Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where have you gone, Dr. Virago?

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Uh, right. Maybe not. But I couldn't resist the "Mrs. Robinson" reference. (No reason for it, btw. Bullock is 2 1/2 years older than I am.)

Sorry to have left and gone away (hey hey hey) without explanation. I've just been in one of those "don't-feel-like-blogging" modes again, in part because I lead a dull, dull life at the moment. [ETA: Came home from the office today and Bullock said, "Sorry you're so bored, honey." (He reads the blog.) So I feel I need to say that I'm not at all bored. But my life doesn't make for very exciting blogging because things are too darn normal and contentment doesn't make for good narrative.] It's not like I've been terribly busy (not like the school year, anyway) but I've been getting back into work, and since I didn't work at all the first two months of summer (mourning + moving = Dr. Virago not getting any work done) there's been a little bit of urgency to this last month of summer. (Can you believe we start August 21? Ugh!) And I'm actually accomplishing some things (see ye olde Random Bullet Points of Crap below).

But it hasn't been all work. Not that I'm up to much that's exciting, but there has been some rest and relaxation. And lots of TV and movies. Lots. Huge quantities.

So, without further ado, I give you Random Bullet Points of Crap: How Dr. Virago spend her remaining summer vacation. Here's what I've been doing:

  • Editing an article that has been accepted for publication! Woo-hoo! It's just a pedagogical piece, but it was peer-reviewed, so at my university, that counts as much as any other peer-reviewed piece. And the reviews were glowing! Yay me! Because I was mixing contemporary pop culture and medieval literature, one of my readers compared me favorably to story of St. Aldhelm on the bridge, who allegedly dressed in the guise of a minstrel and recited popular poetry to the people to get their attention before wowing them with his sermons. Read more about him here. Anyway, the edits are all in the nature of tracking down citations that I was a wee bit sloppy with in the first version (missing page numbers and the like) -- always a tedious but necessary task.
  • Writing an application for an NEH Summer Stipend. At this point it's still the internal stage -- you must be nominated by your university and each university may only submit two candidates. I did this before and was nominated by Rust Belt U., but alas, I failed to receive a stipend. I have a good idea why: the project was in its most amorphous beginning stages and I really couldn't write convincingly about what I was doing with it. Now I've done a lot more research and I'm proposing what's necessary to complete an article (including manuscript and archival research in England -- which is what I really need the funding for), not to begin some vague book project. I think the NEH will prefer something more concrete like that to the rather fuzzy project of two years ago. But now I have to convince my U. that I'm worth betting on again.
  • At the same time, because it's related to this application, I've been drafting what I'd write as my part of a proposal for a volume of essays, to which this article would be a contribution. (Wow, that was an ugly sentence.) And yes, I've mentioned this proposed collection in my internal application (and will probably mention it in the NEH version, too) so that my U. will see that this really isn't some vague project, but a concrete and short-term project with real prospects of publication.
  • Writing two encyclopedia articles. I know, I know, they're not worth much professionally. But I consider it a favor to a friend. Plus, one of them I can write in my sleep. The other is a little hard because it's really a topic defined by the criticism and not the literature, but the title of the entry is "X Subject in Medieval Literature" so I'm having a harder time with it. And the hardest thing about both entries is the conservative (small "c") nature of the genre. Dealing with organization and categorization for the one I can write in my sleep is a bit of a bitch because the categories by which one might expect to see it organized are the ones I strongly question. It's all reminding me of an essay we had to do for freshman composition way back in the last century. Our teacher asked us to categorize the people on our dorm floor. Of course no one wanted to use demographic categories like race, national origin, religion, or socio-economic background, because we were all idealistic college students. But also, how useful were those categories to us? (The best essay, btw, came from a guy who categorized people by their treatment of him -- it ended with the category "Just Jerks.") Well, anyway, the categories I could use are kind of like those demographic categories -- obvious, conventional, but questionable in their usefulness in this particular situation. But then again, an encyclopedia entry isn't the place to be innovative. Argh!
  • Watching a lot of DVDs from Netflix on the almost-as-good-as-a-movie-screen tv here at the homestead with Bullock. (Wait, I take that back. Sometimes it's *better* to watch movies on our tv than at the theaters in Rust Belt, since some of them are managed by the idiots who turn down the project bulbs under the false impression that that will save them electricity rather than just ruin the movie's visuals.) Among the movies Bullock and I have watched are:
