I Pay Rapt Attention

Quick update

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 26, 2008

Hey all,

Still haven’t quite made it to school yet- making a pit stop in Trumbull, CT for a capella retreat. I’ve been playing beach volleyball and going on long walks and staring longingly at the lake and oh, I guess singing too. Today we had a performance seminar, and I remembered how much I love performing. I may actually try out for some stuff this year.

In other news, the closing ceremonies of the Olympics were pretty sweet (though not as cool as the opening ones) despite the HORRIFYING costumes. Bright pink and rhinestones?! Really?! Stepping out of your dress to go grope Jimmy Page?! Really London? Sigh.

It was nice to see all of the replays as well (because Usain Bolt is amazing, as are the gymnasts and the swimmers) and watching Michael Phelps stumble through speaking in London was kind of fun. I was sad not to see more of the ridiculous World According to Ryan Lochte, but I suppose we can’t always get what we want. There should have been a greatest hits of the commentary. Excluding the weird cultural segments with Mary Carillo (who I really think may be a man. Maybe. [That’s mean, but dude, she has the lowest voice ever.) I feel like she could totally do some good journalism, but was limited to sort of lame things by the circumstances. Oh well.

Anyway, more to come later- I’m off to Redding and speed scrabble.


Wine-y Wednesday

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on August 20, 2008

Welcome to the perennial first-row gawker, Niagara edition. Later on, I’ll post my thoughts about weddings and detroit and the like. Right now, I only have enough concentration to discuss today.

Some background information: 1. I don’t know much about wine.

2. I’m a terrible Tourist. Really. All the crap they make for tourists? I hate it. I had to be dragged to niagara falls. Literally.

3. As a result, yesterday (the tourist day) was not-so-fun.

4. I’m sort of obsessed with nature.

With that in mind, here’s why today was awesome:

We (my illustrious mother and I) started with a breakfast in our hotel, the Old Stone Inn. This place is growing on me. The free breakfast is better now that the waiter knows we tip, so it wasn’t ice cold, and the potatoes were delicious, rather than blackened and disgusting. This was a pleasant and welcome surprise. The staff has been uniformly helpful, if not particularly knowledgeable about anything I care about. No matter, they aren’t afraid of telephones, which makes them better people than me.

On the way to Niagara-by-the-Lake, we stopped at Niagara Glen. This was a very good idea. As previously mentioned, I really like nature. Prior to this vacation, I had been going (somewhat grudgingly, but with general willingness and eventual pleasure) on hikes every morning. I always forget how much nature refuels me until I’m there and suddenly I remember what it feels like to be a human being who doesn’t despise the majority of the world. Niagara Glen is beautiful. You go through a thickly wooded area, you can see rapids, there are butterflies everywhere, it’s amazing. You should go.

Then came the highlight of the day: Wine Tasting! The Niagara wine route doesn’t get much press because it’s sort of up-and-coming, but it was covered in a recent Wine Spectator, so I thought we’d check out a few of the wineries listed there, and then some of those I’d heard recommended around town. My review, per winery (in order of visit), follows:

Reif: At Reif we sampled a Chardonnay, a Laguz, a Sowhilo, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot reserve. I’m not a huge fan of whites, but even with this many samples, the only wine I was really interested in at all was the Sowhilo, which I found peppery and at least vaguely interesting. Overall impression was Eh, though maybe that’s because it was 11:30 am. On the other hand, the first taste per person was free. Which is sweet.

Stratus: So at this point, I decided it might be a good idea to pull out my Wine Spectator article and see what was actually recommended, rather than trying to run off of my memory. This was a good idea, since this led me to Stratus, which was good, because by far and away Stratus was my favorite winery of the day. No contest. We chose the 3 wine flight for $10 (though the lady who assisted us, discovering that we had never tried ice wine, actually ended up giving us 4. We tried the 2005 Stratus Red, the 2006 Geurztraminer, the 2007 Reisling Icewine, and the 2007 Icewine Red. It’s been something like 6 hours since we went, and my mother still won’t shut up about that Stratus Red. It’s¬† a blend of seven varietals, which sounds like an ungodly number, but it’s worth every one, apparently. My favorite was the Gewurztraminer. Yum. The icewines were also excellent. If this wine had wider distribution, I’d swallow the ridiculous prices and buy it all the time. Unfortunately, it’s not really all that available in the US. We’ll see what I can do with the powers of the internet.

Jackson Briggs: We went here for the tour. It was informative, the building is really cool looking, and I liked the staff. I have nothing to say about the wines. I didn’t like either white (I think one was a Chardonnay and one was something else) at all, and the red was sort of flat and unexciting. Whatever, I got my tour, and it was cool. Points for architecture.

