october, 2003

Sun Oct 5 22:59:26 EDT 2003

Today, Hollis writes about baggage that a person carrys with him- or herself. He focuses more on the physical kind than on the mental (much easier to enumerate, say I), and asks for feedback. I started to write him an email, and it turned verbose. This is what I found myself carrying as I shuffled back and forth, twice, from Joanne's couch in the room with four white walls (needed every now and then), to my bed, to try and sleep through the night:

orange:~> baggage nori -vv

  • Pillow. Grey case, becasue when I woke up this morning in my glorious orange room, I couldn't take it. That's right, I couldn't take the orange. Me, of all people ... and after such bravado (-a?) about it! In my defense, I also couldn't deal with the Beethoven on the stereo in the Chinese doctor's waiting room yesterday -- too aurally complex; too much going on for my fever-addled brain. The music major lobes of my brain started flashing MRI-scan red, following every line of counterpoint; my immune system started flashing red alert, and stopped that thought process before it could divert energy away from my shivering.
  • In a similar vein, the blue and white sheet that Olivia's mother gave me last summer when I was sweltering in Philadelphia under a duvet. My bed, while purple underneath, is bedecked in fabulouse Marimekko red -- more than I can handle this sick. Oy.
  • My watch. Using it to time three minutes to the exact second while I take my temperature on the thermometer I got yesterday (it ranges from 99 to 103 F). Unlike the circular ones we had back in Madison in the '80s, this has no mercury, and is ovaloid, specifically to not roll off a flat surface (but it makes it harder to keep under the tounge.) My watch is still the same Swatch I got not in Switzerland, but right after it -- the band is a little worse for the wear, but the rest of it still pleases me immensely. It's such a personal thing, finding a watch-face one jives with ...
  • My new cell phone. I've been fielding calls all afternoon, in varying degrees of hoarseness -- no, I can't come out; I'm rolling around shivering / vomiting / feeling ill.
  • My book -- The Fellowship of the Ring. Dude, Jaime warned me it was dense -- it reads like fucking Genesis! The Hobbit wasn't nealy this thick! But, i want to have read the whole trilogy before the third one comes out in theatres mid-December. This is the first time I think I've ever seen the movie before I've read the book (Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and The Phantom Tollboth don't count!) -- and the images are staying with me. I put dinosaur stickers, purchased for me at a late-night CVS last week by Girish, on the faces of the images on their covers.
  • Ski socks. The best ever. When I'm in a cold flash, nothing heats up my Wisconsin-frostbitten toes like a pair of Swiss socks!
  • Pink nalgene. Has stood the test of time, containing mostly liter after liter of cranberry juice this past week. Starting to smell a little nalgene-y, but I suppose that's what they do.
  • Tylenol and antibiotics. Finally did the research (or rather, made Claire do it, as I was feeling too weak) Friday night, and got myself into a doctor Saturday afternoon. Which I should have done a week ago. But the symptoms were almost negligible! Except that Friday morning, biking to work (the first time in the cold air -- harsher on the lungs), I nearly fell over with cramping and wheezing. Just the cold, thought I; I've been slightly out of shape (missed my Thursday maintenance run -- too tired) and it's cold out. Pale and convulsing, I walked into Delafield, totally unaware what had hit me. Guess it was the proceeding infection. But Tylenol is keeping this fever in relative abeyance, and I ought to be much better by the day.
  • Bucket. Just in case.

Sun Oct 12 23:22:45 EDT 2003

My foot hurts. Oddly enough, it feels rather in the 5th metatarsal area, but as it's not purple and twice its size after a good afternoon's sleep, I'm concluding that it's not broken.

It's my own damn fault, I suppose, as these things usually are. Trying to be too hardcore and a lush (too hardcore a lush?) at the same time. Went running yesterday morning, and by "running" I mean "ran eight miles in the morning as part of the AIDS marathon training." Got up around 8 to do this, ate half a Luna bar (couldn't convince myself to have a whole one -- I'm new to this whole eating-while-running thing, and am subscribing slowly); ran a billion (eight) miles; had a banana, half a bagel, and a muffin -- and this is all before breakfast. Claire and I then made huge pancakes, mine with bananas and walnuts, which I drowned in syrup, eaten with coffee and orange juice (the remnants of sweet JM's Tropicana). That was breakfast.

