Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Returned and refreshed

I got back late last night (later than scheduled, of course--why do I persist in believing that my transcontinental travels will actually return me at some time even close to that promised by the airlines?), exhausted from the travel itself but otherwise done very well by my time in California. I'm not really a hot weather person, but being back in California during the summer for the first time in years--in my childhood we spent two or three weeks in SoCal every summer--reminds me that, oh yeah: some regions of the country are capable of doing this whole 90 degrees thing without humidity! (Let's get on that, East Coast, now shall we?)

So it was blissful. It was great to meet so many of my brother's friends and roommates and to run around with him demanding continual refills of the complimentary champagne that every reception seemed to feature; I was also impressed by how well-conceived and efficiently-run all the events were (everything actually began and ended precisely on time, including the three-hour-long graduation itself). And although I know that the sentiments trotted out during college commencements represent the ideals of an institution rather than, necessarily, its reality, I was impressed all over again with this particular university's mission, commitments, and scholarly programs.

The graduation speaker was Thomas Reese, the Jesuit recently, uh, removed by the Vatican from his post at America magazine for not being orthodox enough, and his address (which was perhaps more powerful in its delivery than in its specifics) began with an indictment of the Bush administration, an enumeration of many of the problems and sufferings around the world, a reminder that America stands like the rich man in the parable, with the third world as Lazarus at its door, and ended with this exhortation: "It's your city; go fix it. It's your state; go fix it. It's your country; go fix it. It's your church; go fix it. It's your world--GO FIX IT."

The university that has that guy as a speaker? Is a university I want to work at.

Apart from the official events, there were plenty of fun times, including meeting up with an old high school friend one night and going out to Napa with my family another day (wine tasting? picnicing out on the lawn? what's not to love?), but one of the best was surely being invited to one of the last house parties at the place my brother shares with seven other guys.

It was one of those parties--the kind that materializes ad hoc, with lots of phone calls and no prior planning, where for an hour or two it's just ten guys sitting around drinking beer and then the next moment there are at least a hundred people drifting in and out of every room. Loud rap and hip-hop; drinking games; random violence against material objects (before the party proper had started, one of the housemates decided to set a t-shirt on fire out on the patio, where it smouldered for hours; later, as I was leaving, a bunch of the guys decided that they should take the dorm-sized refrigerator that had been defrosting on the lawn and see if they could hurl it onto the roof of the building next door--no luck, but they attempted it for some time).

But seeing as this was graduation, there were two special features: illegal fireworks, and Jesuits. Both were supplied by Bro's roommate and closest friend in the house, a guy who strikes me as someone who could talk anyone into anything; in the course of his endless series of phone calls to round up guests, he rang a couple of priests from the school--and to everyone's surprise, the two 60-somethings showed up. One parked illegally and immediately asked for a beer. Both worked their way through the crowd easily, watching the fireworks with apparent unconcern even as bits of burning matter fell down on the surrounding rooftops, trees, and upturned heads ("Are you zoned for fireworks?" I asked someone. "Nah. But it's been a wet spring"). They stayed for perhaps 45 minutes--leaving, conveniently, just before the police showed up.

Awesome. Like I say: it's the kind of place I'd like to teach.


Tiruncula said...

Welcome back, and yay for cool Jesuits! How cool to hear Thomas Reese. Funny, my favorite local Jesuit has also been known to take a fairly cavalier attitude to setting neighboring roofs on fire. (He likes to celebrate Bonfire Night in style, preferably in a high wind.)

phd me said...

Amen to those graduation sentiments! Welcome back!

meg said...

Ooh, I know what school that is. And yes, you *do* want to work there. (And if you're up for a job there, I know some folks...)

Years ago I went to a performance of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim's plays there. The drama was all on the dais of the church, using the altar as a prop, and with the pope played by a woman -- and the fathers applauded like mad at the end and looked so proud of their students.

Peri said...

It's nice to hear something truly good about priests. You remind me of all the good they do in the world. Between the prophetic call to action at commencement and the personal interaction at the important times in young people's lives, it's good to see the Jesuits at this school 'get it.'

RageyOne said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great time!

Flavia said...

Meg: well, I'm just starting a new job . . . but if something opens up in a few years, you'll be my BFF.