Saturday, July 31, 2010

this last day of July

Three markets and several outings later, including one evening run to the Union Terrace, and I am spent. And all because of them:


It's a splendid day of vivid colors and delicious indulgence.



Summertime in our town. It could not have been a finer day. 


Friday, July 30, 2010


The thing about daughters is that they stretch you. You watch vampire flicks (True Blood? What the hell is True Blood?), and you run down to catch the latest Sundance offering, and then, at the end of the day, you cook.


And you have no problem opening a bottle of rosé that you carted over from France because it’s worth it, they love it, you love it with them, you love them with you, you love everything about the day, despite the rain and the absence of photographic opportunities.

Ah daughters... they nudge you out of your own complacency and make you take note.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Riding the bike to campus, I think again how I underestimate the time needed to get there. I’ve done the ride hundreds of times and still I leave too few minutes for it.

I focus on the road, I weave between pedestrians. During summer months they walk without thought to bikes. They don't know that we are to share.

Even during the tightest rides, when there are no minutes available for lakadaisical thinking, I cannot help but notice the magic spots along the way. For instance this one, along the lake path, where this couple (or pair of friends?) pauses to have a relaxed conversation (I can tell they are relaxed; they exude relaxedness).


I love my new camera to pieces but I cannot take the time to really use it, because this week, I will always be in a hurry. You have this photo from today – enjoy it, because that’s all I have for you.

Why this sudden madness of too few hours? Time is catching up with me. But, next year (I tell you!) it’ll be different.

I walk up the hill toward my condo, two grocery bags filled solid. A guy in bright red high tops comes up behind me. Say, you walking up that hill? Yes.... May I help you with those bags? I can take one... No, really, I like the challenge.

My daughters are coming up tonight. For the week-end. I may take out my new camera then and really play with it.

Though probably not a whole lot. These girls are doers. Most likely, the hours left in July and the hours that start the month of August will be packed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


And now I come the what next portion of the story. It’s all well and good to sell your condo and move on, but you really have to know where it is that you’re moving to.

Of course, I’ve given it thought. I would not have put the condo up for sale if I hadn’t considered the next step. Vaguely tossed around ideas. But when the for sale sign went up (metaphorically speaking as you cannot place for sale signs in condos), I considered them in full force.

And I came to some conclusions. Ed tells me – don’t rush. Take a while. Try it out.

One more example of how different he and I are. People like me, we don’t try out things. We don’t believe that answers come from repeat tastes of the same dish over and over again. We taste it, like it, don’t like it and proceed accordingly.

That’s a quick update. Why no photos? Well now, it’s because a new baby has arrived: slight in pounds and size, she is, nonetheless, a beautiful baby. But I have no time to format her. Meanwhile, her older sibling is hiding. She doesn’t like the competition.

The new “girl’s” name is Nex (actually Sony Nex5, and no, she's not an SLR). It’s so fitting, isn’t it? Next home, nex camera... so very nexy sexy and adventurous, no?


Sexy Nexy broke out and started her tour de force. This is her second shot (the first one was of my foot; it shall be archived).


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I can’t remember ever spending this many waking hours cleaning a place that was already pristine immaculate. That’s what marketing your property is like for me – eliminating any signs of having made a mark on my living space.  

Perhaps I went overboard. Buying a new duvet cover for example.
Ed asks -- what the heck is a duvet?
It’s like a quilt with a French pronunciation.
Since when is a quilt called a duvet?
It’s not duh-vet, it’s doo-vey.
Why aren’t we looking on Amazon or e-bay for a cheap one? And what’s wrong with the one currently on the bed anyway.
It is so thread bare that I can no longer patch the rips. Besides, it does not show off the bedroom well.

Show off. That’s what you need to do – to wake people up so that they'll notice. And since today I have a showing, everything has to shine.

The duvet, new cover and all, never looked so good.


Sigh. I have in me five showings. After that I wont care. Take it or leave it. Look beyond the fingerprints, for God’s sake. It is such a better deal than the newer less well finished units that the developer is trying to foist on you!

And yet, I want to attract the right person. I put this space together. I want a person with heart and soul. Erring on the side of being happy.

Ed says I haven't an entrepreneurial bone in my body. Perhaps he's right.

