Friday, October 31, 2008

new england

Can you tell what's down there?

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Boston. I'm following the steps of my younger daughter who lives here. For now.

Late, I walk through her campus, liking the leaves and light that hit her law buildings, in much the same way that I like it when the sun hits the trees outside my own law school office.

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New England. It conjures up a wealth of pretty images.

And food wise? Oh, it's good. I hear on the news that lobster prices are at a twenty year low. Sad for the fishermen. They're hoping that at least people will buy what's brought to shore. We help by eating lobster rolls for dinner.

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And we retire. In anticipation of tomorrow’s journey north.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

the last ride

Surely I do not need to check the air pressure on my bike tires anymore. It’s the tail end of October. Next week is November. I’m not happy on the bike when it’s cold. The wind cuts through everything. The lake path is murderous. At that point, I prefer the bus.

And yet, this morning, I check the air. Low. I pump it up to 125 where it belongs. And I set out. It may be the last time this year. The last time under this administration. The last time before Spring.

I zip by the playing fields. Onto the lakeshore path. Past the plaid coated figure. So Fall.

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...and past the morning emptiness of the Union Terrace.

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On Bascom Mall – pumpkins. Hi, jack-o-lanterns.

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And then, toward evening, it is the reverse. Bye, jack-o-lanterns. And pink toned sky over the Capitol.

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I pass bikers coming back from band practice. I pass the barns and silos next to our agricultural school.

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Warm. I’m warm. Amazing. Sun’s gone, it’s the end of October and I have to unbutton my coat.

At home, I lock up my bike, thinking that I may not touch it again until 09. Weird, isn’t it?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

for hire?

I thought of posting this ad on Craig’s list:

Wanted, part time job.
Qualifications: various.

I am motivated and hardworking. Unfortunately, I already have a full time job and oftentimes I don’t get home until after 7 p.m., so I am available only in the evenings before I fall asleep, or on week-ends (unless I am away – like this coming week-end and several others in the near future). Actually, come to think of it, between work, writing, photos and blogging, and being away, I guess I don’t have a huge amount of time for an additional job, but what time I have to give will be quality time.

I don’t mind boring work, so long as it’s well-paid.
I would like to earn at least $25 per hour – in my head that translates into $100 in four hours, which is pretty cool.

I like children, so long as they don’t have some contagious bug. Children like me, too, which does not mean I am immature, only that I find most kids engaging. We get along.

I can teach languages if you need to learn languages. I realize no one in this country wants to or needs to learn languages, but still, you may consider it, just for the heck of it.

Please send me an email if you think I am qualified to do whatever in the next several weeks.

What do you think?

Are you suggesting that I should do the search rather than just post and wait for attention? Oh, but I did!

The best ad that I came across asked for someone to come and be intelligent around her 12 year old son while she was away on a business trip. $25 per hour. Pay non-negotiable, the ad read. Wow. The pay seemed pretty high to me. I surely could at least fake great wisdom for that amount! But, somehow, I felt the ad was strange.

Almost as strange as the ad I put up on a little more than three years back in which I said I wanted to meet someone who was brilliant at what he does (and I placed no limits on what kind of activities that someone could be engaged in). Ed responded to that one. Amused. At once putting forth the disclaimer that he was not such a person (we’ve argued over that, with me taking positions on both sides, depending on the issue), but still wishing to congratulate me on not simply wanting to walk on beaches at sunset or to eat all dinners by candlelight. Never mind that he himself likes to exist in perpetual dimness and would not mind if lights were off for most everything except reading. And he likes beaches. Though not for reasons of romance.

Ed and I became great pals. Occasional traveling companions even. So perhaps I should be more open minded about the ad on Craig’s list asking for intelligence.

Or, to the ad wanting to hire a chocolate seller at Fannie May. I mean, no one likes the name these days, but their chocolates are alright. Even though I would have to wear a bonnet and what’s the point of getting my hair done if it then has to be concealed by a bonnet.

Yes. There you have it. I decided to visit Jason one more time. Tonight. Hence the search for additional employment. You need to pay as you go in our new economy. I get it already.

A photo for today? How about this, the first that I took with my new camera. Out on the balcony. I wont take it further than that. Too scared of dropping it. I’m titling the photo “still, life.”

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

trivial pursuits

If occasionally you can distract yourself with something completely inconsequential, do so. It’s so refreshing to indulge in (one’s own) stupidity.

Today, for example, in between classes, I thought about hair. I began to think that perhaps I should tighten my belt around my scalp. I believe Jason, my hair man, is as talented as they come. But talent is expensive.

So, cut it less? Touch it up not at all? Maybe. If no one in the world cares about the color/length of your hair, why should you?

In the afternoon, between classes, I looked around me. People have interesting hair.

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curly hair in café

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60s hair on State Street

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very blond hair on Bascom Mall

I have to say, it was a cold day. So that very many people, even student type people, covered their scalp. This is odd, given that so many insist on staying with the short pants. I suppose one does lose heat more front the head than from the shins. Still...

