Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Counting the losses, counting the gains

I've been going nuts trying to keep abreast of the news... everything from the political climate abroad to the hurricane aftermath here in the States. Normally, I would manage this by means of television coverage and internet exploration. These days, however, my life has been completely devoid of all television, and I'm limited to watching movies on my laptop. As for the news, it's internet only, which at first seems not to be such an arduous prospect. After a month of it, though, I can say with a great deal of confidence that I miss my TV. Not for the more entertaining drivel... or at least not primarily... but for the news. I read the paper, go to various sites online, and I still don't get my fill, not as well as when CNN is spoonfeeding me my daily dose. Perhaps, when the money's available, I'll spring for a TV, and, to make things even more sinfully delicious, throw in for cable.

On the other hand, I do have some things that I didn't before, which I'm rather enjoying. We had our psychology department orientation yesterday, during which we got quite the earfull; we met the faculty, then split off to our separate factions. There are six of us who are new to the applied developmental division, and all of us seem to be completely in the dark about what we want to do and under whose tuttleage. We are expected to choose someone in the faculty to be our mentor by the end of the semester, so we've all been sort of nodding our heads, pretending to have a good idea of what our plans are, then whispering to one another later on about how we haven't got a clue. Typical... frankly, I'm enjoying the ambiguity.

Apart from a two-hour orientation for all of the grad students teaching labs this semester (which I'm counting as my first class... I took five pages of notes and walked out with an armload of materials), I also had an additional, completely unexpected treat: I was assigned an office. It seems that I'll be sharing it with another new grad student, but we get along very well already, and , since she's fresh out of her undergrad, she sort of reveres me, which I don't think I'll dissuade. Besides, she may be moving to another office space soon, which leaves me by myself in the office within the next month. The best part, though, is the office itself... pretty big office, with a sizable window letting in plenty of natural light. I'll take it.

I expected changes. I didn't know how they'd affect me, but I did expect them. The basic outcome: I'm adjusting. My sans-television lifestyle may not last much longer, but I think I can manage the new office, the new teaching gig, the new department and new classes. All in all, the losses seem to be manageable. Not being with John is the worst to endure, and there are a couple of choice friends in Texas I wouldn't mind seeing. Telephone and email do wonders, though, and we've all become pretty proficient at using our resources. I've also just procured a web cam, a loaner courtesy of Aunt Jenny, which should also help. So the office, the classes, the teaching, everything new... I'll focus on all of that for now, and I think it'll get me by.

But then, the momentous news! I have a date for my first gig with NY Songwriters: October 11th, at 10:30pm (eastern time). The best part is that it'll be a live webcast as well, which means none of my friends in Texas have any excuse for not seeing me perform (other than not wanting to see me perform, of course). It'll be at the CBGB Lounge, which is downstairs at CBGB, and the webcast is at there's a link in the upper left corner of the home page screen, and the rest seems to be pretty self-explanatory. If anyone's in town on that day and wants to see me in the show (I get a full fifteen minutes... about 3 songs, maybe even 4, depending on which ones I decide to do), it's $5.00 for a ticket, and all of the proceeds from the door go to yours truly (if you mention that you've come to see me, that is). There... my shameless plug. And I am shameless about it, actually. Fact is, I'm proud as all hell about it. And trust me... if you had seen the talent I was up against, you'd know what I mean. So yes, show your support, and, somewhat less importantly, help me buy groceries. It's my New York debut, for chrissakes... it's not often you get to witness childhood-dream fulfillment first-hand, so I suggest you watch, if not to laugh about it with me later.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Riding the up-escalator

Orientation day... lesson #1: Don't sleep through your alarm for twenty minutes, or your roommate will think you're dead... lesson #2: Don't underestimate your short roommate's warp-speed walking pace, especially en route to campus at 7:30 in the morning, pre-coffee... lesson #3: Don't worry; all new grad students glare at each other incessantly and say nothing... for hours.

All in all, the day went extremely well. I didn't win an iPod in the raffle, but I did meet my fellow developmental psychology initiates, and they're all lovely and fascinating people. We did find it odd that I'm the only one that seems to have gotten a research assistanceship and a teaching assistant position... everyone else got either one or the other, and were starting to wonder who on earth I'd managed to piss off so soon. We laughed it off, of course, but now I'm beginning to wonder...

