writing

Books: Not Just For Looking At

The semester in a nutshell, courtesy Google Images

The semester in a nutshell, courtesy Google Images

I haven’t slept since January. Or eaten. (Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve eaten.) This semester has not been a piece of cake, and in this blog post, I recap the interviews and outings I have done throughout the last few months and tie them into the readings about my interviewing strategy. The beginning part of my research methods class was reading heavy; the latter half of the semester was applying strategies gleaned from the various articles and books to work out in the field. So far, here is how I’ve put those methods to work:

Primarily relying on Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F.

Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein

Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein

Gubrium and James A. Holstein as well as Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw, I went into my first interview (in-person) armed with various strategies. Having never interviewed anyone before, I held fast to their recommendations, feeling like a lost tourist in a big city clutching a map. Postmodern Interviewing sanctions that “the interviewer must establish a climate for mutual disclosure. The interview should be an occasion that displays the interviewer’s willingness to share his or her own feelings and deepest thoughts” (72).

Remembering this advice, I made to sure discuss personal matters that dealt with teaching to create an environment conducive to sharing. I felt that swapping teaching stories from earlier that day also helped supply me with credibility since the respondent was a fellow teacher. Despite the fact that this strategy was helpful, I couldn’t help but feel that the interview remained stiff. That is, I was sharing stories of my own, but the “mutual” part wasn’t coming through, the flow was off. I felt that it was still me asking a question and getting an answer. Me asking a question and getting an answer. Repeat.

When I conducted my second in-person interview about tattoos with an administrator, I felt that the interview ebbed

Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition, by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition, by Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

much better. I relied on Postmodern Interviewing’s strategy of treating the interview as “a kind of ‘improvisational’ performance” (75). While I had two set questions in my head that I specifically wanted answered to help me tighten the focus of my feature article, I went into the interview letting the wind take us wherever it went. Postmodern Interviewing continues that “The production is spontaneous, yet structured…focused within loose parameters provided by the interviewer, who is also an active participant” (75). In this way, by having two set questions but not controlling where the interview went by always taking the respondent back to a certain point, I accomplished the “improvisational performance,” and it was quite fun. While our discussion primarily focused on tattoos in the workplace, it deviated to other, related matters such as piercings, and certainly held all of the qualifications of a rich conversation.

In addition, I went to the Skindustry Expo (my first outing into the field) armed with a few methods. At the end of March, I was still relatively new to the interviewing process (not that I’m essentially an “expert” in it now, but I acquired much more experience in interviewing since attending the expo). There was so much to look at (and listen to) when Susette and I entered the expo that it was overwhelming at first. While I wanted to take out my notebook and start jotting right away, I did not do so because I wanted to continue to look around, to get a feel for the environment before I tore my eyes away to write it all down. Writing for Ethnographic Fieldnotes states that “in most social settings, writing down what is taking place as it occurs is a strange, marginalizing activity that marks the writer as an observer rather than a full, ordinary participant” (43). Indeed, words like “strange,” “marginalizing,” and “ordinary” were exactly what I felt. Afraid that taking out my notebook would give me away (despite the fact that I had no visible tattoos, clearly the more obvious give-away) I postponed taking it out right away. Eventually, when I did, I was afraid that everyone was looking at me, but soothed my anxiety by telling myself that maybe they thought I was writing down ideas for a tattoo. (Yeah, keep dreaming.) Writing for Ethnographic Field Notes urges, “Only those phrases actually quoted verbatim should be placed between quotation marks; all others should be recorded as indirect quotations or paraphrases” (63). Not wanting to misquote somebody, I furiously wrote down (abbreviating where necessary) dialogue that I felt was crucial to my topics, and when I blogged about the event, I made sure to put the words of the experts into quotations. When I could only remember bits and pieces of what they said, or a jist of their advice, I neglected the use of quotation marks because it would have been inappropriate. Instead, I paraphrased or put a comma without quotation marks. The doctor at the tattoo laser removal booth was excellent practice for me. I wrote down his words in particular because as he was explaining the removal process to Susette, I was learning. It was like “Tattoo Removal 101,” and I tried to absorb as much as I could.

