31.12.23

Things of the Year: Lindsey Buckingham, Black Licorice Ice Cream

LAURA'S THING OF THE YEAR: LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM

2023 was a really boring year for me. I took a six-month long data analytics course between April and October, so I spent most of my year doing weird computer math and feeling disconnected from my actual personality. In January I went to Arizona, but January doesn’t really count as part of the year. January always has more of a “last year” vibe to it.  

The most interesting thing that happened to me in 2023 was that I fell in love with Lindsey Buckingham. I figured out I loved Lindsey Buckingham while walking home from work in the middle of June. I was listening to Tusk, which I first found out existed eighteen years ago, when a girl I used to DJ with played me the first Lindsey song I ever loved, What Makes You Think You’re The One.

I loved What Makes You Think You’re The One immediately. Some songs you have to listen to five or six times before they get under your nails, but that one hit straight away. It’s so rowdy, so fresh, like opening up the creaky white front door of your shabby oceanside cottage and being rudely yet invigoratingly smacked in the face by a mean, cold, Novembery breeze.

Eighteen years ago, I didn’t understand how it was a Fleetwood Mac song. Back then, I “hated” Fleetwood Mac. I disliked all the popular singles off Rumours, and Stevie Nicks’ genius didn’t speak to me. In the present tense, I think Stevie is fine, though I will always find her witchy aesthetic off-putting. I live in a world of clean lines and brutal honesty, and the art I love reflects it.

Why is a boy singing it? I wondered. Since when is there a boy in Fleetwood Mac? I looked at the album cover, which was austere and had a dog on it. I guess on this weird Fleetwood Mac album with a dog on it, a boy sometimes sings. I had no idea who that boy was, or that his name was, of all names, Lindsey. Such a hot name for a dude!

But I didn’t care. In that era of my life, all I wanted was a cool song to play to the twelve people that came to my DJ night every Tuesday. I collected 45s, and was enamored by the idea of the physical single: a song as a possession, an artifact, a song that I could hold.
 
**



For seventeen years, I was content with loving What Makes You Think You’re The One as a unique object. No part of me was interested in further exploring the austere-looking album with a dog on it.

Last year, in 2022, while watching the excellent though terribly named HBO TV show Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Honestly, why didn’t they just call it The Lake Show? That name was right there waiting for them), I started loving a second song from Tusk: its title track, Tusk. It played over a montage of the 1979/80 Los Angeles Lakers winning a bunch of games dazzlingly, and was so monstrous and bombastic that I had choice but to Shazam it. It’s so embarrassing to Shazam a song. Everyone is at their personal most vulnerable while Shazaming.

I will probably always associate Tusk with vintage basketball, and with athleticism in general. I love listening to Tusk while going ham on the elliptical machine or stomping exuberantly down a city street. This past July, I was soberly walking down Dundas Street behind an obviously drunk girl. The drunk girl was walking alone and clearly going through it: at one point she stopped to smell a flower in someone’s yard, then turned on a dime and rejected the notion of behaving positively toward a flower and ripped it off its stalk. Then she threw it into oncoming traffic. She jumped into the air and tried to smack a way-high-up tree branch with her fingertips. I thought, So many times, I have been you. I hoped she was listening to Tusk.

            Tusk is a perfect balance of exactly 50% creepy and 50% celebratory, which is a very Lindsey-y vibe. When I got into it last summer, I intuitively knew that it was written by the same “boy” as my snarling and beloved What Makes You Think You’re The One, a boy who I was by then secure in knowing was named Lindsey Buckingham.

**

In May of this year, I was at work, working. I was sitting at the bar, entering some numbers into columns on my laptop. As a function of whatever “70s daytime chill” Spotify playlist someone had indifferently put on, Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain began to play. I’m sure I had some baseline negative reaction to it in my head, then went back to not caring about it, then noticed I was actually sort of liking it. I started involuntarily drumming along to it on the side of the bar, and possibly even grooving a little, like with my shoulders or whatever. Disgusting! I think it’s unsightly to do things like chair-dance in public; you should sit still like a big girl. But, unprecedented as it was, something about The Chain was calling out to me, and I announced to whoever happened to be in my vicinity: “This is the most I’ve ever loved The Chain in my life!”

