NYC is a noisy place. Part 1

And that’s coming from someone who lives on a main road. NY is noisier than Hong Kong or London or Paris, three major world cities I’ve frequently visited.

So, I’m not sure I like NY very much. There’s no place for quiet. There’s a song by Adam Gwon called “Calm” which explains the frenetic nature of NY very well.

It’s not that NY has lots of people – it does, but so does Paris and London and HK. In fact I’ve stayed in Mong Kok in Kowloon, apparently the most densely populated area on Earth. I don’t mind people. But NY is just so much noisier than these other cities and I’m not sure how I feel about it. And it’s not the people, either. They’re perfectly normal. (Except the tourists from middle America, weirdly, who are noisy and have really loud, rather ugly voices.) It’s the noise of the traffic, the subterranean subway rumbles, the overbearing use of music everywhere. The blaring. All combining to make the city a noisy, loud, seemingly frenetic place. But it’s the noise, nothing else.

It’s also an interior city. For me, coming from Antipodean Australia with its outdoor cafes and laid back lifestyle, all the interior spaces of NY were again – well – noisy. Nowhere to be quiet. Except at 8.00am on a Sunday morning. Or the Highline. Or down at South St, Seaport, where there are lovely open spaces and fewer highrises, and, bluntly, fewer people.

That being said, NY is very beautiful, and I loved Central Park, the Highline, the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Empire State Building at night, the Rockefeller Center. Broadway, oh my! Broadway. And the subway. OMG what a fabulous subway. I love the subway. I love the frequency of trains, the friendly people (yes, strange hey, that people on the subway can be friendly?), and Grand Central Station.

There are overrated places where the collective imagination and valorising of such spaces render the visitor rather disappointed with the reality. Soho and Greenwich village are two such places. The thing about Soho and the Village is not that they are different from other spaces in other world cities (think Soho in both London and HK), but that the architecture is such a relief from the high rise of the Midtown. And of course it was in Soho and the Village that dangerous creativity and ideas and social activism and social conscience and difference were and continue to be most celebrated. I think I expected more from this area and I was disappointed not to find an open square or meeting place – Washington Square too cold and wet this trip – I had foolishly expected a gathering place such as found in villages of old. Not to be, here. Manhattan is characterised by a grid of roads. There is nowhere really to escape the roads.

I’m looking forward to going back again, though. Manhattan/NYC is a fascinating place. I’ve not yet even scratched the surface, and I suspect travelling with more people or at least meeting up with Manhattanites who live in the city might make my future experiences richer and more evocative than the rushed tourist version I experienced last week.

p.s. We really liked Seattle.

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The NaNoWriMo experience

Nah, don’t be daft. There’s no way I’m doing this little exercise when I’ve just handed in my PhD. I’m exhausted and in no way ready to embrace the challenge of fiction just yet. But it got me to thinking. The National Novel Writing Month seems like a great opportunity to plan a future novel. Not this year, but certainly next year. I reckon if I plan my plot and my characters with enough detail, then next year will be a great writing opportunity. 50,000 words in a month? Sure. That’s less than 2000 words a day. And if a picture tells a thousand words, then what does a song count for? Cabaret, here I come.

Currently I’m resetting my brain to enjoy being quiet for a bit. Frankly, I’m so thoroughly depleted that I’m turning every day into a holiday when I can. If I’m not teaching in the afternoon I come home and veg out on the couch. I’ve been watching True Detective. A brilliant bit of work if ever I’ve seen it. Loving the great acting, scripts, cinematography, plot. Loving the way the writer creates tension and develops his characters. Wonderful, layered stuff. Anyway, I’ll enjoy being creative again in a year, I suspect.

But in the meantime, I’m creating a couple of book proposals for some big academic publishers. I’m keen to get on with this bit. There are a couple of days free in the next little while that look like possible prep days for my proposals, and then, New York.  !!!!

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New York, New York: here I come!!

My gift to myself for successfully submitting the PhD – a trip to New York City! DH and I are leaving in a week, my precious Poppy and Lucy the Cat being cared for by my daughter in our absence. There will be home parties and fun times, I’m sure. (And then we’re going to Seattle for a couple of days too, and it’s great as well because I’ve been there – I know.)

My DH mentioned a story about a colleague of his, whose partner had recently submitted her thesis. He romantically asked of her: “where would you like to go as a GIFT for completing and submitting your PhD?” They’re in Spain right now. Clearly, her choice of gift.

My DH felt he wasn’t being very romantic because he hadn’t done the same. Nonsense, quoth I, we’re going to New York City!! (I just removed some exclamation points because it looks uncouth. Despite Elaine from Seinfeld thinking the lack of exclamation points lacks appropriate joie de vivre.). New York, New York, what a wonderful town. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will love that crazy, noisy, loud city. I have a sneaking suspicion that once I go once, I will need to go again and again. And again. Maybe for a month at a time. Maybe to write. There. I have plotted the perfect scenario to visit NY every year in the height of our summer (which is horrible, by the way – all steamy and hot – too darn hot), and spend a month writing. And yay. Or maybe I will hate the frenetic pace, and the Americans. Man, they can be LOUD. This is coming from a noisy blond Australian soprano, BTW.

