Sunday, July 29, 2012

The world's got me dizzy again

You'd think after twenty-two years I'd be used to the spin
And it only feels worse when I stay in one place
So I'm always pacing around or walking away
 Bright Eyes, "Land Locked Blues"

I graduated two months ago, today. Somehow, I managed to work nine weeks in between.

Yesterday, I had lunch with someone incredibly important to my college experience, and then dinner with someone incredibly important to my high school experience. The juxtaposition was so jarring that I needed to call someone else who was incredibly important to my college experience to sort it all out. The fact is that people change. I'll be the first to admit that I am not the same person I was in high school, or even as a college junior. I actually think I changed more in the last year than any year before that, maybe since learning how to walk and talk. I also know that that's ok, and *gulp* "normal."And I know that "normal" legitimately doesn't exist, no matter how much the culture industry tries to tell us otherwise. It's like there's these paths that well-adjusted people are supposed to follow to properly achieve milestones at the right times, and if they don't, they're social lepers. Well, guess what? I call shenanigans. I guess I know some people who do things the "right" way, but very few actually do.

I might be the first person to mention Lady Gaga and Bright Eyes in the same breath, but they are both so so relevant to what I'm thinking right now. I'm at this fabulous stage in my life that offers fresh starts when I need them. When the world drives me crazy, I wait it out a bit, then move. I'm 22, just like Connor Oberst, when he sang that song. (Sort of...) And then there's "Born This Way." Have you actually listened to the song's lyrics? I totally don't agree with a good portion of them, but I get the sentiment. Love yourself, no matter who you are. (Unless, I suppose, you're some sort of dangerous criminal. She should have been a bit more specific.) These two songs don't go together on their own, but they're both about me, in that narcissistic way that music is always about me.* Like take today: I bid farewell to many of my favorite spots in the city by visiting them one last time. I went to the National Gallery (spent about 93% of my time in the east building, of course), the Hirshhorn, and the Phillips. While at the Phillips, I went to their small version of Tryst, and ordered iced coffee. This is what it looked like:

Ok, this is what it looked like after I drank almost all of it...
My point is that this was a very pretentious-looking cup of iced coffee, and I drank it at a very pretentious-seeming attraction, while reading David Foster Wallace, a very pretentious-seeming author. But I did all of this because these are things I enjoy. I don't go to places because I've been socialized to think I should; I make these little choices based on things I actually want to do.

That's the biggest change I've made, and it was a very conscious change. It's clearly a process that'll be ongoing for a while, if not forever, but it's great. I used to do just about everything because I thought somebody wanted me to do it that way. For example, someone did my makeup for an event (my senior recital...), and people told me I looked good with lipstick. I ate up the compliment, and started to wear lipstick in regular life. It lasted about a month, before I got frustrated and stopped. An even better example is my hair. I wanted to go short & styled for several years, but I always had some friend or other who would tell me it was a bad idea and I'd look dumb. When I left Delaware and realized I had no social accountability, I went out and got the haircut I wanted. (The problem happened when it grew out and I needed a trim, and went to the Hair Cuttery to save money. Never again. Ever. Resist the discount haircut.) Getting that first right haircut was great, and people just accepted it as my hair.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that change can be a great thing, particularly if it's change that allows action to align more with personal ideals. Change is also scary, so it's always good to have someone to call to put things into perspective, even long-distance.

I'm not done figuring myself out yet. I don't know if anybody ever is, but I know I still have quite a ways to go. It was weird to be confronted with 4+ years of change in such quick succession, yesterday, but I'm glad it happened. I like the person I am now more than I like the person I was 1, 2, 4, or more years ago, but I will always like the people who were there for the ride, even if all we have in common is our past. Last fall, I caught up with the oldest friend I have. We hadn't seen or spoken to each other for almost four years, but we were able to talk for almost an entire day about our shared past. I think it's good to remember who I used to be, to shed some perspective on who I am, and who I will be.

