We drove back to South Dakota last week to see my brother Matt graduate from college.

We stopped in Vermillion on the way to Sioux Falls and tried to eat lunch at Marge’s, but she’s dead. It sounds like she must have died just after the last time we ate there. The world’s best tater tots have gone west. They’ve put in a bike path by that little river you cross as you come down the big hill. Classy.

We went to the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, saw work by a neat local artist, Carl Grupp, and the guy that took stop-motion pictures of the bullet going through cards and apples and whatnot, Harold Edgerton. The kids’ science center is well worth the admission. My goodness, how did we get Ray out of there? Lee’s brother Mike drove up from Pierre while we were staying at their mom’s place. It’s always nice to talk to someone who operates on the some of the same basic assumptions that you do. Always thinking, that guy.

Here’s Matt: he got to graduation late, saw his line of people leaving for the floor, tried to join them but was shooed back by someone beaurocrat, ended up somehow in front of his supposed place in line, tripped on a cord in the back of the house, and ended up limping to the stage on a twisted ankle far too early for us to have our cameras out. He went back to his apartment and watched the rest of graduation on TV. Former Senator Tom Daschle spoke. My mother hates the guy. It’s hard to understand hate for someone so…homey. Maybe it’s just protective politician covering. I’m proud of him, anyway: someone from SD was the guy that would have been president if Clinton and Gore had been assassinated, anyway.

I’d met Matt’s girlfriend when they came out for Easter. I still think she’s all that and a bag of chips. I met her parents at the reception, though, and they were interesting, funny, and witty, too. Weird. Maybe they’re all aliens.

After graduation, Lee convinced me that we could ditch everyone (“Face it. You’re not the main attraction.”), leave Ray with my folks, and drive back from Flandreau to Sioux Falls for a night out. We went to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,* which I liked and Lee hated.

The next day, May 1st, my birthday, was the day of the relatives. About 10 too many people showed up for me to handle. I had to leave the room at one point, because my mouth would have otherwise said something beyond the edge of consensus. Can’t have that. It could have been worse. I did get to hear the story of how Matt and Erica met. Did you know that my brother was the Mystery Hottie Guy? I hadn’t laughed so hard for weeks, and I laugh a lot.

On the way back to Colorado, we stopped at the Omaha Zoo. I love zoos. They’ve added stuff since the last time I’ve been there, a geodesic dome with a desert exhibit on top and “Kingdoms of the Night” underneath. (Kingdoms of the Night was cool and spooky. The first thing you see is this open pool, deeper than I am tall, with nothing to stop you from falling in. Lee stuck his foot in to see if there was glass. There wasn’t. And the swamp with the gators and piped-in sound effects. One little girl had to be carried out.) They’d build a gorilla exhibit that looked wonderful, but they were all inside that day. They’re working on an orangutan forest, too, which looks enjoyable. We stayed in Lincoln (HoJo’s not recommended) and went home the next day.

Home. The place with the wonderful bed.

*If the guys had claimed to be from the BBC instead of MTV, people would have reacted better. It’s like Midsummer Night’s Dream. Nobody will make the perfect version.