I’m still anxious, though. When does the anxiety of doing a PhD end? Does it ever end? Has it now morphed into a generalised anxiety about life? Will I ever feel – just – DONE? Calm? Relaxed? FINISHED? I’m trying to self-medicate, but it’s not working.

I’m on my second gin and tonic (ok, it’s November but I swear Monsoon season has begun early this year), and I’m too old and tired to get really hammered. Besides which, getting drunk doesn’t really affect me the way it used to. My gums ache from dehydration (I’ve still not got the hang of drinking 3 litres of water a day during the wet season) and I get an early onset headache when I’ve not eaten enough food when drunk. Man, I sound old!

But next week I’m going to New York! And tomorrow I’m going to Melbourne for the weekend. My home town. Which I miss. And later on I’m going to New Zealand for a wedding, and in the June break, the whole famn damily are staying for 2 weeks at a rather nice Chateau in Bordeaux, thank you very much. I think we’re ok for the travel.

New York, New York! Hellooooo!!!!

 

 

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Should I rejoin Facebook?

I’m done with the PhD. I’ve nearly finished teaching. Should I rejoin Facebook or is it all a waste of time, and potentially a bit Big Brother-y?

I’m not sure I really want to go back to that life. I’m doing okay without it. But I have slightly addictive tendencies with the thing should I choose to return.

Hmm. Thoughts welcomed.

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It’s done.

I’ve finished the PhD.

Now for the next phase: examination, revisions and the Dr hat, I hope.

There were some melancholy moments last week as I tried to come to terms with the eventual cutting of my PhD umbilical cord. What do I do now, was my wail. Well, in typical Jessie fashion, I’m not sitting on my hands. I asked for advice from two brilliant women in my workplace, to try and make sense of my current strengths, to see where my weaknesses are, and to help me plan my next move.

Mentoring is a really important facet of working life, and I’m lucky to know 2 fantastic women in positions of authority in universities more than willing to give me advice and help me plan my next move.

I need to “step up” to the next level. I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve in my next life phase. I think I’m ready to lead. The advice from lots of people is, “stop”. Breathe. Take a year off. Well, can’t do the last one because I’m working to pay for stuff. No taking a year off for me. Besides, I’m already a published author. I know how this thing works.

But I can’t keep doing what I’m doing for bread and butter at the current work load because it’s not sustainable nor does it provide a rewarding, growing career. There’s no jam.

So, I’ve come up with a little list of projects to do while I’m “taking time out from writing”. Here’s a taster, in no particular order:

  1. Plan the house plans and renovations.
  2. Write a cabaret.
  3. Plan the book from my PhD.
  4. Prepare three more journal articles from my thesis and conference papers.
  5. Plan a Post Doc or Decra or Churchill.
  6. Do craft.

I think that’s a pretty good list. Maybe except the last one.

 

 

 

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By George I think she’s got it!

keep-calm-and-say-woohooToday I submitted my finished PhD and my filled out submission form to my supervisors for a read prior to next week’s meeting.

I’m done now.

 

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When writing becomes dancing

I think for some PhD students the final last gasp to the finish line must feel just like that – a final gut-wrenching, exhausting, mind-numbed collapse over the line. And until recently I thought it was like that for me. But something has changed.

I’m dancing.

These last three days have felt balletic. I’ve done all the hard slog and now I’m merely finishing off my footwork and hand movements – the choreo is done, the practising is done, I’m just perfecting it now.

I’ve been writing a few minutes here, and hour or two there, and apart from some additional discussion writing and making sure the conclusion matches the theory and the introduction I’m just editing. It’s like flourishes with a ribbon. Quick, short, gone in a flash.

Missed a reference? Add it in – flourish! Whoops, poor cutting and pasting? Slice it away, whoosh! Sentences too long? Add a full stop and reshape. Twirl! I’m dancing over the text. My supervisor has now read the whole draft and this morning I incorporated her edits in 3 whole chapters. It took 2 hours. Wheee!

I guess it helps that my supervisor isn’t throwing up over the material. She has even praised me for some sections. She’s let go a bit too.

I’m not sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I set up my final document some months ago and I’ve been working with the final draft copy ever since. All the margins are done. The frontispieces and back matter, appendices and references are all done. The TOC, updating automatically when needed. There’s now no longer any need to sit for long hours at the computer, pulling my hair out. Just a pirouette here, a jete there.

I’m at the end and I can feel it. It’s not a big Beethoven finale, but it’s lovely. A little bit Bach.

Can you feel it? Can you see it? I’m dancing!

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