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I don’t know what’s gotten into the water lately, but it seems like a lot of new bloggers are popping up onto the scene.

As I’ve written previously, while going back to school I somehow manage to acquire a small group of ducklings to mentor. Said ducklings, or at least a few of them, have struck out on their own into the big bad world and recently started up blogs. It makes a lot of sense, the idea of blogging at that age. You’re just out of college, a newly minted citizen at the Grown Up Table, and you’re starting to figure out who you are in this world. Writing is a great discipline and if you are honest with yourself, you will discover the weird and strange sides of your intellect when you communicate with the mice in your brain.

So, here’s a few I encourage you to check out:

The Urban Liberal: This young woman came into my life two years ago like Category 5 hurricane and my proverbial trees she knocked down have been slowly growing back ever since. I see a lot of myself in her: brash, occasionally reckless but essentially good-natured, open to discovery and not afraid to fall to on her face in the process. She’s discovering her voice as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and it’s a terrifically interesting process to behold. But reader beware, you pick a fight with this chick and she will argue with you to the end of time. I’ve witnessed many a nasty Facebook fights and she stands swinging for days.

Ethan Johns: an exceptional young man I know attending Mercyhurst College. He’s been going through a tough year and yet he handles it with grace and perseverance. He’s only posted one entry, but that’s the first step! I’m hoping he continues to write. Do him a favor and post a comment to urge him along.

What We do with the Time Given to Us: Miss Megan, oh, what to say? A new college grad living in DC and getting her feet wet. She makes so many stringent, stringent rules for herself and I would love nothing more in this life than to see her start breaking some of the rules. I would also like her to stop constantly analyzing where she fits into a situation or whatever group dynamic around her, and instead, just enjoy the moment. C’mon Megan! Step on a crack and break yo mama’s back!

There is a rule in Wikipedia culture that I rather enjoy: don’t be mean to the newbies. This rule is meant to protect those who are new to the environment. This is not to say that one should not question, debate, and comment on the younglings’ offerings, but to think first before coming down on the young ones like a ton of bricks.

These are young, bright, emotional beings who deserve a chance to paddle in the pool before going off into the deep end. They’re figuring out their beliefs, refining their thought processes, and will do so a hundred times over in the next few years. That being said: be nice, dammit!

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I renamed the blog and I feel its quite appropriate given the how often I utter that phrase. Like when I am asked for directions, asked if I am related to someone local, hell, asked if I am a local, or mistaken for someone, somewhere, sometime, in the general vicinity.

I am new here to State College and my status has an expiration date. I hope it is May 2014. That’s when I would present my dissertation for defense. Whether this will happen, only time will tell. In crazy and weird little increments. As of now, I am a doctoral student. Hopeful by end of the next summer, I will be a doctoral candidate (and no, this is not up for general election). Following, I will propose my thesis, hopefully it will be accepted. All the while, I will have been taking classes. Two years worth. Once classes, candidacy, and proposal are finish, then come the comps! Following competency exams, one becomes an interesting acronym: ABD. All But Dissertation. If you get that done, then you present it for defense, gladiator style! Swords and battle axes for all! Not really, but rules change, one can dream…

So I am one day-ing it at a time.

I have a new living space. It’s like being in Maine with how I am able to walk everywhere, but not like Maine in that I’m in a valley and hundreds of miles from significant water. It’s like Northern Michigan, in that there is elevation, hills and nearby forests, but not, since there’s this massive university here. It’s a lot like Maryland with the asshat frat boys living the neighborhoods prohibiting any sort of restful sleep but not since the police actually show up and do something when you call. It’s little like Erie in that N. Atherton Street is a lot like Peach Street in all its obnoxious retail-awfulness and the wonderful historic homes, but not like Erie in that there is also a cultivated and bustling downtown.