It's surreal, almost, how my body's started to cry out for food. It's not as if I've been starving myself, and I don't think it's still making up for last weekend's sickness-induced fast. After another episode of Queer as Folk (Claire & I are going through the first season from the beginning, as I missed most of her and Megan Jo's QaF blitz last semester), I fell asleep on the couch ... and woke up half an hour later hungry. Piece of bread and cheese. Then, in the Wheaton mall (I'd say don't ask, but do), had a pretzel, and was again ravenous by the time we got home, Target- and raver-pants- purchases-laden (I now have a lamp for my room!), a few hours later. Ordered out Chinese food but somehow omitted much of anything for Claire or John Mark, and scarfed a pint of lo mein.

I ask you! Cravings? No, just these eight miles screaming for fuel the entire day. That and the recent biking. Metabolism's way up -- it's nice to eat whatever I want (this binge of a day then followed up that evening by chai and an Irish coffee with half a piece of thick dark chocolate cake at Sparky's), but it's taking me off-guard.

Malls, as mentioned above. Usually sources of pure, undiluted evil -- the kind that disintegrates lobster livers, pollutes large bodies of water, and makes me run screaming from avatars of everything capital-A American -- this mall, being no exception to the general rule, is forgiven for the day. I needed something to dance in. I had gotten pink and purple Diesel shoes the night before (a middle-aged, white-haired woman, watching me checking the information on the tongues of the one pair of remaining shoes, miraculously in my size, smiled benevolently down at me and said "I think you need those -- they're very chic!" and I had to agree). But shoes alone, while they probably prevented me from a broken as opposed to just sore foot, do not make the outfit. I needed pants. Pockets, to dispense with the feminine necessary evil of a purse. Baggy, so as to dance in without looking like I just came from bar-hopping in Georgetown. And, why not, strings hanging down the side ... oh, say the word: I wanted raver pants. And got same. And a pink mesh shirt.

Some hours later, Bepigtailed and caffeinated, John Mark (unbepigtailed) and I (bobbly plastic knobs securing what little hair I have these days) hit Insomnia. One would think that a venue for one of the world's hottest DJs would be large enough to accommodate the holders of the 2000+ tickets it sold, or be perhaps not frequented like girls and women who probably had hit the bars in Georgetown before coming. One would be wrong. Besides the prominent DJ booth, at which the resident was spinning absolute 16-bar formulaic shit when we came in, two large cages were the foci of the dancefloor (only women allowed; bouncer-enforced). Phenomena in four-inch boots, small gold dresses, shirts slit six ways to Sunday (as my mother would say), skirts that barely existed, all clambered in once the initial watershed was broken and the paid dancers moved out. Wall-to-wall bodies were bopping to an uninventive, rote beat, shaking glow sticks (sold at the entrance shop along with cigarettes) to prove they were ravers, and packed so solid that movement was impossible --

-- until around three AM. Paul van Dyk took his sweet time transitioning from the shit the resident DJ had laid down, and partygoers were still packing every surface. Finally (was it John Mark's shaggy orange wig? my pink mesh shirt? anyways, we got a little space for some reason) things cleared enough for the word radius to be applicable, and one could start to dance. And this was no predictable sixteen-beater -- so firmly rooted in the western tradition, PvD was to the resident what a first-semester theory student doing a first-species counterpoint exercise was to the composer who does not stop to analyze the music coming out of his pen (or turntables). From then until five, something Wagnerian in scale grew and manipulated a two thousand bodies in a seething, roaring mass (no velvet pants) into a climax and almost Firebird-like coda.

