I think I just caused a massive blow-up, if not a catastrophic one, between two friends who live together. A poorly timed Facebook message on my part may very well end a relationship between these two people. And while there’s plenty of other factors to at play here, it still feels like proverbial foot-in-mouth disease only in this case, it’s my fingers, a cell phone, social media, and the Internet I would have to swallow to make the metaphor work.

So, the context in which this little drama is unfolding is as follows: the couple moved into together after less than a year of dating; the girlfriend is 30 and ready for marriage, kids, what-not; the guyfriend is 21 and just beginning his new career which will likely take him over seas; girlfriend doesn’t want to move overseas; guyfriend doesn’t want marriage, kids, what-not right now and is being less than definitive in his answers to girlfriend.

These are the basics. Add to it a close cadre of friends who stay in touch and no secret remains quiet for long.

Guyfriend has been intimating that the relationship is on the rocks to a few within the cadre of friends. Girlfriend has been curiously quiet on the topic. Cadre of friends is in contact with Girlfriend via any variety of communication portals. Guyfriend has been semi-flirting on Skype with a tangential friend of the cadre. Cadre has been chastising Guyfriend over this fact, TO WHICH, Guyfriend says that Girlfriend has decided to move out.

Naturally the news ran like wild fire. In fact, it has been all morning. Me, being busy with school and all, has not been privy to this news. I receive a text to this effect, I am updated, and I send a text to Guyfriend. He doesn’t respond, so I send a Facebook message to Girlfriend.

Girlfriend responds via email in the manner of Gee-this-is-news-to-me-guess-I’m-breaking-up.

Crap! Crappity-crap-crap-crap and holy-hell-putting-out-fire-with-gasoline-crap!

So this begs the question: where is the culpability and with whom does it lie? Should I have confirmed this with Guyfriend directly? Did cadre possibly misinterpret what he said? Was this only his news to tell and disseminate at his leisure? I mean, our friends are not the kind to spread vicious gossip, so if they say Girlfriend is moving out, it is only because Guyfriend said so. And why the hell is Guyfriend saying this anyway?

We can only surmise Guyfriend was saying this to justify his less-than-honorable antics with this other girl he has been in contact with. That, or he is voicing his true feelings about his relationship and just hasn’t yet shared them with Girlfriend.

But what the eff?! He had to know we would reach out to Girlfriend!

And of course no one can get in touch with either of them. Not by phone, text, email, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, telegraph, semaphore, or smoke signals…

Technology, it’s supposed to make like easier. Only it’s easier to feel like you still live in high school and even more easy to eff up.

Effing hell…

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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…

Oh, Vladimir…

Like any proper former lover, I naturally engage in a bit of Facebook stalking…just to see what you’re up to…you know, to keep a weather eye out…

And I must say, lately things were rather tame with you. There was the cute and cuddly thing with the tigers, so presh! Of course, I seem to remember you shooting one of those little darlings in the not so distant past…and I also seem to remember something about a whale…or was it a polar bear?…whatever! Leonardo DiCaprio was at the summit and the magical power of Leo, my dear, smooths over all past sins! (we should all have such mojo…)

Then there was the nasty business extending the prison sentence of a former oligarch you broke parted ways with, and really, while I don’t approve, I find myself once again thrilled over the civility of our own relationship’s demise.

I see you you haven’t fully resolved that horrible business of thugs running amok over there. Interesting choice words, dear heart, “inevitable retribution”…not that I have any problem with the retaliation part, hell’s fury and lover’s scorn, yadda, yadda, but the inevitability of it all…as sure as the rain’s fall and the sun’s setting, one can always be sure of your wrath…maybe you should consider talking to someone about that…

And speaking of scorn, don’t think for a second I didn’t notice you whoring around with that ugly and dreadful Kyrgyzstan! So what if they name a mountain after you?! They don’t know, they don’t care, they don’t appreciate you like I do. And at the end of the day, their heart will always belong to the Ghosts of Leaders Past, whereas, my heart will always belong to you, ‘kay? Glad we have that settled.

And in full disclosure, I did place my bobble-headed replica of you in a place of honor…my desk…so that we can always be close…and so I can keep that weather eye out for you…naughty boy…

love you. call me…

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.

I awoke at the magical and lovely hour of 5:45am today because the neighbor above me has a toddler more akin to a Tasmanian Devil than a human child. Said child ran frequent laps around their apartment and was dragging furniture along with it which presents itself like thunder down below in my apartment.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I had gone to sleep at a reasonable hour, which I did not because said child was doing the same activity until well after 10pm, making it impossible for me to get my work done before 1am.

I’ve spoken to my neighbor three times now, hell, I’ve even taken to banging on the ceiling with my shoe. Mostly, I find myself staying out of my apartment until late at night which is a shit-policy because it really only rewards bad behavior.

I finally bit the bullet and went to the building manager. Manager had words with the tenant above and came back with the two most dreaded words in the English language: Single-Mother.

“She doesn’t know what to do The child will not quiet down and she is a single mother.”

Groan!

I’m not a cold-hearted bitch, at least, not all the time, so I automatically generate some sympathy for this woman. The manager said she moved to campus late, couldn’t have known the floors were paper thin, is looking off-campus for housing, and will try to keep the noise down.

My options in this situation? Complain. Call them. Don’t go to her door. If enough complaints are racked up, they’ll break her lease and she can move.

