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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Super-cat

My cat is amazing. First of all he’s 14 and a half–only half a year away from being the final age on the age chart in the vets office (it compares human and cat years). I took him on a cross-country journey that required a half an hour trip to the airport, one four hour plane trip, a transfer, an hour and a half trip, and then a 45 min shuttle to our destination. He cried a little bit, but rather than annoying anyone, it just seemed to bring them like flies to his cage to say hi and talk sweetly to him.

He worked at a tiny hole in his cage till it was big enough to push his whole paw through. That allowed me to sort of shake his hand during the second flight. The touch seemed to assure him. For everyone who says that cat’s like territory more than they do their people, well, listen to this: he stopped crying after we got up into the air during the long flight. Then when I got up to use the bathroom and went out of his line of vision, he started to cry right away.

Another new thing I’ve introduced to him is walking on a leash with a halter. We’ve tried this before, but he hasn’t gone for it. This halter, though, is made for cats and has a few advantages. It seems to fit him a bit better, is easier to get on and off than the ones made for dogs, and the leash is a bungee cord, so it never yanks him. He likes to explore the whole outside edges of places on his leash. We’ll see what happens when he gets use to a place. Maybe he’ll be tired of walking around. It’s definitely not like walking a dog, though, b/c he likes to stay by the edges, not on the sidewalk out in the middle of everywhere. So I’m kinda limited to walking around the property lines.

He is also totally adjusted to my Grandma’s house and it’s been just a day. He has found a couple of spots he likes, figured out how to get into all the windows, and knows where all his necessities are (it took me a day to find his dry kitty food, so he got extra wet cat food). And he isn’t crying or destroying anything. He slept on my legs and in my arms under the covers last night. And, unfortunately, he tripped grandma during the night. So he may have to be locked up at night, which is something he hates and tends to vocally protest…no sleep for me.

The only thing that shows he’s a little stressed is that he is extra attentive to where I am and checks on me a lot. Although even that was starting to lessen a bit today. He could sit in the living room while I was in the bedroom without stressing.

Anyway, you probably don’t care, but I am just totally in awe of how much change this cat has gone through with me, and with such aplomb. Burying my face in his coat keeps me from wanting to hurt myself, so it’s totally worth it putting him through this. I’m just so glad I’m not hurting him by doing it.

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I spent all week in New York with my eye out for a new laptop bag. I saw a bazillion handbags, but none seemed to be quite right for a laptop, a book, and the crap of life. The last day I was there, I found this bag at Flight 001 on Greenwich Ave and came very close to buying it. The inside was a very fun pattern, it seemed to be about the right side, the construction was lovely, and it still seemed professional, while being fun. But I just couldn’t decide if I could live with that green everyday of my life. The internet now tells me what the shop didn’t–that it comes in other colors (including wine red, one of my favs–though I wish I new what shade it is. I definitely lean more towards rich or dusty colors where the designer seems to like bright colors. It says it’s wine, but it looks more like fire engine red).

I also am a fan of the slick men’s leather totes, like this one I saw at Macy’s for three times the price it is here. (I lose out here on the uniqueness, except that I would be a woman toting it).

But then there is my love affair with pattern. The first has pattern hidden away inside, the second has no pattern but the natural grain of the leather, and then there’s this beauty. It’s the cheapest, probably the least professional, but maybe the one I’ll get. Thoughts?

 

Then of course there are the incredible made-to-order bags from Etsy, like this one:

 

This particular one may be a bit too small for my purposes. The only thing I worry about with Etsy is the quality. I have only ever ordered one thing from Etsy and I should have realized from the price it would not stand up well, though it was cute for how long it lasted (the zipper was so cheap, the color started to rub off almost as soon as I started to use it). Etsy, for those of you who don’t know, is a site where crafters can sell their goods, so each person offers something different. I will keep browsing the site.

