Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the ride in

Last week I grabbed rides and took the bus. Today, I biked to work.

Oh, I knew it would be good. I know my paths. Swing behind Borders, turn into Shorewood, not much traffic and then – you are by the lake. Morning light, dipping tree branches, water flowers, the occasional boats.

Tell me you would not like to pass this every day on your way to work:



Monday, July 30, 2007


Well, yes. It's a pot, with flowers. It's on my balcony table. It has the colors of the Mediterranean.

ButI'm forced to hide behind it. Work. Teaching, this week.

I'm here, but necessarily, I'm (temporarily) preoccupied. Hiding. But not out of sight.

(note: the plant is real; the rest? only a reflection)


Sunday, July 29, 2007

from behind the willow

It’s my favorite photo, of the dozen or so that I took today (I know, a paltry amount; it says something about the nature of my day).


I like the idea right now of being hidden, peering from within.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

two markets and an airport

It wasn’t until 3 at night that the last of the weary travelers arrived at the condo. Her suitcase came later. Or, rather, before anyone was up, I drove to our airport to retrieve it.

I mention this because the episode speaks so much to the kind of place I live in. Flights get delayed or canceled. Suitcases don’t necessarily travel with you. The airport is within a hiccup of where I live. And as you approach the terminal, you see not hangars and warehouses and car rental barracks. You see this:


Naturally, by mid morning I am ready for the Saturday markets.

I have two markets just outside my door. I choose the Westside Community market for today (the other, the Hilldale market, gets my business Wednesdays morning). And for old times sake, I also scoot down to the Madison Farmers' Market at Capitol Square.

We’re market nuts, all of us. We go because of the quality foods, sure, and we go for that stubborn adherence to the fresh and honest: what we buy got ripped from the fields just this morning, yes, of course. It better have been.

And then, there’s that link to the soil. A personal connection to it (via the farmer). It makes us feel better about the lives we lead – disassociated as we are from producing much of anything except paper and ideas and most often not even that.

We take the produce out of the framer’s hand and it’s almost as good as getting dirt under our own nails, except you don’t have to scrub your hands and apply lotion to any calluses afterwards.

So it’s curious that, at the Westside Community Market, the one right outsied my door, I should first go not to the farmers’ stands, but to the booth with Potter’s crackers. The young cracker guy was so enthusiastic about his crackers last week (consider: roasted corn and onion, or basil walnut pesto, or rhubarb cinnamon…) that it all rubbed off on me. I positively skipped the whole way home after eating his crackers. It's like getting a massage: the glow lasts for a whole ten, fifteen minutes afterwards! (Only it's cheaper to go with the crackers than with a massage. )


And there are other bakers at this market – a whole little band of them who do scones and muffins better than anyone else in town.

I do not neglect the real stuff either. The stuff that grows and causes nails to get dirty. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Flowers. I pick carefully. It all must look good, smell good and the sellers must appear like they’ll recognize me six months hence.



The downtown market, on the other hand, is familiar ground. I feel like it’s a child that has become famous and there’s nothing left to do but check in and say hi every now and then. Maybe ask for an autograph. These guys are doing well, here, on the Square!

No matter. A quarter of a century of market going in Madison has pushed me there, downtown, and I am not likely to turn my back on it all simply because I have a market now just outside my door. There are many hours in a Saturday morning. And one can never have too many market experiences. Hands stay clean. Refrigerator is full, flower vases are stocked for the week.




Friday, July 27, 2007


Two of them. Not the kind that paint houses. Canvases. They don’t know each other and neither has met me, but we’re friends.

They’re Ocean readers – and so they know far more of my life than I of theirs.

A year ago I complained to one (lili) that I could not imagine her because I hadn’t a clue as to what she looked like. The next week I got in the mail a sketch she had done of herself.

Yesterday, the other (dande) sent me a couple of prints of his paintings. As a housewarming gift. Stunningly gorgeous.