The next day, I walked across the city from my apartment to my dad’s. I was listening to music on headphones, and after about fifteen minutes of listening to boring whatever, I remembered how excellent The Chain had sounded the day before, and started craving it.

I gave in, and listened to The Chain on repeat for the remainder of my walk. It was a memorable walk. I walked through three neighbourhoods, and in each neighbourhood, I realized, I looked like something completely different. In my own neighbourhood, I looked like what I was: a sort of cool woman in her late thirties on an off-day. In the next neighbourhood, King West, hordes of generationally wealthy young’uns were dressed up to eat fancy bad brunch by ring-light, and I looked like the scrub of the year. To them I’m sure I came off like a depressing fifty-year-old. Finally, I passed St. Lawrence Market and reached my dad’s neighbourhood, populated by unimaginative tourists and fifty-plus condo dwellers, where I sparkled like a fabulous supermodel. Looks mean nothing, I thought. I look like nothing.

Formally, The Chain doesn’t count as a Lindsey song: The Chain is the only Fleetwood Mac song co-authored by all five members of the band. When I listen to it now, I wonder which contributions are Lindsey’s, and if the Lindsey-fifth composes the bulk of what calls out to me. The part of The Chain I love most, and think of often, is of course the lyric, “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again,” which is an endearingly/ irritatingly dramatic thing to say. To me it sounds like a Lindsey lyric, since Lindsey lyrics are often bolstered by an undercurrent of mean-spiritedness. He’s always pettily making some point about how someone else’s bad behaviour is ruining his day, then making a judgment call about it. These are not the most virtuous of vibes, but they’re legitimate vibes we have all experienced, and every real vibe deserves representation.

Mostly I like to think about whether or not If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again is universally true. It’s a grand assertion, which I love, but the dark side of a grand assertion is that they very often mean nothing at all. Very often, they’re just some idiotic thing a drama queen said to get a reaction out of somebody else.

 I don’t think “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again” is sometimes true and sometimes isn’t. I think it must either be a universal truth or else complete bullshit. On the one hand, it’s reasonable to think that love is a constant: if you love someone, you love someone, always have and always will. Love, using this logic, will do anything to stay alive. It will float like a vapour outside an airplane window and ooze through tiny crevices like Alex Mack. Severing a love connection is like beheading someone. There is no coming back from it.  

Or maybe not! Maybe love is indifferent and we all make way too big a deal out of it. I once knew a man who likened sex to playing tennis: “back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” he said, so blasé, shrugging, like all of it was nothing. Maybe love is like that too.

Maybe love isn’t turbulent so much as it’s athletic, one person vs. another, a competitive and constructed state that Lindsey Buckingham entirely deserves to write a defensive lyric about, abruptly ending the game with a cool finality. He wins.

**



I don’t care about Rumours. For the most part, I think it’s tacky. Even the cover is offensive to me, with no Lindsey in sight, just Stevie and Mick Fleetwood looking like the most affected high school theatre nerds you ever met in your life. Mick’s limp little ponytail photographed from that hard side angle makes me feel depressed to share a birthday with him (which I do).  

There are three Lindsey songs on Rumours, but one of them is Go Your Own Way, which sounds like twenty thousand car commercials and doesn’t count. So,

There are two Lindsey songs on Rumours: Never Going Back Again and Second Hand News. Never Going Back Again is the one I like less of the two, although I do like it. It sounds very fresh and clear, encapsulating a feeling of waking up in the morning, opening your eyes and having an overwhelming feeling of decisiveness about your day. Sorry to harp on the montage thing, but I love a fucking montage, and Never Going Back Again sounds like it should be playing in a Nora Ephron movie montage of the main character cleaning her house, and the cleaning of the house would be a metaphor for the untangling of her soul.

Second Hand News, my favourite Lindsey song on Rumours, is a lyrically sadsack-y but sonically jolly romp through the grass featuring Lindsey at his dorkiest, which works. Normally I prefer for Lindsey to be a cool guy, but since Rumours is so intrinsically corny, it’s relevant that he leans in.

Many times over the course of this tune, Lindsey sings the non-words, “Doot-doodley-doo.” I’m not a person who would ever respond to any “doot-doodley-doo,” in fact my fear of “doot-doodley-doo -energy is what kept me very far away from Rumours for thirty-eight years, but there is something a little different about a Lindsey “doot-doodley-doo”: it’s a powerful, almost hateful, “doot-doodley-doo.” That nasty/nerdy paradox is intrinsic to the Lindsey Buckingham experience; I can’t think of anyone else in the world who could ever imbue a “doot-doodley-doo” with such palpable, genuine violence.

