Monday, October 31, 2005

Staid Street Halloween update: Ocean author gains fame and notoriety for her comment on horse poop

I do appreciate references to my coverage of the Saturday Halloween bash on the Daily Page.

And I fully support the high praise and deferential treatment of the Althouse blog in general. After all, she writes about Very Important Topics, whereas I find myself commenting on such things as bed mites and fried bananas. So that words (found in said article from the Daily Page) such as "high profile blogger Ann Althouse" no longer faze me.

However, I must admit it's a punch in the gut to have a reporter pick out this comment from Ocean's Staid Street post:

UW law prof Nina Camic also noted the revelry, posting several photos from State Street. She wrote:
Most certainly, it was a crazy night. Leaving before 1 allowed us to escape the slight altercation between several hundred and the mounted police. I had to feel sorry for the mounted police. Everyone kept cozying up to their horses then cursing them as they dropped manure and people stepped in it.

Fine, so I noted the horse manure. It stood out for me, that's all. I remember the evening as a blur of costumes, bare flesh, mounted police and the steam rising from the pavement where warm horse droppings let their presence be felt. Or smelled. Or something.

Sigh... At least I can take comfort in the fact that my students are too busy with their work to be doing something as frivolous as reading prof blogs, or at least this prof's blog.

living the clean life

So what are you up to?
Sundays are house-cleaning days.

You clean your loft? I should have guessed. The day you opened the door and I saw that you had white carpet that actually was still white, I knew you and I inhabited different planets.
It’s not white and besides, I haven't lived here that long.

I’m serious now: what do you clean?
For example, I do the laundry – linens and things.

You are always doing the laundry. I swear, whenever we talk on the phone, I hear your towels doing their orbit through the spin cycle.
I do like having a washer and dryer close at hand. And I like clean linens.

Delusional. Let me read you an excerpt from Bryson’s “short history…”

You might not slumber quite so contentedly if you were aware that your mattress is home to perhaps two million microscopic mites, which come out in the wee hours to sup on your sebaceous oils and feast on all those lovely, crunchy flakes of skin that you shed as you doze and toss. Your pillow alone may be home to forty thousand of them. (To them your head is just one large oily bon-bon.) And don’t think a clean pillowcase will make a difference. To something on the scale of bed mites, the weave of the tightest human fabric looks ship’s rigging. Indeed , if your pillow is six years old, it is estimated that one-tenth of its weight will be made up of “sloughed skin, living mites, dead mites and mite dung,” to quote the man who did the measuring, Dr. John Maunder of the British Medical Entomology Center.

We are actually getting worse at some matters of hygiene. Dr. Maunder believes that the move toward low-temperature washing machine detergents has encouraged bugs to proliferate. As he put it: “If you wash lousy clothing at low temperatures, all you are getting is cleaner lice.”

Enough already! Besides, I use warm water. And I take very hot showers.

Have you worried that you’re one of those obsessive types that can’t ever go anywhere without a box of handi-wipes, preferably natually scented with lemons?
Go ahead and check. They're not in my handbag. Besides, you hadn’t seen my previous house or you wouldn’t be saying that. I am trying to keep this place together so that I never really have to clean it.

So you’re cleaning it to avoid having to really clean it?

Exactly. Mites, huh? Thanks, pal.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No one ever called it Staid Street

I went prepared. I took along the burliest friend I have, someone who would tower over the rest (and therefore find me if I got lost chasing down a Kodak moment), someone who claims he once put a fist through a windshield (and therefore would not hesitate, I hoped, in putting a fist through the jaws of some filthy and lewd type with bad street manners), someone who again and again and again was told his Philip Jackson costume was great (but who was not wearing a Philip Jackson costume; he just sort of looked like Philip Jackson – thanks, Saul, for explaining to me minutes ago who Philip Jackson is).

Okay, let me roll back a bit.

I wanted to go to the State Street Halloween bash. We’re not talking about small, college-town party. We are talking about a big-time event where 100,000 show up and pack the street looking, to a large extent, very naked. In spite of the cold.

