Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thanks for all the fish

As I get closer to moving, I'm getting crankier, and for that, I apologize right now. Some of it may simply be the juggling of everything I need to get done before I leave, but that's not a very good excuse, since I've had a long time to prepare for the move. (Too long, actually; my friends have been trying to tell me goodbye for weeks.)

While I am very much looking forward to my new position, my new apartment, and my new city, I'm also conflicted about leaving Nashville. Some of this is natural healthy: Six years has been long enough to make me a part of a community, as I realized the other day when I was in the bank and I actually ran into someone I knew. I'm going to miss Steadfast and True Yoga (question: Does Gillian St. Clair and the Steadies sound like a band to anyone else?), Capoeira Angola Palmares Nashville and the local capoeira community, the Nashville Hiking Meetup, and my friends at Vanderbilt (not to mention the tremendous resources its endowment provides). Even if we remain in touch, it's not the same as being here with you.

But it's also a time for second-guessing the choices I've made, or, as to quote Barriss Mills,
Gone forever,
like the girls I never kissed,
and the places I never visited -
the lost lives I never lived.

The mistakes I've made, the chances I didn't take, the opportunities I walked by - these are all starting to show up in my rearview mirror. And my tendency is, as always, to assume that these things would have been fabulous if only I had done them. I recognize the dubiousness of that assumption, of course; I just don't feel it.

Unlike the mirrors on a car, though, these objects are farther than they appear. There is no going back. The only benefit to reconsidering them is to learn from my mistakes, but at a certain point it stops being useful and becomes poisonous regret. I am pretty sure I'm at that point.

So Nashville and Nashvillians, yes, I'll miss some of you, but I probably won't tell you that again. This is your last goodbye.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This is my apartment

I've found a design inspiration for my apartment. My place is very similar in layout (well, it's a mirror image): Tall ceilings with a far wall of mostly windows, a fireplace on one side with room for a couple of shelves behind it, and a narrowish space. The biggest difference is that where they have a couch, I have to have more bookshelves.

It gives me a good idea, though, for use of space, and it has a similar period feel built-in. My decor is parametered by not only the unit's moldings and the rather impressive fireplace but also by the mix of woods (birch accessories from Ikea, oak floors, and a dark fireplace with gilt trim). I don't have the choice of minimalism (which, in Manhattan is a form of conspicuous consumption, as it signals that your laptop and your holiday decor and your suitcases are all stored somewhere else). The room shown manages to use a variety of colors and designs without looking busy, which is what I'm most worried about.

These are not the pillows you are looking for

I need to decorate my new place, but a quick tour of Etsy didn't turn up what I was looking for. Instead I found:

Monday, July 11, 2011

I have a new apartment

Last week was exhausting; I spent four days in New York, mostly apartment hunting. Walking all over the city in the middle of summer is not fun; by contrast, the morning I spent filling out HR paperwork was a breeze. But it was worth it, because after seeing several places I concluded would do okay, I found a place I really loved.

I knew it was likely I was going to have to make tradeoffs, and indeed I did. The big one is that there is no laundry in the building. The second is that the unit has less closet space than other apartments I was looking at. It has a fair number of cupboards, but not so many places to put, say, a box of Christmas ornaments.

It also ended up with a couple of features I wasn't keen on. One is a non-working fireplace, as it takes up valuable wall space, but this was definitely one of the nicest-looking ones I saw. The other is parquet flooring. Not a big fan in general, but this floor was very cool. (Besides, "no parquet" was really far down my list of wants.)

So what did it have? It is in the right neighborhood. It has a breakfast bar, nice kitchen, and sleeping loft. It was the only place I saw where the a/c wasn't in the window. It has a little tiny balcony, lots of light from the south, and high ceilings. It actually feels like a place to live, not a white shell. In fact, the walls are green, but they're going to be repainted cream.

Yes, I'm excited about this place.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Very Special Death March

You are here by TheTurducken
You are here, a photo by TheTurducken on Flickr.
Last weekend I led my last hike with Nashville Hiking Meetup, my final death march. The goal was to do as large a loop as possible at Frozen Head State Park. The plan was to go up the Cumberland Trail from the volleyball courts, join Bird Mountain, turn onto North Bird Mountain, follow it out to Coffin Springs, then head south to the lookout tower at the top of Frozen Head, and take Chimney Top down. I wasn't able to get a clear answer on the condition of North Bird Mountain, though, so I warned people to be flexible. Also, there would be several opportunities for people to change their minds if it proved too tough.

The first part of the hike was the toughest; we gained then lost 1000 feet before reaching the point indicated in the photo. Then the trail hauled back up another hill to the top of Jury Ridge. I should mention that the Bird Mountain trail was actually in worse shape than North Bird Mountain. NBM started off bad - waist-high weeds for at least half of mile - but then it opened up and was well-maintained. Still, after lunch we slowed down, and we elected to cut off a corner of the hike and head up to Frozen Head.

There's an intersection where some the trails up Frozen Head meet, and a good chunk of our group elected to head down to camp. We were left with 5 of our original 12. As we headed up to the top of Frozen Head, thunder started rumbling and a few isolated raindrops fell, but the storm passed us. Good thing, because we weren't going to climb the metal lookout tower in a thunderstorm!

After, we were pushing it on time, so we took South Old Mac, the shortest trail back to camp. When we came off the trail, we still had a mile roadwalk, but it was our lucky day - Ranger Mike was in the parking lot, and he gave us a lift back to camp.

All told, it was about 15 miles, with a ton of elevation change.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Disappearing middle class

This: "We’re trying to generate a middle class for a country that no longer really wants one."

I have noticed a real strain of this in our discussions about work and life. Read any article of career advice online, and then read the comments. There will be a heavy dose of, "Well, if you don't like working 80 hours a week, you should't have gone into x. And if you aren't working 80 hours at it, you deserve to be fired." There's some merit to the base form of the argument (i.e, you should know that some fields require more of you than others.), but it gets applied to anything that's a Career rather than a Job. Are you a professor? Accountant? Graphic designer? Electrical engineer? Kindergarten teacher? You didn't expect putting food on the table would be easy, did you?

When someone confesses that, really, they went to college expecting to find a job they like moderately well, but more importantly can make a middle-class living at working 40 hours a week, they're jumped on like "welfare queens" of a previous political generation. You're lazy; your job deserves to be taken away by someone who works more; it's attitudes like yours that are going to make America lose to competition from hard-working Chinese.

Never mind that the reward for devoting everything may be a pitiful teacher's salary, or a pink slip from general downsizing, or a career that disappears in the face or technological and economic change; if you can't invest your entire self in it, go get a job at McDonald's and be poor. Go big or go home.

It's all very Ayn Randian, although I'm pretty sure most the general zeitgeist is being expressed by a lot of folks who haven't even read Atlas Shrugged. It also seems to be part of the anti-sociological thinking in this country. I don't mean that everyone should have read Talcott Parsons, but that the solution to any problem, even if it affects 95 percent of a population, is, "Individuals should work harder." There's no acknowledgement of structural forces shaping society. Attempts to changes the structure are met with cries of, "You're taking away people's freedom to choose," as if our choices aren't already shaped and constrained by our current structure. And failure and success are de facto proof that one deserved to succeed or fail, because, hey, you should have known the rules.

No, the middle class is for lazy folks, those who want a house and job security, who think that four years of college is enough, or if it isn't it's their company's responsibility to provide further training, who think maybe we should have unions and federal regulations intervening in the market, who want to have time to live some very modest version of the American dream after work and on the weekends. We don't need that here: This is America.