Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for December, 2007

A Christmas Eve Visitor

Posted by Gerald on December 24, 2007

When I woke up this morning my first impression was that my bed felt nice and toasty warm.  My second thought was that the reason it seemed so warm was that the room was so cold.

No heat.

Some quick checks demonstrated that the power was on but the furnace was out.  I started calling and leaving messages because everybody’s offices were closed.  I finally got a call back and by about 1 pm my heat was working again.

My visit from the furnace guy got me thinking.  I could easily feel annoyed about the heat going out, and I did, but I’m really feeling fortunate.  First it is nice that my finances are such that having to pay for this is an inconvenience, but I’m not having to figure out which bill won’t get paid next month because of it.  Second, I’m grateful that this guy told me about the cheaper way of fixing the problem rather than just sticking me with the more expensive one.  Third, I’m grateful that there was someone working who would come and fix this for me – that cannot be fun.  Also, I’ve got a roof and I’ve got heat – many don’t.

I know this is a cliche, but I am feeling very grateful tonight for what I have.

I’d also like to ask that we all take a moment to remember all of those folks who are going to be on duty tonight and tomorrow – military, cops, firefighters, even those on-call repair people.

Oh, and a big thank you to the members of Congress who have been keeping the session going so Dubya can’t pull another John Bolton.

Happy Holidays!

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The Crane Wife

Posted by Gerald on December 22, 2007

My friend Steve over at Semeiotikos has posted his list of best albums of 2007.  I don’t follow music the way he does so I’m not going to try to do the same, but when I think of the events of this year I think there will be one album I will associate with 2007 – The Crane Wife by The Decemberists.

This album was released last year, but I didn’t discover it until this year – when Steve loaned it to me.  I’ve rarely had someone make such an accurate assessment of my musical tastes.  I had only heard of the Decemberists via Steve and from the running gag on the Colbert Report.  After listening to The Crane Wife I started downloading everything from the band that I could.

I’ve played this album with an obsessiveness I haven’t experienced since 1985 and REM’s Fables of the Reconstruction.  Because of this I was usually playing this album in the car on my way to and/or from almost every significant experience I’ve had this year.  It has been on in my house almost every weekend.  The biggest exception would be the recent trip to New Orleans.  I still haven’t bought an mp3 player so my music didn’t make the trip with me.

I’ve liked all of the music I’ve gotten from The Decemberists, but I keep coming back to The Crane Wife.  I really do not have the vocabulary to explain what it is I like about their music save to say that I’ve always been drawn to rock with a strong folk element or folk with a strong rock element.  I love the music, but I am even more taken with the lyrics.  The songs reference Japanese folk tales, Shakespeare, and the American Civil War (among other things).  There are vivid images and strange juxtapositions everywhere.  The language tastes rich and full.  I guess that is what I’ve loved the most about discovering this band.  When so much of the music around me seems to be a giant Slurpee, this is a pewter goblet filled with mulled wine and unusual spices.  If you haven’t discovered this band, and particularly this album, I encourage you to do so.

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Happy (non-specific) Holidays

Posted by Gerald on December 20, 2007

I turned in the last of my grades yesterday and spent today getting things ready for Spring Semester.  This was our last workday, so I am off until January 2.  I’ve set my “Out-of-Office” auto-reply on my work e-mail and I am gone!

One of the things I like the most about my profession is the annual cycle of beginning and completion that goes with the semesters.  I’ve worked a job where it was just go in, do the work, go home, come back tomorrow and do it again.  This suits me much better and I know how lucky I am to have it.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that this was a very intensive semester for me.  What I may not have mentioned is that this exceptional level of activity has extended to my social life.  For years I have spent most weekends alone except for dinners with my old college-era friends in Winston Salem.  These last few months I’ve been going to dinner with newer friends, engaging in a semi-regular movie night during the week, and I’ve even dated for the first time in a long time.  I’ve discovered that I do not need as much “alone time” as I thought I did a few months back.  Here’s hoping I’m not going to get more in the near future.

Certainly this holiday season is shaping up to be the busiest I’ve had in years.  I’ve got different things going on for the next three nights and I’m going to have Christmas dinner with my old friends.  I’ve also got a nebulous plan to go see “I Am Legend” sometime over the break.  With all of that I think I’m going to enjoy those few days when I’m not busy.

I’ll probably post over the holidays, but if you don’t get a chance to read them please accept my best wishes for a safe and joyous season.

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New Orleans Trip, Part II

Posted by Gerald on December 18, 2007

Continued… 

I rested up for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon after we got back from the National World War II Museum. Just for the sake of context, let me add that I had REALLY screwed up my ankle.  It was about the size of a grapefruit and my foot was turning into one huge bruise by that point. I emphasize this just to point out how completely STUPID it was for me to have been walking on the damn thing the morning after I sprained it.  All I can plead is that I hadn’t had anything like a vacation trip in years and I was determined not to miss out. Still, after dragging a mostly useless leg around all morning I was very tired and just crashed until late afternoon.

By dinnertime the four of us who had arrived on Saturday were joined by three other colleagues. Several of us, including me, had tickets to take a walking tour of the French Quarter that night. I knew that was out, but I wanted to join them for dinner in any case.

