I Pay Rapt Attention

Notes from Los Angeles Public Transportation – Part 1 #longreads

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on September 2, 2011

EDIT: <begin life update> For anyone who cares, I am now living in Los Angeles. Moved here to take a job doing communications and digital projects for an after school education provider in the area. Totally different than what I was doing, but the move was right for more reasons than I can say. But I miss Chicago. </end life update>

PREFACE TO THE PREFACE

Since moving to Los Angeles two weeks ago (a story for another time), I’ve been getting around the city on foot and, in most cases, by bus. Most days, I take at least four buses getting to and from my apartment in Culver City and my office in Inglewood. It takes between 40 min and an hour, depending on the time of day. Note that in a car on the freeway, even with traffic, the drive is at most 15 minutes, usually more like 10. Then, after work, I frequently find myself meeting friends or attending events downtown- another hour each direction on the bus. I note this not to complain, but to make it clear that I’ve spent pretty significant time on public transportation as of late, and so feel justified in relaying a few stories from the time I’ve spent so far (and extrapolating a bit from those experiences.) This will hopefully take the form of a few different posts over the next few weeks, though my track record of finishing these series is pretty poor, so we’ll see. If nothing else, I’m starting with a monster post below. So that’s something. Oh, and for those keeping score back at home, I’m starting this post from my phone, on the 11:18 733 to Santa Monica :)

BEFORE I BEGIN

Let’s get this bit out of the way. I take Santa Monica Big Blue Buses, Culver City Rapid Buses, and a few Metro buses in Inglewood near the area, so my thoughts are restricted to those buses, because who knows what the other ones are like. The buses themselves are quite nice- for the most part clean and seemingly new. They generally arrive on schedule, assuming they are not too full to stop (which happens with some frequency when headed downtown during rush hour on a weekend.) The bus drivers have always been very patient with my idiotic questions, friendly and courteous to me. And I like public transportation for a number of philosophical and practical reasons, so please don’t take this as any kind of attack. I just believe turning a critical eye to our institutions is a fundamentally healthy exercise for communities, and one that can lead to positive change in many cases. Now then.

ILLUSTRATIVE ANECDOTE #1: WHY AM I THE ONLY YOUNG WHITE FEMALE WHO TAKES THE BUS?

I’ve taken buses and trains all over the country, everywhere from San Francisco and New Haven to Chicago and New York. Obviously, each city has its own special culture around public transportation, and so the demographics vary pretty dramatically on a regional basis. But seriously, I have never seen a ridership quite like this one. As with many major metropolitan areas, the vast majority at all times of day are just workers on their way to work. From what I can tell, most work in landscaping, house painting or other relatively manual labor. They look uniformly exhausted. Like I said, relatively standard. There’s the usual smattering of high school and college students, depending on the time of day. Later in the evening, there is usually a love couple and a fabulous gym bunny trying to get to his cardio class. Nothing odd there. But then the rest is pretty exclusively homeless and/or mentally ill individuals. Maybe my attempts to be PC here are impeding my point (as they often do) but let me try to be clear– in 80% of cases, I am the only middle class OR white OR young female on the bus. Seriously. Usually I am the only in any of those categories.

Now I assumed this was just the buses that I happen to ride, but keep in mind– my neighborhood does not match the demographics described above. My neighborhood is at least 30% middle class white 20-somethings. Probably way more. But you know what? I have no clear way of knowing, because EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER HAS A CAR. I knew that Los Angeles was a car city and all, but holy mother of potatoes, they weren’t joking. People will drive literally 30 seconds to go to the 7-11 for a bag of chips when it probably takes more time to start the car than to just walk there yourself. But that’s a separate pet peeve of mine that I probably shouldn’t rant about right now. Not the point.