My online interviews were also heavily influenced by the readings from class. Going back to Postmodern Interviewing, when I conducted several e-mail interviews, I looked towards this advice: “answers are not meant to be conclusive, but instead serve to further the agenda for discussion…a team effort.” While I sent the four respondents the same questions via Facebook messaging, their answers all varied, and I analyzed those answers in order to send follow-up questions via e-mail. In this way, their answers were not the end of the road, but rather lended themselves to “further[ing] the agenda of discussion,” as Postmodern Interviewing indicates.

Overall, after conducting both in-person and online interviews as well as going out into the field for my outings, it is clear that interviewing is not a “one size fits all” process. What works for one interview or outing may or may not fit another interview or outing. Thus, Gubrium’s idea that “ownership can be a joint or collaborative manner” (41) holds true. If interviewing is truly a “joint or collaborative” process, then no two interviews will be exactly alike because each person brings something new to the table.

Hmm..table. Perhaps now it’s time to eat. And sleep.

The way I feel, courtesy Google Images

The way I feel after learning so much, courtesy Google Images

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Skindustry Expo Outing: The Art of Bro-ing, Dude-ing, and Man-ing

Skindustry Expo

Skindustry  Expo, http://www.skindustryexpo.com/

Transcriptions

On Sunday, March 23, 2014, Susette (a classmate) and I traveled up to Allentown, PA to attend the Skindustry Expo. The day started off with a kink when we arrived at the Holiday Inn and noticed how barren the lobby was. When we asked the front desk clerk where the tattoo expo was, she indicated that we were at “the wrong hotel” and that where we needed to be was “only twenty minutes away.”

Once we navigated our way out of downtown Allentown, which Susette mentioned looked like “one of those places in movies where you don’t want to get lost,” and found our way onto a main road, we relaxed for the “only” twenty minute drive.

When we pulled into the correct Holiday Inn, our reservations about finding the right place were alleviated: unlike the desolate, leaky parking garage in which we had previously parked (which would, in fact, make a great scene for a horror movie), this parking lot was packed with cars and civilization.

The weather was chilly and the wind blew around us as we walked up to the Holiday Inn Conference Center. The sun was hidden behind the clouds, and a grayish color seemed to splash across our surroundings. As we got closer to the automatic sliding door entrance of the hotel, I noticed that there were several people clumped together smoking.

When we walked inside, two things were clear: my lungs, and the fact that we were in the right place. Besides the countless people milling around holding drinks and bearing tattoos, a big sign read “Skindustry Expo.” To the left was a bar with nice, modern chairs surrounding it. To the right behind double glass doors was a bar/restaurant. In order to get inside the expo, we needed to walk straight ahead and to the left.

Susette and I both paid a $15 entrance fee (after Susette stopped at the inside ATM), and a tall man with lots of tattoos put a neon yellow wristband around each of our wrists. We then walked into the main room.

Immediately, my ears were enveloped in the buzz, buzz, buzz of tattoo machines. The plunge inside was overwhelming. Everywhere I looked, there were people getting tattooed: arms, legs, torsos, back. The room itself was small, and the effect was cramping. I was transfixed.

Each tattoo shop had its own booth, and most shops had signs displaying their name hanging on the cloth dividers between each booth. Susette and I decided that we would start to the right.

Mike & Co. sign as displayed at the expo

Mike & Co. sign as displayed at the expo, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Tattoo/125998317447586

At the first booth we went to (Mike and Co), there were two artists behind the booth: one white male who looked to be in his fifties, and one Hispanic male who looked to be around twenty. The older male had dark brown and gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, and the younger male had thick, black curly hair. We first spoke with the older tattoo artist who, in addition to being in the middle of giving a man in his fifties a shoulder tattoo, displayed black shirts that read “Tattooed and Employed.” The man, who we would later learn was Mike, asked us where we were from. Once we told him the Philly area, Susette asked him if he had any of the “Tattooed and Employed” t-shirts in a smaller size. (All that was there were larges and extra-larges.) He told her that whatever was out was what he had and suggested that she could wear it as a nightgown and laughed.

We continued walking around the room checking out the various tattoo booths set up. There was one man getting a tattoo who was laying on his stomach while a tattoo artist was tattooing the back of his right leg. I noticed that his left leg was completely covered in tattoos. He was wearing dark shorts that came down just past his knee, and there was no skin exposed that was not covered in ink.

Susette and I continued walking around, and we checked out another booth’s display of past tattoos and sketches. We continued this process for several booths. One of the tattoo booths refereed us to a booth across from them, which was a tattoo removal company, suggesting that we “just talk to them because they are awesome.”

