Sunday, May 30, 2004

Back Home.

I got back from my trip to Kentucky late Saturday night. I had quite a lot of fun, though there were a few moments of sobriety mixed in.

I had forgotten how beautiful Eastern Kentucky really is. Driving down, I had all sorts of strange flashes of memory from when I was little. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never been around mountain highways, and I wish I would have taken a picture now, but the methods they use to cut roads in the mountains, leave this almost stair-like formation on the rock walls. When I was little, I used to think that giants lived on top the mountains, and they’d use the steps to go up and down. And when you’d see the signs warning “beware of falling rocks,” I’d think it meant that the giants would sit up top of the mountain, throwing down rocks to try to hit the cars. I thought it was like Atari for giants.

We spent most of Friday in Breaks Interstate Park. That’s where the true beauty of the Appalachians really stands out. My brother surprised me by taking a picture of me while I was trying to take a picture off one of the West Virginia overlooks. Note my dumbfounded expression, upon seeing him aiming the camera at me:

And this is, maybe anyway, the picture I was actually taking:

When we got done in the Breaks, we headed back for Pikeville and our hotel. My parents were arriving at the hotel, quite fortuitously, just as we were pulling back in. We went to buy food, and came back to the hotel for an early night in. There’s not a lot to do in Pikeville, after all. So I watched most of the Christopher Walken movie Dead Zone on A&E. Someday I need to watch the first half of that movie; the ending was awesome.

Anyway, the next morning we took off for the family reunion in Greasy Creek. Though, first, we stopped off at the Harley Davidson store in Pikeville. My brother and sister-in-law actually talked me into buying a Harley shirt, just because it said Pikeville. Harley shirts are pretty damn corporate for my taste, generally speaking, but they were so excited that I couldn’t resist. I wish the shirt said Greasy Creek instead of Pikeville. My friends are going to make fun of me for having a new shirt, especially since it’s a Harley shirt, and I’m looking forward to wearing it now.

It was awesome though, riding through the mountains in the backseat of Mustang Convertible with the top down. When we got there, I met all sorts of relatives I’d never even known existed. Some of them had attributes in common with my branch of the family tree, but some of them seemed totally foreign to me. The highlight of the thing was, right after my mother told me that nobody was meaner than her family, two real hillbilly looking distant cousins of mine got into a fight in the parking lot. They were broken up fast, nobody got hurt, so it was pretty funny. This is a picture of the fire station sign, in which the family reunion was held:

After the reunion, we headed up to the old family graveyard. In Kentucky, Remembrance Day is a big deal. I think traditionally, it had the two-fold purpose of first of all, honoring the dead, but second, ensuring that the old graveyard was properly taken care of. Like many families in Kentucky, my family’s graveyard is up on a hill behind “the” house. The house belonged to my great-grandmother Sadie, after whom I was sort of named. Sadie had thirteen children – and had adopted at least one more, and she was in a lot of ways the matriarch of my clan. My earliest memories of Kentucky all revolve around her house, and I think that’s true for most of us who grew up in Ohio.

If I had to guess why the graveyard was located where it was, I would guess it’s because you can’t grow anything on a hill, and in hard times, all usable space was required for farming and gardening. But there are some serious drawbacks to it, not the least of which is, if you put your graves on the side of a mountain, rock slides and erosion are eventually going to uproot them. But in any case, all of my family, barring my grandfather, are buried there. And someday, my mother will be buried there, and I will probably be buried there too.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Blogging Machine!

Now that the long dreaded Tuesday has passed, I can sort of start to relax. This past weekend, I read nine books and three articles, and managed to produce from all of that a six page paper on Monday, and a twenty page paper on Tuesday. On top of it, I had a Stats exam yesterday evening. While I still have another five page paper to go before Thursday, I feel like I almost have room for breathing in. Almost.

But, of course, with all the business that my 598 paper has implied, nearly everything else has been cast to the wayside. So I have to make an appointment to check out my financial aid. I have to print off a bunch of title pages for my wonderful job. I have to remember, and this is very important, to return several of my books to the library today or face bank account-curdling fines. I know there are other things too, that I'm just forgetting. I have to make an appointment with the head of the history department to see about graduation. Yes, there is much to do.

On top of that, I'd like to take a little time today, just to do not much of anything. Because doing not much of anything is a worthy and hallowed pursuit, and frankly I've been neglecting my duty toward it as of late.

This weekend won't be all that relaxing, after all. I wouldn't say that it's anti-relaxing, or especially taxing. But I'll be going out of town. I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm told that family reunions don't excite most people, and looking at my family roundabout Ohio, I can mostly understand that. But I adore my clan from Kentucky.

