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There is no quiet in my soul without camaraderie.

I move away, I move on; upward but always looking back. I think i can sustain myself on introductions, but it’s not true. I’m not sure it ever has been. I find approval in new places, impress those I can with the surface of my being and wall in what is myself so I can remember who I am. If not for the secret interior, the private past and coveted future, I am a passably friendly acquaintance and a paper trail.

My entire self quiets with my friends. My good friends. There are so few of these people in life it seems impossible that you could ever forget yourself. And then it happens. The need to entertain, impress, please, assuage is gone and only laughter and remembrance obtains. Stories you don’t even recall give continuity to the self: yes, that sounds like something I’d have done. There’s a me – an essence, an assemblage of tendencies – that has always been. And there are friends, to stand testament and to accept.

I cleave life like a wedge. Only will and fortitude move me forward. Yet the dull clang of progress fades in the company of known hearts. The rasping grind of metal on stone seems interminable, but now and again – a breath. And in that moment prevails the clarity of position, a knowledge of the permanence of life, the happiness of nothingness.

smearing sincerity

This mental space is comforting, maddening, disturbing.   An item attempting to leave orbit with no way to judge the amount of fuel it takes to leave orbit, I’m seizing anything flammable and throwing it on the pyre.  I can only pray my resources and stamina can outstrip physics, and only then will I know whether my craft can even survive the atmospheric pressure.

The future is so tangible I can feel its inevitability and irrealis in even my most mundane actions.  My advisor has been slice time corrected and smoothed and sits before me the concatenation of every time sample simultaneously existing in the moment and serving as the culmination of decades of his actions.  His purpose is realized in the fomenting of my labyrinthal crusades, and it could not have been otherwise that he exists in this moment to give me sphinx-like hints to this quixotic riddle.

My erstwhile mind fixates on my own past, my foibles, my inconsistencies, my unworthiness.  I’ve been mentally tidying, mending this dusty web of acquaintance.  Apologizing for pains I’ve caused is ultimately futile, but somehow any end is better than a loose one.   I move from situation to situation, compulsively regurgitating agonies I’d swallowed in vain hope to rid myself of them.  My social failures dog me, but hopes of reconciliation and restitution have been long vanquished.  Failing toward forgiveness I find only my prostrate shame discarded, the detritus of accumulated actions and reactions no longer relevant to the narrative.

I rouse myself from these seemingly precambrian delusions only to discover I’m entrenched in the same mundane reality I ever have been.  Reading accumulates, papers get procrastinated, I impress, aggravate, avoid the same people in the same places, and I remember to walk the dog.  The inconceivably numerous voxels of reality concatenate together to form an interminable rope from past to future I am bound to follow.  Free will somehow remains: enduring, wieldable, oppressive.


I showed Lewis a sample of my handwriting from high school, and it’s almost unbearably minuscule.  Crafted with such precision and detail as to be unreadable.  At the time, that’s exactly what I was hoping.  I could put thoughts so tiny down on paper; so tiny that few would see and fewer would care.  It’s almost as good as writing in code, but better at capturing the meta-level of feeling like a minuscule, illegible individual.

It has been remarked on occasion that I’m more aware of my motives and thoughts than others.  I often wonder how much of this is made up, and how much of this is just the product of too long staring into my own self.  I can’t imagine myself any other way, and a failure of this kind of imagination not only serves to create an infinity of shyness, but the surety of action.  I am the way I am because there’s no other possible way for me to be.  I’ve always felt very sensitive to insincerity and falsehoods – not that I haven’t used my share of both –  but it has keep me on the straight and obvious path in most situations.  When one thing is clearly contrary to my nature, there’s no reason to pursue it.  This strong feeling of right and wrong which seems so entirely undeniable in my make-up also makes me feel like a good case for morality in atheism.  It’s not because some religious authority told me to act the way I do, but because my parents raised me with a strong moral pole.

On the other hand, knowing oneself too well can be very much a maddening endeavor.  When I feel unsettled about something, it’s almost consuming.  The irreconcilability of two potential actions, the lack of an obvious right, the need for action without precedent… all of these cause me undue anxiety.  In situations which require tact, politics, strategy, or serious compromise, I might as well be lost at sea.   There aren’t many situations where what I want and what should be possible or allowable don’t match up.   I generally work hard for what I want, and achieve that, and am satisfied with my results.    Or I don’t try, and I don’t desire whatever result would have come from that effort.

