Saturday, May 17, 2008
crusin' the cruise in
Horns are honking and engines are revving across the street from Michael's office/home in Sparta today. We strolled on over to take a peak at the Saturday afternoon Sparta "Cruise In." Or is it Cruisin'? I think probably both.

My favorite part: the "Cake-Walk:" a group of folks hopping from number to number (and paying 25 cents for the privilege) in the hopes of winning a cake.

Oh, this summer is going to be one educational experience!

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(yes, the dog was "planted," complete with puddle)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I am currently watching the completed 29-page draft of my last paper churning itself out of my printer. Ahh, the satisfaction!

Now I have to read it... Hmpf.
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Monday, May 12, 2008
and the pages fly by
Page 3. Page 5. Page 9. 11. 13. I've just hit the top of page 16. The gruelling paper-writing process at work. Always painful, and yet this one seems to be going a bit faster than most, perhaps because I actually have an interest in the subject-matter (brothers & sisters in Victorian periodicals). My determination to be finished on Tuesday has, thanks to Layla's decision to finsh hers tomorrow, shifted into a higher gear. I'm going to finish this, darn it all! And then I'm going to enjoy my summer!!

I can taste the freedom. I can see the goal posts. I can just make out the goal posts.

And I'm procrastinating by blogging.
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daddy's little girl
I have a picture of my Dad and me on my desk. We're sitting side by side on a huge fluffy white rug in the middle of our old living room at 5 Hillside; I'm not quite sure how old I was. I love it because it sums up so much about my relationship with my Dad. Behind us, there's a toy kitchen set: a proper little girl's dream. But it is abandoned for a book, which lies on the floor beside my Dad. There he is, legs outstretched in front of him and ankles crossed, hands tucked under his knees. There I am, in the same position, looking slightly off-camera. I want to be just like my Daddy, and, although he's looking directly at the camera and not at me, there is a hint of amusement on his face: he loves his little girl.

I still want to be just like my Dad when I grow up.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008
i was here

Raleigh, NC at NC State University tonight!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
oh yes we can
All eyes are on North Carolina (oh... and Indiana) as we roll into yet another one of what CNN refers to as those days that could change the state of this Presidential Primary Race once and for all. I'm not that deluded, but I have been caught up in the hype. Despite missing Michelle Obama's Durham talk due to my week-from-hell of sickness and IV needles, and even though someone thoughtlessly forgot to issue my invitation to the RTP invitation-only event Barack held in Durham today (he apparently stopped by a local cafe unannounced and bought everyone pound cake. Give me pound cake as an incentive over a few cents of gas relief any day!), I did get back on my feet enough to join in the spirit and do my part to get out the vote today. Anne Marie, Maggie, and I went door-to-door in North Durham sporting cheerful smiles and Obama door "putters" (no... not door "hangers," since they have no holes for hanging, we were told. These are door "putters") and braved the "BEWARE DOG!" signs for a good cause. A life-list moment.

In other news, my car is now a North Carolina car. It feels much more at home. It even behaved and left its little check engine light off long enough to get itself a nice fancy inspection sticker in the corner of its windscreen. I'm proud.
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Sunday, April 06, 2008
from colette's the vagabond
To write, to be able to write, what does it mean? It means spending long hours dreaming before a white page, scribbling unconciously, letting your pen play round a blot of ink and nibble at a half-formed word, scratching it, making it bristle with darts and adorning it with antennae and paws until it loses all resemblance to a legible word and turns into a fantastic insect or a fluttering creature half butterfly, half fairy.

To write is to sit and stare, hypnotised, at the reflection of the window in the silver ink-stand, to feel the divine fever mounting to one's cheeks and forehead while the hand that writes grows blissfully numb upon the paper. It also means idle hours curled up in the hollow of the divan, and then the orgy of inspiration from which one emerges stupefied and aching all over, but already recompensed and laden with treasures that one unloads slowly on to the virgin page in the little round pool of light under the lamp.

To write is to pour one's innermost self passionately upon the tempting paper, at such frantic speed that sometimes one's hand struggles and rebels, overdriven by the impatient god who guides it--and to find, next day, in place of the golden bough that bloomed miraculously in that dazzling hour, a withered bramble and a stunted flower.

To write is the joy and torment of the idle. Oh to write! From time to time I feel a need, sharp as a thirst in summer, to note and to describe. And then I take up my pen again and attempt the perilous and elusive task of seizing and pinning down, under its flexible double-pointed nib, the many-hued, fugitive, thrilling adjective... The attack does not last long; it is but the itching of an old scar.
It is true that departures sadden and exhilarate me, and whatever I pass through -- new countries, skies pure or cloudy, seas under rain the colour of a grey pearl -- something of myself catches on it and clings so passionately that I feel as though I were leaving behind me a thousand little phantoms in my image, rocked on the waves, cradled in the leaves, scattered among the clouds. But does not a last little phantom, more like me than any of the others, remain sitting in my chimney corner, lost in a dream and as good as gold as it bends over a book which it forgets to open?

Sometimes the academic in me closes shop, hoping the words will just speak for themselves.

