Rachel Zoe

West Hollywood, CA

I was flipping through the guest informant book at my Los Angeles hotel when I crashed headfirst into the article "Styling Stars: Clothes Encounters with Top Hollywood Stylist Rachel Zoe" by Vicki Jo Radovsky. I read about Zoe and about how far she's come from her job as fashion assistant at YM magazine 13 years ago. I read about how all four salespeople at Sergio Rossi on Rodeo Drive stood at attention, attentive to her every move, when she turned up searching for shoes for Nicole Richie. I made it through Zoe's italics. 

"I worship these!" ($1,400 black high-heeled suede boots with a jeweled flower at each ankle)

"These...are...beyond!" ($570 apricot metallic heels embellished with paillettes)

and, after the apricot metallic heels are found to be too big for Nicole's wee feet, "You can will it...I've made shoes fit."

Like someone who pokes a bruise to make sure it still hurts, I was ready to suffer though an account of Zoe staring down the pailletted heels, eyes narrowing in menace, when a pair in Nicole's size were found at another Rossi store and, crisis averted, Richie got up to leave, prompting a parting "Love you!" from Zoe.

Then the writer starts kissing ass big time, "Zoe, a tanned blond with perfectly tousled hair tumbling down her back, is in full-on L.A. tart-up mode."

I'm pretty sure that in LA being called a tart is a compliment.

Vicki Jo continues: she's bohemian chic, her black halter top is down-to-there - WHERE, VICKI JO, WHERE - a thick gold chain emphasizes barely-there size-0 hips, matte gold disc earrings tickle her shoulders, and her upper arm is as slim as a child's wrist. She's an ultra-lean styling machine.

Vicki Jo, Vicki Jo, VICKI MOTHERF'ING JO. I'm not 13-years-old and I'm not trying to pore over a Sweet Valley High or Judy Blume book, though you write as if I were. And if I were, that would mean I was still in those vulnerable teen years when self image is impressionable and eating disorders might still seem glamorous or worth it and YOU WOULD NOT BE HELPING.

I don't give a shit that Zoe doesn't have time to eat or take bathroom breaks during her workday. It must suck to be Zoe, all backed up with whatever crumbs she snuck into her starving barely-there body.

I do think it's kind of cool that Zoe has been able to collect vintage Halston, Chloe, Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent since she was 13. That's very fortunate. I'm not anti-style. I'd like to think that we all can, if we want, develop our own style to express ourselves. But that's not necessarily the same thing as fashion.

I'm not going to pretend that it didn't take me three weeks to pack for these three months that I'm living out of a suitcase. I will openly admit that I laid in bed for several nights imagining the perfect combination of shoes to bring. And I actually did lose sleep over the matter of how to best accomplish form AND function.

And I did almost break down when I thought I didn't have the right suitcase to hold my near-fait accompli. My mom suggested I look through the catalog of things to trade in for my credit card points and, not understanding that she meant there were suitcases to choose from, I shrieked, "I don't need a fucking toaster oven!"

Mom, sorry about that.

But I'm not exactly sympathetic to the glories of emaciation or tales of things gone awry during Zoe's long days, things like having to crawl under a model's gown to hold it straight for the photographer since it wasn't hanging right or dressing a red carpet client in sheer white right before a major rainstorm. As I'd say growing up in Ohio, "Big whoop."

Or even more horrific: her traveling so often between New York, London, and the Bahamas that she can't remember what coast she's on or remember to take a vacation for herself. The tears I shed are not tears for Zoe's hardships, they are tears for the people who look up to Zoe.

Says Zoe, "Even though (fashion) is trivial and superficial, I liken this job to being a doctor. You need patience, TLC and a high threshold to deal with so many types of personalities and give a hundred percent to all your clients. It definitely helps that I was a sociology/psychology major!"

I need a drink.


Wabasha Street Bridge

Yesterday I checked into a hotel in Minnesota, looked out my ninth floor window, and saw the bridge that brought back memories, many involving pain and exhaustion in below-freezing conditions. The bridge to West St. Paul AKA the Wabasha Street Bridge.

My second year in Minnesota, the year my inner strength crumbled and I really got tired of having frostbite, I rented an apartment in Minneapolis.

