May 9, 2007

I am going to make it through this year if it kills me

Filed under: Funny Stuff, General Me, Literati and Cognoscenti, Romance — tomemos @ 11:49 pm

I will now list similarities between getting married and taking my qualifying exams, until I run out of similarities or it becomes my birthday. Take it away, Don Pardo:

  • Both are about to occur in my life. (Exams: three weeks; wedding: three months.)
  • Both seem like huge impossibly huge projects from a distance, but as you start to hunker down and get things done, you realize that they’re surprisingly do-able.
  • However, as you get within a few weeks, you realize that, actually, they are impossibly huge projects, after all. (wedding: projected)
  • Both involve a great deal of research. (Exams: research into twentieth-century literature and narrative theory; wedding: research into wedding services, Jewish matrimonial traditions, and mailing addresses.)
  • Both are fun to plan and envision in the abstract.
  • Both require a large investment of money and time. (The exams are 90% time/10% money, where the wedding is about 75% money/25% time. Before you feel bad for me, though, I should guiltily admit that it’s someone else’s money in this case.)
  • Both feature long periods of idleness alternating with bursts of intense activity. (In the case of the exam, that’s due to simple procrastination rather than anything logistical.)
  • Most people want to put them both off for as long as possible, but you’re not getting any younger.
  • Despite this initial urge towards delay, once you start the process you become determined not to let anything derail or forestall the event.
  • Both involve answering difficult questions while under observation.
  • If successful, both result in jubilant celebration; if unsuccessful, depression and weeping.
  • Both of them require satisfying the arcane and sometimes incompatible preferences of a number of different people.
  • Those who haven’t gone through them have a vague idea that there’s a lot involved, but little sense of the scope.
  • Both of them are a brief gateway to a larger world (exams: the dissertation; wedding: a lifetime together), and thus seem merely symbolic in retrospect; however, in advance they seem sky-obstructing.

That’s that. Eleven minutes left; I yield the rest of my time.


October 23, 2005

You ought to give me wedding rings

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 1:35 pm

Part of the reason it’s been such a long time since I last blogged is that I have something big to announce, big enough that I had to build up my resolve to put it out here. Not because there’s anyone I don’t trust with the information, and actually some of you know this already. But it’s the first time I’ve ever put Big News on my blog, and I guess that feels like a big step to take.

Regardless, here it is: Julie and I are engaged. I mean, duh, you read the title of the entry and everything, but there it is. We got engaged last month, before leaving for Iowa. It’s something we had been talking about throughout the summer, and it grew from a fun thing to think about–to overstate the level of fantasy involved, it would be fun to be a major league baseball player, too–into a genuinely feasible and thrilling idea. The premise was that, once Julie finished her time at Iowa, we would want to begin our lives together in earnest, and that marriage would be the best and most official way of I know that nothing compels me/us to get married in order to be together–my parents, for one (two?), were surprised that I would want to make such a commitment so young–but it feels right. We know we want to be with each other, we’ve had plenty of time to live together, we don’t feel that a waiting period would make any difference. Basically, we’re eager to get married.

The reason I bring it up now is that I just went to Iowa last weekend and gave her an engagement ring. Her mom gave us her old ring, and I put it on a new band and brought it out there–certainly the most valuable small (defined as less than one pound) object I’ve ever taken on an airplane, that was kind of nervewracking. I was nervous about the presentation, as well, because I had kind of gone out on a limb and gotten the ring re-set in a way that we hadn’t explicitly agreed on, for more money than we might have thought. But it looked beautiful, and she loved it. All weekend long, she would absentmindedly stick out her hand and watch her ring finger sparkle.

