Brother.

My kid bro is coming to visit me in Chicago. For the first time since I moved here two years ago. Thus far, the agenda includes the Art Institute, a concert near my house, vodka flights, a birthday party, a boat tour, and Costa Rican food. He is definitely not here long enough.

But what about Kuma’s? you ask. Or, like, all of Wicker Park? Or any of the many Logan Square joints?

Clearly he will just have to visit again soon.

This kid, he is my favorite.

Sad times at Bedford Falls

Many of you are aware of this, but today Matt moved out of our Chicago apartment. We’ve been planning this for nearly a month, discussing how to separate as kindly as possible with as little damage done to him and me and our circle of friends as we can manage. And this afternoon was the official doomsday. He’s moved in with some lovely Chicago friends of his, into an awesome place, and he’s working at a coffeeshop and doing mad crazy theater stuff and life is looking great for him. I’m thrilled he’s staying in Chicago for the duration.

To elliptically answer the inevitable questions: Yes, this was my fault and my doing; I take full responsibility. Matt did nothing wrong. There was no knock-down drag-out fight, no explosion, no nothing; I just came to some realizations about my life going forward, and sadly, this meant making some decisions that couldn’t include Matt. He remains a dear friend, a person I have deep respect for, and someone I will always adore for his kindness and huge heart and the joyful past few years we’ve spent together. So. Any anger, please direct to my complaint box, not his.

I think that’s about all. Large transitions are afoot in my life. This is one of many. Hopefully they will be all to the good, for me and for those I love, Matt included.

Mary Hatch, signing off.

Week one.

I have completed it and am now very very sleepy. Got trapped on the train coming home from campus–a fire in the Loop ground the CTA down to a standstill. Somehow made it to piece anyway, and snagged beer and frozen yogurt with cohort. I do love my here people muchly, and I missed them this summer, despite the rapture that was Clarion.

Best part of school restart: being back in the classroom. I forget how much I love teaching until I’m doing it again. I still have a fair amount of prep work to do on my class, mostly getting all my readings pdf’d and up on my website, and building a wall of grading rubrics to make my life easier later.

Progress toward exams:
–Read Flaubert’s Parrot; still need to take notes. Liked it muchly. Awesome formal choices: competing chronologies, a dictionary, a where’s-Waldo puzzle. Many forms to steal.
–Still keep nitpicking at the Michaels responses. I’m imagining I’ll wait until after this Monday so I can get the lay of the land. I’ll be able to watch four people present, and perhaps that’ll give me a better sense of what I ought be observing.
–Submitted prelim paperwork to secure this semester’s credits.
–Emailed draft of prelim list to outstanding committee member and verbally touched base with 3/5 of my people.

Baby steps. Internal motivation. No accountability to anyone but myself. Thus far, exam year appears to manageable but terrifying. That’s all fine–manageable but terrifying is exactly what I need to make myself work.

Also, I started Dance with Dragons and am 100 pages in. So…that’ll get finished this weekend… Pity it’s not on the exam list, LAWL.

Your optimism is unfounded.

Brutalpacalyptic was putting it mildly. Up at 7, home at 9 so tired I may die * flump *. Teaching was lovely, students are bright eyed/bushy-tailed, I like them already. Then I set at my desk job and do small composition-y tasks, and that is all good, too. Also office hours. Then I audit class with crazybrilliant theorist. And that’s where the going gets hairy.
See, by 5pm, I have been on campus for eight hours with no break. My brain is a sad, sad place. And then I have to poke it with the coffee stick and make it remember all the reading I’ve crammed into it. And then it has to perform. It hates hat trix.
Suffice to say, I’m terrified. I LOVE THIS CLASS. Seriously, this professor is my favorite. I could listen to him talk forever and never get bored. He did an intro to classism v. poverty that is exactly what I need to be passing on to my ENG160 students (and I will…just added the book he pulled his stats from to my Amazon wishlist, for purchase within the week).
BUT. The class is eight people–seven first-year PhDs plus auditing me. And he always does four response papers a week, irrelevant of class size. In previous semesters with larger cohorts, this meant a response paper every three to four weeks for each student. It is a gift of his time to have such individuated attention, and don’t I know it, but the math works out to eight papers I’ll be producing for the course this semester, on top of my exam responses for him. Not even counting my other two lists. Worst of all: I’ve already written four responses based on readings he’s assigned me…and I’ve shown him 0 because I’m so damn intimidated.
GET OVER IT, SELF. You are doing the work. Wherefore the fear? But I don’t want to be good enough; I want to learn how to be brilliant. This class will be Clarion redux but for academic argument. If I survive, I will be betterstrongerfastermoar. My little heart breaks that I may have to postpone exams, though. What if that’s what it takes to be closer to not dumb?

First day.

Today I meet my new students–all 23 of them. And I also get my first chance to watch WBM in action (outside of colloquium, anyway). This is all very exciting. I do wish I’d managed to wake up early and run, but when my day’s this long, I figure I need sleep more than the post-exercise endorphins to get me through. I have packed a lunch/dinner (always depressing…the state of my lunchbox warns me of the length of this day), and Matt woke up early with me to make mushroom-Swiss scramble for breakfast. Hope it sticks to my ribs, or I’ll be dipping into the lunchbox before noon. Have to parcel out the food across the day (is it silly that the food-planning stresses me more than the teaching? No?).
Teaching has never been stressful, not really, not since I very first started, anyway. It’s mostly performance, which I equate with theater and improv and other things I adore. I love the first day, love getting to know my new crop, love being back on a college campus, love the sound of my brain whirring up to ReadAllTheThings. I’m definitely more stressed than usual, but…eh, who I am I kidding? This time last year, Matt moved to Chicago. Year before that, I moved to Chicago. This time of year is never easy. Am just grateful to all the family and friends I’ve gotten to see/am about to get to see, because you people are getting me through. Now I must go to work. But it’s the fun kind of work.

