The Other Side of the Ocean
Friday, March 31, 2006
It struck me that it somehow describes my weeks, this little scene. I’m moving in one direction, slowly and then wondering if I should be pedaling in the opposite direction, against the tide, then resisting the temptation to flip, pushing ahead again.
It was very poignant, this thought of moving forces with their various forms of locomotion. Really. You had to be there. Maybe you had to be me.
In a second, I reached for the camera and, still moving with the train, I took a photo. The lighting was as you see it. The blur? Come now, we were all moving, the camera is set on an average shutter speed and I'm trying not to kill myself, the cyclist and anyone else in sight. Of course it’s going to blur.
And still, I like the photo. Me moving with the train, then against it, then, finally, turning off (to Whole Foods) while the pattern of movement continued without me.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Last night that someone was the chef/sushi roller at the Sushi Box.
People in Madison are so attached to Wasabi on State Street, that they will not set foot in a place that holds the enviable position of being far from pedestrian traffic, far from the campus and far from the suburbs. Basically, it’s in nobody’s way except for maybe sick people who inevitably will pass it en route to UW Hospitals. Though why do I think that sick types rarely pause to eat raw fish on their way to get their bones set or kidneys examined? People are funny that way.
So last night, I walked the unattractive blocks of Old University, entered the Sushi Box, pulled out a Sapporo and circled my sushi choices.
That would have been that, and the post may have been shorter and better for it, but for the fact that the chef/sushi roller had the smile of all smiles…
…and so I boldly asked if I could stand over his shoulder and watch (and take photos and basically be in the way, but I didn’t mention that part then). He smiled a “yes” right at me and got to work while I admired his hands. And his polka dotted hat. And the final product. Wonderful, all of it.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
And isn’t it gratifying to realize that next week, that same view will be yours to admire at 7 pm, or even a few minutes after?
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
However, that was only a food stop. Indeed, it was some distance away from the overnight in Turtle Lake – an indication of how far I needed to go to eat decently (according to my b&b hosts).
Now, you may argue that Turtle Lake is also not “northern Wisconsin.” I would have issues with that. Barron County is north, damn it! While people were strolling on State Street on a sunny Sunday, with temps in Madison crossing the magic 50 degree mark, I was up north, doing this:
the only way to get around
And the lake was frozen, so that when I, in my borrowed snowshoes, traipsed out to the middle of it to take this photo:
…I did not go under. Nothing even cracked beneath me, in spite of the fact that I weighed a ton, having eaten this for breakfast:
So, compare the snowshoe stuff with photos taken on the way back, still north of Madison, north of the Dells, in fact, but still in central Wisconsin:
cranberry fields forever
…Compare that with the photos from Turtle Lake. I mean, come on! Turtle Lake is north.
Monday, March 27, 2006
So long as we’re all the way up north to see the maple syrup operation, let’s poke around Turtle Lake some…
Turtle Lake is another three hours worth of driving… five hours, if you take the backroads!
Ed always takes the backroads.
So what. I want to see Turtle Lake. I want to experience a b&b that has won awards for its proximity to nature, wildlife and the Wisconsin way.
There is, however, the food situation. I call the Canyon Road Inn.
So… where can you get some decent local food for dinner?
There’s the steak house…
My travel companion doesn’t do steak.
Well, there’s the supper club some twenty miles north.
I google the supper club. More steaks. And an international menu of (meat) lasagna and chow mein. I haven’t seen chow mein on a menu since I was a little girl living in NYC and they had it as a regular feature in my school cafeteria.
How about the Main Street Café in Bloomer? People from the city go there to eat.
And what city is that? Bloomer is in the middle of nowhere. A few miles north of Chippewa Falls - Leinenkugel beer land. They come here from Chippewa Falls? Well then, it’s a must.
The MSCafe is on…Main Street. It has foods sold in baskets. You know, fried shrimp and fries in a basket. Grilled chicken sandwich in a basket. Cod in a basket. Grilled or fried.
How’s the grilled cod?
Don’t know. No one orders it that way. People take it fried.
And how’s your pizza?
Great! It’s our specialty!
So we order pizza.
pizza and a Linie
If you can forgive the canned pickled mushrooms and the gobs of Wisconsin cheese, and the canned tomato paste, it’s okay. Especially since it comes with a Linienkugel and offers views of the counter, where the old boys (and I mean old) are chewin the fat. Or the fried.
