Tuesday, October 28, 2008

End of the month update

Whew! Finally a chance to write another blog. This month has gone by in a flash. I've been meaning to write for some time. Here are the updates:

Daniel came for a visit! It was quite the whirlwind though. He flew into Newark at 11:30pm on a Friday and by Monday morning at 3am we were on our way back to Jersey. I had the whole weekend off though, so we were able to take advantage what we had. What did we do? We explored Greenwich Village (my new favorite neighborhood) and had sushi in a charming little restaurant complete with appetizer, and white wine. We briefly explored Brooklyn, and while we were there we purchased half price tickets to Hairspray on Broadway. Guess who played Edna Turnblad. George Wendt! It was an absolute riot! We also spent some time in Central Park and I showed Daniel the fountain of Bethesda which I mentioned in a previous post.

Classes have finally taken off. I've submitted my final paper topics and I'm looking at classes for next semester. This semester I will be writing on colonialism and sexuality in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and the formation of the nation-state in Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. But, on to more interesting matters.

The Lion Brand Yarn Studio will be having its grand opening on November 18th. The space looks incredible! I'm really excited to start building a customer base and begin teaching classes. It's been over three months since I've taught and I must say I'm missing it.

I should mention that I've just purchased the new macbook that was released last week. I've never owned one before and so far I am in love with it. It is fast, fast, fast. The body is gorgeous. And it's only 4.5 pounds. There are a few things I miss from my VAIO though. Because of its size the macbook doesn't have the ''home'' and ''end'' keys'' which I had made a habit of using. I've been able to work around it pretty well though.

I've found a little bit of time to spin recently. I've been using my Cougar Mountain Cascade Spindle and the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Wooltop in the color Aslan. At the moment knitting is slightly too cerebral for me, although I've been itching to start a new pair of socks...and the weather is turning awfully cold. Spinning is just as tactile as knitting, but, for me, requires little to no analytical thought. I need to save that for other aspects of my life right now.

Anyways, I've got to get to bed...I have to be up and on the train in 8 hours.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My first trip to Brooklyn and Kate Bornstein!

I attended the first meeting of Fordham University's Pride Alliance last Monday, and after the meeting two girls notified everyone that on Saturday there were going to the Brooklyn museum to see Kate Bornstein lecture. Kate Bornstein is a kind of gender theorist for the masses. Her perspective on gender is heavily influenced by postmodern academic theory, but her lectures are meant to be heard and easily understood by all, whether you have heard of Jaques Derrida and French post structuralism or not.

I love Kate Bornstein. I'd read her most popular book Gender Outlaw, but I'd never seen her live. So, needless to say I approached the two girls after the meeting and we coordinated a time and place to meet on Saturday so we could go to the museum together.

There ended up being a total of five of us that went to Brooklyn together. When we got off the train (which was about an hour and fifteen minutes after we left) we found the museum very crowded, but we got in line and waited to get tickets to see Ms. Bornstein. After spending about 15 minutes in line we were notified that all the tickets we taken! Disappointed, we went to the cafeteria to regroup and decide what to do next.

One of the girls in our group was an art history major and mentioned that Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party is installed at the museum. I had studied this controversial work of art as an undergraduate and was shocked to find that it was located so close to where I was and that I could view it that day. So, after a snack at the cafeteria we all went up to the fifth floor to see The Dinner Party.

Just as we got up there I noticed that Kate Bornstein's lecture was going to be located in a room just next to where The Dinner Party was located. I asked one of the museum staff if my friends and I could stand outside the room to hear the lecture or if perhaps any tickets were available. She told me that no tickets were available, but that if we liked we could stand outside as long as we didn't block the entrance. So, that is what we resolved to do.

As we waited for the lecture to begin (we decided to put of the Chicago piece until after the lecture) I caught a glimpse of Kate. She was talking to the museum staff, and (I think) trying to convince them to let us and a few other folks into the lecture. A few minutes later, we were told that there was room for about eight people to sit on the floor in front of the first row! I raised my hand to indicate my enthusiasm for the floor seats and they were granted to us.

The lecture was everything I hoped it would be. It was controversial (a few people left midway through) and at one point a woman fainted, though I don't think that was related to the lecture itself. Kate was flustered after that, but picked up where she'd had to leave off and continued what she was saying after the woman had been helped.

After the lecture, we saw The Dinner Party which I won't discuss specifically here, but feel free to Google it if you feel so inclined. And then we left Brooklyn for Manhattan to have Thai food for dinner on St. Marks street. I bought a hounds tooth scarf from a street vendor while we waited for our table, and after dinner we headed back to the Bronx. I didn't get home until midnight, but all in all it was a great day full of new friends, invigorating lectures, and a contemporary classic in feminist art.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is there a professor in this class?

