YEAR ONE WRAP: Partying from Warmth to (Occasional) Shivers

You probably don’t know how happy I am to type the words preceding the colon, a successful completion of a year in grad school! With near as I can tell no final grade less than an A. This last class, by which time I admit I was rather tired and found it hard to ride out projects as strongly as I could/should have, I squeaked out a 92.5. That, my friends, is a far cry from where I stood at the conclusion of, well my first semester at UNC during which I’d taken almost as many classes as I did this time in a year’s period. That kind of load was probably a mistake for me anyway, but the good thing about this life is you can get knocked down but still not be all the way out! So many, including my wonderful partner whom I have been dating for nearly two years now have helped me in this rally. Thank you each and every one.

I wish I had written in here more often, but by the end of that semester, as I said I was just trying to slog it out and survive. So once it was over, I happily went down to Lumberton for my friend’s annual Christmas party. Therein, we experienced temperatures near 70 after they had hoovered around 16 the night before. Welcome to crazy north Carolina weather. The mainstays of these gatherings are meeting people we don’t get to see very often, eating foods, such as sausage balls, that I only really get there, and the gift exchange. This year, we had Secret Santa’s. Knowing the person I’d drawn as I do, I figured she would want something “weird”. So we managed to find a puppy that vibrates and massages you in so doing. I couldn’t have that thing myself, as it would glue me to the ceiling. But happily, she enjoyed it. I got two Carolina Tar Heels glasses, to the consternation of my partner who is a Duke fan, as discussed in my initial post about her. I’m thinking of compromising by buying her a set of those rival glasses, but not sure if I should allow myself to be tainted to even that extent. Ha, ha. What I need to happen is that she drinks water from the magic glass and is finally made to see the light!

The laughs that accompany people’s receipt of these gifts are what really make them worthwhile. Other than that though, the party was mostly laid back as one can tell we are all aging and not exactly “party animals” as we once were. They did have fun shouting random songs for Alexa, the voice of the Amazon Echo to hear. After a while, they got into a rhythm and generated some fun 90’s tracks. Many, including my cousin and his wife, got out there and took a spin on the dance floor. And no, I did not do this. My bones would have cracked!

So that took place on Saturday. Her parents also reside in Lumberton, so we usually try to swing by and meet them as well, as we did on Sunday. We enjoyed a lively breakfast, then discussed some very big changes that she and I will soon be making, the details of which I will divulge later. But suffice it to say this has been one of the most important and shaping years I have experienced as an adult, and I might finally be getting close to actually becoming the full person I hope to be. Still much to do though, without question.

One of those things I must continue doing, as written in my last post some four weeks ago or so, is to expand my comfort zone. As such, I always keep my eyes pealed (it’s a metaphor! who cares if my real orifices do not work?) for new opportunities to do things I normally do not. So when WUNC, our local NPR affiliate, extended a chance for select listeners to attend a holiday listening party, I filled out the form. They were planning to air a radio drama called Occasional Shivers at the historic Motorco Music Hall in Durham. This, along with a couple of landmarks, was a place I had long wanted to visit during my stay in the Bull City, however long it lasts, so I jumped at the opportunity.

And what do ya know? I won! I was told to arrive and state my name, as it would be on the guest list. So I showed up at 6:30 for the 7 PM show, not entirely sure what to expect. The venue had a small club feel, but there were also quite a few folks packed into it. The chairs were so tightly put together that in attempting to situate my backpack under mine, I knocked over the neighboring chair. Mild embarrassment and amusement accompanied that clatter. While awaiting the start of the show, I consumed a big, cool glass of ginger ale. They had quite a selection of alcoholic beverages, but I was not particularly in the mood for that.

I hadn’t really known how a “listening party” worked, but basically we were able to hear the airing of this play prior to its premier on the radio station, along with short interviews with cast members between the major scenes. It’s a holiday love story set in the early 1960s New York City, when jazz was still king and, as noted on the site, was still “trying to find itself” just prior to the rock & Roll era that no one really saw coming. It was a musical with some dialogue, and because you couldn’t actually see people’s faces, their emotional reactions and such had to be more strongly conveyed. This of course made it more ideal for blind folks like me. You can learn more about it and listen to an Occasional Shivers trailer here. I really enjoyed the music, and especially the song that deliberately used just four chords. There is something the brain finds so beautiful about that, which is why studies consistently show that most hit songs are based on that very premise. Complicated simplicity?

Anyhow, I appreciate the opportunity to have attended such an event, and thank Regina Yeager, WUNC Development Director whom I got to meet (cool!) for helping to ensure that I connected with my Uber ride amidst the hubbub. She definitely helped me to feel more comfortable about having attended this event.

“ah, you’re the name I always see,” I said once I finally realized what she had said her name was.

“Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen my many emails,” she replied. We had a laugh at this.

And so we begin to wind down from 2016. I suppose I will provide a more thorough year-end review as it closes out. But on the whole I have been very happy with my new and varied experiences, and all the friends I’ve made and maintained throughout. And mostly to surviving grad school! If you’ve closed an academic semester, I do hope it went well also. More soon.

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