On the (Introverted) Road


In a few days, I’ll be travelling, and my suitcases are out and ready to be stuffed with books (no, I do not have a Kindle or Ipad, so don’t ask), shoes, clothes. And deodorant: I hear it’s damned hot in that eastern part of the country.

For the first part of the trip, I’ll be solo: doing research, going to lectures, staying in a room of my own. After a week of introversion, deep thoughts and writing, only then do I meet up with hubby: we get a few transitional days at one of those boutique hotels in a big city I haven’t visited in 20 years before we do some couch surfing with family and friends. Near water.  I miss the ocean so much I can taste it. The water makes up for the couch surfing.

I’m so ready to go.

One of the great, and well documented, ironies of academia is that it’s a profession that attracts introverts interested in books, ideas, words and asks them to be extroverts excelling at public lecturing, group task forces, and facilitating other introverts. Then there’s the socializing, which I normally love, but that has become more of a burden lately than a pleasure: when did I get the reputation of always being available to go out, hangout, host gatherings, plan outings, “do things”?  How do I get out of this reputation? I mean, despite some modest extrovert tendencies that I must have inherited from the paternal side of my heritage absolutely unknown to me, I’m truly an introvert, but in the land of the power introvert, I stand out as a damned social butterfly.

Yet, the inner strength required to wring dry the few extroverted tendencies I have has simply left me exhausted.

So I can’t wait to fly away, to a small town, where I can be literally alone for at least every evening and night, as long as I remember to hide that sliver of extroversion that lies within me. Because of course I’m going to be in a workshop with, you guessed it, other academics. And I fear that the overwhelming introversion auras will bring out the extrovert in me.

What sort of illness is that, the need to fill a void in group situations?

On another note, I’m sorry, Sybil, but yes, books are morally superior objects.

After days of agonizing, I’ve finally figured out the reading material I’ll be bringing on my grand tour.  I’ve downloaded a few “free” books to my Netbook (where Kindle for PC seems to work nicely)—classics by Austen and Alcott, mostly, in order to at least try this reading on a screen experience. And, for hard copies, I have a few weeks of the New Yorker, the last issue of Bookforum, and a few College English, TETYC, and Pedagogy issues to catch up on.  As for actual books, I tried to choose those that I don’t think I need to save, and that I can pass on as I travel.

Right now, I have the following as my short list, and since I cannot take them all, any advice would be helpful: Anita Shreve’s Testimony, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation, and Jayne Anne Phillips’ Lark and Termite, and, my old, falling apart copy of The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein.

While I’m gone, feel free to sneak over to some other academic bloggers who are also, if I may, probably introverted with a twist of extroversion: here and here, and here, here, here. A few actually have parties on their blogs. Sometimes with cheetos and scotch or those drinks with the umbrellas.

The Long Weekend

It’s nearly the end of week 2 of the term, what promises to be an excellent term.  A 43-student literature class (better than 50) that I’m looking forward to tonight;  2-composition II classes with many students I’ve worked with before;  and the one composition III class where students get to spend the entire term focusing on one major research project.  So far, the topics are fascinating (from miracles to lesbian artists).

So what am I doing? Packing up articles to read, papers to grade, finding a cat sitter, calling hubby to dig out my suitcase from the garage–because I have to pack when I get home later tonight.  Yes, I’m taking a vacation–a long weekend–with about 15 friends. We are convoying to the coast: yes, it’s winter, and it will be cool and rainy at the coast, but I look forward to running on the beach, drinking scotch by the fireplace, playing board games, and eating lots of seafood chowder.

Oh, and yes, I’ll grade those papers, too.

Why is this blog-worthy news? Because in my 20 years of teaching, I have NEVER gone away for a long weekend that was not a conference or a meeting.  I’m usually at work on a Sunday afternoon, catching up or prepping or grading.  So this feels so fabulously decadent.

Running in Philadelphia

Christmas shopping,  done.  Drinks or coffees or walking dates every day with friends I’ve neglected during the term, ongoing.  Syllabi for winter quarter, done.  Tree up and decorated, done.  Cookie bake off,  planned. 

So it must be time to think about the 2009 MLA Convention: Which sessions will I plan to go to? Am I ready for my session? Which friends back east will I get together with in Philly?  Which cocktail parties shall I attend? Can I fit 3 fat novels, my netbook, winter boots, dressing pumps, running shoes, and actual clothes in my carry-on luggage?

And, most importantly, where can I RUN in Philadelphia? 

Since I’ve become obsessed with started long distance running, whenever I travel now I seek out the prettiest running trails (though I’m quite partial to my own local river trail).  And clearly I’m not the only one since most cities now have websites devoted to runners, including Run for Fun – PhiladelphiaUSA.travel.

If all that snow melts by the time I get there, I hope to run in Fairmont Park or this 8 mile run that will take me at some point to the famous Art Museum steps (remember Rocky?). 

In June 1870, a young Kate Chopin was on her extended honeymoon with Oscar, and they stopped for a few days in Philadelphia.   Biographer Emily Toth notes that the city itself didn’t thrill her at first, but Chopin conceded in her journal that “Fairmont is pretty though, a very pretty park, and I hardly think we will see any lovelier view in Europe than we had from the rising ground of the park, of the Schyulkill River, bright and sparkling–with its picturesque little boat houses–the city–like Campbell’s mountain looking more enchanting in the distance, and the full round moon staying the departure of twilight.”

Well I probably won’t be in a romantic mood at MLA09, and it will be just a bit colder in December than in Chopin’s June (despite global warming) but the next full moon does peak next week.