August 20, 2005

I left my baby on a pretty blue train

Filed under: Romance, Travels — tomemos @ 2:17 pm

Sorry for yet another long silence. At least I have an excuse this time: Julie and I took a road trip to Iowa City to get her moved in to her new digs. It took four days, with stops at Provo, Utah; Ogalalla, Nebraska; and Ames, Iowa. We made the trip in Pearl, Julie’s white Saturn, which performed admirably, even nobly. Some highlights:

–While still in California, we saw one of the jerkiest (in MHO) religious bumper stickers imaginable. It was on a pretty expensive two-seat car, along the lines of a Mazda Miata but different. The sticker said, “Don’t let the car fool you–my real treasure is in Heaven.” Now THAT is assholic. Basically, this guy is saying, “Oh, I know I have lots of expensive material goods, but that’s not the best part. The best part is, I’m righteous and holy and I’m going to Heaven!” You know, if your real treasure is in Heaven, why do you have that nice car? Sell the car, donate the money, get yourself a 1992 Altima and use it to take food to soup kitchens. Remember that thing about the camel, and the eye of a needle? Remember that?

–A much much better tribute to Christianity was on view on that same stretch of highway. It was a pickup truck with a CRUCIFIED TEDDY BEAR on the back, legs crossed and everything. I got a picture, I will Flickr it and link it here. An incentive to keep checking the site!

–When we woke up in Provo, UT, the newspaper’s top story was that, according to a study of American cities and their voting habits, Provo is the most conservative city in America. The most liberal city? Detroit. Don’t ask me.

–Our initial plan had been to get to Provo on the first night, Cheyenne, Wyoming on the second night, and Omaha, Nebraska on the third night. This was based on the assumption that while a ten-hour drive was reasonable on the first day, we wouldn’t have the energy for more than seven or eight hours after that. In fact, what we found was that when you reach a town like Cheyenne, the main thing to do is to get back in the car and keep driving.

–This goes double for Nebraska. A young woman who served us in a roadside Subway found out that we were from Orange County, and asked, “So, is Laguna Beach a real place? Are the people they film there real?” I felt like I was from Camelot. Actually, my relatives in Ames (who were the reason to push ourselves past Omaha, for a real meal and real company) told us a joke: On the night before the Battle of Little Big Horn, Custer addressed his men. “I have good news and bad news,” he said. “The bad news is that our scouts tell me that the force we’re facing tomorrow is so large that they will slaughter us to the last man. The good news is, at least we won’t have to march back through Nebraska.” This is a representative sample of midwest humor.

–Aside from the conservatism of the towns we passed through, gas prices were the other major news story in the papers, not to mention in the car. $2.13 was the cheapest we saw, somewhere in Utah; by the end of our trip, it was around $2.70 for Regular. One unexpected benefit to being in corn country was that, in Nebraska and Iowa, Plus was cheaper than Regular, since Plus had ethanol in it, much cheaper than oil in these states. Meanwhile, back in Berkeley, I’ve seen $2.93. It’s like living in Spain or something.

–We got Julie moved in okay, with a decent complement of furniture and everything. Iowa City seems like a pretty cool town, and also a true college town: the student population is about half that of the town, and the bars and cafes have shorter hours during the summers. I don’t envy her the winters she’ll face, but from now until December she’s definitely living in the cooler place.

As for being long-distance again…it’s not ideal, obviously, especially since we had gotten really used to living together after four months. At the same time, after France, it should be cake. I’ve long thought (and maybe I’ve even said this here) that the major factor in the success of a long-distance relationship isn’t distance or availability, but whether the two parties are up to something interesting that they can talk about in those late-night phone conversations. It certainly seems like that will be the case now. So, here’s to a short wait and frequent visits.

April 17, 2005

Mon semblable, mon frére

Filed under: Romance, Travels — tomemos @ 1:11 am

I had a great time in France and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you so until now. A couple vignettes (that’s French for “little vignes”) about the trip, which ended two weeks ago today if you can believe it:

–I was lucky enough to be on the same flight with my friend Brandon, who was going on from Prague to visit his girlfriend. Brandon’s roommate took us to the airport, and on the way Brandon was talking to his girlfriend on the phone. “No,” we heard him say, “no, I’ll just get one at the airport.” “A passport,” his roommate said, and I laughed. Then I said, “Oh shit, turn around, I forgot my passport.”