First, though, before setting out, one has to pad the stomach. You know, to protect it against possible attack.

Madison Oct 05 243 Bunky's on Atwood

So we set out in a small group, all patiently indulging my desire to learn more about my new camera and night street photography. Yeah, that’s why I did it.

This morning, I reviewed the photos. I called a fellow blogger and got advice:

Do you suppose I can post an excellent photo of [costume where someone is engaged in an obscene and immoral act]?
NO! – she tells me.

How about a great photo of [costume where someone is engaged in another obscene and immoral act]?
Hell, I wasn’t serious.

Okay, here are some tamer shots then. I’ll say more once you’ve taken a look at a presentable handful.

Madison Oct 05 310 Capitol: front view

Madison Oct 05 311 Capitol: rear view

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Madison Oct 05 328 dancin' the clothes away

Well yes, you are correct. I realized that this morning. There seem to be no photos of women. Yes there were women. Yes they dressed crazily as well. I don’t understand it myself. The only decent and publishable photos are of half-naked guys. I don’t get it don’t get it don’t get it.

Most certainly, it was a crazy night. Leaving before 1 allowed us to escape the slight altercation between several hundred and the mounted police. I had to feel sorry for the mounted police. Everyone kept cozying up to their horses then cursing them as they dropped manure and people stepped in it.

This morning, at the Mifflin Street Co-op, I saw the occasional straggler, dragging in, still in costume. (One has to wonder why he would be looking at beer at 9 am, but hey, the young seem to have stamina for that sort of thing.)

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Me, I preferred to spend some quiet contemplative moments talking about the days gone by while looking out at our totally cool skyline. And the geese, flying every which way.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Going in for the lay

I have been burdened with guilt. On my shoulder, dragging me down. I knew what I was doing was not right and the longer it continued, the worse I felt.

When I was in Vienna a couple of weeks ago, I came across a monument that expressed exactly how I felt: guilt-ridden, loaded down, hunted:

Vienna Oct 05 030

But today the burden has been lifted. My flaking out on Tori, owner and chef of Madison’s exquisite l’Etoile restaurant, was finally confronted as I ran into him at the Farmers Market. I fell to my knees, kissed his hardened-from-the-ovens knuckles and apologized to high heaven for not helping out this summer (this is what I hope I did; in the alternative, I may have been seen groveling, kissing, prattling and in general making an even bigger fool of myself).

My amends: I promised that I would add to their creamy, milky way of interstellar configurations by moonlighting at l’Etoile again next summer.

Interstellar what???? C’mon, what person reading Ocean does not know that l’Etoile is really the infamous square in Paris, so named because it actually is not a square at all, but a circle, fanning out in a million directions, sort of, well, like a star

And, as of this week another star was added to l’Etoile’s A-list, as l'Etoile's Café became Soleil Café, which, as every reader of Ocean already knows, speaks to the issue of people needing and asking for more sex in their lives.

You think I’m making it up? Look at the t-shirts the crew at l’Etoile’s Café is wearing – they have engraved on them the new name:

Madison Oct 05 237

Anyway, I am so glad Tori and I are friends again. The man is a genius and I hate getting on the wrong side of genius. I re-entered their warm spaces this morning and watched them laying it on: tray after tray of croissants, to say nothing of the brioches, the newly added tarts, the éclairs. Fantastic. I’m seeing sunny days ahead there. Yeah.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Last moments

…on the Union terrace, to close off the season, our small group gathers.

A gull. What thoughts does a gull have? Students, why do they row boats? Why do they leave mattresses on the lakefront?

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The chairs, packed with every and any kind of person in the summer, empty now. Except for her and her loved one.

Madison Oct 05 221

I am late. The sun is not a presence anymore. We go inside. Freaky wild! Portends of things to come. Tomorrow night. On State Street. The Mad City’s wild night: Halloween.

Madison Oct 05 227

One man’s hot stuff is a woman’s freezer section at the local grocery store. The back of it, where they keep the Ben&Jerry’s ice cream.