Now, I’m stuck in the middle of something ridiculous, but my brain keeps running over and through the situation.  I’m feeling a little drunk on success of such a minor variety, but I want to repeat it again and again.   After all these miles I’ve come, I’m still the illegible tiny-writing girl dreaming of acceptance and popularity in some circle of those I respect and want to know.  I pick someone I think is a person to aspire to, and I want to know them.  I want them to know me, accept me, encourage and inspire me.  I need intellectual stimulation based in respect and safety and mutual enjoyment.

This weekend, Lewis and I and another couple had a few beers together, and I felt like I was living that moment.  It was a pair I really respect and enjoy, and I want them to like me.  We had a really good night, and I think it was enjoyed by everyone involved.  I want more, but the issue is impossible to push.  The very knowledge that you desire someone else’s company this much is a damnable offense.  It demonstrates irrefutably the political and power imbalance in the dynamic, and I come out on the bottom side.  If having a good time with someone I look up to means this much to me, there’s no way I have anything to offer in return of equal value.  Nothing I can do will mean a quarter as much as this couple having a laugh with me, and it’s so incredibly maddening to know that.

I also know this isn’t likely the way anyone else involved sees it.  I can’t double-think, though the talent would be incredibly useful, and as such, I’ve already ruined it for myself.  I’ve let something get to me, and it’s tarnished me a little.  These moments of mine which are from the heart and soul, and not the mind, are impossible to enjoy without rusting the polished exterior.  If it’s something I’ve worked for, there’s sombre joy at the knowledge of success.  Success at the endeavor of being me and being liked for it is… like watching a movie so engrossing and beautiful that when the credits roll, you can’t help but feel a little more empty.  I see past myself, and the vision of myself as a confident and likable person just leaves everyday-me with an assurance of the impossibility of it all.

Yet I tell myself this – there have been, time and again in my life, people who rouse my spirits to this degree.  And there shall be again.  I’ve reached that point of being settled enough in Davis that I’m longing for friends and laughs outside my own humble walls.  And friends will come – it took me years in all my new homes to find my Bryannes, my Steens, Cerises, Darins, Armands… and I’m already at an advantage here.  I have a happy home life, a lovely husband, a large social network, and twice the confidence of prior years.  I just need to give myself the time and space and opportunity to find those people Lewis and I can spend countless days sparring and joking and theorizing with on the smallest of life’s details.  There are so many invigorating people on this earth, how long can it before we fall into the orbit of another?

Oh, vertigo.

It’s been a lovely weekend, though also a bit of a trial since it was our first school weekend in months.

Some notable accomplishments – we went on a hot air balloon ride over Davis, which I firmly avoided thinking about in advance.  Got a little nervous watching them set up the balloon, but once we were in the air, it was really rather enjoyable.  We got some mid-flight photos I’ll be sure to put up to prove that I did indeed voluntarily get into some kind of crazy flying apparatus.  One of the nicest things about the whole adventure was actually getting to the Yolo County Airport before dawn.  I’ve never seen a Davis sunrise before, and it was quite a beautiful sight from the fields outside of town.  Also, Davis is adorable from the air.  We had a wonderful view of the big ranch houses on the north west side of town, with all their walnut orchards and gardens and such.  Also got a great areal view of the corn maze, and the Silveyville Christmas Tree Farm!   Both things I think we’ll need to pay a terrestrial visit to this fall.

Had two birthday parties this weekend, which were about as different as can be.  Went to Ariel’s 23rd, which involved lots of grad students and beer.  Also jello shots (which were frozen… not at all enticing) and beer and such.  We didn’t stay long, since we had been up since 5 that morning, but it was a very nice little shindig.  Tonight we went to Lewis’ aunt’s 60th birthday party at a fancy-pants restaurant in Sac.  Really delicious food, 3 course meal and nice wine and the works.  It’s good to have family in town supplementing the hot dog diet we’ve been living on since Lewis’ birthday party.

