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Friday, December 25, 2009



Characters (in order of appearance):
Francoise Hamm Solange: She has a cheerleaderish ponytail, a tight Southern accent, and a Very Romantic Bedroom. Reminiscent of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, but NOT SINGLE. And, to her credit, a little less embonpoint in the face.

Me/I: She is cleaning Francoise's house in the Level 99 jeans she thought she was too fat for but it turns out they actually fit.

Props: Rags, fingerprints, one granola bar that never comes out of the bag.

This isn't a play.



Francoise is showing me how to make the bed. It’s giant, the kind where if you were to make it alone you would have to crawl onto the bed and not be able to avoid a sexual fantasy while adjusting the fitted sheet. She says, Ok now grab the toile and I’m thinking crinoline, the puffy underskirts of so many high school musicals, a pseudo-frustrated costume designer tugging at the hem of the leading lady’s dress, her mouth full of pins like a metal scarecrow mumbling, She just needs some crinoline, and the “assistant costume designer”, a student with an accidentally rigid perm, writes NEED TULLE in the center of a wide-ruled page of the notebook with the electric pink dog on the cover that she got at Target thinking it was what she wanted, got to school the first day and realized she didn’t want it, and learned that humility can come so soon after pride.

So we’re making the bed and she says, Ok now grab the toile, and I say, I think I’ve always confused tulle with toile. Turns out tulle is the crunchy tutu stuff and toile is a fabric that depicts a complex scene. But then I start wondering, Well, what makes a scene? If it’s a floral printed duvet, how do we know there’s not some conflict amongst the flowers, or that an orchid just died because the owner watered it too much instead of putting in just one ice cube a week?

Or what about a comforter that depicts a domestic abuse scene (i.e. a man is looking at a credit card bill in one picture, then backhanding his wife in the other)?

That could be toile, especially if it had the classic off-white background; and, of course, a nearby well.

In this case, it’s a print I’ve seen before. The same story I used to sell on duvet covers at The Pottery Barn. This is a story about a man pulling an ox toward a red or black or blue barn. Depends on what you ask for in your registry. The storyline is pretty vague. I have no idea what will happen in the barn. Or why the man is pulling with such intensity. Maybe a day full of so many personal failures that he now is taking it all out on this poor ox. I don’t see his boss anywhere on the bedspread. I think he’s self-employed.

Or maybe when he was twenty-one he was pressured by a coworker to read Diet for a New America and, as a result, became and stayed a vegetarian for seven years, showing everyone pictures of pigs in cages and announcing, See? They are crammed so closely together they bite each other's tails off! ...until one New Year’s Eve his friend popped a meatball in his mouth and it changed his whole perspective and now his sole desire is to consume a burger made from the flesh of this very animal. But first he desperately needs for this very ox to listen to his problems: No one understands my art! he cries, as he places the final piece of straw on his all-straw statue of a man who, instead of wearing his heart on his sleeve, wears his socks over his shoes.

This Manual Labor story is the only one I’ve ever seen on a bedspread. It countervails so perfectly a quiet night of lying in bed sucking on diamonds.

I want to ask Francoise, Is it always this same story? but I know it's not, and I hate when I ask questions I know the answers to, and I know that by admitting I've seen this toile before that I am just bringing up the fact that this bedding, the selfsame bedding where she tosses and turns and drools and stirs and then starts a diary entry and then stops and then brings herself to a teary orgasm while her husband is still away doing business in Thailand, on this very spread, under the canopy and next to the velvet heart-shaped ottoman, next to the clinquant antique hairbrushes laid carefully like little dolls on the mirrored vanity, where she's fantasized about brushing her hair in front of her husband like the mom did on Little House on the Prairie, and where she has her husband’s photo encased in a gilded frame that says "Amore," and so many musky perfumes...

…that I am taking this symbol of her very sacred lust and saying, “I saw your passion on sale last week for 89.99.”

