Old Daily Shows--May 2003

Find the archive of past entries at archive.htm. Today's entry is at daily.htm.

Wednesday May 7, 2003 Arriving

Today, I had my last Primal Scream of Swarthmore. Scream is an old tradition, wherein all the students gather at midnight on the last night before finals and scream their frustrations to the skies. Unlike Whitman, we prefer to sound our barbaric YAWPs from the doorways of the world, from its libraries, its grassy lawns, and its windows.

Eight times I've done this ritual, always from Mary Lyons, where I've lived all four years at Swarthmore. By tradition, the ML scream starts a few seconds later than the campus one--you see, though we're 15 minutes walk away, we can hear them screaming, and we wait until they do. How the residents of the Ville of Swarthmore must love us.

Tonight, a driving rain kept us mostly inside at ML, and we couldn't hear campus because of the rain. I like to think that I put my own stamp on the festivities, though: this time, I brought sparklers for all to share. And so we stood, Swatties crazed with work, getting soaked by the rain, drawing pictures in the air with fire. And for a while, nobody frowned. We screamed and laughed and played, and it was beautiful.

The sparklers came from the Italian Market, where Elizabeth and I went today. It seems profoundly ... odd ... to think that I probably won't see it more than once more in the next year and change. It's come to feel like home, a bit. Eliz and I did a trip into the city to cure finals angst--a long tradition of ours, it seems--and it was wonderful. We walked through the Reading Terminal Market, gazed at the cookbooks on the wall, and went to Ho Sai Gai for lunch. It's become our restaurant, in our own minds, and the food was characteristically wonderful this afternoon.

Afterwards, a walk downtown to South Street, where we stopped in at the used bookstore, looking for Earl Grey. Earl Grey, you see, is a wonderful grey kitty who lives at the bookstore. No kitties today, though, and so we pressed on. Down, down, down to the Italian Market, below South Street, far from the SEPTA rail lines.

I'd been saying to Elizabeth while we were in Chinatown that I was feeling a bit less worried about the Watson because of my experiences of Chinatown and the Italian Market. See, I'm a foreigner in both of them--much more obviously in Chinatown--but I still enjoy participating. I like to look at vegetables whose names I don't know inside Asia Supermarket, ogle various things at Chung May, and see the people wandering around switching between English and various tonal languages I don't speak. I am very much an outsider, but it seems not to bother me.

The same is true of the Italian Market. I don't speak Italian, though many people there do, and I said that I still felt happy about being there, despite not knowing anyone. I feel safe going into DiBruno's House of Cheese (where I purchased a quarter pound of Irish Cheddar laced with Guinness, at the recommendation of Mari, my acupressure therapist) and asking for things, and I feel confident of myself walking along the vegetable stands or even, most recently, going into the butcher shops. I know what things are inside Fante's, the cookware store, and I know how to make the fresh pastas that Talluto's sells. I said that I was an outsider, but that it felt okay, and gave me hope for living in Scotland, where I'll have to make new friends and find a community for myself as an outsider.

A while later, Elizabeth and I went into Fante's. I struck up a conversation with Ron and Sheridan, two of the workers there, about various things, including a dilemma I'd been having with my sharpening stone. How to keep it from sliding on the countertop? My dad's solution, perfect but unavailable to me, was to use his router and make a holder for the stone out of a 2x4. I've tried tape, I've tried cardboard, I've tried lots of things, but none worked. One of the women at Fante's suggested that I use some of that non-slip placemat material that people use. I had some in my room, because I use it to keep my rugs from sliding, and sure enough, it works like a charm for the sharpening stone.

We talked more about lots of things. They asked about my Watson fellowship, and I told them about it, what I'm planning to do, and they all seemed genuinely excited.

But the best part? Remember how I said that I struck up a conversation with them? It's not true. The conversation started when Ron came up to me and asked me how my concert had gone. I'd been in there in mid-March buying something, and had chatted with him about the concert while standing in line. Six weeks later, he remembered my face and the story, and started chatting.

Now, you need to realize that high on my list of reasons for getting a decent job is that it might someday provide some income for things like a really nice food processor and KitchenAid mixer. Also for fine cheeses and really good olive oil once in a while. These rank high on the list of priorities. Not far behind them is the desire to live in a place and be known, be a regular, be someone the shopkeepers remember and have conversations with. It seems a silly thing to want, sometimes, but it's true. I love that, in Potsdam, it's hard to go anywhere and not see five people I know reasonably well.

I never expected to find that in a cookware shop (Eliz and I call it, jokingly, 'the porn store', since we're both apt to load the Fante's website in moments of culinary weakness) in southern Philadelphia. It felt wonderful. I'm totally going to try to find a postcard to send them from Scotland.

A long time later, we made it back to Swarthmore, and the tiny chipmunk was seated on a rock in his garden, looking at us. Eliz and I stopped to say hello, and we left him a strawberry. It seems sometimes like all my friends are turning out to say hello and goodbye.

They're wonderful.

