Monday, April 7, 2008

I Know You've Been Waiting for This

Okay, ready to hear about my weekend? I thought so. Here we go.

I get off from work. Cody, Kayla, and I head over to the Clinton Library and School of Public Service to attend the session, "Rethinking Religion and Politics" by E.J. Dionne, Jr. He wrote a book, Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right. This was one of the sessions that was free, but you had to make reservations. That turned into a ridiculous two-day process in which I got no replies until Friday morning. Then, when we showed up, my name wasn't on the list. But that was okay. So basically, anyone could have showed up and said they'd made reservations and the old lady wearing terrifying amounts of make-up would have shown you where to sit. Well great. So, when we finally got some seats and got settled, we were ready for the guy to talk. Then, when he started talking, we waited for him to get started. Like, get to his points. Uh, you know how sometimes you go to stuff like this and the speaker starts reading straight from the book, apologizing that he or she is a better writer than a speaker? That would have been helpful. This guy told lots of stories and didn't really get rolling until Q&A time, at which point he was much more clear about his point. Oh, and what was his point? Something about religion and politics both being important and influential and some other stuff I thought everyone already knew. Needless to say, we did not buy any copies of his book, but I may check it out at the library some time. As it was, we ate at Jason's deli and Kayla and I made our definitive run through of the schedule for Saturday. Once we were satisfied, both parties went home.

I did a little laundry stuff and started making my t-shirt while we watched TV. Backstory: Cody's brother, Spencer, is in a band (he's the drummer because he's cool like that). They are called The Science of Sleep and they were going to play in Catholic High's battle of the bands. As soon as we found out about this, I declared I was going to make a t-shirt in support. This wasn't so much about showing support as it, that I hadn't had a shirt with iron-on letters since 3rd grade T-ball and I really needed a good reason to make one. So earlier this week I bought a t-shirt and some iron-on letters that had multi-colored stripes and reminded me of Rainbow Brite. What's not to love? Exactly: nothing. I found something not to love about the letters: they were hard to peel off and were in 3 separate strips! They would be hard to work with and look bad! Boo. Sadly, Hobby Lobby had closed by the time I made this sad discovery. I vowed to go in the morning, took out my contacts, and slept like a rock because it had been a long week.

I overslept. And then panicked because I couldn't see the numbers on the clock when I woke up. I didn't oversleep too badly. And because Saturday was so long, I'm about to break down the day a detailed outline format.
10:30ish: pick up Kayla

11:00: "Girl Empower" session by M. Gigi Durham, author of The Lolita Effect: The Spectacle of Girls' Sexuality in an Era of Globalized Media. She only talked for about 20 minutes, and then everything from that point was discussion between her, the moderator, and the audience. Pretty great. Note: in the earlier years of the festival, it didn't matter what session you went to, someone in the audience would always ask "How do you get published?" Now, in the fifth year, there were more people in attendance who asked insightful questions that dealt (somewhat) directly with the author's point. Unfortunately, they kept saying the same things over and over again. Highlight of the event: someone lamented the highly sexualized dancing that takes place with young people at dances and in clubs. Durham leans forward in all earnestness (please imagine the SNL skit with the radio cooking show ladies) into the microphone and says, "The kids call it freaking." Kayla and I stifled our laughter, but it kind of came out our noses anyway. Awesome.

12:00: We tried to eat, but the River Market was flooded with teenagers. We have no idea why they were there.

12:30: "Why People Behave Badly" session by Barbara Oakley, author of Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. Two things bother me. 1) The lack of the final comma in the book title. It's a book. You use final commas. 2) A lot of evil, horrible people are genetically predisposed to be that way and some become psychopaths regardless of environment or discipline. These individuals aren't likely to seek treatment either, because as she pointed out, if you're a sadist you wouldn't want to stop either! So what do you do with these people? Wait for them to cause irreparable harm so they can be locked up forever, or preemptively take them out back behind a barn and shoot them? People have fewer barns than they used to, you know. She mentioned some pediatric therapists who were making promising breakthroughs in treatments. Ugh. Depression. Also, we stood through the entire session because it was popular. Highlight: I didn't kill myself or fall to the floor in a puddle of despair and fear at the idea of all the borderline personalities that could attack me at any point in time.

At some point in time: we bought books and ate. Not to make a big deal out of it or anything, but I found a complete copy of The Decameron. Okay, yes I do want to make a big deal about it. I'm so pumped! A complete set, entirely unbowderlized!!! No, I don't think I'll read the whole thing, but I'm happy to have it. What did it cost, you say? Let's get back to the sessions, we've got a lot of ground to cover.

Kayla and I decided to skip the fourth session because we were getting tired (4 sessions in one day! With full tummies and being weighted down by books! What were we thinking?!) before we ever went to the third one. Thank God.