Today Francoise is obviously thinking about getting everything in order for her husband to come. We only have a couple hours. The house is brewing with cinnamon smells, almost cartoonish, like you can see faint red swirls in the air. This is the day she’s been waiting for, yet sometimes don’t you ever build yourself up for a big event then the day of the event you find you can’t pull yourself out of bed? But there seems something deeper in the corner of her mind, something she’s not telling anyone. A problem. The beginning of the problem goes, How am I going to tell him about the…. But I don’t know how it ends. It ends in a land somewhere beyond her pink headband and rigid sense of obligation, disguised by holiday cheer, past the Vision Board she has in the master bathroom, the one plastered in pictures of Valerie Bertinelli in an alarming green bikini saying I LOST 50 lbs, (and I plan to lose more in the few hours I have before my husband comes back from Thailand)!!

So we’ve moved on to the pillows and she asks me a question, So what are you doing for the holidays? And right before I answer she says, Oh no no, these pillows actually go diagonally, like THIS….

I am learning so much about the layering of pillows. From my recent experience, this is the Proper Pillow-Layering Order:
1. The ones you actually use. (The ones to be ashamed of.)
2. The ones that are slightly decorative, at least enough to mask the (horrifying!) ones you actually use.
3. The Giant Square Ones. Usually a solid color to complement the duvet.
4. The rectangular ones you place horizontally to offset the Giant Square Ones. Usually solid with a hint of the print from the duvet (in this case, toile), to offset the Giant Square ones.
5. The slightly smaller square ones (optional, excessive, and completely useless)
6. The Lame Centerpiece One With Possible Bow Adornment.

I’ve also learned about monochromatic Christmas Tree decoration. This woman has a tree in the dining room festooned in all green lights, as if she took a tip from a fashion magazine, “Green will ACCENTUATE and not DETRACT from the tree’s natural beauty!”

And then in the Very Romantic Bedroom, which by the way also has a giant mirror I scrub and scrub and the rag leaves dots of dust then I go back and scrub THEM then I’m kneeling, rag in hand, looking at myself in the mirror and wondering if my Dove Gradual Build Self-Tan is really building, I find myself eventually casting wishes out to some kind of I DON’T KNOW, A GOD WHO LIVES IN A CAVE, a God who lives in Very Romantic Bedrooms, who crawls through the insides of mirrors just so He can look back at you as a piece of glass and say, It's time to take an extension class.

So, this room has a white tree with all pink lights. This tree is a girl with fair skin who took some bad advice to use cream rouge instead of powder. To myself, I call it the Sweet-N-Low Tree.

I think I’m speaking to God then I realize I’m not that important…I mean, in my own life I am…but that we are all of equal importance, and that becomes sad and comforting at the same time. I’m kneeling on this floor next to tiny piles of children’s laundry, little corduroy skirts, and I turn and one of Francoise’s daughters is leaning in the doorway, watching me. I turn and say hi and she asks, So when did you decide to be a housecleaner?

My LA side wants to say, I get great material!

But the real me, and instead, I say, It kind of chose me.

I keep thinking things like Work With Love, and then eventually, as I’m using a special rag to wipe her daughter’s fingerprints like little oval ghosts from the plasma screen television, I find I’m trying to romanticize the fingerprints: O that you POINTED at the television with your small fingers while trying out your new Nintendo Wii, O LIFE, a MIRACLE!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


DISCLAIMER: This has been rotting in my computer for over a year. I no longer eat croissants.

Bundy. Bundy. Bundy. Leeches and hail on you, Bundy. And Mapquest, I'm a human being, not a pinball. You can’t just tell me to go South then spit me out North. If I follow your crazy advice to exit on South Bundy, it chucks me out closer to the airport than to the beer audition and I end up asking an ice cream truck driver for directions. Then I start wanting ice cream. Then I dig in my bag for the granola bar. The one I brought along because I’d decided to become a responsible adult and not waste money on a croissant at The Coffee Bean and take one bite of it and leave the bag in my car until the next time I dump all my “carbage” out at once at an Arco.

I’ll park at a failed meter, but not without asking everyone I see on the street, “Do you think it’s okay to park at a failed meter?” Americans seem divided on this issue. Some say, “I’ve never gotten a ticket.” Others say, “Leave a note.”