Susette struck up a conversation with one of the men behind the booth who explained that he was a doctor. He was of solid build, mid-thirties, and white. There was a video being displayed of the laser removal process and he went over how it works, how many sessions it would take, how much money it costs per session, etc. Susette showed him a tattoo that she was interested in having faded (not entirely removed), and he explained specifics of it to her. We both took his card and continued walking.

Mr. Blue Sky Tattoos - hand-made tattoo machines on display during the expo

Mr. Blue Sky Tattoos – hand-made tattoo machines on display during the expo

The expo was set up in such a way that there were two main aisles and thus three strips of tattoo booths. After we hit the entire first aisle closest to the back of the room, we ventured onto the middle aisle. We came across a booth (Mr. Blue Sky Tattoo) where they had tattoo machines on display that they had hand crafted and painted. It was an impressive assortment. I asked the man if he was okay with me taking the picture, and he encouraged me to do so. We struck up conversation for a little, mostly asking where we all were from, and continued walking after paying him and the machines another compliment.

Susette, at this point, expressed an interest in going back to the Mike and Co stand (where the Tattooed and Employed shirts were) to get a quote for how much a tattoo she was interested in getting would be. On the car ride up, she told me she was thinking of making an appointment for getting a tattoo done this coming Saturday, but, she expressed, she might get it done here if it was a good price.

When we got back to the booth, the younger Hispanic male asked her to write out the exact tattoo that she wanted. He spoke with an accent that was hard to place. She wrote it down, and he told us to give him about ten minutes while he sketched something out. We killed time by walking around and noticed that one of the booths, in addition to having their past work on display, also displayed their 2013 License and a CPR certificate. I looked to Susette on this, and she said that she had never seen booths display those things before.

We then went to another booth and while we were looking at their pictures, one of the artists broke in. He pointed to a tattoo and asked us if we got the joke: it was a picture of a rooster that was being hanged and was around the shin area. The man continued, “It’s a tattoo of a cock that hangs below the knee,” and began laughing. The person who was getting tattooed, evidently, was the wearer of that particular tattoo, and he laughed, too, and pointed to it on his leg. He was currently in the middle of getting another tattoo. We smiled and walked away not long after that.

We went back to Mike and Co. where the design was ready. The young male had gotten one of the words wrong. Instead of reading, “Great writers are the saints of the godless,” he had sketched, “Great writers are the saints for the greatless.” Susette told him the word was wrong, and he asked, “Oh, what should it be?” He got a new piece of paper and redid the sketch.

While he redid the sketch, we both noticed a woman with double sleeves. She was very attractive: she had on bright red lipstick, heavy eyeliner, and short brown hair that curled under. She wore bright red pants and a black top with white pinstripes coming down. Susette commented that she liked how she wore tattoos but was also still really feminine. I agreed. She was with, we later determined, the man with his leg covered in tattoos.

When the sketch was ready, Susette analyzed it and said that she loved it. She asked if he could add a quill to the sketch, and, when he did not know what she meant (it was hard to hear), she pulled up a picture of it on her phone. He added it to the design and made it look like the quill was writing the sketch. He asked if she wanted the writing in black and red, and Susette said, “I wanted everything black and white.”

While they spoke about the tattoo, I looked around and noticed all of the different hair colors present: there were people with green hair, people with blue hair, men with beards that went down past their chest, gauges, piercings under eyes, piercings on the back of necks, etc. I looked back at the tattoo artist and Susette.

The young tattoo artist, let’s call him A, showed a sketch of what he had done and said, “Mike, what do you think?” Mike said, “What do you think?” A said, “I don’t know that’s why I’m asking you.” “Yeah, I know,” Mike said, “I would say no less than two and a quarter.”

Paperwork Susette signed before the tattoo process began

Paperwork Susette signed before the tattoo process began

Finally, they settled on $200.

While A finished the stenciling, Susette pointed out to me that all of the needles were wrapped and that everything was in plastic bags for sanitary purposes. We looked around the booth and noticed that they had one chair. Susette said that she would have to lie down since she was getting the tattoo on her hip, and we wondered how they were going to work it out. Eventually, A went and got three extra chairs from the hotel and set them up in a row. He put down purple sanitary paper and made a makeshift table.

