Friday, July 29, 2011

RBOC - Ghosttown edition

  • I get to keep the couch in my living room!  The other tenants who were going to get it decided to buy their own, so my landlord told me this morning that I was welcome to keep the couch at my house.  Score!  Now I can move on to mulling over coffee tables and bookcases/credenzas.
  • Of course, before I get into all that, the landlord wants to rip up the old and rather dirty wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room, and put in some nice new tile.  This is fine with me, although I really hope that the contractor can lay hold of the tile quickly enough to do the work next week, when I'll be going to DOU-Town to get shitfaced while catching up with old friends retrieve my stuff from storage.  Apparently, the work will take approximately a week to do, and would be rather inconvenient to walk around in normal conditions, let alone when I have my personal library and some assorted housewares to unpack from a moving truck.
  • I really tried to like grits, but I don't.  I never will.  I am okay with this.  It's not like I wouldn't seem like a full-bore Yankee if I ate the stuff anyway.  
  • In general, I kind of hate the dominant cuisine around here, which seems almost entirely based on pork, cream, and cheese, preferably all together.  I like all of these things in their separate places, and in moderation, but fuck, how can people eat this crap day in, day out?  No wonder the obesity rates are sky-high in this state.  I'm looking forward very much to getting here from DOU-Town with my kitchenware, so I can start cooking for myself.
  • On the other hand, I found a fabulous little restaurant very close to my house with some killer cocktails recipes and really good food, albeit still based on the heavy-ass Southern standbys.  (Haute cuisine here is really haute Southern cuisine; there's just no getting away from it.)  I had several glasses of a wonderfully refreshing champagne-and-watermelon cocktail that cheered me enormously.  And, compared to what I'm used to in Hometown, and even in DOU-Town, it's cheap.  Wow.
  • I think the feeling of being all by my lonesome out here in the boondocks is getting to me a little.  There's not too much social interaction to do with my colleagues yet, since they're mostly out of town until the semester starts, and there's not much of any other social scene for me, unless you were to count trying to make small talk with bartenders.  I should respond to this situation by focusing intently on my writing, and make the most of the lack of external obligations.  However, I find myself spending far too many hours a day moping about how there's no one to talk to, and, more disturbing, thinking wistfully about my last girlfriend.  I'm pretty well over her, but I'm wistful about having a girlfriend, period.  I sometimes wonder how these serial monogamists you hear about pull off such a feat.  I am sorry to report that it's been nearly two years since I've even been on a date.*  Given the amount of time I expect to spend here, the smallness of the town, and the fact that I seem to be the only Jew in sight for – gulp – miles and miles of Bible Belt territory, I am not optimistic about this situation improving.  (This is the kind of place where people use the word 'Christian' as a synonym for 'good, decent, respectable'.  I'm not eager to find out how the word 'Jew' is deployed outside of religious contexts.)  I'm told there are others of my kind in Big Regional City, which is only an hour and change down the highway, but I'm not going to truck out there on any regular basis, let alone to mack on women.  I guess it's not quite as dire a dating scenario as Research City, but I wonder.  At least there were diplomats there.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to the semester starting; I love my private time and space, but it's odd to experience it when there's nothing to stand in opposition to that seclusion.
*Is this normal, or am I really into statistical freak territory here?  And if I'm doin' it wrong, how do I fix it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting settled

It's just plain weird trying to get myself established here in Ghosttown.  My appointment runs for a single year, so I'm already taking note of job opportunities for next year, and yet I must also live here for this year.  That last bit is as much an admission as anything.  It's not normal to me to feel like I really live anywhere, in particular.  I haven't had a really settled address that I strongly associated with my sense of self since I left the house I grew up in, after college.  I haven't lived for more than a year at any particular location since I was in Research City for my doctoral research.  It's clear to me that it would be foolhardy to consider myself anything other than itinerant until I land a tenure-track job.  And yet I feel a certain (class-influenced?) compulsion to, for lack of a clearer impulse, "act more like a grown-up," now that I'm teaching at a university and must interact with my social surroundings as a professional, rather than a grad student who, one assumes, lives like a semi-hibernating animal. 