Anyways- last week, I encountered two situations in a row which convinced me that this was pretty standard, at least for my route. In the first, I enter the bus in my usual 6:30 AM stupor, fumbling for the quarters I use to pay, because yes, I have been too lazy to walk the few miles to the Culver City center to buy a tap card. I know, I’m awesome. Anyways. This particular morning, I am so exhausted that I’m wearing my lazy proudly in the form of a giant sack dress made of Jersey, leggings with holes in them, knock-off Keds, and giant $5 plastic thriftstore sunglasses to cover the fact that there is not only no makeup on my face, but I probably forgot to wash it this morning. Much like I certainly did not wash my hair, as evidenced by the scrubby pigtails I’ve dragged it into in a halfhearted attempt at camouflaging my complete and utter failure to get ready this particular morning. It was not my finest moment, y’all.  I describe in such painstaking detail my state of dishevelment so that you’ll understand my complete and utter confusion when the bus driver glances at me, and in total seriousness, engages me in the following conversation:

Him: Well hey! You got that look.

Me: Huh? (I’m thinking oh god, is it obvious that I was asleep 5 minutes ago? Do I really smell that awful that the bus driver feels the need to comment?)

Him: You know, that look. <pause> That Mercedes Benz, Jaguar look, like I just didn’t feel like taking my car to work today. <pause, while I stare at him, making no attempt to disguise the fact that my mouth is gaping open in confusion.> It’s ok, you can tell me, sweetheart. I’m a bus driver. You can tell a bus driver anything.

</end scene>

Needless to say, all I was particularly capable of doing at that point was laughing. Very, very hard. And then explaining that not only do I not have a Jaguar, I don’t have a car at all. And haven’t for years. I decided not to mention that when I do get car soon, it’s likely to be very ancient and very cheap. Best not to beat a dead horse, or whatever.

At the time, I found this entire exchange extremely hilarious and proceeded to tell everyone I’ve ever met that I look expensive. (Which, in retrospect, was maybe not the best thing to say. For so, so many reasons. But yet again, I digress.) But looking back, I’ve decided that maybe funny isn’t even the right category of adjective. There’s something inherently disturbing about the prospect that I look “expensive” or of higher social class solely because I am white and female. I wish I could attribute his assumption to anything else about me, but let’s be serious, I didn’t get a chance to say anything to him, so it can’t have been my manner of speaking; I have the worst posture known to man, especially early in the morning, so it wasn’t my manner of carrying myself; and as explained above, my clothing didn’t exactly scream able-to-pay-rent, let alone able-to-afford-a-Mercedes. I’d like to think I exude grace and charm and beauty under all conditions, but it seems far more likely I was exuding the scent of unwashed hair. (Please, if there’s something I’m missing here, tell me– I’ve allowed myself to mull over the situation for so long that it’s possible I’m missing something obvious. And no, he was not being sarcastic. I wasn’t that tired. He was totally serious. So it can’t be that.)

What does it mean for a city if a young white woman riding the bus must 1) be rich and 2) only riding the bus because there is either something wrong with her car or because she just doesn’t feel like driving? Is the sight of someone like me riding public transportation so rare that it necessitates that huge leap to be reasonably explained? That says all sorts of uncomfortable things about the demographics of individuals taking advantage of public transportation in a place. Maybe it’s just me, but that raises red flags across the board, from the environmental impact of an urban culture that puts such an emphasis on a car that taking public transportation is unthinkable to those who can afford a car to much larger problems of inequality along racial and socio-economic lines. If even moderately comfortable people refuse to take the bus, do they ever interact with the vast swathes of society that have no other option, besides in a service context? I mean, I’m not in the habit of chatting up strangers on the bus, but there’s something to be said for coexisting with people who lead different lives than you, if only for an hour (or 10 minutes) on the bus. I think it’s illuminating, and it concerns that a large part of the population in Los Angeles doesn’t do it (from what I can tell, but again, that involves a huge number of assumptions on my part, and I moved here less than a month ago, so what do I know?) It’s also a problem that many, many cities have, and I acknowledge that. But I’ve never seen it so starkly displayed as in this particular case.