A sanitized Susette’s hip and placed the purple sheet underneath her jeans to respect her privacy. He set out four ink dips: three were black ink, and one was white ink. A unwrapped everything he needed from its plastic covering. He told Susette as she was laying down that she would need to put her arm over her head.

A white male who seemed to be in his late thirties came over to the booth with his son. His son looked to be about four or five years old and had a shaved head and was sucking on a lollipop. The man admired the “Tattooed and Employed” shirts and asked how much they were. When he paid Mike the $20, the man looked at the shirt and said, “Love it.” They walked away.

 

A working on Susette

A working on Susette

Susette and I had previously agreed that we were dying of thirst. It was taking A a little longer than we thought to prep everything, and when he left to grab some paper towels, I went and got two waters at the bar. When I came back, A was in the process of starting the tattoo.

I did my best to crane my neck and see what was going on without being a distraction for A. By now, the constant buzzing of the tattoo machine had become a familiar sound in the background. Susette had her arm over her head, and she was turned away from A so that he could have the best angle possible.

He continued working diligently: he would complete strokes and rub the excess ink away with a paper towel that was getting continuously blacker. At one point, Mike looked over to check on the tattoo and made a face that seemed to say, “Nice work.” I got the vibe that A was more of an “apprentice” due to how Mike was giving him feedback and, sometimes, instructions. For example, at one point, Mike said, “Dude, if you can’t see her, you have to turn her.” A nodded his head. Mike then said to the tattoo artist at the next booth (who was inches away from Susette), “Bro, turn your light on for him, if you don’t mind, since you don’t have anyone right now.” The man nodded his head, turned his light on, and repositioned it so that the light fell over Susette, giving A a better view.

Susette's tattoo in the works

Susette’s tattoo in the works

As A continued to work, I wondered how Susette was dealing with the pain. She seemed to be doing alright, alternating between tapping her foot and pursing her lips. The tattoo was progressing nicely. A was clearly in the zone and was doing an outstanding job. He did the black ink first and then went back and added white shading in.

When he went to the quill and started shading it in, I knew that A was working on a painful area. Mike had said, Just wait til he gets to the quill area on her stomach. Ouch. A continued to work, rubbing on some type of ointment over the tattoo as he worked.

While A continued working, the next booth over had a customer who was getting a flower design on her right foot. She was in her early thirties, white, and had short red hair. She was with someone who may have been her husband and her son. Her son was about four years old. She hopped up on their bed and the tattoo artist who had turned on the light for A began stenciling in the rose. He kept the light where it was: it was covering both Susette and his own client.

When the man had finished the rose tattoo, which did not take long at all considering Susette was at least two hours in, (hers took perhaps twenty minutes), her son hopped up on the table after the tattoo artist had sterilized it. The woman who had gotten the rose tattoo asked her son if he was ready for his own tattoo. He shook his head yes. The tattoo artist sketched out a tattoo of a shin dagger, and his parents laughed as they told him to pull up his pant leg. He did, and the tattoo artist put the stenciling on his shin, rubbed it with a damp paper towel, and took it off. Someone walked by and said, “Welcome to the dagger club!”

His parents asked him how he liked his “tattoo,” and the boy said he liked it. His mom told him that he could show it off to all of his friends at school. He hopped down, and they left.

At this point, A had been working for about two hours at the tattoo. I stood the entire time trying to get a good view of the work. Occasionally, Mike, who was still working on the man with the shoulder tattoo, had to come out of the booth, and I had to maneuver myself so he could walk by, and then maneuver myself again so that he could get back in.

The finished product! "Great writers are the saints for the godless." Tattoo by A from Mike & Co.

The finished product! “Great writers are the saints for the godless.” Tattoo by A from Mike & Co. Picture thanks to Susette.

Finally, the tattoo was complete. A gave Susette a mirror and showed her the work. The tattoo did look great, and Susette said, “It looks amazing.” He took a few pictures of the tattoo and then covered it with a paper towel.

Susette stood up, and I asked her how she felt. She said horrible, and I told her that she did a great job. She paid Mike, and we walked away. I asked Susette if she wanted any food before we left the expo. We were both okay, so after Susette used the bathroom, we walked out to the car. It was around five-thirty, and the expo was closing at six.

