Raffaele says those home for the summer never order water at Il Fosso. Instead they ask for empty bottles and take them out to the spring where the water comes cold and sweet. He says it reminds them of their former lives.

He says in the evening serpents glide across the road, that there’s snow in winter, that here it’s not people you meet but characters.

I’m standing and painting gravestones as weird red squares, twenty yards from where the coffins of President James A. Garfield and his wife (name?) lie in the gray basement of the Garfield Monument, and I’m thinking about how much I hate my banking job.

I’m thinking about how I kinda love ATMs because they keep customers out of my bank, but at the same time how I hate loading them with cash in the mornings.

I’ve just moved.

Not just houses, but cities and entire lives. It’s exciting and new, a bit like the theme song from the Love Boat, but with no Gopher, no dancing girls and no stopover in Rio.


For posterity’s sake I kept a bit of a journal of my first week in San Francisco and have decided to share it as a peek into the inner sanctum of my life. I’d call you all voyeurs for reading, but in actuality I’m just a hideous narcissist who wants to show you photos of my closet.

Tuesday, July 1st- DAY ONE

Arrive from Sydney, Australia to new home found and rented on Craigslist. A home I have never actually seen yet in person, with room-mates I’ve never actually met. Feel a tad apprehensive but filled with hope.

Arrive at house with five suitcases, tired from an exhaustive flight spent trying to ignore the surreptitious hand jobs being given (and received) in the seats next to me (by two randy college-age fucktards from Arizona who obviously felt the need to join the mile-high club and were too lazy/ignorant/selfish to do so in the bathroom like normal people) only to discover that the keys left out for me do not work in the key hole provided.

Have moment of extreme near-meltdown and decide to sit in the driveway in the sun and relax until a solution presents itself. Discover the word “peace” written into the concrete of said driveway and realize everything will be fine.

Wednesday, July 2nd- DAY TWO

Work. Jet lagged. Fall over a lot. Laugh. Walk home from work jingling keys in pocket and feel really peaceful and a bit like someone has given me a Roofie.

Go pick up gift of beautiful old electric guitar. Stare at it a lot and wonder what the fuck to do with it. Shrug and smile.

Thursday, July 3rd- DAY THREE

Try to do stuff. Jet lag bites ass and bed prevails. Unpack clothes into walk-in closet(s) and feel conflicting emotions of joy and disgust at how many useless dresses I own. Love closet. Hate self for loving closet.

Friday, July 4th- DAY FOUR

Cognizant at last.

Spend the evening of July 4th rearranging my kitchen and nesting (insert chicken noise) (lay egg) (peck at floor) (eat bug) (ruffle feathers) (shit) (squawk).

Cook my favorite pasta- see recipe below- leaving enough for my lovely environmental lawyer room-mate to eat when she comes back from work (because if you’re looking after Mother Nature’s business someone else has to look after you).

Open the doors to the freezing Summer night and let the recently relocated New York City cats out onto the balcony. With wide eyes they sniff the strange fresh air. I sit with them and mutter and coo “reassuring” noises but they pay me no heed.

Put some Bob Dylan on and folk around in the kitchen cupboards for a bit.

The sound of the fireworks echoing between the hills in the deep fog sounds like the wild west. I feel like I’ve been transported back to the Civil War. I’ve never actually heard any canon fire before, but a big fucking boom is a big fucking boom, right?

Saturday, July 5th- DAY FIVE

Get kidnapped in Vanigan and transported to Point Reyes for fresh oysters on the beach. Learn three chords on an acoustic guitar and arrive home happy. Stand outside my pretty house and stare at it a bit before going inside and passing out.

Sunday, July 6th- DAY SIX

HEAT WAVE! Discover concrete slides. Yes, I said CONCRETE SLIDES. Take friend up to top of park at end of street and force her to sit on a raggedy piece of cardboard and project herself down the steep incline. She screams really loudly. Success! Pick plums from the overhang and discuss plans for potential bourgeois-neighborhood anarchy. Pick flowers from other peoples yards as a build-up to said anarchy. Lie in sun and get sunburned ass. Spend evening itching ass in front of people and enjoying their reaction.

