Wednesday, 30 June 2010

While I Was Not Sleeping

I got about five hours of sleep before seeing David off to his bus on Monday morning, and then spent the rest of the day frantically and unsuccessfully trying to track down travel adapters, rand, and luggage for my flight to South Africa. I gave up eventually and spent the night having a last dinner in NYC with Brady and Emma, calling people to say goodbye before I left, and then struggling with the dawning realization that I had forgotten to mail a box of files and some gifts from a friend that I now had to integrate into my luggage, and that it would not be physically possible for me to wrestle three suitcases and a messenger bag to the airport by subway, and that it was well after midnight and I had to be at JFK around 7am.

I made it to the cab by 6:45, literally drenched in sweat from our crazy hot apartment and dragging all of my luggage down to 9th Ave, fell asleep and had to be gently awoken by the cabbie, and made it to my flight and took off on time, which was pretty much a whole series of small miracles right in a row. My plan was to sleep on the 15 hour flight to Joburg, except then I sat next to a woman who took up her seat and half of mine, which made it a) impossible to sleep and b) impossible to watch TV, because her arm was everywhere and had enveloped the controls in my armrest to turn on my television. I didn't want to be rude to the woman, because it probably sucks to have someone draw attention to how much space you are taking up, and also she was reading the Origin of Species and I was like, I think I like you. (Instead, I waited for two hours and made my move when she bent down to get something from under her seat. Every film seemed to be a romantic comedy from the last two decades starring Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, or both Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, so I watched the Darjeeling Limited, which I liked because I was not in the mood for a plot or any sort of intensity whatsoever.)

I made best friends with the flight attendant and she gave me a sandwich and let me shuffle back to her cabin in my socks for coffee throughout the flight, so that helped. And now I'm in Joburg and about to leave for Cape Town. I feel bad that I'm going to get there and pass out unexpectedly at some point before tonight. My body literally has no idea what time it is supposed to be anymore. All I know is that I'm hungry and I hope I get another sandwich.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

On the Steps of the Palace

David and I went to a party last night in Columbia Heights where I only vaguely remember running into someone who described how she and her friend once went as Romy and Michele for Halloween, complete with matching pink sequined nighties. Obviously, this woman is my hero, and I kind of want to be her best friend. The only problem is that this is literally all I remember about her - not who she is, where she works, anything - and I will probably never see her again. She is basically my gay Cinderella, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life going to house parties asking people how well they fit into platform shoes.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down

I'm on another mini-hiatus to DC starting tomorrow, and then I get back to New York and it's a quick and dirty blitz of Book Club, the Doctor Who finale, Pride, and a quasi-finalized party to toast the end of this past year. (I've clearly been watching too much Gossip Girl and feel the need to end every episode of my life with a large benefit, gala, or party in which every character is sort of ridiculously present.)

In the meantime, I'm frantically packing so that David and I don't have to do that when we get back, because I strongly suspect that that would be an emotionally fraught way to spend our last weekend in New York for a while. The only thing more depressing than packing up your life is realizing that you can pretty comfortably fit your life into two boxes, a suitcase, and a garment bag. And that both boxes are full of books. I want to leave New York and have people shake their heads and say, "oh, Ryan. He was well read but very, very poorly dressed." I think I'm on track.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Heart is Light but the Bag is Heavy

I came to DC planning to finish a bunch of articles and type up notes on a bunch of books so that I could leave them in the US and not have to haul a small library across two continents. I have torn apart and reassembled two of those articles and still don't really like the way they're hanging together, and I'm not making great progress on the books. Boo.

In fact, I just finished a wonderful lunch with one of my coworkers from back in the day at Democracy, and I somehow ended up leaving the office with the last two copies of the journal plus three copies of books I've been meaning to read. When I worked there, my two favorite things in the world were a) ideas and b) raiding the journal's bookshelves. I don't really know how I'm going to get through these before the end of the month, but I suspect it will involve a great deal of frantic reading just before dawn on June 29th and potentially giving them away at JFK that afternoon. I also think I have to haul them around the farmer's market at the White House tonight. I know this was a bad idea and that I will be stressing about work at the end of June, but I'm also going to have pretty awesome shoulders.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Yesterday, we were going to bed after David's second day of work and he commented that full time work is exhausting. It's not that I'm done with work - I spent all day yesterday agonizing over drafts that I've been working on for like a year - but it's fundamentally different when you can do your own thing uninterrupted and eat pastries for every meal. Oh, graduate school.