As annoying as this post may read, it's something I needed to get out. After this week, I'll recap my final two weeks at the library. Interesting stuff happened last week, and I'll throw it in when I write about this coming week, which will be my last week in DC.

*It's about you, too, but I would never admit that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Briefer updates and thoughts, with 2 weeks left in the district

Whenever I tell people I'm moving to Seattle, they buckle just a bit. Everyone seems incredibly happy to hear it, and at least a bit jealous. It makes me wonder if I'm such a quick read and it's obvious that it will be the right place for me, or if there's some sort of collective unconscious driving mid-Atlantic east coasters to the PNW. (Besides having a place to live lined up,) I'm so ready to go. I "moved on" from my hometown ages ago, and I "moved on" from Delaware the second we drove away from my awful apartment complex in Newark. I suppose I won't officially move on from that area, though, until I stop listening to WHYY all the time and hearing about traffic on the Schuylkill... . I do still have two more weeks here in DC, but I'm not all that connected to the city. It's a great place to be, but as things are winding down and people are leaving, I mostly just find myself a cranky northerner longing for better weather and more local, dive-y food. (For the record, today's weather was "warm Seattle." I appreciated it, even if it did get close to 80.)

I can't believe I only have two more weeks, though! The longer I stay at the LC, the longer I want to stay here. Aside from the two drawbacks of the work environment (sitting under an aggressive AC vent and the less-than-functional automatic paper towel dispensers), it's awesome! I have reached the point in my RISM reporting that I can identify several copyists and their locations by their musical handwriting, and I have memorized all the Plaine and Easie incipit coding language except for a few irregular commands. Along the way, I am LOVING going through Oscar Sonneck's card catalog. Sonneck was the first chief of the Music Division back in the day, and he took amazing notes. Many of his cards give standard cataloging information, but some items get 4 or 5 3x5 index cards full of prose commentary. One of the copyists I deal with is Alfred Wotquenne, who is probably most famous for his cataloging of CPE Bach, and conservatory library cataloging. Oh, the good ol' days when musicology was...old. Anyway, from what I can tell (and from stories I've heard), Sonneck had almost no respect for Wotquenne. I'd like to dig up more of the dirt, but anything substantial would be in French, probably in Brussels. By the time I get around to learning French and going to Brussels, something else will catch my attention. It's sad that I only have about a week left with this material. Between the giant display we've been planning for all summer, the all-day rehearsal for it, and presumably an entire day of HR out-processing, there's only so much opera I can report before it's time to leave.

'til next time...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wolke sechs

That moment when your blog generates way more traffic than usual, without being referenced by a significantly more famous blog(ger)? Yeah, that happened yesterday into today. Sorry if I offended, kids, but I know I'm not the only one who feels the way I do! I'd actually love to argue it out with someone who feels strongly the other way; I don't think I'm objectively right, but I think what I think.

Well, do you want to know what else has taken up my time this week that I find worth writing about? If you do, keep reading!

Wednesday was the country's birthday, so the library was closed. I had a lovely afternoon/evening (until the metro ride home, which was one of my worst nightmares realized), and I enjoyed the mid-week weekend. Every week should have Wednesday off. Or any weekday, really. I miss having a college schedule, where I didn't have the same hours every day, five days a week.

But regardless of the real-world hours, I think my job is fantastic. I'm reporting all these manuscript copies of pre-Beethoven composers to RISM, so I'm doing a bit of actual research, learning the details of things like Grove and MGG, and using a coding language to write musical incipits. Most of my manuscripts are early-20th century copies, but some are 18th century, contemporary with the autographs (but the autographs aren't on my radar since they're in a different call number class and already reported). The funny part to me is how the 18th century manuscripts are in significantly better condition than the 20th century ones. It probably has to do with paper in the early 20th century being mass-produced, rather than it being used for more special occasions in the 18th century. Or something like that.

And then the weekend happened, and it was still inhumanly hot outside.

