I’m in L.A. living the life of a rock star, that is if that rock star is living in a make-shift tent partitioned off the living room with a curtain in a shared house with three other people and one bathroom with mood lighting. ‘My’ attic space got rented for a 2-week period during the middle of my stay because I hummed and hawed so long about the duration of my stay in L.A. that the attic got booked. And because I’ve now fallen in platonic love with the owner and one of the housemates, Mermaid, who fashioned the tent for tenant ‘overages,’ I was granted permission to squat in said cozy abode. Right. So, I’m not actually living the life of a rock star, but I love my lodgings and am excessively gay (as in happy) here.
But L.A. is expensive. Actually, other than housing, it’s not really. Food is less than at home in Canada unless you’re eating out a lot, which is not in my I’m-not-really-a-rock-star budget. And although Groupon has some good deals, it’s also saving me into near bankruptcy! That or the $5 lattes I partake in each day, though the free Wi-Fi makes up for some of that and truly the cost is like cheap commercial office space including the chat at the water cooler social aspect, which—being a self-proclaimed writer—can lack from reclusing in the tent. (Yes, I am aware that ‘reclusing’ is not an official verb, but it is in my blog and really it ought to be anyway.)
Yes, yes, I’ll get to the topic now: shopping as meditation …
I’m no longer making rock star coin. And I’m spending—really, ‘investing’ is more apt (sideways glance)—a good portion of funds on food coupons and caffeinated beverages. And, okay, yes, the occasional gluten-free chocolate muffin or raw vegan cheesecake (only because it’s so tasty, honest, I’m back on the beef if you recall, and if you don’t recall then read “Alberta Beef Makes Me Horny”). Anyway, this doesn’t leave many pennies for clothes, which would be fine if I knew before packing for 5 weeks in L.A. and 5 months in Mexico as originally planned and then changed plans 13 times after arriving here. (Thank you, Christina, for managing my flight updates—I promise not to alter my itinerary again. Ever. [That might be a fib.])
L.A. is colder in the winter than Mexico. The good news is that I have tons of cold weather clothes! Back in Canada. Also, anything under 25° Celsius (75° Fahrenheit) is cold to me. I wear slippers year round. The real good news (not joking this time) is that second-hand stores are plentiful here, and there’s some quality couture for sale in them. And! Yard sales—hello! I bought the prettiest pink dress, with pockets no less, for 5 bucks. I-I-I-I know! (Mermaid is constantly coming home with new finds from Craig’s List yard sale finds.) So even when I indulge I don’t do that much damage. Hell, I spend that on coffee! (Fair trade organic and the baristas wear bow ties, so it’s totally worth it.)
So, the other day, I’m re-re-editing my memoir and am frustrated like crazy because my editor and I weren’t on the same page. But! I was pressing forward and putting in what she’d ask for but so detesting doing it. And while I was doing that, I got some nice emails from people who read this blog and were saying that they like my style. And I was like, “Damn it, I’m changing things my readers like! Shit, fuck, damn!” So I send my editor (different editor than this blog, love you, Coreen!) an email saying very politely, “Some of my readers like the ‘offensive’ bits, and I’m wondering if you think maybe perhaps you might reconsider allowing me to keep some of them?” (Note: The email did not read like that. It read more like “WTF? I don’t think you get me …” and went on a rambling rant—unfiltered and not unlike some of these blog posts but with a lot of impolite prose. [I apologize, memoir editor, I still love you, too.]) Anyway, we reached a compromise that I’m happy with.
I needed to take a break from the book and regroup without Grouponing. I needed to meditate and calm my body, mind and spirit. However, sitting on the floor in my tent at 6am listening to soothing ocean sounds à la YouTube wasn’t doing the trick. All that did was give me numb bum. And even though I’m all converted from I-fucking-hate-yoga to OMG-I-love-yoga! that wasn’t doing the trick either—though it did un-numb the butt. What was left?
