Friday, November 12, 2010

The Crunch Begins...

It's that time of year again, folks! The time of the semester when the grad student disengages from the world at large and morphs into a self-loathing, frantic mess. A creature only designated to be "human" by virtue of his/her shape, buried under a pile of yet-to-be-read research, unfinished papers, ungraded composition assignments, and the pressures of the long-neglected social life.

And I have a fairly light semester.

For me, the paradoxical thing about "the crunch" is how much I've come to enjoy, even rely on it. For two or three entire weeks at the end of each semester, I run on pure adrenaline as I finish every project that has lingered in limbo for most of the semester. (Some are "finished" better than others, but it always gets done.) I read. I write. I grade. I sleep (occasionally). And then I do it all again the next day. This is not to say that the frenzy is the same as it was when I started graduate school. Sadly, this thirty-and-some-months-year-old no longer has the stamina for even the occasional "all-nighter," so I've become infinitely more adept at spreading the work over the bulk of the semester.

The lighter side of "the crunch," however, is the feeling one gets when it's all over and done with. The relief. The utter joy. The looming sensation that in just a few short weeks it will all begin again, but for now, your time is yours. I bake. I nap. I take hot baths. I read books just for "funsies" and retain absolutely nothing of their content or larger themes -- because I don't have to. It's glorious.

Here's to "the crunch," and I'll see you again on the other side of it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Loverboy Was Wrong -- I'll Be Working ON the Weekend. Oh, and the Week, Too...

Screw you, Loverboy. The life of the grad student rarely involves working for the mythical weekend when life is your oyster and you can paint the town red and other such cliches.

It means working through the week in the vain hope that you will have less to work on during said weekend.

I just printed off ten-thousand pages (OK -- closer t0 150) of reading for my Monday night Shakespearean Fetishes course. This is, of course, in addition to the fact that I will also be reading another Shakespearean play before Monday, and somehow attempting to tackle the stack of student papers I just recieved from a bleary-eyed 101 class this morning, as well as reading and commenting on a colleague's paper before Friday's colloquium. (Note to self -- do not overindulge at post-colloquium "Night of Proper Drinking," lest all of Saturday be lost to general unpleasantness.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you notice a lackluster tone in this particular blog post's title, you have accurately perceived my current mental state.

Blerg. Blerg, blerg, blerg.

Maybe the constant heat's beginning to wear on me. (One 100 degree day last week, and currently high 80s are passing for "cool.")

Maybe it's the fact that my immune system is taking it's regular mid-semester hit, complete with stomach ache, sniffles, sore throat, and a general malaise that makes me all-around apathetic.

At any rate, "blerg" has been the word of the last two weeks around here.

I think a large part of the "blerg" is the effect of the natural equalization that takes place when you join a new circle of colleagues. Coming in as a beginning PhD student from a smaller school into a program such as this makes me realize just how far I still have to go. My current Shakespeare class is very theory-heavy with all the big-hitters: Lacan, Zizek, Marx, Derrida, etc. I've had the most perfunctory exposure to these theorists. I know the big ideas, but they're buried under the haze of the remainder of my MA since the only theory class I took was during my first semester in grad school. I always feel like I'm one step behind everyone else. A recent beer outing with some of the more advanced PhD students in the same class revealed that they feel the same way, but I'm dubious. The class dynamics are different, and I'm still negotiating how to make comments and ask questions. It seems that the strongest students here are the ones who speak infrequently, but make more compelling statements when they do.

Furthermore, it seems my theoretical background in New Historicism is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It's no longer "sexy," I've been informed. (I always laugh when this adjective is used in conjunction with humanities studies.) I didn't think I'd have to struggle with relevance so soon, but there you go.

Blerg. Blerg, blerg, blerg.

I'm anxiously awaiting the clean slate of the spring semester. I feel tired and a little demoralized right now. I find myself suffering from an acute case of "country bumpkin" syndrome. Joe assures me that everyone probably starts out this way at the beginning of their PhD, and that eventually I'll be one of the class leaders, and everything will be sunshine and puppy dogs. I'll figure out an angle of research that matches my interests and the needs of the job market. I'll start feeling smart and academically adequate again.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Fall is my favorite season -- without reservation or qualification.

