May 03, 2008

TSOTC: Monticello Field Trip From Hell

Itâs unfortunate that I canât sleep right now, since I have to be up at the crack of dawn to chaperone my second field trip for the students at the Center, although the word âchaperoneâ is a rather overinflated term here. Since the students are all adult college students, my only real job as chaperone is to carry around a list of names and make sure nobody gets on the bus who didnât pay for the trip, with the exception of myself, since I get to go for free. My second job is to make sure that the trip stays on schedule, and to remind the students that since we are a public university without money to spare for bus overtime, anyone whoâs late gets to take the train home. Iâve gone on one trip thus far, to Monticello, the tranquil and gracious mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson, and for awhile afterward I was undecided about chaperoning tomorrowâs trip to Gettysburg, the notorious scene of 3 daysâ carnage and mayhem in 1863.

The Monticello trip was several Saturdays ago. I arrived in the lobby to meet the students at 6:45 AM, and things started unraveling immediately. First of all, the trip was to be accompanied by Professor Difficult, a faculty member and general hanger-about the Center who had already deeply endeared himself to me by calling my advisor back home and telling him that I need to work harder on my dissertation. When he arrived in the lobby, the first thing he did was to make a beeline for me and kiss me on the cheek, a sweet and courtly old-man gesture that I particularly and uniformly despise.

As I was shooing away Professor Difficult and checking students off my list, I saw a man board the bus and make what appeared to be a lively speech to the students already on board, waving his arms. Then he got off the bus and came into the lobby. âWell,â he said, apparently to me, âI told âem I canât go on the trip. So you got to talk to the driver, âcause he ainât never been there before.â

His peculiar communication turned out to mean this: this man was the owner of the bus company, who was himself supposed to be driving our bus down to Monticello, a roughly 2-hour drive into Virginia. But, according to various accounts I later heard, it was either his 50th anniversary, or he wanted to go to a baseball game. Either way, he had made other plans. So he had assigned us a replacement driver who combined a maximum of age with a minimum of experience: a palsied octogenarian in a Coast Guard cap who had never driven to Monticello, or to the nearby town of Charlottesville, or to the rather out-of-the-way town of Manassas, or, as I later discovered, anywhere in the Washington DC area. For all I know, this man had flown out from the West Coast to visit his grandchildren and had been shanghaied into driving our bus.

All of this was imparted as I continued to check students onto the bus. In the middle of this, Professor Difficult began barking directions at me, directions which I failed to write down the first several times he yelled them, because I certainly wasnât going to be driving any bus, and I assumed that he could re-deliver the instructions to the bus driver as and when needed. Except, as he then told me, he was planning to drive down separately. The given reason for this was that he needed to spend the night in Charlottesville. The actual reason for this, of course, was that he was clearly going to have more fun driving his shiny silver convertible than riding on a tour bus with a bunch of college students. So the third time he barked directions at me, I dutifully scribbled them down on a corner of my list of names. The directions I got read, in their entirety:

66 to 250 to 28 to 64E to 20? to Monticello (look for some signs)

Anyone familiar with Washington and Virginia will immediately see what was going to happen. Unfortunately, neither the bus driver nor I had any experience with the area, and so we were unable to identify what was happening even while it was happening. To wit, rather than taking Highway 29 toward Charlottesville, we took Highway 28 to, and well past, Manassas. For those of us educated in the North and/or West, this is where the two famed Battles of Bull Run took place. For those of us on the bus that day, sadly, it was very much not where we needed to be. In short, what should have been a two-hour bus ride took nearly four and a half hours. I took some comfort in the fact that by Hour Three most of the students were asleep on the bus and therefore unable to witness the bus driver repeatedly having to pull over and ask random drivers for directions.