Lailey: This one was pretty small, but the people over at Stratus sent us, so we thought we’d give it a try. We had a Cab, a Merlot, and a Pinot. Nothing bad, nothing special. Eh.

Inniskillin: We only stayed here for a few minutes, because it was pretty crowded and I wanted to get back (I was a little worried about my mother’s ability to drive.) We sampled their super crazy italian gold medal winning reisling ice wine, and it was delicious and wonderfully sweet as expected. They’re known as the icewine people for a reason. Yum.

So yes. I’m now a happy girl, and we’re looking forward to Nature and Wine part deux tomorrow, where we head to Vineland for a few more Wine Spectator and hotel-bartender approved tastings ūüôā

Oh, vacation, how I love you.

Red-Eyes, Reading, and Rena

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 17, 2008


I hate them. I am tall, and the seats aren’t made for people of my stature. Enough said.


Upon (finally) reaching the hotel, I crashed into bed and grabbed All About Lulu, a novel by Jonathan Evison. This book also holds the distinction of being the book behind My Favorite Book Tour that I mentioned earlier this summer.

Despite my exhaustion, I powered through all 336 pages in 3ish hours, which is a testament both to the flow of the writing and my hunger to read. I’m pretty tired now, so I won’t go into an astonishing amount of detail here with my thoughts on the book. Basically, it’s relatively well written, breezy, with an interesting conceit, and some surprisingly captivating characters. I especially like one Eugene Gobernecki and his transcendental Hot Dog stand. The ending isn’t surprising (I think I figured it out 50 pages in) but the story kept me going until the end, and I didn’t resent its predictability, which is a feat for a twist junkie like me.

It’s a good summer read, and I would certainly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a light, fun piece.


Is getting married tomorrow. Tonight was dinner with the relatives. They’re surprisingly cooler than I remembered. In the next few days, if I have time, I’ll try to recreate the rant that Bernie, my uncle’s old college professor AKA the crankiest Canadian man ever, decided to share with us tonight. He’s sort of amazing.

In other news, Speedo must be kicking itself for making million dollar promises to one Michael Phelps. What a great run, eh?

Going (briefly) dark

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 15, 2008

I’m off to the midwest today. And then to Canada. I’ll try to write, but we’ll see how that goes, considering I intend to wine taste and gamble while I can. And spend the rest of the time on other writing- I’ve got samples to produce. Classes to get into.

Wish me luck, everyone. I hate airplanes. HATE.

Monkey Pilaf, Dresses, and the End of Work

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 13, 2008

Monkey Pilaf

This is a side dish at Spice Monkey in downtown Oakland. Buy it. Seriously. And also the the chai, which is my favorite chai in Oakland and which they did not charge me for, out of the strange misapprehension that I didn’t like it (which I tried to protest but they did not believe me. Or it could have been a mistake.)

But speaking of Spice Monkey and my lunch today- going to lunch at 11:15 alone is super awkward. You’d think I’d have learned this by now, but no. That would be too easy. The waitress was confused and I was embarrassed and then there was too much food. But so delicious I finished it anyway, looking like a doofus completely alone. Oh well.


You know what else is awkward? Trying to figure out what you can wear to your business-casual office when every piece of clothing that you like is already packed because you leave in two days. So you put on a dress there wasn’t room for, thinking it’ll be fine. And 5 inch heels because you like making short people angry and are already 6’2. And then discovering that the dress is shorter than you thought.

But only noticing because other people won’t stop commenting on your legs. I mean, I get used to people staring, because like I said, I’m tall, and I wear heels. Which is rare. But it’s something entirely different to hear complete strangers start gushing to their friends about your legs. Or proclaiming their length loudly enough that an entire city block can hear. Not pleasant.

The End of Work

It’s over tomorrow. I don’t really know what to think; I’ve really enjoyed this job, and the people, and I hate Michigan in the summer, which is incidentally the next place I’m going. So I don’t even have that to look forward to, really. But after that I get a vacation (during which this lovely blog will go dark- it’s time for me to sleep. And gamble. Yes.) which is much needed and appreciated, and then it’s back to school. Which is a mixed bag we won’t even get into yet.

Sunrise, Swimming, and Summer

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 12, 2008


Today in the elevator, a well-groomed woman of no more than 35 turned to me, having just barely squeezed between the closing doors, and said

“Everything works so much better early in the morning, don’t you think?”

Now this struck me as rather contrary to what I normally hear- the usual gripes about the pain and suffering of any time before 10 am (or noon, if it’s the weekend.)¬†Nothing is open. The commute is crowded. Coffee is required before social norms are conceivable, let alone followed.