None of my friends (the kind that I actually have met) paint canvases. Some dabble in photography; hey, the whole world now dabbles in photography – you practically can’t help it, every gadget you get has some pixel or other attached to it.

But lili and dande actually put paint to canvas and the results adorn galleries and great spaces.

It struck me how important these two have become in my days. Sometimes I write a post with one or the other in mind, though they don’t know it, nor is it entirely obvious, if they should be reading.

Their words – in comments and longer emails -- are songs to me, coming as they do from their artistic souls. I listen to them carefully, I think about what they have to say.

This post is for the two of you – lili and dande. With thanks.

(the photos are a study of one bee today, making her way through the flowers on my balcony)






Thursday, July 26, 2007


I went back to the loft this afternoon, handed over the keys and said good bye.

No big, protracted spin through the two years there. No last photos of dusty interiors. No pausing to take one final whiff of warehouse air. None of it.

I was matter of fact: here are the keys. I want my deposit. Good bye.

But moving is more heady than that. You’re out of that place now. What memories are pounding away at you? What love do you recall? What pain?

I go over to the waterfront – just a few steps (the loft is near Madison’s southern lakes). Fishermen. My best buds! (I know none of them, nor they me). I’ve loved you in the summer, I’ve loved you all winter long (it’s unreciprocated – they really do not know who I am)! I’ll miss you every waking minute of my condo days!


(Surely an exaggeration)... Sigh...

I’m done with the move. Boxes unpacked, feet up, computers on. Tomorrow, my daughters are flying over to inspect the place.

Restless. I drive to the quiet of the meadows and fields. The sun is low now. A few clouds, open fields, a band of sunflowers, standing tall on this hot, dry evening.


Back at the condo now. I hear a knock on the door. Come up to the rooftop. We’re just talking and watching the lightening move across the sky.

I go up with a glass of rosé and talk for an hour, another hour, until my eyes cannot take it anymore. I drift in and out of the back and forth. Shadows create perfect images of our little circle, there around the twelth floor table.


I have moved. Finally.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

the day's chores

One person may be so intensely preoccupied with lecture preparation that she may not have the time to write long posts this week.

...Even though she thinks nothing of getting up early, so very early, before her morning class early, to go to the Hilldale market, where another person, considerably smaller, younger, and with a more charming array of tasks, is engaged in sorting through flowers.


Meanwhile, on campus, someone turned the sprinkler on the lawns of Bascom Hill. We are so dry here, in Madison! So dry! Who appreciated this most? Maybe these guys, who suddenly find themselves in close proximity to their beloved mud. For slinging, I guess. Children arrange bouquets of flowers, wasps sling mud. It's in the nature of things.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Stay away long enough, and you’ll appreciate how the world moves forward in your absence.

Take State Street. It’s been a while since I walked down Madison’s pseudo-pedestrian byway. (In my mind, any street that permits: buses, motorbikes, delivery vans, spaced-out drivers who think the rules do not apply to them – is not a pedestrian street proper. It is a mixed bag. State Street is a mixed bag)

I walk, I admire.

What, this Paris fad has made it to Madison? Can’t we adopt great baguettes and lunches with a glass of rosé wine instead?


I’m betting it wont catch on. Agreed?

Monday, July 23, 2007


As if the move didn’t wipe me out completely. Today, the week of summer teaching begins.

The Internet has redefined nearly everything I do. But nowhere have I felt its impact as much as in my job. I can now, for the most part, work at home (or in France, or in Greenland. Maybe not Greenland. Iceland for sure.) The cursed aspect of it is that it all happened after my kids were grown.

But, teaching requires a hike to campus and today I started practicing that hike from my new abode. I can walk (a tad long). I can bike (a tad lazy today). I can take the bus. So many options! Thrilling, really. None require the use of a car. Fantastic.

