And now I'm just dragging back in after a looong night at the Lloyds' with the gang, with Barnes and Rayna in attendance. "Around" was the theme, I think. It began with us standing around the kitchen as the food was finishing up, hearing about the last-minute move of Anna over to join Renée for her kindergarten year at the German-immersion school after the Italian-immersion school proved to be just a little too far on the crazy-crazy side. That moved over to Mexican around the patio table and the kids at their little picnic table, with everyone sliding over to be around the fire for marshmallow roasting, to a circle around the living room for a few hours after Barnes and Ray left and the kids were put down, to ending up around the fire again, with wine and cookies, me teaching Dan some guitar chords, and talk ranging from pulling up 80s/90s music videos on YouTube to long debate on whether a moderate form of Islam is really possible in the Middle East, and whether Islam is, strictly speaking, a scripturally literalist religion or whether it just claims to be. We finally surrendered as 1:30am rolled around, and the fire still going.
An awesome dinner out Wednesday night with Markus, who is already back in town from Germany. He treated me at a good Italian place in the Third Ward called Fratello's that I had never before visited. This was partially in celebration of returning to Milwaukee and Marquette, and partially in celebration of a nine-million Euro research grant he had just been awarded that, as I understand it, will be examining the chains of intellectual and spiritual "descent" and influence starting from early Protestantism, which will be directed toward the creation of a vast database devoted to the project. The grant will allow him to fund no less that 15 doctorates on both sides of the Atlantic, and so he's going to be bringing a slew of talent to Marquette on that basis alone. So that was well worth celebrating.
We actually began with drinks at the rooftop bar at the Milwaukee Athletic Club, where he is living while in Milwaukee, and I had to kick myself for not having brought my camera, as part of my mind had told me to do. The views of the city – of what the Germans call "the fourth dimension," which is appreciating a city skyline from an elevated position – were rather stunning. I had no idea from all my time "below" on the street level, that there was quite so much variation in the city, all of which grabbed my architecture-loving eye. The building across the street had a gorgeous penthouse that looked slightly castle-ish, which I had never seen. And so we talked about architecture and the similarities and differences between Markus's hometown of Hamburg and Milwaukee, among other things.
Dinner conversation was wonderful, lasting long over good food, and continuing all the way through our walk back to the MAC. We spoke an awful lot about family and relationships, as well as the inevitable business of my dissertation coming to a conclusion and the job prospects, as they're currently known, for 2010. Listening to Markus talk about coming up on (I think) his 25th anniversary with Susanna, and these years with his daughter and son coming of age ranged back and forth from interesting to moving. I heard a bit more detail of how the two of them got together, a slightly different telling of the story he shared with us all last year, and I think I was most struck by his realization that he simply wanted to continue a long night's walk and conversation with her "for the next thirty years." Good stuff.
And on the phone the other night, Grace, who just started her second grade year, charmed me to no end when, with no idea of what she was really saying, estimated that they had just paid "um, about 18 thousand dollars" for their new puppy. I had to try not to laugh out loud, and contented myself with suggesting that she not tell her friends at school that particular fact, as she might end up being expected to buy all their lunches.