I’ll also admit that I have absolutely no constructive recommendation to offer based on the 1600 (!) words above. I don’t think I’ve even been particularly critical, not least because I don’t have the appropriate vocabulary to have a productive conversation about these issues without inadvertently straying into ignorant or offensive territory. These issues make me uncomfortable; I have no good way of talking about or dealing with them. But I have the sense that for precisely that reason, I probably ought to try to work through them. Otherwise, I run the risk of jumping in my metaphorical car and zooming past all the metaphorical people waiting at the metaphorical bus, who are 1) more essential than we give them credit for and 2) certainly worthy of attention.

If you made it this far, congratulations! That was 1733 words. You’re impressive. I’m pretty sure even I’m not going to reread this monster. But I would really like your thoughts on any of the issues presented above, either constructive or suggestive or argumentative or whatever. I need your help to think through it, truly.

Links from around the Web

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on July 11, 2011

It’s been a while! I’m not so good at the regular blogging thing, I guess. But fear not! I’m still alive, and still writing. Here’s a sampling of recent work from around the interwebs:

http://www.chicagonow.com/the3six5-chicago/2011/07/july-9-2011-zoelle-egner/

http://borderlinepoetry.info/post/7435182775/vol-1-issue-9-zoelle-egner

http://dansemacabre.art.officelive.com/NouvellePoesieDeGuerre.aspx

I’m also a corporate blogger on green electronics for the MySears blog (but I’ll let you find that on your own :) )

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all things me, or peek inside my very strange brain, I keep a very regularly updated tumblr (zoelle.tumblr.com) with visual inspiration and snark from around the web, as well as an occasionally interesting twitter feed (@zoelle).

Stay tuned for serious life-updates in the next 2 weeks!

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on January 3, 2011

Hi all!

It’s been a while. Since we last chatted, I moved to Chicago, started my new job, weaseled my way into a new community of writers, got published, picked up a few new hobbies, and learned to love the David Tennant version of Doctor Who almost as much as Matt Smith. Oh that, and I became a corporate blogger. Weird.*

We all know deep down that New Years is ultimately an arbitrary date, and that we should be able to make goals all year long, but resolutions are in the air this time of year, so if nothing else, it couldn’t hurt to join in the fun.

So: I’ve decided that (for me at least) 2011 is the year of experimentation. I spent all of 2010 reading and absorbing and deciding what I find interesting, and now it’s time to nudge those findings into practice. I’m still working out the details, of course, but I know I’ll be experimenting in these categories:

1.Personal development
2. Writing
3. A side project (vague, I know, but what’s significant here is that I’m going to pick just one. As a compulsive multitasker and project dilettante, for me, that’s a big deal.)

Oh, and now that I can write posts from my phone, I’ll be documenting the whole thing, as well as the articles and videos that inspire and challenge me along the way. Here’s one to start: the most lovely TED talk by Brene Brown on the importance of vulnerability and wholeheartedness.

Cheers! Here’s to a lovely New Year.

*Yes, I’m a blogger about sustainability in electronics for my current employer. All opinions expressed on THIS blog, however, are entirely my own and don’t reflect my company in any way, shape, or form.

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Visitors and Vineyards

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on June 23, 2010

Two weekends ago,  a couple of friends of mine came to visit me at my home in the East Bay. Because one was visiting from New York, we decided to introduce her to the joy that is Napa Valley. Because all of us are recent college graduates, we’re pretty broke, so we were a little concerned about the cost of tastings: gone are the days when wineries would lavish their visitors with free samples (or so we thought.) Well, after several hours of slavish research (and signing up for a frightening number of newsletters) we found enough coupons for free and reduced-price tastings to more than adequately fill a day*. We were ready.