I get to campus late. The afternoon sun has been a fixture here, in the Midwest for days. Weeks, even. I haven’t experienced rain in Madison at all this summer. (Irrelevant comment: I’ve been away; relevant comment: I’ve been here for a while now.) It’s such a pretty sight – a quiet campus, with only the occasional hard working student, taking her late day readings outside.


Oh, wait. She’s engrossed alright. Relishing the light, the moment of stillness. But note the telltale sign of orange on the cover. She’s found her quiet spot to take out the book (HP).

I’m not a Potter nut, but I love hoopla in principle, so much so that I would have been at Borders watching all the craziness at midnight last Friday, except that I fell asleep.

Read on, ye woman of Potter. What better way is there to spend a warm, July late afternoon?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

uninvited guests

They’re what makes your day move forward, the economy grow and your unfinished mess get kicked under the bed. What more could you want in life.

Mine were especially welcome. I have grown weary with the packing and unpacking deal. I have lost my sense of the appropriate. Sometimes I am not even rational. I pick up a clock, look at it, toss it with a shrug into the waste bin. Time should not matter.

And still, there is the loft to clean, the condo to organize, the class to teach -- the usual plethora of unfascinating activities, ones I must not lose track of.

But the uninvited guests change things for me. I turn on an internal engine for them. I rush. I get things done.

It is the hour of the visit. They come, they admire (so sweet), they place a special bottle in my new wine cooler. They leave. I look around me and there is not a box in sight. Pristine, almost. Wouldn’t you say? A corner of my personal heaven.


Oh, the paintings aren’t up and there are stacks of this and that most everywhere (and please do not look under any functional piece of furniture), but there are also neat, empty spaces which demonstrate resolve on my part to make this not an embarrassment but an opportunity to surge forward and present well.

If you're looking for something productive to do with your evening, become an uninvited guest. If I know and trust you I'll give you the special elevator code. And I'll love you forever. Really.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Waking up in a new city is better than great. Get going. Explore. Breakfast in a café! Fantastic.

Waking up in my new condo is not significantly different. It’s six! In an hour the market opens. Right across the street. Reason enough to live here.

I go early. Before the official opening at 7.

I take pictures. The sun is just touching the tent tops.

And then I get a scold. Don't take pictures without persmission!

Whose? In anticipation of the perfect shot?

We have a brief exchange, but it is pointless. I never argue much with people who find themselves within range of my camera without wanting to be there, even if I have all the rights under the sun conferred upon me.

But it caused me to consider this: when I was in Nice, a million otherss were there with me. Most everyone eventually made it to the market. 99% took photos. Imagine a vendor shooing away someone with a camera! Can't be done. You'd spend all your time alianating the bulk of your crowd.

On the other hand, take a village in Brittany and you, the photographer, are on thin ice. For instance, don't even try to chase photos of meat vendors. And do not elbow your way past crowds who are buying. Or else.

The market across the street from me here, in Madison, is like Brittany. The market on the Square is like Nice. So I guess I am back in northern France. Only the sun is hot and the people are speaking only English.

(setting up)








Friday, July 20, 2007

the week of The Move: condo love

Truth is, I love it here. No really, I am blushing inside. I love my switch to this place.

Late last night, I paid the two men (with their truck), gave them one last gulp of organic raspberry juice (they never tasted anything so good, I am told) and went looking for food. The restaurant orbit changes here. The east side is farther. The west side, my home of two years back, I still regard as a smudge on the culinary map of Madison. A Chipotle’s burrito will do. With several glasses of champagne – a gift from my builder.

Everything feels new. The way the light falls on the couch, on the computer. Wow. Stunning. The way the brushed steel hasn’t been touched a million times with olive-oil saturated fingertips. The way the channels don’t match the previous ones, so that Tour de France is no longer on 28 or anywhere else.

Ah, but newness is good.

The carefully configured corner, from which I am now writing.


And, waking up to contemplate the view from my bed for the next months. (This:)


To walk to the grocery stores. To meet neighbors. All that is good.

