Thing of the Week: The Night LJ Got Back To Toronto, "Your Summer" by Strawberry Whatevs

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: The Night I Got Back To Toronto

I arrived in Toronto last Sunday evening after an arduous plane jouney that, while arduous, was less arduous than anticipated— the itinerary the plane company sent me listed my Toronto arrival time as 10 PM, but they meant 10 PM London time, not Toronto time, which was confusing and irresponsible of them. Also, one of my two layovers turned out to not be an actual layover but rather just a brief interlude of plane chilling on tarmac for twenty-odd minutes during a crew-change in Halifax. But to give credit where credit is due, it was a bullshit fourteen-hour commute, the only bright spots being 1) the blueberry & Greek yoghurt-flav Tim Horton’s bagel I ate during my layover in Newfoundland, 2) the little caper I got to participate in with myself after briefly misplacing my luggage during the aforementioned Newfoundland layover, and 3) the time on my London to Newfoundland flight when a man passed out and the girl sitting next to me, who had evidently seen a movie in her life, took it upon herself to be the hero who stood up and shouted, “IS THERE A DOCTOR ON THE PLANE???”— when no one replied, she muttered “This is ridiculous” to herself— that was the highlight, not the man passing out. That was sad and sort of scary. I just really dug her “This is ridiculous”; it was so unnecessarily dramatic. Like, dude, it’s not ridiculous. There just happened to not be a doctor on the plane. You can’t blame people for not being doctors. You’re not a doctor either. Anyway, the man was fine.

Matt King met me at the airport and we had a cute little bit where I was waiting for my luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt and then the automatic door to the Arrivals hallway opened and we saw each other and I ran to him and we hugged and he said “I can’t go in there, and you can’t come out here,” and then he gave me a Grande iced BAM.
        I met back up with my disgusting heel of a cumbersome suitcase, who was named Barry, and Matt & Barry & Abigail (my other suitcase) & I commuted from the airport to my dad’s flat apartment. While walking Barry & Abigail from Union Station to my dad’s, Matt & I had a cool conversation about the lyric from Fun, Fun, Fun by the Beach Boys that goes “It seems like she forgot all about the library like she told her old man now,” the crux of our discussion being how fair it was of the Beach Boys to give Fun Fun Fun-girl the benefit of the doubt in the situation— “it seems like”— rather than straight up accusing her of lying. But the following day we realized that the next lyric goes “You shouldn’t have lied,” so it "seems" like we were giving the Beach Boys unwarranted credit on that one.
        At my dad’s I drank a glass of white wine and we listened to Rhapsody in Blue on his tricked out stereo system. I changed into the t-shirt Ivy gave me in Barcelona that says “New Experiences on Old Hardware” and announced that my t-shirt was a metaphor for how I felt about being back in Toronto. Matt and I peaced out, took the King streetcar up to Bathurst, and walked to the new Nando’s that just opened up on Queen Street West. Toronto felt clean and spacious. It didn’t look as ugly as I’d thought it would. I felt further away from London than I could have imagined while living in London and trying to imagine how being in Toronto would feel, I felt released from the weight of some shitty ghosts that had been mutely haunting my life without my noticing it, and it was summer, proper summer, and I said “I feel like such hot shit in Toronto.” Matt asked “How so?” and I said “Well, my hotness just goes further in this city. Like, Sienna Miller doesn’t live here.”

We met Kritty at Nando’s and there was a whole annoying debacle about their credit card machine being down. I was hungry and snapped into Type A personality restaurant manager mode so we could get our food faster. While we ate, I thought, “It’s so nice not to be the only boorish North American at the table who eats with her fork in her right hand.”
        We went back to Kritty’s and drank white wine and listened to rock & roll music and talked about whatevs in her backyard. I reacquainted myself with the drunk-rich-old-lady vibes of my beloved Canadian cigarette brand: Benson & Hedges Menthol Light 100s. Kritty referred to all people who read books as “nerds” and I felt very, very faraway from Southeast London. I felt like the shooting star emoji.

