As usual with me, a lot of apocalyptic events start off with a fashion disaster.

If I feel off in any way, my clothes read as a chronicle or omen that on this particular day, I never should leave the building. My withering from the world is reflected in my outfits. Example, the night I was carjacked, I went out in pjs, no bra and polka dot rainboots. Not a good sign. If I’m feeling introverted, yet drag myself into the world, at the best of times, my choice of wear will be an attempt to prop me up. If it’s a particularly melancholy mood I’m in, though, not only do I fail in putting an ensemble together, I lack vision in color creativity, thematic resonance and context. I just don’t own what I’m wearing with confidence and well, things go badly.

In this case, the biggest sign all came down to the wrong shoes. Truly wrong, twice over.

Being of mood, it was Saturday night and my date sprung on me a doozy of a lineup for the night, including an actors’ awards show. Had we only had one event it might have been fine, but he had three, with three different outfit needs. With no notice, and an afternoon fleeting, my mind went on overload, musing on jewelry, shoes, trying to assemble day to night, from casual to evening gown. Having not been shopping in months, I felt bored by the whole process of dressing up anyway, though there are plenty of outfits in my closet I haven’t yet worn. Why couldn’t I get excited by anything? Feeling uninspired and lazy, I decided to put my New Year’s resolution to the test: minimal care for what to wear. Noblesse oblige. With a blind’s eye, I reached in my closet, grabbed the first lace dress I saw, a pair of gold pumps and called it a night. I was footloose and fancy free!

Yes, fancy free when fancy is where it’s at. Not a good day to implement a resolution. When you try to mix three outfits in at once, you get “clown.” But worse. A real clown at least knows what to wear to pull off the act. I was lower than a clown, beyond jester, beneath Hester, my “A” coming in the color of neon pink instead of scarlet.

The first event was a photography convention. I tend to mask rather than match mood. I don’t wear black when I’m feeling down, or gray when it’s raining. I might rethink this. I used clothes like an outpatient might take Celexa.

So, when my date showed up, I was already so lethargic, I wearing a purple photo-fabric dress with netting barely covering the cleavage. This Urban Outfitters dress was cute and artsy, more spring than winter, but too short for public without stockings. I didn’t care. It was hot as blazes out. Boots would have made it more season-friendly, but I felt like rebelling against myself and the world and chose bright neon patent leather flats to go with it. Pink and purple, like the BumbleBee restaurant chain I went to as a kid. Fun! Wrong. Eye-catching yes, but so summer. While I thought the shoes might elevate my mood as they had all summer, I just wasn’t in the mood for them. I lacked the chutzpah to pull them off.

While others were in jeans and wistful tops, I wandered around the exhibit, self-consicous, eager for a costume change. Noticing my lack of zeal, my date asked if I was ok. I kept shrugging, sigh, why is LA so boring?

On to the second event. I slapped myself. Pumped and ready to party, I switched into the lace get up, the Zara necklace Kate Middleton wore to Mandela premiere, and a necklace I got in South Africa, hoping to open up a conversation with Idris Elba who would be there. At once, I realized a short dress was a mistake and the gold shoes not quite a fit with the outfit. I hadn’t been thinking properly. Oh well, I told myself, the gold added indie flair.

We parked the car and within twenty steps, my heel broke off. The entire stiletto. I tried limping, thinking this could be a character choice and add some amusement to the already sigh-filled night. When I played Laura in the “Glass Menagerie” in college, I got interior thrills when I went everywhere as her. If anyone talked to me, I’d clam up like a flower, full of blue roses and pleurosy. What fun! Among actors, I could do this.

I kept walking, trying to keep an air-heel going while I kept up with my date, excited for the challenge, albeit I was going to get an out-of-balance calf workout. We got closer to the event and I stopped. I couldn’t go in like this with one shoe heeled, a tottering teapot. I looked prematurely drunk. And I wasn’t drunk. Just stoned.

No, it wasn’t going to work if I wanted to even attempt normal. We went back to the car. Cursed! The only backup shoes I had were the neon pink flats. Wine-lace dress, black sheet stockings, silver-sequined wrap coverup to an awards event and neon pink shoes????? This was the equivalent to wearing scaled alligator skin to a PETA event. Only, at least alligator blends in. Neon pink shoes do not, and never will, blend in. We decided to take another hit of the vaporizer and think. Was I going to make it in these neon shoes?

Unless I mentioned it before, we were coming to this star-studded event uninvited and uncredentialed. (You might have another term for it, but it is the term that shall not be named.) Like being in the bush with wild animals, the last thing you want to do in these cases is stand out. I had pink neon shoes and my date….had orange pants. This was not a good idea. We thought. What the fuck, right?

My date had done this event every year for the last six years, so we went with it. His usual plan of entry was to go through the garage. The elevator went straight into the auditorium and then we’d walk through to the after-party under the tents. Simple. We could see the throngs of crowds waiting to see Redford, DeCaprio, Blanchett, Hanks and we casually walked by a line of valet parkers up to the elevator. Only this time, there was a guard standing there.