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more minutes

Rather behind with my travel updates because I’ve been living rather than writing. 😉 Isn’t that the dichotomy? I see why so many writers draw inspiration from New York City. Everyday you encounter people with stories that you can imagine for them or have adventures yourself.

One of the first days I watched subway construction workers stop and listen to a singer/songwriter in the subway. I had read that it is the subway workers who get to choose which musicians play in the subway, so it was good to see them listening.

Tuesday night, I hung out after the live recording of Studio 360 and mixed during the cocktail hour (they gave us wine and beer), pushing myself into various conversations. There was a group of women who were fans of Studio 360 like me (rather than fans of one or the other of the special guests) who I heard talking about the movie “Precious” which I both do and do not want to see. I sort of started listening in and then participating. They brought up several things I knew about from magazines or radio programs I’m a fan of. One of them started talked about being a social worker in the morning and on a grand jury in the afternoon. The grand jury would indict anyone on slim to no evidence, saying that the jury would sort things out, not realizing how disruptive and expensive an indictment can be. Pretty much all of the jury members were midtown types with salaried jobs they could afford to miss once or twice a week for a month, while most of the plaintiffs were uptown types. She figured those with hourly wages couldn’t miss work because they’d loose income and/or their position, so instead they missed the jury call.

Wednesday I started going back to archives. Not really in the mood for more research, but following the steps. After the library closed, I went way downtown to Greenwich Village and had dinner at the Tavern on Jane, a very cute restaurant that feels very old. All brick, fireplaces, names scratched in the walls, the type of place one can imagine great writers hanging out in. After I finished, I went to the GLBT Community Center for a game night. I was terribly late b/c of staying till the library closed (and, I suppose, being shy). I hung out at a table with four guys and we played a fairly simple game I picked up pretty fast. We didn’t really talk about anything, but the banter was silly and fun. When it ended, I left and went back to the hostel.

Thursday night I went to The Moth, story hour. I dearly love stories–telling them and hearing them. I got there only a half hour before the doors closed and the line was already down the block, making me scared I wouldn’t get in. This wasn’t a normal night, I think, because the storytellers were drawn from the audience rather than planned before (I’ve heard that a lot of bigger actors are seeking out the venue, so I presume they are placed on the schedule ahead of time, but maybe not). Anyway, it was in a bookstore that supports Housing Works, a major nonprofit in the city. The first half, I sat up in the balcony, far away from the action, because it was so packed, but during intermission I made my way down towards the front and slipped my name in the hat. Crazy, because I didn’t have a story prepared, but I had a story idea based on the theme of the night (Lost) and thought I could go ad-lib if I got called. And one crazy person told a story, so I figured I could, too (everyone else gave stories they had clearly prepared ahead of time). The stories for the most part captivated me. The winner told a story about her first year at college, getting abducted by a couple of guys who threatened her with rifles. It was very powerful. The judges were different groups of the audience.

I wasn’t called, but they had everyone who wasn’t come up and tell the first line of their story. That was enough for me (I thought about not going up at first, but did anyway). So many things I have just done while I’ve been here, not letting myself back out because of fear. It’s been really good.

Tonight I had thought about seeking out another Broadway show (really wanted to see Fela as well as Next to Normal), but a historian friend from the conference last week invited me out for drinks with some of his friends. Talking about history for six hours. It was pretty damn awesome.

Now for bed and going home tomorrow. I have more boxes saved at the NYPL, but feeling much more like sleeping in and doing some shopping on my last day. I don’t expect to find much in those boxes.

So all week I’ve been hanging out with New Yorkers. In line at Next to Normal for lottery tickets, those I chatted with were from New York. Those at the Studio 360, GLBT Center, and the Moth were all largely if not exclusively New Yorkers. And the party of historians were all New Yorkers. The paragon of travel for a certain sort of tourist is making ones way into life with the natives…in that way this has been an enormously successful trip. I’m finally growing out of my shyness!!!!

