I’ve been reading this new-ish site, Strawberry Fields Whatever. It’s the blog of Laura Jane Faulds, Elizabeth Barker, and Jen May. I don’t know Jen beyond her art, but Liz & LJ have been Twitter friends with me for a while now, and I bought their Beatles zines last year, too. They’re cool people, and I think of them as friends. Is it weird to write about your friends? Who cares, I’m doing it.
SF Whatevs is a great site partially due to the fact that LJ and Liz don’t write like anyone else I read. It feels different and fresh, anything but sterile. It’s very music-centric, in that they both use rock music as the soundtrack to their lives. This song reminds me of this trip we took as a kid, this singer makes me feel like I can do anything, and this album is perfect for this scenario.
It doesn’t just stop there, like some type of Family Guy reference, either. The music is used as a stepping stone to talking about their memories and lives. It’s both foundation and segue, so it goes “I liked this song during this time period, and then I met this person, and then this happened, and here’s what that song means now.” The music is the scalpel in an examination, the bright light in an interrogation. It’s an entry point for something bigger, but it still matters when the story’s done.
Liz and LJ are pretty different, too. Liz writes about Los Angeles a lot. I have an outsider’s love of LA. It’s the city of Tupac, Boyz in the Hood, Eazy-E, Cube, and Heat. James Ellroy’s LA. It’s different to Liz, and I really enjoy seeing her work that out on the page. I have this mental image of it that I could probably never really properly express — can you imagine a girl with long sandy-colored hair sitting on the hood of a vintage El Camino, enjoying the sun and the music coming out of her tinny speakers? big sunglasses on her face? that’s the foundation, at least — but instead of sounding more like a crazy person I’ll just share this comment I left on a post she wrote about Cat Power the other day:
You never fail to make LA sound like the best place on Earth. Not like a paradise on Earth or anything, but more like… a place where things happen. Beautiful things, sad things, happy things. I especially like the detail about the couch in the parking lot, and the idea of lost friends being beautiful in their own way. I feel almost like a country mouse saying this, but you make LA sound like a place where adventures are a matter of course, where adventures just happen. And I really enjoy/appreciate that. Thank you.
And I mean, I don’t know anything about Cat Power, the musician that Liz talks about some in the post, but I still got the post, right? I like that.
LJ always amazes me with how personal she’s willing to get. I’m pretty closed off when it comes to that stuff, barring a few things that I’ve grown more comfortable joking/writing about (daddy issues, HOLLA), but LJ is astoundingly open to me. I really dug her “Laura Jane’s Quitting Smoking Journals” (one, two, three, four, five) because they were as much smoking confessional and diary as they were a deep look at motivations, positive/negative reinforcement, and even how we tell ourselves little lies just to keep ourselves going. Life as performance, you’re your own audience. I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I’ve never had to quit smoking cigarettes, but again, I can recognize the truth in her words.
(I had the pleasure of pitching in on a few group posts on SFWhatevs, alongside a gang of writers and musicians, including Kitty Pryde, whose ha ha, i’m sorry mixtape/EP is pretty good. You can find me talking about a song that makes me cry, a song I associate with falling in love, and my favorite Beatles song. Maybe more in the future? I like how they push me out of my comfort zone.)
They do stories, too. You can read their Beatles zines, which are excerpts from a book-in-progress called Let It Be Beautiful or check out their stories on places like Storychord, where LJ wrote about a girl named Sam and Liz wrote about a girl named Sally. Both are good. I don’t have a full list of their fiction or anything, but read SFW and I figure they’ll link new pieces as they come. Their stories have a similar swing as their posts, which is cool.