Vanitas vanitatis
Tuesday November 20th 2018, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Boozy,damn,Oxford,tempest in a teapot,tired,Work Tags:

ok, so I’d never heard of before – a search engine that apparently finances social and environmentally beneficial projects. I’ve no idea if that’s true. But, new search engine, first instinct is to do some work, see if anything new turns up. I ran three or four searches about the big article I’m slowly working on. Nothing important, but definitely a new slice of info out there. Then, curious/vain, a vanity search on my first book.  Only to find something new – reported statistics for the most-borrowed books from the English Faculty Library, Ford of Oxen. Only to find my book on the first page – the 24th most checked out book in academic year 2016-17.

Really, I’ve no idea how to process this fact. I assume it’s a version of me – one student, renewing and renewing and renewing it 38 times in the year, hoping Roberta won’t notice. Also, there are way too many medieval books on that list, suggesting serious imbalance. 1 and 10 are renaissance books, and 19 is post colonialism. And the rest of the top 25 are medieval, which is nuts.

Anyway, I’m apparently big in Japan, except Japan is Oxford, and that’s fucking mind boggling

(Update: it was totally one person, just the one year  I was big 2016-17, but not even top 200 since then. Missed my own damn 15 minutes, apparently)



I used to know them. Possibly all of them. Sometime after moving to HelLA, when Google Earth was still a new product, I made a flythrough of all the places I’d lived. A few were approximate, and I’m sure I started only notionally in HelLA before the litany of addresses in the Bay and UK – Unit 1, women’s co-op, Dwight, funny summer sublet that the dead guy from Sublime had rented, Piedmont/Oakland, MLK couch, the Mission, Ward, Warehouse, Fyfield, Iffley, North Oxford, (redacted), Goldhawk Rd, West Ken, LES, UWS, West Village, East Village, Brooklyn, aaaand back to WeHo. And then the list continued – midcity, Silverlake, Echo Park. And now, my ultimate fear, back to the suburbs. As if all the in between places didn’t happen. (Apparently, I do in fact know them all still. But that’s not my point.)

Which of course isn’t true. This isn’t the leaving of Ox, or even the leaving London despair of present and future purpose (though return still looks slim). This is a move cross-town to save time, lots and lots of time, for people large and (more importantly) small.

The tangible scars of my past can live again. Not the burns or pierces or tattoos – the BOOKS. No longer in boxes in the basement, the selves that rose and fall, lived and died, and folded tens of thousands of pages over to varying depths. Who failed to read, and failed to fold, chastened, even humbled, by the staggering expanse of unread pages. On bookshelves, freshly ordered for delivery in 10 days.

A walk up in the wet from a bar I’m fond of, but never lived at. A last hike tomorrow, I think, more meaningful, a thousand loops later. Likely without the 35 pounds, though. Toddlers don’t experience nostalgia, I don’t think, in the ways I do.

Though, I think we’ll come back to look at the mustard flowers.

A Papers
Thursday March 09th 2017, 10:26 am
Filed under: Oxford,Work Tags:

Prepping for class, printed out one of my MPhil Exam A Papers to amuse my current 2nd year graduate students. As I just observed to YCT, “March 2000 me was pretty smart, but rather arrogant. Which is news to nobody.”

One fewer rainbow sender
Tuesday June 09th 2015, 10:50 pm
Filed under: friends,grief,Oxford Tags:

“the most irresponsibly generous person I’ve met.”
“Wise, crazy, and wonderful.”

Last night I looked at the Chagall book she gave me, as I left Oxf a decade and change ago. “From someone who does give a shit,” she signed it. I believe it was one of two art books that her father had given her. He was a stage designer, or technical theatre person of some description. That was her, though. I think she showed up to the party around midnight, well after someone had already exited the flat through the glorious front windows, through the bushes, and took with them the last shreds of my landlord’s respect and most of my security deposit. God knows where she was coming from – the Royal Shakespeare Company, I would guess, where she was doing vocals? Did she have a stage name? Light googling isn’t turning much up. But classic Helen. Here, take one of these two totally precious things (that I’m inexplicably carrying around with me) that I really, really, really want you to have.

And she really did want you to have it. We spoke several times that summer. I remember pacing around the parking lot between the co-op and the faculty housing, speaking waaay too loudly on a mobile phone when it was still novel for the US. (A novelty and an unpaid bill that would come back to haunt me despite several corporate buyouts some 5 years later at the invention of the idevice.) She sent rainbows in ridiculous ways, and tatt and good scotch, and told me I had to have a place to play my music. We never played together, probably out of my shame at not being in the league that she was at, that the other reader of this is at. A shame, really, as she judged passion, not skill, heart, not talent. (And then skill, talent when appropriate. Damn could she judge when called to.)

She sent money, too, when it all rather predictably fell apart and I needed to leave, and she and the friend made it possible to get out of the narrative that I’d been unable to disrupt before it came to the very end. I left and came back, not to Oxf, but to London. I’d go back to Ox, of course, but never with a place to call home again. I’d see her a few times in the year it took me to finish, then move to NY, to here. She always asked if I had a place to play my music. Never without the possessive pronoun. That mattered, that meant something, that absolved and forgave and gently made anything OK, even beautiful.

