He's not super-dynamic.

LJ: He's the Ringo.

LIZ: He is. I was trying to Beatles-ify everyone in Star Wars and I couldn't get too far.


Things of the Year: Champagne & Spain, A taco in the back of a car after the Replacements concert, Rock Lobster & a Romanian Bear

LJ: Champagne

In 2015, I literally figured out The Answer. It is: 

If you want your life to be "good," you have to figure out how to strike the exact perfect balance between things being "safe" and things being "interesting." 

If your life is too heavy on the safe, you are probably going to be bored, or depressed in a "regular Joe in secret" kinda way, ex. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom or pre-Henry Francis Betty Draper. And if your life is interesting but you feel unsafe inside of it, that's very dark. It's like, rock star on a bender/ I'm gonna die young kind of vibe. Over it. 

I think the best way to nail the interesting/safe equilibrium is by mostly just going for safe coziness on a day-to-day basis ("safe coziness" is like "safety" but cuter/less dull. Some recent examples of "safe coziness" from my life include: 1) going to a bookstore & being moderately helpful but also sort of bored and spacey while my friend Matt King picked out Christmas presents for his nieces and nephews; 2) eating two eggs (cooked to somewhere between over-easy and over-medium) & and an English muffin for breakfast every single morning and then one day Sainsbury's started to carry a cheddar & black pepper English muffin variant and I bought it and it was SO GOOD, SO SAFE, SO COZY) but then always having something cool and interesting to look forward to on the horizon (I stole this concept from Dr. Faye on Mad Men btw), such as: the trip to Barcelona I am taking in February, my cool new life plan of moving to Liverpool to "make an honest living"/finish my novel, even something as basic and simple as going out for dinner somewhere good, or eating a Snickers bar later that day. 

I feel like "drink a glass of Champagne" is the most failsafe and attainable "interesting thing on the horizon" I consistently have going for myself, which is what led me to invent my new life motto/semi-Answer

 "There's no light at the end of the tunnel- only champagne"

this year, which is really smart because who even cares about a crappy light? I'm not actually a person trapped inside a tunnel. I'm a regular thirty-year-old woman who loves sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France more than anything except the Beatles, Mad Men, and maybe four or five people, but even that is debatable. 

Drinking champagne is a special thing to do. If you're drinking champagne, it means that you are a classy and special fellow, and that something excellent has recently happened, and you are using your glass of champagne to demarcate that excellence: the entire life and narrative of whatever chill little thing you're "celebrating" is now contained within that glass. The liquid is the thing. You're the thing. You're you drinking champagne. And you always will be again. That's how I keep myself from dying of boredom, or succumbing to darkness. The allure of that

Champagne is the Paul McCartney of wine (because it's consistent). There's not good champagne and bad champagne, there's only excellent champagne (Beatles) and good champagne (Wings), and the only way you can figure out that a good champagne isn't excellent is by taking a sip of excellent champagne directly before tasting it. My personal fav champagne ever is a tie between the mini-sip of 20 yr old Dom Perignon I once tried when I was a sommelier (tasted like if challah doused in truffle oil had a baby with the idea of a brass candelabra) and Pol Roger (NV, though I'm sure if I had an aged bottle I'd like it better than either), just like my homie the infamous classy-ass bitch Winston Churchill. Pol Roger is citric & lean & doesn't make a very big deal out of itself, but is flawless. That's my life advice to everybody: have Pol Roger be your go-to champagne. Tarlant is nice & oxidative but lacks the panache of the Pol Roger brand: it's a good, like, Wednesday champagne. Taittinger is also pretty fly, and I like the idea of Krug, which I've never had, but sounds like what Russian mafia dudes would drink so dig conceptually. Drinking Cristal is unacceptably garish. Moet & Chandon will do in a pinch.  

