Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's like some sort of sick curse

So I met this really cute, sweet, funny guy at my training session today. He's stationed in a city not far from mine, makes hilarious jokes in class, and is generally quite cool.

Then I realized he reminds me of someone I know. I couldn't place him, but it tugged at my conscious all day.

This afternoon, he turned to look at me and said, "I think there's a gay swim team in Vienna. That would be awesome to join." And I realized he reminded me of Steven Caufield. Almost down to the gesture.

Good God, do I have a sign on my forehead?

Monday, September 29, 2003

How to sleep really well

Travel for 29 hours. Pass out.

The End.

All right, whatever. Things are going okay this morning; I had a typical Austrian/German/European breakfast (roll, muslei, tea, orange juice--no meat this morning, thank goodness) and I'm now trying to figure out how to get to Hollabrunn, which is proving to be quite a challenge. I may have to break down and ask the guy at the desk.

Here's the thing about hostels: you never really know what's going on, how much the staff likes its guests, how much English/German/Farsi/whatever is spoken by the staff, and even if you can communicated, you don't know if the answer you're getting is complete bullshit or not. So I'm a tad wary. But when you really don't know what you're doing, asking is your only option. Even a bullshit answer will eventually eliminate one option for you.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

I would die happy if I could marry a man with a British accent

Scottish also acceptable.

I made it to London safe and sound. Now I'm standing around Heathrow, waiting for my flight and bemoaning the $200 I had to pay in luggage overage fees. Donations to the cause gladly accepted. Yeah, I'm only sort of kidding.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Gonna vomit...

Well, everything's packed, and I'm just kind of wandering around the house going, "Goodbye, cat. Goodbye, bedroom. Goodbye, other cat. Goodbye, first cat. Goodbye, still other cat."

I don't have anything momentous to say on the advent of my departure. I'm scared that something is going to go horribly awry, or that I'm not going to like Stegersbach, or that my teachers, or worse, my students, are going to think I'm incompetent.

But I'm excited, too. Because I know that I adored Germany, and that I love travelling. Even if I can't remember how that feels right now, I know everything is going to work out okay.

But I still feel like puking.

Friday, September 26, 2003

I'd like a window seat and a hernia, please

So I'm mostly packed, although I've got all that little stuff still hanging around. You know, toothbrush, film, random small things that you think you might need, don't use, and end up stuffing into random corners of your suitcase five minutes before you run out the door. I'm not really sure which random corners they're going in, because my luggage is so full I'm afraid it will burst if I look at it wrong.

I think I've remembered everything, but I know that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I'm going to sit straight up in my tiny seat and go, "Shit." Oh, well, I've got enough other stuff to make up for it. I'm taking a 36"x20"x12" suitcase that weighs approximately one hundred MILLION pounds, a 28" duffel bag that weighs one MILLION pounds, and a laptop case that weighs about 20 lbs. Guess which one of those is a literal weight.

You guessed wrong. It's the suitcase.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Just so you know

Here's my schedule for the next little while, so you don't worry if I don't blog or email the next couple of days.

9/27: Leave from Omaha
9/28: Arrive in London, fly to Vienna
9/29: Arrive in Hollabrun for training
10/4: Arrive in Stegersbach, report to school

Keep your fingers crossed for my flights being on time (and not, you know, crashing in a ball of flames) and my luggage keeping up with me. Talk to you in a couple days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Also, it smells better here

So I was telling my parents on Sunday that I think if you put a Texan and a Nebraskan side-by-side in front of me, I could tell you which was which. It more than the difference between ropers and cowboy boots. A farmer is as apt to wear a Stetson as a rancher, but there's something about the general bearing that makes the difference obvious. I don't know if it's that Nebraskans are a little less effusive and Texans a little more brash, or just that there's a preponderance of red in the Nebraska wardrobe, but there's definitely something.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

What a long, strange trip it's been

Not the most original header ever, but I'm tiiiiiiiiiired.

Just wanted to let you know we're home safe. No major incidents, but I'll have a couple of good stories to tell tomorrow.