"Hi. My name is Lizzy. I put a quarter in and it started flashing FAIL, but because the bottom bar on the L is out, it just says FAII. Just saying, because I do pay my taxes and in fact got audited. Thanks."

It wasn’t until I started heading east on Pico while scrutinizing my life choices that I noticed the envelope on my dashboard.

“I got a ticket?” I said aloud, while straightening my imaginary brooch.
Then, “I got a ticket!” with the pride of “My car was selected!” or “I really am an adult!”

Maybe it wasn’t a ticket but a love letter, and if I didn’t pull over it would fly away and I’d never know Harold (my admirer) or how he would cross snow-covered valleys to see my lovely face once more. Maybe it was both. A lonely cop who had seen me change into my H&M leggings in my car.

Ugh. Expired tabs. When I got home I rifled through my mail. Then I got distracted by an old birthday card. Then I kept rifling through my mail. Turns out I had managed to avoid all official-looking mail since September 2007. And I need a Smog Check.

The DMV is closed on the weekend, so I put the ticket on my dashboard wherever I parked my car to let the police know I’d already been spanked.

So I made it just in time for the beer thing. I focused on getting my hair into an office-y ponytail. I forgot to put the ticket out. Bam. Spanking number two.

On the way to my smog check, I was stuck behind a cement truck with a neon sign that said DANGER. I called my friend (on speakerphone…no more tickets) who read me a quote out of his AA manual. It was about Acceptance, which struck me as odd because just moments before our conversation I had godammited the sun for melting in the ice in my drink. I notice I bring up beverages a lot. I will explain why this is a problem in TUESDAY NIGHT. Oh but wait until you hear THURSDAY.

So as he read to me about Acceptance I felt this wave (it would be light blue if I had to choose a color) pass over my body, really resonating. If I was upset, it was because I wasn’t accepting a person, place, or thing in my life. Just like that quote I always thought was by Sinead O’Connor but totally isn’t—I think it might be by Jesus--she just says it in the beginning of her album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I wish I had the wisdom! Wait. I DO have the wisdom. I just need to be in this light blue wave.

So I got to the Smog Place that had a Smog Check sign right out on the street (sidenote: every mechanic is named Tony) and he asks to see my paperwork. I handed him my Smock Check Renewal Form. And as I did, I realized that in some inspired moment, I had scribbled a poem on the back of it, entitled Rubbing Against Myself, the last line of which is, “This is a shabby gown for a sorceress, lifting pink material in the night, coercing it…”

He looks at me like I’m a perv and says, “We don’t do State Only Smog Checks. You have to go to (this other place).”

Ugh, acceptance. GREAT! I try looking at the ceiling (even though I’m outside) and smiling like I learned to do in Tony Robbins 30-days to Personal Power.

I get there. I hate parking at gas stations. It makes me want to sing that song Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.

A good-natured guy I can’t understand rises from his tinny chair and says, “Our machine broken. You know where Wine is?” I don’t know what accent trades V for W but I imagine it’s pretty emasculating. I wonder if he’s a virgin. I hate myself for thinking that, and then I think Bless his heart, which is a more patronizing thought than the first. Then I want a Tobelrone. I really like how the foil keeps revealing new triangles. It’s very Egyptian. I’m lonely.

So I find the third Smog-a-log. It’s kind of sketchy, like that scene in Adventures in Babysitting where they’re trapped in the parking garage. I loved Elisabeth Shue.

My Smog Experience Guy #3 comes out and I manage to insult his expertise right away, “Is this an official station?” and then I explain why I’m asking and then we both get tired of me.

I’m surprised they have outdoor seating. The table is that kind of glass comprised of blurry octagons. It brings back memories of high school pool parties- the smell of chlorine and Doritos. I think of that Acceptance passage and feel a cry coming on. Oh, it’s crawling. I put on my sunglasses and weep. Still in my corporate costume, it must appear to passersby that I have lost a major investment.