Dressed to kill (with low slung jeans, just like they’re wearing on State Street), sipping a beer with their baskets of food and their plates of pie, they appear to not mind the weather up here, the state of the world.
saturday dinner up north
just like the young folk
Pie, can I get you some pie?
What do you have?
Apple. (Fitting for a place that has every patriotic symbol in the world scattered about, including American flag paper napkins and framed dedications to the heroes of 9/11 at each booth.)
Apple it is. Not great apple, but regular old apple pie, just like you have eaten a million times before in every road-side dining place in America.
as american as
Sunday, March 26, 2006
So whatever happened to the tin buckets catching the drips?
Put an urban kid in the northwoods and there you have it: complete ignorance about maple syrup technology.
It’s all about tubes now, connected to trees then to each other, looking like someone had spun a web of blue around the maple forest (get it right, Ocean, it’s called a sugar bush).
Inside, the hut smells like you want it to smell: logs burning in the first stove, the syrup picking up a deep amber tone, filling the space with a warm aroma of waffles for breakfast.
feeding the fire
The tubes are so much cleaner than the bucket thing. Animals, bugs, shreds of forest life all made their way into the buckets.
A walk through the forest down to the river, following logging trails and deer tracks, over moist leaves (there are mushrooms here in the summer; you’re Polish… you like mushrooms, no? I like mushrooms) makes you kind of wistful for a grandmother’s house at the end of the run. The type of grandmother who lives in rustic places and does nothing but bake and cook for you all day long. (I had a grandmother like that, back in Poland; I picked mushrooms for her and she’d swim them in butter and chop them into pierogi.)
eau something or other
April 22nd. The first market day for Madison. I don’t use maple syrup much, ever since everybody in Dane County is pretending to be on one diet or other and big breakfasts and brunches belong to the days of buckets dangling from trees. But I’ll stock up. For the future. Liquid gold from up north.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Wait, you called me from Borders. I told you the name of the map. When did you have time to forget?
It was educators’ discount days at Borders and they were giving our free sandwich wraps and brownies and 30 days of Internet use and that was distracting enough, but then I met up with a fellow blogger and she was wearing these cool green shoes and a green low-neckline sweater and this scarf and cap and she looked so swank and we got to talking about clothes, because just this day I fell in love with an espresso-toned, thinly-ribbed tank top on State Street that was $41 and we were commiserating how expensive it is to be the kind of woman who wants to dress well and so I left without remembering why I had gone there to begin with.
Okay, we’ll wing it. Back roads, no map. Should be interesting.
[The above is a conversation from this morning. The goal is to find a friend of my traveling companion, way up in northern Wisconsin. The friend is tapping maple trees. I have visions of buckets and dripping little spouts but I am told that my quaint images are dated and obsolete. In any case, my camera battery is charged and I found a spot some five hours from here that has WiFi. And the temperatures are above freezing. How good is that.]
Friday, March 24, 2006
Mind you, I believed it to be a formality. As I write this post, students are lined up, waiting for the green light, so that they can get their visas for a semester of fantastic pommes frites. And good classes, of course. Another handful in Paris are at this very moment, I am sure, surfing the Net, finding out what this city of Madison is all about -- whether it has the same joie de vivre as their home town (at a stretch…), what the quintessential Madison eating experience is all about (well, there’s Dotty’s…) and whether there are sidewalk cafés (yes! and they have WiFi, mixed blessing that it is).
I was not going to leave the last dotting of the i to chance. I took it upon myself to walk the Agreement up to the ruling parties up there atop Bascom Hill.
I look outside – it’s snowing hard. Wet fat flakes covering the lawn on the Hill.
Damn. I search for a large envelope to protect the prepared document and quickly snatch one of those intra-campus ones, with holes in it for God knows what reason. I walk up, face turned down, trying not to think about the fact that this is what is affectionately referred to as spring in this state.
I locate the office of the administrative assistant.
It’s the Exchange Program Agreement? She asks.
I nod, shaking off even more snow from my jacket, my bag, my camera case.
She removes the document, marked now by wet flakes that made their way through the envelope openings.
It’s wet, she says.
It’s snowing, I say.
We are engaged in a conversation about the obvious.