Though I consider myself an environmentalist, I’m still a consumer at heart. Usually, I get my fix going to the farmers’ markets every other day as there seems to be one around every corner. When there isn’t an outdoor market, I browse aisles at Whole Foods (commonly known as Whole Paycheck) as food consumables are justifiable spendatures … Plus, all the ridiculously hot, size-zero yoga girls go there so it’s motivating (if a little depressing). So, yes, shopping of any eco-friendly kind feels genuinely good to me. And my motto still stands—if it feels good, do it. (Once again, to clarify, we’re talking big picture feel good.) And I can’t write light-spirited, funny shit when I’m in a negative pit, or maybe I can, but I’d rather go shopping.
I’m in Wasteland on 4th Street near the 3rd Street Promenade, which is a 4-block section in Santa Monica that is a pedestrian- and street performer-only outdoor shopping plaza. The plaza begins at Nordstrom and similar shops and runs all the way to Wilshire Boulevard. Wasteland is a consignment boutique selling the stuff those people bought at Nordstrom’s (and similar) and no longer want. Again, I hadn’t planned on L.A. winter weather, which does get cold, and I didn’t bring a jacket. So, even though I have a half-a-dozen fine comfy coats back home in Canada, I figure it’s going to be less costly to buy another one than to have My Little Mom ship one down (after digging it out of storage).
I’m in the dressing room trying on a navy-blue-based, shear, floral pattern blouse that is so to die for! (Flutter) I may have become sidetracked, but it practically called out my name (from the opposite side of where the outerwear is stationed—what?)! I eventually make my way to the coats, which range in price from I-can-afford-this to I-can’t-afford-to-eat(-this-month). I want something versatile that can be worn casually for day and double up for a chill evening out.
I find a multi-brown coloured rabbit fur bomber and gasp, “Yes, I love you, toooo, pretty bunny!”
Okay, so one thing to note about me is that I’m sometimes hypocritical, as in I totally want this dead animal on my body even though I’m all ‘animal-rights, boycott the Main Street market because there’s slave pony rides.’ But it’s $45 and, to me, having bought a $5 red carpet (exaggeration) dress—fine, it’s not a red carpet dress but a garden tea party, for sure—this is halfway highway robbery. I hum and haw and twirl in front of the mirror. Finally, I decide to be responsible and go home first to evaluate the closet to see what will coordinate.
I ask the clerk, “Can you hold this for me until tomorrow?”
I get them to hold the navy blouse as well—okay, yes, and a pair of black, stretchy pants.
First of all, the whole time I was in there thumbing through racks, I didn’t think about my memoir once. I didn’t think about anything disconcerting. My thoughts were, “What do I have that will go with this sweater?” and “I wonder if I could get away with wearing these pants with the boots I brought.” and “$450?? For used? Fuck the hell off!” and “Oh, it’s Gucci, just a sec, let me look at that again, maybe I need it.” And then in the change room, “But I’ve been doing yoga like every other day, what do you mean I’m not a size zero?” and “Come on, ass, get in there!” and finally, “If I wear a billowy shirt no one will see my muffin top spilling over [these alternate not-size-zero-stretchy pants].” (Clearly, the daily eat treats aren’t helping my get-back-to-my-healthy-weight cause. Hmm. Yes, I will have to write about self-sabotage, please stay tuned for that blog coming to a computer near you. But not today.)
I go home and filter through my closet, which is my suitcase tucked under the day bed and hangers of light-weight garments hung and creatively displayed on the curtain rod on my side of the ‘wall’ between me and the living room. I determine that the rabbit coat will work with enough outfits to warrant the outrageous price. (Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was buying original Gucci?) I mean the animal’s dead already, it’s not like I’m killing it again. And though PETA would say, “Yeah, but you’re promoting fur fashion.” And I say, “Vote with your dollar. Buy long-since-dead animals, not new ones. That is all.” Plus, maybe its meat was prepared by top chefs and served with albino asparagus to homeless children, no? (Blink blink.)
The next day I’m busy doing what, I don’t know, maybe whipping up a kale surprise smoothie or something. By the time 6pm rolls around, I haven’t gone back to acquire the immoral purchase. (Reuse, recycle?) I figure I’ll go tomorrow and have a second look to make sure.
I call the store: “Can you hold it until tomorrow?”
Clerk: “What’s your name?”
Clerk: “Just a sec.”
