06 November 2013
And I am thinking of practical details. I'll be in Corpus Christi from Wednesday until Sunday, and I'll be attending the National Learning Communities Conference. As a new Learning Communities program director, this conference is an excellent opportunity to learn a great deal, and, having looked at the schedule, I fully anticipate shuttling from session to session for three days straight. This is a very good thing. But I'll also be in four different airports, twice, on six flights all together, and there are mornings and evenings and stray bits of time between events, and it's hard to know what to bring.
Writing wise, it seems I've never been better equipped: I have a few dozen small projects to work on. But because this wouldn't be a post on my blog without me whinging about my novel, there's that, too. There's always that, looming (and companionable) in the back of my mind, and it's ridiculous to even think about traveling light. (That Corpus Christi also requires me to add a rain jacket to my suitcase, too, adds a material dimension.)
...Middlemarch is also going with me. The edition I'm reading is a Norton Critical, which means it weighs more than it should because there are so many of those onionskin pages jammed between its covers.
I want, very badly, to take knitting along. The best project for it, though, is getting too large, and it's something that requires multiple colors of yarn, which means multiple balls, taking up more space, and I am dedicated to a) not checking luggage on a trip like this b) actually respecting the dimensions allowed for carry-on items. I also am not-taking the knitting because it's an excuse. It is always an excellent excuse: I can neither read nor write while knitting, and I know myself. During my five-hour layover in Houston, when I could probably finish a draft of a short story or finally get to the back cover of Middlemarch, I would knit (and listen to hockey). And it isn't that I don't love knitting; it's that it's always too easy to love.
And that weighs on me. (Every breathing moment I am not writing or reading weighs on me. I intended to write this morning. Instead, I cleaned some things because I'm going to be gone for four days and I went to buy toothpaste because I didn't have a TSA-approved size in the cupboard and I had a bunch of angst about how I did those things instead of writing.)
And that's ridiculous.
It's a constant struggle to balance good discipline (which leads to good craft) and masochism for the sake of it. Ten minutes ago, I decided that I'd rather be the person in a suit carrying a be-patched and be-buttoned backpack because it's just a lot more useful to hold my stuff than the laptop bag I have for work. And that's going to be fine. There's more room, for one. There's a pocket expressly for my indispensable, unspillable travel mug.
And because there are a few minutes until I have to leave, I reserve the right to change my mind about the knitting.
It's an excellent book. I still take everything too literally.
02 November 2013
I have work in this issue, too, a short nonfiction piece called "First Star," my first published hockey-writing, a piece woven around Sidney Crosby's broken jaw, a Predators-Avalanche game I went to last season, and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. A piece hinging, in many ways, on Semyon Varlamov and his play with both Colorado and Yaroslavl. I wrote the piece in the first third of October, about events from last season.
On Wednesday night, I was having a Twitter conversation about Varlamov, his kickass season so far, his apparently affable nature. Half an hour after that, the news broke that Varlamov had turned himself in to Denver police and was arrested on domestic violence and kidnapping charges. I turned my attention to the Penguins' game in-progress, I circled social media warily, I tried to focus on new writing tasks. Mostly, I felt sick to my stomach. Mostly, I didn't want to read anything, anywhere, at all.
I do. And I don't.
As someone who wants everyone, under all circumstances, to have the right to real due process, not just torches and pitchforks, I must believe in this legal system. As a general optimist and person who attaches affection easily to people, places, and things, I cling to that benefit of the doubt. I want this goalie whose play I appreciate and whose career took a path I found conveniently symbolic to be innocent. And I mean squeaky-clean, photographic-and-eye-witness-evidence-plus-retinal-scan-that-the-accused-was-instead-volunteering-at-a-trick-or-treating-event-for-at-risk-youth-at-the-time-of-the-events, evil-impostor-committing-crimes-in-my-stead innocent. Except not exactly that either because I also do not want, at any time, for anyone to be guilty of domestic violence. Of violent crime of any kind. Because I don't want people to commit acts of violence. Ever.