I am not about to go back and do this thing over. So the Chancellor has to sign a wet document. So what. I leave the office as the assistant dabs away at the pages.
Outside, looking down the hill, I think about how if I lived in the suburbs, I’d be getting in my car to drive home. I have no car now, I have no campus parking. I don’t even have an umbrella, at least not with me.
I take a photo of good old Abe. The glory of being positioned at the top of Bascom Hill in Madison Wisconsin brings with it the burden of enduring these kinds of spring days.
I put away the camera, do another circle of scarf around my neck and walk home.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
So here you go, take heart you there on State Street. In front of the Fac Club on Library Mall, yesterday, I saw this:
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
And so long as I am looking after the interest of the other (you know, the student, me, etc), should I not also take to heart the interest of that small pizza place on Willie Street (Roman Candle) and support it on this often slow mid-week day, on a regular basis? Why them, you ask? Well, shouldn’t one pick the objects of one’s support for the utter friendliness of the servers? Would you not rush to a place where the waiters practically sang to you as they placed their pie on a little sling-down tray over your table?
Wednesdays are very long days.
heavy on the mushrooms and garlic please
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Okay, but I am, have been, will continue to be a sackful of issues. You want calm? Not me. Not this week, not this month. I have issues, you hear me? I have issues!
Such was an email exchange I had earlier today. Perhaps not as emphatic, but close. Rather than run away from the prospect of coffee with a woman with issues, my coffee-mate (is that still in production?) was tantalized.
Of course, verbalizing issues has this effect: it makes them appear small. By the end of our meeting I was thinking that I don’t even have issues, I just have a fertile imagination. There’s a difference.
The pushing aside of my issues freed me: I was able to accompany my coffee-mate (that just sounds so wrong) to Little Luxuries on State Street where she admired hairbands and I considered acquiring this item:
Literature after my own heart. Imagine, I may be at the cusp of something big. Any year now.
For everything else, there’s Ocean.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I walked there yesterday. Watching the games geese play with each other, I thought a lot about the way we ourselves coax and tease, laugh, eat (an essential in my case) and play with, and generally chase down the objects of our affection.
he chases her
she then chases him
a secret, underwater pursuit
they're just so into each other
he's doing the mating dance
two take off
heading into the sunset, alone
too much togetherness?
keeping up with her
two birdwatchers, waiting, with expectations
Sunday, March 19, 2006
From a drive to Governor Nelson State Park, just north of Madison:
two minutes outside Madison, total quiet
from the north, looking toward the Capitol, the lake is ice-free
...though evidence of winter is there, along the shore
blue shadows on slushy trails
Saturday, March 18, 2006
We are walking down a Chicago block earlier in the week. Remember when I was in sixth grade? – I’m asked. Yeah… There was a quiz I had to respond to, how well I knew my parents. Remember? One question was about my mom’s favorite color. I knew you didn’t have one, but I needed to answer. You like blue, no? So I put down blue. Yeah… And then it was your turn. You could look at my answers and fill in your real ones. Yeah… And when it came to what’s your favorite color, you wrote “I have no favorite. NOT blue.” You broke my heart. Roll back, let me do it over again!
Did you love me forever, for those three days? Lucinda Williams sings on the CD. A new line to use when you fish for something that lasts forever. Did you only love me, for those three days? No, no, I love you forever!
Spring break. Last days of it. Snow melts. I cook one last dinner. One daughter is supremely late. I want to kill her, she knows the rules. A person cooks, you show up. But I can’t.
On the CD player, Woodie Guthrie sings a song we play each year on March 17th, for no good reason.
Go to sleep you weary hobo
Let the towns drift slowly by
Can't you hear the steel rail humming
That's a hobo's lullaby
Do not think about tomorrow
Let tomorrow come and go
Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar
Safe from all the wind and snow
Friday, March 17, 2006
I’m not Irish. Poles only recently love the Irish. In my days, Ireland was a place for the US bound Polish jet to refuel, nothing more. Your worthless Polish currency couldn’t even buy you a pint of beer at the airport.
Come pub crawling anyway. Green beer. You can take photos.
I have no interest in photographing beer diluted with green water.
The people, it’s all about the people.
If by The People you mean college kids getting drunk on State Street, believe me, I have enough connection to The People on an almost daily basis.
