As she cut ahead of me to place her order, I noticed the hemline of her flowered empire-waist dress drew a line halfway down her thighs. She wore pink cowgirl boots yanked on up to the middle of her calves.
On her head was a very bright white cowgirl hat with a leather tie tightly drawn under her chin.
Her strawberry blonde hair fell into gentle curls over her shoulders. Long fluffy bangs arranged on her forehead served as a protective filter for whatever could be detected in her eyes – pain, joy, apathy.
I thought to myself, someone has to tell this girl that she is not dressed right. No, really, if she were in Jackson Hole, Rapid City or Denver, maybe she'd blend in, but she certainly does not here in LA.
The odd persona her costume relayed made me think of how tourists like me must stand out. We try so hard to fit in with our summer gear, which was hard to dig out and put on back home in the middle of winter.
Hawaiian shirts. Fluorescent flip flops. Bermuda shorts. Giant brimmed sun hats or sun visors. Big framed designer sunglasses. Painted nails and lips. No tan or a fake one.
As LA tourists, we shuffle around in a daze over the eternal springtime we find upon landing at LAX or John Wayne Airport.
After arriving in sunny Southern California, we enter into immediate culture shock over columns of traffic in which every third car is a Jaguar or a Mercedes Benz. We are seduced by glittery wealth there.
But as she drew me in with her fashion statement, I could tell she was no tourist. The more I observed her, the more I was convinced that she was no cowgirl either.
In fact, I doubted she was from LA at all. There was something a little too showy about her cadence. I wondered if she had journeyed here, like most other young people, to become famous?
Her shoulders and hips swayed with an artificial confidence, as though she were auditioning on her way to the "Place Your Order Here" sign.
When did she come to Los Angeles? A few years back? Several months earlier? Last week? I wondered where she was from originally. Buffalo? Boston? Biloxi? Baton Rouge?
The questionable glamour and persona of that "cowgirl" reminded me of the great divide that cuts through statuesque palm trees from Rodeo Drive all the way down Ventura Boulevard and on to all points east, west, north and south.
The more I studied her, the more I liked her freedom of expression. The more I tried to discern who she was, the less I liked LA's self-indulging lifestyle prancing right ahead of me to the checkout counter.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 Paula Damon