WORDS BY ELIZABETH BARKER & LAURA JANE FAULDS, ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY
Eleanor Friedberger, "He Didn't Mention His Mother" (LJ)
I ordered the lamb ragout, which wasn’t something I’d normally order. I saw the name and description of it on the menu and I thought “That’s what I want,” and I said that I was going to order it, but then I went back on it, and I said that I was going to order something else: the fried cauliflower and a salad I think it was. But then my brain played itself a movie, a mashed-up movie of me talking to every indecisive diner who’s ever sat at a table at the restaurant I run back in London and had their order taken by me: “Follow your heart,” I always tell them, and they think it’s cute, and listen to me. They follow their hearts. So I took my own advice, and it worked out for me too. The lamb ragout was the best meal I ate the entire time I was home for Christmas: a sagey brown stew that tasted like it was made by somebody’s remarkably great cook of a grandmother. Writing that sentence just made me think, one of the worst parts about growing older, being thirty and all that, is how everybody’s grandmother is dead now. You never get to eat their gloppy sagey brown stews anymore.
On the menu it said the ragout came with swiss chard and risotto. On the plate when they put it down in front of you you couldn’t see the risotto at first. The risotto was wrapped up in a leaf of the swiss chard like a little parcel, like the kind of sticky rice you get at a dim sum restaurant. I cut into the swiss chard with the side of my spoon and little swirls of steam came into the air. I was charmed by it. There was rice inside!
I was so tired that night. I was so dirty when I got to Erin’s; I’d had to take a shower at her apartment. The night before was Clash Night, which is a night my friends and I have where we sit around and get drunk and try to listen to the Clash or talk about the Clash but then get too drunk and forget about it, which is really Clash of us anyway. Something wild happened with a guy and I that Clash Night. We slept on the floor of the studio my friend Kritty runs out of the back of her house, on a bed made out of our jackets. It’ll probably take me another ten years of writing to get good enough to do that section of the story any justice. Today, all I can manage is the swiss chard.
It was forest green and it had whitish maps of veins running across it. The veins delivered nutrients to one part of the leaf from another. It made me think of being a kid and learning all the different greens: kelly & forest & turquoise & lime, etc. This leaf was just so forest.
My face was scoured red from making out with a dude with a beard all night. I always like to romanticize that facial effect in myself, ever since the first dude I ever met out at a bar and went home with had a beard. I met him at Enid’s, in Brooklyn, where the Fiery Furnaces used to play. On our way to the bar Katie Rose told me: the Fiery Furnaces used to play here, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to starve myself and drink blueberry vodka and feel validated by male attention. I was twenty-one and I don’t blame myself at all. The guy had a boring name; it was David. He drove a scooter and I rode home on the back of it. I was drunk and could have died but didn’t die. He read my arms out loud in bed and asked me if McCartney was my last name: he thought my Lennon tattoo said “Laura,” and I laughed my head off at the idea of being a person stupid enough to get their own first and last names tattooed on the inside of their elbows. In the morning he walked me to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought me a coconut iced coffee the size of my face. He asked me if I wanted to go eat eggs Florentine at a diner and I kind of did but said I couldn’t. I wasn’t too interested in eating any food that month.
On my way home I stopped into the record store next to the vintage kids store where I worked because I had a crush on a guy who worked there and I wanted him to infer from my physical appearance that I’d spent the night at a different guy’s apartment. I wanted him to feel jealous and then be motivated into action but he never took action; I had to take all the action in the end. That morning he asked me if somebody had punched me in the face and I said that nobody had done. He asked me why was my face all red then and I smiled. He said if anybody ever punched me in the face he’d beat them up and I thought that was sweet of him and I was right.
You can’t be thirty years old and feel as hot about your red abraded chin as you did the morning you were twenty-one and your jacket looked like a pixelated picture of a forest and you realized you had a certain power about you and that you could use it to make men do things. I’m still the exact same idiot I was when I was twenty-one. There’s a thousand different things a person can do to make themselves feel powerful and they’re basically all unhealthy. I’ve done em all.
Power was the last thing on my mind the night I walked back to my dad’s apartment from the King & Yonge streetcar stop and listened to He Didn’t Mention His Mother for the first time. I felt as happy and peaceful and fluffy as the lamb a ragout of whose body I’d just ate and felt crazy-sated by. I felt like the inside of a wool-lined jacket, when the wool is still curly, like a jacket John Lennon or Donovan would’ve worn in the late nineteen-sixties.