Thursday evening. It’s late. Can’t do much of anything anymore. Long day. Feeling spent.

I’m talking to a guy who claims female adornments don’t influence attractiveness.

I don’t much care if women dye their hair, wear earrings, etc etc. It’s not what I look for.

I don’t buy it. This is the kind of la la thinking that goes on in this town of overgrown hippies and Farm & Fleet frequent shopper card-holders. Only when the heat is on, their eyes follow the racy numbers rather than the androgynously dressed gray-haired unadorned types.

Okay, you’re on. I tell him. Let’s see how you react to the photos (where people post their photos and subject themselves to what would seem to me like an excruciatingly humiliating experience of being judged on their degree of hotness). I want to see if we are in agreement as to who is really hot. Or not. I bet we agree, I bet we both pick the classy types, tastefully dressed, with beguiling features and great hair.

We turn to the computer screen.

First photo flashes. It’s a woman. She is so palpably unattractive that I have to think some mean types sent it in for a laugh. This rating thing is ugly. Nonetheless, hot she is not and so I vote with a “1” (scale 1 – 10). My friend gives her a 5.

A five? What are you thinking?? Her hair looks like oil, of the dark, car engine type, has been poured over it, with no strand left behind. And a sweatshirt? Who sends a picture of herself to be rated for hotness, wearing a sweatshirt?
It’s insulting to give less than 5. It just hurts their feelings
(average scores are posted with the photos).

Okay mr-do-gooder-overgrown hippie, I thought we were playing this game honestly.
Fine. Let’s move on. Here’s a guy. I can’t rank a guy for hotness. So I’ll just give him a 7 because he has a friendly smile.
A friendly smile. He looks like someone I’d want to sell me shoes. Three. At best a three.

A picture of miss hot stuff in abundance, spilling over, you know, in your face, suddenly appears. She’s leaning forward to entice the audience with her cleavage. She has painted hair (“dyed” is too generous a phrase) and eyes outlined with a one-inch thick black liner.

Nine, my friend says, but I know he is holding back. His mouth says nine, his racing heart says 10.

You are so full of crap! She is a slut and she is coming on to you in the most obvious and disgusting way!
Yeah, I know, but she looks hot. Like she wants to be spending time with me.

What kind of time? Are we talking about quality time?
I’m saying she is hot.

He is right. She has an overall score of 9.8. America agrees with this two-faced hippie boy who talks gray hair and no make-up and trips up the minute a glossy number is flashed before his lust-filled eyes.

We go through 50 more photos and we could not be more apart on every single one of them.

Except for the photo of this hot, really really hot looking guy who looks vaguely European with his dark hair, his trim body (is it my imagination or is he just wearing shorts, I mean the ones that are supposed to go under something else?)

Ten I say. Undeniably ten.
my friend agrees.
I thought you couldn’t get into finding men hot?
I’m looking at him through your eyes.

The game deteriorates. The realization that these are real people looking for real dates overwhelms me. I look at my huge long list of ones, twos and my friend’ s more generous fives and sixes.

Nice people, all nice people (except the dude who bears a striking resemblance to a serial killer. Because of course, I know exactly what a serial killer looks like). Just not hot. Or maybe I’m just not primed for hotness. Maybe the command should have been: rank these in terms of their averageness. Because really, in essence, we are all rather average.

My friend looks at me and says: when you play this game, you cannot ask the person you’re doing it with what number they would assign to you. So don’t ask me, okay?

That told me gobs, right there.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

i'll bet my behind that this child is everyone's pet

When do I ever devote an entire post to praising a fellow blogger? When?! When??!!

It's rare.

But this post is for Brando [hi Brando -- is your finger on F5 yet? No? oooooh, soon! so good! so good!*].

...because his post about his addiction to comments is the best. Ever. [hi again, pal!]

Brando (of One Child Left Behind fame, see sidebar) is one of my three favorite on this planet storybloggers. I aspire to be a storyblogger, but I see myself at level Z, whereas he is up there in the first letters of the alphabet.

