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La mort d’un beau soutien-gorge

I haven’t looked my best at work lately.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten into the habit of immediately hitting “snooze” when I hear my alarm go off at 6:30am.  Forty-five minutes later, I’ll force myself out of bed, pull on whatever jeans and t-shirt I can find crumpled up in a heap on the floor, and ease my feet into my blue and purple Adidas.  After rolling some deodorant against my stubbly pits and rubbing cornstarch into my oily, sweaty scalp, I’ll consider myself good to go.  The t-shirts are usually stained, the jeans are usually smelly, and, while it may be a great alternative to dry shampoo, the cornstarch tends to leave a powdery build up in the part of my hair.

I’m sexy.  And you know it.

My appearance doesn’t affect anyone else’s workday.  That is, I didn’t think it affected anyone else’s workday until the foxy Frenchman made a comment about it on Tuesday.

The Frenchman is one of the most amusing people in the office.  He asks hilariously European questions, such as,”Stéphanie, if I were to put a banana in ze freezer, what would happen?” When I first started at this company a year ago, he used to ask me questions about the bun I would wear in my hair: “How deed you make eet so pear-fect?  Eet eez like a dough-nut!”  He has great arms despite his claims that he never works out.  He rides a motorcycle.  He’s classic.

“Stéphanie,” he said to me on Tuesday when I passed him in the hall, “Remember when you used to dress nice at work?”

I flipped him off.

“No, really,” he continued.  “Do you remember?”

My only indication that this was an earnest question lost in translation as opposed to an outright dig was the fact that he was smiling the same doofy smile that was plastered across his face when he once asked me if his pants were too tight.  Still, I wasn’t thrilled to be put on the spot.

I said, “Fuck you” and walked away.

Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut.  Regardless, I knew I didn’t look nice.  Far from it.  For weeks.  I asked myself, Would you like to put more effort into your appearance?  The answer was Yes.  I asked myself, Is this for the foxy Frenchman, or for yourself?  The answer was, For my damn self!

Wednesday went fine.  I got out of bed at 7:00 instead of 7:15, which gave me just enough time for a quick shower.  I put on a black tank top, a blue cardigan, jeans that had been hanging up in my closet, and knee high boots.  The foxy Frenchman told me, “See?  You are like a new person!”  I flipped him off.

Thursday was the same.  I got up at 7:00, sprayed sweet-smelling dry shampoo in my hair, and put on a clean dress.  When I got home that night I took a shower, blow dried my hair, and selected a dress to wear the next day.  I chose a Free People dress I had splurged on in July during an intense “Oh My God, What Am I Going To Wear To All The Nick Cave Shows I’m Seeing This Week?” shopping spree.  I didn’t end up wearing it to Nick Cave, but I did wear it to Neutral Milk Hotel.  I felt like a Harvest Moon Princess.

“Look at me,” I thought to myself as I got into my bed at 9:30 on Thursday night.  “Look at how much better I feel about my appearance, all because I am making an effort to make a minimal amount of effort.”

This morning began as the two previous mornings had.  Up at 7:00.  Contacts in.  Deodorant on.  Sweet-smelling dry shampoo sprayed.    After I put on my Harvest Moon Princess dress, I heard my roommate call my name and ask if I was ready to leave.  I wasn’t ready.  Not quite.  Still, I grabbed my car key from my purse and followed her downstairs to the garage.  We each have a place to park, but our spaces are tandem — one of us is always blocking the other in, regardless of how convenient that is.  It’s a bit of a pain, but my roommate and I seem to have an understanding.  There’s not much we can do besides communicate with each other when one of us has to get the hell to work.

She pulled away.  I re-parked my car.  When I got out and walked to the door that leads to the lobby, I saw that it was open ajar.  This door is usually shut and locked.  Shit, that’s lucky, I thought.  I don’t have my key with me.  I pushed the door open, walked through the lobby, and stepped into the elevator.  I felt the weight of my car key in my hand.  My one key.  My car key.  I gasped.

