31.7.15

Brick Lane Beigels Are A Very Important Part Of My Personal Iconography



BY LAURA JANE


I work on Brick Lane, directly across the street from Brick Lane Beigel. For the first month that I worked across the street from Brick Lane Beigel, I decided to ignore Brick Lane Beigel. I just didn't have time for it, at that point in my life, like three weeks ago or whatever. I had enough going on, what with settling into a new job and having it be my birthday and having to go to the eye hospital one time and all. Plus, I used to live in New York City, and I'm really loyal to New York City bagels, and I've already been through the experience of moving to another world-famous bagel city and having everyone rave about how much better the bagels are than New York bagels and then trying one and being let down. It was Montreal, and I hate Montreal bagels. They are tiny and hard, like an old person who has lived a crappy life and is sour about it. They are literally sour, sourdough bagels. 

So, I assumed that Brick Lane Beigels were probably stupid like Montreal bagels. I wouldn't expect very much of a bagel from England of all countries, though even at my most skeptical I appreciated the spelling: "beigel." I think New York City should go back to beigel too. It's so attractively reminiscent of old-timey Judaism.  


The first time I ever ate a Brick Lane Beigel I was in a bad mood and one of my co-workers called herself a "cheeky beigel-monkey" and I was like "I want to be a cheeky beigel-monkey" and then I ate a salt beef beigel standing alone on the street and, shortly after, died of happiness. That night I obsessively told every person who crossed my path that I'd eaten a salt beef beigel that day, and then I ate one every day for three days, and they stayed as good as they had the first day, which freaked me out. Things are supposed to get worse and worse with time. Why didn't anybody ever tell salt beef beigels that they need to get worse. 

They're too powerful. 

A couple weeks later, or days later, I can't remember, I ate a cream cheese beigel in the morning and then Charlotte came and got drunk with me in my empty restaurant. I didn't want to eat two beigels in one day because... I don't know, I guess it was just an arbitrary thing. They're not even that big or crazy carby or anything. It's not like eating two, like, footlong Subways in one day. That's something you definitely shouldn't want to do. Beigels, fine. 

I decided to try a tuna-sweetcorn-mayo bagel that night. It had been calling out to me all three weeks or two days or however long it was. It's kind of a gross thing to order, but I like gross food. I like tuna salad, a good soggy tunafish sandwich on whole wheat. Here's some fun UK gossip for all the North Americans out there: in England, they pronounce tuna like "chew-na," and it's really gross. Sorry, that's rude of me. I guess to be fair about things every English person I know is now allowed- no, encouraged- to tell me which thing I say is disgusting to them. Anyway, my tuna bagel sucked. Charlotte was eating a salt beef bagel next to me and I could smell it and it smelled so good and I was so sad about how stupid I was for choosing that moment, of all moments, to not order salt beef. The next day I woke up thinking about salt beef and then I kept thinking about salt beef and I got to work and sat down with my laptop and started writing emails and then was like "What am I even doing?" and went across the street and got a salt beef bagel. There was this one really special strand of particularly fatty, stringy salt beef on that particular salt beef bagel. That was probably, like, seven salt beef bagels ago. The strand of beef fell out of the bagel and it was stuck inside the paper bag and I was sitting at a table with a bunch of co-workers and I felt self-conscious to pull the fatty hunk of meat out from the greasy, crunchy paper bag and feed it to myself like a satyr feeding a Greek god grapes or whatever, so I took the whole bag out of the room and ate it alone sitting on the staircase and it was, like, fucked up how special that moment was. 



I've since come around to tuna sweetcorn mayos. They're a good Monday lunch beigel. They're not appropriate for being drunk or when someone is eating salt beef next to you and especially not for both at the same time, unless you are a for real masochist who has given up on the possibility on ever being happy and relishes in experiencing bleak, fucked up levels of misery. Ten days ago I gave myself the assignment of eating every kind of Brick Lane Beigel there is and writing about it but I failed at it. I had a chicken bagel last week. The chicken was a cross between boiled and roasted and I was obsessed with it even though it blatantly sucked and was boring. I ate it with lots of salt and pepper alone in my restaurant and it was texturally unique. The chicken was sleek. Brick Lane Beigels come in waxed brown paper bags and the feeling of crunching up that bag in your fist is part of it. When you have salt beef the grease soaks through the bag and nothing is better than that bag, that grease. A smear of mustard on the greasy bag. People have been smearing mustard on those greasy bags since 1900. So many restaurants try to be cute and special but they will never be as cute or special as that bag so sucks to be everyone, all of us, everyone who isn't that bag. 

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Okay. Now it's Tuesday. Tuesday, July 28th, 2015. I was going to eat a herring beigel today, but then my afternoon escaped me and by the time I had a second to eat a bagel I felt too hungry for a herring bagel, which are kind of weenie-looking, so I had a salmon & cream cheese bagel with salad. "Salad," at Brick Lane Beigel, means they shove some cuke & tomato slices onto your beigel: it's 20p, a decent deal. The tomatoes they use are so red, so unnecessarily high in quality! I would not be that appalled by the presence of a mealy whitish tomato slice on a scrappy bagel I payed like a pound for. 

The salmon & cream cheese Brick Lane beigel is not my fave. It made me think of a conversation between a stupid person and a smart person, where the stupid person is trying to convince the smart person of something, and the stupid person is being very loud and aggressive and weird about it, and then the smart person is just sort of sitting there smiling and nodding quietly and clenching their entire body very tightly with the tension of wishing so deeply they could do something to make the stupid person be quiet. The stupid person, in this metaphor, is the salmon. The smart person is the beigel. The smoked salmon makes such a stupidly big deal out of itself to a point where every non-salmony beigel bite I ate was a really joyful experience for me. It made me appreciate the beigel on a new level. 