But don't go there. Stay with me. My posts are shorter.

Today, though, be fickle and jump ship. It's that good.

* this is not an inside joke. read his post and you'll get it. get it. yeah!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

fruits of passion

So just this afternoon I was accused of writing without passion. Or, more accurately, of writing here, on Ocean, without passion since apparently elsewhere I do a swell job of it. (This was no stranger who chose to initiate the discussion about my blog.)

I was going to try to lay on the passion, just to prove you wrong. But I have concerns about my students who may titter in class tomorrow.

Let me rifle through the porous storage tank (yeah, my in-need-of-major-overhaul brain) and pick something that I can infuse with some degree of agitation (does that qualify as passion? Pretend it does).

Here’s something:

Recently I have wondered if, perhaps as a result of global warming and the confused patterns of bird migration (because if not that, then why?), we have lost our ability to manage the slight irregularities that occasionally crop up in human relations.

I could give you three brazenly beautiful examples of this right now, ones from my own stock of Important Moments To Remember Forever, but I wont. I mean, that would seem more manic than Ocean-anic.

And I am one of you! I also fail and falter and fumble. Daily it seems. I’m no exception – I am equally vulnerable, fully under the spell of those confused birds, migrating north instead of south, east instead of west. They have exerted their toll.

I do have to say one thing. We are in control here. We have the ability to reverse bad impulses and weird inclinations. I’ve seen it happen, even today, on this cold day with many birds flying every which way.

Anyway, I am agitated even if not very impassioned about all this. That’s the best that I can do right now. Maybe after a warm bowl of Bozzo soup tonight, I’ll come back and post. It’s easier to write about their great cooking passionately than about the real events that fill my days with strong feeling.

Wednesday email conversation with a friend

Are we still on for this evening?
I hope so! Is that okay?

Oh yes, around 8.
Will you have eaten? Do you want me to bring some-take out? Do you mind that I have a heapin' bowlful of the newest in dramatic events to put out on the table along with the wine and possibly food? Shit, I really think I live in one big bubble of drama. Not always bad drama, mind you, but drama it is.

[no response to this last one yet, but I expect it will be something like: Nina, we are so used to it]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Monday email conversation with a friend

Nina, your blog is really very close to being a food and travel blog. If you took ads, you'd have a lot of good prospects, especially tied to a group of other travel and food bloggers.

A dizzying thought: to be paid to take trips and observe, write about and photograph people engaged in their various activities.

Unfortunately, Sarah's comment, Ann's email (above) and Brando's comment notwithstanding, a line with prospects hasn’t formed. But I will say this: if November offers up no concrete travel, I may have to use frequent flyer miles and camp out in Greenland or something. It should be cheap this time of the year when there is no light to speak of.

Of course, only if they have wireless Internet.

Sunday email conversation with a friend

I’m off grocery shopping now…need anything?
No, thanks, I’m fine with my jug of milk and tin of granola back home.

I’m picking up the usual [a list of “the usuals” follows], and of course chocolate.
What kind do you eat? Dark? Milk? With nuts?

Depends on my mood. I pick up a 3.5 oz bar, either milk, or with nuts. It lasts me a week to ten days.

There the conversation stopped. I mean, how can you email-talk to someone who takes a whole week to polish off a bar of chocolate? What kind of repressed, restrained, unimpassioned individual do we have here?

Amends were made when some was delivered to the loft, you know to butter me up some so I wouldn’t write this post. But I tell it like it is. Some of my friends are awfully tight about their eating habits.

If it’s Tuesday it must be a new Ocean rule day

I had an exchange with someone in one of my post comments sections and it left me puzzled. Why, when I asked so sweetly, gently, kindly, would someone refuse to give an identifying name so that I could tell who they were – even if only I could recognize the nickname, initials, or what have you?

This exchange was the final straw. It made a tough woman out of me. So good-bye sweet gentle kind request and hello tough Polish peasant stock momma taking charge and putting in some changes.