Fall is awesome. Cool, brisk mornings. Afternoons just warm enough to remain comfortable in your favorite sweater. Leaves crunching. Hot cider and chai tea. The smell of wood-burning fireplaces wafting through the air.

Alas, I'm beginning to doubt that it will ever truly be "fall" here in Tempe, and that, more than anything else right now, is making me miss southeastern Idaho.

Even as I sit here now, not even 10 AM, the mercury is steadily rising toward an anticipated high of 95 degrees. The depressing thing about this, however, is that 95 degrees feels delightfully comfortable to me now. But 95 degrees is hardly "fall" weather. The leaves here don't appear to be changing, but then again, I'm fairly certain that palm trees aren't deciduous. The stores are filling up with all the usual autumn trappings -- Halloween decor and costumes, pumpkins, squash, cider, etc. Yet somehow instead of filling me with delight (as per usual), it feels hollow -- like some sort of sham verison of fall I'm expected to buy.

Fall is my favorite "fellowship" season, too. Being new to Tempe, I'm making some friends, but the process is slow and deliberate. The Pocatello Smiths hosted the annual Hobbit Day last weekend, to great success, and while Joe and I were able to partake via webcam, the feeling of being in the same room with all the friends that we miss so much was palpably lacking. My ennui was heightened by the fact that I was, on that same Saturday, missing my first Spud Day in a very long time. Tempe doesn't celebrate potatoes. I haven't yet figured out what root vegetable Tempe holds in such high esteem, but rest assured, once I hear of it, I will be at that root vegetable's eponymous festival with bells on.

I'm currently looking forward to Thanksgiving more than I have in quite some time. While Joe's work schedule precludes us from traveling this year, my sister-cousin Ani-Banana will be flying to Tempe for some long-overdue family holiday fun. (We spent many Thanksgivings together as children, but recently discovered (to our horror) that we hadn't seen each other on Turkey Day in about thirteen years!) I'm looking forward to assuaging homesickness with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Oh, the things we have planned! We're going to dig deep into our combined memories and resurrect all those long-forgotten Nelson/Henrikson-girl traditions that we faithfully carried out for so many years. We will watch Gone with the Wind and The Muppet Christmas Carol. We'll drink cider, eat turkey, and twirl to the sounds of The Nutcracker until we're too dizzy to stand. We'll decorate a Christmas tree, turn off all the lights, and "oooh" and "aaah" to our hearts' content. Perhaps we'll even construct a lopsided, but still somehow breathtakingly beautiful star of faux-pine garland and twinkle lights for the wall. (It's marvelous to watch a lopsided star whiz through your field of vision as you twirl and twirl to a little Tchaikovsky.) Most importantly, though, we'll both reconnect with an "Idaho" we lost long ago, when Grandma died and our family scattered -- something for which we've both been homesick.

And don't forget the cordial cherries.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Livin' the Life -- Renaissance Nerd-Style

I tried on ASU -- and it fits me like a frickin' glove.

Hot, hot heat aside (we're currently looking forward to temps around 100 during the day and lows in the mid- to high- 70s at night), this school agrees with me. Tempe agrees with me. Who could ask for anything more?

My program is tailor-made for an ambitious Renaissance student ready to professionalize and get out of school already. (Shocked, aren't you?) PhD students, while set up with high expectations, are given lots of breathing room and leeway to meet those expectations. My coursework will be done in two years, not three, due to some, er..., creative categorization suggested and encouraged by my current adviser, Dr. Ayanna Thompson. "How will you do this, Devori?" you ask. "Easy," I reply. My Shakespearean Fetishes class (which is proving a good way...and very interesting) will count not only as a literature pre-1660 requirement, but also a genre studies (Shakespeare wrote plays -- duh), and fills in as a critical theory requirement (Freud, Derrida, and Marx -- oh, my!) Dr. Thompson has teased me with with the potential sighting of Harry Lennix -- a favorite actor of mine, and a frequent visitor to the ASU campus who wants to someday *gasp* study Renaissance literature at ASU. Renaissance nerds will know him as Aaron in Julie Taymor's brilliant adaptation of Titus Andronicus, other nerds will know him as Captain Lock (Morpheus' romantic rival) in the last two Matrix films. (The mind boggles with the possibility of sweaty-handed meetings and photo ops.)