The cream cheese and salad didn't hugely factor into my issues with today's beigel. They were innocent bystanders, extras in the film. 

Oh BTW I'm going to eat a different kind of beigel every day this week, until Friday, when I post my beigel-themed blog post. So only for the next three days really, which is not too out of character for me anyway. Here is a beigel-themed self-portrait I took: 



Hey! Wednesday here. Wednesday LJ, who ate a chopped herring bagel todayl! Wowie wow wow wow. What an adventure of a beigel the herring one is! I woke up this morning and settled into existing in the ways that I normally do (eggs, vitamins, coffee, Internet), and then my brain was just like... WHOA! HERRING! It was so clear to me, from as soon as the texture and narrative of this day became a Thing, that a chopped herring beigel was demanding to be a part of it. It was my only goal in the world for about five hours. I was so directional about it. I just needed to get myself to the bagel. 

I had no expectations. I didn't know what the herring was going to look like, on the bagel. I forgot that it was "chopped herring," and was imagining the herring as being real little herrings, individual fishies, laid out on the surface of the bagel like sardines in a tin. "Will they be salty?" I wondered. I was so curious! Even a bit naive. And I was nervous to order the beigel, like it was too "legit" of a beigel order for my weird North American-accented self to be ordering. Every time I buy myself a beigel I feel like I fuck it up somehow. The ladies who work there are all about eighty billion years old and we don't communicate too well. Plus, they are assholes. The other day I paid for my £2 bagel with a ten-pound note and the one lady, the brunette, the meanest, was like "You have £2?" and I was like "No, obvs," and then she basically told me she didn't have change to give me and I was like "What the fuck do I do" but then it turned out she did, she was just trying to hoard her change. And once I asked for "pickle on the side" and they were like "PICKLE?!?" and I realized you have to call it "gherkin" so the next day I asked for "Gherkin on the side" and they were like "ON THE SIDE?!?" And then I was like "Yeah, just throw it in the bag," and they were like "It's going to soak through the bag. Make sure the bag doesn't break." Like OKAY don't worry guys I'm pretty sure I can handle carrying a pickle in a paper bag across the street without my entire life falling apart. Thank you for your concern.

Anyway, I got my bagel and ran across the street and a bunch of my fun co-workers were sitting around doing laptop work and everyone seemed to be in a really cool and hyper mood, so I set up shop in my little spot, and I tucked into my beigel, and it was the most CRAZY MAGICAL thing! (Not "crazy, magical"- "crazy magical.") I loved it SO MUCH! The herring, I realized then, as we all know now, is chopped. It's sort of like a relish, a sweet brown paste, with an extraordinarily fishy undertone. Nope. Overtone. Eating one would be a good way to explain the concept of "umami" to someone who didn't understand it, AKA everyone- it's a tough one to wrap your head around! At wine school they explain it to you by making you eat powdered MSG, which is sort of fucked in my opinion. 

You know how sometimes people say "bagel nosh"? I don't really know what "nosh" means, in that context, but I feel like maybe I do, viscerally, now that I've eaten a chopped herring beigel. I noshed it. And, at the same time, it was a nosh. We all were.

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Happy Thursday! Today I decided to really go apeshit on Brick Lane Beigel and try a salami bagel. I initially wrote that sentence as "go ham on Brick Lane Beigel" but then I remembered that salami is probably made out of pork (right?) so it kind of became this half-pun half-non-pun and I hated it. But still wanted to honour it. 

I did not enjoy my salami bagel. It was by far the worst Brick Lane Beigel I have ever had. The salami was weird, and ugly, and creepy. It just looked like a thick round block of pinkness on the bagel. It was a shade of pink that I would traditionally associate more with lipstick than with meat. I had a plan that I would order it with mustard and gherkin but then I shook things up at the last second and had it with "salad" and mayo instead. It sounded "fresher" to me that way. I took it into work and people weren't in chirpy fun moods like they were yesterday. One of my co-workers was on the phone with BT and kept saying "I'm going to kill myself." Then I juiced a case of lemons while wearing a leopard print dress and knew there was a Tweet in there somewhere but I didn't have the energy to find it. 

My beigel was nice in that it was food and I was hungry. But a really strange thing happened, midway through my eating it: I realized there was butter on it. Butter. BUTTER. How fucked is that??? 

I fought through my initial impulse to passionately hate on myself for eating a sandwich featuring both butter and mayonnaise, but "It's not your fault," I reminded myself, in a Good WIll Hunting way. It was true. There is a zero percent chance I would have ordered mayonnaise on my beigel had I known it would come equipped with a thick-ass splatula-ed slab of butter jammed into the back of it, not even evenly dispersed across the whole beigel. Thankfully they did such a shit job of spreading condiments onto the beigel that I never had to eat a bite of beigel that was salami, butter and mayonnaise at the same time. That would have killed me. I think it would have broken my heart. 

The salami didn't taste like anything. I was barely even thinking about the taste of things- I was mostly thinking about regret. Though I did develop a new emotion somewhere along the way, the journey, which was: deep respect. Deep respect for the beigel shop owners and their commitment to the insane belief that butter should be on salami beigels. One of my colleagues asked me what kind of beigel was having and I was ashamed of the answer so skirted the issue by saying "My thing this week is ordering every single kind of beigel on the menu," and then he asked me "White or yellow?" to mean "At the beigel shop with the white sign, or the beigel shop with the yellow sign?" and I said "White" and then he told me that at the yellow sign beigel shop they have different fillings, different options. 

"They have bacon," he said about the yellow sign place, "Bacon and cream cheese, that's the ticket." 

"I guess I know what I'm doing next week," I said, implying that what I'd be doing next week would be eating a bacon and cream cheese beigel. But it was a lie: I'm beigeled out. I'm not going to be eating any beigels next week. (Except for the tuna one I'm obviously going to eat on Monday, since let's be real here tuna beigels make for perfect Mondays and no amount of salami butter grossness is capable of fucking with that.) 

