It’s been very nice to have a summer that isn’t mostly spent managing my and other people’s grief (with exceptions for the untimely demises of Boo Radley and Fred November) or my and other people’s broken ankles. I feel like I went at this summer with an aggressive zeal that is really not my usual tack but has been working out okay. As I wrote earlier, I did a lot of hiking. Now I’m a little worn out by hiking and have been doing a bunch of socializing. At some point in the past five years I have been slowly shifting from being more extroverted (I get energized by being with people, I get ootchy when I am alone) to introverted (I lose energy by being with people, I recharge batteries by being alone). This is probably a side effect of having an internet job and a steady boyfriend but also of just getting older. Time speeds up, I have more things on my own that I want to do and the places that I want to do them are not on anyone else’s beaten path (see also: hiking). But in any case, there’s been a lot going on.
– My friends from college are now at the point where their kids are old enough to happily travel. My dad’s place is sort of the perfect destination resort for the under-12 set, so we had a great weekend having a cookout, playing kid-bocce and making the best use of the giant beanbag imaginable. Two photos of the crew are on Flickr (1,2). The bulletin board here is covered with kid drawings and the patio is covered with cryptic chalk scribbles (is that a bat? a spider? a spiderbat?).
– My friend from high school (has it been 28 years? wowie!) and her wife were up in Vermont for their annual lake trip and I got to hang out and play robots with their son, toss tennis balls with the pup and learn all about bread ears. Our quiet evening together was interrupted by a badly sprained wrist (not mine!) so I got to hang out with Mr. 9 while everyone else took a trip to the emergency room.
– My sister and I decided to play Grown Up Ladies and we bought a couch together to put at Dad’s place and I finally got to go to Jordan’s Furniture after a lifetime of hearing their radio and TV ads.
– I performed my first wedding, for Rich Fairbanks and Rachel Westbrook. It went totally well. When I was a little kid one of the first non-family non-parents-of-friends couples I knew was the couple that lived next door in our two-family house: Rich and Rachel. When Rachel told me she’d met a guy she liked and told me his name, I had a good feeling about it. I included a photo and the service on my Vermont JP blog. If anyone wants to get married in Vermont and needs an officiant, I’ve got two and a half more years before I need to run for re-election and I think now I know what I’m doing.
Upcoming excitement includes a trip to Nebraska (shut up!) to talk to librarians about technology and then some friends visiting from far away (North Carolina via Maine) and then the usual People Up For Labor Day. If you’re reading this and you’re in the South Coast area and you’d like to have a hot dog with me, drop me a note (email preferred) and I can send details. I hope to do one more update before the Virgo Month of Leisure, but if the past few months are any indicator, I may be a bit busy.
Oh and a note about this image. I came back from a walk with Jim to find this little set of drawers and five wine glasses on my steps. I thought it was maybe from Rachel but it turns out it was from my landlady Ronni who has been deaccessioning some things. She tossed in this wonderful gigantic dictionary, remembering just where she got it on the Lower East Side some 40-50 years ago. I’m not sure where I’ll put it, but I just love the way it looks.
There are a lot of fake springs but I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the real one now. Trees are all popping out their leaves. Neighbors are all rooting around in their yards. Birds have fled the birdfeeders for Real Live Bugs out in the world someplace. I got out the newspaper and spray cleaner and scrubbed their suet smears off the window so I can see them better when they get back.
I went on my first on-an-airplane trip since last June sometime. After all my talk about desiring to travel less I realized that the best way to not travel is to not travel and said no to a bunch of things. Or no thanks, because that’s me. The downside of course is that I like giving talks, telling people what I think, meeting other librarians, and going new places. The downside is that I find travel sort of tiring, I like my home, and one little wrench in the works (a late flight leading to a late arrival leading to a delayed parking lot pickup) can mean I’m driving home from New Hampshire at 1:30 am thinking “Was this trip really necessary?” like one of those old cartoons.
