Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: life (page 3 of 3)

I’ve just slept for nearly 13 hours. And that even though I took the “non-drowsy” version of the Tylenol Cold I purchased yesterday while I shuffled my light-headed arse across campus. I swear there were a couple moments in class I had to lean on the board.

But I feel about 70% better now. Which is good, because much to do today. Mainly cleaning; my sister arrives tomorrow, for three/four days, give or take, depending on how you do the math. I haven’t seen her since Christmas, and even then she had so many obligations we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time together as I would have liked. This time it’s just me and her the whole weekend, and I’m happy about that.

So far, I’ve got tickets to the Getty Villa for Friday. And we’re going to hit the LA Times Book Fair over at UCLA on either Friday or Saturday. Whichever.

Probably.

We might just decide to spent the weekend at the beach.

But in the meantime, I’ve got to tidy up my apartment. And later this afternoon I get to be all manly and bust out my tools and fix the mirror on my car. But that’s after I clean it.

I don’t know why I tend to attract clutter in my life. I’ve always wished I didn’t, but I seem to have the gene for it. Anyone with any tips on how to reduce clutter?

Just ending what was, technically, my last weekend in Hollywood. My sister is coming to town on Thursday, and then the following weekend I have lots of grading, and then the one following that I’ll pretty much be out of here.

Which is pretty cool, so far as I’m concerned.

In the meantime, my sinuses clogged, my throat closed up, and my voice dropped into the sort of croak you might expect from a deaf frog. It’s not a full-on croak, but rather one that’s vaguely heard croaking and is reproducing a close facsimile.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning and packing. In and out of the post office, and when I took breathers, I read The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

I don’t get it. It opened well; the first several dozen pages were awesome; Diaz caught a definite voice and rhythm, to merge into a brilliant, electric patois.

Until it shifted. My problem is mainly that the parts concerning Oscar are awesome, but there are other sections dealing with Oscar’s sister and mother that drag.

It reminded me most of Dracula. I loved the first section of Stoker’s novel, which purported to being Jonathan Harker’s diary, and then the rest of it became “epistolary,” which I put into quotes because it was written as a mess of letters from a dozen people to other people, but they all sounded exactly the same, which was suspiciously like Stoker.

Similar in Wao: the first bit crackles, but then the tones/voices change and the book collapses like a flan in a cupboard. Diaz’s writing lags, while at the same time taking on the dreaded voice so many creative writing programs seem to idolize.

I’ll be returning it tomorrow with nearly a hundred pages left unread.

In the meantime, I’ll be mainlining orange juice and freebasing Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough.

Posting might be sporadic the next couple of days, barring a few pictures when I can swing it; classes, meetings, and student conferences tomorrow, then class on Friday, and then the GRE Lit test on Saturday, with the afternoon devoted to the rest of my last class.

By Saturday night, I’ll have mostly completed my degree (final project due next week).

Still taking the Lit test because, though I didn’t get in to DU, well, things always happen when you least expect them. I already registered and paid, so I might as well, and plus I really think there’s something to this story theory I’ve got.

In the next few weeks I’ll be packing up again, moving again, closing one book to start the next. Good two years, but bloody hell, nice to be on the other end. Just this side of thirty, and looking around and saying, “Well, all right.” Part of me thinks it’s been pretty awesome so far, and the future just winked and chuckled and said, “Boy, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

To which I say, “Well, yes, in fact, I have,” and then smile. “Bring it.”

No, yesterday’s post wasn’t a joke. Honestly, I’m not into the whole April Fool’s thing; I generally think pranks are annoying at best and infuriating at worst. I don’t like to be fooled. I like honesty.

I’d take a picture of the letter, because I take pictures of just about everything else, lately, but I’m not going to. I think they filled up all their slots already. I hope that’s what happened, because they don’t actually yet have my full application; I don’t take the GRE Lit until next weekend, and I’d thought they were waiting on that score.

Apparently not. Ah, well.

Alma’s comment yesterday, though, brought up a good point that I’ve been thinking about a lot the past couple days (actually, which I’ve been wondering about for a while now); it’s Creative Writing–does one really need a PhD in it? Do I really want to pursue a doctorate in making shit up? I’d had a couple of ideas for what to do for a ‘creative dissertation,’ but I actually have a couple of ideas for real dissertations (in both literature and theology, in fact), and I think that might be more fruitful.

I think I got what I needed from my Master’s degree. I studied with one of the two people who made me want to come to this program, but ultimately I feel I came away with more from other classes. It’s great to be able to say I studied film with the guy who directed The Empire Strikes Back, but both Coleman Hough and Syd Field challenged me in better, different ways, and I learned more from them.

Yesterday, I officially handed in my thesis. I’ve got two more days of class next weekend, and then it’s all in the bag.

I’ve been asked a few times what I’m going to do next. Which surprises me, because everyone already knows:

I’m going to Denver.

I’m not sure why people thought it might be contingent on getting into their program. Coming out to LA wasn’t; I paid for my apartment several weeks before I got word of any decision on anyone’s part. I’d already decided I was going to do it regardless of whether or not I got into USC.

And I did. I would’ve. I didn’t leave myself any other option.

Same here. I’m not staying in LA, and I’m not moving back to Jersey. Denver has felt, for a long time, like the next logical step. There’s something about it that calls to me, which seems kind of a silly thing to say, looking at it, but there it is.