10.7.15

Thing Of The Week: LJ's Vouvray, A Glass of Champagne with a Shot of Chambord

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: My Vouvray. My Vouvray! 



I wrote a wine list! And not just, like, for fun: it was work, or rather, "work." Work goes in the quotes there because it was really, barely work, as what I know work to be- it was definitely the most fun I've ever had doing something someone was paying me to do. I really want to figure out a way to swing "only writing wine lists" as being my job- I don't want to be a sommelier, since sommeliers have to polish glasses, and I ain't got time for that. I just want to swoop into every restaurant in the world, write them a magnificent wine list, and then swoop out as quick as I came, never to be seen again. Is that a thing? Can I make that a thing? I want to be that, and then also be "Kanye West's personal wine consultant," and "a novelist who lives on a vineyard." Let me know if you have any suggestions for how I can turn these dreams into a reality AKA do you know Kanye? Please tell Kanye about me. 

I suppose that "writing an actual wine list for a functioning, operating restaurant" is a good first step on the road to becoming Yeezy's swoopy wine guru. It's a really sick wine list, but it's also very functional, and only about 3% self-indulgent. Too many wine lists in this world are just a big chaotic mess of some crackpot sommelier jerking himself off. Nobody wants your weird wine that tastes like basement, loser! I'm the people's sommelier. You can't ask every single person in the world to care deeply about wine, or even care at all; I want the people to have chill, delicious wines that taste like fruit and get them drunky drunk, and then they can try out the weirder, cooler shit if they're balling harder than usual or feeling a little experimental that day. I judge the excellence of a given wine list by the quality of their house white and red. It's about a billion times harder to find a solid, good value house wine then it is to curate a list of sexy and expensive stunnas. 

No disrespect to sexy and expensive stunnas, though! When I started working on my list I had a vision of what I wanted my sexiest, most expensive stunna to be, and then I found it: it's my Vouvray. My Vouvray is called "Cuvee Pere Lucien," which means "My Dad Lucien's Cuvee," which is cool. Lucien is such a good name for a dad who you named your Vouvray after. Lucien's Vouvray tastes like honey, straw, macadamia nuts, chantilly cream, steel, and flowers; according to the Internet, it also tastes like quinces, but I have my doubts about that. Anytime a tasting note says a wine tastes like quinces, I'm like "Shut this down, you're making shit up." Nothing tastes like quinces. Quinces taste like nothing. 

Last week, I had a bottle of my Vouvray that I took home from a wine tasting and every night I'd get home from work and pour myself a generous, restorative glass of it, which I would then proceed to drink "with great ceremony." There is no wine in the world more expressly tailored to my palate than my Vouvray, and I have decided that I am going to start buying my Vouvray by the case (I get to buy my wine at cost now BITCHES), so that I can drink a restorative glass of Vouvray every night of my life. I know there are people in the world who would argue against drinking your favourite wine in the world every single night of your life, but I'm really not afraid of "ruining" Vouvray for myself; worst case scenario, I'll get a little bit sick of the Vouv, switch over to exclusively drinking my second-favourite wine in the world (a white Burgundy, no doubt) for a couple months, then get back on the ole Pere Lucien once my palate has been effectively cleansed. You just can't live your life sitting around drinking crap wine when the Vouvray of your dreams exists and is accessible to you. What if you died in the middle of drinking a crap glass of wine? You'd be filled with regret! If you died in the middle of drinking a glass of Vouvray, you'd die happy. Or I would, at least. 

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: Gregg Araki's New Short Film, A Glass of Champagne with a Shot of Chambord



Gregg Araki made a short film for Kenzo's fall/winter line and it's my second-favorite Gregg Araki movie after Smiley Face. It's a mini teen soap opera set in some bad year like 1996 and it's got glitter eyeshadow, Slowdive, a flying cheeseburger, a joke about Silver Lake, a boy named Dark, a coffeehouse that looks like every coffeehouse I ever went to in the bad year of 1996, grunge clothing, a nun. My favorite line is: "Is it possible to be so sad that your brain actually melts?" I want it to be a TV show, or at least 10 more little movies. This is it:



And these are my other Things of the Week:

-On Sunday my friends and I saw Magic Mike in the special part of Arclight where they let you drink in the theater. I got one of the cocktails made especially for the movie, a glass of champagne with a shot of Chambord. It was called The Main Event, and there was nothing transcendent about drinking it, but I appreciate the poetry of "glass of champagne with a shot of Chambord" and also of mixing champagne with a liqueur made of raspberries and vanilla and cognac. Whoever thought that up is a sweetie pie and very much attuned to the spirit of Magic Mike and its big cute heart.

-This is actually a Thing of a Few Weeks Ago, but look at the wine I drank on the Island Queen ferry from Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard last month:



It's a little plastic mini-carafe with a gold foil top that you peel back, like Yoplait - only so much better than Yoplait, because it's wine and you're on a boat to Martha's Vineyard where you'll eat a clam roll and visit the Flying Horses and the gingerbread houses and the classic Strawberry Fields Whatever haunts Our Market and Book Den. I'm truly considering buying a case or two of Copa Di Vino so that "drinking chardonnay from a mini-carafe with a gold foil top" can be this thing I do at parties, so that every party is an Island Queen party.