I walked past the Bulk Barn where the windows are printed with pictures of hot pink pistachios. The song starts with the fake effect of a person dropping a needle into a groove on a vinyl record and the needle skidding a bit. I don’t think that sound is necessary. It doesn’t make the song any better than it would have been without it. It just reminds me of how pathetic it is to be the sort of obsessively nostalgic person that Eleanor Friedberger and I both are. It makes me think of how stupid and weird it would sound if you bought New View by Eleanor Friedberger on vinyl and then the record needle did the actual thing that the beginning of the song is mimicking. You see? It’s not necessary.
But after that, things got perfect. I loved the song as if I’d loved the song for ten years already. Sometimes it takes you awhile to understand the words the singer is singing but that time I could understand every word she was singing as the words fell out of her mouth. I liked them all and related to them. I read an interview with her where she says, and I paraphrase, that she just wants her record to sound like it was written by a woman in her thirties who is doing okay— and often, it doesn’t. Often, it sounds like this person really needs to calm down about the dude she’s writing songs about, who is probably Fred Armisen, which is also hard for me to deal with: I just can’t take a love song written about Fred Armisen seriously.
She definitely sounds like she’s doing okay on He Didn’t Mention His Mother, which I tell myself is not about Fred Armisen to make the way I relate it seem more okay to myself—the bit about “my friend and her baby and a dog that I know”— it made me think about the day before the day before the night I first heard that song, the afternoon I went to the swank Toronto Nando’s with Sam & Teri & Emily and met Teri and Emily’s babies for the first time. They were babies. I never know babies. They were tiny swiss chard-wrapped risotto packages of humans named Clara & Ginger & Phinneas and I saw that they are all real humans who will grow up to be whoever they grow up to be, who will all grow up to walk home from the first night they ever spent at a dude or chick’s apartment, and will grow even older and listen to a song that makes them think about it. I like that I know babies now.
The part that meant and means the most to me, that I thought I was going to write so much about but really don’t have that much to say about, is the part when she sings “I so wanted something to happen that day, and then what I wanted, it happened. And that just don’t always happen that way, to me”— no little packet of sentences that any person could have mashed together and sung to me could ever have summed up exactly how I was feeling that night so tidily, so eerily-tidily.
I was alone on the street but probably pulled some weird face to say the way that I felt for nobody anyway. I’m thirty years old, and it’s still so hard for me to believe that a boy likes me. I’ve been an ocean away from that night I can’t write about, with the bed made out of jackets, for two months now, and I still listen to He Didn’t Mention His Mother every day, because it helps me remember that it happened. It makes me feel like I’m a woman in my thirties doing okay.
ROXY MUSIC, "EDITIONS OF YOU" (LIZ)
The weekend before Christmas Carmen Hawk Instagram'd a video of Roxy Music playing "Editions of You," which was the main catalyst in Roxy Music becoming the band I love best right now. That day I bought "Editions of You" and put it on my phone and played it lots of times on the train to Boston, where I met one of my best friends at a pub in Southie. I got champagne punch and an egg sandwich thing and a hundred cups of coffee and we sat there for hours and probably exasperated our server, but who cares. Later on I walked to the North End (Little Italy) which was so Christmasy and all lit up and smelled like sugar cookies and anisette and pizzelle and marzipan. Then I got back on the train and listened to "Editions of You" lots more times, and now "Editions of You" always sounds lit up and powdered-sugary and snappy like December. It sounds like riding the train to Boston and riding the train from Boston, which will never not be exciting to me. The cycle of anticipation-of-adventure and then forced reflection that happens on round-trip train rides is one of my best things.
