March 2004

Ridge Trail, Fox State Forest, Hillsboro, NH

Yesterday I drove back to Hillsboro, NH to pick up our taxes. Figuring I’d take a walk at Fox State Forest, I took the dog with me. When we lived in Hillsboro, Reggie and I frequently walked at Fox State Forest. We lived right across from the forest on its eastern edge, so Chris and I often joked that living next to Fox was like having a huge front yard without the burden of property taxes.

I’d forgotten to wear hiking boots, so although I had my snow-shoes and gaiters in the trunk, I had nothing to strap them to. As it turned out, though, the trail had been broken by one or two other souls: an encouraging sign. Even in summer, Fox never sees many hikers, most folks being too busy or too bored to head to the woods. On the eastern edge of the forest are several old logging roads that are popular with snow-mobilers, but the trails on the western side near the forest headquarters are narrow and under-used. I can’t count the number of times that mine has been the only car in the HQ parking lot. Reggie somehow always recognizes the parking lot whenever we pull in–actually, I think he recognizes the expansive horse pasture right before the forest–and he’s always ecstatic at the promise of running trails unleashed.

Gearry Cemetery, Fox State Forest, Hillsboro, NH

There are countless trails through Fox Forest, but there’s one particular loop that the dog and I have taken time and again: Ridge Trail to Spring Valley Road to Concord End Road back to the parking lot. Spring Valley Road isn’t much of a “road” these days: it might once have been a cart path. Concord End Road in theory (and on maps) still connects Center Street with Gould Pond Road, which then connects with Bog Road (our old address), but in actuality Concord End Road dwindles to an unmaintained pair of rocky ruts halfway along the way. There are houses on the eastern edge of Concord End Road, and occasionally teenagers with trunkloads of beer drive as far as their cars will take them into the forest on Concord End Road. But for the most part Concord End Road exists solely for the handful of residents on its populated western end and those hikers who use it as a connector to or from the HQ parking lot.

At the juncture of Spring Valley Road and Concord End Road–at the halfway point of our usual loop–sits a tiny cemetery. New Hampshire is filled with scattered graves, remnants from a hundred years ago when most of the forests had been cleared and rock-cellared homesteads dotted the landscape. Hiking the woods of New Hampshire, you often see old stone walls, proof that today’s forest was once pasture. And quite often in the middle of seemingly untouched woods you’ll come to a cluster of graves, most if not all of them bearing the same last name: a family burial ground. Life was rough in 19th century New Hampshire, and so were the roads, so families were just as likely to bury their kin out back on their own land than in the churchyards of town.

Gearry Cemetery, Fox State Forest, Hillsboro, NH

Gearry Cemetery is an unusual example of such a familial burial ground. It’s relatively large (10 graves), and it’s bounded by a stone wall with a white wood gate. The Gearry family lived in Hillsboro long enough to have various permutations of their name (Geary, Gerry) memorialized as the names of local roads; there probably still are Gearry descendents living in and around Hillsboro. The stone wall was erected, I’m sure, to keep cows and horses from grazing graves; the white wood gate, presumably, is a more recent addition, probably maintained by the State.

For all the times I’ve walked past Gearry Cemetery with its cluster of weathered gravestones, I’ve never walked through that white gate. I’ve always walked past with the dog and haven’t wanted to disturb the cemetery and its sleepers with his sniffing and peeing: as Robert Frost once quoted in a different context, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Judging from the rest of his poem, though, Frost didn’t agree with this sentiment; there was something in him (elves?) that didn’t like a wall, something that wanted to get to know who- or whatever it was he was walling in or walling out. Having laid dead for so long, would the sleepy inhabitants of Gearry Cemetery, or any cemetery, care if a lone hiker and her dog poked around their untaxed property?

Concord End Road, Fox State Forest, Hillsboro, NH

Somewhere I have a photo of me from last winter standing at the gate to Gearry Cemetery, the snow nearly covering its stones. Then unlike now I had long hair, my form nearly unrecognizable under countless layers of cotton, fleece, and a huge puffy coat I no longer own. In the photo, I’m wearing snow-shoes: the last time, I think, those snow-shoes have been used. Chris and I are over-achievers, so ours is a marriage of workaholics: it was a momentous occasion that we both went snow-shoeing, together. Momentous occasion or not, I’m not sure why I posed by that gate, nor do I know why Chris snapped that photo. I guess cemeteries and the gates that cap them are signs of remembrance, markers of memory, and Chris and I were subsumed in that spirit. Photos, in a sense, are but paper tombstones, memorializing names and faces that themselves will someday pass into the oblivion of forgetfulness.

