Kinda flying right now. Just spent the last three-and-a-half hours with Kevin, one of my best friends from Notre Dame, who I hadn't actually seen face-to-face for 14 months, since visiting him and Frannie in Tulsa a year ago last December. He had discovered a few weeks ago that he would be swooping through Milwaukee on business and so we made tentative plans to meet for dinner; tentative because he was traveling with a few business partners, and wasn't originally sure if any "personal" time would be possible as the group would both be coming up to Milwaukee that morning from Chicago and then returning that evening. As it turned out, his two companions were fabulously cool about it, being pretty fabulously cool in and of themselves. They were interested in having dinner in one of Milwaukee's great German restaurants, so I arranged an early meal at the 106 year-old Karl Ratzsch's, and then followed that up with my rather traditional dessert half a block away at the Café Metro in the Hotel Metro, where we all had the apple pie. They went ballistic over how good that was. Kev loved the lounge area, where we were seated on a couch across from Pat and Duane. He entirely got it when I explained to him that this was my "Vine" in Milwaukee: The Vine had been "the family bar"– the quiet and cozy wine bar we had favoured in South Bend, and he saw the possibilities for similar great conversation in this place while working through their wine and dessert selections.
I had been at the bar at the restaurant for about five minutes before they arrived, just looking at the decor and talking a bit with the barman. I was surprised to see that Kev was growing his hair out some again, laughing that we had traded styles, and then being introduced to his partners. I had imagined Pat and Duane to be about Kevin's age, but they were older than that, approaching retirement, with decades of Madison Avenue advertising and marketing experience between them, and were looking at forming a company with Kevin, helping him direct and focus the business end of his neuropsychological innovations. And so they had been meeting with the owners of the Cubs and the Bucks today, looking at the possibilities in the sporting world for what they were doing. Cool stuff, but that's about as specific as I would want to get on the internet. Duane, a wonderfully friendly guy, first was asking me about how I had ended up friends with Kevin. He then struck up a conversation with me on theology, asking the not uncommon question "What is systematic theology?" It was a little odd, in a funny way, to have him tell me how he had read about me in The Half-Truth High and had been wanting to meet me from that, and from other stories Kevin had told him. I had never had anyone "meet me" first in a book before. I don't know why that should seem different than the friends I've made through writing on LiveJournal and such, but there it is.
After about twenty minutes of conversation, most of which Duane spent talking with me about early Jewish aspects of Christianity – about which he had a particular interest and thus had grabbed on to my descriptions of that as one of the best things about my theological education at Marquette – the two of them insisted on sending Kev and I off to the other side of the restaurant so we could have the uninterrupted "old friends catch up" experience, which was another thing that demonstrated their long experience at being cool. The three of them were on a high after having had a great set of meetings, where the initial promise of their approach to the sporting industry looked really good, especially with times as they are.
So we had some catch-up talk, although a lot of the conversation really centered more around what they were up to, as Kevin explained some of his neuro-this and neuro-that to me, and I processed that information through more philosophical and theological language and paradigms. It really is interesting to me to see the sort of creative, entrepreneurial work Kevin has been able to do over these last several years with the sorts of ideas we had been kicking back and forth to each other as we talked psychology and spirituality. Psychology has always been in some respects philosophy disguised, with occasional theological components, too. Kevin's busy trying to rip off the top of psychology's traditional paradigm and make no bones about pulling the scientific aspects of psychology into the creative and practical aspects of the philosophical mode without psychology having to disguise itself and warp its results by the pretense of pretending to be solely a scientific undertaking. All those conversations have had their impact on my teaching approach and my educational philosophy, but since I'm in the business of theological and philosophical education, this is no surprise: such conversations are at home in the reflective sciences. What's more striking to me, for its differences, is to see Kevin adapt these sorts of insights to productive business paradigms and ventures.
So that conversation continued over the food. We had a really good split-pea soup for an appetizer (as evidenced in my obligatory bad phone-camera pic), and Kevin knocked out a Chicken Schnitzel Parmesan (Sauteed Chicken Breast topped with rich tomato sauce and mozarella cheese and Spatzle), while I could only manage about half (thus giving me another meal for the weekend) of my Roast Boneless Goose Breast (Free Range Goose Served with Natural Gravy, Wild Rice Blend and Red Cabbage). Kevin ended up treating me, which was terribly kind of him. We did a little bit of picture-comparing, with him showing me pics of the kids and some stunning views from his and Frannie's recent overnight at Kathy's family's ranch in the Tetons for her wine-tasting party. I had Leslie's 2009 "best of" booklet of pictures of the nieces, and so we swapped bits of news there. Duane came over toward the end of dinner, mock-objecting aloud to Kevin's apparently talking business instead of catch-up talk when he overheard Kevin using the word "neurofeedback" and saying that he and Pat were thinking dessert.
It was at this point that I convinced them to come over with me to the Hotel Metro and try the desserts there, where they all ultimately decided to follow me on getting my favourite (the personal pan-pizza-sized full apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, and garnished with caramel sauce, strawberry, blackberries and raspberries, and a dash of cream). They were a bit freaked to discover the size of the thing, with Pat exclaiming that they surely weren't all getting that, as he pointed to my pie, which had come first. So over dessert and the ports that Kevin and I got, we all talked together a little more about the business. Duane generously picked up the bill for that. Pat gave Duane wonderful grief as they began to answer a question of mine on the distinction between advertising and marketing, but generously supplemented the account with his own thoughts. He also skewered us and all Domers with a pretty apt joke at our expense, with: "How many Notre Dame students does it take to change a light bulb?" "One. And ninety-nine to 'share the experience.'" Kev had to text that one to Camilleri right away. But as the clock hit seven, they needed to hit the road. I was already delighted that they had stretched the evening out that long, as I had gotten the impression that they might only be able to squeeze in a 430-530pm or maybe 6pm dinner, but given their success for the day, they had decided to not try to squeeze in one other possible appointment that evening and to just enjoy the high they were on. It worked out for me, not just to get a brief time with an old friend, but to meet a couple of new ones, too.