LJ: My Trip To Spain

I keep trying to explain why my trip to Spain was the best thing that's ever happened to me but the words "It was the best thing that's ever happened to me" do inconveniently little to express what it actually feels like to be the person experiencing the best thing that's ever happened to her as she's experiencing it. But I know that I am capable of explaining what it feels like, I know the words must be there somewhere, hidden and hard and good, really good, really good cool powerful Spain writing from Laura Jane- 

This might not be it. I'm just going to write a bunch of beautiful words down in a sort of stream-of-conscious-y way, like in a weird poem-y way, and I don't know if it's going to be good or not, it's 3:46 PM on Christmas Eve Day & this is just going to be a little chunk of words I write down about Spain before my Dad comes back to his apartment with my mom and her dog in tow, and this is my fun little thing I'm doing while left here alone and up to my own devices...


I flew to Santiago with my co-workers. At the airport cashpoint I decided who we'd all be if we were Beatles & I allowed myself the luxury of being the Ringo. It was freeing, being the Ringo. I'd never been the Ringo before. 

I felt as wowed by Spanish highways at thirty as I did by Disneyworld when I was five. In the cab the landscape reminded me of Ontarian suburbs, big box buildings with logos on the side. There were fir trees like home. There were hills like in Los Angeles. The car radio played that stupid Pharrell song and I thought: California is more of a home to me than England, actually. I missed everything North American desperately- sometimes the thing I miss most is the feeling of standing inside a 7-11- and loved Spain right off the bat, just for not being the place I'm usually missing it from. 

The cab driver dropped us off right smack in the middle of Santiago de Compostela, in the middle of a square. The buildings were four hundred or so years old and ornate and so beautiful I wanted to... I don't know. Not kiss the ground, though I initially had "kiss the ground" written, but I've never wanted to do that. I guess I just wanted to be there with not my co-workers, express myself in a way that comes so weirdly easy when I'm around the right people. I wanted to make the jokes that my best friends would think were funny. 

The air felt humid-cold like the water inside a stone. The sky was super-blue like if you were really going to town on your Instagram saturation filter. I was delighted, and I knew my childlike enthusiasm was coming off as endearing to my co-workers and so I played it up a bit. I spoke in a higher register than usual. I knew I wouldn't be doing a ton of sulking that weekend, which was a relief.

We all wanted to get drunk, especially me, it seemed. We went to the first bar we found, which was perfect, where I drank a mini-bottle of shit cava & connected with a dog. He was wearing a hi-vis vest wrapped around his tummy and under his haunches. He was a rescue dog. I changed into my jean shorts. My legs were pale and my eyes were red. I leaned over the side of my chair and let my hair hang over the dog's head so the dog & I could be alone in a secret world together. 

We went to a coffee place where we all liked the business cards and the leather on the chair. I dumped a thing of brandy into my coffee and we ate medicore churros that left my fingers sticky. I regretted eating them. Oh and the vermouth place! Where we went on a vermouth binge. We called one vermouth "the Christmassy one" & then shortened it to just "Christmas," as a nickname, and the other one was a white vermouth; my boss and I both liked it better. It tasted brackish, like what cleaning supplies would smell like in heaven. I felt like I was rinsing myself out with it: the Laura equivalent of a juice fast. In Spain they feed you for free while you drink: a thing of tinned mussels in paprika-coloured oil, and endless baskets of potato chips. At a different bar, they kept us supplied with endless ramekins of Haribo. Little jelly stars, hearts, shapes. I had a blue one, a star, with the foamy white stuff on the back. That was my favourite Haribo. 

A lovely woman with cute crooked teeth whose name was short for "Immaculate" picked us up in a car and drove us to a hotel by the vineyard. The night felt Californian again, with stars shining like a basic bitch's diamond studs against the mossy cape of a hundred thousand trees. They were on the side of a mountain. This is the part that becomes too beautiful to explain. 

The Hotel By The Vineyard. I guess being there felt like... if someone ripped the chunk of your brain where you keep your own personal vision board of all the things in the world you think are beautiful and then chucked it at a blank canvas and it leaked across the canvas and you stepped into the canvas and then all of a sudden you were vermouth-drunk with your boss, colleague & wine supplier inside of it.