    • Seven Up! and 7 Plus Seven. I can't wait to see the 21, 35, 42, and 49 installments. If you don't know these films, they're quasi-ethnographic documentaries of 14 English children from different socio-economic backgrounds, who are interviewed at ages 7, 14, 21, 35, 42, and, recently, 49, to see where they end up. When they started the project, in 1964, they chose these kids because they wanted a glimpse of England in the year 2000. I'm really curious to see if the class differences really did make their mark on these people's lives, since I think of England in 2000 as a very different world from England in 1964. I mean, I imagine the rather rotten rich girl who lives on a 4,000 acre estate will probably still be rotten at ages 21, 35, and 42, and still have all her privileges, but I wonder if the lives of those from lower and middle classes will have merged more, especially since some of them are going to similar state schools, and they may wind up at the same universities as the public school boys. In other words, I wonder how much education will be a leveler (or not). I'm also fascinated by how much all the kids at ages 14 already seem like characters out of 19th century novels. Some of them are aware of this, too. The public school boys, in particular, are worried about being portrayed as stereotypes. (For the record, though, the three of them have very different personalities and politics, at least at age 14.) Anyway, if you have seen this series, don't give anything away in the comments!
    • Spellbound. Clearly I'm on a documentary kick, as well as a charming kids kick. (Next on my Netflix queue, in the charming kids category, Truffaut's Small Change, aka L'argent de poche, one of my favorite movies of all time, but which Bullock hasn't seen.) Although Bullock kept mocking the uselessness of spelling bees as actual education (and he has a point, unless the kids are also studying how language works at the same time) I was really moved by a lot of these kids. And who knew how exciting the competition could be to watch! I actually had nail imprints in my palms from the clenching anxiety some of those kids provoked.
    • Millions. Yes, more charming kids, this time fictional ones in a kind of magic realism setting a la Danny Boyle. (Who knew Danny Boyle could do a family film!) If I ever do a class on hagiography, I'm ending with this movie. Seriously! I loved, loved, loved the quirky takes on the visions of the saints and the boy's obsessive, almost statistical-minded, memory of each of them and their lives. In fact, this movie might also pair well with Margery Kempe as a way into discussing her homely imitation of the saints and saintliness. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this movie would be *great* with Kempe. After all, Damian annoys his brother Anthony with his wish to give the money to the poor and do good deeds almost as much as Margery annoys the people around her. And the domestic is such an important part of both texts. Brilliant!
    • Napoleon Dynamite. No charming kids here! Finally got around to seeing this, and while I didn't love it, I liked it. I found it an interesting take on the teen movie genre. What happens if your geeky hero actually *is* a geek, it seemed to ask -- as opposed to the Hollywood version of a geek, which usually means Molly Ringwald or Lindsay Lohan or the male equivalent. The result? Well, it took me longer to warm up to Napoleon and then I felt kind of guilty for taking so long. And then I got mad at the movie for making me feel guilty. And then I started saying "Dang!" a lot.
  • Watching a lot of TV. What's that you say? Nothing's on? Not so! Basic and premium cable got wise and launched a lot of interesting stuff while the networks were running crap reality tv and reruns. Here's what we're watching:
    • Deadwood. Best. Western. Ever. Need I say more?
    • Lucky Louie. If you haven't seen this, you must. If you don't have HBO, get the DVDs when they come out. It took us a couple of episodes to 'get it,' but after that we realized that this is a brilliant take on the conventional sitcom formula. The conventions are all there, only for the first time, because it's HBO at 10:30 p.m., the people are saying the kinds of things they'd say in real life (fully foul-mouthed, as befits HBO) and you're seeing much more than you'd see on a network sitcom. And there's no warm and fuzzy resolution. And can I just say how refreshing it is to see real people again on TV. It reminds me of what an impact Roseanne made.
    • Hex. BBC America's very witchy take on the teen drama. The usual hotties are there, but now they're involved with demons, witches, a colonial and slave-owning past, and a snarky lesbian ghost. Not quite Buffy, but good stuff.
    • Eureka. Still warming up to this new SciFi show, but it has potential.
    • Life on Mars. Loved, loved, loved the first episode of BBC America's existentialist science-fiction-meets-hard-boiled-police-procedural-meets-nostalgia-for-the-seventies new series. Seriously, they couldn't have made a more perfect show for me and Bullock. He loves sci fi. I love hard boiled detective fiction. And we both love the "is it real or is it all in your head" trope.
That's about it. I do have some posts in my head -- if only I can pull myself away from the tv long enough to write them! I still want to talk about that new anthology -- which I love in all its quirkiness, but especially in its treatment of medieval drama -- and I have fabulous pictures of my 1980s prom dress to post, and I know y'all are just *dying* to see that!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oh f*** me, why did we *play* with our toys?