I didn’t have the key to the lobby, which meant I didn’t have the key to the apartment, which meant I was in a situation.  About a month ago, my parents warned me that if there were too many keys hanging on my keychain, the weight of everything could mess up my car’s ignition.  Ever since that conversation, I have been keeping my car key separate from all the others.  In my hurry to move my car so that my roommate could leave for work, I had forgotten to grab all of my damn keys.  (Note to self: come up with a slightly better way of keeping your keys organized.)

I arrived at my floor and ran to my apartment.  Locked.  I ran around the corner to where the apartment manager lives and knocked on his door.  No answer.  I knocked a bit more assertively.  Nothin’.  I banged on his door with both hands.  Still nothin’.  I got down on my knees, opened the mail slot in his door, and yelled, “HELLLOOOOO?”

I gave up and ran back to my apartment.  I tried the handle again.  Still locked.  I thought that since only the door handle lock was locked (as opposed to the dead bolt), perhaps I could force it open by jiggling the handle repeatedly and slamming my booty against the door.  I tried this for a few seconds.  It worked about as well as one might suspect it would.

Nervousness began to kick in.  What time is it?  How unimaginably horrible is the traffic getting with every passing second?  Should I go out and find a pay phone and call the office to tell them I’m running late?  How the hell will I get back inside the building if I do that?  I’m not wearing shoes!  I can’t go to work without any shoes!  Underwear!  I didn’t have time to put on underwear before I went downstairs!  

Staring down at the lock, I tried to think of ways to force it open without slamming my booty against the door.  Never in my life had I successfully picked a lock, but what if I could do it now?  Along with all the other innocent, yet miscalculated things I regretted doing that morning, I cursed myself for removing the bobby pins I had used to pull back my bangs while I washed my face.  Guess lock-picking is out of the question.

Suddenly, I remembered a scenario that took place in an episode of Friends I had once watched when I was a kid.  The three women (I don’t remember all of their names) were trapped outside in the snow.  They were with some guy (not any of the main guys — it was someone else), and they needed to get inside of somewhere (either a cabin or a car).  The man asked which of them wore the biggest bra size, and he explained that he could use a part of a bra (underwire? clip?) to pick the lock.  He said he needed to know who wore the biggest size, because that woman would have the biggest…the biggest lock-picking tool.  Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox argued with each other over which of them had bigger boobs (neither of them wanted to have the biggest boobs, which made me feel very insecure as a pre-teen with significant breasts), and then Lisa Kudrow was like, “Shuttup bitches, I’ll give him my bra.”  I changed the channel after that.  Did the bra trick work?  What part did he use?  No idea.

Standing in the hallway at what was now probably 7:45am, I carefully pulled my left arm out of its sleeve.  Then, I reached both hands around my back and undid my bra clasp.  I slid the bra off my left arm, and then quickly put my arm back in my dress sleeve.  I repeated the process on the right side, slipping my sleeve off, slipping the bra off, and then covering up as swiftly as possible.

Once I had the bra in my hands, I wasn’t sure what to do.  It was a flimsy old thing that needed to be replaced, so I wasn’t too upset about having to destroy it.  Still, I wasn’t sure where to start.  At first I tried to force my car key under one of the clasps in hopes it would help it slide out of the fabric.  When that didn’t work, I took the bra in both hands and started to pull in opposite directions.  After a brief, yet furious struggle, the tip of one of the underwires popped out.  It was too big and too blunt to fit in the lock.  Curses.  I hooked the bra clasps together, and, once again, pulled in opposite directions.  After a few seconds of twisting and pulling the pathetic bra while contorting my face into all kinds of ridiculous expressions and aggressively whispering, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” one of the clasps popped out of the fabric.  I bent the small piece of metal into a straight line, and then gently stuck it in the lock.  Unsure of what to do next, I started wiggling the metal up and down, side to side, clockwise, and counter clockwise.  When I tried the up and down motion again, the damn thing snapped, leaving half of it in my hand and half of it lodged inside the Godforsaken lock.