I want desperately for the system to work, too. If he's guilty, I want every possible book thrown at him, preferably by Aroldis Chapman (metaphorically, of course: the weight of guilt should feel like that fastball in the unprotected ribs).
As a human being who's walking around this world with eyes open, too, I know that the system often doesn't work. I know that many cases like this (domestic violence cases, cases involving high-profile, wealthy persons) don't reach trial stage. They can be settled out of court, charges can be dropped (and not because they were invented but because of a host of larger, frightening reasons), and the very idea of the system can be collapsed before one even gets to the part I think of as that proper due process. I know that due process doesn't necessarily lead to justice, either, and that more people want to believe that the victim is lying than to deal with the wages of a culture that excuses and masks violence.
I want an impossibility: I want Semyon Varlamov to be innocent and I want Evgenia Vavinyuk to be telling the truth.
I loved writing "First Star." I loved that Predators/Avalanche game I went to. How I feel about that piece of writing now--I don't know. Rereading it doesn't make it more clear. What is clear is this: I don't know how the rest of this story plays out, and I know that it will absolutely matter to me when it does. I also don't know how to compartmentalize--hockey here, humanity there. There are enough talented and skillful people in this world that I don't think it's too much to ask that we be good at what we do and also simply good. Decent.
And if I'm feeling uncomfortable about my own work in the new issue, there's no reason that I should feel that way about the rest of Issue Six. So I'm going to go read that, and enjoy it, and wait.
01 November 2013
At the same time, all over the world, NaNo'ers are leaping into beginnings, including my friend and colleague Jill. She came to dinner last night with notebook in hand, and it made me so happy to see that. Last night, at midnight (when I'd been soundly asleep for two hours), a local writing group had a NaNoWriMo kickoff write-in. I envy them. I envy their fresh starts sorely. I have never done NaNo, not in any way that is "correct," though I have made attempts of varying kinds to keep in the spirit. There is a buzz in the air about it, and anything that spurs one forward in any writerly way is a marvelous thing.
This, I suppose, is another of those keeping-in-the-spirit posts, though the last thing I can/should do this month is start anything new. My goal is more now in line with my 2010 November: do something that I need to do as a writer every day. Sure, that means sending out work, but more importantly, it means finishing.
I have folders of unfinished things, fully drafted short stories that don't quite work; half-written things that I'd forgotten I'd even thought of, let alone written; two-and-three word ideas that still blister and crackle no matter that I tossed them into a file years ago. I have kernels of pieces that can only become poems. I have a novel to be written, all furled potential; I have a full, old, old draft of another whose re-vision I'm starting to be able to see. More importantly, I have the novel I'm still working on, the manuscript I keep thinking is finished and keep understanding is not and the only right thing to do by that book that I love, the book that made me completely forget that there was a November last year, is keep working until it's right. Until it's as good as it deserves to be. And that is terrifying. It takes a kind of patience I don't have, that I have to make, and maybe I'm doing that kind of stepping back that Michael P. Nye wrote about earlier this week. I know good work takes time. I spent big chunks of my summer taking that time, considering things, and the revision I did in August did leave me with a better book than I had in July. I'm now understanding that "better" is no substitute for "right."
It's not right yet. I'm not sure what "right" is for it yet, but I know it deserves to be right.
So I will try to be patient and listen and if I can't do either of those things gracefully and contentedly (and I can't), I'll finish smaller works. They've been waiting longer still, and they deserve to at least get where they were going. I won't set another artificial deadline to finish another revision by a date or a time: I understand that my problem is not getting myself to work. It's not about spurring forward this time.
I do want it to be, though. I want to be part of the dash. I'm good at the dash--even elementary school gym class showed me that.
I loved gym class. The period was never more than forty minutes long, and in forty minutes, there was never enough time to get into the things I couldn't do. The longest we ever ran was a mile and a quarter. More often we sprinted. More often we dove after a ball, the goals quite clear, the scores clearer.
