Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another Day Another PB and J

There is a collection of small bottles of scotch whisky by the bedside. They're all sealed and most are still in the dark elegant boxes in which they were commercially packaged. Next to the alcohol cabinet, which doubles as the underwear drawer, is a two foot stack of Economist publications. The top three are still sealed in their white envelopes. Two shoe boxes still bearing the sale tags rest by the small closet filled with shoes. The box edges aren't lined up at all. 

In the kitchen, a pile of pale bamboo cereal bowls crowds the cabinet top. Their corresponding spoons are stuck to them. Pull them off and you'll see their silver bottoms ringed with white lactose remnants. The kitchen garbage is almost full but free of organic smells. 

The only laundry littering the floor is an assortment of colorful feminine socks. They're scrunched inside out. Yellow folders are scattered strategically over the carpet. Stacks of papers, articles, chapter copies, and drafts appear haphazard over the desk and table. Six indigenous films, three comedies, a melodrama, and four book adaptations are lined up on the desk. Beside them a half dozen film books, and four novels written in English but not in England. A mocha tealight is lit in a red and black bulbous holder beside a lighter and an empty pack of menthol marlboros. 

There is one toothbrush on the glass tray. One towel on the rack. One suitcase missing from atop the wardrobe.   

Friday, May 29, 2009

on the road, so to speak

When Zach and I make decisions we tend to do so very quickly. Tonight we decided (long-distance) to leave Leeds on June 25th. Yes, that's less than a month from today! We are flying to Chicago, as it's cheaper than Denver, and from Chicago we plan to either amtrak, fly, hitchhike or drive to Denver. Presumably, we'll spend July and August writing our theses. Beyond that remains firmly tbd. We have a few applications out there in cyberspace, but I have a very hard time imagining how they might land, ink, paper and all, on some librarian's or environmental firm's desk. Writing from England, it feels a little indulgent to proclaim that our best chance lies in Vancouver, British Columbia, but I think it's true. Why are we so mobile? And why is it always lateral and never vertical?

My Calamity Physics

I often think of the quirks, perks, and side-effects of my seemingly imminent librarianship. A major one, particularly if I were to be an academic librarian or if Zach were to work for a University, is free/reduced continuing education. Yesterday I imagined myself reading through all of the literature and Spanish courses at tiny Universities like Reed until eventually I would be awarded an honorary PhD for most dedicated-without-titular-ambition-reader of first-class books. 

My brain took the idea to a whole new  plane of being. I dreamt I was sitting in an intro to Physics course. In my dream, my fears of physics took numerical form. I saw unintelligible blobs of equations pasted over peoples' faces and onto desks. But then the course began with an 80s style filmstrip of psychedelic colored robots launching into space to techno music. I thought to myself, that's right- physics is about robots and techno! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dreary Yorkshire

Today was an immensely dreary day. I began with good intentions and high morale. At the school library I printed my CV, finished and printed a job application, and emailed a request to visit the Philip Larkin collection in Hull on Tuesday. The I headed over to the Career Centre, feeling professional and grown up. The HR individuals didn't know of any library jobs open at present and recommended that I keep searching in the usual manner. They provided me with useful and thorough descriptions of Information Specialist job descriptions etc... Then they informed me that I was completing the wrong course for librarians. Was I aware that I will have to complete an MLS course as well? Of course I was. They also informed me that my CV was nothing more than a list. Well, blah. 

I headed to the city centre and on a whim decided to try the Acropolis Cafe because I have many a time seen it but never ventured inside. The Acropolis Cafe must have been designed to mirror a late night diner in the states, possible a diner in a Stephen King book. The self-service line hosts tiered rows of lethargic triangular desserts slumping on their hard plastic plates. The strawberry jam unceremoniously dumped atop anonymous creamy cakes. The whipped cream lines have lost their wiggles and creases. The baked custard, as I discovered, has the exact consistency of a soft boiled egg, and a similar flavor. A gracefully aging European man, wearing a tie, soft looking dress shoes, and a large rectangular watch mans the counter. The rest of the staff are waitresses. Some of them teenagers with short straight dyed hair and foundation that accentuates their black eye-liner. The other waitresses much older, short white curls raised up on their heads. Outside I see people rushing past, discount shopping at places like Poundland. Not a smile. Needless to say I found the subdued diner with the gray-blue fuzzy seats and Greek-hatted waitresses oddly comforting. In that quirky downbeat setting, I feel that I can write better than in a buzzing well-lighted coffee shop. 

My comfortably dreary day was made wonderfully complete by a visit to the city library. Mixing with immigrants, vagrants and oddly dressed urbanites, I meandered through the fiction rows. They didn't have any of Coetzee or Munro books that were listed available in the the catalogue, but I found two Tim Wintons, a Fred D'Aguiar, a Larkin collection, and Charlotte Bronte's earliest novel The Foundling, complete with its own imaginary world. This is my favorite thing about public libraries: discovering unexpected books. I also discovered in my wanderings that I want to stay in Leeds as long as I can. I like pretending to be a Brit- frowns and all. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Top Pics: Sisters in Scotland

Pluscarden Abbey

The Inverness bridge over the narrow part of Loch Ness

Beautiful white coral bits covered the beach... 

Laura on the St. Andrews shore...

Lighthouse on Skye under the bridge...

Shelling while waiting for the train in Plockton

The secret cove we hiked down into...

