I left the office yesterday around 5:15. My soon-to-be ex-office looked chaotic, what with all of the books and files in boxes, the pictures removed from the walls and stacked for transfer to my as-yet-unidentified next office, and furniture marked for relocation or staying where it is. I put a sign on the door that says “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Really!”
It was a quiet ending to a tumultuous, productive, illuminating 12 years of chairing the Dance Department that Does. We had 80 students when I arrived, now we have over 260, an over 300% growth rate…and we are now very much a 21st century dance project in more ways than one. The ultimate dream of my tenure as chair came true just last week, when our long-proposed and longsuffering proposal for an MFA in Dance as Civic Discourse received final approval. It will be a couple of years before our first cohort arrives, but I had hoped on taking the job that we’d have an MFA by the time I stepped down. I toss shining pearls in the path of those who never gave up the effort to see it through. Especially our Provost.
There are insofar as I know only two things I will miss in leaving administration: the stipend and my fellow chairs, who are some of the most hard-working and undersung and (at least in some quarters) micromanaged people in our institution. All the rest I leave to my successor with relief. It’s time for me to put my energies elsewhere. It’s someone else’s turn.
Last night my friend Sarah (who is also in a huge life transit of a different sort) and I went to Erwin’s on N. Halstead (one of my favorite Chicago hangouts, do try the specials…last night the pre-fixe included an amazing blood orange float) for champagne and some supper…we toasted “Endings and Beginnings.” You can’t really have one without the other, though new beginnings are somewhat harder to come by as we get older. I’ve always liked change and am rather gleeful about the fact that this one doesn’t require moving from one city to another. Though I’ll be on the go a lot in the months ahead, I’ll always be looping back to the South Loop….and in a little over a year, I return to teaching in the subjects I love and absent the perpetual responsibility of all the operations being on my watch.
I leave the job with — most of all — a sense of gratitude to my marvelous colleagues on the faculty and staff, each of whom contributed to the transformation we all witnessed in that dozen years. Now my liberation from the Mountain of Administrative Hellacity is upon me and I plunge off its high ledge with glee. And gratitude. And a really good parachute. Wheee!
After a near-to-year-long silence it is time to revive and sally forth. One of the best things about being an academic is the periodic opportunity for sabbatical. I have one approaching. An entire year’s worth. So as I sit in my living room looking out across Burnham Harbor (never mind the railroad tracks and the parking lot for Soldier Field) towards the Lake, watching The Tudors while the two cats doze, I anticipate. 35. 35 days until the sabbatical begins. 35 days to my liberation.
Ate oatmeal this morning with one of my colleagues at Yolk and remarked as we walked out into the rain afterwards that we’d gone from a Chicago winter to an English winter and probably would go from there directly to a Chicago summer. He agreed. And so we walked in the English-ish rain to a meeting with our peers and considered, discussed the status of an institutional effort to reorganize, or reprioritize, or something along those lines. The purpose of this initiative is unclear. Some of us wonder if the potential consultant identified will even WANT to undertake the project should he determine we are “ready” for it, which many of us believe we are not. That said, I do a virtual handspring and a frisky cartwheel and toss pearls aloft because I will be on sabbatical all next year and am shortly loosed from the immediate bonds of these concerns. I don’t have to worry about becoming “tight, nimble and sparkly.”
In anticipation of the adventures ahead, I also here report that my ticket for Tel Aviv was purchased this afternoon. This on the day that NT sent a long email with advice and information about everything from security at TLV (extremely high) to how to dress at religious sites (modestly) to where to take a day trip (Masada at the Dead Sea). Kathy G., travel gal extraordinaire, is now vigilantly watching for an upgrade into business class for the long haul.
I went to Virginia over the weekend to see the folks and had lunch at The Stray Cat in Arlington. This restaurant is a few doors down from its sibling cafe, The Lost Dog. I was there with my goddaughter, her mother, and HER mother. Much catching up ensued. I fixated on the Lost Dog t-shirt that the hostess was wearing, proclaiming “LIFE’S SHORT BITE HARD.” My goddaughter fixated on the skirt and how it was attached to the rest of the outfit. (I asked, when I asked to take the picture. It’s a plain old skirt. Over black tights.) We all had salads, mostly Mediterranean with olives and shredded chicken. The vinaigrette with feta cheese dressing was especially good.
I wonder what the t-shirt message equivalent would be for a cat? I suppose this would depend on the cat’s mood. On a nice lazy morning while lolling in the sunny spot on the sofa it might be, “Life’s Short. Purr loud.” On the occasion of being put in a carrier to go to the vet: “Life’s Short. Scratch deep.” When the dry food plate is empty, “Life’s short. Howl Incessantly.” Etcetera.
Howling incessantly sometimes works and sometimes does not. When my cats howl they usually get their way. I on the other hand have no such luck. If you are a cat and you howl over your empty plate and the answer from your owner is, “I understand,” but the plate remains empty, what’s a kitty to do? Scratch deep? Not an option if de-clawed. Run away from home? Pah. It’s too warm in here. Sit in the corner with a pout, and personify the sourpuss? How inelegant.