So much so little.

How can I do so much and still feel so unaccomplished? Academia’s a hideous vise. This morning, I:
woke up at 8am
worked on syllabus over coffee–also got my BB site up and running, though I’m still missing links to a dozen readings, but I can get those up there next week
reread chunks of McGurl and annotated
reread chunks of Durkheim and Alavarez–will finish writeup tomorrow
postponed Ulysses reading group meetup until I can get all four of us reading it in the same place at the same time
emailed revised exam list to professor
emailed director of committee to say that 1) I’ll cover her class and 2) I need her signature on my prelim hours
did dishes
paid my university bill (insult to injury, with our meagre salary–$800 in fees a semester is cruel)

And I’m about to go for a run, and then friends are coming over for pizza and beer, and then I’ll probably go out dancing, since I got my syllabus in good enough shape for Monday. But I still haven’t revised my Clarion stories, in part because I already hate them (sigh, brain. sigh). Also, this is a bad week to do anything creative, because I will tailspin it all to hell. But I do hate how I can do so much (it is 3:30, dude. Not even that late yet) and still feel like an abject failure.

Oh well. Is probably moodiness moreso than actual fail. And I still have tomorrow to get my mind in gear. Monday is going to be brutalpocalyptic, though–up at 7am, home at 10pm. Owowowow.

Belated Rasputina update.

So, the proud winner of the title poll is “Tentacle Season,” which will be my contribution to the Clarion tee. No one wins against Cthulhu, apparently. Thanks for the help, everyone!

And now, belated and slipshod musings on the awesomeness that was seeing Rasputina live in concert.

What I can recall of the playlist: Hunter’s Kiss, 1816, Holocaust with Giants, Rats, Secret Message, Sweet Sister Temperance (about Emily Dickenson), Transylvanian Concubine (yay Buffy), Watch TV, Mama Was an Opium Smoker, Wicked Dickie, Wish You Were Here, Saline the Salt Lake Queen, Any Old Actress, Snow Hen of Austerlitz (on banjo), In Old Yellowcake, Bad Moon Rising AND MANY MOAR.

Random and hilarious things Melora said: “Good afternoon, evening!” “We are always growing in our craft, practicing our craft…we watch a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race to make sure we’re always growing in our craft.”

They played for an hour and forty minutes, and I was third row center—seriously like ten feet away from Melora. Matt and Patty wandered off to play frisbee an hour or so into the set, but I could not be torn away–I pretty much went into paroxysms of joy during the first song and did not stop twitching until after the encore. They did not play my favorite song (The Mayor) but that is so okay, because oh, they are even better live than on their perfect albums. Seriously, they make two cellos and a quiet drumkit sound enormous. Filled up the Pritzker Pavilion liek whoa. And the concert was free, though I would’ve paid a small fortune for the seats I had (and we were only running maybe an hour early, if that–no line, no nothing).

Then Patty (she of the Loop know-how, because she’s at SAIC) took us to a rooftop bar, the Plymouth, overlooking the Chicago library. $5 dirty martinis (I did not partake, but Matt and Eric said they were deliciously dirty) and a fantastic view. I love Chicago so, so hard.

This is how close I was.

Help a girlwonders out.

So for Clarion 2011 we are making a T-shirt that will ultimately look like a band t-shirt. The playlist for the faux album will be made up of favorite titles (selected by each Clarionaut), one for each of the 18 of us, taken from the 6 stories we wrote at Clarion. I’d use my submission story title if I could (“Within the Prison of Her Boyfriend’s Nostril, Dread Cthulhu Lies Dreaming”), but it has to be one of the six–and in my case, one of five, because I don’t like one of my titles. So please, VOTE! Help a girlwonders out.
Love and kittens,
Meep.

Incoming melancholia

I’ve been sinking lower and lower, and I kept attributing it to semester’s start, because I’m an idiot. But no, it’s just that time of year.

[Do not read if you are not up for some serious overshare.]

This Friday, August 19th, is a bad day. It is always a bad day. Every year I forget, or block it out, but it creeps up on me and I find myself engaging in all sorts of queer and manic behaviors, unsure quite why I’m doing what I do. This will be six years since Rob. This year, I am the same age he was when he killed himself. I have attached all kinds of significance to this age in the past, but now that I’ve hit it, I’m mostly just relieved to be in a relatively stable place studying things that interest me. There is something deeply odd about being 29 during exam year, though, with my lists about trauma theory and suicidology. Or perhaps ritualizing this will be the impetus I need to wrangle the memoir into something viable.

I’m running every morning and calorie counting and monitoring my sleep schedule and cutting back on booze in the hopes that at least my neuroses will be healthful ‘til they pass. Also, alcohol’s a depressant and fuck I do not need that this week. I will likely be unable to work much Friday, if previous years are any indication, so I need to have my syllabus done and some stories sent out by then. I dunno. I want a ritual or something—a gravesite to visit or a hike to go on or a golf course to play. In Chicago, I have no ritual, other than the usual random collapsing in tears throughout the day, which is apparently beyond my control.

I’m a half-country away from where it all happened, and I’d be an alien to myself if I could meet the self I was six years ago. I keep waiting to get over it. And it does get a little easier every year goes by. Maybe I will get dressed up and take myself on a reading date, bring my exam books and think think-y thoughts about suicide in a public space where I’m less likely to cry. Or maybe I’ll go for a walk by the lake—Rob loved the outdoors, and those remain some of my favorite memories of him. None of that feels quite right, though. I might catalogue more of the Rob-box. Or perhaps I’ll just write. That might be the cleanest way to move through. God I hate this time of year.