After a quick lunch and more socializing with my new fellow grad students, I made my way to Queens for a visit to Aunt Jenny's. I had to pick up my medication, and I assumed Aunt Jenny was due for some chatting up. We relaxed and had a really enjoyable time of it, including my introducing her to and, at her request, how to sell items on ebay. Miraculously, that turned out to be fun somehow.

I'd outlasted the sun in Queens, so I headed back to the Bronx, during which time I was asked by three different people for directions... and was successful in giving them. That was odd. Me? Knowing where I am and where someone should go? Surely not. There's been a brain stem transplant, doubtlessly.

I got home, started to wind down and call it a night, checked my email... got one I wasn't expecting: NY Songwriters. I made a quick mental call to Violet, took a breath, and opened it.

I'm in.

I'm going to keep riding the escalator... it's a smooth ride, the handrail seems firm enough, and the view just keeps getting better.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Last day of innocence

Right. No problem. I'll just go do this orientation thing tomorrow, and then things get started.

I've managed to do a bit of preparation, of course. For one, I did take care of the financial aid and student ID issues (terrible picture, but what can one do). Also, at the behest of my aunt and one of my cousins, I acquiesced to a six-hour stint at a beauty salon. The outcome was definitely interesting.

For those who know me, I'm blessed/cursed with a great deal of hair. But for its volume, I can't say it's much to look at... there's just a great big lot of it, and I wear it long, which I suppose does nothing but enhance the bigness of it. Also, I'm a rather big fan of all things low-maintenance, so I don't exactly do anything with it. Wash and go, you might say. At any rate, it also has some curl... a post-adolescence development... resulting in a good bit of unruliness and frizz. After one or two days of not washing it, things start to settle down and look a little tamer, but there's always that tenuous frizzy stage than makes life difficult. This, according to my aunt and my cousin, simply wouldn't do.

I was commanded to undergo a procedure known as Japanese straightening, which, now that I think on it, sounds a bit like something you'd come accross in sadomasochistic circles. It's sort of a backwards perm, actually, and, given the voluminous nature of my hair, takes approximately six hours to achieve. On the upside of things, it lasts up to one year, so one only has to undergo this lenthy procedure on a yearly basis. As a child, my mother often subjected me to perms of the poodle variety, since my hair was straight and boring. Now, with my unruly wave/curl issue, my family decided an intervention was in order. Hair straightening is often understood to leave the hair quite straw-like and damaged, and such rumors dissuaded me from entertaining the thought. This newer method, however, was reputed to have none of those negative effects, so I agreed to it with my fingers crossed. That, and I had little choice in the matter... Aunt Jenny can be extremely persuasive... and kind enough to pay for the whole thing to get done.

By the end of the ordeal, I did in fact have straight, healthy-looking hair. Despite having about three inches cut from the length, I left the salon with my hair at the same length as it was when I arrived there... an unexpected result from your usual haircut. As for how it looks.. here's the result:

Before----> After---->

Note that these pictures have the difference of a Japanese straightening, about three weeks, and a bit over ten pounds between them. What a wonder for the body, this phenomenon of walking everywhere and forgetting to eat as often. Anyway, the new hair was met with much approval from everyone that mattered... my roommate was astonished that it was so extremely straight, but liked it very much. My own thoughts on it are general bewilderment and occassional shock upon looking in a mirror. It's a good change, though... it helps in terms of starting up at school and introducing myself. The bigger, wavier hair tended to scare people off a bit... this will hopefully be a slightly more amicable look. Besides which, I can go mad with hair-washing. Why, I can wash my hair any time I want! (Insert maniacal laughter here.) Ah, the simple pleasures. Get 'em while they last.

Friday, August 26, 2005

In the midst of the new and familiar

There are days, like today, when I have a chance to go to Queens to visit my Aunt Jenny. We call one another, or one of us will find the other milling around online. From there, we coordinate schedules, and then I head down to Queens for the span of a day. My time there usually consists of providing chauffer service on what amounts to a massive (and always entertaining) shopping and errand trip. Today, for instance, there was a trip to the bank, the grocery store, a restaurant, and two shopping centers. Typical Aunt Jenny day. Among the perks of the experience, I get to drive around in a Mercedes all day, and I get to chat up Aunt Jenny, who is perhaps the one person in my whole family with whom I have the most in common.