Happy Birthday to Erin, for all 45 minutes that are left of it. Yay for 26!

Finally, comments are all weird—they look like no one's commenting, but there are comments and I can read them. This would happen right after I've admonished you all to comment. Sigh.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Houston in the rearview

Well, kids, I'm about out. My apartment is empty and echoing, although I have, of course, left the phone connected until the last possible minute so I could talk to you—kind of like in the movies when one of the main characters is dying, and the lovers' hands slide along one another melodramatically. Hm, that metaphor sounded better in my head.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that Houston has been fabulous, particularly because of you, my friends. You have no idea how much I will miss you.

So, to Mary, Matt, Erin, Dan, Matt, Dennis, Amanda, Donna, Victoria, Lucky, Vivian, Bobby, Asa, Jason, Doug, Sarah, Nolan, Jane, Angela, Shannon, Lizzypie, and anybody I've forgotten, thank you thank you thank you. I love you all and I'll see you next July.

Friday, September 19, 2003

From yer fav'rit saucy wench

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

From the George W. Bush School of Counting Good:

This is how the Texas legislature likes to number sections of code:


So far so good, right? But can you guess what comes next? Can ya? Wrong! You think it's §36.00, don't you? Don't you, you naive, gullible soul? Well, you're wrong. The next section?


Of course.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Misc. Update

A couple of things:

I am freaking. Out. about the moving. My parents are going to be here on Friday afternoon expecting me to have everything packed and mostly clean. Right now I have about...oh, 20% of my stuff packed? Maybe? If we look at it charitably? Am I supposed to work all day Thursday and Friday? Yeah, I am. I blame this stressful situation on being too poor not to work but not so poor that I don't have a lot of stuff. Another problem is that, while I know my friends would help, I don't really want help. I like to be in control of the whole process, plus I'm really embarassed about how gross my apartment is. It's just bad all the way around.

Also, we have to make a deal about this blogging business while I'm away, Internet. The deal is this: I will feel free to blog, and you will feel free to comment more than once every millenium (people named MaryT exempted). Don't make me feel like I'm throwing my words into a void. I know you're reading. All...ten or so of you.

Finally, this was my big insight today, when Erin and I were complaining about the fact that guys always want to fix whatever it is we're upset about, and we just want them to shut up and listen. Okay, you've got the set-up, ready for the insight? Get a pen, you're going to want to write this down. Yes, I'll wait...okay, good, here we go: I think the reason guys do this is that they don't understand that just because the problem goes away, it doesn't mean the feeling does. I mean, when that annoying chick in your office gets fired, you don't just stop being upset about the awful way she treated you. So there you go. And if you try to write a self-help book with it, I will destroy you. Find your own too-perfect summation of the gender-communication problem.

Monday, September 15, 2003

And be honest. It's for posterity.

So a question for you, Internet.

Am I intimidating?

I was told tonight that I made someone nervous (how's that for a passive nightmare of a sentence?), but I'm just not feeling the scariness. So spill. Is this bupkiss, or is there something intimidating about me, and if so, what is it?

A list of things I think I might like to study in graduate school:

Religion, particularly Biblical criticism
Social work
Ancient history, esp. the Roman early empire period
WWII, particularly German structures of government and hierarchy
Postmodern/contemporary nonfiction prose
Prose fiction, all eras
Writing studies
Foreign language pedagogy

I'm a confused girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Dear My Friends,

I feel so much love and gratitude for you all, I can barely form coherent sentences. It was so wonderful to see you tonight, especially as I begin the painful process of departing from home this week. Thank you for the letters, the hugs, and the stories of sexual harassment. (Really, nothing I like better than people bitching about other people who annoy me. No, really.)

You can't imagine how much I will miss you all, or how much I will hear your voices in my head when I am teaching, or picking tomatoes out of my food, or wearing my loafers, or about to do something stupid. Not because I'm schizophrenic, mind you, but because I have internalized you all and will be carrying you with me to Austria...and well beyond.