Monday, July 26, 2010


You have to think that we continue to procreate and recreate and create and tally forth because, on balance, we, as a people, commit more acts of kindness than acts of unkindness. We aid and abet rather than kick, topple and destroy.

Yesterday, on that terribly delayed bus from Minneapolis to Chicago with a stop in Madison, I saw more compassion than complaint, more sympathy than anger. It made the ride that much better for everyone.


Do you remember my issue of early April? My little purse fell out of my backpack on an Air France flight. I lost then and there all ID cards and credit cards, as well as some 150 Euros in cash. I filled out search forms and made inquiries and got nowhere. Form emails told me that if I do not hear from Air France within two weeks, I should assume all was lost and proceed accordingly.

So I proceeded accordingly ...until, lo, almost two months later, I received an email that my purse had been found and I could have it back for a mere 65 Euro (maybe $85) shipping fee.

I hesitated for a long long time. Most cards had been replaced. The purse had been replaced. The wallet had been replaced. Okay, a new UW ID was still on my "to do" list, but there, the fee is a mere $25. Surely less than 65 Euros. No brainer: let it go.

And yet...

You have to think that we continue to procreate and recreate and tally forth because, on balance, we as a people commit more acts of kindness than acts of unkindness...

Last week I finally became comfortable with sending in 65 Euros for the purse. I knew, deep inside I knew, that doing the right thing (sending back the purse, with the 150 Euros in it) would feel good for the finder of it and that given the chance, most would err on the side of good.

Today, the package came.

We tore open the many protective layers, we took out the old tattered little bag, we looked inside. Aha. All credit cards (now cancelled, but still...) and ID cards accounted for.

And the money purse is there as well.

I open it and peak inside.

No bills. No 150 Euros.

Almost as a joke, I think, the person left behind the coins: 1 Euro and 65 cents.

I felt deeply disappointed. In human kind, in the spirit that pushes us toward survival of the kindest, the best of the lot, the fair, the honest.

But then I thought: well, say a passenger finds the bag wedged under the seat. She picks it up, looks inside. She wants to give it up in its entirety, but then she thinks – if I give it to the Air France agent, then either the agent, or the lost and found agent, or the shipping agent will pull the cash right out of it. So it may as well be me who gets the bonanza. Why should I make it easy for someone else to profit unfairly from my honesty?

So the better (for me) interpretation is that we are all good people at heart. We just don’t fully trust that the next person will also be a good person.

And I wont contribute to that thought process by being, henceforth, distrustful. I prefer to remember the many many conversations that took place between strangers on the curb in Minneapolis, waiting for five hours for the bus to come. Kind, good people who opened their souls with stories of life’s tragedies and good deeds. My kind of people.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

wedding in Minneapolis

I want to start and end this post with Minneapolis. I’ve neglected it thus far, even as the city defines my days here.

And it continues to define this day, Sunday, even though I should be, by now, in Madison.

I admit – I am losing faith in public transportation in the Midwest. The Megabus, battered from an earlier accident, rumbles in late. The orderly line ceases to be orderly. Everyone is anxious to find a good seat. At the very least, we all want to avoid the bad seats. We're on board.

One rumble, then silence. Another rumble, more silence. The bus cannot sustain power long enough to even pull out of its parking place. We sit cramped and hot, waiting, hoping, even as we know we're not going anywhere. There’s good news and bad news... The good news is that we’re not being invaded by Godzilla-like monsters. A driver with a sense of humor. I remember him from Thursday. He was mildly funny then too, when the AC broke down. The bad news is that y’all have to get off and wait many hours for another bus.

It surprises me how quietly resigned to this fate everyone is. Most are traveling to Chicago. It’ll be past midnight now before they can hope to get there. At an airport there would be a revolt, a demand for compensation, or at least free lunch. Here, the feeling is that you paid little and you get little. People sit down on the sidewalk (Megabus does not run out of terminals to keep costs low) and wait. The air quickly fills with cigarette smoke and stories of horror on the highway. The trash bin at the corner is already overflowing. Trash litters the sidewalk.

I want to get away from the bus stop.

As so often, I am the lucky one. I have energy and I have almost no luggage and I have money for a cappuccino. I hike over to Dunn Brothers coffee roaster and settle in for the wait.


