Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Getting “oriented” & Brock McElheran
2008/09/25, 05:29
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I’ll try to make this one quick in the interest of hitting the sack at a semi-decent time.

Today there were a bunch of activities to help further “orient” the other graduate students and myself.  Meeting in the morning…chatting with some over lunch…diagnostic exam…chatting over loud music and good food at the reception.  Overall I really enjoyed getting to know my cohort (the 6 others that there are besides me!) along with seeing other people from the previous orientation and meeting a couple more.

My first class is tomorrow.  I think we all had the jitters today.  The departmental orientation was pretty much, “We’re glad to have you here!  Don’t screw up!”  Hah.

So as I was skimming to see some friends that were online, I noticed that someone had posted RIP Brock.

I checked the Potsdam website, and sure enough, Brock McElheran passed away yesterday.

My personal experiences with Brock were fleeting, infrequent, but still impressionable.  When I was a freshman, he conducted a concert of a Mozart piano concerto with a guest player whom he met in Canada.  She lived near him in their apartment complex and he admired her practicing.  He went to her door and asked her if she was playing piano, and she was quick to apologize for having disturbed him.  I remember the way he told the story so well, and he laughed about how he wasn’t trying to get her to be quiet, he actually wanted to listen to her more.  When Brock conducted the CSO, his eye sight was poor enough where he conducted all of the movements by memory; his fragile frame standing on the podium conducting us with minimum movements, but still expressively!  I was astounded during rehearsals with him.  Despite his small, unassuming frame, he was sharp and witty and warm.  You could have heard a pin drop during the rehearsals.

The next few years, I would see him usually at concerts with his wife, Janie.  No matter the time or the inclement weather (and trust me, there was plenty of that in Potsdam), Brock and Janie made it to virtually all of the major ensemble concerts and visiting artists.  They would usually sit towards the back and Janie would read what was next on the program to Brock between pieces.

Even in such indirect moments as those described above, I can say I learned lessons about true dedication and passion, appreciation of music and the arts, and a love for others.  Brock is one of the professors and (for lack of a better term) Crane “celebrities” that have really inspired me and made me proud for having chosen Crane for my undergraduate school.

Below, Brock is pictured with my Lit & Style III professor, Nelly Case.


Cookies, more bugs, and Syracuse
2008/09/24, 08:47
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Just thought that I’d mention today that Tara and I went to bake cookies (which ended up being delicious, like our Korean meal…oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies), however we had a long detour because we discovered what an Indian Meal Moth caterpillar/larvae is.  YICK!  So gross!

And who was it that told me that there weren’t any bugs in L.A.?  Hah!

So we spent an hour or so sifting through rice and anything in the cupboard, rearranging everything in the refridgerator, and storing about 90% of our food items in there.

Now, I’m not sure why I’m still awake, but in my procrastinating of going to sleep at a decent time, I found a video of my stomping grounds in Syracuse (or rather, Route 57, which you take to almost everywhere that you need to be out in Liverpool).

There are neighborhoods and buildings and whatnot on the sides of the street…you just can’t see it due to the snow and the snow banks.  But here’s to all the people who might read this who haven’t experienced driving in a bunch of snow.

At least the snow and the cold kills off the bugs naturally.

Routines & DIY
2008/09/24, 01:21
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So the last few days have seemed to go by in a whirlwind.  There have been intermittent, mass invasions of ants.  Errands to run.  I formally introduced myself to the man I give our recyclables to; his name is Warren.  I also had the general graduate student orientation and spent yesterday running around on campus to get nit-picky things done with bank accounts, loan deferments, prescription transfers, and so on.  I’m finally feeling like a college student again.  There’s this routine and pace of life that’s different than when I was living at home and teaching.  Occassionally, I wake up to a dream of being back in Syracuse, similar to how I would wake up in Madrid and vice versa once I was back in the states.  Madrid, however, was a long-term “vacation,” and UCLA and Los Angeles are much more permanent.  I miss the teacher lifestyle (and definitely all my family and friends at home), but the familiar pace of the student life is helping me to acclimate to L.A.

The other night, Tara and I watched Pleasantville (which was filmed not too far from here in Malibu).  It was her first time seeing it.  I just love this movie because it is so deep and raises so many issues from personal, to societal, to racial, to political: it’s about breaking out of routines and comfort zones and creating new ones.  It made me consider my routines, and those of others, and those that you’re taught as an education major that children crave, and the fact that I’m in such a transition made it seem all that more poignant to me.  Of course I was drawing parallels left and right to political and economic situations we’re in now.  If I were to teach a seminar about LIFE, I would include Pleasantville in my list of required movies to watch.