After Reggie and I returned to the car, I drove to the accountant’s office to pick up those taxes. In the parking lot were two cars, presumably one belonging to our accountant and the other belonging to his secretary. One of them bore a wry bumpersticker: “Unlike taxes, death doesn’t get worse every year.”

Concord End Road, Fox State Forest, Hillsboro, NH

I can’t, of course, be sure about that, having never been dead myself. If I could ask one thing of the inhabitants of Gearry Cemetery, it wouldn’t be whether or not they’d mind the dog sniffing their stones; it would be, “How is it? What’s it like to lie under earth, stones, and snow while walkers, dogs, carousing teenagers and the occasional snow-mobiler pass: does it get lonely without visitors? And does it get easier over time or more difficult to lie dead and forgotten: do you notice that you’re forgotten, and do you care?” Something there is that doesn’t like a wall, or a gate, or the forgetfulness that that walls, gates, and cemeteries themselves try to fend off; something there is that doesn’t like being forgotten. Death and taxes, they say, are inevitable, but is too forgetting? Is there any power, elvish or other, that has the power to keep oblivion at bay?

Stairwell, Parker Hall, Keene State College

In the interest of full disclosure, yesterday I told my KSC students that I’m going to be a distracted, all-over-the-place basket case for the next two weeks. (Yes, the diss defense is two weeks from yesterday…holy crap!) Since I could barely hold two thoughts together while lecturing in my 8 am Expository Writing class, and since I wasn’t much better for my 10 am class, I thought I might as well apologize in advance. I also took care to explain to my students that I’d worked all through spring break and thus was in no mood to hear them gloat about how much fun they’d had. Hey, I might be a bitch, but at least I’m a considerate bitch. I’ll duly warn you before I enviscerate you.

So, in a similar mood of full disclosure, I have no idea where today’s blog entry is going: not a clue. I usually, you see, have a vague notion of where I’d like the narrative horse to lead, so I point her head in that direction and let her loose. But, alas, the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be, so who knows where she’s heading. As one Zen teacher once remarked during the last days of a long retreat, “you can’t steer a horse that’s headed back to the barn.” My brain’s on auto-pilot these days, locked on that 13-days-and-counting destination of April 5th. So who knows what sights the ride’s gonna offer in the meantime.

Since so many of you held my virtual hand and whispered a calming “there, there” when I was having my fashion emergency, let me assure you that I’ve found the much-sought after right outfit. It’s not the “futuristic,” Star-Trekky black pantsuit I previously told you about; instead, it’s a conservative but sporty black pinstripe pantsuit with a sleek zippered jacket. It looks “suitish” without being “suity,” it’s flattering with or without the jacket, and it doesn’t make me look like I’m off to try a case before the Supreme Court. Although it doesn’t evoke the sexy Dana Scully/Jennifer Melfi image I was originally aiming for–and it’s nowhere near Kevin’s S&M fantasy–it has a certain Katie-Couric perkiness. In a word, it makes me look smartly cute and endearing, and that’s an angle I have a lot of experience leveraging. “Do you think we should grant her the doctorate?” “I don’t know…but she does look smartly perky!”

Several other fashion-related tasks still loom on the diss-defense horizon. Now, I’m not obsessing about any of these: in a worse case scenario, I don’t absolutely need any of these items. But in the back of my mind, when I have a spare functional brain-cell or two after toiling for hours on diss-revisions, I have a couple other things I want to buy. I want a new pair of black shoes, I want a basic red shirt, and I want new underwear.