Well, classes are in full swing, or at least they should be. For one of my classes that is not entirely the case. The first session of Black Women Writers was canceled several weeks ago. We had the second class as planned, but the third class was canceled as well. The professor insisted she was very ill and I gave her the benefit of the doubt (it seems she was rather sick). Two make up classes were scheduled, but the professor didn't show up to the first make up class. Instead she sent Professor Yvette Christ who informed us that our regularly scheduled instructor, Professor Banks, was ill (again). All was not lost however. Professor Christ (pronounced with a short "i" as she has an English accent) was absolutely brilliant. I learned more from her in two hours than I'd learned all semester, and she'd only had an afternoon to prepare to teach the class. She wore a bright orange jacked, green and white striped socks, and a bright bowler hat. She didn't look like the sort of person who would be teaching graduate lever English classes, but believe me she was great.

Yesterday, I received an email from Dr. Banks telling us that she would no longer be our instructor for the class. She said someone would be taking over, but didn't mention by name who this person was. I really hope it is Dr. Christ, but I'm still waiting to hear.

We are 4-5 weeks into the semester and have only discussed one novel. I hope the next few months aren't crammed with make up work because of this setback.

In other news, my job is going to be changing significantly. Lion Brand yarns has decided to open the first Lion Brand Yarn Studio on W 15th St near Union Square. I will be working in the studio, when it opens in late fall, and until then I will be working with the manager to get the studio ready to open. When it does open I will will perform retail functions and I will teach many of the knitting classes that will be offered. This is a salaried position with full benefits which excites me to no end. My big challenge will be balancing school with work, and finding time for a social life (and maybe even some knitting and spinning!).

I've purchased my Thanksgiving plane ticket, and Daniel is coming out for a visit on October 9th. I can't wait! I'm trying the plan things for us to do, but he has to be back in class by the 13th so we only have a few days.

Well, I have to finish This Earth of Mankind for class on Monday. So, once again, off to the library.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

School has started...and I'm coming to Seattle for a visit.

School started last week and I finally have an idea of what life will be like for the next several years. When I registered for classes originally, I signed up for 3 classes, but after securing my job I was curious as to whether many students worked full time and went to school full time so at student orientation I asked about it. I was told that especially for my first semester it was a very bad idea. So, I dropped one of my classes. I am very thankful I did. My usual reading load is about 1 to 2 books a week, but now I'm going to have to double that and I still have to find time to write papers, prepare questions, and give presentations. Three classes would have been impossible while I am working.

Here is what my schedule looks like. I have class Monday from 3:30 to 5:30 and Tuesday from 5:30-7:30, and I work Monday through Friday from 9 until 5:30 or earlier on days that I have to get to class. On days that I have class I leave work early and take Metro North to campus because it is faster than the subway. On days I don't have class I take the subway to campus and study in the library until all hours of the night. Fordham has a community van that takes local students to their apartments around campus after hours. It runs from 10 pm to 5 am, and I've been taking it several times a week so I don't have to walk home alone late from the library.

The classes I'm taking are Modernists/Victorians and 20th Century African-American Literature: Black Women Writers. I just finished reading Wuthering Heights and I am read a novel called The Street by Ann Petry which takes place in Harlem in the '40s.

You might know that Virginia Woolf is pretty much my all time favorite author. And I'm happy to announce that her novel To the Lighthouse is on the reading list for my Modernists/ Victorians class, but I am even happier to have found out that next summer the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham will host the 19th annual Virginia Woolf conference with the theme Woolf in the City. I intend to write a paper and submit an abstract so that I might be able to present it at the conference. But, even if I don't get to present it would be wonderful just to attend, and it's so close.

I'm coming back to Seattle next week for a visit and I have some great plans. My boyfriend, Daniel, is a concierge at Pacific Place and one of the perks of his job is that various restaurants and organizations give him complementary passes and gift certificates to their venues. Well, he got seats to see Teatro Zinzanni. Check out their website at: www.teatrozinzanni.com. They are a circus group that performs a show under a circus tent while serving a 5 course meal by Tom Douglas. It is one of the best nights out you could even want to have. I've seen it several times before but the cast changes regularly and because it is live something different always happens.
Other things I plan on doing while in Seattle are: have dinner at Tango (a Spanish restaurant on Capitol Hill), see as many people as possible in the few days I am there, and go to stitching circle at Renaissance Yarns. I will be there on Saturday the 20th in the morning and I'm really looking forward to it.