In any case, my extra bed in Stegersbach will always be available, barring stupid school regulations or something. Come to Europe, I'll show you...the golf course. I don't know. Anyway, thank you, I love you, I'll post again tomorrow, so this is not good bye.

Your AmerikanErin

Saturday, September 13, 2003

It's those damn romance novels

So I think my books are breeding. I've packed five boxes of them and sold another box's worth, and as far as I can tell, the shelves aren't much more empty than when I started. I know I didn't buy this many books, ergo they must be making baby books, and not the good kind with ribbons and pictures of you when you were three hours old, but the bad, oddly-shaped, heavy ones that won't go happily into boxes.

I hate moving.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Officer, there's a nutter in the park!

I have housing in Stegersbach, thank God, thank God. I thought I was going to have to promise my first born to Beelzebub before I could find a room, but fortunately, something came through. However, as it's almost 3:30 in the morning, you're going to have to wait to hear the story. Just know that I will NOT be living out of my suitcase in the park like a weirdo.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Wir haben es nicht verdient, du Schießkopf. Wir haben es nie verdient.

I cried this morning, the first time since the towers fell. NPR played a clip of a 10-year-old boy reading his father's name at the ceremony in New York City, and suddenly the sharply curved exit ramp I was navigating looked smeared and distorted, as if it was behind warped glass. I blinked and sniffed, and pulled into the parking lot at work.

When the south tower fell, I was 5,000 miles from home, in my first week of a semester-long study abroad program in Germany. I didn't cry as I stood watching the coverage on a bank of TVs in a Wal-Mart on the edge of town. At first, the shock was too overwhelming for tears, and then, as the days passed, I was too busy adjusting to a new country and a suddenly threatening security situation to grieve properly.

We were warned not to be "overtly American" in public. I strove to speak only German when I was out; I weeded the red out of my already limited wardrobe. I walked silently past the man on the downtown street corner: he was selling handbags decorated with rhinestone American flags, and as he fingered them, he said clearly, "Die Amerikaner haben es verdient. Wollen Sie eine Tasche kaufen, Amerikanerin?" [The Americans deserved it. Do you want to buy a bag, American woman?]

That man came to mind this morning as I was driving to work, his tan face, his lips twisted in a smirk, his dirty blond hair. I couldn't say anything to him then—it wasn't safe, and my German wasn't—still isn't—strong enough to construct something sufficiently withering. I think the only comeback powerful enough is that 10-year-old's voice, cracking over the syllables of his dead father's name.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm sorry, but I can't do that, Dave. And I hate your mother.

So we've actually gone insane from carpal tunnel syndrome or something, and decided that everything in the world needs to have a remote control on it. I know I said I was a gadget nut, but I'm not out of my mind. Remotes must be stopped.

Some of them are acceptable. T.V., fine, I understand it's annoying to get up from the couch and walk across the room when you're channel surfing. Stereo system...okay, I suppose. Might not want to interrupt a good book to get up and change the CD. Defensible, but pushing it. However, I don't understand why my brother (Matt, too, come to think of it) needs a remote for his car stereo. The stereo is at his fingertips, mere inches above the gearshift! How can rooting for a remote in the cupholder possibly be more convenient? It couldn't, that's how! It's a fine line between enjoyable convenience and unadulterated, laziness-induced redundancy.

Of course, even that is not as bad as what I saw today. Today I saw a discman—that's right, a personal CD player—with a remote. WHY IS THIS NECESSARY? It's already attached to your body! Are you a tyrannosaurus rex, that your arms don't reach to the end of the headphone cord? However do you manage to put the headphones on your ears, if your arms are that short?

Frankly, I blame this phenomenon on one thing: men. Specifically, men that are a) obsessed with buttons, and b) commitment phobic (i.e., all of them). Remotes are their ultimate solution: they can end the uncomfortable relationship with that Christina Aguilera song, and they can push a button to do so. You know where this is heading, don't you?

