Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"What do you really do in New York?"

The question came just as I lost the connection with Oslo, from a journalist who was interviewing me about games. He called back and asked if that was such a sensitive question that I hung up on him. In the mean time I had given a long, mundane and unglamorous reply, which never made it to his tape.

I am aware that people ask this question, to me and to others about me. Some of them out of curiosity, and some out of envy. And then they read my blog, and there's pictures not of libraries, key-boards and books, but of streets, restaurants and shoes, and I write about weather and food and walks and meeting people I like and have fun with.

Well, here is what I really did this time.

The first two weeks I spent pulling my hair out with the roots trying to start writing an article. In these first painful weeks I spent at least two days getting a collection of necessary books together, was sick for two days, visited Brooklyn College, met Hanne-Lovise and visited the library with her and tried to get hold of a friend who might help with the book situation. Then I spent two weeks writing the article with very, very short breaks for shopping, cooking, walks and some polite socialising with my host. After a while I managed to get him hooked on World of Warcraft, so while he thought we were just having a blast (which we did), I got some good research time in.

I spent one week revising an article on blogs. Still not done with it, though. Then a couple of days on the conference State of Play, and then four days starting to clean up my back-logged mailbox and get some administration done. I spent at least two days during the six weeks dealing with different game-related projects in Norway, answering the phone and writing emails to people who just wanted to know if I could please..., and the same amount of time thinking on and working with questions directly related to teaching and administration in Volda. I spent one day shopping for clothes in these six weeks, and one afternoon shopping for presents. I read one non-work related book (not counting what I read on the plane), saw no movies or television, and was out with friends (including my host) five times in these six weeks.

The trip was not funded by the college. I could do it this time because tickets between Norway and NYC are cheap and I went nowhere this summer, because I had the Volda-Oslo ticket covered, because I have a friend who happily puts up with me - and plays WOW without complaint, too. I cook my own food, and groceries are cheaper in the US, the things I shop for (except food) are things I have planned to buy anyway but didn't get in Norway, as I have more options in larger cities. I have no stash of money or funding I don't reveal, no rich parents or secret income, and while I do own some shares, the collected value of them is exactly 100$.

Why do I write this? Why do I feel this need to justify my travelling, when I know it's so important to my continued existence as an academic writer and researcher? Because comments, rumours, quotes make their way back to me and convey a general "she just runs off and has a vacation" attitude. It is of course not what whoever I talk to ever was thinking, but you know...

So here it is. No, I am not a glamorous leisurely scholar who spits out articles between cocktails, dripping references like olive-pits. I have to work at it. And that's what I really do, when I don't teach or administrate or do house-work or visit my aging mother or try to occasionally have a vacation with my family - which are the main things going on in my life. Sorry if I shatter the illusion of me lounging while being fed peeled grapes, but that's a fantasy you can all apply to some sexier main protagonist than me.


Jill said...

DAMN! I really wanted to stick with that olivepit spitting image, the one with the grapes!

I dunno about this real name blogging stuff where you have to re-ground yourself so people don't think you're some fantasy. I might need to go off do the fantasy academic blogger quite soon I think.

Of course, a trip to New York these days (so long as you're gone sat/sun night) costs less that a return trip to Copenhagen on a weekday. Economy class.

Hope you're ready for Norway :)

Torill said...

I wouldn't mind being taken for an all-fantasy scholar. I think I'd kind of like that. What I mind is having people who should know better believe in it. Perhaps I should just go with the fantasy, change the picture to some fragment of something evocative, and retreat into the obscurity of vague references to a real life beyond the text? Only problem is - I might be so seduced by that image that I might choose it over the fleshy self. I would really LIKE more martinis and less painful searches through dusty libraries, you know.