Other than that, I spent the rest of the weekend doing syntax reading.   It’s some thick stuff, but not entirely unenjoyable.  I really like the professor teaching this class, so I’m feeling confident that it’s all going to be interesting stuff when we get to it in class.  My thoughts are sadly still in the feeling of vertigo I’m getting looking at my future.  These new students are really throwing me for a loop even though I’ve never really met them.  The second year is not exactly easy.  Last year we were all fresh-faced and more busy making good impressions than worrying about the near future.  This year we have to have our first QP done, and could conceivably have our master’s degrees by summer.  I don’t think I actually will, since I’m not taking one of the classes I could (should?) be right now… but I’m also not worried about it, since getting my masters this year or next year doesn’t really make a difference in the overall trajectory.  What I am worried about is this damn QP and my aggravating advisor and lab situation.  But I’m going to do my best not to get too worked up about all this before I have the meeting which is theoretically happening this week.

Well, here we come, first full week.

And we’re back.

Day one of classes, finished.

My night closes with me feeling more confused, lost, and hesitant than I have been in a while.  This is probably okay.  Perhaps even expected, since you can’t really go through your PhD without having at least one period of aimless flailing and panicking about not having a future.

Despite this, my day was pretty good.  We had our first 103A class this morning, and I think it might be a TA’s dream.  A few of the kids I’ve taught in Lin 1 are in this class, and if they’re the measure by which I judge the overall character of the class, we’re in good shape.  The only students of mine that are signed up all got As in Lin 1, and I consider all very bright, promising linguists.  The professor teaching it is very laid back, and section attendance is not mandatory, so I’m hoping it all adds up to a stress free quarter at least in the TA domain.

I also had the first of my real classes today – just syntax.  We’re doing a really interesting topic in this class, and it’s being taught by one of my favorite professors.  I’ve had classes from him before, and he has the singular ability to teach very complex theory so carefully that it all ends up seeming intuitive and logical and very much digestible.  We’re definitely going to need that to get through this class, because we’re learning very much non-standard syntax, and it’s a system not a single one of us has worked with before.  But so far, it sounds really intriguing and I’m looking forward to getting into it.

We had a great hang-out of ling folks afterwards.  We chilled in our office for a while, and unlocked our secret door (it leads to the library next door, but you can’t actually get through it because it’s mostly blocked by a bookcase.   Got some posters hung up as well, and planned a cleaning day for us all to come in and tidy the room up.  It should be worth the work, because right now it’s covered in cobwebs and dust and uncollected homeworks stuffed in bookshelves from classes taught 5 or 10 years ago.  I love my classmates, and especially my office mates!  We all met later this evening for drinks at Sudwerk, and got to talk about how things are going so far and the new kids and such.

This talk is really what has left me feeling so conflicted.  Some fears of mine are feeling a bit confirmed with regards to the professor I was thinking about picking for my advisor, and the lab I’m trying to work in.  I’m just not sure this is going to be a good direction for me, and I need to do a lot of hard thinking about whether it’s one of those things worth fighting for, or one of those things that it’s time to walk away from.  But on the other hand, our hang out tonight also reminded me how much I love the people here, and how supportive and pleasant everyone is.  Even if my advisor issues are making life here frustrating, there are lots of people to help get me through it.

That is, if I survive the hot air balloon ride that’s knocking at my door at 5:45 tomorrow morning!

Los Angeles

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  Just didn’t seem like daily blogging was the recipe for my summer.  But I did want to post a little recap of my Los Angeles vacation.  I wrote this on the train home.  Perhaps I’ll do another post of pictures from the road trip portion – I foolishly took none in LA except at the wedding!

Amtrak.  Friday.  8:00 pm.  Somewhere between Salinas and San Jose.  Shaky writing, but done with a distinct feeling of relaxed self-satisfaction.

We should be in Davis in 4 hours or so, wrapping up our ludicrously successful vacation.  I can’t believe how much we’ve done.  Mom and Dad met us Davis last Saturday, and we drove to Tahoe to see Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and the Wiyos play.  It was a neat show – good to see Bob, and an excellent introduction to Willie.  mom was very pleased to be doing this for our anniversary / Lewis’ birthday.

Drove to Bishop the next day, and saw much beautiful scenery en route.  Bishop was extremely cute – a tiny town all alone in the high desert.  Next day we drove to San Diego via Mt. Whitney, which was quite a sight to see.  I was very impressed with the entire range there – starkly beautiful granite faces rising abruptly from the floor of the arid Owen’s Valley.  Also saw Mono Lake – beautiful but surprisingly alkaline, thus pungent and seemingly less-than-salubrious.  A lake best enjoyed photographically.