Since I can't get to DOU-Town to retrieve my stored possessions until next week, I currently have a cavernously empty house.  The landlord was kind enough to throw in a queen-sized bed (clean!), a little nightstand, and a little kitchen table and two folding chairs.  Nothing high luxury, but useful.  A few years ago, I would have jumped eagerly at the chance to receive more free furniture that I need not worry about moving to my next location.  But instead, I began to chafe at the idea of having nowhere comfortable to sit, and no proper work space until such time as the landlord might manage to dig out the "big, heavy" desk that he salvaged from a previous tenant; I needed to get my study set up on the double.  I let him know today that he needn't worry about it, and then I went to Office Depot and bought myself a super-cheap deeply discounted computer desk and cheap pleasingly discounted desk chair.  You know why?  Because I'm a goddamn grown-up who doesn't rely on freebies.  I fully recognize that I may be regretting this decision after a year, if I don't get another job and am reduced to living entirely on freebies by dumpster-diving behind the supermarket, but my ego simply couldn't tolerate the situation any longer.  (My back was complaining, as well.) 

I also bought myself a dresser and a larger nightstand for the other side of the bed.  That's nothing new to me, but it felt strange to shop for something solid that might actually survive a move or two, rather than some cheap crap that I would have to assemble myself and which would disintegrate as I moved it from place to place.  I haven't given up on assembling stuff: I'll have to do that with both the chair and the desk.  But my memories of losing an entire day to putting together large pieces of furniture when I could have been doing something more pleasant are still keen.  And besides, most of my tools are still in storage with my books in DOU-Town; how many damn screwdrivers and hammers do I need to keep around?  I'm already here, and so are most of my clothes; I had to put 'em somewhere.

And, no less bizarre to me, I could afford to buy something already assembled, especially since they threw in delivery for free.  I'm so accustomed to thinking of myself as living in near-poverty that I felt actual guilt about buying a dresser for $170 instead of $120.  I got over it, though: putting together a lousy piece of furniture with short longevity doesn't give me much of a sense of accomplishment, and having it delivered to my door ready to go leaves me with enough energy to deal with other stuff.  Not that I'm rolling in it now.  I'm not.  But my modest salary, which hasn't even kicked in yet, feels like a windfall after all those years of living on TAships and survival-level grants.  It's disorienting to think of myself as capable of buying more than necessities and low-level luxuries, however temporary that opportunity may be.

So now I have a good-looking dresser and nightstand, and if my engineering skills come through, tomorrow I'll have a comfy desk chair and a light, easily portable computer desk.  Next step: a good bookcase to order pre-assembled and delivered, so that I'm ready to drive up next week and unload my books.  I figure I should only get one bookcase to start, since I now have an office (weird!!) at Ghosttown U. where I can store plenty of books.  I have no idea as yet how I should divide office from home, in terms of my books; I don't envision much difference between the two for this gig.  My house will largely be dedicated toward keeping me running in the study, once I get things set up.  I'm clearly investing the most time, energy and money in my study, since I just can't bring myself to feel settled in this house, or in this town.  I'll feel a lot more comfortable when the study is up and running, especially after Thursday, when my internet service begins and I can stop hanging around the three four caf├ęs that Ghosttown has to offer so I can be online.  (My sweet new office computer hasn't arrived yet.)

I have no plans at all yet for the living room, which will be empty in a few weeks, when the landlord reclaims the couch currently in there.  I don't watch TV, and I really don't know how much I'll be entertaining guests of any sort in this house.  What am I supposed to do with that enormous open space next to the kitchen?  If I can't find anything on the freecycle section of Craigslist, am I culturally obligated to buy a couch and a coffee table so as not to out myself as a snobby elitist academic?  What does one do with a living room, when one expects to have no guests?

P.S. Along with my books and extra clothes in storage are my kitchen implements, dishware, and glassware.  Yes, this is annoying as hell.  On the dubious plus side, though, it's making me get acquainted with Ghosttown's small stock of restaurants.  You wanna know how small-town this place is?  I found the Ghosttown entry on Citysearch, and the first result that Citysearch threw up for local restaurants was "Walmart Supercenter."  Jesus fucking Christ, what the fucking fuck am I doing here?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Moving in

Against all smart odds, I signed a lease on an apartment a day after I arrived in, um, this town. (More on toponyms below.) It's a serviceable little 2BR place. I plan to use the smaller bedroom as my study. And it has a deck! And the landlord is giving me some used furniture for free! He's actually a very sweet guy, aside from all the noxious Tea Party/Sarah Palin paraphernalia he has. (None of it in my place, thank heavens.) I haven't gotten over the unselfconscious ease with which people say racist things here, but I guess my poker face will get a workout.