I’m spending some minutes now thinking about yesterday’s wedding. If you could use only one word to describe it, you’d have to say “beautiful.” Lovely in every detail..

Even though I almost missed it.

The cars of the various invitees traveling from the hotel were pretty full and so I decide to walk to the Weisman Art Center – the place of the ceremony, reception and dinner.

At first I think it may storm, but the clouds blow over. I'm truly enjoying the walk. (See this cable car lookalike? The customers pedal along as they sit at the "bar.")





Until I reach the river and am told the bridge is closed. Preparing for fireworks tonight -- they tell me. Yes, but if I don’t cross it here, then I am thrown off my googled route. Sorry.

I walk over to the next bridge (a lovely one!) and cross there, right by the locks...


...and try to understand how now best to make my way to the museum. The original google locator timed it to be 50 minute walk. With the detour, I have gained minutes of walking. Too many minutes.

Then there is the construction...

I ask for directions – ohhh, a woman tells me. It’s far! It’s ten to six. "Far" and "ten minutes" are not a good match. I hail a cab and get in. Get me to the wedding, quick! Weisman Art Center.

Okay, but that’s just two blocks. Sorry, I still have to charge you $5 anyway. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Not sure what it is, but it's there. I arrive hot and thirsty, but pleased, too. It is two minutes to six.

And soon my sweet friend and her husband walk in...


...and the groom's parents and various wedding party people and finally my friend’s daughter and it’s all so, well, beautiful!

Poems are read, music is played, melodies reverberate against the tall white walls lined with paintings. Gorgeous stuff.

And then it’s over.

Trays of drinks and food come forth – champagne cocktails and old fashioneds, exquisitely presented in hues of orange and bronze, canapés and flatbreads and puffed pastries...


... the lovely bridesmaids sit back and relax. Everything was as smooth as can be.


...and outside, the dusk rolls in.

The bride and groom are toasted...


....the cake is cut...


...the dancing begins. Marlo – grandson of the other friend here – obliges me with a dance and the evening rolls forward with great merriment...

I take a last handful of photos, including of Marlo and his mom, and Marlo with his mom, dad, his aunt, and grandmom...



...and of the fire tinted skies over Minneapolis outside.


... but soon after ten, I am ready to leave it to the next generation to party on. I go outside and think how best to retrace my steps, just as the fireworks end with a final big explosion...


An hour later, I am at the hotel.

On Sunday morning, I feel like one does after a party – in need of good coffee and protein. I walk over to Hell’s Kitchen for a breakfast of delicious eggs and fried potatoes.


And I take a closer look again at this city of glass and concrete – so incredibly vivid against the blue sky.

This is Minneapolis. The city that looks always fresh and solidly put together.







But, I’m ready to go home. Even as I wait at the curb and wonder how many more hours before a bus comes for us. It's going to be a very very long day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

prewedding, continued

Still searching and sampling. A morning run to a Baker’s Wife and then the Angry Catfish. The first has a traditional air about it.


The second has coffee and... see if you can guess from one of the posters what else:


No, not lady's (under)garments, though I am very sympathetic to the plight of the woman who bikes in skirts and dresses. The shop also sells and services bicycles. The coffee, by the way, is superb. (Hi Marlo!)


And I should point out here that Minneapolis is a city that's rich in (coffee and) bike culture -- having also adopted the bike rental program (the Paris model) of pick up here and drop off there, and if it’s for a half hour it’s free, and otherwise -- $5 for the day. And perhaps more importantly, this city is (unlike Paris) a bike friendly place, though I do think you have to view these virtues in perspective: if I can only stand to bike in Madison April through October (and then not every day in April and not every day in October), how much shorter is the biking season here?

But, today is warm. We end the morning bakery run with perhaps the most known of the lot – Rustica café and bakery. With a cool assortment of Danish-like pastries, brioches, and galettes, it wins as the day’s favorite for baked goods.



Okay, sweetened up, we proceed with the rest of the day.