San Diego was nice per usual – saw grandparents & cousins, and had an above-average visit with Mom & Dad.  It’s good to have time to warm up to Mom; our visits lately have always been too short for me to overcome my testiness at being mothered.  This trip was just right.  Stayed something like three days and then caught the train up Friday to LA, where Lewis met me (he had gone up a day earlier for bachelor party fun).

First few days in LA were occupied primarily with wedding stuff.  Friday was the rehearsal and dinner.  It was a bit chaotic, as the pageantry of a conservative Jewish wedding is somewhat complicated.   Lewis and a bridesmaid, Meredith, were assigned the small balcony to decorate, which was serving as the retreat space required for the couple to have some minutes of quiet time between the ceremony and reception.  We spent the greater part of Saturday searching out materials (plates, food, a book of poetry) for their comfort.

That evening we had tickets to see Harvey Danger play at the Largo on their farewell tour.  The Largo seats only a few hundred people, but it’s a theater, so the set up was both intimate and somewhat awkward.  They have “a strict no talking policy”, and the whole timbre of the show was a little like the band playing a show in their own fantasy, and the audience looking in from outside.  They did not disappoint, however, and I spent a good portion of the show chuckling at Sean Nelson who was doing his best to be both amusing and acerbic.  The best part of the show was certainly the second half, in which they took requests only if properly prefaced by an “interesting question”.  The band’s working definition of “interesting” was quite strict, thus there was more mocking the audience than playing requests, and those questions which were answered rarely were done so with focus on veracity.  What made the night truly unforgettable was the after-show, in an as yet smaller theater.  We had great seats here, and the show took the form of a jam between friends – Sean did several songs accompanying himself on piano, and Shana Levy (ex Rilo Kiley) played.  The best sets were with Jon Bryon and an excellent pianist backing Sean, doing audience requests of classic rock songs – I remember “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the Monkee’s “Porpoise Song” specifically.  It was really wonderful, and left me feeling both touched and lucky.  Harvey Danger will be truly missed, but I can console myself with the knowledge that what I always loved most about Harvey was Sean, and I have no doubt he will remain in the public eye in some capacity.  (I also forgot to mention the hilarious introduction John Hodgman recorded for the band – a word-for-word copy of the introduction Bob Dylan is using on his tour!)

The following afternoon, we saw Gabe and Melanie get married.  The ceremony was beautiful, the weather fine, and the company superb.  All Lewis’ old roommates were present, and even happily attached to lovely girlfriends.  There was much bonding and dancing – we danced the horah for at least half an hour! This big group closed the night out – dancing till midnight and finally leaving out of pity for the exhausted bride and groom, and our own sore selves.  Both this night and the previous filled me with blissful, life-affirming thoughts and I felt more connected with life and love and the universe than I have in some time.

The remainder of our trip was occupied with seeing friends.  We met our old lab manager, Laura, on Melrose and shopped.  We moved in with Sepideh and Cyrus for a few nights, and spent very much quality time together.  Getting to know Sepi better first-hand was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  She’s a truly kind and interesting person, and a very good friend to have.  We also managed a trip to Zankou Chicken + Amoeba to stock up on records.  Nearly the whole group of boys from the wedding was there, and it was really amusing to watch a group of music school kids all shopping together in the jazz section.  We had dinner with Sepi on Sawtell (tiny Japanese restaurant strip in West LA) and met Nick & Suzanne at Beard Papa to catch up.  Beard Papa has some seriously delicious cream puffs, and Nick Martin is one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever met.  We also managed to see Chris and Ashley for dinner.  He cooked us exciting Mexican fare – shrimp and cactus!

Finally, we finished up our week with Devin.  We went out to dim sum (in my old neighborhood!) at the Empress, and got coffee downtown.  Greg joined us for dinner at Father’s Office, which was delicious but somewhat snooty.  Greg & Dev were as always hilarious and I laughed a good deal all day.  Got to hear lots about Devin’s escapades as a somewhat newly outed gay man in West Hollywood, and Greg amused us with jokes on the same topic.  It’s lovely to have college friends still living in LA to remember good times with.

Life in LA was wonderful.  We saw campus – including the new cinema building, and even visited with our old advisor, Joyce!  Campus made me proud to be an alum, as did seeing all the neat things our fellow alumni are up to.  LA itself has changed remarkably little since we left.  We saw most all of our old haunts, and even ate at the Brite Spot twice!   I had to force myself not to pontificate on the wonders of LA and how much I love it’s streets, people, drivers, and scenery.  I saw with ease how we could come back some day for another extended portion of our lives – if we could ever get employment in the area.  LA is full of love and life in a way I never found in the Bay Area.  I am looking forward to coming home to Davis, but I do so knowing I left a piece of my heart in the streets of LA, and the smallest corner in Sean Nelson’s foppish breast pocket.

