Saturday, August 22, 2009

What we did on our Holidays

Many years ago, Dharmonia's father, now much missed by all who knew and loved him, used to try to convince her to get a certificate to equip her to teach in the public schools. As somebody who'd been a stonemason, building chimneys and carrying concrete block his whole life, and playing bebop drums and saxophone on the weekends, the idea of a job that let you work inside, teaching music, and gave you the summer off, seemed (rightfully) to him to be an ideal solution. The fact that Dharmonia didn't go ahead and get that certificate/job is more a reflection of the realization that being a public-school music teacher--especially in the belt-tightening arts-economizing 1970s--really meant more like 10 1/2 months of work, and maybe even a part-time job in the summer months to make rent.

But, at the university level, the summer break is an incredibly, fortunate luxury. Historically, both Dharmonia and I have used it not as "vacation"--what college professor, outside the vindictive caricatures of the Robert Parkers, David Horowitz's, and Rush Limbaughs of the world, actually has that time "off"?--but for the ongoing pursuit of professional activities: concerts, workshops, conferences. I've worked for years and years to get to a place in my job where as much of my travel as possible--or all of it--could be funded by outside agencies. If I get to go to Dublin or Galway or London or Mystic or Bloomington or Suzhou on somebody else's dime, and in the pursuit of my profession(s), then my penny-pinching Presbyterian soul is happy.

The side-benefit, of course, and it's not a small one, is that it gets us out of Lubbock in the summer. This is a good place to live, and the jobs we have, in terms of colleagues, students, and duties, are just about ideal--but it's also distant from other places: geographically, politically, culturally, psychologically. It gets very very tiresome to always feel like a minority voter, and Dharmonia and I tend to alternate spasms of being fed-up, when one or the other of us is flipping out over the place's small-mindedness.

This year might be just about the first one, since we came here in Fall 2000, that the summer has played out with as wide a range of satisfying activities--on somebody else's dime--as we might like: enough so that getting ready to go back to school feels like a welcome transition, rather than donning-again the ball-and-chain.

Last day of the semester was April 28.

Exams started April 30. Gave two essay exams (which will require detailed critique in order to grade) on that day; gave another the next day.

Sat May 2 depart for Shannon, for a week serving as External Examiner for the graduating seniors in University of Limerick's BA Traditional Music program. 28 1-hour recitals over 4 days, followed by 2 days of meetings and preparing notes for Examiner's report on the program. In the evenings, grade Texas exams and post all final grades by closing date.

May 10 Dharmonia arrives Shannon with 9 seminar students in tow. 13 days travel, teaching, cooking, driving, problem-solving, touring for the capstone field trip.

May 24 dump students back aboard planes at Shannon and wave farewell; Dharmonia & I depart for three days' touring and itinerary research for future iterations of the seminar course.

May 27 put Dharmonia on a plane at Shannon; head up to Dublin.

May 28-29 give paper at Renaissance Ireland conference; realize that I'm by chance staying in the same hotel near Trinity that we stayed in 11 years before during medieval band tour. A little out of my element at a Renaissance conference but survive. Have some really nice music with John Kelly Jr at his Teacher's Club session. Visit the bullet-pocked GPO for the first time.

May 30 head back down toward the West; tangible, physical feeling of relief as I cross from Meath (Munster) into Roscommon (Connaught). Fantastic night of music with John Kelly (again), Bridget McCarthy (fiddle), and Bridie Lafferty (whistle) at Friel's in Miltown Malbay--Seamus Ennis's favorite pub. Feel privileged to sit in Seamus's seat while playing the session.

Sunday May 31 out of Shannon for Newark and home.

One week at home, finalizing paper for "Music of the Sea" symposium which I was entirely too late in starting (though I knew what I wanted to do with it, still needed to get the damned thing written).

Mon June 8: to Massachusetts for a couple of days' land-search. Sat June 13 deliver paper at Mystic CT. Play a few tunes on the deck of the Amistad--probably the first tunes played on that deck since fiddlers played for slaves being "danced." A peculiar sensation--hoping to replace some bad karma.

Sun June 14 stepfather deceases. While we are looking for his hospital room for a visit.

Not much to say about that.

June 15 back to Lubbock.

3 days home--working to finalize keynote and solo concert to be given in Indiana at end of the week.

June 18: with Dharmonia, to Bloomington, for visit and keynote/concert. We lived here twelve years, and developed friendships that will last beyond lifetimes. Dharmonia found her Dharma brothers and sisters; I found my greatest teachers. A peculiar, but this time not unwelcome, sensation, to return to as honored guest rather than abused graduate student. June 21 return to Lubbock.

June 22-25 four different MM and/or PhD defenses (all of them having to be preceded by massive and time-consuming editorial feedback to authors on their respective documents). 4 "passed with flying colors" results to the defenses--whew!

July 1 turn in outside-reader report for journal submission.

July 2-7 work like a dog on minstrelsy book manuscript--this an ongoing task every time I'm home this summer.

Wed July 8 depart for London for "Migrating Music" conference; housed in the Strand. Do a lot of walking around Convent Garden; visit the site of 84 Charing Cross Road and the British Museum. Friday 10th deliver paper--nice response. Sunday 12th return to Lubbock: glad to get out of London in the very early morning of the "Glorious [sic] Twelfth."

July 13-21: Work like a dog on the book manuscript: this the longest stretch of at-home at-the-desk time since May 1.

July 22 depart for Massachusetts again. Visit to archive for more manuscript research; land-hunting. Coping with single remaining parent's swift mental deterioration. Thanking Quan-yin for the guts and compassion of my brothers, who are bearing the brunt of the burden.

July 28 return to Lubbock. Resume work-like-a-dog on manuscript. Finally manage to get back on a functional cardio- and resistance-training regimen: about flippin' time. Also working hard on various new topics and technology-transfers for the new year.

Treasured senior students depart. New students arriving. A season of transition, of endings and new beginnings.

Aug 8 hood two PhD candidates at TTU graduation. Really proud of both. Crossing my fingers that, in the midst of an absolutely horrific job market, there'll be work for both. Writing a lot of recommendations and doing a lot of cover-letter edits.

Aug 10: resume writing heavy on the minstrelsy manuscript: within two-hoots-and-a-whistle of a rough (very rough!) but nearly-complete full first draft.

Aug 15 The General arrives.

Aug 17-and-onward: gearing up, transferring-over courses and software, getting final staff assignments, taking off the brake and rolling downhill toward the semester.

Aug 26 (looming): Day I of Fall 2009 semester.

And that's what we did on our Summer Holidays.

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