My years growing up were, by and large, isolated from family on either side. Odd little policy on the part of my dad, I think, to keep us out of whatever possible family drama might arise from time to time. As far as I can tell, it was an effective strategy. On the downside, however, it also meant being cut off from all of the good family. Prior to now, I haven't really had much contact with my aunt, or the majority of my mother's side of the family, which I can now say was an unfortunate turn of events. Good thing I live here now, though, and that Aunt Jenny is never more than a subway ride away, give or take a couple of busses.

As I see it, most of us grow up with an understanding that there exists an ideal family structure and dynamic, and that none of us necessarily have it. We accept our flawed family situations and observe the version often perpetuated by media and folklore to be the favorable version, taking occassional measures of our own experiences in light of the shining example of the idillic family. In my case, I've made the surprise discovery of access to that sort of family feeling, much in the way one might find an old heirloom tucked away and gathering dust among the long-ago forgotten clutter of an attic, stored away for safekeeping by someone who lived in the house long before. It's both old and new, both familiar and completely novel. Best of all, there's a little bit of you connected to what you find, although you may have never set eyes on it before; it speaks to you in the voice of someone you never knew, yet who knew you even before you were born. Such discoveries are the stuff of a very special kind of self-revelatory experience, and I'm begining to find just how much fun it can be to rummage through the attic this way.

One of my dear friends, John (I've always known too many guys named John), contacted me to let me know he has just landed his first major college-level teaching possition in a music department. I shared my news about my teaching work as part of my assistanceship, and he made the statement that hell had officially frozen over, now that we, the two miscreants that we are, have become college educators. I can now add another similarity to the list between us; he has an entire wing of family that was little more than a mystery to him until he became an adult, and has now discovered the joys of knowing some of them on his own terms. I, too, can chalk up this very phenomenon to my own experience... may the air conditioning in hell continue to blow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gathering information... slowly...

Okay. Now we're getting somewhere. Sort of.

I received an email from the psychology department letting me know what my assistanceship duties would entail. Part of the veil of mystery I've been groping around under for the last several weeks has finally lifted. Just a little, though. We wouldn't want me to know everything I need to know before school begins. That would be too stinking logical.

Ever since I learned of my assistanceship, I've been wondering whether I'd end up as a Teaching Assistant or a Research Assistant... or maybe even some random office drone. According to the email, I'm apparently to serve as both a T.A. and an R.A., which was certainly a surprise. Man, they must really think I can, I don't know, do things. I've been assigned to one professor to teach his Intro to Psychology lab over at the Lincoln Center campus every Friday. Excellent... at the very least, it's an excuse to get down to the city every week, which I certainly welcome. On top of that, I've also been assigned to another professor as her research assistant, to aid her in whatever developmental research project she's up to at the moment. Also great... a good opportunity to jump right in and start doing empirical research, to become reacquainted with the ins and outs of that kind of procedure again. Beyond that, the email also instructed me to contact the Intro to Psych professor in order to determine what he'll need from me and how often.

This is where it starts to get a little stupid.

I called him, and he was absolutely great... very nice guy. He gave me a brief run-down of what I'd be covering over the first couple of classes, and filled me in on "Sniffy" the cyber rat, which is a computer lab rat used for class experiments rather than a real one... we don't want to get the little freshman kiddies all grossed out and freaked with real rats, being that this is a mere introductory course taken by a big bunch of non-majors anyway, so the cyber rat steps in. Okay, I'm with him at this point, and I tell him that I'm looking forward to working with him and his class. Then he says that he's a little confused because, for some reason, the department has assigned him two grad students for the job, and he feels that only one would really be necessary. With that, he says he'll give me a call when he knows more, but that he's assuming he'll just need me (or the other person?) rather than two of us, and that he needs to talk to the department head to figure out what's going on. Great. More uncertainty, more waiting.

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to contact the other professor for whom I'm supposed to be an R.A., but only after I've finalized my schedule with the first prof for whom I'm T.A.-ing. Okay, so if I wait, I look like a negligent scatterbrain who failed to contact the professor in a timely manner, yet I look silly and pointless by jumping the gun and contacting her anyway. Hoping for the best, I opted for silly and pointless. I sent her an email, explaining the situation with the first prof, and giving her a summary of my schedule, or at least in its tentative state. With any luck, the information I gave her will be enough for her to get an idea of when I'm at her disposal, and everything will work out fine. In any case, I still have to wait for her to get back to me with an answer, which amounts to... you guessed it... more waiting. Gee. I never saw it coming. Oh, hold on... oh...uh... okay. My eyes have rolled all the way back into my head.

