Julie canceled plans as she was in the midst of a consuming bout of psych research and I was content to let it go. Diane postponed getting together to finish Before Sunrise and to start Before Sunset, but when she did come over Thursday night, it made for one of those fabulous evenings for which she's the best. We grabbed dinner and then indulged in a swimming platter of grapes, dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and Spanish wine, as well as getting into a long developmental psychology/sexuality discussion between the two movies that would have fit perfectly into the similar conversation that Mark, Erik and I had had in the hotel lobby the other week before leaving West Lafayette. I found myself wishing I could do a bit of time-travel and plug the two conversations together, to see how they would have reacted to her, and vice-versa, as different models of of maturing were proposed and their ethical implications compared. Is the common psychological "health" language irrevocably "self" centered? Is that compatible with a "love" vision oriented not toward the self (tho' not unconcerned with it) but rather oriented toward the other – toward the beloved? Erik is especially starting to say really interesting things these days as his graduate degrees in education, divinity, and psychology are all starting to finally mesh in his head, and the occasionally-complimentary and occasionally-conflicting methodologies are starting to interact in an interior way for him that wasn't there before. (Wine note: we opened an inexpensive Penascal Tempranillo from Castille/León in 2004 which I'd been given. I'd never tried it before and I thought it very crisp-tasting and a great mix with the chocolates. This could become a new inexpensive standby red, along with the Alice White Shiraz or the Masciarelli Montepulciano we've tended to buy in bulk.)
Wednesday had been all caught up in an hours-long conversation with Kate out in British Columbia. We'd not actually talked since early May, so I had to catch her up on all that news. It was good to be brought up and to bring her up to speed so that our understanding of one another was "current" again, as it had been with Erik and Mark. Hers is one of those friendships from Notre Dame that remains effortlessly strong, even with gaps of months, and requiring only news to be as fresh as any other friendship. It was good to hear her reactions, too – to hear such a friend speak her mind about my life. I realized that she and Diane were quite a bit alike in the way that they tend to perceive the heart of things in ways that I don't, and bring some different kind of freshness to everything, like Diane making me laugh at all the craziness in our lives this summer, and Kate able to perceive and to tease out all the ironies even across a continent's distance. Naturally, I wanted to jump right onto a plane and go visit her and Paul, but I keep forgetting to renew my passport, which complicates such impulses. She continues to be in a position that is allowing her to affect policy for all the universities of British Columbia, and so it's great to see her able to bring her theological and philosophical reflections on human nature (and thereby pedagogy) to fruition, if indirectly, in such a broad and public way. I even just discovered that in her long reverence for Bruce Cockburn, to whom she turned me on back when we were at Notre Dame, she succeeded in getting him awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Victoria at the beginning of June.
Mark called yesterday and we had a good talk as well, mostly about the new music he's produced, which is striking. I wish I had permission to post some of it here right now. (The new stuff is still not online, but Mark's own older material is available on his MySpace site.) The technological situation has changed so much in the last few years, and Mark's key partner in his group Sozo is an adept at this electronic side of production. And so Mark now fronts a guitar band that has no amplifiers on stage, but all the instruments of the group are instead plugged into a laptop which handles all the effects and mixing directly to the main speakers. What an asset that would have been back in the George and the Freeks days, when I was constantly trying to battle the amplifiers in order to mix a balanced sound for the room or hall where the band was playing! The clean and balanced sound of such a coordinated production gives a much more studio-like quality to a live set than most bands could have produced without a full and knowledgeable sound staff. I had nothing but good to say about the demos of "Heavenly Colours," "Veneer," and "Lila." The songs accompanied me on the drive to and from Cincinnati and I'm still pulling them up and playing them without having to make myself do so. They have a quiet kind of intensity, an energy built around an almost delicate precision of sound: it very much picks up from the achievement of the masterpiece track "View of Heaven" on Mark's CD Simplicity, but from there moves toward greater pop sensibilities with wider audience appeal. We talked of regional touring, with me pushing him much more toward New York City than making appearances in the Midwest, as much as I'd love to see him.
So, some cool contact while still allowing me to hide out a bit this week, which also feels right to the current mood. I had some longer letters to respond to, including a fun one from Crisi in Switzerland, and I still have yet to follow through on some equally fun notes from Sushinsky, who has finished her Master's in Social Work from the University of Chicago and is now looking for work. Nathaniel wrote earlier tonight, introducing me to a friend of his who has come to the area, a doctor or medical student, and also to announce that he is suddenly unemployed, but without further explanation, so that is waiting for development, too.