Monday, September 30, 2013

Friday by the River

Travalon and I have it on good authority (some drunk guy in La Crosse) that we are The Perfect Couple. We weren’t sure if this comment was triggered by our difference in height, or if he simply noticed us because we were holding hands. We had gotten to La Crosse around noon and checked out the loft apartments that used to be the Gund Brewery, then we went downtown and were surprised at all the drunks wandering the streets at that hour until realizing Oktoberfest had officially started at noon. We went to the Casino, another destination from the book, where we talked with the very personable bartender. I said everyone’s a little bit German during Oktoberfest, but I have it on good authority that I actually am a little bit German, and he said he was too and that he was a quarter Japanese and some Cherokee, though we would never have guessed it. He looked like your prototypical white twentysomething slacker dude. They serve a beer there that used to be brewed right on Pearl Street and is still brewed in town. Then we had lunch and little tartlet things at a restaurant and bakery called Fayze’s just down the street. A girl at the next table was so drunk she walked into the wall. If Oktoberfest is that wild in the early afternoon, I can’t imagine what it’s like by the evening!

Then Travalon and I drove to Trempealeau and hiked at Perrot State Park before heading to Fountain City and the Monarch Tavern, another destination from the book. People have been asking me if I had a favorite tavern from the book, and I really hadn’t, but the Monarch is my new favorite. It has an Irish theme, and the owner was even more personable than the bartender at the Casino. He told me, “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.” The tavern is the oldest continually run one in the state, and they brew a beer there from an original recipe dating back to the start of the tavern. There were all sorts of corners and lofts there to have a more private drink, and the food looked wonderful, but we weren’t hungry yet. By the time we got back to La Crosse, we were ready for dinner, so we stopped at a place called Seasons and ate outside, overlooking the river. It was such a beautiful day, and we felt very grateful to have had it off of work. We also wanted to avoid downtown, since we’d seen enough of Oktoberfest that afternoon. I’m sure it was bananas by then! 

Famous Hat

Thursday, September 26, 2013

spɹɐʍʞɔɐq puɐ uʍop ǝpısdn

Today as I was trying to think of a topic to blog about, it occurred to me to google the topic "what to blog about," and one link said what to blog and not blog about. I followed the link, wondering if I had broken every "don't blog about this" rule under the sun, and to my surprise, instead of taking me to a laundry list of do's and don'ts, it took me to a website where you could write stuff and have it appear upside down.

So I had to try this mirror writing for myself.

˙ɟlǝsʎɯ ɹoɟ ƃuıʇıɹʍ ɹoɹɹıɯ sıɥʇ ʎɹʇ oʇ pɐɥ ı os

¡ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ʇsod ƃolq ǝloɥʍ ʎɯ op plnoɔ ı 'ʍoʍ

There are actually two websites that will let you do this:



Anyway, I will probably not be blogging tomorrow, because Travalon and I are taking the day off and going to visit some more taverns from the book. I'll let you know how it went next time I blog.

ʇɐɥ snoɯɐɟ

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More Music

Last night, Travalon and I went to a relatively new place called Rigby's, just off the Capital Square. As you might guess from the Beatles reference of a name, the place is very focused on music of the 60's and 70's; that is what they have on the jukebox, and the bartenders (who couldn't have been born before 1990) wore T-shirts with 70's bands on them. The décor in the place was concert posters and album covers of bands from that particular era. I was intrigued that they would open a bar in a student area focusing on an era from their parents' youth, but the place was full of college kids so there must be some appeal for them. I thought, for them, nostalgia was remembering the 80's and 90's; anything before that would be Ancient History.

Speaking of music, I have played in a number of musical groups, including a mariachi band, two Mideastern bands, and a Renaissance band. My dream (as my 5.8 readers know) is to play in a salsa band, but thus far I have not found any salsa bands looking for a mandolin or violin player. (Though I may have more luck getting into one with the violin, I can do a mean guajeo on my mandolin.) Now a coworker and I are talking about forming a music group or two. She is a big fan of a group called Baguette Quartet, which plays French café music; that group consists of a guitarist, violinist, accordion player, and bass player, and my coworker plays a little guitar and knows an accordion player and a bass player. Also, I was invited by a tango dancer to play the violin for their tango lessons, and this coworker said the same configuration could work for tango music. Of course, planning for a wedding, singing in two choirs, and playing in my current group keep me busy enough, so you are probably wondering why I am looking for further opportunities to play music. The answer is: I don’t know. That’s just what musicians do.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slow Food Dinner

Last night I went to a Slow Food dinner on campus. This is a dinner put on by a nonprofit organization, using local and organic food to cook meals from scratch. They do this every Monday night during the school year for $5. You can hardly get a fast food meal for that, never mind a delicious multi-course dinner made from real food. This is the second one I’ve been to, and I’ll describe the meal to give you some idea:

Salad – this was heirloom tomatoes, ground cherries, and cashews with cilantro and shredded raw beets on top of it. It looked beautiful and tasted amazing... and I usually hate raw tomatoes!