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Monday, October 27, 2008

flurries, cat claws and bird noises

Suddenly, it is very cold outside. The wind, the bursts of freezing precipitation – all of it is very uninviting.

But didn’t I just put into a book format an effusive rhapsody about how beautiful outdoor Madison is, year round?

(It’s interesting that I chose that theme at the time that crickets chirped, and dragonflies buzzed, and raspberries turned red, and the sun felt too warm.)

As it is, I had no choice but to head out today. True, I have no classes on Monday, but appointments forced me to go downtown. And then, since I was just a stone’s throw from Ed’s farmette, I visited his cats.

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I did not need to do this. Ed hired a cat lady to come in his absence and prowl around and feed his two strays some of that awful looking 9-lives stuff out of a can. But I wanted to demonstrate my respect for his two "kitties," which are really sort of like his two "kiddies." Sometimes, I’m sure Ed thinks I would shove the cats off their territorial perches if I could (they can be overbearing), but really, I do not mind them. You can’t expect much from cats who survived in the wild before showing up at his door. I remain grateful for the occasional purring noises that they throw my way. I pet them and then we go on doing our own thing.

Outside, the robins were out furiously going after the crab apples, the snow showers came and went -- in short, it was a perfect end of October kind of day. If you like the end of October.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


It was time to do a thorough cleaning. You’d think those who are ridiculously fastidious and who routinely clean their home Sunday mornings should not have to binge clean. You’d think.

Five hours later I was tired. And still, there was (law) work to do.

Late in the afternoon I had had enough. I did what I never do: I borrowed a car and took a drive.

I felt that Fall had passed me by. My coastal travel had been to places (California and New York City) that don’t do Fall very dramatically. Somewhere in there I had missed the show.

And so I drove. Too tired to hike, I took a car spin west of Madison. Some of my favorite country roads are here, a handful of minutes away. The sky changed from partly cloudy to gray, but it did this in a stunning way. Many of the trees had dropped their leaves, but not all. The fields were mostly bare, though some still had corn. Cows were pulling at the last bits of green grass. It was a gorgeous drive. (Pulling off the road to take a photo can be challenging. Toward the end, I abandoned the car and hiked some, although most of these shots were taken with a car by my side. Total gas used: one eight of a tank. Decadence.)

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

he is, after all, an OCCASIONAL travel companion

Today, Ed set out to hike the Smokey Mountains (in North Carolina) with his buddy John.

Over the years, he and I have struggled to figure out ways of structuring trips and getaways that would please and delight both of us. It's been tough, given that the very first words we ever spoke to each other were around the theme that we have nothing in common.

You want to suggest compromise? Well sure, Ed and I are familiar with compromise: he bends, I bend, neither of us likes it, we sigh with resignation and toddle on. For some things in life there is no perfect middle ground.

I have thought for a while that I should quit trying to like danger and clean water and bad weather and no roof over my head. And so today, off Ed went, to pursue adventure with someone loves discomfort as much as he does.

As we shopped last night for pouches of food that they would eat in the days (weeks?) ahead, I felt both nostalgia and relief. Suckers, I envy you. For the first three days anyway. Not after.

There is another element in the story and it has to do with the fact that Ed and his buddy have both recently retired. Their time is unconstrained. It has been a valuable experience for me to watch what happens to people who retire early and whose time becomes infinitely intractable. (At the same time as I remain at home, with a stack of midterms to grade. No, not jealous. Really. I love teaching. But I also love infinitely intractable schedules. So, more like envious.)

This morning, before Ed’s Great Adventure, he and I went to the Westside Community Farmers Market. There are only a couple of Saturdays left for the outdoor market. How sad. The tail end of anything is difficult. In spite of the fact that the shades of autumn today were so very beautiful.

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After, I drove Ed to the airport. In Milwaukee (you got it: cheaper airfares!). Originally, we had wanted to stop at the Milwaukee Art Museum prior to departure, but predictably, things got out of control and we barely made it in time for him to check in before the gates closed.

Except that the gates did not close, because the flight was canceled. Here I am, zipping back to Madison and Ed is borrowing someone’s cell phone to call me with the suggestion that maybe we should spend a sweet afternoon at the Museum after all (prior to his now very late departure).

I turn around, pick him up and zip to the downtown waterfront, to the magnificent Santiago Calatrava structure (first one of his to be completed in the US, granting him the “Best Design” award of 2001).

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We saw it with the wingspan open and then, on the way back, because it was so windy today, we saw it closed.

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And inside, all was immensely sleek gorgeous. What, you doubt me?

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At the close of the afternoon, I grabbed a latte and a cookie, dropped my OTC off for his bold and daring trek and headed home. I’ve learned how to find the pretty way back to Madison. I know when to get off the highway and veer toward the hill from which you can catch a glimpse of the city ahead.

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Closer, I could see the windsurfers do their thing.

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I was happy that they got in a good day of flipping and gliding. It’s getting colder by the hour. I bet it’s warmer in North Carolina. Sigh... Hi, Ed...

