Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18

I really am getting lax. Not only is this entry being written on a Sunday instead of a Friday, but it is also being written two weeks after the last entry instead of one. I would like to be able to say that this is due to the press of my course work. In fact, getting through all the reading is a struggle. But the truth of the matter is that I have mainly been distracted by Shivvy.

I had not realized just how narrow and lonely my life was. Before Shivvy, all I did was study. I continue to study now, of course. But it’s nicer because we usually study together. Being a grad student, I have an efficiency apartment on campus. She has gradually moved more and more of her clothes and other stuff over here from her dorm room. Whenever she comes over, she also brings her laptop, which is more powerful than the one I brought with me from Barstow. As a result, we each take turns on it while the other is reading. It’s fun because she keeps making wisecracks about whatever she’s reading or writing.

It’s not all fun and games, though. We each read and critique what the other one writes. I, of course, am able to help her considerably. What is truly wonderful, though, is that she is not only able to understand what I write, but she thinks it’s interesting too! Yes, I think Shivvy is my intellectual soul mate!

She even read (or at least skimmed) my senior thesis critiquing Briggs. She asked many intelligent questions about it too. She warned me, though, never to show it to Briggs. “If he sees this,” she said, “he’ll cut off your cock and make you eat it!” (Seeing my shocked reaction, she added, in a much sweeter voice, “And that would be a real pity.”) I told her that while I was sure his reaction wouldn’t be quite so extreme, perhaps it would be prudent not to show it to him before getting my Ph.D.

Not that we agree on everything. She says that we “neo-rads” go “too far,” that things really aren’t “as bleak” as we seem to think. She has a far more optimistic outlook on the world. Well, she’s young. And although she’s not really conscious of it, she’s really something of a “neo-lib.”

Some of her ideas I really don’t understand. For instance, although she’s never had a class with Professor Briggs, she insists that he is a “jerk,” and that “everybody” thinks so. No matter what I say, she will simply not be reasonable on this point. She has to take his undergraduate international relations class for her major, but has been postponing it, she says, until someone other than Michael “the Rat” Radkowski is Briggs’s TA.

While she thinks Briggs is bad, she is certain that Michael is truly monstrous. Again, although she has never had any interaction with him, she insists that he is a “total jerk” and that “absolutely everybody” thinks so. Very puzzling.

Some of her views are also contradictory. She has liberal views on everything (she wouldn’t be my girlfriend for long if she didn’t), including race relations. On the other hand, she has a deep, abiding fear of young African-American males. A girl she knew in high school was (perhaps I should add, allegedly) raped by one and ended up HIV positive. Shivvy is deathly afraid that the same thing might happen to her.

Ever sensitive to even the faintest whiff of racial intolerance, I tell her (whenever this topic comes up) that just because one African-American male allegedly raped someone she knew doesn’t mean that all African-American males are rapists. Her usual response is: “What the fuck do you mean, `allegedly?’ It happened!” And then she usually adds, “It’s easy for you to talk; you’re not the one they want to rape!”

One other thing that I find somewhat troubling about Shivvy: after she gets her B.A., her ambition is to go to business school and then be an international banker like her Mom! I keep telling her that this is really quite reactionary. As neo-radicalism proclaims, big multi-national banks and businesses are the exploiters of Third World peoples. Shivvy counters by saying that it is Western investment that provides jobs, taxes, training, and a host of other benefits to the Third World—benefits that they would not have otherwise. She likes to quote a saying of her Mom’s: “The smartest people in the Third World tell me that the only thing worse than being exploited by the multi-national corporations is not being exploited by them.”

Like I said: Shivvy is young. I’m sure, though, that exposure to me will eventually raise her consciousness.

We do other things besides study together. We are, of course, both in Trizenko’s class (unlike Briggs, Shivvy claims that he is very popular with the undergrads). We go out to all kinds of bars, pubs, and nightclubs with Shivvy’s friends. I seem to have a certain degree of standing with them. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a grad student or just because I’m Shivvy’s boyfriend.

Shivvy and I seem to be settling into something of a routine. She stays with me here on Friday and Saturday nights, but goes to Belmont to see her folks on Sunday afternoons. She then goes directly from there back to her dorm room Sunday evenings. That way, we both catch up on our studies. Shivvy, though, has the endearing habit of leaving one of her scrunchies under a pillow on Sundays for me to discover. I don’t know whether she does this deliberately or by accident. We sometimes study together weekday evenings, but she usually goes back to her dorm room for the night. Not always, though!

Shivvy and I threw a little party here at my place this past Friday night. Several of Shivvy’s (all very attractive and very animated) girlfriends came with their (less attractive and less animated) boyfriends. Doug came with his wife, Angie. Lisa Dudwick came by herself. I had invited Craig Hatfield, but he said he had another engagement. At Shivvy’s insistence, I did not invite Michael.

Shivvy herself invited Danielle—who showed up for the party with Professor Trizenko! They didn’t stay long, but they were the hit of the party while they were with us. As I have mentioned before, Danielle is a popular TA, and Trizenko is a popular professor.

