I Pay Rapt Attention

Fireworks, Mimes, and Books

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on July 6, 2009


As you may have noticed, this weekend was a national holiday here in America, and one imbued with some astonishing qualities, if you ask me. This year in particular July 4th celebrations had a real transformative effect on my understanding of the town that I live in. Every year, my mother and I go to the parade in the morning and the fireworks at night. Both of these festivities are kind of hokey, to be honest, and this year for the first time they made me realize just how much my hometown has in common with those small towns that populate the rest of this country, coastal and non-coastal regions alike. I’d always sort of assumed that because my area is relatively affluent and part of the bay area that we were different- perhaps more conservative than the rest of the bay, but still a part of the stereotypical Californian ethos. I mean, this was a place where I didn’t feel cool or rich enough to ever quite fit. But if you watch us on the fourth of July- well, you wouldn’t get that feeling. And the groups that are represented in our parade don’t just magically pop into existence once a year- they’re an integral part of the fabric of this community, whether I come in contact with them or not. We have megachurches with rock bands and a lawnmower brigade and 4h and our share of soldiers overseas. We’re pretty good at little league baseball, and we have very earnest cheerleaders. We have more organizations for young to teenage girls to create social hierarchies than I even knew existed. And I don’t say this to condemn or make fun of any of these institutions- far from it- I just didn’t really recognize their existence before. To each his own. It’s good to know there are things going on besides the train museum in my town. My point is more that it’s easy to get caught up in a personal vision of a place based solely on how you interact with it, and to entirely miss everything else that’s going on. I think this place is boring and empty because none of those groups are the types of groups I care to join, not because there isn’t anything to do. So my boredom isn’t a reflection on this place, so much as an indicator that I belong elsewhere. Maybe these are empty observations, but they feel important to me nonetheless. It’s the stupid common sense things that end up being the most meaningful once you get past “knowing” them and actually figure them out, I guess. Oh, and one other observation: it doesn’t matter how awkward and out of place you may feel in a location- fireworks are cool no matter where you go, if you’re into that sort of thing.


On Sunday, in an effort to go places that could offer things we actually wanted to do, my mother and I headed to Mission Dolores park to see the opening performance of the SF Mime Troupe’s  new show, “Too Big to Fail.” It’s the 50 yr old Tony Award-winning company’s musical take on the financial crisis a la Just So stories. In an enormously entertaining production, a storyteller takes the audience through a series of folktales to explain our “Sotodo” (or greed button.) Along the way, we hear about the curse of credit, the demon of privatization, and enjoy some excellent performances. The show finds its strength in its actors and its characterization of the circumstances that led to the financial crisis, which while (literally) demonizing of large corporations, doesn’t let anyone off without some guilt. The show falters in the end by proposing a payment strike (where those in debt only pay off what they actually owe and don’t pay back the interest as well.) Noble and idealistic as the idea may be, it’s just a little too naive and simplistic to be convincing, intelligent, or, frankly, worth suggesting. It undermines a lot of the previous power of the show, if you ask me. On the other hand, if you’re going to preach that message, you couldn’t ask for a better audience than San Franciscans in Mission Dolores park. So there you go. On the way back to the BART, we took a detour down Valencia for some quality pirate time. Always enjoyable. Finally, we grabbed the $3.50 tofu tamale special at La Oaxaquena (delicious!) and headed home immensely satisfied. A good day, to say the least.


I’m fortunate enough to have awesome friends in publishing (I’m looking at you, Sarah, Meredith and Jeffrey) so I can get free books from time to time. While I’m technically supposed to be plowing through my thesis reading list (which I totally want to do, don’t get me wrong) I took a break this weekend to read the new translation of The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano. This is particularly exciting because technically speaking it hasn’t been released yet. I can’t really say much about it until then, but let’s just say I’m working on a pretty substantial essay review of the title which will appear in the Yale Review of Books in the fall (and then maybe here!) Very exciting stuff.