From now on, an anonymous comment without some reference to a name, pseudonym, nickname, blog name, any name – gets stricken by me. I don’t care how innocent, how praising and supportive, how generous the comment is – no name? no initials? nothing? Out it goes.

I take risks by publishing without the protection of anonymity. Sometimes I think I am about as dumb as a mule (are mules the dumbest animals ever? Googling this produced mixed results) to be doing this. But I think it gives me permission to ask that commenters at least take a half step and speak from behind some set of identifying symbols.

And no, contrary to what you may be thinking, I do not sit and count comments and I most certainly do not mold posts so that they would entice you to speak up here. To my knowledge I have twisted only one person’s arm to write comments. True, she now wears a sling and avoids me at work, but this is between her and me. For the rest? Well, I see Ocean as this neat little package of things percolating. Take part in it however you wish. Only if you write here, do sign in some way, or out you go.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Connecticut, New York, Madison, taxis, trains, buses, planes, cars, all today

...meaning that blogging goes into a pause mode until tomorrow.

Besides I am in mourning. I am inconsolable over this.

P.S. I'm in New York now, watching people walk with a step that can only be described as determined. It makes me appreciate my own back in Madison which, if I don't pay attention, withers into a crawl as I day dream and ponder Midwestern skies.

There, have I convinced you? I like Madison, damn it! I do!

I interrupt regularly scheduled posting to bring you the following message: oh no!

Every last part of me wants to say: don't go there. Please, do not head in that direction!

Strong 'family values,' a return to a partnership with the Church, Euroskepticism, anti-gay, anti-taxes, anti, anti anti, but standing for moral renewal, for kicking the Germans, the Russians some -- economic interests be damned, let's bring forth a new era, conservative in the worst definition of that word. Kaczynski, the new president of Poland. Oh no!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

From Connecticut: apples and orange, redux

As a kid living in the city (there is only one city, come on, we all know that), I looked forward to the rare Sundays that we would head out for the country. Typically we would drive no further than Connecticut, where we would find some roadside stand selling apples, stock up (because these were what, fresher than city apples?) and return home.

My parents weren’t into holidays much and so pumpkins were not an option. Cider, yes, we’d get cider too.

For the past several years I have been coming to Connecticut in the month of October and each time, if the weather is good, I take whichever daughter has time, up to the orchards north of New Haven. I have always wondered if the place we typically go to is the same that I stopped at some forty-five years ago.

In a complete turn around, the weather turned brilliantly lovely on the Coast (it will rain again once I leave tomorrow, but for now – the skies are magnificent). Red apples, orange pumpkins, blue skies – I could not ask for a better set up. Yet it is the kids’ faces that made me take out the camera most.

Of course, everything is more crowded in coastal Connecticut. At the Green’s, south of Madison, my friend and I were the only visitors last Thursday. Here, they needed someone to direct traffic.

I’m sure most of the kids running around the pumpkin patch were city kids. I could see myself in them. Me, kickin’ pumpkin ass, stuffing myself with apples, preferably covered with caramel (I had a swe
et tooth). Me, wanting to take a pumpkin home. Me, loving the feel of the “country.”

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bundled up for the brisk country air

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a day in the fields; take a picture!

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city brats, taking it all in, the apple trees, the rocks...

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even the apple branch is crowded in this part of the country

The last photo is from the town square in nearby Guilford. But I needn't have identified it -- there are a million hints that this is indeed Connecticut: the colors and styles of the houses, the age and nature of the foliage, the suspended elctrical wires. Connecticut, aging gracefully in coastal towns, less so in the larger cities.

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In New Haven: savoring the warmth of… (3)

This town has something that no other town has for me: a bartender who is a good friend, the type of friend I would go out of my way to see, no matter where she worked.

There is a danger in this. My friend is permitted to pour drinks, any drinks, for a buck to her closest friends and associates. I would be within that circle. I can, therefore, have any and all drinks for a buck anytime I am in New Haven and she is working the night shift.

