December 30, 2004

Drinking

I drink. I do not drink often, especially during the school year. And I do not drink much even when I do. On this trip, I have drunk more than usual: two beers with friends on Tuesday, wine before and with dinner on Wednesday. On Christmas Eve, I had a martini before dinner and wine (a very nice Stag's Leap Petite Sirah) with dinner. Martini's are my "I need a drink" drink of choice. I had several on this trip: at the Palm in DC, at Ha'andi in Bethesda, and at Mayorga in Silver Spring. My personal record on this trip—one beer, one martini, and half of a second beer—is probably disappointing to the folks at Modern Drunkard.

I only had one can of Guinness from the stash of Newkie Browns, Grolsch, and Guinness on the porch. My brothers each considered noontime fair game to start their beer-drinking, even though they generally slept until 10 or 11 in the morning. This would appear to make them experience a good portion of their day "under the influence." I took notice on Christmas Eve, when Brother A was polishing off a beer before going grocery shopping with my dad. I said out loud to my brother without even thinking "What is it about this family? You guys are drinking beer before noon, for Chrissakes."

If I had my first drink two hours after waking, I would be drinking beer at 8 in the morning. I know that one brother considered it to be a vacation from a hellish time at work. For the other, I don't know. Seeing someone down a Foster's Lager shortly after breakfast every day was a little unsettling.

Perhaps my concern comes from the fact that our family has a history of alcoholism and, I suspect, depression. The former being a traditional way of coping with the latter. On this trip, I was really aware of the universality within my family of my present depressed condition. I hope that I am able to find a more constructive means of dealing with it.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:03 AM

December 23, 2004

Home for the Holidays

When I arrived back in Bethesda after visiting the Accokeek, I found my smoker siblings—freshly arrived from New York—out in the porch. After initial greetings, my brother muttered "I think I brought my address book, that means that I might be able to visit X." I did not place this comment in the context of my disappearing every unbooked evening to visit friends. Aside from Christmas Eve at the Palm and Christmas dinner at home, I was somewhere else for dinner each night of the week I spent in Maryland.

I went inside to greet my 14 year old niece, who was staring out the plate glass windows into the deciduous forest "The Woods." I explained that I had been visiting friends in southern Maryland, and that I was going away for dinner that night. She said "You are so lucky to have a car and to have places to go."

Shortly thereafter, my sister lamented the fact that her good friend in Bethesda was in Texas at the mother-in-law's. She had no means of escape. It was then that I realized that the first thing each of us thought to do was get the hell out of there. What is it about being home for the holidays that makes us dread being there?

Posted by webs0080 at 7:45 AM

December 19, 2004

Public and Private Lives in the Blogosphere

As I posted earlier, blogs both allow and force us to delineate the boundaries of our public and private lives. Today's New York Times Magazine has an article on this very point. I am six days ahead of that particular curve and dangerously behind on my final paper of the semester.

Posted by webs0080 at 9:02 AM

December 17, 2004

Surprises

Sometimes life throws the most unexpected and wonderful surprises. I had two recently.

The first was the result of a fortunate confluence of interests. For as long as I can remember, my brother has always gotten us music for Christmas. He is a talented musician, and he listens to a lot of it. Unfortunately, his tastes run more to Celtic folk music or way out there stuff like Anna Domino and Blaine Reininger. The thing is, once he gives you a cd and you are polite and say that some of the songs are OK, by ten Christmas' later you have the artist's entire catalog, half of which have not been opened. But this year, this same sibling gave Roomie the new John Waters cd. Not only was the cd JUST WHAT ROOMIE WANTED, but included was a signed Polaroid of John Waters with my brother, almost on his lap. (We need not go there.)

Needless to say, we were amazed by the appropriateness of the gift, since Roomie adores John Waters. My brother went to an opening of John Waters' photography at a gallery some time back and has gone back to catch up with him each time he is in San Francisco.

The other surprise was that I met with an instructor who actually had positive things to say about a paper I wrote. Sure, he knew as well as I that it was theoretically weak (I could see in his comments a large "UNCLEAR" scribbled in the margin to my introduction). My gut sense is that he is kind and supportive to all the students in the class. I know for a fact that he used the exact same line "You need to start getting serious about research design" to another student. Still, he said that I am ready to actually go out and do this kind of research. It was a much-needed shot in the arm, but I felt numb at the time, so traumatic has been this semester.

In other news, I have opted for the drug-free approach to my mental health. At least for the present. I have a return appointment scheduled with the psychiatrist, who told me that he could understand why two different therapists would have two different recommendations on whether drugs were right for me. It feels good, at least, to be doing something about my mental health.

Four days. One paper. Ten pages. I. Can. Do. This.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:16 AM

December 16, 2004

Secret Mail

Shermanilla posted on December 15th about Secret Mail. Lo and behold, when I went on the porch to retrieve the paper this morning, what did I see but a shoebox size box wrapped in a National Geographic topographically rendered map of the world's oceans inside an anonymous brown paper bag? No labels adorned the box. The first words exchanged this morning:

—Secret mail!

—For me? Or is it for both of us?

Indignation and disappointment at the prospect of sharing dripped from her voice.

—I think it is for you, all you.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:30 AM

December 14, 2004

Baby It's Cold

Often, the first thing that people learn about Minnesota is that it gets cold here. This morning, according to Yahoo! Weather, it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was supposed to have gotten down as low as 4 in these parts, but the heat-island effect probably came to our rescue. In anyone's book, 7 degrees is cold. The funny thing is that it felt a lot colder yesterday, when the temperature (according to Biscuits&Gravy's thermometer) was 16 to 18 degrees.