So I kind of figured my Star Wars toys were worth diddly, since they were loose, but just out of curiosity, I started clickng around some of the collector sites on the web. And guess what I wish I hadn't learned? Well, it seems that my blond SW Luke Skywalker, if he still had his original double telescoping light saber (which I very distinctly remember him having -- I got him in the "Early Bird" pack) would still be worth quite a bit of money even loose because the telescoping light sabers are rare. (I think my white-haired Obi Wan, who is also missing his saber, *might* have once had a telescoping one, but I *know* my Luke did.) Darth Vader, alas, the only one still with his saber, has a mere single telescoping saber, otherwise he'd be worth mega-bucks, even loose. Of course, that doesn't mean I'd find someone to *buy* Luke, with saber intact, for a lot of money, but still, that one little missing piece of cheap plastic makes me want to bang my head on the desk.


Collecting is weird and so is eBay, by the way. I was looking at what people were bidding for SW trading cards on eBay -- because, yes, I have some of those, too -- and people were bidding $15-20 a piece for some individual cards, but not bidding at all for complete sets where the minimum was $5. Can someone explain that to me?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Virago Facts 30 and 31 - Geek edition plus trivia questions!

Virago Fact 30: I was a tomboy.

As proof of Fact #30, I offer you Fact #31: I was a Star Wars geek.

And as proof of #31, I offer you the following photos of my SW toy collection. When I brought them home to Rust Belt from Cowtown, Bullock said, "You were more of a boy than I was!"

For the record, the purple, blue, and green striped wallpaper was Ms. V's doing in the '70s. she even made a matching trash can by using the same wallpaper on the outside of a clean Baskin Robbin's ice cream bucket. She was very crafty. Anyway, I later inherited that bedroom.

This is the original light saber toy, the one with the inflatable "light beam" that would either bend limply over time or come off the flashlight base because the plastic had stretched. Mine suffered the latter fate, and the tape my mom used to re-attach it is still holding it together.

Ah, the Death Star play set! Mine, I'm proud to say, is utterly complete and in working condition. There's a monster and "trash" (foam bits) in the orange trash compactor at the bottom! And if you look closely you'll see a rope swinging from the ceiling over the retracted bridge; it's just waiting for Luke to swing across with Leia!

At last, the action figures. Some don't have the right guns because my set got mixed up with my nephews and a few things got switched. And Luke and Obi Wan are missing their light sabers. But in general I'm amazed that most of them *do* have the appropriate weapons, despite being played with by me, my friends, and later, my nephew and his friends.

And these are the Empire Strikes Back figures. I was getting older and losing interest after the first few came out, so there are only 9 figures here. Meanwhile, my mom had discovered that some of these things were becoming collector's items, so she thought if she saved the cards, they'd be more valuable. She didn't realize that they still had to be *in* the packaging and unplayed with. At any rate, it made it handier to identify them and their guns.

And now the trivia question I promised. One of my nephew's Empire Strikes Back figures made it into my Star Wars carrying case, in one of the blank slots left for additonal Storm Troopers and Sand People. Can you identify which figure it is, and, for extra geek points, tell me the figure's name? (Remember, you can click on the photos to "embiggen" them, as JM says.)

May the Force be with you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Friday Threefer: Poetry, Random 10 and Cat Blogging!

Friday Poetry Blogging

I wans't planning on doing the song-lyric-as-poetry thing, even though poetry and song are fraternal twins, at the very least, but on my drive to Cowtown, the following Neko Case song came up on shuffle and I realized how, with a few changes, it suited Rust Belt. So I'm adopting it as the unofficial theme song of this blog. Plus, it reads well even without the music, since her lyrics tend to scan pretty regularly (very little clipping of syllables or holding them over multiple notes) and it's not stupidly repetitive in print. I particularly like the way the fourth line of the first stanza actually slows down as she sings "Ta-co-ma" over longer notes than the rest of the verse (which continues throughout).

Without further ado: Neko Case's "Thrice All American"

I want to tell you about my hometown
It's a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound
Well the factories churn and the timbers all cut down
And life goes by slow in Tacoma

People they laugh when they hear you're from my town
They say it's a sour and used up all place
I defended its honor, shrugged off the put downs
You know that you're poor, from Tacoma

Buildings are empty like ghettos or ghost-towns
It gives me a chill to think what was inside
I can't seem to fathom the dark of my history
I invented my own in Tacoma

There was nothing to put me in love with the good life
I'm in league with the the gangs guns, and the crime
There was no hollow promise that life would reward you
There was nowhere to hide in Tacoma

People who built it they loved it like I do
There was hope in the trainyard of something inspired
Once was I on it, but it's been painted shut
I found passion for life in Tacoma

Well I don't make it home much, I sadly neglect you
But that's how you like it away from the world
God bless California, make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don't find you Tacoma

Friday Random 10: Still unpacking
More music! The following ten songs came up during my bouts of book unpacking yesterday. (The bookshelves are done! Photos soon!)