Well, off to the library.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More About Manhattan...and other things

I am in love with Manhattan. I was told a few days ago that anyone who lives in Manhattan for six months ill never leave. I'm not sure I believe it entirely but I can see how it would be true of some people. Everything you could ever want to do is here. There is Broadway, MOMA, Central Park, and plenty of yarn shops, not to mention some of the greatest universities in the world. Let me tell you about a few of the things I have taken advantage of.

First, I had the chance to visit Central Park a few weeks ago. There were a ton of people, and free performances. The most elaborate was a group of men who performed this incredible dance routine. People were relaxing, reading, and playing with their children. I didn't have time to explore the entire park because (of course) it's huge, but I wanted to be sure and see the Fountain of Bethesda. It is a statue of the Angel Bethesda who is supposed to come alive during the second coming and heal all the sick people in the world. That aside, I had seen it in the HBO production of Angels in America by Tony Kushner. It was much larger than I had imagined it would be, and the overall effect was almost intimidating.

Something else I've discovered in Manhattan is an incredible bar called Therapy. So far I've only been there once, but I intent to return often. It is located on 52nd street so it is easy access on the way home from work, and they have a great (read: cheap!) happy hour. Check out their website if you're curious: www.therapy-nyc.com.

Work has gone well so far. I have quite a bit to do, and I am kind of a catch all for anything that anyone needs done which leaves me very exhausted by Friday. Sometimes I rush to the mailboxes etc. store three times a day. Classes start in a week. I am trying to get ahead by reading the recommended (as opposed to required) texts prior to our first meeting. I don't think I will get through all of them. They are very difficult. I have to look up words every few pages it seems, but at least I'm expanding my vocabulary. I have significant motivation to work hard though because the department started something new last year for the MA students. The MA student with the best academic performance gets their second year fully funded. That's a lot of money we're talking about. I won't die if I don't get the funding, but I'm sure going to try.

In addition to getting ahead on the reading for class I also read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I recommed both of them. The first one would interest anyone with an affinity for race, class, gender studies, and the second would interest anyone who ever enjoyed The Addams Family. Seriously. It's weird.

I also bought a easy french reader because by the time I finish my MA I have to be able to read French, Spanich, Italian, Latin, or German, and I chose French. So needless to say I've been reading French at about a second grade level. The stories make me yawn, but I know it will pay off because someday I'll be able to tackle Proust in the original and not have to read it in translation.

That's all for now. I'll let you know how classes are once they start. I hope everyone had an awesome Labor Day!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Update on the job search

So, I've been here for almost two weeks and I think I have found a job. I interviewed last Tuesday with the Lion Brand Yarn Co. in Manhattan and they emailed me after checking my references to ask if I could come in on Thursday and Friday to work in the design department. Originally the plan was to have me work part time on a trial period and reassess at a later date, but after my first day they said they wanted me to work full time for three weeks as a trial period and reassess from there.

I won't be doing any of the designing, instead I will be assisting with day to day operations, handling all the shipping and maintain a database of all their projects. The work environment is really great. Everyone has been more than friendly and I look forward to working there on a more permanent basis.

If I am hired as staff I would also receive medical, dental, and vacation benefits, and while I won't be making a fortune, I will be making enough to pay for rent and other necessities, flights home and the all important Starbucks.

I am very excited about this: it's my first 9 to 5 job, and it's in Manhattan! I'll keep you updated as I learn more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My first day in Manhattan

I have been here for just over a week and have had many experiences in both the Bronx and Manhattan that are worth repeating here. Perhaps the most exciting is what happened the first day I went to Manhattan. I left the Bronx in search of several items necessary to my comfort: sheets, a pillow (with a pillowcase please), a blanket, and a fan (because the Bronx is hot in the summer). I took the train to Lincoln Center where I had been told there was a Bed, Bath and Beyond (which there was) and also came across a Barnes and Noble, an AMC Theater, the Gap, and Banana Republic. I wandered into Barnes and Noble because I couldn't help myself and I spent twenty minutes or so there being careful not to get too attached to anything I found because this shopping trip was designated for housewares only and everything I purchased had to be carried back uptown on the subway. When I had taken my fill, I walked out and was heading to Bed, Bath and Beyond when I noticed a poster in the bookstore's window. Joyce Carol Oates is reading Aug 8th at 7:30, it read. I was so disoriented because of my move that I didn't know what day it was, but after checking my phone I saw that it was the 8th and Mrs. Oates would be reading there in about four hours.

