Not much to remember from those days. I rallied last Monday to walk down to Zara's Grocery to get some fruit and milk and such and had an amusing moment as I started to move into the deli section. A young woman perusing the offerings turned and looked up, and asked, "Excuse me. Are you Michael Novak?" I was instantly filled with dismay as I completely did not recognize her, thinking to myself, "Are you someone from college whose name I've forgotten?" (I hate feeling like a rude putz like that.) Or then, "Are you mad at Michael Novak for some reason? Did I fail your little sister or brother in class or somesuch?" All I said, though, was that I was, and then light dawned as she introduced herself to me as Barbra. I had corresponded with her briefly in the previous week or two, as Barbra was the new hire the department had picked up in Ethics, as visiting faculty for next year as three of our people go on sabbatical. (She had recognized me from my faculty portrait on the department web page.) I had an appointment scheduled with her for the following morning, but as I felt completely crummy again when that rolled around, it was lucky that we met here and could talk over some of the same basics as we would have in that 45 minute slot. So we chatted through the store and then I walked her over to the streetcar stop. She was sticking in town for the week so that she could get some extended apartment-hunting in, which is mostly what I had written to her about, sharing my own experiences from last year.
Since I had to cancel my portion of the meet-and-greet with her the next day, I brought up the idea of just going out to dinner and talking more leisurely later in the week, when I was (hopefully!) feeling better. I felt bad that it seemed that she wasn't going to get the departmental dinners-out that I got last May, as most everyone seemed to be gone, but Tim, my department Chair, got back from his own traveling on Wednesday and got wind of my intentions and arranged something of the sort. So on Thursday he, Kenneth, Barbra and I went out to Jacques-Imo's, which I had had enthusiastically recommended to me by the Catholicism students in the spring, but which I had yet to check out myself. So we had first-rate Creole/Cajun food there, (opening with an appetizer of Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake, which defies its name in its goodness and is certainly not at all a cheesecake, and I had the bacon-wrapped roasted boneless quail stuffed with foie gras) with fun conversation that bounced from shop to food to randomness and back. It was cool to discover that Barbra had a J.D. as well as her Ph.D. from Chicago, and that her academic specialty had to do with religion in the public sphere, since that was the one area (more specifically, religious discourse in the public sphere, along with my longer interest in religion in universities) that I had specialized in for the Ethics portion of my Doctoral Qualifying Exams. So she'll fit in nicely during the next school year.
Haley celebrated her seventh birthday with fun and fanfare up north, having a fun party out with friends at one of those crazy kid party warehouse places that are so popular now. I got to talk to her on the phone later on, and although she was as perfunctory and tending toward withdrawn as she usually is on the phone, I still got in some fun talk with her. Speculating on whether when I next visit I could bring something up special from New Orleans as a late birthday present, I led in softly with the shiny beads popular for Mardi Gras down here, but then quickly moved over to the idea of New Orleans foods, ultimately bringing up oysters. As I suspected, she didn't know what oysters were, thus allowing me to launch into my description of them, especially of some people's tendency to eat them raw, all of this being directed toward getting her to squeal in disgust, particularly as she's the one who has most inherited our own Novak youthful finickiness, and seems to only want to eat grilled cheese sandwiches. So I turned out to be the one to be surprised when, after my description of eating raw oysters, there was a long pause on the phone, and then she said, "Okay. Bring 'em." It took me quite a few moments to realized that Haley, who seems to have also inherited the most of the snarky Irish sense of humour, was probably just playing me right back and turning my gag on me. So that made it quality conversation.