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Homecoming (Part 2)

April 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm

The Friday of my return trip to Minneapolis was a non-working day: no signings, no travel, just visiting with friends.

It began with a somewhat groggy return trip to the airport.  (Groggy because I'd been up a little too late, visiting with my wonderful hosts, Richard and Ceridwen.  Richard I've dragged to the occassional Bubonicon and Boskone, but Ceridwen I hadn't seen in a couple of years.)   It took a little while (groggy, you see), but as I waited down in the baggage claim area of MSP, an awareness of something strange slowly seeped into my brain.

The muzak was incredibly, ear-shatteringly loud.  I bought a cup of coffee (mostly through hand gestures, after screaming over the noise proved futile), and it was even louder by the coffee stand.  I wonder if the TSA was testing psychological warfare techniques on the airport staff.  Add some flashing lights and it wouldn't have been all that different from what's described in The Men Who Stare at Goats.  (The movie of which, by the way, is surprisingly faithful to the book.  But that's another blog post I'll probably never write.)

So, after a bit of cellphone-and-hearing-related difficulty, and after a pause at the wrong baggage carousel, I finally welcomed my agent back to her hometown.  We share a Minnesota connection, Kay and I.  And she kindly opted to fly down from New York for a couple of days to attend my very first signing.  (But that's the tale of Saturday, and thus the subject of a later post.)  Off we went, back toward my favorite part of Minneapolis: where downtown Minneapolis, the warehouse district, the milling district, the University, St. Anthony Falls, and St. Anthony Main all converge.   It turns out that one of Kay's favorite places to stay is on Nicollet Island Inn-- which I had biked past countless times when I lived in the area, though I'd never been inside.  (Perhaps a bit too tony for a sweaty grad student on a summer afternoon.)  But with Kay at my side, I could finally get inside. 

Fantastic place.  I can see why she likes it.  It's definitely on my list of places to stay when I'm back in town and have worn out my welcome with friends.   They also serve a nice breakfast menu, of which we took abundant advantage.  So we ate maple-glazed bacon (because we were back in Minnesota, after all) and spoke of writing and contracts and all the things we miss about the old hometown. 

Kay had lunch appointments and engagements that promised to keep her busy for the rest of the day.  So, after breakfast, I set off again.  I couldn't resist taking a short drive around the U of M, which was the center of so much of my life.  I'd forgotten how much I missed the old stomping grounds, but being there on the Mississippi brought back a lot of my fondness for the place.  I don't know that I'd want to live around the University any more-- I had enough of that as a grad student.  (The area around my apartment was really great back in 1997.  Quiet.  Serene.  But I watched the neighborhood deteriorate rather quickly over the next five years, as the ratio of homeowners to renters declined.  I rented, obviously, but I also didn't roll beer kegs down the street.  Sorry kids, but it's true-- there's a reason homeowners in the area don't like having students for neighbors.  It only takes a couple of party houses to radically change (i.e., ruin) the atmosphere of a street.)  But I miss the city.  I miss the lakes, and biking the grand rounds on a Saturday morning, and my wonderful friends.

I drove past my old apartment, too, while trying and failing to keep that Bare Naked Ladies song from rattling  through my head.   I couldn't live there now, but I'll always have a great fondness for it, because that apartment had been exactly the place I needed when I moved back to Minneapolis in the summer of 1997.  So many good things happened to me while I lived there.  But that's yet another story.

And that was enough of the maudlin sentiments!  I used my return trip to R&C's house to make my first trip across the new and improved 35W bridge (the old bridge, you might recall, was in the news a few years ago when it did that thing bridges aren't supposed to do).  A mighty fine piece of work, if I do say so myself.  Last time I'd been in the city, the old bridge was still lying on the ground and in the river in chunks, like the end of a giant Jenga game.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my hosts.  We chewed the fat out on the patio for a while (and watched the clouds roll in, and wondered if our barbecue plans would get scotched by rain).  Then Richard and I went to the store while Ceridwen started preparations for the evening's festivities.  My contribution to the shopping trip consisted of handing Richard the shopping list and then playing with his daughter, Astrid for the rest of the time.  And fielding a phone call from kidney donor Zoë, who had to bring her son, kidney recipient Alex, to the hospital because of some concern about his blood labs, and had thus called to let me know that she might be late to the dinner party.  (It turned out all right in the end.)

Most my interactions with Astrid through the rest of the weekend were set by that trip to the store.

"Hey, Astrid, who's a ninja?"

"You are!"

"Hey, Astrid, who's a ninja?"

"You're a princess!"

"Hey Astrid, who's a princess?"

"You turn into a mummy!"

You heard it here first:  I am a ninja princess who can turn into a mummy. Don't make me bust out my ninja-princess-mummy moves.  Cuz I will.

That is one strange little girl they have.   Their son, (Gali)Leo, is an incredible reader for somebody in kindergarten.  He also schooled me in Wii Mario Kart.  (By schooled, of course, I mean humiliated.)

I played with Astrid in the yard while Richard fired up the grill.  But then my pal Rob arrived with one of his daughters, and it was officially a party.  It was great to see Rob-- like so many other people in the area, I hadn't seen him for years.  His first daughter was just barely beginning to walk, the last time I'd seen him.  Now he and his wife, Michelle, have two little girls walking around.  I need to get back home more often.  Michelle swung by later with the other munchkin in tow, meaning it wasn't long before we had a trio of moppets in the living room playing "ring around the posey".  It was so overwhelmingly cute that I feared it might knock me straight into a diabetic coma.

Best of all, Zoë was able to make it before we transitioned over to dessert.  It was just plain wonderful to have so many of my favorite people in the world in one room.  I'm grateful to Ceridwen and Richard for hosting the party.  I wish it could have gone much longer.

I'll wrap up this segment with a few photos from the party.

Here's suave and surprisingly hirsute Astrid:

Astrid Mueller Christensen and her furry companion

And here's Zoe looking on while I entertain the moppet.

Astrid Mueller Christenson and a ninja princess

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