But of course the crown jewel of the Second Hand News lyric is, “Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff?” When I first heard Lindsey ask this chill and beautiful question, I interpreted it to mean “Will everybody leave me alone for one goddamned second of my life so I can take refuge in the majestic beauty of the natural environment and, like, make art about it?” But after a few more listens, I realized that Lindsey is likelier talking about sex. The preceding lyric— “When times go bad/ And you can't get enough…”— is the tell. And later in the song, there’s a call-back where he sings: “Oh, couldn’t you just let me go down and do my stuff?” and that kind of spells the sex thing out for you.

I like this interpretation too. It’s like, “I know our relationship is in deep trouble at the moment, and I don’t feel great about it, but maybe we could just put it out of our minds for tonight and I’ll put a solid effort into having better-than-usual sex with you, which I feel like you’ll be into.” And I’m sorry, but if you can’t relate to using sex as a band-aid solution to momentarily fix your broken relationship, I don’t think that Lindsey Buckingham and I are the right fit for you.

One last thing I’d like to say during the sex portion of this essay is that I would be very interested in holding a round table discussion centred around the topic, “Who is a better lover: Mick Fleetwood or Lindsey Buckingham?” I bet a lot of people would want to make the point that Mick is a better lover because he’s less hot and therefore has more to prove, but I strongly disagree with these hypothetical Mick-supporters, which is saying a lot, because in almost any other situation I would big time stand up for the person who has the same birthday as me being better at sex. But I just think it’s really obvious that Lindsey Buckingham can fuck.

**

In June, I finally bit the bullet and started listening to Tusk, the austere Fleetwood Mac album with a dog on the cover. Tusk, I realized, is the perfect Fleetwood Mac album for me. It’s Lindsey-dominant, and the Lindsey Universe is chilly, earthy, meandering and spare. Emotionally, it’s on the depressing side of neutral; organizationally, it reminds me of two other strange and disjointed albums I love deeply, Sandinista! and The White Album. Let us take a moment to celebrate their adjacent lack of cohesion, and the concept of lack of cohesion in general. I’m over cohesion. I want everything to be oddly shaped and I want all the pointy edges to jut out so everybody’s banging into each other all the time. I want the ambiance to be universally unsettling and I want all the math to stop adding up and I want to revert to the Julian calendar so that it will never be the real day it’s supposed to be again. I want to listen to Tusk.

I’ve finally gotten us to the point where I’m walking home from work in the middle of June, the time from the first sentence in this essay, when I figured the whole thing out.

I was walking home from work, listening to Tusk. Not That Funny comes after That’s All For Everyone, the first of two times on the album when you get two Lindsey songs in a row. There’s a moment in That’s All when Lindsey sings the words I can’t stay, I can’t deceive in a voice so heart-wrenching it makes you want to get a fucking tattoo about it. Every time I hear it, the I can’t stay makes me feel like someone I’m in love with just told me that they love me— it’s a similar style of feeling seen. I went on a meditation retreat last summer, and this thing happened to me where I stopped being able to understand what my personality is, which was uncomfortable but a win overall, since personalities are pretty futile. Since then, the only thing in the world I can think of as being “my personality” is the sound of Lindsey Buckingham singing I can’t stay. I can’t deceive is beautiful too, but I don’t think I’m I can’t deceive yet. I can’t deceive is my aspiration.

The famous thing about Not That Funny is that Lindsey Buckingham sang the entire thing while in a push-up position. I actually don’t know how famous that fact is. I learned it on the Not That Funny Wikipedia entry, my go-to source for all things Lindsey Buckingham. Says the Not That Funny Wikipedia entry, “Retrospectively, Marcello Carlin of Uncut described it as a "disturbing" song on which Buckingham’s near-psychotic guitar and vocal screams approach Pere Ubu territory.” I don’t know anything about Pere Ubu or Pere Ubu territory, but it makes me feel proud of Lindsey Buckingham that this Marcello person called him “disturbing” and “psychotic” in the space of one sentence.