Friday, October 24, 2008

thoughts from an afternoon at a café, where laptops abound and the women are serious

Even as I went through a rigorous downsizing three years back, and a significant belt-tightening at the end of this spring, I am forever fighting the urge to grow and upgrade. If only I had the next camera in the lineup of the affordable (making it, therefore, unaffordable)! What’s $100 more when you are investing in years of photo-taking? Say the camera lasts only two years (because then I’ll be fifty-seven and probably doubly clumsy). That’s 14 cents a day extra, no? Most any employed person here, without little kiddies to support and with a good health insurance plan can afford 14 cents a day, right?

Of course, this is the pigheaded way we think. I should get, instead, in the habit of putting away 14 cents a day, just like that, without much thought to it, because, well, I can afford to do it. And then, in two years I should celebrate: I’ll have accumulated $100. How thrilling is that?! It wont buy me an upgrade in my camera (because you can’t really buy an upgrade after you have already purchased the camera), but $100 is good for any number of things. In fact, it is such a fat wad of money, that I may be tempted not to spend it all. Hoarding it, I may become stingy and self-righteous. I may look down on those who don’t know how to save and whose credit card debt exceed boundaries of reasonableness. (Forgetting that, not too long ago, I was one of them…)

That sounds wrong. Perhaps I should purchase the upgrade and also contribute to a political campaign, ensuring that I remain committed to noble ideas at the same time that I am improving my photography.

Why is it that the best solutions are so often the most pricey ones?

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UPDATE: Sanity prevailed. I basically got a replacement camera, with a very modest $45 upgrade. Here's why: Mr. Frugal (Ed) pointed out that I had not used half the features of my now broken Sony SLR. One can improve photos through camera upgrades and through learning more about how best to use the camera one has. Mr. Frugal is right. And, in a magnificent gesture of great generosity, he offered to replace the camera. Perhaps a gift for what was, after all, a date that had some significance? He wouldn't admit it, but one can spin nice tales like this on one's blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


So, eventually, it rained. I cheated and drove to work. I felt like a person on a diet who had just had a triple fudge something or other. The joy did not survive the guilt. At least you’ll get a photo that is different from the typical workday lake shore path and/or bus stop cache. (Note, please, our hardy men with a pizza, but no umbrellas.)

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I was on the path to my parking lot – a path that I only took twice last year. It had been snowy, cold, disgusting, and now that you mention it -- winter day.

I'm right in recalling that today was only October 23rd? I think I’m getting soft.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

settling in

When I sent an email to someone describing my day’s highs and lows, she pointed out that my story – or at least part of it – was gross. I suppose she is right. I do admit that teeth sagas have elements of the macabre (especially when they entail such drama as wrestling something loose from a bone it grew to love), but I think there's fun to be had even there, at the office of a maxillofacial surgeon. I mean, the name itself – maxillofacial -- has overtones of something good. It all sounds like biting into the maximally delicious mille feuilles, no?

But really, more significantly, I miss my good camera, the one that shattered on 40th and Fifth.. My little point and shoot is okay for the straightforward photos of fall colors outside.

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But it does not inspire me to look for bigger and better things. I’m content writing about the maxillofacial aspects of life in the meanwhile. One could do worse, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

back home

Last night, I left Ed to the vultures of the New York Bar and flew home.

Apart from the early morning tumble, the day was unmemorable. When I was not at the library, I people watched.

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And window-peered.

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at Tiffany's: taxis, jewels, lights
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at UW: cows, explanations, lights

Ooops, that last was from today, back in Madison. You couldn’t tell?

Yesterday, I had wanted to eat dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar – it’s a place where Ed and his dad used to occasionally dine and it’s a place where my dad has eaten as well (though not with me) and I thought it would be somehow fitting. Especially since it also happened to be Ed’s birthday. Normally, Ed would like me to make nothing of October 20th, but I remind him that it is also the date we first became Occasional Traveling Companions (three years ago), and so it’s harder for him to be a jackass about the whole date recognition thing.

The Oyster Bar is so traditional, so old world New York, so old people New York (especially if you’re eating before 6 p.m.), so old habits New York, that it hurts. Have I crossed over to that world? Of hanging on to fading lights and checked tablecloths and waiters who understand that, so often, you must dine alone?

As it happened, on this day Ed was with law types and so I did eat by myself. I at least had wanted to pack some oysters and take them to him, over at The Firm, but New York says No! to taking out raw foods of this sort and so I ate a handful of Long Island blue points…

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… took over some clam chowder for the OTC, and flew home.

At my condo, the heating system has again failed. You may recall that this was a recurring problem last year, but they swore that it was finally repaired and that I should never have to experience the depressing reentry into a cold unit. I know they tried. I know it. Still, it was cold.

This morning I biked to work. Out of habit. Blue skies means bike. So now I am hoping for rainfall for the rest of the week because frankly, I’m too cold to bike out there in the tail end days of October.

On a cheerful note, I also visited my dentist so that he could plug my jaw with additional pain meds.

In all, a glorious day of cold, pain and work. No, I'm not complaining. Life is good.