I'm making friends, slowly but surely. Not surprising to those who knew me back in Idaho. When confronted with change, I tend to become a homebody. I realized that my situation was rapidly becoming terminal when I became genuinely excited to find an episode of Maury on one afternoon. An intervention was required. Luckily, my first meeting with many of my new colleagues was congenial and booze-laden. We made jokes about the emblems of George Wither and Stephen Greenblatt (insert tweedy, pretentious chuckle here), and discussed in depth just which books of The Fairie Queen we were going to be reading this semester. (No one could remember which book number corresponded with which characters -- it was intense.) I share an office, not to mention a significant course load, with many of the other Renaissance scholars, and they are making sure that I am indoctrinated (no pun intended) the right way.

Teaching at 7:30 AM is a chore -- not only for me, but for the students. For approximately 95% of my students, my class was their first college experience. (It is voraciously encouraged that students take comp. in their first semester here.) They're used to being talked at from high school, and this factor, combined with the course's early time, make for a quiet, quiet room some days. My class is capped at twenty (ISU comp. teachers will weep at this number, imagining the possibilities), and I consistently have 16-19 students show up each day. They're just so damn quiet! I was overjoyed today to hear them laugh at a Rifftrax short I brought in, "Building Better Paragraphs." Perhaps I should enlist Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy to teach the class every few weeks. I broke the "teaching wall" as it were today, and encouraged them to speak. After all, students who converse freely during class discussion don't have to write for the entirety of the hour so that Ms. Mean Teacher can make sure everyone participates, right? The ensuing discussion of Kathy Maio's evisceration of depictions of females in Disney was much more lively. Whew.

Even though my class occasionally feigns muteness, I was extremely impressed with the first drafts of their first papers, with which I spent several hours this weekend. My students were asked to write about a pop culture text that they feel connected to, and describe either how they feel the text informs their identity, or how they feel that they are reflected in that particular pop culture text. In brainstorming ways to approach this assignment, we've read wonderful articles from, honestly, the finest composition reader/rhetoric I've used so far. We discussed how the character of Cameron adds unexpected, but very real drama to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. We talked about how programs like The Jersey Shore, The Hills, and Laguna Beach offer views of young people that we know are wildly exaggerated, but we want to watch them anyway. The drafts I saw were surprisingly sophisticated and well-phrased, but each had the student's unique spin. Having left a culturally stifled area for one as culturally diverse as Phoenix/Tempe, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my students connected with texts like Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona, the work of Sufjan Stevens, and novels like The Road. (You can imagine my joy when not a one of them said that they related with Twilight's Bella -- and this was even before I made my disdain evident!) I can't wait to watch them all develop as writers in the coming weeks.

Now -- to the dishes! (Anything to keep from having to read more Freud right now. Yeesh.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again.

"I think I'm going to like it here!"

These are the words I say frequently to Joe. It's not that I'm trying to convince myself that I'm going to love Tempe -- I already do. It's simply because each day meets me with a new and delightful surprise. I keep waiting for Tempe to let me down, but it just can't.

I stepped in front of my first non-Idaho State University classroom yesterday morning, bright and early, at 7:30 AM. In my hurry to leave the house on time (relying on public transportation for the first time in my life) I forgot my cell phone. Of course, it just so happened that my classroom was locked ten minutes before class started, and the number for Classroom Support was on that phone. A quick jog across the path to the Writing Programs office in the next building solved my dilemma, and I stepped into GIOS 202 at 7:29 AM. I was met by thirty-eight eager and slightly trepidatious eyes. Since yesterday was the start of classes at ASU, for all but two of my students, my class was their first ever college course. It was exciting, but also brought the pressure to make sure that composition was something spectacular -- no easy deed at 7:30 AM after three blocks of walking in the hot, muggy AZ morning. I did my damndest, though, and we had a good time. I was pleasantly shocked by the diversity of my students' interests when it comes to matters of entertainment! (My icebreaker involves each student telling the class his/her favorite movie.) They laughed when they were supposed to, seemed comfortable contributing to the overall discussion, and seemed genuinely excited to begin engaging with our topic at hand. (We'll see how excited they are when the first paper comes due...)