[I have to mention this, because if ever the was a running thread to this week-end it is that of the camera snafu that has seized all non-eating and visiting spare minutes of my waking hours and some of Ed’s as well. I wrote some while ago that I sold my malfunctioning SLR and was ready for something different. My “something different” did not arrive on time for this trip and in any case, it’s been sold out nearly everywhere. Trying to accomplish an Internet purchase where a dealer would actually be able to deliver on a promise has been a major challenge. I have made endless tiresome orders and cancellations on my credit card -- reflecting the fact that it's a mean world out there, in camera sales. Eventually, the mess will be straightened out, but if someone tells me Internet buying is a cinch, I most definitely have a counter example for them.]

Eating aside, we are doing some strolling and people watching too, especially in the late morning hours, as we walk to the farmers market by the Mill City Museum. Beautiful. And colorful. Let me just put up one or two photos that might show off some elements you’re not likely to see at out Madison Saturday markets.



And now, errands for bride’s family behind me (400 powder blue coctail napkins -- check; one soft camera lens cover -- check), I’m finally ready to walk over to the wedding itself. It’s a bit of a hike so I must get going.


I am in the thick of color. And I mean so much more than the hues and tones around me. (Though not to ignore those!) If you’re not impressed by vignettes from a day of good people and good food then come back tomorrow, or better yet – the next day.

If you’re bemused that I should travel far, early in the morning, with a food loving bunch in search of a good bakery, right before we are to head for a wedding brunch, to be followed by an early dinner at the new and exquisite Piccolo, then read on.

No, I changed my mind. Go ahead and retire for the night. I should as well. Still, did I mention here how delightful it was to go through the day (as described above) in the company of Marlo?

He’s the grandson of one of my friends here. He was with us at the bakery (see how he takes to the iPhone here, with his dad, Jonny, a chef at Madison’s Underground Food Collective)...


... and he was with us at the pre-wedding day brunch (there’s my friend-- the proud grandmother, with her two daughters and her grandson)...


...and he neglected his nap so that he could watch with us the sun throw dappled light on plates of exquisite food, accompanied by the best white wine sangria ever...



...and he was with us at dinner, but I did not photograph him much then. Can’t let the little guy become too comfortable with all the attention. Okay, one photo:



He was such a good little guy. He didn’t even mind it that we got hopelessly lost and he didn’t roll his eyes when his grandma and I demonstrated our complete ignorance in working the GPS on the iPhone. Oh, you mean the icon stays put and the dot is supposed to move? Ah.

It was a wonderful prewedding day.

Excuse me? You want to see the couple about to be married? I can oblige. From a late night moment at the hotel bar, all glittery and golden.


And in the shadows, the three good friends -- the grandmother of Marlo, the mother of the bride, and the blogger. Seen it all and then some. Satisfied that our daughters are doing just fine.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

in the backseat

The NYTimes describes today the inroads bus travel has made in the Midwest and along the Northeast coast. Well okay. (I am writing this as I sit on a Megabus bound for Minneapolis. Cost: $30.95 one way.) I leave the driving to someone else. There is a spell of heavy rain and it’s good not to worry about sliding off into a ditch.

But please, it’s no bullet train.

Last time I took the northbound Megabus, the electrical outlets weren’t working. This time the AC is failing on the lower deck of the bus. That’s fine, I’m upstairs, in the last row, with a sweet but tired kid (to my right) who I am sure would rather be elsewhere.

And the roof is leaking from the emergency hatch. If you are sitting two rows ahead of me you are going to arrive in Minneapolis wet. An enterprising young man attaches his heavy pack to the handles to keep the roof in place. I watch the pack dangle and I worry about the kid next to me -- he is in the line of fire should it fall.

The bus makes a refreshment detour to a truckstop. A half hour wait in deep nothingness. People buy Wendy’s fries and soda because what else can you do. You might as well eat fries and drink soda. With a five hour ride ahead, I suppose a break is welcome relief for the driver. Still, he seems young and peppy. I’m hoping he’s buzzing to go. Certainly we, the passengers, are buzzing to go.

Especially since the bus is already late. Last time I rode the Megabus to the Twin Cities, it was very late. Today, it came in to Madison (from Chicago) just half an hour late and then proceeded to be late some more as the Great Search for a disembarking person’s suitcase took place. All black suitcases removed. She finds hers. All black suitcases put back in the cargo hold. We all wait for the suitcase mess to resolve itself. It does. Eventually.


I don’t mean to compare, but Van Galdar buses, which I use frequently to get to Chicago, are exceptionally punctual.

