As mentioned in the last update, I'm back in Ohio. Pretty much just biding my time. I found a place I think I'm really going to like, and they were really excited to have me move there. Unfortunately I can't move in until the 12th. That first night I was a bit homesick, but by the next evening I didn't want to deal with having to come back.
But I did.
Just in time for New Year's Eve. And I hadn't even thought to make plans. And nobody had invited me to anything. Probably just as well. The last few years have been disasters. Last year I specifically chose which party I was going to based on the number of single people who said they'd be attending. Not to try and hook up, but so I wouldn't be the only one. So I went to a party and all the other singles canceled. And to make it even worse all the couples at the party had just gotten engaged that month. So it was nothing but smooching and wedding planning all around me. I ended up not speaking to any of the single people who bailed for months.
After I got back I had a bad case of the sniffles, so I rang in the new year sitting all alone in my pajamas strung out on cold medicine.
Today I packed up the last of the personal things. Some things were just kind of wistful, like papers from when I first started graduate school; to the painful, such as "I love you, I love you, I love you" cards from Jen. Hallmark: printing lies to cardboard since 1915! :p
But now it's down to loading the major furniture onto a Uhaul, and making a one way trip. At this point I just want it to be over. Kind of like just ripping off a Band-Aid as opposed to trying to peel it off slowly. I guess at this point I've seen most of my old friends for the last time. I know a few people will make the effort to try and see me once before I leave for good. My mom wants to have everyone over for dinner, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort. I doubt I can get everyone together in one place.
I'm thinking 2007 will be interesting. Probably not as eventful as 2006. I suspect the first few months I'll be swamped learning things at work. When the weather gets warm Maryland should be fun. I doubt diving will be as amazing as it was in Hawaii, but I'm very near the beach.
So, for the moment, I'm in a twilight zone. I've already moved on, but I'm not actually there yet. If there's anyone that still needs my new address and phone number just get a hold of me sometime this week.
I found a place I can call my own. I'm back in Ohio, and now I get to finish packing.
One thing I think I'm going to like about living on the East Coast - these Utz chips are delicious!
I flew into Baltimore today to look for a place to live. I thought I had done a lot of research, and was prepared, but now I see that it's really going to come down to luck. I'm staying at the same hotel as last time, right up the street from the Institute, but I like my room more. Last time I had two beds, which always makes me feel odd. And I have no idea why. This time it's just one big one, and some chairs. And they gave me warm cookies when I checked in. Apparently that's a company policy, but nobody gave me cookies last time.
One thing that is the same as last time is I don't feel well. My flight today was at noon, so I got to get some sleep, but not enough. I've been waking up early, but still staying up late. So I still feel a bit out of it. There's at least none of the stress that comes with having an interview in the morning. In fact I'm planning on sleeping in late, if I can. But I think I'm homesick. I didn't have the chance to do any touristy things like I did last time. I had just enough time after landing and picking up my car to visit one potential residence. It's out towards the coast, so it was a bit of a drive from the airport. Then I forgot how long the whole application process took, and touring the house.
It was the tour that provoked the homesickness, I think. The place looked so much like where Mike grew up at Eastpointe. It's not identical, but just eerily close. Complete with bored kids standing around in all the parking lots. It's a nice place, but I may have to go with somewhere else, just for my sanity. Then again, being able to ride a bike to the beach could make up for that.
I called Jen from the airport before I left. I guess I haven't written much here, so if I haven't spoken to you in person the update is that we did finally have the "I'm moving" talk. And I traded in my Neon for a Civic, but that update will have to wait. I say we had the talk, but I think we're still having it. I honestly didn't expect her to be upset. I assumed she'd be a bit relieved, in fact. But her reaction was immediate. From giggly hellos to a choked sob and, "I'm happy for you. I really am. But I never imagined you would not always be here for me..." And I actually feel guilty about it, with all the shit she's going through right now. But she's found someone else, and it sounds very serious. So I have to convince myself (and her) that's it not my job to watch over her anymore. And, as a friend, I'm always reachable by phone, email, or instant messaging. But, after finding her again after all these years I'm finding it hard to risk losing her again.
Saying goodbye to everyone is different than I expected it to be. The reality is that there are quite a lot of people that I will in all likelihood never talk to again. Sure, I'll be going back to Ohio a few times a year, at least at first, but I don't want to do that with all my vacation time. And I don't actually think anyone is going to come out here to see me. Maybe Greg, during baseball season. Once, at least. And I'm worried about finding new friends here. I know I'll like everyone I work with. But I don't see any close friendships forming there. I got along great with everyone I went to OSU with- but I never felt close to any of them. And I never talked to any of them after I graduated, except a few quick hellos when I went back for a couple of public lectures. There's really only a few people that I went to grad school with that I would even care about keeping in touch with, and that will be difficult as people graduate, get married, and disperse to all corners of the globe. I find my fellow scientist too nerdy, I guess. I suppose my closest friends only tolerate me because they knew me before I was Brainiac Astrophysics Guy.