Novel writing is not gym class. Even my own process is not the one-size-fits-all yellow mesh pinnie, appropriate for all activities, no matter how much I want it to be. But there's something to learn from thinking about gym class--about exertion, in particular, because what is writing except exertion of one kind or another--no matter what shape I'm in, no matter what shape this novel or those drafted stories or those little poem seeds are in, I can do something. And so I must.
29 October 2013
"How many times must I tell you to(Nevermind that I'm far less Elizabeth Swann or Will Turner and far more Ragetti, trying to make myself an eyeball out of wood and then wondering why I can't see.)
call me Elizabethget your ish together?
"At least once more, Miss Swann."
18 October 2013
I wasn't sure what I expected in terms of what that would look like; I didn't expect white-and-orange striped sawhorses with stapled-on laminated signs barring entrance to half a dozen small side roads. I wonder what percentage of people I passed were stymied vacationers, how many of them were supposed to be hiking in Yellowstone right then, but if that was the case, it's not very apparent. Everything seemed to be business as usual, which includes a lot of people drifting here and there in search of a fresh coffee, which I did, too, between sessions. Downtown Jackson has a lot of good options for good coffee, and good food, and I took shameless advantage of that.
I didn't take advantage of the chance to take pictures while I was driving in, though, and I'm kicking myself because the drive home was done under a shroud of squalling snow, all the way from Jackson to Casper, and the trees were a sad, smeary mustard color, and the Tetons had simply disappeared from view.
But having a hotel room to myself and a dislike for television and not much access to my usual evening inundation of sports meant the opportunity to actually do some more reading, which means, right now, Middlemarch.
It's on the list of Books I Am Ashamed At Having Not Read Before As An English Major, and it's so much a winter book, the kind for reading inside a blanket, and not simply because of the weather: if I'm wrapped in a blanket, or actually bundled up in bed, I'm not doing anything else. I don't have my laptop or my phone near. I'm reading. A book like Middlemarch requires full attention, and not simply because there are a fair lot of characters with not-so-dissimilar-names whose relationships hinge on a word or gesture in that incredibly nineteenth century way. Rather, Middlemarch demands and commands that attention because I want to pay attention at the smallest point of the sentence.
George Eliot is funny. I mean, honestly:
She pinched Celia's chin, being in the mood now to think her very winning and lovely--fit hereafter to be an eternal cherub, and if it were not doctrinally wrong to say so, hardly more in need of salvation than a squirrel.I do, of course, have to reserve judgement on the whole--I'm not that deep into the book, and the fact that it requires all of my attention means that I don't pick it up as often as I would like. But it's good to have that reminder: I can't skip on to the page's end. I find myself doing that too often when I read, impatient and diving ahead for full paragraphs, only to remember--obviously--that I needed the middle of the page, and going back.
This book reminds me of some of the best parts of my graduate school experience, the dense and self-aware arc of the evolution of the novel. I loved those books. (I also hated them a little, but that's part of graduate school.) And this one, because I'm reading it for fun, I can simply enjoy.
(Which is good because there's still a lot of book left.)
25 September 2013
Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay
First, a note on the press: I love BOA Editions. They make beautiful, interesting books that are written by artists I like a lot. They also run a few contests, so if you write, check them out.
So, this poetry collection. I discovered Girmay's work through the Tuesday Poem blog because friend and BOA poet Sean Thomas Dougherty shared it on Facebook near the end of August.
The Tuesday Poem & work Sean posted was "For Patrick Rosal Who Wore a Green Dress & Said."
And before I even looked at the poem I wanted to look at it because Patrick Rosal was mentioned. Rosal read at an AWP off-site reading I was at with Drunken Boat one year, and I teach his essay "Improvisations: Everything I Know About Pianos" every chance I get. (He also wrote an essay about kettlebells that I absolutely need to re-read, especially as we're approaching a new Olympic year.)
And then I read Aracelis Girmay's poem and I bought the book before the sun set on the thought because the poem is so vibrant, so much of everything I want to see everywhere: color and joy and snap.