The day began with a quick trip to the Jelly Belly factory. This is one of my favorite factory tours- complete with shiny machinery, silly hats, and samples of every stage of jelly bean production. Yet this time, we decided to make another stop– next door, at the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser factory. This is a tour I had never taken before, but, speaking as a free-sample freak and recent convert to the cult of beer, I’ve got to say, I was NOT disappointed.

Upon entering the factory store, we were given coupons for two free samples of whatever beer we might want from the bar. I expected tiny tasting cups, but no– we were handed full-sized glasses of our choice of Ales and Lagers. I started with the American Ale, something I’ve never tried before, and found it to be surprisingly delicious. My friends tried the Hefeweizen, Shocktop, and were equally pleased (in fact, I know that since then they’ve both chosen to order the Shocktop at happy hours, which is great! Good job, Anheuser-Busch, score one for you.) We grabbed several bags of free pretzels from the giant baskets sitting around the room, and tried the blueberry-flavored samples they passed around. For a flavored beer, not terrible. Not really my thing, but sort of interesting. Next, we were taken to the bottling area, which was silent due to the recession (apparently they’re only producing cans at this point) and learned about the frightening speed at which their products are packaged. Whew. We then went into the room with the tanks (which is very very cold, and sort of creepy- many  stories worth of giant tanks, each of which apparently holds 1 million dollars worth of beer. Eek.) Learned a little about how they use beechwood chips to increase surface area for the yeast, resisted the urge to keep the pieces of beechwood they have as free souvenirs. I don’t need a chunk of wood. Honest. Then we headed back to the bar for our second sample. Because In-Bev recently purchased Anheuser-Busch, I was able to get a Stella Artois. Yum. By the time we left, I was officially tipsy at 10 am. Yes, I am that classy.

From there, we drove for another hour or so to downtown Napa, where we had a delicious lunch of arepas and organic ice cream at the Oxbow Public market. Feeling a little less woozy, we hit the vineyards. The first was a large, newish winery. We had a 2 for 1 coupon, and thus tried 8 different samples. They were only so-so, and I don’t really want to bash them (or promote them, for that matter) so I’ll leave them anonymous. Suffice it to say, the large winery was crowded and not particularly delicious, so we left a little disappointed.

But oh, things got so much better. Next, we went to Hagafen Cellars, a tiny winery for which we had 2 coupons for 2 free tastings each. Hagafen, just in case you’ve never heard of it (which is probably the case, to be honest) has only recently opened its tasting room. When you walk into the little hut that holds the tastings, you’re immediately struck by the bottles that line the walls. A surprising number seem to have won awards. Given that we had never heard of Hagafen, we were a little skeptical. We were immediately approached by one of the two workers, a perky, curly-haired woman named Tia. She was thrilled when we presented our coupons (unlike the previous winery) and immediately brought us the tasting list, as well as our first sample. We were able to choose 5 wines each. When she heard that my friend from New York had never been on a winery tour, she took us on an impromptu private tour of their cellars and equipment, giving us a quick rundown on their unique crushing and fermentation processes. She brought us samples of reserve wines that weren’t supposed to be part of the tasting menu, and was incredibly helpful in all ways. As we sat enjoying our final few tastings, we happened to read some of the plaques on the wall, and discovered that 1) Hagafen is a Kosher Winery and 2) it’s the wine served at the white house when the prime minister of Israel comes to visit. Now, as a Jew (by birth and a capella group, at very least) I’ve had my share of Kosher wine. Generally, it’s something like Manischewitz– sickly sweet and oppressive. The sort of wine that tastes more like syrup than wine because it’s made from Concord Grapes (for the record, there’s a whole interesting history behind why most kosher wine is in this category, but I won’t get into it now.) This wine, though– this wine held its own against the best of the general, non-kosher wines I’ve tried. It was delicious. I’m still dreaming of their Syrah and Riesling. Just saying. If you get the chance, buy from Hagafen. Go visit. They are GREAT. Great.

