Thursday, June 26, 2003
Light at the end of the tunnel
or, Beauty bathed the silver dome

I was thinking about all the things I've gotten done in the last month or so: both my newsletters (and starting on the July issue of the White Birch), an outfit of garb, three sets of beaded tokens, 50 illuminated vellum tokens for Princess Astrid, a draft of an article I'm submitting to the Journal of Hospital Librarianship, and several new pieces of kumihimo. It's good to be productive. But sometimes I feel like I'm going through the motions. It's an odd feeling when the light at the end of the tunnel is coming from behind you.

I wasn't going through the motions at my reunion last weekend, though. There were some really good moments. I stayed in 205 Trever, a few doors down from my junior-year room, 201. New furniture...darn. (There was a fire in the mid-80's that destroyed most of the original built-in furniture on the first and second floor of Trever; I had old furniture in 411 and 328, but new in 201. I miss the huge closet that we fit our whole section into for our freshman section picture, the built-in desk with the little nook in the side for your bedside stuff, the bouncy saggy beds...) I left the window open all weekend and kept trying to sniff for that beautiful-smelling wind that comes up against that side of the building, but I could barely catch a whiff of it. Oh well, it lives in my memory--like the sound of the built-in closet door closing.

There were quite a few people there that I was really glad to see, though a few people I'd have liked to hang out with were inexplicably missing. Coincidentally, most of the people I was glad to see were Yuais, including two people I hadn't met before who were there at the founding of the group. (There's an account of what the Yuais were/are here; it's only one person's story, but I recognize parts of it.) I was friends with at least half the Yuais at one time or another at LU, but was too conservative--and too substance-free--to want to join. So when I found myself with nothing to do Friday night, and my friends Greg and Jeff and Andy were trying to get me to go to the bar with them, I surprised myself by going. (Believe it or not, that was my first time in a College Avenue bar. Ever.)

We hung out at the Wooden Nickel, on the porch where there wasn't any smoke and less noise than inside, and Greg bought me a Sprite (he beat Jeff by 45 seconds in offering to buy...awww, what gentlemen). He called a friend and mentioned that he was there with a bunch of Yuais and a librarian, and I got mock-offended and said, "HEY. I feel left out." So they dubbed me (and Elise's husband from South Africa, who was a very cool guy) an honorary Yuai. I was oddly proud. No one would have done that for me when I was at Lawrence; the Yuais took themselves just seriously enough not to make jokes about honorary membership. They had an initiation ceremony, after all. But it was nice to get a belated nod.

Most of the people from my class seemed more-or-less the same as I remembered them, when I remembered them. (There were actually a couple of people I didn't remember, but noticed because they somehow got more interesting-looking since graduation, I think...!)

But as we were sitting on Main Hall Green for Andy's beer-and-cheese tasting lecture (talk about parlaying one's dearest hobby into a career!), it occurred to me that no one was the same: they were MORE than what they had been. Each person had all of what they had had in their personalities when we knew each other in college, but intensified, raised to another level, and with a kind of social cheer cast over it because, of course, we were all putting out best feet forward for the reunion. Several people said things to me I would have done anything to hear just once from them, early on in my college career: simple things like "I'm so glad you're here", "I'm interested to hear your opinion", stuff like that. We have obviously all gained some social skills, but we've also gained some heart.

It was interesting to hang out with some of the men I had crushes on at various points in my college career. I'm not going to go into details; I'll just say that I wouldn't want to be living my life with any of them now, though I enjoy being with some of them and counting them as friends. The people I was actually sort of attracted to this past weekend, are people I either didn't know, or would never have been attracted to in college for various reasons...! (Of course at least one is married. So what else is new...) Life is funny.

The choir reunion was nice. I went to the rehearsal and concert on Friday (in fact, I arrived on campus five minutes before rehearsal--%#@)& construction on Hwy. 10!) and was delighted to find that Professor Bjella is still as energetic and passionate a conductor as he always was. The rest of the choir, many of whom had been at LU long before Bjella, seemed equally delighted, grinning at him as he devised kinesthetic motions to help us tailor a phrase to the exact shape he wanted. I sort of missed his style, but didn't realize it until I sang under him again.