Room with a view, Keene State College

Shoes: If you’re gonna wear a black pinstripe pantsuit, you need a good-looking pair of black shoes. I have NO black shoes. Wait, I take that back. I have one dusty old pair of matte-black flats that I thought would be terribly comfortable when I tried them on in the store–they were on sale, of course–but they turned out to be only terrible. They’re narrow with pointy toes–very sleek and smart looking–but they are excruciating to wear. My feet are used to being barefoot, sandal-clad, or frumpily esconced in sensible (read: wide-toed) shoes. So I want to get a decent-looking, comfy pair of black shoes.

Red shirt: If you’re gonna wear a black pinstripe pantsuit, you need some sort of shirt to wear with it (unless, of course, you’re going for a degree in the Janet Jackson School of Costume Malfunction). When I bought the suit, I also bought a shirt to wear with the suit: a red short-sleeve silk/nylon jewelneck T. (Hey, I’m no girly-girl, but I’ve browsed enough catalogues to know the lingo.) This shirt is perfectly adequate: it’s sleek but not clingy, and it’s simple enough to complement the suit without seeming garish. But in my mind at least there is another red shirt somewhere out there that would look even more fabulous with this outfit. If I find it between now and April 5th, I’ll snatch it up. Otherwise, the shirt I have will work.

(And yes, the shirt must be red: no question. Although green is my favorite color to look at, red is my “power color” to wear. When I want to relax and be soothed, I surround myself in green; when I want to be taken seriously while kicking major intellectual ass, I wear red. I have a blood-red Lands End long-sleeve elastic-waist dress that I wore when I took my PhD orals and when I defended my diss proposal, so that outfit is my “plan B” in case everything falls through. For my own sense of wardrobe continuity, there has to be something red in my diss-defense ensemble, so a red shirt will look positively smashing with that black pantsuit.)

Underwear: If you’re gonna wear a black pinstripe pantsuit, you need to wear something under that black pinstripe pantsuit. Yes, fellas, this is what you’ve been waiting for the whole damn time: Lorianne goes “full disclosure” about lingerie. First, let’s get one thing straight. Men are under the mistaken impression that lingerie is for their enjoyment, and that isn’t true at all. Women buy new bras, panties, camisoles, etc. because such clothing makes them feel good. Whether or not there’s a man around to notice said underthings is purely secondary: a woman knows when she’s wearing Pretty Panties, and she greets the world accordingly.

So whereas a Manly Guy would never go (or admit to going) shopping for new undies for a job interview, diss-defense, etc, even women who aren’t normally “girly” typically feel a need to look good “all over” for such an occasion. Somewhere in the Female Handbook (and yes, guys, there is one; we just aren’t telling you where it’s located), there is a Rule that forbids a woman (girly or otherwise) from wearing old undies, a saggy bra, etc, with a fabulous new outfit. No, it’s not a matter of wearing clean underwear in case you’re in an accident, although I guess mom’s wisdom on that score holds some truth. Nope, it’s a matter of self-confidence: again, a woman wearing Pretty Panties is gonna knock you deader than a lady wearing granny pants.

So, where’s the full undies disclosure? Rest assured they’ll be cotton and either white or a variety of colors & patterns: Zen mama likes her unmentionables to reflect diverse rainbow of options for a wide gamut of moods. Preferred panty: bikini. Preferred bra: anything without an underwire. Size…?

Honey, there are some secrets even I’m not telling. Yep, I might be a distracted, all-over-the-place basket case, but I’m not crazy. This old gray mare still has some kick in her heels, so wonder on in silence about any further particulars. When it comes to bra & panty size, full disclosure’s a pile of mare manure: if I told you, I’d have to kill (or at least enviscerate) you, so take that as your one warning. Although I know my committee will never know (unless they read this blog) what it is I’ll be wearing under that black pinstripe suit, I will rest easier knowing I have the ultimate Plan B in case of an absolute worse case scenario. Yep, after plodding for nearly 10 years toward the ol’ doctoral barn, this horse isn’t stopping or veering for anyone. If it takes a strategic costume malfunction to wow my committee, I’m not too prudish or too proud to do what needs to be done. “Do you think we should grant her the doctorate?” “I don’t know…but she is wearing Pretty Panties!”

