Lush and Green September Graduations in Wisconsin
Dr. Andy uses jazz to recover from a trip he didn't get to take.
Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
My wife Kate and our oldest and youngest children spent this past weekend in Wisconsin for my daughter Geneva’s graduation from Beloit College. Close readers of past newsletters will recall that Geneva finished school in the spring of 2020, but she never had a proper graduation. On March 17th of that year, Kate and Truman flew to Chicago to rent the largest possible van to move Geneva home. Here’s how Kate put it in her recent blog entry:
“Many of you remember our National Disaster Massive Road Trip (NDMRT), as Truman named it. We rented a huge van, which we immediately named The Beast, and which still barely fit all of Geneva’s belongings, and we drove four days back to California. On the NDMRT, we encountered many fellow unhinged cross-country travelers, everyone trying to get somewhere fast, all of us eyeing each other with trepidation as we sought to keep our distance from one another, both on the road and at every rest stop.
The trip felt both surreal and perilous, as if we were living out a real-life disaster film. On the third day, we white-knuckled The Beast through a blizzard atop a Wyoming mountain pass, a heart-pumping, frightening experience of unplowed roads and icy white-outs. At the hotel that evening, I was filled both with relief that we had survived the day’s drive, and with the sense of trauma we were all just beginning to experience; we were never going to forget this NDMRT or the earliest days of our new pandemic mindset.”
By contrast, for the big ceremony this past Saturday, the weather was sunny, the Beloit President cheerful in his commencement speech, and the grass lush and green. Evidently in other parts of the country, it rains during more than one season, and not all at once, such as the deluge that we recently endured here in Davis. After all the names were read, the new graduates drank a champaign toast, received a standing ovation from their families, and then greeted well-wishers while Motown music played.
Then Geneva participated in a graduation gala. When I graduated from Boston University and UC Davis (twice), the organizers of those events totally forgot to throw me and my fellow graduates a gala. Also, the word “alumni” came up often during the graduation ceremony at Beloit College. I’m sure Geneva and her parents will remain on the Beloit alumni mailing list. The good news is that, with the help of Joe Biden and Biden-Harris Administration's Student Debt Relief Plan, this may be the year that we make our last payment for Geneva’s undergraduate education.
Now we are saving money for the higher education of Truman, my Facetime cameraman for the graduation ceremony. Truman also treated this past weekend’s visit to Wisconsin in temperate September as a college scouting trip. Who knows what will happen? Perhaps in two years, our payments to Beloit will start anew!
Meanwhile, Jukie the dog and I spent the weekend enjoying perpetual jazz, and no TV. Jukie is rediscovering his library. I am reminded of a poem I wrote during one of Kate’s previous trips to Chicago, titled “Seven Steps to Heaven,” and which I will excerpt here:
Ours is an unhurried August Saturday morning.
My wife is visiting Chicago for a fortnight,
while Miles Davis fills the kitchen.
The trumpet croons. How can something so cool, born in 1957, be so old?
The title of our chosen British underground internet radio station,
“Giants of Jazz Radio,” seems more oxmoronic with every passing moment,
but here we are, dancing like oxymorons.
The bulldog dances too, yelping, and nipping at our legs,
wondering what strange game we are playing.
When I told Truman that for the next three weeks
we would dance to jazz anytime we felt compelled to reach for the remote,
he gave me a high five.
No one will stop us from acting rashly.
I suppose like all of us, Jukie and I are acting less rashly in 2022 than we did in 2014, but the soundtrack is the same, jazz rather than Motown. I missed my family in Wisconsin, and wish that I could have joined the celebrations, but the music filling the jazz is helping. As Bob Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Congratulations to the new graduates at Beloit, and good luck to the new students at UC Davis, or wherever you find yourself. Be well!
For existential and logistical reasons, my parents could not attend Geneva’s ceremony in Wisconsin today, but Kate’s parents did. Both of them are Beloit graduates who met there in the early 1960s. I think they would get at least five of the questions right on this week’s Pub Quiz. In addition to topics raised above, expect questions on the following: car companies, search engines, majestic animals, spoons, maternal health in Connecticut, famous marriages, southern exports, volleyball scandals, unresolved issues, German theatre directors, third countries, treachery, intelligence quotients, cocktails, ninth and tenth spots, entertainers, literary communities, variety shows, spinning horses, best pictures, dancing mice, trains, blessings, nerds on the radio, telephoned requests, other worlds, fairies, red flags, billionaires, faraway counties, musical instruments, fire powers, people named after birds, top contenders, starting gods, long drives to corporate cities, mottos and slogans, news of the world, and Shakespeare.
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P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s Pub Quiz:
Film. What parodic four-film franchise was developed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, and Marlon Wayans, and grossed over $900 million at the worldwide box office?
Countries of the World. What country whose name starts with the letter N has coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans?
Science and Engineering. Starting with the letter M, and created by a Scottish engineer, what sort of road construction involves crushed stone placed in shallow, convex layers and compacted thoroughly?
P.P.S. I am thinking today of all the everyday Russians who do not support their leaders nor the invasion of Ukraine. If they can afford it, many of them are booking their last trip out of a desperate superpower that, because of one man’s misguided ambitions, is increasingly isolated.