We did some choruses (from the Messiah, Brahms' Requiem, and The Gondoliers), the arrangement of "Ezekiel Saw de Wheel" that Robert Fountain always used to do with his Concert Choir (but which I'd somehow managed never to sing!), and a new arrangement of "O'er the Fox" by Randy Swiggum. The Gondoliers chorus was really neat to sing again: the last time I had sung or heard it was in September 1989 when we did it in the LU New Student Week Chorus. Obviously a Bjella favorite. I remembered every note, and just sort of opened up and belted it in happiness. It was a "full circle" kind of moment.

Being back on campus is always a cleansing experience. It wipes away the accumulated emotional weirdnesses of the last ten years and returns me to the possibility of simple fun. Fun is always so complicated these days. Sometimes it bothers me. When I'm back at the Lawrence campus in June, I can look up at a brilliant blue sky and appreciate it for what it is, for how lovely the edge of Main Hall looks against it, for how green and gorgeous the trees look rising into it, and not think of the 43 things I need to get done, my health, my laundry, or my future. I don't seem to be able to do that in La Crosse. I'll work on it, but if it hasn't happened by now...

In more recent news, I have succumbed to the lure of a new toy (thanks to urging from Greg), and signed up for a LiveJournal account. I don't really intend to keep it up, but having an account enables me to get access to some of my friends' "friends only" postings. And it's a fun system to browse through. You wouldn't believe how many people list "SCA" as one of their interests--hundreds and hundreds, including some acquaintances from other kingdoms. Makes for some interesting reading.

This weekend: at home, getting some things done, probably sleeping more than I intend to. I'm not going to berate myself, though--I probably need it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Just don't call me a sellout

I'm toying with being an Amazon Associate. In fact, more than toying, I've signed up. Not having done anything at all with my Favorite Books page in quite awhile, I'm always surprised when strangers e-mail me to talk about the books listed there. People are obviously interested in what others are reading. Well, I recommend the books on that page. I heartily recommend them. So why shouldn't I provide a link for people to buy them?

I'd also like to keep track of what I've been reading by maintaining a page of mini-reviews, with links to the books; I may do the same with music. Over time, if I feel like it, I might put together some annotated bibliographies: kumihimo, illumination, costuming, who-knows-what. It feels nice to have a project, especially one with no deadline. ;) I don't expect to earn much, but a little something to partly subsidize my own Amazon habit would be nice.

You may wonder why a librarian is associating herself with The World's Biggest Bookstore. Reasons why I don't feel like a traitor: 1) This isn't a professional relationship; I'm linking from my personal webpage. 2) I'm a customer of Amazon's; I've always gotten good service from them and I would be a hypocrite to decide I'm somehow above recommending them to others. 3) Amazon doesn't take anything away from libraries; public libraries are busier than ever in the U.S., and many are offering similar services to what Amazon offers, including graphical catalogs with book cover photos and reviews, e-books, and electronic "what to read next" services. And people STILL say what they like best about the library is borrowing books. Imagine. Could it be...that Amazon and the public library satisfy fundamentally different needs, and can co-exist without one having to endlessly malign the other?

While you're pondering, go do a little shopping at:
Hey!  You're going to shop here anyway, why not make your friend Jennifer some money?

All quiet this past weekend. I did way more sleeping than I had intended, but did get some laundry and a lot of reading done, and am venturing into kumihimo stitches I hadn't worked on before (like the 11-strand triangular one which, amazingly, works great).

This coming weekend: Reunion Weekend at Lawrence. It's my 10th reunion, which seems hardly possible; it seems like last year I was at the 5th (all right, it was four years ago due to LU's policy of lumping three classes together for the 5th reunion, but it sure wasn't last year).

