Retrotemporal Celebration

Happy Birthday, Betty!

I drove Janet to work this morning, an unusual event (I think in the eleven years sheʼs worked out of town I have driven her to her job only a handful of times,  by which watery metaphor I mean:  “probably a half a dozen or less”). Once or twice my up-and-back auroral trip was caused by vehicle malfunctions, but usually we plan for me to chauffeur so that only one car is there when I drive up at the end of her work day — sometimes so we can head out on a little trip, other times, like today, so we can go together to dinner somewhere.

The supper club atop the bluff in East Dubuque

Today weʼre crossing over into Illinois in order to celebrate Janetʼs momʼs birthday at Timmermanʼs, the kitschiest eatery we have encountered near us. A visit to the supper club is a temporal backstep directly into, say, 1962. Especially their cocktail lounge,* which is where weʼll meet the parents(-in-law) at the big almost circular bar. I used to experience the same bygone-looking, epoch-evoking sensations about the Iris in Mt. Pleasant (sadly defunct nowadays), but in the days I was thinking that, the time dislocation was only a decade or less.** With Timmermanʼs weʼre at the half-century-back mark!

Thereʼs a contemporary term for such an experience as we are anticipating for this evening, but as I have already used/alluded to it in the title of todayʼs post, iʼll pass on the opportunity to take the lazy route toward expressing the Timmermanish ambiance.

Their food is good (not our personal favorite styles, but Bing and Betty like it a lot) if very filling and hugely caloric. And the views from the big windows out over Highway 20 at the watery lagoon off the Mississippi are spectacular, particularly at sunset, the most desirable time for a windowside dinner, even if you get the seat with the sun right in your face.

Getting together with the Nortons for a festive occasion (holiday, birthday, anniversary) has become a minor tradition among that family (well, Janet — and therefore me — and her folks, although sister Diane and Steve were there to complete most of the family right after The Lovely One had her emergency retinal surgery a few years ago). The ʼrents often bring along their closest pals, who are good fun, and the waitresses probably grin behind their hands at the flirtatious old guys (who after much self-amusing banter will be leaving old-fashioned — and to some of us, embarrassing — minuscule tips) having a grand time.

Now if we all were dressed in sharkskin gray suits and flouncy or Jackie Kennedy-slim evening dresses… (In this heat, I intend to go in jeans shorts but with a short-sleeved and collared shirt.)

* A time-trippy term in and of itself!

** However, at the age I was in the earliest Seventies, the dislocation in time was subjectively as large in portion of lifespan.

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

A Hairy Weekend

I am home again late Monday afternoon (hours, however, earlier than this weekend reminisicence will finally appear), having given blood at the local hospital, and Iʼll take time to make one last post for the month of February. This one will link up well with the most recent post because I am still discussing my wifeʼs delightful birthday.

The Lovely One and I were gone over the weekend, celebrating her birthday, but not to Madison, as the news of the pending protests freaked my wife out a little too much. Fortunately, the hotel was most understanding (and probably figured theyʼd have no problem reselling that room even on the shortish notice we gave them). The only problem then was that we had no plan for the weekend…

This rational decision-making came Wednesday evening and Thursday, last week. We released the hotel room on Thursday morning, and Janet contemplated what she wanted to do for the long weekend, as she had already asked for Friday as a vacation day off, during the rest of that afternoon at work (although Iʼm sure she had plenty to do that was work as well). By the time she got home, having skipped her workout that day, she had a plan in mind. We would visit her sister and brother-in-law near Milwaukee, and on Saturday all four of us would go downtown to see the touring production of Hair and eat at a wonderful Mediterranean/Turkish restaurant, Tulip, which the other three had enjoyed already during one of Janetʼs sistersʼ weekends away from me. And thatʼs how it all worked out — a great time for all of us.

Except… I caught a cold, probably infected on Tuesday morning when I had subbed at school. (And ironically or appropriately, I just coughed while dictating the end of that last sentence.) I felt kind of tired and oblivious for most of Thursday, and as the drive across Wisconsin progressed on Friday, I became downright drippy and congested, unable to hide the symptoms. I was sick. By evening, I was only ready to sit on the couch and feel weary and stuffed up. I only marginally enjoyed the interesting gourmet vegetarian pizza they brought home from Papa Murphyʼs (and of which I am about to warm the remnants for part of tonightʼs supper).