-Last night I went to see Morris Day & The Time at Santa Monica Pier. After Magic Mike, it was the second most outrageously joyful thing I experienced this week. At one point between songs Morris explained how if you take a bottle of champagne from the fridge and set it out on a hot day, the moisture on the bottle will start to condensate, because that's what happens when you're cool from the inside out: you condensate, not sweat. Later on when Shaz and I were waiting for the valet at Loews Hotel, Morris Day walked past us in his sparkly suit, drinking a can of soda, accompanied by a hot woman and a little kid whom he addressed as "buddy." I don't know, it was just really nice for me to hear Morris Day call a little kid "buddy"; it was sweet and made me feel like the world's a sweet place. On the way home I got weirdly lost and ended up in Bel Air and then in the tunnel in Less Than Zero where Blair hits the coyote. I also drove through the Valley, Griffith Park, Venice, West L.A., downtown, other places, and got home and reread the coyote part of Less Than Zero, which I'd underlined for teenage reasons I don't remember:



Probably I just liked how L.A. sounded tragic and evil. L.A. is absolutely tragic and evil, but it's also not, it's nine million different things and I love how there's no way I could ever get to know all of them.

26.6.15

Happy Birthday, Mick Jones! With Love, Liz & LJ





BY LIZ & LJ

LIZ: 
I don't ever want to objectify the Clash, but I can't talk about why I love Mick Jones without talking about his body, his face, his teeth, his hair. I love Mick Jones and I love the way he looks, the kind of skinny that I bet feels bad on his bones, his pasty bug-eyed face, his snarly black hair-cloud, his mouth that's usually hanging open, like he's some goofy kid whose mom or grandmom should have told him a long time ago: Close your mouth, Michael; we are not a codfish.*


By and large, codfish-mouthed is not a great look for a man, or for anyone: it's unbecoming. But for Mick Jones it really works, it suits him. From Viv Albertine's book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys and from the Slits song "Ping Pong Affair," we know that teenage/just-past-teenage Mick Jones loved glam rock and comic books and got picked on by other boys for his weird clothes and weird hair. And while I know that glam rock and comic books probably weren't very unique things for odd boys to escape into back in the mid-1970s, I like the idea of Mick's codfish mouth having lots to do with his dreaming other worlds, hearing songs in his head, semi-forgetting everything around him. He's happily lost in himself but also looking out for anyone who might mess with him; he's fanciful but scrappy, a Dickensian orphan who bought a lot of Who and Yardbirds records and got really good at guitar. So to me the codfish mouth gives Mick kind of grace and magic power.

It's totally hokey and disgustingly romantic, but I love the idea that the thing that makes you a misfit can also make you lovely. And I think Mick Jones is lovely. I think it's so cool, in an almost completely uncool way, the way he moves around. The way Mick Jones "comports himself." So much of what I love about him is encapsulated in that video of the Clash in Munich in 1977:




Everything about Mick in Munich is perfect to me, but I'm especially passionate about:

-his dance move of marching/stomping up and down the stage, sometimes while making his shoulders shimmy

-that goofball stag-jump he does on the last note of "London's Burning"

-awkward finger-snapping mid-"Police and Thieves"

-stupid Pete Townshend-y whatever-y windmill thing

-every single second of the backstage scenes, which mostly involve Mick complaining about hating Germany, just bitching away in his cute quacky voice. He looks so good drinking his Coke, lighting his cigarette, messing with his hair, handing out plastic forks. Holding up his own plastic fork and staring into the camera, hatefully. I don't relate to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I don't relate to being one of the best-looking people in all of world history, and I definitely don't relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper" - but I do relate to being the kind of person who smiles easily but also has total bitch tendencies, so I guess that's a huge part of why Mick's always been and always will be my very favorite.

More than that, I love Mick for writing lots of songs that I would rather die than live without and for singing in what Viv Albertine always calls his "sweet, soft voice," for being one of those boys who sings without ever losing his accent.

My favorite Mick-sung Clash song is probably "The Card Cheat": the melodrama of it all speaks right to my heart. "Up in Heaven" and "Hate and War" are runners-up, though they both come in after "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Lost in the Supermarket," which I've loved since I was a cutely and luckily Clash-aware child so they automatically beat out everything else. And a few months ago I changed my alarm clock to wake me up to "Jail Guitar Doors," because I really liked the idea of Mick Jones counting off the start of my day - but then it turned out to be way too aggressive, and so now I wake up to "Strawberry Letter 23."

And "Train in Vain" is somewhere in my "Mick Jones-Clash top 10" too: I think it's fantastic that Mick Jones responded to the lyric "Typical girls stand by their man" in a way that ignores the joke and takes on this sulky attitude that's saved from being repellent by virtue of the fact that it's Mick and he's not sulky, he's sensitive. He's a Cancer and a cute dad and when I was 13 I bought a tape of The Globe by Big Audio Dynamite and it was the first weird music I ever loved. Mick Jones was such a nice ambassador into loving weird shit; because of him I knew that you could get into something different and strange and sometimes dark and still be a goof, an easy smiler. The awareness of that still means everything to me today.

*This is actually a line from the movie Mary Poppins, but it works because Mick Jones's name is Michael! I love at the beginning of "Rudie Can't Fail" when Joe Strummer says, "Sing, Michael, sing," and then Mick Jones sings. Do you think Joe called Mick "Michael" a lot, but only in certain important moments, and no one else ever called Mick that, and it was this cool special thing about them? I hope so. I hope that's true. I really get so romantic about the Clash.




LJ: Unlike Liz, I relate very much to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I even kind of relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper"- I mean, obviously I'm not a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper," but if I woke up tomorrow and was, it wouldn't really surprise me. I relate to Mick Jones only slightly more than I relate to being one of the best-looking people of all world history, but that has ever stopped me from deeply appreciating Mick Jones. You can't only love people you relate to. That would be so boring. 




