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.
THE FRIDAY NIGHT BEFORE THAT MONDAY
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.
BACK TO MONDAY MORNING
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?
PHONE: Is deletion non-acceptance?
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.
I get my red 2008 sticker and slap it onto my license plate like it just won the 4H. It’s all happening!
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.
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…