(In the continuing theme of understanding aspects of Martin and our relationship two years after the fact, one of the things I most enjoyed in the middle of the dancefloor under Paul van Dyk's spell was how much I was reveling in my body's interaction with the music -- just me, my brain digging unconsciously into music theory as the beats spun by, and my pink and purple shoes (dirtier by the minute) participating in the music -- how much of a solitary thing this process is. I never used to understand his need for so much space as he danced; the zone he got in at places like Natraj Temple in Kunstpark Ost. Or even his own parties. Ironic, maybe, that I should only come to realize this now, and that another German DJ should show me it.)

Had he stopped there, at 5, when the doors were supposed to close, at the point to which I had been pacing myself, it would have been tantamount to a classical concert (except seldom do I go to those in pink mesh, and never am I dancing the whole time). But the crowd kept going, and so another chapter began. I couldn't move at this point -- my foot inexplicably hurt so much that I had been standing all but still, dancing only with my arms, until the effort grew to too much and I was letting the wind-down wash over me. A brief second wind came over me when a girl handed me two pink glowsticks, taken I guess with their color correspondence to my hair and shirt, and me feet had no choice but obey my hands, swirling the neon rose lights. But by 5:30, my body rebelled. Exhausted but happy, we admitted defeat, limped to a cab, and from there to the Diner, where omelets added to the glut of the day's food intake.

This morning -- and by morning, I mean 2 PM, and that's early -- I could walk, but that wore off when I tried to go more than two blocks on it. Guess my feet didn't like the eight miles, mall perambulation, and high-impact dancing all in one day. They better get used to it, though because Tiësto is coming in two weeks.

Sun Oct 19 11:16:30 EDT 2003

Reading David Lodge's Thinks..., I'm returned to my senior-fall AI class -- the one Andrew persuaded me to take when I was drunk at my own party that summer in the apartment on Chestnut Street with Jenny and Eve, writing shell scripts to simulate the -Z flag of music123, and pliable to anything off the beaten track of music and linguistics. He cites the What is it like to be an X papers (bat; thermometer), sums them up succinctly from a third-person perspective, and then dives into individual accounts -- on the one hand, his character arguing for strong AI; on the other, the format of existence of that character (existing in a novel) arguing for qualia and their necessarily alienating divide, and for consciousness being the domain of the novel. A fascinating start to this DC Swat alumni book group!

I pull out my old AI notes; skim through them; contemplate the differences between StreamSage (all this real-world applications; statistical language techniques; multiple components trying to jive all together -- weak AI, so far) and the clean beauty of academia (pruning algorithms in a minimax search; philosophical questions of consciousness).

And just as my head is swollen with ivory-towerness, walking down the hallway to put the wash in the dryer, I catch a whiff of the Tassajara bread, my first loaf of this recipe, that I'm baking in the oven. Immediate comforting mmm sensation; flashbacks to the breadmaker Mom adapted her mother-in-law's nisua recipe to -- and a second of thought later, I realize it's the archetypal quale. Bread baking. I have it in my notes from the last day of class as "Hard problems -- how do physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience?". Ha. I'm looking forward to this Swattie book group -- Consciousness and the Novel, the theme is.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have a subjective human experience and break into this fresh bread.

Sun Oct 26 14:26:04 EST 2003

Admittedly, Greg was very drunk last night. He was the only one who kept opening bottles after we took two cabs back from Jaleo to Wayne's place in Maryland, braving the Chinese fire shit, breaking into a halbtrocken riesling, his mouth working at cross purposes consuming alcohol and dispensing wisdom. I only kept up with the six guys over dinner and postprandials because of my water intake. And Greg was the wrecked-est this morning when we all opened our eyes around 9:30, which was 10:30 EDT but I'd set all the clocks an hour back in a drunken fit of industriousness last night. He moaned a lot and launched himself into the task of making biscuits, his long hair flying as he flailed at the dough. Wayne handed him a rolling pin (the French baton kind) and a recipe and got out of his way.

So yes, he was drunk at the time. But that doesn't mean I think he wasn't lucid when he commented this weekend that I look the most -- how did he put it? -- relaxed, happy, that he's ever seen me. Not that he's ever seen me much in the past -- I only met him a year ago, almost to the day -- when he came down from New York accompanying Fanjul, and they blasted L'Amour à Trois and peeled out of the Palmer driveway and climbed my walls and shouted a lot. They brought me a coffee table.

