My California trip was great. Some of my close friends were away and I was sorry to miss them but, then again, I had more time left for other close friends. I stayed with Shhhh, who is a master of the low-fuss, high-yield generosity that makes for true hospitality.
I was in a strange headspace for most of the visit — maybe because of the jetlag — and found myself several times both conversing and also analyzing the course of the conversation from a detached perspective. Whenever this happened I was struck by the kindness of my friends. These are people who step in to help someone who’s made a blunder, who cover for each other, who put the best spin on one another’s words, who roll the ball in ways that are critical and provocative and funny but also openhanded and inclusive. Levinas says this kind of undercurrent lies beneath the surface of all dialogue: it is the saying that motivates and also problematizes what is said. Maybe he’s right, but I tend to think that my colleagues are exceptional people, and that my college chose them well, really tremendously well. Lots of academics I’ve known at other institutions don’t talk like this at all: they’re walking caricatures, vehicles for ideology, or pod people.
I have to say, though, that only the other Canadian understood what I meant when I said that California was freezing. And it was! It’s, like, way colder down there than in Canada. It has to do with the dryness. Meanwhile, the kindergarten business is all squared away, thanks to someone perfect who swooped in to help at the last minute.