Now, just to get rid the the Elephant in the Room: I did not attend anti-Catholic, anti-Life, pro-Gay "marriage" Garrison Keillor's keynote speech yesterday. I'm shocked he was ALLOWED to speak given the Archdiocesan Speaker Policy, and as I understand it (unconfirmed by an official source) the good Archbishop Neinstedt actually asked NCEA NOT to have him. But then they went for popularity instead of content. All this is heresay, though; I don't know why Keillor was allowed to speak and I refuse to defend his abominable presence. There might have been reason, but in light of the policy, I can't see that reason myself and need it explained to me.
I learned that I hate discussing curriculum (I actually already knew this), and received affirmation that the idea of being a teacher and reviewing textbooks and curriculum makes me so itchy and uncomfortable that when my boss brings up this or that book or curriculum, the only thing I want to do is exit freely while kicking and screaming.
I think that true teachers actually care about those things. I don't. I hate them. *cringe*
That's not the say, though, that the week was useless.Much to my surprise, I attended several professional development sessions which, although they were geared towards actual school teachers or principles, there is some content that can be applied in my work, for our students, catechists, and even parents. There are some practical points I hope to put into practice, or at least pass on to those under my guidance. There are a few things I hope to apply to myself in my own work.
Along with all that professional stuff, though, all that Sacred, we still had the Profane to keep us entertained.
This week, I took my friends into Hell, and as we found out, with my guidance, there was no waiting!
As we left the Convention Center for lunch, we wondered where best to go. A few blocks up were many restaurants. Being that we were in Downtown Minneapolis, we didn't want to go to some cheap chain we could find around the corner from work. If we were going to walk down the street for food, we wanted food to remember. Some stuff was ruled out, like Ruth's Chris and Manny's. (Who can afford those places?) We came, then to a crossroad at 2nd Ave and 9th St.
We didn't have a lot of time, so had to choose: Keys Cafe' or Hell's Kitchen?
Although I scandalized myself at the juxtaposition of such dire opposites (Keys vs Hell), I did what my coworkers asked me to do, and I made the decision: Hell.
If nothing else, I thought, we'd have this wonderful receipt to turn in to our straitlaced parish bookkeeper who would read on it, "Hell's Kitchen" and wonder at the Faith Formation department that decided to Descend for lunch.
And descend we did!
We entered the door under the sign only to find that we had to descend the steps into Hell (that is, the restaurant itself.) Other convention-goers were in front of us, and specifically a party of 6. (Does anyone else find that ironic?). The party of 6, when asked, was told that their 6 could not be seated for another 10 minutes. They were diverted off to a side hallway to await their
My coworkers and I discussed this as we overheard it and decided to stay anyway, for, given that it was shortly after noon, we knew we'd have to stand in line or wait anywhere we went. Walking along to the next place would eat up time.
So as the party ahead moved to the side, and I was greeted by the
The food was good, and in fact, we learned that in Hell, Buffalo is the staple.
Both my boss and I ordered a Buffalo burger, although with different toppings. When our meal was delivered, I received my white-topped (white cheddar) burger, and the waiter came out with a similar looking one for my boss. She saw the cheddar which looked like mine and said that she'd ordered bleu cheese. He took it back although she said it would be fine, but he feared maybe it was another person's order. No problem. Unable to find the other customer, he brought it back with apologies, my coworker thought it was fine and told him so; she was happy to eat it. In the meantime I had bitten into my own burger and realized that the waiter hadn't confused the table..but the orders. I had the bleu cheese.Which I'd almost ordered, anyway.
Still, though, we were happy with our meals. To our surprise, thoughl our hostess came back, apologizing for the waiter. He was very upset at the mistake and wanted to make it up to us, offering us one of their Famous Carmel rolls! But we knew we were all full, and even splitting it between the 3 of us would be too much. Our hostess said that our waiter was nearly in tears, and when she stepped away we commented at how deep the feeling was in the customer service in Hell! Seriously...I haven't ever had a waiter who REALLY felt that bad about such a simple mistake. In the end, as we didn't accept the Carmel Roll, they decided to give us free beverages, and on behalf of our employer, the parish, we happily accepted the discount.
