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After a raucous holiday season road-tripping across Hell’s Half Acre, fighting with family, and imbibing entirely too much booze, Sailor Man and I decided to enact the old “Booze Free January” to kick off our new year.

So, here I am, booze-free for exactly 31 days now. I’ve tried this little experiment before. Unsuccessfully. Now that the deed is said and done, here’s some observations I noticed during my month of respite from the spirits:

  1. Drinking, in some sense, is second nature. The last time I tried this experiment, I was amazed to find myself no sooner walking in the door after a long day and mindlessly pouring myself a drink before I could consciously ask myself “What the hell am I doing?”
  2. In my attempt to be more conscientious about drinking, I could feel a sense of anxiety welling up inside of me. It honestly took me a few weeks to analyze this sentiment, but it came down to feeling as though I was missing out on something by not having a drink. A sense of loss. It’s weird, but I have no idea where this comes from.
  3. Related to the anxiety and sense of loss is also a feeling of paranoia. Why am I feeling this anxiety? Am I an alcoholic? Why am I thinking about booze so much? Do I want a drink that bad? Do I need a drink that bad?
  4. Of course, after the first week, #2 and #3 went away and was replaced by a feeling of indifference.
  5. Celebrations are the single largest contributor to falling off the wagon. Be it a birthday party, getting into a PhD program, football playoffs or some other event that inspires the need to have a party. Celebrations in general just seem to go hand-in-hand with alcohol and it is darned difficult to separate the two.
  6. In declaring my booze-free status on any sort of social media, I immediately was flooded with emails or comments in the nature of “Why?! Are you okay?!” Which then kicked off a stream of responses in making people understand that, no, I’m not an alcoholic, I just wanted to give booze a break for a spell. Also, I had hoped that by sharing my booze-free mantra for the month, that friends would be more encouraging and less apt to tempt me.
  7. Friends who were aware of my drink-free vow were less inclined to want to get together. I frequently heard “Maybe after your month of abstinence is over…”
  8. Without changing my diet or workout regiment, I have lost 6 pounds. Now, I don’t usually drink that much, maybe one drink 5 nights a week, so the loss of those six pounds is mighty telling. I know that when, on occasion I drink a lot, I also tend to snack unjudiciously, but since that happens so rarely, the 6 pounds is something I’ll have to look in to.
  9. Now that the proverbial bar is now open, I find myself less incline to have a drink. I’m actually considering extending the little experiment. I do have friends coming in town next weekend and belated birthday party to attend, so naturally, there will be a glass or two consumed, but maybe I’ll start a plan to save this for the weekends…

With the resolution now resolved, I am left with a feeling of meh. Maybe some time to digest this past month will reveal some new insights. Maybe I’m over thinking the whole thing. Maybe I should just chill-out and have a drink…

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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!

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.

As I am not currently spending any quality time in Erie, PA anymore, I think it best to rename this blog.

I have yet to come up with anything good but the current list of “also-rans” center around central Pennsylvania and my PhD program.

I won’t promise that I will clean up my act. It is highly likely that I remain a spotty and uneven blogger writing about whatever the mice in my brain tell me to.

That being said, I am open to suggestions!

Funerals manage to bring out the worst in me in by the fact that they bring together, in one room, all the things that truly irritate me in life: flowers, the cloying smell of old-lady perfume, and cigarette smoke…and embalming, and caskets, and funeral homes…and insincerity, and vultures, and weirdo relatives.

It’s a hellish trifecta of allergies, religion, and forced association with people I wouldn’t otherwise associate with.

Sailor’s grandmother died and aside from the sheer joy of Sailor coming home for the funeral, I also garnered the smug knowledge of Sailor having relatives scarier than my own; so the funeral was basically a big win for me.

Oh, sure, there’s the grief and everything, but Granny E had a good long run. I fail to see why that is cause for tears.