So maybe I'm just tired. Or maybe nobody gives a shit.
I honestly think I was expecting Gerald Ford to outlive George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It seemed like nothing could kill that guy.
So, it's official now. I've accepted the position with STScI in Baltimore. I'll start in January, which means I have a hell of a lot of work to do in a very short period of time.
Actually, not as much as people may have been led to believe. I decided in September that I was moving somewhere else after the first of the year no matter what. It was convenient that several nice opportunities came along shortly thereafter. I already had friends elsewhere looking for places to stay and anyone looking for a teacher or programmer, in case I couldn't find an astronomy job in time.
But I don't like keeping secrets from my friends. And I know they were suspicious. Several times I was asked some discomforting questions, and either gave not-quite answers or rather obviously changed the subject. I felt like Frodo shopping for a house in Crickhollow. But now everyone knows I mean to leave and not to return.
Well, almost everyone. The first person I called after getting the first phonecall was Jen. I knew she'd be on her way to work then, so I left a message for her to call me back ASAP. She didn't. She called me today when I was going to start looking for a new car, and I didn't hear the message until a few hours later. Apparently she passed me heading down Conant Street and was calling to find out why I was in Maumee. No answer when I called back. So, unless the gossip mill has reached her she has no idea I'm leaving. Or she doesn't care. For reasons I can't go into I think both options are equally likely.
The great thing about the timing is that Mike finally starts his new job the same time I do. He's only been doing the same thing since we were 16. Sarah was ecstatic when she heard I was moving to Baltimore. She's always wanted to go there, and with Mike's new job they'll have more money and (at long last) free weekends so they can come and visit.
It's really only now sinking in, as more and more congratulations pour in, and I settle more of the details of moving. It's going to be a challenge, and I can't help but feel in some small way that I'm running away from things here. On the other hand, I'm also running towards something new. My family and dearest friends are here, and will remain. But I was growing to feel that if I tried to stay here with them I would destroy myself. Or at least become someone very bitter. Great things are happening for everyone I'm leaving behind. And I know that, in some way, I was responsible for their achieving such happiness. But I can't share in it. If I'm ever to be happy it must be someplace else. The Shire has been saved, but not for me.
OK, as promised, here are my thoughts on my most recent trip. I was insanely busy last week. Monday brought a personal issue to a head. I really didn't need that then, but if it had been festering, so I decided I had to deal with it. That was in the midst of catching up on my grading, and preparing final exams for all my classes. Oh yeah, and trying to get the department moving on finding subs while I was gone. Needless to say, I wasn't getting much sleep. I didn't have time to pack until Tuesday night, and finally got around to watching Superman Returns late that evening. And ended up getting not a wink of sleep.
The ride up to the airport was a bit surreal. It was cold, dark, and the lack of sleep was definitely starting to affect me. All I could see the whole way up I-75 was the orange lights of factories off in the distance, and the red tail lights of the occasional semi. My dad drove me up there, but I don't think we spoke more than 6 or seven words to each other until we arrived. It was cold and surreal.
The airport was nearly empty and I breezed through check-in and security even quicker than normal. And DTW usually is not bad at all. So I had a few hours to kill. I promised Jen I would call her before I left, so I did that. I don't remember now if she answered, or if she called me back later. I know I talked to her for awhile at the airport before she left for her 8:00 class. Then I wanted breakfast, but the only place open near my gate was Taco Bell, and CNN was on all the monitors reporting that an E. Coli outbreak was being tied to Taco Bell restaurants. So I just got a Pepsi and some corn chips from a nearby newsstand. Then, as was related in the mysteriously missing post, I sat and read my copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, since it had been on my mind lately.
Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the heropath. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
With that on my mind I boarded the plane and shyly answered a few questions from the pretty girl in the seat next to me. Somewhere above the clouds of Pennsylvania I drifted off to sleep and dreamed of secrets.
The short nap did me good. After picking up my luggage and rental car I headed north to Baltimore. With the help of a printed out webpage and a lot of luck I found my first destination, the Poe grave site. The weather was gorgeous: sunny and 50F. It was still a bit windy, so I was glad I had brought a scarf and gloves. I lucked out and found a cheap parking lot next to the Lexington Market, and walked a few blocks over to Westminster Graveyard. It seemed wrong, somehow, to be paying respects to someone who gave us such dark and macabre visions on such a beautiful, sunny day. Well, not wrong, per se. Just not the image you would picture in your mind. The grave is right next to a busy street, so people were walking along happily and smiling through the wrought iron fence as I sat with Edgar. Old friends will understand the reasoning, but before I left I had to call Mike from Poe's resting place. After a few more quiet minutes it was back to the Baltimore traffic and down to the harbor.