I made it to the airport on time and everything, but still pretty dumb. It reminded me of when, flying home from England, I assumed that I had an electronic ticket; they informed me that, no, I had a paper ticket, which as it happened I did have with me. When I say I have bad travel luck, a lot of that is due to crap like this.

–Julie and I pulled off an admittedly risky maneuver, which was that rather than meeting at the airport we had our rendezvous (French for “liaison”) in the city. Luckily we picked an easy landmark, the Eiffel Tower. We found each other among the crowd, we started down the road towards the apartment…and thirty yards later, there we were. Our apartment (lent to us by a kind, out-of-town friend) was a loft right next door to the Eiffel Tower and almost on a level with it, or so it felt after climbing the eight or so flights of stairs. It was no bigger than a dorm room, but it had a great view and was extremely charming and Parisian.

–One less-than-charming aspect was the shared toilet, which was one of those squat-and-pray deals. Luckily, none of the predictable disasters took place, but I did, at one point, have trouble getting the pull chain to work, and not knowing my own strength I managed to pull the damn thing off. We figured that it was best to tell the super about this, rather than leave Julie’s friend to bear the brunt when she got back.

Of course, when you’re living somewhere without paying rent, you run the risk of awakening someone’s ire about it. And that person might not speak English. Julie probably has a clearer idea about what the 5’6″ supervisor was haranguing her shrilly about than I do, but it was clear that he wasn’t happy about us being there. As Julie took him up, up, up to the bathroom to look at the damage, and then came back down, down, down while I was pacing around outside, I couldn’t shake the fear that we had gotten her friend evicted. Luckily it turned out that he was a tinpan apartment dictator–she had already cleared our stay there, he was just personally unhappy with it. Still, whenever we entered or exited the building from then on, our conversation stopped and we walked swiftly and uneasily past the supervisor’s door.

–We had dinner with a member of Julie’s extended family who was in town with his wife and kids. They’re pretty well off–he’s in real estate–and the proof was in the soufflé we had for dessert that night. In the Eiffel Tower. I’m not kidding, he took us to dinner at the Jules Verne, which is the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, I grabbed a box of matches to prove it. The food was quite good, but mostly I was kind of dumbstruck. The funniest part of the evening was after dinner, when we left the restaurant, descended the tower, went back to the Four Seasons to say goodbye (and so I could return the jacket and tie I borrowed from him), and got back in the hotel’s van, which took us to our building’s service entrance so we could go up to our garret. I tried to tip the driver, but I think he took pity on me, because he turned it down; he probably realized that he makes more money than I do.

–It was a great time. Great to be back in a city, great to be spending lots of time in cafés, great to meet Julie’s friends. It rained all week, and even that was Parisian. Now we’re back in Southern California, nearly living together, and things are going fine. I’ll keep you posted–honest–in the coming days.

January 10, 2005

I would shed my skin for you

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 9:33 pm

It’s been raining for two weeks down here. Apparently at one point it rained for sixty hours straight. This is something of a catastrophe in a city built on a desert: lakes form on freeway onramps, drivers lose all sense of reason. The whole area shuts down like it was made of sugar.

Anyway, being a grad student means never lacking for rainy-day activities. Of course I’ve got assignments to grade and poems to read. I’ve got plenty of stuff to do around the apartment, too–I’ve washed the dishes and paid my bills and straightened up the living room. I’ve put up some posters Julie left and put in a couple more chairs and organized my closet. I keep busy. If I don’t keep busy, I slide–I crawl through my homework, I watch my cartoon DVDs, I play videogames. I make very boring dinners. I don’t even watch my Netflix movies. So I try to keep fighting that war against entropy, especially when it rains and I have to occupy myself around the house.

It was raining when Julie was down here, too, but (I realized tonight while doing my laundry) we didn’t have to work to keep busy while she was here. We didn’t get bored, even when we were stuck inside here or at her mom’s house. Whether we were watching a movie or lounging around or getting the apartment ready for a party, we laughed and chatted and had a good time. And the things that needed to get done got done–not just because the quarter hadn’t started yet, or because there were two people to cook and wash the dishes, but because it’s all basically a pleasure. Well, okay, doing the dishes is never a swim in the gumdrop lake, but when Julie’s around I don’t need to force myself; we just go over and do it. Like grownups.

