The Iliad Bookshop is a Beatlesy Wonderland


The Iliad is a used bookstore on a very ugly and shabby stretch of Cahuenga Boulevard in North Hollywood. I love that stretch of Cahuenga because it looks like it's never going to get turned into something nice and shiny, and I think it's important that some things just look the same forever, especially in crazy old Los Angeles. I went to The Iliad for the first time last Friday, after meeting up with my writer pals for our writer-pal meeting down the street at a coffeehouse called Moby's, which I'm also newly in love with: it's in a strip mall next to a weed clinic and a taco place and everyone's so nice and they sell gigantic jars of iced coffee for $2.50 and have these out-of-control pistachio-carrot muffins and raspberry-frangipani pop tarts, plus there's a game nook and a table set aside for an in-progress jigsaw puzzle to which anyone can contribute.

Anyway, The Iliad: it's a wonderland. I want to live in it, just like I wanted to live in Book Den when we went to Martha's Vineyard. But whereas Book Den had a bit of a "woman's touch," The Iliad appears to be run entirely by dudes - specifically, cranky but sweet-natured middle-aged dudes who're probably way into music dudes like Warren Zevon and Randy Newman and subsist on dude foods like frozen burritos and Campbell's Chunky Soup and love dude movies like The Dirty Dozen or whatever. It's ramshackle and chaotic but totally lovely and cozy as hell; you could probably stay there all day long and no one would give a damn. I was there maybe two hours, and it wasn't nearly enough time.

When I first got to The Iliad, it sort of reminded me of the bookstore that Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey go to in Hannah and Her Sisters, the one where he buys her that E.E. Cummings book:

And then I tried to think of an L.A.-set movie with a romantic bookstore scene, and I couldn't think of any. Someone chill with a deep understanding of Los Angeles should really make a movie that's got some dreamy scene set in The Iliad, completely free of any hacky jokes about how L.A. people don't read books. We do. We read books all the time.

So yeah, books. Books! So many beautiful books. In the interest of starting somewhere, I'll point out that The Iliad has an amazing selection of rock bios. I was especially charmed by Our Own Story by The Rolling Stones - it's very amusing to me to think of the Rolling Stones speaking in the first-person plural, all five of them sitting down together and saying: "This is it, guys. This is our story." Obviously the Rolling Stones never actually did that. But the font is pretty cute and hot:

The only rock bio I ended up buying was this Fleetwood Mac book. It was published in 1978 and so far I've only read the intro, which is written in the second person and places "you" in the driver's seat of a car in 1975: You're listening to AM radio and your car speakers are kind of shitty, and after a few "disco McDonald's commercials" the DJ plays you "Over My Head," identifying the song as "the super solid sayin' somethin' sounds of Fleetwood Mac." Which is so cool! "Sayin'-somethin'" is a really fun adjective. I kind of want to use it in my own music writing, but ultimately I think maybe it's the sort of thing that should be left in 1975. Some things just don't need to time-travel.

Another fantastic thing about The Iliad + music: there's a whole huge shelf of books about the Beatles. There's gotta be at least a few hundred of them, and it was so overwhelming, and at first I grabbed a Red Rose Speedway songbook and was like, "I'll just get this!! I'll just get the Red Rose Speedway songbook and call it a day!!!!" But then I calmed down and put the songbook back and flipped through a bunch of picture-heavy Beatles books, trying to find some Beatles pictures that I'd never seen before. This is by far my favorite of all the new Beatles pix I discovered - I love how Paul's shoving his hand into his mouth like a cute pig, and how John's really chugging on that bottle. I wonder what they're eating? Hopefully something fried and fatty and doughy and wonderful.