I first read Joyce Carol Oates at Green River Community College for an English class. Her short story "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was assigned reading. I loved it so much that over the years I read several of her novels as well: I'll Take You There, Beasts, The Tattooed Girl, The Falls, and Black Water. She often uses contemporary events as inspiration for her novels. For example, Her novel Blonde is about the last few days of the life of Marilyn Monroe. Her most recent novel My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skylar Rampike takes the JonBenet Ramsey case as its inspiration, though Oates is firm in her insistence that it is not about that particular case. She currently teaches creative writing at Princeton and has been published in the New Yorker.
She read from her new novel for about half an hour and interspersed the reading with anecdotes, comments, and insight into her writing style all of which was fascinating. Afterwords there was a Q & A session and finally a booksigning. I was very glad I had the opportunity to attend.
I also found the time to see Mamma Mia! that day which was light and funny. Meryl Streep was incredible, but I still can't get used to seeing Pierce Brosnan in a musical. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I've arrived: My first night in the Bronx.

Well, I made it. I woke up at about 5:oo and caught the plane at 7:40. We arrived about half an hour early which was fine with me because there were two babies that cried through the whole thing. I picked up my suitcase and headed for the AirTrain which took me to the E train at Jamaica station. I took the E to 7th Avenue where I transferred to the D train headed for the Bronx.

When I stepped out of the subway I realized how different my life was going to be living here. Looking around me I tried to think of somewhere I had been previously that was comparable. Madrid and Pioneer Square both came to mind. The buildings are all very old (or at least seem to be) and I am glad I speak some Spanish because many people here speak it (as well as Italian). I could tell I stuck out like a sore thumb with my back pack and suitcase, but I tried to make my way to my new building as quickly as I could.

Because the plane was early I had to wait at McDonald's until about 7:45 because my landlord couldn't meet me until then. When I did finally meet him I was relieved to find he was 1) an actual landlord and not a scam artist who was never going to show up, and 2) a nice guy. He showed me my room which is small, but big enough, and we moved in a new single size bed for me to sleep in.

By then I was exhausted, and hungry so I ventured out in search of provisions. The first thing I came across was a wine store. Thank god. I bought a bottle of yellow tail and a beautiful crystal glass, and went to drop it off at the apartment before finding food.

When I put my key in the lock, however, the handle didn't move. I tried again, still nothing. After several minutes, I decided to call the landlord to see what I was doing wrong. He came up (he lives on the bottom floor) and showed me that to open the door I have to insert the key, pull the door slightly toward myself (but only just slightly!) and turn the lock to the left...slowly. I tried and was finally able to do it. I thanked him, dropped off the wine and went out in search of food.

I live right in Little Italy and so, Italian food was close at hand. I stopped into a little place called the Two Star Restaurant. Trust me, it's better than it sounds. I had the Fettuccine Alfredo, and headed back to my place with the left overs. I put the key in the lock, pulled towards myself, and turned to the left, but the door would not open. I struggled for what felt like half an hour until someone came up behind me and asked if I was having trouble with the lock. I panicked slightly in the realization that I was obviously from out of town, semi-locked out of my place and it was about 10:00 in the Bronx. I confessed that I was having trouble and this person introduced himself. He lives on the second floor and wanted to show me how to work the lock.

He inserted the key, pulled the handle, and turned the lock, and for him it opened. I tried it a few more times and somehow, I was able to open it. I hope I still can later.

Today, I need to buy some things for my place, and start looking for a job. I still need to find time to explore Manhattan too!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm leaving Seattle...tomorrow!

I find it hard to believe that 24 hours from now I will be on a plane headed for JFK airport. From there I take the AirTrain to Manhattan where I transfer to the subway which takes me to E Fordham Rd. From there I walk to 187th st and Prospect where I will meet my new landlord and roommates. I am bringing one small suitcase and one backpack filled with the following: Norton Anthologies, my laptop, and knitting, knitting, knitting. My mother is shipping a selection of books and a big box of yarn to me as soon as I am settled.

Classes don't begin until September 3rd and I am registered for 20th C. Black Women Writers and Medieval Scottish Poetry. I have been waiting for the reading lists to be available, but as of yet, the wait continues. At the moment I am reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale). She astounded me when I read her novel Oryx and Crake a few months ago and she is quickly becoming one of my most favorite authors. She rivals even Virginia Woolf. I am also bringing some literary theory to read on the plane: Bodies that Matter by Judith Butler and Criticism and Ideology by Terry Eagleton.

I'm in a rush at the moment so I will post again when I have arrived in the Bronx and gotten settled. Stay tuned!