25 August 2012

The Great Get Together

Yesterday at approximately 10:07 ante meridian my family and I piled into our German made people's car and headed to the University of Minnesota's state and privately financed football stadium parking lot to, well park.  We parked, walked approximately 117 steps and boarded a privately owned bus that was contracted to shuttle the masses to the Minnesota State Fair.

On this bus was an assortment of all kinds of pasty white Americans of more than likely northern European heritage.  And being such they were a little too ready to believe a person with a likable, enough, round face who said he heard that at the Miracle of Birth Center this year they were letting kids cut the cord.  I said it thinking no one would believe such an absurdity (plus I didn't even know what the Miracle of Birth barn was to tell you the truth) but oh no he believed it and was genuinely disappointed that I was just joshing.

Once we unloaded from the contracted bus I asked the person who greeted us as we came off the bus if I could have the cell number of the bus driver so I could call when we were ready to be picked up, luckily this guy knew I was not serious - he laughed it off and then instructed me to move along.  As we followed en masse across the street I was struck by the one upmanship offering by the peddlers selling water.  One offered ice cold water while the other offered frozen water.  I didn't purchase from either since I could not discern which was colder or which one was actually water and not just a chunk of ice.

My family and I eagerly crossed the threshold from mere fair wisher to fair goer when we gave the trusting lady our discounted tickets, purchased on the last day, while supplies were still lasting, at a regional chain grocery store.  We proceeded directly into the Miracle of Birth barn and it was exactly what it sounds like: a barn full of pregnant animals all just waiting for the impending travail.  It was exciting, neat, and precious.  But I also felt like a voyuer peeping in a sight that was not meant to be seen in such a public fashion.  I pictured a Far Side cartoon with the trademarked Gary Larson cows standing around a bed while a woman gives birth.  The kids were most fascinated with the hatching chicken eggs, which were numbered and displayed in a translucent incubator.  The number on the eggs made me want to place a bet on what time the hatchling would emerge but I did not pursue this avenue.

Upon exiting the birth barn we were usurped by the state fair aura: fried things, smoke from the grill, root beer galore, and our surprising favorite, the all you can drink milk shop.  Who would have thought that a glass of cold milk would quench thirst on such a sweltering day, but it did.  Of course this quenching happened while we had a cone, stacked to the top, with chocolate chip cookies.  Why the cookie shop and the all you can drink milk place are not side-by-side I'll never know.

The fair goes on and on and on.  It is an amazing spectacle.  It took us a good while to settle into fair mode - it aint Jazz Fest and it aint Mardi Gras.  The fair has to judged and appreciated on its own merits, once in this mode it is really quite something to behold.  There is an amazing display of Farm Equipment, animals, real farmers, quality selections of beers, produce, food, entertainment (although Alan Jackson as a headliner leaves me scratching my head) and rides.  While I'm on the topic of rides I cannot for the life of me square the combinations of fried foods and dairy with the numerous upside-down, sling-shotty rides.  I did not witness signs of bodily revolt, but I'm sure they are there.

Avenues for exploration.
1.  If I were in charge of the shindig I would want to put a halt to the obvious encroachment by the state of Wisconsin.
2.  I would also encourage food vendors to be a little more risky.  How about bowls of buffalo chili, or pulled elk bbq or a lutefisk taco (well maybe not a lutefisk taco).  But somehow channel the ingredients of Minnesota into new exploratory, you-can-only-get-this-kind-of-crazy-stuff-at-the-fair type of food.  
3.  Butter sculptures I was hoping for life sized cows, milk bottles, Paul Bunyan, & etc.  I was a little disappointed at just the queen winners.  I would also want the artists to throw the butter down a chute that the public could take and put on their sandwiches, corn, or whatever they happen to be holding.
4.  How about a public judging of the best of shows?  who thinks this is the best looking rooster, judging by an applauseometer or everyone gets to sample the apple pies then votes on them.
5.  Hard Cider!  Look at the amount of apples harvested in this state.
6.  Finally, I would squirt milk at people in an indiscriminate and totally random manner.

and yes, I'm serious about this Wisconsin thing.

postscript: the missus and I plan on going back next week while the kids are in school, take that Milwaukee!

21 August 2012

Nothing Normal About It

A few months ago, while I was in the thick of the pastoral search process, I received a phone call from an unnamed Regional Executive Minister, whose initials are Alan Newton, to see if I would be willing to talk to a search committee, not for an interview, but for an informational conversation.  At the moment I was taking anything that came along.  Talk, sure why not - what did I have to lose.  So I willingly sat down at the dining room table, powered up the macbook, logged onto Skype and waited for the call to arrive.  

The call arrived, the reception was horrendous, head and bodies were pixelated, words were delayed, and we could barely understand one another.  Nevertheless, I had the greatest conversation I may have ever had with a search committee.  When the phone call ended, the woman who choose to marry me, asked if I was done carrying on?  It was a carrying on kind of conversation.  There was all kinds of guffawing, light bulbs coming on over our heads, and whole lotta good craziness.  

I retold the contents of the conversation to the missus and finished by saying, I think I'm in love.  She sloughed off my comments and went about her business captivating the world with her eco-chic designs.  But I couldn't let go of the elation from the conversation.  The only problem - the search committee wasn't in the let's get the ball rolling and get going mode (at least that was my impression).  Emails were exchanged, thoughts were shared, and then I rolled the dice with a letter - what I refer to as my "Hail Mary" letter, what the missus refers to as the "Check Yes If You Like Me As Much As I Like You Middle School" letter; the exact description is somewhere in between.  

The, however you describe it, letter worked.  An official interview was scheduled, questions were exchanged, and it actually took place.  I was nervous as all get out - what if they weren't the same people as they were during the first skype conversation.  They were the same, no, actually better because they were non-pixelated, we could hear each other, still two dimensional but better.  

The committee was honest with me, asked great questions, did not try to hide their faults, they were honest about the church.  In the past I have always been extremely analytical in the call process but this time I was overwhelmed by how intuitive my decisions and leanings were.  I kept thinking any moment the curtain will go up and they are really not the people they seem to be.  But the curtain never rose, I should think it was never down to begin with.  

The process continued and here I am in the coolest pastor's office in North America (it has a fire place, and the first week here the missus found a Morris Chair at a yard sale that now occupies a prominent corner).  I am still walking on the clouds, someday my feet will find solid ground but till then I'm enjoying this abnormal experience.