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Saturday, July 19, 2014

(T)rain, rain, (t)rain

On Tuesday I took the train into the City. I had my whole day planned out: a flying visit with a former coworker, a stop at The Strand bookstore, a trip to lower Manhattan to visit the September 11th museum. And then, as my friend and I were exploring SoHo after lunch, it began to pour. Not rain. Pour. One of those heavy, midsummer rains that rush and tumble from low clouds to boil in the gutters. During a lull, we took our chances and ventured out onto the street from Anthropologie (where we'd been savvily shopping the sales rack). It began to pour harder. By the time we made it back to Washington Square, my shoes were soaked through and my jeans were wet to the knees. I took the subway back to Times Square with my friend, where I left her at her hotel.

I no longer felt like finding my way back down to lower Manhattan, so I walked through the lightening rain to Central Park and then to the Upper East Side. A posh part of town. The doormen at the gates of the towering apartment buildings wore button-up gray uniforms and conductors' hats, and the patisseries advertised overnight delivery to any continental state. A sign on one store read "Ring bell for entry." Would they have let me in? But then I stopped at a closing sale to buy a pair of dry sandals, and in the checkout line, a woman pushing a stroller full of bargain clothes enthused to her friend, "The only thing that would make this day better is finding cans of tuna for 50-cents."

The rain stopped briefly in the late afternoon and then resumed towards the end of dinner, which I had at a Greek taverna on the corner of 3rd and 62nd (braised pork shoulder and buttery lemon potatoes). On the way back to the train station, the lights from the second and third floors of the skyscrapers shimmered through the waves of water. From the lofty, bright window-walls of a bank, three young men in suits, hands in pockets, a little smug, observed the scatter of pedestrians: women, well-coiffed, dodging puddles and opening their umbrellas purposefully; bikers in translucent rain slickers, glittering at the precise edge of the rushing streams; and me, crossing the asphalt of the corner below, sandals sopping.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Love notes

For a long time after that first year
we carried on electronically:
the digital messages of this age
the love notes of our everyday.

All the "did you see's" and "today I's" and "what did you's" of the dinner table and the bus
packed into the black and white wings of goudi or the prosaic planes of times new roman,
boxed up by the pixels of a webcam.

People would tell us of much longer separations than ours,
of years apart, unpunctuated by the occasional visit,
without even a text to live on.
As if the heaviness of their burden
made ours light.
(It didn't.)

But as I said,
we carried on for a long time,
even through the pockets of silence when letters cost our hearts too much to send.
And in the years after that first,
our words learned to say what our bodies in those days couldn't.
They sent our love.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A good week so far. I fell briefly behind on my reading list page count yesterday but have now caught up. I take brief breaks to browse through my newest book: Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. I have only tried one recipe so far and didn't like it (a pasta with a simple lemon and parmesan sauce that should have been delicious and wasn't), but Slater's writing is exquisite. There is an entry (short or long) for almost every day of the year and it's made me see the Italian grocery around the corner through new eyes. Today I filled my bag with eggplant, summer squash, red pepper, goat cheese, and thyme; successfully stopped my ears to the siren call of the gelato staring up me from behind cold, lightly fogged glass; and came home to chop my way to a delectable ratatouille (from Smitten Kitchen because I was still recovering from the pasta disaster). I couldn't get my slices as thin as Deb's because all my kitchen knives are dull, but it didn't matter in the end. It tasted wonderful.

Before cooking, I went running. I went mid-afternoon because I had to choose between running in the heat or running in the humidity. The humidity makes it hard to breathe, so I chose the heat, but the run was still miserable and I gave up about 2/3 of the way through.

Yesterday, two things of note occurred. The first is that I made a long-overdue trip to the dentist (I haven't had a dentist in New Haven yet). The dentist asked me what I did. I told him. "Now," he said, thoughtfully, "who was that other woman philosopher we used to have come in here?" It was Ruth Barcan Marcus. "A remarkable woman," he said. "You know, we had a perfectly ordinary relationship with her; just another patient; and then one day I read her bio. You know what I'm talking about? Remarkable." Then I went downtown to watch the Brazil-Germany game. I arrived 15 minutes late, after the first goal, but sat down minutes before that insane blitz. Pop, pop, pop, pop. I could hardly believe my eyes; I thought they were showing replays. The one Brazilian in the bar looked miserable; the Germans were laughing incredulously, as surprised as I was. I felt sorry for Brazil and for the crying fans and for all the money and controversy that the World Cup has cost the country, but I was glad to see Germany make it through.