I’ll admit I am probably wired differently than most, but I see little to cry over in a 90 year old woman who cultivated a life that resulted in the being mourned by extended family and life long friends. She was placed in a beautiful box, with her best suit, surrounded by flowers, letters and pictures. She was visited by at least a hundred people at the funeral home before having a memorial service in her honor and then having a motor parade to beautiful burial ground where I am sure will be placed a beautiful stone.

Aside from disagreeing on the ritual as a whole (embalming, caskets, funeral home), this is still basically what I would call a Good Death.

Think of the thousands of people who die everyday: alone, without burial honor or rites, without anyone to mourn them. Maybe they die brutally, maybe they die anonymously. Not a winter goes by when we don’t hear on the national news about an older person dying of starvation in their home, or who froze to death because they didn’t have the wherewithal to deal with an electric bill, or they die alone, unvisited, unclaimed, in a nursing home.

It’s not bad enough that they die and no one cares, but that maybe they died because no one cared that they even lived. And this happens more than we care to think about. These are not Good Deaths and certainly something to shed a few tears about.

For those who are born and raised here in Erie and live their lives out here, they seem to develop massive networks of friends, friends of friends, and extended friends. People here will drop what their doing and come pay their respects though they may not know the relative you have lost. Honestly, I’ve lived a lot of place and I’ve not seen the likes of it anywhere else. It’s something I have come to appreciate about this place.

So, no, I shed no tears this weekend. I can get verklempt with the best of them, but like I said, Granny E had a good long run and died with family and friends by her side. That’s something to be happy about because Granny E was one of the lucky ones.

The real suck-o part about being an atheist who goes to a Catholic college is all the damn religion…classes.

Actually, I don’t mind the so much as long as they are not Christian-based. So I am taking Buddhism to fulfill one of my “god” requirements. And I know it’s only the second week of class and a horde of religion scholars are bound to chew me out for this, but I am going to sum Buddhism, comparatively, in one sentence:

Buddhism is a cult of guilt that puts all Catholic and Jewish mothers to shame.

In short: life is a vicious cycle of guilt to be repeated over and over, and trust me, it’s a mother-effer.

With Catholics it’s a pretty straight up and down business deal: do something bad and confess, eff up bad enough and you go to Hell, do okay and you go to Heaven, get stuck in the in between and it’s Limbo or Purgatory.

Jews don’t believe in a heaven or a hell, so all your guilt is contained to this lifetime and, if you fast for one day and say your sorry, and you really, really mean it, your forgiven…beat that….

With Buddhists, however, it’s all in the intent. You desire something not kosher, you act on said non-kosher desire, and you get smacked something awful with karma whereby you go through all the horror that is adolescence again, and again, again, and again…that is, if you are lucky enough to return as something other than microbe on piece of dung.

Seriously, if I am going to be judged on intention alone, I might as well not even bother to leave the starting gate because I already know I’m coming back as a gnat.

Boy, I’d make one lousy ass Buddhist let me tell you. To become enlightened is to live without desire and to live without desire and how awful is that? It’s good to want. I wholly believe that. And desire? I’ll concede that some desire does cause suffering but all desire? Damn, how is a life without desire worth living? Desire is the reason I get out of bed in the morning.

Desire. Anticipation. Want. Craving. Hunger. Ravenousness.

Hell, wanting the cake, desiring the kiss, hunger for the man, craving coffee, anticipation of the result…if that is suffering, I’ll take it. I love those moments. When everything in your body becomes a live-wire. When everything in life hinges on that outcome. When waiting for the outcome becomes the still point of the turning world…love it. Maybe it’s hedonistic, maybe it is gluttonistic (aren’t those Christian terms anyway?).

And for the record, even though sometimes the cake sucks, the kiss is sloppy, the man is a douchebag, the coffee is cold, and the result you were waiting for crushes your soul and changes your life, the moment of the desire was still good. The desire did not disappoint me, just the outcome did….and you won’t convince me otherwise.

