Jeff warned me that, while informal, the short meeting was rather intense and he wasn’t sure if they were joking when they suggested he go around the room and try to remember the names of every professor in the department. One guy whom he hand’t met before apparently just shook his head. “That’s David.”

What? For the first time I was a little nervous. When my turn came, I entered the room and sat at the head of a long conference table surrounded by two layers of geoscientists of all kinds. Many I already knew and I recalled to myself what I knew about them:

Craig, who is also the Director of Graduate Studies in the department, I’d met in March when I came to check out the school. A few days earlier, while preparing myself for this day of meeting and greeting, I discovered I’d overlooked a three-week-old email. It was a list of teaching assistantship assignments which included my name as Craig’s TA for mineralogy. I had been accepted as a research assistant and read right past the email since it didn’t appear to apply to me. With a week until classes began, I wrote an email, thinly veiled in polite language, that effectively said “Ohshitohshitohshit!” Craig wrote back congratulating me on the RA, which is apparently unusual for master’s students. TAs are often changed around at the last minute, plus he has a couple undergrads who are looking for teaching experience anyway.

Arnie is one of my advisors. At the recommendation of my old bosses, I tracked him down at the last GSA to talk to him about Cincinnati’s program. I got to know him a bit better in the mean time, and he suggested I work with Yurena.

Yurena is my other advisor and I am officially her research assistant. She works on land snails from the Canary Islands (also her homeland), so presumably I will be as well. I am her first ever graduate student, which, I hear, is how I got to be an RA: professors’ first students are traditionally allowed to focus on research. She is only five years older than I am…

Josh was the only person in the room that I know is a vertebrate paleontologist. In March I talked with him in his office and repeated for the tenth time that day my research interests. “What if the fossil record can’t tell us anything useful about climate change or conservation?” Probably the only hardball question all day. “Not knowing if that is true is enough reason to study it.” That’s a paraphrase; I wasn’t so concise at the time.

I don’t remember meeting Warren previous to earlier that morning when he told me the story of how he met his wife. He was in Prague for a geology conference in the summer of 1968. I think my jaw dropped a little. The night after he arrived, he went to a little bar near the hotel. He was having enough trouble ordering a beer that a local who spoke English helped him out. They started chatting and he eventually invited Warren to a party he was attending down the street. There, he hit it off with a lovely Czechoslovakian woman and they talked late into the night. The next morning, he woke in his hotel room to the sound of gunfire from the street. He pulled back the curtains to see the Soviet tanks rolling down the streets. The soldiers, apparently expecting resistance, were firing over the heads of angry Czechoslovakians who were dressed for a normal day of work. In other words, the meeting was cancelled. After a fruitless call to the American embassy, Warren and his colleagues were directed by the English embassy onto the last train out of the city, and slipped out as the iron curtain fell around them. Back in the US, he couldn’t remember her name well enough to spell it, but wrote a letter addressed with the hostess’s last name (which was Germanic- I guess more memorable to an American than the young woman’s Czech one) and the street name, only. The letter managed to make it and the hostess passed it to the young woman. After writing each other for a year, Warren was able to return to Prague and… well anyway, they’re married now.

Nearly everyone had either introduced themselves or we’d exchanged a familiar nod when I said I didn’t know the gentleman in the corner. 
"Careful with your word choice there! That’s David and ‘gentleman’ is…"
David shook his head. Har har.

"So Alex, you have an interesting story."
"Thank you."
"Tell us how you got here."

I started with my college years, moving to Taiwan, and then tried to enumerate my duties at the Paleontological Research Institution, answering a few encouraging questions as I went.

"How are you liking Cincinnati?"
"Clifton seems like a really cool neighborhood. I went and saw Boyhood at the little theater on Ludlow. The beer was a little overpriced, but the ticket was cheap, so $11 for a nice, local beer and movie is still a bargain."

Anti-social-seeming David perked up at this, “Did you check out the co-op down the street?”
"I did! In Ithaca I was a member-worker at our co-op and actually lived in a housing co-op."
"That’s great! Did you sign up for their mailing list?"
"I did not."
"I’ll make sure your email gets on there."

After a couple more getting-to-know-you questions, Craig said “Well we’re just so glad to have you here with us. Thanks,” and that was that. It had been 7 minutes of 15 allotted.

Several Weekends

I went to a lovely fundraising party at a local theater a few weeks ago. I had a margarita or two before arriving and started out in a good mood. Yummy food and good food improved it. I put $10 of raffle tickets into a basket and saw my friend Steve do the same, so, hedging my bet, I told him I would give him the pack of 10 couple’s movie tickets if I won if he promised to give me the flower studded horn-rimmed sunglasses and bowtie if he won. Beth, Steve’s girlfriend, had made the basket, convinced me to enter the raffle, and was the ticket drawer, saying she would make sure I won.

