Memorial Day featured a chance to see the gang and to also socialize with Barnes, who was in town after the weekend's North American Patristics Society annual meeting in Chicago, which in my post-retreat cloud I thought was the weekend before, and thus accounts for my not heading down with Mike and Dan to some of the session. However, I received a detailed, if occasionally obscure, update on all things Novatian (Dan's new dissertation focus) from Dan and Barnes. This included a funny account of Barnes having to take some young scholar to task – some guy with a job! – who was using an interesting technique of offering conclusions despite the utter absence of evidence. (He will, no doubt, become famous and well-quoted in the papers.)
And so the conversation ranged from the scholarly to the nonsensical. There was a long digression on Serbian family wine production, as Amy and Dan were expecting a crate of wine from some of her family members who were making their own, which led into some more general talk about Serbian drink that culminated in Amy fetching a bottle of some 10 year-old Serbian plum brandy liquid called Slivovitz, which Dan alleged was largely kerosene-based. Amy poured us two glasses which I sipped gingerly as she then tossed hers down leaving me feeling entirely emasculated by the process, thus peer-pressuring me into re-attacking mine in the same manner, but without the coolly aloof mood she pulled off. Listening to people laugh at me, I suddenly had a strange, déjà vu-like feeling, realizing that I had seen this scene before, but not in real life. Rummaging through my memory for a moment, I realized I had inadvertently echoed a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a well-done comedic moment between Marion Ravenwood and René Belloq. Nice.
So as the evening moved on, Barnes dropped his granddaughter off at home (she often comes to these gatherings and plays with the other kids) and met us over at the movie theatre, along with another patristics student named Alex, as we all took in the comic book adventure of Iron Man, which continues Marvel Comics' pretty good streak of adaptations. We made vague plans about Barnes' next visit back to campus in July, as his sabbatical year winds up. I'm eager to get my hands on his writing, from this long investigation into the early doctrine of the Holy Spirit, where he is recovering much that was lost from the ancient Church, as I began to understand in the "Holy Spirit From Second Temple Judaism to Augustine" seminar that he conducted a few years back, which ties the record with my undergraduate History of the Renaissance course as being the very best college course I ever took. In particular, I know he has in recent months been working up good stuff in Latin Trinitarian Theology, which was obscured in later generations by the supernova that was Augustine.
Saturday afternoon, I received a last-minute invitation from Dan and Amy to join them and the kids down at the River Splash, the opening festival of the summer here in Milwaukee, "The City of Festivals," which put the kabosh on getting any work done in the remainder of the day, as I would go straight from there to meet Diane for my late dinner plans with her. It was mostly fun to just see the kids reacting to the live music and to listen to Owen point out and name things he was especially excited to see ('big boat," "van," "flag," and the like). When I was carrying Owen around, I suddenly realized he was repeatedly combing his fingers through the back of my hair, and then laughed to hear Amy noting him doing the same kind of thing to her when she was carrying him, except that he kept teasing hers outward as he played with it. I suggested that we paint in a little goatee on him and then he'd look perfectly natural in working on her hair.
I had a student, Bethany, call out and wave from one of the booths as we passed by, where she had had to find summer employment as one of that class of young, college-age, black-t-shirted girls serving drinks. Later on, circling back through that area, I stopped by to say Hi, and to see what was up with the job, as I knew that she had put me down as a reference for one at Alterra Coffee toward the end of the school year. They apparently hadn't gotten back to her, she said, but this gig was something, and if I wanted to go into the club she was working outside of, I could get free drinks by saying I was a friend of hers. I told her I couldn't, that I was down here with– "That family; right, I saw." Keeping a straight face, I said, "My fiancé, actually." Her eyes bulged out. "Wow! Congratulations! I didn't know..." And I said, "The four-year old. She proposed over dinner a few weeks ago." And she laughed as I told her a couple of the funnier moments of Anna's doting on me, which did in fact escalate from her planting one on me when I picked her up to greet her upon my arrival at the house the week before, to her asking me to marry her at dinner while Dan and Amy choked on their food and tried not to worry her by bursting out laughing.
So, they ate their dinner while we sat on the grass, listening to music and people-watching. Amy was excited that the kids were now old enough that the could take them out to things like this, and she was hoping they would be able to take in more of the festivals this year. Dan and I talked about Jazz In The Park and what they might need to do as far as being able to enjoy that, and I heard some of the news of Amy's work trip last week, and the drama revolving around some of that. We walked a bit to try to wind the children down before they headed home for their bedtime, and they dropped me off over at Artasia so that I could meet Diane for our dinner plans.
That was just a night of low-key fun talk. We hadn't hung out since March, when I more-or-less disappeared socially after Spring Break because of the snowballing load of work associated with the course I was teaching. We walked around the downtown a little bit, thinking over a few options, deciding to eat in a restaurant rather than outside. A cold front had slammed through while she was closing up the shop, and while it was still clear out, it was at least ten degrees cooler than it had been minutes before. We decided to try the Hotel Metro's dinner together for the first time. We usually tend to drift over there for dessert and to drink port and talk, but we had never actually grabbed dinner there before. So we caught up on one another's news: some of my retreat business, her and Tim, school stuff, work stuff, all that jazz, before settling into our dinners. During a tangent about hair-stylists, she mentioned how hers had commented upon Tim's resemblance to Ben Affleck, and Diane laughed about the circles she apparently appeared to move in, as our waiter had confessed that he freaked out for a minute and did a double-take with me, thinking I was Adrien Brody. I ended up going with a scrumptious New England Clam Chowder and then a good entrée of White Marble Pork Chops, "Dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs, crusted with shredded potatoes and pan seared. Presented with cinnamon brown sugar apples." And we split a rich, chocolate tiramisù for dessert. I think she had an Eggplant Parmesan, "Sliced thin and lightly breaded, layered with mozzarella and marinara sauce. Topped with Parmesan cheese and baked to a golden brown." But I admit that I cannot quite remember.
It was the saddest, most pathetic thing. At the retreat in Jackson Hole, as I mentioned elsewhere, two nights running, Kevin and I each had somewhere between a third and a half of a bottle of port – each, mind you – without feeling the slightest effect of alcohol from the experience. I don't know if we had eaten something that absorbed it all or what. Last night, trying to have a good catch-up time with Diane, I got completely blitzed – on half a glass of Shiraz. Diane kept laughing out loud as I began to have the hardest time completing my thoughts (Tim is kind of a lightweight in this way, too, I believe, and so she enjoys this show somewhat regularly), and I found myself lost with whatever it was I was trying to say. My sleep cycle is all out of wack the last few days, so maybe that had some bearing on it, as well as an empty stomach, but going from the port story to one glass of Shiraz destroying me felt pretty absurd. I ended up passing on hanging out much later, and on our usual port, and opted to go home by midnight. She insisted that I call her when I get home, just to make sure I was alright, which I think wraps up my whole sad performance in a nutshell.