Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Life as Montage  §

© 2011 Aron Hsiao

Caught up on the email messages that have been hanging around since August 24th (the day the “move part” of the move began). Three weeks to catch up on email—even critical messages. That’s sort of a long time.

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Even so, there are a lot of things that haven’t been done. Much of the basement hasn’t been cleaned yet. There is still furniture here that we don’t plan to use. There is still wiring that’s acting a bit faulty. There are a few other random maintenance issues and safety hazards that are on the “to do” list but have now been demoted to a lower priority. The car, too, needs some attention. Maintenance was virtually ignored in New York.

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There is, of course, administrative stuff, too. Despite the fact that I already spent an entire day changing the address of record on various and sundry accounts, memberships, and so on, we keep coming up with more. The list has grown again. There are state issues to handle—things like drivers’ license and registration changes that increase in cost and complexity the longer you wait—and federal issues to handle—things like immigration documents and so on.

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I telecommute right now (as much as online teaching can be called that) to New York, and the way that I do it involves seeing and interacting with people there. Sitting in Provo hearing and speaking New York is an uncomfortably surreal experience. They simply cannot both be real. I refuse to believe that both are real.

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A decent number of books on my bookshelf that seemed like method or case-oriented documentation in New York seem like grand theory sitting in Provo. It’s clear that not just the location, but the words, the cover, the trim size, and the authority of each book have also magically changed. Nothing is the same here.

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I, too, have gone from being a respectable, responsible professional to being an irresponsible man child. While in New York stubble and a wrist tattoo are simply personal style, and in academics can be seen as a particular affective practice conventional to academic personas, in Provo they are specifically forbidden personal characteristics. Not forbidden by culture in the squishy way that social scientists often use the term. There are excluded by printed, codified regulations that circulate freely in this town and that guide not only religious practice but academic and policy practice as well. I am a violator of the law when I don’t shave. I am a violator of the law as the bearer of a tattoo that is visible. No, not national law or state law, but local law, which is often much more socially powerful.

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PBS has returned to my life. Yes, television is a scourge and all that, only it isn’t. It’s rather a beautiful thing, when done right. PBS and specifically the University of Utah PBS station does it right. In this development there is a bit of the sense of a homecoming mixed in amongst the surrealism and outsidership.

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I am trying to work without losing the very close relationship I feel with my daughter. This cannot be done.

It will still be a few days before I can ramp work up to the level at which I was before we left. There is still to much left undone. It was only yesterday that I finally got the other half of the wireless network and wireless printing going. Before that, we were unable to print and unable to network properly when upstairs (which is where we actually live).

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We began our stay with three windchimes hanging at the edges of the patio. We unpacked one from our former living room (the stuff of fairy tales) and then there were four. We discovered another as we have continued to excavate this estate. That brings us to five, the most recent of indeterminate age and made, so far as we can tell, from copper and ancient fishing line.

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The “members” have begun to turn up and apologize for the treatment that we have received at the hands of other “members.” See how they turn on each other, as they vie for the favor of the outsiders. I wonder sometimes whether some of these typical cultural practices from the area are also in my behavioral DNA, me helpless to avoid or overcome them by virtue of my socialization here.

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Before we left we had been bedtime-reading In the Shadow of the Sun for some time with Mirai. Now the book has gone missing, despite its having a place of prominence and importance in the packing process. A number of other books, too, seem to have disappeared. I suppose that’s what happens when one moves. The question now is whether to replace them. On the one hand, the practical argument is clear. We have already read them; it is unlikely that we will immediately fall upon new copies like lions upon prey. Why waste the money?

At the same time, to lose a book is something like losing an appendage or a family member: the loss leaves a lack, an emptiness in its wake. I suppose not everyone feels this way. But I certainly do.

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Just now on daytime childrens’ programming on the PBS station I chanced upon a reading of That Book Woman as I was in the living room by myself, my wife and daughter having gone for nap time. Impossible to tell whether it was the voice of the reader, the clarity of our television, or the writing and artwork of the text that left me choking back tears. I suspect the latter, as when I think about similar moments in life, the vast majority of them for me have likely come as I have been reading or writing.

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We have been twice into the lower canyons at the south end of the metropolitan area. Saturday will make thrice. We have yet to hit altitude or any of the “home canyons” in the north valley. It may be some time before that happens.

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There is an art to this stage of our lives and to keeping the peace and the happiness. It lies in being judicious about what goes said and what is left unsaid, about sharing dreams and keeping them back, about understanding what others need and using discretion and care in attempting to act with awareness of both these needs and of our own.

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We also have rather a lot of fruit, suddenly. Pears, several kinds of apples, cherries, and a large quantity of grapes all inhabit the property, though a great deal of this fruit is on the grass.

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Picking the fruit has become one of our daughter’s great pleasures. If she could, she would simply go outside and pick fruit all day, savoring the magic of the earth, the air, and the sun in all their fertile productivity.

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I sound like a hippie, which is why I am a fierce modernist.