We’re headed out in just a few weeks. She said she had a few more weeks than that, and we were going to see her, small included. When her daughter called, she sounded just like her. The connection was terrible – I fucking hate AT&T – and I thought it _was_ her. Somethingsomethingsomething at home? No, I’m at work I said. Peacefullyinhersleep. Oh god. I’m so sorry.

And I am. Not that she minded, at the end, staggeringly generous in forgiveness as in everything else. I raise a glass of single malt, and listen to music that reminds me of you, and none of it will fill the remarkable space you made so utterly yours. What the physicists must have made of you, your eagerness to push their science into philosophy, their quantum indeterminacy into a different kind of beauty.

“I want to live, but I love the life I’ve lived, and can leave it.” May your atoms and molecules scatter and entangle interestingly. You were loved.


Buying him that $14 dollar gimlet was the best money I’ve ever spent. He talked shit. I nodded, smiled. He talked trash about her. I nodded, smiled. I win, motherfucker, and you not only know it, but raised a gimlet to it at the beginning of our evening. Cheers.

Friday March 15th 2013, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,family,friends,leaving,New York,nextish,Oxford,tired Tags:

It’s too much, really. Last week’s trip marking progress and stasis, old friends, older responsibilities, newer choices. But between an old friend (the red hoodie and shiny shoes of Saturday, December 6, 2003) and the work of work (newly less work filled, situated on a continuum from Part I exams to retirement by a man freshly retired, another old man on the other side of cancer, and still a third old man, not there, on the other side of a stroke and scared as fuck), part of the trip involved confronting old ?wrongs? mistakes? ?obligations? None quite, really. A man-child, ultimately. And I did as right as I could in the hours there were, not necessarily to make sense of lifetimes, but to be real, to be me now and connect to him now and acknowledge that time has passed and mistakes made and not made, and what nexts. But part of that was always going to entail talking about it. And there, amidst grief I cannot begin to imagine, always that shifting logic, those words that impel compel repel, seduce confuse confound, persuade perdure perform. “What happened to the days of wine and roses,” ask the Wild Colonials, about whom one could ask, “what happened to the Wild Colonials” (or the subsequent two EPs that were promised)? To bed, to brunch, to work, to high school musicals.

[Update a few minutes later, in response to a text to which I will not respond: the door is _not_ open. Those 5 years were not without context; it was I, not my father, who told you I was getting married. Nor did you have PTSD; it was a bad breakup, nothing more or less. Nor are needle biopsies a fucking treatment for cancer, so stop fucking saying that you had cancer. No one reads this, and that’s for the best, but I refuse, absolutely, to do this. I will not go back down the rabbit hole.]

On the evening before the time before the time before it’s really done but it is really done, really

If you know what I mean and I think you do? A list that gets ever stranger as the days pass, from checking for first citations to cautioning myself not to disagree with Ralph if I don’t have to bigger things, like those last, few, jewel-like sentences I hope to dash off and inscribe with great dignity at the end of the introduction. There will be not blood but changes still to come, more midnight oil to burn. But this is the bulk of it, I think – most everything will be mechanical, or will be reduced to the mechanical, from here. And thus, a sense of finality, tempered by the realization that, of course, it’s not really final, but also by the raw need for closure on this project.

A friend submitted just yesterday (though why I bother with anonymity when 1) no one reads this, and 2) if any one reads this, they know me, and each other, I don’t know). The strange techno-connection of skype, red bricks and green lawns and an impossible implausible summer day in late September Oxenford. Writing acknowledgements for publication is a strange endeavour. The heartfelt thank yous. The I met you at a conference once thank yous. The politically important, financially important thank yous. The thanking of family, who have everything and nothing to do with the work – (Thanks for fucking me up. All that anger really helped me get shit done over the years.). A bit of nostalgia, a bit of wonder, a strong desire for a wander, and mostly the simple tiredness of having gone to bed late and woken to early and talked for 4 hours with students in various degrees of interest and care. C’est la guerre. The milestones, they accrue, but also begin to resemble each other, to some extent. Only because there are more of them? Their scale, skewed by perspective? I suppose, after my fashion, my thanks are due to the Academy, for having a game to play that I’ve played well enough, so far. But, in the immortal words of the recently-submitted, “Fuck the boat. There is no boat.”

not fricking done yet
Wednesday September 14th 2011, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Oxford,Work Tags:

I’m so, so ready to be done. But, I’m not. Chapter 3 should be mostly down from here. Chapter 4 can be mildly improved with the insertion of some dramatic readings to serve as a pivot to a section that otherwise seems out of place, even though that doesn’t really address the ‘strangely introductory conclusions’. Or whatever. I’m so fucking ready to be done. SO I can think about anything else for a while – presumably just more job-related, will-i-won’t-i, self-indulgent anxieties, but that will be a change from trying to keep the entirety of the book in my brain, always. To smooth its trajectories within and across chapters, to add and subtract small details that make “it” (the book?) say more than it does, without saying more than it should or can. Keeping it all straight is taking about all that i have, and I’m TIRED of it. Oh well. 2 weeks. It gets done. Sigh.