Professor Difficult, who had smuggled a friend of his along for the trip, arrived at Monticello a full two hours ahead of us. Someone in the Center had leaked my cell phone number to him, which he used to call and let me know exactly how remarkable he found it that the completely uninformed bus driver and I had managed to get lost, how pissed he was that we were late, and how generally incredulous he was that I was unable, from my position as a passenger, to cause the bus to move any faster in the right direction. According to my phoneâs call log, he called to berate me at:

10:11 AM
10:27 AM
10:33 AM
10:38 AM
10:47 AM
10:58 AM
11:03 AM
11:10 AM
11:13 AM
11:15 AM
11:16 AM

The last call came as the bus was pulling into the parking lot of Monticelloâs Visitor Center, which was hailed with cheers by all aboard. I answered the phone and said, âWe just got to the Visitor Center. Where are you and your friend waiting?â

âWhat do you mean youâre at the Visitor Center?â he said. âI mean, I just donât understand it, Katie. What the hell would possess you to go there?â

So we started the bus back up and followed the directions that Professor Difficult had barked at me over the phone, which led us up the hill to a community college. Then we turned the bus precariously around, went back down the hill, then up another hill to a gated community. Then we turned the bus around, went back down that hill, and randomly picked another uphill route, not the one Professor Difficult had prescribed but which nevertheless got us to Monticello itself, or at least to its parking lot, whence one takes a shuttle up to the house at the top of the hill.

Only 2 Â hours late for our tour, and in one piece, which I thought was pretty good. Students made a beeline for the restrooms and the food concession, and I got on the phone with the Centerâs events coordinator to let her know what was going on. While we were on the phone, I watched in total horror as Professor Difficult started pulling my students out of line and ordering them onto the shuttles. âThis man is insane,â I told the events coordinator. âI am going to beat him to death with a replica colonial butter churn.â

When I pointed out to Professor Difficult that I wanted to make sure the students got a chance to grab water and food, he punched me in the arm. âOh, relax,â he said.

I was beyond words. Opening and closing my mouth like a fish, I followed him onto the shuttle. My friend Michele, who I had smuggled along on the trip for my own comfort and sanity, punched my arm. âRelax,â she hissed, and snickered.

Thomas Jeffersonâs house is graceful and stately, overlooking a beautiful valley filled with greenery and slowly droning bumblebees. The house is magnificently filled with amazing objects of not-exactly his invention, and the grounds are beautifully maintained. I feel confident that it is the ideal sort of place for a convivial group to spend a relaxed afternoon, wandering the grounds and exploring at leisure. Unfortunately for that group, which on this particular day consisted of several dozen cheerful senior citizens, the 54 members of our group were marched through at grim speed, trailing thunderclouds in our wake. Tour completed, we stood at the top of the hill waiting for the shuttles back to the parking lot. Several students raised, not for the first time since weâd arrived, a plaintive chorus in favor of exploring the colonial-esque tavern at the bottom of the hill. The senior citizens beamed at the fresh-faced young college students. And Professor Difficult huffed and stamped.

At least, thatâs how it went for the first ten or so minutes, while the senior citizens stood graciously aside in the sticky heat and allowed strapping young university students to completely fill the first two parking lot shuttles. But when the third shuttle arrived, an elderly man, leaning on his wifeâs arm, tried to board. And then something happened which I have never seen before in my life: Professor Difficult came up behind the old man, took him by the shoulders, and pulled him off the shuttle. âWe need our students to stay together,â he barked. âYou can go on the next one.â

The next part of our itinerary was meant to include a leisurely lunch hour in Charlottesville before our afternoonâs architectural tour at University of Virginia. I had checked this with the events director because of the strict injunctions about keeping to the schedule. âDonât you worry about that,â she told me. âItâs not our fault the bus driver didnât know where to go and made you late. They can cover the overtime. You let the students have their day.â

But Professor Difficult overrode that immediately. âIf we hurry we can make it to the university in time for the tour,â he said.

âLook,â my friend Michele said. âWe need to make sure that the students get a chance to eat something.â

âAnd somebodyâs got to tell me where to go,â the bus driver quavered. âAnd how you want me to get there.â

âThe colonial tavern â" said one of my students, but he stopped when Professor Difficult, the ancient bus driver, and I all gave him The Look at the same time.