As those of us in his Friday morning class knew, Trizenko had just been in Washington where he had testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the latest crisis in Russia. I had seen clips of his remarks on the ABC Evening News, as well as a long interview with him on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He told us that CBS and NBC had also carried clips of his testimony. How fantastic! It was like having a TV star in our midst.

I hadn’t realized it before, but Danielle told me while she was at the party that this was Trizenko’s sixth year at Charles, when he had to go up for tenure. Not that there was any doubt anyway, said Danielle, but Trizenko’s Senate testimony and media appearances would undoubtedly clinch tenure for him. It was all great publicity for the university too.

After Danielle and Trizenko left, one of Shivvy’s girlfriends, Lisa, speculated aloud on whether they were engaged in an “inappropriate” relationship. Doug’s wife, Angie, commented that surely that was nobody’s business but theirs. Lisa explained how, in fact, such a relationship between a TA and the professor she worked for would be inappropriate. Shivvy said that Danielle was obviously old enough to decide what was appropriate for her. I interjected that this viewpoint was incorrect, but that I, for one, would never presume to instruct Danielle in this realm. Doug said he doubted that anything was going on between them anyway; they were both too old for that. The conversation continued on in this vein. Everyone seemed to be having a good time—even Angie, who as only the spouse of a student, and not a student here herself, really didn’t quite fit in.

Before I forget, there’s a couple of things that Michael told me last week that I should note down. He said he had come back to the office one day at the end of Danielle’s office hours and saw that she was having a very unpleasant conversation with an African-American male student over a grade she had given him on a midterm for Trizenko’s lower division comparative politics course. He was telling Danielle that she had graded him down because he was black. She was telling him that this was not so, and that she had graded him down because he had written a poor essay. But the student, Michael said, was not convinced and ended up stalking out angrily.

I was really sorry to hear about this. I would have thought that Danielle would have treated a person of color with greater sensitivity.

In addition, Michael said that Prof. Asquith had come in to the office when Craig Hatfield was there. Michael said he overheard them have a little talk about the propriety of consensual sex between students and professors. Asquith was saying how while he agreed it should not be allowed between heterosexuals, prohibiting it between consenting homosexuals was unjust. Craig, however, argued that the rules should apply to everyone equally. Michael said that Asquith was obviously disappointed when he left, and that it was very clear what he wanted from Craig.

I’m not sure if Michael’s inference was accurate. Perhaps they were genuinely discussing this issue in the abstract. Abstract intellectual conversation does take place at universities sometimes, after all. Assuming Michael’s rendition of the conversation was accurate, though, I could see both sides of the issue. Given the past discrimination toward homosexuals practiced by heterosexuals, heterosexuals should not be telling homosexuals how to behave. On the other hand, I very much admire the principled position of a homosexual such as Craig (as I assume he is) that the same rules of conduct should apply to everyone.

Re-reading this diary entry, it strikes me that a future biographer or intellectual historian might not think what it discusses to be particularly interesting or important. It is human concerns such as these, however, which loom large in day-to-day life, and thus I believe they are worthy of preserving for posterity.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4

I find, once again, that I am writing this entry two days late—on Sunday instead of Friday. Not that it really matters, I suppose.

Now that the fourth week of the semester is over, the office I am in has settled into something of a routine. Since it would be extremely useful, I am sure, for my future biographers to understand my milieu, I will describe it. As I mentioned before, the office contains six carrels. As you enter the door, there are three on the right and three on the left. Michael and Danielle each occupy the carrels furthest from the door, by the window. Michael is on the left (naturally) and Danielle is on the right. I am also on the left, in the carrel next to Michael’s. Doug is also on the left, on the other side of me and close to the door. Across from him on the right is where Lisa Dudwick sits. Between her and Danielle, and just across from me, is Craig Hatfield’s carrel—although he is hardly ever there.

Each of the carrels is equipped with a computer. There is, however, only one telephone for the entire office. This is located on a small table at the far end of the room between Michael’s and Danielle’s carrels. Both told us four newcomers that they have to be near the phone since they are TA’s. Both claim that their cell phones don’t work well in this building (though none of the rest of us had this problem), and that they needed to have priority access to the office phone for work-related calls anyway.

What is especially curious is that the telephone table does not stay in one place. Michael usually has it next to his carrel if Danielle is not around, but she always moves it to a point equidistant between them when she comes in. She does this even if Michael is there, and even if he is talking on the phone, without saying a word to him. I have noticed that Michael will not touch the table while Danielle is in the room, but as soon as she goes out, he moves it back closer to him.

Each of the carrels has a swivel chair. Michael and Danielle have the two newest ones; the rest of us have somewhat older models. In addition, there are two “guest” chairs in the office. Michael and Danielle each keep one next to their carrels, citing the need to accommodate undergrads who come to see them during their office hours.

Let me explain about “office hours:” as TA’s, Michael and Danielle are required, just like professors, to be available in their offices for a couple of hours each week for students to come visit or call. These office hours are posted just outside the door and on the syllabi of the classes for which they are the TA’s.