Please! It’s sunny. And spring break. Look! State Street is full of people your age!
It used to be Please Take a Walk With Me, now it’s please let’s drink green beer. You’ve lost touch with the inner me.
Have I ever asked you for anything with such earnestness?
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, do you know where your children are??
One of mine is by my side at the Irish Pub on State Street. And no, I am not having a green beer. And yes, I am finding it an interesting place for a few minutes of camera time.
green hats, green pitchers, greenbacks
she's got her work cut out for her today
an old woman rests her hand on the bar; it's my birthday, she says
Thursday, March 16, 2006
view through the screen
…and put thoughts of work and chores aside. No use moving rapidly into the day when the day turns out to be the kind that pushes you back under the quilt.
So instead, I thought about the foods I had been working on the past couple of days. I’d never made any of the dishes before. It’s far more interesting to experiment with new stuff.
galette de crabe "le bec-fin" (crab and shrimp galette with a light mustard sauce)
But with old combinations of people there at the table. People, whose quirks and idiosyncrasies you know by heart. People who have eaten at your house so many times that they have grown used to your kitchen habits, who are patient, who can carry on even as you drift in and out of talk, with half your mind focused on the next dish and the next.
The loft this week is full of people, staying here, eating, coming in and out.
I’m sitting and watching the snow fall, thinking every good thought on the planet, neglecting work, neglecting worry, neglecting stacks of paper.
Spring break works its magic.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Dirty dishes in the sink, most foods only half finished, nine people in two hours, here, ready to eat. What can I say, both the post and the food still need work. So, back to the kitchen sink for now. As to Ocean? Ocean's a patient sort. Later. Much much later.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
When I was in Chicago this past week-end, in that burst of warm air, I thought how different life would be if spring break fulfilled the expectation of a true pause in life, one that allowed you to revel in the warmth and light that I imagine for this season. My imagination moves me outdoors and places me at a table with terrific people watching opportunities. Something not dissimilar to this:
Chicago: reflecting on the essence of whatever
I ought not be bothered by the howling wind outside, the cold temperatures. I ought to be used to it. I am a child of northern climates. A chance of snow later this week in Madison. A chance of snow by the week-end in Warsaw, Poland. So I understand that this month does nothing to undo the nakedness of trees, nor does it help the first crocuses stay strong and sturdy against the gusts of cold air.
I understand that I have to wait, but I am not happy about it. I’ll stay indoors with the furnace blowing warm air and make do with my jug of flowers, the same ones that will soon appear at our local market. Okay, maybe not so soon. Okay, maybe in a couple of months. Maybe.
Some spring break.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Personally, I would not sit on a lake where half of it is no longer iced over. No, let me correct that: I would not sit on a lake where the only visible colors around me are shades of gray and the skies let loose something between ice pellets and rain.
Of course, it's not clear why I would be taking a walk under those conditions.
March here is so often a disappointing month.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
In the seventies, sunny skies. Spring fever hits me. It is hard to move from couch to chair. Finally I get it together and set out. In the afternoon.
Some thirty years ago I spent many hours visiting homes and bingo halls in and around Wicker Park, a neighborhood just northwest of downtown Chicago. I was trying then to get a feel for the decaying and disintegrating Polish community. It had been a sad place really. Signs of Polishness had been replaced by check cashing outlets and resale clothing shops.
Today I went back to these streets. With good reason. I’d been hearing that Wicker Park and the adjacent Bucktown are Chicago’s neighborhoods of choice these days. For people like me, who have great feelings of ambivalence about urban gentrification (loving it, hating it, hating it, enjoying it), Wicker Park rules: it has a mixture of ethnicities, old stores and seedy bars, along with quirky boutiques and big time chefs doing their thing at refreshingly simple-looking eating haunts.
Here you find old mansions in various states of repair – many showing off intricate porches, but hiding interiors packed with a little known history. Some say Ignacy Paderewski banged at the piano here in the early 1900s. Poles done good. Some of them anyway. They’re back now, those ubiquitous Chicago Poles. I hear the language. It is spoken by construction workers spiffin up the place for others.
My walking companions know that when the sun gets that glow of a finished day, it is time to sit down, face the street, sip wine and watch people go by. It’s as important to do that as anything else that may mark a day.
