Magic Jewball

all signs point to no



Filed under : Student Life
On June 5, 2011
At 3:30 am
Comments : 6

Recently, they closed the bookstore at my school and for good reason. Anecdotally, I can tell you that in the two years I attended most recently, I did not buy a single thing in this store. Not a notebook, or a textbook, or a school t-shirt (there’s a better selection in the main Columbia store and I did buy a hoodie there my first semester – the computer lab is hella cold!). Even the used books turned out to be more expensive than new ones on Amazon and I ended up using my computer to take notes (you may remember earlier posts where I spoke about notebooks gleaned for me by our wonderful assistant at The Record Label – those went to my niece in college. Oh, and my daybook… I soon switched to Google calendar). But apparently, I am not the only one who discovered these things and even more so, that you could sell books online and get more than you would selling them back to B&N, who ran the store. So it closed at the end of my last semester.

The funny thing is, several other things that were touchstones for me when I attended the first time (you may or may not remember that I dropped out to take an internship at my first label) were all removed and changed just as I’m leaving now. And I say leaving now, even though I already graduated, because I agreed to stay on at my part-time job there through June. Or until I slit my wrists from the horror of this job, whichever comes first. But anyway! Beyond the bookstore, where I did actually buy textbooks and notebooks the first time around, there is the so-called Commuter Lounge. I really don’t know why it was called this. As professional grad schools do, this one has many commuters but I never understood why they needed a special place beyond, say, the library or the cafeteria or the regular lounge. And there was nothing unique about it, it’s just a large nook off a hallway, with candy and soda machines and an ugly black pleather sofa which snaked around the space. When I was a commuter the first time (a real one! I lived with my parents for the first semester and drove in every day from the suburbs – the only time in my life I drove on a daily basis), I spent most of my time in the regular lounge which had actual windows and better sofas. But I did hang occasionally in the commuter lounge as it was a good place to stop when you had a few minutes between classes and I remembered it very well all through the in-between years. And this space remained for fifteen+ years, just being remodeled last month! Now it has warm tables and chairs and there seem to be more actual people sitting in it.

Then there is the thing I recall best from my first go-round, the row of telephone booths that lined the hallway leading up to the cafeteria. It was here that I made my desperate weekly call to the A&R guy at the label for which I wanted to work to ask him yet again if there were any internship openings. One day after several months there was, and the rest is history. I was kind of shocked to arrive in 2009 and see that they were still there. Really? Phone booths? They finally tore them out early this year in a redesign of the hallway. I think I would have been saddest to find those gone.

As I’ve said before, the hard part of coming back to some place that meant something to you, either positive or negative, is seeing the changes that other people shrug about because they were there and it happened naturally and gradually. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have hit the jackpot and seen all these things happen so that I can digest them. If I had started school in Fall 2011 and found the bookstore gone and the commuter lounge redone and the telephone booths vanished, I would have understood but I would have felt the loss of a connection with the school I once attended as a confused college grad.

Last week, at the part-time job I will be ecstatic to leave, I was telling the woman with whom I share an office, a young doctoral student, about my new job. I mentioned how they would be counting in some of my years in the music business as teaching experience and how grateful I was that I would not be considered entry level. I mentioned the actual number of years I had worked and she looked stunned. She said, “but how could you have worked so many years???” I said, “what do you mean?” She stammered, “but I thought you were just a few years older than I am!” Ladies and gents, I am at least 11-12 years older than her. Just a few years ago, my real age would have bothered me. I worried, working in a youth culture, that I would be out of touch and not hip. Now I realize that my true age is what gives me confidence going into my new job. I have some sort of experience and knowledge about life that she, who actually teaches a couple of community college classes, doesn’t possess. And you can’t learn it in school. It’s why grad school was so awful the first time and so great now. The school, despite the cosmetic, hasn’t changed. I have changed. And I’m really glad to have lived and learned all these years.

This was my favorite thing about the bookstore. You could buy actual children there. I never asked, I assumed they kept them in the back.

Two housekeeping notes:
1. There was a problem with my server last week and although I thought it had been solved, a couple of comments (including mine) were deleted, but I have added them back. Sorry if things looked odd for a couple of days there.
2. I lied, I think this is the last post tagged as Student Life.