Flummoxed, my date decided to try another method: the media door. What the heck, I did press for fests and we were both writers. We’d blend right in. My date is a pro at this, and I was bored, so I was along for the ride. We went to the side door and told the first guard we’d been in already, that I just had to change my shoes after a heel broke. He looked at my shoes. I laughed, trying to make the true story plausible, shaking my head, “You think I’d choose to wear these shoes here willingly?” His eyes darted wide, for a moment, then he pretended to sympathize. “I see, I see. Well, you can’t come through here. This door is going to get hectic in a few moments.” We looked up. Cate Blanchett was walking toward us, gussied in a long soft pink silk gown. I looked down at my feet and shuddered. We moved on.

We sat down by the media chairs and waited to join the crowd, as my date advised. There’d be too many people to manage and we’d slip in with the masses toward the after-party. At this point, my date’s spastic little friend showed up. His hair was unruly and he had a plaid shirt and jeans on. I scolded him. “What are you doing here? He can’t go in like that. Not even a suit jacket? What are you thinking? All the men are in tuxes.” My date agreed. The friend retorted arrogantly that his was not just any plaid shirt, it was a $200 Scotch and Soda shirt, did I know what that meant?

I rolled my eyes. “It looks American Eagle to me.” He gave me the once over and I tried to mask my own fashion blunder. At least I had intended to try. I went on, “Well, you’re not coming with us. You’re bringing down the rent. Disassociate.” His friend agreed, but not without pointing out that my date, the supposed King of Crashers, was wearing orange pants. “You think I’m bad. Look at his pant,” he hissed. Since I’d picked out the pants at Banana Republic, and they were leagues above the Dockers he’d perviously worn, I took offense. My date had gotten many compliments, I corrected him. I sneered, “Plus. they’re not orange, they’re cinnamon rust. And they’re cords, not pants. And while not dress pants, they are upscale casual.” The friend, rightly so, laughed at us. He agreed to walk paces behind us.

I got the signal from my date, and we walked toward our chosen entry door. The guard asked us where our badges were. My date told him our “friend” had the tickets inside. He let us through and we were in. Easy.

But it’s all over when you see the bald security guard with a worm coming out of his ear. We were stopped again. When asked, my date gave his stock line about the tickets. When that fell flat, trying to absorb the head to toe once over I was getting, I tried to yuck it up. I conspiratorially went on about how my heel broke and my line, “You think I’d willingly wear neon pink shoes?” Baldy stared, unamused. I’m not sure amused was ever a word that entered his bald brain. Instead, he stood there,”Wait here for a second. Let me just run this by someone else.” He called someone on his walkie. Being somewhat stoned and now in agreeable, and over-cheery a la modes, we stood there.

The second guy came. Tall and not bald. They flanked us and told us to keep walking with them. At this point, I had to go to the bathroom and when they ushered us around the corner, I half thought they were taking me to the restroom. No. They took us to their security office. I surveyed the room. In the corner of the room, I saw there was a man in a tux. Sitting on a folding chair, his hands were in back of him. He was handcuffed.

Baldy called out to the head of security, “We’ve got another two for you.” We were escorted past a long table of walkie-talkies, tuxedo-wearing security guards. We were placed on our own set of folding chairs, as if they’d been waiting for us to appear, reserved for our award. The handcuffed guy said to us, “Don’t worry. You’re going to be arrested, too.”

Arrested? Here, like this, wearing this? Not if I had anything to do with it.

I looked to my date. He looked resigned. I resolved to protest. I stood up. “Can someone tell me what the hell’s going on here?” Immediately, a short, 5 feet tall, punky guy, with glasses and grey needled and slicked up hair, bounced up. This was the head of security. He snapped up at me, “Sit down. I assure you, resisting will make it much worse for you, trust me.” Resisting what? My date gave me an eye to sit down.

I spoke up: “For what? We’re just supposed to be going to a party!”

Another security guard piped in, “Yeah, and I’m supposed to be 26, but that ain’t happening either.”

Did these guys, who do security for the movie events, think they were in a movie? These lines.

Shorty smirked, “Yeah. Well, the LAPD is on its way. You’ve come in to my house and nobody can do that without my permission.”

Huh?

“Just wait here and whatever you do, give your real information. Don’t lie.”

This was really getting offensive. Whoever he thought we were or weren’t, who did he think he was. Shorty kept leaving, bounding away and coming back with a new resolve to break us to try to get us to change our story. He at once tried to bully, then befriend. In between silences, my date held his line. I continued with my exasperation, a natural good cop/bad cop only in this case, good perp/bad perp. When I told him,  “I do, in fact, write press,” Shorty scoffed and pointed to his grey hair again, “I’ve been doing this 18 years, you think I’m stupid?” “We do do press. We’re writers!” I shouted.

Suddenly, rather than scared of being arrested, I was very ashamed. The thought that a writer would be arrested and spend the night in jail for going to an actors’ awards show sounded like the most ludicrous thing in the world. How low had we come?