That's right. Remote-controlled robot girlfriends.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Appreciate me now and avoid the rush*

I think it's sort of evil that the best experiences of a place come in the few days before you're set to leave it. I'm down to less than two weeks in H-Town, and it seems like my friends, work, and the city itself are conspiring to keep me right where I am, or at least make me miserable when I leave. The weather has been lovely the past couple of days; I walked around outside for an hour last night without breaking a sweat. Work has finally calmed down; the second of my two books is entirely out of my hands now. And my friends are making themselves well-nigh indispensable. I've gotten more invitations for dinner, play, movies, and ridiculous fun times in the past 10 days than I did in my entire last year at Rice.

My point here is that my days are getting quite full, but I'd love to see you before I go. Specifically, I'd love to see you in my apartment helping me pack.

Barring that, however, drop me an email and we'll go get coffee, or food, or matching tattoos. You can at least have the schadenfreude of knowing that you're adding to my leaving misery.

*Slogan shamelessly stolen from MaryT.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I need to go to graduate school

As many of you are aware, I wrote a thesis this past semester. Something new has come to light since I wrote it, and I want to discuss it, because I'm an academic at heart. If you're not in the mood for a literature lesson, feel free to go read something else.

First, some background in case you are, by some miracle, intrigued: my thesis discusses how the first modern woman memoirist, Lillian Hellman, and the current "Grand Dame" of memoir, Vivian Gornick, examined their mother issues through their memoirs. Tangential to that exploration is the scandal of Hellman's memoirs: they've been proven to contain significant factual errors—Hellman evidently created people and encounters. Gornick, who is a highly regarded literary critic and journalist in addition to being a memoirist, has been sharply critical of Hellman for constructing scenes to serve her own purposes, and so it was particularly interesting to compare the two women.

And then in July at a talk to Goucher College MFA program, Gornick admitted that she had constructed conversations in her own memoir, Fierce Attachments, Salon.com reports.

Laying aside the issue of Gornick's obvious hypocrisy, I have a question. Does this really change anything?

The issue of trust between a narrator and a reader is a volatile one at best. Everything has a certain perspective, obvious or not. In the genre of memoir, perspective is extreme and the issue of trust is constantly at the forefront of critical discussion. Critics seem to think that the highest duty of the non-fiction writer (as memoir is so often classified) is absolute truth. But memoir is not normal non-fiction. The narrator struggles to tell her story, but since it happened to her, instead of being observed by her, she is flawed, falliable, and limited in her ability to recount it correctly. She can provide perfect insight on her own experience, but could Gornick possibly know what her mother is thinking? No, and we as readers can't expect her to. But somehow we expect exact recall and hard, proveable facts, or we feel deceived. That expectation is the skewed perspective.

What I'm saying is this: If you feel betrayed by your memoirist, you're missing the point.

The point of memoir is not to reconstruct events exactly as they occured. Memoirs aren't history textbooks. The point of memoir is to provide insight to the writer's mind and experience of events, and thereby insight into the human condition at large. "Truth" and "falsehood" are too limiting at this level.

Gornick's admissions of construction have no detrimental effect on the conclusions of my thesis, written months before she spoke at Goucher. I stand by my original statement: Gornick wrote "Fierce Attachments" to resolve lingering issues with her mother. In fact, Gornick's revelations underline my conclusions. By creating conversations with her mother, Gornick was seeking to understand and document her own experience, to portray her cognitive comprehension of and emotional reaction to her mother. She was not attempting to present a psychological anaylsis of the mother-daughter relationship, or a biography of her mother, or a linguistic breakdown of women's conversational patterns. She was writing a memoir. What she wrote remains true, no matter how much of it Gornick constructed. I hope she will reconsider her position on Hellman's factual holes, which might be bigger, but in essence are no different.
Gizmo update:

I picked up my computer at 8:45 tonight after an interminable wait for the confirmation email from Best Buy. Anyway, after half an hour or an hour of playing, I got the internet set up, I'm working on downloading instant messenger (oh, dial-up, I curse your name), and I watched part of Titus. Now I'm blogging on it. I've put it through its paces, I would say, and it's performed admirably. It's been a grand evening.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

"Welcome, please fasten your safety belt."
"Bossy wench."*

You know, I tease E2 all the time for being a gadget nut. M4 and I frequently call him "Gizmo Boy," since he has a penchant for buying things that are shiny, full of buttons, and apt to make high-pitched noises. He has a radar detector, a car CD player with a remote, a cell phone, more power tools than any almost-21-year-old should possess, and who knows what else. I think he even stole Senior Birdman's handheld Yahtzee game. He's terrible.

