Saturday, September 13, 2003

My Town, Not Yours

Its game day here in my town. This is a big deal, really big. Insanely big, because this is not just any town, and this is not just any game. UMich and Notre Dame. I get out of work and go do a little shopping, wending my way through used books stores (hmmm.. a book on Yankee Epitaphs, just what I need) and trying not to think about my empty stomach (I am still not ready for real food, too early). All around me I see students, most younger than me by a very few years, moving in small groups. With the free student U of M T-shirt(yellow and blue, if you would believe. About as spontaneous as an orange orange), they promote their allegience, ignoring their unsupportive brethren skulking in the outdoor seating of the coffee shops, looking surly and defensive.

I skirt the shoals of game fish, but my eyes are drawn against my will to the women in these groups. Whether to attract their fellow students, or perhaps the tv cameras, they cut their free t-shirts to augment what they believe to be their greatest assets, be it their breasts or their bellies. Or both. As one particularly uncovered girl passed me, I coined a new personal phrase: game slut. Hunger makes me snarky.

To an extent, the U of M football game is part of the traditional way of life in my town. On Friday, after my mother picked me up from school, we used to go to a bakery and buy maize and blue frosted cupcakes to eat while watching the game. In fall I expected to see goldenrod, drying cornstalks, and the Goodyear Blimp when I went outside on the weekend. But beyond that, the wins, losses and general action of the game itself never held my attention. Even now as the game goes on behind me, I only know what's going on when my little brother comes over to demonstrate a particularly cool catch. He is my instant replay. Its the second quarter, if you're wondering, and we're all over them like a bad tan.

But there is more to my town than just the University and its great football team. When I read A Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, I found it especially poignant when towards the end of the book, characters rushing to the hospital are hopelessly caught in the game day traffic jam. Sometimes the whole thing seems like a violation of my personal space, like when I wore my Harvard softball shirt(my father's) and got heckled by students. "I don't go to your &#$%-ing School!" I wanted to shout. But its typical. I went to a Michigan, Golden Gophers game, all I remember aside from our team beating theirs unmercifully is the sideline comedy, which included the Michigan cheer squad sexually abusing the Gopher Mascot. Michigan students don't like other colleges, and they take it out on town folk and visitors alike.

But I am not afraid. You, the student body, may hide in your bright mass of yellow t-shirts, trembling at the thought of a losing season, but the town will survive. I will be here long after you have forgotten your football zeal, and I will celebrate, come Spring, when you leave. And then I will be able to wear my Harvard t-shirt in peace.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Congratulations on the completed thesis thingy. Lucky Andrea, you can now rest easy... until you have to defend it! Bwahahaaha.. that wasn't very nice of me, was it?

I'm recovering from a short nasty bout of influeza at the moment, so I really shouldn't be futzing on the computer spreading my germs. I think I will go find some nice saltines to nibble.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Hurrah! It's done! It's done!

(All coherent discourse shall have to wait a day or so. I just pulled an all-nighter and if I can build a complete sentence right now I guarantee you it's accidental.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I want to second Andrea is welcoming you back Niki. Glad to see people are keeping you well fed, though I am sorry the grocery stores don't stock certain essentials. Reminds me of when I was in Luxembourg, trying to find Nestlé Tollhouse chocolate chips and brown sugar. To think, brown sugar doesn't seem to exist in Europe. At the grocery store they had over ten different varieties of smoked salmon, thinly sliced ham and creme fresh, but no brown sugar? It seems unbalanced. Then again, we seemed to exist off of creamy cheeses, little thick-crusted rolls and ham. Not such a bad thing, but I missed chocolate chip cookies.

Nothing much going on right now... yes I know the Middle East roadmap thingy is kaput, but who didn't see that coming a mile away. My cousin, her husband and her baby came for a long weekend to look at houses in town again, and they ended up buying one that wasn't even on the market yet.. one of my mother's friends is getting to old to deal with living alone, so Mom asked my cousin if she would like to see the house.. Well after days of looking at overpriced country club McMansions and tiny bungalows of the self important bourgeois bohemian set, this house, set on three acres with nice living quarters by the Huron River, was perfect. They asked to see the realtor after walking through the first time.

I get to play Aunty when they move in next month. Such a cute little bubbala too. I can’t wait: something else to take my mind off grad school. :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Hello St. Scarlett! You ought to go visit that whorehouse, strip club, or heavy metal joint. Expand your anthropological horizons. :) Sorry about the lack of ginger and coconut milk. I have a similar problem. There are lots of supermarkets around here, but none in walking distance - so I'm currently stuck with the dorm stuff. (Actually, come to think of it, there was curried eggplant here at dinner, although it wasn't curried well.