(And, good luck tomorrow with your viva tomorrow, T. I am thinking of you, proud of you, and so sorry I can’t be there with champagne and single malt for a proper celebration.)

uh oh
Friday November 06th 2009, 12:04 am
Filed under: calendars,can't make that shit up,copy-and-paste,Oxford,plagiarism,reminiscence,seasonal Tags:

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, characterized by “a persuasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration,
and lack of empathy…indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1) An exaggerated sense of self-importance
2) Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power,
brilliance, beauty, or love
3) Believes that he or she is “special” and can only be understood by,
or should associate with, other special or high-status people…
4) Requires excessive admiration
5) Has a sense of entitlement….
6) Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7) Lacks empathy
8 ) Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
9) Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behavior.”

5 or more? Fuck, I aced it.  Wait, this isn’t a quiz?

Odd cycles at play, this cold not leaving fast enough, the paper still to write (or, cut and paste, depending upon your level of perspective and pedantry), and now this.  Plus, I need a place to stay in Oxford next May, cuz college sucks.  It’s looking like Lincoln, York, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow in early Jan, then Aberystwyth, Worcester, Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester in early Feb, then Cambridge, London, Oxford for mid-May.  Too much work, not enough drinking with friends.  Any volunteers?

categories and annexes
Sunday February 22nd 2009, 1:32 am
Filed under: Boozy,exit pursued by a bear,memory,New York,nostalgia,Oxford,reminiscence,self-indulgent Tags:

A friend (?) asked.  Well, an ex, really, an ex who preceded all the exes, and therefore isn’t really an ex.  My first girlfriend, qualified by “real”, as the first girlfriend was batshit crazy, setting a trend it took a long time to recover from.  Someone I treated much worse than she deserved, which is hardly unique, but definitely came far earlier in my life than I’d realized.  Anyways (and a wave to those, not reading, who are greeted there), slightly more than chainlink-fence style, I decided to let her “in” as much as this shit is in, and pointed her, well, here.  And the first question was “What happened to April 05-March 06?”  There are procedural answers to that – in direst poverty, I let the domain lapse because I couldn’t afford the 30 bucks, and hadn’t turned back to blogger yet.  (I used to date my life by girls I was dating, or failing that, apartments in which I was living.  The last almost 3 years (!) have required far greater granularity, what with the YCT for all of ’em, and functionally the two residences since Aug. 06.  Crazy, that).  Apartment-wise, we’re looking at the UWS for that April,  via the West Village, a spot on everyone’s floor or couch or aerobed by July (Thanks Lis and Jax) to the East Village by the end of it, call it Sept to May.  Geography aside, it was the end of admitting I wouldn’t get the jobs I thought I would get through to the job I got, minus all the drama of the moment, the life experienced.  There was an awful lot of booze, and an awful lot of forgetting, and a very little remembering, as well, along with decisions that echo through until today. I’ve known for ages that I write in moments of transition, and the March 06 writing marks the transition of YCT entering my life – the “six weeks to capital T trouble” that has me (yay) getting wed in less than five weeks.  In less time than a handful of “relationships” I’ve had, and less than double of a much larger number of what I term those, I’m getting married.  And it is good.  But what happened before then?  A letting go of England, a killing of hope, a letting go of pride, a reconciliation between the me I’d left behind and the me that had left in the first place and the me that came back (three really awkward guys stuck in a room without much to talk about), peace with what I had done and who I had become, the answers to what I’d learned from a relationship I never thought would end that ended, and the letting go of a place that is always there but never lets you in.  What happened when I stopped writing, other than I had stopped writing?  As well ask what happened between the loss of my journals in Oct 98 and the creation of TPT in 2k3 a few months before I left Oxford the first time, even if the journals were functionally dead well before their loss in 98.  As well ask what happened in all the long months where there has been much to write about, and I haven’t as those in which nothing much happened, and I didn’t.  Perhaps what pissed me off most about Slumdog Millionaire was the idea that memories had use-value – how convenient your mother died in Muslim/Hindu violence – therefore you can answer this question.  How awesome you were abused and abducted by sadistic capitalists, because now you can answer this question.  I cherish my life, written and unwritten, known and unknown, for precisely its lack of value.  I wed with no secrets, knowing, even, that the continuity of existence is solipsistically inexpressible, but that doesn’t bother me any more.  What happened in that year?  Really, not much.  Really, everything that explains where I am now – I got the job, I got the girl, I moved from radical contingency and the despair of uncertainty  to the tidy safety of my well-sheltered existence, from defiant outsider to respected insider.  And both are true – not much, everything. 11 months….who knows. Probably doesn’t matter.  But I’m glad they happened.