I ended up not getting any Beatles books at all; I decided the only Beatles books I ever care to read again are the Let It Be Beautiful books by Elizabeth Barker and Laura Jane Faulds. I'm still agreeing with myself on that. Oh and for another great moment in Beatle eating, I recommend this "I Feel Fine" video of the Beatles eating fish and chips and riding a stationary bicycle:

Probably the best part of The Iliad is the shelf of rare storybooks. I really wanted to buy a Little Golden Book called Brownie Scouts, but instead I got a book from 1939 that's two Brothers Grimm stories in one: The Goose Girl, and The House in the Woods:


Thing of the Week: LJ's Cool New Wine Tumblr, An Apollonia Cupcake, 50 Years of John Waters

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: My Cool New Wine Tumblr

Last week I had the cool revelation that I am going to stop self-identifying as a Slytherin and start self-identifying as a Gryffindor. It's been really life-changing for me. Now that I'm a Gryffindor I have a really fantastic can-do attitude about life in general; my new motto is "Do EVERYTHING" and it's working out really well for me so far. I've thought about starting a wine Tumblr "forever but only got around to it once the Sorting Hat re-sorted me into Gryffindor. 

My cool new wine Tumblr is called Laura Jane Drinks Wine and you can find it at ljdrinkswine.tumblr.com. My intention is to use it a wine journal; I am going to try my best to write a little note about every single wine I taste but I think we'll all forgive me if I slack a little. Also, I'm me, so the writing will be personal and non-traditional and hopefully entertaining even to people who don't care about wine. So yeah! That is my cool news for today, I'm deliriously excited about it, please let all your wine friends know about the Internet's weirdest new wine blog. 

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: An Apollonia Cupcake & Some Dogs

Last Saturday they showed Purple Rain at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I don't think I'd seen Purple Rain in its entirety since Leah O'Leary let me watch it while she was babysitting when I was like eight-years-old, which was a pretty weird move on Leah O'Leary's part. (Leah also always had her boyfriend Craig over, and one time we all went outside late at night so Craig could shoot off Roman candles in the middle of the street - fast times.) Anyway, Purple Rain at Hollywood Forever was so super-fun; Questlove DJ'd before and after the movie, and the girl on the blanket next to ours gave me this fantastic Apollonia cupcake:

At the end of the movie, when "Baby I'm a Star" plays, everyone in the crowd got up and danced. Usually I have a pretty terrible attitude and get mega-annoyed in situations where large groups of extroverts congregate to loudly demonstrate their semi-ironic love of a particular film/band/what-have-you, but the "Baby I'm a Star" dance party had such good vibes. Prince took hold of our hearts and made everyone's love so pure and true. He really does have some magic power.

So all week I've been re-obsessed with the Purple Rain soundtrack and with how the songs are performed in the movie, especially how in "Darling Nikki" he mimes all the lyrics and then has sex with an amplifier, and also how in the bridge to the "Beautiful Ones" he sings really aggressively at Apollonia and collapses onto the stage and she cries from loving him too much. And the other night I listened to the "Do You Like Prince Movies?" episode about the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain, which led me to two wonderful things: (1) Spin's oral history on the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain, which includes the fun fact that Prince's favorite meal is spaghetti and orange juice; and (2) this video of Prince singing "A Case of You" by Joni Mitchell in 1983. Prince looooooves Joni Mitchell - there's this great New York interview where she talks about how he used to send her fan letters "with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes," and her office thought he was a nut and would throw them away. So sweet. Apparently Prince also loves Todd Rundgren. 

My second thing is these Australian shepherds, whom I found on the Cricket Press Instragram. Don't they look like some middle-aged husband-and-wife duo who were high school sweethearts, had a shotgun wedding the summer after graduating, and are still so crazy for each other? They totally have a Saturday night bowling league, and bring their own bowling balls, and the wife's bowling ball is hot-pink. Her name's Peg, and her husband's name is...Artie? Artie drinks beer while he bowls - probably MGDs. Every summer they have a tiki party: Peg always wins the limbo contest, she also makes a killer Planter's Punch. They are the dog version of my character and Owen Wilson's character from the amazing Wes Anderson movie Blurred Lines, and I hope they live forever.