Today, Tara and I finally set up her dividers for her room. The total cost of her dividers?  $3.  The $3 was the cost for the man down at the hardware store to cut the wood for us which we used as feet to stabalize the antique shudders.  We designed them, measured them, and nailed and glued them ourselves.  They work wonderfully!  I also bought some sand paper and wax to fix the cheap-o-desk that I purchased from CVS.  I am now able to open the drawer without breaking a sweat or toppling the desk over.  I’ve also done a lot of DIY things with the ants (which only works to an extent seeing as how their nest isn’t indoors, and we don’t have control over what’s going on outside).

I’m realizing it’s not very common for people to dive into researching issues like that.  Despite having dealt with them for most of their lives, our landlords are completely ignorant on the subject, and the pest guy didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Go figure.  At least it’s reassurance that pursuing a research based field is the right thing for me to do, no matter how quirky!

There’s just something wonderfully satisfying when you can say…I did it myself.

Off to make a favorite Korean dish for dinner: rice, stirfry, kimchi and egg!  And for some nuggets of joy (as my theory professor, Dr. Gregory Wanamaker used to say back in P’dam), I leave you with some photos from UCLA’s campus!

Small town girl goes out for a $132.50 movie & coffee in Hollywood
2008/09/19, 08:53
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So life seems to finally be settling down in Los Angeles for Tara and I.  Yesterday, we actually had time to do things in the apartment (clean, do laundry, dishes, organize, etc.)  I’ve never been so happy to stay at home and do chores!!  Also, after great persistence on our parts, the rabid ants diminished yet again after a sudden surge (up to ~300-400); their decline happened just in time for the pest control representative to make it to our apartment and witness the aftermath of 8 tiny, brown, bodies left behind in our bait dish.  Just a few days too late :/

As I mentioned earlier there was the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival going on this week.  Of course, there were a ton of films Tara and I wanted to see, but between errands, bus schedules, and how much $$ we could afford to spend, we chose to see two tonight.  That quickly became one film when traffic and finding parking made us 40 min later than it should have.

Ahh, Hollywood.  West Hollywood to be exact.  The Egyptian and Chinese Theaters.  Walk of the Stars.  Hey, I passed Harrison Ford’s, Thomas Edison’s, and Fritz Kreisler’s stars!!!  All for the price tag of $132.50.

Let me explain…

$3.40 for a coffee beforehand (killing time after we were late for the first film).

$8 for the movie (we saw Oscar: Una Pasión Surrealista..great..we both gave it the highest rating we could.  A very heavy, Spaniard film.  Similar vibe to El Mar Adentro.  A compelling story line; interesting parallels drawn between the main characters and the coincidences of their lives.  Completely different pacing than that of most American movies, which is something to get used to).

$121.10 for HALF of the towing fee and ticket.

That’s right.  Apparently, if a sign in RED is marked over a RED ZONE on the sidewalk saying that it’s a tow away zone from 6pm-3am in Los Angeles…it DOES NOT refer to the “red zone,” IT’S THE ENTIRE STREET (and EVERY OTHER street in Hollywood)!!!!  I haven’t even seen things like that in NYC or Queens.  Wonderful.  And the streets were PACKED with people who, like us, thought they were LEGALLY parked.  Thankfully…Tara and I were together, I had my cell phone, and the towing place was in walkable distance (and nothing happened to us getting there!)  Whatever you do…DO NOT PARK in Hollywood…UNLESS it’s parking you paid for BEFOREHAND at one of the $8-$10 lots.

I typically have felt in the past that I could adapt in cities.  I lived in Madrid for four months and could maneuver very well.  I learned a lot of street smarts from Gio in Madrid and the projects of Queens.  Got the hang of Syracuse in the last year.  Tonight though, I felt like Millie in the musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie.  A small town girl in a city much larger than her!  Go figure…she was from Salina, Kansas, and I’m from Syracuse (Salina~45,000 people, Syracuse Metro area ~ 730,000+, however both names have similar meanings).  What a coincidence.  Especially since the movie, Oscar, had them as a central theme.  Life is one big coincidence.

Time for some home made banana cake with ganache and a refreshing beverage.  Grad orientation early tomorrow.

By the way…
2008/09/14, 22:29
Filed under: Uncategorized

The SNL skit of Palin/Clinton was great.

We don’t have our television hooked up to cable or anything, but I watched it on Youtube last night.  Unfortunately, NBC had it taken off Youtube.  Go to NBC’s website to see it.