Am I prepared? Not really. And I don't just mean that I haven't a thing to wear (though I don't really know what I'll wear, now that I think of it). I haven't done as much thinking about my LU friends and acquaintances as I should have over the past few years. I'm not going to beat myself up over it, but I hope I haven't offended anyone by dropping out of sight, by not being a good e-mail correspondent, etc. I hope my friends haven't gone all weird on me, or had multitudes of small children that they insist on talking about non-stop. I hope I don't wander around campus feeling lonely. I hope there's someone I remember, and who remembers me, in the library when I drop by (probably not; that's ten days after the end of finals, and there isn't a summer session at LU). I hope people don't look at me funny when I tell them the truth, that my main life hobby right now involves dressing up in medieval costumes, writing songs about a fictional Principality, and pretending I'm someone name Eliane.

There's a choir reunion going on this weekend too, and I'm going to do the musical parts of it (two rehearsals, a Friday night concert and singing at the Convocation) but none of the social parts. The people I really want to hang out with are mostly from my class, and there'll be a lot of them since it's our 10th. There's no way I'm going to hang out with strangers who sang in the LU Concert Choir in 1972. So I'll do social activities with my class, and musical ones with the choir folks.

I'm staying in Trever (of course), and I'll be bringing my stuffed loon for companionship. She's been to Appleton (for Trivia, and then on the way to Dance Seminar in April) but didn't get much of an impression of the place either time. ;) . This'll be her first time on campus. And that's one thing I'm really looking forward to seeing. That campus is so beautiful in June, it breaks your heart. Just the smell of the wind coming in the windows in Trever is going to make me cry.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Madison weekend, then La Crosse weekend

Last weekend I went to my parents' for a much-needed Madison weekend. Although I got there late-ish and all the cheese curds had been sold (darn!), the Farmer's Market was exactly the same as ever, with scads of people and dogs and small groups running card-table information stands for their favorite cause, and jewelry/art sellers in the tail-end area formed by the intersection of State St. and the Square. (I even found one woman running a booth full of ersatz Ren-wear: bodices, high-waisted Italian gowns, woofy shirts for men and women, gauzy skirts, etc., even though nothing in her signage or booth name indicated that this was Faire-wear, none of her bodices were boned, and most of her fabrics were synthetic. She did, however, help a teenager try on a bodice over her tank top, yanking the lacings extra-tight in time-honored Ren Faire fashion, and commenting on how "this really does put your assets front and center".)

I stayed on State St., shopping and soaking up the air and sun, most of the rest of the day. I didn't buy much but it was so good to be there. It's funny, I had sort of a ho-hum life during graduate school: I wasn't working much, didn't have many friends, wasn't very much challenged by the curriculum, wasn't involved in the SCA yet, and had no car. My only fun was State St. I loved its smells and music and crowds and the slightly soiled brick and concrete its walks are made of. All the books, all the diversity, all the food, coffee, incense and music wafting out of shop doors, people calling across the street to one another, it all kind of intoxicated me. And it still does when I am able to set myself free there. Which isn't often enough.

The rest of the weekend I did a lot of sleeping and hanging out. I discovered that I'm now on one too many listservs: I'm no longer able to efficiently or consistently weed my e-mail down to under 100 messages when I'm out of town. I'll have to decide what goes. I suspect it'll be the Outlands Bardic listserv--I'll go back to reading it in digest, even though I find it very interesting and fertile.

Mom's birthday was Monday (Memorial Day; her birthday doesn't usually fall right on MD, but this year it did) and Ellen drove down from Minneapolis, where she was visiting friends, to spend the afternoon. We sat out back and played "Apples to Apples", a card game Mom got from Aunt Marcy, for part of the afternoon, then Mom's friend Jane came over for dinner and we cooked out.

This weekend, I could have gone to Mermaid's across the state, if it hadn't been for May Feaste (at the bottom of this page), the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's fundraising dinner, which was Friday night. Truth be told, I needed a blank weekend at home to get some things done, so I'm not upset about missing Mermaid's. I've only ever been to one, which had bad weather; the rest have conflicted with May Feaste.