JEN'S THING OF THE WEEK: Fifty Years of John Waters

As usual my Thing of the Week is John Waters related. There's a full retrospective of his films happening at Lincoln Center Film Society right now and it's one of the best things that's ever happened to me. The title of it all is: Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take? For me, clearly, the answer is an endless amount. Last weekend I saw Polyester in Odorama (Scratch & Sniff). Heaven. I tried to see his Very Rare Early Shorts before Polyester. Tickets were free and only given out an hour before each show. I didn't get them. I stood on the stand by line and got very close - like, 3 people close to getting in - but I did not get in. I became instantly depressed. I HAD to see these movies. Hag in a Black Leather Jacket! Eat You Make Up! I could not live if I missed these. I complained a lot about how the people getting into the shorts did not deserve it. They were not even stylish AT ALL! I saw Polyester. It was great. I decided to run across the street to the theater the shorts were playing at later that night immediately after Polyester ended - like a maniac- to see if we could get into the 9:30pm Shorts screening. WE DID! Somehow, there was no line. I saw Hag in a Black Leather Jacket. I saw Roman Candles. I saw Eat Your Make Up. Was it everything I dreamed? Yes, kind of. He was a teenager when he made these and you can tell. They are tedious at times but magical. Divine as Jackie O during the Kennedy assassination in Eat Your Make Up - filmed in 1965! - is incredible. Truly.

Last night I went to Celluloid Atrocity Night. A screening of Multiple Maniacs, Mondo Trasho, and the Diane Linkletter Story with a little convo with John in between the movies. Everyone who works at Lincoln Center introducing the movies, making announcements etc called him by his first name only. John. It sounded very sweet and warm. John just left or we could ask him. John brought these 16mm prints from his attic. John will be back tomorrow.

At all of these screenings I start tearing up when Divine's name is listed and everyone claps. I am insane. I love John.


All the Songs We Loved in August


Harry Nilsson, “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” (LJ)

