Monday, June 29, 2015

A Month in Moving pt. 5: In Which I Abandon Everything

A while ago, in part 4, I wrote about lightening the load. I'm proud to say it was a success. Other than clothes and shoes (packed for shipping to FPU City), books (stored or shipped), and a bed and couch that my friend with the garage agreed to keep indoors, I've narrowed my worldly possessions to this:

Now, I just hope the garage doesn't flood, or I'm gonna lose all that nice furniture from Target.

Leaving it all behind also refers to the neighborhood I've called home, and the apartment in which I have hosted fellow bloggers Squadratomagico (come back and blog with us again, Squadrato!!!) and Historiann, where I finished one book and started another, and where I lived next door to Voice of Reason from our first months as first-year proffies up to the time she got married. I guess her husband thought the two of them should live together. Whatever. Anyway, it's been a good home, but today I locked the door behind me and dropped off the key. On to new things.

Finally, I'm temporarily abandoning Grit City altogether.  In a few weeks, I'll be on a flight for a year-long adventure at Fancy-Pants U.  At the moment, however, I'm sitting in the international terminal, waiting to board a flight to Blargistan. A month of research, friends, and excellent food. I'm also bringing my Fancy Camera, which I have named Vera, in the hopes that if I name her, I won't neglect her. Expect dispatches, lavishly illustrated.

Good bye, everything! Hello, everything new!

Friday, June 26, 2015

And the award for best birthday present EVER goes to...

the Supreme Court of the United States.

Seriously, guys: I didn't think you could top your gift from two years ago. I know that technically, this gift's not for me; it's something meant to share with my friends. And I know that some of you only signed the card grudgingly. But it's really, truly, the best thing ever. Better than shoes; better than cheese; better than an all-expenses-paid trip around the world.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Month of Moving, pt. 4: Lightening the Load

I talked in a previous post about how a long stay in a single address allows one to gradually accumulate great piles of stuff without even realizing it. But the pain/joy of moving is that one is forced to confront such things and decide what to do. Usually, the choice comes down to: box it up and move it, or get rid of it.

This month, I have been making the choice to lighten my load. A week ago, I took out a bunch of good clothing I never wear: a leather jacket, two suits, a faux-leopard coat that I used to wear a lot, that sort of thing. "Still good! You like this!" warred with "You haven't worn this in 3 years/5 years/10 years/ever. Donate it." I've approached neighbors, friends, and random acquaintances and asked them whether they want some object or other, many of them quite nice. Yesterday, I saw a neighbor going by, and I dashed out of my door and asked "Do you need a blender or a drip coffee maker?"

The result? I've been slowly getting rid of everything that I don't use regularly. Every thing I give away is one more thing I don't have to pack.

Today, I explained this, in excited tones, to a friend of mine. He pointed out that I could have sold them online and gotten lots of money for them. Undoubtedly true. But right now, "lightening my load" also means not spending time doing things that I don't want to or have to do. Getting an account online, photographing and listing items, corresponding with buyers, taking shit to the post office -- NOT something I want to be doing right now.

I've also been attacking those stacks and stacks of articles with my marginal notes and syllabi and reading lists that I've saved. I wish I could tell you that I'd just ditched them all, but the fact is that about 20% of them are still with me, waiting to be scanned. But none of it will be done now, and none of it is getting moved with me. I've gone through the drawer in my office full of publishers' catalogs and just tossed it all in the recycling. Likewise for old notepads full of things that I figured that I might one day want to transcribe. The general philosophy here is the same: If I haven't needed it for this many years, I don't need it now. Or ever, probably.

None of this makes moving a pleasant experience, but I feel like I'm getting something good out of it: a lighter, more portable life.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Speaking of Wasting Time...

What do you do when you're blocked on a book manuscript?

Apparently, you write book reviews. I've been updating my CV, and have discovered that, in the last two and a half years, I have written eight book reviews. 

That's too damn many. Still, I guess I had to write something. And most of the books were pretty good. And reading other people's books gives you ideas for things that will and won't work for your own book.

Still: it's time to get back to my work.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Month of Moving, pt. 3: Stupid Shit I Shouldn't Be Wasting my Time On

  • Entering bibliography from old notes and publishers' catalogues that I have stacked up.
  • And I shouldn't have kept those anyway.
  • ... from 2009?!? What the hell? Why didn't I thrown these away years ago?
  • I'm just gonna take this whole folder and... Ooh! There's a bib I got from my Revered Mentor in grad school on the subject he's a world expert in. Let's enter that now.
  • No. It's 18 pages long. Okay, back in the folder it goes. 
  • Along with this.
  • And this.
  • I'll enter them all online soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Month of Moving, pt. 2: In Which my Apartment Becomes a Clown Car

"Oh, I don't have that much stuff. The move should be a snap."


When I was in grad school, I moved six times in eight years. Or was it seven times? I forget. But roughly once every year and change.  When you do that, you don't ever get a chance to accumulate that much stuff. And everything you have is disposable, more or less.

