Between Minneapolis and Chicago is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Once a year, Dad spends the week in Lake Geneva at Cancer Camp for Kids. He’s been doing this for 3-years. Last year, he started teaching the kids to cook. So this year, my brother joined him to make all the kids, and everyone on staff, made-to-order omelettes.
At 5am, Dad got up to prep. At 6am, he came back into the room where Joey and I were crashed out on bunk beds to get Joey. At 7am, Joey finally dragged himself out of his bunk. Dad was in the weeds, with 20-kids waiting for an omelette.
Usually, Joey’s the first person to bounce out of bed and cook. But he spent most of the night trying to fall asleep. At 7:30am, I was sent on a mission to find more plates. Dad and Joey were a hit.
I was in Minneapolis for Netroots Nation, a gathering of progressives started by the Daily Kos. It’s the best kept secret in politics. If Lollapalooza is where bands go to find their big break, then Netroots Nation is where political hacks go to shed the word “hack.”
I saw Howard Dean. I scream, you scream, we all scream for Howard Dean. I chitchatted with Al Franken. He’s good enough. He’s smart enough. And dog gone it, people like him. I met the mayor of Minneapolis, Mayor Rybak. I’m gay for Mayor Rybak.
The way he talks about his city is downright sexy.
By attending seminars, participating in workshops and taking-in all of the keynote speakers, I was trying to find for myself something which Dad found when he turned 67, a calling.
Away from the spotlight, with no crowd to applaud, Dad spends a week every summer teaching sick kids why cilantro is a perfectly legitimate ingredient for meatballs. Joey couldn’t disagree more. He kept asking Dad for a taco shell. Finally, Dad turned to Joey and scolded, “Not everyone gets your sense of humor.” I agree.
But it was sure funny. Once again, Dad and Joey were a hit.
Just before I left, Dad turned to me and said, “I don’t care how poor they are…sick kids should be kings. It blows me away how selfish senior citizens are. They just don’t care about anyone but themselves. Sick kids shouldn’t have to beg for a camp where they can be treated like kids. Sick kids shouldn’t have to beg for anything. Most of them come from difficult homes. It’s not fair. It’s not necessary. Sick kids should be kings.” Then Dad disappeared to help clean up the Rec Hall for dinner.
It took me 6-hours to get from Minneapolis to Lake Geneva, so I could spend the day with Dad at camp. Lord knows I love a good cause, but for the love of God, I wasn’t about to spend another night on that damn bunk bed.
It took me 2-hours to get from Lake Geneva to Charlie Beinlich’s, a burger joint in Highland Park, where Joey and I met Mom. In high school, I worked at Charlie Beinlich’s as a bus boy. The place is still in business, busier than ever. The place is so successful, if you ask for a tomato on your burger, they’ll tell you, “No.”
Charlie Beinlich’s knows what they’re good at. You don’t mess with someone who knows what they’re good at. Me, with the help of Netroots Nation, with the patience of people I love, I’m still trying to figure it out. But I’m lucky.
Dad’s 70-years old and a servant of kings. Joey’s a world-class chef and born again button pusher. Mom’s the most honest person I’ve ever known and a card shark. When she counted-up all her winnings from Canasta, she had enough singles on her to pick up the tab.
Don’t tell, but last night, with her cheeseburger, Mom had a Miller Lite. Contrary to what she says, I’ve noticed it’s not only with Mexican Food that Mom drinks beer. When she misses Dad, just like she did on their first date, Mom has a cold one.