Harry Nilsson is a weird and perfect guy. He’s a Gemini. I don’t relate to him at all.
       I’ve always loved Harry Nilsson or at least liked him. When I was a kid my mom would sing me Coconut but I’d never heard actual Coconut, just my mom singing Coconut, but I knew it was sung by a guy named Harry Nilsson. When I was fifteen my high school best friend made me a mixtape and she put Coconut on the mixtape, and The Drowners by Suede and also Good Day Sunshine by the Beatles. She bought Revolver on the same day I bought The White Album so we each had something the other didn’t but we were equal in our having and our not having, which is a beautiful equilibrium.
       Harry Nilsson was John Lennon’s best friend. I don’t know if he was John Lennon’s official best friend or not; I wish I could just ask him, “Who’s your best friend, John?”— I would be dissatisfied with any answer that wasn’t “An exact tie between Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson.”
       My friend Kritty and I have a thing, an in-joke I guess, a weird fantastic in-joke, that we’re John Lennon and Harry Nilsson together. That’s the theme of our friendship, a never-ending Lost Weekend; I’m John and she’s Harry. Together we are surrounded by a general haze of being up to no good.
       Kritty calls us both beautiful geniuses and believes that we are. I’ll only ever call myself that if it’s really late and we’ve just killed like three bottles of wine in two hours. There’s a part in the Harry Nilsson documentary where a guy says: he was the best singer. Not just the best singer but the best singer. Eventually he fucked up his voice from partying too hard and that was a tragedy but who even cares. It’s not like he didn’t record all those excellent albums in the first place and at least he had a fun life and it’s not like he didn’t die anyway. When I watched that thing for the first time I texted Kritty to tell her: that’s youYou’re the best singer.
        Other than Nilsson Schmilsson I’d never listened to any full Harry Nilsson albums until I moved to London one month ago. I highly recommend intersecting your moving to London phase with your getting crazy-into Harry Nilsson phase if you are the type of person who’d be inclined to live out either. Harry Nilsson and London go kookily but decadently together like dipping bacon or crinkly-cut potato chips into a fountain of chocolate fondue. Harry is an American but he’s got a sort of jaunty Penny Lane Britishness about him, that whole Vaudeville soft-shoe nostalgia thing that came into vogue for about five minutes in the late nineteen-sixties because of Paul.
        I’ve been responding to music made by a Britishy American guy because I’m a Britishy American guy! It’s one thing to live in Canada and tell people you’re moving to London and have them say “Well you certainly look the part!” because your shirt has a collar. But once you’re actually in England it becomes really obvious that you’re, you know, not from around here. Nobody cares that you wore a vaguely British-seeming shirt that had a collar back when you lived across the ocean. You’re a foreigner who calls the pavement a sidewalk and pronounces her rs like a commoner and thinks a courgette is a gherkin. The only way to get through it is stumble through the confusion wide-eyed and exuberantly because who in the hell doesn’t love a wide-eyed exuberant person?
       I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City was the theme song to my wide-eyed exuberant phase. It’s a bit of a bummer to admit to myself that my wide-eyed exuberant phase is over but like what do you even expect of yourself and the concept of life Laura Jane. Do you want to be Don Draper when he’s on the phone with Dr. Faye and she tells him she hopes Megan knows he only likes the beginning of things? Nope.
       Three weeks ago, it was still the beginning, and I didn’t realize it was the beginning or that the beginning would ever end, I didn’t have a job, and I’d just figured out how to take the bus. I’d sit on the very front seat of the upper deck and watch the city unroll like a carpet. Listening to this song. That’s the opening credits. In the movie it would cut to some shots of me looking dejected in the middle of an unforgiving Toronto while Harry says he’s so tired of his prayers going unanswered. Then it switches to the part where Harry sings, “Well here I am Lord, knocking at your back door,” which is not in the movie, because it’s just me thinking about it. But I like how knocking at the Lord’s back door implies that you are going about getting God’s attention in a kind of roundabout way. Being so sweet and bad that God can’t help but relent. You to him are like the best dessert, lard cut with butter laced with sugar, so fucking excellent and illicit that in the end even He has to admit you were the point.
       The nicest part of the song is when Harry Nilsson sings, “Ain’t it wonderful to be/ where I’ve always wanted to be,” which has been true for me loads of times and is still true generally, but was truest once. I was on a bus riding past a liquor store somewhere around Tottenham Court Road. The liquor store advertised all the cool weird whiskies it was selling in a well-executed window display, and it was sunny enough that I was wearing shorts but cool enough that I could wear a long-sleeved t-shirt. And I wanted to take my Dad there, to the whisky store. I wanted to show it to him like, “Hey dad hey look dad look at this wonderful place I live in, look how wonderful we have it here, this whisky store, I did it I did it, I made it,” but I didn’t write down where it was or remember where it was. I can find it again if I take that same bus and stare out the window the whole time until I find it which sounds like the dullest and lamest thing I could possibly do here. I would rather look for something new or ideally not even look for anything.

"Rock the Casbah" by The Clash (Liz)

The last time I flew from Boston to L.A., I watched the video for "Rock the Casbah" seven times. It was a night flight and the punk-rock couple behind me brought a box of Munchkins on board with them, which was so cute and inspired. The couple sitting beside me were not very punk rock but seemed vaguely with-it; I had some silly hope that they'd notice what I was up to and later say to each other, "How interesting, that the woman beside us watched the 'Rock the Casbah' video seven times during our flight. How very peculiar.'" Instead they watched every existing episode of Dating Naked, which is kind of like the opposite of The Clash. I don't think they picked up on my "Rock the Casbah" marathon at all - and that's all right, I got along fine without them. The "Rock the Casbah" video is kind of ugly but I love it intensely. These are some of my favorite things:

-Mick Jones's stompy/semi-aggro dance moves, and also the fact that he's wearing a veil. Before last month I hadn't seen the "Rock the Casbah" video in ages and misremembered it as Mick wearing a gas mask, so it was kind of a letdown to see that he's not. And when I got home from LAX at like 2 a.m. I Googled "why is mick jones wearing a veil in the rock the casbah video," and learned that it's got to do with Mick being a big prima donna and uncooperative brat, and then I loved him even more.