Vonnegut is known for having said that very often it’s best to jump off the cliff and grow your wings on the way down. Somebody (I want to say Emerson or Thoreau) once said that, in seeking new land, one must occasionally force one’s self to lose sight of familiar shore.

I don’t believe anything in life is certain (not even death, mainly because: who knows? I’m smart enough to know that nobody knows what occurs after the body stops breathing, and also enough to know that I am not my body), and so I’m looking forward to this coming summer. I think it’s going to be awesome. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m taking the leap now, and heck, even if I don’t grow my wings on the way down, I’ve never gone wrong by the seat of my pants.

Last night, I think I dreamt of Denver.

I’m not sure it was Denver, as I’ve never been to Denver, but I think it was my mental approximation.

The situation was this:

A coffeeshop/bar/deli. Not sure which, as I didn’t order anything. Could have been all of the above, in fact, for all I knew. And there was a person (I think a woman) at a table outside. And I spoke to her, and then she referred me to a ledger inside the shop itself. The ledger enumerated points of my life, mainly to do with graduate school, with commentary beside each one. Like, for example, the note under “Went to USC” was along the lines of “Dusting off the old diploma to . . .” etc. (the actual details of the dream, are, as is so often the case, lost to the kind of morning that will last all afternoon). But I woke up thinking about that ledger, and feeling judged. Feeling as though I came before a jury and was found wanting.

Which seemed as good a prompt as any to talk about Denver. Shows how much I want to go, I think. For various reasons.

Los Angeles has not agreed with me. I usually take pretty well to new places, and I dug LA for a while; I’m not sure when it lost its luster, but it since has. Which isn’t to say it’s been a terrible experience, and saying that I hate LA would probably overstate the case, but I really can’t wait to get the hell out of here. I was talking to my advisor and his wife about it on Friday night, and I think they got it; his wife mentioned the “hermetically sealed confines of people in their cars compartmentalizing their destinations” (pretty much verbatim), which may be partly it. Some of my friends have called me a city boy, which may be true, but calling Los Angeles a “city” stretches the word across too many miles to really have any meaning anymore. It’s a giant, smoggy sprawl full of vanity and car exhaust, and though I’ve made some wonderful friends, I’ve never considered friendship a function of geography, and more than I’ve thought writing might be.

So, Denver. First, the PhD. I realized I wanted to pursue one, because I definitely want to continue being a professor. I love teaching, and on a college level . . . yes, please. There aren’t many PhD programs; USC, UNLV, a couple places in the midwest, and Chicago, are the ones that stick out. And really; I’m done with LA, don’t want to do either Chicago or Las Vegas for the next five years, and the midwest doesn’t sound all that terrific. Denver has some really cool professors, namely Brian Kitely and Laird Hunt; the former is interested in story and its origin, while the latter has written some experimental noir books.

Story and noir? Um, yes. I want to found a new theory of literary criticism, in fact, and who doesn’t like good noir?

I had the same reaction to their names and concentrations as I had when I read that Marc Norman and Janet Fitch taught at USC. And that was enough for me.

Also, I think Denver will be a good balance between the urban life I love to immerse myself in and the natural life I continually seek. It was one of my favorite things about Jersey; smack between New York and Philadelphia, with millions of acres of the pine barrens in between. Between the tight-pack of Denver’s thriving downtown and its proximity to both the Rockies and Red Rocks, I think it will feel like a different version of home, which is pretty much what I’ve sought all my life; where I’m from, but a little different. As dynamic as New York but smaller, and without the brusk hustle.

Getting into DU, I’ll be a teaching assistant (awesome), which is actually a step down from what I’m doing now, technically, but that’s all right by me. And if I don’t get in; it’s not like I’m not qualified to do just about anything. I’m going to retake my personal training test this summer, maybe get into subbing again, and query some freelance stuff.

And then I’ll just reapply next year.

That’s always been the deciding point for me; is it something I’d want to do even if I didn’t have to? If I’d gotten a book deal two years ago, would I have finished my Master’s? I didn’t decide to go to USC until I realized the answer to that was an emphatic yes. And if I’d sold my novel last week, I would’ve used it to rent a house in Denver without a second thought.

So I’m a bit scared, but it’s nice to know that feeling comes from the fear that I won’t get into DU. That it won’t work out the way I want it to.

One thing I’ve learned so far, though, is that even when it doesn’t, it works out the way you need it to, and that’s all right by me.

Yes, I wrote that I’d begin blogging again, in earnest, the moment I finished my novel. And I am, just about.

I finished it last night around five in the evening. I saved it in, like, nine different places (one can never be too rich, too thin, or have their work saved in too many places), copied and pasted 80,000 words to fire off to my thesis advisor.

Which means I haven’t just finished my novel. I’ve also finished my thesis, which means I’ve finished my degree. All that’s left is the formality.

I remember two years ago. I remember how scared I was to do this, how I worried I was going to fall on my face, but I knew that I could no longer remain where I was.

It’s funny, the cycles in which life moves. Two years later, there’s something beautifully poetic about accomplishing exactly what I set out to do (and more), growing and changing and working, and then looking up and finding myself in exactly the same place I was in before. Scared about what I’m about to do in a few months, worried I’m going to fall on my face, but completely knowing that I can no longer remain where I am.

“And it was mom who showed that raging terror of where you’re headed is the surest sign you’re traveling in the right direction.” -Marty McConnell

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