Oh yes, racism, right. It turns out that my new locale possesses deep (if narrow) cultural memory of the Civil War. They were on the losing side. Many contemporary residents seem as if they still have half a mind to make the south rise again. The whole nasty historical period and its long aftermath seems to hang over much of the town, and even the university itself. I've never experienced anything like this before.

I toyed with some options for a good location pseudonym, and the one that keeps insistently coming to mind is Unquiet Past. This yields very awkward acronyms, though, so I'm thinking of glossing it as Ghosttown and, naturally, Ghosttown U.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Freedom of the road

My family misery is too psychically near to put out of mind, but at least I am now physically removed from it. I'm in a roadside motel that claims to have free wifi, but of course the signal is too weak to load a single page. Times like this make me grateful for my new iPhone, even if I'm still working on my two-thumbed typing skills.

I need to get my head into house-hunting mode and out of family drama. Iactually made a little progress this evening over dinner: I was rolling over some random thoughts, and I realized that there's another interesting little question that I should discuss in my (sadly neglected!) manuscript. I had a work-related thought again! And then I jotted it down in my iPhone. Hee.

So basically, my family depresses me, my writing has been on hold, I have no idea yet where I'll live in my new town, but I'm enjoying the iPhone. That's something, right?

Oh, on the subject of pseudonyms, I'm holding off on naming my new location until I see the place myself and can brainstorm a meaningful pseudonym. Sisyphus' suggestion of Postdoc Town is not only a little generic, but technically inaccurate, since the job is a VAP. I'll work on it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get me the hell out of here

My route is mapped.  My hotel rooms along the route have been reserved.  I've nearly finished packing my bags.  I'm pretty much ready to go!

I am therefore grinding my teeth that I can't actually go until Tuesday.  Just a few more days, just a few more days.  I can take it, I can take it.

On the plus side, I've been feeling a little bit better ever since I got my reservations.  That's kind of the only thing getting me through the next few days.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My dark place

I'm staying in a pretty nice house here in Hometown, courtesy of family.  I cannot enjoy it much, though, because my family comes with such awful, depressing drama that I can take little pleasure in the house and its comforts.  I would be – will be! – much happier when I drive out of Hometown and have to stay in who-knows-what random circumstances until I find myself a dwelling place in my new location.  Can't come soon enough. 

The situation makes me think of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, in the first scene where he's painting maps.  Never thought I'd relate to anything that T.E. Lawrence said.

T.E. Lawrence: Michael George Hartley, this is a nasty, dark little room.
Hartley: That's right.
T.E. Lawrence: We are not happy in it.
Hartley: It's better than a nasty, dark little trench.
T.E. Lawrence: Then you're an ignoble fellow.
Hartley: That's right.

I may not be noble, but I know that I am not happy in it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Road music: tech suggestions?

I'm getting antsy about my upcoming road trips, most of all about how to keep good tunes flowing.  I will spare you all my long and repetitive rant about how terrible FM radio is nowadays.  I shall content myself by saying that I mostly hate radio, and prefer to listen to my own music on the road.  I've got huge and varied playlists of all sorts on my iTunes, but I do not, as yet, have a device that lets me listen to my iPod in the car.  (Leaving aside the obvious and awful idea of wearing my headphones in the car.  I'm just not going to do that.) 

I can't do the best thing, which would be to buy a cable that plugs the iPod directly into the auxiliary input jack of my stereo, because my aged little car has no such jack.  So I have to figure out what the next-best thing would be.  As far as I can see, my only options are to buy a device that uses one of those cassette-player inserts – yes, my car stereo actually has a tape deck in it – or an FM transmitter that takes over the stereo's radio to transmit the iPod's music.  As I recall, those cassette devices always sucked.  That pushes me toward the transmitter, but I have no idea which ones work well.  Do any of my readers have something like this?  Can anyone recommend one brand over another?  When I look at product reviews online, it looks like plenty of people hate everything on the market.  Hard to gauge without trying it out myself.