Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Cricothroidotomy

This weekend I experienced something like what Olivia experiences every Saturday after an exhausting week of fixing children and their parents from across Big Valley: the depression of the feeling of ironic insignifiance which follows a period of intense anticipation and experiance. Not that I performed an emergency cricothroidotomy, or stuffed an eyeball back into someone’s face, or saved some small child from an early grave as my high-flying relatics probably have this past week. My life is not so regularly exciting so the occasional event requiring any sort of extended orchestration in real time just makes me anxious.

On Friday I put together an event which required four of my favorite academic authors to bus, train, and fly across the country to discuss some questions I’ve been emailing them for the last few months. So I dawned my best yellow shirt and matching tie with faintly Islamic designs and trotted down to Columbia University and introduced myself in person: Darren Byler, second year graduate student, small-timer of the first order.

It went really well – over 100 people from at least three states and the District of Columbia squeezed into a room with enough seats for 70. Even the first Uyghur to immigrate to America 40 years ago was there. We took two hours to talk our way through Uyghur history, culture, and politics – and then another sweaty hour eating Uyghur polo (pilaf) and samsa (dumplings). We had Uyghurs in dopas (skullcaps), Chinese officials from the UN, nervous human rights activists, and the occasional Yalie graduate student in there.

Back to my Olivia-like experience. When it was all over and the chairs were restacked, I was exhausted and cranky and disappointed. I spent weeks of my life putting this three hour event together – burning my life force for one short evening of frantic delegating and careful speaking. It was really nice to get some hearty Uyghur handshakes afterwards and it was nice to get to know the eminent figures in my field of study. But right now I’m just exhausted and depressed. Olivia usually feels better a couple hours into Saturday so maybe the good vibes will start rolling in soon. Right now I’m sitting in church listening to Rich Swartz talk about world religions (Christianity turns out to be the best one, he says) – so I’m thinking like a Hindu for the moment, just working the dharma.


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