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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
-Sylvia Plath

I’m not sure which is more disconcerting; the interaction I had with the cashier at Panda Express or my romantic dream last night involving Al Gore.

The dream took place at a Christmas party. And I was sitting on Al Gore's lap in a puffy red velvet dress and he asked me why I was so deviant around everyone yet so shy around him. I kept socking him in the arm. I think we were in love. Then today I googled images of him and he looks nothing like he did in my dream.

Oh, and I have replaced my blue cardigan. The one I lost at the beach in my earlier blog explanatorily entitled “I Lost My Blue Cardigan”.

Picture it: Forever 21. Hollywood, California. 2009....

Me: Hi! Do you still have long cardigans?

Small Employee: Umm.... (bites fingernail, looks around helplessly, as if I’ve just told her she has ten seconds to answer a trivia question or I’m going to tell the guy she likes that when she was in high school she put a Cheeto in her butt and had a dog eat it out) Ummm.... (then she doesn’t even say anything, just wanders out from behind the counter without saying “Follow me” or anything.

But I follow her, and when reach our destination, it’s not a table full of cardigans. It’s another employee. A Medium-sized Employee who is already engaged with two girls in baggy geometric tunics.

Me (to Small Employee, hoping my description will help): It’s a blue cardigan. No pockets.

Small Employee says nothing.

Small Employee (to Medium Employee, just above a whisper): Do we have long cardigans?

(Medium Employee says nothing, just starts walking. This must be a trend for Spring; alongside Magenta, the biggest "Fashion DO" is Saying Nothing. Small Employee doesn’t follow. She goes back to her register and hides.

I guess I am supposed to be following Medium Employee now. This is a whole culture. It’s like one of those movies where someone in armor takes the protagonist into a dungeon, announces her to the ruler of the dungeon, then disappears. It’s like that, but with out the torches and distant screams. So Medium Employee is taking me on a zoom-walk through the store pinching sleeves of things going “THIS is a sweater...THIS is a sweater...THIS is a sweater” and I’m wondering what kind of behavior I’ve exhibited to warrant this factory response. Then I think of Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, agreement #1: Don’t take things personally.

Medium Employee comes to a halt, turns toward me)

Medium Employee (with a fake-chipper smile): That’s it! That’s all we have.

She walks away to not help the next customer.

Me: Cool. Thanks.

Then I turn and there’s a whole table of long cardigans that had somehow been excluded from Medium Employee’s sweater-lesson. My blue cardigan was right there, glimmering in a pile of acrylic waste.

And the Panda Express scenario...ugh, it pains me to write about how this jerk charged me twice for Orange Chicken and when I pointed it out he kept insisting "It's two entrees."

I pointed to my receipt and said "I only ordered one Orange Chicken and you charged me twice." Seriously, I'm broke and if I wanted two entrees I would have ordered something else besides a second order of Orange Chicken. He said, "No. Two Entrees." "How is that two entrees??" His answer? "It's two scoops." I said, "Ok, but I didn't order that. All I ordered was Orange Chicken. Two words. ONE ENTREE."

That sounds like a movie trailer. "In a world (explosion noise) where you can choose your own sides (another explosion noise) whose side are you on? This Fall...TWO WORDS. ONE ENTREE. Lizzy Cooperman complains in...ORANGE CHICKEN."

I may have looked like a crazy person, but what does that even mean? I had an acting teacher once who said if you don't stand up for yourself, if you just swallow your emotions, you lose who you are. I think I want to stop eating meat again. The only reason I started up again was that my friend shoved a meatball in my mouth at a New Year's party and I thought it tasted good.

Sometimes I feel like I'm leading a crusade to promote good customer service. Last year I hand-delivered this letter to Best Buy:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have written many Thank You's, but this is my first letter of complaint.

I had been online and picked out a keyboard I intended to purchase from your store. I also had a list of other things I needed. I was in the keyboard section for a good ten minutes without being approached. I then wandered around searching for an employee who wasn't already engaged in a conversation. When I finally got the chance to one of your employees for help with the keyboards, he said, "I don't work in that department," and went on to help another customer. I then found and asked another employee for help. He pointed to ANOTHER employee and said, "I don't work in that department. Ask him." I then went up to "him" and said, "Excuse me, could you help me out with some keyboards?" To which he begrudgingly replied, "What do you need to know?" I said, "Here, I'll show you."

I started walking toward the keyboards, relieved I had found someone who could help me, assuming he would follow. He didn't move. I said, "Could you please come with me?"

I asked him if one of the keyboards had built-in speakers. He said, "I hate to say this, but I honestly don't know."

I asked the price of another keyboard and got the same answer.

Then he said, "I hate to refer you to another store, but you might want to try Guitar Center."

