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Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003 - 4:51 p.m.

The picture at the link I posted yesterday to Dennis Lum is not Dennis Lum (and ce n'est pas une pipe, okay, okay). I know this because Mary told me so:

"that is not dennis lum...though it is close...that is not him...and you should know this because you are the one that made out with him...slut."

I told you she'd be entertained!

Twenty four hours ago I was beginning my presentation, more nervous than I’ve been about anything in a good long time. It went away after I’d been up there for a few minutes, though, and with the exception of a few really brutal questions I couldn’t deal with, I did pretty well. And I was shocked by the camaraderie and goodwill afterwards. Professors emeriti, people who barely look up when I see them in the hallway, chatted amiably with me. Some people were complimentary, some approached me with notes and questions and ideas, and the head of the department cornered me for about twenty minutes. He thought my analysis was wrong (and he brought up some issues that truly do threaten it), but told me my explanations and presentation had been “crystal-clear”. This is the biggest compliment I have ever received from the man – the biggest compliment I’ve heard anyone receive from him, and I was stunned. He then quizzed me about conference plans and PhD programs for a very long time, making me feel silly for how uncommitted I am and how little I know about this wing of linguistics. I stumbled into semantics completely backwards. I’ve never taken a semantics class, since the program didn’t offer any, and everything I know is from my own research and conversations with my advisor, and I hadn’t heard of any of the big semantics conferences he was talking about. This made him very stern, so I am to report to his office next week.

I never felt comfortable or accepted while I was part of the department, and was expecting things to be even worse once I was an outsider, so I was shocked by how good it all felt yesterday. I stayed until the end of the reception; I used to leave after about five minutes.

I got to speak with my old advisor, too, and she was full of new ideas, getting ready for a presentation of her own. So we’re back in touch. I missed her. I’ve been such a flake for the past four months.

I feel energized about research again. If I could recreate the genuine intellectual excitement and support I had yesterday, I COULD do this for the rest of my life. I just have to make sure I have it, or this academia thing will never work.

I feel a little icky right now, though. L and I went SHOPPING today. I have never been able to shop for more than about two hours before getting really grumpy and needing to go home. Some types are worse than others. I especially hate video stores. There’s no real reason they’re so hard for me, but they really are. After about five minutes, I will do or rent anything if it will allow me to leave. Video stores make me miserable. Buying new clothes is just a little better, because I usually know what I need and can quickly move through and see if anything in the store is suitable. I don’t buy new clothes, really, though I probably should, so this is seldom a problem. Thrift stores and yard sales are a lot different, and I don’t know why. Maybe the probability of finding something beautiful or hilarious is so much higher that I’m more content.

Anyway, this morning we went to furniture stores, thrift stores, and Asian markets. The furniture stores were mostly awful, with pushy salespeople and lots of leather couches. I got a pretty shirt at the thrift store. And Asian markets are always good.

Filipino restaurants, on the other hand, are not. We stopped in a combination market/karaoke bar/restaurant. There was no menu; Tomas decides what he wants to cook each day, and that’s what he serves. I asked if he had any seafood, and he got very excited about making me the national dish of the Philippines. We wandered around the market, watched some teenage girls playing pool and singing karaoke (they were the only other people there), and tried not to look at the eight-foot pile of dishes in the kitchen sink.

The national dish of the Philippines involves pounding a whole fish all over with a hammer, then removing its head and pulling out its bones, followed by all the interior mashed-up meat.* The fish mash is mixed with a bunch of spices and such, then restuffed into the fish and baked. This sounds wonderful. The fish Tomas brought to our greasy plastic table was gorgeous. Unfortunately, I am almost positive Tomas had stuffed it with canned tuna. The inside of the fish tasted and looked like bad tuna casserole. There were no real spices except salt, and the tunaey texture was unmistakable. The little bit of original fish meat that clung to the sides of the fish’s interior was gooey and many days (possibly weeks) from fresh, so I suppose the canned tuna was an act of mercy. The noodles he brought us were also salty, not to mention full of greasy chicken parts, and the rice was cold and flavorless. The best taste in my mouth the whole time I was there was the coconut soda I selected from a cooler at one end of the bar.

* Searches for the national dish of the Philippines turn up things like 'roasted pig' and 'Adobo', but nothing resembling a hammered-emptied-filled-and-baked fish. Maybe Tomas is a fraud.

But Tomas was so genial and sweet, even though he also overcharged us for the really icky food, that we politely chewed it and talked to him for a while. We even talked about going back sometime. I am convinced he was having a bad day…but maybe there’s a reason his establishment was empty. Anyway, I ended up eating very little, but I feel kind of gross and full even hours after lunch.

L bought nothing at the furniture stores. I found two amazing green chairs in near-perfect condition at one of the thrift stores, but I had no cash.

One of the stores we went to had two ominous slogans: “You Will Appreciate Our Service” (emblazoned, quotation marks and all, on the delivery vans), and “The Robin Hoods of the Furniture World” (written across the tops of the business cards).

I saw a Texaco station whose companion convenience store was called “The Gaz-Bah”.

A bottle in the Thai market we visited very simply said “Seasoning. Improve the Taste.”

I also saw a can of Fish Sausage.

And I think that’s a good place to end.

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