Introducing today: the long-overdue LJ-tag "restaurants" – all my previous discussion of which would have been under "friends" or city names and the like. How un-useful...!
Tonight featured a dinner out with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen, and was great fun. They were very interested in hearing about Jen, who, unfortunately couldn't join us because she's off working in a retreat center in Missouri for the weekend. Helen, who is very enthusiastic in all things, is very enthusiastic in her excitement to meet her. Bill interjected a bit of excitement when Helen sat down and joined us at the restaurant, saying that Jen and I had broken up yesterday. She gasped and turned to me for confirmation of this, and without missing a beat I explained that Jen hadn't told me until then that she'd undergone gender reassignment surgery, and Helen's eyes popped out of her head as her jaw disconnected and fell onto the table. When she realized we were pulling her leg, we then had a much more normal (and enthusiastic) conversation.
We ate down in the Third Ward, at a very agreeable and classy place called the Coquette Café, which Jen doesn't know and which we'll have to explore together some time in the future. (I had a French classic with their Coq au Vin: red wine braised chicken with mushrooms, pearl onions and smoked bacon.) Other than Jen, the chief topic of the night was their recent trip – just a few weeks ago – to visit their son, my cousin Ben, who is a junior at Ripon College, but who is spending this year studying in Córdoba, Argentina. Some of his desire to do some more traveling elsewhere afterward led us to talking about Jen a bit more in regard to traveling alone, which she had done in Chile not too far in the past, but which is something that always seemed very lonely to me and isn't something I've done. Ben appears to be developing a taste for it. He'll be back in June or July, and I'm looking forward to hanging with him and seeing the effect this year has had.
We've had some good time in with friends of late: Jen came over and joined me for dessert and chatter with Dan and Amy after I'd had a Grey's night at the Lloyds', and I've been tickled with how welcoming they are of her, and then the next evening we were part of a dinner party with a great couple among her friends named Doug and Michael. I was down at one end of the table, mostly talking away with Michael for the evening, and it was a good time of that sort of getting to know her more by getting to know her friends.
After working at home and attending our own Dr. Deirdre Dempsey's presentation at the Seminar on the Jewish Roots of Christian Mysticism on "Biblical Transmission according to Ibn Aṭ-Ṭaiyib," which highlighted some ancient Christian speculations on the origins of language and writing, that was pretty much the rest of my day. I'm in the Introduction, still, of Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War by the U.K.'s noted Third Reich historian Michael Burleigh, which, to this point, has been about historians and their take on the subject, and the intent of this particular study, than getting into the history itself. I had read a quite good review in last month's First Things on the second volume of the study, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror, and it noted the wide praise the work was receiving. It certainly sounded more sensible than the silly secularist assessment of religion being the source of all evil, and sounded like it might have the positioning to be a consensus-changing study at the popular level, which particularly grabbed my attention. There's a bit of sloppiness in the editing – incidental mistakes that ought to have been caught, but they are more "detail facts" than "facts that determine the validity of the argument"-kinds of mistakes. It's still looking to be compelling and fun reading. I found a new copy in the used bookstores section of Amazon for a mere $5.50 (hardcover), so I've a copy to mark up now on the way....