Monday, November 01, 2004

Baseball, Lunar Eclipses, Homecoming, Fireworks, Bicycles, Pumpkin Patches, Oktoberfest, and Halloween

Back when I used to be less busy, I would write up experiences I partiularly wanted to remember. I'd write them in a diary or I'd write them for a website, or I'd write them up for a class or even a contest or school literary magazine, once upon a time. I haven't been doing that so much lately. And I think I'm missing things. it's too easy to forget all of the great moments and remember only the stress, which is not momentary.

Maybe I can still sketch some of the things that happened a while ago, as well as the more recent ones:

Ken and I went with his roommate Brian, and Brian's little boy Isaac, and Brian's Mom and brother, to a pumpkin "patch" which was really more like a pumkin theme park, with camel rides and ponies and a petting zoo and haunted houses and a really lame hay wagon and every kind of gourd you can imagine. It was a perfect bright fall day and I got free kettle corn because I complained that the bags were too big. Isaac went on the camel and the ponies and cried for his grandma, and Ken and I stuck our faces into the holes in a big wooden copy of American Gothic, and got our pictures taken. Brian bought $60 worth of pumkpins, and let me carve one of them with a Picasso punk, a cubist profile with a mohawk and both eyes on the same side of his head.

We put candles in them for the Oktoberfest party, an annual celebration in which Brian invites everyone he knows to drink lots of German beer. Beer of other nationalities is allowed if and only if it is a special Oktoberfest recipe. He's serious about this. I saw him send back a four pack of Guiness. He's saving the bottle caps to embed in the bar-top he's going to build. He also made T-shirts, and hung a couple of thousand streamers from the ceiling like a sort of shag carpetting, all red, black, and orange. Ken sat in a chair and as people arrived they dragged up chairs, forming a circle of followers. Everybody wants to be Ken's friend. All the guys who knew him in high school like to tell stories about him, legends, really. It was like watching a king with his courtiers.

He told them that he had just learned to ride a bike, and they all gave him a hard time. But he's impossible to tease. He just grins. He told them all it was great, it was fun, he was only a little sore... And it has been fun. We started off in a parking lot on campus, moved to an alley, and lately have been practicing in the forest preserve by his apartment. I go for my daily run, and he bikes along in front of me. There's deer, and migrating geese, and a pond with a weeping willow. Earlier there were amazing colors too, the trees all red and gold against a blue sky, but now they're bare. I took a jump rope out last time, and he watched me do the kind of jumps where you cross your arms. We skipped stones, and he practiced shifting gears on the way back.

That was just the other day, Halloween. We used the hour we gained from daylight savings time to do the bike ride, and then went back to his apartment to watch zombie movies for a while. I've finally seen "Dawn of the Dead" and "Dead Alive." Neither of them was even a little scary. We had apple cider and beer and worked on quantum field theory while we watched. Quantum field theory is kicking my butt.

We end up combining a lot of our fun with work. QFT during the Halloween movies, and little breaks from grading at 11PM on a Friday to go outside and watch the homecoming parade -- three bands, of which the high school band seemed the best drilled, and two Ghostbusters floats, of which the second was far superior, and Rocky Horror float with men in drag -- or fireworks, on one wonderful occasion a few weeks ago, a full fourth-of-July style show from the north campus beach, just for us. We assume they were just for us. There weren't that many other people around, after all, and we never heard of any other reason. They waited for us to come outside.

I don't think we were grading the day of the lunar eclipse, which was also the day the Red Sox won the World Series. (It had an all-around apocalyptic feeling.) We went to the Society of Physics students “bonfire” out by the lake. I had s’mores and he had coffee, and we watched the Earth’s shadow eat the moon. And Dr. Schmidt borrowed a guitar and played ‘60s folk songs, and I tried to sing along. We talked to some of our students. And then we went and watched and inning or two of the game in the student union. We ran into Carol and Paul who were doing the same, and they were good company. Paul is from Boston, and was holding his breath for the Red Sox. They went out to look at the eclipse between innings. We stayed until the top of the eighth and then went to the observatory, to see if we could watch the moon reappear through the telescope. The telescope is about a hundred and fifty years old, one of the biggest you can make that uses lenses instead of mirrors, and the observatory itself is wooden and red-lit and atmospheric, with a big rotating dome. Observatories are romantic places.

I’ve got pictures of most of this, but I don’t think I’ll try to post all of them. Maybe one or two. The moon pictures should be back soon.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Reads like a fun time.

Please pass on to Ken this tip. The trick with bicycle gears is to learn your cadence first. Cadence is how fast you can comfortably turn the pedals. Once you've got that set you always go for the highest gear that it feels like no effort. Except when going uphill when I generally end up in first no matter what. :)

Most people seem to think they should use a gear that makes it feel like they are having to push against something, in fact that just slows you down and makes you go slower than a higher cadence in a lower gear would. He's probably worked all this out anyway. It's just that it took me several months a fair amount of tired muscles before I bothered to find out how to ride properly.

I love the idea of the Cubist pumpkin.