Essentially, I feel like I'm back in the swing of things. Of course, "the swing of things" means homework and grading. Lots of homework and grading. After the summer TA orientation, new TAs are required to take a seminar which focuses on pedagogical theory and helps prepare them to teach two sections of 102 in the spring. (Yay...Peter Elbow.) My Shakespearean Fetishes class promises to be interesting, and the reading list for it represents easily the most hard literary "theory" I've had to digest since my first semester of my MA. (Derrida, Freud, etc.)

While being back in the academic saddle feels familiar and comfortable, this is not to say that I haven't had my anxieties. These anxieties seem to manifest primarily as odd, but tackily transparent dreams/nightmares. I was concerned that I might sleep through my first day of teaching since the class was so early and I've taken to wearing earplugs in our new airport-adjacent apartment when I sleep. Hence, I dreamed that I did in fact sleep through class, and was subjected to a public shaming in front of the department by my mentors. In the wake of beginning my first week's reading assignment for my Shakespearean Fetishes class, I dreamed that I was frantically trying to write a response to a prompt for the class, desperately trying to use all my Renaissance education to deconstruct The Jerk -- the Steve Martin classic. My attempts were consistently interrupted by Joe's desire to drive all the way back to Idaho in order to purchase meat-flavored, chocolate-covered bubblegum. Upon returning back to Arizona after one such confectionary roadtrip, I realized that my Renaissance learning would probably be more fruitfully applied to a Renaissance text. After that, all was well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hot Stuff!

No -- the title doesn't describe me. (Although that is certainly a true and fitting description...)

I was talking about the weather here.

Holy Hot.

Compounded with the heat (105 today, 108 predicted tomorrow), is the humidity. Even though locals like to tell you "it's a dry heat," it's not. It's really not. We enjoyed a brief respite from the outside heat over the weekend, when the temps here were actually a bit cooler than back in Idaho, but the humidity brought things even again.

Joe had to work this morning at 8:00, and my orientation didn't start until 9:00, so he dropped me off in front of my building at 7:30, and I thought I would use the time to explore my new, huge campus and try to feel at home.

I'm embarrassed to say that I got lost. Twice. On a college campus. Thank goodness for my iPhone and the Maps application.

On closer inspection, the campus is even more beautiful than I'd realized. The whole main campus is beautifully manicured and maintained, but designed to highlight Arizona's natural beauty. Throughout most of the day, you can hear the insects in the trees, although I have yet to be pestered by any bugs at all on my person. Here's some of what I saw:

Below is just one of many beautiful patches of landscaping that punctuate the campus.

Above is an avenue of palm trees that leads toward the front of the campus, and one of the oldest buildings on campus, appropriately called "Old Main."

It was gratifying and interesting to explore the campus this morning before my class. Unfortunately, the campus is pretty sprawling and I ended up taking a long, confusing, circuitous route back to the building where class was being held this morning from my home base in the Language and Literature Complex (hereafter referred to as "LL"). Me being me, I "dressed the part" of the young teacher (like I always do), and wandered around campus sweltering in my tailored jacket that went oh-so-well with my skirt. It took me about ten minutes to find my way back to my classroom. My embarrassment was compounded when I walked back to the LL with two colleagues during our lunch hour and discovered that the distance between the two should only have taken me three or four minutes, and that they're actually quite close together. Oh, to be a savvy navigator.

The TA orientation is interesting in a few ways. The class is tailored to accommodate both new and more experienced TAs, so while I appreciate learning about how teaching at ASU is going to be different than my previous experiences, a lot of the information seems "old hat." (This is not to say that I am perfect, fully-formed teacher who can't benefit from the few tips and tricks I've learned thus far.) If anything, this orientation has helped me rekindle my love of teaching composition, which, I'm ashamed to say, had somewhat waned during the last year of my MA due to the rigors of my program of study. The writing program here is so rich and well-supported from inside the English department, and I'm finding the passion of my instructors for what we do infectious. ASU structures its freshmen composition sequence very differently from ISU. This, coupled with the fact that I have been assigned a new textbook and an unfamiliar assignment sequence ensures that the next few weeks are going to be packed with preparation for teaching. The instructors here are savvy, and have come to accept that pop culture is an invaluable tool for helping freshmen realize that they have an already-existing knowledge base from which they can draw to analyze the world around them and how they fit into it. The text, The Pop Culture Zone, and the assignment sequence are designed to help students tap into this knowledge. I've drawn heavily on popular culture in the past, and am excited to be part of a program that seems to embrace the idea of teaching students with what they know.