Main course – noodle bowl with either crispy pork or tofu. You put it together yourself, choosing how many noodles and what toppings you wanted on it.

Dessert – seaberry ice cream, or several other choices (vanilla custard, cookies and cream ice cream, or frozen coconut milk). It was a pale orange color with a delicate flavor somewhat like passionfruit. The coconut milk was flavored with lemongrass and green chili and was also delicious. I split dessert with a coworker so we could try two.

Let me know if you have any interest in attending a Slow Food dinner in the future.

Famous Hat

Monday, September 23, 2013


I completely forgot to mention Jilly Moose’s birthday last Wednesday! We went out to dinner at the fake Irish pub. This weekend I had a pretty mellow time, especially after Richard Bonomo forced me to hike at top speed and then lift weights on Saturday afternoon; I was so worn out that in the evening I just stayed at home and talked to Ma Hat on the phone. She says she has been reading this blog regularly, so hi, Ma!

Yesterday a coworker had a party with a bunch of people from her Italian class, and she invited Travalon and me to stop by, so we did. It was a beautiful, sunny day so we sat in her backyard most of the afternoon, although we did spend some time inside watching that heartbreaking Packers game. Rich has a professor and his grad student who are visiting from Japan staying at his house, and we happened to run into them at a coffee shop. The only reason we had gone there is because they served decaf coffee with brunch at church to celebrate our long time organist’s retirement, so I was jonesin’ for caffeine. Rich suggested the coffee shop by his house, and lo and behold, there his houseguests were. After the party at my coworker’s house, Travalon and I went to Rich’s house to see if we could find the two Japanese academics, but they were visiting someone else and didn’t come back until after Travalon had headed home. The professor is very funny, but of course now I cannot think of a single funny thing he said, so that might have to wait for another blog post.

Right now my big decision is whether I should go to Beloit for a gig or not. I could use the money, and the band might prefer it if I don’t back out on them, although Hardingfele has made it quite clear she would love to get her share of my pay. Plus we’ll all be shoved into a little Prius for a very long ride. If I stay in town, Catzookz’s boyfriend is having his birthday party that evening. To top it all off, the songs we were asked to do for this gig are all new ones we have never played before, and I have missed both of our rehearsals on them. Let me know in the comments what you would do in my shoes.

Famous Hat

Friday, September 20, 2013

No Balloon Ride

Sorry for my lack of blogging yesterday; I took the day off of work in an attempt, once again, to ride in a hot air balloon. Many of my readers contributed to this fund, and I would really like to thank you by actually taking a hot air balloon ride and then blogging about it, but this has proven an elusive goal. Last autumn Travalon and I made a couple of attempts to go hot air ballooning, but we were thwarted by weather. We sort of forgot about it this summer with all the festivals to attend, but now we are trying again in earnest to actually do it. Yesterday did not start off promisingly, but the thunderstorm subsided while Travalon and I had brunch at the Pancake Café (with Kona coffee! Yum!), and by the time we got to New Glarus, the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day as we wandered about the town, checking out antique stores and the candy store. We went to the New Glarus brewery and sat in their beer garden, which is full of pseudo-Medieval cathedral remnants that are a lot of cheesy fun. We ran around the beer garden, ducking into the fake turrets and chapel remnants, enjoying the beautiful day and wondering if the balloon really couldn’t go up in such lovely weather. As we headed back to Madtown, the storm hit with full force, so that answered that question. Had we been in the balloon, we probably would have been blown into Illinois and possibly hit by lightning for good measure. Since I had been planning to miss my OTHER choir practice anyway, we went to see the movie The Butler, about a guy who was a butler in the White House for over twenty years, and his son who was a Freedom Rider and a Black Panther at one point. It’s a really good flick, based (pretty loosely) on a true story. The balloon ride has been rescheduled for early October. Stay tuned…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chartreuse Evening