My phone ran out of juice. I couldn't take any pictures of this place, this most beautiful place, which at the time I was happy about. I wanted to keep it pure in my memory and belong only to me, to my best friend the inside of my brain, forever. Those memories were a present to the back of my brain from the front of it. But I wish I could see it again. It's nowhere on the Internet. 

I had the best room, the only one with the balcony. I was the princess of the scrappiest castle and out the back window was a field and a dog and an old man and, in the morning, I realized, a sheep. I asked the lady named Immaculate "What is that tower?" and she said "It's a chimney"- it was so beautiful, I'd thought it was, like, this important piece of architecture- but it was just a shitty chimney! It's the chimney in the picture.

I fell in love with the winemaker. We went to the winery. In my notebook I wrote down tasting notes like Bubblegum! Sand Synthetic Fruit Juicebox Rubber and Candied Lemon Peel Plastic Baby Doll Barbie Doll and I was exactly where I was and I was myself.

That afternoon I ate a croqueta that melted in my mouth in the style of a soft mint sweet made from sugar and milk, I ate a really real crab pate that reminded me of wines you say are "gamey"; I sat next to the winemaker and he showed me an app of the biodynamic calendar on his iPhone & I thought how fantastic it is that you can live in this tiny town in rural Spain where the roads are made of rust-colour dust and when I asked if we could stop into a store there was just... no store- but you still get to have an iPhone. That really sold me on moving to rural Spain. On the app there was a little emoji of a strawberry that meant it was time to pick the fruit and my hair looked like shit because I'd forgotten my hair dryer, my straightening iron, my phone charger, everything except my feet and my Vans and my tongue, now shredded up and ragged from the acid in the probably seventy or a million wines we'd tried. He lifted the nearly-neon pineapple or raspberry liquid from the barrel with his Riedel pipette that he did this weird thing of resting against his cheek and we made a "Is that a Riedel pipette in your pocket" joke about him which was funny. After we tasted the wine he showed us that we should dump the dregs of our glasses right back into the barrels, which we did, dutifully, and then he sealed them up again. So my spit and germs will be inside those wines of his forever. People in countries I've never been to will buy them in a store and they'll drink a piece of me. Like when you go to Liverpool and breathe the Beatles in the air.       

LJ: A Whole Bunch of Other Things (Including But Not Limited To...)

The part in See Me Now by Kanye & Beyonce & Lil Wayne where Kanye raps "He just walked into Nobu like it was Whole Foods; the part in See Me Now where Kanye raps "Pour the champagne; let your watch show"; the part in See Me Now where Lil Wayne raps "Be SUCCESSFUL" and it's basically the most motivating thing in the entire world to me. 

Drawing and amazing Christmas gift by Matt King

I loved Mad Men, clearly, particularly Peggy Olson with her cigarette on Roger Sterling hangover day, and I loved the movie The One I Love starring Peggy Olson and my fake boyfriend Mark Duplass, and I loved my fake boyfriend Mark Duplass' TV show Togetherness, and more than anything I loved the part in Togetherness when Amanda Peet was like "You see this smile? I'm DEAD INSIDE." That was how I felt for most of 2015, a year that I did not live with a particularly impressive amount of honesty or integrity. So, my New Year's Resolution for 2016 is going to be: live my life with honesty and integrity. Right??? I'm also going to start exclusively referring to movies as "flicks."  

I loved all my friends, who I'm not going to bother naming individually because that's boring for other people to read, but if you suspect that you might be one of those people, you definitely are. I also loved The Great British Bake-Off, I loved beautiful perfect Nadiya as much as everyone else because beautiful perfect Nadiya was so, so deserving of my love and everyone's. My favourite Nadiya moment was "Happy, Paul?"God I loved "Happy, Paul?" 

I loved the book May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes, and I loved Purity and the experience of fully coming into my guilt-free own as a Jonathan Franzen-appreciator. I even nicknamed him Franzo, and refer to him exclusively as Franzo. If I ever meet Franzo, I'm going to fucking LOSE IT. I'm going to give him a low-five and be like "Franzooooooooooo" & he'll look at my hand like it's sticky and have a weak handshake I bet- he'll come around to me in the end, though. 