I feel very lucky to have met the sparkling handful of deep homies that came into my life in London- creating the relationships I’ve created with those people has been fun, and cool, because I like new things, and it’s thrilling to feel new to someone, to have a person feel new to you. Conversations are spent piecing together the puzzle of what that person’s life was like before they met you, and all your tiredest old anecdotes get a second wind. You meet each other and you’re not yourselves yet, you’re a picture of yourself, a picture of the other person, until eventually you’ve hit a point where you’ve said enough words to erase the picture and then the person knows you, you know them, and that procedure’s thrilling too.
         But there ain't nothin' like being back with the people who know you best. There is never new news, and everything everyone says is hilarious not because you happen to share fundamentally similar senses of humor but rather because your senses of humor have spent the past decade developing concurrently: they are literally the same thing. It’s not a cool coincidence that you’re able to have that ridiculous niche conversation about Fun, Fun, Fun; you’re able to have it because that’s the kind of conversation you have, because you’re Matt King and Laura Jane, and the dynamic has already been established. You never have to think about anything. Nobody cares.

We moved indoors, to Baby Pineapple Studio, which is what Kritty’s studio is called, and I played the bass for the first time. Since that night I have played so much bass, that’s my main vibe right now, becoming a bass player. In Barcelona Ivy called me a “latent bass player” and now it’s all bubbling up to the surface. I have worshipped the bass for fifteen years and I can’t believe how lucky I am, how cool it feels, learning to speak this new language. Basslines are snakey sneaky little stories that meander underneath the rest of a song, they are punchy and crunchy and don’t have to resolve themselves but when they do it’s a treat.
        After we left Matt King and I went into the Queen & Bellwoods 7-11 and I checked out all the cool beverage options I’d forgotten about, made sure they still sell those cherry crullers I’m so obsessed with (they do). I bought a grapefruit Perrier and drank it while walking back to my Dad’s listening to music I forget now. I listened to all the basslines and knew that in some amount of time I’d be able to make sense of those sounds the same way I can make sense out of letters and words and spaces. I thought of London and how scared and sad I’d been the last couple weeks, how irritated I’d felt by the inconvenience of having to uproot my entire life simply because of the cosmically arbitrary event of my Visa expiring.
        I didn’t have to feel like that anymore. It was over, the ghosts were gone, and when the sun woke up it would be shining. It was eleven PM in Toronto, the air was swampy and I didn’t need a jumper, which is called a sweater again. All my friends in London were asleep.      

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: "Your Summer" by Strawberry Whatevs, A Tulip of Pineapple Cider

I was going to write a thing about summertime and romance and rock-and-roll but instead I just want to share three things, the first being a passage from Life After God by Douglas Coupland. I underlined all these sentences when I was 16, and just reread them and realized it's maybe the most formative paragraph-and-a-half of my whole crazy life:

It's from a beautiful heartbreaker of a story called "Patty Hearst," which you can read here, excerpted in a 1994 issue of Spin with good old Evvers Dando on the cover. Beauty all around.

The second thing is this poem that a robot made by using words from Strawberry Fields Whatever's Twitter account:

If we were going to workshop this poem, I'd suggest making a few tweaks so it reads like this:

Covered in 1000-island dressing
Butters & sunshine raspberries
What else would I spend my time doing?
Stars, society, and bunnies

An extremely disgusting apartment
Paul Simon, Jack White, T. Rex, and MORE
*chill sommelier* movement
Kim Gordon in the Marc Jacobs store

Being the Norwegian Wood of her,
I'm just gonna be a DESSERTS-WRITER
Plus some cool news about Jen and Cher-
Shit, is there anything better

But it's basically all there. The robot poet really nailed it. The William Blake of robot poets, seriously.

