Saturday, September 28, 2013

Things are (mostly) peachy

Thanks to everyone who has complained about the long break in between entries Andy's comment on my last post, I thought it was time to report on life back in the states. After I last left you, I went deep into Dublin searching for Shane McGowan with our new friend (also named Andrew) based on inside tips from the woman at our hotel's front desk. I won't go into too much month-old detail here, so it will suffice to say that we did not in the end technically run into Shane McGowan; he was not, in fact, at the sometimes-cringe-worthy-sometimes-admittedly-fun-hackneyed-Irish-music-plus-Riverdance-dinner-theater-for-70-something-tour-groups show we ended up attending as part of J's conference -- or at the National Gallery in front of the famous Caravaggio painting, "The Taking of Christ," discovered in 1990 in a Jesuit dining room -- or in front of the last Bruegel of the trip. But I believe in my heart that we got extremely close (one bartender: "well, I haven't seen him here in a while; he's been busy"), and, regardless, Dublin is one hell of a fun city in which to go searching for Shane McGowan.

Several tour group members left before the end of the show
So what's it like being back? Well, to resort to cereal-box philosophy for a moment, we have a peach tree in Utah, and it's hard to get the perfect peach: soft but not mushy, perfectly colored, bursting with flavor -- and of course unblemished. The last bit is especially hard without pesticides. But spraying is not a good solution, either. Put another way, the birds ate a lot of our peaches this year ... but we still enjoyed a fantastic crop.

So first, Andy, the qualifications. I knew that I live in two conservative states, but I had forgotten just how much of a "burned over district" KS is. (Andy's also in the guild, so I steal the term for the Erie Canal area of western New York at the epicenter of the early-nineteenth-century Second Great Awakening -- the same area from which hail both J's family and the Church of Latter-Day Saints.) I mean, I got to telling people in Germany that America's religion is football. But, having been unable to get Monday Night FOOTBALL on the radio in KC, A MAJOR MARKET, the other night driving back from the airport due to the remarkable proliferation of religious stations -- and forget about hearing a non-Royals baseball game; maybe I am romanticizing my youth, and maybe this was due to the strength of mega-city east coast radio stations, but whatever happened to getting random baseball games on the radio at night from 1,000 miles away, as I used to be able to do in upstate New York [not too far from the burned over district] on my grandmother's 1970s transistor radio? -- and I miss Jack Buck and Hank Stram calling MNF on the radio -- I'm increasingly convinced that America's religion is, well, religion. (Take that sentence, John Updike!) Note to secular progressives: nothing will get done around here until someone finds a way to rejuvenate the Christian Left.

And, once again, despite my deep-seated belief that we all should engage ideas with which we disagree, etc. etc., I have been forced to retreat back into the warm fuzzy goodness of my personalized filter bubble due to the sheer nastiness and idiocy of House Republicans and the bizarre reality of college graduates who, while posing as breathing citizens, rely for their climate change expertise on the blog entries of fossil-fuel-industry-funded, non-scientist conservative activists who focus on one data point out of context (say, the increase in arctic ice this year from its RECORD LOW last year) rather than rely on the expertise of, um, say, scientists. Now that I am sitting in on German 2 this semester (and greatly enjoying it) I have a modest proposal that I hope my friends over at All Things Education and Cedar's Digest will debate: I propose that we cancel college language requirements and replace those 4 classes with A) a new course called Critical Thinking 101, all of the textbook proceeds for which will go to yours truly after he receives a huge advance and writes it; B) mandatory stats; C) a course called "How to Read in an Era of Bullshit"; and D) a capstone seminar called "Deconstructing Fox News." Progressives are living in a "cotton candy land," as my high-school baseball coach used to put it, if they think rational debate and argument mean anything to radically anti-empirical people.

Oh, and then there's the matter of the wonderful health care system that the Tea Party doesn't want to change forcing me to wait two months to see a spine specialist ... whereas I waited two weeks to see one in Germany.

But, as stated, things are mostly peachy, if not as peachy as J's peach crisp, which may be the best dessert ever.

And, speaking of great food, we met Brian and Katie and Matt and Denise and adorable baby #16 Ben for brunch at LUMI BISTRO, our friend Evan's new cafe in downtown SLC (350 S 200 E #100, under the Metro Condos). I promise -- this is a spin-free zone -- Lumi is excellent. The space is cool, and the food is delicious, local, simple but elegant, and reasonably priced. As importantly, the espresso is some of the best in town. Here's the tomato crepe and the nicoise; I failed to snap an image of my tremendous baked eggs with ham and fresh vegetables. John, I'm relying on you to go there and take some espresso porn.

Tomorrow is the first ever Konquer the Konza race in our beautiful Flint Hills prairie preserve. It will be painful to be on the sidelines -- for seven years I'd been hoping someone would put on a race here -- but the upside is that I get to sleep in and then head to the finish line with a local and hoppy Tallgrass in hand to adopt the role of Wise Elder Ex Runner, he who spouts off about how bad running is for you even as he patently wishes he weren't on the sidelines.

Mentioning the Flint Hills reminds me ... during the early-1960s debate in Congress on what became the Wilderness Act, a lot of clergy testified that we should save some lands as God made them ...