Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wine-drenched evenings, and why academia is good

Ok, why do they let graduate students anywhere near free alcohol? civilized, a little reception to meet the new Dean, delicate hors d'oeuvres (I had to google the spelling), and wine and a few beers. And of course endless tra la la schmoozing. Oh how nice to see you, you work for so and so, oh delighted and la-ti-da and all that jazz. But don't you see, there's something fundamentally wrong with this equation? Unlimited booze + microscopic nibbles = very buzzed and bumbling PhD student.

It starts off pretty well. You make small talk with the advisor about funding and potential proposals and conference paperrs. You move on to cool dude professor and ask about his trips and all the cool stuff he's done since you last met him. By that time, you're on to your third glass of wine (but it's white!!!!! so? dumkopf, how does that make a difference?). And then, you try to score an intro with an alumnus. Not because he is a big shot working for some big public agency, but because he has a Greek name (how fucking cool, my boyfriend's Greek too). But he thinks you are a serious ambitious student out to network (because you want a job), but then the wine makes you blabber that the real reason you came and talked to him is because he had a Greek name. After establishing your wacko credentials, you decide to avoid faculty and alumnus altogether, but then you turn and almost run into a faculty member.

Oh, where were you? Well, says faculty member, I was attending a talk on the life of Thelonius Monk. Huh? Thelonius Monk who? (Oh must you be such a philistine, so aesthetically depraved, and no it's not the wine, I had no clue who Thelonius Monk was). Turns out he is genius jazz pianist, and someone decided to write his biography and give a talk on it. My alcohol bombarded brain cells make appropriate noises about the revival of the biography genre (talking off my ass was invented for me), and faculty member appears suitably mollified (or puzzled) to move on to tete-a-tete with the Dean.

I decide it's time to make a gracious exit, and yak off some more with another grad student making his exit with me. He's a bit of a newbie, has been in the department for about a year, so I was in the peculiar position of imparting superior wisdom and all the dirty department gossip. Suddenly, I remembered I had not see two faculty members whom I admired immensely for almost a year. Do we form bonds in sterile academia? Sometimes. I parted with the other guy at the bus stop and walked home, dropped a sheaf of papers I held a couple of times, had the urge to kiss a bunch of boys eating dinner at a sidewalk cafe (why? oh wine-induced altruism or horniness, can't tell which is which) and gazed at the sky and became sad-happy. I felt (or perhaps wanted to be) the French boy stereotype, baguette under one arm, a bottle of wine in the other hand, and humming Jacques Brel or Georges Brassens, blowing kisses at the pretty boys and with a swing in my step (honestly I couldn't swing even if I wanted to, suffice to say that wine is very diuretic).

Two hours later:

Ok, never ever leave a post unfinished, because now that the wine buzz wore off I'm wondering how I could have been speaking of all that tra la la joy, when I just finished arguing with the boyfriend, and yes all men are pigs, and yes I will retract tomorrow and say there is no sweeter angel than S, but now I'm pissed. Let's remember better times.

The one time, last year, when we were at a conference in that modernist disaster of a university town Grenoble in France, right next door to the adorable Lyon (just go to Lyon and stay there, do not take the train to Grenoble). And on the last day of the conference we had a big dinner consisting of alumni from our university around the world who had travelled to this conference. And after that we had the most amazing night of bar-crawling with me, Illy, a senior professor of ours, Deep (who heads a research centre in our school) and a Mexican professor. We walked around the town, from its Italian quarters (the bar-owner was hilarious with his DeNiro impersonation) to Spanish tapas bar, to a solid French cafe. We went from liquor to liquor, downing shots of armagnac, which incidentally is so much better than whiskey or cognac. And talked and laughed, and planned conferences and vacation trips. And at the end of the night, we stood on the bridge over the river next to the town, and admired the little castle on the hill.

I'll save the story about sharing a vodka shot with a mafia don in Napoli for later. Such memories.


Blogger Urmea said...

Ok, I looove this post - probably cause it was mostly written in an alcohol-induced haze from what I can make out. A very happy happy joy joy post!
Yay for alcohol - had an office happy hour at a Trader Vic's of all places, all dead wood and tikis - it reminds me of the Disneyland Tiki Room (do they even have that anymore?). But hey free booze is free booze. So yay again. And yeah this comment has absolutely no point to it, heh.

10:27 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Yes, one of my best wine buzzes in a long time. And happy happy joy joy!

Can you believe it, I've never been to Trader Vic's. It just looks so fancy-schmanzy, that I turn tails and return to my hipster TJ. Is Disneyland Tiki Room their super exclusive restaurant?

Oh the joys of free booze, the best perks of academia, work, you name it. So do you guys do regular happy hours, lucky you :)!

2:59 PM  
Blogger Urmea said...

Oh and you forgot the beret for the french boy stereotype ;-)

4:26 PM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

Odd. I just came back from a happy hour... got insanely buzzed on some Belgian Beer (much beer + empty stomach) and ran into a couple of professors I've been seeking to avoid for the last so many months.
Needless to say, it was a disaster.

6:21 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Oui, oui! How could I forget the beret, which of course was nowhere to be seen in France. But perhaps the Parisiens are different.

Fingeek, someday I shall hold forth on the joys of Belgian beer. There's beer and then there's perfection. Have you tried Leffe? For some reason, Stella Artois tastes a bit different in the US than in Belgium.

If they shared your love for Belgian beer, perhaps they shall forgive and forget :)

10:38 AM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

aha! a fellow belgian beer fan we have here.
A personal favorite is the Chimay blue, heavenly perfection brewed by Trappist Monks. Of course, the beer that caused the buzz was the 8% strong Delirium Blonde. I normally prefer dark ales, but I have a weakness for the stone-bottled Blonde wonder. Not a huge fan of Stella.
Looking forward to you holding forth on the joys of Belgian beers, though.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Brice Timmons said...

My fiancee is a PhD student, and I think she only takes me to receptions to make sure that she doesn't make an ass of herself.

12:56 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Hi Brice, I should have already welcomed you! Yes, I think I need to take my boyfriend along as well, he doesn't drink any alcohol.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous マークバイマークジェイコブス said...

I just came back from a happy hour... got insanely buzzed on some Belgian Beer (much beer + empty stomach) and ran into a couple of professors I've been seeking to avoid for the last so many months

12:20 AM  

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