  1. "Free Again" -- Alex Chilton
  2. "All I Do is Dream of You" -- Debbie Reynolds (from Singin' in the Rain -- shut up! That movie is one of my all time favorites!)
  3. "Climbing to the Moon" -- Eels
  4. "Waitress in the Sky" -- The Replacements
  5. "Race for the Prize" -- The Flaming Lips
  6. "Girl in my Dreams" -- The Screaming Tribesmen (Bet ya never heard of them -- they're an Australian band from the early '90s. They looked like a hair metal band, but they were more alternative pop. How I ended up with their CD is a bit complicated, but it's still worth listening to, so I ripped it.)
  7. "Settled Down Like Rain" -- The Jayhawks
  8. "Born Spirit" -- Broadway Project
  9. "Nowhere Man" -- The Beatles
  10. "(Drawing) Rings Around the World" -- Super Furry Animals
Friday Cat Blogging -- A First at Quod She!
This is my sister's cat, Callie. Sure, she looks like an ordinary cat here, under my parents' coffee table...

But what you don't realize is that she has secret Mutant powers. And here, I caught her just as she began to activate her power:

Invisibility! That's some cat!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New and Improved Virago Facts! Now with Photos!

100 Virago Facts in 100 Days: Day 29
(Yeah, I know I'm behind -- so sue me.)

I once attended Royal Ascot and wore this hat:

Yes, that's wheat on it. And yes, I rediscovered this hat while cleaning out my stuff at my parents' home. More wacky discoveries to come!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The triumphant return of my freak magnet

I’m baaaaa-ack! I didn’t have online access from the time I left Effingham to my return to Rust Belt, so I’ll have to do some catching up. Today: my adventures in Freakdom (plus some embedded Virago facts). I wrote the following on Monday night in a Holiday Inn.

Once upon a time I was a Freak Magnet much like this blogger. [So that’s embedded Virago Fact #27: I am, intermittently, a Freak Magnet.] Oh the tales I could tell. Some freaks were passing figures in my life, like the guy dying his mohawk in the laundromat bathroom who said he just loved punk-rock girls and could tell I used to be a punk-rock girl [true! And there’s Virago Fact #28], or “Ken,” who left a note on my car promising to be my love slave. Then there were the freaks whom I managed to encounter more than once, even in big cities like La La Land. (I blame public transportation because that’s often where I encountered them.) Sad, sad struggling actor Phil was one of the recurring Freaks; he said I had “a look” and wanted to take me to an art film (the first time I encountered him), but he also enjoyed “Tonka trucks and pb&j sandwiches” (or so he said the second time he found me). Clearly a man of many tastes. (There’s more of a story there, but that’s for another day.)

Then there were the guys I dated, who swiftly transformed from “interesting” to freak in a matter of days or sometimes hours. For instance, there was Joe, whose last name made him sound like a professional wrestler (the Pastry Pirate insisted I made him up) but who seemed like an interesting guy when I met him in my favorite hole-in-the-wall bar in Hipster Central. He told me I had great hair when I had a funky short cut, so I thought, “OK, here’s a guy with some style, who isn’t hung up on gender stereotypes like long hair on women.” And we talked about A Streetcar Named Desire, which I was teaching at the time, so I thought, “Hey, how often do you meet a guy in a bar in La La Land who actually reads?” (For the record, I knew he wasn’t just going by the movie version since we talked about the ending and the movie is different from the play.) But soon, after a date or two, I realized that these harmless seeming good signs were actually signs of Joe’s freakdom. It turns out he liked the thickness of my hair and actually hated the short cut because, as he said, “you look like a boy.” And why did he like the thickness so much? Because it showed I had “good hair genes,” whereas he was getting thin on top. Ew! He was looking for good breeding material! Consciously! And I also realized, when he wanted to talk about Streetcar again on the second date that it was just about the only thing he’d read and that he was only interested in talking about it because he didn’t agree with my interpretation (I did a queer reading of it) and arguing with me got him, um, turned on.

Oh good lord.

Those incidents – both the Freaks in passing and the ones who stuck around for awhile, who made it past my Freak Detector for a date or two – pretty much summed up my, erm, “romantic” life in La La Land. And then I moved to Rust Belt and met Bullock (who I am glad to say is absolutely NOT a freak) and my Freak Magnet calmed down.