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New York Minutes

Sitting in the NYPL waiting for a box of letters and should be working, but feeling anxious so here I am. I thought my advisor’s suggestions would make sense when I went back to Chapter 1 and read it over. But it is not so bad as I thought or he made it seem. It just plods. I guess it truly is a writer’s project. I have to rearrange and rewrite the whole thing to make it slick and pointed and raise the issues that the rest of the diss will deal with. But how to do this?

To wit…he wants more Spingarn, and yet probably not in the form I have given him, but what form does he suggest? This is why his common line “you’re not ready yet for line by line comments” drives me crazy. But I suppose the diss will really truly be mine by the time I am done.

Anyway, on to more interesting things.

The live taping of Studio 360 was completely awesome Tuesday night. I loved the crowd–sci fi geeks, publishers, very cool artists and hipsters, a few parents. I got to talk briefly with Kurt Andersen afterwards and he mentioned how amazed he was at the age of the audience (it was almost all folks in their 20s and 30s). Perhaps not the usual course for NPR shows. The theme was about time travel and Kurt had a discussion between a sci fi author and a physicist about the reality of time travel and the paradoxes. They were both very good at having a free flowing discussion and being clever and interesting. The physicist brought up the possibility of creating a worm whole that bends space, then using an immense amount of energy to move the mouth of the wormhole around so that the spaceship in the mouth could go backward in time. The bummer of it is that it cannot go back before the time machine was developed (which explains why there are no futurists wandering around today. Take that “Stephen Hawkings!”)

Two highlights of the evening for me–Janelle Monae’s band. I love the unique and she is utterly unique through her combination of inspirations. Her look melded forty’s big band with gender bending (she wore a tux, complete with cumber bund and too-big bow tie, as well as a hairstyle that evoked a male style from the 40s). Its strict black and white lines accessed a futuristic look. Her music combines spoken word, rap, big band, funk, and many others and is sung by her alter-ego, an android from the future. Her CD Metropolis is all about the life of this android, living as a second-class citizen, so she is able to criticize our society in that classic sci-fi way, but in a totally new sound.

And she is absolutely, crazily fun to watch. Every moment on stage, she vibrates with energy and dance. At the very end, she spiked the microphone and crashed the microphone stand into the audience.

 

Ooh, box here. More later.

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urban aesthetics

I love wandering around New York City and looking, peering, studying.

I went into Brooklyn for pretty much the first time today, visiting Brooklyn College for a conference honoring John Hope Franklin and a quick stop in their archives. The campus itself is beautiful. I loved the students–perhaps more diverse than any campus I’ve ever seen.

The surrounding area was that kind of urban space that feels slightly dirty and run-down. I’m trying to figure out what gives me this impression. There was in fact quite a mixture of places and I was totally intrigued until one thing happened. I was really hungry b/c I’d just had a small salad at the luncheon. And I hadn’t had coffee yet. I stood in line at Starbucks briefly, but decided I just couldn’t give up my ban on the coffee shop and would seek out somewhere local. Across the street and down a bit was a huge sign announcing a bakery and thought I’d give it a go.

I should say everyone in New York has been exceptionally kind to me. The archivists today were great. Thick Brooklyn accents, bending over backward to help me.

Well, I was expecting a place that cared about food (I usually expect that for dedicated bakeries). The woman behind the counter was very quiet and a tad bit sullen, but described all the different goodies for me in some detail, though not the kind of detail I wanted (like do you use shortening or butter–course I didn’t ask, because I didn’t think of phrasing it that way till just now. I wanted to know the quality of their chocolate).

Intermission: There are these novels about the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics by Alexander McCall Smith. The protagonist talks about “moral proximity”–needing to act once you have come into a sphere of concern. A few novels back she talked about this in relation to small shops.