That poem did not prepare me one whit for this collection. "For Patrick Rosal..." is, even, in my memory of the book (completed five days ago), an outlier. What remains with me from the collection as a whole is mortality. I don't mean to suggest that the book is depressing, but there's a feeling of the grave about it, exploratorily so, investigatively so. I've never read a poetry collection like it.
Girmay opens with earth, closing the first poem, the title poem, with this:
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,The feeling lingers, soft and tender but curiously (appropriately) cool; so many of the poems work as memento mori of one kind or another, but seldom do anything so expected as outright mourning (and where maybe the poems do mourn, like in "Abuelo, Mi Muerto," they're also celebratory; they're finely detailed; they're so sharp I can't think of feeling sad). Instead, the focus is on "[t]he kingdom of touching; / the touches of the disappearing, things."
when dirt's the only animal who will sleep with you
& touch you with
That's what Girmay does, over and over: she shows us the rich points of overlap, overlap of life and death, the skin of lovers, the place one is and the place one is going and the place one has been. History and representation. The image of the swan and its fading away.
There are a number of portrait poems in the collection, too, some proclaimed self-portraits, some identified as portraits of others, but they all approach their subject obliquely, or as though done from one fragment of a fractured mirror--they don't seek the whole, but instead capture the particular with startling precision. "Portrait of the Woman as a Skein" does this by lines, each a new revelation of possibility. The poem's address to the second person, always seemingly a new conception (not a new person, a new idea of the same person), is a constant re-engagement:
Sometimes, it is true, you are like Lake Sovetskaya.Sometimes it is true. Sometimes it is not.
Buried underneath an arctic ice sheet:
There are poems in this collection about large tragedies and small, and again, that constant feeling of grave dust on the pages (dry, honest dirt, dirt we have to admire and respect), but nothing in this collection hit me like "Praise Song for the Donkey."
At first, I thought of Christopher Smart's "Jubilate Agno" and his treatise on his cat, Jeoffry. And that's a little odd--Smart's poem is so mannered in its eighteenth century way--but it's a list of things that charm me about an animal, written by someone who notices because he cherishes. But that's what Girmay poem does: it notices because the poet cherishes:
Praise the Mohawk roofThere is no way not to love this donkey with that mane. There is no way not to grieve this donkey because this donkey, like nearly everything else in Girmay's collection, knows death. That the poem is written after a real event--a bombing in Gaza in 2009--gives it context, yes, but it's the donkey that becomes real here at line one, all fresh, bristled words, and it's because of the donkey my heart breaks because Aracelis Girmay makes the reader know the donkey. And how can I keep from grieving the donkey once I know her?
of the donkey's good and gray head, praise
its dangerous mane hollering out.
How can I keep from celebrating these poems, now that I know them?
12 September 2013
08 September 2013
|Aspens on Casper Mountain, showing the frightful start of autumnal leaf-gilding|
|The view from Casper Mountain's Bridle Trail|
On Labor Day weekend, we went to Denver to collect my parents and brother, who visited for the week, and we made a very brief stop at Rocky Mountain National Park, taking a six-mile round-trip hike to Jewel Lake. That's the source of the rest of these.
|This chipmunk--just scritching away, a foot from my shoe.|
|Another tree, turning its colors.|
|Just before Mill Lake, Longs Peak in the distance.|
(I want there to be an apostrophe in there, but it seems there isn't one.)
What I can do is keep busy. My intention has been, with the start of the semester, to start the next novel, and I worked on it the first two mornings. But the old book is still in readers' hands, still waiting a bit, and I'm still tweaking it in my head. Those characters are still absolutely omnipresent. So I'm going to try, instead, to finish up some old business. I have essay bits hanging around, a few short stories that need a good hatchet-job. I spent a big chunk of today cleaning out my office so I have a place to work again. (While my family visited, it became the room where I threw everything I didn't have a place for, everything I usually put on the edge of the upstairs sofa or piled in my papasan chair.)
Every end-of-summer, I end up writing a post a lot like this--this is the academic's New Year. But the last year wasn't like all of my other old years, so this one feels a bit different because of all of my time away. I wouldn't trade my travel this summer for anything (and to be perfectly honest, I wish it were still going because obviously), but it changed the rhythm of the summer on me.