I tried to “man up” for Janet and not spoil her weekend, but although I had a good time in the big city on Saturday (and Hair was tremendous, with really energetic and really enthusiastic young actors doing amazing physical stuff while still belting out those tunes beautifully) and really enjoyed both our lunch at the Water Street Brewery and our excellent and elegant dinner at Tulip, I sustained myself on anti-congestive medications and a probably too much blowing of my nose, fortunately not during the show (much).

One highlight at Hair came right at the end, as the cast invited audience members to join them in a big dance on stage and other cast members circulated through the crowd, getting everyone involved in a riotous, fully enjoyable finale. The actor playing Berger (a really masculine hunk that both The Lovely One and sister Diane were slavering over) came down the empty aisle behind our seats and shook his long, long hair at several of us, all standing in the ovation for this powerful conclusion of the show — he didnʼt include me, evidently, as I missed out on what happened next completely and only learned about it from conversation. When he tossed his curls at the wife, Janet turned around and shook her lovely locks right back, and they had a hair-tangling, neck-weaving, high-energy encounter for a few minutes. All in fun.*

I retired early Saturday night, a wise move, all things considered, while the sisters sipped some wine and conversed in the living room until after the ten oʼclock news (weather was an issue, snow having fallen all through the day Saturday, at first lightly, but accumulating at least two-plus inches at my in-lawsʼ home). The next day Janet and I returned to our own home, eventually running almost on fumes as we tried to make it all the way back to Dubuque and across town to Samʼs Club in order to get the cheaper gas (as we left town on Friday morning, we noticed that gas had spiked out of nowhere to roughly $3.30 a gallon, higher in Wisconsin). We made it, and Janet did a little shopping for a birthday gift for someone else, and we headed for home, where we unpacked and then I turned into a lazy vegetable, exhausted from doing nothing. Eventually, with the Oscar broadcast and the final episode of the Masterpiece presentation of Any Human Heart looming,** Janet decided we would have takeout Chinese for supper.

The takeout Chinese needs to become its own post soon, a comparison-of-restaurants review, but for tomorrow, just eight hours from the time I get this thing finally published, I have something else, delayed several days by WordPress.com itself (I tried to create tomorrowʼs post later in the day last Thursday, but the blog site wouldnʼt accept any uploaded pictures***, and as you will see, the scans I had created are essential for that post).

Regardless, The Lovely One had a wonderful birthday. At least thatʼs what she tells me.

* However, someone noticed this morning, Monday, that she had mysteriously developed a stiff neck — the price, I guess of enthusiastic, cross-generational theatrical flirtation.

** We opted for Masterpiece in lieu of the middle ninety minutes of the Oscars, and missed very little really. (And now I have another book to read, too…)

*** Ha! I just tried to upload an interior shot of Tulip, and the same thing happened: no image appeared after the upload. Whatʼs the story with that, WordPress.com?

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

Visitation

I wrote on that porch on Sunday

Our friends did come as I had predicted for the Labor Day weekend, and we all had a good time (well, I shouldnʼt speak for anyone else, but I had fun). Kevin had to work all day on Saturday, so they didnʼt even leave Mt. Pleasant until after 5:00 p.m., but they arrived in time for a (for us) not late supper and remained until almost noon on Monday.

Janet had discovered  a new recipe for beef burgundy (as the recipe called the pot roast, to be slow cooked in the crockpot) for the initial dinner together. We bought a chuck roast at Fareway on Saturday morning and searched out the pearl onions called for (the portobellos were much easier to find). We both thought one could just get pearl onions frozen in the frozen vegetables case, but such proved a false impression these days in good old Maquoketa. After failed searches at Fareway and Wal-Martʼs freezers, we tried the Walʼs fresh veggies, and there we found  bags of pearl onion to be boiled (preparatory to removing the “skin” layers) and placed in the crock pot. (I had also thought I remembered cans of pearl onions, but canned vegetables provided no help, either.)