So, to sum up: I may or may not be teaching a lab, which will partially determine when I'm available to fulfill my research duties. All is not lost, of course; at the very least, I know I'll definitely be an R.A. this semester. Then again, she hasn't responded, so, for all I know, there may be some kind of mix-up with that as well. Whatever... I've done my little song and dance, and no one can say I didn't.

Speaking of songs and dances, I stopped by the financial aid office to make sure everything on my end was done and accounted for. Apparently, it wasn't. A form I had filled out online (as I was instructed by the financial aid office to do) never arrived at the office. "We've been having trouble with the system," the pretty clerk behind the counter told me. In other words, two weeks had gone by, and the paperwork hadn't yet been processed for my student loans. Flustered and annoyed, I sat in the office and filled out yet another copy of the form, this time by hand and in person, after which I was informed by the clerk that, due to the delay of not receiving that form, I would have to wait a bit longer for my financial aid refund to come through. Well, sure. Of course I'll wait. What else can I possibly do? I mean, I could try to rob the place or something, but I'd likely have to wait to get any money then, too.

Oh, but there's more! After several failed attempts at getting my student I.D., I finally came to their office to find that, for the first time in weeks, the machinery used for taking the pictures and making the cards is fully operational. Fantastic! Now I can get my I.D. and stop showing the security guards my crumpled, many-stained acceptance letter as proof that I'm not some random vagrant trying to sneak onto campus and pose as a college student for weird kicks. (No, really... I was told to carry my acceptance letter around in lieu of an I.D.; of course, if I had known that sooner, I would have taken better care of that acceptance letter.) I'm standing in from of a blue cloth that's hanging from a metal bar behind me, and I'm beaming at the camera, filled with the joy of knowing I can finally get rid of that folded-up crinckled mess of a letter once and for all. The flash goes off, and I walk to the window where I'm to pick up my card. "Oh, the machine that makes the cards is messed up," mumbles the barely post-pubescent male clerk. "You'll have to come by tomorrow to pick it up."

Yeah. That's right. Laugh. If it weren't me, I'd be laughing with you. Other people's pain can be pretty damn funny, no matter what the bleeding-hearts tell you.

Interesting... in waiting around and doing next to nothing these past few days, I suppose I was preparing. Now I'm an absolute pro at waiting. Watch... I can do it with my eyes closed, hand behind my back, knee in my ear, elbow on the cat... that's right folks... class-A graduate student, at your service, waiting-game champion extraordinaire. With honors. Ah well... such is the nature of being a student, isn't it? Right. So yes, I'm officially back at school. Waiting.

Monday, August 22, 2005

One more week of freedom

Sure, but freedom to do what? Spend more and more time by myself in the city, becoming more and more weird in the process? Yesterday ,coming down from my CBGB high, I spent the day in my apartment. Jane was gone all day, so I had run of the place. I didn't prance around naked or anything, but I did mill around throughout the apartment more than usual. I even spent a little time in front of the television, which has become quite the rare occurance as of late. Besides that, I did nothing of import. I worked on some music, returned a few emails, tormented the cats... otherwise, I was worthless all day. And it felt good. Really good.

The end of my respite is fast approaching. In one week, I'll be at graduate orientation. I really do hate these events, necessary though they may be. Meeting a bunch of new people who are all just about as jittery as you are, everybody trying to look smart and professional and scholarly and all of that nonsense. Some people there will already have their masters degrees and be starting on their doctoral work, like me; others (the majority, I'm inclined to assume) will be fresh out of undergrad, doe-eyed and newly born into a world of even higher learning than the higher learning of undergraduate study. Each time I start at a new school, it's much of the same... the previous scholastic experience feels like nothing more than a rudimentary preparation for what's to come. Walking into college for the first time made high school feel like a complete joke. Begining graduate school made my undergraduate experience feel like extended high school. Now, moving into my PhD work, my masters studies seem... okay, no, they were pretty damn hard. Harder than most, I'd wager. Which is why this new experience feels so remarkably strange to me.