Great. I know what it was like to find housing here. It’s a competitive sport where you best bring your mouth guard. I really don’t want to be the impetus for this woman and child getting tossed out, but dammit, I need sleep and I need some peace and quiet to get work done.

So now I am pitted up against Single Mom and Child. It sucks. I hear her leave at 7am and return after 7pm. I’m sure this kid is in daycare all day so I totally understand the  desire to run like crazy once home. I also understand the desire for Single Mom to want to spend time with her progeny before she goes to bed.

What I don’t understand is the apartment management pitting us up against each like this. I blame them for placing her in a building that is all couples and no children. I really blame them for putting her on the second floor. Single Mom may not have known the floors are paper thin but building management damn well did.

But Single Mom also needs to realize that part of the reason her child is so effen crazy is because it is sleep deprived. Yes, I know, I don’t have children, but I have siblings and friends with children and know enough that toddlers require more sleep than 6 hours a night. Hell, I know I certainly do.

And since there is plenty of blame to go around, I know I could try and be more understanding. However, I was here first (I was), I pay rent too, and the big marketing scheme for this little building is that it caters to “adults and professionals looking for quiet and peaceful living”. So I don’t feel like I should have to stay away from my apartment, coming home ridiculously late on the off-chance that it might be quiet enough to work.

I passed Single Mom in the hallway getting mail. She gave me the stink-eye like no one’s business. I went back to my apartment and Child above began playing with its (I have no idea the gender) favorite toy – the couch, which it drags around the apartment floor.

Well, the passive-aggressive battle lines apparently have been drawn. It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

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!

The suitcase is still sitting in the middle of the kitchen in State College, unpacked, contents spewing about. I haven’t bothered to put things way because of a lingering feeling I have that I am supposed to be somewhere else.

Which isn’t surprising, really. In the last two months I have been shuttling back and forth between Erie and Penn State, with visits to Ireland, New York, Minnesota, Chicago, Washington DC, and North Carolina in between.

Conferences, obligations and any opportunity I have to see Sailor have turned my life into a revolving door of airports, shuttles, hotel rooms and this crappy little suitcase that is falling apart at the seams. I haven’t the time to find a proper new bag to carry my stuff so I have proudly resorted to duct tape.

I think there’s an honor in duct tape as a means of repair, something akin to scars. Scars that show you’ve experienced something and have lived to tell a tale. When I arrived in Erie four years ago, I was peaking on a wave of self-destruction. I’ve spent that time piecing back together pieces of myself I forgot existed.

So now I’m in State College working on a PhD. I have this crappy little suitcase securely bound, full of my daily essentials, staring me down every time I walk in the door. What does this say? That I haven’t yet settled in? That I don’t see myself here? That the Little Hater in my head doesn’t think I can do this? Or does it remind me to pack light and stop trying to take this all so seriously?

I’m proud of this crappy suitcase. I’ve had it forever and it has become dear to me. However, each application of duct tape becomes a hindrance to the bag’s functionality. As much as I love it, I am thinking it is time to unpack and let this one go.

Freshly Skinned Bunnies! Good Eatins!

This was the sign I saw outside of Strattanville, PA as I drove to State College to settle myself in for school…and a new life…again. I took Hwy 322 out of Meadville and meandered my way down because I felt like taking a road less traveled, and damn, if that sign didn’t exemplify that sentiment.

I expect no small amount of weirdness out of central PA: the barn advertising tobacco chew; the beautiful, charming, historic town where I heard no less than 3 racial slurs while grabbing a cup of coffee; or the area just north of here called “Snowshoe” which is oddly enough the name of Samoyed dog my parents rescued when I was 10.

I take it all in. Slightly amused, a little annoyed, and completely mystified as to what I have gotten myself into. And by into, I mean the 600 sqft apartment I find all Sailor’s and my stuff crammed into. I haven’t lived in an apartment in 20 years. The neighbor above wears stilettos. The hallway is a weird amalgamation of smells from the cooking by the various ethnicities of its occupants.I have to swipe a card key to get into the building and use a real key on the apartment door. I haven’t lived with a locked door in the same amount of time since I last lived in an apartment.

A cozy little downtown with nearly everything one needs is within comfortable walking distance. The football stadium, thankfully, is on the exact opposite side of campus. Apparently beer pong begins on the front porches promptly at 5pm. College kids shuffle along in their chewed up flip-flops which they manage to walk on despite half the foot not even remotely touching the foam bed. And everywhere here: rabbits, squirrels, and rabid ducks! There’s no lakes, no ponds, no river that I have seen, so where the hell do these vicious little water fowl come from?

I’m keeping to myself here. I have a bike and walking trail just outside my door. Within 50 yards I can be outside of campus proper and spend an hour or two bouncing around like I am in a pinball machine which my current view of living on the valley. Too much outside of town is farmland where people, quite literally, are only functionally literate and those freshly skinned bunnies are being served for supper.

Sailor is in Chicago this weekend. He wants me to escape and come visit. As much as I would love to, I have meetings with my advisor, another meeting with a professor whose research I am interested in, and no less than 400 pages of journal articles to read before classes next week. In the valley I shall stay.

Stranger in a strange land. Visitor from another planet. As I type this, I’m looking out my window and on the lawn is a full upright rabbit staring me down.

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.