Finally, it was decided that the easiest thing would be for the bus to follow Professor Difficultâs car to the university, where there would be half an hour or so for the students to grab food and drinks before the architectural tour that, by this point, exactly none of them wanted to go on. I insisted on doing a head count on the bus, which evidently took longer than Professor Difficult wanted to wait, because he sat in his car honking until the bus pulled out behind him.

And then the Beautiful Thing happened. As we were pulling out of Monticello onto the main road, the bus slammed into the back of Professor Difficultâs shiny silver convertible. Hard. Leaving a big dent.

And that was the moment that the antique bus driver became my new best friend. Forget the rest of the day â forget getting lost again on the way to the university, Professor Difficult having to pull over and ask directions several times, the laborious and repeated turning-around of the bus, the inane architectural tour, the numbing neoclassical blandness of UVA, the fights over a final water and bathroom break , the fact that we ended up in Alexandria rather than Washington (easily remedied). It is true that after the accident the bus door didnât close right, and that we eventually drove the two hours back to Washington with air whistling in around the door. It is also true that the bus driver subsequently ran several red lights, and while I did not choose to turn around and look at the students, Michele did, and in her face I clearly saw reflected 54 pairs of very large eyes. The bus driver and I, cemented forever in our new bond, looked at each other and chuckled. âOops,â he said, lifting a hand to his mouth.

I punched Michele in the arm. âHey, relax,â I said, and frankly, I sniggered.

Posted by katie at 01:07 AM

May 01, 2008

TSOTC: What Our Heroine is Doing With Her Tax Refund


The glare on the picture kind of sucks, but can't you just smell the A&D ointment?

We're about 2/3 done. I'm so pleased.

Posted by katie at 06:26 PM

April 06, 2008

TSOTC Comparative Review: Library of Congress vs. Georgetown University Library

Letâs just make sure that I never get a job at Georgetown or with the federal government, shall we?


Borrowing privileges: Virtually unlimited with visiting scholar temporary library card.

Ease of access: Medium. Circulator bus to Georgetown area,then walk uphill on slippery bricks to campus. Or, lie and cheat your way onto the shuttle from Dupont Circle, then get lost on campus.

Hours: Claims to be open until 2 AM. Seriously!

Surrounding area: Ranges from swanky to student.

Building: Hideous. Almost as hideous as partially demolished McHenry Library at UCSC.

Georgetown Library.jpg

View from building: Impressive. These nearby buildings are very nice. But theyâre not the library.

Georgetown Healy.jpg

Religiosity: Jesuit. Pbbbbtht!

Holdings: Small, strangely conservative. Distinct gaps in Lukacs and Marxist criticism.

Staff: Patronizing, intrusive. Likely to lecture you about proper copier use. Likely to interrupt you repeatedly to ask why youâre enlarging things.

Things youâre not allowed to bring in: Snotty visiting scholar attitude; desire to Xerox without consultation.

Substantive work accomplished there so far: Iâve got the reader for my summer course 99% assembled. Most of the work took one marathon day.

Need to leave the building at some point: High. Virtually deserted; easy to spend twelve hours there; will drive you insane.


Borrowing privileges: Not as such. The books youâre allowed to touch are delivered via conveyor belt to my study shelf, where I can keep them as long as I need them. I can take digital pictures of prints, photographs, and maps. I can pay for someone else to photocopy the things Iâm not allowed to touch.

Ease of access: Farragut West to Capitol South. Piece of cake.

Hours: Limited, extremely punctual. Surprisingly variable between buildings, reading rooms, and days of the week.

Surrounding area: Government center. Opulent, impressive, purposeful. Also, perpetually under construction/renovation.

Building: Gorgeous. There are three buildings, of which the Jefferson Building is the main and the most beautiful.

Library of Congress 2.jpg

View from building: To your right, the Supreme Court. Straight ahead, thatâs the Capitol.

Supreme Court.jpg


Religiosity: Separation of church and state, baby!

Holdings: More than 500 miles of books and other print materials. 10,000 new materials acquired per working day. Holy shit.

