I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a few days. It’s gotten to the point that one of you thought he could light a fire under me with a comment telling me to post something. But, you know, what did you expect when you decided to make a grad student’s life a part of your normal internet itinerary? (Netinerary?) I’ve just been wrestling with my papers, my students’ papers, and various other forms of stress that are either uninteresting or taboo. And I went to spring training. But I’ll talk about that later, because I need something to keep you reading while I talk about my classes.
LET’S TALK ABOUT MY CLASSES! I’m so goddamn exhausted. A couple weeks ago I reached the point where my classes were becoming a distraction from what’s really important, namely my seminar papers for those classes. Not that I’m in great shape with those. Last week, I gave my Medieval Romances prof a poorly-thought out, poorly-presented prospectus for my paper. She gave it back saying that it was poorly-thought-out and poorly-presented. Today, in class, I gave a quite impressive presentation on my paper; after class, she complimented on being a “fast learner.” And I am: I learned fast that I’d better get my ass in gear about this paper in time for my presentation. Have I written anything? Well…maybe I’m a fast writer, too, huh?
The other source of anxiety is my teaching. Not just the work involved–I’ll have twenty-one papers to grade come Friday, plus my first-ever Final Grades to dispatch–but also the fact that they just today filled out their evaluations of me, covering everything from my comments on their papers to, I imagine, my personal hygiene and choice of shirts. I’m very nervous about how they like me, I don’t feel like I have a good read on how I did this quarter. If you’re wondering how this could be, imagine that you’re expecting a grade in a class, and that all of the papers you wrote for that class had been handed back to you with no written comments and a blank stare. Would you feel that you knew what grade you were going to get?
However, with spring comes rebirth, and a new set of classes. I’ll be taking a class on Henry James–master of the hundred-clause sentence–and one on postcolonialism in the Americas. I’ll also have a lot more free time, since I won’t be working on a paper for a conference in the midst of all this. Man, am I looking forward to the first weeks of the quarter, when my friends and I can get together and watch TV or play video games without joking about how guilty we feel, or talking about how this was “just what we needed.”
But yeah, I went to spring training a couple weeks ago. (That’s baseball’s spring training for the uninitiated. It’s in Arizona.) I went with Sean Bartmasser, Berkeley High ’99 and recent graduate of UC San Diego, and a few of his friends. The trip was a bad idea, work-wise, and I knew it, and I’ve been paying for it ever since. But I sure as hell don’t regret it. It helped me satisfy the baseball jones I’d been having. More than just the baseball, though, it was the college road trip I never took. (Well, I took a couple to Washington DC, but they were for anti-war protests, and I got there in vans with fifteen people in them so it wasn’t really the same.) We went to bars, we chatted with the locals (including a foreign-born taxi driver who told us dirty jokes), we stopped to get Date Shakes on the way home. It was just the thing.
But yeah, the baseball was great. What’s funny about spring training is that it’s for the hardcore fans–who else would go to Arizona to sit outside?–and yet it’s also so much more familiar than most baseball games. The stadiums only hold 10,000 people or less, so no matter where you are you’re right next to the players. For example, at the Giants-Cubs game, our seats were located on a grassy embankment just behind the outfield wall. You can also get autographs if you’re willing to wait and wait for them. I only got one, but it was a good one: former A’s star pitcher Dave Stewart, now busily helping Eric Chavez extend his contract with the team. That ball’s sitting on my desk right now, actually.
Mostly, I was just thrilled to be there while these guys got ready to do what they do. We got to the A’s-Angels game (which the A’s won 26 to 3) at 10:30, in time to watch a B game between the A’s and Giants’ minor league squads. These were guys hungry to make the big-league teams–the most famous player there was probably Ryan Jensen–and the crowd wasn’t watching too closely. We sat down forty feet away from the players, right behind the visitors dugout. The A’s batter went to 0-2, and we were close enough to hear the third-base coach clap his hands and encourage him: “Only takes one to get a knock, baby. Come on.”
And if a missionary had been there at that moment, I probably would have converted to whatever religion he was pitching.