Apart from "Your summer," my number-one jam of summer 2016 is "Higher" by Nice as Fuck, which is Jenny Lewis's new band:

Also I think my summer drink might be pineapple cider? I had a tulip of that last night at Mohawk Bend, and mid-tulip the bar started playing "Gates of the West" by the Clash, which is definitely some kind of sign. Pineapple cider + Mick Jones deep cuts forevs <3 <3


I Gallantly Handed Her My Mulberry Blast Piece of Gum

Literally Every Single Thought I've Ever Had About
Fourth Time Around By Bob Dylan 

I don’t know where Bob Dylan lives, but I’d like to live there with him. I’d like him to live in upstate New York, in the Catskill mountains, in a log cabin of moderate size. He’d have a fire pit out back, and we’d sit around it in the evenings, and we wouldn’t have a pet, though sometimes stray cats would wander by. We’d feed them the traditional cat treat of a saucer full of milk, or maybe a can of tuna— not in a bowl, just an open can. We wouldn’t name them anything. Bob Dylan would think it was pointless to name an animal.
        Bob Dylan would call me Laura Jane: never Laura, never LJ. Laura Jane would sound girlish and old-fashioned to him, like the name of a girl in a Woody Guthrie song. I would call him Bob Dylan, or, if I was feeling playful, Bobby. Our relationship would be entirely non-sexual, since he’s mad old, but I’d probably marry him anyway. I'd want to experience the glory of having every person I’ve ever met find out that that’s what I did, that’s what happened to Laura Jane:
        She literally married Bob Dylan. They had, like, a wedding and shit.
        Marrying Bob Dylan would coax out my latent flair for handiness. As Bobby’s wife, I’d always be doing some odd job: fixing a leak, painting a wall. I’d wear one of those carpentry belts, with a tape measure tucked into a loop, and I’d have splatters of paint, and grout, on my jeans. I’d dress exclusively in Bob Dylan’s clothes from the 60s and 70s that didn’t fit him anymore: plaid button-ups, denim vests, suede trousers, desert boots. I’d always be carrying around a mug of something: hot cocoa, maybe, with mini-marshmallows in it, or more realistically black coffee. In late autumn, hot apple cider cut with whiskey, no— bourbon. We’d be big bourbon drinkers, Bob Dylan and I.
        It’s weird to think about what kind of food Bob Dylan likes to eat. I doubt he has much of a sweet tooth, except maybe for Crackerjacks, and candy corn in the fall. But at a restaurant he wouldn’t be tempted by, like, a slice of Oreo cheesecake or whatever, though on his birthday I’d bake him an apple pie, since there’s no way in hell Bob Dylan wouldn’t go in for a slice of apple pie if the opportunity presented itself. My pie wouldn’t be a massive failure but it wouldn’t be great, and we’d eat it with vanilla ice cream, the yellow kind.
        I imagine that Bob Dylan likes to eat a hamburger, with no cheese, only ketchup. For some reason I can’t imagine him eating chicken. He’d eat fish, but only if we caught it ourselves, and then cooked it over our campfire, and ate it with our fingers out of tinfoil.
        “I’ll debone it for you,” Bob Dylan would say, and I’d say “That’s what she said.”
        He’d eat plain buttered toast and a buttered baked potato, saltine crackers, tins of anchovies and sardines. Tuna melts on rye bread. He’d like Italian food, but he wouldn’t cook it himself— there’d be some mediocre red sauce Italian place in the tiny town closest to our cabin. Mamma Whoever, it’d be called, we’s go there once a month. Heavily-marked up Chianti of average quality and red & white checkered tablecloths, hideous gilt-framed paintings of Roman cityscapes on the wall. We’d share a plate of fried calamari with mayonnaisey sauce and fill up on bread— maybe he’d ask for butter instead of olive oil; I’d like it if he did. I don’t think we’d each have a go-to main that we’d always order; I feel like we’d switch it up. It seems likely that Bob Dylan is the kind of person who would always try the special. A steak maybe, cooked to medium, with a side of steamed veg and a sauce. Steak Diane, whatever that is.
        Those would be such special nights for us. They would always feel like holidays. I would drink until my cheeks turned red and he would tell me stories: the story of the time he became a born-again Christian, the story of the time he rode around London in the back of a limo fucked up on heroin with John Lennon and he puked and John Lennon didn’t. “Do you think John Lennon would have loved me?” I’d ask him, and he’d say “You betcha.” “What about George?” I’d ask, and he’d say “George woulda liked you just fine.” He’d say things like “Hell of a night, ain’t it?” and “Snow up to your knees out there” and “I don’t much go in for that sorta thing,” “Fat chance.” I’d make him read every word I ever wrote before I put it up on the Internet, but he’d never give me the reaction I want. His feedback would be scathing, and I wouldn’t take it well. “Okay, Bob Dylan,” I’d pout, “I get it. I’m a horrible writer, and I should probably just give up.”
        “Oh can it with the self-pity,” he’d tell me: “You got a helluva talent, Laura Jane.” 