And while I like my sleep just as much as the next gal, after a second, I almost saw her point. While I couldn’t find¬†a seat on the BART this morning, I didn’t find myself wedged inside the throng of questionably clean and always cranky people who swarm the train around 8:30 every day. By virtue of the early hour, the elevator was desolate and lonely (besides that resolutely cheerful woman) and so I didn’t have to stop on every floor. Note that there are 27 floors in my building, and you’ll understand why that’s exciting.

But those conveniences aren’t the only reasons that I’ve recently come to appreciate the morning a little more- there’s also the matter of sunrise. And breakfast.

For whatever reason, my mother (whose house I’m stuck in¬†for only 3 more days…) has been forcing entry to my room every morning at¬†6 am for the last three weeks, and dragging me on¬†pre-dawn hikes. And while this annoys¬†me to¬†no end¬†(I have¬†a 9 to¬†5! I’m tired!) and I’m mostly sleepwalking, by the end, the¬†sun¬†slides across the valley as we’re descending some suicidally sloped hill, and¬†the dying grasses flush golden, hemmed in by¬†dying wisps¬†of¬†fog. It is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, and I get to see it every day.¬†

Dawn is worth the pain.

Also, then I’m awake enough to make breakfast. I am a new convert to the cult of breakfast foods. All of my life, I’ve avoided eating prior to 11 am. My teeth were freshly brushed,¬†I wasn’t hungry, it didn’t seem worth it. And yet I’ve always loved omelettes and scrambles and oatmeal and pancakes-¬†I just ate them for lunch or yes, even dinner. There’s a reason Denny’s is so popular, people, and it isn’t just the milk shakes. But being awake so early works up an appetite, and so I’ve been enjoying that too. It’s been nice.


When I find something I like, I tend to research it to death. This is just a sad fact of my life. It started with Jelly Fish when I was 10 (and yes, I can still tell you all about them. Seriously.) and has continued through everything from bathroom graffiti to egyptology. 

Well, I’ve got a new one. The Olympics has ruined my life. I spend hours online searching for swimmer bios, reading their blogs, trying to figure out how those crazy commentators can tell when a swimmer is “hurting” or when they have weak body position. I’m resisting the urge to do the same for diving. I now know all about Michael Phelps and his totally adorable bulldog¬†Herman. Ryan Lochte? Check. You name one, I’ve probably read as much of their life story as is available. It’s pathetic. It’s nonsensical. It’s endlessly entertaining.

At least it’s not like I’ve got a thousand things to do.

…Oh wait.


It’s ending. This isn’t an acceptable turn of events.

Charlotte, Canada and Clothes

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 10, 2008


Won NPS again, in case you hadn’t heard. Apparently it was a margin of 2.5 points. Still disappointed that no teams from the bay made it, considering that (from what I could tell on the nps results page (which is SO WEIRD I don’t get it), Oakland was like -this- close. Sigh.


I’m going in a week. First there will be first-cousin-marriage madness in Michigan (more on that another day) and then there will be… something in Canada. We haven’t actually decided yet (oops) though it looks like we’ve switched from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ve been to neither, and have no idea where to stay or what to do. Thoughts? Advice? Please? Help a poor Californian out? I need to relax like woah.


I don’t know how interesting this could possibly be to anyone but me, but I bought the sexiest dress I’ve ever seen while at a consignment shop near 4th street yesterday, and I’m still sort of astonished that I did it. It’s basically the same color as my skin but also has white polka dots, which doesn’t sound particularly sexy right off the bat, but it helps to know that the thing is made of silk, has no back, a plunging front, and was made by VS. So.¬† Who knows when I’ll wear it, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

In other news, I head back to Connecticut soon. Oh Bay Area, how I’ll miss you…

NPS 2008

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 9, 2008

The Finals bout will apparently be between Louder Arts, Charlotte, Austin and Cantab. I wish more details were available; everyone is still probably out getting drunk. Sigh.

Claims, Curry, and California

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 8, 2008


For those of you following my car accident saga, I found out today¬†that the other party’s insurance has accepted liability. Which is SUCH a relief, because it really wasn’t¬†my fault. Now we just have to persuade those pesky police officers¬†who¬†decided prior to talking to me that I had run a red light and thus wouldn’t listen to a word I said… I just hope I don’t have to get a lawyer over this.


 Not much to say about this, except that it exploded all over everything in my work bag, and now I smell like thai peanut sauce. And have to buy my friend a new copy of The Savage Detectives. And I felt a need to whine.


Ok, here’s the meat of this post, so to speak. California is my home. I’ve lived in two other states in my life and go to college in¬†a third, but I was born here and I’m planning to come back as soon as possible.

