Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Now that GF is in law school, and living a couple of hours away during the week, it's just me and the cats.

The first week GF was gone my parents were here, so entertaining them kept me busy. Next week I'll be back in school (and teaching a 5 day a week schedule) and, therefore, really, really busy. But this week, I'm out of sorts. I have stuff to do. Syllabi. Conference papers. Research. But I can't focus. I wander from room to room in my seriously lovely apartment and it feels like too many rooms, too many places to sit, too many books I could read, too many movies I could watch, too many channels on the tv, even.

But mostly, it feels like too many cats. They're everywhere I turn. On the newspaper I'm reading; between my feet when I try to walk; in the middle of the bed when I try to sleep; crying by the front door when I try to write (Manfred) or rolling pens off the desk and settling herself on top of the books I'm trying to use as I write (Margo). And they're vocal. I knew this about the breed, but thought, "how bad could it be?" Answer: pretty bad, given that siamese sound kind of like crying babies. I've invented half a dozen games for them, such as:

--dangling the elastic from a conference name tag. They love that, love to grab onto one end and walk away, turning and batting the tension between my end and theirs. They love it for a few minutes, that is.
--gathering all the sparkly puff balls from under the furniture and putting it in one of the drawers in the hallway table. Then I open the drawer and they pull the balls out, one at a time. This works until the balls are gone.
--combining above activities by tying conference tag elastic around a sparkly puff ball. Margo, especially, likes to play kitty tether ball with this. For a few minutes.
--building a fort out of a magazine rack and an old knit blanket. Manfred starts crying for this as soon as I get up in the morning and then immediatly burrows under the blanket until his head pokes out the end. Once he's safely wrapped in the blanket, with the tassles on the end draped over his ears, he's happy to just sit there for a while.

Manfred also has his own favorite game of jumping onto the tops of doors and riding them as they bang back and forth. Margo's is following me into the bathroom and trying to sit on my lap while I'm on the toilet.

Daytime isn't too bad, since that's when they sleep. But night and morning, when there's only one of me, two of them, and endless puffy balls to be dropped on my lap, or wrestled with on the bed at 4am, things feel a little overwhelming.

Monday, August 07, 2006

ice cream soup

I walked through my house this morning, on the way from the air conditioned bedroom, past the living room where an air conditioner was also running, and into the back part of the apartment, towards the kitchen. It's supposed to get quieter as you proceed away from the parts with the air conditioners to the part with no air conditioner, but as I got closer I heard a roaring sound, and wondered what it was, since there's nothing that whirs or fans in the kitchen. That is, unless one of the cats has practiced his new favorite trick of getting on top of the fridge and nudging the freezer door open. That was the sound I heard: the sound of the freezer trying to stay cool, unsuccessfully. Of course this was only a day after I had finally given in to my summer-long craving for neopolitan ice cream which was now neopolitan soup.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Finished! (for now)

Yesterday I sent in my article, after a month of almost non-stop writing. One thing I learned from this experience is that one month is not long enough to conceive (as in, not even an inkling that this was an essay I wanted to write until I saw the cfp) and execute an article. I put in hour after hour of feverish writing--twelve hours straight on Sunday, for example--99% of which I ended up cutting because I could not (COULD NOT!) let myself believe that the focus of my essay was as narrow as it was. That beast that rose out of the muck? He rose about three times, rose BIG, and said "Hello? It's me, your thesis. Write me!" and every time I said, "oh no, my thesis is much bigger than that, but you're sweet, and I'll give you a paragraph." He persisted, I balked, and wrote in circles around him until finally I had a talk with a friend who I usually try to pretend is not the HUGE NAME academic she is, because then I would be too intimidated to talk to, let alone cry on the phone to her, on a day when my time was running out and the thesis I thought I could handle was whipping around the room, full of itself and totally out of control, and she snapped me into perspective.

She said, "your desire is an obstacle to its own acheivement." And those words made everything make sense--the office with books stacked on and around my desk, making a little path to my chair, the trashcan brimming with empty TaB cans, Triscuit boxes, and discarded drafts, my unwashed body, my bleary eyes, my aching elbows, sore from resting on my desk while my fingers hovered in mid-air above my keyboard.

Outside there was a heatwave. From my window I could see people dressed in very little clothing entering and leaving the building. I started keeping track of when they left and when they came back, of how many of them were going to the grand opening of the new Target store down the street, who seemed to be leaving out of duty, who seemed to be leaving for something fun. I was becoming Gladys Kravitz. Inside, it was dark and cool. Two airconditioners, a fan, and a cd called White Noise (tracks include rocket ship, dryer, fan, and furnace)tried to block out the noise of the one year old upstairs, running the full length of the apartment, back and forth, back and forth, hour after hour. I was losing my mind.

I wanted to write this article more than anything, because I wanted to be a part of a very special issue of very special journal, but I had seen the cfp way too late, and that pressure was making it impossible to write my very special essay for the very special issue of the very special journal. So I turned off my computer and went to dinner at the friend's house and we talked about the general topic of my essay and I got a reality check about how people who don't write about this subject think about it. I went home, with five days until the deadline, and cut and cut and cut and got down to the most basic thing I could say about my topic and I said it. It's not sloppy or slapped together. It's a tight little essay. Maybe too tight, too little. Best case scenario: the very special editor of the very special issue says, yeah, this is cool, write another 500-1000 words and we're on. Worst case scenario: we're not on, so I give it another 500-1000 words and send it somewhere else.

Most interesting thing I got during a way tangential moment of last minute research: discovered a band from the 70s called Ten Wheel Drive, featuring a singer named Genya Ravan. Check it out. She's a screaming sort of blues singer, backed by a band with lots of horns. "Tightrope" is the song you'll want to know. Totally delicious.