Joe and I have been sticking pretty close to home as of late. Until my regular paychecks start and my generous fellowship is disbursed in a few days, we're pretty cash-poor. We ventured out-of-doors last Saturday to explore Tempe a bit, and made some fun discoveries. We live minutes from the Circle K featured in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. We went to Whole Foods and wandered around, relishing all the food items we now have access to. Some examples, you ask? Rendered duck fat. Microgreens. Swiss chard. Not to mention a HUGE selection of beer and wine just waiting to be tried. The bonus of living outside the "Jello belt," as I've heard it called, is that we were able to partake in a free beer tasting while we were shopping at Whole Foods. They were all, like, "You wanna try these beers fer free?" And we were all, like, "Hells yeah!" It was awesome.

I concur with Joe's opinion upon leaving Whole Foods. On the account of cuisine: Arizona 2: Idaho 0.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Oriented (in, oh, so many ways)

Today marks the end of our first week in Phoenix -- and what a week it was...

We were able to get our power turned on (finally!) early Tuesday afternoon, only to discover that the AC in our unit wasn't functioning very well -- or at all. Two repairmen struggled with the unit for about two hours on Tuesday night to no avail. Joe and I decided to purchase a small window AC unit for the bedroom that night, and brave sleeping in our own bed for the first time in nearly a week. An AC technician arrived (sent by my horrifyingly apologetic property manager who had been dealing with the crisis since day one) around 11:00 AM, and by noon we finally felt the sweet, sweet kiss of artificially cooled air. Since the power company had yet to hook up the meter to our power box, we indulged and cranked our thermostat down to 64 in order to get a jump start on the whole "cooling" process. We've been enjoying a wonderful, steady 72 degrees for the last two days. Oh, what a difference a temperature change makes to soothe a cranky graduate student and her long-suffering husband.

All this angst comes from moving to Phoenix during what the locals call "monsoon season." I didn't know Arizona was susceptible to monsoons. I don't like monsoon season. Monsoon season, roughly translated for those of you who are not here, means that you feel as though you may explode from the sudden rush of heat that meets you when you leave an air conditioned building, but you feel assured that the oppressive humidity would quench the fire before it did too much damage. For the last two evenings, we've watched the sky turn all shades of gray, black, and purple, before unleashing some scary windy conditions and downpours that left our parking lot looking like a small lake in the morning. Locals have assured us that this year is the worst monsoon season they've seen in a while, although I'm not sure if this statement is made to comfort us with the possibility that next year will be better, or to make us feel somehow foolish for our decision to move to Phoenix during the most uncomfortable month of the year. I choose to think it is the former...

We've slowly but surely been working to put things away in our new house. Joe and I have each snagged a guest room as "offices." Although this townhome isn't much bigger than our house in IF, it seems to be laid out more efficiently, and has plenty of storage space. Oddly enough, we have our first "upstairs" of our married life, and our new bedroom is bigger than any we've had. I can't wait until it cools down a bit so that I can get to work on our little yard area just off our patio doors.

I started my new TA orientation at ASU yesterday. I had nervous tummy all the way to campus -- running over all the scenarios in my mind. What if no one liked me? What if I said something inadvertently offensive during the first class? What if it was discovered that I was a horrible teacher and I was ousted to the curb in a hail of garbage? Fortunately, none of this happened. Yet. Most of the TAs in the class are new to the area as well, so griping about the heat became one of the most common conversation starters throughout the day. Everyone was friendly and outgoing, and I heard some of the most refreshing conversations about teaching that I've heard in a long time due to the mix of experienced and new instructors in the group. I was also able to begin networking with two of my new fellow Renaissance scholars (I felt a little like I was pledging a gang), and have enjoyed nerdily lunching with them for the last two days, indulging our pretentiousness with academic glee. They even offered to take me out for a small-ish birthday celebration tomorrow!