Until, that is, I checked into a Holiday Inn in Terre Haute. The Freak is strong in this place. Or at least it is in the bar, where I could have had my very own sick, sad version of Lost in Translation, or, if that weren’t enough, I could have become a groupie of a lame hotel band (just as my alter-ego/evil twin Lauren Graham did in an episode of The Drew Carey Show!).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. See, the reason why I was in the hotel bar in the first place – lest you think I’m a freak – is because I didn’t get into TH until about 9:30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner and the nice check-in woman took pity on me for having to check me into a smoking room in their pathetic annex across the parking lot in BFE and so gave me coupons for the lounge. So I hied myself to said lounge for a glass of wine and some quesadillas before the kitchen closed. (And to the credit of the HI in Terre Haute, the quesadillas were pretty good. On the other hand, they don’t have wifi, at least not in the lame annex – I’m writing this in Word for future posting.)

OK, now that I have established that I’m not lame by nature, but only by necessity, I’ll get back to what happened in the bar. I should’ve known that freaks were afoot when I could hear the pathetic bar band way, way down the hall and in the swimming pool area. (And btw, who the hell thought a swimming pool in the middle of the atrium/lobby area was a good idea in freakin’ Indiana? I mean, it’s one thing to do the whole exhibitionist swimmer thing in SoCal or Las Vegas or Hawai’i, but really, in a Holiday Inn in Indiana?) And at first I thought they were so damn loud that I wouldn’t be able to stand it (yeah, I’m getting old – at least where rotten bar bands are concerned) but I was really, really hungry. So I wandered in. There was no hostess, though there was something like a hostess stand, though if there had been a hostess I wouldn’t have blamed her for not standing at her post, since it was right next to the hideous and loud band. I also didn’t want to stand there, so I started to venture towards the bar, which wasn’t much further from the band, but it had staff people I could ask questions of, such as, “Is it too late to get food?” But as I was taking all this in, a very old man – old enough to be my father, and for the record, my father is 83 – waved at me and beckoned me. Um, I don’t think so. In fact, at the time, I thought he must have me confused with someone else, so I ignored him and went up to a server to ask if I could get food and if I should seat myself. I decided to seat myself as far away as possible from the bar with the weird old man, but also far enough back that I could escape going deaf but also still see the waitress.

Once settled in, and once the waitress interpreted my order over the din (there was a lot of pointing), I decided to actually look at the band. There were at least in their late 40s, or perhaps just looked it, and between the three guys I could see (I couldn’t see the drummer) they had a veritable Museum of Bad Hair that only a cheesy bar band could have. One guy had a stringy blonde ponytail; one had a shaggy mane reminiscent of hair metal bands and a Harry-Shearer-in-Spinal-Tap mustache to go with it; and the lead guitarist had a mullet. And it wasn’t just any mullet; it was a curly mullet. (It’s a shame I didn’t have the camera with me or I could’ve sent it to Mullets Galore or whatever that old website was. Wait, are they still around?) They were playing the expected bar band mix of classic and southern rock with a bit of country thrown in – this is Indiana, after all – but once in a while they threw in one of their own songs and hawked their CD. I think that’s what made them especially sad. There weren’t just a bunch of accountants getting their kicks on the side playing the Allman Bros. – they were serious. Oh, and at one point, the guitarist referred to the band as a “bunch of young guys” and also drew attention to the fact that their audience was so small and they were playing a hotel on a Monday night. Oh man, so sad! And he knew it!

But wait, what does this have to do with my Freak Magnet? Glad you asked. You see, soon after I settled into my booth, from which I could see the band and the whole crowd, I noticed I was the only woman there who wasn’t a staff person. The band noticed too, because they started singing towards me. That is, the two guys who traded singing duties (ponytail guy and mullet guy, but especially mullet guy) starting directing their gaze at me as they sang things like “American Girl.” This then directed the attention of the rest of the audience (all 10 or so of them) towards me, so I had a roomful of lame men in a hotel bar on a Monday night all looking at me. I was so uncomfortable I pulled out my PDA and started updating it!

And if that weren’t enough, this reminded Old Dude that I was still there, and every time I looked up for the waitress, he was waving at me across the room. I tried to make it obvious that I wasn’t looking for/at him, but he didn’t get the message because just as I was polishing off my quesadillas (oh god, he must have been watching, waiting for me to finish) and as I had my head buried in my PDA (now I was just playing one of the games, truth be told), I saw an old pair of hands resting on my table. I slowly looked up in my best Heathers-cum-John-Hughes-film-cum-Veronica-Mars look of slow burn popular kid disdain, but Old Guy didn’t get it. I raised one eyebrow as if to say, “Yes? Can I help you?” He still didn’t get it. He asked me if I wanted to dance.


