(I finally went to Nordstrom, and it went like this.)
My encounter with Nordstrom begins outside its doors, as I arrive on bicycle to discover the absence of bike racks along the store’s smooth façade. I cross the street to lock up on the racks that the now defunct and shuttered bookstore had provided for its visitors, today an inadvertent legacy left to the commons.
Back before the store, I cross the threshold into a blast of light and glass displays. The fevered guile is communicable, self-consciousness surrendered, consumption here unchained, and acceptable. Quickly and suddenly terms come, unbidden, to my mind: compulsive, desperate, hoodwinked, bulimia.
The sycophant swarm of ground level is cloying and close, so I ride the escalator to a slightly quieter place one level above. There I find the marvels of realized imaginations—pieces by Alexander McQueen, Marni, Jean Paul Gaultier, and comme des garçons, to name a few. I own none of these masters, but understand perfectly what exacts such work from mind to matter, and these accomplishments have deservedly earned my awe. Toward the darker back of the floor lays lesser goods: the swag of proclamations that make me embarrassed for the bearer: Lazy Sun Day; I don’t like Monday; Lover (the letter L a faded remnant of the colour of the letters spelling o-v-e-r); a checklist itemizing three options: single, taken, and hungry, with the box for the last option ticked: hungry.
As I touch merchandise, I engage in the base act of looking for a price tag, as though the tawdry concern for cost has any bearing—sure proof of my shiftlessness. My greater transgression, however, is the need to know the price of things at all, a practice left to those of lesser means. Becoming broke has released me, though, from shopping and its allure, and now I wander the aisles a bit like that woman Ann I met in the woods once, who had a natural immunity to mosquitoes and was being studied by scientists wanting to understand her chemical make-up. While I walked that day in the woods with Ann, me ravaged, raw and bleeding from my scratched bites admist the roots and brush, she walked in perfect tact. Today, like Ann in the wild, I walk among the money and malls shielded—my class a tincture and a foil.
Circling back toward the centre of the store, I come across the lounge, a low slung affaire for rest and resourcing. I like it. Any shop with a bar makes sense to me, and I’m ready to lay down a few bucks to sit with a drink and watch from the middle of the fray. But the menu’s price list is in step with its trappings, so I return to the escalator and, quite à propos I note, descend.
As I’m leaving Nordstrom I notice that the doorman, a boy really, is simply standing there, not quite completely upright in his ill-fitting suit; his regard is vacant and he’s not opening the doors for anyone, his passive stance shunning the roles of both sentinel and serf.
Back on the sidewalk beside the store’s wall, I encounter a granny rooting through the garbage to retrieve whatever cast-offs might lessen the strife of her day in the debris. Her dirndl skirt is so perfectly appointed in detail and design that its vintage is hard to fix. So blurred are the lines now between the authentic, the counterfeit, and the clone that what was once genuine and collectible has merged into one amorphous stream of trends, where everything is at once eternal and outmoded, in perpetuity the basic outlines of style on repeat, and craft, quality and care notional artifacts of the obsolete.
I retrieve my bike, hopping on to ride away, and on the first turn of the wheel, a piece of litter caught in the spokes and trilling in the wind, I think: be careful what you wish for--America is here.