The thing is, though, I don't have much room to talk. I mean, I don't purchase as many of these items becaue I don't have a job that gives me free housing like he does, but I found my cordless drill in my closet a couple of days ago when I was cleaning. I took it out just to see how well the battery was doing after 6 months of being unused. I ran it down a little. Not to drill anything in, but just because I liked the noise and the spinning of the bitless drill. My favorite store in the Galleria is Brookstone, because they have those massage chairs and other weird gizmos for your house, like televisions for your shower and other useless stuff. (E2 likes The Sharper Image, because it's gizmos for everywhere, with an even higher degree of uselessness.)

Well, today, with a generous donation from the Birdman Family Foundation, I finally bought a gadget that should keep me happy for a long time: my new computer! I've been shopping since May, figuring out the gadgets-within-the-gadget. Tonight, it shall be mine! I'm really excited.

Of course, what do I want to do now that I have an übergadget? That's right, I want to buy minion gadgets for it. A car adapter, an airplane adapter, a carrying case...oh, I'm a sick, sick woman.

*The conversation my brother has with his radar detector every time he gets in his car.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Erin Irene and the enjoyable, awesomest, way good, very great day

I'm not a super-social kid, as you (should) know. I'm just fine at staying home and "tapping" my cat with the corner of whatever book I'm trying to read and she's trying to chew. Yesterday, however, I left my house at 11 a.m. and did not return until 9 p.m. In the course of those 10 hours, I filled my socializing quota for a week.

The hostess with the mostest, MaryT, threw a back-to-school brunch complete with school-supply exchange. Kudos to Andi for bringing safety scissors shaped like clowns; they're not particularly handy, but they made me laugh.

Then after brunch, Matt and I ran off to DSW Shoe Warehouse (On a side note, doesn't the "SW" in "DSW" stand for "Shoe Warehouse"? If it doesn't, the hell? If it does, dude, the Department of Redundancy Department called; they want you to step off their turf.), where I bought a darling pair of backless loafers because I suspect wearing flip-flops in sub-freezing weather will not increase my teaching authority. (I'm wearing these shoes today. In my single-minded adoration of flip-flops, I had forgotten how fun cute socks could be.)

After the successful shoe shopping, we met Erin and Dan for coffee, a movie, and dinner. Go see American Splendor, if you haven't. It's interesting and funny and sad. The filmmakers made almost every decision exactly the way I would have—and really, what more can you ask? Also, The Flying Pig makes excellent Pasta Marinara. Any restaurant that abuses mushrooms like that is somewhere that I want to eat.

The company was charming as ever. ("As ever"—like I've been out with Erin and Dan sooooo many times.) We sat at the table for 30 minutes after we paid our check, just chatting and commenting on the fickleness of one of the parties present. Then we left the restaurant and stood outside its front door talking for another 15 minutes. As a group, we either need to form a mutal admiration society or find more people who will listen to us, I'm not sure.

I got home at 9, took a minute to enjoy the fact that it was pouring down rain again, and decompressed a bit until MaryT and I decided at 12 a.m. that it was time for a monkey special (onion rings and chocolate milkshakes). We recapped the day, dissected the events of the brunch mercilessly, and complained a little about stupid boys we know, who weren't at the party but still deserved mention for their outstanding ability to irritate us.

And now I'm exhausted and I'll be staying in for the rest of the week. So don't call. Unless you're proposing ice cream, and then I'm sure we can cut a deal.

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