Forgive recent e-silence. You see, now I am working. Before, sure, I was working, but I was working at home, which meant too many chances to chat with you instead of work.
How are you?, you would ask, in that way you have, of poking around in my blog.
Not too bad. Could not give two shits today about my research, I'm afraid. Hey, check that out: look at who has been reading my blog! And check out that article about selling stupid crap in space! Soooooo much more interesting!
So what have you been doing lately?
Oh, you know, washing dishes, walking around the house to hear how the birds sound through different windows, seeing if a cat wants in, reading half of an article in Italian, surfing around to see who has something new to say...
So how exactly do you get any work done?
Shut up--I so did not ask for your opinion.
This week, though, I am a reformed being. I have come around to the ways of productivity. No really, I have, and it is all because I have to make an effort to find a web connection, and I might just as well open a book and read it.
Imagine--a book! For instance, I just finished Ali Smith's Hotel World. Apparently it was a Booker Runner-up (or is that Mann Booker--who knows). To tell the interwoven story of four women (one dead), it wends its way through different representations of time. Each chapter is named after a verb tense, for instance. And the action of the story centers around a hotel, where some of the characters work or have worked, and others stay. The hotel itself is the perfect setting, because hotels are such unreal places of fantasy, where we imagine lives of luxury or importance, or where we work to facilitate that fantasy for others. Anyway, don't want to blow the story. Tear yourself around from your own machine and go read it.
But here in my less-wired world, the question is, how do I convey to you, unsuspecting reader, what it is to spend a month away from home, working in an archive.
I will start with where I am, and save the archive for tomorrow. This town has, over the last 9 or 10 years, become my home of libraries. I have learned something of its nooks and crannies, and I love being the outsider with few local connections: I do not run into people I know, I do not have lunch dates, I neither cook nor have dinner cooked for me at any special time, I go to movies when I want to, I stay up as late or not as I want. I admit I do have little conversations with the people on the local NPR and jazz and classical stations. I practice the names of nearby towns, where I have never been, but whose projected high temperatures and chances of rain I learn every day. Does it matter that I wore this sweater yesterday?
I am staying next door to the music building on campus, so I can listen to students practicing, their piano and vibraphones mixing with amazingly trained voices (hard to imagine them coming from someone so young). My bathroom has a deep bathtub but a sticky dusty floor. My room has a single bed with a flowery spread and one outlet, with an amazing branching collection of splitters and extension cords. It supports two lamps, heating pad (for sorry back), hotpot, computer sometimes, alarm clock, phone charger.
I am still disappointed that the Cool Jazz Coffeeshop (does the place's real name matter?) has in the last year transformed itself. A few mornings ago it was the Lowkey R&B Coffeeshop. Not bad, all things considered, but not the CJC. I suppose it was the guy who worked in the mornings--who used to mock me for always ordering orange juice, dark-roast coffee and a cinnamon bun, but always having to consider it--who chose that station from all the other Sirius (Cerius?) satellite stations. This morning, I can only report a proliferation of red hot mamas, god-fearin women got the blues, dear mom and dad please send money, drinking bones and party bones, hell yeah I'm American, hick towns &c. on the cheesy country station, not to mention the ads about "before Sirius country came along, I had to talk to my wife--thanks Sirius!"
Eating alone in restaurants is its own art. Much easier to see a movie alone, if only because everyone in the theater is facing the same direction, and before long only notice what is on the screen (unless, like me, you have the bad luck to always share the theater with the man of many sinus problems). But restaurants are supposed to be about dates, or business dinners, or friends catching up after too long. Sometimes I do not mind that I am, again, encouraged to have a seat in the lounge, or that the host looks at me with that pity reserved only for single women. You have to have done this enough times not to buy into the look, or start to believe it and look for places offering take-away.