I bought more new music this year than I've done since the middle-school days of the Columbia Record Club, and a lot of it is, even by my own standards, a little ridiculous. (For perspective, my favorite band that isn't The Clash has an album called Polka's Not Dead, and I admit to curating a love of peculiar music.) But this year, I bought things I heard on the radio (Canadian radio, out of Vancouver & Ottawa, but still). I bought things I should have heard twenty years ago but didn't because the nineties didn't actually get to my hometown until I graduated and went to college. (I also bought t.A.T.u.'s greatest hits album. I bet you didn't even know they had a greatest hits album. But they do, twenty songs, and I can sing all of it now, so, so badly.) It turns out I will forgive music almost anything if it takes me to a narrative place, and that's a chicken and egg: does everything I listen to now become narrative--important to my characters or illustrative of something in my writing or amusing to my characters who have opinions about every.damn.thing.--because that's what I'm thinking about ninety-seven percent of the time? I'm guessing that's the truth, and I absolutely don't mind. I will listen to all of that Imagine Dragons album with ears that I'm apparently sharing.
And that's been fun.
So this is me, trying again with autumn, to do what I did with some of that music: shut up. Sink in. See where it takes me.
...and hockey starts soon. So there's that.
27 August 2013
I don't know.
14 August 2013
|Like it says on the sign.|
|Shadow portrait of the residents, Big Horn Mountains in the distance.|
|And in Big Horn, Wyoming, Holly discovered she loves watching polo. Because everyone expects polo in northern Wyoming, right?|
|This sky, you know?|
18 July 2013
I'm not Link, but if I were (and I kind of wish I were, because honestly), this is the point at which the old man offers me a wooden sword.
Instead, because I'm not a small, green-clad adventurer in an 8-bit RPG but rather a small, Crosby shirsey-clad writer in the fourth day of a writing residency at the utterly gorgeous Jentel Foundation, I've taken these:
They're as good as swords--or better, really, since I'm doing a lot more reading than slaying bats in caves--and they are excellent company (and my fellow residents are good company, as well). These are books and chapbooks and zines by people I know or that have been gifts from folks I know. In order, from left to right: Deborah Poe's the last will be stone, too, Vanessa Stauffer's Cosmology, Kim Barnes's Finding Caruso, Chris Collision's Queen City Fall, Sean Thomas Dougherty's Sunset by the Chain Link Fence & The Blue City, and shortandqueer #10, The reawakening of my baseball fandom.
I've also brought a ton of reading for research purposes, some directly related to projects, some indirectly. If you want to carve yourself open while an author carves herself open on the page, pick up A. L. Kennedy's On Bullfighting. A. L. Kennedy is always brilliant in the fiction I've read & her regular column for The Guardian, but this book is hard and beautiful and bleak, and also contains one of the most powerful meditations on Lorca I've ever read. Melissa Montgomery, wherever you are, this was the conversation on duende that your Lycoming College honors project wanted.
Here at Jentel, I have a room of my own and a studio in which to work, as well as gorgeous common spaces for absolutely everything else.
|My studio, before I decorated it with piles of books, three separate & full travel mugs, and a plush stegosaurus.|
14 July 2013
Last night I had a few friends over, so I could see them before I left for the rest of the summer, and we ended up talking about Sharknado. I didn't watch it, but I did observe my Twitter feed and the ubiquity of the hashtag. Everyone was watching it, it seemed. Even the Communications Director for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins was in on it. And our conversation went on a bit about the gleeful ridiculousness of it all. I personally don't like the "deliberately awful" school of entertainment (and I was that person who was legitimately scared during Army of Darkness). The Office is too awkward for me to watch (even though I know it's on purpose.) But I was really interested in the communal groundswell over this SyFy movie. I'm always surprised when something brings people together (and I'm always grateful when it doesn't have to be tragedy).