She had me make my infamous super-duper mashed potatoes (thatʼs a post for later on, I promise) as the side, and we baked a loaf of Panera french bread. Conversation, as always when Kevin and I get together, extended well past midnight over a variety of microbrews he had brought (and some Guinness as well), even though I was feeling unusually exhausted Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, we got going early enough to drive to LeClaire, a lovely river town north of the Quad Cities directly across from one of my childhood hometowns — Port Byron, with whom the LeClairites hold a tug-of-war across the (at that point) relatively narrow Mississippi. Janet and I  go there several times a year to dine at The Faithful Pilot (highly recommended, although pricey, but it is truly a fine dining experience), and the town is also where the Antique Archeology business is located, which History Channel fans know from American Pickers. There are plenty of other antique and gift stores there, too, as well as other restaurants.

Mike Wolfe, the LeClaire, Iowa, native (sort of) from American Pickers

Our whole intention had been to take Dawn and Kevin to see the Pickers, but the store is closed on Sundays, even over the holiday weekend, so we had resigned ourselves to just ordinary antique-and-gift shopping (which the women more than successfully accomplished, permitting Kevin and me to linger in the bar of the place where we ate lunch, enjoying Fat Tires and Killians from a clearly underage but pretty, young barmaid, while they toured some nearby stores, returning bedecked with bags). Surprisingly, while everyone but me was inside the second store we visited, just up the street from where we parked (and LeClaire has done a wonderful job of making their main street open, attractive and friendly, with lots of parking available), and I was loitering in front, not yet pulling out either a book to read or my little red notebook to write, I looked up and there on the sidewalk, heading toward me was Mike! (Unfans can check the photo to see who I mean.) He walked by with a smile and and a greeting and entered the first place we had all gone into. I excitedly told everyone who I had seen and where he had gone when they came out.

Bold Janet, who has cornered celebrities before (and still wonʼt forgive any of the rest of us for preventing her from annoying Davy Jones of the Monkees when we saw him in a bar in Burlington, where he sat, surrounded by big bodyguards, to eat, years ago), charged right back into the store to speak to him (and buy something she had originally passed up), while we three timid ones lingered on the street. She returned successful on both counts. (Actually, Mike was apparently doing the celebrity thing for LeClaire that day, because we kept encountering him going to various establishments all day.) Another lady, smoking heavily unfortunately, stopped me and Kevin later, up the street, to ask about Antique Archaeology, American Pickers and Mike. She didnʼt seem all that excited when I told her he was in a store just down the way, but later we saw her and a friend chasing him for a conversation — the mixed rewards of fame.

We all counted it a successful day (including me, who got quite a few small pages written on my second Tourist story, this one set in San Francisco and nearing its violent climax), and more good conversation filled out the remainder of the day, though late dinner and after, and the next morning. It was a good visit, even if Kevin did forget his shoes (having switched to sandals on Monday), which Janet discovered within fifteen minutes of their departure but forcing those two visitors to return briefly for the footwear.

Now our next big adventure someday will be vacation, provided Janet and I can eventually get ready and get out of Iowa.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Excellent Weekend

Janet and I were gone over the weekend, visiting her sister and brother-in-law near Milwaukee. We had a very good time, quiet and low-key but lots of fun.

Janet took a half-day off on Friday so we could have some fun together (and so she and her sister could get together that much sooner). As her friends and acquaintances in Maquoketa who work at her company have fallen off to nil over the years, she had to have me drive her to work. I then drove back to Maquoketa, washed the truck — I had a car wash expiring before the weekend was out — and do a few chores around the house, including a quick but abortive check of the e-mail and blog site — our ISP has gotten no better than it ever was, if anything worse, going out ten times a week ago Saturday and at least thrice each day always — before loading up the car and heading back up to buy gas at Samʼs Club, cheaper by nearly a dime than everywhere else around, and pick her up. We bought sub sandwiches at Hy-Vee, along with a tube of lowfat Pringles and some water, to consume as she drove us into Wisconsin. Although the traffic was heavy around Madison and on 94 (irritatingly so with slowpokes hogging the left lane and backing up huge trains of speedier cars, including Janet, behind them), we made our way to the little suburban community north of the big city where Steve and Diane have lived for many years now (and seen their once brand-new neighborhood turn into a huge subdivision from what was once cornfields).

Arriving about three, we let ourselves in barely minutes before first nephew Ryan and then Diane arrived home from their respective work sites. It didnʼt take long for the wine and beer to begin to slake our thirsts, as the conversation flowed. And kept flowing with lots of laughter until supper time (once Steve had arrived from his job and food was made). We enjoyed their take on Indian food, preceded by guacamole and salsa, and the meal was totally delicious (I ate seconds). Whatever brand of frozen naan they buy was so good that I wanted fifths on my servings of that.