Returning to Evanston, I have again put distance (block-wise if not otherwise) between myself and the Poles who keep choosing this city as their own.
Late at night, we go to the Stained Glass Wine Bar and Bistro, I study the menu and pick foods that reflect Chicago’s special melange of infusions and influences: prepared by chef Hernandez, it is a lovely sea food plate, with fresh peas and pierogi at the side.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Don’t stop there, Madisonians, read on, for there is this small sign tucked away at the Flat Top:
I’ve eaten at places similar to it before: you pile onto a plate a selection of stuff, you hand over your mess to the cook and you sit down. In minutes, your very own assortment is stir fried and set before you.
But the Flat Top really pushes it over the top, so that the entire restaurant spins around this stir-fry operation. At any one time, one or two dozen individual mounds are being swished and tossed on the huge flat cooking top. And no, they don’t (99% of the time) mix any of it up: you don’t get any of your neighbor’s spillings.
My eating companions have preferences. One of them especially likes a few select veggies, of the green and thin type, and so she carefully mounds her bowl with her favorites. There are also wonderful sauces and spiced waters that you can ladle onto your mound and she looks for her one or two precious blends each time.
Me, I have my cluttered mindset scribbled all over the plate. None of this meticulous selection and scrutiny. There are literally two dozen raw veggies (and a handful of fruits, plus raw meats and fish for those who like to throw in such stuff) out there to pick from and another dozen sauces and mostly I find them all irresistible, so that in the end, my plate looks like this:
It’s all very economical. Your mound of food is around $12 and for another couple of bucks you can get another round of it. If you take their wine suggestion, you’re out only $12 for the bottle.
I feel after dinner completely satisfied that I have covered all my veggie needs for a week. Guilt-free eating. As fresh and honest as it gets.
So one more little plug for a chain-ish place. Asian again. About to pop up in Madison. I’ll be there when it opens.
Friday, March 10, 2006
downtown Chicago, 1983
Today we again made our way downtown. And now I am spent. It is a shame that when I finally take to the road again and leave Madison for a quick trip to Chicago, I have so little energy at the end of the day that I can say nothing beyond that I am here.
downtown Chicago, March 10, 2006
March weather: eating outside
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Chang’s is a chain. In Madison, it is not cool to like chains. Okay, Whole Foods. You can admit to shopping at Whole Foods and people will forgive you. These days. And after shrugging apologetically, even serious types will tell you that they hang out at Borders.
But mention restaurant chains and the Inner Circle turns up the Inner Nose.
So why is it that yesterday, midweek, rainy and cold, Chang’s was packed, so packed in its huge space, that even those with reservations (us) had to wait? (Wee hoo, free apps as a result!)
Oh, I was initially put off by the huge stone horses at the entrance. Welcome, big crowds! You are now in Vegas! And my man Jason, who clips and colors with a mark of genius, just a parking lot away, shriveled his nose at the tofu when I asked for a lowdown . Too soggy, he tells me.
But others who have eaten at one of the many Chang’s outside the Midwest, brought in different reports and so three of us hiked west to give Chang’s a chance.
Oh there were imperfections: the wait, the forgetful waiter, the rain. Yes, the rain. I did not like being drenched on my way in or out. So there.
But the food was fine! Lettuce wraps, oolong marinated sea bass, black bean chicken. Main dishes hovering around twelve dollars.
Oh we are such great critics, you and I! We all love to knock down everything in sight: places, spaces, people’s cv’s, food. Too salty, too imperfect. It has been done better elsewhere on the planet.
Yes, of course. I agree. And somewhere on this planet there is real spring and flowers are blooming and people are looking out their office spaces and witnessing something far brighter than this:
today on Bascom Hill
I’ll pick small, earnest cooks and growers and producers over big guys most times. I’ll shove artisanal down your throat, I’ll preach the organic mantra. But I wont turn my back on a place that is packed with hungry people who, at the end of the evening, leave intending to come back. I’m one of them. Call me insane, but I am one who even loves a number of items on the Macaroni Grill menu (another maligned chain). I forgive the name there, just as I forgive the Vegas horses outside PF Chang’s. (I do not forgive the weather. Madison, get it together.)
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
For more than thirty years I have been filling out tax forms – for myself, family members, pretty much anyone who walked down the road and asked me for help. I had 1040 confidence.