Rusted conveyor belt, Water Street factory, Keene, NH

It’s Monday morning after the end of Spring Break at Keene State, so that means I get to face a sleepy-eyed crowd of Expository Writing students at 8 am, another groggy batch at 10, then a full lineup of ENG 101 student conferences from noon until 4. I like my job. After teaching too many classes at too many colleges over the years, my situation at Keene State is pretty comfortable. But today, I am not ready to head back to “the grind”: after spending all of last week cranking out diss revisions, I feel like I didn’t get much of a Spring Break.

Ah, yes–I know. Another pampered academic whining about her lack of vacations: “As an adjunct, I don’t ever get to go on sabbatical, and I don’t get paid in the summer! Boo-hoo!” I know, I know: if I had a real job in the real world, my schedule would be harder, more mind-numbing, without the flexibility I’ve come to rely on, etc. Believe me, I know all this. Several summers ago in a failed attempt to “sell-out” by getting a 9-5 corporate job (my official slogan: “I’ll do anything for health insurance!”), I temped at a publishing company. After approximately 5 months of commuting an hour and a half one way in order to sit at a desk in a cube all day, I learned that I’m not cut out for the corporate world. Sitting that long at a desk, I get either jittery or sleepy: physically, I simply need a job that allows me to walk around, whatever the schedule. Plus, I had the misfortune to attempt my career-change in the summer and fall of 2001 (think, 9-11), so no one was hiring someone who was overqualified in terms of credentials and underqualified in terms of “real-world” experience.

So, I’m not whining about academia per se: the schedule flexibility is great, I don’t have to sit at a desk all day, and I can work in a great deal of overlap between what I’m teaching and what I’m researching. Teaching also offers the illusion of working without a boss. Yeah, I’m responsible to the Director of the Writing Program, the Department Chair, and ultimately the Dean of the College, and yeah, occasionally one of these folks will come to observe one of my classes. And yeah, every semester my students evaluate my teaching, so if I were to do anything horrendous, word would get back to “the man.” But compared to an office job where, again, you’re sitting at a desk in a cube with some moronic supervisor watching your every move (I’m envisioning a cross between Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss and David Brent from the British sitcom “The Office”), I teach in relative isolation: when I’m in front of a class, I’m the one calling the shots without any real interference or “coaching” from the higher-ups.

In a word, this morning I’m just feeling cranky. I would have liked, of course, to have made more progress on the diss this past week. I would love to be sunning on the shores of Cape Hatteras where Chris is currently shacked up with Ms. Lute in a rented house on the beach. (Last night on the phone Chris remarked that he couldn’t decide whether to play another round of golf today or go running on the beach. Man, life’s tough when your most brain-wrenching decision involves a choice between golfing and running…) And I would have liked to have spent more time last week just simply lounging instead of poring over dry journal articles, squinting over illegible comments from my committee, obsessing over paragraph transitions and a sickening overabundance of complex sentences… In a word, oh well. That train’s already passed the station, and I obviously ain’t on it.

So today I’m going to try to look at my teaching and all my various students as welcome diversions from the world of diss-dom. After having barely spoken to anyone these past few days, some actual human interaction will be good for me. Yeah, it’s good to be back to teaching: it will keep my mind distracted from all those diss-obsessions that have been simmering unabated for the past week. Yeah, it will be good to chat with colleagues in the hallway between classes and conferences, and yeah, it will be good to get out of the house. All this is good, of course: I know and keep telling myself that.

But if some tan, sun-bleached, rested-from-a-week-of-getting-drunk-naked-and-laid student asks me, “So, what did you do for spring break, Professor Schaub?” I swear I’m gonna slug ’em. Having sparred with “Bill” for the past week, you see, I’m in prime fighting shape. Today it’s back to the grind, but if anyone messes with me, it won’t be my own nose I’ll be holding to the grindstone.


Yesterday I spent the day walking around Boston and Cambridge, MA. Chris and I lived in the so-called “People’s Republic of Cambridge” for two and a half years; before that, we lived in Boston’s Beacon Hill for two years. Although it’s been nearly six years since we lived in either place, Boston and Cambridge still feel like “home” to me, primarily because I spent so much time walking (and biking) through both towns.