My gym situation is significantly better. I already have developed a status as the new resident freak show with my powerlifting-female-ness. However, I haven’t had harsh words for a single soul in months. If you’ve read this blog over the last few years, you know that I regularly go to war with meatheads. Just because it’s a gym does not grant cause for asshattery. My gym is peaceful and serene. After years of abuse, I am unused to this. I find myself constantly waiting for some proverbial show to drop. So it’s like the Glenwood YMCA with all its shiny new equipment and windows but not like the Glenwood YMCA in its absence of a-holes and an indifferent and untrained staff.

And I developing a new cadre of friends although in most cases, they feel like a reiteration of older, trusty and better versions. For instance, I have a new ALP – Androgynous Life Partner. My ALPs all have similar characteristics: love of bizarre cartoons, crazy pop culture, actual history, real politics, weird music, weirder books, WWII, gaming, and all things that go boom! My old ALP, Fox and Maus back in Maine, is version 1.0. Despite the distance between us, the crazy bonds us for all eternity. My current ALP is actually version 4.0. He’s an improvement over version 3.0. And truth be told, 3.0 is actually 3.5 (after he got a job, a girlfriend, started watching Dancing With the Stars, and became decidedly less interesting). But 3.5 is not as good as 2.0 (who kinda lacked a certain joi de vie) and no one was or nor ever can be as good as The Big 1.0. He remains the Gold Standard for all ALPs. Something in that hard, Maine water with the ridiculously high mineral content…I suspect I am being unfair to all the ALPs that follow, but thems the breaks kids.

Sailor Man is on a boat somewhere. That’s nothing new. I am hoping he has time off soon to come visit me and see where his stuff currently resides. We shall see.

And everyone here blogs! Not fun blogs mind you, but academic blogs. So the local blogging community is present but it’s not as diverse and as lifestyle oriented (or as coordinated) as the Erie blogging community.

I mentioned once while writing about Iceland how I noticed a personal tendency to view a country through the lens of the last country I visited. For example, I visited Ireland prior to Iceland to I tended to observe Iceland through my experiences on the Mother Ship. State College is largely like this for me. I find myself viewing it through the lens of Erie since I spent the last 4 years there.

So I’m here and I’m not. I’m in State College but I’m also in Erie…and Michigan, and Maine, and Maryland…I’m everywhere at once and no where in between….

This is too weird a way to live. I really need to get my State College house in order.

Buh-bye, Erie! Hello State College!

So, uh, I moved a while back. June 1st as a matter of fact. I moved across state to start a PhD program so my proverbial skirts have been hiked up and I skeedaddled.

I lived in Erie for 4 years – the longest I have lived anywhere in nearly two decades. I’m not going to lie, it was rather easy to leave. Despite the presence of Sailor’s family and a few friends, I developed no deep connection to the place. Which is odd. Sailor and I have been fairly deliberate about where we live and every town holds some place in my heart. I don’t know if Erie has moved into the co-op there just yet, only time will tell.

So I’m here in State College. Surrounded by mountains. It’s freaking me out. I have always lived on the water, horizon in the distance, and here I am in the Happy Valley. Land-locked. My horizon very clearly blocked on all sides by hills and mountains. If geography is determinative, I wonder what this is going to say about my life in the 4 years I am supposed to be here.

Erie is easily reduced to my mistake-by-the-lake. We really never should have left Maine. I can admit that now. Erie is a lonely place. You may not realize that if you are native to the town, but it’s a tough social scene to break into as a 30-something couple. The natives are not very welcoming.

Argue with me if you feel you must, but I have garnered this opinion from numerous persons in the same boat and the general consensus amongst the non-natives I spoken to seems to be this: if you weren’t born in Erie forget about developing social relationships; Erie-ites establish their friendships in grade school and do precious little to widen that circle once they are adults.

Oh, I’m not complaining. It’s just the way Erie is and besides, what did I really have in common with women my own age who have been married well over a decade by that point and have teenaged children? Not much.

I was at the doctor’s office a few months ago getting the required immunizations for this place and when the Nurse Practitioner discovered my age, marital status and lack of children, she very sincerely congratulated me: Excellent. That’s excellent. Good for you. Get that education. Do it for yourself – you won’t regret it.

Here in State College, I am actually surrounded by my peers. Many 30 something women, single, married, divorced, no children and we’re all ridiculously busy. Friendships are instant, easy, and progress at a leisurely pace.

