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Monday, November 17, 2003

 
ASHA in the Windy City
This weekend was awesome. On Friday afternoon, after I finished teaching and got packed, I hit the road over to Chicago. My mom was there for the whole week, staying with her best friend from grad school, Mickey, in Oak Park. Mickey's husband Ken gave me directions that avoided the Skyway completely, so my drive was quite pleasant. One of the best things about driving in the vicinity of Chicago is picking up so many radio stations, including no less than 3 Spanish stations, which I could listen to, since my boy wasn't in the car with me this time. I also got to nostalgically laugh out loud when I heard the entirety of "Baby Got Back" for the first time in years. That song is so tastelessly funny. I suppose if you wanted to be overly analytical about it, one might defend it by saying that at least it promotes better self-esteem for having an alternative body image. But that's my liberal arts education coming out. I'll stop that now.

Anyway, I got to Oak Park without any trouble, just in time to pull into the drive right after Ken and Mickey. I started visiting with all of them, but Ken shortly retreated to bed after an overload of linguistics speech. My mom reports he tried to get my dad to come up, and he had tried to extend an invitation to Mark as well, just in an attempt to get more testosterone and variety in conversational topics in the house. Poor guy.

My mom and I stayed up late, late that night, talking. Mickey's daughter, Caitlin, said we were up past 1:30, which is when she got home from a party with her friends after their cross-country party. Brendan, their younger son, was gracious enough to allow my mom to use his room, and I stayed there too, for my two nights in Chicago. On Saturday, we all got up early-ish, had breakfast, and went to the convention center. My mom had to spend the morning at the UNC graduate information booth, so I hung out with her there and listened to her give her spiel to all the prospective students. Then she had to go interview an applicant for one of the open positions in her department, so I stayed at the booth and gave a few people what information I could, having listened to her.

After her interview was done, we went to get lunch, which was very overpriced, but hey, it's a convention center. It was funny to watch all the ASHA people intermingling with the other big convention's people, that being a metalforming machinery company. ASHA tends to be by far predominated by female professionals, whereas the other company was quite definitely male. We speculated that between the two conventions, maybe the gender ratio balanced out.

When we finished lunch, we went back to the convention, where my mom dropped me off at a round-table being run by another friend from the days of her psycholinguistics doctorate at BU, Henriette Langdon, who is one of the big names in second language and bilingualism research, especially amongst children with special needs. Her round-table was on the importance of multicultural awareness in professions such as speech pathology, etc. I thought it was interesting to hear what people in other linguistics-related professions think about ESL and SLA, because they're coming at it from very different perspectives. I actually had things to contribute about current theories in the field. Henriette said afterwards that she had enjoyed my contributions, but I think that might be because she's friends with my mom and had been talking to her about me earlier in the week. My mom said that she, Henriette, and Mickey have decided I need to get my doctorate in psycholinguistics, or even better (to them), neurolinguistics, so I'd get to play around with fMRIs of people's brains. I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that my mom went to a mini-course with all sorts of neat stuff in it from a neurolinguist, and she wants to play with the nifty pictures. Nothing at all. Sounds fun to me!

Henriette was off to the art museum after the discussion, though, so I used my free time while waiting for my mom to come back from the exhibit hall by calling my dad on my lovely new cell phone. Isn't technology grand? I think he was surprised to hear from me, and it was good to talk to him for a bit, since I haven't seen him since my parents dropped me off in E. Lansing back in August, and he doesn't talk much when he's on the phone at the same time as my mom during the regular Sunday phone call. When my mom did come back, she brought me a catalogue of all the SLA-related books that have been published lately, including my SLA textbook. It seems like half the books in there were written or co-written by my advisor. I wish the program at MSU concentrated more on her specialty. It's always nice to know famous people, though.

At 3:30, we looked at all the posters in the poster area that had to do with autism, and my mom talked to a lot of the presenters and people she knew. It didn't take long to get through all those, though, so we went off to find Mickey at a lecture by one of her colleagues, which was almost over anyway. We had some time to kill, though, before we were supposed to go to the party for all the people from all over NC attending the convention. Mickey had gotten directions to the restaurant from Ken, who teased my mom when he got there about NC finding such classy places to hold their parties, since it was right next to an adult bookstore. The restaurant itself, though, was a very nice French place, with waitstaff circulating the hors d'oeuvres and everything.

When my mom decided she had schmoozed enough, though, we found that we could not have dinner there, because it was packed in the main dining area, as was every other restaurant within walking distance in the Loop. There is, however, a restaurant called Rhapsody not too far away that we drove to, which is associated with the symphony, and thus, by 8:00, was cleared out, since most of the patrons had seats for the symphony starting then. We were seated immediately there, and it was excellent. I ate much too much of my risotto. My mom and I shared a very chocolate-y dessert, which was dusted in gold and had gold-glazed fruit for garnish. Going out to dinner with a lawyer in Chicago is a good thing. Ken knows all the good places to eat.

Then it was back to the house, where the girls stayed up talking until midnight again. We were allowed to sleep in the next morning, though, so it wasn't a bad thing. Of course, I was up by 8:20 the next morning anyway, because my body functions much better on central time. (I think my brain is convinced that Michigan is really in central time, no matter how often I tell it otherwise. I wish it would figure this out.) We had a leisurely breakfast, then some chatting by the fire that Mickey built in the living room, and then a tour of the 3rd floor remodeling project of their giant Victorian home.

Ken and Mickey's house, you see, once won the Painted Lady competition for restored Victorians. It is also within easy walking distance of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. When I was a first year at Grinnell, my tutorial was on Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ken and Mickey were exceedingly, marvelously, wonderfully kind enough to allow my entire class to sleep in their third floor rooms so we could afford the trip to Oak Park to tour the FLW homes that year. I have affection for that third floor. It looks entirely different now, but in a good way. It'll be fantastic when it's finished.

The Home & Studio was our next destination on Sunday morning, anyway. I wanted to get Mark a present, so he wouldn't feel sad about being left at home. What I ended up getting was 3 fridge magnets with Wright window designs on them, (how am I supposed to call this apartment home without refrigerator magnets, I ask you?,) and long narrow poster of Wright's sketch for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. (Check the links to the side, too, to see the drawings and pictures.) The Imperial Hotel was really cool because it was one of the first truly earthquake-resistant buildings in the world, due to each of the support posts being sunk into individual foundations, so the long building would undulate with the quake. How cool is that? I'll never say I didn't learn anything interesting in college. My mom bought some things, too, but I'm not supposed to know what, since some of them were my Christmas presents. Since I had to pay for them because my mom left her wallet at the house, that plan kind of backfired, but I'm still going to be surprised at Christmas. It's not like I was standing there in the shop, pointing at things that I wanted or anything. It will be a total surprise, I tell you.

After we were done being good little consumers, we walked around the corner to see some of the houses. I told my mom what I remembered from the walking tour I took 5 years ago, and she took pictures. We both agree that the Nathan G. Moore house is just basically weird, and not that attractive, but you have to admit, it's different. It got more different after a fire burned down the top two floors and Wright redesigned the roof lines and chimneys again.

From there, we walked back to Ken and Mickey's for lunch, and then they were off with my mom to the airport. I taught Brendan how to make a flapping paper crane as a thank-you, and then I hit the road again as well. I was back in Lansing before dinner. It was an excellent weekend, and I woke up this morning suffering post-holiday depression even before I've had a real holiday. The semester is over soon.

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