Last night after our marriage class, Travalon and I walked to the Monona Terrace. We had discussed going to various bars to have a quick drink, but Genna’s was packed with twentysomethings, and then we got sidetracked by the beautiful fountain on top of the Monona Terrace. I remembered that, years earlier, I wandered into a nearby hotel bar called Olive. It was a rainy afternoon, and I was dressed up for some reason, so I fit right into the swanky bar scene there. It was Happy Hour, and someone was playing soft jazz on a piano as people enjoyed hors d’oeuvres. I ordered an expensive chocolaty cocktail and worked on a novel I have yet to finish, and I had a wonderful time. Remembering that magical afternoon, I mentioned Olive to Travalon, and we decided to check it out. However, this time we were dressed very casually – I was in jeans and a chartreuse jacket – so we felt a little out of place among the business travelers enjoying a drink on a Tuesday evening. The piano is no longer there, and they have taken the chocolaty cocktail off the drink menu. Instead I ordered something called a Green Monk, which contains green chartreuse, and as many of my readers know, I am the only human they have ever met who can stand the stuff. Travalon was impressed with the way my drink matched my jacket. While the magic of that distant day had evaporated, I had an even better time with Travalon than by myself, and the bartender was very friendly to us. Maybe she was happy to see some ordinary people after all those dressed-up business travelers. She did ask, when I ordered my drink, if I had tried green chartreuse before, so all my friends can feel vindicated for thinking I am strange to like the stuff.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Playing Out

My band had a gig on Friday, and for once the entire band was there, which meant we outnumbered the audience. I realize that I never informed you, my readers, of this impending performance, so sorry about that. Many of you have already heard us perform, and this was more of the same. If you have never heard us, check out a hilarious documentary called “Fishin’ for Tradition: The Story of Lutefisk” because we provide all the music. Guess what we got paid for that? A free copy of the DVD! Not bad. What we got for Friday’s gig was $6 apiece in tips, which means someone in the audience was a very generous tipper. Last weekend we had a gig at an orchard playing for $25 worth of produce (I got apples and apple cider), and in a couple of weeks we’ll have a gig in Beloit playing songs we are still learning. That ought to be interesting. Believe me, I do not expect any of my readers to make the trek there!

Famous Hat

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Post Not About Food or Beer

Hardingfele says all I ever blog about is food and beer, but today I am going to blog about something completely different: tobacco. Tiffy came up this weekend, and among the things we did to celebrate her birthday was go to the Hookah Lounge and smoke a hookah. We got mint chocolate chip-flavored tobacco, which I did not like quite as well as the flowery flavors, like rose and jasmine, but it was still good. Travalon, Tiffy, and I attempted to blow smoke rings, but we had no luck with this venture.

We got to the Hookah Lounge just in time for the belly dancing show, and the girl danced with a sword and with long things on her fingers set on fire, which she put out with her mouth at the end of that dance. The waitress asked how we liked the show afterwards, and I realized I have seen quite a bit of belly dancing for not being all that interested in the art form. Part of it is having played in not one but two Mideastern bands that had belly dancers accompanying them. That is how I met Mamastep; she has done belly dancing and is always up for seeing it. If I had to pick a favorite kind of dancing, maybe it would be that Javanese dancing they do to gamelan music, although it’s hard to beat watching a really good couple dance to salsa. I’d rather be doing the dancing than watching it, but nobody would want to watch me dance! 

Famous Hat

Friday, September 13, 2013


Everyone is throwing around the phrase “First World problems” these days, but the latest controversy I have read about can’t help but make me think of it. It seems the First Lady, who has championed various healthy living initiatives, is now advocating that people drink more water… and some people are complaining about this! Are they worried that people will actually drink so much water that they will suffer from hyponatremia? No, they just insist the science does not back up her claim that more water is good for you. I think that, no matter what your political leanings may be, you have to side with the First Lady on this one. We should just be grateful we live in a country where fresh water is easily available, and I for one do not take that for granted. Once my water got cut off for a couple hours when they were doing construction near my condo, and while it wasn’t a huge inconvenience for a couple of hours, it did make me wonder how I would survive if my water were permanently cut off. Time to get that water purification kit and prepare to hike to the lake every day! Anyway, I find it odd that anyone would criticize the First Lady for her stand on water, because if people are drinking more water, then odds are they are drinking less soda, and that can only be a good thing. I think we should just all be grateful that we have water to drink, and I drink it all day long, as Travalon could tell you. He jokes that I am a camel because I can store so much water. Which brings me back to yesterday’s post, so maybe it’s time to wrap this up.