I have attended ten or twelve U2 concerts in my life but the last one was on the Popmart tour. I hope this is still the play out music.
U2 – 40


Put the needle on the record

Filed under : Fancypants Prep,Life in general,Student Life
On May 27, 2011
At 7:00 pm
Comments : 10

If you notice, this post is dated Friday, even though I wrote and posted it on Sunday. I did this because I wanted, some day in the future, to look back at the gap between my graduation day and the day I received my first job offer, and see it very clearly and visually on the little blog calendar on the right. People who have been congratulating me (and thank you! or them!) have focused on this short span and said things like, “so quick! You must be awesome!” But that’s not really how it was. I look at other lengths of time, like from when I did my first interview (late March) or when I attended my first career fair (early March) or when I sent out my first resume (February) or when I first started to seriously worry about my job prospects (spring semester 2010) or when I took the big leap and quit my job (summer 2009). I think I really use that last one more than anything, because when you quit a job with a good salary and great benefits, and when you leave it without severance or unemployment benefits, to go into a field where you think there will be jobs but who knows, well, you worry. If I’m going to be more realistic, then I’d go with late February when I first sent my application in to the New Teacher Finder for the NYC public schools (it’s still there but I somehow doubt they will be calling me). It seemed like an eternity of fear and worry to me.

My Commencement Day was just wonderful. Amazing, even. For starters, those of us without Big Life Transition Events rarely get a day where it is all about us. But beyond that, I was surrounded for the first half of the day by my cohort and some of my professors, all of whom I love dearly, and the ceremony itself was fabulous. Bob Herbert from the NY Times spoke and said great things and they called my name and my friends’ names, and I sat next to one of the funniest guys ever and he made me laugh the whole time. Then for the second I was with my family and we had a lovely dinner and I got flowers and balloons and gifts. The one downer on my day was that I was stressed about a demo lesson I had to do two days later. If you don’t know the horror of the demo lesson for new teachers (tech specialists do teach some classes even though they’re not titled as teachers), it’s this: you walk into a strange classroom with kids you don’t know and teach an entirely out of context lesson while 3-4 administrators watch you. If you’re in tech, it’s worse, because you have no idea what equipment they’ll have or what the layout is and very often, something will break (three of the kids’ PCs kept going black during my lesson, for example). But it went OK, mostly. And they don’t all. Some day when I’m over it, I’ll tell you about The Disaster. When people tell me things went so easily for me, I try not to mention The Disaster. You know that job interview that Elaine has on Seinfeld where she just gets up and says, “I have no chance, do I?” and the woman smiles broadly and says, “no” and shakes her hand? It was kind of like that. The Disaster convinced me that I am not ready quite yet for what I had planned, that is, to work in a public or charter school with kids who need the most help. But that day will hopefully come once I get more experience.

But this demo and interview did go well and I knew I had a shot, but just a shot, because, quite frankly, this school is one of the best in New York. I know this because the parents on Urban Baby, who have together built the worst, most obnoxious forum I could ever imagine (if you know me from a forum, it is worse than the one you are thinking of), even they always agree that they’d kill to get their kids in to this school. So I really have no idea how I got this job. Really. It’s not false modesty, I really just don’t know. But I’m not complaining! The school is fancee, even fancee’er than my placement school (who, by the way, liked me very much but still wouldn’t give me a job, so you can understand my amazement now) and will herein be known as Fancy Pants Prep, or FPP. I even started a new category for it! (And last time for the Student life category – I think.) Every time I wake up and realize they want to hire me or that once I sign a contract I will officially work there, I can’t stop grinning. Is it really happening? All I wanted was a job. I didn’t ask for THE job. I should say that the position is awesome for all kinds of other reasons: the people I’ve met are fab, the school is open to new technology use, and I get to be part of the community of tech people which includes the fine folks from my placement school plus lots of others.

Right now, I’m having a tough time focusing on what the job entails, because it doesn’t really start until the end of the summer. That’s right, I have the summers off! I’m not even thinking about that yet, though. I am just thinking about how lucky I am to have hit the scenario I wanted the most: to know that I have a job in three months so that I can enjoy this summer and actually do fun things. I still have my part-time (ugh) job through the end of June. Or July, but I’m saying June. I’d also like to take a class in July, since I’ll be dealing with kids younger than I really trained for. Then in August I hope to take a trip I’ve been planning for a long time, to Western Canada to see some special things and some special people. And then I come home to my new job. Yikes! Yay!

