gainst what seemed to be all odds, I had a pretty fine birthday on Saturday. My strength returned and I seemed to finally shake off the worst of this persistent lung and throat infection by Saturday, just in time to receive an impromptu dinner-and-cake party from the Lloyds. Crip and Lisa had arrived the night before to stay over the weekend, leading up to Lisa's Tuesday dissertation defense. Dan baked me a pound cake after an afternoon phone call where he flew into a mock rage upon discovering that I had no favourite kind of cake and had opined that there were only a few kinds of cakes and that they were pretty much all the same. As he began to rattle off cake names in brutal refutation of my mistake, I seized upon "pound cake" as something I had always enjoyed and as a way of stopping what threatened to be an exhaustive taxonomical listing of all known cakes. Mostly it was just exceptionally phenomenal to see
people again. I had gone something like eleven or twelve days without talking to a friend face-to-face, which, when I think about it, is really strange: I don't know when I'd ever done such a thing, but that was sort of the nature of the "feels like it's just hanging on for one more day" bug that I had. The Harrises showed up a bit later, rounding out the cutely enthusiastic birthday greetings I got from all the kids. Amy surprised me with a copy of the DVD of Once
, which I had recently shown to them
, laughing as I opened it that she had intended to get me the soundtrack and had been surprised to receive her order and to find the movie. But I assured her that this was perfect, as it contained both the movie and the soundtrack, as it were. So just lots of friendly talk, eating and drinking through to a little after midnight, which is the best gift of all. I had talked through the day with my folks and with my brother (with little Nate giving an ongoing series of whoops and cries in the background that sounded more like what you heard in the background of the jungle house at the zoo than from an infant vocalizing), and I missed out on the phone call from Leslie and the nieces, which resulted in a voice mail of birthday greetings that sounded enthusiastic from Grace and either competitive (trying to outdo Grace) or just annoyed from Haley, which had me laughing by the end of it.
Monday, returning to my observation of Barnes's undergrad Augustine class, I was flamboyantly given a present by Barnes in front of the crew, gaudily wrapped in Cartoon Network Justice League wrapping paper that matched the endless supply of Justice League napkins he keeps trotting out at different occasions. I held off on opening the thing until after class, just in case it should prove somehow embarrassing, which I wouldn't put past him. I could feel that the item was framed and under glass, so I was expecting either a photograph (Barnes is good amateur photographer) or perhaps some rare comic book cover framed, which is a sort of thing I had seen him do before. I slowly removed the wrappings under the watchful eyes of him, Jessica, and a few others who hung out for the occasion, to reveal an aged, framed, black-and-white print I had never seen before of Diana Rigg in a black-and-white, very mod outfit, hair blown up and back from her face: all very much from her Emma Peel era. So I really had a good laugh then, since I had mentioned at some point a few months back that I had been quite smitten with Emma Peel when I was about ten years old and had discovered old Avengers
re-runs playing on what passed for late-night Rockford television back then. I think we had been talking old movies or DVDS or such, and I had mentioned finding some Avengers
episodes recently, and had laughed in retrospect about having had what at the time was an unconventional first sex symbol. Barnes had remembered that and grabbed this piece of pop periphernalia for me, and so that was a slightly awesome gag/pop culture gift.W
e all returned to the Lloyds' on Sunday for a cookout on behalf of Crip and Lisa, with Bill and Rachel Oliverio and their kids also making it over. This occasion was sort of a Milwaukee-reunion party for Lisa and Crip, with them excited about getting authentic brauts and cheeses and such, and raiding some of the local markets to put that together, as well as, of course, to see old friends. There was a bit of anticipatory celebration for Lisa having made it to her dissertation defense, and a bit of a belated birthday party for Crip, whose 30th was on the 16th. I had only seen Bill in passing this year, so it was cool to be able to catch up on his news in a bit more detail. Bill successfully defended his dissertation in Theology and Philosophy while I was sick, focusing on hermeneutical schemas for Pentecostal biblical interpretation, and had just accepted a sort of missionary/professorial position, having been invited to come teach at a college in Nairobi, Kenya. So that led us to all sorts of cross-cultural, African political and social situation-type discussions through the night, along with the normal "program" type questions you ask when anyone picks up a new academic position. Continuing from the day before, there was also a lot of such talk with Crip and Lisa about their experiences so far, and just a lot of interesting material (for me) from having three scholars who deal with Pentecostalism centrally, while I'm currently just addressing it in a contextual way for my dissertation. I might actually attend next year's meeting (in Minneapolis, in the spring) of the Society for Pentecostal Studies just to listen in to the senior scholars of the field and get a broader idea of the current state of that conversation, which might give me some ideas of what to do with some of my dissertation research once it's finished. Bill, who I discovered already heads the Society's philosophical study group, immediately started vetting me for possibly delivering a paper for the group while Lisa and Crip just laughed, but it didn't take me too long to convince him that I was doing nothing that fit naturally into distinctly philosophical categories. An unfortunate amount of time ended up being spent talking about the security concerns of working in Nairobi at this time, which are not inconsiderable. Bill is flying over to eyeball the job and the situation in May, but remains cautiously optimistic.