Surprisingly enough, I'm starting to feel right at home here in Phoenix. (I thought it would take much longer.) My colleagues in the English department that I've met so far seem friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth. I've met people from as varied locations as Bosnia and Thailand. Many of the students in my group have spent years teaching English abroad, and hearing of their experiences doing so is fascinating. I'm enjoying the fact that Tempe (and the students I've met so far) seem like they have big-city tastes with smaller-town sensibilities. Everyone seems to appreciate the laid-back atmosphere that the area has to offer, and I look forward to socializing with many of them for the next five years!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Hot -- Still Unimpressed -- But Looking Forward to Tomorrow!

Here I sit -- in my mother's last-minute Tempe hotel room that she has been gracious enough to share with Joe, Bueller, and myself to save us the fifteen-minute commute to our landlord's "nice" hotel in Mesa. (I dispute the term, but whatevs...)

The last two days have been hectic. We've been productive, but less so than I would have liked. Our power remains off due to, get this, a missing clip on the bottom of the meter box that has already been replaced with a latch higher up on same box. Since Phoenix is like any other municipality, city offices were closed today and yesterday, so all our hopes rest on getting our power finally turned on tomorrow. (I am currently crossing all appendages that are capable of being crossed.) Working strategically in the heat (early in the day, evening, and with lots of water), we've managed to completely empty the Budget truck and return it. Of course -- we had to return it sans the tow dolly. In his excitement to be rid of the behemoth truck and get our $150 deposit back, Joe inadvertently ran over the tow dolly (stowed safely under the truck) as he was attempting to maneuver the same truck into position to hook up that very same dolly. Crunch. Good-bye, deposit! At this point, all concerned say "thank goodness" for the insurance we purchased with Budget before leaving IF. We did, however, make peace with the lost deposit.

Although this move has been extraordinarily frustrating so far (and, really, aren't all moves in some capacity?), I don't mean to say that it hasn't been without its perks. All our belongings are safely in our new townhouse (Joe likes to call it a "townhouse," so I do...), including the bulky furniture which was moved in today. Mom, Joe, and I got most of the kitchen put away, and anticipate that when (if) the power gets turned on tomorrow, we should be able to make significant headway into putting the rest of the townhouse together. I look forward to sleeping in my own bed again, surrounded by (as George Carlin would say) my "shit" more than even I can fathom at this point.

Joe starts work at his new store tomorrow. We were met with a surprise regarding his job on Thursday, however -- a good surprise! While he had originally been told that he would be an overnight assistant, circumstances at the store had changed, and Joe will actually be on days instead -- three on, three off, 8 AM to 8 PM.

Since it's often too hot during the middle of the day to continue working at the apartment, and we world-weary travelers three are afraid of falling asleep if we linger on comfy beds in our air conditioned hotel room, we've spent much of the last two days exploring the area Joe and I now call "home." Tempe should prove to be a fun, vibrant, and interesting town in which to live. International cuisines abound -- middle eastern, Thai, Indian, Russian -- you name it, we've probably got it. Joe and I have already fallen in love with our local Trader Joe's (finally -- we can get fingerling potatoes and microgreens!) and Ikea. I look forward to stocking my home with pretentious foodstuffs and affordable Swedish modular furniture. A trip to the Arizona Mills Mall a mere five minutes from our home had me ecstatically attempting to slip my foot into an honest-to-God size-11 Manolo Blahnik strappy sandal ($398, marked down from $500 -- Carrie would have been so proud). If anything, this proves that cute, fashionable shoes will be much easier to find in Tempe. Huzzah!

I also caught my first glimpse of my new campus yesterday, and I was stunned! What a beautiful setting in which to work! The campus is immaculately maintained and manicured, and is absolutely breathtaking. I saw a sliver of my building, and drove by the building with my classroom for fall. I can't wait to explore all that ASU has to offer!

Oh, and Wal-Marts here sell liquor. That is probably the best thing about Tempe.

