A Bunch of Economists, a Couple of Couples, and a Jersey Girl All Walk into a Campground

Well, they didn’t all walk into our campground at the same time, and a few of them we drove to meet, but doesn’t that make for an enticing headline? And the true part is the important part: that we got to visit with some of our favorite people this week, here near Manassas, Virginia.

The Economists

The photo up top is of most of a group of guys Tracy’s been in touch with since grad school at U of Wisconsin-Madison. One couple missing from this meet-up lives in Wisconsin where we saw them last summer (hi Guy and Patti! Why didn’t we take a picture?), and one economist missing only from this photo is George, who came out a day earlier (again with forgetting to take a picture).

What a gracious bunch of friends though, I tell you. The guys started out as young grad school students, made their individual ways through the world, and many ended up working in Washington, D.C., where they have a dinner party once a year to make sure they stay in touch. They’re worldly, they’re sophisticated, they’re smart. But above all they’re the nicest bunch of folks I’m fortunate to know. I remember the first dinner party: my head was spinning with names of family members and stories and updates, but by now they’re easy to know because each one is gracious in memorable ways.

Hey there Dunc! Hey Mark! Hamid and Shiro, we’re still enjoying the food you brought! Ditto with your beer, George. I don’t know where we’ll be next year when you all have your dinner party, but please do send us a Zoom invitation.

The Couple from Work

I was telling a friend whose daughter is entering school for graphic design that my favorite friends I’ve made as an adult are graphic designers. It must be something about their mix of an artistic sensibility plus technical savvy plus willingness to work with editors that makes a special kind of person.

Karen was the art department head at the magazine when I retired, plus she and her husband Joel invited Tracy and Me into their trivia team (the infamous Donner Party, state winners by pure chance once!). Because we hit the road smack when Covid hit the east coast, we were able to continue to play trivia with the team online each week (when we have cell signal), which has kept us close.

That didn’t stop Karen and Joel from driving out to spend the day with Banjo and me when Tracy was in D.C. at appointments. We walked around the campground, we told vacation stories, I got to show off my tiny house, and Banjo enjoyed the tender ministrations of Joel, who loves dogs but is forbidden them by his evil wife (joking there: Karen is allergic).

Here Joel and I are bending to include Banjo in the picture, although she’s not cooperating. Thanks for coming all the way out, guys! See you soon for more trivia. Go Donner Party!

The Couple from the Neighborhood

This couple we drove to Bethesda to see because they’re former neighbors but also really great friends. But, I’ll admit, a wee bit of incentive was we wanted to go to our old Happy Hour spot and have one last beer and sheet of nachos with them before we head west.

It’s funny: like the trivia team whom we used to see once a week at a bar for competition and now see once a week via Zoom, Bob and Ben we used to see every Friday after work at our local brewery, and now we FaceTime with them for Happy Hour whenever we have cell signal. (Note that Happy Hour gets capitalized in my personal style guide.)

Despite being “caught up” on basic news all around, we so enjoyed seeing them in person, hearing their voices right around us, and feeling the warmth of their friendship. Kippis, Ben and Bob! See you guys again soon, too, and best wishes for the arrival of your new kittens.

The Jersey Girl

Here we go with Banjo’s favorite. We know Mary partly through the dog rescue that Tracy (and Mary) volunteered for for years; she has two sweet adoptees at home. We met her once we got here out at a brewery (thank goodness this is back to being our normal) where Banjo enjoyed her presence almost as much as we did.

Mary’s living a bit of a nomadic lifestyle herself right now, so we had lots of notes to compare on what works for her and what she wants to do next. Plus, there just might be some kayak wheeling and dealing in our near future. However that turns out, we loved sitting with this Jersey Girl, talking about the beauty of central Virginia and where else we might all end up. Within visiting range, that is for sure.

Tonight’s our final night in Northern Virginia; tomorrow we head to Williamsburg for a week with my son before he graduates. Lots of friends, lots of eating and drinking, lots of Banjo petting. I’m soaking up this in-person fellowship until I feel drunk with it at the end of each day. I wish I had a spare container I could store the overflow of good feelings for when we’re on the road again and I’m feeling a little isolated and missing people I care for. Wait, that’s what this blog is for!

It was a joy to see you all, truly.