Bookworm: June 2018

“The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator.” 
―Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre



Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes: The latest installment of the Wade and Lizzie Transcontinental Book Club - I had somehow never had to read this in school and I'm not sure why, because I'm pretty sure it's required just about everywhere. The story of a mentally handicapped man who is rendered superintelligent through surgery, with vast personal and scientific implications/complications. Pounded through it in about 3 hours - it's the kind of novel that's hard to put down, once started. 

A Life in Men, Gina Frangello: This was a lengthy, riveting novel - two stories intertwined as one, every other chapter. The "odd" chapters chronicle the story of two eighteen-year olds on an ill-fated trip to Greece; the even, the story of one of their lives with cystic fibrosis. Every so often Ms. Frangello would allude to a future event that the reader has no previous knowledge of, and every time she buried the lede like that it sucked me in a little harder. I hesitate to call this a beach read, but it was fantastic while at the same time an easy, interesting, accessible pick. 


By the Book, Julia Sonneborn: This modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion was charming, fluffy and light - set at a California college, Anne is an English teacher whose college sweetheart becomes the president of her university. I liked it, but it didn't steal my heart like Austen's original did...of course. 

The Light We Lost, Jill Santopolo: So here's my beef with this - I loved aspects of it, notably some of the turns of phrase and the writing style, but I felt like the plot was a bit thin. I'm having a sort of hard time with the whole glamorization of soulmates being an excuse for infidelity lately; I've seen it quite a bit in several of the books I've chosen and I'm just not down with it. All said and done, a good summer read but one I'm not dying to revisit. 

The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell: I got weirdly into this toward the end - the premise, that a descendant of the Brontë family is seeking her long-lost and possibly fictional inheritance, was quirky and just off-kilter enough to keep things moving. The writing got a bit repetitive at times for me, though it did spur a dive back into the Brontës' writing! 


Nothing this month - so nice! 


Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë: I've always loved poor Jane, and dove back in after a: finishing "The Madwoman Upstairs" and b: getting obsessed with "Jane Eyre: The Musical" thanks to Francesca. This read-through really kicked me in the teeth - lots of feels for Jane and how disenfranchised she is by virtue of her station/appearance/status, lots of empathy for why she fell for Mr. Rochester and just in general a lot of smacking myself over the head with "DUH" moments. 


Cleaned out my phone photos during a 2am bout with insomnia last night and found a handful of little bits and pieces that don't really fit anywhere else...

- the prettiest brunch at Angelica's with Bita, Andrea and of course my favorite dog Leia

- Dave and I hosted our friends David and Meaghan for a cookout a few weeks ago, and Meaghan brought the most adorable cake - bonus? It was Funfetti. 

- Anything funny/British royal family related tends to get screenshot these days. 


- Spotted downtown en route to 21st Amendment. I'm a nerd, I laughed out loud. 


- The random Monday when Alpha Acid had the brewer's dogs in-house and I was in heaven. 


- I have too many products. Correction: *had. Massive bathroom cleanout was a good move, as was the post-cleanout bubble bath. 

- Once upon a time Drew ordered "the largest pizza" at our local pizza dive. It's two feet across, it's called the King Kong, and didn't fit through my car door. 


- On a higher-brow food note: I find myself at Terrain Café every other week or so now, mostly for the passionfruit Italian soda and the kale Caesar but also because their patio is so lovely. 

- a new vintage Kate Spade shot for my work computer's desktop background - seems appropriate for a lot of reasons. 

- My mom and I found Toppling Goliath at a random little restaurant in Sebastopol on our Sonoma trip last weekend, and I was utterly delighted...even moreso when the bartender, who also runs their beer program, sold me a spare bottle to bring home to my IPA-loving roommate. 


- Laughed my ass off, campers. 

- Seemed appropriate to dine on Rosé Street - well-placed street sign humor will always make me giggle. 