But the stuff I am focusing on is weird and surreal, too. Finally, after two years of keeping a bastardized version of my analfinance spreadsheet, I can put back the cell where the income goes, rather than calculating how much I have to pull out of savings. I can turn on the A/C and not feel bad about it. I can restart Netflix. I can order the sushi deluxe. I can buy an unlimited Metrocard. My whole mindset is shifting and each thing I remember that I can do makes me happy all over again.

The past few weeks, when there were periods of no job listings or no one responded or an interview went nowhere or I got a rejection email, I’d have dreams about going back to my old job at The Record Label. Really! Just right back to my desk as if nothing had happened. You don’t have to be Freud to get that. But I think I’ll stop having that dream. And I can unsubscribe to all my job listing feeds. And throw away my extra resumes. And hide the label “Job Search” in my Gmail. And plan. I can finally plan. For a person like me, knowing what I’m doing next month and next year is the greatest relief, even though the details will be slowly uncovered. If this were a movie, like Working Girl, they’d end it here. Girl quits unsatisfying job, drops out of rat race to go back to student life, graduates and gets prestigious job. But it isn’t really like that. It is more the end of Side 1 of the concept album (remember album sides?) and now we’ll start with Side 2. I hear it’s complex and has its ups and downs but is totally worth a listen.

Title comes from:
M|A|R|R|S – Pump Up The Volume


I will save your life

Filed under : Student Life
On May 17, 2011
At 1:00 am
Comments : 8

.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this day.

This is, as my grandfather put it, a “benediction of Thanksgiving.” You say it whenever you experience something new or unusual, including the first day of a holiday or tasting something for the first time. I can’t really imagine anything newer or more unusual to me than graduating and receiving my Master’s degree, which I will do today. And I can’t feel any more grateful than I do right now that I’ve been brought to this day. You may remember that I tried my hand at this before, almost twenty years ago, and I didn’t make it. So I know it’s easy to try and yet still fail or maybe just get distracted along the way. I can’t even begin to calculate all the things I did to make it through these two years: the all-nighters, the tracking down of sources, the thousands of pages of reading, the squinting at code, the month of 9-5 classes, the chronically burnt fingers from baking, the 12 hours straight in a convention booth, the walking up and down of aisles proctoring exams, the stand-offs with weird professors, and so forth. It has all been a blur, and a generally happy one.

If you wonder why I haven’t written these few weeks, it’s because I have been too emotional to get anything down. Sometimes I would just be washing dishes and it would overwhelm me and I would cry. Tonight, I got an email that meant something to me and I cried on the 116th St. platform. It’s not sadness, it’s just huge, crushingly strong emotion of all types. I can’t believe it’s all over. And I can’t sort it out enough to write about it and that’s just the way it is. Sometimes things can’t be articulated, like the people you say goodbye to and the life you leave behind and the fear of what’s to come and the hope for a new and better future.

I thank all those people who sustained me, because when it all overcomes me, it’s the loss of the people and the life we lived together that causes the rush of strong feeling. And when it comes down to it, I think that’s what I was missing in my before-life, feeling. Right now, I feel so many things that for once in my life, a textual medium isn’t the right one.

Back in January, when I bought Deftones tickets for smack-in-the-middle of the week between finishing and actual Commencement, I thought I would be the happiest girl in the world at the show. Instead, things were a bit more complicated. Still, as usual, it enabled me to let some of all this out, and so for that I am also grateful. I guess that one goes to God and the Deftones’ booking agent.

I wish I had some pithy words to sum this all up, but all I have is this: the school advises me to wear flats to Commencement and since it’s in all probability the last piece of advice they’ll ever give me, I think I’ll take it.

Title comes from the song that made me cry during the show (the big tattooed guys near me never seem to notice this, it’s very easy to cry at Deftones concerts). It’s the song I used to listen to on the way to student teaching.
Deftones – Risk

Note: Apologies for the false post… it’s been so long since I blogged that I inadvertently hit publish instead of save about 3 lines in. Oops.

Edited to add: Oh look, someone has posted a video of the exact performance of this song I mentioned. I doubt there is even one Deftones fan who reads this blog, but here’s the link anyway. I am not in it, which is good, because the only audience you see is the mosh pit, and that would have made me cry in a whole different way.


It’s beginning to feel a lot like Commencement

Filed under : Student Life
On May 2, 2011
At 8:30 pm
Comments : 10

So, about the big news yesterday….

