Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Hawai’i was amazing! Waikiki beach is, as you could imagine, very built-up and touristy, but the weather was wonderful (it was great walking around bare foot after New York’s cold) and the beaches were great. I swam in the Pacific for the first time, visited an active volcano (that was an amazing experience that I will write lots more about), took Hula and Ukulele lessons, met all sorts of people, including many of the incredible scholars I have read over the years, spent some wonderful times with new friends and old, got to know my new department a little better, got a tan, and had an all-round great time. I’m feeling more psyched up for the upcoming final papers for my various courses than I was before, so that is definitely a positive thing. I am also feeling very jet-lagged (kind of slow and dizzy, though surprisingly not too tired), and so am going to take advantage of the weekend to get a couple of early nights.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I’m off to Hawaii for 10 days! part of that time is conference time, of course, but part of it is holiday, and I am so excited. I am presenting a paper on Thursday afternoon, and will be back on Friday the 24th. No blogging for a while, I suspect, but I will write all about it when I get back.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Good luck to everyone working on it.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
It rained really hard today. When I awoke in the 6:00 am semi-darkness, great sheets of wind-blown water were rattling the windows, creating the impression of a Highveld thunderstorm without so much as a glimmer or lightning. I wrapped myself up in my beautiful red velvety dressing gown, and enjoyed the lack of traffic noise. The city might have been washed away in the night for all the sound it made. By the time I left for class, mid-afternoon, the deluge had slowed to a soaking shower that swelled the roadside mini-waterways to ankle-deep streamlets that washed away the brown and yellow autumn leaves that have made New York glow for the past few weeks. The cloud-cover had raised the outside temperature significantly by trapping the rising heat generated by 8 million living bodies, and so I wasn’t weighed down by the necessary layers of clothing and paraphenalia of a colder climate. It made for a really lovely day. Under other circumstances, I may have found the spectacle of a huge truck taking 15 minutes to extract itself from a driveway in a narrow street, while my bus waited in a rapidly lengthening queue of hooter-honking vehicles whose path was blocked by the hissing, bucking monstrosity, less amusing. Today, however, it provoked great hilarity. Have you ever noticed how the biggest truck bounces like one of those coin-operated child’s rides you occasionally get in shopping centres and similar public spaces, when the driver attempts any sort of delecate manouvre? Just like those piston-mounted toys, it expends great amounts of energy moving essentially nowhere. Or perhaps that isn’t entirely true. The driver did, to my amazement and admiration, finally succeed in extracting himself from the awkward space created by a narrow driveway and a narrow street further compacted by parked SUVs along both pavements, and an impatient taxi whose driver had attempted to squeeze through the two inches between the bumper of the truck and the left front door of the SUV behind which I was standing. Driving in New York City takes a particular level of courage that I simply don’t have.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I went to the Village Halloween Parade last night. It is such a quintessential part of the city that almost everyone I encountered yesterday asked whether I was going. I just couldn’t miss it.
The weather was wonderful, warm and still, and the half-moon lit up the few scattered clouds that were visible between the looming buildings. The whole city seemed to be walking in the same direction I was, sweeping me along with the crowd descending on downtown 6th Avenue. It amazes me how in New York, in the center of the densest crowd, I can be inextricably engulfed and propelled ahead without anyone touching me. New Yorkers are very protective of their personal space.
Quite abruptly our forward motion halted, and the crowd around me spread out along the police barriers on both sides of the street. Standing on the raised sidewalk, I could just see the street ahead over the sea of costumed people in front of me. The atmosphere was festive, and the street colourful and vividly lit. People gathered in the windows of the buildings above us, and on one rooftop someone had set out candles and fairly lights on all the railings. A party of costumed children were gathered in another window, and several families had stationed themselves in the upstairs windows of a MacDonald’s restaurant across the street. Police officers walked purposefully up and down the street, or gathered in groups of two and three along the barriers. Most people in the gathered crowd had made some effort to dress up, and it gave the whole area an unreal atmosphere. I had put together a rather demure school-girl outfit, with a knee-length tartan skirt, knee high socks, blazer and berret, and felt almost over-dressed in amongst the mostly very skimpy outfits about. Womens’ halloween outfits generally leave rather little to the imagination. In amongst the short-skirted nurses, air hostesses, sailor girls and inevitably numerous little devils, I also spotted several Marilyn Monroes, George Bushes, and Queen Elizabeth IIs, Neptune, Mozart, Mickey Mouse, Tweety, the Statue of Liberty, Madonna (in various guises), and even the Empire State Building (which would have been great if the weather had been properly autumnal, but must have been incredibly hot in the unseasonable warmth). And that was before the parade even began!
At around 19:00, some dancers and a group carrying hand drums appeared, presenting a colourful, though somewhat demure spectacle. Several minutes later, a group of mounted police rode by, and then, in the distance, the sounds of the approaching parade became audible. The bystanders’ excitement increased, and for the first time someone actually came into physical contact with me as the crowd surged forward. I had been concerned about not being able to see, as was the man to my left, who brought a little three step ladder with him, on which he perched precariously in the middle of the crowd. I needn’t have worried, though. The parade was opened in ernest by several stilt walkers: a fairy, clowns, and miscelaneous colourful costumes, who towered above the crowds, before a series of enormous glowing puppets on tall poles swished and twirled their way into view. The were spectacular. Dragons, witches on broom-sticks, skeletons, swarms of dragon flies, schools of fish, and finally, about a half an hour after the beginning of the parade, a pumpkin patch, with huge, orange, glowing Jack-O-Lanterns, smiling punpkin flowers, and trailing, wiggling tendrils of pumpkin vine that dipped periodically into the crowd on the side of the street. They danced and swirled up the street, accompanied by percussionists and the appreciative mutterings of the crowd, before gathering at the nearest intersection around a huge, glowing cauldron with red, yellow and orange fabric flames rippling out of it, and performed a ritualistic dance that brought the whole scene to glowing life.
Behind the puppets were a series of floats, featuring everything from the adopt-a-dog foundation to KISS, interspersed with marching bands and general costumed folk. The costumes were fabulous, too. There were plenty of George Bushes, with various political messages attached, uniforms from every branch of the armed services, medieval, roccoco, victorian and pioneer costumes, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, Bananas on bicycles, Sponge-Bob, Dr. Livingstone, Coco Chanel, a giant Dunkin’ Doughnuts cup, half a dozen sperm chasing an enormous egg (it had to be seen to be believed), an old man riding his walker at top speed down the street, flashers with various amusing, surprising and sometimes baffling messages hidden under their coats, dogs in prisoners’ stripes and pumpkin outfits, a daschshund dressed up as a hot-dog, being towed by a woman in a Mac Donalds costume, drag queens in all shapes and sizes, a piano (I am presuming she considered herself an upright model), darth vader (there were several, again, but one came up behind me while I was looking at something else, and gave me quite a fright), spider man, super man, bat man, and various other super heroes in costumes of any colour you could imagine, more devils, angels, fairies and princesses than I could ever have counted, and a bunch of cheery-looking police men who enjoyed repeated requests for photographs with skimpilly-dressed girls in various uniforms. Quite a night. If I get more creative with my costume next year, I might actually consider joining the parade.