Susette indicated that that was the most painful tattoo she had ever gotten, but she was very happy with the final product. As we drove away, we agreed that it had been an exhausting day. I said that even I was exhausted and I wasn’t the one who got a tattoo! Yawning, I realized that it had been a great day.

 

Jottings, page 1

Jottings, page 1

Jottings, pages 2-3

Jottings, pages 2-3

Jottings, pages 4-5

Jottings, pages 4-5

Jottings, page 6

Jottings, page 6

 

Scene

As Susette and I were making the rounds, we walked over to one of the booths and began thumbing through their portfolio. One of the artists came over and asked how we were doing. After we said we were just looking, he told us that the guys across from them are “pretty awesome” and that we should go over and talk to them just because of how awesome they are.

We looked and saw that they were a tattoo removal booth, and since Susette was interested in getting one of her tattoos faded so that a new tattoo could go over it, we walked over.

go! tatoo removal logo

go! tatoo removal logo

The name of the company was “go! tattoo removal.” Their slogan was, “Kids are forever. Tattoos don’t have to be.” There were two workers behind the booth, and there was a television showing the laser removal process. There was a thick crowd of people when we first got there, and we waited off to the side. When the crowd thinned, we moved in, and a man of solid build came over to us. He was in his mid-thirties, had short, brown hair, no tattoos, and was attractive.

He indicated that he was a doctor and that this was his laser (he pointed to the screen). Susette showed him her tattoo that she was interested in having faded. He informed us that black and red ink fade out the fastest, and after analyzing her tattoo, he told her that it would take about 2-5 sessions to fade. He said each session could take anywhere from 35 seconds to one minute.

Susette showed him a small tattoo on her finger that she was interested in getting removed, and he said that he could do that, too, at “no extra charge.”

The man was very informative and told her that he thought her tattoo would fade very nicely, but he said, “I believe in planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” While he thought maybe two sessions was all she might need, he said, “I would never want you to put that in your expectations.” He continued to explain that the fact that she was young and thin was working to her advantage to having the tattoo removed faster. He also said the fact that the tattoo was mostly black was working in her favor, too, since black fades the fastest.

He continued going over how the laser works, saying “Our laser doesn’t damage skin” since heat can aggravate the skin.

Susette was happy that the price was so good. She informed the man that her doctor had told her that it could cost about $500 a session to get her tattoo removed. The man professionally disagreed saying that her doctor needs to do his research. He was charging $125 a session (if she were to get it done today), but a typical session cost $150. He encouraged her to get a $50-off coupon for when she decides to come up and get it done.

We thanked the man and walked away, agreeing that he was very knowledgeable and had a great price.

Reflection 

During the outing, I learned what it was like to be, what felt like, the only person without a tattoo in a room. As the sounds of the tattoo machines buzzed away, I tried to gain familiarity with my surroundings. As Susette and I walked around, I absorbed the wide variety of people: green hair, blue hair, gauges, men with beards down to their stomachs, etc. I’ve seen it all before, but not housed together in one room. It was quite overwhelming at first.

I think I mentally clung to Susette. She was my link to the people in the room. If anyone asked, she was my friend with the tattoos. See? I belong here.

I learned a few things about tattoos from the outing. For starters, from speaking with a doctor at a tattoo removal booth, I learned that the ink color that will fade the fastest and is, therefore, the easiest color to remove during tattoo removal is black. I would have thought a lighter color would be easier. I also learned that tattoo machines can be hand made. As crazy as it sounds, I assumed that factories turned out tattoo machines, picturing them sliding out on a conveyer belt. One of the tattoo artists had several of his own hand-made tattoo machines out on display, and they were impressive. He was proud of them, and he should have been. I was surprised to see that there were children attending the event with their parents. A venue like this, where profanity and crude language swirled through the air, was not a place where I expected young children to be, taking it all in. Yet, they were there, and I did not judge their parents, but I made a mental note that this would not be an event where I would take my children.

It wasn’t until I returned from the expo that I realized how many times I heard “bro,” “dude,” and “man” used over the course of the day, mostly when men were speaking to other men. It was to the point that I did not write it down in my jottings, but from re-visualizing the event, these terms came to the forefront of my mind.

Questions that I still have: I am still trying to discover the motivation behind putting something on your body that is so permanent. Is it the meaning behind the tattoo that drives people or is it the look and what it says about you that drives people? I hope to find out more about this during my research.