But it worked out really well. I gave a keynote speech to a group of librarians from the North East Kansas Library System about copyright and the work I’ve been doing at Open Library. I got to stay in Lawrence at a nice AirBnB place and meetup with MetaFilter folks. Then I hung out for a few extra days in Manhattan and saw colleagues and friends and ate tamales. This image is from a hike I took out on the Konza Prairie with my friend Donna. I went to Kansas four times in 2007-2008 and had a weird kind of amnesia about some of it. So coming back felt familiar and new all at the same time. It’s sort of a weird thing to say but if I had to go get a library job in a state that was not Vermont, Kansas would be one of the top three places I would look. They have a cool state library system, a lot of librarians doing really interesting things (David Lee King does amazing things at Topeka Shawnee Public Library and Donna is getting great stuff done at KState) and a population that seems to be really into their libraries, though I suppose most populations are.
I came back to exactly zero snow on the ground (less than when I left), a bunch of postcards from people all over (mainly MetaFilter, for dealing with some difficult weeks) and friends who had been scheming things to do while I had been away. Jim came up this weekend and we attempted a straight up a (small) mountain hike and mostly did it. Now on the lookout for new mountains to climb, new things to see. Thanks to Kansas librarians and other friends for making my trip so great.
I have some friends who came down to Westport for a while and did one of those work vacation things. They spent some time here recreating and noodling around and taking advantage of the nice location and the decent weather. And then they spent some time helping me around the place. I was hoping for just a little gardening and weeding but they found the power washer and went to town on the patio along with helping out with a lot of other terrific things. I am still galumphing around in this boot (may be a few more weeks, otherwise I am feeling great) and it’s tough to describe what a wonderful thing it was to just have the place get all spruced up around me while I concentrated on working and getting sleep and eating well and getting better. I’m a pretty stubbornly independent person; having people around getting things done with no input from me and having folks to chitchat with over dinner and snacks was incredibly pleasant in a way I’m not really used to.
The week before this, Jim and I headed to Indiana on a fly-by trip to get the remainder of my Seattle stuff that has been in various basements since I moved from there “for good” around 2003. I still have a few misc. pieces of furniture in a few places (anyone know where my metal table got to?) but for now the bulk of my things are in places that are mine. Last step is to get the Topsham stuff which is temporarily in a friend’s shed into either my apartment or some nice yard sale or FREE pile somewhere. The trip was fun and short and filled with little nifty parts and I’d forgotten sort of how much I enjoy road trips, and Waffle House.
Which is good because this next week is going to be a Real Road Trip where I do the thing I used to love doing and drive someone else’s car across the country. In this case a friend of mine got a job in Los Angeles and has a Mini in Brooklyn and I have a free week more or less and there you go. I’m taking the first real week off of work that I’ve had in years (mostly my own fault) and this will be my first cross-country trip I’ve taken with a smart phone, as far as I can remember. And for longtime readers you will remember that I used to do this sort of thing a lot.
So I’m assembling some maps and NOT getting tour books from AAA and realizing that I don’t have to plan almost any of this and can still find good places to see and eat and sleep. Driving out, flying back. Hoping to be almost out of this boot by the time I’m back in MA/VT.
Seriously, look at this patio!
So I got home after being on the road on some fashion since March 7th. I had a good set of trips. I realized it’s been a really long time since I was away from home on a “do a lot of stuff” trip as opposed to a “go to a place and give a talk/have a vacation and come back” trip. So this is the reporting of that. Also I got home to Vermont and it’s totally chilly here which is GREAT. It snowed last night, not a lot of snow but a dusting and it’s pretty. I was unnerved by the early flowering of all the plants in various southern locations. Actually, since I started writing this I left to give one more talk in MA and then came back but the details are the same. Snowing when I got back. Yay.
So the loose outline of the trip was: go to SXSW and then come back to Westport before flying down to Missouri to talk to some library school students and then give the closing keynote speech at the Tennessee Library Association conference. All the ways to make this work by flying were suboptimal and I don’t love flying that much anyhow, so I decided to rent a car to get between MO and TN. The trip wound up looking like this
– Drove down to Westport on Wednesday the 7th, missing the “We won!” celebratory party because the guys my friends and I had supported for selectboard had all won.