-the pool scenes. Cute that Mick is smoking in his inner tube. I really wish there were an alternate version of the "Rock the Casbah" video that was just "The Clash by the pool" 

-how committed and earnest Joe Strummer is about acting out the lyrics. The most earnest lip-syncher of all

-basically everything else except for all the stuff involving the Arab man and the Hasidic man and the armadillo. A few nights after my "Rock the Casbah" plane ride I had a nightmare that the "Rock the Casbah" armadillo bit my finger, which I feel like is a pretty unique nightmare to have

-oh and somewhere around my fourth or fifth viewing, I remembered how in ninth grade I had a crush on a sophomore boy named Dana, who was widely recognized as looking like a shorter, rounder-faced, slumpier Mick Jones. In 11th grade I worked at an Italian bakery and Dana would come in some afternoons and sit at the coffee bar and drink coffee and chainsmoke and eat cake, all slumped-over and probably stoned and not very Mick-Jones-sparkly-eyed - not in the slightest - but still totally sweet. He had a gorgeous sister who looked like a witch and a skater and had pictures of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Pixies up in her locker; I probably wanted to be her. Dana also had this long-sleeved black t-shirt that said "TECHNO" in big neon green letters, which possibly sounds lame now but at the time it was cool and exciting and just added to his beautiful mystique. Anyway what I'm trying to say is: DANA IF YOU'RE OUT THERE - no, I'm kidding. What I'm really trying to say is I'm glad I'm old enough for "looking like Mick Jones" to be a characteristic almost universally understood within my peer group. I started high school five years after The Clash broke up (eight years after Mick got fired), and I'm newly proud of how narrowly I missed "being in high school while The Clash were still together." It makes me feel so deep and wise.

Harry Nilsson, The Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Songs on the album Harry (LJ)

My favorite Harry Nilsson album is called Harry. It’s from August of 1969. On the cover of the record is a picture of little kid Harry. He is skinny and his head looks too big for his body. If he were a cartoon character his neck would only be as thick as one pencil line. His face is peaceful but in his eyes it looks like he’s trying to make you do something. You can tell that he’s going to grow up to be a genius which is probably why he picked the picture.
       I like the album title Harry for an album written by a guy named Harry. I wish there was a Paul McCartney album called Paul and a George Harrison album called George but for some reason it seems less cool to imagine a John Lennon album boringly entitled John.
       The first song on Harry is The Puppy Song and it’s great because a cute man saying “puppy” is a really lovely thing but the walk from my flat to the Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Overground station is only as long as the fifth, sixth, seventh, and about half of the eighth (or sometimes the whole eighth if I am in a particularly lethargic walking mood) songs on Harry and I usually sacrifice The Puppy Song to avoid potentially missing out on the end of number seven. Songs Number Two through Four kind of blow.

Number Five is called the Fairfax Rag and it’s pretty peppy but it’s about cops being jerks to you since it’s the sixties and you’re a scuzzy-looking dude who they suspect is a drug user and is probably/definitely a drug user. At the end he goes a little nuts and screams wokka wovva wah wah wah wah wah wah wah. He always screams it around the time I’m walking past a grey brick building called The Gin Palace. I don’t know why it’s called The Gin Palace but I’m happy it is. It’s beautiful.