It was my thirtieth birthday two days ago, and I decided to spend my birthday afternoon wandering around my neighbourhood and listening to music on headphones (because what else really is there). I made myself a birthday playlist named "dirty thirty," which included: every single Buddy Holly song, Zanzibar by Kritty, Miss O'Dell by George Harrison, and all the Mick Jones-i-est Clash songs I love best. I put Magnificent Seven on my mix, which isn't very Mick Jones-y as far as Clash songs go, which helped me have the very important thirtieth birthday revelation that my new life concept for being thirty is to be the human embodiment of the part in Magnificent Seven where Joe Strummer yells out "What have we got?" and then the rest of the Clash yell back, "MAGNIFICENCE!"- actually, I think it's Joe Strummer himself who yells back "MAGNIFICENCE," but in my head I like to imagine that it's Mick. I think if I could make up any dream relationship for myself and Mick Jones to share, it would be the two of us existing in an eternal state of me asking him what we've got and him yelling back "MAGNIFICENCE!" 

(Awww! It fills my heart with joy just imagining it.)




A few months ago, when my boyfriend (who is definitely A Mick) and I were looking for a new flat (but mostly I was looking for a new flat, because looking for a new flat's the exact kind of thing I live to be a control freak about), I thought we were going to move to south London, which is where Mick Jones is from. My first flat in London was near Holloway, which is sort of close to where Ray Davies grew up, and while I was living there I felt like every moment of my life was imbued with a really Ray Davies-y spirit, which was cool but sort of dismal, really, since The Ray Davies-y Spirit falls dangerously close to the most depressing aspect of The Laura Jane Faulds Spirit on the A Given Person's Spirit scale. So I had this idea in my head that when I moved to south London my life would become very Mick Jones-y, very boppy and pragmatic and positive, and I was really excited about that. I looked at a flat on a street called Adelaide Avenue in Brockley, across from a gorgeous sprawling park, and in my head I wrote a song called Adelaide Avenue from the made-up perspective of the main character in my novel, and felt really stoked about how cool my new Mick Jones-y life on Adelaide Avenue was going to be. But then we never moved to Adelaide Avenue, because the flat was dingy and out of the way and not very good value for money. "Cute street name" and "reasonably close to the neighbourhood where Mick Jones grew up" are just not solid enough reasons to justify moving into an expensive shithole. 

Around that time, I too read Viv Albertine's memoir, which I didn't like very much. There was this really excruciating part set in, like, 2004 (such an unromantic year!) about how she almost cheated on her husband with Vincent Gallo but then didn't; it made me feel like the world was a really terrible place. I was only really in it for the Mick Jones anecdotes, which were plentiful, and beautiful. My favourite Mick Jones part of Clothes Clothes Clothes Blah Blah Blah Etc. goes 

"Mick is that person in a band- and there's always one- who does all the organising, who takes the pain and the losses of the band to heart, who lives, breathes, and would die for the band."

Viv then goes on to describe Mick Jones as being "in the hall, on the phone for hours and hours every day"- she thinks that he's "having relationship problems, probably breaking up with someone," but it turns out he's just, like, sorting out gigs for his band. I really, really love that detail. It's very Paul McCartney-y of Mick Jones. I love Mick Jones so much for being the Paul McCartney of the Clash, because where would the Clash even be if they hadn't've had a Paul McCartney? Certainly not world-famous, that's for sure. 


All in all, I fucking love Mick Jones. I guess if I had to pick one Mick Jones song to be my Mick Jones song to end all Mick Jones songs, I'd have to go with Stay Free; it's so sentimental, and I love sentimental art. The other night I was Skyping with my Dad and drinking the most gorgeous Mercurey Blanc in the world as it turned into my thirtieth birthday, and I was talking about how I'd recently read and loved Boyhood by J.M Coetzee, which is one of the least sentimental books I've ever read. It impressed the hell out of me, but I definitely resent J.M Coetzee for being too cool to be sentimental about his childhood, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel about Stay Free by the Clash. There is nothing in the entire world that I resent less than Mick Jones' romanticisation of smoking mentholated cigarettes as a young teen. Literally nothing. 


18.6.15

Champagne was my drink in the spring


BY LAURA JANE/ILLUSTRATION BY JEN 

1. 

My mother came to visit at the beginning of May, and I took her to the place I used to work at. The fine-dining place. I’d made the booking back in March, back when I still worked there. I knew that I was leaving and I was looking forward to leaving but it was still my home then, or a home at least, and I wasn’t scared of leaving, but I wanted to know that I’d come back. And then time passed, and I moved forward very quickly. I didn’t care if I ever went back or didn’t go back. I wanted to cancel my booking- I didn’t want to force my mother to spend that money on something I cared so little about. And things with my sommelier, my enemy, had ended on an even sourer note than I’d expected. He yelled at me at three in the morning, it was a really dark emotional thing for him, just the two of us alone in the restaurant. He asked me a weird, negative question, I forget exactly what it was but I think it was either “Do I look like a fool?” or “Do I deserve to be treated like a fool?"
        I can’t remember what I said exactly. I think I just said, “No?”
        I haven’t spent a single moment of my life mulling over what might have been a cooler, sassier answer to his question. No point in forcing myself to remember it, remember myself wriggling out from the confines of his perfunctory goodbye hug. The point is that I wriggled out. The next morning I wrote him a text about hating him and then never sent it. And then I pretty much forgot.
        He made me feel small, he was very rude to me, the kind of sexist you can’t quite put your finger on; I think they engineer it that way, so you can never call them on it. He lived to question my palate; he never thought any wine I thought was off was off, even when it was off. Sometimes it was so obviously off. But what can I really do about it? Any of it? The older I get, the more I’m beginning to understand that no one’s really evil. Some people just hate themselves, and it’s too sad to think too hard about. Imagining how horrible it must be, scurrying about like a little rat in a cage, scratching things and eating wood chips and spitting out a wood chip. Squeaking and/or ralphing out or up any imbecilic bundle of rude words that happens to enter your mind, just to take the pressure off yourself. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many of those bundles, those furballs, more times than I could count. I hate a lot of things but none of them are me. And they can smell it on me.
        We went anyway. I was too lazy to cancel my booking, and there was nothing really else to do. Having people come visit tends to clarify how boring and pointless cities actually are. The only London-specific thing I’m really passionate about doing is wandering around and looking at houses but it doesn’t really translate. It’s an obvious one-person activity. When people come visit, all you can really do is shop and eat and drink and go on the London Eye. We went on the London Eye, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. It’s formally known as the “Coca-Cola London Eye.” My mom was scared to go on the London Eye and I said “Come on, come on, please, it’ll be fine,” and then I turned out to be the one who got scared on the London Eye. I knew we weren’t going to die but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of just hanging there, and I felt stuck there, suspended in this cold little pod with nowhere to move or pee or buy a drink. I sat on the bench in the middle of the pod and listened to The Beatles sing Words of Love on my headphones and it calmed me down the way aromatherapy or clutching a crystal’s supposed to and the wheel hit its highest point and and I got over my fear; for whatever reason, going down went down way easier than coming up.