Hearing those two songs in a row, it’s very obvious that they were written by the same guy. Standing in the middle of a short little street I walk down almost every night yet have never bothered to learn the name of, a street that kind of reminds me of England, but doesn’t, I opened up the Wikipedia entry for Tusk and saw that every song I loved was written by Lindsey. I thought, “What a hot name for a dude!”

**



In the years following my short-lived DJ era, I became a lyrics-centric music-listener, and to truly love a song I needed to love the lyrics. I needed them to express a sentiment that I related to, and I needed them to be written by a person who I believed was similar to myself. I was dependent on music, co-dependent, asked a lot of it. I needed whatever assortment of sounds coming from my headphones to make me feel like I wasn’t alone. But in adulthood, I don’t crave that feeling at all.

Every day, I feel both deeply alone and not alone at all, and the music I’m listening to plays no role in either state. I just want to listen to the sound of songs sounding good. It’s a quiet, simple pleasure.

On an afternoon in early July, I crossed an imaginary barrier into knowing each Lindsey song on Tusk as an individual entity. Prior to that afternoon, they were all sort of mushed up together, like looking across the street without glasses on. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure which was which. But with time they all came into focus, and I became aware of my relationship to each of them, and I knew when I needed which, and what it might be good for, at what time of day it might sound best. Another six months has since passed, and now I know them even better. I know every word to every one of Lindsey’s songs. I even know all the words that aren’t the words to his songs, though could have been— one morning in August, I was taking an incredibly long subway ride to the go watch a full day of tennis at the National Bank Open (Carlos Alcaraz lost that day, and my dad texted me, Thanks for jinxing Carlos, which I thought was unfair). I was anxious on the subway, anxious about work and school and life and, ultimately, nothing, and I listened to all the Lindsey demos, outtakes, and early versions from the deluxe version of Tusk. The one that hit me hardest was his earliest version of That’s All For Everyone, which features a completely different lyric than the final cut: I’m so broken, he sings, But that’s alright. It’s an unoriginal, unimpressive lyric, something that a teenager would write, but he sings it like a wounded deer wailing, and every time I hear it, I feel something, and now when I listen to the cocky, sober album version, where it’s replaced with the damning I kill for everyone, I can hear the softer sentiment echoing behind it. In an early, punky demo of I Know I’m Not Wrong, he repeatedly wonders, Don’t know why I have to be so strong. This sentiment doesn’t make it to the final version, where it’s replaced with the deflecting Don’t blame me/ Please be strong. I am obsessed with wondering why he might have decided to make the change, if it was an act of self-preservation or if maybe he just didn’t feel like that anymore.

My favourite Lindsey song on Tusk is called Walk A Thin Line. It happened on that afternoon in early July, walking down the ugliest street in my neighbourhood, a street that is literally impossible for me to romanticize in writing. I heard the green swirls of it, and I knew something. I left writing about it until the end of this essay because it’s my favourite and for some reason that makes it the most important, but really, because it’s my favourite it’s the one I have the least to say about, or the one that I find loving the hardest to explain. It does contain the lyric “Fate takes time,” which is major. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo of it, but probably not. I take it too seriously. Unlike “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again,” I knew “Fate takes time” was unequivocally true the second I heard it. I was so proud of Lindsey for thinking up something so smart.

LIZ'S THING OF THE YEAR: BLACK LICORICE ICE CREAM & OTHER BEAUTIFUL FOODS

Here's a list of all my favorite things I ate/drank in 2023:

i. On December 16 I flew from Los Angeles to Massachusetts for Christmas and then on December 17 I flew to Las Vegas for a wedding on the 18th and then on the morning of the 19th I flew back to Massachusetts. It was a weird move and at first I had major anxiety about making it happen, but then on the first day of December I was driving home listening to "Margaret" by Lana Del Rey and when Lana sang "By the way, the party's December 18" I was like Oh my god you're right. The wedding was at the chapel where Frank Sinatra married Mia Farrow and Ben Affleck married Jennifer Lopez and the minister was an Elvis impersonator and the reception was at the Punk Rock Museum where I took this good picture. I was going to do an exhaustive food diary for my trip but instead here's a quick little list: 

-cheeseburgers and fries from room service at midnight the night I flew in, plus some sauv blanc in an ice bucket and a few sips of Scott's vanilla milkshake

-a Bloody Mary in the lounge at the Peppermill and then banana pancakes with scrambled eggs and sausage links and coffee

