L.A. Woman

Can you turn it up?

It will come as no surprise to a close reader of my work that I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. (For an explanation, see the third link below.) However, if I had one it might be this: Listen to more music.

I should clarify that I don’t mean I want to get into music. In fact, it’s embarrassing to admit—especially with a father who has been a music business executive for the better part of four decades—that I know next to nothing about contemporary music. Sometimes, when I’m bored on the bus, I skip through the Top 50 charts on Spotify and I scarcely recognize a single track. (Notable exception: “thank u, next.” Such a banger.) Indeed, my musical tastes lie squarely in the days where I used to go to record stores with my dad and play his vinyl in my bedroom. Dancing to Stevie Wonder and Motown are basically the only reason I still agree to go to weddings.

Maybe that’s why I had kind of given up on listening to music recently (or at least part of the reason—the other being that I listen to way too many podcasts). The sonic vibes of the 60s and 70s feel so different to today’s. Where that music feels airy and unencumbered and irreverent with joy, the mostly millennial rappers in today’s charts sound (rightly) anxious, worried, and altogether heavy. They sound how I feel a lot of the time—at least recently—which is perhaps why I don’t want to listen to them.

But over the holiday, I unwittingly found myself singing along to the classics, and was surprised at how happy it made me feel. It started on a drive up the 101 to San Francisco with my parents and my boyfriend. Sitting in the front seat, Dave was in charge of music. I requested something vague like “road trip music,” the stuff I used to listen to in my Volvo S70 on long drives back up to university. He came back with “you’re not actually going to sing, are you?”

Sing we did. My mom and I proceeded to belt at the top of our lungs for about an hour and a half to all the good stuff: Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, The Eagles, Wings. It was so cliché and wonderful! I defy anyone to listen to this song with the ocean zooming past out your window and not feel slightly better about life. It’s impossible. (Here’s the playlist we listened to).

The oldies continued when Dave and I visited Santa Cruz, the northern California town where I went to university. Santa Cruz has always been a bit of a blast from the past: A stoner beach town set in the California redwoods where surfing, super liberal politics, and vegan food are the dominant cultural touch-points. At least to the eyes of an east Londoner—one who, these days, is accustomed to walking down a high street I haven’t been to in a few months and finding an entire new lineup of businesses—very little had changed since 2011. (I’m sure the housing prices have, though.)

Nevertheless, I was delighted. All the same restaurants, bars, and coffee shops I used to go to played all the same music. It was all so earnest and uncomplicated. I saw the same grumpy local wearing the same Ugg boots and Patagonia fleece in Java Junction, the cafe I used stumble across Seabright Avenue to from my apartment in order to write in my final semester. I tapped away on my laptop in Lulu Carpenters singing to The Beatles. I ran on Westcliff listening to Sublime. For the first time in a while, I felt light.

If you spend a lot of time reading the news, it’s hard to remember to find joy these days. But it’s there. Of course it’s there. As the poet Jack Gilbert once wrote: “We must admit there will be music despite everything.”

Programming note:

You may have noticed you received this edition from a different email. I switched my newsletter service from TinyLetter to Substack, which shouldn’t affect your reader experience at all (though let me know if it does). For future, if you’d like to invite someone to subscribe, please send them this link: https://rojospinks.substack.com/.

Also, thank you to Dave for my new logo(s).

Things I wrote recently

  • I wrote about rejecting diet culture, which requires noticing the fact that it’s absolutely everywhere.

  • Relatedly, the staff of Quartzy wrote a style guide for how we intend to cover diet, bodies, fitness, and food for 2019. I was proud to be part of this conversation.

  • Don’t make a New Year’s Resolution—make a life thesis.

  • I highly recommend planning your year in travel now.

  • Why are so many vegans so damn unlikeable?

  • If, after reading my cruise ship feature last month, you noticed an uptick in news about cruise ship man overboards, that’s because there was one. (Also, I talked about the story on the Travel with Hawkeye podcast at the 20 minute mark.)

  • And a blast from the past: I wrote this 3 years ago—before the Netflix show, when it was Marie Kondo’s book that was all the rage—and I think the point still stands: Instead of focusing on getting rid of things, we should focus on why we're buying so much to begin with.

Things I liked recently

  • My New York colleague Sarah Todd came to work from Quartz’s London office and learned the reassuring ritual of making tea. [Quartzy]

  • Remember when you weren’t exhausted by staying employed and staying on top of life admin and staying sane? Me neither. [Buzzfeed]

  • “And it seems like a good and important question to ask oneself: What do you need to do in order to thrive?” [Curbed]

  • Come for the thoughtful profile of a great writer; stay for the succinct explanation of the failings of capitalism. [The New Yorker]

  • Loved this reflection on solo female travel from the New York Times’ 52 Places traveler, Jada Yuan. (However I still strongly maintain my gripe about that list). [New York Times]

  • Insomnia on the night bus. [The Guardian]

  • I got engrossed in The Dream podcast over the holiday, which is a thorough deep dive into the maddeningly dishonest world of multilevel marketing schemes (aka scams). [The Dream]

Lifestyle endorsement

If, by chance, you have a New Year’s resolution that is in any way diet/body/fitness related I encourage you to buy my friend Laura Thomas’ new book instead. Pretty much everything concrete I’ve learned about having a healthy relationship with food I learned from her—plus she’s funny and says fuck you to patriarchy and capitalism a lot. I adore this book.

Word Soup

“Journeys are the midwives of thought.” —Alain de Botton

“Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” —The Eagles