2:00: "Being the Queen Mother" by Jill Conner Browne, THE Sweet Potato Queen!!!
Read something by this woman. Now. If you're too lazy to do that, try a google image search. Oh man. I'm so glad we had this as our last session because going to anything after this one would have been a disappointment. Highlight: the entire thing. Browne thinks the most important things are remembering God's love and blessings and friends. And laughter. Excellent. I laughed till I cried. A lot. We bought book and got them signed and took each other's pictures with her. Yes, I have met and been photographed with THE Sweet Potato Queen. She wasn't in full regalia, but she did have some fake hair on for the special occasion.

I dropped Kayla off at her place and went to Hobby Lobby and got some letters. I had to buy 2 packages (again) because they don't have extra "E"s. Jerks. I went home and made my shirt. Ironing on letters is now one of my favorite arts and crafts activities that isn't directly related to knitting or sewing. I ate and put away some of my clothes (Cody had already folded all the laundry because he's awesome) and we eventually hauled our happy selves to an old gym that smelled like teenage boys. Discovery: I fear teenagers. When I was little and my parents occasionally (maybe once) had the youth group over, I thought I was scared because they were rowdy and bigger than I was and they seemed so different. When I was a teenager, I thought it was because I was shy and they were still bigger and so different. Now that I'm an adult and have a whole lot over most of them (i.e. a diploma and a degree and my own apartment), I'm still terrified. Apparently they're just scary. I went into a bathroom full of them (the girl ones) and even though one of Cody's aunts was with me, I felt timid. There is only one solution to this: avoid the teenagers at all costs. This is not the best revelation to have while surround by teenagers. Especially when the band we came to see was scheduled to play LAST!

So, we (Cody, Jen, Mrs. Dicy, Memaw Kierre, Julie, and Becky, and Shawn) sat through 2 hours of bands we didn't want to win and Guitar Hero competitors in between the sets. Neat.

Band 1: some boys with acoustic guitars.
Band 2: some more boys with acoustic guitars. One switched off to the mandolin, which was nice, but the way one guy managed to be condescending to both parents and their children canceled out that ("Okay, we're going to play some stuff you may have never heard before, but you parents out there probably listen to this." It was Crosby, Stills, and Nash. You know what happens to people with attitudes like yours, little boy? They grow up to be THAT youth minister. Not a good youth minister, or even a youth minister. THAT one. Uh huh. So there.)
Band 3: I forgot. If I remember correctly, this is the band that finally made me realize why some music critics will say "post-grunge" like it's a bad thing. Maybe not, though.
Band 4: I think this was the band with the girl drummer. I remembered they did an unsatisfactory cover of the Goo Goo Dolls' "Black Balloon" and an original that had something to do with love and lots of words that rhymed.
Band 5: I pretty much lost all feeling below the waist from sitting on the bleachers. I was told those boys were popular jocks. They looked kind of fat to me. And short. That could have been due to sitting way high up in the bleachers. Oh well, maybe they have good hustle or something. And I saw the drummer mess up. Do you realize what it takes for me to spot a music mistake?! A lot! Because I normally don't pay attention.
Band 6: The Science of Sleep! Wires are not their friends. They had a lot of false starts, but interacted with the crowd a lot. And Dylan wore a cape. Really, what's not to love about capes? But they sounded great and had good energy and played well and Dylan ran laps around them. No, really. And they had a pretty big cheering section (not us. I mean, of course we cheered for them a lot because they were great and we're supportive and want them to win, but I mean there were other, non-family people there who were superbig fans. So...aside from us.)!

Then the judges deliberated. Unfortunately, the people putting this on didn't think we could be left to talk amongst ourselves for 10 minutes and there was entertainment. By "entertainment" I mean adults singing. I had reached my limit and just left. During a, uh, confident rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools," I bought a diet Dr. Pepper and looked at some of the trophies in the trophy case and briefly talked with Spencer. I considered going back to the gym. Then they started up Marvin Gaye's "Heard it Through the Grapevine" and I saw hipshaking, so I went back outside and started to study those trophies in earnest, particularly the engraving jobs. Note: there is a trophy from 1960 that looks like it was just scratched with a nail. Primitive times, I guess. I couldn't pace anymore because I was getting tired and the teenagers were making me antsy. I think I said something nice to Dylan about his cape. "Shiny" is a compliment, right?

