9.18.2017

Virginia and Washington D.C.


I didn't think I would write much about my recent trip to Virginia and Washington D.C. When Lea and I boarded the airplane on September 8th we felt like we were evacuating Florida. It no longer felt like the vacation we had been planning for months. We felt so guilty that by nightfall we tried to book a flight back to Florida, instead, we learned that our flight to Tampa on Monday had been canceled. Hurricane Irma was going to make landfall in our home state during the weekend and the forecast showed the hurricane spiraling towards my hometown of Tampa. We were anxious and distracted during the first few days, unsure of what news we would receive after the hurricane passed. Fortunately, by the time the hurricane made its way up the west coast of Florida, it had lost much of its strength. Our families and our homes survived the storm. We were most relieved and began to enjoy our vacation to the fullest extent in our remaining days.

On the first day, we visited the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon. We later drove to Georgetown to visit Tudor Place, browse the colorful shops, and walk the streets of the historic neighborhood. Later that night we checked into our hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The second day was spent in Washington D.C. We first took a tour of Ford's Theatre, the location where Abraham Lincoln was shot, and we drank pumpkin lattes at a nearby independent coffee shop before leaving to Capitol Hill. We stopped by a two-story bookshop, looked at the art inside of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and took a tour of the Capitol Building. Afterward, we walked to the Library of Congress and took a quick self-tour. I even got a glimpse of Thomas Jefferson's books. We promised ourselves that we would be back for a proper tour on another day. On the third day, we woke up early for the long drive to Charlottesville where a tour of Monticello, the home Thomas Jefferson, awaited us. I fell in love with lands of Virginia on this day. The fourth day, again, we rose before the sun for another long trip. This time we drove to Colonial Williamsburg where we spent the entire day touring and exploring the living museum. On the fifth day, we were back in Washington D.C. visiting the National Mall and Memorial Parks. On the sixth day, we took a proper tour of the Library of Congress and went to the National Archives to view the Charters of Freedom.

I'll write more in-depth about our trip at a later time.



CHARLENE ZALE

9.04.2017

My Favorite Opening Lines in Literature | Part I


01 | Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
"I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's Heaven – and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name."

02 | Charles Dicken's The Old Curiosity Shop
"Night is generally my time for walking. In the summer I often leave home early in the morning, and roam about the fields and lanes all day, or even escape for days or weeks together, but saving in the country I seldom go out until after dark, though, Heaven be thanked, I love its light and feel the cheerfulness it sheds upon the earth, as much as any creature living."

03 | Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
"Found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker: A pleasing land of drowsy head it was, Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye; And of gay castles in the clouds that pass, For ever flushing round a summer sky." (Washington Irving quotes James Thomson's poem, Castle of Indolence, to set the tone for the story.)

04 | Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
"Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder. I am exactly halfway up. The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I've left behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it's dark up there – the books are packed in close, and they don't let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat."

05 | Bruce Holsinger's A Burnable Book
"Under a clouded moon Agnes huddles in a silver of utter darkness and watches him, this dark-cloaked man, as he questions the girl by the dying fire. At first he is kind seeming, almost gentle with her. They speak something like French: not the flavor of Stratford-at-Bowe nor of Paris, but a deep and throated tongue, tinged with the south. Olives and figs in his voice, the embrace of a warmer sea."

06 | Menna van Praag's The House at the End of Hope Street
"The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It's larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys high into the sky. The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by the moonlight, the house appears enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds."


What makes an opening line or paragraph a favorite of mine? It's any combination of words that can illustrate a setting in such a way that makes me feel not just that I am there, but also that I want to be there, and revisit again and again. It comes down to preference. Night and darkness, woods, bookshops, the mysterious, and curiosity are just a few things I am drawn to. It's no coincidence that elements of who I am are found in these paragraphs. Connecting with the first words of a book is always a good sign.

CHARLENE ZALE

9.02.2017

Watching An Old Movie in An Old Theatre


Last weekend, Jessica and I watched Casablanca at the Tampa Theatre in Downtown. Honestly, what more can an old soul ask for? The interior of the theatre looked like something out of an entrancing old-fashioned dream. You really do step into another time when you walk through the doors and you get a feel for the decade in which it was open. The Tampa Theatre opened in 1926 and despite the reconstruction throughout the years, its original allure still remains intact. 


Before heading off to watch Casablanca, Jessica and I had a brief photography session. I encouraged her to bring her Canon DSLR with her. I, on the other hand, used my new Sony RX100 V to take photographs. I had some trouble with my camera because I've only had it for a few weeks and I'm still unfamiliar with all the settings, but by the end of the day I managed to find the setting that I liked. Her and I indulged in butter croissants and cinnamon lattes at Caffeine Roasters before walking a block or two to the theatre. We were going to eat lunch and order coffee at Oxford Exchange, but the wait was too long so we just browsed the beautiful books there instead before driving to Downtown.


Of course, it rained. This is the second time, consecutively, in which Jessica and I have been caught in the middle of a storm. I'm expecting rain the next time we choose to meet up. Although we will probably be studying and tucked away inside of a warm coffee shop so the rain won't impact us much. Even so, we didn't let the rain put a damper on our mood. We decided to eat dinner at Boca and the food did not disappoint.




CHARLENE ZALE

8.19.2017

New Camera | Sony RX100 V + Sample Photographs


Two years have passed since my last camera purchase of the Panasonic Lumix LX100. Last week I decided to order the Sony RX100 V. I've had my eye on the Sony RX100 since for several years and I'm finally glad to have it. The photography and 4K video quality are incredible. I still love my Panasonic and I will continue to use it, but I love how much smaller the Sony is. Plus it has a flip up screen for vlogging which is something I didn't care for two years ago. Below are some photographs I took recently with the Sony RX100 V. I can't wait to bring it with me on my vacation to Virginia and Washington D.C. in a few weeks.


I would love to dive back into street and nature photography. I miss it. There was a time in my teenage years and during my early twenties when I would spontaneously go out with my camera just to take photographs. It wasn't to document a feeling or a memory, but for my pleasure alone. To be fair I had more time on my hands back then as I was on a college hiatus and working part-time.

As I grew older I slowly began to move away from the arts as adult responsibilities consumed me. I walked away from playing the piano, I took a step back from photography, and I don't even remember when was the last time I painted. As for writing, most of the writing I do these days are found here on my blog. I have a journal that I haven't touched in weeks, unfinished books and drafts, and ideas collecting dust. Often I have wondered if my walking away from the arts derived from exhaustion. The exhaustion of a renaissance woman with a dispersed passion for many things, instead of a focused passion for one or two things. Whatever the case may have been I would like to revisit the paint brushes, hear the scratching of my pen, feel the keys under my fingers, and hold time still again just for fun.

CHARLENE ZALE