- After dropping my mom off at the airport on Monday, I took 280 to work and noted the "WOZ" vanity plate. Sped up accordingly and almost died when I spotted Steve Wozniak in the passenger seat. What a weird, weird place this is, campers. 

- Tuesday marked my one-year anniversary at Stanford, and I celebrated by working very very late and being very very busy. Things are absolutely insane here right now, and I mostly love it and am still so grateful for and excited about the chance to be here, learning and challenging myself every day.

- Things I studied in school that I have not used as an adult include but are not limited to the ability to map iambic pentameter, calculus, topography, any kind of dissection, and Platonic philosophy. Thing I did in school and used just last week: that effing fifth-grade science fair board. 


- California is so freaking weird. These are random goats "mowing" a hillside in a suburb. What the actual eff? 


- I have been VERY homesick this week, and a big part of it is missing my bff. Since we couldn't have beers in person together, I sent a Greetabl her way to be with her in spirit at least. Can't wait to see her hopefully soon! 


- And finally - we've been marathoning "Queer Eye" all week and I am beyond obsessed. Besotted. Enchanted. Addicted. I don't even know, it just makes me ridiculously happy and that's a wonderful thing. Also this is my new quote any time I get down on myself. Expect to hear it repeated ad infinitum, campers. 



A year in California.

Exactly a year ago today my mom and I drove the last seven hours of our epic cross-country road trip - from the Stockmen's Casino in Elko NV, where you cash your chips at the same counter where you check in, to San Francisco.

We celebrated our Bay Area arrival with cocktails at the Palo Alto Anthropologie (of course), I ruined a wall in my bathroom trying to hang a towel hook, and cried my eyes out with excitement and relief and apprehension about what was coming next. Part of it was shell shock, I think - driving 33 hours in two and a half days would do a number on anyone. Part of it was the sense of being truly unmoored, the finality of arriving at a destination that, for months, had felt like a hazy, surreal leap of faith. And part of it was a delirious sense of awakening, of starting to open this gift I hadn't even known I needed to give myself. 

Hackneyed clichés aside, that arrival in California 365 days ago started a period of my life that has marked a true sea change in me. I spent two weeks settling in before I started work - the first chasing around wine country and the city and the peninsula with my mom, stifling a bit of panic every time I got behind the wheel of my car, making more trips to Target than any self-respecting person has a right to make. Watching the Tonys in our hotel room over Sprinkles cupcakes with face masks on. Eating Stacks for breakfast twice. Losing our minds over Chandon's American Summer display of Em's designs. Laughing and freaking out, sometimes at the same time, and relying so much on her to keep me steady.

That week ended, of course, with me sobbing silently and uncontrollably as I drove her to SFO to say goodbye. I spent that next week waiting - waiting for my movers to show up, waiting in lines at the DMV, waiting for blistering migraines to abate as I adjusted to lower elevation and air that felt different than home. Waiting for my job at Stanford to start, waiting for Dave to arrive, waiting to make friends, waiting for this new place I lived to feel like home. 

A year later, it does, and for that I am constantly grateful. California has held so many surprises for me, and has changed me so much in ways I really needed to change. Stanford has forced me out of the complacent professional comfort zone where I had lingered for so long, challenging me most days with its sheer scope and breadth and complexity. Dave has become one of my best friends, and has opened up his world of friends to me with a generosity and complete lack of selfishness I've rarely seen in others (a generosity I don't thank him for often enough). Together with Drew and Laura, our madcap little apartment has been home to laughter and tears, parties and puking, messes and houseguests and hangovers and heartache; these experiences have made it a home for me in ways that pictures on the walls and monogrammed towels never could. 

I have found favorite restaurants, and wineries, and coffee places. I have learned to just never go to the Redwood City Safeway between the hours of 4:30 and 7, and have figured out that the 101 is faster to go to work in the mornings but to always take 280 home. I can drive to Napa without needing Google Maps (this says quite a bit about my priorities, given I still need it to get around campus from time to time). I have taken classes in opera, museums, Shakespeare, wine, and jazz, fallen for the San Francisco Ballet, experienced a deep-house club, and cultivated a burgeoning obsession with IPAs. 

