Recently I purchased a floppy, yes FLOPPY disc drive in order to permanently archive things I wrote on a Frankensteined Mac my L.A boyfriend had cobbled together for me back in the early 2000s, and later on an iMac I bought used when I lived in Detroit and kept till the very last moment I could in 2010.
Some of what I recovered is depressing, and I’m not sure I can even read it. Some is embarrassing, and some is the kind of stuff I spent $17 on the floppy drive for in hopes I could read and keep forever. Like this.
Yes, this is a fantasy interview with someone interviewing me, as if I was a starlet and not a receptionist. I’m shocked how self-aware I sound to the level of my post Marfa, post losing a parent thirty seven year old self – though I was nosing up to the worst mistakes I would make in my young life, ones that unfortunately got me quite off track from making a writing career start then, which would have been a great fucking time to start it. At this very moment I was full of joy and ambition, was writing a movie script an acquaintance had optioned from me, and felt I was headed for Spike Jonze level success and fame (the level of fame I’m ok with).
I can’t believe, honestly, how good my writing was then. And I can’t believe… that I mention minimalism. This just shows, at least I don’t change that much! Though, I get better.
“I’ll be honest,” the tall brunette admitted sheepishly, “Things weren’t going very well.”
It’s hard to imagine this cheerful twenty-three year old in hard times. With her sunny exterior and healthy carriage, Massachusetts-grown Katie J. is the kind of person you see on the street that makes you think “she must have it so easy!” But nothing has been handed to this determined young girl on a platter. Her optimism is the result of hard work, perseverance, and a never-failing belief in herself… along with the help of one vintage Lee jean jacket.
“I was having a lot of financial problems, and my landlord was a real jerk,” this sincere young lady tells me. “I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I’ve always been honest. I never deserved the treatment I was getting.”
To make matters worse for Katie, her wardrobe was not at all on a par with what it had been during her previous incarnation as a spoiled girl who worked at the mall and lived at home. “I didn’t realize how lucky I had been!” she laughs.
“When you’re in such an emotionally trying situation, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. I had to realize that the person shining through the clothes was what really mattered.”
So where does the jean jacket come in?
“Well, I finally got out of my bad living situation and moved into Hollywood. The thing was, it was getting kind of cold. I lived in New York for a while before L.A., and before I left my parents’ house, I got rid of all my clothes, thinking I would replace them with new things from all the cool downtown boutiques.”
So, the story gets more interesting. What happened next?
“Well, in New York I learned to be somewhat of a minimalist and wear the same things all the time. But here I was in L.A. – new climate, new people, and no clothes! But there’s a lot of great vintage shopping out here.”
Okay, so when did you meet your jean jacket? I’ve got to know!
“Okay…” she smiles mischievously, “I was shopping in Jet Rag one day. Carnie Wilson was there; she’s lost a lot of weight, have you seen her? Anyway, I was looking through the racks and… there it was.”
“It” was a vintage Lee jean jacket in just the right size complete with a charming worn elbow and a darker spot where once a patch had made its home.
“I had wanted a Lee jean jacket ever since Madonna’s “Ray of Light” video. Plus, this makeup artist I knew in New York had one. Here name was Evelyne. She was French and became my style idol in 1999, and really remains so to this day.”
Despite her charm and obvious intelligence, I had to ask this fair damsel to get to the point.
How did the jean jacket change your life?
Her face suddenly looks grave. “Well, this jean jacket went with everything!” Her voice grows softer. “I mean, absolutely everything became complete with the jacket. I felt cute again! I’d put it on with this five dollar red scarf I bought on the street in San Francisco, and I looked hip. I didn’t need money or a lot of options. I had the jacket. It was true and sincere and it was all I needed to get by.”
So what you’re saying, Katie, is that the jacket became sort of a metaphor for who you had become?
“Exactly,” she sighed. “I had been through so much, and my life was being affected by other people so negatively. Finally I realized that I had control. My fate was in my own hands. I was the one to depend on in my life – I’m a survivor, just like my jacket! And like my jean jacket, my sincere heart and mind are all I need to be rewarded with happiness, good people, and satisfaction in my life. We’re presenting an honest picture here, something we can be proud of – ourselves. Like my wardrobe became suddenly complete with the jacket, my life, though sparse in terms of material things, and completely unsettled in the popular sense… you know, no boyfriend, no money, new in town, no friends, really. My life became complete when I realized the valuable person I was. I just needed that one thing, that one jacket: it was me! I look great with everything!”
I was tearing up at this point, and choked out that I definitely got the “what you see is what you get” vibe from Katie and the jacket. Something about them says “I’m honest, I’ve got a lot to offer, and I’m strong. So, by the way, don’t mess with me.”
Katie smiled and took my hand when I told her this. Then she appropriately lightened the mood. “Plus,” she quipped, do you know how cheap twenty-four dollars is for a vintage Lee jacket? You could never find that price in New York!”
Yeah, L.A. really is the city of dreams come true.
Yes, this is not the first time THAT JACKET has been mentioned in this blog. I ruined it by putting some stupid iron on patch on it that I then couldn’t remove without making holes in the jacket. And Evelyne – I’ve actually seen her in several magazines and on TV since I worked with her in 1999. Here she is with Jessica Alba. A quick google search shows she also worked on “American Hustle”.
Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America
It’s so funny to wake up to this because I was just laying in bed thinking that I want to dig out my old journals from my time in France as source material for my writing! I’m sure I’ll also find a mixture of embarrassing and surprising tidbits.