Steve likes to play a kind of “game” with the girls when they get together up there. Former disc jokey that he is, he uses the computer as his mix box to play a wide and varying selection of oldies, which they try to guess about from a few notes (or, as he did on Friday night with us, give us some lyrics to see if we can determine the song) or name the group that sang, or provide some piece of trivia about the song or group. Sometimes he just plays the tunes they like/know so the two sisters can simply sing along, which they love to do (and are actually good at, unlike me and my siblings). I sat in on Friday evening, but Saturday night I retired early, reading for about an hour and then going to sleep (I like to get in lots of sleep on the weekends to compensate for my early arising to run — which I have done for days just without the run part as the heat and/or rain have kept me inside).

Saturday we loafed around the place during the morning, before heading off toward Milwaukee for lunch at a newly found restaurant, highly recommended — Café Manna in Brookfield. Itʼs wholeheartedly and certifiably “green” and vegetarian, and I had some of the best-tasting food I have eaten in years there. Steve had located it, looking for something interesting as a middle-eastern place in Milwaukee, Tulip, where the other three had eaten on a previous trip without me, was not open for lunch on Saturdays. Itʼs worth a visit to the mall where Café Manna is located — one of those newfangled suburban malls that seems to combine about a dozen different yellowish (pseudo-adobe) or brick high-end strip-mall buildings around a green space (or at least a tangle of not-parking-lot and trees). Definitely click the link (here it is again) and check out their menu.

Café Manna patio shot (we ate inside, just beyond the rightmost guyʼs rear end)

I had the Savory Sandwich, which was fantastically delicious and huge with dark and complex tastes, and I also got to finish Janetʼs Vegetable Torte (and I wonder why I am fat these days), which was also wonderful — lightly airy and filled with many flavors. Dianeʼs falafel was baked (so she missed the crunch of frying the falafels), but she and Steve both liked it a lot (and she had one whole half to take home). I almost ordered the Café Manna burger, as Steve did, but I went through a phase back in the Nineties when I nearly turned vegetarian, trying to lose weight and pill-lessly lower my cholesterol (I did succeed in dropping about forty pounds for maybe five years; I have them back and more now), and ate meatless “burgers” almost as often I went for the most minimalist salads. He liked his so well that I almost wish I had given the “burger” a try. Anyway, major approval for that place.

Afterward, we visited the farmerʼs market in West Allis and the Indian food store that Steve and Diane favor (a fun and funkily Indian place, where they never have been sure just how welcome their Western selves actually are, as I am sure the place was opened to cater to Indian immigrants). I bought some boxed foods because Janet and I like Indian food, but in restaurants we are never sure just what we are eating — usually having chosen the “dinner for two” or the “combination platter.” Now we can learn what, for instance, paneer actually is. Maybe (I doubt it).

Sunday we were going to get up a little early to go to a huge flea market on a county fairgrounds somewhere down near Lake Geneva, but when my watch alarm went off at 7:30, the thunder was rumbling and rain a-falling, so we all slept for a few more hours. Once we got up, over coffee, they all discussed possible plans while I loaded our luggage and whatnot back into the car. With the flea market a definite washout, Steve suggested taking us to Cambridge, Wisconsin, for their antiques and pottery stores and a nice restaurant they liked. The restaurant had failed (like far too many places Janet and I have loved to eat), but the pub across the street provided. Separating about three, Janet got us home not long after five to have time to prepare for the week ahead (which was not supposed to be so darned hot and hideously humid!) before we sat down to watch two episodes of I, Claudius.

Café Manna, 3815 N. Brookfirld Road, Brookfield, WI 53205

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Anniversary Fun

Aha! Iʼll bet this late in the day (past 2:30 home time for me) that folks were suspecting there might be no post today. I am sorry to disappoint.