I had set the rest of my day aside to visit the National Aquarium, but I was amazed at how beautiful the entire harbor area was. I took a few photographs as I walked around, but if I had known what to expect I would have planned to spend much more time. But admission to the aquarium was by timed ticket, and I was getting very hungry.
As always, when I plan something during the day I forget about the primary demographic that shares my interest: school groups. I guess the aquarium was nowhere near as crowded as it gets during the summer months, but as i walked into the cafe all I saw were tables filled with teenagers. And a giant set of shark jaws. I was one of only four or so adults in the whole room, and near the exit to the aquarium exhibits. I glanced up once to catch a girl, probably 15 or 16, pointing in my direction and whispering to her friends. I could hear voices of a group of guys at the only table behind me, so I laughed to myself that they must be checking out the boys. A few minutes later the girls took up their trays, and as they passed by me they quickly pushed The Pointer into my table. There was a small eruption of blushing and giggles, and one obviously embarrassed teenage girl. Just in case I missed the point, one of her friends scurried back and gleefully informed me that "My friend thinks your hot!" Things like that did not happen when I was actually their age.
I'm not even going to try and describe the aquarium. I took as many pictures as I could fit on the single memory card I had with me. Amazing place. I finally managed to get a sea turtle picture, even if it was looking down on a tank and not the one who was playing tag with me in the pacific last winter. Taking pictures got me a lot of attention from the parents and staff. The parents because they claimed by following me they knew what was interesting, and in cases like the frogs, where to find the things in their displays. To the staff I was obviously interested in the animals, so they had someone they could talk to. I got some great shots and learned some neat things about the environment of the Chesapeake Bay.
After I had filled my memory card, and deleted every last picture I absolutely didn't want to keep to try and get one more shot in, I headed further north to Johns Hopkins and my hotel. Thankfully the hotel wasn't as ugly as the one I stayed in while I was in Boston, because by the time I got there the lack of sleep had caught back up to me and I just wanted to collapse.
The first annoyance at the hotel was I couldn't connect to the wifi in my room. The instruction card gave a number to call for tech support, so I did. The tech couldn't believe the hotel would ask guests to call the support line themselves, but we managed to eventually fix the problem. Turns out all the information in the hotel's booklet was wrong. After we figured out the correct settings I was up and running.
After that I was getting irritated and cranky. I knew I needed something to eat, but didn't want to leave my room. There was a restaurant in the hotel, and room service, but the menu in the room sounded much more fancy then I was in the mood for then. I just wanted something simple, and hot. (The heat was off in my room when I arrived, so it was still chilly.) And I knew I needed a nap, but every time I started to get undressed I'd remember someone else I needed to call, or something I had to check before the interview. That went on for a few hours.
Finally I realized I wasn't going to get a nap and went for a walk to find something to eat. It turned out there was a vegetarian place just a block or so down from the hotel. I've never eaten in a vegetarian restaurant, but I assumed it would have something I'd like. Unfortunately it was packed. So I walked on. Another few blocks and there was a deli. Perfect! Except the actual deli was closed. It doubled as a convenience store, so there was nothing but booze and food that I had no way to prepare in my room. I ended up getting to see a lot of the campus area before I found a Ruby Tuesday and got some chicken wings to take back with me.
Sometime back in my room there online chats with Becky and then Mike, and growing boredom and frustration. I even tried to play WoW for the first time in weeks, only to discover that a new version had been released and I had a 500MB download to make before I could play again. And I was starting to think I was coming down with a bad cold. Eventually I gave up and went to bed to get some rest.
I still didn't manage to get enough sleep, but I felt a lot better in the morning. My dad called while I was eating breakfast to make sure he had the correct time to pick me up that evening. Luckily he did, because I had turned my phone off of vibrate for the first time in recent memory to use it as my alarm. Then, since Jen is always up at the crack of dawn, I sent her a quick text message letting her know I felt a bit better. It was about 9:00, so I finished my bagel sandwich and left for the interview.
I didn't start out auspiciously. I thought I took a wrong turn walking across the campus and got totally lost. I stopped into the first building I came to, the Johns Hopkins Club, and asked everyone there for help finding the road I was looking for. Nobody had any clue. I realized that I just so happened to have a phone in my pocket, so I called the Institute, explained what had happened, and that I'd be there as soon as I got back on the right path. The next building I came across was an office for the Carnegie Institution. The secretary had never heard of any of the buildings I was told to ask for directions to, but as soon as I mentioned I was going to the Space telescope Science Institute she happily told me it was right next door. I hadn't really gotten lost, I was just on the other side of a group of trees. And, in everyone who tried to help defense, no one I talked with at the Institute knew the names of the buildings I had stopped at, even if they were right next door.