"Okay...well, can you direct me to the USB storage devices?"

He vaguely gestured across the store, "They're between those two columns."

I searched around for the USB storage devices for a good five minutes until I found them, but still didn't know if it was compatible with my computer. I finally caught one of your employees and asked if it was Mac-compatible. He said, "Yup," and walked away.

I then needed to buy tv/dvd connecting cables. I asked yet another sales associate where they were and, again, he did not lead me, but instead mumbled, "They're in Home Entertainment."

I asked another associate in Home Entertainment where the tv/dvd cables were. He handed me a package of cables and said, "These will work," and sent me home with the wrong product. I had even taken the time to take pictures with my camera phone of the outlets on my tv and dvd player so I could be specific with whoever ended up helping me with the purchase. But the curt, unwilling- I don't even want to call it "help"-I received did not take the time to ask me what kind of devices I was using, and the effort I put in was wasted. Now I have to take time an hour out of my day off to come back to your store to return the product.

When I finally reached the register, the girl who rang me up was involved the entire time in a personal conversation with a fellow employee. The only thing she asked me was if I wanted to sign up for some kind of card. Again, no humanity. Just pushing product.

I have worked in retail and customer service for the past seven years of my life, and I have to say that this is the worst morale and/or the poorest training I have ever witnessed in my life.

I have worked for both privately-owned companies and major corporations, and I know that sales can't just be about moving product. I treated your employees with respect by assuming they had product knowledge and respect for their customers, and I did not receive the same respect in return. I left feeling not only uninformed and unsure of my purchases, but utterly disrespected, and as if every stereotype about major corporations treating people like numbers had been completely reaffirmed.

Had one person, just ONE person put some humanity into their work, not only would I have been satisfied, saved time and energy, and brought back my business, but it also would have saved your employees time and energy, and maybe that ONE PERSON would have felt a sense of satisfaction from knowing that they contributed to my experience. But that's the exactly the problem, as I mentioned above. Your store operates like the stereotype of a major corporation and misses out on the one aspect essential to repeat business: The Individual.

Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions about my experience. I would be more than happy to share.

Elizabeth Cooperman

Also, have you ever found an old journal and realized you’ve been dealing with the same themes in your life as you were in 2007? My journals are still littered with the phrases "I have to go to Kinko’s" and "O Great Creator!" I am the same, identical woman.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fahrenheit 4/20

Two images yesterday:

1. Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours where she's wearing that long ruffly dress and she starts at the shore and just keeps walking straight into the water.

That's what I did yesterday at the ocean, but without stones in my pockets nor death as my intention.

Mental note: Swimwear with rock pockets.

2. That Shel Silverstein poem "It's Hot" where the speaker concludes "I think I’ll take my skin off/ And sit around in my bones." Do I have to put another period after that quotation mark? It just looks so weird. .". Like Mr. T with his mohawk and earrings.

Do you know the poem I'm talking about where the guy is just sitting there, a skeleton yet he has a full face, dripping wet, and all he wants is a cooler climate. A poem about a guy who can't afford air conditioning, or maybe he has the box kind like me but can't get it to stay in his window. Not everyone has windows like that, that slide upward into exactly the shape of an air conditioner. And if anyone built a house that way they'd be building a house for someone who couldn't pay for central air and they wouldn't be very successful in the real estate market. Or maybe the speaker is one of those people who plays the martyr and just wants to say, "I have to work on Monday. I can't just fly to Alaska on a moment's notice."

So those two images.

Now see the image above?

I've been reading the Osho book on Intimacy for about three years now. My bookshelf is a medicine cabinet, and I go through several books a week, skimming for emotional, spiritual, and financial cures I can implement in a moment. Even the abundance thing where you write yourself a check for a certain amount...I have all these checks lying around that at one point I had taped to my ceiling or to this picture of yellow flowers. I can only have people over if I know they won't laugh at my Vision Board.

That dolphin towel was a gift from my parents. It's one of my staple possessions, having also served as a bathrobe and a welcome mat. It makes me think of, "One foot in sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never..." You should really hear Emma Thompson speak those words (link below), which refer to men and not beach towels, but if you look closely at the design on the towel, it does represent part shore, with the distant palm trees, and then part sea, as we are met practically face to face with these fish.

This is actually a towel about love and perspective, as we get to see things from the perspective of being underwater, as though we were

1. Virgina Woolf dying
2. Fish on a beach towel
3. Not giving a shit about this idea
4. Being told that everything has to do with the ability to see into another, or from another's perspective

I have to go. My mind is melting.

"These trees don't know any ten commandments, the birds don't know any holy scriptures. It is only man who has created a problem for himself." -Osho

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I am working on this as a cinematic mash-up.