I decided to tough it out and sit back down. Then they covered Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" and tried to get the crowd into it. As soon as she yelled out "This ain't no country club," I grabbed Cody and ran down the bleachers and out of the building. It was more like a really quick shuffle, but still. So Cody showed me some stuff about the grounds of the school and pointed out some of the buildings, which was only fair, because I'd shown him our dining room table and my old bedroom and my old desk a long time ago, so it was definitely my turn to see his high school. Nice stuff. Then we went back inside where they had finished up and were announcing the winner, which turned out to be the band That Did the Unsatisfactory Cover and The Song About Love and Lots of Other Rhyming Words. Well fine. Obviously, we liked The Science of Sleep better. But maybe next year. At least they got to do their first, real-live in public show and they did well and their moms were proud. Maybe they could start dressing like Sweet Potato Queens. Then EVERYONE would love them. Maybe not. We went home and fell asleep watching Saturday Night Live. Christopher Walken wasn't that great. Odd.

I was just starting to get up and about when Jeff called to tell me it would be a good day to do yardwork. Well, okay then! Cody got up and we went with seeds in hand (and with a change of clothes for the literary festival). We admired the newly mown lawn and the clean laundry room (!!!!!!!!) and pulled weeds out of the front flower bed. Then Brook came over and a bunch of us planted some flower seeds. The future flowerbed should have sunflowers, zinnias, and marigolds. Hooray! Then Cody took me downtown (I changed in the car: from dirty jeans and a t-shirt to a dress. While wearing a seatbelt. I am a champ.) and I met with Kayla, who had picked out seats directly in front of the speaker's table. Seriously, second row. We could have seen boogers from that distance.

3:00: "Arkansas Fiction II" by Kevin Brockmeier, author of a whole slew of books you should probably check out, the newest of which is a collection of short stories, The View from the Seventh Letter. WONDERFUL!
If it were acceptable, I would have made an iron-on shirt for the literary festival that specifically mentioned Kevin Brockmeier. However, that would have been highly disturbing so I didn't. Too bad, though, because he's one of my favorite writers. Ever. Normally he reads fables with ridiculously long titles each year. This year, he read a story from his new book (which I've already read pretty much entirely) because it kind of dealt with Little Rock (he's from here and lives here, by the way). It wasn't my favorite, but I do like it more now than I did before yesterday. And, um, he remembers me. No, really! He signed my copy of The Brief History of the Dead for me back in 2006. I had recently seen The Squid and the Whale, and had the foresight to ask to write my full (maiden) name in it so that if my impending marriage failed, I could hang on to every last book I had before we got married. Yes, these are the things I worry about when I consider the awful (and pretty slim) possibility of us not being married anymore. It's not neurotic, it's just that books are the only thing we have that we'd really fight over....because that's really all we have (our cars are only in our names, and Cody can have the cookware, which is pretty nice). But then, when I went to hear him read last year (when I discovered that Cody probably wouldn't be fighting me for any of my Kevin Brockmeier books after he decided he didn't like his stories. What?!?!), and had him sign a copy of Things That Fall From the Sky, and had it made out to the new name he looked up and asked if I'd been there the year before. I thought he was just being polite (if you meet 20 people, it's a pretty good bet that at least one of the females is a Jennifer). But this year, as I stood in line with my copy of The View From the Seventh Layer, he looked up and said "Hello again!" and I nearly peed myself. But not really. This time, I just asked that he make it out to Jennifer (I don't care if he does remember me--apparently for real!--Jen is for people who actually know me), and he scribbled for a little while. We didn't want to hover, so we didn't check the inscription until we'd walked away. Also, I took a picture of Kayla getting her book signed, but didn't ask her to take one of me because I still remember that picture from 2006. I have Mr. Rogers' face stretched across my chest and the words "You Are Special!" somewhere on my belly. My posture is terrible. I have no idea where that t-shirt is now. But here's what he wrote, "To Jennifer, who flatters me by continuing to read my books. Kevin Brockmeier, 6 April 2008." Yes, I do in fact, feel really dang cool right now. Once again, we decided to end things on a high note and go home. Really, what's going to top that?

We had intended to see Donald Harington, but didn't. We did, however, run into Eden, who would probably make a really great Donald Harington groupie. Being the upstanding and awesome ladies that we are, we strongly encouraged her idea to write his name in glitter across the butt of her pants next year. I think that'll work out pretty well, especially since security seems pretty lax at these things. Kayla dropped me off at the apartment, which I had wanted to clean a little before people came over for dinner, but Cody had already taken care of most of it. He had even thought to hide my iron-on letters after I'd mentioned wanting to make some of his shirts a little more 'special' with my leftover letters that morning. How thoughtful. Anyway, Kayla, Jeff, and Brooke came over and we ate pasta bake (Cody), cabbage au gratin (Cody), green beans (Jeff), corn bread (Jeff), and sweet tea (Jen). Good times. Then they left and I loaded the dishwasher and finished The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (see? C.S. Lewis uses the final comma!) at the same time I finished my cup of tea. I've always wanted to do that. I know it's an anti-climatic ending for the weekend, but I enjoyed it.

The End

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