Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All I Want Is A Room Somewhere: the Radical Hits the Road



I flew out of Teeny Airport this morning, this time at a reasonable hour, which you can do if someone else has invited you for a visit and a travel agent is making the arrangements. I changed planes in Connector City and continued on to Mini Airport, which is in the middle of either a midwestern, an eastern or a southern state, depending on how you think of those categories. Or this place. Anyway, it is a super big research university, surrounded by very, very beautiful country. I am here for two days of talking to folks, and then I go on to another city, where I will meet with wads of my scholarly peers at the Annual Meeting. I will also have dinner with the Mother of the Radical (otherwise known as MOtheR, or the Maternal Unit), which I am looking forward to, as we have not had a sitdown since August. A convention is an excellent time for seeing relatives, I have found. It is not such a bad idea to break up the scholarly meeting thing to have dinner with someone entirely unconnected to academic life; and it is not so bad to set boundaries on visits with your relatives by having to return to the scholarly meeting. Otherwise you might just forget and move back in with them.

I could never figure out why, now many years ago, they moved the AHA to January from its formerly terrific date, two days after Christmas. Now it just screws up January break, whereas before it was a great reason to beetle out of the hideous hols. I am told it was the women's caucus who did this, because the professional pressure combined with the family pressure was too great. But this makes no sense. Why wouldn't women want to leave home immediately and get a lovely hotel room all by themselves after that hellish event, otherwise known as "family Christmas?" I think it must have been the patriarchy that was responsible in some way, and as usual, the patriarchy has cleverly put out the disinformation that women are to blame.

But back to the here and now -- there is a football shrine behind my hotel, which pleases me immensely, and is very exotic for those of who are used to Zenith culture and Zenith ways. At Zenith they have shrines to -- like, a Veggie Burger, or something.

Busy as I have been, you would hardly think that I would regard a road trip with great pleasure but, aside from leaving my domestic life behind for a bit too long and the inconvenience of figuring out what clothes I will need as the temperature drops steadily over the next four days, I do regard this trip with pleasure. First of all, it is just a nice break, and it's nice to be invited somewhere. I get to present some work to some people who truly seem to be interested in it, see a friend who is also a former student, and then go on to another hotel where lots of my friends will be milling around, who will have drinks in their hands as the day wears on, and who will solicitously make sure that I get one too. But second of all, there is no better way to get a lot of work done than on planes and trains, and in motel rooms. You bring a finite amount of stuff, and you just slog away at it until its done. As you finish things, you throw the paperwork away. In between giving talks and such, you read novels, catch up on all the magazines that have been coming into your house that you haven't had time for, and watch the Netflix movies that have been sitting on top of the TV for three weeks. You grade stacks of papers, with the TV tuned to ESPN. You catch up on your email. And your blog.

In fact, it has occurred to me that it could really improve my life to find a nice motel in Shoreline, and just check in once in a while. There should be a budget line devoted to this for every department or program chair, and of course now that everyone has wireless internet and cell phones, you wouldn't really even be out of touch or not working. You would just be in -- well, seclusion. Like nuns, or Howard Hughes, or the Wizard of Oz.

New President has asked for New Ideas that we can Raise Money Around, and after I see whether they will agree to making my program a department (or agree to even think about it), I'm going to offer this one up. It's got legs for anyone that is or has been an administrator, don't you think?

12 comments:

Susan said...

I do enjoy being on the road, but I never finish as much work as you appear to: I get back to my room at night far too tired, and I usually try to get some exercise when I get up in the morning. So I get a *little* caught up, but not enough.

Now, the motel room *without* the conference...

And my MU (maternal unit) used to live in a city with major libraries I could use. So I would visit MU, but spend the day in the library. We both had enough space...

Belle said...

I agree; the AHA made a big mistake. That said, I'm looking forward to going this year as I adore DC.

I discovered a new use for quiet hotel rooms: doing the audio portions of podcasts in total silence. Far different from my other venues. So I get it; if Zenith approves of your 'scholarly retreat' idea, be sure and post the logic you used, so we can plan our assault on them for same.

gebranntes kind said...

om, who can afford to have a single room at a conference hotel? So after you have an exhausting holiday, you get to get on a plane for an exhausting journey, and then share a hotel room with someone for a four day slumber party. Attractive.

Tenured Radical said...

Honey, I can afford it a single room at a conference hotel, because I am going on Zenith business and hence I have budget.

TR

anthony grafton said...

And let's not forget the wonderful showers that many hotels provide. That wonderful, relaxing blast of hot water . . . Even when you're sharing at a conference hotel, it can be a small consolation for both the sharing and the conference.

Anonymous said...

About the move of the AHA to Jan from Dec: the Classics gig also did the same a while back (The American Philological Association together with the Archaeological Institute of America). Now we meet in early Jan instead of between Xmas and New Year's.

About this move, you write:
"I am told it was the women's caucus who did this, because the professional pressure combined with the family pressure was too great. But this makes no sense. Why wouldn't women want to leave home immediately and get a lovely hotel room all by themselves after that hellish event, otherwise known as "family Christmas?" I think it must have been the patriarchy that was responsible in some way, and as usual, the patriarchy has cleverly put out the disinformation that women are to blame."

I just wanted to say something about this in defense of the people, indeed likely parents but not necessarily only female ones, who are in favor of the new timing of these conferences. But a caveat before I do: I am always seeing the pariarchy behind things and am always getting in trouble by saying so, in public, and loudly. But I woudn't blame the patriarchy for this move, really. Not would I blame professional academic women, which I count myself, who supposedly can't handle the pressure of a professional meeting and a holiday back-to-back. I can handle it and have done many times before.

But what I like about the new time is that I get a few more days after Xmas, before I have to gear up for a new semester, to be with my kids. As a working mother I don't get enough time with them anyway, and as long as you don't allow a million relatives to descend upon your household for the holidays and let it thus get out of hand, the holiday season can actually be quite pleasant with your own small family. Having to cut extra time together for the sake of an academic meeting is just insulting, as if all we have to do is think about meetings and academic papers (most of which are ghastly these days anyway) and listen yet again to our colleagues talk more about themselves. Chilling out with the kids by going hiking in the woods, making snowmen, watching movies and eating popcorn sounds a lot better to me for those precious days when we don't have to be thinking about teaching and research 24/7. I just needed to say that.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear anonymous 7.39,

What you say makes sense and I just want to say -- the crack about the patriarchy was a joke.

cheers,

TR

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