And now, Thursday.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Early July

After a several days of oppressive heat and humidity last week, we finally get a break. The cooler weather may have gone to my head though. I took out one of my unframed art pieces to show friends the other evening and then decided that there was no time like the present to get it framed. The next day I brought it to the art supply store downtown and spent an unholy (and even embarrassing) amount of money on what had better be an exquisite frame job. I have promised my philosopher that there will be no more art purchases for a while, though I still have two pieces unframed. Art collecting, even on a scale like mine, is not a suitable graduate student hobby.

I also bought a bicycle. A pale blue, diamond back mountain bike that is just my size. The Craigslister I bought it from was kind enough to drop it off at my door. The next day he sent me a congratulatory email: "You will have lots of great rides together. Enjoy!" And I am. My thirty and twenty minute walks to class and yoga just became five and ten minute rides with cool breezes to boot. I should have done this two years ago.

***

Now that French is done and my philosopher is off to Toronto, it is time to get down to the real business of the summer. I spent today working out a plan for conquering the Greek and Latin reading list for my exams in early January. For visual motivation, I printed out a spreadsheet of the days and weeks to check off as I progress: 23 weeks, many foreign words per day; but where there's a will, there's a way.

***

I am still running. Today I did three miles, but I added some hills and it just about did me in. I had to take a two minute breather after about 18 minutes. I was full of energy when I got home though. After showering, I scrubbed all the baseboards and wainscoting in my bathroom. This wasn't done out of any sense of duty, but rather a deep disinclination to begin work on my other major project for the next few weeks: my ancient philosophy qualifying paper, which will be based on a paper I wrote on Republic VIII this spring. That can wait until tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June update

The season of heavy, sporadic rain is upon us. Today it rained so hard that the water blew through the screen of my north-facing window and filled the well of the windowsill. By luck, I managed to time my run between two downpours.

I know I say this every year, but this summer I'm getting serious about running. I am going home for a few weeks toward the end of the summer and have agreed to run a 10k at Crater Lake with my sister (while my dad runs his second marathon). 10k may not sound like much to you, but it is a lot for me, especially because I don't have many hills to train on here. However, the prospect of actually have to run something in a few months has been enormously motivating. My dad does his part too: several days ago, a bright pink Columbia running shirt was delivered to my door.

Summer language programs are in full swing now, and I'm in my second week (of five) of French. As much as I am begrudging the time lost working on my Greek and Latin reading lists, it's exciting to be learning a new language. These accelerated courses are really the way to go if your goal is only to read. By the end of the first week, we were able to translate short fairy tales with the dictionary and this weekend we have passages of Montesquieu and Rousseau assigned. At night, I put myself to sleep reading picture books in French and German.

The downside to the course and my reading lists is that the amount of reading and computer work shows no sign of slowing down, and my eyes seem to be increasingly unable to keep up. I'm starting to think an eye appointment may be in order. Graduate school may not involve much physical labor, but it does take a toll on your eyes.

I know words have been short around here for a long time now; I keep hoping there will be something to say, but nothing doing. So for now this is it: rain, reading, running. And the promise of beautiful Oregon at the end of it all.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The City

To celebrate our last free weekend before summer language programs begin, my philosopher and I took the train into the City for the day. (Here "City" refers to New York City: a place so notable that locals a state away refer to it with only a common noun.) The MOMA had a Gauguin exhibit focusing on his woodblock prints and monotypes, and a style pioneered by Gauguin called Oil Transfer Drawing (printer's ink is spread onto a sheet of paper; a second sheet is placed on top of the first and one draws on it as though making a rubbing of a leaf; the back of this second sheet of paper, with its transferred ink, is the front of the final artwork.) It was our first time entering into Gauguin's Tahitian paradise, peopled with the half-Christian pagan gods of his imagination, and this was a good way in. We loved the understated, monochromatic drawings and prints, which were enhanced by the saturated swathes of color in the paintings interspersed among them.

The museum is free to the public from 4pm on Fridays, which is a noble, democratic way of handling art--I approve. But the tenor of the museum experience changes dramatically with the striking of the clock. In the first painting gallery, modern masterpieces were surrounded by buzzing, humming gaggles of amateur paparazzi who stopped only long enough to snap pictures or, worse, selfies. So, we didn't last too long after 4. 

Instead we found an open air performance of Hamlet in Bryant Park (which I know about only because the bus to the airport stops there). We were nearly rained out, and the show had to take an unscheduled break for the downpour. But then it carried on under pink and yellow umbrellas. The City sky turned purple in the gaps between skyscrapers, and their highest floors, towering above us in the plumes of mauve cloud, blazed like neon stars.