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Wednesday May 14, 2003 Fauré paper

This paper has to be at least 15 pages, and usually they're between 15 and 25 pages. I'm currently at 19 pages, and I've got 10 major sections left to write. I can so do this.

Saw three bunnies, a chipmunk, and a squirrel with a nut on the way to and from dinner. Had a godlike omelette that Elizabeth made. It's 3:30 a.m., I have done good work, and it's bedtime. It's a good day.

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Thursday May 15, 2003 The Fauré paper

It's done. A semester of research, my notebook full of data transcribed from the books that litter my floor.

I started writing it last night at around 9 or 10. I quit at 3 in the morning, and went to bed. I wrote for four hours this afternoon during my library shift. I started writing again this evening at about 7, and was finished by 1:15.

And in those ~16 hours, I wrote a 44 page paper.

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Friday May 16, 2003 Thanks

Today, I am thankful for the paper--55 pages including analysis--that I turned in today.

I am thankful for the wonderful omelette this afternoon, for good friends, and for the tarte Tatin we made this evening, even though it utterly destroyed the lovely seasoning on my cast iron pan.

I give thanks for pictures of cats sleeping in bowls on St. Croix.

I am glad for family, friends, and the providence which occasionally grants me the grace to deal with all this change in peace.

And I am thankful for the woman I love, whom I'm going to miss so terribly.

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Saturday May 17, 2003 Another goodbye

More people left today. It was hard.

I helped Eliz pack, and saw her off. Goodbye, love. I'll see you soon, though not soon enough. Have a safe trip, my darling.

Went to Tanguy and danced to take my mind off things like people leaving. Was mostly nice, though I'm not sure how ultimately successful it was. Ah well....

Be well.

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Tuesday May 20, 2003 Passing

I passed my comprehensive exam orals this morning, and passed the vocal rep test this afternoon.

I am now too tired to write about either of them.

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Friday May 23, 2003 Hello, goodbye

I don't really like most modern music. It's too far from the things that I tend to care about in music--tonality, harmonic progression, melody. I appreciate and even enjoy some of these things in modern music, too, but they tend to be less prevalent.

And I just really don't like Penderecki. So many weird sounds, though it's true what they say--listen to these things long enough, and they'll start to sound normal.

I listened to them, for hours, over the last three days. Winamp was my friend, as was David January, who helped me to study. I played the pieces over and over again, listening for clues that could help me to identify them. What's the orchestration? Is there percussion? Is it generally peaceful sounding, or does it sound perturbed? Is it "weird"?

After a while of studying, I finally decided to bite the bullet and take the exam. I walked into George's office, and asked him for the tape. At a listening station in the other room, I plugged in my headphones and rewound the tape, carefully marking my answer sheet with spaces for the different questions.

A deep breath.

Play. Mozart's rondo alla Turca comes on. What the hell? Turns out that I was playing the wrong side of the tape. Doh!

And then, with the right side of the tape, screaming violins, clashing pianos, and all manner of strangenesses. I did my best, but I felt deep down that I had failed the exam. You need to get two-thirds of the questions right to pass.

Funny that, with exams, you can often know that you've gotten a question wrong without having any idea what the correct answer is. I've tried to explain this thought to several people today, with no success. Maybe it only makes sense inside my head.

I had hoped that George would grade the exam then, but he left for a lunch break, and so I spent an hour and a half at lunch and in LPAC waiting nervously to go back into the library and check. Eileen, David, Jim, and I all went to Kohlberg for chai, then Dave and Jim left for their honors exams. Eileen came with me to check the score, and on the way we met Andrew Stout, and chatted for a long time.

But, to stop dragging it out, I needed 32 points, and I got 34 points. I passed my last repertory exam.

I am now done with the work for college.

Damn, that's odd. Good, though. But less . . . climactic than I thought.

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Friday May 30, 2003 Hello?

So many goodbyes, so quickly. Today was our last big fun event--"whitewater" rafting on a river whose name I don't know. Not much whitewater to be had, but it was good to spend a day on the water with David, Adena, and Susan, and Jim and Eileen with friends in another boat. Afterwards, David mused out loud: "I wonder how many more times we'll do the walk up the hill (to campus)... two? three? four?"

Strange to think of things like that. Every time I manage to wrap my mind around the idea of being gone from here, something like that crops up. I seem to be dealing reasonably well with the large-scale--I'll be living at home, not taking classes any more, not seeing my professors for a while, or never again--but the small things throw me for a loop. An odd time, this.

My life is getting packaged up and put into boxes for transport. Somehow it'll all get done. Lord only knows how, but it will. Eliz is here, and is wonderful. Thanks, hon.

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Saturday May 31, 2003 Turning

Baccalaureate in the rain, rain all day, rain was the idee fixe of the day. Points of light poking through the rain, though: chipmunks, family, Andrew Ward's wonderful Last Collection address, seeing friends.

I'm going to miss these people so much.

This is my last journal entry as an undergraduate. So many people need to be thanked: parents, family, friends, professors.... It's hard to know where to start. There's one that's often forgotten, though.

Thank you, Swarthmore.

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