Here are some basic plot structures:

1. Carrie loses her pigskin Balenciaga bag, and on her search, stumbles into a PETA meeting and it totally changes her life! She vows to never wear leather again, unless it's a really important art opening.
2. Babe is lost in the city and stumbles into the diner where the 4 women hang out in baggier clothes than they wear for going out. They befriend Babe and get to hear about juicy farm romances and then finally convince Babe to stay in NY and work as Miranda's paralegal. The twist? Babe has lied about his legal experience to impress the girls and now must take a crash course at a community center where the teacher happens to be...someone Samantha previously bedded!
3. Babe goes into the city, gets hit by a stroller at a high end toy store, and slips into a coma. Charlotte is there and mistakes Babe for a stuffed toy, and brings Babe home to her new baby. Trouble stirs when Carrie plans a Congratulations-On-Your Baby-Bacon-Brunch at Charlotte's and Babe wakes up to the familiar smell. He tramples through her house, destroying her Laura Ashley-esque curtains, and even eating one of her pregnancy tests! When they call Mr. Big for help, he comes over, carrying a pig of his own! The women learn to accept pigs, and they all head out for a day of complaining and facials in the city.
4. Samantha goes away for a Farm Weekend Sex Retreat. She has a fling with a country boy, and on her way back she finds a note tied to her vibrator that says, Expect a surprise. He ends up mailing her a pig...and has it delivered to the PR Firm where she works! Miranda drops by to tell Samantha that she didn't appreciate the comment she made at last week's Underwear Party, but when she sees the pig, she falls to her knees, jerking with tears, and recalls a story from her childhood about how all she wanted was a pig and they only way she could fulfill that desire was by taking another risk, which meant going to the store and buying L'Oreal Feria Dye, and now she's worried she will never see her natural color again. Carrie and Charlotte happen to pop in with sandwiches, and they all tell their saddest stories. Then there's a storm, a terrible storm, and they are forced to rearrange the office into their own apartment, where they live for the next three or four episodes with the pig.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ms. Pac-Man

My friend and I were playing Ms. Pac-Man (I don't have a proclivity for video games but I like dark rooms and lazy Sundays, and it was so out of context maybe I could count it as an Artist Date) and I was actually zooming through one of the boards (what's that rhyme that doesn't really rhyme: "Make believe you're confident/and you may find/you're just as confident as you pretend you are") at which point my friend said, "Wow, you're doing great!" And right when he said that, I got killed by a ghost.

I've behaved this way before--like when I was little taking a Tiny Tumbleweeds gymnastics course at the YMCA my teacher told me I was really close to doing a pull-up and right then I let go of the bar and thumped down on the mat.

So GAME OVER. Classic self-sabotage. Then I thought, "Maybe the real self-sabotage is that I'm wasting my time playing Ms. Pac-Man."

So this is how I tried to justify it: She's not Mrs. Pac-Man or Miss Pac-Man. She is MS. Pac-Man. She is the Gloria Steinem of video games. If you catch her in a slow moment and look closely at her skin, you can see she has a tattoo of Rosie the Riveter. She believes in the radical notion that 8-bit creations are people.

Then I start getting really sad, watching this little leg-less lady swimming through this maze, and I scribbled this down on a napkin, which I found this morning crumpled in with my tax forms (O Life!):

Every night
In search for fruit
I'm devoured by ghosts.
The breathless turn blue
As they pass through
Digital thresholds.
Overlapping eyes
Pinball in their heads
Like Chagall's happy goats.

I can only reincarnate
so many times.
One, two, one, two,
Blinky, Pinky, Inkey, Sue.
No more girl-on-girl crime.

Keep your pellets
Out of my uterus.

I Lost My Blue Cardigan

And "blue cardigan" is not code for "faith in humanity," or "Ralph's Card," or "Heart In San Francisco"...

What was I doing at the beach in sweater-weather? O Life! O Impulse! I only had it for a couple weeks and those weeks passed so quickly! The cardigan sleeps in the sand now, like a lyric in a Tony Bennett song, and perhaps one day will biodegrade and become part of the Earth. Oh dear. Do acrylic blends biodegrade?

Hopefully it will not get washed into the ocean and smother a fish.

I just had a memory of a voluptuous girl with black hair and tons of eyeliner performing this poem at a high school speech competition where she demanded that the listener, "CARESS MY THIGHS BY THE AEGEAN SEA!!"

This sweater was perfect because it was long enough that when I sat at the coffeeshop it covered that slice of skin between jeans and eternity. O BLUE CARDIGAN! Nancy Cardigan. That was her name.

The only documentation of this sweater can be seen in the above video.

Fly, dear button-down, fly.