Next, I will be visiting a local tattoo parlor in South Jersey. I hope that speaking with a tattoo artist one-on-one (even though I did this at the event, there was a lot going on, and it was hard to have a real conversation) will help illuminate some of my questions.

The outing was successful in that it was full immersion: it does not get any more interactive with large crowds of people getting tattooed out in the open for everyone to see. At first, I was scared to look at the people getting tattooed simply out of respect. I wanted to give them privacy. It became quite clear, though, that they did not care at all about this. You don’t get tattooed at an expo for privacy, I quickly learned. It was interesting to see the different places people were getting tattooed—on the foot, arm, hip, back, shoulder, calf, etc. It was great to see all of these people getting tattooed in different places and the different positions that they had to have their body in to get the tattoo completed.

If I went to an expo again, I would make it a point of talking more with people. While we struck up conversation with different tattoo artists, I would like to get the chance to talk more with them. (Of course, that was hindered because they were busy either tattooing, working on a sketch, or speaking with customers.) It would have been great to speak to someone getting a tattoo and getting down to the motivation behind it. My shyness crept over me, and I did not want to do anything but observe. Now that I’ve warmed up to the overall atmosphere of tattoos, I think I would be more willing to step outside of my comfort zone and strike up a conversation.

The portions of the reading that helped guide my field notes were from Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. The book indicates not to write down opinions of people (such as the scene where the man was “crazy”), but, rather, writing down objective details, like the color of his shirt, his beard, etc. Throughout the entire experience, I made sure I wrote down facts and not opinions. This helped my fieldnotes because when I reviewed them, I was able to clearly picture the person and was not influenced by my feelings at the time when I wrote them. Had I had formed an opinion about someone early into the outing without really knowing anything about the culture, I would be portraying an inaccurate picture. Had I seen that same person at the end of the outing, I may not have written down such an opinion with a new awareness in mind. So, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I wrote down only the facts, and when I looked at my notes later, I had a clear image without opinions clouding my vision.

Hair and Reflection: Post Three

In the final post about my first fieldnote experience, I describe a student’s hair (in about 350 words) and reflect on my fieldnote taking experience (also around 350 words).

HAIR

Stu Lou Who, courtesy Google Images https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=709&q=Who&oq=Who&gs_l=img.3..0l3j0i3j0l6.594.865.0.2341.3.3.0.0.0.0.77.208.3.3.0....0...1ac.1.37.img..0.3.207.1vqSdZRUZvE#q=Stu+Lou+Who&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=xt5RacK_LSJ5KM%253A%3BDz5q9-jtvT0xGM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.julienslive.com%252Fimages%252Flot%252F6297%252F62971_0.jpg%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.julienslive.com%252Fview-auctions%252Fcatalog%252Fid%252F36%252Flot%252F11042%252F%3B800%3B432

Stu Lou Who, courtesy Google Images google.com/images

When my eyes fell on him, I thought I was looking at a Who. He was with two other people, a white female and a Hispanic male (both of normal, un-Whoville descent) and they were making their way over to the art section. They all seemed to be around college age. He was a white male, aged around twenty. The bottom portion of his hair was cut shorter than the top portion, not quite a buzzed-cut, but not much longer. If the definition of a mullet is business in the front, party in the back, his hair-style was a Remix Mullet: business on the bottom, party on the top: the top portion of his brown hair was heavily gelled, and for good reason. Without it, he would not have been able to achieve the full effect. The top portion of his hair resembled a blow-out and was combed down in thick portions with visible streaks coming down as if in layers. His hair toppled over his forehead in a slight curl, much like that of a Who. The way it came over his forehead reminded me of the sloping mountain tops from The Grinch – curled at the top in a slight wisp, almost

Whoville Mountain, courtesy Google Images https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=666&q=Whoville+mountain&oq=Whoville+mountain&gs_l=img.3..0.630.2416.0.2671.17.8.0.9.9.0.97.456.8.8.0....0...1ac.1.37.img..0.17.495.KxnUv-jsr_0#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=aNXY8Yh-qKqR8M%253A%3BVq4XCB6U9NSq5M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hollywoodjesus.com%252Fmovie%252Fhow_grinch_stole%252F18.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hollywoodjesus.com%252Fhow_grinch_stole.htm%3B480%3B288

