This one is more of a web log entry than my usual ramblings.
Executive Summary: Life Is Good.
Been able to deal with several issues, recently. Nothing really big. But showing me that my life really has taken a turn for the better because I regained much of my positive attitude toward Life, the Universe, and Everything. It works.
And it’s having a positive impact on my professional life. These days, I’m teaching two courses at Concordia University, here in Montreal. Teaching can be extremely satisfying and my courses have been giving me great joy, recently. Almost any teacher knows the feeling. You’re on and you experience flow. Nothing exactly like it. It relates to musical performance, but it has quite a different impact. Sometimes, I feel like everyone should get the opportunity to teach, one day. It feels that good.
You do need to wind down, after teaching. You still want to feel stimulated, but you need to switch your frame of mind from teaching mode to basic human interaction. Good conversations over food or drinks are the perfect “remedy to the teaching high.”
So I’ve been lucky, this week. Enjoyed both of my lectures this week. Had quite a bit of fun, learned quite a few things, could sense the growth in understanding among the whole group. Niiice!
After my last lecture and office hours Wednesday night, went to Brasserie Benelux, an excellent local brewpub where my friend Benoît Mercier is the master brewer. Not only was the beer excellent (including a new witbier Ben had told me about) but I bumped into a fascinating person: Pierre Raymond, whose life experience could fill in volumes. An excellent candidate for a life history project. We talked for hours about Quebec society, generation gaps, teaching (Pierre taught navigation for a number of years), sailing, belief systems, etc. Those conversations were exactly “what the doctor ordered” in my post-teaching wind-down. Especially since we’re getting into “reading week” (like Spring Break but with a bit more snow and more excitement in terms of thoughtful relaxation).
Following day (yesterday) was really “most excellent.” Was able to confirm how much better my life was by talking with someone who cares (good thing we have an Employee Assistance Program). Received messages from students congratulating me on my ethnomusicology course. And learned some great news.
Now, being congratulated by students is awesomely satisfying, especially when it’s clearly not meant as flattery. Because I had felt so good in class and had perceived the “vibe” running through the classroom, I took the praises as confirmation of what I thought about this week’s classes. And the timing is good as we’re really building something together.
So, I was already “psyched up.” In a nice way.
But then, the good news: Catherine Léger (my amazingly wonderful wife) has officially been offered a tenure-track position at UT Austin‘s Department of French and Italian. The first time she has ever applied for academic positions, and it worked. Not only is her dossier excellent (she’s an amazingly good researcher) but the fit with the UT position makes it look like an ideal match. Despite my not having done anything to make her what she is, I do feel proud. In Catherine’s Acadian French, «fier» (“proud”) is used to mean happiness for another person’s good fortunes, which is pretty much what I feel. But I also do feel proud, for some reason… 🙂
Now, Catherine hasn’t made her final decision yet. But it does look likely that we might move to Austin, TX in the not-so-distant future. Haven’t been to Austin yet, but everyone tells me it’s a fabulous place. Catherine herself says that not only did she like what she saw in the Texas capital but that she’s quite convinced I would enjoy it there.
Having listened to what fellow ethnomusicologists had to say after the 1999 SEM conference in Austin, I do think that Austin’s music scene might be diverse enough. Of course, Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” in some contexts. And SXSW (South By Southwest) does sound like a Montreal-friendly festival (especially for those who enjoy Euro-American Indie Pop/Rock). So, I might in fact feel home.
Actually, the pictures I saw of Awe-sten tend to remind me a bit of New Orleans, where I went for an African Studies conference. Prior to that conference, my experience of the Southern United States was mostly limited to South Carolina and Georgia (although Southcentral Indiana is culturally Southern). And, from a distance, Austin looks more like Nawlins, LA than like Beaufort, SC or Savannah, GA. The fact that Austin seems to be very different from the surrounding area also makes it sound a bit like Bloomington, IN. And, actually, NOLA and Austin seem similar in population size (about half the populations of either Montreal or Boston, roughly speaking).
So, let’s look ahead. Catherine’s position would only start in January 2008. But there’s no harm in preparing myself for the move to Austin. After all, if it all pans out as planned, it might mean that this will be my last Winter in Montreal for quite a while. Maybe my last real winter ever! All the reason more to enjoy the awesome weather we’re having now (crisp and sunny).
Those who know me probably expect some of what my very preliminary preparation might imply. Contacts with academics at and from UT Austin. Quite a bit of thinking about my long-term prospects. And contacts with the specialty coffee and craft beer scenes in Austin.
Haven’t really delved into the coffee scene much, so far. It does sound like quality coffee is available in Austin, at least for home consumption. Catherine went to a quirky café over there that sounds interesting (and which may have decent espresso). But it doesn’t yet sound like Texas has the kind of active coffee scene that is celebrated in coffee blogs and podcasts. Which can mean that the stage is set for a coffee revolution over there! 🙂
As for the craft beer scene, well, that’s another story.
As I’ve been saying for a while, craft beer often serves to link people in a very specific way. In my experience, beer is the perfect connector in terms of “horizontal social mobility” as meeting with a locale’s craft beer community is an excellent way to get a feel for that locale. So it’s quite obvious that, as a beer geek, I would navigate toward the beer crowd. What I’m seeing so far isn’t discouraging at all.
Judging from BeerAdvocate’s Beer Guide for Austin, it seems like the city is well-served in terms of beerpubs, brewpubs, and local homebrew supply stores (LHBSS). (A brewpub brews on premises, a beerpub serves craft beer.) A search through HBD helped me find the ZEALOTS: Zymurgic Enthusiasts of Austin Loosely Organized Through Suds. And this is where I got impressed.
The Zealots has an active Yahoo! Group, so I didn’t hesitate to join in. This morning, I posted a message to that group, introducing myself and asking a few general questions about beer and brewing in Austin. Within an hour, I had several on-list and private replies welcoming me to the group, giving me useful information, and providing me with cultural insight into Austin’s craft beer community. No travel guide can ever do as much, especially not as fast as the Zealots group did!
From those replies, I see that I should be able to have a fulfilling beer-friendly life in Austin. The Zealots monthly meetings sound a bit like the Chicago Beer Society‘s Thirst Fursday homebrewing meetings (held on the First Thursday of every month). Unlike the CBS’s Goose Island Clybourn meetings, Austin Zealots meet at the local Ginger Man beerpub which does seem to have an impressive tap line-up. For those of us who enjoy sensory diversity, nothing beats a good sampling session in a taste-friendly environment. I just can’t wait until I attend my first meeting.
Another aspect of Austin’s beer scene which might be very interesting to me is that some enthusiastic people are creating the Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery. Possibly the first Co-op brewpub, Black Star sounds like it can become a brewpub version of Quebec City’s La Barberie microbrewery (a microbrewery distributes beer in bottle and keg while a brewpub serves its where it has been brewed). As it so happens, La Barberie’s beers are available on tap at Vices&Versa, a co-op beerpub close to my place in the Petite-Patrie neighborhood of Montreal. Because La Barberie’s beers tend to be best on fresh tap lines, the “think global, drink local” applies quite well. If it weren’t for Quebec’s awkward alcohol laws, I could imagine fun partnerships between Black Star, La Barberie, and Vices&Versa.
All of this to say: I’m a happy camper.