Whenever you move on to the next level in schooling, you always feel as though you're not prepared, even unworthy. The higher you go, the worse it gets. By the time you enter graduate school, you feel like some sort of academic frawd who somehow snuck in under the radar. Of course, once the first semester rolls by and you haven't died, you realize it might actually be possible to continue the ruse of being smart enough to get through the program, so that the institution which was duped into accepting you in the first place will be none the wiser by graduation time. The best part is that everyone in this boat feels as though he or she is the only one in all the world who feels this way. Meanwhile, you look around at your academic colleagues and find them all to be very together people, brilliant and qualified, grounded and goal-oriented... people who deserve to be there, unlike you. Of course, none of that is true... everyone's in that same rickety boat, thinking that of everyone else, but there'll never be any convincing you.

So then there's my situation. I've smehow become convinced, after years of thinking the contrary, that I'm actually capable of doing this. My problem, however, is that I really am underqualified for this racket. My masters is in psychology, true, but in a very different sort than I'll be doing here. I know I'll pick it up as I go, just as I do everything else. Still, I won't be able to make many of the knowledge claims most of the others will... my empirical work is certainly below the level of most grad students. Besides which, I'm a little older than most people coming into a program like this. Okay, maybe just four or five years older, in most cases, but it makes a difference, believe me.

Come orientation day, people will likely be glad-handing one another, sizing up the competition,as it were. Many will try to be as impressive as possible. Knowing I don't stand a chance is actually to my advantage, especially since I think I'm completely over the initial grad school jitters; I'm done with feeling like a frawd. I can take comfort in knowing that, when I talk about the things I've done in my graduate work, most of the other students won't know what the hell I'm talking about, which will at least make me look a little cool for a second. So no, I'm not published, and no, I haven't presented at any big conventions. I haven't taken part in writing any major empirical papers, nor have I been under the tutleage of anyone notable that any of them are likely to have heard of in the field. I am, however, smart enough to have gotten this far, or at least lucky enough to have flown under whatever proverbial radar plucks the unworthy from the hopefuls. And, given my track record, I think I have just enough of that same luck to get me through the wringer at least one more time.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bona fide cool moments

If there was ever any risk of my growing less enthusiastic about living in New York, I think I've fixed it for a while.

For starters, I spent yesterday evening at dinner and drinks with Russ, which is always a joy. It was especially great for two reasons: 1) I had the opportunity to try (and fall in love with) Ethiopian food, and 2) I found a bar that succeeds in matching my ideal color and aesthetic palate... the place was doused in red velvet curtains (red everything, actually) and enormous Boticcellian-style paintings, complete with velvet throne chairs and candelabras... truly, there can be nothing better in all the world than walking into this place, or at least there wasn't just then.

If that hadn't been enough to solidify my general good feelings about moving to New York, it would shorty be a complete non-issue.

After a few days of deliberating and searching frantically for a good excuse, I bit the bullet and went to the NY Songwriters audition at CBGB today. My fears were good and bubbly by the time I headed out the door of my apartment, Jane's guitar affixed to my back inside my guitar backpack, but my nerves settled the instant Jane bid me farewell with a statement that seemed for me to radiate from itself a golden halo of wisdom (note the Canadian accent): "Don't be nervous aboot it... if it doesn't work oot, you'll at least have a PhD to fall back on." We shared a laugh, and, feeling much better about things, I made my way to the east village.

After getting lost and wandering around like a moron for 30 minutes, I found the historic CBGB venue, where five or six people would at any point be standing outside, taking pictures of the famous facade. Auditions were taking place from 3 to 5 that afternoon, and it was already 4:40, so I was cutting it pretty close. I quickly made my way into the building, where I saw, upon walking through the door, about thirty people watching a gorgeus young woman singing and playing a guitar on a stage directly ahead of where I stood. I made my way to the audience area, finding and signing a list of auditioning hopefulls on my way to a seat at the back. The girl on stage was really something... the voice, the looks, the instrumental ability, the lyrics, the melody... everything about the performance was top notch, really beautiful. She finished, and the room filled with applause. Another girl followed her onto the stage and began her song. Same thing... amazing everything. Compared to these girls, I was fat, homely, and tragically guitarded.