– Flew out of Providence to Austin TX on the 8th. Providence is a nice small airport like Burlington but unlike Burlington is only 35 minutes away from where I was staying. On the way out I stopped at the Jefferson Diner where they had recently gotten written up for their grape nut pudding and the place was a madhouse. Also the pudding was great.
– SXSW was a blur made more exciting by the fact that there were a ton of librarians there doing neat stuff. My panel on Saturday morning went well. I saw some great stuff. I stayed with a friend and colleague and we played hooky one day to go hiking out by Barton Springs which was a really good choice for battery recharging activities.
– Flew to Providence and had a few days of R&R where I tried to get out and do some serious walking every day. I’ve been using MapMyWalk for this and you can see a few of the places I went. Did some hanging out with Jim and then flew out to Missouri on Sunday morning.
– Through an odd happenstance it turns out a friend of a friend lived in Columbia, MO and so instead of staying in a faceless hotel (sometimes what I enjoy, other times not so much) I got to stay in a real guestroom with real people. I enjoyed meeting Hilary Niles and her husband who are new transplants to the area from New England.
– I forgot to mention that when I arrived at the St. Louis airport to pick up my rental car and they said “Pick any car on the lot in the compact section” there was a Fiat 500 sitting there! It was a small fun car that was a little tough to learn to drive–it had two “drive” settings and one of them is more like a standard shift car but has a paddle shifter and I couldn’t figure it out–but fun once I figured it out. Also got great mileage which was perfect for my 850 mile road trip.
– Gave a talk and hung out with library students for pizza. Very good time and also felt like a “get back on that horse” marker after a webinar that went bad [according to me, people were fine with it] thanks to technical problems [not mine] and made me frazzled.
– Drove to Nashville. Had plans to see a friend in St. Louis which fell through so I stopped at Brad’s Bench and then remembered New England pals who had moved down South and who, luck would have it, were free with a guestroom! Got Mexican food in Nashville and saw the gorgeous public library downtown then scooted off to Knoxville.
– In Knoxville I got to actually go to programs at TLA, visit with Tennessee librarians and also hang out with a MeFite I hadn’t previously known who lives up in the hills near the Great Smoky Mountains. We had a good time catching the sunset in the mountains and also walking around Marysville TN and looking at birds.
– I flew home, saw the nose doctor, and was here for two days before heading down for a short trip to MA where I got to see my mom, sister & her boyfriend, my boyfriend and go to a MetaFilter meetup before scooting back home last night.
Now I am home playing zombie-in-pajamas and catching up on mail and taxes and correspondence and bird feeder repair and bill paying. I have a short trip to Indiana in a few weeks and then that’s it until May. While there’s no snow on the ground, it’s still pretty nice here. I’m glad that I’ll be around for the budding of the plants, again. Here are a few more photos of the longer trip.
Managed my first epic travel event since my brain went away and I have to say it went pretty well. I’ve even got to the point where I’m not using my ancient backpack for traveling and I got a proper travel bag (thanks to the world of social media, I got it at a discount, thanks Tom Bihn folks!). The bag was waiting for me when I got home so even though the zipper of my backpack failed and my soggy bag of toiletries fell out and was jammed back in where it didn’t belong, I could look past it and say “This is the LAST damned time this is happening…” and mean it.