Now my feet are getting hotter in my patent leather heels and the sun really pumps. I scroll through my phone and erase some numbers of people I consider to be toxic just to see their names dropped into that animated trash can.

PHONE:Are you sure you want to delete?
ME: Yes.

PHONE: Is deletion non-acceptance?
ME: No.

ME AND PHONE: Do you just keep people who are bad for you in your life like mucked up lillipads, so if you’re scared to cross the pond of new experience you can feel like you have support, even though these lillipads are probably just green halograms programmed into your brain by your own need for security?

ME AND PHONE: Well I don’t know who you mean by “you”.

So I get to the DMV and call my work. Yes! Paychecks came today! And the line at the DMV is fast, and no one looks like they want to die. I start discreetly taking pictures of people at the DMV with my camera phone. "My name is Lizzy Cooperman and I love taking care of my life." I start repeating that to myself. "My name is Lizzy Cooperman and I love taking care of my life."

B292. Sounds like a cover band. That’s me.

The woman I get (I see experiences like these like speed dating) reminds me of this redheaded girl I knew in Minnesota who I dreamt broke my dishes while wearing a pair of my cowboy boots I never owned. Now is my chance to mend that wound with a simple transaction.

“Oh and also?” I do that thing that supposedly insecure women do by ending sentences with a question mark, which is actually probably a very Zen thing, to always be questioning. “I got two tickets…”

“Those are just fixer uppers.” And she told me how I can get out of them! Unresolved issues with Megan from ten years ago healed.
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I get my red 2008 sticker and slap it onto my license plate like it just won the 4H. It’s all happening!

But then…

I don’t need to go through the events leading up to my night in Irvine, but here are some visuals: a blue shirt I’ve been wearing too much because I think it looks good with my faded Mystic Tan, several diet cokes, flipping through notebooks, and putting a security deposit down on a new apartment.

After compromising my artistic and personal integrity, I got in my car and headed South on the five. Then I headed more South on the five. Then I headed more South on the five.

Soon there were only semis.

No lights.

One exit, packed with trucks.

Clad in a shorter-than-usual skirt, I was afraid to pull over and--what would I do, walk up to a truck, “Excuse me, sir. I just had a really bad set and now I don’t know where I am.”

Finally I came to an exit that had a picture of a either a gas pump or a sad robotic dinosaur.

When I asked the Flo from Mel’s diner-like cashier at the gas station how far I was from Hollywood she said, “Oh honey, you went WAY past Hollywood. About an hour and a half. You’re heading toward San Francisco.”

I bought sour cream and onion chips, knowing the more I ingested the sicker I would get. I was on my way.

I ate the chips. I licked my fingers. I touched my steering wheel. I ate more chips. Licked my fingers, therefore eating my steering wheel. Blazed through the mountains. Blaze, also the stage name of the guy my friend moved to Australia to be with who dumped her shortly after she arrived. Where are my friends? Why am I stopping at this point in this story? Because I’m scared of writing about the way I felt that night…like my entire existence had turned into “industry” versus a joke about an imaginary frog. The frog had failed tonight and I still believed in the frog.

I wanted to dye my hair red for god knows how many washes. I wanted to dye my hair red without being scared I’d get a callback for a TGI Friday’s audition and show up looking like a racier Smiling People Greeter than they wanted. Isn’t it MY LIFE? Can’t I just get a credit card even though I had a shopping problem in my mid-twenties and spent one summer purchasing unlimited black garments and glittery tube tops from Express and then had an indignant attitude about paying it off until I was 27 and had a breakdown about it at my temp job and paid it all at once and lived off cashews?

Aren’t I on emotional fire as it is?

Don’t I deserve red hair? Isn’t that what food addicts ask themselves about ice cream?

I sped through the latitude, it was okay to listen to my iPOD while driving tonight. I must have smoked a whole pack of cigarettes before I got home, which wasn’t actually home, but a twenty day sublet where I stayed with two actor-brothers who ate surprisingly healthy food. I think I bought organic mayonnaise to impress them.

To be continued…