My family is from Pikeville, which is just about as close as you can get to West Virginia, whilst still remaining in Kentucky. It's up in the hills, as they call their mountains, and it's just about as Appalachian as you can imagine. Pikeville is the home of the infamous Hatfield and McCoy fued of historic repute, and the modern day Hillbilly Days Festival.

In other words, to come off as totally condescending and smug, Pikeville is one of those rare places that's capable of making me feel really urban and worldly. More genuinely though, I like Pikeville for all of the same reasons I liked Italy. Both have a culture that's just different than my own. I like to watch the people living out their lives every day, thinking nothing of their differentness. I like to hear their accents, and their jokes that I don't really understand. I like to find all the ways they're not like me, and all of the ways that they are. I like to concentrate on their differences until it hits me that I'm the one whose different.

Being in other cultures gives you a chance to reflect on your own. When I'm home, it's hard to remember that I like it here. When I'm away, I'm always bragging our customs up. When I'm not here, I remember that this was a nice place to grow up, and that I'm sort of attached to it, whether I like it or not. Like brave Odysseus, my identity is tied to my home, and when I'm homeless, a fundamental part of my identity is disruptured.

You've got to get away before you can come back home.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Time: On Not Having Any.

Sorry I haven't blogged for so long. Every spare second is being swallowed up by my 598 paper.

I'm developing this bizarre love/hate relationship with my topic. Syria and I have been through a lot these past few weeks, and I know that in the next three days, before my paper's due, we're going to have to work through a lot more of our most painful issues. I hope in the end, we'll be able to separate peacefully, as mature adults, both of us capable of recognizing the ways we've grown throughout our relationship, believing that the good times (Sovereign Creations) far outshadowed the bad (unintelligable introduction of Raymond Hinnebusch's Syria: Revolution From Above).

If the divorce comes through on Tuesday as planned, I'll be back on the blogging scene ASAP. So keep your dance card open, hot stuff, I plan on blogging all night long.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Making Good Use of the New Title Feature...Sort Of.

I've had a perfectly useless long weekend, and a perfectly useless Sunday afternoon. But I enjoyed it. I went the long way to Columbus and back today. I'm not exactly a scenery person, but 71 is one of the most boring damn roads I've ever seen. And driving down and back up that sucker twice a week every week for two school years is enough to drive anyone crazy. So today I took some back roads.

I almost wish I would've brought my camera. Rural Ohio can be quite beautiful when the sun is just setting and the flowers are just blooming and the grass is that unusual late May/early June shade of green that I've never seen anywhere else but Ireland. But there were better things than just the scenery. There was, for instance, the ultimate low church Protestant ideal, a church actually entitled: An Apostolic Church. Catchy, no? There was a man who, apparently having no available lawn mower, stood weedwhacking a giant patch of grass in his multiple acre side yard. There was the country church, a couple of miles from nowhere, which apparently was sponsoring some sort of aerobics class in their front lawn.

It was a nice day. I couldn't do it every week; it took too long, and it's annoying to have to slow down to 35 going through all of the little backhill ghost towns, called delightfully dated names like Steam Corners. In my opinion, if fewer than five families have lived there in twenty years, its time to reraise the speed limit.

Someday I want to do a study on some of these little towns. Ohio has seen a lot of major changes over time. The coming of canal, and its eventual abandonment, is one change that is pretty well studied. But the coming, and eventual abandonment, of the railroads is one that I think might be even more interesting. The death of heavy industry will doubtless be another.

It's funny to think that the small town my dad grew up in had more inhabitants when he was in high school than it does now, and that the public transportation system he grew up with was developed and accessible enough that his older brother took the train to college in Cleveland and back every weekend, which I can't even imagine now. It's even stranger to think that the transport system of my grandmother's era was so vastly superior to our modern one that housewives from my area regularly took the trolley down to Columbus or up to Cleveland for a day of shopping before coming back home to fix dinner for their husbands. Today, if you haven't got a car of your own, you haven't got a ride.

After taking trains all over Europe, it makes me sad to think that we have such a lousy transportation system. When the car companies emerged at the dawning of the twentieth century, they made war on the railroads. And they were successful enough to drive them almost entirely out of business. If they hadn't, we'd have a hell of lot fewer cars on the road today. And if that were true, I wouldn't be so pissed about having spent $2.05 a gallon on gas today, for my long drive through the country.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Man, today has been a trial. Prepare yourselves for whining.

I was supposed to leave for NYC tonight. But I didn’t because I got sick. So, I wasted money and a lot of time and energy on that. It’s kind of disappointing. But the idea of spending 12-hours on a bus, throwing up amongst strangers, sounded unpleasant. Being sick at home, where I’m comfortable, is irritating all by itself. I’m not deathly ill or anything, but there have been a few moments when I fancied that I was. It’s just the flu again.