So the trip took me down to Westport to start shutting down my dad’s house for the winter. Kate and I will be back and forth there (we’re keeping the house for the forseeable future) but the place needs thermostats set and outside spigots turned off and with a big house there is always Shit To Do. Then I flew out of Providence, really a great airport for travel, and headed to Ann Arbor where I did two programs for the library. One was a panel on community moderation which I got to be on with a librarian, a UMich professor and CmrdTaco formerly of Slashdot. The next day I got to do a long presentation about running a Q&A community at a staff development day which was fun and went well. You can see slides/notes here if you’re interested. This is one of my favorite talks. The next talk was in Milwaukee and so I decided to head there via train which was a really great way to spend a day, staring out the window looking at the midwest. I gave the closing keynote, a talk about the digital divide to folks at CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) and got to stay in a beautiful old hotel. From there it was back to Providence, back to dad’s house (when does it stop being dad’s house?) and some hangout time with Jim including a four mile hike through the Weetamoo Woods. I gave a talk on Monday at Olin College to undergrads and faculy about the digital divide which was also pretty fun and then scooted home after a great dinner and chat with my pal Deb.
Came back late at night to a Vermont that was nearly leaf free and have been trying to get on a normal [i.e. not 4 am til noon] sleep schedule which may be a losing battle until I get back into my routine here. All in all I was away for twelve days, went to nine states and while I was happy to get home, it was also a really nice time away seeing friends and eating food and roaming in new and familiar places.
The photo up top is something Jim and I saw when we were in Fall River. There is a street that we walked down, up the road from the Aroma Grille which is my new favorite food find, which is literally covered with these pencil scribblings. They seem to internally cohere, but I have no idea what they mean and I assume they are perhaps they are the notes of someone who is a little unhinged? They are on every building for a few blocks and have dates going from the 1970s to the present and a lot of initials that seem to be people. Curious, and a decent metaphor for all the things I still don’t know.
I wrote a post about the Digital Public Library of America over on librarian.net, you can go read it there. It may not make too much sense if you don’t do some of the linked reading but hopefully you’ll get an idea of what it was about.
This week continues the travel thing, down to Boston for a friend’s 40th birthday party [celebrated by watching movies all day at the microcinema at the Somerville Theater] then back home to teach a class and then back to Boston to fly out to SXSW where I’ll be for a week. Making the choices between checking a bag and mailing some syrup down with me. My SXSW schedule is online and linkable. My talk is Friday at 5 pm. I’m doing a few meetupish things, probably not going to any giant parties. Trying to intersperse eating healthily with eating a lot of BBQ. Looking forward to seeing some friends who I only see this year at this time.
Amusingly then my next trip is back to Austin for TXLA in April. This is one of the best library conferences in the country in my opinion, and I’m excited to be one of the “featured speakers” whatever that means exactly. Other than that I’m not leaving New England for months unless my book gets published on time and I decide to go to ALA in New Orleans.
It was sort of an exciting offer “Hey if you want to get one of those Jet Blue All You Can Jet passes and go around the country going to meetups, I’ll spring for the ticket.” And I almost said yes before I even thought about it, because traveling is fun and meeting up with people is fun and it’s lovely out and there have been a few people on my “to visit” list for an embarassingly long time.
And then I slept on it, the awesome sleep I have when it’s just the right temperature outside and I am sleeping with my favorite pillow and my room is all nice and dark the way I like it. And woke up thinking that being gone for a good chunk of a month meant less of that. And I asked a few people, all of whom gave me answers that I’d characterize as cautiously supportive, and I slept on it again. And I decided to stay put. Which is a little strange since I usually opt for squeezing more stuff into my days not less. But I think I was maybe not giving enough weight to the things already on my plate including
- Working on the second draft of my book, due in October
- School starting, and with it, my drop-in time
- A few little projects I’ve been thinking about
- How much I love Vermont and my apartment in it
- Reconnecting with friends who I’ve seen less of than I’d like
- My exercise plan, casually abandoned while I was writing, now back on the priority list
- A freezerful of blueberries that won’t be getting any fresher
- Keeping my houseplants alive
- Another essay I’m writing for a book friends are publishing
- My full-time MetaFilter job
- Family & boyfriend time which I’ve been enjoying a lot of this summer
- Reading hardcover books which I never do when I’m travelling
That’s just the top of the head list, I’m sure there are more things. I’ll go back and look at this list when I’m stuck in the September doldrums and wishing I were elsewhere. If that happens. Which I bet it won’t.