9.6.15

The Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet: Special Sisters-in-L.A. Edition


BY LIZ

My little sister Carly came to visit in the middle of May; she was here for a long weekend, the main purpose of her visit being our trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where we saw Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey. Here is everything we ate during her visit. 


Carly got in at like midnight on Thursday and Friday morning we went to Republique for breakfast. For breakfast dessert - but the kind of dessert that comes before the actual meal - we split a chocolate bomboloni and a peach raspberry pistachio danish thing. The bomboloni was adorable, a perfectly spherical donut filled with chocolate pudding, but the danish was the true star. If you look at the photo above, you'll see that its center is basically an entire half of a huge fat peach. I don't know where Republique's getting their peaches from, since the peaches I've bought at the grocery store so far this year are all so puny. Probably Republique gets their peaches from peach heaven.



For my actual breakfast I ordered the Walter's Favorite: a hot baguette and a little pot of poached eggs, plus coffee and orange juice. I didn't even like the eggs that much - I don't like poached eggs, I don't get why I ordered them - but what's important is I loved them, just for being so weird and beautiful. My plan of attack was to tear off a chunk of bread and dip it into the egg pot; it was a nice little game to try not to run out of bread before the eggs were all gone. In Walter's Favorite and in life, I get a lot of inspiration from Albert the badger in Bread & Jam for Frances and his finesse in making "the sandwich, the pickle, the egg, and the milk come out even."



After Republique we went to LACMA, where we saw that fantastic Chris Burden piece with the miniature cars and lots of photos by Larry Sultan (including this picture from "The Valley" series, which was my favorite). Then we walked up Fairfax and went to Farmers Market for a little snack (chips + guacamole from Loteria, plus beer from the Farmers Market bar). The overall theme of this edition of the Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet is "Places I love but hardly ever go to + places I've always wanted to try but never have, for some reason," and Farmers Market fits into neither of those categories. I love Farmers Market and I go there all the time, ever since I wrote my "To Anthony on His 50th Birthday" post three years ago. One of my favorite things is to go there on a Sunday, get a pint of strawberries and a pint of beer, go up to the secret little room in the upstairs eating area, and then drink beer and eat strawberries and write. That is me in my element.

5.6.15

Thing of the Week: The Day LJ Went to Marc Bolan's House, The Vegetarian Epicure, Fabulous Fake Food

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: The Day I Went To Marc Bolan's House


I went to Marc Bolan’s house on Monday. I was in a mopey mood for no real reason, just for love of the mopeyness game. I wondered if maybe I should save my pilgrimage to Marc Bolan’s childhood home for a less mopey day, but then I decided to just suck it up and be mopey on the day I went to Marc Bolan’s house. Whatever. I wore heels and a trench coat and big sunglasses and tried to throw some shade. I didn’t want to throw shade at people, and I certainly didn’t want to throw shade at nature. I guess I just wanted to quietly throw shade in general. And I think I succeeded.

Marc Bolan is from Stoke Newington, which is where I now live. He lived at 25 Stoke Newington Common from when he was born on September 30, 1947, until 1962. I don’t know what happened in 1962 that made him move away. I’m assuming his family just moved to another house, since that’s what people do. I moved too.

According to my Citymapper app, Marc Bolan’s childhood home is a twenty-seven minute walk from my house, but I made it in twenty-one. Citymapper underestimated me. I guess it doesn't want to make slow walkers feel bad about themselves. 

I listened to Electric Warrior and The Slider on shuffle as I walked. Telegram Sam came on, and I started to perk up a little. Then Life’s A Gas played, and I perked down, in a good way. It’s about as sad as a song called Life’s A Gas could be while still managing to successfully communicate the fact that life’s a gas. The first line, “I could have loved you, girl, like a planet,” really murders me, right off the bat. I don’t understand how any girl could ever have been stupid enough to reject Marc Bolan’s love. (Like a planet! What a cool way to love somebody.) During Life's A Gas, I realized that I am almost exactly the same age Marc Bolan was when he died. Marc Bolan died fourteen days before his thirtieth birthday, and that day was twenty-four days before my thirtieth birthday. I felt so sad to realize what a short and unsatisfying life length poor Marc got stuck with, but also grateful to comprehend the duration of his lifespan so accurately, so viscerally. Moments later I spotted a snappy green sports car, which I think Marc Bolan would have liked. It motivated me to listen to Jeepster and really hype out to “Just like a car, you’re pleasing to behold,” which is such a hot and creative thing for a jeepster to tell a girl he’s got a crush on. Marc Bolan had a lot of game, in my opinion.