Staff: Patient, capable, helpful, friendly, welcoming. Deliver armloads of materials to you without you having to lift a finger. The one guy in the map room gets kind of annoyed when you don't know what you are looking for and are evidently fucking around, though.

Things youâre not allowed to bring in: Weapons, musical instruments, camping equipment.

Substantive work accomplished there so far: Unclear. Iâve looked at political cartoons and spent several hours locating funny place-names on 1890s survey maps. Oh, and I discovered that the San Fernando Valley, in which I grew up, used to have a slightly more desolate and Old-Westy name.


Need to leave the building at some point:
None whatsoever. Large chunks of Capitol Hill are connected by a series of underground tunnels. The cafeteria on the 6th floor of the Madison building has better food than a lot of restaurants in Santa Cruz. It has its own credit union. The Library is basically a citadel. Oh, except they will kick you out at 5.


Posted by katie at 01:29 PM

April 05, 2008

TSOTC: Photoblah.

I finally got my pictures back from CVS and discovered, a week and $14.28 later, that theyâre horrible prints of terrible pictures. So much for an update about my gorgeous nighttime monument tour, for waxing rhapsodic about the daunting beauty of the Library of Congress, or for remembering what the heck else I did thatâs supposedly captured in these pictures.

It may help you to appreciate the following if I stress that these represent the MOST worthwhile and decipherable pictures on the roll.

I got a halfway OK picture of the Washington Monument surrounded by kites. This was last weekend, when I was desperately sick, and went to the cherry blossom festival/ kite-flying competition with a couple of friends.


Then I got tired and had them point me toward the nearest Metro station so I could head back to the Center and sleep. On the way I apparently encountered a group of nuclear refugees â perhaps appropriate for a cherry blossom festival celebrating the history of âfriendshipâ between the US and Japan.


The next night we went out for a nighttime tour of monuments. The White House is a lot smaller than I would have expected from the movies, but youâll have to take my word for it because the beautiful set of size-comparison shots I thought I took of the little White House and its neighbor the enormous Treasury building didnât come out at all. But that night wasnât a total loss â I managed to capture evidence of the supernatural. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Ghost of the Lincoln Memorial!


This next one took me quite a long time to figure out, because it appears to be a shot of a taxicab. I know I live in a smallish town back in California, but itâs not like Iâve never seen a cab before, so what the fuck? I had to stare at the picture for a really long time before I finally realized why I took it, which, because it was from before I had a camera with zoom, you wonât be able to see. Inside the building behind the cab, thereâs a sign that reads âUnited States Mint.â The sign on the outside of the window is offering the building for lease. Iâm taking this as a bad sign, folks â you might not want to lag on converting those dollars into Euros.

mint forlease.jpg

However, lastly, thereâs this one. Even with my cold, even with my shitty disposable camera, I managed to take an absolutely lovely, jigsaw-puzzle, picture-postcard photograph of the Washington Monument framed by cherry blossoms.


No, really, go back and take a long look, because I want you to get $14.28 worth of enjoyment out of that picture.

From now on, itâs OK, itâs all digital.

Posted by katie at 10:57 PM

April 02, 2008

TSOTC: Photoblog!

This afternoon I avoided work by taking a long walk around the neighborhood I'm living in. I took a lot of photos until I got sidetracked into shoe shopping and fell in love with a pair of beautiful red El Naturalista pumps I really can't afford. I mean, I'm tempted to spend all my money on shoes here and then go back to California with no place to live and no money, since I've seen that work out so well for others in the past. Oh wait, it didn't.

Anyway, as I keep saying, I'm living in a great area. I was actually going to walk further around today, but spent a few hours just roaming my neighborhood taking pictures of shit.

This is the UC Washington Center building. I live on the top floor.

Study Center.jpg

We're toward the end of a series of streets known as "Embassy Row." Here's the other end. All of these row houses are the embassies. On the left, Greece, um, Sweden, I can't remember what else. On the right, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, Luxembourg, Egypt, and Togo.


They're all about the same size, which means Togo gets about as much embassy as Egypt does. I think they should be proportional either to landmass or population, so that Ireland would have a regular house and Luxembourg would be in a kiosk.

