Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just Add Ice

I'm rapidly approaching hockey camp levels of physical exhaustion. I've been wondering: am I sick? Am I old? Am I just a wuss? But last night I was looking at the calendar, and I realized that in month of July, I have driven from Bloomington (IN) to Rantoul (IL) and back five times, plus driven to Columbus (OH) and back, as well as to Corinth (MS) and back. For those of you keeping track, that's a minimum of 3190 miles in 31 days.

Those drives were interrupted by some heavy-duty moving chores. Thank god for strong men, as at least we had help loading and unloading the moving truck. I packed every box in our two-bedroom townhouse, though, and unpacked them at the other end (must get rid of some books before relocating again). Catherine was able to take a Saturday to help with the move-out cleaning. She did most of the kitchen, so that was nice.

Also in my month was a full day at the zoo, and a day of wandering Civil War battlefields. Plus, our house in Bloomington was full of strange men much of this month--the contractors finally got around to finishing the screen porch and painting the dining room. Oh, and putting up a desperately-needed 140' fence between us and the neighbors. Thank god I didn't have to dig the post holes for that! But it's super stressful to me to have strangers in my house, particularly when they are men. Men are loud and take up a lot of room.

I was supposed to wash down the furniture so we could put it back on the newly finished porch this afternoon, but I couldn't summon the energy. I'm going to finish this post, make some popcorn, and then hit the couch to watch the Brickyard for the rest of the afternoon. That's all I can do, and believe me, I'm really doing the best that I can do right now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

btw, water is bad for your cell phone.

For a smart person, I can sure be dumb.

Without telling anyone EXACTLY how dumb I am, I'll just say that I am responsible for killing my own cell phone. Permanently. I have a replacement for the phone, but unfortunately, not for the three-year's worth of contact information stored on it. So, if you think it might be important that I'm able to call you some day, you might want to e-mail me your phone number.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Because I Said So

So, in keeping with my Facebook declaration a few days ago, ("Susan decides to be happier"), I decided to make a list of reasons why I might look forward to a year abroad. Without going into details, I'm always astonished at my therapist's flexibility. Yesterday, that character/professional trait manifested itself in her willingness to serve as a rather amiable and encouraging sounding board for the beginnings of my list. What I've got so far:

Why I Want to Spend a Year in London and India:
  • I've never spent time in the U.K. during the fall to winter transition, only spring to summer, high summer, summer to fall; something new to experience;
  • The house I'll be living in is in Cockfosters, outside London, an area I've never visited, so a new place to see;
  • Cockfosters is on the London Loop, and I've been wanting to do some more walking;
  • This year's Serpentine Pavilion will still be in place when I arrive in London;
  • This will be a chance to introduce more structure into my day, going to the archives at a regular time every day (at least in London)--I can use this as a chance to regulate my sleep/eat/work schedule and stabilize my life a little;
  • Three months in one place! Followed by another three months of one place, and then another, and then another. Three months in one place sounds impossibly grand to me right now;
  • An opportunity to see more of India: live in the Thar Desert for three months, finally visit Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, take a long weekend to Chennai, Mumbai or Goa;
  • Reconnect with favorite Indian places and people: go back to Jaipur for a weekend or two, back to Ujjain, Varanasi, spend more time in Delhi;
  • An opportunity to change my diet; although I've been living far away from vending machines for the past few months, it will be nice to be living some where with few processed foods to seduce me;
  • Doing this puts me closer to the completion of the dissertation, and closer to my goal of leaving academia;
  • This will give me a chance to regain the confidence and independence I discovered last summer in India;
  • Networking. This seems like a good opportunity to meet other Americans working in my field; the more people I talk to now, the more likely it is that I will find a job--in or out of academia--in the future;
  • A year without a car! Writing as someone who has put 14,232 on her vehicle since January 15, I can say I am very much looking forward to 368 days of Shank's mare and public transportation. I can't promise that I won't ever purchase bottled water when I'm in India, but even so, my carbon/resource footprint should drastically shrink over the next several months;
  • I'm much more likely to bump into Preity Zinta on the street if I'm in India than if I'm in Bloomington, Indiana or Rantoul, Illinois [that one's for you, Beth].
  • Both of my major fellowship awards come with a book-buying budget. I can finally buy all those books I need for my dissertation instead of relying on the library's copies.
Why I Do Not Want to Spend a Year in London and India:
  • A year away from home, are you fucking kidding me?
  • I miss the cats already, will they even remember who I am when I return home? What if something happens to Jackie while I'm gone?
  • What is something happens to Catherine, and I've wasted what could have been good times together on archival research about which I don't really care?
  • Living apart for 368 days is definitely going to put stress on my relationship;
  • Reuniting after living apart for 368 days is definitely going to put stress on my relationship;
  • My father's health--what if I don't see him again before it's too late?
  • I don't even want a Ph.D. It feels like I'm doing this for some reason other than "I want to," and I'm pretty sure that's the wrong reason;
  • I hate all people, and I'm pretty sure I'll have to talk to some of them in the next year;
  • I'm really not a big fan of Indian food, unless it's dal makhani or veg jalfreezi. It's going to be a long year of no tomato soup or popcorn;
  • What if I get sick, and there I am, out in the great Thar Desert, all by myself, unable to communicate? What if something really, really bad happens?
  • A year of lack. While this is good in terms of my gas consumption, it will be difficult in terms of a lack of: privacy, access to clean water, friends, my native language, familiar objects, etc.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No fucking kidding.

