A couple of days ago, my blogging pal at Half-fast Cycling Club posted about the three people he would most like to have dinner with at a dinner party. I remember writing that very thing a looooonnnnngggg time ago and thought, “That’s even more interesting now.” Back then I think I said “Goethe, Voltaire, and T. E. Lawrence.” I realized it would be a different dinner party this time, different guests and a very different party.
Why Goethe back then? There’s the proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That’s what happened to me with “Wolfie” back in 1998 when I read Italian Journey. Goethe had struggled with and written about one of the most persistent problems of my life (personality?) Later I saw a photo of the lantern he gave his guests after they visited him so they could find their way home. I printed out the photo and framed it. Voltaire? The endlessly useful reminder that all we can do is tend our garden; not only is it ALL we can do; it is exactly what we SHOULD do and it’s enough. And Lawrence? Strange as it may sound, he was my childhood hero.
This wondrous dinner couldn’t be at my house. For one thing, I only have two dining chairs, and then there are my absurdly friendly dogs and my basic lack of furniture (thanks dogs). I decided I would take my guests to Ninos, one of the half dozen local Mexican restaurants but the one that has been voted “Best Green Chile in the San Luis Valley.” That’s how we spell “chili” down here. Live with it. Considering that we are between the two biggest producers of green chile in the world (Hatch farms in New Mexico and Pueblo farms 100 miles north of me in Colorado) green chile is a serious business here and a staple of our diets. As it happens, I even made it when I lived in China.
Then I thought of all the people who might appreciate it, and I decided to invite my dad, my former boyfriend, Peter, and my Swiss medievalist historian friend, Rainer Hugener. I picked them because I’ve had dinner with them before and we always had a good time with very interesting conversations. I’d have to fly Rainer (and his awesome girlfriend Kirsten) over from Zürich and resurrect Peter and my Dad but so what?
My dad would be incredibly happy to see where I live and he would love the chile, after nearly 50 years in the cold ground, especially. I remember eating green chile burritos with Peter in Denver, so I think he’d be fine, though what we have down here is a little more old school and authentic than 1970s Denver. It’ll be new for Rainer and Kirsten, maybe, but I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Baden, so who knows?
Naturally, my dad and Peter would be liberated from the health problems that sent them to the Netherworld.
I think my dad would find Peter, Rainer and Kirsten very interesting to talk to and, as one of the pioneers in computing (I have a paper he wrote in 1957 — using a UNIVAC, which means punch-cards — for a presentation at a university in Alabama on the future of computers in education), he would be totally fascinated by our phones. I might bring along my laptop, but I would definitely have to bring a phone for him; luckily, I have my old iPhone SE. He would want to do EVERYTHING. The rest of us use it without being particularly in love with it, and that would make it wonderful to watch my dad. The three of us alive now would probably get a new appreciation. I can hear him say, “See, MAK? What did I tell you! Even SMALLER than toasters.” When I was a little girl, my dad told me that someday computers would be as small as toasters and every home would have one. I would have to tell him that my “toaster” has a computer IN it. He’d love the chile, both red and green, and having a Modelo or Dos Equis.
Peter (who would drink Tequila shots) would not care at all about the new technology, but that’s OK. He might be interested in my books — certainly surprised by them — and maybe fascinated by the whole “Indie” publishing options we have now. If he learned I evolved into a Swiss medievalist historian — and that is how I know Rainer and Kirsten — he’d be REALLY surprised. I’d give him a copy of the book I wrote about “us” — a story he’s already read both as our lives and as a draft. I’d tell him that part of one of his letters hangs in my studio because his words are inspiring, and that I knew him still very important. He’d say, “STILL?” as if how could it be any other way? And we’d laugh.
I know my dad was never in Europe, but Peter was, many, many times and studied at the Sorbonne. I don’t know if he traveled to Switzerland — it doesn’t seem like his kind of destination, but who knows? In that conversation I would learn. There wouldn’t be much small talk because none of them are small talk people. There would be a lot of joking around because they’re all intelligent and funny. The misery of talking politics might be eliminated since my dad clocked out in 1972 and Peter in 1987.
Rainer and Kirsten would (maybe) experiment with the food and drink Margaritas. Historians make jokes (yeah, really) — medieval historians tend to have a rather “medieval” sense of humor which I know my dad would appreciate and probably Peter, too. I love being around Rainer because I can totally relax, and it was the same with Peter and my dad.
My plan — rather than gathering the wisdom of historical and literary greats (who might have been total assholes in real life) — would be just to have a good time with people I like. I would not want the evening to end. Rainer and Kirsten could stay with me and we could spend the next day seeing the timeless wonders of the San Luis Valley — which (even my small town) still looks kind of like the old west — and, who knows? Maybe my dad and Peter would find a way to come along?