The things, the things, and more things. It’s time to appreciate it all.

It’s not a distraction, well it is, but it’s a wanting to give everything its due. Thus far this year, in terms of cash spent, roaming time, stores visited, malls parked in, websites I’ve obsessed over, price adjustments marked on the calendar, thus far, I’m doing really well. Blips on the map. Little setbacks turn not into dips into my bank account, but a stop in, like a visit to get a cup of tea at an old friend’s place. The piercing smells, order and vibes these stores offer is more than shopping. It’s evocation. It’s entrapment, luring into a labyrinth. But sometimes I want this. I want to have it, to be it, to be in it. I want order in their houses, since I can’t seem to stay home and make my own. The ornaments and wafts of scented candles in Anthropologie just make me feel like an Ibsen or a Chekhov play – romantic, safe and secure, a lodge with a hearth on a snowy day. Until the shotgun offstage goes off.

Of course, this is their plan. To create an experience which makes you want to keep coming back for more. Even as a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to wander off at Macy’s and use the furniture department as a set for my own extemporaneous kitchen drama. Each layout, floor plan and set-up room had a different style, mood, and they weren’t like my house at home – full of fabric swatches, walls full of paintings, sculpture and tapestries. Here in Macy’s, there was nothing but clean lines to work with. I’d play all the characters, going from room to room. We’d usually come from my mom’s rehearsals after school, so it was simply going from one theater stage to the next. My mom would find me in one of those perfectly made beds, cuddled up under the sheets, having ended my play, as every good play should end: In bed. I tried getting in a Bed Bath and Beyond bed as an adult one time, testing it out to see what happened. Times are different now, eh? They were not so happy. I still do it a bit in Ikea, though, shhhh….

I take this experiential shopping very seriously. I am looking for that perfect Nordic life that isn’t my own, where there’s extra space on a shelf, a closet with one dress, plenty of air to imagine what can be put in it. It’s a living video game, and I won’t buy anything if I don’t feel my imagination pouring into a store. A store needs to create vision – how things could be worn or taken home to make a perfect world. To buy something in a great environment means that I can take it home and it might improve my closet (though of course, I get home and my closets are still stuffed.) If I get too overwhelmed by shoddy shelves or get driven out by a bad experience, I’m out of there.

Often, I won’t unpack a new bundle of garb until I’ve made way for it, hoping to capture the perfection I felt in the store. That’s what gets me to clean up. It works, yes, clothes that were not in their areas, get put away, the bed made. And then I get a present at the end for cleaning up: A new blouse or skirt.

At Americana yesterday, I walked by stores and didn’t feel drawn into their worlds at all. The window in UO looked cluttered, H & M and XXII made me shudder at their promises of getting too involved. Madewell, though I like looking at the shabby chic staircase, I’d rather live there than go in there. Check my e-mail, take care of business at the Apple store and move on. WGA movies are still happening, so I dipped into a free movie to get away from it all and muse on my experiential stores that day.

I had picked up my free underwear at VS. How did it feel? The boudoir lighting, the pinks, blacks and glitter, made me feel like I was entering a cheap Reno sideshow. As I stood in line to process my free bubblegum pink heart thong, I watched the VS models on the full wall TV screen they had. It, too, was a side show. The store wasn’t selling anything the models were wearing. The Carmen Miranda wire contraption on one of the winged models heads was amusing. I do like bulbous butts in boy shorts. Sex…. oh yes, I must have that this weekend! And I shall.

Next, I checked out the American Eagle Outfitters free underwear. Club music pounding, I ran out of American Eagle Outfitters, without even stopping at their 50% clearance racks. The AEO Western Style Buckle Boot saga brought back too many memories, both good and bad, and I was further annoyed that the underwear were free at Aerie, their spinoff brand which obviously they’d shared my info between the two of them to get. I wasn’t impressed with any of it.

You may wonder why a grown (am I) woman would be even going into the teen queen dream home of AEO. Good question. I ask myself. I believe my wearing a uniform my whole life and being a piano playing chunkie teen with body issues has something to do with it. My timeline is mussed, and I’m at once an awkward teen, a lady or a Nasty Gal. Characters in a play, characters I either never got to be as a schoolgirl or a single mom at a young age. Now, I get my chance.

After the movie, a group was hovering around the window of the Anthropologie store. I decided to listen in. All thin, model type women, I figured it was a field trip for a class. I asked the teacher, and she said, yes, a visual marketing class. We all looked at the store window, analyzed the mannequins and what message the store was trying to send. She sent in a few students to see if their impressions of the inside matched their expectations on the outside.

This was a dangerous homework assignment for me. I had to try it. I walked around, my hands fisted around every fabric or piece that warranted an up-close feel, trying to suppress the “Me” in this exercise, instead being “The Student” or “Researcher.” I couldn’t help checking out the sale section, though. That’s where I relax. Boxes of matchless shoes of all different sizes, dresses I hadn’t ever even seen before since I hadn’t been stalking – it felt like my house. Not a home, my house. These were the bastard step-children they were trying to get rid of and I wasn’t going to feel sorry for them and take them home. I’m strong, I said. I’ll still walk around this clothing orphanage. There was a pair of mustard 20s heels. Size 8. Fine, I’ll try them. Too tight. Back they went. I was good.

On second thought, I called the manager over to ask if there were other sizes around the country. She got her mobile device. None. I asked for the style number to do my own research that might take weeks, but I’d always find the last pair on the planet…..ugh, here we go it was starting to get complicated. Walk away. None of it. I’m done.