All the rest of us, including Michael, usually go to the library or somewhere else during Danielle’s office hours. There’s always a steady stream of undergrads coming by to visit her during them, and often for some time afterward, making it hard for the rest of us to concentrate. Sometimes when I have come back to my carrel, supposedly after the end of her office hours, she’ll still be patiently explaining various concepts to two or three undergrads. They are grouped around her carrel in her guest chair, Michael’s guest chair, and sometimes even Michael’s swivel chair. Michael always looks about to explode if he comes in and one of Danielle’s students is in his swivel chair, but before he can say anything she always asks the student to give Michael back his chair and grab another one that’s unoccupied.

By contrast, there’s no problem at all concentrating on work during Michael’s office hours, since almost nobody comes to see him during them. I wonder why this is. Maybe it’s because the professor whom he is TA for, Briggs, explains everything so very clearly that the undergrads don’t need to come see Michael.

Except during Danielle’s office hours, our office is a relatively quiet place. The six of us with carrels in it are almost never there together; our varying class schedules make this impossible most of the time. I almost never see Craig Hatfield there, except just before and just after his classes. Lisa Dudwick spends time at her carrel, often fiddling with a strand of her long brown hair. But she is so quiet that I hardly notice her.

Michael, Doug, and I are often there together, and when we are, we sometimes hold an impromptu seminar on international relations theory. If she is in, I sometimes try to draw Lisa into the conversation since she’s in the Briggs seminar with Doug and me, but she usually won’t say more than a few words, if that. I think Michael intimidates her. Danielle doesn’t join in either, but not because she’s intimidated. If we’re debating while she’s there, she usually tell us that she’s interested in the reality of international relations, not theories about it invented by a bunch of narcissistic males.

Lisa usually shouts, “Hooray!” if she hears Danielle say this. I think Lisa would like to be friends with Danielle, but Danielle doesn’t seem particularly interested in her. Although I would describe Danielle as a feminist, she’s not at all interested in feminist theory the way Lisa is.

Now that I’ve described my routine, I turn my attention to a non-routine event—which will explain why I am writing this two days late.

When I went to Trizenko’s class on Friday morning, I sat next to the same black-haired, blue-eyed babe I described before. I could not help but notice, though, that she was wearing a short navy blue dress, even though the weather has gotten somewhat cooler.

At the end of class, she actually spoke to me! She asked where I had been the previous Friday. I told her that I had been at the International Relations Association annual conference with some of the other grad students.

“Oh, you’re a grad student!” she responded. “Hey! Maybe you could give me a little help with this class!”

I said I’d be happy to. She asked if I was free for lunch. I said I was, and she said, “Let’s go!”

As we walked along, she told me that her name is Siobahn (pronounced Shi-vawn) O’Keefe, but that her friends call her Shivvy. She is from nearby Belmont, Mass., which even I knew to be an affluent suburb of Boston. And she is a junior majoring in political science, with an emphasis on international relations.

She seemed to think that it was really cool that I come from California. She apparently didn’t know that Barstow is regarded as California’s unwiped rear end—even by many of the people who live there.

We went and got sandwiches and sat outside eating them in the cool sunlight. I can’t remember much of what we said, but do remember how much I enjoyed our conversation. She seemed to like my sense of humor. I liked saying things that made her laugh.

She obviously didn’t know as much as I did about international relations. But she was able to understand what I told her about it and make good points herself. On the other hand, she has certainly seen much more of the world than I have. Except for driving down to Mexico, my only foreign travel was a student tour to France, England, and Ireland that my folks gave me as a reward for graduating from high school. Shivvy’s Mom, though, does a lot of traveling on her job (something to do with investment banking or something bourgeois like that), and she and her Dad have been able to meet up with her in a lot of places, including Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, and several others I can’t remember. Shivvy’s been to Europe not just once, but many times, and has friends over there whom she is in contact with. That is cool!

Shivvy soon discovered that I really didn’t know much about the Boston area beyond the confines of Charles and Harvard Universities. She asked if I wanted to go with her downtown in the evening to an Irish pub and listen to some music there. That was an offer I didn’t refuse!

We had a great time that evening talking, drinking, and laughing together. We both commented how even though we’d never spoken to each other before today, it felt like we had known each other forever.

On the way back, we decided to buy some wine and continue talking back at my place. Once there, however, our communication soon moved into a non-verbal realm. Privacy concerns prevent me from saying anything more, but let me just say this: Shivvy demonstrated that she can provide me with both types of stimulation that I seek.

We then spent yesterday and most of today together, with her showing me her favorite restaurants, shops, museums, and other places in the area. I hadn’t realized that all these things were even out there.

She stayed with me again last night. One thing I will say about Shivvy: while I clearly dominate her intellectually, I must confess that she dominates me sexually. She’s the one who tells me what I am going to do to her or what she is going to do to me, and that’s what happens! She’s incredible! [Check with Shivvy at the appropriate time on whether I should delete this paragraph. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me to leave it in!]

We both decided that if we were going to have any chance of being ready for class on Monday, we’d better spend the evening apart, and so that’s why I am only writing this entry now.