may, 2003

Thu May 1 18:04:03 EDT 2003

Graduation is almost palpable. Must be the air, the warm spring we're finally having, sitting on Parrish beach in the shade (having burnt myself while reading in the sun for three hours on Monday), juniors choosing classes and housing, my last day of classes with a case of Yuengling (well, there's one more tomorrow ... details). There's still work to do, and there will be for a while. But everything's so chill ... I've started walking at a half-pace around campus, unmotivated to do any work, enjoying the official Last Month of Swat. The penultimate Dip was last night, after a half-hour trek through the back Crum, scaling logs and falling over dead leaves, to reach the spot under the train trestle. Cool weather but not cold. Things are culminating but I feel no stress, at least none that I care to put a name to, and I might even have a job. All I want to do is write Perl and shell scripts, drink beer, lie on the beach (it's unfortunate that the first and the last two don't go together so well). The work will happen, like it does, and I will graduate into a huge unknown. But it's not a big black void ... maybe it's the eye of the storm, but I feel the chillest I have all semester. Even into a Adirondack-chair-less world, I'm looking forward to graduating.

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Fri May 2 02:25:26 EDT 2003 (later tonight ...)
I feel like I just redeemed my four years here musically, in a way ... Having shirked the Walter for an hour to read Brahms, Daniel (avoiding a paper) and Andrew (avoiding a fugue exposition) and I (eight years in age difference between us) ended up bouncing from Borders (coffee; García Márquez) to Krispy Kreme (free, hot donuts -- we ate and ran and then giggled about it in the parking lot), to Lang, where I asked the semi-latent pianist in Daniel to read through the Brahms op. 120 no. 2 with me, the e-flat viola sonata that plays with barlines like they're toys. We co-opted the Steinway in the hall, and played through the entire sonata. And though neither of us was anywhere near concert level, he rightly commented that we were both playing all the rhythms, dynamics, and phrasing. (He'd hook me up in Seattle should I end up there, he said -- "you have to keep playing!") An ex-Curtis pianist and a finishing-Swarthmore violist, reading Brahms, and I realized somehow only then that it's not about the technique -- which, as he pointed out when I apologized for not reading the six-flats second movement more fluently, is quite learnable in hours or months -- it is about having the music within you to breathe life into Brahms. Which we did for an hour in the hall.

Mike told a spec in Sharples the other day that the best part about this school is not necessarily what you learn here (though this great education is in the process of getting me a great job) -- it's the amazing people you meet. Cliché then, and I almost rolled my eyes, but the closer we come to culmination, the truer that feels. Playing Brahms and eating donuts with my orchestra conductor, I can only concur.

Tue May 6 25:41:55 EDT 2003

This entire past week I've been pretending classes haven't existed. And they actually ceased as of Friday, when I lay around drinking woodchuck on the president's lawn and then had a blast at Sean's forties party. Shopping all Saturday (King of Prussia! aaa!) for interview clothes I wasn't sure I'd need, but were cute enough to spend the money I did on them. I've been enjoying myself immensely, watching Daniel cut onions to make real pierogies, like Sharples hasn't had since sophomore year. He cuts them carefully (sharp knives -- wouldn't have expected, for whatever reason), in squares, unlike the long thin strips I've picked up from my mother, diced one way but left ultimately in strands. I started thinking about the way people cut onions last summer when I was intent on hand-drawing out my cookbook, beginning with the onion page. Drawing onions in graphite in the swelter on our barn-tableclothed table, on the triple-window overlooking Chestnut Street. Since them I've been aware of it, but never quite as acutely as the deliberate yet nonchalant blade through onion centimeters, discarding not only the brown but the outer white into compost.

Rehearsals with the Quintett all this week, for our concert on Saturday (8 PM). Oliver and I made a lego violin and cello, and carried them around campus photographing them on the Adirondack chairs, in Kohlberg, against the music lockers. We called it preparations for publicity, but it's really just an excuse to play with the old AI robot legos in Jeff the sysadmin's office.

And I am flying out to Seattle!! I don't yet know when, but I received word from Amazon today that they think I'm hot shit (I am, of course, paraphrasing). Good thing -- I'll be able to at least wear those cute pants I bought Saturday which I'm currently having taken up to fit me!

Sun May 18 13:15 EDT 2003

1:15 PM already, Sunday. I'm considering turning on the TV to wake the still-slumbering Claire up, but figure there's no point -- when her belly informs her that she wants buttermilk scones as much as I do, she'll crawl down the spiral staircase to what we have of a kitchen.

We're in the Poconos, at a resort her family timeshares -- by which I mean we're in Scranton, eating Wendy's and bad Chinese food at the local mall, having free lattes and checking our email at the one point of culture among the old iron mines and Texas Wiener Cafes, visiting the Blockbuster in Honesdale twice daily for episodes of Sex and the City, and then back again for An Affair to Remember and Bread and Tulips, and Ben & Jerry's and Haribo gummibärchen. What did our parents used to do at these resorts when they dragged blue-vynil-seated Dodges halfway across the country to another house, just uglier than their own? These retreats are clearly geared towards the forty-something crowd ... We were musing, if we were to design one, it would have a multimedia setup, a computer in the corner with high-speed internet, no ugly upholstery ... What was ostensibly a quest for buttermilk for scones for yesterday's breakfast turned into a day excursion of oreos and Lady Grey for breakfast, Scranton for lunch (ew, sounds like scrapple!), and mushroom-spinach-onion crêpes for dinner, circa 9 PM ... or 10 ... or 11 ...