One of my friends, one who, like me, can't deal with the intentionally ludicrous entertainment business, posed the quite-serious point of "But there are actually important things happening in the world." And so why are so many people pouring all of this energy into bad CGI and shark puns? They could be mobilizing that attention on something more worthwhile. I've said the exact same thing myself, many times. The internal guilt--how can I be happy when there is so much sadness?--is paralyzing and omnipresent. I wish I had a way to tally how much I've written and deleted for that reason. I'm watching baseball and something nifty happens, some small pure thing, so I start typing. Then something ticks by that hurts my heart. I delete whatever I was planning to share. I do this at least half a dozen times a day, about everything: music I am listening to, things I have read, my obsession with the weather. How dare I how dare I how dare. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't dare. Maybe it's some attempt at courtesy. Maybe it's cowardice.
What I think about Sharknado is wholly irrelevant. I have to recognize, though, that it brought a lot of people a lot of laughter and connection. And today--and other days--I've tried to make peace with the fact that, while there is much, much evil in the world and this trial is every evidence of it, there is also good. And it's important to treat what is good as relevant, too. Ignoring what is good only gives the bad more power and devalues what we so desperately need. We know silence is the tool of the oppressor. So say things. Especially now. I have to remind myself of that. If I do not speak, if I do not write, I am complicit. So: I am angry and I am disappointed and I am saying that now. Dear God, what is this world and how can we suffer to go on like this?
I've got nothing more interesting to add to it, so I won't. All I can do is keep saying it and doing what I can to fight the ways we fail each other, individually and systemically.
But I am also trying to recognize this: silencing joy will not defeat injustice, either. Finding something about which to be happy--truly, upliftingly happy--is not something to hide. There is always something about which to grieve or rage, and we can honor that without denying joy.
01 July 2013
|Waves at Acadia National Park, Maine|
|Bowsprit of the Tall Ship Mar, Halifax, NS|
|The lighthouse on Cap Gaspe, Forillon National Park, QC|
|Another view of Cap Gaspe, from the Mont Saint-Alban lookout tower|
24 May 2013
I continue to be thankful for the people I have met; I've several remarkable outings with one of the MA students here and her friends. I also got a crash course in Turkish culture and art, thanks to two other visiting professors. The intersections of culture are unlike anything I've ever experienced, and the immediate hospitality and welcome I have received (even so far as to be invited to dinner with the Turkish instructors and their students, which turned out to be home-cooked Turkish food by the students) startles and awes me.
In today's picture pile, two views from the clock tower at the edge of Piata Mica (literally the small square), one looking onto Piata Mare (the big square), and one looking over the city toward the Carpathian Mountains. And then two images from my personal souvenir take: yarn! The large wall of yarn is the shop (I am responsible for the gap), and the six skeins are my haul. Each is 400-500 meters of fingering weight loveliness, from a variety of wool/mohair/angora blends. For about $35. I just. Enough yarn for four lace projects.
I found the yarn in the Dumbrava shopping center, which has almost everything ever. I should have arrived with an empty suitcase and just bought clothes here; they have things I actually like. Ah well.
I also went well to two games in a college-affiliated soccer tournament. Yay, sprots! It continues to be strange waking up as the west coast games are ending and getting only highlights/postgames for east coast evening starts.
Still. Let's go, Pens!
20 May 2013
This morning, I got to scope out the university a bit more, and the administrative assistant helped me get the technology in the classroom to cooperate with me, which was awesome. Yesterday and Saturday evening I spent with one of the graduate students, Renata, and her friends, and that was fantastic. They took me to the massive folklore/traditional civilization museum, and they were kindly very patient with me touristing about. We had a long discussion about an English equivalent for "dumbrava" (a small forest with water, but that isn't a swamp), and everything that we ended up with in English was either fairly archaic (coppice, spinney) or very precisely affiliated with a different climate. And that was rad. Then, I was invited to a backyard barbeque, where I got to meet more excellent people and also Renata's cat, Charlie. I have to say that there is something infinitely reassuring about the globally consistent behavior of cats.