After that, we were… skeptical that anything else to compare. The small, artisan kosher winery experience was so superior to the large winery that we thought nothing could be better. The last stop was Jessup, located in Yountville, and we hadn’t heard of it, so we headed off with a little trepidation. It only deepened when we realized that we were headed to a tasting room in the tiny downtown, not a winery. 

This place was swank. Nice decor, many well-dressed, middle-aged wine tourists, giggling into their elegant stemware. Uh-oh. We presented our coupons (another 2 coupons for 2 free tastings, thank you web research skills) and received the very long menu. When we tried to ask for a specific sample, our server gently informed us that it was a predetermined selection. Our trepidation increased further.

Well, as it happened, that “predetermined selection” was EVERYTHING ON THE MENU. 10 tastes. Generous tastes. There were some delicious reds, and port! I love port. I love Jessup. Very very interesting tasting notes, unique combinations of flavor, very knowledgeable servers. All in all, a lovely experience. If you contact them in advance, you can get food pairings. Joyous.

At that point, everyone but the driver was so tipsy that our pallets were basically shot, and we headed home. But summary: if you go to napa to do wine tasting, 1) bring coupons and 2) go to small wineries for personal attention. Go to Hagafen and Jessup, if you can. They deserve all the attention they can get.

*If you’re interested in specifically where I found all my coupons, just ask in the comments section. Happy to share.

And again, I return.

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on June 2, 2010

Well, it’s official. I’m a college graduate. Crazy. Check out my class day speaker- he seemed more concerned with not having a funny hat than anything else. Also, I swear the man hasn’t physically aged since he left office. In manner, he’s certainly more grandfatherly, but still charismatic as ever.

What’s next for me, you ask? Well, I’m the type of person who panics without having several plans lined up, just in case all hell breaks loose and all of them fail. So: I’m in the bay area for the next two months, working almost full-time as a contractor for my old job. Then, in August, I’m moving to Chigago to start my first big-girl job. I just signed a lease on a beautiful apartment with a super awesome roommate and I’ve been pre-nesting for weeks. I’m looking forward to exploring Wicker Parker, not to mention cashing my relocation check. Besides that, I’m trying to find singing, writing and urban agriculture groups to join upon my arrival; trying frantically to learn about both retail marketing and etiquette; and trying to come up with a reasonable budget.

Projects in the works:

-shortening my thesis for publication. I might not have won any major university-wide prizes, but my advisor thinks my work is seminal! Seminal, I tell you. What more could I possibly ask?

-finally starting my bathroom graffiti project. Stay tuned for details.

-Writing for the brand-spanking-new blog “Snob Lessons.” I’ll link there asap, fear not.

And, of course, resurrecting this blog. You can expect posts on experimental and digital literature, mobile apps, being a woman in the workplace, rooftop gardens, adventures in napa, my quest to appreciate beer, how to move across the country without going broke, the nuances of slam poetry, current events, and my terror at the prospect of actually leaving California.

Finally, the last 3 really good books I’ve read:

The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony. What an incredible story. Scrumptious. And the cover art is to die for.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Not about the place in England, as it happens. But what a gorgeous novel. So glad I got over the title and read it.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Wow wow wow wow. As has been said before, lovely Russian dolls masquerading as fiction. So beautiful.

BONUS FUN FACT: On Monday, I fell asleep in a casino. While seated at a slot machine. Yes, I am a champion sleeper.

Loose thoughts on the “Contemporary Crisis in Publishing/Literacy”

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on October 5, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the future of the book and literacy in the digital age, partially because I’m in a class called “Adventures in Literacy” which talks exclusively about issues in contemporary reading, and partially because it’s been all over the media recently.

Case in point: this Wednesday, I found myself at the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s annual New York conference, which this year took the form of a panel on the Future of the Media. Unsurprisingly, YES pulled together an impressive panel, including the founding editor of Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, an investor in media and entertainment properties, the CEO of an online content company, and a director of digital strategy at a media consultancy (who only graduated from Yale in ’08!)