So I’m getting to know the valley. I walk everywhere. Walk. Everywhere. Not something I could ever do in Erie, PA. And bike riding? Fuggetaboudit. Bike lanes abound! Here’s the thing you Erieites: riding a bike is not a crime and does not warrant hostile actions on behalf of drivers.

But it’s not all breaking bread and wine, for here, you see, I have serious problem: The NPR station here sucks. Anyone who knows me can appreciate the gravity of that statement. It seriously pains me how bad the NPR is here. So Erie had that going for it: awesome NPR. The weekends in Erie were as life should be: all talk, all day. None of this 4 hour interruption for damn hippy-folk music that makes my ears bleed.

I’m debating currently keeping this blog. I’ve been such a bad blogger this year I wonder if anyone is still around to even read this. Of course the name will have to change. Of course I won’t have Erie to comment upon. Of course I’ll be wading through this PhD puzzle. We’ll see…

I keep hearing the saying that PhD’s are a marathon not a sprint. Well, we’ll see if I can jog for 4 years.

Oh yes, behind…so very, very behind…

On so many levels. I refilled the window wiper fluid in my car and in doing so was forced into yet another confrontation with the mysterious black nursing bra that has been living in my car for the better part of a year now. And no, I still have not removed it.

I’m sure I’ll get around to it. Eventually. At the most embarrassing moment possible. The point is: don’t you worry your pretty little head over it.

Life has been pretty interesting as of late. I babysat a hedgehog who is as old in hedgehog years as Puppy Dog is in mastiff years, and yes, all under the same roof. Good times. Damn thing stuck me with quills so many times I was tempted to use her to clean the grout in my bathroom. But alas, sanity prevailed, and she is returned to her rightful owner, tiles sadly uncleaned.

I suspect I shall be homeless soon. My landlord wants to sell the house as soon as the lease is up (24 days). She doesn’t want to extend and I haven’t found a place to take me in. So if you find a redhead and her insanely old dog sleeping in your garage, shut the damn door! I’m sure it’s still cold out.

I’ve got four months to go here in Erie. The sentence is up and I am about to be paroled.

Yes, that is correct: PAROLED!

And why? Because I was accepted into a PhD program and am blowing this popsicle stand come August 1st! Yup, gonna see about becoming a doc-TAH! Penn State here I come! Hide your cats, whiskey, and loose change!

Four months feels like forever. But it should be just enough time to clear out the crap in my house, which will be easy, it’ll be tossed on the street with me and the pooch and stolen at this rate. But nonetheless, I shall enjoy enough of Erie summer weather to leave on what I am positive will be a sour note due to the annual Roar on the Shore, and all it’s smokey, loud, drunk-driving, obnoxiousness.

But I will be better at chronicling my nonsense in the meantime. It’s only fair. I’ve bitched so much about so much, why ruin a good thing?

Wow, long time with no posts. I have no explanation really except to say that after a particularly brutal school term, I needed to a serious mental reboot. While I am working on school project this summer, I am also getting in my fair share of trashy novels and summer sun.

So Sailor actually has most of the summer off, but since he needs to update his Coast Guard license, he is still not in town as he needs to attend classes all over Hell’s Half Acre and take various exams as far away as Virginia.

What this means to me is that not only is Sailor gone, again, but I now have the added benefit of being car-less. As a one car family, Sailor needs it to travel so I am walking or biking my way around Erie…which fairly sucks by the way…

Mostly this is because Erie has, possibly, the worst population of drivers outside of Boston. Pedestrian signals are merely an annoyance and my mere existence in a crosswalk is apparently cause for vehicular manslaughter. A woman actually jumped the curb in her car on 38th street yesterday and nearly took me out in the process. This is because she was texting while driving. After the car came to a stop, she didn’t even bother to look to see if she had struck anyone or anything, she merely resumed texting until I started banging on the hood of her car demanding for her to step out.

