Monday, March 29, 2004


On Saturday morning, Mary and I took our oldest cat to the vet in Ripon for her thirteen-year check-up. "Boops" is doing fine and is not overweight, as Mary had feared.

Afterwards, we stopped to pick up a few groceries. "How 'bout we do a nice steak for supper?" I asked Mary as we went past the meat counter.

"See if you can find something that looks good," Mary said.

None of the steaks looked as good as I would have liked. Mary said "Let's stop at Brandon Meats on the way home then and get some of their sirloin burger instead." Brandon Meats has the best meat in the county, so that was a good choice. Mary has a hamburger about once a year and she thought tonight would be the night.

In the big meat counter at Brandon Meats, the sirloin burger was wrapped four patties to a package. We figured we'd cook all four of them, eat two at supper, and I would have the other two for lunch later in the week.

Yet when we got home, Mary suggested "we invite my mother to have supper with us this evening." Mary's mother lives up the street from us. When her parents retired from teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they moved to Fairwater so they could be close for just such Saturday suppers. Mary's father died thirteen years ago, a few months after "Boops" came into our lives. Mary's mother has continued to enjoy the occasional supper out with us ever since.

Mary and I went out for our walk on as fine a day as we've had for awhile. As we strode up Washington Street headed for the backroad out into the countryside, we saw our old friend and new neighbor, Craig, out in his yard, raking leaves; and we stopped to talk with him. "We're putting burgers on at 5:00 p.m.," I told Craig. "One of them is for you." Craig thought as how he could have supper with us.

Once we'd returned from our walk, Mary put together a pan of her "South Coast Hominy" - hominy, ripe olives, onions and green peppers she had left over, and a salsa-with-cheese sauce. As meal-time approached, we made a salad; actually Mary made the salad, all I did was cut up a couple Asian pears to go on top of it. Mary made a blue cheese sauce to put on the hamburgers. We opened the jar of corn relish a friend had given us - the best corn relish in the world, as far as I'm concerned; whatever else happens in life, whatever it takes, we will remain friends with that woman - I intend to stay on the list of those who get a jar of her corn relish each year.

Just at 5:00 p.m. I started frying sirloin burgers as Mary went off to pick up mother up and bring her for supper. Craig showed up. We had time for a little conversation in the kitchen as the burgers sizzled towards perfection, time for a little conversation and the start of a beverage of choice - a glass of beer, a martini.

It was a simple meal set on the table. The point of it was not the food, but the moments of companionship and conversation. Breaking bread together is communion, community, the conviviality of friendship. Sharing stories, you would get behind in your eating. Eating, you got behind in your conversation.

Dessert? Dessert was a couple kinds of Girl Scout cookies, what else for such a serendipitous get-together, for this moment of pause in the rush of life, for this place of refuge in a world gone increasingly insane.

Hamburgers and hominy. Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and such fine dinner companions. Oh, what a meal.


MARCH 19, 2004

I stopped for lunch at Pizza Hut in Alexandria today and had the buffet. The day had turned so lovely that when I left I walked off without my coat. I had to walk back in and get it. It seems as if spring does intend to come to the middle west this year.

I stopped downtown at Vikingland Book Trader and talked with Daniel Robards, the owner, about doing an interview with me. We're set up for Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. He will ask the former owner of the store, Chuck Crane, to come for an interview, too. We'll talk a bit about running a bookstore in a small community. This Book Trader may be the only bookstore in any of my twelve focus communities.

Then I went out to Paul and Carolyn Peterson's house on Lake Carlos. They will be putting me up until I leave on Wednesday. Paul and Carolyn had warned me that they have been packing up to move. They are headed to New Jersey to live near family there, as Paul is becoming increasingly unsteady on his feet. The garage is piled with items for the auction they'll hold in about a week; the house is packed with boxes marked for "Van Store Xmas," "Van Store Mementoes," "M BR Van," and "Sale," and such.

"It looks like a mess," Carolyn apologized. "But it is organized. Really, we're in pretty good shape for getting things packed up."

How sad I am that they are leaving Alexandria. "I'm sad, too," Carolyn said, "but it's for the best. We need to do it."


MARCH 26, 1998

There is warm sun on my face as I walk out to the pick-up. There is a bug looking at me through the windshield, a mosquito, a very large mosquito. Spring is sprung fully from the blue sky above. The snowbanks at the end of our driveway are gone.

A day this beautiful, people will have to speak kindly to one another all day long.

The Grand River runs high and fast like a brush-back pitch that lets you know who owns the plate. A dead rabbit this morning, a dead possum. The blue sky has not been kind to them.

To the northeast, beyond Carter Road, a flock of geese is moving. There is a bank of clouds to the north. Here and there, water stands in ditch and field. A hint of green in the fields, like a vague, restless desire.

Ride the morning like a fast horse. Let it take all of you, today, like whiskey would.

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