Janet and I had a lovely anniversary (thanks for the well-wishing, particularly on Facebook, but most particularly an anonymous sung message on our home phone — thanks Dawn and Kevin: see you soon). We let her shop at the mall (me, too: Barnes and Noble had some great discount books — I bought four, including the first two volumes of Bruce Cattonʼs Civil War trilogy — as well as Wilbur Smithʼs newest book, Assegai, for which the old man is back in the groove, at least based on the first forty-some pages, so unlike its predecessor, The Quest). I did have to field one phone call from my crew while at the mall, but…

In the early evening we drove to LeClaire for a lovely, wonderfully tasty, sensuous dinner at The Faithful Pilot, where we spent too much, of course, but also less than we would have if we had followed our other choices — The Red Crow Grille in Bettendorf or Perry Street Brasserie in Galena.

We shared a hugely mounded flatbread appetizer — incredible. And she had the eveningʼs feature, duck, while I went for a beef tenderloin. The chef has an amazing way with strong and complex flavors, and Saturday nightʼs repast was a rare treat (if we had only won the PowerBall, perhaps less rare — except for the beef, of course). The wine was a not-quite reasonably priced Malbec (unfortunately, everyone seems to be figuring out the joys of malbecs, so their prices arenʼt the incredible bargains they used to be) that went perfectly with my meat and also with Janetʼs duck. We got home in good time and sat in the dark drinking cheap champagne and talking until after midnight.

To kill time before our dinner reservation, for which we were early anyway, we walked along the riverfront, gazing across the water at my one-time hometown, Port Byron, through which we have traveled several times, including one memorable stop of their local dining spot, Gʼs, a few years ago. We also looked at the Twilight steamboat, on which I would really like to take a journey to Dubuque and back (making me realize I havenʼt discussed my Twain-born yen for Mississippi steamboats on this venue yet  — topics, always seeking topics, you know). And I finally got to see the exterior of the (closed) Buffalo Bill Museum (he was born in LeClaire, folks).

On Sunday Janet got her wish, and we drove to Dubuque for the Dubuque Renaissance Faire. It was small, and the talent performing needed some seasoning (and better direction/writing) almost all the way around. But we enjoyed it all. There were interesting crafts (including a pewter shop where the artisan was melting and fashioning pewter stuff for our enjoyment), and the knights at tournament actually jousted (unsafely hazardous and so avoided at more respectable venues, like Minnesota). Where usually the horsemen/women are thorough jocks barely able to mumble a line or two before riding at the rings, these guys were some of the best entertainers of the day.

I got picked on repeatedly as the audience schmuck dragged into the act, once by the Three Musketeers (who, yes, know theyʼre totally out of period; in fact they began their concluding ritual plea for cash in the hat by noting “Weʼre Baroque” — get it?) to be one of three stooges in a bid to romance a fair damsel. My musketeerʼs gimmick was not to get my name right ever (Edward, Ian, Richard…) and then make me dance wildly. Fortunately, Janet has no video capture on her cheap TracPhone (identical to my own)! Later the combative pirate storytellers made me stand for a bit but not actually come onstage (well, to be honest, on the dirt down in front of the concrete-block-supported benches for the crowd). Although the current heatwave was setting in on Sunday (Dubuqueʼs high was 88˚ with a noticeable touch of humidity), we had a pleasant several hours in the thoroughly-not-the-Renaissance. And then ate Mexican for late lunch/dinner at Los Aztecas (new westside location), which has been highly and correctly recommended to us for decades.

Obviously, as there was no post waiting electronically to appear at 5:00 a.m. this morning, I was never even online most of the weekend (or at all yesterday).

And today, the heat is hideous, the humidity oppressive. Janet had noted driving northward on Sunday how summerlike everything had suddenly burst into seeming. The gods of weather must have heard her.

Of course, today is was back to work for us both (at least she gets climate control at her office complex, and my “office” for crew meetings was comfortably less warm than outdoors). On the other hand, weʼre both looking eagerly ahead to the three-day Memorial Day weekend so near at hand…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Working for a Living

Posts might be getting thin for a while. I just got a job.

The Census called last Thursday evening, and the gentleman in charge offered me a position. I am training this week. Itʼs also a more authoritative position than I had anticipated, so I will truly be working, leaving me little time for posts, I fear. This one at least is going to be brief.

I have been training since Monday and earning some cash while doing so — not a bad deal overall. I even get mileage for the forty-mile trek to the training center. As a government employee naturally I must keep secret all the top secret details of my new temporary career or else I would tell you about every exciting minute so far. Fortunately, my loyalty to the United States isnʼt really forbidding me from revealing anything (figure it out…), so you are not missing much.

