Monday, 27 July 2009

Settling In

I can't believe I've only posted once in July. I've been terrible about reading, too, though I'm trying.

Part of the reason I've been internet-absent is that I don't have internet at home anymore, at least in a reliable way. We don't have a television. Our old cable internet company want to charge us *more* for just internet than for television plus internet. I understand giving a discount if you buy more than one product, but charging less for the whole package than any component part? And it's not peanuts: they wanted over $60/month for internet. And the kicker: they wanted a $100 installation fee, too. Which they only charged for internet-only customers. If you got internet plus television, you could self-install. Because installing two things is easier than one? Because internet-only customers are clearly idiots? Ugh. Sorry for the rant. Anyway, I can walk to one of our local coffee shops most days, and get a coffee and free wireless, and not only do I still come out ahead financially, I get good coffee, too, and exercise! But not quite so much unlimited internet-surfing time in my life.

Then, too, life has been busy this month. I submitted the all-but-final draft of my dissertation to my committee. Defense is scheduled for late August. Now I'm working on preparing for my fall job and writing an article. Should be doing that now, in fact, but I wanted to holla to all of you first.

I truly love the new place where we're living. The apartment, the street, the neighborhood, all of it. We took the subway over toward our old neighborhood a few weeks ago and when we changed lines to our old subway line, I immediately started attracting hostile stares. A surprisingly stark reminder of how much less friendly the old area was.

A brief undeveloped thought on that: the old neighborhood was also much whiter and on average a good deal wealthier. This business that, as a movement, the queers are fine with the middle- and upper-middle-class East Coast whites but we struggle with people of color? I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I think even within the so-called 'liberal establishment' there are lots of white people with a lot more homophobia and transphobia than they'd necessarily admit.

I don't know, I don't want to theorize and over-generalize. But the shift has been striking. And while my white middle-class liberal family looks slightly alarmed at the racial mix of my new neighborhood, I put up with a whole lot less crap on the streets than I did in the old place. It could be unique to the balance of this particular neighborhood, which is so fantastically queer, too. In any case I'm enjoying the release from stress I had almost started to ignore, it was such a daily part of life in the old neighbhorhood.

And have I mentioned that our immediate neighbors are friendly, not just not-glaring but actually saying hello, trading favors, etc.? And the new place gets nice light, and the cats like it, and we walk regularly to one of the lovely big parks nearby.

All this makes me wonder if we'd be able to stay here for a long time. FG and I moved in together in 1998. All total, we've lived in nine different apartments in four states and one foreign country since then. I've learned a lot and grown up a lot in that time, and I'm grateful for all those experiences. But I'm also feeling bone-tired at the prospect of uprooting ourselves again. FG remarked that, as adults, picking up and leaving is what we know how to do. We've never really, truly put down roots in a community; we've always been planning our next escape. But I think we've been learning, this past year, how to start to be a part of a community, not just bystanders and transients. I may want to try staying put on for size in the next decade or so...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Oil Change the Second, Plus Miscellaneous Shenanigans

This post is a little overdue... we moved this past week in a flurry of boxes and tape and kind friends and rain and happiness. Yeah, that about sums that up for now.

But before we moved, I spent an evening getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and working on the car! And since I know you're as excited as I am to witness my reincarnation as a Diesel Dyke (TM), I offer here an account of the proceedings.

First, I drove with FG to the auto parts store and picked up some supplies, including a light bulb for a burned-out headlight. Then we made our way through heavy traffic out to her sister's place, where I got to work, washing our car and FG's sister's car while I waited for the engine to cool down.

My first order of business was replacing the air filter. It's screwed on with seven very rusted screws. I couldn't get them out with a screwdriver last time, but when I saw Dawn she pointed out that I could use my socket wrench on them. Um, right. Why didn't I think of that?

So that worked just fine. I'm not sure the air filter was really that dirty, though it was a little dirty, for sure. But I replaced it anyway, since I'd gotten all those screws off, and I was tired of carrying the new filter around. I also pulled some nut hulls out of the filter's casing. Like, five or six. I'm not too sure how they got there, but I guess it was a good thing to take them out?

Next up was the headlight. I was nervous about this, because I was flying solo, with only the owner's manual for guidance. First it said to remove a reservoir from a holder to give easier access to the bulb. After some tugging and tussling I got it free.

Next I was supposed to pull a clip off the bulb to detach it from the car's wiring. I fought with the thing for about fifteen minutes. I didn't want to break anything, of course, but damn, it was just not moving. Finally I asked FG and her sister to come out and give it a go. They tried, but nothing doing.

I was getting seriously frustrated. This was supposed to be so easy that it was actually in the manual--a manual that warns that only skilled mechanics should basically touch anything else at all. I asked myself, what would Dawn suggest? And I heard her voice in my head: "Brute force and ignorance." So I got out a small screwdriver and alternately coaxed and pushed the thing until, click! Off it came like it had never caused any trouble at all.

But alas! My sorrows with the headlight were not over, because I had bought the wrong size bulb. A strange thing about the auto parts store I go to. The clerks are generally very polite. They all seem to read me as female and to take a moment to realize I'm going to conduct this interaction in a masculine mode, not a feminine one; and once they realize that, they opt for that mode, too, and all is well. But in most cases the little exclamation-point-shaped cloud stays about their heads for the whole exchange.

This was the case with the pleasant middle-aged man who'd sold me the bulb. He was unfailingly friendly but definitely wrong-footed by the mysteries of my gender, which were in this instance amplified by FG's presence, all high femme with skirt and cleavage to match. So he mixed up a number and sent me home with a bulb that would not do at all.

Carefully I replaced the broken bulb. It was getting late and I did not have time to get to a store and exchange it, so the bulb would have to wait. Instead, I turned to the oil change, which went much faster this time since I pretty much knew what I was doing and could, you know, find the filter.

By the end I was one dirty butch. It turns out that if you wash your car on a dirt driveway, and then crawl under that car to change your oil, you will emerge not only oil- and grease-stained but soaked with mud as well. And in my case, thoroughly bitten by mosquitoes to boot. Luckily I had brought at least a change of t-shirt, and FG kindly dug out a towel for me to sit on while the three of us enjoyed supper.

A day or so later, I exchanged the bulb for the correct size (which I looked up myself, thank you very much), and replaced it parked outside a softball field in a tony suburb. The locals opted to stay out of it.

And so the car seems to have survived another bout at the hands of Mechanic MacCool.