Monday, July 7th- DAY SEVEN

Go and pick up key for share car, tune guitar and wonder exactly how many more chords there actually are. Laugh at self. Play with cats. Hang hummingbird feeder. Curse rude hummingbird that ignores feeder. Pick some plums and go to work.

Realize, on way to work, that I have never felt more at home in any city anywhere, despite the fact that I know few people at all.



Recipe for Zoe’s favorite summer pasta- (for her mom who needs to learn how to make it again)

About 8-10 Green olives, marinated in plain oil NOT vinegar. diced
1 tbsp Capers, in salt not vinegar either. Yuk. squished
1 clove garlic. finely chopped
2 fresh chili’s. finely chopped
juice of 2 lemons
3 zucchinis sliced very thin lengthwise. potato peeler works well.
a couple of big handfuls of arugula
1 large tuna steak, sliced thinly OR 1 can of ITALIAN or AUSTRALIAN* tuna in olive oil, drained.
*This is important. American tuna is revolting. Italian will cost you, but it’s worth it, it tastes like fresh tuna steak not cat-food.
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
a dollop of butter
a splash of olive oil
1 chunk of imported parmigiana – grated
1 packet thin spaghetti
lots of red wine to drink while you’re cooking.

Lightly saute the strips of zucchini in a small bit of olive oil and remove from pan.

Throw the olives, capers, chili and garlic in a small frying pan, on low heat, in enough olive oil to have them simmer but not swim. You’ll figure it out. I believe in you.

While they are slooooooowly infusing the oil with their tasty goodness put a large pot of water on to boil. Throw salt in to pot. Do not waste your olive oil in the water (common misconception). When it boils put in pasta.

Add the tuna and lemon juice. Let it sizzle for a few minutes.

Add butter, zucchini and arugula. stir long enough for the arugula to wilt a little. Salt and pepper the fucker.

When pasta al dente remove from stove, drain and throw over the fishy stuff. Stir it all together. The pasta should be coated in oil lightly, not drenched in it. Add extra lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parmigiana all over it.


Later on you will poop it out, but don’t let this occurrence freak you out, it’s perfectly natural.

Tomorrow morning, the construction company will arrive at our hundred-year-old home in mid-city New Orleans, and some strong men will move out shiny black kitchen appliances and the world’s heaviest television and truck them over to Common Ground where they’ll be used by Lower Nine families who are rebuilding after Katrina. Then the contractor will stage our house for what we hope will be a five-month renovation. Back in our new and updated kitchen just in time for Christmas dinner is what we’re hoping for but everyone I talk to tells me to multiply the months by 100%. Right now I don’t want to think about ten months and I’m going to err on the side of optimism and good ju ju because we haven’t started yet and already I want my house back.

We bought the place in August 2002 after falling instantly in love with the little reading room downstairs, and we thought at first that it was a Sears home, but the Sears kit house historian, after I sent her a photo, told me it was too fancy. It still has the feel of a house that was shipped in pieces. Lots of kitschy details that look like junior versions of columns and moldings you might find in an Uptown mansion. It’s 3,500 sf counting the recently converted (by owners before us) attic where our son, Andrew, spent his teenage years and where his father and I will live for these next few months. Until Andrew leaves for college in late August, we’ll all be sleeping and dwelling up there together. (We used to call sleeping in the same room “the family camp”, but that was before Andrew started coming in at 1 a.m. after being out with his girlfriend or his buddies. Once he’s in the house, safe, I imagine it’ll be that same complete peace I feel when my boys are resting just inches away from me.) The attic is a nice space, almost 1,000 sf, but it’s taken twenty sessions of hands-on-hips to get Andrew to move his piles of clothes and CDs and PS3 games and shit off the floor where he swears, “It’s easier to find them, Mom” and into the boxes he’ll use to carry those things to the University of Texas. I will miss him, but I’m ready for him to go as long as he doesn’t forget to come back home and not just for holidays like the first Christmas we will have in our new and improved house. (Think it, say it, will it.)