By contrast: I have been in my current apartment for twelve years.

Granted, there was the year I spent at Fellowship U. back in 2007/08. But I had a subletter then, so all I had to do was move my personal stuff into the back storage closet and box up the few things I was taking with me. So, twelve years since a move. This by far the longest I have lived in any single address since I... well, I was going to say "since I lived with my parents," but it occurs to me that my family moved across town when I was seven, and I moved out when I was eighteen. So: the longest I have lived anywhere, ever.


You all know what that means: even though I've only got a little over 500 square feet, and even though I like to keep a lot of empty floor space in that space so I don't feel crowded, in twelve years, you accumulate a lot of stuff without even realizing it.

And when you finally move, even the tiniest space turns into a clown car: you keep pulling stuff out and putting it in boxes, and yet there always seems to be more -- way more than the space and the laws of physics would seem to allow. How is this possible?!?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Forward goes Backward

UPDATE: This is an evolving situation; I'll post news links at the very bottom as I become aware of them.

If you've been paying attention to the news of academia lately, you can't have help but think that a handful of state governors (most of whom, not coincidentally, are potential or declared presidential candidates) are actively competing to see who can dismantle their state's higher education system most quickly and thoroughly. I'm fortunate that I'm teaching in a state that, while hit hard by the economic downturn (no raises or COLAs for 6 years; furloughs, mass lecturer layoffs), is climbing out of the abyss and currently has a governor who is throwing resources at public education at all levels. But we're kind of the exception.

Close to my heart is Wisconsin. I spent a truly wonderful year at UW in Madison, back when this blog started. I might have been able to finish my book without the resources and scholarly collaboration that that year provided, but it never would have been as good a book as it turned out to be. While there, I got to know the fantastic folks of Wisconsin, learned about the state's tradition of quietly progressive politics, and I even got to meet Russ Feingold. I learned the possibly apocryphal fact that the ass of the badger seated atop the head of "Forward," the female personification of the Badger State spirit, is the highest point in the state.

Something totally cool about higher ed in Wisconsin: the "Wisconsin Idea": a progressive-era ideal that the state should be the laboratory for democracy. When it comes to higher ed, they put it simply: "The boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state." And the protection of tenure was actually written into state law. Holy moly: now that's a commitment to partnership.

I kept following Wisconsin after I left, and grew progressively more dismayed. Feingold was voted out as senator and Walker was voted in as governor. He quickly moved to crush the unions, despite weeks of heroic protests and sit-ins -- a fact that he actually plays up in his "I may or may not be running for president" stump speeches. Early this year, he attempted to remove a key phrase from the Wisconsin Idea: "Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth." The university was for "workforce development," not "truth."

But this week, it moved from the realm of theoretical offense to the pursuit of knowledge to a gloves-off assault on the pesky educators standing in his way. First, the Walker government proposed law that would allow K-12 classes to be taught by people without a bachelor's degree or even a high school diploma -- all they'd need is "relevant experience." Then, the state government inserted language into the budget that allowed it to remove tenured faculty without cause in case of "financial necessity" (and no, they don't define this phrase). And today, the UW board of regents (most of them Walker appointees) just went along with it.

TL;DR: your teachers don't need to be accredited; your university profs can be fired at any moment; the "search for truth" can go fuck itself.

Oh, Forward. If only I had the power to animate you and your badger, so you could climb down from that dome. You look like you could kick some ass.

On, Wisconsin.

updates/link-y goodness:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Month of Moving, pt 1: Pulling up Roots

Honestly, I should have started this post a few days ago, when my Month of Moving really started.  Here's the deal: I leave for Blargistan at the end of June and will be there through the beginning of August. I leave for FPU somewhere in mid-August. It seemed beyond silly to pay six weeks' rent (not cheap, even in Grit City Beach) for 10-days' residency.

The upshot of this is that I'm giving up my apartment at the end of the month, and will be living out of a suitcase and a PO Box for about seven weeks.

"How Exciting!" say my friends.

Well, yes. Sort of. But so are plane crashes.

If you knew me a little well, you'd know I am in many ways a homebody, even a little bit of a nester. I like "my space" -- everything just so. I have a particular table in every coffee shop that I like to sit in (and this includes the coffee shops in the foreign cities I pass through). I like to recognize and be recognized by people in my neighborhood.

But if you knew me very, very well, you'd know that I am, paradoxically, very uncomfortable with anchors. Anything that might inhibit my freedom to move more or less as I pleased would make me twitchy. Even though I don't often take advantage of that freedom, I just need to know it's there: that I could be halfway across the world in a matter of weeks or months at most. That I don't have to negotiate my choices.

In other words, the essential paradox is that I freak out at the threat of being anchored, but I get nervous if I'm completely unrooted. And now I'm going to spend almost two months without a fixed address, anywhere in the world.

This should be interesting.