Thursday, 30 July 2009

Curioser and curioser

I have seen the future...and it is scarily, scarily, middle class. Maybe even upper m.c. I have just got back, walking down my lovely street and feeling rather suburban, with bunnies in the yards, and fireflies fluttering (do they flutter? hover? anyway.) about, and all very pretty. I have spent a few hours of the late afternoon at a neighbour's house, since she had invited people on the street for a potluck dinner at her place, and since I am still trying to get to know people, I thought I'd go.

And this is where the scary UMC-ness comes in. Now, most of you know that I really like giving dinner parties, and gathering people I like around food I like (though I really ought to do it more). In fact, cooking for friends is one of the things that makes me happiest, and one of the greatest pleasures of being mistress of one's entire house/apartment. And I know that as I get older, it will be a more frequent occurrence. But this thing tonight...with people of varying ages, all older than me, all so terribly proper - the architect, the retired physicist, the psychiatrist, the woman who will do x-rays of incredibly rare 15th century Celtich harps - discussing house prices, and schools, and insurance policies, and holidays in the south of France (yes, it appears that even from here, it's the done thing for sensible middle class liberals) - it was like the Ghost of Dinner Party Future, and it was almost enough to make me not want to host another dinner party, ever.

I thought I had finally come round to the idea of being A Real Grown-up, but I guess not...

Moving swiftly on....

Among the various bits of neighbourhood gossip, and who is moving where when and having what children, I acquired the knowledge that Toni Morrison lives in the neighbourhood, which is kinda cool. I shall keep an eye out for her now.

Up next: some reflections on Liverpool.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Two weeks later...

...I'm still trying to catch my breath, but alas, I seem to be getting more and more exhausted, so much that on Sunday night I actually wimped out and went to bed at half ten! Oh, the days of all-nighters (well, the nights of all-nighters I suppose) are so, so far away...

Also I am about to set off again for Europe, so this post will be rather bitty and wimpy, just like me I guess...

Things that have been keeping me busy include blueberry picking (yum!), rather successful attempts at baking (muffins! yum yum), doing a large amount of driving to pick up V whom I saw again over Independence Day weekend - 70 miles each way! And I didn't get lost or get myself into any trouble! It was very pleasing. We also tried to go to the shore, or rather, we got there (Belmar) and, cartoon-like, as soon as we had paid for parking, it started thundering....and never stopped, so we gave up. Sniffle.

Also I had my first American 4th of July - we went to a big open area where they were doing fireworks, which weren't bad, but a bit scary in that they were waaay too close to where people were sitting, and bits of spent firework and ash kept falling on us. Hm. All in all, it was fun, and less oppressively patriotic than I feared.

Also making the most of the NJ summer (it's lovely and hot here) and the fact that everyone I know except me lives in proper houses which have bbqs and sometimes even swimming pools :-) Summer is definitely the time to be here...

Off I go to finish packing!

[actually I have been doing a lot of thinking and introspection, about this displacement thing, which I really need to get round to writing about sooner rather than later...]

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

And after that...

...the fun never stops!

[here is the promised diaristic post]

Seriously, I don't think I've had time to catch my breath since, oh I don't know, the end of May. Ok, I know that sometimes in the past I have been known to complain about not having anything to do and being lonely, but surely there must be a happy medium somewhere!

From Ann Arbor, I went straight to a small town in NJ where my very good friend V was staying. I hadn't seen her in six years due to various geographical mismatches, and her penchant for being in very random and dangerous corners of the world, so it was amazing to see her again, and surreal that it was in small-town suburban NJ! We had a lovely, if brief, 24 hrs there where we basically just talked the whole time, sparing just a few hours to sleep, and tried to catch up on everything from the past few years. It made me very happy. I then boarded a random coach that got me to Philly, where I crashed on a kind friend's sofa and dragged myself out of the house at the crack of dawn (well, almost) to bag a ride back here with one of the bosses at work. Needless to say, a little exhausted.

There followed a week notable mostly because of the incessant, depressing, rain/thunder/lightning weather, and my attempts to work hard, which were in the main successful. And at the end of that week, I welcomed my second proper-guest-who-is-not-Nick, a friend from undergrad whom I hadn't seen properly in ages. He was here until this gone Monday.

It was actually really really good to have him visit (and no, I'm just saying this because you're reading it! :-P ) - weird how you can not really see someone for years, and then just click back into your old comfortable ways when you meet up again. It's like something V had said the week before - sometimes it doesn't really matter if you can't keep up with the day-to-day stuff, as long as what's really important, the deep connection and affection, is still there. And indeed, we spent an awful lot of time talking away, about all things big and small, and a not insignficant amount of my questioning him about his work - partly because I think it is one of the most awesome jobs ever, and partly because I realised, much to my shame, that I don't actually know that many people who are not employed in academia in some way...

So, in between going to work most days, we managed to fit in quite a few fun things, photographic evidence of which will probably be on Flickr and/or FB soon:

- we randomly encountered a regatta at the lake near my house, which was a bit like being down by the river in Eights week, except the average age was rather older (note: there is a point in life after which it is not, repeat, not acceptable to wear lycra), and there was no Pimms

- I finally went for a walk along the canal towpath, which is indeed very beautiful, and only a few minutes outside Princeton! Among other things, we encountered some cool turtles, as you can see (photos nicked from Chris):

- we tried to rock the Princeton nightlife, but really I should've known that would only lead to bitter disappointment

- The shore! The beach! (as I said in the previous post) As well as sunbathing, we also had a fun time playing shooting videogames, though the gun thingy was awfully heavy and I'm sure it cramped my style. Our fun was a little marred by the fact that it started thundering as we were wanting to head back, and we didn't actually leave the parking lot for a good 20/30 minutes - in the end Chris realised that I would never have the courage to drive in the dark+rain+thunder and very kindly took charge of the situation. Given that suicidal fireflies also got added to the mix, it was very nice of him to do so...

- and on Saturday...a Warriors-inspired pilgrimage to Coney Island!! Well, Chris wanted to go because of The Warriors, and I am always up for boardwalk tat, was incredibly good fun, first we stopped off at Brighton Beach, which I remarked felt like being in Odessa - not knowing that it is indeed often called Little Odessa, because it is home to a large Russian-and-other-ex-Soviet-countries population. It was pretty amazing - all the signage in Cyrillic, plenty of elderly ladies sitting outside on the pavement chattering away, and I swear that both there and Coney Island I barely heard a word of English spoken all day. Coney Island was just the right mix of elegiac and dilapidated and tat and brilliant - we walked up and down the boardwalk lots, played a lot more shooting videogames (House of Dead rulz), Chris went on the Wonder Wheel (I felt queasy just looking at it, I admit my wimpiness), I tried to get more tanned, and we generally just took in the atmosphere, the randomness of the people, and tried to channel the Warriors, though I think it was a little less dingy now than 30 years ago. Maybe. I can't quite do it justice - hopefully the photos will help a little.

Needless to say, Sunday we were shattered (and hungover, and a little sunburnt, and possibly also food-poisoned), and then Monday the visit was over - but we definitely hit a high point with our beach goings!

Now a week of frantic work is going on, though it's one day short since we have Friday off for Independence Day - I am going to be brave and drive 70 miles and hopefully not get lost to pick V up and hang around with her at the weekend. And then another busy work week, during which I am giving a talk at work that I am freaking out about not insignificantly, and then probably a day or two in NYC, and then....England! Hurrah.

Right. That is all I think. Thanks for making it this far!