My foot twitches while I wait. The sun goes down here at 6:30pm sharp, and the flickering lights on the bicycle tires I ride are intermittent at best. Wasteland is 2.2 miles away by way of main roads, and it’s rush hour. Maybe I’ll take my chances and go tomorrow. Maybe I don’t really want it. The Clerk returns.
“There’s nothing here for Emma.”
I slump, then sound my name out more clearly, “Aaannnnaaa.”
“Oh, hold on.”
I hold—vibrating foot quickens.
She returns: “I’m sorry, there’s a second hold on it.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you don’t buy it today, this other person can buy it tomorrow.”
“What time do you open?”
She tells me while I calculate the chances of ‘this other person’ showing up at the crack of opening hour and whether or not I might have to get in a fist-a-cuffs for the dead rabbit because now I simply must possess it! All yoga-Zen love, all detachment has disappeared, and I’m determined to have it. I briefly consider a taxi but that would double the price by the time I got home—wait, unless I take the bus back! Ha!
“What time do you close?”
But now I’m adrenaline high! I rationalize that if I cycle my ass over there to get it, I not only deserve it, but I’ll win in two ways: exercise and procurement! Plus, it’ll also be dusk so I’ll have to ride hard. (Uh-uh, yeah, baby, now who’s yo mama!)
I hightail my ass through rush-hour traffic weaving through honking cars and pumping my quads into lactic acid overdrive and pep-talking my legs with “glutes, glutes, glutes” and arrive all of 12 minutes later. I lock up my bike and run into the shop panting hard and laughing with every muscle feeling victorious. I collapse on the counter and rest my cheek on its cool, smooth surface.
“Can I help you?” I recognize the clerk’s voice.
I pop up: “I’m Anna or Emma or whoever you want to call me! I’m here for the fur!”
She frowns at me in (amused?) confusion, not because she doesn’t know what I’m talking about, but because I’m doing a football-field-goal gyrating jig and saying, “Third and 10, she kicks, she scores! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
I buy the coat, the pants, and the navy blouse, brushing away any niggling guilt that I may be the cause of disappointment and suffering for ‘this other person.’ I make it home shortly after sunset. When I get home, I show Mermaid the coat. We like ‘Show and Tell.’
She says, “Oh, that’s nice! Try it on.”
She says, “There’s a big rip in the sleeve.”
“What the hell? Ah, damn it. Fricken karma.”
Nonetheless, during the entire time I was shopping, stressing and cycling, I was completely in the moment. And isn’t that what meditation is all about? Exactly. (My legs are killing me.)
Did I mention I’d given myself the goal of “If—when—I get back to my healthy weight, I can buy a new pair of yoga pants.” That was a month ago. Today I’m only halfway to my goal—okay, less than half because I was halfway but then went back up again (wait for sabotage blog). Today I saw some yoga pants in Lululemon. Today, the goal changed to “If I can do tree pose, I can buy some new yoga pants.” Cut to—standing in Lululemon, totally in the moment, doing tree pose. (Moment of truth: I already did it yesterday in yoga class.)
New goal: “If—when damn it—I finish this pass of re-re-edits, I’m allowed to buy a real laptop bag instead of using these plastic grocery bags, having left my designer bag back in Canada (paranoia of theft: adorable quirk?).
My new yoga pants are really cute.
What have I (re)learned?
1. If meditation is ‘being present,’ we can use any form we want to get there. Some people sit cross-legged focussing on breath, some do yoga, some surf, or ski or snorkel or garden or golf or dance or paint or clean (?) or write (!) or bake or sew. I shop. So what?
2. Our flaws make us unique and give us character, and those quirks are what make us most adorable.
3. I can’t sew hide nor hare. (But my ill-repaired bomber is still the bomb.)
1. Thai massage. Tout de suit.
2. Sewing class.
Quick as ever update: Mermaid found me a perfect laptop bag at a yard sale today for $15! She’s so sweet! Okay, new goal: When (!) I finish my re-re-edits, I so get to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena (1500+ booths hocking used trinkets, treasures, furniture, clothing, stuffed animals [real and otherwise], jewellery, knickknacks and all manner of whatnots! Yeah, baby, yeah!
Shorter modified version on elephantjournal.com here! Clicking helps me get page views which could mean eating this month! Thank you in advance. (No need to reread.)