Last night I did something I never really do in Madison. I sat on a bar stool and watched this bartender at her tasks. From 10pm, until closing time, I watched. Occasionally she would make me a concoction with names that mystified me as much as the combinations of liquor, juices and flavors within the glass. A buck for the drink, a buck for her tip jar.

I went away thinking that hers is a tough job. Not unlike cooking in a restaurant. Orders are flying at you, customers want service, everyone expects things done exactly to their taste.

And the bartender needs to have wisdom and compassion oozing out of her face. In the restaurant kitchen, life is all about your relationship to the ingredients and the tools you work with. The cooks at your side are part of your dance, but you don’t ever have to look in their eye, nor utter a single word except “behind!” if you are moving outside their field of vision and they are likely to careen backwards and upset the entire operation. And you never make contact with the customers who eat your food.

Bartenders, on the other hand, have their critics there, in their face, needing a drink, needing the attention, the wiped counter, the refill, the wise word.

Take it from a former line cook. These jobs are grueling.

Treat them well, the bartenders, the cooks, the people who fill you with drink and food. Treat them well. Boost their spirits as they boost yours. Give 'em a pat, a kind word, a wise nod. Make it a tango, not a solo performance.

New Haven Oct 05 044

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In New Haven: savoring the warmth of… (2)

I’m on the East Coast, I can tell. This morning, I’m looking outside the apartment window and through the wet, splattered glass I see this:

New Haven Oct 05 016

Warm breezes, hot afternoons, scorching rides on Mr. B where are you?
Savoring the warmth… but of what? Oh, easy. This, for example:

New Haven Oct 05 019
...with fresh, poached peaches and raspberry maple syrup

We’re walking against the wind, my daughter and I, huddled under an umbrella. One latte and three pancakes later and I no longer mind the gusts, the rain, the East Coast bad weather blitz.

I come here so often, that I sometimes forget to look up. And Yale, mocked by those whose airs are all about being anti-airs, is indeed very pretty when you look up, especially in this season of very red leaves.

New Haven Oct 05 021

I have work to do today. And a drive to Hartford. The afternoon is gone.

Both daughters are here now. Screw the weather, we are on an Asian food roll. Last night Japanese, today Malaysian.

Besides, street lights look pretty against a wet windshield.

New Haven Oct 05 022

Wet pavements, umbrellas put to work, pant cuffs dragging in puddles. It’s hard to care. Warm foods, spicy dips, good coffee. And a fried banana, drizzled with chocolate.

New Haven Oct 05 032

In New Haven: savoring the warmth of...

A daughter, living here, in New Haven, comes around the corner. She takes my breath away. How can a child of mine be so disarmingly poised, so much in the adult world already? She is five weeks older than when I last saw her. I am five weeks older too. I am brimming with questions. And stories. I am afraid I will monopolize the conversation.

We walk down to Miso. Sushi is an art here. [Even more importantly, it is fresh and honest.]

Next to us, at a long table, a dozen or so Japanese men are engaged in a lively debate over… I don’t know what. I am always at a loss around their language. But it is a welcome exuberance. We are insignificant next to it. We lose ourselves in our food and in each other.

It is late. The wine bottle has been studied and tested repeatedly for any last remaining drops. There haven’t been any for a while. A sip of tea and a last shared plate of food. The ultimate comfort food: a warm, drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with almonds, fried banana.

New Haven Oct 05 014

Friday, October 21, 2005

From NYC: after the museum, the real thing

Afternoon: I am in New York, idling away a few hours. I hike over to the Whitney Museum of American Art on 75th. I’m getting lazy. A suitcase to pull, a computer to carry. I get on the Madison Avenue bus. I don’t have enough quarters. I get off the Madison Avenue bus.

More blocks. I’m there. I want to see a special exhibit of photographs. Theme: Sub/urbia, the new city. Kind of strange to look for that in New York after having (gladly) moved from the suburbs this summer. In order to get closer to downtown Madison. Life is strange.

