My last catchup entry:
Monday, September 29: My first taste of class, and it sucks. This is E398, the class I’m required to take as a first-year TA. Veteran grad students have already suggested that this is going to be something of a throwaway class, and from my week of TA training I know that the directors of the composition program (all of whom are involved in teaching the class) are not the least annoying people in the world. But nothing could have prepared me for what I get today: a class taught by ALL FOUR of the comp directors, SIMULTANEOUSLY. I’m sure many of you have been in a class where three or four students are vying for power and talking over each other; now imagine the same situation, except they’re teachers and they haven’t planned out how they’re all going to teach the class. It was like a panel discussion put together by the devil. It does serve one almost-purpose: even though the class is going to prove to be pretty uninteresting, all future sessions will seem good by comparison.
On the other hand, my Joyce class (Wednesday, October 1) and my Romanticism class (Thursday, October 2) make up for it. Both of them are like Sarah Lawrence seminars at their best. (Well, usually they are.) I’m not going to go into huge detail here, but in a future entry I’ll have to tell you more about the Joyce class, in particular about the lunches afterwards and about the nugget of sanity named Lisa.
Friday, October 3 I’m on strike! It’s a one-day TA/Lecturer strike, and as I am a member of the union, of course I show up. (The union that covers TAs, by the way, is the UAW. That’s right, I am a member of the United Auto Workers. Union Yes.) Of course, what I’m on strike from is unclear, since I don’t start teaching until January; basically my show of solidarity was waking up in order to make it here at 9 a.m. Best chant of the day: “Is the UC capable/Of coming to the tapable?”
Friday, October 10-Monday, October 13: Julie visits! That’s great in its own right; it’s also nice to introduce her to the Gang. While we’ve missed each other badly, the visit also confirms that it was the right decision for her not to move down here with me–there is simply nothing to do in Irvine. As we’re driving around Irvine, passing apartment complex after apartment complex, she makes a sobering comment: “I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but South County is more boring than North County.” This is so backwards: how can a college of 23,000 people be located in such a desolate place? Thank God I’ve got homework or I’d just leave.
Thursday, October 23-Monday, October 27: A weekend at home. And a good one, despite the rushed nature of it. (There were a number of Berkeley folks I didn’t get to see, for which I apologize; I’ll be back December 13 and will make sure not to miss anyone.) I got to see Julie’s workplace (a pirate store and tutoring center and pirate store), and the Chagall exhibit at the MOMA, and “American Splendor.” But most of all it was so nice being back in a real place. I know I sound like a hippie/aesthete snob, but I mean it when I say it felt like a breath of fresh air to walk around in neighborhoods with unique houses, independent businesses, and gardens (as opposed to lawns). God, am I going to savor my summer vacations.
Of course, it turns out that I picked just the right weekend to be in Northern California–that is, the weekend when all of Southern California caught fire. Irvine was untouched, thankfully, but the effects are obvious as soon as I landed: the sky is hazy, there’s ash on the ground (my bike is covered in it), and at its worst it hurt a little to breathe. Also, the ash and smoke in the air affect the sunlight; between that and Daylight Savings Time, it seems like the sun is setting at 4:30 in the afternoon. I decide to spend as much time inside as possible, which puts a Bubble headline in my mind: “Grad Students Urged to Stay Inside, Avoid Physical Exertion; No Change in Social Life Reported.”
Friday, October 31: Halloween. I go as Waldo; I’ve got a good costume (the glasses in particular are good), except that, in an ironic twist, I can’t find the hat. (At least he’s been known to lose the hat in the past.) Best costume of the night was Pat, who shaved his beard in order to make himself a perfect Hawkeye. (Richard Dreyfuss, not Alan Alda.) I’ve got pictures, which I’ll post when I have the slightest idea how.
Thursday, November 13: Present day! Yes, I’ve skipped over a few events, but mostly I’ve been in a groove (rut?) since classes started. Friendships have been proceeding apace, the weather’s gotten very slightly cooler, and most importantly, work is starting to get bad. The biggest thing is the paper for my Joyce class, 20-25 pages, first draft due next Wednesday. I’ve got a great topic, now if only I could find a talented essayist to write it for me. So you may not hear that much from me in the coming days. (If you do, it’ll be my own procrastination.)
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through time. From now on my entries will concern only the present–and, curiously, I won’t have to write in the present tense anymore. Enjoy your weekend.