The difference was the wind. Yesterday, the cold front blew in at a steady 20 miles per hour or so. It is unusual when everyone chooses to use the covered section of the Washington Avenue bridge. That is, everyone except the bicycles, who would have had to dodge all the pedestrians.

Today, the wind is calm. Yesterday, my cheeks went numb in the three minutes the dog took to do her morning business. Today, 7 degrees felt positively balmy. Not that I am going to be raking the leaves that blew out of the beds where we had neglected to rake them any time soon.

Posted by webs0080 at 9:03 AM

December 11, 2004

Shorty and Me

Roomie and I were passively listening to American Routes this evening while working on a puzzle. I will do anything to avoid working on a Habermas paper. The show was all about duets. Then the host mentioned that John Cephas and Phil Wiggins were in the studio. All four of our ears perked up. Selkye's may have too, but in her case it was the prospect of a baklava crumb or errant puzzle piece that peaked her interest.

Roomie and I lived two doors up from Phil in Takoma Park. I remember the cigar smoke which drifted into our yard. Phil smoked out front of the house, above the sidewalk, his mastiff Shorty by his side. Shorty was a good dog: friendly, but large, with an oversize (though probably not for the breed) head. We heard Cephas and Wiggins play once on Prairie Home Companion. Actually, we heard Garrison Keillor thank Cephas and Wiggins for appearing on the show. Phil and Judy couldn't make it to our Holiday Eggnog Fest one year, but they left a gift basket with a bottle of wine and a Cephas and Wiggins CD. It was pretty good.

As the septugenarian Cephas tells it, there are two traditional African American forms of the blues—Mississippi Delta and Piedmont—because Africans from different parts of Africa had different musical traditions. Cephas and Wiggins play the more uncommon of the two, the latter.

It was interesting to hear them on the radio, and it made us miss DC's cultural diversity a little.

Posted by webs0080 at 9:28 PM

December 9, 2004

Small Worlds

I have recently discovered that as I get older I want to become more fearless about reaching out to people. There are too many people that I have never taken the time to get to know as well as I would have liked to.

This afternoon, I heard from an old friend. We were never especially close, but we would have been, I like to think, if we had ever made the time to meet socially. Getting to know people who are already married while married can be challenging. At any rate, she vouched for my (being a) character on the Dunsmuir City Council back in the day.

The email conversation with my old friend made my day. And it needed making. And it brought to mind this conversation I had with a fellow seminarian from the Philosophy Department exactly one week ago this evening.

— You were Mayor of Dunsmuir?
— You KNOW of Dunsmuir?
— My father lives in Eureka and we would go to Mt. Shasta all the time. One of his best friends lives there. He's a lawyer.
— Who? X?
— No, his name is Y Something.
— Blond, a little heavy set and bald?
— That's him!
— Yeah, he dated one of our regulars for a while [Z].
— He loved to go that place by the tracks on the corner.
— Cafe Maddalena. He used to come into our place when he had to wait for a table.
— I swear he would have dinner there twice a week.

So there you have it.

Posted by webs0080 at 10:22 PM

December 4, 2004

Administration

Early this week—Monday—I had some time to kill after a morning meeting but before an afternoon appointment. It made no sense to walk back to Social Sciences to try and cover Steve over lunch because I would have just enough time to walk back to the East Bank as soon as I got off the elevator, so I called Mom. Roomie and I never come close to using all the free minutes Working Assets gives us.

I told her about how I was deciding whether research and teaching was what I really wanted to do; if I am so unhappy as a graduate student, can I expect that the demands on a junior professor are going to be any better?

"Oh, I never expected to see you doing that!" she said.

"Oh, what then?"

"I always saw you in administration"

"Administration? Then what the hell am I going to all this trouble for?"

"Well, you need to pay your dues."

I'm sorry. I can be an excellent administrator without a Ph.D. in Political Science.

Posted by webs0080 at 2:50 PM

December 3, 2004

The Obligatory Self-Referential Blog Entry

NB: I entered this as a comment on another blog, but thought it reflected enough "content" to bear reposting here [how vain!]:

I confess that I'm having to adjust to the fact that my bro, his wife, and now my mother may sometimes read this blog.

People with blogs have to deal with the idea of a "public persona," often for the first time.

A friend of mine recently started a blog but has not shared the fact of its existence with me (yet). [She later let me in on it, or rather gave permission for its url to be made to be known to me.]

We bothered a friend to start a blog and he did; his daughter has a blog as well. They decided it would be better for both of them if they did not link up as "friends" in the LJ [LiveJournal] scheme. This to me seems very odd, especially since LJ users can add anyone they like as a friend without permission from the linkee.

Part of the attraction of having a blog is sharing those intimate feelings we have but only with people we don't know. Of course, wives, friends, and family all find out sooner or later. Dooce does a pretty good job revealing the things that trouble her in her own life (including an incredible tale of severe depression) while making the content interesting enough that people keep reading. Blogs allow us to express what we consider to be at universal or transcendent experiences. The fact that we can connect with people who know us only by our public person tempts bloggers to create an "alternative personality" for the blog. I suppose that we all do create alternate online personas to some extent, since it is impossible to share everything with the world. However, when friends are in on the secret it becomes hard to limit our newly minted public personas to what we want to put out there. On the other hand, letting friends and family in on the secret encourages us to be more honest and forces us to reflect upon our experiences intelligibly if not objectively.

Posted by webs0080 at 3:36 PM