The cab ride to the French Quarter was an experience in itself. That we were in a cab was my fault. I just wasn’t up for the walk over there from our hotel by the convention center. Our driver was milking the run for every penny he could and put us behind a horse-drawn buggy giving a tour. This led to loud threats from the guy driving the buggy because our driver wouldn’t stay back the 15 feet mentioned on the sign on the buggy’s rear. We finally got out at the pub where the walking tour began. This was a night-time deal with a story-teller who was going to point out “haunted” sites and tell the ghost stories. We originally planned to eat there, but on arrival saw that wasn’t going to work. So we headed out looking for some place to eat.

Yay. More walking.

A random stranger in a bar on Bourbon St. over heard us discussing where to eat and suggested a place called the Clover Grill. It was an almost stereotypical greasy spoon but will very good food (breakfast, burgers, shakes, etc…). There was rock music, especially vintage tunes, blaring from the speakers. The staff varied from the, uh, flamboyant to the slightly creepy. After we finished eating I bid goodnight to the others and asked the guy running the grill to call a cab to take me back to the hotel.

I went outside and stood on the corner waiting for the cab. I was caught in the outskirts of the crowd from the rather loud gay bar across the street. I’m not sure if that doesn’t explain what happened next. One cab after another passed down Bourbon St. and wouldn’t stop when I signalled. After standing, quite sore, for awhile I decided that I needed to move to another spot. There was a more active intersection about three blocks down so I headed that way.

If you haven’t walked down Bourbon St. on a dark night, let me tell you that all of the more lurid tales you might have heard about the place are absolutely true. Some people have no sense of shame about what they are willing to do to each other in a semi-public place.

At the intersection I found out that the cabs were just passing folks by there to. Again, another gay bar, and again I have to wonder if that is why. I’m not sure, but I might have had a taste of the sort of what others have to face on a regular basis. On the other hand, it could have just been bad luck in a busy city. Another guy was looking for a cab as well, so we teamed up and took position on both sides of the street. After a couple of failures, we finally got a cab which took us back to our respective hotels.

It was worth it, but ibuprofen and ice-packs, take me away…

More later.

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New Orleans Trip, Part I.

Posted by Gerald on December 15, 2007

It is a really gray drizzly and misty day here and I think I’ve finally gotten home.  Even though I’ve been back here since Wednesday afternoon and back at work since Thursday morning I’ve felt in transit.  I’ve also been exhausted.  So here is the beginning of my account of the New Orleans trip.  Frankly, I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone else’s edification.  I’m finding this blog is turning into my personal journal.  Why it has taken me moving to a public forum to keep a journal is something I should probably consider.

As I write this I’m listening to the Great Lakes Myth Society album I downloaded.  I love their indie rock meets folk sound and the various regional references to the land of my youth adds a nice edge of nostalgic melancholy that really fits the day.

So, the trip:

The conference in New Orleans started on Sunday afternoon and ran through Tuesday morning.  The college was only willing to pay for Sunday and Monday nights at the hotel, but the contingent going from my area decided to pay for Saturday night ourselves so we could arrive that day and spend Saturday night in New Orleans.  I’m generally not a bar-hopping kind of guy (to say the least) but I had really been feeling the need to break my routines for awhile.  This was also going to be the first time I’d left the state or gone anyplace new in about ten years (literally – it was the summer and fall of 1997 when I went to Jamaica for dissertation research.)  One of my friends was making a lot of plans about stuff we could all do and I simply put my itinerary in her hands knowing that my own instincts would leave me eating in the hotel restaurant.

Saturday I dropped Dog off at a friend’s house and headed for the airport.  I hadn’t flown since before 9/11 and despite the news accounts I was rather taken aback by the security screening – especially the physical search of a pregnant woman I saw at Dulles.  I was flying through Washington to New Orleans and on United Express all the way.  My flights to and from Washington were on an United subsidiary called Chautauqua.  That should have told me something.  The large amounts of duct tape visible in the cabin verged on the alarming.  The people were fine, though, and so was I when I arrived in New Orleans about five hours later.

Within ninety minutes of arriving at my hotel I had met up with my friend and we were going to find something to eat.  I was walking down the sidewalk and looking up at the city and not down at my feet.

As a result, I did not see the large pothole.

I felt my ankle roll over sideways and things going pop and I remember thinking two things on my way to the pavement: “There is nothing in reach that I can use to catch myself” and “Of course.”  I knew it was sprained and was just hoping I hadn’t broken it.  When I could move it without horrific sharp pains and could limp on it (that took a few minutes to work up to) I figured it was just sprain number three for that particular ankle.  My friend helped me limp to a nearby place called Ernst’s Pub where we got a table and I put my foot on a chair while we got some burgers (very good) and beer (very welcome).  Then it was find a cab and head back to the hotel.  By that point the pain was REALLY kicking in.  We got back to my room and she kindly got me settled and sat with me until my department chair and her husband – a nurse – arrived.  He checked me out and wrapped the ankle and then they went out for awhile after making sure I was okay.  As I’ve said before, I work with good people and good friends.   So much for Saturday.