I would rather be purring loudly. Can someone please point me in the direction of the sunny spot on the sofa? I can’t seem to find it on my own today.
I spend time in southern California. Yesterday morning (on a hot April Fool’s Day when Mother Nature was tricking us poor Chicagoans into believing the winter is over) I was thinking about regionalism and clarity and the phenomena particular to California regarding identifying highway routes with “the” in front of the number. “Take the 405 to the 10 and go east to the 110, then north to Pasadena…” someone might tell you. Always a definite article ahead of the route number. Having grown up in the Washington DC area (were we might say, “take 395 south to the Beltway and then go on the outer loop to Maryland and until you get to Indian Head Highway and go south toward St. Mary’s”), I find this fixation on particularizing a route number (which is by its route number is already particularized) quite amusing. I remember an episode of NCIS a few years ago (back when I was still watching that show, I loved Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E and was so thrilled to discover David McCallum still working and still utterly charming decades later). Someone in the supposedly Virginia-based NCIS office was talking about a car being chased “down the 395” — a roadway locally known in DC as either 395 or Shirley Highway. I laughed heartily at the writer in Los Angeles who had never lived anywhere else and in oblivious southern Californian fashion assumed that the rest of the country referred to route numbers with that definite article up front. If I were to confront this writer with the problem…perhaps as he swills his chardonnay on the patio while his sprinklers are spinning water across his lawn, unaware that San Franciscans are on drought restriction…I daresay the response would be, “huh?”
The “the” leads me to consider the definite versus the indefinite article. Articles are considered determiners in English grammar. The difference between definite and indefinite is particularity. “The” is definite and particular. “A” is indefinite, not particularized, imprecise. “A” friend is a general idea and could be any one of many. “The” friend is quite particular. Special. The vaguery of “I have a dog” is different from the specificity of “I have the dog that ferociously ate the front bumper of a police car in Chattanooga.” Ohhhh. THAT dog. It was a police car, but it was THE dog.
Articles, whether definite or indefinite, are in fact adjectives that relate to (dare we say determine) nouns. Angelinos have opted to determine and declare their freeways definitely. The rest of us are in a zero article state as regards our freeways, for “freeway” is a non-count noun and the general rule is that you do not use an article with a non-count noun.
Well, the real lesson from this foray into American English grammar is, next time you are in Los Angeles, make sure you stick with “the” in front of the freeway numbers or you will be exposed for the tourist that you are. Really.
The explosions of color in the California spring are blinding to those of us more accustomed to the unrelenting flat chill gray of a midwestern March…so it made peculiar sense to me this morning that I would think of Iron Butterfly’s epic song, with its mondegreen (look it up) title, while pondering the bougainvillea at the bottom of the steps. As I have had a head cold for the last three days, everything makes sense. The salmon in the refrigerator makes sense. The creamy orange walls I painted on my last sabbatical make sense. The trio of ficus trees in the courtyard make sense, as do the green and orange oregami birds dangling from the cord in the living room window. The visual acuities and dimwittedness of the last three days have allowed me to play a lot of “Angry Birds,” a ridiculous and addictive app on my iPhone, and to think about, well, Iron Butterfly. I never really liked In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida but I appreciate its significance as a gateway into heavy metal (which I have also never much liked, unless you count a few of Trent Renzor’s more accessible tracks.. though I think Nine Inch Nails is more considered “industrial rock” than heavy metal…the genre labels mostly elude me anymore as they are infinite in number insofar as I can tell…a friend of mine once surveyed around 600 dance companies and discovered they had 139 different ways to describe themselves, genre-wise…who knew?) And how did I get from the magenta bougainvillea at the bottom of the steps to Nine Inch Nails? Eh. Blame the Proustian logic of the head cold.
I added my first link, that being a food blog I recommend highly for delicious recipes and point of view. It is kept by an exceedingly marvelous woman who can dance and cook (most dancers can cook, I don’t know if the reverse holds true).
As a once and future blogger, I resume in new form with a wide field of possibilities and no particular focus beyond experiencing and writing about the, my, world. As life has taken me in so many directions (a mix of chance and choice, the Great Choreographer would observe) themes may careen from cats one day to the Rayburn House Office Building the next, with a diversion into lemon writing or food blogs in between. It therefore seems perfectly appropriate to use a title that is not about lemons versus peaches or pearls versus swine. (the latter being a mixed metaphor anyway) Every day is an experiment, and our metaphors are rarely pure unless it is by happy accident or far too much effort. Of course, writing a poem one needs to pay attention to such things as the best poems do tend to hold together in some internally consistent way, metaphor being a primary resource…but I digress. Or not, given that this blog is about anything. And perhaps occasionally, in a Seinfeldian sort of way, about nothing. Definitely an indulgence of sorts, with no audience to speak of and an un-ending blank page before me. How daunting and how delicious. The constant quest to learn to write.
But off into the barricades, a friend has called and needs rescue owing to brake repairs being done on a car about to drive from Los Angeles to New York. By all means, fix those brakes. The hill down from Flagstaff is a long one.