I can’t even chalk it up to the weather. Honestly, it’s snowy and disgusting in Connecticut, and humid and disgusting in the Ohio, and it just NEVER STOPS RAINING in Washington (because the cliche is a cliche for a reason, guys) but¬†it isn’t as if that would stop me from being where I felt I belonged. And after two years of mostly residing in a place that I imagined perfect for me (the ivy league, the east coast, etc etc) I know that I never really appreciated what I had going for me here.

I could ramble on about this for days, but I’ll spare you. Let’s just say i never appreciated my community. And now I do.

AND– speaking of my community guess who has continued kicking an astonishing amount of ass at the national poetry slam?!

Oh, that would be the bay area. ALL THREE BAY AREA TEAMS ARE (MOST LIKELY) GOING TO SEMIS! I’m so proud. Even if Oakland beat my friends in SF. This is a landmark occasion, and I only wish I were there to celebrate with them. Fingers crossed for Saturday, people. They’re some of the most talented and fantastic humans I know, and they deserve this.

Slam, Savage Detectives, and Soy Sauce

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 7, 2008


I’ve spent the past year or so trying to weasel my way into the poetry slam* community of the bay area. Basically every¬†Wednesday¬†these last two summers I’ve appeared at the Starry Plough¬†at¬†5:30¬†or so and stayed until midnight. The intervening time is filled with schmoozing, gossip, poetry and some very drunk writers. Now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that my being an actor and a poet separately does not¬†automatically make me¬†a natural performance poet, I’ve been living the life¬†of the trusted regular in the audience. I sit at tables populated by poets,¬†provide editting and advice,¬†and¬†joke with Shahin, my favorite¬†bartender in the history of ever. I even know the local afternoon drunks by name (in fact, I’m writing a screenplay with one of them.¬†Theoretically.)

Yet last night I¬†decided to stay home. Last night’s exploits wore me out¬†and so I curled up with the final episode of So You Think You Can Dance. From what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss a whole lot. But of course none of that is particularly interesting, except that I wasn’t surprised- the best poets of the bay are at the National Poetry Slam championships in Madison, WI!

From what I’ve heard, they’re kicking ass.¬†Slam¬†championships¬†are essentially a weird cross between hypercompetitive summer camp for poets and a really nerdy orgy.¬†They last for nearly a week, and feature both traditional bouts with 4 teams each, and some extra fun events on the side (like the Erotic slam, and head-to-head sudden death haiku.) It’s a writers greatest dream realized; needless to say, I’m disappointed not to be there.

*If you don’t know what a poetry slam is, don’t fret- you’re a normal human being. Congratulations. To learn more about the rules (this ain’t no open mic, honey, this is a BATTLE) click here¬†or here.


Savage Detectives

In my previously mentioned top 101 books I must must read list, the very first is The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bola√Īo. I first heard about the book when it showed up in the SF Chronicle’s best books of 2007. Considering how the reviewers at the Chronicle hate EVERYTHING, I knew I had to check this book out.

Now that I’m finally reading it, I haven’t been disappointed for a second. Admittedly, it’s pretty slow going (which is rare for me), but it’s slow going in the way that The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa (one of my favorite books) was slow going. I can’t race through each page, because I’m too busy savoring each sentence. I’m not the most patient reader, either, so the fact that this book has kept me coming back every day for as long as it has is a testament to its craft.

I’m not done yet, but I’ll write a proper review when I am. Regardless, it’s good stuff (at least through page 242.) I can’t believe it wasn’t translated into English until 2007- makes¬†me wonder why I haven’t been searching out these books in their original language years ago (after all, I’m proficient-ish in Spanish, so I can’t use the wait for translation as an excuse…) Sigh.

Soy Sauce

On a completely different note, my family has gone through a radical transformation this last week and a half or so. It all began when I discovered food bloggers. Whereas at the beginning of the summer I procrastinated at work by wikipedia-ing random things and hitting refresh on my email, I’m now consumed (har har har) by Epicurious and Food Blogga. My waistline will never be the same.

So far, we’ve made Avocado and Radish Green Mini Quiches, Breakfast Quinoa, Indian Curried Eggplant, and Asparagus and baby Artichoke Risotto.

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Last night was Thai Peanut Sauce Tofu and String Beans with a side of fried plantain and coconut pineapple ice cream for dessert. I have not eaten this well since I was like… 12.

If you’re bored with your cuisine (or just your day), check them out. Your taste buds will thank you.

PS: If you’d like the recipes for any of the above-mentioned recipes, just let me know and I’ll send them on over. The risotto is particularly amazing.