The Descent

I’ve been writing up a storm in whatever stolen moments I can get, and working like a fiend at every other hour of the day, with the exceptions of the ones where I sleep (not enough, and not terribly well) and the ones where I watch season 5 of The Wire, which has completely and totally broken my heart this season by being so devastatingly good that I cannot bear the knowledge that I’ve only got one more new episode to watch ever, and In Treatment, which I began watching out of mild formal curiosity (how long can a narrative series that’s on five nights a week hold up?) but have gotten quite caught up in.

Aside from those bits of narrative pleasure, it’s sheer madness: preparing for class, producing endless amounts of administrative paperwork, responding to ridiculous numbers of email messages. And, not least, event planning.

On the one hand, I hate event planning; I don’t like the kind of organization that it requires of me, I don’t like being responsible for a bunch of details that I honestly don’t care about, and I really, really hate having to wrangle people who temperamentally resist wrangling.

On the other hand, this week’s events — Thursday, the English department’s big annual lecture; Friday, a gala celebration for the Media Studies program, its alumni, and its friends; Saturday, a day-long symposium thinking about the shifts and transitions in media production and consumption being produced by the digital — promise to be amazing.

I intend to sleep all day on Sunday, if I can possibly get away with it. I’ll hope to have something new to say thereafter.


I’m off to the eye doctor, foax, which doesn’t bode well for the old productivity today. I’ll be spending part of what remains of the day in a meeting, and the rest of it trying to ignore the increasingly loud ticking of the clock. More later, I hope, when I can see the keyboard again.

Hitting Bottom

Every semester has an emblematic moment. This semester’s finally arrived today, in the moment when, walking along talking with the dean, I stumbled on a bit of uneven sidewalk and completely face-planted on the pavement.

Falling gets harder every year after 30, I think; one has both come to assume one’s verticality to be stable, given, and lost some degree of the flexibility that makes sudden changes negotiable. Actually, I think both states might be summed up in the term “dignity,” and boy, is mine bruised.

I keep reliving the moment, and its aftermath: turning to look in the direction the dean had just pointed, turning back to ask a question, feeling my toe hit the obstruction, and that clear interval in which I knew I was going down, but had not yet hit. And then: lying on my back on the sidewalk, saying “oh, shit” and trying to start breathing again; seeing the dean’s quite evident shock and concern as he asked whether I had hit my head; attempting to reassure the two students who stopped to see if we needed help and offered to call security. Then limping off to the meeting I’d been heading toward.

I’m banged up, though nothing is more bruised than my pride, I think, with the exception of the notebook I was carrying and the sunglasses I was wearing, each of which has a pretty good case of road rash. I don’t want to make too much of this, but it’s awfully hard not to feel like there’s something allegorical in this moment.

What I’d Really Like

Is another three hours in the day, only available for reading and writing. No meetings, no meals, no phone calls, no email. Preferably — and this will no doubt make me sound like even more of a misanthrope than I actually am — no human contact at all. Three hours in which one is somehow protected from everything else, closed into one’s monastery cell (though a comfy cell, with a good reading chair) with only books and the writing apparatus of one’s choice.

Of course, if I’m being honest, what I really need is the focus to be able to use such a magically protected three hours wisely. Off to go make the best of the 28 minutes I do have…

September Is the Cruelest Month

Seriously: forget April.

September hereabouts brings together the end of summer (as in the always-insane beginning of the fall semester, in which the red [i.e., meetings] takes over my iCal) with the onset of the worst of summer (as in temperatures verging on 110 degrees). Fortunately, the heat wave of the first week of classes didn’t last long, and things are actually quite nice now, weather-wise. But I am just barely hanging on in terms of keeping up with the deadlines that are coming fast and furious, keeping my classes up to speed, keeping a handle on my physical well-being. Already, two weeks into the semester, I’m waking up exhausted every single morning.

I should know by now that this is just the way things are, that the semester always starts more painfully than I expect, but somehow I keep thinking to myself that this year will be different, that I’ll be better organized, that I’ll be able to keep up with the projects I started over the summer, that — imagine this — I’ll still have thoughts interesting enough to bother with blogging. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened this year, but I’m trying to remain positive: perhaps the second half of September will be better, once the end of summer is really met by the onset of fall.

Who Needs Sleep?

Well, I’m never gonna get it.

Since arriving here in Paris, I’ve been waiting for the bad night, the one in which sleep eludes me regardless of what counter-measures I take. That night is tonight, apparently. I went fairly directly to sleep around midnight, and then woke up sometime before three. And that was pretty much the end of it. Took a sleeping pill at four, to no appreciable effect. It’s now ten after five, and I’m sitting in the living room, enjoying a bit of networked whinging.

Having done so, I’m going to lie here on the sofa and read, and fully expect to be asleep just in time to get up for breakfast. Tomorrow — er, today — is likely to be an ugly day. But at least the bad night will have come and gone, and hopefully that’ll be the end of it.

But It’s Summer!

So why am I attending meetings and writing reports?

The good news is that I’ve got approximately three more days during which to do any college-related business; then we’re off to Paris for seven blissful weeks. The two of us, the computers, a select number of books, and the summer projects I’ve been dying to get to — and thousands of miles and many timezones between me and the administrative tasks that have been keeping me from it.

I always hate the first part of the summer, because it goes by painfully quickly and is always far more consumed by recovery and reports than I want it to be. But I’m working on reminding myself that far and away the bulk of the summer is still ahead, and that the next two months promise both relaxation and productivity to spare.

Still Not Dead

Just grading. Classes ended Wednesday, senior grades are due today, and graduation’s in a little over a week. I’ve been completely buried under a big pile of end of semester work for the last several weeks, and I’m just now beginning to see a bit of daylight around the edges. Unfortunately, once I emerge from the grading, I’ve got two desperately pressing projects that have to be attended to–one due June 1, which I’ve only barely begun–before I can really return to the kind of thinking and writing I want to be doing.

Soon, though. That much, I’m feeling optimistic about.