I unpack slowly, deliberately. I don’t mind discovering deficiencies (four cabinets—no interiors. Oops.). It’s part of moving here: it’s new, the interiors are fresh.

My balcony door is open. I listen to melodies played on a harp. One of my neighbors who teaches harp, moves her instrument outside to practice.


Why would anyone not like it here?
Ed says: the place reminds me of the buildings I so happily moved away from in New York.

Does it?


Okay Ed. Those are your devils.

Me, I don’t feel one way or another about highrise trappings. Indeed, some are sublime.

And I have to smile at the fact that my condo building is considered a highrise on the Madison skyline. It is 12 stories tall.

I take a moment off from unpacking. I walk over to the store, pick up a copy of our local weekly, the Isthmus. An unexpected surprise – a photo I had sent on a lark (one from this day – guess which one?) got a prize. Good sign. My photos are doing okay. I’m doing okay.

And from the rooftop, where neighbors gather each evening, the view is not all that removed from what I left at the loft. So there.


Ah, love.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

the week of The Move: …and a truck

Packing, finally. Stacking cardboard boxes. People like me, who have collected cooking paraphernalia all their lives, have a tough time of it. There sure is a lot of stuff. All fragile. I feel like packing none of it.

Moving is a lonely business. And sometimes it feels especially lonely.

I call Ed and convince him that any dating material on the planet would not go out biking when the other was packing, stacking and generally feeling exhausted by life.

Ed comes over, we eat sushi, watch the Tour de France. Up and down, pedals go up and down. I zonk out.

And suddenly it is midnight. I need to be up and packing, I am wishing it to be ten days from now.

At 2:30 at night we drive the pick-up to the condo. A load of fragile stuff that I do not want to box.

It’s Ed’s first visit to the finished condo (and perhaps only second or third visit there at all). He mumbles something about it having entertaining potential and retreats to the balcony.

Yes, I know it -- Ed hates the condo. I try very very hard not to mind.

In the morning, I close the deal. I am a condo owner.

The movers come. Nice guys. I ply them with organic raspberry juice which they tell me is the best on the planet, the best, the best, almost as good as the tip they will be getting from me.

Two men and a truck. Plus one woman and a truck, for I have borrowed Ed’s pick up to take over things that I just do not feel like packing.

It is a long day.

A very long day.

Wish I had slept some.

Truth is, though, I love the small little condo. It is mine not only because it is mine, but because it has just me fumbling all over it. So that it bears my mistakes. My shortcomings.

Two men and a truck. Me and a truck. Out of the loft. Into my new space.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

the week of The Move: the last supper

Wednesday take out. Pots are packed. No food in the fridge. I go to Edo’s on Park – sushi. I want sushi for my last meal in my downtown life, even though the NYT beat up on us, the undiscerning sushi eaters, just a few days ago.

But I take the NYT admonition seriously. I sit at the bar and watch the cooks, so that they can engage me, tell me about the fish they have available for the day… Okay, none of this “engagement” happens. But I sit and watch, even though I know the sushi will be the same, whether I watch or not.


Back at the loft. Pack and run. Soon. Not yet

I can’t remember now the last night in the family home (from where I moved two years ago). Did I sleep? Did I look out at my perennial beds one last time? And wish that the new owners would take them to heart?

How did I leave? In the morning? Happy to be done with packing? Terrified that none of the move would proceed smoothly?

And now? Why would I miss an apartment that was mine for two years only?

What will I miss most? Sometimes I think it is the closeness to the water. I never put a single toe into the lakes downtown, but I watched these peaceful bodies of water frame the gracious capitol of ours and always, the sight would make me smile.


But truthfully, that’s not it. I’ll miss the feeling of hope.

I called my Chicago friend and asked – how is it that I managed to get it all here, to the loft, two years ago? I feel so overwhelmed now…

He reminded me: you were so excited, so enthused then.

I was so excited, so enthused then. I’m not any of that now.