Whoville Mountain, courtesy Google Images google.com/images

resembling the way icing curls at the end of each stroke. Adding to his Whoville appearance, he had a short, upturned nose. Combined with the outlandish hairstyle, his nose sealed his place in Ron Howard’s film. As stated, two other people accompanied him. The female that he was with seemed to be the leader of the pack. They were all crowding around the art section of the bookstore, and she seemed to be calling the shots, telling them what to do and where to go. Her own hair was a reddish-brown, and the Who did not leave her side. The other male with them stepped away for a bit, coming back a minute later. He seemed as though he wanted to give them space, leading me to consider the possibility that he might be a friend or third wheel. The Who’s outlandish hairstyle caused me to wonder about his personality: it takes a certain type of person to have a hairstyle as unique as that, and I wondered what other parts of his life he treated with as much charisma and spunk.

REFLECTION

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5: Reflection

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5: Reflection

Reflecting on the bookstore fieldnote experience, there are some things that I need to work on and some things that I did well. First, it is clear that I need to be more assertive in approaching people. Even though there were two moments where a single student was browsing the shelves, I did not feel comfortable enough to approach either one and start asking questions. When there were groups of two or more students, approaching them was completely out of the question. I do think that a large part of my shyness was related to the fact that my classmates and professor could see me. I would have felt more confident approaching people if I were totally on my own. In being on my own, I would not be worrying, “Am I doing this right? Do I look okay?” I would just be able to get out there and do it without feeling like I had an audience. I do feel that when I get out into the field, I will be more confident and assertive, for many reasons. One, this was my first time actually going somewhere to take notes. I will be able to build on this experience with growing confidence. Second, when interacting with someone in a setting that is not artificial (that is, this field note taking experience was limited to the parameters of class and therefore did not feel like “my own,” natural experience), I will feel freer to express myself. (Ironically, I do not know for sure that my classmates or professor were looking at me, but because I could see them, I automatically became the insecure teenager who walks into a room and feels that everyone is staring at her,)

One of the things I felt I did well was the way I took down information. That is, my area included dorm items and

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 6: Reflection

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 6: Reflection

school supplies. Lots of small, little odds and ends. Rather than taking down every little thing, I summarized somewhat by mentioning the larger categories such as “electronics” and “school supplies,” and then wrote down the “stand out” supplies from each category.

Lastly, my area did not get a steady amount of traffic. The entire time I was there, there were about seven people who entered, vastly fewer from the amount of people downstairs. Therefore, despite my lack of approaching people, there was less of an opportunity for a conversation to take place. Looking over my field notes, I took down a lot about the environment, but did not get a chance to try to capture a conversation other than the male who thought I worked at the bookstore. I am eager to test out taking down dialogue in a full conversation that lasts longer than a few seconds.

Knowing my goals, I am ready to go out into the field and put those goals to work.

Setting the Stage: Post Two

In the following post, I have taken my fieldnote jottings and have created two scenes from the bookstore.

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 3

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 3

SCENE ONE

Once I got up from the seat, I decided to work from left to right. I headed over to an area marked “Dorm Supplies.” “Dorm Supplies” was situated on the left hand side, and the rest of the shelves spilled out to the right. At the “Dorm Supplies” shelf, there were several bedding needs, such as cheap comforters ($69.00). I noticed that there were zebra-print throws on the shelf, indicating the young, college-level age group for which the bookstore is designed and was in the middle of writing down that “throws” were an item on the shelf when a black male with a red backwards hat approached me. He asked me, “Do you have any iPhone 4 chargers here?” Having never seen this person before, I thought it was inappropriate for him to ask to borrow my phone charger. Then, I realized that he was under the impression that I worked at the bookstore and that he must have mistaken my fieldnote jottings for store inventory. I smiled and shook off the surprise by saying, “I don’t work here.” He took a step back, smiled, and put his hand up to his mouth saying, “Oh you don’t? Sorry.” I smiled and replied, So I don’t know if they have them here. He smiled and walked away, and I turned back to the shelf, feeling relieved that I would be able to create this funny moment into a scene. The same male passed by a few seconds later to head into the restroom. It was then that I noticed that he had red socks with yellow designs that came up past his shins that complimented his bright red shoes. He was also wearing a red backwards baseball hat, and I wondered if there was a reason he was decked out in red. I saw him a few minutes later when I was in a new section of electronics, and he was talking with a Hispanic male and laughing. He was giving off the same easy-going, happy-go-lucky personality he had exhibited with me moments earlier.