It’s always weird to return to a place where you used to live: you always notice the way things have changed and the way things have remained the same. Yesterday was particularly strange since I’ll always associate Boston with my PhD studies. We were living in Beacon Hill when I started my studies at Northeastern, so when I defend my dissertation on campus in April, we’ll have to drive down to “the Hub” for that momentous event. So yesterday as I strolled the streets of Cambridge and then Beacon Hill with the latest batch of diss chapter comments nestled in my bag, I had a strange desire to go back to our tiny apartment at the corner of Charles and Revere Streets in Beacon Hill.

The hobbit hole

Here’s where it all began. Our so-called “garden flat” was almost entirely underground: we had to crouch over to crawl through our own door. (Yes, the door is that short; yes, the ground is that sloped. In a sense, we lived under Beacon Hill in a humble little hobbit-hole.) The apartment was euphemistically termed a one bedroom, but really it was a studio apartment with a doorless, closet-less back room that technically couldn’t be counted as a bedroom. Our kitchen was in the front room, as was our shower: the shower was literally a closet that opened right into the living room. The only place in the apartment where you could close a door behind you was in the toilet: everything else was open.

Before we moved in, our landlady had rented to a single (gay) guy. Once while we were living there, an old friend (lover?) stopped by to see “Jay” and was shocked to have me, a woman, answer the door. “Oh, thank God!” he exclaimed after I explained that “Jay” had moved out. “I thought he’d gone straight on me!” Having been designed to house a live-in servant for the townhouse upstairs, that apartment would have been perfect for a single person; for a married couple, though, it was a tight squeeze. Looking back on our years in Beacon Hill, I felt perpetually crowded in an apartment that never had enough light.

When I turned the corner to stand outside that tiny little door yesterday, I half expected to find it open; I guess part of me would have liked to have gone inside. We were living in that apartment when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, and we were living in that apartment when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. I always associate those two events with that apartment: I remember the precise spot in the front room where I was standing when the radio reported Cobain’s death, and I remember the precise spot in the back room where I sat folding laundry while CNN aired live footage from the Oklahoma City aftermath.

In double-checking the date of Cobain’s death, I discovered a creepy irony. My dissertation defense is scheduled for April 5, 2004: 10 years to the day since Cobain’s death. I’m not sure what (if anything) that coincidence means, but I’d like to think that what goes around doesn’t always come around. Ten years later, I’d like to think I’m a better, different person than I was when I stood there, shocked, staring at the radio in a cramped, too-dark underground apartment. They say the more things change, the more things stay the same: well, I’d like to think the same is true in reverse as well.

View from bed

Lest you think that with Chris gone my bedroom isn’t seeing any, um, action, let me assure you that it most certainly has. In fact, in the wee hours of this morning, I tossed the latest conquest out of my bed, disgusted and not a bit satisfied. I was supposed to spend only a week with this latest fling, but he was intractable. Whenever I thought I’d finally wrestled him into submission, he wriggled away, defiant. When I tried to sweet-talk him, he rolled over and played dead. And when I tried getting rough, he went limp in my hands, and there’s nothing you can do with that. So after nearly two weeks of this kind of back and forth, I’d grown impatient. After all, honey, I’ve got ’em lined up waiting, so I can’t be spending all day, everyday, trying to shape up any one guy.

So at some ungodly hour this morning, I sent him packing: “You, my dear, are outta here!” He wasn’t ready to leave, of course–they never are. But off he went, rumpled and disheveled: good enough for someone else to deal with. And in true sluttish form, no sooner did I send one guy packing but I picked up another. “Next!”

What’s good for the gander, you see, must certainly be good for the goose. If Chris can love a lute or even several, there can’t be any harm in me trysting with a diss chapter. And it’s true: not only did I send off to my committee another revised chapter this morning, I’ve already moved on to the next. With the defense looming large on my personal horizon (two weeks and counting!), I have the formidable task of revising not just one but FOUR diss chapters this week. Guess that means I’m going to have to settle for a series of “quickies.”

Take last night, for example. I’ve spent years with “Bill,” the dissertation that refuses to die. But last night was the first night we actually slept together. Oh, I’ve napped with my diss plenty of times: I’ve fallen asleep at my desk with any of an assortment of chapters still open on my computer, and I’ve even taken a snooze or two (intentional or not) in various libraries, my head resting on a book- and article-strewn table. And since I’ve been diss-ing on a laptop in bed, on the couch, in an easy chair, etc, I’ve taken the occasional 40-winks with the diss rested solidly on my leg or belly. But last night I literally fell asleep in bed with said laptop and a rumpled heap of journal articles, professor comments, and library books. My bed looked like a library had exploded on top of it, and there lay I, topped with a laptop, sprawled in the paper-strewn wreckage.

