It’s getting to be That Time of Year.
That’s right: it’s back to school and whatever isn’t done, isn’t done. That long lovely summer you were looking forward to in May? Over. Or nearly so. Except for those of you who are still watching ribbon gymnastics and beach volleyball in preparation for your research sabbatical, summer’s ending. What to do, what to do? How to break out of that nasty transition stage where you are just shuffling paper around your desk but unable to to accomplish much — whether it’s your own work or anything remotely connected to starting school — because in a few short weeks the students will descend?
I can’t do anything about the calendar, but let’s try to cheer up with a few Radical solutions to the end of summer blues! For example:
Go on a short vacation to Tudor England. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies (Henry Holt 2012) is, as far as I am concerned the novel of the summer, and I can’t think of a better time to read it than when you would otherwise be deleting email from the Online Reserve desk. A sequel to Wolf Hall (2010), Bring Up the Bodies continues the story of Henry VIII’s reign, written from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. Taking the reader through the grisly end of Ann Boleyn’s short reign as Queen of England, it ends with (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!) the multiple beheadings that cleared the way for Lady Jane Seymour’s marriage to the king.
The best part? Other than the rich description of Cromwell’s interior life, I would vote for Mantel’s skillful argument about the rise of a middle class committed to capitalism and a functioning, centralized state that might safeguard England’s future from the idiotic exercise of power by an inbred, undereducated aristocracy that couldn’t run a country if you put Nike trainers on it.
The other best part? Visiting sixteenth century Britain without worrying about being bitten by fleas and coming down with the plague.
Go to the movies. I know — it isn’t easy. Movies this summer have been downright dreadful, if you ask me, and the horrible shootings at the Batman premiere in Aurora, CO have made going to a movie theater even less compelling. But the film I would recommend if you can get to it (particularly if a post-Olympics America feels like a yawning, dark hole with no bottom) is First Position (First Position Films: Bess Kargman, 2012), which is about high stakes ballet competitions for kids under eighteen. Take a look:
I’m telling you — watching this movie about hard-working kid athletes confirmed my view that the pseudo-sport of Olympic beach volleyball is about the buns, boobs and bathing suits, no more and no less.
Find a new activity. It doesn’t have to be a very important activity — like, say, breaking from the Church of Rome or mastering the role of the White Swan. Yours truly, having become urban and lost access to my rowing venue, has joined a yoga studio. I admit that it is a kind of placeholder while I figure out what sports a fifty-something historian with a bum knee (who is barred from all athletic pursuits that include running, jumping and getting hit) can do. A friend of mine introduced me to a bouldering and climbing studio, which could work except for my concerns about dropping in free fall from significant heights. But for now it’s yoga. Personally, I like the part best where I am lying on the mat at the end with the fan going thwop, thwop, thwop over my head. But a close second best is knowing that even though I haven’t finished a grant, a book or a syllabus that day, at least I have done something and there are little tiny sore muscles all over my body.
How to pick a yoga studio? My advice for those of you who are, like me, yoga nubies, is to pay absolutely no attention to the reviews on Yelp! since they tend to be written by people who are really good at yoga and have requirements about which you and I are as yet entirely ignorant. For example, after I bought a card for my studio (the closest to my apartment) I read a review that said: “They are all about the money at Om Studios, and don’t focus enough on The Spirit.”
Right on, Om Studios. Thomas Cromwell would have gone to your classes, and so will I, at least for now. But practically speaking? Pick a place that has lots of introductory or basic classes, that is pretty clean, and that doesn’t have a lot of incredibly skinny women with no breasts going into Side Crane Pose while you are still trying to scrape your tee shirt off your nose in Downward-Facing Dog.
Call the Republican National Committee and nominate Gay Prof for Vice President. Why not? He would be so much more fun than any of the nominees whose names have been leaked so far. Nominating Gay Prof might also cancel out all that bad poopy that the Romney campaign stepped in on the “foreign policy trip” to Israel. For example, Gay Prof is a professor of Chicano studies and could probably find a way to say “culture” and Mexico” in the same sentence without losing the Hispanic vote. Gay Prof is also renowned for his bipartisanship, his gayness (which could help Romney pink up his image), his collection of Wonder Woman illustrations, and his complete lack of political experience or connection to the Washington Establishment.
Adopt a new pet. There’s nothing that says “I’m not ready to face another year of teaching!” like paper training a puppy, chasing kittens around the house or introducing a really unhappy middle aged tabby to a wiggly ShinMin-Poo who won’t take no for an answer. Adopting a new pet will allow you to fill your days with putting together the endless documentation and personal references that are now necessary to prove that you are not an animal hoarder. You will cheer yourself up by shopping for the hundreds of dollars worth of cute things made of brightly colored plastic and nylon that every pet needs. You can also turn down all committee assignments for the fall on the grounds that you expect to be subject to random inspections from the Wee Fluffy Society and have signed up for a semester’s worth of Basic Dog Training classes that meet at 4:00 P.M. sharp.
Last but not least…..
Go shopping for back to school clothes. Nothing puts off finishing those syllabi like figuring out what you are going to wear at that first department meeting. You’ll need a stack of black tees and black 501 jeans — oops! That’s just Tenured Radical! But how about a snappy pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots? Or a fancy new messenger bag? If you are coming up for tenure in the fall, you will definitely want to hit the ground in a new pair of Doc Marten’s, a motorcycle jacket and a pair of Dr. Dre Beats, now in five c0lors and guaranteed to drown out everything you do not want to hear as you cross campus.
Reader’s — how do you cure the end of summer blues?