Everyone has an image and a reality. The most productive people, the most creative ones never let the latter catch up. I’m thinking that they live in the image. And perhaps in time, that image takes more and more characteristics of the every day, so that it is a blur, so that it all becomes indistinguishable.

I got so carried away by an image and then it became a bust: it’s not possible. Not any of it. So it’s back to the grindstone.

I’ll miss the loft because it was so removed from past mishaps. A lofty loft. Where friends were best friends. And life was to be reinvented. And then, I proceeded to live in the way that one lives: by falling into more mishaps.

But, the capitol dome was always visible. I’ll miss it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the week of The Move: fifteenth

I suppose this isn’t huge by American standards: my fifteenth move, big deal. I have friends my age in Poland who have only moved twice in their lives: out of their family home to a small place of their own and then, when they felt more prosperous, what with a market economy and the spirit of capitalism, to a second place, bigger and better than the first. That’s it.

My moves resemble a board game – from one state of being to the next: up the ladder, down again, up up and then plunge. And now, settling into a space that I regard as up, but within a very tiny enclosure. So that if you take the Edwards’ new home and divide it into 25 little homes, one of them should overlap with the likes of mine. [Of course, there’s more of them, but I do accommodate family reunions, at which time we are almost equal in number. But for the live-in help. I haven’t live-out help, let alone a parlor maid or whatever else it is that the wealthy find indispensable.]

In travel, I love packing to go and hate unpacking on the return. In moving, I hate packing and am okay with opening boxes and hiding things in closets.

This is why once more, instead of attending to the packing, I placed myself on my condo balcony, where I built an blue tiled table that doesn’t really match with much of anything else there and I stuffed two more Italian clay pots with even more perennials (shhhh!!!). I swept the spilled dirt down below, appreciating the fact that I am on one of the lower floors (aka cheaper units) and so I cannot offend anyone with my showers of dirt.


Oh! And let me explain to those in the dark about condo life. We condo inhabitants, we do not have apartment numbers. That’s for lesser mortals. I learned this the hard way: every time I filled out change of address form, the system bounced back my address as not “apt. 308” but “unit 308.” We live in units. And yes, there is an omnipotent master of the condo universe who looks after things of this nature and makes sure condo people are well treated by important entities such as the postal service.

And, while I am on the subject of postal services, let me explain the real reason for my move: my soon to be inhabited condo has a concierge. It’s a classy sounding name for what is really a doorman in NY parlance, except for the fact that this dude actually sits the entire morning and opens no doors. But he does accept packages from UPS and postal types and for this I am grateful.

I must pack. To boxes now. Tour de France, keep me company. Thank you.

Monday, July 16, 2007

the week of The Move, cont'd

Two years ago, I did it: I went through a move to top all moves and I was as tough as both the Two Men and their Truck, and then some.

I was a bulldozer. I forged ahead and made decisions left and right and within days of the move I had a housewarming event and it was all so… without contemplation.

This time, I have more space and time to consider what I am doing.

Ed asks daily: Why the sad look?

I answer with a sigh. Amazing how many questions you can deflect with a sigh. (And how annoying this is to the person who asks.)

This move should be easy. I downsized hugely two years ago. And today, I drove off with another truckload of STUFF to St Vinnie’s.

So why is it not easy?

It is a move of choice, not of necessity. I have my own self to question and beat up on. It’s as if all the moves of my life, including the grand one, to come here, to the States, are right before me and I am judge and jury to them all: what if I had skipped that one? Stayed there instead? What if? What if?

It may be that this is my last move. It may be that I am to be in a building that has all the geriatric elements of condo life: an elevator, someone to take care of common spaces, so that all you have to do is tend to the life within. You lock your door to your unit and no one will notice the stacks of newspapers and pet food you accumulate until your door is broken down because of the odors seeping into the hallway.

