Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Buffalo and Back Again

So with my laptop precariously balanced on my knees, I’m on the swing on the bank of the lake, drinking my late grandmother’s staple brand of fruit punch, pleading with Blue to stop eating grass—overall utterly relaxed and indulging in waves of nostalgia.   After a vibrant week with family members in Erie and sharing in the wedding of dear friends’ in Buffalo, it’s disheartening to leave everyone, knowing I won’t see them for quite sometime. But I still feel welcomed by the quiet and the gentle routine here at the cottage.  I have so much to accomplish in the coming weeks, and while it won’t always be exciting, and at times even dull, I’m totally resigned to it, even mildly pumped.
Where to start with what’s taken place over the past week and a half? Last Wednesday Craig and I hosted a lunch for my adviser (who left Binghamton University for UT a year or two ago).  I was shocked and delighted that our group would make the trek to the cottage from Binghamton—40 minutes replete with multiple twists and turns down dirt roads.  Also, it was downright fortuitous that the faculty members who could attend made up my dissertation committee and the one fellow grad-student, who made it, Angela, is a close friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 2 years!  Overall a downright delightful day!
What else to relate? Realizations from the past week? Buffalo would be an incredible city, I’d seriously consider moving there right now, if it weren’t so obviously dying—I’ve never seen so many boarded up storefronts since my last viewing of a Clint Eastwood Western.  But it’s still very much alive in terms of culture and youthful energy—Laura and Dan’s wedding at the colonial-esque library was an inspired venue and the sheer joy and enthusiasm in the room spoke to both their characters and the impact they have on those around them.  The Pearl Brewery, where the reception was held, put most Philly venues to shame in terms of atmosphere and beer selection.  Also, I can’t remember being to utterly happy, simply enjoying the company of friends and family.  My brother’s best man speech deserves immediate Youtube status for both heartfelt sentiment and humor (who else would chime in with an Adam Sandler-esque song, with guitar accompaniment, halfway through?) Craig and I were repeatedly (though playfully) berated for our cheesey and enthusiastic dancing, which of course only inspired him to lay on the fancy footwork—in short, all was at it should have been.
                The next day Craig literally dragged me from the hotel to our friend Jes’s apartment (before a Binghamton friends-reunion picnic was to take place that afternoon) and she not only took mercy on nauseated misery, but magically cured my hangover with unknown hippy remedies! Ally and Chief generously agreed to congregate at Jess’s and it was one of the most pleasant afternoons I’ve spent in years—reminiscing, playing with their adorable daughter Coraline and fully embracing the spirited, drama-free, grown-up friendships that miraculously blossom in your 30s, one part I truly don’t mind about getting older…
But back to the dissertation stuff---FLASHBACK---after the luncheon here at the lake I sat down one on one with my adviser, and overall, she seemed enthusiastic about Chapters 1 & 2; though she gently pointed out my theoretical frame is lacking.  I don’t need to start over my any means, but rather fine tune what I want to say, especially since my overall focus seems to be on Empire and challenging postcolonial readings of Thackeray rather than exploring his conception of nineteenth-century English-ness in an increasingly cosmopolitan society.  Thus, I need to brush up on the theoretical conversation regarding British Empire and place myself within it.  I've gathered copies of Said, Spivak, McClintock, Stoler, and Pratt (despite the diabolical efforts of other grad students who thoughtlessly hoarded these books in their carols without checking them out!) and will be taking notes and annotating for the next week. 
The most positive news: with my focus on Empire being so central and my chapters being so thorough, my chapter on France is out! Thus I only have to write four chapters!! With one and two done, and three started, I’m well over half way there.  As long as I meet my deadlines and revamp 1 & 2 in the next two weeks,  submit CH 3 by the end of June, and then Ch 4 at the end of the July, leaving August for formatting and writing an intro … I can officially be Dr. Ray (or “Dr. Dre” as Craig has affectionately dubbed it) by October, which is simply surreal! 

But I’ve babbled too long and should return to dear Thackeray—we’ve been estranged for nearly a week as I decided I was on vacation right along with Kyle and Jacqueline.  Though it should be noted that they were enjoying a well-deserved week away from their IT positions while I was simply indulging in my unemployed status… Speaking of which! A great adjuncting job has produced itself at a university I’m very excited to teach at in the Philly area, so things are looking hopeful for fall 2011!

Congrats again to Dan & Laura, hugs to my brother and my enchanting almost-sister-in-law, and thanks to my folks who always make it so comfortable that it’s hard to leave! Back to work, and more to come!

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