But I’ve felt awful all day. And this evening, I had to drive to Columbus to get Britt. It’s not the worst thing ever to have to have done it tonight. But I really didn’t want to do it. I felt bad the whole time, and, it was just a hassle. Things kept going wrong. Bad drivers; slow drivers; you name it. It was so bad out that somehow I managed to spend four hours on the trip, when usually it takes me just under three, with pit stops. But hell, I got through it, and figured I was done for the day.

But nope, I was wrong. I came home and my camera cord was missing. I looked for it for about half an hour before I found the damn thing. I got all fussy and was stomping around, which isn’t a good thing for my weak stomach. So I got all upset about it. And when I found it, I was so irritated that I was careless moving my chair back. My toe got caught underneath somehow, and I cracked the hell out my toenail. It bled and got all nasty, and it’ll probably end up infected, and fall off, and my foot will catch gangrene and I’ll die and…ahh, wait, that’s a little hyperbole mayhaps. But in any case, I’m mightily displeased.

Mightily displeased, I say. I’m sick and uncomfortable. My ear hurts, my stomach hurts, my toe hurts. I guess the least I can say for it all is that my troubles are even. It’s comforting to realize that your suffering is balanced and aesthetically pleasing.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

It's a dangerous thing to go pontificating about a religious text you know nothing about. Religious texts aren't value neutral things; they're written in a certain context, by an author who unconsciously believes that his audience will already share certain presumptions about what he's writing. So it's dangerous to undertake an exegetical work when you don't know two bits about a text's cultural, religious and historical context. So I'm not about to go spouting off on something I know nothing about. I'm no Hindu scholar, by a long shot. Nevertheless, this is what's on my mind today:

"If the slayer thinks he slays
If the slain thinks he's slain
Neither knows the truth
The Self slays not, is not slain."
- Katha Upanishad 2.19

It's impossible to capture in words the essence of a feeling. It's impossible to explain the incredible tension of emotion in rational terms. Logic can't always bind pain away and render it meaningless.

All day, every day, I spend all of my time thinking of ways to communicate. I crave contact so deeply that I become apathetic and despondant if it's lacking. It's not enough to feel a certain way, or to know a certain truth; I have to share it somehow. It's simply not enough that I live for myself alone.

My world is collapsing. I bear responsibility for the creation of this world, for its maintenance and its ultimate destruction. I established the elements of this little universe all by myself; I set into motion all of its parts. I have governed this world from the start, through my activity and my neglect. My world is falling apart and I am the architecht of its destruction.

There is a cold tension churning in my chest, at the bottom of my heart, and creeping up into my throat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm working on a couple of new projects right now, hence the lack of blogging. Not to mention the 24/7 craziness that school's turned into this past year. Just a few months left until I graduate.

I think I've got an ear infection. I'm scheduled to go to the doctor this coming Tuesday, but that's six days away, and my ear hurts now.

Also, I'm tired.

But outside of all that, things in life are okay. I'd even say good, if I weren't such a damn cynic. For instance, I ought to be happy because I won a few awards at school. One for most outstanding history student, or somesuch, and another for best paper in some school contest. I got a hundred bucks for the latter award, and some good books for the former. Recognition pleases normal people. But all I've done is complain about it so far. I don't like having to go to the award ceremony, basically. I'm an ungrateful twit sometimes.

Damnit, my ear hurts.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy Mother’s Day.

I made mine cry this morning.

Not in the nice way.


Yesterday was sort of strange.

On Friday, I had to get bloodwork at the hospital early in the morning. I ended up having to get up at like 6:30 in the morning or something, because my damned bloodwork had to happen in Ashland. The night before I’d been up ‘til after three, on account of, who wants to sleep on a Thursday night? That question is probably only appropriate for OSU-M students, who don’t have Math classes. Anyway, I’d planned on coming home after blood loss, and going to sleep until 1:00 when I had to get Britt. But no, Britt called and asked to come home early, so I had to drive to Columbus sleep deprived as hell.

Anyway, what was I getting at?

Oh yeah, I slept in on Saturday. And my mom asked me to go to garage sales with her, my sister and my grandmother. I’m not really much of a Garage Sale person, so I initially declined the offer. Then it hit me that I was going to blow my whole weekend, doing absolutely nothing, and that seemed sort of shameful. So I agreed to go to Garage Sales. The Garage Sales themselves were kind of boring; but we ended up at the Athens, and I got to torture my sister a little. So that was kind of fun.

Her tongue was sore, because of some illness she has. So I told her she should chew the clove that they put on top the baklava. Being new to Greek Food, she reluctantly agreed.

