Saturday, March 28, 2009

You Know You're in North America ...

  • when you can buy organic blue corn chips, and scoff them down with divine spicy mango and lime salsa (yep; found a great deli on 13th street) from a jar, but tasting fresh and not over-pickled. I don't know how American folk survive in Australia when the only corn chips you can get are over-processed and taste like twisties. Love that dark blue crispy goodness. The packet says blue corn is a Hopi and Zuni tradition. I don't know where those tribes are from, or where they are now, but blue corn makes great chips.
  • when the streets are named after numbers or trees. Philadelphia was laid out on a grid, like Manhattan (and Melbourne), so 1st street runs north-south along the eastern side of the city, and along the Delaware river, and then the cross streets, running east-west, have names like Vine, Spruce, Walnut, Chestnut, Pine, Locust, Cherry, Lombard and Filbert, though with the exception of the two widest streets that intersect neatly at City Hall, the even more generically named Market and Broad. It will be blindingly obvious to locals here, but I hope useful to prospective first-time visitors to the US to note that the numbers along the streets don't always run consecutively, but locate the address much more precisely in relation to the numbered streets. So, my address is 1601 Sansom, because it's on the corner of 16th street. The numbers go along a bit, then start again at 1701 on the corner of 17th st. Makes it very easy to know which block of the street is the address you want. (Took me several visits to work this out, I'm sorry to say.)
  • (and at one of the great ivy league universities) when the library is still busy at 6.30 on a Friday night. I spent the day in the well-stocked library yesterday, and was impressed by how hard everyone was working. If there was a moment's talking, it was only a moment. And at 6.30, it was still busy. David's graduate class is full of voracious readers. He says you give them a chapter to read and they are just as likely to read the whole book. Currently, at least, on Penn's home page is a picture of the recently re-modelled stairwell in the English department. Pretty nice, huh? Wonder if they change that picture of Will around much.
  • when, after a hard day's slog in the library (really, really working hard to see if the insights of medievalism can help us read medieval texts), you decide to treat yourself, and you can walk just five blocks from your apartment, waltz in to the Kimmel Centre, and pick up a ticket for that evening's performance of Gil Shaham playing Khatchaturian's Violin Concerto and the Philadelphia Philharmonic belting out Dvorak's 8th symphony. The Centre is amazing. It is several venues enclosed under a soaring glass arched roof; and the concert hall we were in is like being inside a multi-tiered cello: all curves like a cello's body (sometimes just one or two rows of seats along the side walls), and all — floor, walls, ceiling — made of lustrous dark red wood (Cherry, perhaps?). I was in the front of the top tier, but the sound was still pretty good. I don't go to that many classical concerts, but this was splendidly enjoyable, and I'm not sure why I don't go more often. I am also honouring the injunction of (a different) Paul who recommends "lots of treats" to counteract homesickness and the exhaustion of study. So, in the next few days, I have to send off the latest draft of the paper Tom and I are giving here on Friday, work on the revisions of my ANZAMEMS paper from Hobart for submission to a journal, and also put together a talk for NYU on Thursday. Chapter One is now locked into place, so I'll extract from that.
  • when, generally, you feel the mixture of exhilaration of being in a different place and the luxury of hibernating away, writing and reading in a pristine apartment with few distractions, or a calm and productive library, but you are also looking forward to the rest of your family joining you in a couple of weeks for the pleasure of exploring another city. I'm almost at the end of the quietest writing time of my trip away, and will start travelling and socialising a bit more quite soon.

7 comments:

genevieve said...

Sounds pretty damn good, Stephanie :-)

Elsewhere007 said...

Yeah, Hispanic food is something that's really done well in the States (for obv reasons) compared to here.

thiel said...

Stephanie, this all sounds completely marvellous! God bless America...

stray said...

Hopi and Zuni are Pueblo people from the desert southwest, and fortunately they're still there (Hopi in Arizona, Zuni in New Mexico). Worth a visit, if you're ever out that way :-)

froginthepond said...

I've developed this green tinge. Anything to do with envy, I wonder? Furiously crossing my fingers that summer institute application comes through - Berlin, fourteen days, writing and talking. What else would a modern Europeanist need?

Clare said...

Clare M here, the busiest time in the Hopkins library was saturday night!....

I am revising my Holsinger as I speak, and hope that you enjoy doing the same..

I really love Philly, and in a different life I would live just near Rittenhouse square.

Clare

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, all.

Stray, Arizona is definitely on my list for a visit one time: I hear it's amazing. Hey, and Frog, Berlin's a possibility for me next year, too. I've been dithering about saying yes, as it would be such a quick visit, not much longer than the days it would take getting there and back, but you're making me think I'm silly not to go.

And Clare, yes I'm about three blocks from the Square: the cafes on the east side have got tables outside for the afternoon spring sunshine; though the steam is still rising up from the underground furnaces (?) or subway (?) outside Barnes and Noble. (Running a bit late with the essay, though: and should the three of us exchange copies before we send, finally?)