Wednesday, July 21, 2010
After the speediest MFA residency ever, I graduated on Saturday. Z snapped pictures, my friend Meghan waved the arm(s) of the giant, fluffy starfish she got me to celebrate, my mentor cried a little and gave me a huge hug, and then I woke up the next morning exhausted, hung over, realizing I’d failed to say goodbye to at least six people, and wondering what exactly is next. Seriously? What next? I’ve been so busy reading, writing annotations, writing essays, sending in packets, revising, writing a critical thesis, a creative thesis, presenting my work, reading my writing publicly, that I realize belatedly, I have no post MFA plans in place. I mean, I was a writer before I started the Great MFA Experiment, but now I either have to REALLY be one (discipline, production, revision, submission Submission SUBMISSION.) Or I have to admit that I’m too lazy or easily distractible to produce. There’s a huge part of me that wanted to leave the residency, set up my new writing studio in Seattle, and write my heart out before the fall teaching semester starts. But Z and I had travel plans, so what I’m doing right now will have to be classified as field research. Here are my notes so far:
• Don’t travel with an over-sized, congratulatory Smiley face balloon because it will wriggle out of its restraints and make its way to the front of the car, blocking the driver’s vision.
• Celebratory hydrangeas and irises (a gift from Z) do not like to travel down the coast of Maine in the summer.
• Wait staff will offer lobster-eating pointers if needed.
• US 1 is not unlike US 40 in that it seems to be made up of a series of dilapidated buildings, closed businesses, fruit stands, and Check-n-Goes. It could be the Midwest minus the occasional glimpses of the sea.
• Not all in-door dining establishments and gas stations have restrooms.
• Probably the air conditioning in your hotel room will give you a cold. Resign yourself to it and buy a big box of Puffs.
• Don’t even try to play the license plate game in Maine. All the plates you’ll pass are from New England. And you can tell because of the way they hoot you, change lanes rapidly in front of you without signaling, and generally have their own system of driving that was not covered in your driver’s ed class in 1983.
• Boston may be in the U.S., but the city planners were European. You will never know where you are. You will be hot, you will be crabby, you will hate Boston. And then when you are back in the cool, sneeze-inducing hotel room, you will start to remember it differently, as a city that you might actually want to visit again.
• The red line connecting the historical sites on the Freedom Trail disappears, so don’t get too used to it.
• The swan boats you’ve heard about your whole life are not built for two, but for an entire, extended family. Way less romantic than you imagined.
• Boston Common isn’t so huge, so don’t expect Central Park, Kensington Park, or St. Stephen’s Green.
• For every forty-five historical sites you visit, one will mention that a woman was involved in shaping the country’s early history. (They really dropped the ball, those Ladies of Antiquity, who were apparently just sitting on their asses, eating bonbons, while their husbands did all of the hard, hard work of nation building.)
• Harvard looks surprisingly like the college in Ohio where you got your M.A. so it should probably get over itself.
• Au Bon Pain has restrooms. They aren’t always clean. But the toilets flush.
• Even though as a child you loved the Bewitched episode when Samantha visits Old Salem and is followed around by an enchanted bedwarmer, your husband will likely not see this as a reason to drive an hour in the wrong direction.
• When Z’s friend’s wife looks over the tops of her four year old twins’ heads and mouths that you might only want to eat half a cupcake, don’t be greedy. Listen to the woman. The children helped make the delicacies and while she was out of the room added ingredients that may only have been extra baking powder but could have included copper sulfate.
• You don’t know why, but seeing the place where the Declaration of Independence was first read does not make much of an impression (you are thirsty and tired and would gladly give up a little independence for a Hop-on-Hop-Off Trolley tour at this point), but the Old North Chapel chokes you up.
Two if by sea, baby. Two if by sea.