The first day felt like two days, the second day felt like a few hours…

Today was a go-go-go-go kind of day.  My buddy and co-TA Ariel emailed me last night to say that she had gotten food poisioning (boo!) and asked if I could take over her sections today.  I have my Friday section at 9, and she teaches the 10 and 11 sections… so that meant three straight hours of teaching this morning.  It actually went really well, and it was the last week of section for our Friday kids, so it was kinda nice to know I wouldn’t see these folks again.  I had to bump my office hours back an hour to accomodate the sections, so by 1 when I was finally free, it had already been quite a long day.  Tried to grade papers over lunch, and then I had my three-hour typology class… by then I was pretty spent but I hadn’t even started on my own work, let alone finished grading for the day.  So I had Lewis come pick me up and take me out to dinner (I had to be driven to school this morning because my bike tire was flat and I didn’t have time to fix it!) and then I came home and got right back to work.  Now it’s 10:30.  And it’s bedtime.  But i got so much done today, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.  Kids taken care of, essays graded, classes attended, and I’m ready for my weekend preparing for the big presentation Monday.  I’ll try not to panic about that too much between now and then… but damn if I’m not a bit nervous.


I’m all tuckered out from an excellent birthday day!  I’m full of love and happiness.  I saw lots of friends, had a good time in Berkeley, had a lovely walkabout in Davis, played with my new things… happy times, happy times.


Good day, after a bit of a rough start.  Boring section this morning because we had so much material to get through.   Then I found out I had lost a paper draft I should have read a week ago, and didn’t believe that the student had ever turned it in.  Found it, and speed-graded it, thankfully.  My worst problem student came in when I only had 10 minutes left of my office hours, complaining that he had no idea what a research paper was supposed to be.  And not in a feeling-unsure sort of way as if he would write a decent paper and he’s just worried.  More like the very concept of a research paper was foreign to him, and it was a travesty that we would request such a hurculean feat as a four page research paper.  Meh.

So that was the rough start.  After I shooed him out of my office, a bunch of the ling grads took me out for a burger and a beer as a pre-birthday shindig.  I really love these guys, and it was neat to have a little thing with them.  Had our Friday night class after that, then I’ve just been hanging out at home and enjoying this Giants-Mariners game.  Randy Johnson was pitching, and I saw Griffey bat!  Good times… he almost got a grand slam at the bottom of the ninth, but it was just a little short.  It’s been 1-1 since the 6th inning and they’re in the 12th already. I’m not sure I’m going to make it through the end of the game… but it’s been a very nice way to spend the night.  Gotta get on a train in the morning to meander down to Berkeley and have a nice birthday afternoon out with some of the Ask folks and Armand.  Should be good times.  I’m looking forward to it!

Buggered again

Woke up rather late this morning after a long and excellent night last night.  We pulled together an impromptu barbeque and pool party with some of our linguistics friends last night.  Had a really good time – cooked some tasty food, poked around in the pool, played some games, had lots of laughs.  I really enjoy my cohort!   And we had the luck of Lewis’ parents wanting us to look after their dog in the evening anyway, and inviting us to have the party at their place.  Such luck!

This morning as sort of a bust, sadly.  I got a migraine sort of right after I woke up – didn’t even have breakfast or anything.  I’m pretty bummed out.  I was even supposed to be going in for another scanner session today with Lewis, and I had to cancel.   I might have been able to handle it, but I always feel like.. I’ve been up reading in the dark all night and I’m hungover.  That’s the best I can describe it.  Usually I get these migraines in the afternoon and can kind of coast until bedtime and sleep it off, but this 10am business is just not great.  I did take a nap later and wore most of it down, but I’ll be glad to get some real sleep tonight and wake up refreshed in the morning.

Despite it all, I got a lot of work done today.  Skimmed some book chapters, and skimmed over the stuff I might want to go over in sections this week.  I even charted out what I need to do in the next few weeks to get ready for my term papers and final presentations.  I’m going to make it… Just three weeks to go, and then I’ll have so much time, I won’t even know what to do with myself.   That’s going to be so sweet!