I know this isn’t particularly romantic, or very flattering to me–shouldn’t I be able to live responsibly whether or not I’m alone? (I am getting better, but, of course, I have to work at it.) But it’s one of the things I like, and miss, most about Julie: everything is easy and natural and fun when she’s around. When you’re done with the hugging and kissing and whispering sweet nothings, you still have to go about your day, and being with Julie changes that from a to-do list into a thrill.

September 5, 2004

The bedroom lies abandoned and the future is unplanned

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 3:57 pm

Julie’s gone to Paris. After five days of packing, ranging from intense to frenzied, we drove down to the OC. I spent hours packing up my apartment and dealing with my subletter (more on that later), while she packed her bags. Her mom and I drove her to the airport. And that was that.

The change was so sudden, I feel like I was caught flat-footed. Almost all the time this summer that I didn’t spend at my job, I spent with Julie. Now all of a sudden I’ve got no job and Julie’s in Paris. It’s left me unsure of what to do with myself. (Nothing productive, I know that much.)

I’m not pining, exactly, but a lot of weird things remind me of her. The other day I saw a big spider and thought, “Julie’s afraid of spiders.” I keep finding myself with free time to call her, then remembering that she’s eight hours ahead of me.

At least I’ll be busy again soon. Right now I don’t have much to do besides wonder how she’s doing and imagine all the cool stuff she’s seeing. News can’t come fast enoguh. I wish I was there to explore the city with her.

Man, do I miss her.

June 26, 2004

Never stuck around long enough for a one-night stand

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 8:20 pm

Well, I sent in my last assignment of the year today, so I guess I must be done. I’m not sure if I trust myself to relax yet–I’ve been keyed up for too long, and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop in the apartment back in Irvine (I’ll tell that story later, but I don’t want to jinx it), but I’m very slowly starting to unwind, as it becomes clearer and clearer that it’s summertime, and I can play videogames and watch movies when I want. Time will come when I have to use my summer breaks for work, as well, but this one is mine and damn if I’m not going to waste it.

I’m expecting the same kind of adjustment when Julie gets back. The night before she left (the night I got back), she said, “It feels like I’m going to go away and come back, then you’ll go away, and so forth. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to stay.” That’s just how I feel: I’m not used to getting comfortable. But I’ve got time to get that back, starting in an hour and a half when she gets home.

April 30, 2004

You were so poorly cast as a malcontent

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 2:43 pm

My girlfriend’s hoping to move to Paris. As you can imagine, this ignites a series of conflicting feelings in me. I try to avoid talking about mushy stuff on my blog, since romantic feelings seem too solipsistic to be of interest to other people, but I’ll make an exception here because I think it’s an interesting situation, because others I know are going through similar situations, and because I’d welcome advice.

There’s no doubt that Julie going to Paris would take our long-distance relationship to the next level: that is to say, really long-distance. As it is, we get to talk on the phone or IM every day and we see each other once a month. With a nine-hour time difference between us, even phone calls would probably become occasional. E-mail and letters would have to fill the gap, and they could–it’s not like no one ever lived apart from each other before 1994–but the instant nature of communication today makes me very irritable with even reasonable delays. We’d get used to it, no doubt (maybe a little doubt?); it just would be a step back from our current situation, which is itself something of a compromise.

So that’s the Big Con. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only one. There are lots of good reasons for Julie to go, the main reason being that she wants to, and I think it would be really good for her (how could a trip to Paris not be good for someone?). I think that we’re all still young enough that we should be working towards being more worldly people and having more experiences, if the opportunity exists, and I think the long-term benefits of a well-travelled girlfriend outweigh the frustration of 9-12 months of pining.