In January I tasted the best wine I've ever tasted. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State. I drank it in the most unromantic of circumstances: at wine school at two in the afternoon. The light was creepy in the room. My wine teacher looked like Wallace Shawn and he was not cute. Whenever I described wine as tasting like anything other than the most MOR wine descriptors imaginable he'd tell me I should "go write a poetry book" in a really derogatory way. So I kept my mouth shut when I tasted L'Ecole No. 41 and wanted to write like ten epic novels about the way it smelled exactly like the workshop my dad built harpsichords out of in the basement of the house I grew up in, and that in that smell my my entire life lived. (I refuse to make the obvious Proust reference here. Do you understand? I refuse.) 

I also had a great year for Pinot Noirs and Chenin Blancs; I particularly loved the Savennieres I drank with Matt King in Paris (which tasted like The Flavor Of Water, like if you amplified the cool clean rocky flavour of the purest mineral water in the world and then gave it a Chenin Blanc honey-nut twist) and the Savennieres I drank with my Dad at St. John (which was SO AMAZING and SO WEIRD & tasted like mallow root, popcorn, and tomato leaf). Foodwise I am going to have to give the 2015 gold medal to the blueberry Baked Alaska I ate at The Marksman with Laura Goodman & Amanda, and beigels, obvs. SO MANY BEIGELS. Beigels beigels beigels. Beigels 4eva. The perfect food. 

At the beginning of December Nadine came to London and we went to Harrods in the morning & then ate SO MUCH fried fish for lunch & took the bus to Soho and talked really loudly about Blur for our entire bus ride and then drank overpriced orange wine and wrote a subjective/objective list of the Top Ten Best Blur Songs & then went to see the Kinks musical & got drunk at Bradley's Spanish Bar and these two cute brunette chicks were like "Why aren't you hanging out with us?"- they, like, friend-hit on us, which is such a phenomenal concept. Best concept of 2015. 

Blur were my great musical obsession of 2015; the two non-wine-related things I loved doing the most this year were 1) "mopily listening to blur" and 2) "working on my novel"- I really loved writing my nov in 2015. Realistically, I should have given it its own section, but I don't want to talk too much about it now and then ruin the surprise of it for everyone once it drops. You've just got to drop a novel. They're like mixtapes that way. 

"Resigned" by blur was the song I loved and listened to most in 2015; it's one of those songs you can listen to a thousand times in a row and it never stops working, and in fact improves, just like a 20 yr old Dom Perignon that tastes of challah bread. Resigned (which it would mean a lot to me if you listened to) is the exact perfect amount of tragically beautiful that I want all my writing to be: always wistful, never sad. 

LIZ: A taco in the back of a car after the Replacements concert

(a picture I took of a house in Echo Park on April 17)

On April 16 I saw the Replacements at the Hollywood Palladium. It was a Thursday night, and before the show started I got a plastic cup of champagne at the bar in the lobby, which is the last I really remember about the whole thing. Other than that it's this crazy blur - kind of like how, after my first kiss, I couldn't remember what the boy looked like, despite having known him for years. All I could recall was the general outline of him, and his plaid flannel, and the tacky-spray-gel texture of his hair. My memory of him was just pure feeling, and the same is true for Replacements night: I remember the cup of champagne and I remember everything after the lights came back up - but the show itself is lost, except for the feeling of being ecstatically happy for hours, and of every second seeming unreal, like some magic present sent from some other time. The Replacements don't really even exist anymore but I got to see them, and now I'll never see them again and that's so perfect, just like how you only get to have one first kiss.

(a picture of Divine Fits by my friend Danielle Petrosa)

My favorite song this year was "Baby Get Worse" by Divine Fits, which is Britt Daniel and the hot-voiced boy from Wolf Parade. I love Divine Fits because they're so over-the-top romantic, always inventing dramatic scenarios about girls where their own romanticness seems like the point of the whole thing. I'm into that. Being in love with your own romanticness is the way to go, as long as you can make it look good and sound good. To me the best-sounding part of "Baby Get Worse" is the bridge, when it's stripped down to just the drums and throbby synth thing and Britt Daniel takes over the vocals and his voice is all scratched-up on purpose and he sounds so elegantly put-upon. Everything about Divine Fits is so elegantly contrived.