During the night I decided that I was going to push the ankle as hard as I could because I did not want to lose this trip to sitting in the hotel with ice packs.  Sunday morning we all went to the National World War II Museum.  It is quite a place.  We heard everything there was to hear about Higgins Boats from an elderly vet who had run them during the war and who goes to the museum every day he can just to tell people about them.  He credits Higgins with saving his life.  There are excellent displays, including a very good one about racism in wartime propaganda.  It was three hours well spent – and three hours walking on that ankle.  My friends offered to get me around in a wheelchair, but I am way too big (physically) to ask them to do that.  I just walked until I needed a break and then sat for awhile.  It was very tiring walking that way and it hurt but it was well worth it.

After the museum we went to lunch at a place mentioned in the tour guides called Mother’s.  It specializes in Louisiana cuisine.  While there we met an actual “Soup Nazi” who ran the line getting people in the door (you went in, lined up, gave your order, and then went to the table) and had a really scary waitress (she had bigger arms than me and tattoos to boot).  We also had excellent food.  I thought I had tasted Jambalaya before… I was wrong.

By then it was afternoon and I was worn out so I grabbed a cab back to the hotel while they headed for the French Quarter.  Later they were coming back to the hotel and then we were all going out to dinner.

Well, we are having a department Christmas party tonight, and I am going to have to wrap this up.  More later…

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Back from the Big Easy

Posted by Gerald on December 12, 2007

I got back to the house at about noon today.  I should have gotten back sometime last night, but my connecting flight from Dulles was cancelled.  I’ve taken a short nap and went to pick up the dog from the friend who was kind enough to take her.  Dog is asleep but I am still in that really wired post-trip deal.  I am heading for a crash though.  I got about four hours of sleep in an overpriced hotel room that I had to pay for (screw you, United) and various catnaps before and after arriving there last night.  Monday night I closed down the French Quarter with a couple of colleagues (one a friend, one just a co-worker) who were at the same conference, so I went into this whole adventure with about four hours of sleep.

Then there was the cab driver who didn’t know where the hotel was.

Oh, and I sprained my ankle the first night in New Orleans.

I may post a longer account of events in New Orleans later.

Here is the impressionistic one:

pain on a sidewalk; caring friends; more pain; Higgins Boats; ugly truths; great jambalaya; scary waitress; some rest; good burger; flamboyant waiter; loud music; more pain; seeking a cab on Bourbon St.; conference; decent po’boy; less pain; more conference; fried alligator; good crabmeat au gratin; virtually alone at a full table; walking to the French Quarter; some pain; seedy; lights and noise; cold Jager and hot blues; an angry stripper in a doorway; looking for voodoo; loud music; gin and tonics; a surprising side of a co-worker; a friend having lots of fun; singing along with karaoke; still feeling like an outsider; the others and What I Like About You; more gin and tonics; no pain; We Didn’t Start the Fire; getting into the spirit; Paradise City; In the Name of Love; my friend shakes her groove thing and her new boa; I have pictures; Sweet Child of Mine; Summer of ’69; unwanted advances and a reverse lap-dance; I do not know a damn thing about modern pop music; that’s Amy Winehouse?  Janis Joplin without the chops?; who?; Margaritaville; who let in the 12-year-olds?; the perspective of age – kid, you can get her to grind on you but I guarantee you are sleeping alone; drunk girls screeching Summer Love; security intervenes; 500 Miles; a co-worker redefines REO Speedwagon; empty bar; saying goodbye; a big night for us and Monday for him; foggy and mostly empty Bourbon Street; heading for the Clover Grill; paying the street hustler for putting in the work; Under the Boardwalk; wandering; seeing what goes on in the alleys at 3 am; a moment with a friend over a milkshake at Krystal’s; the empty roulette table at Harrah’s; walking home

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End of the Semester and Off to the Big Easy

Posted by Gerald on December 6, 2007

Even though our classes do not end until next Tuesday I bid a fond farewell to this semester’s crop of students yesterday and today when I had my last meetings with them.  Come Saturday morning, I am off to New Orleans; the land of cajun food, tranny hookers, and the scars of Katrina.

I am attending the SACS conference there – that is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  This is the accrediting body for everything from local school systems to the big universities here in the land of Dixie.  I am on the “Compliance Team” so I am going to New Orleans to learn how to comply.  While there it is just possible I might take a little time out from learning new acronyms and edu-speak to eat of spicy food and imbibe of alcoholic beverages.  One of my colleagues has been researching various non-conferency things to do for about three months.  Definitely on the agenda so far is a Saturday night bar-crawl and a Sunday night tour of the French Quarter with a guide who will show us all of the haunted locations and tell us ghost stories.  Also possible is attendance at a zydeco festival, a tour of the National World War II Museum, and a sculpture garden.

I have a camera phone now.  I might post photos upon my return.

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Respect for One’s Allies

Posted by Gerald on December 6, 2007

What can you really add to this?

“I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.” – former WH Communications Director Dan Bartlett

Except perhaps that it is even more amazing the way they have done the same thing with the rest of the media.

WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

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