I get that feeling of moral proximity whenever I spend too much time looking at something in a small shop. But I look for a long time because I suffer from buyers regret and I don’t want to make a bad choice. So I asked the composition of about ten different items and then picked one. As I was paying, I dropped a quarter and bent down to pick it up. Then I spotted the corner under the food cabinet. It was full of brown pellets that made me immediately think of rat feces. I don’t know what they were, but….

I am enough of my mother’s child to have bought that alcohol sanitation stuff, but enough of my father’s child to forget to put it in my bag. So now the question is–do I eat this thing I bought, being starving, and what do I do with my hand that has touched that floor picking up the quarter?

I walked around the block because I wanted to see more of the area before getting on the subway. The rest of the commercial street had that air of dirt, but a few stores looked like they had quite nice items. I think there is something about dirty awnings and stuffed front windows that gives off that atmosphere. Then I turned down a side street and it was full of very well kept townhouses.

So I scampered back to Tribeca to my favorite coffee shop (was here yesterday–so much for the try something new all the time). They have wifi and I needed to maps.google.com the address for the live performance of Studio 360 tonight. So I’m having lovely chicken enchillada soup and gorgeous coffee in this incredibly lovely cafe.

In this area, the roads are just as dirty and grey, but it feels so much better aesthetically. I try to think critically about my responses to urban spaces, not having grown up with them and also not wanting to fall into typical white responses. But the rat feces really threw me. And my first impression of Brooklyn had been so good.

And yes, I did eat the cake. I was really hungry, had an hour subway ride ahead of me, and I kept the plastic wrap between it and my fingers. Terrible, I know. Washed my hands as soon as I got to the coffee shop. Dad used to say dirt was boyscout pepper. And feces??

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more observations

I’ve noted something interesting most days, but haven’t recorded them all. Need to work on being more like David Sedaris and write it all down immediately. Some things I remember:

Coming out of the Times Square subway station and hearing a lovely voice warming up. I look for it, and it is a bright shiny eyed boy with his fingers looped through another beautiful boy. I say boy because that’s what 18 year olds look like to me these days. Anyway, I watched to see if they were going into the stage door of a near by theater, and at one point the singer dropped the other guy’s hand and looped his arms around his should and gave him a smack on the cheek. I’ve done that countless times with E. It was quite cute. They didn’t go in the stage door.

So many well kept dogs. A dog store that had Jewish doggy toys. Almost got one for my brother-in-law for Christmas (yes, my Jewish brother-in-law celebrates Christmas with us) but I didn’t know if it would be weird. Say one tiny toy dog with no coat, but as she got closer, spotted little booties on her. Another dog had a ridiculous pink rain coat on. Really, didn’t god already give dogs rain coats? I remembered why I thought I long time ago that I liked boxers–they dance like poodles when they walk.

A bunk mate who was doing her prayers with a hijab on on her top bunk, but then when I looked up again, she’d taken it off and I would never guess she was Muslim (jeans and a t-shirt).

Buying candy from a homeless woman on the subway, who was then trapped in our car b/c the train was going too fast to switch cars. She told me about how her daughter asks people to buy candy by screaching at the top of her lungs and making a funny face. She pulled the face for me–and suddenly she looked quite crazy (she threw her eyes outward, rather than crossing them) and did it a couple of times. Then said that people still buy candy from her little five year and I said kids could get a way with a lot.

There’s more, but I should be out there instead of typing.

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Diss Update

Today was the first day of 10 in New York City. It feels so good to be here. I know my way around the city now and feel very comfortable in the hostel after several stays. I also love the international flavor of this city, let alone the hostel. A couple of things I remember–

Orthodox Jewish husband and son accompany their wife/mother shopping for a handbag in Macys.

A petite woman speaking something like Chinese very rapidly into her phone while dragging a taped up shopping bag through the airport. It seemed to be holding up fairly well masquerading as a rolly suitcase.

Two women of African descent carrying on an vibrant conversation in sign language (I’d never really watched a sign language conversation closely before; it was interesting to see how they captured each other’s attention and how the older one tended to dismiss the opinions of the younger one and not pay as much attention to her as the younger one did to the older).