This video's not the one Carmen posted but it's better because it’s from 1973 instead of 1982. Brian Eno is the star, with his cool feathers and eyemakeup and punchy tambourining, and the way he boredly throws the tambourine off into nowhere when he's done with it. The best is the end, when he and Bryan Ferry sing together and make a big deal of pantomiming the lyrics. Bryan Ferry's pantomiming is fine, but Brian Eno really takes the cake. (Speaking of cake: "Too much cheesecake too soon/Old money's better than new": that is the best couplet.) What’s their general relationship dynamic, Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry? I have no concept of the mythology of Roxy Music, and I really don't feel like reading some stuffy old article to figure it out. I want someone to lay it all out for me in beautiful story form, like how once at a party in Laurel Canyon I retold Gram Parsons's biography for a bunch of strangers while swinging on a wooden swing and drinking a plastic cup of champagne. I’m going to try to get a job telling rock & roll fables at big rich-people parties, and then someday I'll tell the Brian Eno + Bryan Ferry story and make it gorgeous, even if it's a total bore.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, "CHIRPY CHIRPY CHEEP CHEEP" (LIZ)
Around Christmastime I went to a birthday party in the bar of a bowling alley that used to just be a normal bowling alley but now everyone goes there on Saturday nights and smokes pot in the doorway and sings karaoke in the karaoke part of the bar and it's a total mob scene. Which is way fun, I like it- really good vibes at the All-Star Lanes on Eagle Rock Boulevard. A couple hours into the birthday party I was standing around and drinking beer with my friends, and a very handsome boy in the adjacent friend clump started singing "Marquee Moon" by Television. He was talking to another boy and out of nowhere just shout-sang "I REMEMBER! HOW THE DARKNESS DOUBLED...", and somehow struck the perfect balance of earnestly belting it out and acknowledging the goofiness of loudly singing a Television song at a karaoke party at some stupid bowling alley. So I was in awe of him and developed a staring problem, partly because of "Marquee Moon" but mostly because he looked like Cillian Murphy, or at least as much like Cillian Murphy as could ever be expected of an actual person in a bowling alley in Eagle Rock. After that I was in love with Cillian Murphy, who I now refer to as "my beautiful love" when talking to people and as "my muse" when talking to myself. He's my muse now, really. His face makes me write things I didn't know how to write before.
What this has to do with "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" is I've been watching lots of Cillian Murphy movies, including Breakfast on Pluto, which has "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" playing in the scene when Kitten goes off to London to find her mom. I've got mixed feelings about Breakfast on Pluto but mostly it's very sweet and Kitten is so lovely, a magic angel. For a good week or so mid-February, I loved "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" so intensely that in the morning I couldn't wait to get up and fix my coffee and make my bed while playing it loudly on my computer. It sounds like all the colors of the drugstore Easter-candy aisle filling up your head all at once. It makes you feel like life is nothing but Cadbury MIni Eggs and Starburst Jelly Beans and chocolate-marshmallow bunnies and Hershey's Easter Kisses and even Russell Stover coconut nests.
DIANE COFFEE, "MAYFLOWER" (LIZ)
I saw Diane Coffee last week. During sound check he had on black-and-white-pinstriped bellbottoms and a red sweater, and for the first half of his set he wore a suit, and for the rest of the show he changed into this amazing dress with a silver-sequin bodice and flowy ankle-length skirt. It was a grand performance; he’s totally genius at singing right to the audience like he's in love with everybody. I love this picture I took of him, and I love that they actually played "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" on the stereo system when their set was through. And after that- "Can't Get Out of Bed" by the Charlatans! I hadn't heard that song in about 22 years and it sounded even better than when I was 16. "Can't Get Out of Bed" is the sunniest melancholy.
THE I DON'T CARES, "KISSING BREAK" (LIZ)
The I Don't Cares is Juliana Hatfield's band with Paul Westerberg. Their album is called Wild Stab and it's perfect for when you're sitting on your bed at like six o'clock on some rainy boring Saturday night; it's bedroomy and romantic and cozily antisocial. One of the best decisions I've made this year is to fly all the way across the country this summer to go see Juliana's old band, which is called Blake Babies.
HANDSOME FURS, "EVANGELINE" (LIZ)
I think this is the hottest song in the world. It gets hotter and hotter as the song goes on, and by the last minute and a half it's like volcanic. Every time I listen to that last minute and a half, my energy level increases by about three million percent and the whole world feels electrified. If I could permanently exist in a state of "listening to the last minute and a half of 'Evangeline' by Handsome Furs," I bet I could run a thousand miles every day and write at least 900 novels a week.
The singer for Handsome Furs is Dan Boeckner who's also in Wolf Parade and Divine Fits and Operators. At the end of last year I wrote a sentence about how 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. Which is also true of why I love Dan Boeckner’s songs in general, especially his songs on the first Wolf Parade record. He looks like this and I like seeing him in my head when I listen to his music:
When I listen to the first Wolf Parade record I also always see this bar in my neighborhood called Little Joy, which is a yuppie bar now but used to be a total disaster, back in the scummy year of 2005. The ceiling was falling down and it never not smelled like someone had just puked on the floor three minutes ago, the crowd was so Vice-y and cocainey and dregs-of-American-Apparel-y. Those were not the days, man. So now I can’t extricate Apologies to the Queen Mary from the cesspool that was Little Joy in the mid-2000s, which is kind of okay: it’s good to be reminded how very much I’m not 27 anymore. When I was 27 I used that record in the dumbest way, which was to make myself feel worse about how the guy I really liked was very obviously going to end up with that other girl. I wish I could go back and be like, “Go do something else! And go find another bar too! This is obviously not your scene!” My late 20s were so much about being places that felt bad to me, and then feeling bad about feeling bad. To all the girls in their 20s or on their way to being in their 20s: don’t do that. The sooner you can disabuse yourself of the notion that there's some fundamental cosmic opposition to things ever going your way, the lighter life feels in general.
