Sunday, September 14, 2008

friends in the Wright places

You’ve come across unusual coincidences before. We all have. Your sister knows the uncle of someone who was married to the teacher of your best friend’s second born and suddenly you meet that person in your yoga class. That sort of thing.

Okay, try this one: my father once worked at the UN and there he met a coworker who would remain his lifelong friend, even as she stayed in New York and he traveled back to Poland. This person (let me call her “Martha”) is friends with someone who went to college with someone else. That someone else eventually inherited a Frank Lloyd Wright House in University Heights, one of only a handful of Wright homes in Madison. It’s rarely (never?) opened to the public, but to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the current owner (the someone else) decided to throw a very private party. She invited, among others, her college friend and also Martha.

And that’s how I found myself, on Saturday afternoon, inside the Gilmore House.

I had never met Martha, but we correspond regularly as we update each other on my father’s health and well being. And now, here she is, in town and inviting me to come with her for a special look inside the Gilmore House before the big party the next day. (Another coincidence: the original homeowner was a UW Law grad.)

What did I think of it? Well, I can’t share much, because I was told to hide my camera. It’s a very private place, so that even the rock in the back yard – which I was itching to photograph, if only because it has a plaque commemorating the fact that this is the highest point in Madison proper – was off limits to my Sony. Something about security. But I will say this: up until now, I hadn’t given much thought to how there is a world out there in University Heights, that totally moves beyond my own orbit.

Did I mention that the Gilmore House is sometimes called the Airplane House? Can you guess why?

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Airplane on the summit
Purchase photo 2029

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full view
Purchase photo 2028

I did enjoy meeting my father’s friend, Martha (whose last visit to Madison had been in the year before I was born). I took her for a quick spin around campus and I was amused that she recognized much of it from photos she had seen on Ocean.

I assured her that someday my father would once again travel to NY. I’m not certain whether he will, though I can’t help but think that good friends, and even those who are friends of your college friends, are worth traveling for.