Plus, over the last few months, I’ve been living a vicarious Bohemian lifestyle through Julie. At the beginning of the school year, I always had lots of stuff to talk about as I learned how grad school worked, while Julie felt she was spinning her wheels and never had much to report. Over the last months, though, that dynamic has reversed itself. I’ve settled into a rut–a rut I really enjoy, but a rut–while Julie has had lots of exciting stuff to talk about what with McSweeney’s and her advancing literary career. The dramatic, winding path of her struggles and successes as a writer has been really cathartic for me, particularly as it seems to be going well more and more of the time. Her going to Paris seems like the logical extension of that–if I’m going to be anchored down for 6 more years, it helps that someone close to me is jet-setting and pond-hopping, that I can learn about the world outside the cave.

Compare that with the alternative: Julie moves in with me in Irvine next year. If it was almost anywhere besides Irvine, I would probably be gunning for that. As it is, though, I think there would be a risk for resentment and frustration. I’m not aware of any interesting or exciting opportunities that exist here, besides the one I’m currently availing myself of and that Julie plans to apply for. Until we’re both doing something interesting that we enjoy, better that we not settle down together; it would feel like a surrender.

And then there’s the big fringe benefit: I’ll get to visit Julie in France next spring. And maybe, just maybe (and I do mean just maybe), I could live in Paris next summer, on the pretext of learning French or doing research on Baudelaire or whatever, and we could be expats together for a couple months. Yes, it’s crazy; I’m just not sure it’ll work. But we’ll see. What’s great about Julie’s plan to be an au pair is that it proves that there’s nothing but possibility here.

February 17, 2004

But when I get back home, you’re always there to rub my back

Filed under: Romance — tomemos @ 11:54 am

I spent the weekend in the Bay Area with Julie. Pat also has a sweetie up there, so we decided to pool our resources (his car and iPod, my humor and erudition) to take advantage of the holiday. Pat drove like a champ, especially considering it was his first time making a trip of that magnitude. And I got to see green grass on the I-5, the first time I’ve come across that.

The weekend was great but short, which is obviously what I was going to say about it. Some highlights: I got to feed Izzy, Julie’s bird; for dinner on Valentine’s Day we made nabe (Japanese winter soup) and went out for drinks; Karen’s birthday was on Sunday night, we bar-crawled around Lake Merritt and it was all a good time. Then, home. Great but short.

Something the weekend helped drive home is that my time in the Bay Area is becoming more and more about Julie and my friends and less and less about my family. (Case in point: I always say “the Bay Area” rather than “Berkeley” now, because I don’t actually stay in Berkeley and none of my friends live there.) When I got to Julie’s, I called home to set up some time to visit my folks. My step-mom made a joke about how they come in second to my Valentine now. “Well, if I was visiting for Mother’s Day, you know who’d be first,” I said. Good line, but of course I’m not going home for Mother’s Day.

What ended up happening was: Julie and I met my parents and my two-year-old cousin Anna (a very cute creature) at the Steam Trains in Tilden Park, which I hadn’t been to since I was 7 or so. That was a lot of fun. Then we went back to the house to talk and catch up, and after about an hour and a half we left. It was a nice visit, but it wasn’t like I was coming home–it was like I was in town with my girlfriend and thought I’d stop by.

Anyway, I’m back in the realm of the working, so I’d better get that started. I’m more than halfway through my second quarter of grad school, so I’m going to go start acting like it.

December 13, 2003

Where my thought’s escaping, where my music’s playing

Filed under: Romance, Travels — tomemos @ 11:45 pm

My flight was at 4:30, and I had a window seat on the left side of the plane, which meant that for almost an hour I got to see the sun set over the Pacific. From the red horizon to the blue sky, it looked like I was looking at the color spectrum off in the distance. Some wispy clouds came between the plane and where the sun had been, and and the contrast made them look like grains of ash thrown on the orange sky.

But the most beautiful part came towards the end, when I noticed that we were coming into Oakland from the north, from Berkeley. I saw the Campanile, and the and the Berkeley Marina, and the Mormon Temple. The last thing I saw was the lights reflecting off Lake Merritt, where Julie lives, and at that point the eight- or nine-year-old boy sitting in front of me said, “Look at the lights! It’s really pretty!”

I’m with you, kid.

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