This monster is Turkey:


Here's a super-artsy shot I took of some more stuff through the legs of the horse in the statue of some guy named Sheridan:


Aaaaand the obligatory picture of my thumb, which probably is covering up something really interesting.


Yeah, I'm not the best photographer. Anyway, I'm at the other end of Embassy Row, and I think my favorite thing down at my end is the Kazakh embassy. This is their official statue of a knight riding a winged jaguar. It was put up last year, and I have to think that its seriousness is in some kind of response to Borat.


I like to think that I live in the California embassy.

Center Upclose.jpg

But the blue sign barely visible in the lower left of this picture insists, with total inaccuracy, that the White House is located inside my apartment,

Whitehouse Sign 2.jpg

which is pretty much exactly where the arrow is pointing to.

Whitehouse Sign Upclose.jpg

We have a monument to Daniel Webster in the traffic circle right outside,


although when I first saw it I misread it as a Noah Webster monument and got all excited. We also are next to the Human Rights Campain building - see the equality flag on the roof?


A hell of a lot of the really cool buildings around here are churches. This is the one Teddy Roosevelt used to worship at:

TR Church.jpg

The plaque to the right of the door reads: "On this site in 1976, a historic plaque was affixed to this building."

This is another cool old building which actually isn't a church. The city is full of this shit:

Old Rowhouse.jpg

And, here and there, really fantastic high-modernist and postmodern architecture as well, like this building, which is an economic something or other:

Modern Econ.jpg

with an interestingly deconstructed globe out front (representing, um, globalization?). Note: this is a candid bird, not a stunt bird.

Modern Globe.jpg

Finally, for your edification, a statue of a woman doing a poor job of covering her boobs:


And one of Taras Shevchenko, the Bard of the Ukraine:


I don't know if his work is really as great as all that -- perhaps you can judge for yourself:


And a man wearing his napkin on his head while he eats lunch, for reasons which I suspect are clear to him alone:


And lastly, the famed Dupont Circle,


where there is a bookstore that has a bar in it, which is open all night. That is my kind of bookstore.

That's crap from about a five-block radius around my place. More substantive pictures when my film comes back from CVS, if it comes back from CVS. I'm going to get more selective about taking pictures, I think, although I'm currently feeling compelled to document everything, like our woefully expired elevator.


Posted by katie at 02:52 PM

April 01, 2008

The Scene of the Crime: Iâm Getting Paid For This?

Today I left the apartment at 10:57, coffee mug in hand, for my 20-second elevator ride to my studentsâ 11 AM seminar.

I spent a couple of hours brainstorming with the students about research paper topics about which they are far more knowledgeable than me. This is unsurprising, since most of them are econ and politics majors, and I only sound like I know about economics when Iâm talking to other humanities people.

I came back to my apartment, which is essentially 1/3 of a hotel room, and had lunch.


Later my friend the Graduate Fellow (henceforth GF) from Irvine and I went to the bookstore and we got maps for our trip next weekend to Philadelphia. Sheâs got an actual conference to go to there; I just want to go see the city. So weâre splitting hotel costs and cheap bus fares. She called the hotel in Philadelphia to change her room from one large to two small beds.

âNo,â she said on the phone. âThere isnât an extra person staying. I justâneed an extra bed. Forâmedical reasons. Oh, you've removed the $20 extra person surcharge? Thank you.â

Then the law student from UCLA came over to see who wanted to go for late-night ice cream because itâs so warm and beautiful outside. The guy who lives in the apartment next to mine is a Community Advisor (henceforth CA) here in the Center, knows everything and everyone around here, and loves ice cream. So we walked over to Larryâs Ice Cream in Dupont Circle, which he claims is the best ice cream in the city. They were closing when we got there just past 10, but when the owner saw the CA through the window, they stayed open for us.

âWhat do you want?â the owner asked the CA.

âOh, Iâm doing great,â the CA said.

âWhat?â the owner asked.

âIâm great. Didnât you ask how I was doing?â the CA returned.