There’s also a ass-hat that works at the Veterans Hospital that somehow has the idea that my bike is required to stop and let him turn into the hospital when I have the mother-effin right of way. So everyday has become a game of chicken where I am rushing ahead to avoid getting hit by this jerk-off.

My favorite people are the car load of reprobate teens who thought it amusing to lean out the window and try to push me off my bike. I guess it didn’t occur to them that such an act could quite conceivably kill me, so I didn’t feel too badly about grabbing the kid by the hair and half pulling him out the car window…little bastard…he screamed like a little boy.

But the strangest reaction I receive is from my co-workers. If I bike to work, this is somehow all right, but if I walk, then this is cause for concern. Why didn’t you just call me??

But whether I bike or walk, I encounter the same issues: hostile motorists who do not respect the law or my right of way. Barring that, when I just don’t feel like possibly getting killed and decide on traversing the sidewalk, there’s also the people who leave their kid’s toys everywhere, or who have spectacularly decrepit cement, or terrifically overgrown bushes and trees, or cars who block the sidewalk thus forcing one back into traffic.

So this interesting little experiment continues for the foreseeable future. Sailor return this week, but I am going to continue to walk and ride to work. I like the exercise, I like the time to myself, and maybe I just like the thrill of the evident danger that is cruising the streets of Erie.

Tally to date: Cars – 0, Inmate – 6.

A momentary pause from the poetry to comment on the hellacious movement of winds through area in the last 24 hours…

229911232_1b3e173c59Da-yamn! I lived on a coastal Maine island and experienced less wind than the likes I have come to expect living here.

This has gotten my mind going on the various winds of the world: The life-sucking Santa Anas of California, the mythical Mistrals of France, the insomnia-inducing Siroccos of Italy, or the sweet Zephyrs of Greece. I really love that people of old bothered to name their regional fare of wind.

It’s sad in modern times when we receive a “southeasterly breeze” or an “arctic blast” by comparison. It’s become all science and no art or philosophy. Even a Nor’ Easter sounds lame next to the Chocolateros of Mexico (the accumulated dust turns the air to “cocoa”), or the Blue Northers of Texas, which sounds pretty and romantic, but is the name of some of the most destructive winds in the world.

Given the frequency with which Erie has windstorms tearing through here (I can think of at least four in the last year alone), isn’t it high time we named these suckers?

As I was dressing for school today, I pulled on a thermal long sleeve shirt followed by a sweater, scarf, sock liners under my wool socks, jeans, my winter coat and hat. Since it is expected to only reach the mid-teens termperature wise, and since I would be walking all over campus today, I am wearing glove liners under my winter gloves.

I was raised in Detroit, lived in Northern Michigan for a numbers of years, headed south for while, back up north to the great state of Maine and now I’m back in the Great Lakes region. Basically this means is that I know how to dress for winter.

alexander-mcqueen-jet-crystal-bootie-styleI try not to look like a schlub in the process. I have a cute hat and a decent coat. But really, at my age, style can be damned when it comes to keeping warm and dry. This point has been particularly driven home with the severity of this winter.

So I’m sitting in my Math class next a fellow student, one who hails from the Erie area, and we’re dicsussing our future plans. I am unsure of mine as of yet, but my classmate is bound and determined to head south.

“I can’t handle the cold anymore.” Is what she tells me.

I consider this for a moment as I take in her attire: skinny jeans that barely reach her ankles, ballet slipper-shoes with no socks, a rather flimsy looking jacket that only just reaches her waist and really doesn’t stretch the length of her arms. Lastly, a filmy scarf with no evidence of mittens or hat.

Her hair and make-up is perfect. Her coat probably costs a couple hundred dollars, as does her jeans and probably her shoes. She looks polished. She looks fantastic. She also looks like she’s freezing her butt off. And it’s not as if she is new to winter. She grew up here for Dog sake.

And she is clone of dozens of other girls I see on campus every day.

My classmate goes to say how much she loves the area. She loves the spring, summer, and fall in Erie. She is close to her family. She has a tight circle of friends. She has been dating a boy for a few years (he’s from just over the New York border) and they are discussing marriage. In addition, this girl and her boyfriend have the option of working for family businesses upon graduation.

