A Memory (not quite appropriate for Memorial Day)

I have a multitude of things to do — like mowing the yard and planting some clematis — and even some places to be, one of which in fact has already started (the grammatical connection for that “one of which” isnʼt quite correct, but, hey, itʼs the 21st century), but I havenʼt put anything on the blog for so blamed long that I thought Iʼd take a minute or two to, um, “express myself.”

Work took me away from home a week ago for two days (it was supposed to be four) to Winneshiek County to help one of my coworkers finish her region. It was a pleasant change, even though I had to be away from home and The Lovely One, partly because my temporary new partner wished to do the trap setting (so I got to practice the computer work and paperwork — precisely the reverse of my usual partnerʼs procedure), partly because I got to see some pretty new scenery north and east and west of Decorah, partly because I got to eat out twice with my sister Margaret. It was really fun seeing her, even though she had to drive from my hotel to each restaurant (La Rana Bistro and Koreana Japanese) because we government employees are not allowed to put anyone but another government employee in our GOVs. (So if Janet wants to see what it is I do exactly, she would have to follow along in her own car.)

On Wednesday, I drove home in heavy rain and took the wet afternoon off since Janet was home (more on that ahead; partly she has been suffering with bronchitis). Thursday I cruised for fallen traps through northern Clinton County, and on Friday I checked some to the north in Jackson County. This week I get to be off today and tomorrow so I can work solidly Wednesday through Saturday. (I am not sure how that works for the paid holiday I am enjoying today. Is this going to be a 50-hour week? Another day of comp time for Wakdjunkaga!) I will be learning (and doing) the process of checking each trap for bugs, which includes how to extract a bug from the Tanglefoot glue and place it in a dissolving solution (intended to dissolve the glue, not the bug) and then into water for shipment to Des Moines where experts wiser than I (and better paid, I am sure) will determine if what I thought might just possibly be an emerald ash borer is or not. This new training means that once again I will be with a partner, my immediate boss, John. I will also be with him on Friday and Saturday (the Saturdays through June being a surprise about which I wasnʼt warned in my job interview) to visit campgrounds and check peopleʼs firewood (and talk to them in general about the emerald ash borer issue).

But enough about work. I have intended for weeks to talk briefly about Janetʼs bossʼs Big Birthday Bash. Having just written about the event, almost exactly a month ago now, in a letter to my brother Stephen, I think Iʼll just steal what I told him for the rest of this blog post. Enjoy!

The Big Dual Birthday Bash

More than kindly, Shirley Jones paused after her performance (splendid and perfect!) to have her picture taken with The Lovely One.

Of course, The Lovely One worked on preparations for six weeks (or more) in advance, even though supposedly it was his kids who were throwing the party. She worked up the invitations lists (and I believe actually sent the invites or at least made sure they were all addressed and ready for boss Johnʼs daughter to take to the post office). Mostly (and most importantly), she did the negotiations for the entertainer (Shirley Jones, once that decision had been made) and the arrangements for the entertainerʼs contract to be fulfilled (sound, stage, lighting and housing for Shirley and her stage director and accompanist). All that required a lot of phone calls and plenty of arranging.

She was (at first) pleased to find out she herself (along with me) had been invited to the party, but pretty quickly figured out her presence was mostly in a working role (mine, too, as it turned out). As the party (with Shirleyʼs performance) was to be held at the Dubuque County Club, with an hour of open bar beforehand and a sit-down dinner climaxed with the performance, there was plenty of technical work to be figured out and accomplished. Janet had to find the guys to do the tech (going as far as Cedar Rapids finally) and arrange with the country club for time (all on the Saturday of the party) for them to get in and build a stage, hang lights, run cables, rig a video presentation (thatʼs how Shirleyʼs show begins, the video working as her introduction) and hang curtains (Shirleyʼs contract called for black curtains behind the stage area). Janet also had to arrange for a piano tuner (and movers, as well, since the country clubʼs grand was not located in the room where the party would be) to tune the piano (Shirley sang to piano only) twice (before and after rehearsal at 2:00 PM the day of the party).

As the event grew closer, she and John arranged that she and I would get to stay on Johnʼs dime overnight at the Julien Inn (also where Ms. Jones, in the hotelʼs only suite, and her entourage were put up) after the party, as it became really, really clear that Saturday, April 30, was going to be a working day for her. And, naturally, it was.

Janet had told me that we had to be up early on Saturday the thirtieth for party preparations (we were in Dubuque and at the Country Club about 9:00). What she (nor I) had not anticipated was that I would get sucked into the work that had to be done. Without too much detail, we both worked on John and Aliceʼs fresh list of which guests were to sit at which tables (a list the power couple had worked up the previous night). Over what should have been a lunch hour, Janet (with me) raced back to the office to type up the list for the Butler children to use in creating place cards and for posting in the bar/lobby for guests to peruse before the doors were opened for dinner at the party. Once that was done, we raced back to the Club to be ready to verify the piano was tuned and be present for Ms. Jonesʼs rehearsal (at which John, Alice and both offspring with spouses — having placed the place cards — were present, too). During rehearsal we figured out that not only would Janet be leaving the dinner to dress Miss Jones (her stage manager couldnʼt because she had to remain with Janetʼs tech guy to run the video, and the “dressing room” was the lady golfersʼ locker room way across the building and downstairs), both of us would have to work the house lights for a part of one song when Shirley came off the stage into the audience to sing directly to John and Alice.

Driver Cal, the greatest of great guys, is third in line, with stage manager/director Trish and Miss Jones to his right and accompanist Ron on his left. Fantastic people, all.

Finally, about 4:20, we headed over to the Julien to check in and change into our but-recently-purchased party duds (a new suit for me and a new blue dress for her) for the evening.

We were back by 6:00 at the Club (having descended to the bar at the hotel for a brief drink and moment of relaxation, finding Shirley there as well, eating a salad that she had connived with the — otherwise unhelpful — staff to make for her). The party went smoothly (although Janet got to eat exactly nothing from her meal, the start of the starʼs dressing coinciding with the arrival of food at our table). Shirley was wonderful (both as a person and as a performer, even nearly eighty herself), and we finally got back to the hotel and sacked out about 1:00 AM.

The only person to work harder than Janet from Friday afternoon through Sunday noon was the company driver, Cal, a great guy, who had on Friday picked up Shirley and then her two staffers from the airport and on Saturday driven various of them various places throughout the day. He (and his wife) attended the party, having delivered all three of the performance trio to the site, and then, after it was all over, drove Ron, the accompanist, all the way to OʼHare for a 5:30 AM flight back to California, drove back to Dubuque, and delivered Shirley and her stage manager, Trish, to the airport about 10:00 AM Sunday (i.e. no sleep at all whatsoever for Cal until about noon on Sunday).

Afterward, Janet determined she had put in better than two extra days of work in preparation for and over the party weekend (not counting my “voluntary” time and effort, either). Time she took on this past Wednesday and tomorrow, Tuesday, while John (and Alice) are vacationing on safari in Africa.

So it goes.

 — Finally! I have wanted to talk about that fine event for weeks and weeks (literally, it turns out).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2 thoughts on “A Memory (not quite appropriate for Memorial Day)

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