The exhibit is good. For example:

New York Oct 05 004
sub-urbia on display

But it takes only ten minutes to view it and I have paid $12 to be here. No matter, there’s always Edward Hopper.

New York Oct 05 007
looking at a Hopper, looking like a Hopper

The trouble is, once you have seen a roomful of Edward Hoppers, you begin to see Hopper-esque scenes everywhere. I take a cab to Grand Central, go down and find the train for New Haven.

New York Oct 05 018
a woman waits at the train station

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commuter train: going home

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private thoughts

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Embarrassing words of the day (uttered by me): excuse me, dinner party hosts? I need to go home to blog.
Kind words of the day (uttered by hosts): we understand.

4:30 a.m. wake up, hit the computer, read a few things. No inspiration. Too bad, hang up the key board, move on.

8:30 a.m. meeting number one.

Followed by: family law class (most likely, they were thinking: are you a math crazy person or what? Can you slow down with those child support calculations, please?).
Followed by: adorable Torts class (most likely they were thinking: if she moves through three cases today again, there will be bloodshed and a revolution, right here on the fifth floor of the Law School).
It’s afternoon. Many important emails to attend to.
I’m exhausted.

(recent email): You want to go with me on Thursday to get some cider? These farmers have the best cider on the Saturday market (Green’s Orchard). And they’re pressing fresh cider that afternoon.

Okay. I’m all about field to table.

You are so driving in a circuitous fashion.

Yeah, I know you like to take photos…

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at peace

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pressing cider: a noisy operation

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apples and orange

Listen, I am so late, I need to go, I need to go… Pinhead is cooking a meal and he is a spectacular cook…

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morbier cheese and elephant garlic which, as it turns out, is closer to a leek than to a clove of garlic

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wrapped in bacon and perfectly done

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So, understand. Some days, it is nearly impossible to fit in the blogging. You can, however, try. If you’re out and about, you say this: please, it’s a Cinderella thing. I need to go home to blog. They’ll understand. Give ‘em a link to your site if you haven’t done so already. Then zip home. Maybe you’ll make it in time. I did. But just barely.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I woke up in the middle of the night, once, twice, got up, returned to bed, got up again, each time thinking about grapes.

Grapes, at the outdoor markets of Vienna, plump grapes, yellow Muscats, green, red varieties, the kind that when you take a bite, the juice squirts in your mouth, the skin recedes, the flesh melts into sweetness.

Grapes, one strand taken by me from someone’s fridge early on Tuesday, stealthily, then openly. Delicious, firm, irresistible so that I ate them almost instantly.

A friend (is it okay that I call you that?) asked me to go apple buying next week, over at a nearby orchard. Sure, I said. Apples. It is the season. Still, the grapes remained there, firmly wedged in my mind.

I retrieved one photo from this Saturday, I studied it but could make no improvements. It shows them off as they are – plump, perfect.

Vienna Oct 05 016

This morning I am hoping to fill my head with competing images. I need to do my presentation downtown, I’ll walk up and down the streets of this neighborhood, surely I will pay attention to the colors of fall, to the pumpkins on doorsteps, surely I will focus on life around me.

I don’t think so. I am destined today to again return to images of grapes. I can tell.

[Is this post really about grapes? Oh yes. Though you could well substitute the word grapes for your favorite obsession and it would probably work.]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Back in Madison? almost almost but not quite and not for long

When you make connections in any of the European cities, you feel like the great capitals are swirling around you, reeling in and out of your space, tantalizing you, then retreating. I'm traveling from Vienna, connecting through Paris, listening to someone talk about their stay in Prague, another making references to some food she had eaten in Rome.

How interesting it would be to European-airport hop in a day or so and just take in that much of a city – the layover minutes!

Even those suck you into that country's habits in some small way. At the moment, you have to really really love those brief moments of Parisian air to route yourself through Charles de Gaulle in making European connections. With construction, not nearly enough gates and an insane terminal distribution, added to tight connecting times, you really get your adrenaline going just in the run across the airport to make it to your next flight.