Break in passing: At this moment, distraction took over. I’m trying to clean out, as I’ve mentioned and here is a Sundance catalog I saved from 2010. My mother must have put me on the list – she loved her catalogs – and when she passed, we went through leagues of Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean and Caledonia Compromised (I made that up, but some Scottish catalog which we still haven’t the heart to throw all of them away, longing for the heather and the Highlands as we are) But let’s together, peruse this Sundance catalog, interrupting our story, for a brief gander just because it’s sitting to my right.

I look at the cover and impression? Yum, apple cider and my years of going to Sundance Film Festival and what fun it is. Too cold this year, though and unable to bounce from our Africa trip…) The catalog reminds of swag suites, chalets in the snow, warm wine, champagne with twinkly lights all around. One afternoon, SK and I went to the best swag house in the hills because I was doing press and they wanted to get me to write about it. A car that picked us up on Main Street and as soon as you walk in, they start handing you bags of presents. I have the children’s dresses, I’m still using the lotions, shampoos, conditioners, t-shirts, quilted frames, hair tools, dressed, jeans, hats and my favorite swag gift: cured leather over the knee boots with sheepskin lining. So comfortable, they even replaced the ones I’d gotten in Denmark for warmth.

Ah, Sundance. I remember walking down the street running into Robert Redford. We chatted and walked together to the next party, musing about the brilliance of the fest over the years. Another time, I was dying to see this doc, The Cove. Sold out. But nevertheless, persevering to the last drop, I waited even after they had started, asking anyone for an extra ticket. This guy, head down, in a puffer ski jacket walked toward me. “Ticket?” He looked at me, shaken out of his thoughts, and said, “Huh?” I repeated, “Ticket. Do you have an extra?” He shook his head, surprised and startled. Lo, I had just tried to scalp a ticket from Sting. He’d executive produced it. I saw the movie later and met the director at LAFF, so it was more than worth it to not get in this time. Sting! It must have been the magic swag boots.

On my piano is a candelabra I also got as a swag gift. Unwieldy to carry, with three candles in another box, I insisted on keeping it. This guy who decided to be my flanking partner offered to carry it for me. And he did. Loyal to the last drop, he carried that three-feet high and wrought iron candle holder to every single party on Main Street. His friends would chide him and he would declare chivalrously, “She is my woman! Thus, I carry it for her.” That particular year, I decided getting a place to stay was a waste of time and money, since I was never in the place. Thus, Sundance, if you can stay up for 10 days straight like I can (catching a cat nap in the filmmaker’s lodge or getting kicked out of a party for a quick shut on on a stair’s landing), if you’ve got boundless energy like I do and Energizer Bunny Rob Steiner and I do, Sundance is cheapest vacation I’ve ever known. Driving, Rob and I would even stop in Vegas on the way there and back to pound a few and check out the Chinese New Year’s exhibit at the Bellagio.  During the day, I’d visit my car to change clothes in the snow, take a whore’s bath (bits and pits) before a soiree, and on to the next party, morning til night til morning. This night with Candle Man was no different. He, of course, had his own suite in a huge chalet. With a very large jacuzzi shower/bath. We decided to light the trio of candles that came with the candle holder…so romantic. What a great night! I remember he had his phone set to receive all his emails. Every five minutes, all night long it came in with Daily Candy messages. Very sweet. The next morning, I was smiling, walking down a snowy path in my boots and lugging the candelabra down the hill to my car.

How, then how, is one supposed to get rid of that candelabra, I ask? And the Sundance catalog with all these great times pouring in having just looked at the catalog. I first met my boyfriend at Sundance 2007 under an archway at the ______ House. I declined that year, but when we ran into each other at a charity even three years later, the familiarity of him from Sundance resonated.

Oh the dancing all night! Then snuggling in to see independent movies, off-beat splendors or clunkers, whatever. Some of the hottest tickets turned out to be the worst films of the festival – Zoophilia about people who do horses, being one of those (no story though they promised a love tale, told with too much lyricism and silhouetted subjects, no getting to know the horses’ characters or the pigs, for that matter, not graphic enough was my critique). Anyway, a bad movie inspired me that I could one day get a movie in Sundance and at the moment, with the light out, it was my chance to take a nap.

The first two years, I never even saw a film at Sundance except in a lounge to watch the short films. Why waste time with films when I could see them later? The parties were now and would never happen again! Plus, as press, I had screeners to watch when I got home. But you meet people, you go see their movies and those are the parties, too. One of my favorite years, I had a blast as surrogate date for my friend who had not one, but TWO movies there. His wife couldn’t come and he had two movies in development for so long, they hit at once. So much fun! Such a community. I could live at film festivals, with the trunk of my car near Main Street, full of changes of outfits, furry vests, scarves, woolens and a place to store the swag.

One year, my ex-boyfriend who’d driven us from Los Angeles threw all my swag in the snow, refusing to drive me home because I had three times the amount of luggage we’d started with. It all fit, I protested and wasn’t he glad I got him into the gifting suites? No. I picked up a few of the bags and started to dial car rentals. No way was I leaving this stuff behind. Grumpy, he managed to pack it in the next year. But that was his last Sundance, he grumbled.

But where was I? May I please go through this catalog and throw it away? Hmm, a Chan Lu bracelet. Wow, $298 I made one this year for $20. Not easy, but I love it. Hmm, could this catalog be an inspiration for jewelry ideas? I’ll keep it in the bathroom and muse over that next time I feel a slider coming on.

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