Tuesday night the 22nd was our annual Burrahobbits picnic at "Martini Point," the beautiful back yard and deck belonging to Burrahobbit Fr. Peter Schuessler. We managed a nice picnic before being driven indoors by the unseasonably cool temperatures. Highlights of the dining included the obligatory Martinis provided by chief mixologist Dave Hoose, and grilled chicken breasts and bratwurst by Peter. Georgie provided a fresh blueberry pie, and I contributed some of my 'famous' devilled eggs. Other members had their signature salads or other goodies, so it was an appropriately hobbitish feast.
The book for discussion was 'A Canticle for Leibowitz,' by Walter Miller. Genreral consensus was that this classic post-apocalypse novel stood up to the passage of time fairly well, and that its more disturbing aspects still had the power to evoke some interesting sidelights on our own times--particularly now.
July 24th marked the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Harold Earl Rihn and Alice Jeannette Lambert, my parents. We marked the occasion by holding an open house on the afternoon of Saturday the 26th. We children did most all the planning and setup, especially my bother Mike and his S.O., Karen, who flew in from California on the 24th and took the intervening time to get the house in shape. Georgie made a cake replicating Mom and Dad's original wedding cake from pictures, I brought more devilled eggs and we bought a spiral-sliced ham as well. Mike and Karen shipped in custom-labled champagne from California, and Harold and Connie, Terri and Ken, and David and Val brought the rest of the makings of a good buffet.
Gradually, the house filled up with relatives and friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. It was about as much as Mom and Dad were up to, and wound down when Mom went back to bed.
This fit the definition of a bittersweet occasasion for me. Sweet, because last Christmas, we weren't sure we would see this day. Sweet, because we got to praise Mom and dad for their accomplishements: 50 years of faithful marriage and five children--all alive, all employed, all married or in long-term relationships; none dead, divorced, imprisoned, or insane; which is not a bad accomplishment by today's standards.
Bitter, because I had envisaged this day years ago as a greater festival, with Mom and Dad able to dance and perhaps be taking a trip. Instead, Mom's stuck in a wheelchair and Dad's so bent over he looks like a walking question mark when he shuffles around. The motorhome they loved collects dust in its garage. 69 isn't that old, dammit! There were friends and family there, their own age or older, who were in much better shape, hale and hearty. One man we thought had one foot in the grave ten years ago--he still has bloated fingers indicative of his long battle with heart disease, but he still appears to be doing better than they are.
I don't wish to be envious of others' better fortune, but it does reinforce my determination to do things NOW, while I can. The future is too uncertain and far away.
Sue Blom's Salon convened on Friday the first after a month off. The topic under discussion was "Can Democracy be Imposed from Without?" We had a good debate on this subject. The reflexive answer "not for long," was refuted by the historical example of Germany and Japan. After World War II, we managed to incubate stable democracies in former enemy nations that had not had a long history of democratic institutions. We queried why those efforts worked, but Iraq doesn't seem like a likely prospect. We speculated that the utter defeat of the Axis nations had demonstrated the superiority of the democratic system convincingly. We considered it possible that the fact that Germany and Japan were both industrialized modern nations before the war may have made them ripe for democritization. We considered it possible that the tribal nature of society in both Iraq and Afghanistan made it less likely that Western styles of governance would take root. Of course, we meandered through a lot of digressions, including whether or not our own society can truly be said to be democratic, and how long it can endure.
Saturday afternoon, we took a long planned trip a short ways up to North Avenue between about 55th and 65th streets. We had noticed a slow proliferation of small interesting shops in this formerly run-down neighborhood, and had decided to check them out. In a nice afternoon of walking and looking, we found a nice witch's hat for Georgie at Bartz Displays, and worked our way through an interesting hobby shop, lamp shop, antique store, shop featuring India textiles and pillows, tropical fish store, and an African clothing store with some really spectacular outfits. Fun!
Wisconsin's State Fair is a great state fair, and we got an early start on a nice sunday morning--so much so that we were inthe grounds by 8:45 and had to mark time before the Exhibit Hall opened at nine. This is aour usual strategy. The huckster hall gets mighty crowded later in day, so we like to get in early while you can still walk at a reasonable pace and see things. The new hall combines the functions of both the old North and South Halls, plus the Family Living and Youth Center buildings. It is much brighter, cleaner, and airier than the old buildings, but on the other hand has the acoustics of, well, a barn. It was kind of odd to see dealers from the old buildings plus some of the International Bazaar sellers all mixed up and resorted. We got a clear look at everything, and actually had a chance to chat with some of the dealers.
Then off to the othr end of the grounds to check out the animals. We got to see the end of some of the draft-horse judging, the Youth Cart division, and it was fun to see a huge Clydesdale being driven by what appeared to be a ten-year old girl (accompanied by an adult). Then the dairy barns--the milking parlor isn't what it used to be--nowadays, they just hook the cow up to the milking machine and it stands there, which isn't very interesting. The new Horse barn is truly fabulous! Again, bright, clean and airy. It actually has two stories, and the second floor has the biggest ceiling fans I've ever seen--no kidding big enough to provide lift for a small helicopter. We also have to look at the rabbits and poultry, and the unexpected treat there was some newly-hatched Chinese quail, which are about the size you expect songbird nestlings to be. We hit the Wisconsin Products building for snacks, cranberry juice and cookies, and cherry and raspberry ice cream sundaes. We were just getting done seeing the Big Pig and the year's Little Pigs when we noticed nearby lightning, and took shelter in the Exhibit Hall again. We hung out there for about an hour while it poured. When we got hungry again we scrounged around and found the Milwaukee Bucks had plastic rain ponchos left for sale and bought two. Thus armored, we made our way though the thinning rain to Rupena's where we had a couple of delicious rib-eye sandwiches for dinner. By that time the rain was about over, and so was our energy, so we made our way home, stopping to pick up an obligatory box of Helmut's strudel on the way out of the grounds. We'll probably stop back again Friday night so that we can see the Belgian horses and get the world's most delicious hamburgers from the Beef Producers' booth.
After the frustrating computer crash earlier this year, and the fact that every new peripheral requires a USB port, I decided to take up Tim Haas' offer to upgrade our machine. On Tuesday night we went from a 133Mz Pentium with 64MB of main memory to a 733Mz Pentium 3 with 256MB memory, wahich also upgraded video and sound, as well as having USB. Works well so far. It's rather mind-boggling to think that this equipment is obsolete (merely so, as opposed to truly ancient)stuff Tim had just sitting around--.