At the beginning of this year I started listening to Apologies to the Queen Mary all the time again and I take full credit for Wolf Parade getting back together: I definitely manifested them back into existence. That album still has bad vibes for me but now the bad vibes feel good. I love siphoning off their fucked-up energy and putting it into my book, so my main girl can go through lots of stupid bullshit of her own, and then get out of it so much more expediently.
For most of February, I found it hard to be happy. I’m not a teenager and I don’t think it’s cool or interesting to be sad, so I tried my best to be as happy as I could in spite of myself but generally failed. I saw beauty in tiny things like the Valentine’s Day colour palette and certain dogs on the street but mostly my feet hurt and my eyelids were sore. I did my daily eye spas every morning. I started boiling my eye mask for too long because I derived masochistic satisfaction from the feeling of the burning and now the skin round my eyes is discoloured from it. I was pissed off that I lived with my ex-boyfriend and my job stressed me out. I didn’t eat enough and then congratulated myself for it which is always a slippery slope obvs. I played weird mind games with myself about smoking cigarettes and then smoked them anyway and got mad at myself for playing the mind games when I could have just been chill and smoked them and been nice to myself. My skin got bad and every morning I woke up with new little grey hairs popping out of my part. I combed my hair into a more severe side part and then grey hairs popped out of that part. I didn’t mind that I was going grey— I’ve been looking forward to going grey my whole life, grey hair is a really cool look for a writer and I’m game to embrace it— but I minded that I was going grey from stress and not just from living naturally.
I woke up the day after Valentine’s Day and the sun was shining and it grossed me out. I was tired and hungover from getting champagne-drunk on Skype with my boyfriend the night before. I had to go to work to sit alone in my empty restaurant and confirm bookings and order blue roll for the kitchen and count how many bottles of wine there were and a bunch of other boring that style of shit. Normally Mondays are made bearable by the promise of a Skype date with my boyfriend at the end of the tunnel but that week I’d inadvertently screwed myself over by insisting that we Skype on Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Sunday, instead.
Nobody in the entire world cares what time I get into work on a Monday but I still felt embarrassed by how long it was taking me to get things going. I wasn’t even doing anything cool or of value. I was only moving slowly because I felt sad. I felt really committed to the concept of negativity in general: I kept running through every slightly positive thing anybody’d said to me over the course of February and then writing anti-positivity propaganda in response to it in my head.
I walked to the Canonbury Overground station because I was too tired to take my normal bus route, which is longer and requires more walking but is generally prettier and more romantic for me. It turned out that some fucked up thing was happening to my Overground route so I made the train guy refund my Oyster card instead of taking the train that I could have taken to the replacement rail bus because I needed to treat myself to the experience of behaving like a sullen bitch to a stranger. I walked out of the Overground station and the stupid sun was still shining. I put my headphones back in, and my iPod shuffle played me a bunch of shitty songs and I pressed forward forward forward until it got to Atlantis by Donovan. I was worried to listen to Atlantis by Donovan because everything in the world felt so ugly and it’s so beautiful. I worried that it might confuse me. I worried that it might make me question my commitment to ugliness but then decided to chance it nonetheless. I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I was so unhappy that even Atlantis couldn’t fix it, but as it turned out, I was not. Because Atlantis fixed it. Atlantis fixed me.
Atlantis starts out with a bit of chill acoustic guitar and Donovan talking over it in his chill Scottish accent. Last night I had a dream that I went shopping at a Tiger with Donovan’s daughter Ione Skye Lee because even in the deepest depths of my brain I knew I was going to be writing this today. I follow her on Instagram. She used to be married to Ad-Rock, but now she’s married to Ben Lee. They seem really happy together and I’m happy for her about it. I like all the normal love things I used to hate like Valentine’s Day and the institution of marriage and things like that because now I have a boyfriend who accepts me for who I am and even the ocean between us can’t fuck with how happy that makes me.