For the last three weeks, we’ve been slowly tossing towers of New Yorkers and Harpers and Atlantic Monthlies and Time and Men’s Health and shelter magazines, and going through clothing and shoes and toys and books and CDs, the worn out furniture from our first marriages, and what wasn’t ruined or thread bare we gave to Goodwill and Malcolm’s older sons. A storage container on Carrollton is stuffed with the less valuable things that will be put back into the house. Things it wouldn’t grieve us to lose if another hurricane hits and the levees fail again. The living room is piled high with art and photographs and Important Papers and sofas and tables and chairs, lamps, tchotchkes, whatever we could fit in there, because it’s the one room that isn’t going to be worked in so the contractor’s assured us that everything in there will be visqueened and then sealed off and that sheetrock dust won’t get into our stuff.

Our house is on Esplanade Ridge and we didn’t flood during Katrina but our neighborhood did – from a few inches to ten feet – as the bowl that is my city filled with dirty water. Mid-City was under water for three weeks, and when Malcolm checked on the house in late September, (with a special access pass he’d been issued from the governor’s office), he had to empty a refrigerator and freezer that had been sitting in high heat. We’d taken the meat with us when we evacuated to Jackson. Malcolm said it was rotten ice cream and frozen vegetables that left a smell in his brain that he still can’t forget. So we don’t keep much in the freezer anymore, and we won’t ever leave town during a hurricane again with food in the fridge, or just the clothes on our backs, because from Jackson we went directly to Houston for four months so Andrew could go to high school there with 400 kids from his flooded high school. This much I know: You don’t always know when you’re going to get back home.

The editing that Malcolm and Andrew and I have been doing is a privilege; our friends and family who lost everything to water didn’t have a choice about what to pitch, donate or save. I didn’t lose Andrew’s baby pictures, or the VHS tapes of his first hair cut, Pre-K graduation, first Holy Communion, which I can’t watch, formatted like they are, but I have them to convert. I have my memories of my life with this family I love so much, but I also have artifacts, images, drawings, macaroni Christmas ornaments, proof that marks the years together, evidence that we did the things we remember doing.

Over the last thirty years since college, I’ve collected almost 1,000 books, and they’re safely tucked into boxes where I can find them. We’re going to have wall-to-ceiling-bookshelves in the den upstairs, and those boxes will probably be the first ones I unpack because those books need an alphabetical, genre-driven home and it will have been too many months since I had them close by, not to read just then but to read and re-read one day.

So, on tap to renovate is our kitchen and three bathrooms, all of which are from the 20s, and while we’re torn up and breathing plaster dust, we’re going to reconfigure the flow upstairs because our home was once a boarding house for jockeys at the Fair Grounds, which is a half-mile away, and so the second floor is mostly a landing with lots of doors to small rooms that spin off and don’t seem to know about each other. Right now, today, everything feels like hope and promise and timeliness, but I’ll be back every few days to document the set-backs and victories and doldrums as we set out for not this, but, rather, a stiff-winded sail over to the isle of great water pressure and book-laden shelves and a kitchen that’ll be a magnet for friends and family and the returning Andrew.

Meanwhile, we drift through empty rooms, missing a place to sit and drink coffee, talk and read, but pleasantly reminded of how the house looked when we first walked in and fell in love.

Hello, my name is Zoë Brock and I am a hopelessly hopeful romantic.

Love and I have a long and sordid relationship. We’re stuck to each other with that cheap, tacky glue that never dries properly and gets hairs and other bits of icky dirt and effluvia stuck in it and ends up looking like a coughed up owl pellet, minus the skeletal bits. It’s horrible, trust me.

Sometimes I feel as if I live my life adhered to the cheap pulpy paper bound between the flowery covers of a Harlequin romance novel.

Sometimes I wonder if some sticky-fingered house-wife isn’t pouring over the sordid details of my love-life, swooning, moaning and gasping at the more elaborately descriptive paragraphs as she takes a break between episodes of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’.

Sometimes I feel like I’m getting paper cuts on my fingers as I try to escape from my papery jail.

It’s useless trying to escape, of course. There is no way out of yourself. I am what I am.

And I just love the Love.

For example- The other day, while standing at a downtown street corner waiting for the lights to change, I started fantasizing about the moment when I will see My Person again after a long absence. I think about this scenario a lot. We’ve been apart a few months, and still have several weeks to go before we can look at each other and assess the changes and evolutions we have both gone through on our own. My mind wanders to that moment and I drift off into completely fantastical scenes, replete with soaring movie music and zoom shots into locked lips before wide pans up into blue sky.