I decided it was finally time to go to the Phillips Collection, which had been the only museum on my to-do list that isn't free. Oh my lordy, was it worth the cost of admission! I walked in through the entrance to the gallery part, and the security guard asked me if I was looking for anything in particular--perhaps the Jasper Johns exhibit, or the restrooms. My response: "Rothko," without missing even half a beat. It was amazing, and I went to the Rothko Room three times during my visit to the gallery. I don't know what it is about his work that makes me unable to look away. It's mesmerizing, and I don't know enough about painting to explain why. I just really love it. The Jasper Johns exhibit was also really cool. I enjoyed walking through, and recognizing Merce Cunningham's face in one of the pieces. I also liked walking through another section of the museum and seeing John Cage's watercolor paintings. I didn't really know what to think about that one, but I audibly laughed when I read the description card. That gallery was absolutely amazing, and I'll probably go back before I leave (which is *tear* in a month).

Two other not-as-exciting things that happened yesterday:
I wanted a coffeeish shop lunch, so I wandered into Teaism by the gallery, north of DuPont Circle. It was good, and my book was good, but the cashier was curious. I've never had somebody try to convince me not to buy something at the place they work, and this guy was really against me getting the tofu dish. Something about fermented soybeans, and tofu making people more hungry than before eating it. The thing about tofu is that its pretty much the only form of soy besides soybeans themselves that's actually a good, healthy product. I wanted to tell him to read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, but I was too hungry and dehydrated, so I ordered the seaweed salad instead. I love a good seaweed salad.

I also went to the (slightly) indie movie theater and saw To Rome, With Love. It was amazing!! My favorite line, by Woody Allen himself: "I once did a production of Rigoletto where everyone was dressed as white mice." If you're into Woody Allen, awkward musician jokes, Alec Baldwin being amazing, or Ellen Page being amazing, just go see it. I happen to be into all those things, so I was more than satisfied. I was a bit upset to overhear a couple around my age complaining that it was the worst movie they had ever seen, but it was a good excuse to sit in air conditioning for 2 hours.

Today was stupid. My two plans (go to Georgetown to get it over with, and see the 6pm Kennedy Center Millennium Stage performance) were spoiled by the heat and my inability to navigate the bus system. I also wore flip flops, which is just never a good idea for walking around. But I did have two great experiences. The first time I went to the National Gallery's east building, I must have not realized that there's a full basement floor of amazing things I wanted to see. More Rothko, but without the ambiance, and lots of other great M/modern art. I also went to the smaller Smithsonian galleries, and I really loved the African Art gallery. There was a really neat contemporary exhibit of harem artistic tropes revised with transgressive imagery. Also, the nice thing about going to the smaller galleries is that they aren't generally on tourist radar. At the National Gallery, I was visibly annoyed at tourist families practically yelling across the room that the pieces couldn't be art, and they looked so easy to do. That, along with looking like I belong in a modern art museum, made me aware of the degree of snobiness into which I have been socialized.

It seems like the heat wave is finally breaking. I have only one more month here, which is probably exactly how much more time I want to have left.

'Til next time!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

in quick defense of AC

It goes like this:

I had ~1600 words on Anderson Cooper's coming out letter in a draft. Technically, I still have it in a draft. Like I do with the heavier things I write, I put at 24 hour waiting period on publishing it. 24 hours turned into days, and it didn't feel like the write thing to publish for all the world and the future Googling world to see. If you'd like to read what I wrote, email me and I can send it to you. Nothing I wrote is a secret, but that doesn't mean that things have to go global. Even though I decided not to publish my original thoughts, I still feel the need to say what I need to say.

Everybody that's hating on Anderson for not coming out sooner, or for still making it seem like he's ashamed, is actually making it harder for people that aren't out or aren't public. There's a difference. All that criticism makes it seem like if you don't make a big deal of coming out the second you hit puberty, you have something to hide, or something to be ashamed of. Super false. Not making a public statement isn't the same as being ashamed of anything. Some people (dare I say "us?") are just not into making a big deal of things that don't feel like a big deal.

I'm expecting tomatoes to be thrown at me any minute now...