Notes From My Oven

NEWS 1. Of interest – post du jour: In which a great-aunt in Calcutta’s traditional values are shocked by the self-righteous logic of “have conceived, will ruin a future life by having the child and giving it to strangers:” She thinks the “villianisation” of abortion in a “dangerously over-populated” world is crazy, self obsessed, morally vague, and consequence blind. This is a salutary point of view and the entire article is charming and worth reading.

NEWS 2. The LSAT is a difficult exam. Since I started studying for it seriously and fixing the house up to rent or sell, I feel I have a purpose in life and some sort of self determination, for the first time in a long time. I wake up early, looking forward to the day. I work out to get stronger, not just to relax. I feel as though I had a future. I even feel I can work with some authority in my very own academic field.

That is how I remember being, before. “Before” was before Reeducation, which was the process through which I lost self respect.

PURPOSE 3. The official point of this post is to remind me to clean the oven and the racks, and to record the research I have done on how, precisely, to clean this particular type of oven. I have a few other random things to say, however, and they have to do with the official point of this blog, which is to reconstruct and recreate me along the lines of my actual character and interests, and reorient the things I do toward my own vision for my life and work.

PURPOSE 4. For I often feel as though I were leading someone else’s life, deferring my truest goals again and again for a semester, for a year. I have quite a lovely life but it is as though I were driving 30 degrees off the goal, navigating toward one constellation on a star whose home is in the next.

I am trying to bring things into alignment. Working to actually support others would be one thing, but working simply to conform to others’ illusions about how life should be, as I have been doing, is quite another.

ADVICE 5.  I have always felt uncomfortable hearing advice on life from professors: they seem to speak from some sort of cocoon in which what they say may in fact apply, to certain people, but by and large it seems to me that what they say is mostly designed as a justification for things as they are or as a way to screen themselves from reality. I find that a lot of what the Tenured Radical says, even when realistic, is like this. I might have more varied experience than a lot of people, or a more critical eye; it also might just be that my priorities are somewhat different from those of the typical faculty member.

HOUSE 6. Taking an hour for your own work before diving into other duties, really does put things into perspective.  I still say that the kind of minor issues Mayhew is talking about – cleaning as dust-up, repairs under warranty – are the sorts of things I take in stride and do on normal days during the academic year.

On the other hand, it takes a lot of time, thought, and effort to repair and reconfigure the house for double to triple occupancy, rental or sale. I am a lot more comfortable not underestimating this. One can limit the amount of time per day one spends on it, but I find underestimating time to finish or discounting the fact that this work does take creativity, time, thought, and effort only leads to frustration. (And no, I am not making excuses, I am facing realities.)

HOUSE 7. The house is difficult conceptually because it and much in it – like the refrigerator – are  old. Everything costs money to fix, and you have to find workers trained to work on old things. If I could just call the man from Sears, especially for something like a repair on an item under warranty, it would be so easy that I would not be talking about it.

Also, working with skilled but in-cash, non-insured people since they are who I can afford and are also the ones willing to do jobs involving lead and dust and asbestos, means negotiating in French with real vivos. It is exhausting and from the conversations I have had, I see that a lot of faculty would not be capable of handling these negotiations or managing these jobs at all.

I, too, would prefer not to; it is just that most advice I hear on these sorts of things tends to assume either that one has more material resources than one does, or that one should not have the needs one has. But the most irritating professorial comment I hear on these matters is that this work is easy since it is not academic; I would really like to send those professors out to dig ditches for the day.

HOUSE 8. It is still true that an hour spent on your own work first, puts a great deal else in perspective. But I want to recognize, for myself, that the reason I find the work on the house so tiring is that it is one more instance in life in which I have sexist men trying to undermine my authority and discount my views — this time in my own space, when I am paying them.

When they leave, I find I have to take some time to recover from the violation. I find my sense of authority in my work to be shaken. I find myself taking showers, sitting in steam rooms, getting my nails done — the sort of thing I used to do, in fact, when I was more easily bullied than now, to recover from unpleasant or unwanted sex, or from attempts to get this out of me.

An hour spent with your own work every day, with any part of your own work, is centering and puts things into perspective — as long as that hour does not involve the reading of material written in the condescending tones from which I am attempting to recover and heal.

WORKSPACE 9. In the meantime, I have to keep figuring out how to place my own workspace around the latest construction site or out of the rented/common space. I do not like the lack of a stable workspace at all, at all, and it is why I want to push on with the housework and get it done.

But an hour spent with your own work every day, with any part of your own work, is centering and puts things into perspective.

HOUSE 10. The yard is not difficult conceptually if one does not with it to be, although once again if it were improved thousands of dollars of value would be added to the house. As it is all the trees and bushes do insist on growing constantly; they will not stop. I keep having to cut them back so they do not choke each other or me – like triffids.

At least this is exercise and it smells good, and gives me a tan. Pruning of tall trees, especially the hardwoods, is harder and so is stump removal. I would love to hire these things out but even if I could afford that, I would have to do a lot of research to find the right people, or spend a lot of energy arguing about shoddy work.

INCOME 11. Yet these things must all be done if I am to rent the house to people who will pay well and treat it well, and also if I am to sell for top dollar — and if I want to prevent deterioration that will be more expensive to remedy later. This is too much pressure. Remember that this spring’s work was especially traumatic, for many reasons including that it was interior work. Relax this year about the garden … about exterior rot … gutters … exterior paint … wait until the hurricane season is over … do it all as recreation next year.