I still get shivers every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (although, secretly, the Bay Bridge is my favorite), but I've discovered that I actually think a lot of San Francisco is really gross. I struggle with the disparity between privilege and need here, which is so much wider and far more dramatically apparent than in Minnesota. I have gone out with a tech bro, a sommelier, and a guy who works for a venture capital firm, among others - and all three have absolutely lived up to the assumptions and stereotypes the Bay perpetuates about their respective breeds. My circle of friends ranges widely - doctors and data scientists, consultants and professors, architects and wine marketers and innovation strategists - and the conversations I find myself having are similarly diverse and challenging and eye-opening. 

I am asked, perhaps not quite as constantly as in my first few months, but still regularly - "Why did you move here? How long do you see yourself staying here?" For the first time in my existence, I am operating without a long-term plan, and I am comfortable with that. Rather than benchmarking myself against my peers in the Twin Cities - job, promotion, serious relationship, engagement, dog/house, wedding, baby - I find myself focused on a new project at work, weekend day trips, a bucket list that grows by two line every time I check off one. I know that this place will not be my home forever, but that's about all I know for sure. Whether I'm here for another three years, five, ten - I'm okay with being unsure about that. As for why I moved here, though, I think the experiences and people and adventures of the last year speak for themselves, and I hope that the next year only brings more of the same. 

...that said, I'm really glad I never have to go back to the Stockmen's Casino and Lodge. Leaving that in the last year is completely fine by me. 

Bookworm: April/May 2018

Wow, I'm getting in a bad habit of forgetting to post these - it's not for lack of reading, that's for sure! 


The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, Jenna Birch: I know this is ever-so-basic of me, and could read as pathetic, but I read my first self-help book and, guys, I loved it. This was a funny, tongue-in-cheek peek at why women of my generation who are ambitious and career-focused are more single than ever before, and it was incredibly eye-opening for me. I've been single for a LONG time, crew, and while I'm okay with that about 92% of the time, that 8% is super annoying. This was a fun reminder that this, like all phases of life, is a season, and that I've got it pretty damn good after all. Highly recommend. 

The Gilded Years, Karin Tanabe: So I read this because I found out Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya are co-producing a movie based on the book, and I loved it. Telling the tale of the first black woman to graduate from Vassar College - by passing as white, I could not put this down. Excellent light, interesting and different historical fiction!


Coming Home, Rosamunde Pilcher: This was recommended on a blog I'm obsessed with, and I liked it for what it was while still thinking it was a bit...blah. It chronicles the lives of two wealthy British families pre-, during and post-World War II, and it was a crumpet-light version of "Atonement" or "Downton Abbey" basically. Fine, but maybe not the most memorable choice. 

Forever is the Worst Long Time, Camille Pagan: A poet, James, meets his soulmate - but she's engaged to his best friend. The novel tracks this love triangle over the ensuing decade or so, with enough twists and turns to derail a bullet train along the way. I found the plot refreshing, but the writing style didn't suck me in or keep me particularly interested. It would be a great beach read, but maybe don't expect your world to change? Idk - I'm realizing my standards are probably much too high for "quality" literature these days. 

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess, Andrew Morton: DUH you didn't think I was going to go into the Royal Wedding without reading the first authoritative Meghan Markle biography to hit the market, did you? I've got some bones to pick with this one - namely that Morton's assessment of Meghan seemed to swing wildly between adulatory and condemning - and I think a lot of the sources used have their own, very biased agendas. That said, I learned a bit about my new Duchess of Sussex, so it was worth it! 

The Hamilton Affair, Elizabeth Cobbs: Also DUH, my "Hamilton" obsession has not abated one bit. This focused the narrative on Eliza and Alexander Hamilton's love story and relationship, and it cast a lot of things that get glossed over in the musical and buried in the biography in a new light. It was fun! Read it! 


Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys, Peter Evans: Confession: For as much of a Kennedys/Jackie O enthusiast as I am, this left me cold. I was supremely uninterested in the arcane political machinations of the Onassis-Kennedy rivalry, and a LOT of the book felt like it was based on conjecture, supposition, and unreliable sources. Eh. 

The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory: My mistake: I assumed any novel with a Roxane Gay cover blurb was bound to be in her vein of writing - elevated, provocative, incisive and utterly gripping. Instead, this was a completely run-of-the-mill, insipid romance novel. The only thing that sets it apart from your standard modern-day bodice ripper was the attempt to shoehorn in racial controversy (the female love interest is black). AND, adding insult to injury, if I'm going to read a cheap romance novel, I expect sexy sex scenes. This book, on the other hand, mostly implied a lot of oral sex and hinted at prolonged sexy time with a whole bunch of "they were late to dinner." "He missed his flight." WHATEVER, CAMPERS. 


None these past months! I was too busy marathoning "Suits," watching six different telecasts of the Royal Wedding, and working my butt off! Whee! 

See you next month! Any recs? 

101 in 1001 #86: See a ballet.

One of the aspects of my Minneapolis life that I have missed the most since moving Bay-side is total immersion in the arts world. I've saved a lot of money by NOT going to an opera, symphony, or play on a legit weekly basis (well, actually, I've spent soooome of those savings on wine, but I digress)...but I so miss the feeling of watching the lights go down and the curtain rise. 

Minneapolis doesn't have a robust ballet scene, and as such I never really got into the medium, choosing instead to focus on the Guthrie and Minnesota Orchestra/Opera. San Francisco, on the other hand, has an absolutely outstanding ballet that is breaking boundaries and innovating on a grand scale. The latest example? Their spring "Unbound" series, which was inspired by a question posed by their director: "What is the future of ballet?"


Choreographers responded with their interpretations - half-hour mini-ballets, that were later grouped by broad theme and performed in sets of three as part of the Unbound Festival over the last month. Dave's cousin Francesca invited me to join her for one, and as it was really my first non-Nutcracker ballet experience, I jumped to say yes. 

After fighting brutal traffic, I was rewarded with Karl the Fog-free skies over the Civic Center, and the most amazing arancini and sangiovese at Dobb's Ferry pre-show. 

This was also my first experience with the War Memorial Opera House, where Michael and I will take in the entire Ring Cycle in just under a month! The building was jaw-droppingly stunning - exactly the kind of old-world opulence that makes me happy. 

As for the ballets? I was incredibly grateful to have Francesca with me to decode some of the more subtle nuances, but honestly, the entire evening was a viscerally intense joyride. The San Francisco Ballet is known for having ridiculously athletic dancers, much moreso than other ballets in the US; as such, their choreography and style truly pushes the limits of what ballet has traditionally been considered to represent or encompass. The three pieces we saw seemed disparate at first glance, but came together in the end to support a theme of contrast/duality/opposition and harmony.

The first piece was much more abstract - almost a Jets-and-Sharks style antipathy, stylistically very sparse and driven by the use of different-colored costumes that almost completely obscured the gender of each dancer. The second, a riff on Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome," was easily my favorite - lyrical and emotive, with a lush score and stunning choreography. As the piece required only three principal dancers, the ensemble danced as both falling snow and "the emotions of the leads;" in reading the program I scoffed a bit but it was incredibly effective in person. 

The third, which I wasn't really sure about initially, used really interesting black-and-white costumes to separate males and females. The choreography of the third piece emphasized synchronous movements rather than the more pas-de-deux focused style of "Ethan Frome," and ended with the entire ensemble moving together downstage, finishing on one perfectly-timed group leap airborne as the curtain dropped. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat watching, and left the theater on a total high. 

Needless to say, I'll definitely be revisiting the SF Ballet in the future - because of COURSE I need another expensive and time-consuming new arts passion, ha! 

Check out more 101 in 1001 here...lots coming down the docket soon!