But it has been really kind of exciting to be writing in the more "me" parts of the dissertation, where I'm not researching everyone else in the field exhaustively, and having to footnote every paragraph six ways from Sunday. (Which is a very odd saying, by the way: I wonder where it came from.) Anyway, I'm getting to write a lot more in the "this is what I think" mode in these final two chapters, and I'm doing lots of my "application" arguments now, of how I think that a revived Catholic theology of charisms, recovered from being given up as the proprietary language of the "charismatic movement," can revive the potency of the whole of Catholic catechesis. In other words, I find that I'm trying to take revenge on the 1970s and 80s for their well-intentioned, but horribly weak and content-vague teaching of the faith by giving our basic public teaching a common and comprehensive idiom. That is, to make the Catholic faith so much more publicly teachable. This revolution may exist entirely in my head, but it's a fun delusion at this point as I imagine myself having turned what I thought was a technical dissertation into the first pebble of a populist avalanche. See? Happy delusion.
Despite what I've just written above about the regular routine of these last few weeks, I have actually had some great episodes with friends, too. Saturday was taken up with friends as Chad and Angie came to town on a weekend getaway and asked me to lunch on Saturday afternoon. I actually met them at the Milwaukee Central Public Library beforehand, and we took a do-it-ourselves tour of the place, with Chad talking us through the gorgeous details of the interior architecture of the building, which is a late 19th-century treasure. So we talked through that, with other occasional topics and news working their way in, and also peeked into the Rare Books Room, walked through the Great Lakes Marine Collection, which I'd never noticed and which was kind of fascinating, and lingered over a display of the architecture and construction of the library itself. It was the detail work that took most of our attention, though, noting and talking about the work in stone, tile, plaster, and wood, and the contrast to materials and artistic quality in most building today. Since they were headed to the Milwaukee Art Museum later, where Chad was especially excited to take in the Santiago Calatrava's Quadracci Pavilion, I took them to eat at John Hawk's Pub, and we enjoyed a break in the rainy weather to sit out on the deck above the river, where Chad graciously treated me to lunch. We had parked a little ways away, but in such a way that I got to take them past our fabulous City Hall and past the Pabst Theatre, highlighting some of our other cool architectural sights along the way, as well as explaining the story of the ladybugs, perhaps the most fun piece of public art I've ever seen.
After a breather of a few hours, I was off to Dan and Amy's, where the gang got together for a bit of a last hurrah before Amy left for Miami for a business conference on Sunday, and then Dan took off with the kids on Wednesday for a long vacation with his family in a rented house on the beach somewhere in the Wilmington, North Carolina area, where Amy would be joining them when done with her gig. They were getting a bit wired with excitement to be heading off to such a spot, and Dan was particularly enthusiastic just about enjoying the sheer feel of the ocean again. Other than that, talk about the kids bathing one another in sand, Amy's new wardrobe choices and purchases for the conference, bits about the health care debate, and such random topics floated in and out of just the pure pleasure of these friendships.
Wednesday night I had the great fun of a bit of a reunion. My friend Liz C. was a student I TAed for a few years back, who I'd gotten to know during my year where I regularly studied in the Brew Bayou coffeehouse on campus. A gifted wanderer, the last time we'd chatted, she had been living in Queens, NY while commuting to a monthly MBA program at University College Dublin. Seriously! So I was surprised to discover that she'd been back in Milwaukee for most of the summer, and wanted to get together before she left in a few days for her move to Dublin, to do the final year-long residency part of her international business MBA. It seems like we are able to get together yearly since she graduated, although the last time we got together was probably two years ago, when she was still working for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and I had tripped across the police discovering a corpse while on my way to the restaurant, giving that to her as a gift to call in to her editor. Also seriously! Much less drama involved in this get-together, as we caught up on one another's news, and did a helluva lot of good talking about Life, which this occasional encounters seem to be quite good for. This time we were eating on the Milwaukee River in the Third Ward, on a deck behind the Rustico Pizzeria for some hours, before moving in to the bar as the evening got cool along the water. So for five hours we updated, explored, and occasionally argued one another's lives. I had to laugh, suspecting that this was going to be the shape of things, and that through the wonderful directory of Facebook (the chief strength of which, we agreed, was simply to be a self-updating detailed personal directory) we would probably continue to meet once every year or two, in random cities around the globe, where we could happen to trip across one another and have one of these sessions.
And lastly, the Deirdres! Professor Dempsey asked me to speak on Tuesday to the Department of Theology graduate students who were going to be teaching for the first time, in particularly talking about the first few weeks of teaching, and other such new-to-teaching topics. I ran into her today at the Metro Mart while grocery shopping and talked through some of the topics with her briefly, standing in front of the bread, and looking at her new theological project, which I cannot reveal any more about, lest someone run with her idea, other than that it was currently being conducted on her new, cool, and very useful iPhone, and that it had nothing to do with ancient Semitic languages. She was pumped for the advent of IrishFest, as always, which is this weekend. And that brings me to the other Deirdre, as my friend Dee McQuade from Notre Dame, who was also a member of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, is going to be in town for the shindig, and so we'll be spending an evening together with food, great catch-up conversation, great music, and maybe even some céilí dance lessons, as Dee's a great dancer, among her other talents. She's the self-described "spokeschick" for the United States Catholic Bishops on life rights issues, so I see her in the news now and again, but I haven't seen her in about four years, I think, since one of the conferences I attended at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. She's juggling a full schedule of family and friends in the area, and I still haven't heard from her about her exact schedule, so that little bit is adding to the excitement.