Luckily I ended up only being a few minutes late, but I was worried it was a bad first impression. I was quickly put at ease, though. Everyone I met was friendly, I think I represented myself well. Towards the end of my first meeting with Paul Lee, who will be more boss if I get the job, my phone started vibrating in my pocket. That was why I was thankful my dad had called earlier. I figured it was Jen forgetting what time my interview was, and calling to wish me good luck. I didn't get a chance to hear the message until much later, and found out I was only partially right. It was Jen, but she was calling to tease me about waking her up on the first day she didn't have to be up early for class. She said later that she had totally forgotten I was out of the state at that point.
Like I said, I think the interview went well. The day went quickly since I was rushed from person to person, and was grilled with questions from all of them the whole time. I was told by nearly everyone that the panel I would face in the afternoon could be intimidating, but I enjoyed it. Lots of real in-depth questions about things I had worked on, and it felt good to be able to talk about them with people again.
I left cautiously optimistic. Then, for the sake of brevity, it was more Campbell while sitting around an airport and a short flight back to Detroit. Followed by lots of questions from my dad on the way home, and another round of phone calls that keep me up late yet again.
Now it's just a game of waiting. But the threshold has been crossed.
I wrote an entry last night, making just a few observations on my trip, and some things Mike and had been talking about on the phone when I got back. But it's vanished. I have no idea what happened. There's a record of the entry, "A Glimpse Into My Deranged Mine". But no entry for it in the logs, or any trace of the text. I'm stumped.
Pictures from my first day in Baltimore should be up in the morning. I'll try to write up details about the trip sometime this weekend.
Hm. Not even a week since my last post, and yet so much has happened. The semester is coming to a close, and with it a ton of scurrying and stress, but also a sense of closure. Like most things in life, I guess, it didn't play out the way it was supposed to. The whole reason I took the job became moot on my very first day. Nearly every student in all of my classes quickly grew to hate me, or at least were very hostile. That quickly changed to grudging admiration, as they realized that I was strict, but they were actually learning things. Now the past few weeks it's been exclamations that I'm one of the best teachers they've ever had, and begging me to teach whatever they have to take next. There's a real sense of accomplishment there, but also the realization that if I stay on I'll have to go through it all again, starting from square one, with every new class.
Wednesday I leave for Baltimore. I've never been there, but I've been through various parts of Maryland and to D.C. a few times. What I recall was beautiful. I've heard nothing but good things about the city itself, but I have a dislike of cities in general that I can never seem to shake. And the Institute's right smack dab downtown, so if I do get the job I'll probably be stuck in some tiny apartment surrounded by miles of concrete. But, I'm really excited about the opportunity. And I think it's coming along at the perfect time.
Saturday night I polished off a bottle of cheap rum in a matter of a couple of hours all by myself. Well, I think Greg may have had a small glass, but still. I took it as yet another wakeup call. Surprisingly I woke up at 10 Sunday morning and felt perfectly fine. I just made sure to drink a lot of water all day. I really felt I deserved a raging all day hangover, but apparently not.
There's been a good deal more dragon slaying as of late. Lots of helping old friends get through things, too. What is it people always say? Those that can't do teach? Maybe that's true of life in general. People that know me so well, my inexperience and failures at nearly every meaningful relationship, are turning to me first for advice, or just consolation. And are happy with the results.
Mike told me years ago he always pictured me as a priest. I think he may have been on to something. Or maybe Martin Gore hit the nail on the head
And I will go down on my knees
When I see beauty
There's no doubt
I'm one of the devout
But it's my duty
I'm a missionary
In the back of my mind all day today I tried to figure out where the title of the last post came from. "Holdfast the Tyrant" just popped into my mind as I was writing it, and I gave it no further thought until after it was posted. It sounded vaguely mythological, but I could not remember from what story. After cooking supper tonight it occurred to me it was a rather Campbellian phrase, so I dug out my well-worn copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
For the mythological hero is the champion not of things become but of things becoming: the dragon to be slain by him is precisely the monster of the status-quo: Holdfast, the keeper of the past. From obscurity the hero emerges, but the enemy is great and conspicuous in the seat of power; he is enemy, dragon, tyrant, because he turns to his own advantage the authority of his position. He is Holdfast not because he keeps the past but because he keeps
Yesterday there was a message on my voice mail from Jen, after not talking to her in over a week. She just wanted to let me know that she had run into my prior girlfriend, from over a decade ago, shopping at Wal-Mart. Talk about the past! But it certainly made me think about all these old demons that refuse to let go. Except now I have a bright and shiny sword...