My Barcelona Birthday



In Barcelona I lived in a little room that was also a house. It was connected to Ivy’s house, a regular house, through the back garden, and in the mornings I’d wake up later than I wake up in London but still pretty early for being a person on holiday, and I’d fix myself a cup of coffee and a bowl of Kefir & bran flakes and eat my breakfast outside, alone with my phone, the sunlight dissolving into my skin.

In 2016 my birthday fell on a Friday, which was also Brexit Day. I woke up and crawled across my mattress to go check my phone and the first message I read was from my flatmate Charlotte. She wished me a happy birthday and then apologized for her country being stupid, but my brain couldn’t understand what she was saying— I’d been so sure that Brexit wasn’t going to happen that my first thought was, “Well, Brexit obviously didn’t happen, but something else must have,” and then I looked at Twitter and realized that Brexit actually did happen, and I felt a lot of complex feelings at once, the most immediate being straight shock. I felt like a traitor for not being in England, which I realized that morning really has become my home. Then I felt a lot of personal feelings about Brexit’s relationship to my own moving back to London in the future, which were disturbing, and then I remembered that it was my birthday, and selfishly felt annoyed at Brexit for ruining my birthday. That feeling then mutated into my feeling perversely thrilled by the theatre of it all, imagining my future self telling an amusing anecdote about the time Brexit ruined my birthday, and then I felt guilty for being selfish enough to think such a selfish thought, and then I ate my breakfast and smoked a hundred cigarettes and settled into an awkward, hesitant state of acceptance. Then I went for a Spain-run. 

Spain-runs were some of the most beautiful times of my entire trip. I ran faster and harder than I ever knew I could there, I didn’t run I zoomed, a blur in the dry heat. The whole world flashed by me in a sassy color-wash of pastel peaches, seashell pinks & baby blues. I ran past orange trees and old people, I felt I was making a point about youth & the beauty of it: “Don’t worry, I’m appreciating this,” I wanted to stop and tell the old people, “My body is functioning marvellously. I am thirty-one years old today.”
        The whole world was so warm, the whole world had a tan. I thought, “This is why they named the Valencia filter Valencia.” The streets were made of sand. I thought about running forever, never stopping running, running til I died. I listened to Obviously Five Believers and then Otis by Kanye and, for my final leg, did the corny embarrassing thing of listening to Birthday by the Beatles on my birthday. I was in Spain. I thought, “This is why you have done everything you have ever done.” I thought, “Life has brought you here.” I thought, “I have brought myself here,” and then ruined the moment for myself by thinking, “STOP! Stop enjoying yourself. You’re not allowed to feel joyful. Think of all your friends back home in London. It’s grey and rainy there, and their entire country has just fucked itself; yours hasn’t, you're Canadian, you have a handsome young prime minister with a tattoo on his bicep that is ugly but hey, a tattoo’s a tattoo. His birthday is on Christmas Day, and soon you’re going to be able to buy pot at the liquor store, and it won’t say your gender on your driver’s license.”
       That was when I decided not to let Brexit kill my birthday vibe. I thought, “I’d choose Brexit Day being on my birthday over Brexit Day being not on my birthday,” and I felt grateful to have dodged the bullet of being in crap-vibes Brexity grey-day London for my birthday, and ran back to Ivy’s, and took a shower, and my hair looked fucking great that day. It had turned a little bit amber from the sun.