10 April 2007

Encouraging News All Around

So I just got back from an eleven-day road trip out to Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. There was a certain recreational element, of course, but this was a "business" trip, for the most part, and the business was my dissertation. I put in an afternoon doing a little archival research at the Newberry Library in Chicago, for instance, and brought back almost three dozen books from the main library at the University of Iowa. More importantly, however, I had two productive meetings with my advisor regarding my dissertation. And though we discussed a good deal of specifics and he answered plenty of my questions, the principle outcome was exactly what I was hoping for -- a renewed sense of purpose, an eagerness to keep writing, and the (at least temporary) suspension of many of the insecurities and self-doubts related to fearing, as so many PhD students do, that my dissertation is the most irrelevant, desultory, and pointless academic endeavor ever conceived.

Of course, the handful of people still reading this blog are probably less interested in the question of when I'll finish my degree than that of when I'll resume running. So I'll also report that my visit to Iowa City included a stop at the student health department, the only place I can get a free non-emergency medical exam. I spent an hour with a physician there and had several vials of blood taken, but the results are very encouraging -- apparently, I'm pretty healthy. The doctor attributed my lingering leg pain (and occasional numbness) to nothing more than an inflammation of the nerves running from the base of my spine down my legs, and prescribed a basic treatment including stretching and conditioning exercises and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (She also strongly recommended that I engage in a physical therapy program for a few months, but it doesn't look like my insurance is going to pay for that, at least not here in New York.)

Kind of anticlimactic, really. My injuries, not unsurprisingly, seem to be the result of overdoing things (running exclusively on concrete sidewalks didn't help, either), but I should be able to get back on the road before too long. In fact, to celebrate the prognosis, I actually went for a half-hour run through my old neighborhood in town last Tuesday. It was my first attempt at running since late January, and I have to say that it felt pretty good. I was a little winded by the end, and I had some mild muscle aches the next morning, but I suppose these things are to be expected after taking ten weeks off. (If anyone's curious, the map and stats are below). Although I'll have to substantially reduce the pace with which I accumulate the unique miles here in Brooklyn (due to both physical and temporal constraints), the good news is that it looks like I'll be back running regularly within a few weeks. I've planned a short trip to visit my folks in Georgia later this week, but when I get back I think I'm going to take the first tentative steps toward running again. I'll probably just do some laps on the track over at McCarren Park at first, but hopefully, it won't be too long...

Tuesday, April 3: Iowa City, IA

Distance: 3.51 miles
Time: 0:30
Pace: 8:33
Temp: 44
Wind Chill: 34
Weather: overcast, breezy, drizzly

click on image for interactive map

Besides the encouraging medical news and the inspirational academic stuff, it was a full trip. I visited my friend Jay (who's on the faculty at Aurora University in Illinois), saw the Chicago Opera Theater's take on Monteverdi's "Il Ritorno d'Ulisse" (a terrific production, as usual), had coffee or lunch or dinner with a number of old friends, and visited with my friend Nat (a professor at UW-Parkside) up in Racine, Wisconsin. I also attended a reading by Brooklyn writer Jonathan Lethem at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City.

Best of all, Nat had secured tickets to two Cubs-Brewers games up in Milwaukee. In fact, we actually saw three full games, since we stuck around for a UW-Milwaukee home game against Butler following Saturday's big league contest. Seeing some live baseball for the first time this season really made it feel like spring had arrived, despite the snow flurries and game-time temperatures in the 30s. (I am something of a traditionalist when it comes to ballpark architecture, but I was very glad this past weekend that Miller Park has a roof.) Anyway, the picture up at the top is of the Hank Aaron statue outside the stadium.

And speaking of pictures, here are a few more:

n. dearborn street, chicago
Looking east on N. Dearborn Street, Chicago

miller park, milwaukee 4/8/07
The view from the cheap seats at Miller Park

fireworks, miller park 4/8/07
Indoor fireworks following the Brewers' win on Sunday, April 8

somewhere in ohio, 4/9/07
The gloomy drive home (I-80, somewhere in Ohio)