So I’m leaving Portland soon for 14 weeks of field research. I’m studying the wild long form improviser in its native habitat, an urban center. I picked up my Portland State University business cards which read
I giggled a bit picturing myself in a pith helmet in Rochester finding an interpreter who speaks Rochenese. Getting set up in a shack outside of town like Bronislaw Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands. I’m doing a more modern equivalent. I’m staying at my parents’ rural homestead on the outskirts of Rochester, a little hamlet called Webster in the lovely state of New York. Hello Lake Ontario, hello trips to Toronto.
It occurred to me that business cards are the key to someone’s legitimacy (or utter bullshit if you’re a con man, and I’m not 100% sure which one I am). It also struck me that I’ve got a responsibility now to do this study well and deliver a reasonably good thesis. Thanks to a snowball sampling of American improvisers, I’ve collected a good chunk of ethnographic data on the experience of being an improviser, as well as a good demographic picture from an online survey I put up a couple of months ago.
This project is so damn cool. It’s impossible to convey in a few sentences what I’ve been learning, other than a lot about the social and cultural side of improv. Sadly, I feel it has detached me from the artistic side a bit, but not enough to ruin the fun onstage. I am still bringing that my friends *snap*.
Well, I’m setting my own deadlines on school work these days. It’s disorienting suddenly realizing that I actually need to get to preparing my first serious ethnographic project. I’ve got the next couple of weeks to firm up all of my ideas and methods for my research in Rochester this fall. Then I have to begin the practical work of getting business cards that read Brad Fortier: Anthropologist, subletting my room, and shipping the books I’ll need. I’m flying out in late Sept. So I’ve got some time on those particulars.
I’m going to be a fly on the wall doing participant observation, informal and formal interviews of the long form improv scene in Rochester NY, albeit small. I’m going to be looking into the audience’s connection to the work. I’m curious as to how they connect to and interpret it, and speculate as to why. I’ve heard a thousand theories from performers, but I’m interested in what the crowds say for themselves. Hopefully, two years of coursework focused on this won’t fail me. Do yourself a favor and read some Victor Turner and Dwight Conquergood.
It’ll be odd leaving the Brody again for over three months. It’s feeling like it’s gathering momentum again. But I’ll come back, and I’ll get my degree. Then it’ll be time to party.
I was struck by a mix of emotions today at the BBQ that was the finish for wedding festivities for my cousin’s wedding.
It struck me near the end that this could potentially be the last time I see some of my closer aunts and uncles alive because of their age and health.
Meanwhile, I was assaulted and impressed by the sheer cuteness and intelligence of my younger cousins and second cousins. Strangely, I feel that, at 35, I’m looking at people who are getting nearer to clocking out, and on the other, I’m looking at people just clocking in. This must be the meaning of middle-age. Crazy. I don’t feel middle-aged.
Although, I met the FIESTIEST 84 year olds at this wedding, and they were the grandmothers. They cracked me up and inspired me. Carole and Maxine were their names, and I’ve got Maxine’s number (long story).
My cousin Adam is marrying his fiance Rachel today. Adam is the cousin I’d say I’m close with for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is he’s a great guy. A majority of my father’s side of the family is here. My father is one of eleven children (now 10 since the passage of his sister Mary a couple of weeks ago, sadly).
I’m excited to hang out with my east coast cousins Nicole and Lindsay because they seem like a lot of fun from the last couple of times I’ve interacted with them over the years. My uncles Joe and Tommy are fucking hilarious (and ‘reborn’). My father is one of 3 boys. The other 8 are/were girls. Boys: Don (my father), Tommy, Joe. Girls: Kay, Joanne, Mary (deceased), Nancy, Wendy, Julie, Susie, Jeannie. I thought there were 11, but I can’t remember another.
We were all out on the patio with some of the Bride’s family (parents and g-parent). It was interesting seeing the contrast. Rachel’s parents are college educated. I think her father has a Phd in chemistry (at least an MS). He’s been a chemist for dupont for 32 years. The contrast is that a majority of my family is blue collar, as am I, I guess.
I think the founders of Webster had suicide issues before establishing the town.
I just got my dad donfortier to sign up for livejournal. It’s weird knowing that my parents are signed on to my blog. Ah. In the words of my father after I perpetrated a particularly ribald comment in front of them and my friends “We know what he’s capable of”. I love my parents. No illusions with them.
I lucked out yesterday and flew standby on an earlier flight to Rochester. I’m staying with my folks for about 10 days. My sister also lives in Rochester, and I just about shit when I saw her. She has lost another 70# making the weight she has lost a total of 150#. It’s fucking incredible what gastric bypass surgery has done for her (and a little creepy considering the mechanics of it).
My parents have a new puppy (Cody) who is all over me. He’s a cutey, but he’s got this annoying habit of trying to lick the inside of your nose whenever he gets a chance. Ick!
Nate and Sarah stopped by last night. We hung out, and Nate completed his mission as my ‘mule‘. I was laughing my ass off at his and especially Sarah’s description of Nate’s aunt, who they are housing with until they get on their feet. She’s a bit of an anxiety bundle who exhibits it through constant talking, cleaning, and sometimes criticizing. It’s motivating them to get with the program and find a place. Unfortunately, Sarah has had to forgoe her MA program for lack of funding and an administrative snafu.