I don’t remember falling asleep…I certainly don’t remember what happened between Bill and me before I fell asleep. When I woke up, the first thing I did was hit “Save” just in case I hadn’t taken that precaution. After all these years of practicing Safe Computing, after all, I wouldn’t want a diss-disaster to ensue because of one heat-of-the-moment slip-up.

Ah, Bill, I hope it was good for you since I can’t remember what fit of passion sent me to sleep in your imaginary arms. All I know is, I’ve given up trying to change you. So, Bill Chapter 3, get the hell outta my bed: Bill Chapter 4, do you come here often? Having spent too many hours toiling with only Bill to keep me company, I think I need to get outta my bed, too. Bill, how ’bout you and me take a little road trip? Everyone, I’ll see you tomorrow after Bill and I get back from the coffee shops of Boston. I bet you can guess who’ll be buying.

Morning fog, Keene, NH, Jan 4, 2004

I woke up this morning with nary a clue of what to blog about. I went to sleep feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the dissertation (specifically, the current chapter I’m revising, which simply refuses to die), and I woke up feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the dissertation. You know you’re in a bad place when even sleep doesn’t make you feel better…

Anyway, I woke up with nary a clue of what to blog about…and then came Photo Friday to the rescue. “Hot damn, I can just post an old photo and be done with it,” I thought. Now I’m trying to figure out a way to do something similar with the damn diss: “Is there any way I can take a picture of spiritual liminality, submit that in place of my diss, and then graduate like nothing ever happened?”

This week’s Photo Friday topic is “Morning.” I’ve not been outside this morning–it’s still dark here in New Hampshire–in fact, I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet. (Yep, blogging in bed: now you know my deep dark secret. “Hmmm…wonder what she’s wearing”–well, I ain’t telling!) Anyhow, this isn’t a photo of this morning; it’s a photo from January 4, 2004. In fact, if you are a reader of my still-on-hiatus “Pedestrian” essays, you’ve already seen (and read about) this photo. So, in a word, hot double damn, ’cause not only am I recycling a photo from the fog-shrouded past, I’m also recycling an old essay. Wooo-hoo: will the wildness ever stop?

So since I’m off the hook in terms of writing a “real” blog-entry for today (did I already say “wooo-hoo”?), I can mention some miscellaneous things that I’ve been meaning to blog but haven’t found the time or space to mention. Yep, that’s right. Photo Friday’s gonna be accompanied by Friday Fragments:

  • Fellow Granite-Stater Ron from du jour has several photos in the most recent issue of 22mm, an online photography magazine. You can check out his series of photos of an abandoned well house here.
  • I’ve found a new, eerily similar friend in Andi from Overboard. She practices in my Zen school (in fact, it’s merely an accident of fate/schedules that we apparently haven’t ever met), loves to chant, is fascinated by liminality (one of the themes of my diss!), has short curly brown hair, and gets mistaken on the bus for an old Korean lady (ajumma). Can you say, “Andi’s the in-Korea version of Lorianne”? Anyhow, I usually don’t immediately blogroll a newly-discovered site: I usually read a newly-discovered site for a couple weeks before deciding if it’s truly blogroll-worthy. But Andi’s a parallel traveler to yours truly, so she’s on the blogroll. Check her out!
  • Several days ago Kevin from BigHominid posted a suggestion regarding my much-obsessed-over Fashion Emergency:
      My suggestion for a diss defense ensemble:

        spiked Madonna-style metal cone bra

        pleather corset

        thigh-high boots with spiked heels


        nothing else (except maybe a crown-of-thorns wrist tattoo)

    Several comments. First, Chris already suggested this exact outfit, all the way down to the bullwhip. (Apparently, in high school Chris used to carry a bullwhip in his beat-up Vega. This is why old friends still call him “the Marquis de Schaub.”) And regarding Kevin’s subsequent comment that I should stand up at my defense and exclaim, “If you don’t give me the doctorate, this bullwhip is going up somebody’s ass,” I’ve already said something similar to Chris on several occasions (except I usually add that the bullwhip is going into his ass sideways).

