Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hounding Bassett

Even long time Madison residents (me for example) are only vaguely familiar with the Bassett neighborhood of the city. Located just south-west of the Capitol, it is a place of old warehouses and varied housing styles.

Mr. B and I biked over and poked around. It’s an interesting area of downtown Madison: once popular only among students, now it’s drawing back a diverse crowd of more stable residents. The blend is endlessly fascinating.

Some photos from my morning spin through it:
this gives you a feel for the larger structures in the neighborhood Posted by Hello
many associate this neighborhood with Madison's listener-supported funky radio station: WORT; peddling by, I heard (fittingly) Dar Williams coming from inside... Posted by Hello
one of several old warehouses -- converted to usable space Posted by Hello
the neighborhood is crossed by tracks that pass over a bridge spanning the waterway between Madison's two lakes; to the side, two fishermen Posted by Hello
close-up: the bird on the tracks watches as the fish bites Posted by Hello
an artist taking it all in... Posted by Hello
a corner gorcery store and across the street: an upscale cafe (Jo's) Posted by Hello
inside Jo's, a spot for a latte (it remains to be seen if the latte is any good: I'm a a harsh judge) Posted by Hello
one last look at the Lorillard tobacco warehouse that first drew me to this area: from the back... Posted by Hello
...and from the front Posted by Hello

If you could only read Polish…

You would enjoy reading maching tracksuits this week. Kinga, a Pole, moved a few days ago to the States along with her American husband, Gary. Both are posting their impression of being in the States (Gary had been living in Poland for a number of years now). Kinga writes in Polish, Gary in English. Kinga’s observations about her surroundings make me smile. It is like me, looking in afresh on life here, commenting with my own set of childhood (i.e. Polish) experiences!

During my last trip to Poland I made a point of meeting these two bloggers. Two of their Polish friends joined us and we sat drinking beer at an outdoor table, at the foot of the sweeping Tatra mountains.

I thought then: Gary has had to make adjustments during his years of living in Poland, but Kinga will have to make far greater adjustments when they move to the States. The conversation was full of Polish-style banter, but it also turned intimate very quickly, with a great deal of reflection on everything from literature to relationships. Both the men and women tripped over themselves to throw in their two zlotys, in the rapid fire way that Poles typically communicate.

Dusk turned to night and in the space of those hours it became so clear to me that there indeed is this great cultural divide: it is in the manner in which people relate to each other -- the expressions they use, the themes they pick out, the common understanding of what is ordinary and what seems curiously alien.

Even if you don’t read Polish, you can track Gary’s English text (they alternate posts): he writes as an American who is returning here after many years of being away and also as one who is aware of how Kinga is experiencing this country. Having read both sides of the blog, I can assure you that he represents Kinga’s thoughts about their new surroundings quite well!