I do have to say that May Feaste went really well. The large-ticket items went for as much as $350 in the live auction. My Middle Eastern garb looked great--I was getting looks of approval from people in the Chorale who have never looked twice at me before. During the solo performances I got up and sang "Douce Dame Jolie" with one of the Chorale members doing a simple drone accompaniment on harp, and people said they really enjoyed it (and most couldn't tell it was medieval, though one older fellow did come up to me after the performances were over and comment, "Very nice solo, was that Machaut?" You can't put one over on some people. ;) ) I did one of the solo parts in the Yiddish song we did in the Chorale performance, and afterwards an aquaintance from the Chorale yelled to me across the parking lot, "I just LOVE you in 'Ale Brider'". I don't think I grinned ALL the way home, but I'm sure it was at least a mile.

Yesterday I tried to go to the La Crosse Farmer's Market, but apparently either the location or schedule has changed, because it wasn't where it was last year on Saturday mornings. (I did see on a poster downtown that the Cameron St. Market is now running Friday evenings and Sunday mornings, but of course I slept through it this morning.) Instead, I went to the Public Library to pick up a book I had on hold for me. I stopped to check e-mail and discovered they have a new system requiring patrons to sign in at the terminal with their library card number and PIN. The system then automatically limits them to 1/2 hour a day. I don't know quite whether I approve of this, but I do know it makes things a heck of a lot easier for staff, who may have to familiarize people with the sign-in process at the beginning, but won't have to police the workstations near as much in the future. It's just that most of the things I do on the computer take a LOT longer that 1/2 hour per day (even excluding work-related tasks). If the PL were my only computer-use outlet, I'd have all I could do just to keep up with e-mail, especially on their relatively slow connection.

I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping, eating ice cream at the Pearl, and hanging out at Pearl St. Books, where I got so engrossed that I accidentally kept the friendly proprietor from closing the store until 15 minutes after closing time. Not yet hungry, I went to Kmart to look for CD storage racks, but the same coupon in the Friday newspaper insert that had drawn me, had apparently drawn some crowds earlier in the day, because only the little racks were left. Grr. I may go to Pier 1 some evening this week and see what they have.

In the evening I worked on the White Birch, some site tokens I am doing for an event in North Dakota in July, and some kumihimo. (Yup, I'm back doing kumihimo. You know what brought me back to it? I was cleaning out the area under my sofa bed, and found one of the 1-foot lengths of kumihimo, done in black and gold, that I had made for Elashava when she was Princess. It was a rather nice looking stitch and I thought, "I should give it to one of the current Northshield Royalty so They can give it as a token", but it seemed chintzy to give just one token. So I'll do a dozen or so and see if some member of the Royalty can use them.)

Today? Well, I've got my e-mail all checked and followed-up-on, but not much else. I slept until 11, read until 2, and here I am. I need these days every so often.

As I woke up this morning, I had an odd urge to plan a trip to Paris. Why, I don't know. I love to travel but with going to Pennsic in August, I won't have another one-week span of time to take off from work. And I don't know what I'd do there: I don't know anyone in France, don't have specific research to do, don't have anyone I know who would go with me. I just have this urge to stay at the same pension where we stayed when I went to France in college (the Pension Ladagnous, with a mention on this page; also check out the Pension Les Marroniers, which apparently is in the same building but I never knew it was there, and supposedly is homier and more friendly). I could see blowing a ton of money and 5 or 6 of my hard-earned vacation days just to go wandering all alone through Paris, shopping, going to museums, walking, and eating. And trying to recapture my French, which was once rather good (I do have a totally useless B.A. in French, after all) but which is mostly gone by now. I'm surprising myself by realizing that all of this actually sounds good to me. I wonder whether I'd have a good time, or whether a veil of loneliness would descend on me after the first couple of days.

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