    Second, I don’t do pleather, so the corset would have to be real leather, my friend. (Sorry, PETA, but Zen mama’s into the real thing.)

    Third, regarding the tattoo…I’ve been semi-seriously considering getting a tattoo after the defense is done: something wild & crazy (and entirely out of character) to celebrate my soon-to-be doctoral self. But instead of a “crown-of-thorns wrist tattoo,” I was thinking something more on the lines of an Endless Knot, one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. And I wouldn’t get it on my wrist. (ahem…)

    And lastly, Kevin suggests I should “open up a Tantric chapter in [my] Zen school and promise unholy monkey-sex (“Doin’ it Hanuman-style, baby!”) to the profs who pass [me].” Again, Chris has already suggested this, although I don’t think “unholy monkey-sex” is the precise term he used. But, since one of the books I discuss in my diss is Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, it actually wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate (okay, it would be, but…) to reenact the famous yabyum scene, with yours truly as Princess and my three committee members as Japhy, Ray, and Alvah. But then again, at least one of my committee members was really nervous about me including The Dharma Bums, so apparently he has something against Zen Free Love Lunacy. Oh well…we’ll file that idea away for another day.

So, there you have it. Remember that anti-drug commercial that showed the scrambled-egg effect that drugs supposedly have on your brain? (“This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”) Well, this blog-post shows you what happens to a brain on full-diss-crank-out mode. “This is Lorianne’s brain; this is Lorianne’s brain after the diss. Any questions?” Before you ask any, just remember: how do you know I’m not holding a bullwhip?

Goose Pond Trail, Keene, NH

The rumors (if you’ve heard them) are true. Chris has indeed left me…for another woman. Worse yet, he’s left me for another woman that I’ve known about for our entire marriage, that Jealous Mistress he warned me about nearly 15 years ago when we first met, the First Wife I always knew was there in forefront of his mind, tempting and distracting him with her winning wiles.

Yes, alas, it is indeed true. Chris has left me for his lute.

Now, when I refer to Chris’s lute as his “First Wife,” you must understand that Chris didn’t play the lute when I first met him. No, way back in that past life, Chris was a jazz drummer who dabbled in funky-folk guitar (imagine a cross between Michael Hedges and Tracy Chapman). Over the years, Chris has had a serial assortment of Jealous Mistresses: a worshipped set of Sonor drums, a Martin D28 acoustic guitar with custom electric pick-up, a beat-up DW drumset for gigs, a Yamaha electric keyboard, a Guild jazz guitar, a Kenny Hill classical guitar. I’m sure I’m leaving out a Lover or two along the way, but you get the point: Chris is a musical philanderer from way back.

Goose Pond Trail, Keene, NH

And it’s not like this is the only time Chris has left me for Music. Back when we were first dating, Chris wanted to become a full-time folk guitarist. He’d just finished his undergraduate degree in Ohio after having dropped (or burned) out of the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Indeed, I met Chris on the rebound: having left music studies at Berklee to pursue English studies at the University of Toledo, where we met, Chris even (briefly) considered going into his father’s career of choice: law. But Music is a cunning and relentless mistress, and She’d have none of that. After Chris and I’d finally–after nearly a year of being “just friends”–grown comfortable with the notion of actually dating, Chris announced that he was leaving to go live at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan: not only was he going to become a musician, he was going to be a monk!

Chris’s musical/monastic career lasted approximately a week and a half: what happened next varies depending upon which one of us is telling the story. In his version of the tale, Chris simply left the Temple, moved back to Toledo, and resumed our relationship (still playing drums and dabbling with guitar, of course) where we’d left off. In my version of the story, Chris returned to Toledo to find me “over” him and ready to sample other fish in the sea; in my version of the story, Chris had to beg for me to take him back before I, alas, relented. Between you and me, we know which version to believe: Chris is foggy on the details of this precise juncture in our relationship whereas I can take you to the precise spot–the step of an elementary school not far from our college campus–where Chris sat there and begged while I sat there strangely serene and detached. (You decide: at that moment, whose Zen was the best?)