Less fortunately, they didn’t really have anything new to say– books will become valued for their materiality (aka, the book will return to being a luxury good, as it was for hundreds of years until the relatively recent advent of the cheap paperback…); newspapers are screwed and need to rethink their business models; no one knows how to get consumers to pay for content now that they’ve been getting it for free for so many years; there are cool flexible screens on the way and that’s how we’ll get our magazine/newspaper content; if you figure out how to monetize content you’ll be very rich; and so on.

[Note: I still think there should be more consideration of a crowd-sourced (in the literal sense of many people participating, not in the searching-for-one-genius-by-advertising-broadly sense) patron model (that is, you pay some small amount to support a writer's future writing on the basis of the previous work they've created, or in other words, many people paying small amounts based on perceived relevance and quality encourage writers to write better and more relevant stuff), but I seem to be the only who thinks that, besides maybe Matt Mason of the Pirate’s Dilemma. Oh well.]

What are we to do with this issue? In many circumstances, the internet is simply a more efficient platform for content delivery, and if the materiality of the text is irrelevant for a particular work (say, a reference text) then there’s no point in wasting the paper or effort to print and use the book version. Then again, from what I’ve been told (and I should probably look this up, but I’ll trust the people on the YES panel for now), the kindle and other digital readers still don’t have hypertext or indexing enabled, which is needlessly frustrating and makes them frankly useless for what I’m talking about.  That’ll change soon, though, or the people behind digital reader products are idiots.

But what about novels and other long-form narratives? Is there something about the technology of the book that imparts a different experience of narrative than a Kindle or mobile device can provide? Which is more important- convenience or the tactile experience?  That seems to be the main question people are asking these days, but I’m not so sure it’s the right one- although convenience seems to be the driving force at first with any new technology, as it becomes “domesticated,” the technology often assumes a different role than it previously did—and often one that subverts the original function as a facilitator of convenience. Just look at how email has evolved: while it was originally viewed and used as a casual means of electronic communication, it has become increasingly formalized, finding widespread use in the business context.

So we’ll see. To those people who keep proclaiming the death of the book, I say this: perhaps we’re seeing the death of traditional publishing, but I don’t think the book itself is dead just yet. It may go the way of vinyl in the face of CDs and mp3s, but I’ve seen no compelling evidence so far to indicate that the technology itself has been completely outdone.

In case you were wondering…

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on September 30, 2009

HBS– Had my interview, realized mid-interview that I didn’t have a good answer for the question “Why Harvard” and was thus unsurprised when 1) my answer was terrible and unconvincing and 2) I didn’t get in. I wasn’t upset, though– and no, I’m not just saying that– frankly, I didn’t really want to go. Not yet, at least. And I know that program allows you to work for 2 years first, but I had begun to feel trapped by the prospect of cutting off whatever path I had chosen after only 2 years, and I wasn’t certain if Harvard would be the right fit (after all, I’ve turned it down for precisely that reason once before…) and so on, and so on.

 So: what I’ve gained from that whole debacle is a good GMAT score, a snazzy suit, practice interviewing, and personal proof that I should really figure out how I feel about opportunities before I’m in the middle of the interview. All solid gains. Sure, my pride was a little wounded, but that’s probably a good thing too.

 

In other news: a new post is coming soon. It will probably have to do with either the contemporary “crisis of literacy” (because I’m in a grad colloquium about it) or job hunting, because it’s one of the main ways I spend my time (between stage managing and costume designing and writing slam poetry for the new team and going to work and teaching the fabulous new taps of Magevet how to sing soprano and oh, that doing my homework thing.)

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Quick update

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on August 25, 2009

Just got back from “Julie and Julia” and was reminded that I hadn’t written in a while. In fact, I basically fell off the face of the earth– in the middle of a two part post. Oops. (In case you wondering, I went to both the international poetry festival and a huge theater shindig in the middle of Yerba Buena Gardens. It was pretty sweet, and I learned that I love the sound of Persian. The end.)