Perhaps my looking healthier and happier (that is, if Greg wasn't utterly full of shit) is a factor of having graduated, being out of the crazy intense scholastic environment of the past four years. It's true -- no matter how good Swat was for me in so many ways, the one thing it's not was healthy ... so I recalled, sitting by Emily's side in the emergency room all Thursday, as her body failed to deal with residual manifestations of protracted stress. She's fine, but it still amazes me that her B.A. not only got her a great job but an ambulance ride.

All six Dudes converged on DC this weekend, reunited for the first time in who knows how long, and definitely the first time I've seen them all together. Claire even got to meet them briefly -- between a two-hour brunch chez Au Pied du Cochon, a stint at the Air & Space museum, and before a much-lubricated and fantastically Catalunian dinner at Jaleo, all eight of us (including me and Xanthi -- Xanthi! so many swatties in the area!) trooped into my apartment where my fantastic barista roommate had all six scopa demitasse cups lined up and Papa Moka, the pater familias of the coffee clan on our purple shelf, fired up and pouring espresso. Shots all around and water to dispell the afternoon's dehydration; kahlua -- and then our table was ready at Jaleo.

  • sangria
  • cava
  • silver tequila
  • something amazing, smooth, and full, at least half tempranillo
  • rioja
  • amontillado
  • amaretto

... and that was just at dinner. And I'm sure I forgot something. Chris took charge of the sommeliering; tapas came and went (pan con tomate y manchego reminding me of my five or so days in Barcelona my junior year) ... these dudes know how to eat, know how to drink, know how to live. And I kept up -- mostly because for every round of drinks, I drank a round of water by myself. Secret weapon. Fanjul fed me meat; Chuck was appalled at my vegetarian lapses and ate amazing paella.

Wed Oct 29 15:39:58 EST 2003

I've been doing the Crossword again. Capital-C as in the Will Shortz, New York Times puzzle, increasing in difficulty during the week, from Monday to Impossible. This started in the spring of 2002, when the Barn 3S got the paper, and continued into senior year over early-morning Lady Grey. But this week I can't seem to even finish Tuesday, let alone Wednesday. I bet I'm just out of practice.

The company is moving to office space -- between I & K on 16th, I hear, though I haven't seen it yet -- in two and a half weeks. Initially, I didn't like the plan at all -- I like this house; I like riding to work (though I was too lazy to motivate myself for it this morning). I like the irregular sunflower yellow room in which I have my computer set up (now a desktop, and a new LCD); I like the kitchen and ease of lunch; I like borrowing Joanne's slippers when my feet get cold.

But thinking about it more, it will be a good change. For one, it's downtown in the business district. Not only do Claire, Jaime, Joanne, and everybody work down in that area, not to mention the preponderance of restaurants and cafés catering to the lunch-hour crowd, but it's a shorter commute by half, and along non-hilly terrain. These days it's been hard to get my ass not only out of bed, but to work -- I'm still biking, but it's started to get cold.

And by cold, I don't mean the Wisconsinite, parka-over-your-Halloween-costume cold I grew up in, nor even the Pennsylvanian, leaves-turning-brown, pleasant turtleneck-cold -- no, this is just stupid days of chill, punctuated by late-summer August weather (or at least early-fall September warmth). And I'm bitter on one front, and miffed on the other. Bitter, because it's not colder, and the leaves are still green. Those that aren't green are dead, but there's no busting out of gold and orange like at home, and not even a Swarthmorean token leaf-changing. Nothing. People say it's because we've had too much rain this summer, and it's not usually like this ... it better not be.

It's still raining -- not currently, but spitting during this morning's bus ride, and pouring during last night's drag race. Claire and I, along with thousands of others, lined 17th St. between P and Q to watch Chad and maybe a hundred other men (and one or two women) in glorious drag, sprinting, running, tiptoing, and strutting towards the finish line of this 100-yarder. Quite the sight, and no one seemed to get bedraggled despite the temperature and weather. Nonetheless, I left soon after the actual race, and went home to warm my toes, eat macaroni, and watch a much-needed When Harry met Sally.