…or… some random stuff for a Wednesday

Actually, I am writing this post on Saturday (last Saturday, not this coming one) in anticipation of a busy week, so I really canʼt give you any details yet.

Other things I can report on. Dawn and Kevin did come for the weekend (well, for a brief part of the weekend). At least I hope they did: theyʼre supposed to be here within the hour, but they havenʼt arrived yet nor let us know theyʼre on their way. But that pattern is not uncommon for their visits. We should be getting a cell call soon indicating that they are north of Davenport and getting close. Janet is planning Indian food for dinner tonight, and I keep interrupting myself typing (not dictating just now) this post to cut veggies and do stuff for her/with her.

Dawn and Kevin will be leaving early tomorrow (Sunday—sorry about that: Iʼm feeling stuck in my actual present just now), so Janet intends that weʼll search out the site for my training as an activity on Sunday (that way I wonʼt be having to think/find it Monday morning). That should be fun for us, I hope. Maybe we can take the opportunity to enjoy a nice Sunday late lunch or dinner somewhere interesting.

The Decker House, eastern (front) view — click for a link to the intertesting take on my home town in someoneʼs blog

We did enjoy a pleasant lunch at the Decker House (a fairly frequent Saturday noontime event for us) and learned all about our waitressʼs life as a college student working three part-time jobs. She made my use of time sound downright pathetic (and I know—you all thought it was pretty pathetic all along). The Decker is pretty nice, essentially a bed-and-breakfast operation now (if you click the link/the picture, you can see one of the rooms on the photographerʼs blog; amusingly he is currently living in Prague apparently). The Deckerʼs evening menu is quite miderwesternly boring, but we like sitting in the sunshine for lunch—me having the soup and salad with a couple or three Fat Tires. Most of our friends and family have gone there for dinner with us, sometimes more than once.

Unfortunately, except for Flapjackʼs (a family place with big food) and Obyʼs (a longtime bar famous for their nontraditional but really good “Mexican” food—get the burrito), the only choices after the Decker for eating out in Maquoketa are a newish Mexican place (pretty good) downtown, pizza and bars (nasty, divy bars, too, if you know what I mean). To eat, we choose the Decker or go out of town. Which is why I try to cook so much for us at home (although the new job is going to be making that harder to pull off; even making lunch is going to become more of a squeeze-it-in-as-possible chore).

Of course, working for the Census means I have had to cancel some of the sub jobs I had accepted at Andrew—in particular the one this past Monday, when I had hoped to take my photo of the famous third graders. Now I guess I have let them down (letʼs hope instead that their notorious short attention spans have left them with no recollection that I promised to take their picture, perhaps even with no recollection of that one sub they had not too long ago). Truthfully, I had three days slated for this week, and they all had to go for the Census training (and Iʼll be training my own people toward the end of the month; that should be an interesting experience: I never have taught adults yet in my life, outside of directing community theatre plays and doing some how-to-use-a-computer and how-to-get-online workshops back in the Nineties). I hope Andrew will still be interested in hiring me as a sub in the fall…

Janet just had me search for the naan sheʼd bought while visiting her sister in Milwaukee a couple of weekends back (the reason for this interest in Indian cuisine), so this entry keeps getting more disjointed. Maybe I should say that getting toward a thousand words is okay and quit for now. I am, after all, now five days ahead of real life, and maybe work will leave me with a few spare minutes for the blog and actual writing. Weʼll just have to see.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Honoring Paul

I got up at 3:30 AM on Friday morning last week. Seriously, no exaggeration, no lying.

It worked out fine, and I didn’t even feel bad, surprisingly. The reason? My brother Paul was slated to receive the Charles. Martin Award for Association Leadership — the highest award of the Iowa State Education Association.

It is an honor he richly deserves. Like me he has been a member of the Association throughout his entire teaching career, but unlike me he rapidly moved into leadership positions, including long-time presidency of his local Association, chief negotiator for about thirty years as well as serving as head of grievance and negotiations for the same amount of time. He’s also been prominent and important at the state level — representative to the Delegate Assembly for nearly twenty years, many roles for the Unit Nine Board, and the ISEA Executive Board. The presentation of the award especially acknowledged his mentoring role for younger teachers in Oskaloosa and around the state, which is, as they said, “perhaps, his greatest legacy.”