I gross myself out a lot.

Sometimes these thoughts involve hurried needful sex or desperate kisses. Sometimes they involve me fainting, weak knees giving way, eyes rolling back in head, tall girl dissolving into a pile of floppy limbs and crumpled emotions.

No one has ever accused me of having no sense of melodrama.

Anyway, back to that corner- I’m standing there, weak kneed and gooey, envisioning him as he walks across the street/room/playa- tanned, athletic, half naked, like some stud from a bad Arabian Nights illustration (vomit, I know) and I realize the lights have changed and that I’ve missed my chance to cross. More than this I realize they have changed several times and that I have been standing on the corner of Market and Geary with a stupid look on my face long enough to attract the attention of the nearby flower vendor. He inquires about my well being and I nod, flush, and scurry away in a pink cloud of girlie embarrassment.


Yesterday, while walking home from an adventure at the gay hardware store (a whole other story) I was stupid enough to fall victim to my romantic impulses again. This time my mind was co-erced into dangerous idiocy by the melodic strains of KD Lang singing ‘Hallelujah’ on my iPod.

Oh dear.

Did I listen to it once? Did I listen to it twice? Or did I listen to it three times and send myself into a spasm of mind-fucking that involved such details as sordid spontaneous sex, declarations of eternal love and devotion and, most shamefully, full-blown confetti-strewn matrimony? You guess.


And I almost got run over as a consequence.

I should have my own sitcom. We could call it Zoe loves Chachi.

(Did you know that Cha-Chi is the Mongolian term for penis? [Actually I made that up {but it’s funny, right?}])

Of course not all of my romantic moments are light and fluffy. Some of them are downright dark and brooding, morose and gloomy. More of a “Jane Eyre” than a “When Harry Shtupped Sally”. More “Donnie Darko” than “The Notebook”.

Sometimes my romantic reality is heavy and smothering and desperate and tragic. My need for someone can be overwhelming to them and to myself.

(Excuse me, a cat needs some attention).

I’m back. Where was I? Romance. Dreams. Vomitous imaginings wrapped in pink lace and scented tissue.

If the adage “have dick, be dickhead” is true then surely the same must be said for women. “Have vagina, be a giant bloody pussy”. Sorry, Nana, I know you’re reading this.

But after much agonizing and mental self-flagellation I’ve come to the conclusion that being a romantic isn’t so bad after all. Sure, it’s a bit embarrassing. Sure, I cry in commercials and stupid fluffy movies. Sure, I’ve been known to stare at people kissing in the street with a big goofy grin on my head until they think I’m a pervert, but it also means I’m open to the whole damn thing, despite more than a few disappointments and broken-hearted escapades (see archives for further reading material), escapades that could have made me bitter and twisted and far too scared to indulge in this type of thinking.

And, this way, if I’m not getting romanced, cuddled and loved-up in reality, I can always escape to the Fabiolicious fantasies inside my own mind, right?

Cor! Look at him! If you knew where my finger was while that picture was being taken you’d be shaking my hand, children.

Or not.


I’m keeping your shampoo and conditioner in case you ever come back to Texas, wind up staying in my bed and showering in my shower the next morning.

I’m keeping the soft, worn hospital blanket your mom “borrowed” from Fort Sam.

I’m keeping the David Yurman ring you gave me one Christmas. It was never really my style but you said it was the first ring you ever bought a girl. You were 28 years old when you said that.

I’m keeping some Skillets in the freezer in case you come back and maybe just want to come over for breakfast. This is your favorite breakfast (besides Eggs Benedict).

I’m keeping my hair long in case you come back even though I really want the Rihanna haircut. You always told me to keep it long. Anyway, it’s so cliche for girls to cut their hair post breakup.

I’m keeping the smiles/sea/drinks/sunset picture of us in Cabo on my bookshelf so you can remember the trip when we fell in love in case you come back.

I’m keeping your phone number and all three email addresses in the manila file folder labeled “Canada Documents” tucked in back of a coat closet. I had to delete them from my phone and laptop because the temptation to use them became nearly unbearable after we surpassed our previous breakup record of 22 days. But I might need them, in case you come back.