At the beginning of Atlantis Donovan talks about the twelve important guys from the continent of Atlantis who sailed away from Atlantis while Atlantis was sinking, “all the Gods who play in the mythological dramas, and all legends from all lands,” he calls them. He only tells us about five of them: “The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, [&] the magician.” Sometimes I think that maybe I should do some Internet research about what the other seven of these dudes were all about but then I think, what’s the point? How could I ever love any of them more than I love the poet or the magician? I have such intense brand loyalty to the poet and the magician. There’s no way I could ever love a non-poet or a non-magician more than I love a poet or magician. Like, there's no way.
As Donovan talked to me about the poet I coincidentally walked past the little street called Poet’s Road I live near. The day I moved into the flat I’m moving out of in fifteen days I took a picture of Poet’s Road and captioned it with “There’s a street in London called Poet’s Road” on Insta and I thought I’d live in London forever then, but I’m not. I’m leaving London in 78 days and 2 hours and 17 minutes and 17 seconds. I have a countdown app about it on my phone.
I want to be the Poet from Atlantis but “You’re not the fucking Poet,” I said to myself, “You’re the Magician and you know it.” I pictured a bunch of different versions of the Tarot card The Magician in my head, from a bunch of different decks. The John Lennon card I always call it. I think Tarot cards are stupid but I read them anyway. I don’t believe in them but I believe in them anyway. I believe in my own ability to divine relevant information out of any stupid symbol I want.
I caught the shitty 141 to the eye hospital and then walked to work from the eye hospital. I saw a cat sitting on the corner of a wall and felt connected to it. I took a picture of it and thought about Instagramming it but it was so off-brand for me. I’d just listened to Atlantis about seventeen times in a row. I decided to stop pitying myself for having a boyfriend in another country; poor Donovan’s girlfriend was a dead mermaid at the bottom of the ocean who died when Atlantis sank a thousand years ago, which is way worse. I felt distanced from my relationship with the Valentine’s Day coluor palette, lamented it, and wondered if I should delete the My Fitness Pal app from my phone. I went to delete it but then couldn’t. I walked about fifty paces or seven calories or whatever and then saw a woman in a parka who was probably ten years younger than me but also looked a hundred. She was visibly dying of anorexia. I deleted the My Fitness Pal app from my phone.
I didn’t cancel drinks with Monica as had initially been my intention. Monica's from Barcelona. We went to a pub called Owl & Pussycat, where she gave me stellar life advice and I drank half a bottle of house red and didn’t enter the calories of it into the app because the app didn’t exist anymore. I ate an apple Greek yoghurt parfait and an egg mayo beigel that day. They were both beautiful foods. On the bus ride home I felt happier than I’d felt all 2016 not counting Barcelona which doesn't count because it wasn't regular 2016, it was heaven, it was a dream, and when I got off at Dalston Junction my iPod played me Riki Tiki Tavi by Donovan and it was perfect; life was perfect. I was in control again and I was happy. The last fifteen seconds of Riki Tiki Tavi are… well, they are my life, mate. The sound of the entire song changes, and the words become about something else. About a girl on a bus, and he even says the number of the bus, which is such important information about a bus, especially in a song that’s not really about buses. The way I feel on the bus number 67 is so different from the way I feel on the 149 even though they take me from the exact same place to the exact same place. Every time I hear Donovan sing those words I feel like he’s watching me, and appreciating me and what my life is all about. Usually, when I’m listening to music, I’m on a bus. The 149, 141, the 67, 242.
Two days later I went back to work and did all my boring daytime laptop shit and ate my Pret beet-goat cheese-squash "super bowl" and chewed through half a pack of Black Mint Airwaves gum. An hour before service I called the Ice Factory and ordered a bag of ice and then plugged in my iPod shuffle and played it over the nice speakers while I set up the dining room, which was unusual for me— usually I hate the sound of my music at work. But I wanted to remember myself.
My iPod shuf played me a Courtney Barnett song— Don’t Apply Compression Gently, which had been my break-up theme song (because of “I may not be 100% happy, but at least I’m not with you”) until I listened to Atlantis and decided not to hate my ex-boyfriend anymore— and I liked the sound of it. It was the most I’d liked the sound of a song since I’d heard Riki Tiki Tavi two nights prior, and it made me want to hear Riki Tiki Tavi again, and desperately. I hadn’t listened to it since. I had a weird feeling in my heart that my iPod was going to play me Riki Tiki Tavi after the Courtney Barnett song was over. There were 412 songs on my iPod shuffle at that moment, and only 70 of them were by Donovan. I said to myself, “Laura Jane Faulds, if your iPod plays you Riki Tiki Tavi next, then everything in the entire world is perfect, and you’re never allowed to complain about anything ever again,” and then—