Today, in addition to the trip to campus, I also went for groceries again and bought a gogosi, which is that golden pastry of awesomeness in the photo below. (Sorry for the wonky photo pile at the bottom of the post: the Blogger app I am using doesn't appear to allow one to move the photos around.) It was easily as big as my spread hand, and it was still warm when the clerk dipped one side in powdered sugar. I regretted that I was (as usual) wearing black, but that's all I regretted. They apparently come with fillings, too, though I got a plain one this time (gogosi simple). What I was most proud of was that I managed the whole transaction in Romanian (badly pronounced Romanian, to be sure), and I almost got it in the grocery store, but the clerk had to switch to English to ask if I had a 10-bani piece to avoid handfuls of change. I am starting to get the hang of making buna ziua a little more automatic and understanding when passersby shorthand it.
After groceries, I went on a walk, where I found a very large rose garden in Parcel sub Arini. A few plants are coming into bloom there, and it looks like it will be amazing in a week, so I'll try to keep an eye on that. Also in the park, I saw one of Sibiu's ambient dogs having a nap in a gully. The dogs have ear tags to show that they've been inoculated, and they seem both chill and in good condition. I saw another one on my walk home, just a beautiful shepherd-ish looking fellow (like if you mixed an Australian shepherd with a Husky). If one ends up in my suitcase, it is not my fault.
Finally, there is the photo of what I've been eating here in my room for dinner: bread and cheese and a tomato and cherries. While it continues to dump buckets outside, too (intermittent violent thunderstorms), I have covrigi (Romanian pretzels) and a chocolate hazelnut spread that I think I like more than Nutella.
...Also, there is day baseball, which will be my soundtrack for sleep. (I have to say that waking up to score of games just-ended is a little bit of a let-down. If I wake up early, I can probably listen to the end of the west-coast games while I write, but hockey will be just ending around 5 a.m.)
Buna seara from Sibiu!
17 May 2013
I arrived in Sibiu at five last night and was given a quick tour of the area near the university and where I'm staying.
The short version is that one cannot swing an umbrella without hitting a place to get ice cream. Also: lots of umbrellas. This is because it seems to be somewhere that it could rain at any moment, and while I walked to the grocery last night, that green soft smell was what I noticed most. And it is marvelous. On the short walk down Victoriei, I passed a few empty lots full of tall grass and trees with white-painted trunks. The spaces were gated off, and I am going to assume the white paint was to protect said trunks from insect damage or some such thing, but the effect was both eerie and lovely in the fading light (and I'd been awake for more than 24 hours at that point, so).
Across from the grocery (where I bought a box of perfect, ripe cherries, among other things) is Parcul Sub Arini, a long, wooded park. I'm looking forward to exploring that soon. There is also a jazz festival taking place; I am here in time to catch the last few days. Soon, I will get to meet one of the graduate students here, and she'll show me around a bit more.
15 May 2013
While I'm gone, my goal is to blog a little bit about it, as I can, though I have no idea what my internet access options will be like for most of the trip (particularly the Romanian & Canadian legs). And we all know how blogging promises go.
Still, there are concerns on this end of the journey: what to take, how to pack, how much is not enough, how much is too much, how I feel my lack of French will be much more a problem than my lack of Romanian and German, and so on.
One of the concerns of international travel is this: what do I want to wear for twenty-six straight hours? What do I want to wear to encounter seat-mates, customs agents, and my international hosts? The answer is the same as it is every time I fly: a Penguins shirt.
The Penguins shirt has also made me some unexpected friends: in January, in the drowsy Charlottesville, VA airport, the young woman operating the TSA bag-scanning belt was also a Penguins fan. She saw my shirt and asked about it. This was two days before the lockout ended. It was a small, marvelous moment, at the end of a trip full of a lot of great time with family and friends, but also after a stressful semester's end that crushed up against the winter holidays (a lot of flights, a lot of changing locations, a lot of bad weather) and ran right into the start of spring semester.