It's made me think a lot about routines, though - I had dinner with a coworker of mine here in DC who asked what my routine for writing up my dissertation would be, and was telling me about how Maya Angelou has this whole routine where she checks into a hotel, has them remove all of the pictures from the walls, writes all day even if it's gibberish, has a light lunch and writes some more, leaves the hotel, goes grocery shopping at Zabar's or whatever, sips a little wine and leisurely cooks a delicious meal for herself, and then edits whatever she wrote that day, even if it is terrible nonsense. I was telling David this, and he mentioned how Jess Valenti said somewhere that she and Andrew have a strict policy of powering down all of their gadgets after 8pm, and how that is romantic. (I was like, "I hope you're not telling me we're not watching Glee at 9pm, because we definitely are.")

I was thinking about this, and how my routine involves waking up, eating breakfast and watching trashy television on Surf the Channel, going to the library in my pajamas and despairing about the journal articles I cannot humanly read in a year, giving up and making soup with Team Soup O'Clock, and then sitting in front of a computer and banging out my requisite 1000 words of terrible prose for the day. Sometimes, I give up and shop for slightly damaged groceries at Sainsbury's.

This is one of the many, many reasons why Maya Angelou is phenomenal and I have the work ethic of a magpie.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Different Strokes

It's been approximately 100 degrees in my apartment. I'm sleeping fine, and I chalk this up to growing up in North Dakota, where heat is so rare that we are biologically equipped to store it up in our bodies like polite solar panels for use in the winter months. David grew up in North Carolina, and has been miserable all weekend. As things heat up in New York, we've started a running list of different strategies we've used to be able to sleep through the night in a stale, humid apartment:

- get rid of any extra bedding
- open french doors and windows to circulate air
- sleep with fan trained directly on him
- stack pyramid of ice cubes in front of fan, believing that this will function as a makeshift air conditioner
- splash ice water on self every thirty minutes
- jump out of bed and run to the shower
- sleep upside down
- intermittently and loudly groan in agony

- go sleep on the couch

Friday, 4 June 2010

The Perfect Storm

It's my last day of fieldwork tomorrow, if you don't count a) a board meeting on Saturday, b) the meetings I have lined up for the rest of June, or c) the fact that I'm doing more fieldwork with the same group of people from South Africa for the duration of the summer. But it is kind of the last day, and that is making me weirdly sad. Tomorrow is also the day when Dunkin' Donuts is giving away free donuts with the purchase of any beverage. The fact that there is a Dunkin' literally two minutes from my office is making me a little apprehensive, because the combination of distress and free and accessible donuts does not generally turn out positively for me.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Books, Books, and Book Club

It's my last three days of fieldwork in New York before a month of reading, writing, transcribing, consolidating, shipping, packing, brief but furious reveling, and and flying to Cape Town on June 30, and I'm sitting in the middle of a canyon of files and cassettes and unread books and I'm starting to think that that month isn't going to be enough. Meh, I'll cross my fingers and hope I make headway.

Perversely, I might sprinkle in more reading for pleasure just to make everything else halfway manageable. It was actually kind of sad that tonight was potentially my last book club with Wendy and Emma - after I picked The History of White People last month and not very many people showed up, we switched to fiction tonight and we had the whole group back together for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think I finally realized why I liked the book - it basically transposes a queer family and a whole network of artists, immigrants, bohemians, gay men, and independent women onto the 1950s, and I am apparently a sucker for ahistorical progressivism. I told Erika this over email, but I'm really going to miss book club at Oxford - reading things that don't have anything to do with gross violations of human rights is pretty much the only thing that keeps me from coming across as a sociopath at parties. The books piled up around me do not bode well for any parties in the month of June.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Things I Miss But Not For Long

I realized in New Haven today that I really do rank the places I'd like to live based on the ratio of independent cafe/bookstores to people. And New Haven does really well in that category. Also, it made me miss Oxford, because there are castles everywhere and I miss having castles. I feel like this is actually a pretty good time to finish up my fieldwork and start planning my trip back to the library for writing up.