Another performer got on stage, this time without a guitar. She had her own professional track, and she did a hip-hop song that had the whole room bobbing their heads to the beat and smiling at one another by the time she had gotten through the first seven or eight bars of the song. She finished, the room came alive with applause, and a man sitting at the front, by the stage, turned to face the audience. "Is that everyone?" I raised my hand a little, then felt all the eyes in the room converge on me at once. It was also at that point that I felt my ass become unconditionally fused to my chair. "Aha! A late-comer," I heard the man at the front say. "Well, come on up and let us hear you. Did you sign in? Oh, here you are! Okay, this is... Emily, everybody!"

Light applause filled the room, then died away almost as quickly as it began. I heard the applause, then felt myself go into autopilot... I got the guitar out of my bag, walked onto the stage, set a chair in front of the mic stand, sat down, set the guitar on my knee, and pulled the mic down to my mouth. Only then did I look up at the audience, at which point I realized I hadn't yet chosen the song I would sing.

I told myself I'd choose the song once I got there, assuming I could feel out the rest of the performers and then come up with something appropriate. The requirement for the audition was "one original song," so I had a few to choose from. Sitting on stage, ready to sing, I had neglected the choice altogether, and felt a warm panic begin to creep over me. Then, in an instant, I felt myself call upon the powers that be, and Violet seemed to answer. I thought to myself, "Come on, Violet. Give me a hand here. Let's do this." I found my chord, strummed the first few beats of the intro, and found myself again. The lyrics came out of my mouth as easily as a song I might have known all my life... I didn't even have to think about it.

I hadn't performed her song in public since her funeral in early July. When she'd heard the song, it was a recording I'd sent her, and I never got the chance to perform it for her while she was still living. I had to settle for singing it to her coffin and her family, and, in that capacity, I filled a role in a ceremony and a grieving family. This time, I felt like I was finally singing it to her. I forgot anyone was there... it was just me, with a hint of Violet floating around me. I strummed my way through the verses, the choruses, the bridge... I sang against the occassional lump in my throat, feeling the urge to cry take hold of my lungs and attempt to bring me to silence. I closed my eyes, and I saw Violet, and I heard her telling me it wouldn't be very professional of me to give in to emotion like that... that thought makes me smile even now. Me, the artist, and Violet, the sensible matriarch, sharing this moment in my mind, in front of these strangers. I have to be honest... it felt pretty damn good.

When I finished, I was back at CBGB, and everyone was clapping. A voice or two came out of the audience with shouts of 'yeah' and 'woooo', etc. I was just a performer again, but I liked that, too; it felt good to hear the song was well received, or at least enough to get a response that was as loud as the amazing talents that preceeded me. I smiled, said thank-you, and made a b-line for my guitar case. One or two people approached me to say they liked the song, which was a little bit of a shock, and then I made my way out of the audience section and back to the front door of the building and the harsh sunlight beyond. Once outside, I turned around, pulled out my phone, and took this picture of the outside of the place:

After that, I crossed the street, sat down at a table outside of a cafe, and called John. I was shaking a little, which I couldn't understand... I decided that it must have been due to some left-over adrenaline. But hey... I had performed at CBGB... it was officially something I could now say I'd done, something I never thought I'd say. Not in my wildest realm of dreams, even. But I'll take it, though, no question. Now I just have to wait to hear from the NY Songwriters people to see if I'm good enough to make the cut. And if I'm not, I at least got to perform at CBGB. That, and I always have my PhD to fall back on.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The subtle joys of assimilation

I did the usual things today, nothing fancy... went to campus to get better acquainted with the lay of the land, worked out at the gym, strolled around in the bookstore. See? Nothing remotely fancy about any of that. When I got back to my building, I checked the mail to find I had received the business cards I ordered... all printed askew. The "T" is missing from the word "There" on the left of the card, making it say "here" and completely changing the context. Not good. Emily angry.

Then began my wild telephoning adventure. I called the printer, who apologized profusely and swore to send a corrected order. While I was at it, I also called financial aid, the student ID office, the local Ikea store, financial aid again, two open mic venues, my bank, my phone company (there's irony for ya), and four of my friends in Texas. Whether or not anything constructive got done is anybody's guess, but at least I felt industrious. Apparently, that's the latin root for the name Emily... industrious. Oh, well. Sorry to let you down, mom, but I don't typically live up to my namesake. Give me a big pot of coffee and an all-too-fast-approaching deadline of some sort, and I come close.