Goose Pond Trail, Keene, NH

Whichever version (or combination) of the story is true, the fact remains: I knew what I was getting into. Marrying a musician–especially if you are, like me, an almost complete musical illiterate–is a daunting proposition. Music, like any art, will always come first: when that musical boyfriend, husband, or lover looks at you with dreamy, far-off eyes, you can rest assured that he’s thinking of Her, not of romantic moments with you. Over the course of our marriage, I have tolerated a sprawling drumkit in our bedroom, various bands practicing in our basement, vacation getaways shared with one or more instruments, and a nearly constant ambient soundtrack of metronomes, scales, and the same songs (or worse yet, fragments of songs) played over and over and over. The fact that the aforementioned Martin guitar cost nearly three times as much as the engagement ring that Chris could sorely afford should have sent a loud and clear warning sign: he loves you, but She controls his heart (and wallet).

So the Christmas before last, when I surreptitiously contacted Chris’s classical guitar teacher first by email, then by secretive payphone calls, then in person to determine what to buy the Classical Guitarist Who Has Everything, Frank tried to warn me. “If you buy Chris a lute…well, do you know what you’re getting into?” I nodded, naive. “Here, let me show you what your future’s going to look like,” Frank said, ushering me into the Inner Sanctum of his practice studio, the walls adorned with a dazzling assortment of gorgeous plucked instruments: 19th century guitars, several lutes, a stunningly gorgeous vihuela. “If you give him a lute…well, don’t blame me for what might happen,” Frank warned.

Goose Pond Trail, Keene, NH

I nodded again, still naive, then uttered the words that would seal the fate of my marriage. “Can I see it?”

Out of the assortment of instruments lying on a sprawling wood table, embers crackling in one of several old New England woodstoves, Frank picked up a pale brown lute, its soundboard spruce, its back birdseye maple, its pegbox rosewood. She was gorgeous, blonde, and light as a feather. “It has a crack that’s been fixed,” Frank gestured with his long-nailed right hand. “See? It’s not been played much: the previous owner brought it in to be fixed, then never picked it up.”

Ah, she was lovely, and lonely: what a shame to have such a beauty holed up in a box, unplayed. “I’m having second thoughts about selling it, but if Chris wants to play the lute, this is a perfect instrument to start out with. You let him try it out for free, then pay in installments if he likes it…”

Goose Pond Trail, Keene, NH

Again I found myself on that elementary school step, faced with a momentous decision. Should I take him back, or should I send him packing? Should I buy the instrument that would seal Chris’s musical fate, an instrument that would return him to his melodious and tuneful roots, an instrument that would allow him not only to play but to sing?

That momentous decision turned out to be, alas, no decision at all. That blonde won even me over with her light shapely curves: there was no backing down from the spell she cast. “Let me write you a check for the first installment,” I heard myself saying: in total, she cost nearly twice as much as that Martin guitar, nearly six times as much as my engagement ring.

The rest, as they say in show biz, is history. Chris had long ago gotten rid of his drumset; this past summer, he cut his nails and sold his classical guitar, crossing forever more (at least for now) into the zany world of full-time lutenists. “It’s all your fault,” Frank reminds me whenever I see him. “You’re the one that got him hooked.” Yep, that’s me alright: I’m a Renaissance music pimp, entrapping my own husband with the shapely beauty who will eternally come between us.

So while I’m here toiling away at dissertation revisions (still!), Chris is in a rental car wending his way to North Carolina, or anywhere warm, to spend some sunshiny time bonding with his favorite blonde. He’ll be back in a couple of weeks, right in time for his birthday: what should I get the Renaissance lutenist who has everything? Alas, he’s already started that shopping for me; as we speak, a luthier in New Jersy has Chris on his waiting list to purchase either a 10-course lute or a Spanish vihuela–either of which will cost twice as much as the lute I bought him. All Chris needs to do in the meantime is decide the shape of his next fling: should he opt for the round, full-bodied lines of a larger, lustier lute or the dangerous hour-glass curves of a Spanish senorita? Either way, I know where I’ll be as soon as that other woman arrives in her case: I’ll be back where I started, left in the lurch.

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