I’m keeping up appearances in case you come back. No badmouthing or crying in public. I ran into the Sprockett guy’s girlfriend last week. When she didn’t recognize me I reflexively said, “I’m Harry’s girlfriend.” Her lightbulb went on and mine dimmed. “Well…ex,” I corrected. “Ex-girlfriend.” A quick recovery.

I’m keeping the Spanish Dagger you left at my place. You used to huff on its leaves to speed up photosynthesis. You’ll want to see how well it’s doing, if you come back.

I’m keeping the radio preset to 89.1 in case you come back and want to discuss something from NPR. You’re the only person I know who wants to discuss what they heard on NPR. Actually you’re the only person I know who listens to NPR.

I’m keeping a low profile.

You can’t smoke, drink, cry, fuck or wish a person out of your system.

Can you write someone away? Maybe.

I’m keeping an open mind. To new possibilities.

And to old ones.

In interviews and other places they say I am prolific. I think why I wrote many things so far is because when I was depressed, lonely, in a situation of unrequited emotions, or had just been disappointed by a human being, I didn’t watch TV or call someone or drink alcohol. I wrote stories, poems, and novels.


I don’t watch TV because I don’t have one, but also because for some reason I prefer feeling existential despair and despair having to do with being emotional and melodramatic to feeling nothing (I don’t have strong urges to get painkillers or cough syrup or other things or drink alcohol) or feeling “vacuous” or “distracted” or whatever by a TV show, a video game, knitting, “small talk,” etc. For example if I already feel depressed and alone I will listen to music that is depressing and by a lonely person instead of other music. The same with movies. I sometimes have urges to do some of those “distracting” things but the urges are not very strong and most of the time if I am feeling severely depressed I will drink coffee and sit at the computer with intent to write a story or poem or edit or something.


I didn’t talk to people mostly because I didn’t have people to talk to (when I wrote most of what I’ve written so far) but also because I feel very bad about misleading people or using people to relieve loneliness. If I wouldn’t talk to someone normally, when I am not depressed, I feel self-conscious talking to them when I am lonely, because I know some of it must be because I feel lonely. I feel bad when people around me are disappointed by relationships. If I start “hanging out” and being in social situations a lot and if there are two people who come to my reading for me I feel bad that I only talk to one of them or that I didn’t talk to both simultaneously the entire time. I don’t like when I’m talking to one person and there is another person standing there waiting for me. I would almost rather just not talk at all. If there are three people in a group and I am one of three I feel intense pressure to not talk too long to one person (or to just not talk at all) because the other person will feel “left out.” I had a reading and more than one person came and one brought me a flower and that night I lay in bed feeling really emotional about how the person who brought me a flower felt when I talked to the other person. Even if it’s someone I don’t know who comes to talk to me and someone else taps me and talks to me I feel really bad about the other person. I’m not being very articulate but I think you can understand me.

When I feel myself “using” someone to relieve loneliness I feel like a terrible asshole. I feel like I’m in a movie or sitcom. If there are two people who like me at the same time I feel very emotional thinking about the situation. I want them both to get what they want. Because I know how it feels to like someone who doesn’t like you back. I don’t know. If both people are very detached people it is better, I feel less emotional and more like it is a life-affirming situation, that there is just a lot of good feelings happening between human beings. I like people who I feel that no matter what terrible shit happens to them they will never feel complete despair but always be a little outside of their situation, viewing it with amusement and complete acceptance, and who accept death also. I am more able to think about those people without feeling emotional in a way that makes me not want to talk as much or have relationships or friends as much, meaning I understand that they will understand that if I do not like them as much as they like me that is something they can accept, and not feel complete despair about. I think I like when people treat me like that. But I am reluctant to treat someone like that, so directly, if I don’t know if they are very detached and able to accept things completely; though I think I learned to be very detached and to accept things completely in part because people have treated me in the way I described, which is directly and not in an all-or-nothing way, meaning that if I wanted to be in a relationship with them and they did not want it they would still talk to me, but just talk to me and do things for me in the exact amount they wanted to, always knowing that I wanted more.