-a birria quesadilla from the taco truck at the reception and then a piece of confetti wedding cake, plus some champagne 

-a "Nurse Ginger Greene" smoothie from the hotel lobby (spinach, kale, ginger, avocado, lemon, banana, date, maple), which I drank at like 6:30 in the morning while walking around the Nutcracker-themed display in the Bellagio botanical gardens


ii. In May my sister and I went to Egypt to visit my best friend and our first weekend there we stayed at the Old Cataract, which is the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile. At breakfast there was strawberry juice, lemon mint juice, carrot juice, dried apricots and figs, halva, whole kiwis, pancakes with Nutella, custard-filled donuts, flaky pastries with whole dates inside, a million other magnificent things. I drank strawberry juice almost every day and fell in love with mahalabia (rose water milk pudding), and before our 3 a.m. flight home I got an Oreo McFlurry at the Cairo airport. And on the way to Cairo I met my sister in Miami and we had dinner at a Cuban place in South Beach where they sold Alka-Seltzer and guava pastries by the register and the salad dressing was homemade Italian in a Heinz ketchup bottle. We sat at the counter and I had shrimp and rice and beer and it was heaven.


iii. a cone of black licorice ice cream from Fosselman's in Alhambra, which stained my teeth and tongue and lips black. As an anise experience it's less of a black-jelly-bean scenario and much more akin to Italian cookies on Christmas- a cool little confluence of garish and delicate.

iv. a cherry and cheese danish from the donut shop in Boogie Nights on a cloudy afternoon in Reseda, where I went to research a short story I had published in Lit Angels earlier this year. The story is called "A Concept Album About the Feral Cats of Reseda" and I made a playlist to go with it, here

v. Trader Joe's Winter Sangria Seltzer which pairs beautifully with Tragedy Oil by Marissa Zappas 

vi. On a Saturday morning in November my boyfriend and I went to get coffee downtown with a musician guy who's very important to me (I feel weird saying his name but here's a thing Jen May and I wrote 10 years ago, it's really good). I typed coffee just then but really he and my bf split a big French press and I drank an iced matcha made with Earl Grey, essence of pink rose petals, and oat milk, which is exactly the type of floofy drink I only allow myself on special occasions. I wanted to exist in a pink-rose-petal-y state of mind; I wanted to radiate a serene and lovely energy to outshine all my nervousness. I expected the dude to be completely wonderful and he was, and for days afterward I was high on the cute thrill of drinking iced matcha on the sidewalk with someone from one of my favorite bands since I was 14. The big thing I kept thinking about was Christmas morning when I was 16 and my stepdad had bought me that band's third album and after opening presents I went up to my room and put the CD on and got in bed and read Lisa Crystal Carver's liner notes, which remain one of the top five most formative literary works of my life. It kinda reminds me of that spoken part in the middle of "Quest for the Cup" that goes: "All your dreams will come true. All my dreams came true, but now I have a bunch of other dreams." 

vii. I already wrote about all my favorite things I cooked this year, but now I feel like showing off some of the cakes I baked:




viii. a Baked Alaska at Lawry's, prepared tableside by a man who spooned blue flames from some sort of magical steel pot, split between me and five of my friends on a Friday night in Beverly Hills 

ix. a piña colada served in a cracked coconut shell at the Broken Compass, when my sister came to visit in September

x. a banana cream pie from Johnny's Pastrami in West Adams, eaten on the ride home from my Friday afternoon writing class in August, in celebration of my 20th anniversary of living in Los Angeles 

xi. Caesar salad with grilled shrimp + side of fries + a Bloody Mary at the Logan Airport Legal Sea Foods, aka the all-time #1 pre-night-flight airport meal

xii. a cute little bottle of Coke at Musso & Frank's, where we got shrimp cocktail to start and I impulse-ordered the avocado cocktail to go with it. I was picturing something archaic and elegant like when Betty Draper orders an avocado stuffed with crabmeat from room service when she and Don stay at the Savoy on Valentine's Day; really it was just an avocado artlessly doused in Thousand Island. It was totally stupid but I felt a great affection for it anyway. Also I just learned that an avocado stuffed with crabmeat is called an avocado mimosa, which is very beautiful and inspiring to me. I love it so much I'm going to make it my entire life concept for 2024. My new year's resolution is avocado mimosa. 


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