A Day of Respite and Recyclables.
2008/09/14, 21:35
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Currently listening to:  La Bamba from Son Del Centro, “Mi Jarana es Mi Fusil”

After two weeks I have finally come to a day where I didn’t have a major errand to run.  The ants have subsided, for the most part, and I put my desk together last night in a second wind that lasted until 3am.  I fixed both internet connections (after 5.5 hours on the phone with tech support…which provided minimal assistance and I still had to figure it out on my own), and Tara and I picked up a TV stand on Friday.  At 6:45, Tara and I finally made it to Steve’s birthday bash at Corona Del Mar beach, fashionably late by 5.5 hours thanks to tech support and other errands gone awry.  I’ve never seen a beach so PACKED but it was nice to get out of the apartment and meet some new people.  Everyone was friendly so Tara and I didn’t feel like outsiders.  S’mores were a plus too 🙂

Plans for today?  RELAX!  Practice violin.  Remain vigilant over any rogue ants.  Maybe catch a flick at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival with Tara (if not, later this week).

Here in L.A., there are definitely a lot of homeless people roaming the streets.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition of the enormous wealth that surrounds here.  In all areas, the homeless come and collect bottles and recyclables; sometimes ask for change.  I suppose due to the consistent and temperate weather that it’s easier to survive without permanent shelter here.  One guy I ran into offered some advice about the ants and told us about when he lived in Mexico and had his place infested with ants.  Another guy in particular I’ve seen frequently in my neighborhood.  He comes with a shopping cart and garbage bags and collects bottles for the return.  He’s a tall, slender, and smiling man.  Sings.  Dances when people aren’t watching (but I can see from my window 🙂 ).  Tara and I passed him once after a bike trip to the grocery store.  We use little bells to warn pedestrians we’re coming, and whereas most people are startled or annoyed by that, he joked that he thought he was hearing bells in his head.  Well, this morning I saw him outside my window at the garbage and the new recycling bins (something we didn’t have before, but Tara and I requested that the City Government enroll our complex in the program).  Tara and I had a bunch of recyclables under the sink and I decided to run them down to him.  He told me he stops by almost every day and was incredibly thankful.  A warm man: he wore an apron and gloves, and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap; his face weathered a bit from the elements of life.  Despite his situation, he was polite, friendly, and happy.

Walking back up to the apartment, I remembered a humid, 90+ degree day when I bought a piece of pizza and an XL lemonade for a man in NY.  He used to sit by the 481-N off ramp to Route 31, although I hadn’t seen him in a few years and I still wonder if he’s even still alive.  People yelled awful things out of their cars while they waited for the light, even though this man wasn’t soliciting them, just chatting with me about how he became homeless.  It really made me disgusted with how some people are and how they treat others.  How much people forget that they’re not much different from everyone else.  How much they alienate people based on materialistic “standards.”  Their disregard towards those whose lives do not resemble their own, and how often they unnecessarily lashed out at him verbally.  What did they know about him?

Today I was reminded what it’s like to help someone because it’s the right thing to do, because no one is subhuman, and not every homeless person deserves their situation.  Ever hear the cliché phrase, “not everything in life is fair”?  It’s cliché for a reason.

2008/09/12, 07:54
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yep.  Ants.

After getting here, running ourselves ragged every day, having to fly home to NYC for a funeral for 24.5 hours, fly back, and continue running random errands, Tara and I came home to HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of ants running around in an L shape in the bathroom.

And just to think we were beginning to feel like our apartment was empty :/

We tried making our own Borax (after trying 4 places that DID NOT sell it!!) and sugar water elixirs for them.  I hate killing ants, but there’s no other way to get around it.  (Every play SIM ANT?  Oh man, I loved that game.  Good ol’ post-Oregon Trail days)  We’re PRAYING it works before they decide to venture into other places (ie. bedrooms and the kitchen!)  Chili powder seems to be containing them in the bathroom.  White vinegar worked for a bit, but not very long.  Some were brave, scouting souls and ventured over it.


Besides the infestation, yesterday went pretty well.  Sh’non (Shannon) came over for dinner. We spent many hours reminiscing about Crane/Potsdam days, teaching moments, and enjoyed good food.

The menu:

• A scrumptious strawberry and gouda salad with Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (thanks to Trish’s lovely card!!)

• Pasta with basil pesto, zucchini, corn, and bacon

• Chocolate mousse with strawberry garnish, and

• A nice (cheap) bottle of Merlot.

Other positives…a desk for Tara ($60) and I ($16), and some very fun thrift shopping (Out of the Closet, which contributes to AIDS, the Council Thrift Store, and the UCLA Thrift Shop).  All in all, I got a blouse, two denim skirts, brown dress shoes, a brand new bathing suit, a t-shirt, a bottle opener, and a three hole punch for about $33.  I’ll never buy anything full-price again!!

Oh…and by the way…tiny little brown ants in Southern California don’t like Raspberry Jam.

Somehow these things always turn out humorous when you’re finished with them!  Until then I will sleep in fear of tiny brown ants attacking me like the ones did to the villain in the latest Indian Jones flick.

Sweet Dreams.