I'm in Columbia for my granddaughter, Katie's 19th birthday, which was yesterday. This is a big weekend for Ellen and me - Ellen is at her 50th High School Reunion in Swarthmore, PA and I am here in Columbia. She dropped me off at Bradley airport Friday morning and will pick me up there Monday evening when I return, so I didn't have to leave a car there. We had a lovely day yesterday. I got to hear Katie's description of her first two months at college, at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau. She loves her classes, she likes being at SEMO, but Cape Girardeau is both boring and conservative. That it is the home of Rush Limbaugh sort of says it all I guess. She said that if she sees another "Don't blame me, I voted for John McCain" bumper sticker, she'll scream. So I don't know what that means for her long-term survival at SEMO. Meanwhile, her schedule is Ballet, Jazz Dance, Theater Appreciation, Acting, a UI100 Seminar called "Creativity," (which she described as teaching you what the University wants you to learn), Rehearse in Product (the whole theater department gets together and has discussions), and Algebra. Philip Edgecombe is her prof for Ballet, Jazz Dance and Theater Appreciation - fortunately she likes him a lot. In her second semester she will have the opportunity to add Voice and be involved in some choral groups. She likes the people, she has friends, she likes her courses, the food is pretty good, she likes her roommate. I guess that is not too bad for a start. We'll see how things unfold.
After that we picked up Rose Shay, Rob's 92 year old mother who now lives in a nursing home nearby, and we went to an unusual event -- a Roasted Chestnut Festival! Held near Boonville, MO at the Mizzou Ag Dept. Field Station, it showcased the wine and nut growers of Missouri. There were many booths where you could sample wine, various nuts (e.g., hickory, black walnut and chestnut), and could also sit down and have a lunch of elk or bison burgers. It was pretty interesting and the roasted chestnuts dipped in olive and garlic were delicious. Rose was in a wheel chair which we managed to maneuver around the grounds. She's a trooper.
After that we regrouped at home and then went to the University Club for a delicious birthday dinner. The food and wine are excellent, Katie and her dad had a four-course lobster dinner, I had tasty crab cakes and salad and a delicious fig tart. After that we went to Rose's room and Katie opened presents. In the evening, with Katie's help, I downloaded and set up Skype. Now we can communicate by sight as well as sound. I hope we can figure out a way to do that with Paul, Jenny and Max in Wyoming. That would make the distance seem much less great.
In between I've been reading Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism which I first read in the 1960s in grad school and for some reason felt drawn to pick up again. It is fascinating to read again because it resonates in completely new ways now. It relates to the conversations I've been having with my son John on meditation, it relates to what I'm learning about Quaker mysticism through Ellen, and it relates in a big way to a world I know nothing about -- warrior video games -- which it turns out owe a great deal to the Qabbalah. Thus for example the ten Sefiroth of the Qabbalah, the emanations from the Divine Being that form the material and spiritual world of time and space, have been morphed into a warrior called Sephiroth who I guess is really huge in Final Fantasy 7. Who would have known?