Somehow, I don’t think so. I live with a demon inside that always is looking for a chance to pull me out of my home life and place me back in some little hut in the south of France. Or, more likely, I’ll move some day to a hotel room and become on of those eccentrics who thinks their art cannot survive unless they have their bed turned down each evening and their cigar dish emptied regularly. I don’t smoke, but you get the picture.

Forever displaced. Forever ripped from a community (what community? Where is it – in Poland? New York? Madison?).

It is no wonder that topping my "to do" list each day is the imperative to go out and get even more flowers to plant in my already too crowded patio. (And I haven't even moved yet!) So that I can at least get myself dirty again. You can't question dirt under the fingernails. People who lose themselves in pulling weeds and transplanting strawberries from one spot to another understand that. Working the soil makes you untouchable. Especially to your own self-examination.


All this is not to say that I am oblivious to the absolutely enchanting canvas that is life in and around Madison in the summer. Yes, I pause and I look, every single day. How can I not notice it? Minutes away from either residence -- the old, the new -- the meadow that holds it all together for me.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

the week of The Move

It was to be a day of packing. But, I had stacks of work to attend to, and the sun was out, so I sat dutifully all morning long and read the New York Times.

...Occasionally looking at the butterfly that could not get enough of my French sun screen.


In the afternoon, I finally turned my back to the paper that had me in despair [after reading endless tidbits about the state of imported seafood in this country (do not eat it!)] and finally settled down to write class notes (I teach a summer course. Coming up. Yes, I know, all good things, etc etc.).

My work spurt didn’t last. Within a couple of hours, I was in Ed’s pick-up again, zipping down to my favorite plants people this side of the Mississippi – the dedicated growers over at the Flower Factory.

I grew up on that place. It started small, I started small. It expanded, I expanded. It continued to expand... me, I retracted. I left my perennial gardens and moved downtown two years ago. Sadly, I no longer had reason to visit the Flower Factory.

Still, life changes and so do planting potentials. As of Thursday, I am a woman with a balcony. All else is irrelevant. The condo is nowhere near finished. The plumbing isn’t in, the cabinets aren’t built, and yet still, my little patio already looks like a place to write home about. At least to me it looks like that.

And so today I buy more flowers…


…and I skip along through the greenhouses, remembering how each year on Mother’s Day I forced my kids to accompany me here as I spent endless dollars building perennial beds.

I should have taken photos, but I was too busy selecting perennials (Shhh! I know perennials do not belong on a patio – I’ll move them later). I did take one or two, of the plants that are consistently photogenic – the waterlilies.


Oh, and the pond with the fish. That’s always fun to focus on.


I go to the condo in the early evening. I leave the under $1000 truck just outside the overpriced condo and I carry plants up the fancy elevators to the unfinished unit, where I again put things into soil for hours and water it all with the help of toilet bowl water.

By the way, thank you for your words of encouragement, you emailers and commenters. You’re the best. And thank you to the Tour de France, which, each evening, has managed to distract me with its steady routine as 79 men have continued to rotate wheels of bicycles up and down. And up and then down once more. So relaxing to watch.


Saturday, July 14, 2007


When my oldest daughter graduated from the university, the master of her college used, in her commencement speech, the lyrics of the song, “don’t sit it out, dance” as a kind of youthful metaphor for pushing forward. I liked that. Don’t sit on your butt, dance.

Four years later, when my youngest graduated (same master, same college), in her speech, the master again, oh so casually, brought up the lyrics.

And each time, I cried.

But, fact is, sometimes you have to sit it out.

Today, I could have been kayaking down Wisconsin rivers. I could have been sitting on a Pierrerue patio and watching the sun pass over the grapevines. I could have been (oh, how sweetly close it feels now!) at a Mediterranean bay, watching people let loose on a summer day.

None of the above. Instead, I ride my bike out on the Capitol City trail, past my favorite field of dancing black eyed susans (and that is the only dancing you’ll read about today, here on Ocean),


..past fields where the farmers still hoe their land,


… to Ed’s place, where I leave my bike and take over his under $1000 Ford pick-up.