I know some of you out there are thinking “Oh, for heaven’s sake, dance with the lonely old guy.” No thanks. I think old guys who ask much younger women to dance are creepy and full of a ridiculous sense of entitlement, especially for old guys hanging out in a hotel bar. And this is especially true of this particular Old Guy because it took three freakin’ times to get him to take no for an answer. Had he pressed again, I would’ve lost the polite smile and “no thank you” and told him to fuck off.

Tangential story: I once had an old guy so determined to dance with me that he grabbed hold of my wrist in a vice-like grip (creepy old guys are often surprisingly strong) and I had to sit down and use gravity as my ally to get him to give up. I also nearly started crying because I really, really didn’t want to dance with him – I’d been told that he told stories of sex with boys in Asia when he was in the Korean war, and he both disgusted and scared me – and the whole situation was made worse by an insensitive boyfriend who thought I was being rude. If you ask me, both that situation and the more recent one seem to enact on a vaguely socially acceptable level (i.e., dancing) an issue of women’s autonomy. I think both old men just assumed I’d say yes – after all, don’t all women secretly want to be asked to dance, no matter by whom, even if they’re otherwise occupied with their dinner or their date? (And yeah, I was royally mad at that asshole of a boyfriend.)

Which brings me back to the hotel bar in Terre Haute. So there I am, just trying to get some dinner and my free glass of wine so I can go back to my room, relax, and get enough sleep for the long drive the next day, and my peace is disturbed and attention drawn to me by not one, but two Freaks (out of only about 15 people total in the place!), both of whom, I’m sure, thought they were complimenting me. After all, what woman doesn’t like to be serenaded, even by a sad, cheesy hotel band? What woman doesn’t want to dance with whomever is available? Especially a woman who is all alone in a hotel bar. Isn’t she just asking for company?

And that’s what I think my so-called Freak Magnet was/is all about. It’s about being a woman alone, on her own, in public. It’s why it hasn’t been so strong in Rust Belt because I don’t take public transportation and more often than not I’m out with Bullock or with Victoria. I’m not alone in public as much as I was in the big cities. It’s just a different life here, but now part of me wants to defiantly go out in public by myself more often just say “Fuck you, Freaks! You have not driven me into hiding!”

But as troublesome as freaks can be, and as much a sign of general misogyny and sexism that they might be, I have to say, life could be worse: I could be a sad, 40-something musician with questionable sartorial taste, playing lame classic rock in a loser band in a hotel bar on a Monday night. Or worse, I could be a really old guy getting down to them and failing to pick up the only women in the room not on the hotel payroll.

So ha!

Friday, July 7, 2006

Oh who am I kidding?

There will be no sunrise photo of the Effingham Cross. I got up at my usual 7:30. I'm just leaving my hotel room now, at 9 am.


Greetings from the Crossroads of America

And when they say crossroads, they mean Cross / Roads. Seriously, if you didn't believe me about the scary giant cross I keep mentioning every time I pass through here, click on that link and look at the tiny people at the foot of the cross. And btw, when that website says it's meant to be a beacon of hope, do they mean it as in "Oh boy, I hope I make it to that cross, where I know there are gas stations, before my tank hits empty"? Because that's what it means to me. When I got here I'd driven 395.9 miles on a single tank of gas and I'm a little lucky I made it, given that I only had about half a gallon left when I filled up!

In all fairness I have to say that this huge cross is quite classy and understated compared to the Godzilla-Jesus somewhere south of here on I-57. Bullock and I saw it on our way to a wedding in southern Illinois. It's a statue of Jesus's bust and arms rising out of a pond in front of some megachurch and I swear to the FSM the head alone is the size of a house. Given the size and the watery setting, the first thing Bullock and I thought of was Godzilla. I think I was supposed to be thinking of baptism, but since there was no John the Baptist (and we're all grateful for that!) and Jesus looked to be rising out of water, rather than being submerged in it, baptism didn't come straight to mind. Giants rising out of the water always mean Godzilla to me.

Anyway, back in Effingham, I think I freaked out the waitress in the Cracker Barrel next to my hotel by actually playing with that peg game that's on the table. I used to be able to do that thing -- it's the one in the shape of an equilateral triangle and you have to jump pegs until only one is left -- but this time I could only get down to two pegs. I only gave it three tries, though, before my beef stew came. And can I just say that I myself momentarily freaked out when, upon entering a Cracker Barrel for only the second time in my life, I realized that it looked just like the other Cracker Barrel I'd been in. I realize that that's probably a design element and I guess they think it's comforting to most people -- and maybe it is -- but it really unsettled me. I felt a hole rip in the time-space continuum as I suddenly occupied two places and two times simultaneously. Creepy.

