ad some fun this weekend with the first group cookout of the year at Dan and Amy's with the Harrrises as a sort of celebration for Bob being in town. Bob commuted all through coursework from Rochester, Minnesota while his wife Carmen was doing a surgical residency at Mayo Clinic, and has been more rarely able to make it to campus since they moved to Ann Arbor after they had Logan and Carmen switched her speciality to emergency medicine. He was trying to squeeze as much reading as he could into this time, since he very rarely has uninterrupted study time now that Logan has been joined by Renée as a little sister, but he made time for this evening off so that we could all get some extended visiting in together.
He and I went over to the Metro Market
to grab some supplies for dinner. For a year now I have been eager to share my yummy yummy experience from last May with bison burgers
, and Dan had agreed that this was the time. So I bought three pounds of ground bison from the butcher there while Bob went slightly crazy running around trying to eat every free sample in the building, of which there were many as it apparently happened to be Run Around Crazy Eating Free Samples Day. But I hadn't taken part in the preparation of the burgers in Wyoming last year, and so I think they were augmented in some way. Dan asked me if I wanted him to give these burgers some treatment and I declined, thinking that the wonderfully rich taste I remembered was bison's un-enhanced natural flavour. This was not the case. They weren't bad, they just weren't as richly flavourful as I remembered, so I was a bit disappointed, especially after having built it up for so long. (Not unlike when I showed this gang Napolean Dynamite
, now that I think of it, which they didn't think lived up to my hype. Maybe I should just be more understated about my enthusiasms here.) After his running amok in the grocery, Bob settled into trying to figure out a dessert combo to bring. I remember he gave me a fabulously bland look after I suggested something so dumb that I can no longer remember it, apparently from blocking out the memory lest I shamelessly share it on an online journal. Eventually, after much consultation, he went with an Irish Creme cake and coffee and vanilla ice creams, which tastes covered everyone's particulars.
The kids were playing in the backyard when we arrived and kept a bit more to themselves, I think, than usual, not seeming to need to "check in" with the adults as often as usual, and just amusing themselves for longer stretches. Perhaps the funniest thing I saw out of all of that was when they played "fishing" for a stretch, with the little fishing rods the Lloyds have for the kids. I've been amazed before at just how long casting these things around the yard can keep them entertained (with plastic pieces at the end, like a Spiderman sticker on a plastic diamond, and not hooks, of course). This time, though, Zeke bellowed out in annoyance that Owen had "eaten my Spiderman," outraged that the pretend fish should have effrontery to eat the pretend bait!
There was a certain amount of family talk, of course, news-catching-up, and especially hearing about Bob's kids. We were also interested to hear more about Carmen's life post-residency, like her schedule, which is running the Emergency Room for 10 night shifts a month, about half of which are 12-hour shifts and half 8 or 10 – I suddenly can't remember. Ten shifts a month didn't sound that bad, but of course the shift itself is a tough one, as she then also has to try to live her days off with a family on a daytime schedule, as well as the phenomenal amounts of paperwork she has to bring home. We were all excited to hear that the whole family might come out with Bob in the later summer, as we haven't seen her in a few years, now, and I don't think any of us have met the kids.
The rest of the conversation, as usual, went all around:
• I asked around if anyone had heard of the novel my sister had just recommended to me, with its incorporation of Trinitarian spirituality in an accessible way into the plot of a thriller. Only Bob had heard of it, and wasn't sure what to make of what he had heard. That got us into a bit of talk about the distinction between the bad "Christian fiction" that's become such a pulp phenomenon and the serious and successful incorporation of Christian vision into literature, like in Chesterton, Waugh, Lewis, L'Engle, Williams, Dante, or even Tolkien.
• Bob started some talk when he claimed to be able to remember tastes very clearly, which is utterly foreign to me. I can remember what I thought of how something tasted, and the extent of how much I enjoyed the taste (or not). But to pull up the taste in memory in the way I can pull up a general image and "picture it" in my head again? No way. That could be kind of cool, of course, but if I bothered with that, I'd want a completely eidetic memory: total recall.
• Bob and Dan had fun telling their story of having walked obliviously into a gay bar during a night out when they were at the Midwest American Academy of Religion conference last month, and how they were trying to figure out why everyone in the place was staring at them and sending telepathic messages to just leave.
• Somehow we found ourselves talking at some length about the comparative oddities and disgusting realities of male and female public restrooms. In my only blatant break with Catholic social justice ethics, I confessed that I privately favoured the summary execution of those guys who pee all over public toilets as part of their lame dominance displays. On a happier note, I recalled my favourite bathroom stall on the second floor of the College of Education in DeKalb, the walls of which were entirely filled inside with amusing and interesting philosophical and literary quotations. At this point people started to get a "why are we talking about this?" look on their faces.
• Looking at a children's book Dan had brought home from the library with him (his study carrel is in the children's literature section, so Anna and Owen have come to demand a new book per visit to the university), we found ourselves sort of amused by how many century-old children's rhymes now sound kind of obscene to our ears because of changes in language, and wondering whether they could be read to the kids/if the kids could still hear them as they were meant to be heard.