SCENE TWO

As I was walking back through a row filled with folders, three students came up the steps and went over to the art

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 4

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 4

section in the back of the store. Two were male, white and Hispanic, and one was a white female with medium-length sleek brownish-red hair up in a ponytail. She was attractive and was smiling and saying, You guys need to not be with me right now, though her smile let on she was not being serious. One of the males had a haircut that made him look like he had stepped out of Whoville: the bottom portion of his brown hair was cut very short, not as short as a buzz-cut but not much longer. The top part resembled that of a blow-out but was not as intense. His hair was heavily gelled and the top of it hung over his forehead. The other male had a greenish-gray loose beanie hat over his dark hair. They stayed in the area for a minute, the girl looking at the supplies and the boys grinning, until they headed back down the stairs.

Once they had left, I walked over to the art supplies but was distracted by the science section next to it. It contained lab aprons, safety goggles ($12.98, I had expected them to be more expensive), and then I noticed the lab notebooks. They were spiral bound and intimidating. When I opened the cover, a Periodic Table of Elements was staring back at me, the different blocks in different colors like a labyrinth to my Language Arts-accustomed eyes. I turned the plastic, shiny Periodic Table of Elements page and was met with pages of carbon-copy texture, although it indicated it was “carbonless duplicate sets.” Each page contained, in serious red, type-written font, a box for recording each of the following: “Experiment #, Experiment/Subject Date, Name, Lab Partner, Locker/Desk, and Course/Section #.” The paper underneath was a copy of the first.

As I rested the lab notebook down as though it were a grenade pin, I realized that to science majors, these notebooks

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5

are the norm. For them, this is one of the items they pick up when school starts again in late August. For me, picking up a thick Shakespeare anthology or several novels are my norm. I realized how “bubbled” my schooling experience has been. Without a real sense of what else is out there, I was overwhelmed with the supplies in this science section. It indicated how much about other majors I was ignorant of, and, to be honest, quite pleased that I did not have to buy any of those products. I walked slowly away.

Fieldnote Extravaganza: Post One

Bookstore Field Notes, page 1

Bookstore Fieldnotes, page 1

Here we go. The following is my first attempt at translating my fieldnotes (taken at a bookstore) into full, descriptive sentences.

There were three total students sitting at the tables on the second floor of the bookstore. There was one student per table. Out of the three students present, two were white females, and one was a white male. Out of the three students, one of the females and the male were on laptops; the other female was working out of a notebook. The chairs situated at each table (two per table) were old-fashioned looking. They had double arm rests and, in the middle of the backing of the chair, a distressed Rowan crest was visible, giving the area in which the chairs resided an “old, cozy library” feel. The fact that each table housed only two chairs made me wonder about the traffic the upstairs portion accumulates. That is, two chairs per table does not lend itself to practical group work. Though groups could rearrange chairs, it seemed, based on the frail, antique quality of the chairs, rearranging anything would be frowned upon. Thus, it would be logical to assume that students interested in working individually would come to this location. After taking in the desks, chairs, and people, I realized I had taken in enough of the area to get a general feel and decided to start walking around.

Bookstore Field Notes, page 3

Bookstore Fieldnotes, page 2

I continued moving through the area from left to right. I made my way over to a shelf that housed calculators, pens, highlighters, and other basic writing needs. I saw a white male around twenty years old with blond, honey-wheat hair that was spiked up in front and who was meandering through the aisles silently. He was wearing a blue zip-up sweatshirt. He was walking around silently, and I wanted to approach him, introduce myself as a research student and ask, “Can you tell me what you are doing here?” Unfortunately, I could not will myself to do it. Though he looked over a few times, I stared at the pens as though they were very interesting. When he walked away, I felt a mixture of disappointment and relief.

I walked through an aisle completely devised of binders on both sides of the shelves. Half of the binders had “Rowan University” stamped on them, and the other half were plain, colored binders. The row looked very neat and stacked.

As I continued walking, I hit a row marked “Study Aides.” There were books on the ACT, AP 2014 Exam, LSATs, GREs, and GMATs. At first, I wondered why there were AP exam books, as everyone who goes to Rowan has already passed high school and then realized that the bookstore is open to the public, as well, and anyone living in the surrounding area interested in these subjects would be able to access them.