Here’s the 30 second update about the end of my summer: good times at work, a lot of soul searching stemming from a personal shitstorm combined with packing up the room I’ve considered my home for the last 12 years. And then my interview at HBS. Needless to say, it’s been a turbulent few weeks. I now find myself in Mamaroneck, New York, on my rush retreat, surrounded by people I love and trying really hard to just relax a little. It’s been that kind of summer. Also: I am not ready to be a senior. But I don’t have much choice, so I’m bracing myself. We’ll see how this little adventure goes.

In any case, I apologize for my silence– both now and in the future. I guess I don’t have a lot of coherent things to say.  It’ll be over soon. Can’t promise I’ll be writing much, but I’ll see you on the other side.

Here’s hoping this year is unexpected and marvelous.

Notes from a San Francisco Weekend (Part One): Suits, Casablanca, and Public Transportation

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on July 27, 2009

Whew, what a weekend. There’s enough to say that I’ll break this up into two installments– Saturday and Sunday.

SATURDAY

It all began with the farmer’s market. My mother and I make a concerted effort to stop at the Farmer’s Market at the Embarcadero every Saturday that we come to SF, so of course we stopped by to get some fresh produce treats. I bought a bunch of multicolored carrots (though they weren’t as good as last year’s, they were delicious enough that I ate almost the entire bunch before we left the market) and then discovered that CUESA was sponsoring a berry tasting. What a fantastic way to start the morning- I now know (after some intense comparative study) that the Albion strawberry from Dirty Girl produce may in fact be the epitome of the strawberry. Good to know.

SUITS

The main purpose for our San Francisco jaunt was to buy me a suit. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the middle of the application process for business school, and now that I’ve got an interview, I finally need a full suit of my own. Needless to say, being a slender 6’2″ female makes finding a suit… challenging. Either the jacket is too short or too wide, and as for pants or a skirt? Well, I’ve learned to hope for substantial hems that can be let out, since I can’t afford anything custom-made (yet!)

I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say we had been searching for HOURS already when we stumbled across a cooking demonstration in “The Cellar” (the demonstration kitchen in the basement of Macy’s) from David Lawrence, the executive chef of 1300 Fillmore. His fried green tomato salad with honey lavender goat cheese definitely improved my spirits. While waiting for it to start, I also heard about the “SF Chefs. Food. Wine” festival for the first time. If you’re 21, sign up to volunteer and get in free! It’s going to be AMAZING. (But I’ll write more about my deep and abiding desire to attend this festival at a later date.)

Oh, and after another 4 hours, I finally found a suit. I blame it on the spike of energy I got from Chef David :)

CASABLANCA

After dinner, my mother headed home and the night really began. I headed across the bay to Berkeley, to have dessert with a friend from school who’s here this summer teaching middle school kids math and theater. What a combination. From there, I persuaded her to come first to a friend’s party in north Berkeley and then back to SF to see my cousin’s band, Maus Haus, headline a show in the Mission Creek Music Festival at the Bottom of the Hill. Note: I’ve written about Maus Haus before. Incidentally, there was an adventure surrounding that show, too.

Well.

The party, for the record, was pretty cool. Casablanca-themed, which meant that (nearly) everyone was decked out in their vintage best, and many of the people in attendance were Lindy dancers, so yes, there was legitimate dancing going on. A rare sort of thing to see. I say nearly all were dressed up, though, because my friend and I were most definitely dressed to reflect the rest of our distinctly modern days. Oh well.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

We planned to leave at 10:45 in order to catch the BART back into the city to the 16th street stop in time to get the #13 Fillmore bus to the venue by midnight, when the band was theoretically to start.

We didn’t leave by 10:45.