Eventually I got to Marc’s house. It was meaningful, but not life-changingly so. It was medium-meaningful. I thought, I spent the first half of my twenties constructing meaningful experiences for myself to live out— I’m going to go to X place and listen to X song at X time while wearing X outfit and eating X and it's going to be soooooo X— and then the second half of my twenties condemning my early-twenties self for so desperately trying to create something out of nothing. I’ve spent the past five years of my life confronting the meaninglessness of everything and relishing in it, in doing so forcing meaninglessness to take the place of "meaningful-ness", which was defensive of me. Now I’m thirty (more or less) and I don’t expect anything to be meaningful, though if it is, that’s great. And if it’s meaningless, there’s not much I can do about it, so whatever. That’s maturity, I guess, for me: just letting things be. "Let It Be Medium-Meaningful," that's my new life-motto. 

It was a cute house, but nothing too special— Stoke Newington is basically the cute house capital of the world, and I would put Marc Bolan’s childhood home in maybe the forty-fifth Stoke Newington-house-cuteness percentile. I’d ripped a white flower off a bush to leave at Marc Bolan’s front door as a way of saying thank you to the Universe for giving me Marc Bolan but by the time I got there I’d forgotten about it. It died in my pocket and when I found it a few hours later I felt guilty for killing it for no reason.


I sat on a bench on Stoke Newington Common and listened to the T.Rex song Main Man. I got it confused with Ballrooms of Mars; I’d wanted to hear Marc Bolan sing “John Lennon knows your name and I’ve seen his,” but instead I got to hear Marc Bolan sing “As a child, I laughed a lot/ Now it seems I cry a lot/ Oh, tell me true/ Don’t you?” which was probably better. I imagined baby Marc Bolan frolicking around that very park, and decided that Marc Bolan must have been the kind of kid that grown-ups constantly congratulated for having "such a good imagination!" I was a “good imagination” kid too. Adults praise the hell out of little kids for having such fabulous fucking imaginations but once you grow up, they stop caring. All us good imagination kids are just supposed to convert our imaginations into business acumen or social media savvy or whatever, and it’s really unfair, because imagining things is my skill. Marc Bolan was the dreamiest, most poetic sweetheart ever to grace the face of rock & roll. He stayed a good imagination kid forever.


LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEKThe Vegetarian Epicure


My gym is next door to a Goodwill. Yesterday morning I was leaving the gym and saw that Goodwill had set out a bargain-book table, so I popped in to check it out, and ended up buying a copy of The Vegetarian Epicure for $1.25. It's a cookbook from 1972 and it's by Anna Thomas who, in her author's note, self-describes as "strongly committed to the women's liberation movement and involved in its activities." I love Anna Thomas. I love her book. It's very cutely illustrated, and overwritten in a way that I can really get behind. For example, here's a paragraph from her intro to the "Vegetables" section:

"The vegetables presented to you believe wholeheartedly in their own importance. They combine smartly with eggs, cheese, and one another; they are on intimate terms with herbs and spices, and you will find them frequenting the tastiest crusts and custards. Certain of them are capable of gently dominating the table, alone or in discriminating combination with other glories. All are prepared to please you."

She's such a poet about eggs too. A few months ago I listened to Brian Koppelman interviewing Ivan Ramen, and Ivan Ramen said something about how "People who don't like eggs need to reflect," and I've seriously thought about that sentence every day since I first heard it. Anna Thomas would agree with Ivan Ramen about eggs and reflection, I feel. Here's some of her cool egg thoughts:

"The humble egg astonishes us with its versatility. It binds together, puffs, lifts up, thickens, enriches, makes smooth, and makes strong - all this when its simple beauty would alone earn our admiration...To some great dishes, it is soul and substance: custards would not exist without it, nor would crepes, or mousse...a serious thought."

And, on souffles:

"It is its ephemeral nature that is responsible for the mystique of the souffle. Brought to the table straight from a hot oven in the full glory of its lofty architecture, it lasts only for a choice moment of drama and acclaim. Then it must be eaten at once or it will disappear of its own accord. Thus a sweet excitement climaxes the dinner, and not lasting long enough for reconsideration or ennui, the airy souffle leaves a more intriguing memory than sturdier fare."

I also like when she throws shade in the "Eggs" section recipe for Parsleyed Eggs on the Half Shell, writing: "I have known this elegant and simple dish ever since early childhood and, as a consequence, when I first was exposed to American-style deviled eggs, I found them painfully plebeian by comparison." Anna Thomas really tells it like it is.



I don't like this guy, the "Rice and Other Grains" guy. I feel like he's the stuffy, no-fun version of "France George Harrison" that I wrote about in our Top 5 Hottest George Harrisons Ever post earlier this year. When I first saw this drawing I was going to make a big deal about how "Rice and Other Grains" dude is the George Harrison of The Vegetarian Epicure, but I pretty quickly realized that (a) George Harrison's personal style is way too on-point to ever grow such awful facial hair, and (b) George Harrison is way too cool a human to ever pretentiously use chopsticks while eating a bowl of rice in lotus pose. This guy is maybe the "random Jethro Tull member" of The Vegetarian Epicure, at best.



But I love this guy! He's so terrible at eating his pasta. What a trainwreck. Imagine if you cooked a plate of spaghetti for a dude and that was how he went at it? I like how the woman's expression is all "Oh, umm...okay, yeah - cool." Maybe she's about to teach him how to twirl up his spaghetti in a nice little fat bundle, using a big spoon for support - a la Cher in Moonstruck, aka the most beautiful spaghetti-twirler there ever was.

Speaking of romance, I like this bit from the "Pasta" section intro: "It is well represented in restaurants, but most Italians, understanding the delicate nature of the art, wisely partake of their pasta at home. Follow their example. Remember how wonderful is the privacy of home, even when shared with friends, for such a voluptuous activity as the eating of pasta." That's a cool point, although I'm of the opinion that spaghetti should absolutely be eaten in public. On my birthday last year I ate spaghetti in a bar, and I think it'd be great if everyone ate spaghetti in bars all of the time.