Again, the image of Cate Blanchett stopping for the cameras, catching a glimpse of us as we were flanked by security was sobering. She was on that side, having earned her place through her incredible work. We were in here, being hoodlums. Sweat equity. And what she was wearing, what anyone was wearing, it all looks fitting on television. In real life and up close, the pomp and gowns and overdressing just was so stupid, so juvenile. Celebrity, red carpets, stylists – all of it seemed such an undeserved distraction from what matters. Purpose and work. If I was going to be arrested, let it be for civil disobedience, something of worth. Not for trying to see celebrities in their prom outfits. Please. And not today, wearing this.

“You can’t do this!” I cried. Shorty looked at my shoes. I looked at them, too. They screamed 1980s. No matter what I said, I realized, I looked homeless in this outfit. I had a glimpse of what it must be to be truly on the outskirts, the downtrodden. Out of fashion and out of the loop, if I had committed a crime in their eyes, my clothes emphasized I had certainly committed a crime in my own.

At that moment, four of the tallest, whitest, most unsmiling units of the LAPD showed up. They gave me the once over, and went directly to the handcuffed guy. Our little man ran to them. They were nearly a foot taller and significantly broader. He spewed out our violation to them.

My date and I looked to one another. We were thinking the same thing: Imagine what African-American men go through on a regular basis. The intimidation, the blowing up of a grievance to make a point, the waste of time. Imagine Mandela being belittled (and more) by the Afrikaaners. Imagine MLK in the deep South in 1960.

 I turned to my date. Call a lawyer. He did, but the lawyer didn’t answer. Then, I couldn’t believe it, my date called his friend who was in the party, thinking he was not being heard under his hand, “Whatever you do buddy, if the LAPD call you, DO NOT pick up the phone.” A security guard overheard him, and disbelieving the idiocy, chose to say nothing.

Shorty again: “You don’t have your i.d.’s?” No, why would we? We were going to a party! Shorty left and came back after the cops seemed to give it to him, remembering:”Hey, I didn’t search you.” No. I thought you knew your job. “You don’t have any guns or ammo on you, do you?”

I peered at him and threw up my hands. “I don’t have a purse, where am I going to put a grenade?” My date shot me a look, but I could tell Shorty was responding to my standing up for myself. I was rising out of the phoenix of bad fashion. I was getting my mojo back. I was not going to accept this bullshit. I was not going to the pokey in pink shoes.

The cops discussed amongst themselves. I asked one with dark hair, sweetly and innocently, “What’s going on?” He answered without emotion: “You’re going to get arrested and taken to the station.” On my look, “Trespassing. Penal code 602. It’s a misdemeanor.”

A poker-faced cop, another bald guy looked over. He decided he was the one who’d question me. Name, age, driver’s license number (NOTE: Memorize this), social, tattoo…Tattoo? Excuse me, isn’t that a little personal. Shorty ran up. “It’s to identify you.” For what, being human? The cop didn’t like my sarcasm, but I was picturing them wrangling me down, stripping me to find a tattoo. We’d been in there too long. Yes, a tattoo. Where? Where what? Where’s your tattoo? What part of your body?

Is this protocol?

While they ran our info in the system, Shorty brought out his digital camera. To my date, “You’re a beanstalk, stand up, back up while I get you.” He had to back up nearly half the length of the room to get the shot.

To me, he got in close. I gave a big toothy smile for the first shot. For the second, I popped a sneer and a snarled lip. He snapped a shot, adding:

“Ma’am, this is my house. You have entered my house. I’ve never seen you two before. I’m on Facebook, looking for people at parties, to know everybody on the circuit. How have you two managed to slip out of my knowledge, huh? How?” I shook my head incredulously. My date did, too, but said nothing. The little man was almost frothing with excitement. He was going to get his dogs, bitches! I laughed, looking around the room to stifle it. Only an hour before, hadn’t I just said how boring it all was?

After about ten minutes, my cop came back and said, “You check out. We’re going to let you go with a warning. If you come back, though, we have to arrest you.” Thank you.

We left. The two cops ushered us out to the lobby which was empty. The party must have been in full swing, but we saw none of it. As we passed by Shorty, engrossed in his protocols, I said a triumphant “Bye!” to Shorty. He called out, “Hey, hold on! Wait a minute!” He tried to break through the line of security guards who we were sure were getting a lashing. My date had unfortunately told Shorty who let us in the first door. The guy was certainly a goner.

As Shorty tried to stop us from leaving, we kept walking with our cops. I said a cheerful goodbye to all we passed, much to Shorty’s visible disappointment. On the street, between the cos, I took my date’s hand to comfort him that we had made it. We were not taken down and we were not going to sleep in jail tonight. The cops left and went back, we assume to deal with the handcuffed crasher.

 Something had changed Shorty’s mind from pressing charges. Had he warmed up to my lippy personality? Did the cops see we weren’t what we appeared, wayward transients come in to get a meal or take a potshot at a celebrity?
Why were we there, we wondered? It was all pretty stupid. For our third event, we decided instead to go to a celebratory dinner to toast our freedom. The next night, we got right back on the horse and crashed an art/food event. This time, I wore black suede cowboy boots and a breezy black shift dress. I was much more at ease, and my date’s orange cords looked rather snazzy.
Did we learn our lessons? Yes.

If the shoes fit, don’t necessarily wear them. Especially if they’re neon pink.

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