We trusted in the accuracy of the host’s iPhone and its BART schedule, missed TWO trains, and ended up leaving at 11:15. Oy.

We made it to the mission BART station by 11:50, and discovered that the next bus wouldn’t be arriving until 12:04, meaning we’d definitely be missing some of the set. In the course of the next 14 minutes, my friend and I attempted to hail a cab.

This was when my super-sheltered-suburban-inner-child decided to rear her ugly (and usually so carefully contained) little head. Somehow, I managed to try to hail not only about 20 already-occupied taxis, but also a pizza delivery boy and a cop car. The bus came before I could manage to get one. Yes, before you ask, I am ashamed to exist.

When we finally made it to the Bottom of the Hill (after being stopped by a photographer from SF Station, who I’m pretty sure has some lovely candids of me trying to call a friend of mine) and tried to pay, but were told that they were no longer charging.

There was only one song left.

Needless to say, we weren’t pleased. After about 5 minutes of music, we were back out on the street, searching for the bus stop. It proved impossible to find, so we finally managed to sucessfully hail a cab.  Because BART was no longer running, we had to wait 40 minutes at the Transbay Terminal for the bus back across the bay. Another hour later (after making everyone on that bus despise us for laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the evening for a good portion of the ride,) we finally made it back to her apartment.

It was her last weekend in the bay area- I’m just hoping it was memorable enough that she forgives me for the nightmare of transportation we faced.

Effectual thinking

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on July 22, 2009

I just finished reading this document. It summarizes the 2001 findings of Saras Sarasvathy who tried to determine the essence of an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Yes, it’s from 2001, so it’s not exactly hot-off-the-presses new, but the answer is to draw a distinction between causal thinking and effectual thinking and it also happens to articulate the reasons for my hesitance to pursue entrepreneurship better than anything else I’ve seen:

All entrepreneurs begin with three categories of means: (1) Who they are – their traits, tastes and abilities; (2) What they know – their education, training, expertise, and experience; and, (3) Whom they know- their social and professional networks. Using these means, the entrepreneurs begin to imagine and implement possible effects that can be created with them.

Well, that’s all well and good- except I’ve spent the last 20 years (yes, that’s my entire life) learning little else except writing/effective communication, following directions, and maybe a little HTML. I spend most of my time reading. This isn’t to undermine the value of those pursuits or that knowledge- I just never thought of those skills as facilitating the creation of a business, perse. Maybe a consultancy, but I didn’t have anything except my high school diploma and some classes in creative writing. You get my point- the “what I know” bucket seemed to be pretty lacking as a staring point for anything at all. That, in combination with my own particular brand of extreme risk aversion, seemed to put the kibbosh on being an entrepreneur any time soon.

Well, things change. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reading about entrepreneurship, watching my friends try it out, and playing around with some ideas of my own. I’ve been reaching out to that community a little bit (I live in the bay area, after all) and trying to get a feel for the sorts of people who engage in this effectual thinking. It’s something I’d like to learn, antithetical as it intuitively seems to the way I typically function.

Because I’m going into my senior year of college (and facing the sudden possibility of $150k of debt in just a few years if my interview at HBS goes well at the end of August [yes, I got one- just found on on Monday]) I’ve suddenly been weighing my priorities and thinking a lot about ways to merge the type of lifestyle I desire with the sort of job that will provide me some modicum of security or at least (best?) work that’s engaging enough to make me forget how terrifying it all is. It turns out the engaging-work part is more important to me than the other two, at least for now. What’s more, it seems to me that as far as times-of-your-life-to-risk-everything go, right after college isn’t a bad one. It’s not like I’ve got much to lose- the worst case scenario is I live at home and have to take the full loan package for my MBA.

So this is my public declaration (to keep me honest) that I’ll actually explore this possibility. I’ll push my comfort zone, challenge my thought process, and yes, if my (current) little idea looks like it’s going to work, I’ll tell you all about it.

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