I’m in the Midwest. Driving a pick-up on a warm Satruday afternoon. I’m moving this week and I take pride in the fact that I am moving myself, by myself.

The very first items transferred to my new place? Terra cotta pots. Soil. Flowers.


The unit isn’t actually finished and so I water the newly planted flowers with toilet water, scooped with a Styrofoam packing piece, left over from who knows what.

It’s the 14th. I go back to the loft, fix a dinner with French bread and watch the Tour de France. With rose champagne, gratis Ed. Thank you, Ed.


I’m not dancing this week. Bear with me, okay?

Friday, July 13, 2007

a Midwest summer: the big city

Ed, I need to go to Chicago for a few minutes.


Would you like to go with me?

A curious look.

…with your truck?

Bright day. No rain in the forecast to dampen the bowels of the pick-up. We are setting out for Milwaukee, then for the northern suburbs of Chicago.

He asks, reflectively (and belatedly): Why did you buy a piece of furniture in Chicago?
Cheaper there.
How much?
How much? Less than the cost of the truck you want to use to drive down in?

Probably not. Ed’s truck was purchased for significantly under $1000, as was his car, as was his motorcycle, as was, come to think of it, most everything in his life. Possibly even his residence.

It is a brilliant drive. Ed works on his laptop going there, I work on my laptop coming back.

Driving Ed’s truck is … unique. Envision: truck with woodchips. Because they are everywhere. Inside, outside. Ed uses his truck to spread woodchips around his farm. It is a woodchip carrying case. And now it’s me, Ed and woodchips, heading for Chicago.

I open the door. Woodchips spill in my lap. Moreover, a dozen wasps fly at me. There is a nest in the hinges of the door.

Ed shrugs. If you close the door, they wont bother you.
No. They have to go. Or I don’t go.

You have to put your foot down with people who feel they are at one with wasps.

I drive the truck with a bravado befitting of one who thinks it may be an adventure to get somewhere in a vehicle held together by scotch tape.

And finally, we are in Skokie. Or Northbrook. Or both. Who can figure the suburbs of this sprawling town.

I take the truck back to the loading dock of Dania Furniture (the place where the Russian language is as common as it is east of the Urals). Ed is engrossed in his laptop.


Shouldn’t you help?
Ed leans out and waves a hand at the men at the dock. Thanks, guys! – he tells them.

Dania is a cool place – an ethnographer’s dream station. Accents, languages, phrases thrown back at me -- none of it is Madison. I'm in the sharp, punchy city now.
I ask to use the bathroom. And your friend? - the clerk asks, knowing there is a guy in a truck outside.
No… I answer. Just me.
A piss on the side of the road kind of guy, eh?
Right. Sure. I am in Chicago.

We are done. I turn the truck around and search for the ramp onto the highway. Curiously, I wind up, instead, in the service entrance of the Chicago Botanic gardens. We are in a truck. A battered, under a $1ooo truck. We look like Botanic Gardens service people.

Oh, the flowers! In the late afternoon sun.


We kill time driving along the paved paths reserved for service people, until someone throws us out.

And so we drive back to Madison. The plastic cover flaps against the chair in the rear of the truck. It’s a good sound. I am hauling my own. I am in control. My God, I am, for once, in control of my life!

We stop in Milwaukee for a meal of Indian food, So hard to find good Indian food out here in the Midwest. This strip mall has it – we are grateful.

It’s dark, we’re in the truck again. Almost there now. I can see the dome.


Can I store the loveseat at your farm for now?
Sure! My cats will love it.

I am grateful for the plastic cover over the piece of furniture. Cats don’t like plastic covers. And if they do, I’m okay with that.

The sky is black now. I’m heading home. The greatest sense of accomplishment comes from executing a task perfectly, completely. Even if it as simple as picking up a chair in Northbrook. Or Skokie. Or wherever.