Here's one key to enjoying a visitor: Invite somebody who is absolutely interested in everything and everybody. Do you want to walk around the block near the restaurant? Sure. Do you want to drive around the nicer neighborhoods for a while? That sounds like fun. Do you want to check out the SciFi Fantasy Bookstore? Wow, what a great store; I'm buying a dozen books. Do you want to walk over to St. Anthony Falls and read the historical markers? That's great; the history of waterpower is fascinating. Let's ride the historic trolley at Lake Harriet? Sure! Do you want to meet my friends for dinner? Of course; that's the sort of thing I'm here for.
Those are not literal quotes, but they may as well be. By Sunday afternoon I needed to rest a little, so Glenn took a walk around my neighborhood (not something I'd recommend to everybody) and he came back full of delight and excitement because folks were out working in their yards and everybody was friendly to him and he even had a long extended conversation with a couple who had been giving a small bit of thought to emigrating to Australia. These bits of connections with Americans were the things that he seemed to enjoy most. My gosh, it was almost like me in Australia, only upside down. He thought that the Minnesotans were all so very friendly.
Which they are, for the most part. But there is an extra factor here that I'm not entirely sure Glenn is aware of: Glenn is very attractive, and exceptionally personable, and he speaks with a major Australian accent (which he consciously emphasizes when he's in the US). All of this has what you might call a slight influence on how friendly people are to him -- and to you when you are with him.
Ok, I should say that in general strangers I encounter are very pleasant to me. I, myself, am somewhat personable and energetic and I'm as kind as I can be to people I encounter in the course of their professions (servers, salesclerks, etc.). This is something mrsmurphy taught me decades ago: It doesn't cost you anything to be pleasant. In turn, people remember you and are nice to you. This is not rocket science. But traveling with Glenn? Oh my G-d -- the pleasantness you get back doubles.
I had a similar experience once when bconn was visiting, and we checked out the antique malls in Stillwater. Brian, like Glenn, is very attractive and personable. The gay men working at the malls were downright beaming and flirtatious with us. At first I thought it was Brian they were so drawn to, but as Brian pointed out (and he was correct), they were treating us both like this. This was of interest to me, as I do attribute how these men were treating me to my being with Brian. Well, what I sensed with those gay men in Stillwater was mild compared to what Glenn and I got from the (assumedly) straight women at Art-a-Whirl in Minneapolis.
I should say that everything surrounding Glenn's visit was absolutely fortuitous. Everybody we met, friend and stranger alike, told him how lucky he was with the weather he got, for example. And then on Saturday afternoon I remembered that maybe we should check out the Art-a-Whirl festival in Northeast Minneapolis, where I have danced with my Morris team but which I have never really checked out for the art. For the weekend of Art-a-Whirl, hundreds of artists who have studios in Northeast Minneapolis open up those studios to the public and turn their community into a big open gallery party. Glenn and I had time to check out only a tiny percentage of the studios (we went through a couple of large former-factory buildings), but we had the most wonderful time. And absolutely everybody we encountered, from the artists to their helpers to other random attendees, treated us like special friends. This was a little bit more than standard pleasantness -- and among the women I was definitely sensing that same flirtatious undertone I sensed from the antique dealers in Stillwater. This was delightful.
When I say there was a flirtatious undertone, I don't mean anything explicit. In fact, Glenn did a little shopping for his wife at one studio, and the women around us were excited and helpful and appreciative of this considerate husband. But I tell you, if you want to feel as if you are attractive and liked, just hang around with Glenn.
At the core of the wonderful weekend was a dinner party I gave (for about a dozen folks) on Saturday night. The friends I invited all were delightful company and extremely welcoming to Glenn. He, for his part, did his eye-twinkling best to be good company. All the folks I've seen since that night have told me how much they enjoyed meeting Glenn and how much they hoped he enjoyed the rest of his visit. There was a great moment for me at the end of the evening, when Glenn and Michael S. washed the dishes (while I put things away and Andy kept us all company). Glenn's particular social skill is that he is genuinely interested in other people, and he opens up to them and draws them out. As it happens, this is also characteristic of Michael, whom many people grow immediately fond of for this reason. To watch Glenn and Michael talk to each other over the sink -- each drawing the other out with that completely-sincere interest they both have -- was an amazing and perhaps unique thing to see. Michael, of course, told me later how much he enjoyed meeting Glenn and I have no doubt Glenn feels the same way about Michael. And me, I still marvel that people I know from opposite sides of the world can stand there in my kitchen washing my dishes and hanging out, just like old friends.
It's a small world after all.