The ISEA Delegate Assembly was last Thursday and Friday, and I wanted to be president to see him receive the award, as did my sister Margaret, Paul’s superintendent and many, many friends. My brother David would have been there, too, except he used his personal time to attend the recent state math conference.

Anyway, I set the alarm or 3:30, and when it let off I actually got up easily, having fallen asleep deliberately at 9:00 PM on Thursday evening. Showering, shaving, dressing, packing some beverages for the trip, and wolfing down a half a grapefruit and some milk in the dark consumed not quite an hour. Janet had recommended I buy a convenience-store cappuccino for the drive and warm it up in the microwave just before I left, it’s was a good idea except I let it cook too long and wasted some time cleaning up boiled-over cappuccino before hopping in the truck and heading out into the dark, just about an hour earlier than I might have headed out for a morning run.

Why is this ISU picture of Hilton Coliseum mostly sky?

I drove east out of Maquoketa to Anamosa, picking up 151 to Cedar Rapids, and then it was all Highway 30 across the state to Ames. Dawn light started to appear in the rearview mirror somewhere between Cedar Rapids and Tama. Predictably there were not many cars on the road at that unusual hour, but there were more than I expected, and the route around the Cedar Rapids was plentifully hectic, thinning, as one might expect, as I drove west beyond the city. Although Google Maps had predicted a three hour and forty minute drive and even directed me within a news into a neighborhood east of where I wanted to go, the middle of nowhere, basically, and I had to seek out the Hilton Coliseum using my own wits, just like it was the 20th century, I had parked the truck right near the south entrance by 7:40.

If you ever want to plant a bomb or otherwise terrorize a large gathering in a public place like that, my recommendation (not serious, of course) is to arrive early, dressed like everyone else and ask to go to the bathroom. In truth, I think the guards like me had no reason to suspect that anyone, not even the state Association of school boards, would have any desire to bomb the ISEA Delegate Assembly. I killed a little time writing on my Sepharad story and then hiked around the oval outside the basketball court about three times before spotting my relatives — Margaret and sister-in-law Nancy — waiting for me to arrive. Paul’s honor occurred about fifteen minutes later than predicted, but that’s large meetings for you. He gave a splendid speech, far better than I would have done, lasting about 12 minutes, filled with nostalgic memories, wit, personal acknowledgments, genuine insight and truth. Afterward we hung about until the end of the morning session, not really attending to matters of the redistribution of Uniserve regions or the recommendation to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq in order to provide more money for education, and chatted as Paul received well-wishers and old friends at the rear of the assembly.

Eat here only if you enjoy this kind of joint

For lunch the family and some of his friends drove over to Hickory Park, a restaurant with which the rest seem to be familiar but which I fear will probably not receive my business again, just not my kind of place — too loud, too folksy and with far too hard benches for seating at the tables. Our waitress young was excellent, and I really enjoyed my spinach salad (except for the excessive amount of bacon bits). I took a note to tell Janet that if you crossed a Cracker Barrel with Thunder Bay Grille (on the north end of Davenport and part of a small chain owned by a rich Republican businessman) with a hint of TGI Friday’s (something about looking down the hall by a long row of booths), and hung a powerful stench of smoked meat in the air, you’d have something like Hickory Park. Intriguingly for such a place, their portions — except for the salads, of which Paul and I were the only partakers — were curiously small.

Anyway we all chatted amiably, and I was heading home, having switched from a dress shirt and jacket into a hoodie Guinness sweatshirt, about 2:00 PM. I preferred to drive out in the dark to drive home, although it was a beautiful cloudless afternoon, and I really had good luck not getting behind semis or pokey drivers, usually. I had planned to stop at the Mesquakie reservation for gas (and desperately needed to urinate at that point and therefore did stop), where the price was listed about three cents less than elsewhere in the state, but apparently every other driver on Highway 30 had the same plan — there were at least twenty cars waiting to go through the pumps.

So that was my Friday. I’d intended to make this honor Paul (who is retiring this June, as I and his wife did a year ago — but he is becoming a Methodist minister as a second career, one he has been accomplishing already for at least a decade, even founding two Hispanic parishes in Oskaloosa and in Ottumwa), but the post degenerated more into a tedious trip summary. Oh well. Let’s see what you get for tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.