This little moment was in isolation from all of the me--it was simply about something external, something, of course, that I'd been looking forward to for months, hoping and then having hope fail. On January 4, standing in front of the machine that was ensuring the safety of my toothpaste and the non-weapon-nature of my fountain pens, we hoped we were close to something finally come through. On the 4th, we were only a week shy of that apparent January 11 drop-dead date, and this perfect stranger and I were hoping for the exact same thing: for there to be some hockey.
It likely seems silly to some to spend this much energy thinking about (writing about, really--the thinking takes a split-second, the writing...slightly longer) a piece of clothing, which is not often a thing I do. But travel is so often about split-second first impressions, and once I'm past practical considerations (I just refuse to spend that much time in a suit and no one expects me to do so, anyway), there are a lot of things I don't want my clothes to say to people. There are also a lot of things I like my clothes to say to people, and ties to sports fandom is one of those. One reason is that I will be traveling during the Stanley Cup Playoffs--it feels wrong not to put on a little black and gold. But the more significant one is that this shirt is both barrier and invitation.
Sports conversations are easy and, for the most part, universally a safe topic of conversation (and I mean conversation of the kind one has in airports and airplanes, not wearing a Crosby jersey in a Philadelphia bar and shouting). It can fill the space for empty, obligatory small-talk with something that has meaning and interest--if one cares enough to use a logo as a springboard into conversation, there's already content, and it's content that doesn't have to be personally revealing to be significant. It can be revealing--people often ask if I'm from Pittsburgh (because many people love their home team), and any chance I have to talk about the middle of Pennsylvania, the just-off-center location of where I'm from, I take. In the event, too, though, that the seatmate is creepy and revelation seems like a bad choice, there's always the excellent answer of, "No, but Mario Lemieux," because #66 is an excellent reason to have fallen in love with the Penguins in the nineties.
In early April, I was flying to Savannah for a conference--and there was some bonus baseball--and I spent the whole D.C. to Savannah flight (my third of the day and the point at which I am always thoroughly over the experience) talking about the NHL trade deadline with my seatmate and his companions, who were on their way to golf. One of them caught the Filip Forsberg/Martin Erat trade just before the cabin door was closed, and finally knowing the outcome of that strange bated period preceding the "Capitals' Announcement" was just so satisfying--in no small part because I was in company that also understood that. The time passed quickly and happily, and there was no trace of the desperate competition that happened in the last seat-bank I was in, in which there was a strange oneupmanship going on between the two guys beside me that started with watches and progressed to vacation homes and their children's college majors and I don't know where it ended because I had headphones and a book and I hid in both.
Before leaving, I did get to see game one of the Penguins vs. Senators series, and it was a satisfying way to leave my hockey team: gathering steam. The first period was a little shaky, but everything got stronger as the game went on. I'm hoping for more of that for the Penguins, and I'm hoping for some of the same for myself, for the just-before-leaving jitters to level out into excitement and appreciation and the bravery I know I can talk myself into.
The hockey community, particularly in certain parts of the country (like mine) and the world, is a little rare. I know it gives me some comfort and lift when I can see those people (my people) in places that are new to me, and I like to think that someone else is similarly buoyed by an exchange even so small as "Did you see ___?" or "Oh, that was heartbreaking" or "Good luck in the next round" or a little thumbs-up. It's worth those moments to risk the potential heckling that might come, too (I say, as I will spend three hours in the Newark airport).
Not everyone goes around with their hearts on their sleeves (and chests and heads and socks and boxer shorts and even on their very skin) in so immediately recognizable a way as sports folk, and for many, that's certainly not the only thing for which they bleed (metaphorically or otherwise), but it's probably unique in that it's so immediately and visibly shared. There's a pride (and a bravery and a safety) in displaying one's chosen team's colors. So tomorrow morning, I will start this trip, and even before I get to the TSA stations, I will do a little of my own x-ray magic as I set out: I will put on a shirt that makes visible on the outside so much of what is gathered in my heart and my brain so much of the time.
19 April 2013
this is not the chemistry of hibiscus blossomsor the color of lithium steam coming off spring
these shivery nodules, like ancestors,are immortalized--i mean in waysloneliness is related to time