It sounds like a good life, but she really can’t stand the cold, and hence, must leave.

This puzzles me to no end. Sure, Sailor and I’ve moved around..a lot…but merely because we have been seeking community. Find a community where we belong and a reasonable job and we’ll stay put. I know myself enough to say that I’ll never live down south. I hate the heat. I know myself enough that I’ll not settle down in Erie because this just isn’t my kind of town. I know we will probably head back east eventually, not because we particularly love the harsh winters, we don’t, but because it has what Sailor and I want: a nice life around great people and reasonable employment. As far as the winter goes, well, we own good boots and thick winter coat. Plus, I rock at making a fire.

So I wonder about this classmate of mine. Out of a dozen mentioned criteria for a place to settle down, Erie has 11 things going for it and one against. The winter. 3 months out of 12. Given that, isn’t it simply much easier to, oh, I don’t know, dress appropriately for the damn cold than remove yourself entirely from a place you clearly want to be?

Where’s the sacrifice in buying a sturdy pair of boats and a wool coat when you can have everything else you really want, and let’s be honest, really need in life?

Saturday was spent entirely indoors doing homework and watching the snow fall. Sunday was spent partially digging out and the rest of the day enduring excruciating back pain.

Nothing says “ibuprofen-vicodin-heating-pad-lie-on-the-living-room-floor-repeat” like shovelling a 200 foot long driveway. It’s bad enough to live on a street in the winter with a 30 degree incline, it’s worse when your driveway runs perpendicular to said street at its own 30 degree incline. Only the sweet, sweet relief of pain medications makes this winter bearable right now.

Being the fantastic creatures they are, my neighbors down the hill saved the rest of the day by snow blowing my 125 foot sidewalk and driveway apron thus allowing for the car to escape its wintry prison and procure more drugs.

And where was Sailor Man during all this you ask? Well he spent Saturday on the couch drugged stupid with a special blend of anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers while developing an undying love of icy-hot patches. He messed up his shoulder having dug us out from the snow a few days before. Sunday he spent relearning basic motor skills.

Our lease is up in March and as much as I hate to move, again, a more level street with a shorter driveway is definitely in order.

I was fairly sure that I was done with all the strange culinary traditions Erie had to offer when I lit upon a new one this New Years.

imagesSeems and that pork and sauerkraut are the order of the day come January 1. Thought it was just and Erie thing and then I discovered it is a German tradition in that pigs are considered lucky and sauerkraut, well, it just goes well with pork chops. I’ve not seen nor heard of this tradition outside of this town.

Though Sailor and I had a beyond tame New Years Eve, it didn’t prevent us from being invited to partake of a local “cure”. We were introduced to “Tom and Jerrys” (yes, no apostrophe, and, no, not the ice cream). An interesting and lethal little mixture to be consumed on New Years Day after a night of debauchery. It is a shot of rum and brandy with a splash of hot water and topped with a frothy eggwhite concoction dusted with nutmeg. I later found a recipe for it in a cookbook of English recipes from the 17th century. The Brits apparently call it “syllabub”. Nearly rivals Mother’s Christmas Coronaries, they’re that deadly. Certainly something you will feel in your root canal.

Ah, Erie…just when I think I have it figured out, yet another curveball is thrown…and another year is upon me…

So I voted this morning. The lines were non existent, the parking was ample, plenty of people were on hand, but yet it still managed to take more time than it should have.

The problems begin with the location. I voted at Trinity Lutheran Church on 38th Street, which just felt wrong. Plain wrong. But aside from issues regarding the separation of Church and State, there were no signs – anywhere – telling you that this was the place, this is where you enter, or this is the room to where you go to vote.

There was ample room for the bake sale the church decided to have, but you could not turn around in the room where the actual voting takes place. The ladies running the show (and don’t get me wrong here, I have the highest respect for poll workers) where at best unorganized and discombobulated.

No matter. I voted. Made my voice heard. And then got the hell out of there.

With regards to the after work voters though, I can see this process getting long and ugly.