The sixth song on Harry is City Life and it’s often about me. The city is London; the life is Laura’s. It’s about wishing you could catch a plane to your parents’ house and feeling guilty about how you don’t write your parents too many letters. There’s this part where he sings “Just temporarily” very smoothly in a way that reminds me of an elaborate calligraphic g or y or j. He devotes quite a bit of his time and self and energy to that “temporarily,” and I like that “temporarily” got to be featured in a pop song lyric for once in its life. If words were people temporarily would be a severely boring but ultimately well-intentioned nerd. All I want is the best for temporarily.
      Harry Nilsson singing temporarily usually means it’s about time to pop into Costa to get my coffee, an iced black Americano in the size “Massimo.” I have written extensively about how fucked up it is that iced Americanos at Costa are actually iced lattes and what the fuck, but as it turns out, they are not iced lattes. They just blend up the espresso with water and the oils from the coffee bean make it a little bit frothy. It’s pretty useless to do that but I accept and slightly prefer it. I do a lot of useless shit to make my life a bit frothier too.

Once I have my coffee it’s time to listen to Mournin’ Glory Story and walk past Her Majesties’ Prison at Pentonville which is pretty cute as far as prisons go. Everyone living in there must have been imprisoned for either stealing boiled sweets or treason. So old-timey. The prison’s bookended by a bunch of places with sun-bleached photographs of fry-ups taped into the windows, a place called The Breakout that smells like smoke and fat and ketchup, a tavern called Tawny’s painted in pastel lavender and toothpaste where a band that sounded like a rougher Pogues played on Bank Holiday Sunday. The words THE CALLY are painted across the Overground track in white on blue letters, Cally for Caledonian Road.
       Mournin’ Glory Story is the most beautiful song on the album. If it were flavors it would be: clover honey, vanilla bean, bruleed banana, macadamia nut. It’s an obvious rip-off of For No One by the Beatles but with a bit of a darker edge. In it he rhymes “dirty” as in dirty FEET with “seven-thirty,” which is obviously brilliant. I also like that he doesn’t specify whether he means seven-thirty AM or seven-thirty PM so you can decide for yourself. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure.
       After Mournin’ Glory Story I get on the Overground and stop listening to music and do a bit of reading on the train, a book by a man who drove around France buying wine, and after I get off the train I walk to work in silence. I think about the people the man who wrote the book met and then I go to work. Work’s alright; it’s pretty good; it’s getting better. I work at a restaurant and I’m not in charge of anything and I don’t make a ton of money. Oh, city life. 

"Broadway" by The Clash (Liz)

The second week of August, my friends and I went out to Joshua Tree to see the meteor shower. The first night was the night of the perigee full moon, which was being a show-off and radiating its majestic supermoon-y light all over the sky and blinding out everything else, so I only saw one or two meteors. And the next night was so cloudy, I only saw one or two meteors then too. But the supermoon was something else; I kept telling everyone that it looked like a giant fluorescent light in the shape of a bloomed rose, and no one believed me about that but I stand by it.
        It was my third trip to Joshua Tree and we stayed at Hicksville again and went to Pappy & Harriet's and that Blake Babies graffiti's still on the bathroom stall. One of the other groups of people at the trailer park was a family from Hawaii; they had two little girls named Chloe (who was about eight) and Layla (who was probably eleven). Their last morning there, Chloe was crying because Layla didn't want to play with her; she'd taken her summer-reading book and put on these rad neon-yellow sunglasses and gone to sit in the shade of the Cramps-themed trailer and read. I felt bad for Chloe, but obviously I was on Layla's side. 
        Later on in the day, around dusk, I bought the Joanna Newsom album Ys on my phone because I really wanted to hear the song that explains the difference between meteors, meteorites, and meteoroids. But then I got a few minutes in and all I wanted to hear was the song that I'd wanted to hear my whole time in the desert, which was "Broadway" by The Clash. I put my earbuds in and sat on the little front porch of our cabin and listened to "Broadway" and watched the big pink puffy sky and felt a heavy kinship with the piano and with Layla and with all of the desert. The desert used to freak me out with its evil energy and Manson-y vibes, but somehow Joe Strummer made me feel completely safe. I love how he refuses to take responsibility for it being six o'clock in the morning.