Of course I mean the monumental, earth-shattering, game-changing event that deserved dancing in the streets and worldwide approbation:


I’ll let that sink in for a moment. That thing hanging over my head for the last two years? Done. Finito.*

*There will be comments and I will need to do some rewrites. But still.

But this is why I’ve been away, because all my writing powers (such as there are) were dedicated to this task. In the meantime, my computer forgot the password to this site; good thing I didn’t.

I do have some more requirements, including a couple of papers, but today, for the first time, I really started to believe I’d be graduating. I even went over to the university bookstore to buy my “academic regalia.” That’s a euphemism for “gown so thin we no longer rent them because this way you can hold onto it for your next medical procedure.” But I am beyond excited to have my cap and gown and I didn’t even feel cynical when the Barnes & Noble employee said “Thank you and congratulations!” as I paid.

This is it. Now it can be told: I am between 5’3″ and 5’5″. And a Master. Or I will be a Master, once I don this thing and they hand me my diploma.

By the way, the first line of this post was originally supposed to be the title but then I imagined bots taking it away to Twitter and Facebook and people who wanted to talk about other, more death-involving events popping over here eagerly. And I hate to disappoint people. Not to mention, if you know me from any other site on the Internet, you’ve probably already discussed that with me and we’ve both had enough.

Besides, there are much more important things to talk about. Such as, if you were, hypothetically, a 5’4.5″ Master, and you were really a flats person, would you wear heels to your graduation?

CeCe Peniston – Finally


The last night of the fair

Filed under : Student Life
On March 16, 2011
At 12:10 am
Comments : 6

When I was in college, I didn’t really know what career I wanted. I liked marketing because I read Brother1’s marketing textbooks while he was in Business School (that made me about 12) and found them fascinating. I thought about teaching, because it seemed the thing to do with a History degree. But you know, I didn’t go to any career fairs and I honestly don’t remember any. Does Johns Hopkins have no career fairs? Or was I just too depressed to notice any? Maybe I considered Sam Goody a fine career in itself (always possible!). So I went to my first one last week. Actually, first two. All I can say is, it’s just like speed dating, except you hope to see everyone again.

I played the job fairs like I learned to play Monopoly with my friend around the corner every Saturday as a child: buy everything you land on. That is, I stopped at every booth that had no line, then swung back around to hit the tables I had missed the first time (some still had lines, others were better), and I gave my resume to anyone who would take it. The only places I didn’t talk to were cities I absolutely, positively would never live in, like Houston or Mumbai (no offense to my readers in Houston and Mumbai). But I went as far north as Albany and as far south as Northern VA. The thing is, with my specialization, it’s hit or miss as it is. If you’re an English teacher, people either need you or they don’t. They don’t say things like, “wait, so what exactly is it that you do?” or “we just started last year and right now we’re K-2. We will definitely think about adding that in five or six years.” Uh, fab, but who is going to pay my mortgage now? But the people who get tech really get it and so I talked to them wherever they were. And walking around selling yourself, you get your elevator pitch together pretty fast so that by the last person, you’re blurting it out like the homeless guys do on the subway. I am not a drug addict I am sick and lost my job and home could you please spare some change so I can eat today thank you god bless you all.

Sadly for me (and society), most of these people who understood and believed in what I do represented well off sorts of places like private schools and expensive suburban districts. That’s not exactly why I left the music business, to help the children of the executives amongst whom I used to work. So I’m a bit conflicted. Today I had two interviews with two night-and-day different schools. The interviews were by phone and back to back. The first was with a fancy Manhattan private school of which you may have heard. The second was with an inner city charter school in Washington, DC of which I’m sure you haven’t heard. The positions were both great and challenging and the schools both had philosophies which I support. But that was pretty much where the similarities ended. Certainly one reason I’d be more inclined towards the private school is that I wouldn’t have to move (as much as I’d like to be back in Baltimore, I’d still rather stay here) but the other school is really more appealing to my original mission Now, the private school would be a dream job, for sure, and I would be delighted to have it. But I’d still feel I was betraying something. Of course, there’s a good chance that neither job will be offered to me, but I can see it’s a decision I may have to face down the line. Unless I get no job, in which case it’ll be easy-peasy!

And luckily I have my homeless gal speech all ready to go.

Title comes from:
The Smiths – Rusholme Ruffians