The most exciting part of the "Curries and Indian Preparations" section is when Anna Thomas lists off potential items to include in the condiment tray for curry dinner, such as:

-apricot halves broiled with anise
-baked grapefruit with sherry and cinnamon
-deviled almonds
-peach halves stuffed with seasoned cream cheese
-stewed gooseberries
-spiced eggs
-pickled walnuts
-pickled mushrooms
-preserved ginger
-shredded coconut
-soaked raisins
-lemon, lime, or grapefruit peel
-green olives

Apricot halves broiled with anise! I haven't eaten Indian food in a thousand years. I want to go to Paru's and drink iced water from a copper cup and white wine from a carafe and get the Queen Paru for dinner and the Bombay Punch for a dessert drink. Paru's is one of my fave Los Angeles restaurants, I just decided. I love how you have to ring the doorbell to get in.


My main point about the artwork accompanying the "Sweets" section intro is that I'm really into how all the people in The Vegetarian Epicure illustrations have this melancholy air about them. Though maybe they're all just very much deep in thought, meditating on the splendor of their foods. As for the text, my favorite "Sweets" moment is in Anna Thomas's recipe for galub jamun. She describes the dish as "a very special sort of Indian sweetmeat, with an impossible fragrance: roses and saffron...It will always be greeted with a chorus of 'What is it?!'" I can't see these four duds speaking anything in chorus, but maybe the guy in the vest and ascot would pipe up. I also like the babe in the starry skirt, and of course that four-layer strawberry cake is just to die for.


In the intro to "Holidays, Traditions, and Some New Thoughts," Anna Thomas has lots to say about rethinking holiday meals. She tells this big long story about some Thanksgiving she hosted, which sounds crazy and like heaven:

"That meal began, amid genial toasting with a venerable, ruby-red Margaux, with Roast Chestnut Soup - a rich and mellow liquid, flavored with red wine and cognac, it emerged as instant tradition with us. Gracefully following it was Curried Lentil and Tomato Salad in pineapple boats. The third course consisted of crisp Almond Croquettes bathed in creamy Bechamel sauce, accompanied by Cranberry-Cumberland Sauce and Potatoes in Wine. Chilled Cider-Spiced Apples ended the first part of that debauch. Four hours later, in a mood of lackadaisical hilarity, we had some pumpkin pie, coffee, and a ceremonial pipe."

Potatoes in wine! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I like how Anna Thomas is all wink-wink about getting stoned on Thanksgiving. Classic Anna Thomas. And that's fantastic about the ruby-red Margaux - Ken Cosgrove'll have a snort!



And at first I just wanted to include this picture because the cat looks like my cat, but then I realized that the woman looks kind of like me, too. So, here I am, guys. Hi. I'm making a menu for dinner tonight. Come over for almond soup and potatoes romanoff and Russian vegetable pie and chestnut souffle and spoonbread and tomato rabbit and apple pudding and raspberry fool and everything.

JEN'S THING OF THE WEEK: Fabulous Fake Food

I had the opportunity to walk through Eclectic/Encore Props in Long Island City last night. I fell in love with the entire place, which is a warehouse/wonderland filled with props. Furniture. Cups. Armor. Crystal Balls. Abraham Lincoln busts. Religious statues. Chairs. So many chairs. Most importantly,a beautiful collection of fabulous fake food. Look at these glorious plastic and foam cakes, breads, ice creams. Surrounded by plastic meat and deviled eggs, I almost felt like I was in John Waters' home.



 

 

 

22.5.15

"Retreat Don Draper" Is Our New Life Concept Forever


BY LIZ & LJ

On Wednesday we watched the Mad Men season finale on the phone together and talked for three hours about how we're going to be exactly like Don Draper at the retreat from now on. Here's a partial transcript of RetreatDonCon.

LJ: You really called it on Don Draper not falling off a building.

LIZ: Well, I had a feeling.

LJ: Yeah - some gut feeling that the people who make the show aren't complete loser-idiots.




LJ: Don's basically the hottest he's ever looked here. I like how he's really '50s. 


LIZ: I like how there's finally some Doors on Mad Men.


LJ: Yeah, I don't really care about The Doors, but I thought it was a cool "We're in the '70s now" move.




LJ: Stan's jacket here is in the running for Outfit of the Week. I wish I could understand the exact 2015 equivalent of what it would mean to wear that. Would he be hip-hop, kind of? I don't even understand how people dress anymore.



LIZ: I don't care about this woman in bed with Don.

LJ: Yeah, we've sat through seven seasons of this. I need a little more than Don Draper having promiscuous sex with a hot blonde woman. I guess I'm happy that there's no Diana in this episode. It makes a bit more sense now that he was really just fixating on her unhealthily because he felt lost and he was putting it all on her. That checks out.




LIZ: Joan is the cutest person on coke ever in the world. I like how she's impressed by the efficiency of it. "Oh, it's so fast!" 


LJ: "Just like Harry Crane's computer! Just like a great secretary!" I also like that cocaine weaseled its way into Mad Men, like The Doors.


LIZ: Her boyfriend is so gross. That's such a gross positioning of his body.


LJ: He makes chillness so disgusting.



LJ: Peggy looks so cute this entire episode. She's so frumpy the entire series and then she finally just busts it out.

LIZ: I love all the cats on Bert's painting. And this is really cute too, her and Pete.

LJ: Harry Crane looks the best he's ever looked. He looks bad-ass.

LIZ: He eats that nice cookie. He's winning.

LIZ: I'm glad we got to see Pete again, I thought he was gone for good.

LJ: Yeah, I needed that. They just let us see them all again. 

LIZ: They really indulged us. After I watched it I was like, "Oh, Matthew Weiner's so nice! He was so nice to us." 

LJ: He really gets what lame losers we all are. We need it so bad.