Monday, June 26, 2006

Blame it on the train. Or the rain. Or people without a purpose or destination.

Watching the numbers on the digital clock, I noted that time moves slower if there is no hour hand making its way from one, to two, to three.

If I slept last night, I did not notice. It seemed that I did not. Except if you do not sleep, you also do not awake and at two, quite suddenly, I was aware of being very much awake.

My loft looks out onto railroad tracks and I have found that to be a good thing. It’s not as if there are frequent trains zipping by on their way to interesting places like the Mississippi or the beaches of Lake Michigan.

But at two in the morning a train did pass by at the agonizing speed of .05 miles an hour. At most. It was a freight train, pulling a load of coal to a nearby power plant I think. And it screeched. And the cars banged against each other, or the tracks, or obstacles on the tracks -- who can tell anything beyond that the banging was pronounced.

Each time the train approached a street crossing, it let out a hellish warning – as if these tiny residential streets had traffic moving through them at this hour! The crossing gates were closed in any event and I could tell this because a closed gate adds an extra shrill and clang, warning drivers who perhaps are blind and cannot see, that the gate is closed.

And then the train stopped. Not the hissing and hooting part, but the moving along part. It stood there to torture every last resident in the Bassett downtown neighborhood of Madison, daring any of us to scream out the window to get moving already! Iron monster, indeed.

Eventually it did move and I went back to my nonsleep.

In the morning, after teaching a seminar downtown, I walked along State Street under the cover of an umbrella. Madison has artsy cows promoting our dairy industry. I remember when, several years ago, Chicago had artsy cows on display on Michigan Avenue. I had wondered then if they were also promoting Wisconsin’s dairy industry, manifesting pride perhaps in the accomplishments of Illinois' sister state?

There are many cleverly painted and decorated cows around the Capitol Square and on State Street, but the one that caught my eye was Ms Moo right outside the Art Center. She bore the title of Moonlight over Madison and she reminded me of how little sleep I got last night. The photo below shows off not her loveliness, but the wet drops of rain on her hide. You'll note that although her colors are yellow and blue, the emphasis is on shades of blue.

Madison summer 06 012

I love European trains. I rode maybe about 100 of them in the last two months and with perhaps one exception, I enjoyed them all.

But I do have a new respect for people whose homes are within spittin’ distance of a TGV (rapid train) track. Though perhaps the torture time, condensed to the two second zip, is significantly less than that of a screaming freighter that parks outside your window.

Close to campus, the rain ceased and the cows took on brighter Ocean-like colors.

Madison summer 06 014

In the afternoon I called my landlord to ask if they were thinking of putting up benches outside the loft buildings. I would like to believe that on dazzling sunny days (and I have faith that there will be dazzling sunny days) I can take a coffee and a croissant and eat them outside. Front step will do, but I think asking for a bench is more reasonable.

The management sighed deeply and explained that they would very much like to put up benches but they are concerned that they would attract not residents wishing to savor a morning coffee but those without much purpose or destination in life, looking for a comfortable place to ingest something considerably stronger than coffee.

For the most part, it was a drippy kind of day.