I glance across to the resting young body of the kid. His dad is fiddling with music (regrettably, he seems not to have earphones); a third person further down in the back row seat hands over a leftover piece of chicken sandwich to the kid, who wakes up, eats it, goes back to sleep. As does his dad. In a surreal moment, I see them against pastures of deep gold and skies of true blue.


It’s a window screen on a parallel bus.

At the rest stop, another passenger asks me if I know how many hours we have before us.
Two? -- he’s hoping.
Maybe three...
Hell, that’s not so bad. It used to take my mom and me fifteen hours to come up from Chicago to Minneapolis!
She insisted on stopping at all the Walmarts along the way. Things got cheaper as we got further away from Chicago.

In the seat in front, a young man is telling his life story to a woman who would rather be reading the biography of Nabokov resting on her lap. He either doesn’t notice or pretends not to. I’m surprised how revealing he is. Finally, two hours outside Minneapolis, he asks her -- by the way, what’s your name?

On my left side, another young man is listening to music, but through earphones. I can hear it anyway. I like it. It seems mildly jazzy. A good balance to the story of a life in front and the pop sounds to my right.

Are we still in Wisconsin? – the kid’s dad asks me..

Oh yes. Still a couple of hours in the back seat.

It’s 9, but it’s only just barely dusk.

My mind is spinning back to 1984. I was pregnant with my second child and I was in the middle of my law school years, but the summer of that year I spent with my then husband and our oldest in Cambridge England, where her dad was doing research. My two sweet kind wonderful law school pals traveled across the ocean to visit. They were single moms then, facing the same challenges of parenting and studying, and they brought their daughters to England and you could make a sit com from the days we had there with our most exquisite and willful girls (plus the one in my belly).

So now here I am in Minneapolis, with a different familial configuration for all of us, even as essentially nothing has changed.

I rush to call my friend – the one who has also traveled here for the wedding. The two of us take a walk in the last rays of the setting sun...


... settling in at an outdoor table for a pizza and a carafe of wine.

Sometimes you feel like life is forever throwing punches at you. Not this week-end. Not for me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

men, women...

I’m on the motorbike behind Ed and we are weaving our way to campus (construction makes a snake of the normally easy and straight road). I’m in a hurry so I opt for the fast ride rather than my slower pedal-power cycle.

I think Ed is a stellar motorbike rider (even as I also think that he is a bored and therefore indifferent car driver). On the rather small (by Harley standards) Honda, he dominates his space on the road. He exudes confidence and caution all at once. He’s in control.

We stop near the Law School and I unload. I look up as Ed draws my attention to a Harley man. They’ve grown old – he tells me. I think – ahh, age. Once the bad boys, now they worry about stiff knees and pension plans.

A young man zips by, reminding us of what it was like to zip through life with fire in your eyes and knees.


After class, I walk by a student parked on a bench. He’s thinking it through, he tells me. I’m hoping he’s thinking through what we just discussed in class, but I don’t really know. My thoughts have already cycled forward: I’m back to thinking that men’s minds work sometimes in mysterious ways.


There’s a wedding up north in Minneapolis this weekend. That of a daughter of a supremely close friend of mine. Ed, by virtue of his traveling companionship with me, is invited, but he wont go. He says he could not sit through any wedding and to my knowledge he has never attended a wedding.

So how do you explain the fact that a favorite NYTimes clip for him to watch, along with (typically) a sentimentally sobbing me is the Styles-Vows video, where two people explain to the rest of us how and when he asked her (or he asked him, or she asked her, but almost never did she ask him) for her hand in marriage?

Weddings conjure up for me the great expanse of a lifetime. And they make me think of friends who married and stayed married.

I do tonight something I have done on and off for the past several years, but never with much success: I search on the Internet for my best college friend – a woman who has disappeared from my radar screen, to say nothing of my computer screen. This time I think I have found the vital information that I need.

I reach for the phone and call her, but no one answers. I leave a message, without much hope that I’ll hear back.

Ed is doing a Wednesday Night bicycle ride now. Last week, I had ready a plate of rice and shrimp in a fresh and honest spicy tomato sauce for him for when he returned. He was so dehydrated that he passed on the dinner and ate a half a watermelon instead. This week I have a chicken vegetable soup and a watermelon waiting.