The feeling of defeat was palpable.  I had no shoes, no underwear, and now, thanks to a desperate, half-formed idea inspired by an old episode of Friends I never finished watching, no bra.  My purse was inside my apartment, along with my phone, my makeup bag, my black sandals I had planned to wear, and the food I had planned to bring with me for lunch.

Should I just go to work?

I remembered I had a pair of brown boots in my trunk.  They would work.  I still had my car key, which was a good thing.  This doesn’t have to be that big of a deal.  

I walked back downstairs and opened my trunk.  I zipped up my boots and got in the car.  I put on my sunglasses, slid The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash into my CD player, and thought about how much easier this morning would have been if I had the ability to walk through vaulted doors.

I got to work on time.  Early, in fact.  I had time to drink a cup of tea and enjoy the silence of an empty office.  When I was finished, I walked into the bathroom to check out how my boots coordinated with the dress.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I will definitely be wearing this outfit again.  With socks, next time.

For a few more seconds, I admired my appearance in the mirror.  My hair looked polished.  My outfit was groovy.  My makeup-free face looked pretty great, too.  I felt confident.  I didn’t feel like an artificial, overly done-up version of myself, nor did I feel like the lazy, slightly smelly version of myself I had recently been showcasing.  I was just me.  Silly old me, with a pretty dress, no socks, and a torn up bra in my trunk.

When I returned to my desk, I opened up my email.  I threw a few old messages away and printed out my boss’ daily edition of The Hollywood Reporter.  I was about to get up to get a second cup of tea when I heard someone enter my doorway.

“Stéphanie,” said the foxy Frenchman.  “Zat eez a great dress.”

I flipped him off.  As he walked away, I smiled as I imagined how I must have looked while I was struggling to tear my bra in half.  Maybe after I get my next paycheck I’ll treat myself to Chantelle.  And a keychain.

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The Beat Goes On.

It’s remarkable what nine hours of sleep on a firm mattress with lots of blankets can do for your outlook.

Today is Tuesday, January 24th.  I left for Santa Cruz on Friday, January 20.  During my drive, I listened to an audiobook of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  Well, I got to Disc 3, anyway.

I stopped at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton for breakfast.  I find that kind of thing whimsical.  After my eggs and toast, I got into my car to hit the road again, and, quite suddenly, I felt that dreaded sensation I haven’t felt in months.  My hands tingled.  My heart beat quickened.  “Oh, shit,” I thought.  “I’m anxious.”

I had felt anxious the night before, too, but opted not to report it to anyone.  I was watching the 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast with my mom and two of my best friends.  Suddenly, after “Tale As Old As Time,” I noticed that my arms felt tingly.  I tried to ignore it, but, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t.  I even made the deadly mistake of thinking, “If I suddenly have a stroke, someone in this theater will call 9-11.”  That is not the kind of thing I am supposed to tell myself.  I am supposed to tell myself that arm tingling doesn’t mean shit.  Why did I let myself get freaked out?  Out of all the voices that chatter all day long in my subconscious, why did I listen to the one that sounds like Woody Allen?  As I sat there counting down the minutes until The Beast turned back into The Prince, I made one more idiotic mistake.  I thought to myself, “I hope this doesn’t happen tomorrow during my drive.”

The human mind is…well, it’s bizarre, to say the least.  That little tiny seed of doubt was all it took to freak me out hours later outisde of Pea Soup Andersen’s.  I started the car anyway, but I was still feeling weird.  There I was, driving north on the 101, desperately trying to tell myself to chill out and listen to the soothing sound of, “The night air blah blah All I had was $3 blah blah Dean Moriarty blah blah Bottle of whiskey blah blah Beat.”

Had I made the wrong decision?  Was it really wise of me to take a trip rather than find a damn job?  Why did I feel I even deserved to do what I was doing?  What was the point?   

It was time for Woody Allen to shut up.  He was disrupting Jack Kerouac.

