ast night my cousin Ben stopped by, took me away from the dissertation (after curiously peering at it in its raw, laptop form), and headed out down the Rock Bottom Brewery with me to talk about the wonders of the vocation of teaching. Ben's just back from a year in Córdoba, Argentina
, and is facing his senior year at Ripon College, and is thinking seriously about the shape of his future. He's finding that the notion of teaching Spanish is particularly appealing to him, which I think doubly-interesting since his mum, my Aunt Helen, is also a Spanish teacher. Ben was particularly interested in the differences between teaching at the college and high school levels, and we talked through that, the possible benefits of his getting experience teaching English first, either back in Córdoba or in Spain, and various sorts of teaching experiences available to him here, such as his Spanish tutoring at Ripon. It's exciting to see the possibilities of such a vocation stirring in someone new. That kind of talk dominated the conversation, along with some basic questions about my teaching theology in particular and the experiences I've had both at the high school and university levels with that. It's cool to be getting to know Ben better, and we made general plans to hang out together again next week, which is good fun. T
uesday night was just what I needed. Diane came over after she finished working for Robin and we took off to grab some dinner, but not until after we had paused so that I could share with her a geek culture moment where I introduced her to the fan-film format of trailers made for non-existent movies: in this case, the now-classic DC fan-film Grayson
. So we compared impressions on that – what worked and what didn't – and headed downtown. We stopped in quick at her place to check on the cats and the temperature and I met the new kitten, Wagner (with the German pronunciation; I asked, "Named for Nightcrawler?" "Of course!"). Then we just walked from there past Cathedral Square and the Symphony to the river and then down the riverwalk to John Hawke's Pub. It was actually a great evening for a walk after the front had blown through a few hours earlier and cooled things down a bit. We grabbed a table next to the river and tried to keep our napkins and such from blowing into the water when the wind would gust. ("Oh no!" Diane cringed, when a piece of her Tums wrapper blew in after dinner, "Um... at least it's biodegradable!" "It's tinfoil!
" "There was some paper on it!" Good times.)
So we talked over our dinners (bratwurst for me, mushroom sandwich for her) and just laughed and laughed and laughed. When she had reduced herself to giggles with something she was saying, I had one of those moments when you see a friend at just a perfect angle and wish you had a camera because you know it would make a portrait that just exactly captured them. There was plenty of serious talk, long surprising soliloquies from our chatty waitress, and definitely other silly moments. We walked through an unusually-attractive crowd at one point along the river walk, eating and drinking and turning to look at us. I looked away from the people and tried to concentrate on whatever it was I was saying at the moment, but she interjected "Hey, she was really smiling at you!" I didn't see who she was talking about because, I explained, I didn't think I could safely check out the women in the crowd without looking like a cad since I was with her. She laughed and admitted that she'd thought the same thing, regretting that we didn't look like we could plausibly claim to be brother and sister. (She was also giggling the other night about how, when we were out at Nessun Dorma a few weeks back for dinner, she'd forgotten to tell me that one of the people sitting near us was a long-time local actor of some repute who kept throwing hesitant glances at me through the meal, apparently another victim of the "Is he or isn't he Adrien Brody?" crowd. I guess I was in the middle of describing something at the time and she didn't want to interrupt and forgot about it until we were walking through the crowd at Summerfest.) Wandering up the riverwalk, we ended up crossing the river on a bridge that was actually being worked on and was fenced off, having to climb the seven-foot fence to get free.
We ended up at the Metro, grabbed a couch, and spent the rest of the evening sipping glasses of port. Picking up on some of our dinner conversation, I pulled out the printed copy of the email she'd sent earlier and we wandered through the topics she'd mentioned wanting to talk over with me. So I talked about the inadequacy of the metaphysical concept of Karma, why I thought the Jewish prophets were so more true to life with their outraged complaints of "why do the wicked prosper?", and then finally why I that the ultimate truth lay much more in the direction of the utterly un-karmic notion of Grace. The possibilities of the Karma tie-in of reincarnation were examined. We figured out something of one another's technical terms – she explaining some of anthropology to me, me some of theology to her – and talked about the origins of morality, whether people acted from the moralities they invoked or whether all people were really just driven by pragmatic self-interests. And at some point we realized that her shirt was on inside-out, which gave new meaning to the strange looks we'd received at the restaurant when we came back from the restrooms at the same time, and so we laughed ourselves silly about that....