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Happiness and Cheer

November 18, 2010

When I lived in the city, all the people drove me crazy, pressed in on me, crowded me, got in my way. Now, sitting on a city bus parked by the train station, waiting for the departure hour, I can’t stop staring at each and every person who walks by. Using my Harriet-the-Spy-honed powers of observation (or flair for dramatic fiction, I’m not sure which), I come up with random pieces of information about them. The woman in the puffy white ski jacket pulling on a white ski hat is a no brainer. She’s a marathoner. She ran the marathon last month and has switched to shorter runs for the winter, but she’s not quite used to the new routine yet. The young man who’s immaculately and stylishly dressed except for wearing brown shoes with his otherwise black ensemble is off for a job interview. He has one nice suit and one nice pair of shoes. He’s hoping no one will notice they don’t match. Maybe that’s why he keeps looking at his feet. I silently wish him good luck. The woman who pulls a baby out of her long puffy coat like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat amazes me more than any magic trick. What else do you suppose she has in there? A pony? And do I really need to mention what’s going through the head of the guy at the ATM who is carrying his leather jacket (it is 28 degrees out) and has the sleeves of his starched and pristine white dress shirt rolled up to better show his toned arms and the neck unbuttoned just short of impropriety? He keeps touching his ass, which is revealed clearly through his closely tailored black dress pants.

Then the bus starts to move and there are other things to look at. Like how the strip club is now something called “Pink Monkey.” It’s probably still a strip club – it looks just as inscrutable. More so, even. Crossing the Roosevelt bridge, I think of two things: 1. Does anyone look at all the sculptures on top of the railing? Gyroscopes and books and a globe topped with dinosaurs. They are amazing. I look forward to them every time I ride this bus; and 2. I kayaked down that stretch of river! In the dark! With Cranky

The bus snakes onto Lake Shore Drive. I am sitting in my favorite spot, just behind the articulation. I like it when I can see the front of the bus out the window. It is one of those days where the lake is as grey as the sky, vanishing the horizon.

The bus drops me right next to the music building. I cut through the archway and into the connecting building with the coffee shop, where I plan to park myself until meeting time. It is draped in white Christmas lights. The ones behind me are flashing, reflecting off my computer screen. They are playing Christmas carols. If you have ever been to my university, you will know how incongruous this seems. A great mystery. Another great mystery in the coffee shop: What’s with all the mutton chops, college boys?

My meeting with my advisor lasted over two hours, which was a very good thing. We covered several chapters, all of which he liked and for which he had only fairly small changes, the kind that could be made in a day or so. He also went on at length about how much he liked my writing and what a pleasure my chapters were to read. I managed to accomplish my entire agenda – not always easy, because my advisor is charming and fun to talk to and we frequently go off on tangents that are productive, but distracting from my mission. I’ve learned that being prepared with a detailed list helps a lot. My biggest issues was how to get him to turn things around more quickly. He basically told me to give him deadlines when I submit and, if he doesn’t respond, to keep hassling him. I also suggested setting up regular meetings once a month and maybe a phone meeting in the middle as needed to discuss revisions. This was all met with enthusiasm. I still need to make sure he sticks to it, but I am cautiously optimistic. As a backup plan, though, I also got permission to send chapters to other readers before I send them to him – something he’d previously told me he didn’t want me to do — as needed. We set up a completion schedule and he agreed that the dates I proposed seemed doable. I find I don’t want to say any more about that, lest I jinx anything, but the news is all good. Well, mostly good. The job market is the less good news, but that’s not really news. Although it’s the best market in 3 years, there’s a big backlog of hiring. When my university posted a job, there were 157 applicants. “There aren’t 157 music jobs in the country,” said my advisor. And that includes what we call “applied music” and other people call performance teaching.

I’m back in the coffee shop for another 40 minutes until it’s time for my bus to leave. The Christmas music is still playing, although it’s largely drowned out by student chatter and the espresso machine. It’s warm and busy here. Also good.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cranky permalink
    November 18, 2010 4:35 pm

    Congrats on your progress with the advisor. Hope you can make him stick with it.

  2. November 18, 2010 6:16 pm

    Yes! Progress is good! And at least he likes your writing when he’ll deign to look at it.

  3. freshhell permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:32 pm

    I want to know your completion date but I don’t want to jinx it. Either way, it’s nice to have a goal to work towards and to have a light shining at the end of that tunnel.

  4. November 19, 2010 3:09 pm

    Suffice it to say that I have a detailed schedule and a specific completion date in mind, along with a ballpark target for the defense. One of the good things that I was able to accomplish at the meeting yesterday was a retooling of the second half which takes me from a total of 10 chapters down to 8, half of which are more or less completed — small changes only. The second half is mostly written, but will be getting some major reorganization. And I still need to write the last chapter. But really — 3 more chapters to finish and 4 months in which to do it. Totally doable. Logging the bibliography, though — that’s something I need to get more serious about quickly.

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