Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Week Incommunicado

My boss is supposed to have cancer surgery tomorrow. She's actually quite upbeat--the surgeon was surprised when they met last week, as he generally deals with people who are profoundly upset--thanks to lots of prayer support from her church family and friends. She's to be out for a good six weeks, so my employment through at least part of the summer is assured. I wish it were under happier circumstances.

The Georgetown show was abbreviated to one day--Thursday was a nice, moderately successful event, and we had hoped to set up Friday as well, but I was chased off the quad by a member of the Provost's staff, who declared she didn't want anything but Georgetown t-shirts being sold on Georgetown Day (free hamburgers and ice cream for all, carnival rides and special events on the front lawn--I'd hoped to take advantage of the crowds). At least this was an equal-opportunity shooing (she told me she'd already dispatched the class representatives who were raising money something associated with the about-to-graduate seniors). We planned to postpone the second day of the sale to tomorrow (Monday), but rain is in all the forecasts, and it's not supposed to get warmer than 50, so after much hemming and hawing we decided to cancel.

Susan and I had the pleasure of the company of a indie film director yesterday evening--Mike Bell, late of California and Atlanta, the son of some senior members of our church. We three sat around and drank tea and talked for hours--about everything from travel to writing, family heritage and culture clashes. He's one of a very few people I've met who has seen as many movies as I have, and he and Susan share a common interest in southeast Asia, where both have spent time. This morning at Sunday School he gave us three DVDs to watch--one, a Russian winner of the Venesian Golden Lion, is mine to keep--including a short subject he did for his MA thesis out at Loyola Marymount.

My sister is due to graduate with her Ph.D. from Brown in about a month. I had hoped to go up for the event, particularly as I haven't yet seen my little nephew Brad in person, and he's reportedly plumped out and smiling "like a politician" despite the indignities visited upon his person by his big sister. But it seems that trips outside the DC area are on hold until the beginning of June, given my boss's surgery and my financial need to be at the Arlington market on Saturdays.

My Air Force officer friend was back in town from Pakistan on Friday, and she brought me two rugs as gifts--one is a cheesy wool souvenir which she'd acquired only on my express request. See picture below. It's about 24"x 30". Note the burning tanks, the rocket launcher, and the two spellings of "Afghanistan." I wonder if the Arabic script reads "Death to the infidel who buys this carpet."

The other is a magnificent all-silk persian prayer rug made in Kashmir--just shy of 3'x4.5'. See picture. Due to the silk texture, it looks dark from one direction and pale from another. I'd never seen birds on an Islamic carpet before, but apparently Pakistan has a more generous view of image-making than Wahabist Saudi Arabia.

This second rug is way too nice to put on the floor--I'm going to figure out a way to use it as a wall hanging. And I really need to get proper furniture one of these days--the combination of the magnificent silk weaving with my battered plastic storage units is really hideous.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dante and Wharton

Plenty's been happening, but little that can be rendered suitable for public consumption. Even that which might have been diluted into a thin journalistic syrup has been left unpalbumated given my limited time and the damnable slowness of dialup internet access. Too, people don't read long philosophical musings online, and it's no sense wasting the effort. Simone Weil I ain't.

A few events-highlights: The jewelry show at Georgetown was postponed and downsized--hopefully the credit card machine will be returned to me with functional software by Tuesday and the weather will be grand on Thursday. A friend found out she has breast cancer. I'm back at the Arlington Market on Saturdays. With Susan, I ran/walked from Arlington to Alexandria last night in two hours--we're both in much better shape than we have been. I've delivered or mailed copies of the first half of the English "Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands" to three American readers. This last effort required me to drive up to Silver Spring, MD, Friday afternoon. There, I sat outside under an umbrella and talked to a Russianist who retired from a certain secretive US government subsection after spending the whole of the Cold War (the early 50s to the end of the 80s) in its employ. Fascinating old fellow. We share a Southern background, but he has a talent for languages which the Almighty did not give me. This was actually only the second time we'd spoken face-to-face--we met about four years ago, when I first told him about my translation project, but it wasn't in a state to be shared until recently. So I contacted him a few weeks ago to find out if he was still interested. Not only did he express enthusiasm, he had actually had found another proofreader for us, too. But he and I needed to talk, and so talk we did--for 3 1/2 hours.

Every few years I find myself stuck in that Dantesque circle of hell which is the DC beltway at end-of-week rushhour. I figure this is one way to be made truly grateful for living within walking distance of school/work and not having to commute. I left Silver Spring at 4:30, and by 4:40 I was at a standstill along with another three southbound lanes of drivers. There was a bad accident up ahead. I moved one mile in the next hour. I know this precisely because the large green signs over the road informed me that it was "3/4 mile to ...," then "1/2 mile to ...," then "1/4 mile to ..." and I crept the increments correspondingly. I actually was able to read. Not to be read to. To read. I do love audiobooks, but I didn't have one as I spend little time these days of $3.52 per gallon in my car. What I did have was a copy of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, and I read a full 40 pages while I was waiting for the traffic to move. It took me 2 1/2 hours to get home (it's maybe 20 miles). I practically kissed the ground when I finely levered my tired body out of the driver's seat. I don't mind driving in heavy traffic that moves, but sitting in traffic jams usually drives me bonkers--all that wasted time and energy. Thank God for Edith!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Projects and Pipes

Thus far this week has been fairly successful, projects-wise. Thanks to Leah I've finished my taxes. They went off in the mail this evening (return-receipt for the Georgia ones). I've also worked some on my book translation-project, including getting two big-kahuna historians (my advisor and the President of the Russian-American Christian University in Moscow) to agree to read the first half of my English manuscript. And I decided to have a Spring Arts and Crafts Sale at Georgetown April 15-17 (take advantage of those tax refunds and the need for Mothers Day gifts!), which means I've actually got to make some jewelry tomorrow and Friday. I've started being able to sleep again, too.