Then I started making mistakes. Not huge, but come July I’d hear from the IRS. They always included the worlds “you owe.” Nice little note that often came minutes before the fireworks of the fourth of July. Yay Uncle Sam. [Mind you, I like taxes, I do. I just don’t like to be told I made a mistake. Even if I did.]
And here we are, tax season at hand. Since 2005 was a year of Great Changes for me, I became concerned that I would be royally tax-screwed.
Go get help, said one friend.
Do turbo tax, said another.
Sharpen your pencil and do it yourself, another shrugged.
I sharpened the pencil, called a CPA and wrote down the time of the appointment.
Then I went for a walk.
a picnic table outside Monona Terrace: waiting for better weather
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
morning, part 1
Eventually, a fog lifts, light comes through, something beautiful is revealed.
morning, part 2
Monday, March 06, 2006
Then midnight became synonymous with an Ocean deadline. Self-imposed. Post something by then or else. A journalist’s deadline, except I am no journalist. Just a blogger. Still, midnight is suddenly threatening.
And now it is a goal, not a given, that I should stay awake that long. On Saturday, I ended a night out early by saying at 11:45 I am ready to go home.
I am, therefore, pleased that my evening tonight with Tubbs is an early one. You know Tubbs – the Eldorado guy? And his new restaurant on Atwood Avenue? Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace? I get the name wrong a lot. I forget the Tex or the Palace, but Tubb’s sticks with me. Sometimes I think I would do well with a last name like that. Less subject to mispronunciation.
Tubbs does tacos right. My three, achiote rubbed tilapia, shrimp and grilled portabella, sitting on soft corn tortillas, flavored with chipotle dressing, made my eyes burn with joy. Though perhaps the burn was the result of zestiness, as I doused each taco with one of three salsas available in limitless quantities.
My eating companion wanted a taste and a small greedy part of me wanted to say no. The enchiladas on her plate were plenty delicious. I relented when I realized that each taco was only $2.50. If her bite was too substantial, I could easily order another.
I do wish the backroom where we ate was a little, well, warmer. I am used to eating dinner in my coat in Madison restaurants (winter or summer, the latter raising severe AC issues – it’s as if Wisconsinites can’t get enough of that cold air), but the nip here came from both the cool temps and the cool-ish space. I’m trying to recall why I thought it to be less than embracing and as I spin back, I am seeing gray tones and dim lighting. It’s okay, I can live with it. The food is worth it. But, oh, for a burst of warm air, warm tones, warm something! Maybe I am over dramatizing the fact that we are in March and it feels like the dead of winter still.
P.S. Why an early dinner? Because I am a groupie. Doesn’t it make me a groupie to hear Lucinda Williams in the summer in Milwaukee and then to enthusiastically show up at her feet when she comes to Madison?
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Thirty years ago, I had an Oscars party. I invited friends. I met someone who would, within minutes (yes…) become my husband for the next three decades.
Today, the snow fell, gently, then rapidly. I spent the day talking to people who were reviewing their own past.
It continued, the snow did. Eventually, I spun the wheels of my leased car and drove down to Lake Mendota with my daughter. She told me that one of her best memories is of a snowstorm many years back where I had shooed the family out for a walk by lake Mendota. Today she and I walked there, retracing the steps of ten, twenty years back.
Back home, I did what I needed to do: I cooked for you (even though so many of you could not be here). Roasted pepper soup, figs with cheese, beef with horseradish, citrus rubbed shrimp, chocolate pots de crème.
To you, for this day that was a whiteout weatherwise and clear as anything otherwise.
two birds, different, eyeing each other (Lake Mendota)
citrus rubbed shrimp
pots de creme
Saturday, March 04, 2006
You drive out ten minutes, abandon the car and start walking. Suddenly, you have silence. Between trees you see Lake Waubesa. Fishermen, still there, in abundance actually.
Overhead, a hawk. Snow is melting. Not rapidly, but melting.
An hour later you head home. Oh, just a few more minutes! You follow the bike trail, the one that passes by your loft. On the offshoot of Lake Monona, the fishermen here too are reaching into that lake, pulling out the last of the little squiggly things. In the distance, a man looks affectionately at his dog, right there, in the middle of the lake.