Donna: ::puts clove on tongue:: It’s not doing anything
Me: Give it a second.
Donna: It’s still not doing anything!
Me: Try biting it.
Donna: Still nothing!
Me: Huh, it should be really bitter if nothing else.
Donna: ::Effect of clove causing mass gagging:: OH MY GOD! Give me your water! Give it to me! Oh my God! I’m all out! Give me your water! Sick! This is SICK!
Grandma and I: hahahahahahahahaha
Donna: What’d you do to me Sarah? This is awful!
Grandma: haha, I was waiting for that!
Me: haha, but you're not thinking about your tongue hurts now, eh?!

Then I came home and talked to Mike on AIMer. We were both bored, though I was tired from my busy day of Garage Saling, to use my mother’s term. As I was talking to Mike, my brother called and invited me to the Basin Street Grind, where they have coffee and live jazz. So Mike and I decided to go. Nikki called while I was getting ready to get Mike, so we all decided to go.

It was good. We got various flavors of Jet Tea: Strawberry for Nikki; Wildberry for my brother and Mike; Green Apple for me. I like Jet Tea. It doesn’t taste much like coffee or tea, which, not overly liking either coffee or tea, pleases me greatly. My dad hates people like me, who go to coffee shops and don’t like coffee. Anyway, the jazz sucked. The drummer was the only guy in the band with much sense of rhythm, and his was off. The one sax player showed some potential, but I’m guessing he was maybe sixteen years old and having a bad night. So it wasn’t all that great.

But funny things did happen. When I walked in, the drummer saw my shirt and said: “HEYYYYYYY! ::does rock-bull sign:: Pedro the Lion::” and I self-consciously returned the sign. Nikki’s right, this shirt does make people stare at my tits. Anyway, later on, Nikki and Mike stared at me and laughed, and wouldn’t tell me what was so funny, except that they’d discovered that I was beautiful inside and out. Yes, that is a laughable concept.

We went to Denny’s, where some girls made nasty comments about us as we ate. When we arrived, half of the restaurant was swamped, and half was totally empty. We, of course, were seated in the swamped section. We think that, instead of asking whether people want to be seated in smoking or non-smoking, they should have a people/non-people option. I spilled a lot of stuff, and it was decided that I would marry my spoon, and we would have beautiful spoon children named Alex.

After that, we went to Meijer, where I bought the world’s shittiest slingshot, and Nikki discovered that the world’s supply of cool whip had been entirely squandered and lost. And after all of that, we went to my house, where we went and laid in the meadow for a few hours, looking at the stars, and then the clouds, and then the stars again when the night cleared back up. We told stupid stories, about nakedness and shame, and pubescent trauma, and our imaginations, and the only-childness that comes from being the youngest children of regular-to-large sized families, with siblings much older than us.

I took Mike home, and came home and went to sleep. I woke up thinking: “Damnit, like two weeks left until my paper’s due, and I’ve done absolutely nothing.” So I resolved to actually read a little today. And that’s what I’m going to go do now.

Monday, May 03, 2004

I don't seem able to blog lately. My thoughts seem to resist the translation process that makes them bloggable. I could blog, no doubt, but no one ever seems to like my long and rambling posts about what I'm feeling and thinking. And I guess I'm a little sensitive about it. In those posts, you're kind of gutting yourself for the world to see, and when all the response you get is: "Christ, can't you post shorter?" you kind of grow adverse to it after a while. I'm starting up another blog for that altogether; I think that's the best compromise. In the meantime, the boring details of my life:

I spent this weekend doing largely nothing. I slept a lot. I mean really a lot. Like twelve hours each day. I should've read more. I should've written my paper, but I didn't. And I don't really care either. The high point of the whole damn weekend was that last night Jasmin and I went down to Columbus for orientation for our fieldtrip to Harlem. That was the most productive I got.

Orientation wasn't so bad. It was mercifully short. They didn't tell me anything that made me not want to go. We'll have a lot of free time, which is the only reason I really wanted to go anyway. We're free on Friday night after like six, and we're free on Saturday after 1:30pm, with no curfew either night, so that should give us time to do a lot of stuff. Last summer on the way home from Europe, my brother freaked out and we ended up seeing approximately jack in NYC. I don't blame him exactly, but it was kind of funny that I was just returning from my whirlwind backpacking tour of Europe, and the boy was freaking about an afternoon in New York City. I love teasing my brother about the fact that he's afraid of going to other countries. He and his wife went up to Niagra Falls last summer, and he refused to sleep in Canada. They had to come all the way back into the US before my brother assented to finding a hotel. Meanwhile, I'm in a hostel in Tongeren or somewhere. My brother's not a country bumpkin; upon meeting him, I don't think anyone would conclude that he's a hick, but his attitudes about travel are so quintessentially smalltown Ohio. I love it.

Anyway, off for now.