I have to make sure not to get exhausted. I am using LSAT study, hours at the pool, and academic work as relief but I think I should delink these things from home maintenance entirely. The LSAT, the pool, and academic work should not be relief or rewards from housework, but, in that order, the priorities. Home maintenance may take more actual time psychically it has to move to the background.

WORKSPACE 12. It takes a lot of expense, and also effort and thought to acquire and place the equipment you need. I despair of ever having a decent media watching system even though the purchase would be tax deductible. I could try getting an external DVD drive for the netbook, and connecting this to the external monitor.

But the external monitor now says, check video cable, so is there something wrong with it? And, I have never really been able to use it as I intended due to not having the right desk and chair. And part of the reason I do not own all of these machines is that I would also need furniture for them. So I give up and do not watch film, although this habit must end since I am about to teach it.

Figuring out how to manage these machines is boring, and I now reject buy now/pay later as a viable solution to this sort of problem.

SIMPLICITY 13. If I were in the D.F. I would have a problem free studio with a great theatre just down the street. I crave this simplicity. At the same time I realize that if I just had a few hundred dollars for the right blinds for this house, it would not be so hot.

So around one goes, and I should not think so much.  I am grateful for the swimming pools and the LSAT study and the hip new air conditioned café. An hour purposefully spent on one’s own work puts a great deal into perspective.

COMPLEXITY 14. I know from living abroad and in cities here that I would like a condominium I could clean in 4 hours a week, with no yard work, and that I could just lock up and leave for weeks on end if I want to. I have the kind of house I like for Maringouin, but I dream of an apartment in town with an interior patio and fountain.

Last night my study looked like a discotheque because two police cars decided to park across the street waiting for drug dealers, and flash revolving lights around the block. This is why I do not use the garden I have more, and why I point out to you that rural life is hardly peaceful.

DESIRE 15. My dream house is a large loft room with a balcony overlooking the sea. Behind the large room, which would be a living room / library / study with a loft bed, would be a kitchen, a deck or veranda, a patio with a fountain, and a vegetable garden.

In Houston, if I made more than I do now, I could live in this building, which has two bedroom, two bath apartments with circular balconies and city views — and a pool — that they are selling for $300K and less. The condo fee is $1,000 a month but considering what you get for that, and the expenses you do not have because of it, it may be reasonable.

Because, one must realize, on exterior maintenance now — lawn service, plants, garden tools, my time, house washing, gutter and roof repair, paint — I am already averaging a few hundred dollars a month.

OVEN 16. How to clean your oven: it is a continuous cleaning oven, which I should have been dusting weekly, it appears, and which now looks less than perfect (and did when I bought the house).  Here are some instructions:

– with ammonia vapors (same article as above – oven and also racks)

– with a liquid oven cleaner, a scraper, and Windex – oven but not necessarily racks

with Dawn (which we know cuts grease) and water

with 409 and water – from MSU Extension

Here are a lot of instructions for cleaning oven racks. I like the idea of putting them on newspaper in the driveway, covering with oven cleaner, and then hosing down, although I am sure this is terrible for the environment. Other ideas involve soaking them  in the bathtub with ammonia, or with powdered detergent.

REST 17. Clearly, given how overwhelmed I feel, I must do just one thing to the house and then,  something decadent — like go to the pool and read radical social theory. For I am one of those allegedly contradictory professors who belongs to a fancy gym, fantasizes about luxury condominiums, and reads Marxian writings.

Forsooth, I think I need even more books, films, galleries, and classical music. I think that here in Maringouin, attempting to content myself with folk music and crafts, I undergo starvation to some degree. I tend to think I should not need what I do in fact need.

ACADEMIC INTERLUDE 18. My difficulties with professordom are the primness, the caution, the one-upmanship in so many conversations, the condescension, and my colleagues’ suburban dreams. I appreciate my flexible schedule and my house, and the fact that reading and writing and learning are counted as work. These are things I do not disdain and that am grateful for, but which are do not  match my goals in life exactly.

But I want more direct access to high level intellectual culture than most academic jobs will allow. And as I keep saying, I am happy to work in field in the right circumstances, but in the absence of these I would rather be involved in large projects with an actual impact on policy. I would like to be a member of a working group. My impatience has to do with the desire to move toward these kinds of goals.

CODA ZERO. I must say that with the paint, the refinished wood, the brilliant new flooring, my well gathered furniture and art, and the summer light, the house is truly beautiful and it reflects me; it is my sanctuary in Maringouin. I should plant sage and lavender underneath the windows, so the smell will waft in.




Filed under Arts, Banes, What Is A Scholar?

4 responses to “Notes From My Oven

  1. -k-

    Goodness, I enjoy reading you.

  2. Z

    Thanks, K! I sometimes think all of this is entirely too self indulgent so this is nice to know.

  3. Oh, no, keep going. I’m glad you have re-activated your blog. I like the energy you are putting into your writing and your life.

    My daughter got tired of maintaining her old house and sold it for a good price and got a place that suits her needs better. It’s a town house with a small yard close to public transport and other amenities. And no condo fees. In spite of the way you are feeling now, a little outdoor space is nice: a place for a table, chairs, and an umbrella. You don’t want to overreact and go too minimalist!

  4. Z

    O good! More needs to go into other writing and I wish the house were done. I am thinking about the townhouse thing, it’s a good idea. But it would be as expensive as the house and less beautiful, from what I can tell so far…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s