(Seriously...how many people do you know have gotten a discount in Hell?)
I thought back to all the old jokes about the guy who went to Hell and was shown 3 doors. Two of them upside-down in..uh...refuse. The last one, they were standing, talking, socializing and having a great time while sipping cups of coffee. Looking around in Hell's Kitchen, I saw families, including very small children, tucked there in between weird art and a children's program being shown on a big screen. A simple menu encompassing American cuisine (heavy on the Native!), aimed at the family. What a great place! It was classy, it was pretty peaceful, and obviously a respectable place in spite of the name!
It was because of this that I kept waiting for someone to jump on the PA system and yell, "OK EVERYONE! COFFEE BREAK IS OVER!"
Instead, we got a waiter with an overdeveloped sense of customer service who had made a minor error that wasn't his fault as he hadn't been the one to directly take our orders, and we got a hostess who was funny, kind and down to earth, to the degree that when she gave coffee to my coworker she said comfortably, "This will wake your ass up!"
We liked her immediately, and our waiter as well.
As we were leaving, we decided to have our pic taken under the restaurant sign. Just then a man emerged from the general hallway coming from Hell's Kitchen, who agreed to take our pic with my boss's camera phone.
After we finished and thanked him, he said he was the nephew of the founder, and asked what brought us to Minneapolis. Ha! We're FROM here! But...we explained...we were specifically there because of a religious education conference and thought it would be fun to visit Hell in the process.
Much to our surprise, expecting eye-rolling or general politeness, the man wished us "luck in your ministries", and that stopped us in our tracks. He asked us what we do, and then shared that he does some "street evangelization" there in Downtown.
I couldn't help myself. (People who know me shouldn't be surprised at what I said next.) I asked him, "Do you street-evangelize from Hell?"
Thankfully he took the question well, and with humor. (The answer is no...he literally hits the street, not Hell!) and all I have to say is this: I hope he brings many souls to Christ! It takes real courage to do such a thing, and I wish we Catholics could get over ourselves enough to do it, too. Gosh..in comparison to Evangelicals, we have no "personality" at all! (Incidentally I'm actively working on forming a program that will form Catholics to have such courage and conviction!)
Now...for the record, lest I scandalize anyone: the Restaurant "Hell's Kitchen" isn't named for Hell, but for the neighborhood in Brooklyn NY (kinda) and for the actual HEAT in the kitchen! It has no association with the popular reality TV show and celebrity chef, nor the ontological reality of the place people who reject God in hatefulness go to after death. In fact, I think this restaurant and name pre-dates popular culture!
There were many Religious Sisters at the Conference, and I was happy to, several times, run into my friends, the SCMC's, whom I visited last summer in Connecticut. This afternoon one of the Sisters and I wandered about the exhibit hall, picking up freebies, hobnobbing, and talking with old friends. I found some great resources, made some great contacts, and strengthened an already-good friendship. What's not to love about that?
When it was time we headed to the Auditorium for the closing Mass. I couldn't reach my coworkers and hadn't seen them in a couple hours, so I ended up sitting with the Sisters and the teachers from their school, and was somehow given some kind of a "recommendation" to the Principal. His response: any friend of Sister is a friend of mine! Ha ha!
The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop John Neinstedt, was MC'd by Fr. John Paul Erickson, and concelebrated by many priests. As such, there was no nonsense...it was a beautiful, reverent Mass, and a perfect way to end the Conference.
I admit I hadn't wanted to go to the NCEA conference, but I have to also admit that it was a good experience, I did attend some valuable professional training sessions and made some important contacts.
It is good to end with the Sacred, and so I ask for your prayers for all the Catholic Educators out there who are truly trying to do the right things for your children. They do care about doctrine and how to present it faithfully. They do care about whether or not you as parents are involved....and how best to make sure you know you are the most important part of the education of your children.
God bless teachers, God bless parents, who are primary in teaching their children! God send us many more!