I Pay Rapt Attention

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.

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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 ūüôā

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.

Fireworks, Mimes, and Books

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on July 6, 2009

FIREWORKS

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.

MIMES

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.

BOOKS

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.

Claims, Curry, and California

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 8, 2008

Claims

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.

Curry

 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.

California

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.

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

-Twinkies

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.

MUNI

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

BRUISES

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.

BART

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.