Monday, November 22, 2010
Fresh from the City of Angels
"I wanted to burn her, the wicked witch."
-Fyodor Sologub (The Petty Demon)
I'm happy to report that conference is now over. I would even go so far as to say that it was fairly successful; I chaired a fascinating panel on graphic novels where I met some interesting people, I got to go and listen to several friends and colleagues present some of their latest research and, most importantly, my paper was, it seemed, well received. This was really inspiring because I do find that when you're about to embark on a project like a dissertation, you want to know that your ideas make sense to the outside world and have a chance of surviving there. Beyond this feeling of relief and momentary reprieve from the always present impostor complex , this is also kind of fantastic because it entails crossing off one of the semester's biggest challenges from my never-ending list of things to do (as a lover of lists, I can safely say that there is great pleasure in crossing something off....even if you know that it will soon be replaced by yet another challenge) and also means that Thanksgiving is almost here! I'm sure each and every reader of this blog is looking forward not only to a feast of massive proportions, but to a few days off as well. There is something lovely about the holiday season--the lights that decorate yards and houses, the prospect of seeing friends and family, the hustle and bustle....It's generally a happy, although often busy, time. But you might wisely be wondering why, if life is currently so rosy, I've chosen a rather angry epigraph for this blog entry?
While it's true that I had a good time at the conference and, thanks to things like a random discovery of a pluot-selling farmers market and pleasant co-panelists, it was ultimately one of those Bard-like "all's well that ends well" moments, there are still always moments of frustration, especially when your time is largely dictated by the conference schedule, location, etc. And here's the thing: I've been to Downtown Los Angeles before and really enjoyed myself. Granted, this has usually been in February or the summer and seasons can make or break any trip, but for some reason (maybe the recession?) Downtown LA really seems to have changed. In the few blocks surrounding the famous Westin Bonaventure, a nice hotel (although it looks like some post-modern, space age Jetson-ian establishment; see photo to your left), but one that was a little expensive for the grad student budget, it was difficult to find places to eat and, shockingly, many places were closed on Saturday and Sunday. I understand that the downtown area/financial district are far from the center of LA social life, but, in addition to the lifesaver of the conference, George's Greek Cafe (home of a tasty gyro if you're ever in LA and are oddly craving a plate of lamb, pita and a side salad all for $10), even places like Quiznos and Starbucks--true capitalist establishments if there ever were any--were closed for weekend business. Is that not the epitome of crazy?
Also, interestingly enough, despite the presence of a thriving food culture in LA, I can't say that I had any meal that really stood out (that is, besides the gyro that I was desperately craving the first night I was there and the always pleasing "Perfect Oatmeal" with nuts and brown sugar from Starbucks). A big group of grad students and former graduate students who, in some way or another, had passed through my department, went to Soi 7 for Thai food one night and, while it wasn't awful, it wasn't great either. I can't complain about the papaya salad, but my Green Curry Chicken was way too spicy (however, I recognize that I'm perhaps just a weakling when it comes to the use of chilies). I also went for Japanese food (Asian restaurants never disappoint; they are always open for business) on Sunday, the most dire food day of them all. As much as I love nabeyaki udon, I wasn't all that impressed by what ended up before me at Octopus. Perhaps I'm just getting picky in my old age? Or am I just turning into a GOOP-reading pretentious food snob? It's hard to say, but I'd take old age over the latter any day. :)
Fortunately, the good weather and the fine company of R, a friend who was also on my panel, and Boy C, made up for these food slights. See how pretty my last hours in LA were?
Moods, however, much like the weather, are prone to fluctuate. And as for the other three nails in my good mood coffin, well, let me just put it this way (as in, succinctly):
1) My flight was delayed, which was unfortunate, especially since my panel had been at 8 am and I had sadly woken up at 5:30 (nerves will always get you). In a nutshell, I was exhausted. Plus, Virgin America, in my humble opinion, isn't what it used to be.
2) I returned to my apartment to discover that some neighbor continues to take my New Yorker. Mind you, maybe I don't always have time to read my New Yorker, but it's mine, I pay for it, and I was especially looking forward to last week's magazine since it was "The Food Issue." Just because I disappear for a few days and a magazine arrives for me and is left in the common box where all magazines go doesn't mean that it's begging to be stolen by some cheap chump. In my quest to learn to articulate my thoughts--even if not necessarily nice ones--I have left a note downstairs asking for it to be returned and also reminding the culprit that mail theft is a federal offense. Please keep in mind that I'm 100% serious in this moment. The theft of "The Fiction Issue" this past summer when I was in PA was one thing, but a Thanksgiving-inspired Food Issue is another matter entirely.
3) I'm tired of having my time wasted on Mondays. Last week it was a godawful talk on Russian aspect; this week it was basically all about Italian cinema. There's nothing wrong with being intellectually curious and hearing about unrelated things, but, when you want to get home, clean your apartment, go to bed early and keep listening to somebody give overly wordy and convoluted answers about a topic you have zero interest in, well, the blood starts to boil...or at least reaches a slow simmer. It is always possible, however, that I'm just a bad academic with a sense of misplaced responsibility who should learn to heed her impulse that a yoga class, 9 times out of 10, will always be a better option than colloquium.
In any case, I'll soon be back with happier tidings as I'm excited to be trying more than a few new recipes this year for my Thanksgiving with the Greek, his roommates, one of his roommate's Venezuelan family and some other friends who will be joining in on the fun. I think this vacation is going to serve me well.