Lots of beautiful boots.

After looking through a million handbags myself for something more me than my scary masculine backpack or my free (too small) shoulder bag, I still liked the old fashioned men’s leather briefcase better than all the women’s handbags, even though they were in lovely colors. Course they were all way more than I wanted to spend, so didn’t really matter. (Well, outside of Macy’s there are the 10 dollar stores, but I didn’t know how a bag from there would hold up. No point in adding to the dumpster more than I have to.)  I think I may go to a flea market on Saturday and see if there are any truly traditional bags about. It’s hard to find something “unique” when there is literally an entire floor of Macy’s devoted to handbags (none of which, by the by, looked like they would actually fit a computer and a book–my baseline).

Anyway, the promised dissertation update. Yesterday I got two tiny bits of feedback that I am trying not to feel overwhelmed by. If you had asked me a month ago, before giving my draft to my advisor, what some of the weaknesses of the text were, I would have said–too much story, not enough analysis. Too many quotes and anecdotes without proper consideration of why I was including each one. I like to think this is part of my writing process–that I follow an ASU prof’s advice to “write towards a thesis.” It just means a buttload of editing. So I knew all this, but I’ve been wanting some direction about how to choose which bits to keep and which to give away.

One of my committee members that I haven’t talked to in basically three years about my work (since just after my comps) saw me in the hallway and beckoned me into her office. She told me that she was very concerned about the 700 page length of the dissertation for two reasons: One, people who write disses that long spend 10 years trying to turn them into books. Two, it’s a huge imposition to ask someone to read that much (she is too polite to say it that way, but it was strongly implied).

Then my advisor refused to give me his comments thus far that he had promised so I could work on them in NY (since evidently I won’t see him after Fri till the beginning of Dec, b/c I get back the week before Thanksgiving, and he gives no promises that he’ll be around then). He’s coming to this same conference and promises that we’ll have a big discussion at Friday lunch (in the two hours in between his presentation and mine). He called me later to explain why he had refused to give me the comments–it’s because he hasn’t written his general comments yet, only his line by line comments. And his general comments are–you write too much and the book will look very different from the diss (though the diss is fine as a diss).

Yep, I’ve waited a month to hear that helpfulness. So now my brain is whirring over the diss trying to pick out the obvious stuff to cut.

But here’s the rub. I’ve had this conference paper in front of my face for several days now, trying to cut it down from originally about 30 pages to 13-14. It’s been a really good exercise for me to see all the fat and repetition that creeps into my language. But it’s been a slow process. Every day I’ll work on it and then throw up my hands in desperation b/c there simply isn’t any more that I can cut without losing the important details. And the next day I sit down and decide that this or that can be cut out. I’m down to 15 pages, so I need to lose at least another page tonight and then practice to see if it’s any where near 20 minutes.

If it’s taken me at least a week for the mental space to work on these few pages, how am I possibly going to edit my massive dissertation down in the basically six weeks that my advisor is leaving me? And do I start now before hearing him out? Well, I’ll be busy with the conference tom and then hypothetically we will talk about this on Friday. There’s no reason I can’t push my defense back, though I’ve been looking forward to getting it over with in February.

I’m struggling not to feel bad about giving the massive thing to my committee members, after what the one prof said. She told me I absolutely had to go back through every single paragraph and make sure that it needs to be there. I’ve known that this is my problem for a long time now, but haven’t known how to choose which paragraphs are important. Its completely infuriating to feel like my brain is failing me/not living up to the demands being placed on it.

Very glad to be in New York while dealing with all this.

Oh, also saw a dancing poodle. If I ever get a dog, it will be some variation of a standard poodle because they dance when they walk. This one had a very particular gait, though…Every time its mom went faster than a stroll, it broke into a halting trot on its toes. After I was initally captivated, I started to wonder if it was recovering from a leg injury.

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