âI donât give a shit how youâre doing, my friend,â the owner said. âI asked what do you want?â

âOh. A cone with Oreo cookie ice cream,â the CA said.

âThatâs more like it,â the owner said.

I got Oreo ice cream too. UCLA got Reeseâs peanut butter. As soon as we left with our cones, it started raining on us, fast and hard. We ran back to the Center in the warm rain, cones dripping all over the place. I finished mine right as we got back to the Center and the rain stopped.

Tomorrow I have another study day at the Library of Congress and then we have Poker Night.

Oh, and I got myself a present this afternoon: I broke down and got a fucking camera already. Because I am a Luddite and a latecomer to technology, this is exciting. Because I am a Luddite and a latecomer to technology, I'm still figuring out how to upload photos. I rationalized the purchase thusly: I was eventually going to spend the same amount of money on disposable cameras and film processing as I would on a low-end digital camera, without the benefit of zoom or, you know, picture quality. And evidently CVS is none too quick at the photo processing, because when I dropped my first disposable full of pictures off yesterday, the trainee clerk said, âUm, I think your picture CD will be back Wednesday.â

âWhyâd you tell her that?â the manager asked. âYou know itâs until Friday.â

âReally?â I said.

âYou want these pictures?â the manager said.

So I have almost a weekâs worth of updating to do, but itâs waiting until my pictures come back so I can remember what the hell I did. Nighttime tour of monuments; cherry blossom festival; Library of Congress; Georgetown; beer and darts; lots of getting lost.

Iâd like to point out that technically Iâm working right now.

Posted by katie at 08:19 PM

March 26, 2008

The Scene of the Crime: Ich bin ein Washingtoner

Part I: Written 11:02 PM EDT, Tuesday, March 25th 2008.

Thereâs a particularly endearing Home Movies episode in which we find out that the kids have ended every single movie theyâve made with the exact same, identically intoned line: âItâs time to pay the price.â But the kids donât realize theyâve been doing it, because every time, it seems like itâs the natural conclusion.

As many of you know, dear readers, I am living in our nationâs capital for the next three months, as the graduate fellow at the UC systemâs study center here. As you may imagine, this has taken some planning and some time spent applying, securing recommendations, getting funding, strategizing, making research plans, and so on. The point is that Iâve been talking about this for awhile.

My charming father responds exactly the same way every time it comes up. Like the Home Movies kids, he delivers his line in a meaningful and ominous tone, and like the kids, I donât think he realizes that he says the same thing, the same way, every time.

âHey Dad,â Iâll say, âIâve almost got my crap together to go to DC next quarter.â
âOh, right,â heâll say. âSo youâre going to the scene of the crime

Today we had the following conversation:

Katie: Hi, Dad. Oh, wait. Itâs really early there, isnât it?
Dad: Itâs about 7 AM. Where are you?
Katie: Iâm in Washington. I just called to say I got in safely.
Dad: Oho, youâre at the scene of the crime?
Katie: Well, actually, Iâll be over there later this afternoon. Right now Iâm in Virginia.
Dad: So youâre next to the scene of the crime.
Katie: Uh, yeah. Iâm staying here until Wednâ
Dad: And then youâll be at the scene of the crime.
Katie: Okay.

My father and I have rather different politics, and so over the months that he has delivered this identical line so many times, I have been unable to bring myself to ask him to which crime, precisely, he is referring. I have a horrible feeling that he actually means Whitewater, or maybe last yearâs Democratic congressional victories. Or perhaps heâs expressing that most timeless of American sentiments: the absolute conviction that whatever the government is up to, it can be safely filed under the heading of No Good.

Even all the way from California, Iâve been able to pick up on the idea that Washington is a government town. I got that. What I didnât extrapolate from that is the fact that, as a government town, and as a government town in what I suppose we might as well refer to as wartime, and as the seat of the military branch of the government, now, therefore, Washington is also a big time military town. I mention this because Iâm unaccustomed to riding public transit or walking down the street with so many people in various kinds of uniform. I would have been less surprised if Iâd encountered the humorless-looking guy in the full border patrol uniform back in LA, quite frankly, where weâre at least close to a border. Here, at the Pentagon City metro station, I wondered what border he could possibly be patrolling. The line between station and street? Is the sidewalk a border, or a liminal zone? But since he had a gun, I decided to keep my fucking trap shut.