Speaking of creepy, the part of Effingham I've seen is a very weird little place. Of course, I've only seen the part that caters to the truckers and roadtrippers on I-70 and I-57, so maybe it's a nice place away from the highways. Still, it makes me want to sing lonesome songs. Maybe I'll listen to some Neko Case when I get back on the road tomorrow.

Well, that's all I've got for now. I think I'm going to try to be good, go to bed, and get up bright and early so that maybe I have some time to stop at the scary giant cross myself and take a sunrise picture of it. What can I say -- I love roadside kitsch.

Oh, and when I get back to substantive blogging, I want to post about yet another Brit Lit anthology. Just got the medieval volume sent to me and the table of contents alone has me very excited. But I still need to read some of the headnotes. But now, to bed.

100 Virago Facts in 100 Days: Day 26

I grew up saying "pop" for the stuff that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, et al. make. Then I moved to the East Coast and quickly learned to say "soda," lest I seem like a rube. I kept saying "soda" for roughly the same amount of time I'd said "pop" in my formative years, yet when I moved back to a "pop" region three years ago I couldn't bring myself to resume the habit of my youth. I still say "soda."

Thursday, July 6, 2006

You *can* go home again...unfortunately

This afternoon I leave for another trip home to Cowtown. (And this time maybe I *will* blog from or about the scary giant cross in Effingham, Illinois, where I always stop. Remind me to take Bullock's digital camera with me.) I am NOT looking forward to it.

Actually, scratch that. I'm looking forward to seeing Virgo Sis, who's there through Saturday, and meeting her kitty for the first time. Apparently Sis's cat spent most of their entire roadtrip on Sis's lap! She sounds just adorable. And I'm looking forward to seeing Fast Fizzy and the Fizzy Family. And I'll also be seeing my high school BFF. We really are still friends despite the fact that she's a preppy conservative Catholic and I'm, well, none of the above. I kind of appreciate our differences sometimes and celebrate our continued similarities. I missed her on the last trip -- I really should have called her and asked her to come to the memorial, but I didn't want to burden her -- and I'm looking forward to catching up with her.

As for Dad and home -- not so much. I haven't been back since Mom died and I'm not looking forward to being in that house without her in it. The reason why I'm going back is to collect my old belongings that I really want to keep (beloved childhood books, my prom dress, my old dollhouse, my Star Wars toy collection, etc.) those things of Mom's that were meant to go to me. Why so soon? Because from the moment Mom died (and I'm not exaggerating -- I swear it's the first thing he said when I came back from the hospital and told him Mom was dead) and every day since, Dad has been saying over and over again, "I've got to think about selling this house. You kids need to come get your things and whatever you want from your mother." Of course, he's not actually going to get this process rolling any time soon -- and frankly, that house cannot be sold with him still in it (if you've ever been shown a house that old people had been living in for 50+ years, you know what I mean) -- but that won't stop him from pestering us. A few days after Mom's death, when I said, "Dad, give us some time," he yelled, "The hell with that! I'm on MY time now!" (I really wanted to say, "When has it ever NOT been your time, you selfish old fool?") Of course, collecting my stuff probably won't stop him from pestering me, given his failing memory. Every week we have the same phone conversation in which I say something about packing or unpacking and he asks, "Did you move?" And every time I remind him I sent him my new address. If he weren't so damn pathetic I'd be even angrier with him.

And I'm really sick of organizing, sorting, packing, unpacking, and storing things. Really, really sick of it. I want to be settled in again. I want to get back to work. I haven't done a lick of real work since the semester ended and I've lost all momentum. I keep wanting to comment on people's posts on where the books go (office or home -- Flavia's question) or how much writing they're getting done, but it's all depressing me because I've been so disconnected from work for the past two months. That's also the reason why I haven't done much substantive blogging -- and my readership has fallen off as a result. I just don't have much to say, unless you're interesting in hearing about my methods for packing the dishes!

I'm taking the computer with me and the iPod (with the cool new hot pink tube that Tiruncula sent me -- thanks, Tiruncula!), so I hope to escape to blog, and when Dad's getting to me, I'll just pop the iPod earbuds in. If things are really bumming me out, maybe I'll try to lighten things with nostalgia blogging -- my old room is a veritable palimpsest of my life since I spent the first 18 years of it in one place, and there's some funny shit from my teen years. Yeah, I should defintely take the digital camera with me!

And since I'm only taking a weekend to go through all that crap, it will be a lightening fast exercise in "How much does this really mean to me?" It'll be just like those reality show where they throw someone's entire life into a wood chopper or sell it at a garage sale!

Well, anyway, wish me luck!

