Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Somewhere in Middle America

This past weekend I was in three states in three days. I ate faux-Mexican food from two fast-food Mexican franchises. I left my shampoo in Omaha and two days' worth of facial hair in Marshalltown. I had no Internet access and no time to dilly dally.

I now consider it axiomatic that when you are visiting family and friends, you simply must not schedule yourself too tightly. I had to cut short my time with my friends the Heuertzes, who opened their home to me and covered my tab, and with my family the Marshalltown Gradys, who let me sleep on their futon and clutter up their already tightly packed weekend. I had to cancel lunch with my friend Web and, rather than enjoy a lunch with my parents, snatched a lunch out of their hands and ran back to my car. I was left in each instance wishing I had more time to catch up and wondering when I'll be able to shake loose enough time to visit again.

Still and all, it was an awesome weekend. I drove to Omaha to crash the book release party for Simple Spirituality, a book that you simply must read, and read slowly and deliberately. I had been the editor for the author, Chris Heuertz, and began to fancy myself his friend from early in the process. This was my second visit to his community, Word Made Flesh, and for more than a year I had been pining to get back and see all my new friends. Most of them were on hand for the party, along with some new friends: the artist who sculpted a prominent piece of public art based on the meditations that make up the book; the artist who in the intervening months had married my new friend from the advocacy team; the businessman who visits Chicago regularly to train franchisees in elder care. The next morning we talked next books, for Chris, for his wife Phileena, and for Word Made Flesh more broadly. I left an hour and a half behind schedule, wishing I could stay an extra day.

From there I drove like the wind to Marshalltown, Iowa, where my aunt Jeannine had set up a discussion for my book Deliver Us from Me-Ville. I got there just in time for Saturday mass, which means I woke my uncle from his nap for no good reason. At mass my cousin Molly and I were stupefied by how consistently we would flip randomly to the same page in the hymnal, and she sang "He Is the Lord; He Drives a Ford" under her breath to impress me, to my aunt's great chagrin. My cousin Kevin showed me an episode of Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog" while Uncle Pete grilled and cousins Colleen and Theresa got cleaned up from detassling corn and got dressed for their performance of Oliver. Pete is in the play as well, but he had to play host first.

That night Molly went back to school, Kevin chilled at home, Pete, Colleen and Theresa performed at the playhouse, and Jeannine and I went to a book discussion group, which was held in a Victorian house being meticulously restored by a single mother of four. Impressive. I spent the evening trying to keep up intellectually with a room full of omnicompetent women, a very accommodating young man and, at least for a while, the parish priest. I had worried that I wouldn't be able to keep the group's attention, but we had a spirited discussion that lasted several hours. The actors beat us home, actually--which was nice, because it allowed us some time to catch up.

The next morning Pete and the other kids went to mass while Jeannine and I talked about the evening. Then breakfast, then out the door an hour later than I had intended, wishing I had more time to at least see the play and my other aunt and uncle who were driving down later that morning. But I had a gig Sunday night that wouldn't wait.

I had intended to have lunch with my parents on the way home, but a giant freight train couldn't decide whether it wanted to go east or west, so I sat at an intersection for half an hour while it made up its mind. So I phoned ahead, and my parents had a sandwich and cookies waiting for me, because they are wonderful people. I made it home just barely in time for our church's Vacation Bible School, where I jumped around and made a fool of myself, and then frantically cleaned the house before my wife got home at 12:30am from her ten-day-trip to Guatemala.

So, how was your weekend?

2 comments:

Daphne said...

it was so great to see you here david! thanks for making the road trip for the par-tay.

caleb really enjoyed meeting and talking with you and said so quite fondly as i hobbled toward the car. i shouldn't have worn heels.

i agree that you should have stayed longer. i know we always talk 'next time' but i hope there really is a next time soon!

Anonymous said...

You left WHAT? WHERE?

Just kidding. We had such a good time with you, and all my friends are impressed with my really bright and insightful nephew. And they're going to really like it that you called them omnicompetent! (I know MY self-esteem is seeming extra shiny today!)

Thanks for sharing your time, your wisdom and your faith with us. I'm with Daphne--next time, let's make it a longer time, and sooner.

Jeannine