... and somehow it's suddenly 5:16, and the end of The Red Shoes later and five more episodes of SATC, we've ingested three scones each and I've vowed to go to the gym on Monday.

And now I actually have time to. I am little-d done with college, in that my thesis needs revision but my defense, exams, and papers over, and I have yet to visit Seattle, DC, and figure out Amsterdam. But academically, as far as grades and walking on June 1st are concerned, I'm set. The underclassmen are about to be kicked out of their dorms tomorrow morning, and they were moving out as Claire and I left Friday afternoon. I don't know as many of them as I have seniors in previous years -- makes sense, I suppose. And being done, and the process of finishing, leading up to Camp Swarthmore Revisited (a.k.a. Senior Week, or Two Weeks, or Month, depending on if you're honors or on how many exams you have), has been the party it's supposed to be combined with the academics Swat is supposed to be, both in full swing. I've made sure to be in at a reasonable hour the nights before my exams; out as late as possible the nights after (makes for some long days!). The tension in my jaw has come and gone: in fine form as the Quintett played its concert last Saturday night (not the flying performance we'd given in the dress rehearsal, but yet doing Walter proud); completely dissipated 100 miles away from Swat watching videos in the Poconos. Completely stress-triggered in a physical way I haven't experienced before -- usually it's a mental manifestation, but, having banished most all anxiety for this past month (well, who are we kidding -- since two or three weeks), it's been an off-an-on physical avatar of stress. I don't expect it back anytime soon.

All that's left, then, is (a) figuring out next year, which is a mess of pros and cons, interviews and visits, where I have offers versus where I don't yet, if money, friends, and location figure into the decision, and what exactly I want to be doing; and (b) chilling. I can handle -- and am looking forward to -- both. I realized that Next Year, the date fixed for when I Grow Up (June 2nd, 2003) is two scant weeks away. Dude. Maybe I'll have to push back official adulthood until I can legally rent a car, at the earliest.

Wed May 21 21:46:48 PDT 2003

Jordan said over lunch in the company cafeteria that this was a food town. Over an espresso con panna and a Seattle Weekly at a downtown coffee bar after my interviews (seven hours thereof!), watching the pedestrian traffic along First Avenue and deciding where to go to dinner, I read that this is second only to San Francisco as the most vegetarian-friendly city in the country. (The fantastic breadbowl rich spicy Malaysian curry I had a few hours later at Teapot, a pan-Asian vegan/kosher/pareve restaurant in Capitol Hill, proved it.) I could live here, even with the deejays on the radio announcing the weather and forecasting "rain. For about, ever."

Today appeared to be an exception, with a sunny view over the bay and downtown Seattle from the nth floor of the old bronzed fin-de-siècle hospital that Amazon's gutted, outfitted with garage-chic light wooden doors, sleek aluminum fittings, and panels after panels of glass, letting in the view over Seattle (not to mentiond the chess and foosball tables, the inflatable dinosaurs in the halls ...). I'm sure I swore myself to secrecy on some aspect or other of the seven hours of interviews I had today, people (whose names I wrote down before I could forget them) rotating through my room with a whiteboard and marker, writing {pseudo,}code in three or four languages. Not as scary as I'd expected, given Chuck's description of his -- but then again, we were interviewing for different positions, he and I. I was asked questions about what I had on my résumé, and since I know what's there, I could answer it -- well, and thoroughly, if I do say so myself.

I'm pleased with myself. For flying out here (by far the farthest west I've ever been; since sentient age not past the Mississippi -- it's almost as far from Philly as Europe!); for interviewing; for going to Swarthmore and completing two thirds of the CS major my final year so it's still all fresh in my head; for finding the presence and chillness of mind to go sit and have an espresso and read the paper for a few hours (I often don't in strange cities). Too bad I couldn't have stayed in the posh W hotel (full for a chiropractic conference in town this week), or exchanged my cute rental car (!) with a PGP licence plate (easy mnemonic there) for a stick shift (Avis doesn't have any -- unfathomable, to me, but I guess that's the way things are going), but neither of those things diminishes the fact that I'm out here on Amazon's tab, fully enjoying myself.

Yeah Seattle. And Amazon. I could live here ...

Tue May 27 23:19:57 EDT 2003

My stomach hates me these days. It's the highly irregular eating schedule, quantities of food, weird things to eat, lack of exercise, erratic sleeping -- and oh yeah, the alcohol-soaked parties that comprise Senior Week -- that are doing it ... I want my own kitchen, control over my diet, and over my eating times! Soon, Nori, very soon ...

Next Year has morphed into Next Week, which brings many things down to the wire. Friday I went down to DC to check out StreamSage's offer, and after an initial shock of their Yale House aesthetic after Amazon's high wattage dot-commage, and speaking with people working there, I began to think I have to work there. Have to, as in, this is an ideal job, and I'm not allowed to pass it up.

So spurred, Claire, Joanne, and I started apartment-hunting. This was solidified even more this afternoon, when Amazon told me I didn't get the job. Weird -- I wasn't expecting that -- but ultimately fine, as this makes it so much easier to choose DC. Amsterdam is still out there -- can't tell me before June 11th, and I don't know that I want to / can hold out that long.

So the three apartment-mates-to-be are heading down to DC again tomorrow, armed with a map full of colored post-it notes, and a sheaf of listings. We intend to find an apartment, nab it, and decorate the shit out of it.

all this ©nori heikkinen, May 2003

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