Such is a March Saturday in Madison.
fishing, lake Waubesa
a pat, lake Monona
Friday, March 03, 2006
The problem is that doing something in March means keeping indoors. I suggested snowboarding, but it didn’t go over well. Madison is tough for a host humoring someone from out of town.
Okay so let’s do lunch and then a brief spell at Borders, a cup of tea maybe, followed by a drive, then a trip to Whole Foods, then munch delicacies at home, then Wasabi sushi, then let’s top it off with… No, stop right there. Wasabi will fill me up and out.
[Understand: I will need twelve hours to recover from the full day.]
We sit at the bar at Wasabi and watch the skilled guys do their thing. A waitress takes our picture, I take another of the food. For me, true Madisonian (of the “it’s been a long day” type) that I am, this is a mouthful, an eveningful, a postful. Tomorrow night I’ll push the clock. Today, I eat the rolls and roll back home.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I rarely go back. My distaste for malls is significant and there is little else that will draw me to these parts. Suburban friends, I am certain, will travel downtown to see me. It hasn’t happened much yet, but I am sure they will one day leave their orbit of four blocks and connect down here, where the view of the Capitol, from my writing desk, is stupendous.
But I do go back to the far far west side once a month, just to see my man Jason.
Jason cuts and colors at the Aniu Salon. Jason is so good at what he does that I feel I should not ever share the secret of his existence. As it is, I have to make appointments six months in advance to get a time and day I want and I tip the man to high heaven. I do not want you, reader, discovering the Jason touch.
Today I was once again under his sheers and, as usual, we talked food. I wanted to eat well after the cut and I wanted to eat close by.
Eno Vino? – he asked.
Eno Vino. The location of this place is worse than hell, especially if you hate strip malls and live downtown. Oh, but the food!
I sat at the bar, that part that faces the kitchen. I love watching the weathered arms of chefs moving food between stove and plate.
When asked what I’d like, I say – two dishes (Eno V does food in the style of Crave and Cocoliquot and Nina Camic dinner parties: many small courses, so that you can sample stuff. In the case of Nina Camic dinner parties it is a strategy that permits failure. You make eight courses, one fails, it is outnumbered; people do not remember the burned or underdone something or other, because by then they are so full of good stuff and, well, wine, that it hardly matters). I clarify my request: two dishes that are visually pleasing.
And a Black Cherry Effen Vodka with a splash of white cranberry and lemonade. Because Jason said so.
(Just fyi, I so love the Cosmos at Eno V that I threw one in as well. But don’t tell Jason. I mean, they dribble pureed cranberries down your martini glass. How fresh and honest is that.)
I had what I always have here – the crab and cabbage spring rolls with sweet chili sauce (with a chive-garlic-lime dipping soy sauce).
After that I succumbed to the chef’s recommendation: a seared sea bass with jumbo dive scallops. But there’s more there on my plate – basil verjus butter sauce and a tomato jam. Bet you don’t know what a verjus is. In spite of my previous restaurant employment, I didn’t either until I looked it up tonight: juice of unripe fruit. Verjus, the real thing, verily presented to you without mask or cover, in its bare essence.
Anyway, the staff got into my picture taking obsession. They brought dishes for me to photograph and I did just that, but truthfully I am an egotistical blogger/photographer. I enjoy writing about and shooting down dishes that I myself ingest. Ah, the benefits of having your very own blog.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
This is as close as I’ll come to a post-Oscar party with famous people present. Actually, I don’t think there are local famous people present. Probably most are here for the free pizza. Not me, I hit the pink stuff.
This party welcomes shy folk like me (so funny) who like to hide behind a computer. I am behind mine. I am high on WiFi at the High Noon Saloon.
It’s my first taste of the High Noon. I am a complete ignoramus as to Madison’s east side bar scene. Okay, to any bar scene. People ask me – what bar do you recommend for a night out here in town and I always list one or two that I visited easily five years ago. Next time I will mention the High Noon Saloon because of this party and the free (not tried by me) pizza.
Because my friend is on top of things, we are sitting at the front table. Hundreds crowded around us. We have laptops (free WiFi, remember?). We Look Important.
But really, I know that I am not important. Not more than the person next to me or the person further down. I am no better than the geese who are confused about their time, their place, their surroundings. They stomp along Lake Monona, wondering if there is ice or water beneath them.