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Friday, April 04, 2008
the smell of dreams
My last two posts have been about rain, so I shouldn't start this one by describing the coziness of pyjamas, soft light, hot tea, fuzzy socks, and the smell of catalog pages during a storm.

Williams-Sonoma, Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn, and Levenger are lulling me into an alternate universe where I have the luxury for significant concerns about Wall Art, suede accessories, candle scones, and canister sets; a Southern Living-inspired, Martha Stewart-led world of colour schemes and carpet rugs; where I can nonchalantly but seriously consider selecting my purchases from among pages announcing "The Granada Collection," "Simple Elegance, Superior Function," "3 x 5 Organization Is Just a Zip Away," "Productive Deskscapes Can Inspire, Too," and "A Protective Showcase For Your Pens." These, by the way, from a catalog (catalogue -- it just looks better) that claims to offer "Tools for Serious Readers," because, of course, those of us spending our lives reading are not quite dedicated enough, not quite committed to our profession, without our "Timeless Designs Handcrafted In Top-Quality Leather." How can I really be a serious reader without a Leather Task Card Organizer Box with Tabs for $58? How can my class notes be thorough if they're not taken in my Notabilia Notebook with Leather Cover ($94)?

Yeah, I'm poking fun, but more at myself than at the magazines. I could easily be lured by a Notabilia notebook, or, more to the point, (switching catalogs), by an All-Clad Waffler, an azure blue Le Creuset, or a stainless-steel rolling mincer (how have I lived without it?) I sip my orange tea and imagine a life in which I place multi-coloured stick-its (probably from their little leather holder -- but that might be going one step too far) in the pages of my Williams-Sonoma catalog with the strict intension of following up at the store next week to make my selections.

Perhaps the reality wouldn't be quite as relished as the dream. At least, I probably wouldn't appreciate the smell of the pages so much.

life is good
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Thursday, April 03, 2008
mistake of the day
rain in durham
(I'm not sure if the rain is visible here. So imagine it. Lots of it.)


cute new shoes
(aka. cute new shoes)


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Monday, March 31, 2008
rain and roses
I have spent the day reading Agamben. Not a huge fan. Would I be if the rain weren't tap tap crack cracking on the metal gutter pipe outside the window, if it weren't raining on my balcony and down my windows and in my head? There's a bunch of happy yellow roses on my coffee table. Eighteen yellow roses watching the rain tap tap crack cracking outside my window. I'm going to restart this thing again. Five months is enough; graduate school is not going to wrench the blog-writing out of me. Perhaps the trick is short posts. Stop.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
faces, cages, life
I am playing the ultimate kind of hooky. I have left the country. While my parallel life continues this week in Durham, North Carolina, I am here in England re-constituting the tiny red booklet that documents my identity. Somewhere on this wide earth there is a similar red booklet containing my picture -- a ghost of my 16-year-old self; it refuses to be unearthed. As a result, I took a long trip to London on Friday (a trip that began in Durham on Thursday) for my third visit to the U.S. Embassy this year. "Ticket number 1431, please go to window 17".

On the train on the way back to Andover (my second visit to Andover that day, after car, plane, car, car, train, tube, tube), my eyelids were heavy from 32 hours of sight, the cold dark mists outside the window blurred dream visions. Inside the crammed train, the rush-hour crowd tapped cell-phone keys. A grey-and-wild-haired man in a tweed coat sitting diagonally opposite stared at me intently as I attempted to force my tired mind to glean some sense from George Eliot's pages. I could feel his eyes piercing my concentration. And as he had watched me, I watched others. The woman opposite me had picked out of her wardrobe that morning a a low-cut, loose-fitting shirt with horizontal black and white stripes that drew attention to her red, wrinkled, crow's-feet cleavage. She rested large forearms on her over-stuffed blue backpack, propping up the vivid splashes of a magazine with a name like "Splash!" or "Star!" or "Sass!" She was reading the second page of a story about a woman whose mother had stolen her husband. I know because I read portions of the first half as she draped herself across the table that separated us. As the train drew closer to Andover, she called her husband to announce her arrival and smoothed her thin, greased, short black hair behind her ears in the landscape's dark reflected surface.

In Dickens's day, scientists believed they could identify and categorize people's characters by their physiognomy. As I underlined references to physiognomy in Daniel Deronda, I mentally confessed to my own guilty pleasure at nationally identifying people by their physical features. This train was British. Oh, so British. There's something under the eyes, something about the slope of the nose down to the shape of the mouth and chin, something so unmistakably British. When I look in the mirror, I try to find it in my own face, but its familiarity defies my attempts. In airports, I play spot-the-Brit and spot-the-American, a highly unproductive but entertaining pastime at a departure gate. Why is it that I seem to harbor something of a distaste for what I categorize as a strictly British physiognomy?

