(But our beginnings never know our ends!)
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Late Spring To-Do List
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Maybe it was the fact that I was gearing up for a guest on Friday, or maybe it's just that my computer has been making suicide attempts for years, but when my laptop finally died the other night I was only casually irritated. I had GWBoyfriend's computer to work on; I'd been backing up my current chapter on a disk; and I had recently gone through my old files and folders to make sure that my other chapters, research, and my teaching materials from the last two semesters were backed up, so I wasn't particularly worried.
But then today as I returned to working on my chapter I realized first that I hadn't backed up my revised CV. Oh well--I could update that in an hour. Then I realized that I didn't have copies of my syllabi-in-progress for the fall, which I'd spent a lot of time on (especially all the attendance-grading-assignment-policy shit). Damn. But I could probably reconstruct them in under four hours, at some point during the summer. THEN I discovered, in checking out my backup disks, that I'd inexplicably never backed up the research file I'd started for a small side project on Ralph Ellison (completely and ridiculously outside of my field, but something I'm interested in). Not even ten pages long, and almost entirely direct quotations from printed sources--but I'd already returned all the books from which I took those quotations, and since the project is so entirely unrelated to everything else I'm doing, I just don't want to waste unnecessary time on it, you know? I'd figured out my major argument and just wanted to plunk everything in place over a weekend or so and send the essay out.
And then the list started growing: a recommendation for a student I think highly of, that I wanted to keep on file so I could update it in the future. My most recently updated dissertation bibliography. (Some 25 or 30 pages long, and it'll be a bitch to figure out what's missing from the older version.) And so on. The files on my computer are probably salvagable by someone who knows what he's doing--this current suicide is very like several other attempts my computer made while under warrantee, and Compaq always eventually fixed the problem--but I'm not willing to spend more than $100 on a machine that is 4+ years old, has never been reliable, and is now physically falling apart, as well; because of a broken hinge, it's being held together with strapping tape and a binder clip.
So I repeat: fuck! Never never never buy anything from Compaq/HP, dear reader, or you will live to regret it.
But on a more positive note: three pages. Bad pages, but pages all the same.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Back to work
My aunt just left for the airport after what turned out to be a really delightful weekend (not that I had any serious doubts, but being with--and being responsible FOR--someone else's entertainment 24/7 sometimes really wears me down; it's hard for me to be "on" all the time, especially when I'm continually being asked questions about, I don't know, the origins of priestly celibacy). Much wine was drunk. Much food was eaten. Many stories were told and jackets cut.*
Museums, theatres, cheap knock-off boutiques--all, all got visited. The weather was gorgeous. And Aunt insisted on paying for half of a vintage cocktail dress I'd been eyeing for weeks (1950s, knee-length, chiffon and lace in a stunning color somewhere between teal and turquoise and sea-green).
Along the way I learned some disturbing things about my extended family, not all of which I'm comfortable knowing and many of which I'm not sure how to reconcile with everything else I know or believe about particular individuals . . . but that's family. I'm reminded of something I read in a recent Chronicle article about department culture: if someone tells you that your new department is "just like a family," you'd better bet that it's also a dysfunctional one.
So now back to work. It's not even 4 p.m. yet, so in theory I can make up for time lost over the weekend. Yeah! I could write five pages! Or maybe even six! Or hell--why don't I just finish off this entire chapter, while I'm at it?
*If anyone can explain to me the origin of that phrase, "cutting [someone's] jacket," meaning, gossipping about or cutting someone down to size, I'd appreciate it. My reference books & Google are turning up nothin'.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
I am the champion!
I still managed to get in my required 3pp./day yesterday, despite starting ridiculously late and my aunt's arriving earlier than expected last night. Hooray!
But no thanks to my computer, which seems to be finally dying, permanently, as it's been threatening to do for a long while. I'm hoping to put off buying a new one until August, as I have no $$ for a replacement (see post on that same subject, below), but we'll see. At the moment I'm typing on an old model belonging to George Washington Boyfriend. Nickname to be explained in a future post.
Last night before starting writing I had a serious jones for McDonald's, which I felt I could reasonably indulge. (It's been a long time, and sometimes you just need the fries, and no, I haven't seen Supersize Me. And I don't want to. Don't write.) So I set out to walk the six blocks there, on a lovely summery evening. And EVERYONE was out, here in Historically Black Neighborhood (HBN), with a local beauty parlor blasting Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album into the streets, and I was thinking, hey! What a great evening! But you know, there were a LOT of people out, just standing around, and I noticed some serious emergency vehicles & lights up ahead near where I was going, and thought "great, a fire." When I got up there it was just cops standing around joking with the locals, and some ambulances and a bunch of police vans and cars. No mood of urgency, but the whole damn block was blocked off. Apparently, there was a shoot-out between some guy(s?), and maybe the police, with at least one dead. At least that was the buzz on the street; I couldn't confirm it on the web. As a guy said as I was walking past, "Welcome to HBN!"