Yes, I love Paris enough to perversely enjoy that run across this very French airport, past the cafés with the Illy and croissants, past the ads for the RER, past the TGV station, run, take a whiff, move on.

I am still in transit, suspended between Europe and Madison, though I will be back in town later today, to teach my adorable Torts section. In three days I am off again. No, not across the ocean this time. Maybe, though, I’ll stand by the water’s edge and stare wistfully, with a white hankie fluttering in my hand, sighing deeply, wiping the occasional tear, humming snippets of waltzes and mumbling random German phrases picked up off of menus and overheard at street corners … Maybe.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vienna: no notes, mostly comments

It seems that at some point in their lives, all major greats from the file of classical composers lived in Vienna: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, and Bruckner – they all spent significant amounts of time here. And aside from Mahler, I love them all.

Did I hear a single strain of music during the three days I was here?

Only from street kids trying to pick up a Euro. Oh, and in the Opera gift shop where I was purchasing, somewhat stupidly, a magnet with a picture of a slice of Sachertorte for my fridge.

I hadn’t planned on attending formal concerts, but I expected to encounter music informally, everywhere – in cafés, out of church doors, in hotel lobbies. None of it – I don't think I heard a single note.

Vienna seems to me to be a quiet kind of city. Maybe people would think it offensive to hear classics as background stuff.

Most certainly, they treat concert performances seriously: I have watched them pour out of the great theater halls late at night after a performance and they all were dressed as if there’s no tomorrow, far more formally than most attending a concert in New York, for example.

But no, I have no post nor photo illustrating my musical encounters. There were none. Amazing, isn’t it?

My nod toward the greats? Okay, here’s Mozart himself playing in the park. Oh, and a dude fishing along the canal, which so many assume is the Danube, because, you know, Vienna and the Danube are supposed to be like pb&j. Follow the canal long enough, and you get to the jam. And to the hills, alive, though not with music. That would be in Salzburg. Next time. Today I’m flying back to the States.

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P.S. My parting shots though have to be from the last great moments of food and the full moon that followed us around late at night. Weird, because quite coincidentally, in the days we were here, we depleted the supply of the young white, Weissburgunder: Der Vollmondwein at our favorite eating spot (Wiebels Wirtshaus). Translation of the label: Vienna full moon.

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avocado mousse with Austrian goat cheese and baby shrimp

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venison over chanterelles with potato cakes

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Viennese nights with Der Vollmondwein

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chasing the moon

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chasing the moon, 2

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chasing the Sachertorte (at the Café Sacher)

Here’s to that final slice of Sachertorte. And to the little one back home.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Vienna: where might a Viennese go in the hope of finding a pick-me-up?

The usuals: bars, friends, friends at bars, friends at cafés, friends elsewhere, for a walk.

At some point, oh say 100 years ago, they may have gone here:

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The waiting room at Freud’s house on 19 Bergstrasse

I wasn’t really in need of a pick-me-up, but still found it a good place, really an extraordinarily fascinating place to head to on a Sunday morning.

Vienna, like Warsaw, pretty much closes down on Sunday (except for the coffee shops). Yet the people (like in Warsaw) go out in great numbers to parade up and down the main shopping gasse's and strasse's (the park is to the side and does not lend itself to parading up and down. You can dispense with it in an hour or so).

You would think one store at least would seize the competitive advantage and throw open its doors and rake in the Euros, but no. Sunday is Sunday. You eat and you drink and you eat some more. And stroll.

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The Havelka: some describe it as Vienna's most bohemian, intellectual, literary, smokey, etc etc cafe.

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fewer people, quieter spaces

It seems I ought not strain myself either on a Sunday. And I did not. I kept the camera in its pouch and, apart from the museum visit, I concentrated on strolling. And eating.

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chanterelle mushroom salad

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plum strudel -- hold the cream, please.

And in the very early morning, I amused myself by taking pictures in the mirror of a neighborhood café.

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Cafe Aida