Itâs not that Iâm dumb enough to be surprised that thereâs a lot of security in the national capital or anything. But Iâm not accustomed to how it feels, and it makes me uncomfortable to be surrounded by so many people who are essentially living representations of authority and enforcement. And while I also think that my home campus is a little cavalier about security, I was unprepared for the degree of lockdown at the Study Center here. Iâm sure it will become normal in a day or two, but so far today the military-authority stuff is the thing that has thrown me the most.

It makes me keep thinking about my dadâs repeated (and repeated and repeated) one-liner about the scene of the crime. Whatâs going on here doesnât feel to me like the scene of any real or specific crime â whatâs here is actually a scene of criminality. All these uniforms and security measures everywhere are concrete, tangible manifestations of lawfulness and authority, and everywhere they are, they drag the suggestion of latent, intangible, indefinable danger with them. Whatâs safe and good is what you can see, and whatâs scary and weird is the thing that hasnât happened yet. But in a big staged battle between authority and criminality, the visible and the invisible, the known and the feared, I keep wondering: where is the place of the private citizen? At the scene of a crime that hasnât happened yet, how do I know what position I occupy? For that matter, how does the guy in the uniform know?

This isnât simply to complain about the military-industrial complex or my not-so-latent problems with authority. Washington seems like a great city so far, and Iâm living in an awesome neighborhood. Christianâs mom chauffeured my ass around, drove me over cobblestones, provided me with a siesta, and fed me a chicken pot pie; the undergrads got a PowerPoint presentation on alcohol poisoning at their orientation. Iâm fucking worn out from wrapping up the quarter, moving (thanks again, burly friends!), travel, and fighting this stupid cold. Iâm going to sleep now in a comfy, comfy bed in Alexandria, VA, and tomorrow morning this house will be the scene of the crime when I steal Christianâs motherâs towels and sheets and take them to my extravagantly expensive, shoebox-sized apartment at the Center.

All Washington blog updates will be under the category The Scene of the Crime. Tomorrowâs possible topic: Iâve Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers; or, Does Anyone Know Where My Linens Went?

Part II: Written now

Iâve gotten my internet connection and ID card problems sorted out, with the help of the IT guy, who is an American Studies student at U of Maryland. We hung out and talked about Stuart Hall while he took the worldâs most unflattering ID picture of me and helped me sort out my clearances. So Iâm already on my way to being inured to the military-authority stuff, since now I can actually enter and exit the building and use the internet to learn how to make napalm in my room.

The UC Center is awesome. It feels like back when I had a real job , with a desk, and keys, and a cubicle, and an ID badge. I have a library card for Georgetown. I have copier codes. I have had an agonizing meeting with the professor for whom Iâm working re: the wording on our course syllabus and reorganizing the class so that Iâm responsible for all the work. And then, magically, there was food in the lobby. It reminds me of when I was working at the dot-com. Actually, thereâs also a dog in one of the offices here, and a TV dedicated to video games, so itâs almost exactly like my dot-com job, except that we never took a work field trip to Gettysburg.

Itâs also reminiscent of my dot-com job in that Iâm ostensibly getting paid but itâs not entirely clear what for. I sat down to set myself up at my cubicle, and five minutes later, I stood up and brushed off my hands. âWhoof,â I said. âThereâs that taken care of. Guess itâs time for lunch.â

The main difference is that I have an âapartmentâ upstairs, by which I mean something that looks like what would happen if you built the worldâs smallest hotel room in a hallway. I will try to post pictures later. In the meantime, I have to go back to Alexandria, pick up my other suitcase, come back, and then try to figure out where to buy food. The undergrads got another presentation on alcohol poisoning this morning. I immediately volunteered to chaperone every possible field trip, because this sounds like fun.

Posted by katie at 10:57 AM