When the drawing happened, she indeed called one of my numbers from the stage. I walked up holding my ticket and she laughed and pushed me back into the audience, assuming I was kidding. But I am now the proud owner of two tickets to see the Little Shop of Horrors, a DVD of the Rick Moranis movie, a carnivorous plant growing kit, silly sunglasses, a bowtie, and more, less the movie tickets.

We then hit up a few bars and I wound up passing out on a coworker’s futon head to toe with my friend (and coworker) Wade.

The next day was second Easter, and I found the most hidden boozes, including a Smirnoff Ice, which I didn’t quite finish in one go. I think the carbonation actually helped my hungover tummy. At this event, I met a friend’s new roommate named Courtney, who I noticed was cute, funny, and interesting, in that order. (Everyone brought 6 drinks and I found 13, beating last year’s score by 1. I gave all but two of them away.)

On Sunday a housemate and I bumped into friend and Courtney again at the rubber ducky race. We wound up spending the entire day together. Then I had a bizarre experience which is better appreciated if you know that I am a champion sleeper. I can fall asleep in a few minutes in almost any conditions and sleep through most things. I was up half the night talking with Courtney in my head, and dreaming of the same the other half. It was the closest thing I’ve experienced to love at first sight.

During the following week I talked with her a few times and arranged a date that Saturday. It turned out to be a fun time, but not terribly date-like as some of her friends from out of town showed up unexpectedly and we spent the afternoon as a group. I had to leave for a gala at the museum in the evening. A few glasses of free wine made the after party almost inevitable, and, following visits to a couple of bars, Wade and I somehow found ourselves in the same configuration on the same futon as the previous weekend.

That Sunday was Streets Alive which is a kind of festival with a simple premise: block off traffic on a stretch of road for an afternoon and do what you want! There was music and games and an Anarchy Zone equipped with boxes and building supplies, so.

Courtney didn’t want to go on another date, having just gotten out of a long relationship— not that the particular reason matters much. I intentionally came on pretty strongly, too. I’m moving away in the fall and won’t be in town much this summer, so it seemed like an all-or-nothing situation. And I assumed it wouldn’t work except on the off chance she felt as crazy as I did. BUT I’m super excited that I’ve got that potential! I’ve only felt as irrationally smitten once before and was a little worried I’d never feel that way again, and it’s actually more encouraging that I knew almost nothing about her. In short, a brutally cynical physicalist philosophy hasn’t undermined my ability to experience the absurd joy of life! Or, in more appropriately cynical language, rational thoughts don’t seem to be interfering with the happy hormones in my head.

In the mean time, I had asked a young lady I met at the climbing wall out just before meeting Courtney, and went on a date, which I kind of tried to make into a friendly hangout time, just after. Hopes dashed with Courtney, I made another date with Emma which, now that I was a little less distracted, was a ton of fun. That week I had had a real fun fellow come in to work to ask me (tell me) about his rocks. The subject shifted alarmingly quickly to ley lines and I had to call on my teacher skills to redirect him. I told Emma this story while we were drawing things and this was the result: Displaying photo.JPG

Obviously I’m not an artist, and that took me like two hours and a few glasses of wine to draw, but I’m pretty proud of it.

The next day I saw Matt and Kim, and Ludacris and got a sunburn.

The next weekend was pretty awesome, but unremarkable except that Richard came to visit from Switzerland. The next next weekend I went to Niagara Falls and the St. Catherines area to visit my friend Cam and his new baby with Laurel. Richard and Steph were supposed to come too and then they didn’t and it was annoying.

It was a fun rental car roadtrip and we enjoyed the awesomeness of the falls and lovely beach vistas, but, to me, the most noteworthy thing was Cam. He was always a real extroverted, happy-go-lucky, laid back, unflappable kind of guy and had a kind of boyishness that made it hard for me to imagine him as a father. He was exactly the same yet at the same time the most natural father I’ve ever seen.

Last weekend Laurel and I went to Boston and stayed with my friend, her ex, George. We had a lovely time catching up and he and his roommate toured us around the town. I got to see my sister and her boyfriend for the first time since they moved there. And I got to see my friend Zoe, who also passed out at our (no former) coworker’s house in BOTH previous stories, and who happened to be there for a music festival.

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This weekend has been another much-needed low-key one: a little Ithaca Festival, last Supper Club at Laurel’s current house, and volleyball in the park, the latter two with Emma. I have two days left of work. I will be at the first of three Iowan weddings in a week. In a month I’ll be in Switzerland. In a season I’ll be in Cincinnati.