But -- weather-wise -- miffed, because I'm surprised at my own reaction to the turn of seasons (such as it is). Usually I love it, the sweater bundling-up, sleeping under Daunendecke -- and while I still do, this is the first fall I've been active in. Biking feels very different in the warm sun than in biting wind or cold rain. I need to get myself something warmer to bike in -- what does one use in these circumstances? a fleece? I don't even know what's appropriate. I don't even have a long-sleeved t-shirt, so the wind goes straight up the sleeves of whatever shirt I've appropriated as biking gear for the week unless I clutch the corners of my sleeves to the handlebars. Weather like this makes it hard to get myself out the door, if I know I have to be working from within it just to get to work.

But a commute half the distance -- no farther than Dupont Circle -- and along flat ground ... well, that might get me out of the house. Or at least out of bed.

Another reason for celebration at the move to office space is that I can finally justify home delivery of the New York Times again. It's such a splurge, especially when the other nationally-acclaimed paper is local ... but then again, so worth it. I love the writing. I love the stories they choose to cover. I love the layout. I love the crossword. And with a roommate and a cup of tea with whom to share it, and cut off from access to it chez Delafield, mornings might even become pleasant, and earlier.

Fri Oct 31 14:19:56 EST 2003

Dinner at Teaism last night with Claire and Jenny, who I haven't seen in what feels like months (five minutes at the drag race Tuesday; drunkenly at Tryst when the Krafft brothers came through last month) didn't taste particularly Thai or particularly Japanese ... my tofuverious-convert roommate and I devoured the remains of the soy anyhow. And sat, over pots of assam (us) and hojicha (Jenny), not saying much. Conversation, sure. Claire's computers at Ritz still recalcitrant. My data at work being shuffled through slowly. Jenny's entire office spinning their wheels.

It's amazing, the effect that a slow period (of just babysitting shell scripts instead of modifying much more complex Java classes) appears to have on my state of mind. I have no mental occupation! It's like the end of the four-week college vacation, when I sit around reading every book I can get my hands on and wishing for something to think critically about. Without so much as code to debug, I'm starting to go crazy. I can't hold a conversation; I feel like I'm in small-talk mode with even my better friends more often than not. I start thinking about grad school -- me, not six months out of college! And I wouldn't even know what to study, were I to go.

Jaime and Jenny -- who I have to trust, as they've been in the working world years longer than I -- tell me this is normal, that there are down-days, down weeks, down months. I can't fathom it.

And I start thinking about just why, at the last minute, I switched from majoring in music to CS. I remember that I had good reasons. I don't regret the switch. And I love my job, I do ... but when I'm not doing anything mentally occupying at it, and I sit there listening to the 24/7 classical station WCPE's ogg stream, I wish somehow I were playing viola.

Of course, all 10 of my nails are still long (and blue, to match my 'do from the Wig Wednesday at L'Enfant with Jaime a couple days ago!), but I want to play. I want an excuse to play -- a symphony, a chamber group. Something to work towards again.

-- And like magic, there it is. A few days ago, I responded to a random email (he dropped me a line having found his citation here from a year and a half ago -- I knew I kept this thing for a reason!) from my old friend Eric (Swatties, Swatties everywhere!). He emails me back out of the blue, asking me to premiere a viola piece of his that he's just finished, that he's been working for as long as I've known him -- in Philly, in December, at a club, in one huge multimedia blowout, which is itself a promotion for -- what did I call it? -- his "crazy pothead Bach-meets-Xenakis mathematics of musical texture ideas," which are actually going onstage in January. !! I'm so there. Excuse to start playing again.

(I think, really, it was karmic -- I'd just pledged a good chunk of cash to WCPE (their fall pledge drive), not only to get the premium of a station-identified Brahms mug, but to keep classical music in my life.)

all this ©nori heikkinen, October 2003

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