More updates and pictures soon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day One -- Hot and Unimpressed

We arrived in Phoenix today shortly after noon after a short, but beautiful, ride from Flagstaff where we spent the previous night in one of the most horrifically shoddy hotels I'd seen in a long, long time. (These hotels are instantly recognizable by the urge to put surgical booties on your, your family's, and your pet's feet before allowing them to walk around "barefoot" on the floor.) We arrived at our new home, and were pleasantly surprised both with the apartment and the area given that we'd rented sight-unseen. I had called on Thursday from a muggy truckstop in Payson, UT to set up our power account for the day of our arrival. Upon completing said arrival, however, we were disappointed to discover that the power wasn't turned on, and that some sort of dispute over work completed by a contractor nearly two months prior, the power company had failed to find the job completed in a satisfactory fashion, and would not turn on the power until one of their inspectors was satisfied. Despite frantic calls from both myself and our harried property manager contact, the power remains off at this very hour.

Joe and I managed to move most of our things into the house (larger furniture aside) despite the crippling heat made even heat-ier due to the change in elevation to which we are still adjusting. Since our central air is, unfortunately, not gumption-powered, we took frequent breaks to sit in our air-conditioned car and drink loads of water. We're hoping to rejoin the twenty-first century tomorrow, though! An additional bonus to the change in elevation seems to be that Joe's trademark asthmatic wheeze was nowhere to be found today, even after several hours of lugging all our worldly possessions around.

Beyond the initial disappointment of being unable to wake up in my own bed tomorrow (my landlord owns a hotel and is putting us up until the matter is resolved), I think I'm going to like it here. It will certainly be an adjustment simply to get used to the amount of people and the pacing, although the interstates that run through Phoenix are no where near as scary as those through Salt Lake. I'm excited by the variety offered up by the Phoenix-area food scene, complete with several Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants. (I heart falafel.) We have World Market, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods at our disposal. (I heart cheap, classy decor and groceries I can't find in Idaho Falls, ID.) My mother arrives early tomorrow morning to help get us set up, and undoubtedly to scrutinize our choice of living arrangements, but she assures me that's just what mothers do. I hope to have the townhouse somewhat put together in the next few days, and will post pictures then.

The questionable hotel mattress is calling to me -- begging me to give it a rest already. And I can't say that I disagree. Bed sounds good. My bed sounds better, but this one will do for now.

And so it begins...

Perhaps it was the fact that it was the tail end of fourteen hours on the road -- straight. Perhaps it was the fact that he was giddy from sleep deprivation and dehydration wrought by a nasty bout of food poisoning. Perhaps it was the fact that we had just watched Julie & Julia a mere two nights before, and he was inspired by the story of one woman's blog becoming an international sensation and inspiring lucrative book deals and high-grossing films. At any rate, this amazing confluence of circumstances in my husband's mind led him to turn to me in the noisy cab of our rented moving truck last night and say, "Hey! Maybe you should write a blog about your experiences while you're working on your PhD!"

I p-shawed heartily at the suggestion. I've long been remiss in committing my emotions and experiences to posterity -- mainly because they're not very exciting. I kept painstakingly detailed journals throughout most of my teen years, but more or less stopped once I got married. A recent examination of these relics of my adolescence revealed that I seemed, at the time, to have a preternatural fascination with drama class, my never-quite-resolved crush on Jim Carrey, and things my little brother did to annoy me. What could I possibly have to say now to compare with such scintillating reading?

After the initial p-shawing passed, I began to realize that the idea might have merit after all. I resolved to attempt to keep a blog documenting my time here in Arizona for a few reasons which I find terribly important, and I hope you will agree.

1) To force myself to think intently about what experiences I have here and their relationship to the larger experience. i.e. What is blog-worthy and what isn't in this context? For instance, if the option to blog comes up at the end of the day, will I write about the interesting teaching experience or research revelation, the disappointing lunchtime chalupa, or both? (I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that most of the initial posts will detail varied levels of "freak-out"-itude relating to the inevitable culture shock I am already beginning to experience).

2) To create a space wherein my friends and family can keep updated about my experiences here if they're interested, and a place in which I can say mean things about them if they're not.

3) To create documentation of what will be, undoubtedly, a very important time in my life.

I am currently taking title suggestions, by the way. The current one is awful, I know -- but "The Bob Loblaw Law Blog" was already taken. Sheesh.