I still miss my guitar. The damn tuning peg is broken beyond my ability to repair, which is limited in the first place anyway, so I've been doodling around on Jane's acoustic, which she was kind enough to lend me. Oh, but I miss my guitar. It has a certain feel to it that I've grown accustomed to, and that goes a long way when one's ability to play leaves so much to be desired. Still, I have hopes that, in coming days, I'll make the trip to the city and get the thing fixed. For now, my coffers are depleted to dust at the bottom, so such a frivolous expenditure will just have to wait. Anyway, damn.

While spending a quiet evening of grieving the plight of my guitar. my lovely roommate called to let me know she was down the street with some philosopy friends having some wine and enjoying the nice weather. How could I possibly pull myself away from my room and my gimpy guitar, you may ask... ah, but wine and company beckons in beguiling ways. I was there in less than half an hour, and met some excellent people (though, for the life of me, I can remember none of their names) over passable wine and truly wonderful conversation. It became aparent to everyone there that I would most likely be seeing a great deal more of Jane's friends, despite being in an entirely different department than mine. There was even talk of my conversion to the philosophy department, which I have to admit I've found a tempting prospect on more than one occassion since the two years I've spent on my psychology masters. Granted, I loved what I did, but what I did was philosophy... such was the odd nature of our psych program at University of Dallas. While most people in their last semester of psych masters work are messing with cognitive studies and empirical work, I was differentiating between arguments on reality and embodiment by Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, and reading more Heidegger than most human beings should ever have to. The philosophy folks seem to understand my predicament, and, more importantly, what the hell I'm talking about whenever I rant about the applications of existential phenomenology in regard to the flaws in empirical research methodologies. Okay, they don't entirely understand, but they do understand the parts that are hardest, namely, who all the people with the funny names are and what they had to say in general. It's refreshing, especially over wine. I find most things are more refreshing over wine.

I say yes to assimilation, then, if this is a crowd that will have me. If the psychology folks are as cool as the philosophy bunch I've been meeting, then all the better for me. If not, I at least know I have a potential refuge, should I need to seek academic solace at some point. That's enough to make me feel a lot more at ease about begining my studies... I always have somewhere to run and hide. And drink wine. And bitch about the odd philosopher now and then.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Done and done!

I received Dr. Garza's response to my email as promptly as I'd expected. In all of our email correspondence for the purposes of competing the thesis, there's always an attatchment to each of his responses... typically, I'd attatch my latest draft, and he'd respond with an attatched draft chock full of comments and correction notes. This time, I received his response to my draft email, and there was no attatchment there.

One word was at the top of the body of the email: Congratulations.

I was shocked. I'm still shocked. I don't mind this shocked feeling, but it's still weird, surreal. It's really over and done with. The email continued with some kind words, updates on his presentations at APA this week, and general well-wishing for my future endeavors. Whatever... he had me at congratulations.

So now, a new chapter in my fluffy little saga can finally commence. I'm sitting pretty on two weeks of free time, during which I intend to do as little as possible in the way of important, mind-occupying activity. I'll go into the city, of course, but I'll do what I can to save money and keep my galavanting sparse. At the very least, I'm going to have to find some way to celebrate, but in an extremely low stress, low budget kind of way. There's an audition at CBGB that I'm still thinking about doing this weekend, but I haven't made up my mind just yet... I'd like to wrangle up a companion to come with, but I've yet to hear back from my primary candidate, Russ, and I'm guessing Jane will already have made plans for that afternoon. No worries, though. I got my congratulations.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wait for it... wait for it...

I knew I'd say it eventually, but I didn't now how it would feel.

I'm done. It's finished. Thesis complete.

I just sent it in. Dr. Garza will likely read it and send it back with a note or two, but it's DONE. I spent the day on it, determined to finish, and I seem to have made good on that effort. Now, I'm a little lost for words. Really, I can't officially celebrate till I've gotten the final word on its acceptance, but I'm pretty sure it's there. Now, I just have to wait without making myself ill with anticipation. But as far as anything I could have done on my end, I've done it. Now, I just have to wait.

