I started to play the game of "When do you have some free time?" with Jessica last Wednesday after Barnes's undergrad Augustine class (which I'm sitting in on), when I had the inspiration of then realizing that I could do dinner right then, which actually turned out to be one of the few openings in her schedule. She had never been to Zaffiro's Pizza and Bar, it turned out, which happened to be my craving of the moment. Since this is a Milwaukee classic, I came down somewhere between suggestion and insistence, and that's where we ended up. The fact that she's currently doing the vegetarian thing didn't end up being a problem, as they do a decent veggie pizza, too, and we compared pizzas of America, Italy and Ireland (not recommended!). This gave us more chance to talk about her engagement, and we talked criteria for deciding who you marry, and quite a bit about friendships attached to or affected by getting married. There was some particularly curiosity on her part about how I've stayed friends with people I've dated, and even been accepted as a friend by husbands of such. That her best friend is the ex of her fiancé is a juggling act in which she has found herself. So that lead to some interesting talk on balancing friendships with marriage.
Friday's gathering at the Lloyds' of the group felt especially good after having missed it the week before due to being sick. I started to share the news of Jessica's engagement (pretty much everyone knew her, even if they'd only met her once) but I found out that everyone already knew, Barnes having had his own dinner with her the night before. That most exciting bit of news out of the way, I played with the weird drama of "won but didn't win" in telling everyone about the Canadian professorship as we ate the fabulous ham dinner Amy had prepared. And Barnes shared the discussion that his undergraduate class had had on Wednesday about another thing I missed while sick, the consolatio-style talk that his friend Julia had had with the class about her upcoming death from cancer, as a lesson built off of the discussion of Augustine's friend's death in Book IV of The Confessions. Students had been reporting that that session was the singlemost important class they had ever attended, and spoke intensely about it for about 50 minutes before Barnes turned the class to a more text-based subject. I'll watch the recording of the session at the library soon. There was some talk then on Friday about how he came to schedule such an unorthodox event for the course, and how it was that he came to ask Julia to do this, both as much for her as for the students, he said.
Our BSG-watching that night proved to be very exciting as a lot of the hidden background history of the show was finally revealed as the story is coming to its conclusion, and it was a mercifully satisfying piece of writing. Talking about that gave way to general conversation that kept us all going until about 1am, when we all finally turned in, all of us again spending the night. I loitered around in the morning after the Harrises left, talking with Amy while playing cars and trains with Owen while Dan gave Anna a reading lesson, and chatting with Dan about Roman rhetoric and such random topics until he went in to the library around noon. While he worked on some research there, I took care of my business and then headed back to their place for another dinner invitation, this one over yummy meatloaf. I checked on the ride back to make sure that Dan remembered that this was Valentine's Day and that "Let's hang out with Mike!" wasn't a disaster in the making on his part, and was relieved when he said that, having to roll with their babysitter's schedule, he and Amy had dinner-out plans for the following night. So we were making up for a movie night invitation I had had to turn down earlier in the week as I was trying to make up for lost time with the dissertation. With Dan and Amy, we'll often go old-fashioned and do a "short" before the feature of the evening, often an episode of the hysterical Arrested Development, which I'd never seen until they started showing it to me. This night, instead, I had them watch the pilot of Everwood, which series I thought they might really enjoy together, since I thought it was an exceptionally-written multi-generational family drama, and is still one of my top-3 all time pieces of television. That went over well, with some interesting observations just about the nature of television pilots as a distinct sort of thing in themselves, and how you have to watch them with slightly different expectations than a series in the midst of production. We then went on to the Coen Brothers' recent comedy Burn After Reading which gave us plenty of laughs, though I observed that somehow their movies often seem more funny in their individual moments than they seem as a whole film.