Elegance is a quality that's become more important to me this year; I like how one definition of elegant is "focusing on the essential." As someone who makes her living as a writer and lives in a part of L.A. that's changed so much over the past few years and that keeps getting more and more grossly/boringly expensive, focusing on the essential with grace or whatever feels like a good goal. It's so trite to complain about how these pizza places and hamburger stands and Mexican restaurants you've loved for years are getting pushed out and turned into prissy coffee shops and clever boutiques; it's much better to pay attention to the good stuff that's still there and use it and love it and make what you can of it. I've lived in L.A. for 12 and a half years and it's never stopped being a wonderland to me, and it would be just weak and lame to let anything wreck that.

Lately I've worked for a few musician-kids who keep misusing the word "architecture" to make it about the process of constructing pop songs, which I'm into. Anyone can be an architect of anything. I think my thing is to be an architect of moods or vibes or whatever it is that colors everything when you're walking around in your ridiculous neighborhood. I think it's important to build a cool life for yourself in spite of the encroaching prissiness, and listen to music that brightens you and turn down some street you've never been on before and get your coffee from the bakery with the 35-cent dulce-de-leche empanadas instead of the place with the $7 coffee that doesn't taste as good. Last night on my way back from Christmas I decided my #1 L.A. song is "When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around" by the Police, but really it's David Bowie's version of "Across the Universe." David Bowie is the most capable architect of cool-weird-beautiful vibes. 

Probably the most elegant thing I did this year was eat two tacos de carnitas in the back of a car in the parking lot of a supermarket after the Replacements show at the Hollywood Palladium. On the way home from Hollywood my friends and I stopped at the taco truck outside Vons and got our tacos wrapped in hot tin foil and buried them in salsa and cilantro and radishes from the plastic buckets lined up all along the taco truck door and then we sat in the car and ate them. It was a real focusing-on-the-essential moment. Everything was perfect; there was nothing more I wanted.

The thing that everyone always says about the Replacements and that the Replacements used to say about themselves is they’re so sloppy and fucked-up and shambolic - but the truth is they’re perfect. Their songs are perfect. The melodies are perfect. They are perfect melodists and songmakers. And the perfectness makes the fucked-up-ness something glorious and transcendent and all those words I always use when I'm writing about the rock & roll music that I love more than anything. If the Replacements really were awful, it would be useless. But instead they're the opposite of useless: I love using them, every single day of my life.

The most major Replacements song for me at the end of 2015 is "We're Comin' Out." "One more chance to get it all wrong" is a good line to have in your head at the start of a new year and make it mean something useful and perfect.

Jen's Things of the Year:

1. The song Rock Lobster. This is the #1 best thing of all time.
2. Seeing Sleater-Kinney cover Rock Lobster with Fred Armisen twice.
3. Seeing Sleater-Kinney 3 times this year.
4. Joyce.
5. Books from Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, Patti Smith, Jessa Crispin, Jessica Hopper, Mary Gaitskill and Maggie Nelson all being release this year.
6. Wynne Greenwood's New Museum show and Yoko's Museum of Modern (f)Art retrospective, even though it was too small.
7. I saw this cool 40 year old bear named Betsy in at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti, Romania.

8. Roasted Broccoli.
9. Difficult People, a perfect show.
10. Seeing Hedwig on Broadway three times (twice with John Cameron Mitchell, once with Taye Diggs).
11. The moon.
12. Acupuncture.

13. I ate at Kajitsu, a beautiful and fancy vegan Japanese zen Buddhist cuisine restaurant that I love maybe an excessive amount of times.
14. Mochi.
15.  Scharpling & Wurster’s live show.
16. The Best Show, always.
17. Having my aura photographed regularly.

18. Congee with shiitake mushrooms and ginger.