Ignoring the dreary, chilly weather, I went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis Sunday afternoon with Susan and Anne (the latter arrived Friday night from South Carolina). I'd driven through the campus once, about ten years ago, in the rain, but as one might imagine didn't remember much except the general map-layout of the place. Susan'd been to a performance of Handel's Messiah (complete, not just selections and the Hallelujah Chorus) at the chapel there two Christmases ago, and she suggested we stroll over to see it. Inside, a young man was playing the organ, practicing (well, really more running over--it wasn't like he was making mistakes!) everything from Michael W. Smith to ancient hymns. I have heard organs in a number of places in the US and abroad (I once went to a 3-hour organ-only concert in a medieval cathedral in Poland, for example), and I can honestly say that I've never heard one to top the Chapel's. It was beyond awesome. The pipes ranged from tiny straws smaller than my pinky to huge stacks big enough to swallow me whole. There were clarion trumpets (!) and tymphany. And five keyboards and way more than 200 stops on the console. It was incredible. The three of us tiptoed up the side aisle, past all the nautically-themed stained-glass windows (everything from Moses parting the Red Sea to 'I will make you fishers of men'--the central palladian window at the head of the chapel is a Tiffanyesque picture of Jesus walking on the water) and stood under the light-studded dome (it's unadorned inside except for tiers of single lightbulbs, like constellations in some perfectly-ordered universe) and listened, enraptured, for a solid hour. It was so cool. I'm looking forward to getting to attend a concert there one of these days!

Friday, April 04, 2008

No Rest

You'd think, what with the weight of comps off my mind, I'd be sleeping like the proverbial baby. Instead, ever since Monday I've been plagued with insomnia which has gotten progressively worse as the week has worn on. Last night I got less than three hours of sleep. First I had trouble dozing off, developed a nasty headache (for which I took an only moderately efficacious Motrin a little after 1 AM), and then woke up without hope of getting back into blissful unconsciousness just after 4 AM.

So I've been up ever since working on my taxes.

That's not something to calm the anxious heart, although thanks to last year's efforts I now have an established ratio for overall wholesale-to-retail prices for my jewelry business. This means I don't have to go through the whole created items list again this year, adding up the cost of the components of each piece I sold and calculating the difference re: the price customers paid. I believe even the most hardened auditor would agree with the logic of my technique.

I'm really tired right now, and theoretically I'm supposed to go to the Library of Congress for a "read-in" (the way academics passively protest) at the European Reading Room this afternoon, then to the last Intervarsity Graduate Student Dessert of this semester tonight. I may not make it without a nap.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hot Summer

It is chilly, wet, and (now) dark in DC. I want to go home to GA. I want to be where it's sunny, where the pinestraw is plentiful, where I can sit out on the back porch with a book and sweat in the shade. I want to be surrounded by Southern accents, hear crickets start to sing in the evenings (and wear DEET to keep off the mosquitoes--they'll suck you dry and give you West Nile to the bargain). I want to play Chinese checkers with my Grandmommy at the table after supper while my Granddaddy sits in the shadow (he frugally having switched off all except the one over the table) at the end of the couch and thinks about what he's going to plant, or hoe, or water, or "poison" in the garden the next day. I want to eat home-grown vegetables, pick figs, talk about the latest local wackiness (the "Rants and Raves" section of the "South's Oldest Newspaper" is always highly entertaining). I want to find out who's had a baby, grandbaby or great-grandbaby and who's "not doin' so well." I want to eat out at an Indian or Thai or "soul-food" restaurant with my parents, have sauceless pizza dipped in honey, and plot remodeling the kitchen and upstairs and downstairs bathrooms (the wallpaper must go!). I want to go antiquing in little towns between Augusta and Charleston and Savannah, and get together with girlfriends for lunch in little bistros which have paintings by local artists on the walls and quiches and "po-boy" sandwiches on the menu. I want to have time to stand and chat with old people in the middle of the afternoon and listen to tales of their long-past adventures. I want to go sailing with my father (provided there's a good breeze) and to the gym with my mother, and find some really pretty shoes for a pittance at a discount store.

Though it'll probably be a month before I can realize even part of the above--I still need to see my blood nephew up in Rhode Island and my honorary nephew down in North Carolina, sometime, too--happily, my dear South Carolina friend Anne is coming up in the next week to bring a little "home" to me. I am looking forward to introducing her to Susan, and perhaps persuading the latter to come down with me to GA during the summer--I'd love for my grandparents to meet her, and maybe my Macon aunt and uncle, too. It's fine for me to tell them how blessed I am in a roommate, but it would be even better to be able to have them see for themselves!