You know what's disgusting about this story? It's been this way in South Central L. A. since the Watts Riots in 1965. *1965*. That's how long corporations have been refusing to invest in the area, refusing to rebuild/add grocery stores after the property destruction of the Watts Riots. It was still an obvious problem when I lived there in 1991-1992 (try buying groceries in South Central without getting in a car and driving for an hour first), and it apparently hasn't gotten any better. Styling this as a "fast food" problem hardly addresses the 43 years of deliberate neglect by grocery chains, etc. I've had people tell me that the 1992 uprising demonstrated that these corporations had a smart policy, refusing to put property in an area that might see further damage and violence. I don't buy that. I just don't believe that a rebellion *32 years* later proves anything, unless it's that white people can be incredibly, incredibly stupid.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Life is in Storage

Well, it's almost moving day. I've been sorting and stacking for awhile now, but the boxes have finally been broken out of storage--it's time for the real deal. Emotionally, this is a lot harder than I expected it be. Every time I wrap something up and put it in a box, I think, "Oh, I remember hanging this up in my first apartment here. It was really fun setting up that apartment." I'm not sure exactly what went wrong between then and now, but nowhere in me can I find that person who actually wanted to try out this whole Ph.D. thing.

[I'm back. You can't tell by reading, but I had to go take a crying break.]

Anyway, packing things up here means I really am going to leave the country for a year, I really am going to do research in India, and I really am going to go forward with this thing. I'm trying not to treat it like a death sentence, but it definitely feels like I'm being sent into exile against my will.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Western Theater

Continuing, or returning to, our tradition of visiting Civil War battlefields in the hottest days of summer, we spent the holiday weekend at Shiloh. Actually, we saw four battlefields all together--Parker's Crossroads, Shiloh, Corinth and Spring Hill. Parker's Crossroads was just a lucky find for us, as we'd changed our minds about the route we would take to Shiloh at the last possible moment. Luckily for us, Ron Jr. and Sue Jordan of the Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Association were on duty at the visitors center. They walked us through the battle and the PCBA's preservation plan, and were just generally nice to us. In fact, everyone we met last weekend was nice, and almost made me not hate all of humanity. That engagement started off our weekend of battlefields in the right way, I think.

I can see why Shiloh is Rick's favorite battlefield--although Cold Harbor is still my favorite (after Gettysburg, of course). It was a nice mix of driving and walking, good interpretive markings, and not too crowded once we were away from the visitor's center. The main interpretive center is really in Corinth, MS, at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, although there is a small center at the battlefield itself. This is a new building, sweetly designed with good lighting and layout. I'm not sure who the exhibit designer was, but the signage was clearly done by a professional group. Staffed by friendly people who feel lucky to have the jobs that they have. Two good movies, one about the battle of Corinth, one about Shiloh. If you want a movie experience, best to do it here, the movie out at the battlefield must have been made in the 1970s. It wasn't bad content-wise, but the sound quality wasn't good, and all those fake beards glued to soldier faces were distracting.

We stayed in Corinth on Friday night (July 4), then did the battlefield on Saturday. It was an all-day endeavor, and we could have stayed out longer, but I think we got a pretty good feel for the battle as it was. Stopped at Shiloh church to talk to some men who were fixing a water leak, listened to the warning about copperheads in the pine trees, stood dutifully at the edges of the bloody pond and thought about it all. The battlefield has a nice picnic spot set up away from the auto tour route, so we had a nice lunch in the trees (before we were cautioned about snakes). Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit the Indian mounds because the trail was under construction and heavily guarded by caution tape.

Sunday was a long drive home. It's supposed to be an eight-hour drive, but we lost some time going to see the railroad crossing at Corinth, and also when we turned around to go to a rest area on the opposite side of the freeway so I could look at the Saturn IB rocket on display. Then we took up a lot more time with the Spring Hill battlefield. It's smaller than Parker's Crossing, but uphill from the parking lot. Ate lunch next to the creek near the battlefield pull-off, then headed north. The drive up I-65 was endless. I don't know what it was--everyone was tired and trying to get home asap after a holiday weekend? A lot of aggressive driving by people in over-sized vehicles. We have a couple of more road trips planned before I leave for London in September, but I'm starting to think I'm too old for this kind of weekend.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Doesn't Play Well With Others

I seem to be having trouble dealing with real, live people as of late. I mean, it's surely no surprise to anyone that I'm not the most personable (warm, comforting, nurturing, friendly, outgoing, [insert more desired personality characteristics here]), but in the past few weeks, I seem to be doing a particularly poor job of managing interpersonal relationships. And, yes, I know it is has something to do with therapy, I'm exhausting myself with this process. But I really can't start out every personal--or any professional--conversation with "You know, I spent yesterday evening telling my therapist how it felt be sexually abused when I was young, so do you think you could make an extra effort to be kind to me today?" I mean...really. It's expecting a bit much for people to magically ascertain my mental and emotional fragility before speaking to me (although...the fact that I flinch every time someone speaks to me makes me think that deduction shouldn't require great magical powers).

On the other hand, I sometimes think that I should demand people to be more gentle with me on an every day basis--is there a reason I have to be able to stand there and listen to whatever someone else wants to say to me, no matter how insensitive it is? Is there a clause in the code of collegiality and friendship that I neglected to read? I guess in the end, I find it surprising that I have to provide a *reason* for someone to be gentle with me ("I'm fragile because of therapy, so be nice!"). Shouldn't I be able to expect that, anyway? I'm not sure, and I guess that uncertainty is a sign that I really just don't get people and the way people relate to other people. And I suspect I'm not going to learn this in therapy, which is is just too bad.