I pulled over in the tiny town of Los Alamos.  Yes, Los Alamos, California.  It exists.  There’s a gas station, and a Subway (as in sandwiches) that looks like an old saloon.  I usually stop there on the way to Santa Cruz to pee and get something to drink.  This time, I peed, got a drink, and took a walk.

Soon enough, I was back in the car, feeling relaxed and ready to kick the drive’s ass.  I turned off Jack, put on some music, and made it the rest of the way to Santa Cruz without a single hiccup.  It was a rather encouraging experience.  When I got to Watsonville it began to rain, so I put on Van Morrison and sang.  Loudly.

That was Friday.  Today is Tuesday.  On Monday morning I got into my car and saw that I had been robbed.  My copy of Blonde on Blonde was on my seat, which was not right.  My glove compartment was open.  The windows weren’t broken, nor was the lock broken.  “I…I think I left my car unlocked?”  I couldn’t believe it when I said out loud, “I’ve been…robbed?”

The bastards got my iPod.  Ya know what else they got?  The audiobook of On the Road.  Except Disc 3, of course.  Sal Paradise will forever be in Los Angeles with his beautiful Mexican girl.

After some anger and confusion, I accepted what had happened and moved on.  My friend said, “You’re handling this really well.  I would be crying right now.”  I took her compliment seriously, and even went so far as to say, “Hopefully I’ll be able to think of this experience in the future and tell myself if I can remain calm after being robbed, I can remain calm when other shit happens.”  Yeah.  I said that.

Hours later, I totally cried.  I realized that the bastards had also taken my Powerpuff Girls CD case, which contained the following:

  1. A burned copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind
  2. A burned copy of The Mother’s of Invention’s Freak Out!
  3. Pete Doherty’s Grace/Wastelands
  4. My friend Dan’s Woody Allen CD…
  5. Jason Webley’s Cost of Living
  6. Jason Webley’s live album In This Light (I will now have to buy this a third time…)
  7. A burned copy of the freaking BIG LITTLE DIPPER DIPPER ALBUM


Here are the four things that actually HURT me:


After realizing these CD’s were gone forever, I took a deep breath and then said, out loud, “With the exception of the live Jason Webley album, I have all of this music on my computer.  What is not on my computer is on a flash drive.  I can get all of this…”

Then I realized that the Powerpuff Girls CD case also contained what I consider to be the single greatest radio show I ever put on.  It was one night in April 2010 where Dancing Barefoot was just unstoppable.  My playlist was kickass and my delivery was ridiculously strong.  There wasn’t a single technical difficulty and I never said, “Ummm.”  I sounded like a happy, level-headed, stable fucking person who was having a killer time putting on a rock solid radio show.

I turned to my friend.  I told her what I had just realized.  We sat in silence.  I then said, “I’m going to cry in front of you now.”

As it turns out, I may be able to get a copy of that radio show after all.  Apparently KZSC’s archive of shows just might go back as far as 2010.  I shall see.   Regardless, I felt rather strange for the rest of the Goddamn day.  To be completely honest, I suddenly wanted to just go home.  Why bother sticking around?  My freaking back was killing me from sleeping on a deflated air mattress.  My last pair of contact lenses were completely fucked and the rain was fogging up my glasses.   I was tired, I was cold, and I was still unsure whether or not I deserved to be taking a trip.

Oh, and I was robbed.

Oh, and that Goddamn Woody Allen voice had made an appearance the other day.

As I sat on my friend’s bed after a delicious dinner at Charlie Hong Kong’s, all I could think about was whether or not I should call it quits on the whole road trip thing.

That, my friends, was yesterday.  Today, after finally getting a full night’s sleep on a firm mattress with lots of blankets, I am a new woman.  Screw Woody Allen, screw the bastards who stole my iPod, and screw calling it quits.  That is not what I want to do.  Besides, I just noticed that at no point did I mention that I’m actually having a great time…

Lock your doors.  Sleep well.  Wear dry clothes.

Time to start my damn day.  In Santa Cruz.

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