I Pay Rapt Attention

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.


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.


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 ūüôā


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.


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.


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.


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.

Jello Shots, MUNI, and maus haus

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on August 6, 2008

Jello Shots

We began the night, six girls either in college or only recently departed, squashed into a car meant for five and pretending that sipping hangar one in paper cups while parked on Haight Street in the broad daylight of 6:30 pm was covert in any conceivable way. I’d always wanted to try hangar one; I was not disappointed. Soon an hour had passed and we were in terrible danger of being late to our own event (or at least, an event that some of them were supposed to be running)¬† so we reluctantly exited the car and rushed down the street to Booksmith.

The party had apparently started without us. And I say that in a more literal sense than one might expect, since the store had a surprisingly festive air. It didn’t take long to discover why- the author and his tour manager had provided some… unconventional refreshments.¬† I found myself presented with tray after tray of tiny jello-filled cups, twinkling in their jewel colors and promising that a good time lay ahead. Also offered were:

-Mini donuts

-Mini hotdogs

-Marshmallow-and-Jujubee skewers


and much much more. Apparently, as the author later mentioned, they were going for a “white trash feast.” We all approved, man. I lived up to my title as the Perennial First-Row Gawker, sat on an awkward children’s bench right in the front, and laughed a little too loudly for any normal book event, but no one seemed to care.¬† I may also be responsible for the bright red jello stain near the bookshelf labeled “Altered States” (yes, this actually exists- there was an entire tome on how to pass drug tests. amazing.) but that’s only speculation at this point.


Not much to say except it was just as much of a disaster as I expected. Even as the most sober one there, I still managed to lead us onto a bus going the wrong direction TWICE. I am the epitome of talent and responsibility. Clearly.

maus haus

We finally made it to the Bottom of the Hill, a great venue out in the middle of freaking nowhere on 17th street. They were still serving burgers at 10 pm, and while I’m a newly converted vegetarian (and thus wasn’t going to eat one) I did still get to steal all of my friend’s potato chips. Because their burgers come with CHIPS but in the American sense, not the British sense. Which is a little weird, if you think about it. But good for me.

We got there just as maus haus began to play. They completely killed it. What a great show. Really really enjoyable. Of the 2 guys and 3 girls who were with me at that point, who had musical tastes ranging from country to german industrial, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the set. Which is saying something. Check them out– they have a cd coming out in october.


To summarize: A great night, no major disasters, and some level of sleep achieved. I love having more of a social life during week days than the weekend…

Bruises, BART, and my inappropriate writer crush

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 5, 2008


Well, it’s almost been a week since the accident, and I’m back to my usual surly, unappreciative self. No more musing about the¬†miracle of life for me; it’s back to bitching. Seriously, though, I’ve been told that experiences like this are supposed to make a person feel as though everything is completely different- and to be honest, I feel basically the same. Except without a car, which blows. Being trapped in my mother’s house is no fun, let’s say. Luckily, I head back to Connecticut in less than two weeks (!).

My legs look like the canvas of a domestic abuser with a baseball bat, but the transformation from blue to purple to red is strangely fascinating, and they don’t hurt (unless I’m being clumsy [which is often]), so it’s OK. I can turn my head a normal amount again. I no longer really have an excuse to put off exercising. Yep, back to normal.


On a completely unrelated note, for the last few hours I’ve been trying to figure how I’m going to pull off this evening’s crazy schedule- there’s a book reading at Booksmith at 7:30 (put on by Counterpoint Press, a really fantastic independent press based in Berkeley, where, incidentally, a friend of mine is working this summer) and then my cousin’s band, Maus Haus, is playing at the Bottom of the Hill. We’re hoping it doesn’t sell out before we get there- apparently some of the other bands (Nomo, in particular) have been getting a lot of press lately. Regardless, all of these little adventures are in San Francisco, which means I have to get from Oakland (the location of my job) to Berkeley (the location of my ride) and then from the Haight to SOMA and then back to Berkeley, all without dying or being mugged. And¬†public transit is being a pain in the butt.¬†Did I mention that I left my wallet at home today?

Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting night.

My Inappropriate Writer Crush

So i recently saw Daniel Alarcon, a fantastic young¬†Peruvian novelist (though, to be fair, he grew up in Alabama [though he does write about Peru {whatever}]), at a reading at 826 Valencia in the city. I’d been meaning to read his book, Lost City Radio, for a very long time (in fact, it made #5 on my top 101 books I must must read list, which is a feat, let me tell you.) and having seen him (and heard his delicious Spanish… oh god, Spanish gives me weak knees…) I decided it was probably time that I check out his book. While I waited to get paid so that I could purchase said book, I took the time to read a few of his short stories in various journals, and though they’re fine, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Luckily, before I had much time to reconsider his book’s ranking on my list, my dear counterpoint friend surprised me with a copy of the book (after all, I had been jabbering on about this guy for several days at this point, and I’m sure she was tired of hearing about it.)

If you haven’t read Lost City Radio yet, drop everything and go buy it. I’m serious.

I’ve been suffering from a lot of book fatigue recently, struggling to get through even books that my more impatient friends found smooth sailing (Everything Is Illuminated, etc). There was none of that here. Now admittedly, my voracious reading might have been fueled by the previously mentioned crush, but I prefer to think it has something to do with sentences like this:

“The city was impregnated with the smell of ruin: it swirled in the sodden air and stuck to you, wherever you went.” (134)


Just read it. Really.

Because 3 square inches is never quite enough.

Posted in Eccentricities, introduction by Zoelle on July 30, 2008

Hi there, my name is Zoelle and I like to talk more than I let on. I run the poetry blog Post-it Poetry, which caters to office monkeys ranging from interns to execs alike. I generally think that anyone can and does write poetry, whether they like it or not. I happen to like reading said poetry, so it works out ok.


I also needed a place to showcase my thoughts in more than 31 syllables, so here we go.


I have a confession to make. I’m one of those people- you know, the ones that fall asleep standing up with their head buried in the crook of their arm while riding public transportation, people that wear 5 inch heels even though they’re already over six feet tall- those strange creatures who sing to themselves in their cubicles and write poetry on the backs of post-its (obviously) and walk around barefoot a bit more than is strictly appropriate. Who luxuriate in using unnecessarily long words and run-on fragment ‘sentences’ from the time to time. I think the word we’re looking for here is “eccentric.”


A lot of strange things happen to me. I’ll chronicle them here. You’re in for a bangin’ good time, let me tell you. I’ve got:

  • A psychic mother (literally, though not professionally)
  • A musician father living a life of wild debauchery in Southern California (or so I imagine)
  • A tendency to attract …interesting… men, shall we say
  • 3+ jobs
  • 2 years left in college before I get to face the quoteunquote real world

And of course, a lot to say about it all. Stick with me- maybe I’ll start by exploding everything you thought you knew about models. Maybe I’ll start with strange stories from my daily commute. Or the homeless man who serenades me every morning. Or the one that tried to feed me pastries.