Not sure if Laura is kissing or eating that snail, but I love the pic!

Why is my hand blurry?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Learning to Lie

Yesterday my faraway love called me as he was preparing to brave the crowds and begin the field work component of his social research. He sounded terrified and asked me how he should approach people. My instant internal response was anxiety. I thought, 'How would I know? I would never ever ever create a project that required 'cold call' interviews. I would drop off the face of the planet first. I would hide under my bed. I would drown myself in two-inches of water in a kiddy blow-up pool. I would run away over bubbling tar on bare feet before I began to interview strangers on the street. 

After a moment's pause, I realized I simply couldn't tell him that most obvious truth. So I said, 'It's natural to be nervous but I have absolute confidence in you. You are born to do this kind of research. The first day may be rough, but it will prepare you for the rest of them. If anyone blows you off, it isn't you they are rejecting. Once you get the hang of it, you won't even be nervous anymore.' 

This was all true. I do have supreme confidence and admiration for my husband. I am frequently amazed and tickled by his brilliance and insight. But to produce this answer, I had to think in a completely unnatural way. Ordinarily I respond to people with pure empathy. Considering my own social anxieties, empathy would only make me nervous and do no good for him. I learned, on the fly and rather well I hope, that bluffing it can be quite effective. I can't wait to go out and develop my new skill in other adverse situations.   

Monasteries and Castles, our venture through Scotland

Laura and I returned from a truly amazing tour of Scotland. In some ways the pinnacle of the tour was three nights spent in a Catholic Monastery near Elgin close to the Highlands. We met some great women from Aberdeen who wined and dined us and told us stories, spoke a tad with two brothers and a quirky priest, and met a Jesuit from Poland who invited us to volunteer in Poland for two weeks in July. On Sunday we made a valiant effort to go to vigil at 4:45 am. Unfortunately, we were so worn out by it that we slept through Mass. Oh well, we aren't Catholic and couldn't receive anyway. 

The following two nights were spent on Skye, where we mistakenly booked beds in a caravan, shared by three bikers, among others. One was an Irishman called 'Big Man'. It was a slightly scary, but very funny morning. Ironically, we felt that the bikers had protected us from a drunk stalker from Glasgow who departed in the middle of the night. 

Back on the mainland we hiked through farmland (the wrong way), bought jam from a family farm, saw chicken, duck, goose, and quail eggs for sale, stared down cows, and even discovered a secret and gorgeous cove. The sand was covered in a fine layer of white coral pieces and colorful centimeter shells. It was amazing. We felt so lucky that we followed the signs along the coast and through some woods to a castle. When we arrived we discovered it wasn't a ruin but a residence.  Badly in need of facilities and water we asked a woman who was departing in jeep. She directed us in to a bathroom and then rushed back in to inform her husband, who was 'in one of those moods', so he wouldn't yell at us. Apparently, we used the toilet at a private contemporary castle on the Scottish coast.  

Friday, May 8, 2009


I'm at that point in the essay in which I am tired of thinking/writing/reading about all of the texts and terrified that the structure won't congeal. And procrastinator that I am, I have only two days to write the remaining 2500 words (max thankfully) and make them congeal. SOS! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Today I ran into a fellow student in the Poco programme who I hadn't seen all semester. She told me that she works 40 hours/week while taking the course full time. I felt like a major bum. 

Then my sister told me about a co-worker at the nursing home where she works who holds two full-time jobs. After she gets off her day shift at the home, she goes to her evening shift at another nursing home. I felt like a privileged bum. 

I found a potential job beginning in June that runs for six months (the exact length of my work visa). It's an archiving job that involves indexing and preserving documents from Yorkshire that have historical interest in an international context. Catch is, I would be working full-time during the summer while having to write my dissertation. Considering my two encounters with real hard working people today, I'm going to send in my humble-pie application. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Essay Stuff

I finally got going on essay number 1, though essay number 2 is well underway. The problem is, 700 words in, I haven't introduced the second primary text. Can I bleed it in gradually or do I need to integrate it in from the beginning? 

Tuesday is my last literature class. I told Zach I didn't have time to go and he said, 'You're telling me that you don't have time for the last literature class of your life?' It remains to be seen whether I will go or not. 


May 12th Train to Edinburgh, hostelling
May 13th Meet Laura at the airport, train to St. Andrews, hostelling
May 14th, Train to Inverness, Loch and/or dolphin viewing, private hostelling
May 15th Bus to Elgin, Bus/taxi to Pluscarden Abbey, Monastery -dwelling
May 18th bus/taxi to Elgin, train to Kyle of Lochalsh, coastal walking, Highlands hiking, hostelling on the Isle of Skye
May 20th train to Glasgow, private hostelling
May 21st train to Leeds, home-dwelling
May 24th Laura returns to Denver

I'm stoked. 

Friday, May 1, 2009


Jambalaya Recipe: Ideal for Students and other Lazy Stay-At-Home-Readers:
1:2 Brown rice and water
1/2 cube vegetable stock
dash of olive oil
dab of butter
Simmer covered for about 15 minutes

Add green bell pepper, garlic, chopped tomato and any other veg you fancy. You may need a little extra water. Season liberally with garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, onion salt, pepper, and any other spice you fancy. Let simmer for another 10 minutes or so, until the rice becomes pocked with steam holes. 

In 25 minutes of basically no labor you have a healthy, robust meal. Meat is a super easy addition as well.