Winding down and back up again

March 31, 2011

Having three premieres in March was thrilling. It corresponded with the end of the academic term. Daniel went skiing, and Mark and I fled the city to Palm Springs, he to finish grading a huge pile of papers, and I to veg. As fate would have it, several “chair bombs” (crises that department chairs have to deal with whether they are on vacation or not) exploded in my peaceful retreat. Although they were resolved, it would have been nice to just do nothing for a while.

And as my days tick down for being chair, the challenges seem to increase, rather than decrease: such is life. I embrace my present reality, and can’t complain.

As we are putting our house up for sale (wish us luck), we have to “stage” it, meaning to de-clutter it. My middle name is clutter, so I’ve had a huge task going through all our/my stuff. I’ve already packed 60 boxes and you can barely tell. We don’t have to pack everything, but it’s still a lot. I forget sometimes that I’m not 20 any longer, so I keep my book boxes to 12 X 12 to keep the weight to a minimum. And I’m schlepping them out of the house, to the garage, and then to a public storage facility. Speaking of which….

I’ve become a regular at our local storage place. I drive in, put in a code, a big gate opens, I drive through several parking areas and park near a big industrial elevator. I fetch a handcart, and then unload all the boxes onto the cart, go to the elevator, put in my code, and then in slomo, go up to the fourth floor. As I get off and look all around me, the scene reminds me of some images in the film Brazil, but is probably more like a cross between purgatory and a prison for things. As I push my cart down the aisles, to my right and left are other people’s storage bins, each with its own smell. There is usually no one around, making it even more surreal. I have run across a few people who likely live in these storage areas, or at least keep all there stuff there, and then live on the streets.

As I phase out myself and phase in my successor as Chair, I realize what skills I have had that were important, but perhaps not really thought about by anyone, including me. The most important skill I have had as a chair is being a good interdepartmental ambassador and, in general, a peacemaker. Daniel and I both took the enneagram test a few years back, only to find out that we are both peacemakers as well as both ENTJs in the Meyers Briggs tests. I’ve decided to deputize some faculty and encourage them to be aware of the importance of peacemaking and negotiation.

I wonder whether I will miss this ability in my post-UCLA reality?

My friends are not happy that we are moving up north. I’ve been here since 1983, and that is a lot of history. Funny thing is, that many friends we used to see monthly we only see three or four times a year: with two couples who are busy professionals, that is four calendars that have to be coordinated. I keep suggesting that we work out “seasons” with our friends, where we plan out dinners and outings in September for the entire season, and get them all in the calendar.

In our move to Silicon Valley, Daniel already has many new friends up there; I will not have any close music buddies to hang with initially, so I guess I’ll have to sharpen up my outreach skills and find some.

The collaboration with my librettist, friend and colleague, Mitchell Morris will be different in that we will be living in two different cities next year. When I collaborated with William MacDuff (“Rosarium” and “Crocodile’s Xmas Ball”), we mostly communicated via email with just an occasional meeting. When I collaborated with John Hall (“Hidden Legacies” and “Flashpoint/Stonewall”), we were UCLA colleagues as well as gym partners. Mitchell and I get together regularly for dinner and wine, and discuss our opera. That will happen less frequently after we move.

So, my brain is processing a lot of stuff these days: phasing myself out of academia; slowly opening up to a new chapter in my life; moving out of our wonderful home to a new one, and imagining a new post-UCLA realty and trying to manifest it.

Kids these days! My colleagues and I are baffled at certain students’ cavalier notion of attending class. In my day, I NEVER missed a class or seminar. Some of our students attend as little as a quarter of the classes. I just don’t get it. In some classes, information is uniform and can be gotten from books. But many lectures are unique to the professor, and homework and exams are based upon those lectures. It may be that the students have concocted a “I’ll take notes and disseminate them” scheme, I don’t know. But it is a puzzlement.

Mitchell and I went to Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” last night at the LA Opera. A dazzling performance, a daring production and an amazing piece. What I realized is that Britten’s melodies and harmonies are not a part of my musical DNA. At all. But as I get to know more of his music, my colleague, Ian Krouse DOES have Britten’s DNA. Mitchell knows the piece backwards and forwards, and responded to every phrase. We went backstage to congratulate Maestro Conlon. He asked me “Are you a Britten fan?” I reponded “I’m still a virgin to much of Britten; I lean towards Stravinsky.” “It’s a different world” he replied. Not being a true opera queen, I still have trouble with recitatives, and Britten writes a fair amount of them.

Although I am pregnant with an opera, school and moving take most of my time these days. Blogging and many other past times also get short shrift. None the less, it’s an exciting and stressful time. But I won’t complain.

 

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