I worked at a halfway house in downtown St. Paul, ten miles away. I often stayed overnight in West St. Paul at my boyfriend's mom's house, just across the Mississippi River, in order to avoid the midnight bicycle ride home. After an eight-hour shift of doing rounds, switching out rolls of toilet paper, shooting pool, and listening to the stories of a hundred psychotic residents, I rode my mountain bike across this bridge.

The 1,200 feet of this bridge has one of those not so steep but everlasting grades that repeatedly kicked my ass. I would invent stories and strike deals with myself midway across this bridge in order to convince myself to keep pedaling and not topple to the side. I imagined myself weeping and pounding my fist into the pavement, just out of traffic's way. My stories were morbid and terrifying enough to shock more strength into me.

"Mom has cancer," I'd tell myself.

"If I keep going, she recovers. If I stop, it metastasizes."

Or, "Neill is drowning. If I get off this bike and walk, the boat leaves him in the middle of the lake and he has a seizure. If I ride faster, someone pulls him out and performs CPR."

Looking back, Jesus Christ, how sick. But my adrenaline kicked in at the thought of my family, my speed picked up as I "saved" them, and in the end, I not only made it back to the house in good time, but I got to be a hero.


1,089 pounds of pissed off swine

At the swine barn of the 150th Great Indiana State Fair, I saw the world's largest boar. According to the Indianapolis Star's August 10 Star Report, "The pig from Pulaski County put behind him any disappointment from last year's competition and was named the 2006 World's Largest Boar at the Indiana State Fair."

Question: the pig was disappointed? Is that how is works?

Big Papa weighed in at 1,089 pounds and beat his competition by three measly pounds to gain the title of World's Largest Boar and the enviable opportunity to laze around in a small pen atop pile of straw and be ogled by thousands of shuffling fairgoers.

I looked Big Papa in the eye and can report that while he might not be disappointed anymore by last year's crushing defeat, neither did he seem all that triumphant. Big Papa acted like a pig who is OVER IT. And, actually, quite pissed off when Leila took a flash photo of him.

"He's a good pig. He's very gentle, and he doesn't act like a boar, said Reed, Big Papa's owner. "Most boars are a little mean, and he's not like that, and he is also still able to move and get around good."

Leila brought out the boar in Big Papa because, for maybe the first time that afternoon - or week, or ever  - Big Papa found it in himself to do more than snooze, wiggle his tail, and lift a fat fleshy eyelid to check and see if he was still being treated like a circus freak. He bared his teeth, threw his head back, and produced a loud noise registering somewhere between an excited squeal and the last moments of asphyxia. Big Papa looked perturbed enough to almost do something as drastic as stand up.

I said almost.

This excitement in the swine barn did not, evidently, go unnoticed by state fair officials since the entire barn and surrounding area was shortly thereafter treated to a loudspeaker announcement requesting visitors to please not disturb the pigs by taking flash photos since it makes them mad. Sorry Big Papa.


Asleep with beer in hand

Matt took this photo moments before the Bud Light slipped from my fingers, I put the comforter on the seat next to me, burrowed my head under it, made a fort, and went to sleep on a pillow of two water bottles.


People in Alabama say HEY

Birmingham, Alabama

Our hotel is fifteen miles from downtown and connected to a mall. It is 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside and sunny as shit. According to the weather channel, there are fine particles in the air, presumably pollutants. I went shopping and in the mall was introduced to the Alabama HEY.

Macy's lingerie department:

"HEY Mabel!"
"HEY Barbara!"
"HEY Sally!"
"How's yer dad?"

Barbara rang up my purchase. I found out that her dad isn't doing well and she spent all night taking care of him. When I pulled out my wallet and counted change, Barbara stole a look inside my courier bag and took a break from saying hey to ask, "Are yew in the pen business?"

After flashing a blank expression, I looked down and realized that Barbara had seen the eighteen pens stashed in the front pocket of my bag.

"No, she just steals them from hotels," Jimmy said.

"I'm a COLLECTOR," I said.

"Better than matchbox cars, I guess," added Barbara.

Ten minutes later, I pushed my way through a family that was blocking the entrance to a store, mom in the middle of the doorway, calling out out at the top of her lungs,

"HEY!...HEY!...HEY DAY-AD!" (Dad)

And then, "Hold on a minute! I'm gonna go say HEY!"

Yeah, you are.