100 Virago Facts in 100 Days: Day 25

I have met Prince Edward of England. All I could think during our brief conversation (at a royal charity garden party) was "He seems so sad. I really want to whisper in his ear, 'You wanna blow this hotdog stand and go get a beer? You look like you could use one.'" Of course, can't feel *too* sorry for the filthy rich, now can you?

100 Virago Facts in 100 Days: Day 24

I have no idea what color to call my eyes. Seriously. They're dark green around the outer rings, but then dark gold around the iris pupil (I actually originally meant to say "middle rings of the iris" but skipped over a whole string of words. Hate when I do that). Is that gold what they call "hazel"? And if so, then do I pick "green" or "hazel" on DMV forms and so forth? I generally go with "green" because it's a little more predominant, but still -- what the hell color are my eyes?

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Happy Independence Day

So to celebrate this day of patriotic fervor, Bullock and I are going to make apple pie (and before that, we'll grill some burgers). And then maybe we'll watch a movie. I've got Brokeback Mountain from Netflix, so maybe we'll watch that. Ya can't get more iconically American than a Western, even a gay western. Perhaps especially a gay western.

What are you doing (or have you done) on this day of fireworks, hotdogs, and mosquitos?

100 Virago Facts in 100 Days (sort of): 15-23

Here are some random facts about me -- though clearly a couple of facts sent me into some strings of thematically related ones.

15: I have a picture of me, at age 15, with Joe Strummer. When I get the scanner set up (someday) I'll scan the picture, blur my face and my friend's face, and post the picture.

16: Until moving in with Bullock, I had never lived in a residence with more than one story within my own residential space. The house I grew up in was a ranch, and after that I lived in dorm rooms and apartments with living quarters all on one floor (unless you count the downstairs entry hall to my 2nd floor apartment in Rust Belt Historic District -- I don't). Many of the dorm and apartment buildings were two stories or more, but my own residence wasn't.

17: I have been to 36 US states and the District of Columbia. The biggest cluster of states I haven't been to is in the west, including: Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

18: Of the seven continents, I've been to Asia, Europe, and, of course, North America.

19: My first trip to Europe was in 1978. I was 9. I still remember a lot of things about that trip, including the taste of a chocolate crepe at a specific creperie in Paris.

20: I have a world map with pins covering it. The red ones are for places I've been, the blue ones for places I want to go. I have a friend who calls it "Virago's Plan for World Domination." He says he worries every time a blue pin is replaced with a red one. (I haven't found a place in our house to hang it yet, but I think it will go in my study somewhere.)

21: I once spoke in the Cambridge Union Society. It was the scariest public speaking experience of my life because it was a packed house and there were people like MPs and TV personalities there. It was just a "floor speech" (extemporary, during open debate, brief -- i.e., not a formal speech) but still, it was terrifying.

22: I've petted a lion cub (in the Vienna Zoo) and a full grown male orangutan (in a US zoo, through a barrier, under the careful guidance of his keepers). The orangutan seemed very pleased to meet me -- he made lots of noises which his keepers said were his "stay away, this woman is mine" noises. In the wild that could be very, very frightening, as orangutans do not distinguish primate species -- any female primate will do. But this O behaved himself after that display (the barrier helped, of course!) and presented his lips and fingers (through the laticework of his cage door), which I stroked.

23: I wanted to be a zoologist when I was growing up, and I had a career crisis in grad school which led me to take an extension biology course on "Animal Behavior in Zoos" and volunteer as a research assistant in the local zoo. Although the experience was very pleasant, for various reasons I decideded to stick with literature.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Moved...but not unpacked

All my stuff is here in the house that I now share with Bullock, and my keys to my old apartment have been turned in, so it is all official. I have moved. (When I was cranky and anxious about all the stuff I had to do to get moved, Bullock worried that I didn't want to move in with him, and I explained, "No, honey, it's just that I want to have moved in with you already. It's the moving that I don't like.") And can I just tell you all that a local move involving the merging of households is more complicated than a cross-country move of one household, at least in my experience.

Things didn't go off without a hitch -- the freakin' movers didn't have me on the schedule for the day I was supposed to move! -- but all was ultimately resolved (at half price! yay!) and no furniture was broken or marred. I haven't unpacked the dishes yet (a benefit of moving in with someone else), but since I packed them myself and they survived other moves in which I packed them, I'm sure they're OK, too.

Sorry for the light posting here and my disappearing act from comments both here and elsewhere. I've just felt more like unpacking and getting things done than blogging lately. But when I'm more settled in I'll catch up with the 100 Virago facts, and when Bullock finishes the beautiful bookcases he's making for me (they are so cool!) I'll take pictures of them before and after they're laden with my books.