I'm done, though. It's finished. Thesis complete.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Starting to feel it

Yesterday was John's birthday. From the sound of things, he had a good time, went out to dinner, got many calls from numerous well-wishers, etc. Oddly enough, this is the first of his birthdays since I've known him that I haven't been with him for. Somehow, I can't help but feel the sting of that. We did speak several times during the day, though, and I made sure he knew I was thinking of him constantly. All the same, I felt completely helpless, which sucked.

I'm also now less than two days away from my final thesis deadline, which is frightening beyond explanation. Tonight will definitely be committed to the thesis, as well as tomorrow, but I'm not sure how I'll get through it in one piece, from an emotional standpoint, if I don't get a good response on this draft. I'm petrified, of course, but there's no stopping this train now. Once it's done, it's done, and I can move on with my life. Honestly... it really does feel as dramatic as that. I have, after all, devoted a full year to this project, and have managed to do more in that time than I ever thought possible. I say enough already.

I miss John. I miss my guitar. I still love New York.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It's official, I suppose...

I've now spent my first night and day on my own in New York as an all-alone resident. Then again, I wasn't exactly alone. Jane, my roommate, was with me for most of it, and she was incredibly entertaining and helpful. She gave me a bit of a tour around campus, during which I also got to see her office and meet some of her fellow philosophy folks. I don't imagine I'll remember any names, but I should be able to place faces well enough after at least meeting them today. She then took me to the school athletic center, named for famous Fordham alum Vince Lombardi. There, I got to work out for almost an hour, which made me feel much better after going a couple of weeks without seeing the inside of a gym.

We then went to a nearby diner, where I had a hell of a turkey burger, and we chatted on and on about nonsense. We definitely get along, which is great, and she's also secure in herself as her own person, which is also great. She gives me the help I need with directions now and then, then sends me on my way to explore on my own... which is just what I need to get grounded out here. I actually worked on my thesis a little, to my own surprise, and then Jane and I topped off the evening with some red wine, guitar playing, and listening to music from her vast computer-stored collection. All in all, an enjoyable day.

I still have trouble sleeping... the room still feels a bit foreign, as I imagine is natural. There are times I look up and get a little confounded about where I am, but it's not too terribly disorienting... I suppose this is what I can qualify as "things finally setting in," although the setting-in process itself can be somewhat cognitively unnerving from time to time. Good thing I have my courtesy-of-Chuck futon (I've taken to calling it the Red Destiny... upon seeing it, the reason for the name becomes pretty obvious).

I did something interesting today. I designed a business card of sorts, and I ordered it. It should arrive by the end of the month. It's not a typical business card, but a semi-promotional-flyer sort of thing, in business card form, designed to give out in regard to my music and performing. Why would I do such a thing? I mean, am I seriously considering performing out here? Well, why not... it is New York, and I was sort of asking for it by moving out here. So now, I've made it official, in my own way. Now my intentions are in print... two hundred and fifty copies worth.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Settling into the new

I've spent the last two days doing absolutely nothing, which has been nice. It's been an ideal vacation trip, really, with the exception of having to hike about thirty-five blocks when we couldn't get a bus home at 3:30 in the morning. Who'd have thought that busses run 24 hours in the Bronx but not in Queens? Well, now we know. The next day, my feet were swollen and a bit scary, so we decided to stay home and watch movies, order pizza, do laundry, etc. Not a bad way to spend some time together, really.

I'm starting to miss my guitar. It's already waiting for me at my apartment in the Bronx, so I'm not able to get to it until my final transplant, which is this coming Sunday. By then, our friend Chuck will have come and gone from his weekend visit, and John will have gone with him. Then, I'll be oficially on my own, and for what it's worth, I think I'm ready. That might change come Sunday, or even Saturday, but that's how I feel now. Besides, Jane, my roommate, has been fantastic and spectacular and all of that, so I know she'll help me keep my cool during these next few weeks of transition. Still... I'm really starting to miss my guitar. I want to write, and I want to get geared up for open mics around town... I've already started doing some research on places to go, and it looks easy enough to get signed up and have people listen. That, I'm not sure I'm ready for. Whatever... I'm gonna do it anyway. I mean, I have to have something to fall back on if I make no money with this PhD, if I even finish the damn thing. And I'll finish, too... I've gone through much tougher things than picking up a silly doctorate, after all.

Yeah. Definitely missing my guitar.