I was really pretty shocked to have read that Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor extraordinaire of long standing at the venerable institution Hahr-Vahrd, was arrested two days ago.

But I wasn’t shocked to have read the context and circumstances of his arrest. Sure, there’s the easy explanation of racism in America (you really will never convince me a white professor would have been treated the same way), but then there’s the even easier explanation that no one seems to be talking about and it is this: the arresting “officer” in the affair is yet another example of a douchebag cop with a Napoleon Complex.

Sure, I have no doubt the cop behaved in a racist manner, but that is an action coupled with a personality trait and that trait being that the he is yet another douchebag cop with a Napoleon Complex.

A professor here at school is a retired cop and relayed to me the different types of people who become police officers:

1. The Fitness Nut: the guy or gal who somehow relives their high school athletic glory days by being a cop. They are all about how they look in the uniform. Being a good or bad cop is strictly a matter of happenstance.

2. The Gun Nut: I think this speaks for itself. The Gun Nut, who is almost always male, is also closely related to the Penis Insecurity Nut.

3. The Righteous Nut: this person has an overwhelming sense of self-importance and truly thinks that the worse they behave towards the general public, the better cop they are.

4. The Drunk Cop: who is actually a pretty okay person who took the job as a way of redemption but at the same time, does not know how to handle the stress better.

Now according to Professor Cop, a police officer can actually be a combination of these varying traits but one is always more dominant than the other. Like the thing about Elvis and the Beatles: you can like both, but you always like one more than the other.

With regards to incident involving Professor Gates, my money is on Cop #3. Then again, I’m not at all familiar with the inner workings of cop-hood and the public perception I have garnered of them over the years is really just boils down to the simplicity of the douchebag cop with the Napoleon Complex scenario.

Sailor Man arrives in town in exactly three hours and while I am thrilled he is coming home, this harkens the cessation of secret single behavior for the time being.

No more moody Easter European piano music at all hours on the stereo. Trashy books will be hidden on the shelf. Seriously, there’s just no explaining to him how I got sucked into this “Twilight” book saga. Dinner time will mean actual dinner again instead of my nightly fare of peanut butter and crackers with a glass of wine. And watching TV and movies online will be limited to just Sunday mornings.

About the only thing I don’t change that irritates Sailor is my tendency to read three books at the same time. Drives him mad, I know, but there’s simply no other way for me. The one thing I don’t compromise on.

And I’m not complaining and this isn’t a “forbidden” type thing, it’s just part of the general compromises one makes when one becomes a “pair”.

Likewise, Sailor has made the same sacrifices. No singing in the house. I love him, but the boy sings off key. No computer games until all hours of the night. No leaving clothes all over the damn place. And a slew of certain boat behavior I’m sure he shelves for the sake of this marriage.

But like the change of the seasons, Sailor will be back on boat at some point, and all those hidden quirks will come raging to the forefront. 

I prefer now to simply think of them as hibernating for the winter.

So finals are over and I’m sitting here a little numb. Crazy amounts of information is still pin-balling around inside my noggin. I’m now in a place where I find myself mentally performing the post-mortem of the term.

The strange thing for most adult students I know is that we all tend to go overboard in the amount of work we put towards school. And at the end of every term, we all promise ourselves not to be so crazy about things next time. Not to take it all so damn seriously.

Yeah, right. Even I don’t believe that one.

redbrstRegardless, the brain will calm down. Eventually. A healthy pour (or two) of Red Breast 12 year whiskey that fantastic human being gave me to celebrate the end of term will certainly rectify that situation. As will sleeping in, reading a trashy book that is NOT about Azerbaijan or anything relative to the Caucasus region, seeing some films at the dollar show, and waiting, patiently, for Sailor Man to come home next week.

The dog is getting a bath, the house is getting a good scrubbing, laundry will be done, and grocery shopping will commence. In a word, life will go back to relative normal.

And it all starts right now as I file all my papers from the term and sit and stare at the wall for awhile.

Hell, yeah.

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.