Meanwhile, I am quite pleased: I have managed to expel my resentment over this thesis harmlessly and passive-aggressively - the last word of the text shall be "damnation". It's perfectly in context, I assure you.

Still not done, though.

Monday, September 08, 2003

St. Scarlett is back.....

My dear fellow bloggers...I apologies for my protracted absence and my repeated promises to return to this wonderful blog, only to stay away for yet another few weeks. As it is, way out in the field, my internet access is still unsatisfactory and expensive, so I have little freedom to blogg.

However, things have been progressing.Remember my last installment on the charming town of Banska Bystrica, Central Slovakia, currently 'home'? I have discovered the darker side of this charming little town with the hourly glockenspiel(which varies weekly...someone has fun creating little tunes for it...). In fact, I have sniffed out the local mob cafe, which lies a convenient 2 minute walk from the county court house, which itself shares walls with the county jail. All very neat and within walking distance......why go to too much trouble, eh ?Also, I have discovered a bar which has red walls outside and in (not to speak of red lights), but I am not sure whether it is the local whorehouse, strip club or heavy metal joint (or any combination of these).It also lies across from the county court (a majestic, palace like building).

Fieldwork is moving along at a decent pace, I travel between folk festivals and am having increasing succes with my interviews. I'm busy, reading, writing, spying on people (participant observation in anthro-speak), but people generally don't believe me. They think I am dilly-dallying about, not really working. How hard is it to go to a few festivals, chat to some old ladies about lace and got to museums ? Why am I rushing around saying I'm busy, when really I am just doing what they do when they're on holiday ? In fact, a lot of people think I am still on holiday, and now that term has started, I'll go somewhere to some institution and really start working. It does get a bit annoying at times, especially when I have just spent the whole day somewhere, have travelled home with the bus (sometimes more than a 2 hour journey) and I know I should write a bunch of fieldnotes, but I am dead tired. On the other hand, it is quite funny, because when they innocently invite me in for a cup of coffee, they might not realise I'm most likely going to go home and write about it!(evil laugh.....)

The food situation is driving me slightly mad. The first week or two I was glad to be here and eat all the things I miss when outside of the country and then I started longing for curry, Chinese, Thai....all what I consider normal. But half the time I can't find chilli, ginger, coconut milk and so on. I have even been forced to start buying Heinz baked beans (something I have always found uselessly overpriced in the UK), because every other kind just didn't taste right. It took several days to find Basmati rice and I have given up on things like bambo shoots, fresh asparagus, any kind of fresh herb (even basil) etc. etc. Funnily enough, if I had chosen to do fieldwork in a place where they deep fried grasshoppers (quite common) I would have accepted this with grace, but being able to get some foodstuffs and not others in a sort of seemingly random mix is frustrating. They have the most beautiful freshly picked eggplants on the market, but you can't get the spices to make a decent vegetable curry (of the Indian or Far Eastern kind).HHRRRMMMPH

All in all, I am well fed, well rested, get enough sleep and have so many surrogate mothers (everyone thinks they ought to take care of me now that I am alone...especially feed me), that I have to fight them off. So, the conclusion is, that life is satisfactory. My current trouble is the lack of young company, but I think with some patience and perseverance that will resolve itself too.

I'm sorry for Sister Andrea's never ending trials with her thesis, I know what it is like and dread my up and coming nightmare of writing my PhD. Whats worse, dreaming in Old French and English or being spun into a never ending web of lace by a huge flesh eating lace maker.....I wonder what nightmares await us.

Sister Fashioner

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Primal Scream of Frustration

Will this damned and damnable thesis never be done? Need sleep, need food, need sunlight, need to think about someone other than Robert Grosseteste, Archdeacon of Leicester... (and no, John Pecham, Archbishop of Canterbury, is not an acceptable alternative...) need someone to rant at who's awake at this time of day (and don't have an international phone card at the moment, and the dorm store's closed - sorry, Niki and Cheryl, both of whom should be awake...) Truth is, I wasted far too much time over the last few days and I don't have too much left. I have every intention of mailing out the monster on Monday morning, but how to get from here to there escapes me.

Giving up and going to sleep for the moment. If I can find my bed without losing track of the hundreds of papers neatly arrayed upon it.