Sliding into Overton station, the train nudged shoulders with a passing office building, a small, stark space illuminated by strips of dual-bulb fluorescent lighting that glared at off-yellow, paint-chipped walls. The walls were lined with bookcases, and upon those bookcases lay lever-arch binders, which shuffled against each other for space in bright primary colours. Someone had let a potted plant wilt on the windowsill. It was a scene that glided past me in a swift second, but one that filled me with a dull, lurking sense of horror, a catch of the breath, the need to swallow hard, the need to quell an overwhelming dread of the life -- or lack of life, lack of the very qualities of being alive -- that were contained -- or not contained -- in that dull yellow space, which I somehow knew had one of those itchy, square-foot-block carpets I remember sitting on in the music room at Rookwood when I was young (It was dark blue. My friend Mari threw up on it once. I thought of that every time I sat on it afterwards). Perhaps the enjoyment of life brings with it -- or partly springs from -- an awareness of the things in life that would not be enjoyable if the circumstances were not as they are. I felt trapped in that train in that moment, trapped in the fleeting view of that stark space, trapped in the thought of that entrapment, and so free in the ability to step out, to let my mind wander back across the ocean to my desk covered with books and papers, books and papers that can entrap, but if they do they only entrap me within a world into which I have voluntarily stepped. I have been attempting to write an essay this week -- the first for my PhD program. The process is excruciating, as always, but with that pain comes the pleasure of having picked the kind of process that has the potential to stimulate, having picked the right cage. Perhaps that's not an overwhelmingly positive thought as it appears here in text beneath my fingers. But it is not that office building beside the train tracks. And that makes all the difference.

And what's wrong with an attractive cage, albeit a cage, when you can step out and feel the wind blow through your hair driving NC12 with the volume high or ride to the top of a Ferris wheel with flags fluttering beneath your feet? Life has its negatives. It has plenty of things you wish you could change, plenty of situations that are just not right. But... life is good.
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Monday, September 10, 2007
the beginnings
The cicadas are singing and I have my balcony door open. The sun is setting in pinks and baby blues. I have so much reading to do, I don't know what to do with myself. So I'm listening to new music, taking in the night air, drinking a glass of wine, and cooking a meal. My apartment smells of fresh rosemary. I have a new home.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I'm sitting on the floor of my new home surrounded by books, pots, pans, clothes, lamps, and empty suitcases, debating whether to take what would be the third shower of the day and wondering how all this stuff fit in my car. Every inch of me aches. I feel as though I've been sitting in a tumble dryer. A very hot tumble dryer. This weather surely can't last.

And so I have a new home, but it seems to have been at the expense of my passport. The day I got my keys, that little red booklet that gives me the right to be here disappeared. There always comes a point, when I'm searching for an object, where I personify it somehow. I wonder what it's looking at right now. It has clearly not vanished or been destroyed. If only I could get into its head -- which is surely located somewhere within the faded gold coat of arms -- to see what it sees, I might be able to locate it. I have called rental car companies and hotels. I have searched and re-searched my suitcases. My frustration is made all the more poignant by just how obsessive I am about ensuring that this little booklet is safe. Failure.

What implications this loss will have remain to be seen. For now, I can only wallow in my frustration.

And so I have a home: a spacious apartment with a den and a balcony. I also own a bed, and by this weekend I'll be able to add a sofa and a desk to my new possessions (a check on the life list). This is true progress, I suppose, but it feels a little like I am stuck in limbo, waiting for something to fall from the sky as soon as classes start for real.

For now it's all about linens and plates and picture hooks. Sofas and desk chairs and power cords. Spices and shoes and books, books, books. They cover the floor. Late last night I picked out sheets for my new bed, and bought them from the same man who sold me my duvet at a 20% discount because he liked my accent. He remembered me. I left the store again last night having saved another 20%.

Today I sat in a shaft of blue-red light under neo-Gothic vaulted arches listening to the university president introduce a reem of deans. His carefully enunciated words reverberated around the cathedral like laughter. In front of me, a curly head, matted from the heat, bobbed like a heavy yoyo in an attempt to stay awake. The ears, which stuck out at dramatic right angles, were shockingly pink.

Earlier, I had walked from the back of the chapel listening to the 50-bell carillion, which apparently plays every weekday at 5 and after Sunday worship services. This, combined with the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony, gave me a surreal feeling of being between cultures. As I stood under cold stone arches and studied the stained glass, listening to the familiar cold echo hush around the vaulted space, I lost myself; that split between my two worlds ripped back together. I stood up for the invocation/prayer and bowed my head... in an English cathedral with an English voice speaking clearly. It wasn't until the Amen bounced back off the pews that I realised it had been an "Ah-men," and that the chapel's dean is English. Fitting, somehow. Given this strange cultural mix, it was more than surreal to stand before the 5,000-pipe organ and sing oh, say, can you see...

There is a certain element of religiosity to the whole convocation proceedings, even independent of the setting, the hymn, and the prayer. Praise be to the almighty "Big D". Take the Alma Mater, for example (the words and music of which is printed in the convocation program):

Dear old Duke thy name we'll sing,
To thee our voices raise (we'll raise),
To thee our anthems ring,
In everlasting praise.
And though on life's broad sea
Our fates may far us bear,
We'll ever turn to thee,
Our Alma Mater dear.

And so I am now officially a graduate student at Duke. I feel I should be studying. In truth, I probably should: I had my first class at Chapel Hill yesterday, and we will be starting with Burney's Evelina. I've read it, but should brush up...

Life is a little odd right now.
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