If more than one person likes me and wants to talk to me and hang out with me I feel a little “powerful” and “loved” but a lot “worried” and “sympathetic” and I get a concerned facial expression. If I like someone and they do not like me I feel “worried” and “sympathetic” also toward myself, as if I were someone else, but I also feel powerful, because I know that I am able to accept the situation, meaning I won’t kill myself or anything like that.

But I also want to type that I think if I viewed myself from another person’s perspective I would probably think that I was a person who used many people just to relieve loneliness. And from a certain perspective everyone is just using everyone for everything. I didn’t type about that in this post. This post is incomplete and from a certain perspective only.

There are many other reasons why I am “prolific” so far.

I enjoy being alone at a computer with coffee and listening to music and doing things on the internet.

I like drinking coffee and listening to music and editing a story.

There are other reasons also.

Thank you for reading my post about why I am “prolific” so far.

Think of the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. You know, the kind of stories that make you cringe every single time you tell them, even though it’s been, like, eight years since you had brunch at that little café in Smyrna, Georgia and you had to go to the bathroom really, really, really bad and, because God has a really terrific sense of humor, there was somebody in the men’s room who was not coming out anytime that year, which left you no choice but to duck into the women’s restroom where, again since God is a regular comedian, you discovered someone had clogged the toilet, meaning you were up to your ankles in toilet water, and the whole thing was terribly embarrassing, particularly when you walked out and saw not only the manager but also your horrified date.

Of course, in accordance to the ancient rules of comedy (see “Stiller, Ben”), any “Oh, Crap!” moment is comically enhanced by the infliction of pain, either physical or emotional. Take, for instance, when I was a 6th grade student at Rock Lake Middle School in Longwood, Florida. There I was, with my spiked mullet and startlingly enormous glasses, thinking I was quite the stud. In reality, I was slightly less cool than my classmate Billy Jeffries who, according to legend, was still wetting the bed.

Anyway, it was March and the big news around school was the upcoming 6th grade dance. I had my heart set on asking Michelle Johnson. Now being the stud that I was, I went about asking out Michelle in the classic studly way: I wrote her a note. But this wasn’t just any note. This was a literary masterpiece where I transcribed (in nauseatingly great length) my deep feelings for her—not to mention about 9 jillion references to how pretty she was and what a cute couple we’d be. I wrote the entire three-page manuscript during Social Studies class. I was just about done when the teacher shot me a “don’t make me come over there” glance. I quickly folded up the note and slid it inside my Social Studies book.

The bell rang and I walked out of the room, confident my note would sweep Michelle off her feet. It wasn’t until my next class when I had a horrible realization:

I had left my Social Studies book behind.

As soon as algebra ended, I ran (see “Runner, Road”) back to the Social Studies room. Yes! The book was right where I left it! The note, on the other hand, was gone. Little did I know, that jerk Billy Jeffries had found the note and, at that very moment, was in the library making a few hundred photocopies of it. Thirty minutes later, those copies would plaster the school walls. Twenty minutes after that, Michelle would call me a “giant spaz!” in the cafeteria, loud enough for everyone in the zip code to hear.

Moral of the story: Never ask someone out in a note. However, if you must, DO NOT let the note out of your sight.

I told that story because, up until a few days ago, I thought I had a secure hold on Stupid Stock. Of course, that was until I accidentally stabbed myself in the thumb with an Epipen needle. For those of you who don’t know, an Epipen is a crazy large needle carried by people with food allergies in the event they eat a peanut or something. So basically, as your throat is closing from the allergic reaction, you’re supposed to take the Epipen and stab yourself in the thigh. Now I won’t get into the details of how I stabbed myself (some things are truly too stupid to disclose) but let’s just say that I discovered the answer to the question, “hmmm…I wonder which side the needle comes out of.”

As I sat there with my thumb bleeding like a character in a Monty Python movie, my only thought was, “Howthehell am I going to explain this to the doctor?” Fortunately the doctor didn’t bother to ask, probably because he was too busy deciding whether or not I should go to the emergency room.

Anyway, looking back, all’s well that ends well. The hole in my thumb is closing and I’m almost to the point where I can eat a shish kabob without whimpering.

Moral of the story: Don’t play around with an Epipen needle. However, if you must, point the thing at Billy Jeffries.