Am I a bad person because my second thought was, "hey--maybe it will keep my rent down"?
Friday, May 27, 2005
Mo' money, mo' problems (although really, I'd like to HAVE those problems)
So I've just completed yet another FAFSA, hopefully my last. This is the third summer in a row in which I've had to take out loans to make ends meet, given the whole nine-month stipend business that my grad institution believes in. (Last summer I actually received two separate grants--they just weren't enough to live on & take a research trip to the U.K. with.) I don't know for sure when my salary at Big Urban University (henceforth, BUU) begins, but I'm hoping no later than Aug. 31. I might just be able to make it until then with my part-time job, several weeks mooching off my parents back in my hometown, and the ever-accomodating credit cards.
Remember that great line from Six Degrees of Separation: "Who was it said, 'when artists dream, they dream of money?' . . . God, I must be such an artist!"
Yeah, feeling that.
Sometimes I wonder whether I'll ever be in the clear financially. The credit cards and the summer loans aren't unmanageable--in theory, I could pay all that off in two years with an asst. prof. salary--but the undergrad loans and ESPECIALLY the $35K my M.A. ran me are daunting. This was brought home to me this past weekend, when the boyfriend and I spent two days out in the suburbs with a collection of my college friends and their sig. oths. Of the twelve of us? Eight either already owned or were in the process of purchasing homes. And another college friend & his wife are currently house-scouting, and a high school friend--who is a POET, for God's sake!--recently mentioned that she and her (film school!) boyfriend were looking into buying a place in a cheaper nearby city & becoming landlords.
Now, these six friends represent only about half of my closer-friend pool (most of the rest of whom are nearly as poor as I am), but they still signal an ominous trend: the inexorable march toward an adulthood I sometimes don't think I'll ever reach. And I'm ambivalent about whether I want to reach it. Don't get me wrong: I love being 30 and I love feeling as though most of us are starting to figure out our lives; it's just a lot less hysterical and anxiety-filled and I don't miss all those not-very fun parties in tiny, too-hot apartments thrown by a friend of a friend who went to Amherst with some other friend's former roommate. I'd rather go swill gallons of wine with the Fergusbergs at their chateau, with people I know from way back, or chill at a bar with a friend or two. But . . . I left the suburbs for a reason, you know? And if my current apartment were a somewhat spiffier version of itself (i.e., if I didn't get mysterious leaks, ceiling collapses, etc.)--it would be pretty much my dream single-person apartment.
Maybe it's just my natural resistance to change, or to excessive complications. I still like to think of myself as having options, and being able to just pack up and leave--and go live in Egypt for a year! This is true enough, I guess, but not really any truer for me (I'm deeply attached to my friends and to this city) or any less true for my friends with houses and kids. And who knows? Maybe I'll get a JOB in Egypt!
In other news, my aunt is arriving tonight from out west & staying for the weekend; I'm not sure she's ever been to Major Eastern City before. She's in her 50s but has never had kids and so has always felt more like a cool older sister or cousin. Anyway, she's promised to bring lots of wine & will be taking me to the theater, buying me meals, etc., and so though I regret the interruption of my diss work, ALL such interruptions should be so good.
Years Behind the Curve, as Usual
So I'm finally jumping on the blogging bandwagon, but I hope I'm doing it for the best of reasons--I admire and am inspired by many of the blogs I read, and I want to become part of those conversations. Especially those that have to do with the academy, a place I'm beginning to think I might have a permanent place in.
Like most of youse out there, I'll be keeping myself anonymous, or pseudonymous, for reasons of professional and personal circumspection. (In other words: so that I can't easily be Googled by students, colleagues, long-time nemeses, whatever.) But in the event that anyone reads this who doesn't already know the full backstory, here's the break-down: 30-y-o woman, originally from the Far West but by now a long-time Easterner, finishing up her Ph.D. in English after six periodically painful years.
It will be a bit of a race to completion: I'm starting a new job as a full-time lecturer at Big Urban University in late August (hooray! a real-person salary!), but, as of today I still have nearly an entire diss chapter to write; some major revisions to make to my first chapter; a short introduction to throw together; and all the usual clean-up on everything else. And, oh yeah: I'm also giving a major address (overseas) in October AND going out on the job market at full strength a second time around. So it'll be an interesting year. If I don't lose half my friends and all my sanity in the process I'll consider it a success.