Famous Hat

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Public Service Announcement: Deadly Camels

In the “Another Thing to Worry About” Department, there comes this story just posted on MyFace by Banjo Player about a deadly virus being spread by camels. I know what you are thinking: “But Famous Hat, I never have contact with camels! Why do I have to worry about this?” If you read the story closely, only the first few people who acquired the deadly virus had contact with camels. This would seem to imply that the rest had contact with people who had contact with camels. And if you think you are more than six degrees of separation from a camel, you are just deluding yourself. I myself have seen camels firsthand in the local zoo, which is possibly close enough contact to get sick, but to make matters worse, I once rode a camel, and Richard Bonomo has photographic proof of this. My ill-advised camel ride was over a year ago, so I probably am not going to get sick from it at this point, but think of the people who rode camels this year at the State Fair, and all the people they know, and you can see that you are not safe anywhere. My advice to you would be to hide under your bed until this pandemic is over.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Late Summer Evening

Last night Travalon and I went to the first of our many classes required for getting married in the Catholic Church. The class let out at a relatively early hour, so afterwards we discussed swimming in my pool or grabbing a drink at the Come Back In but ultimately decided to go to the East Side Club’s Tiki Bar and sit down by the lake while drinking a hard lemonade. It had been a very hot day, but by then the lake breeze was refreshing, and we wondered if it would be our last evening enjoying summer weather by the lake. Travalon said I should blog about that, so I am. Then, as we drove back toward my house, we passed Next Door Brewing, a new brewpub I had visited with Mamastep on Friday night. At that time it had been very crowded, and so loud that we could barely carry on a conversation. On a Tuesday night, it was still surprisingly busy but much pleasanter, and our bartender was very friendly. We both enjoyed one of their flagship beers, call Wilber! (Yes, with an exclamation point.) Karben4 and another brewery had lent them space to brew before they were opened, so they returned the favor by having guest taps for them. It’s so wonderful to see the small breweries cooperating like that instead of being at each other’s throats. It seems in Madtown there is plenty of market share for all of them.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Football Season Returns

My team (yes, I am a part owner) has just started their season again, and Sunday Travalon and I watched their first game, against San Francisco. Of course I have friends who loved the outcome of this game, because they are either Niners fans or, for some reason, Bears fans, but it was a disappointing way to start the season for us Packer Backers. Then again, it could have been so much worse – we didn’t even lose by a touchdown. The strangest part for me while watching this game is that I was still in baseball mode, so I was just not getting into football, usually a sport I love. Maybe all this discussion of brain damage to the players has made it less enjoyable to watch aggressive tackles. Has anyone else felt less comfortable with watching football because of this, or is it just me? I will have to get into football mode by November, because Travalon and I are going to a game at Lambeau, something I have always wanted to do. I went to a scrimmage there once but have never seen an actual game live. Is football like baseball, and way better live? I’ll let you know in November.

Famous Hat

Monday, September 9, 2013

Indian Summer

Travalon and I have gone to a lot of festivals this summer, and Saturday we went to two. One was a Celtic Fest in Pewaukee, which was small but had actual Guinness (as opposed to Irish Fest). We watched some children doing Irish dancing and ate chicken from Burke’s Restaurant, and I bought a Celtic cross pin with an actual shamrock in it. The festival was on the lake front, which is lovely.

Then we went to Indian Summer, on the Summerfest grounds, which may be my favorite festival yet. We watched some dance contests with men and women wearing traditional costumes; I particularly liked the women’s jingle skirts, with bells all over them. Different groups sang and played the drums for the dancers, but we didn’t find out who the winners of all the contests were because they wouldn’t announce that until the next day. We had fry bread and corn to round out our meal, since we already had protein at Celtic Fest. I loved the colorful costumes at Indian Summer, most of which also jingled. I would love to learn the dances they were doing, which didn’t seem to take as much coordination as energy. We will definitely have to go back next year! 

Famous Hat

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dress Shopping

Tuesday evening Light Bright and I headed out to go dress shopping. I didn’t realize how bad it would be until the “consultant” asked if she or Light Bright should help me change, and I said Light Bright. She said, “That’s what they usually say.” I didn’t know I’d have to get half naked in front of anyone, but better my old office mate than some stranger, right? Then I had to put on a flouncy slip and a strapless bra/corset type thing, and then I tried on the first dress. I knew it wouldn’t be good when Light Bright said,” … and you’re a giant cupcake.” I gamely went out to look in the mirrors anyway and was surrounded by a vision of myself buried under tons of crinoline. The bodice was pretty, but I couldn’t get past that skirt. And walking in it was nearly impossible! The next few dresses I tried were no better either, and it didn’t help when the consultant and Light Bright convinced me that I’d have to wear heels, so I put on some uncomfortable shoes. Just when I was feeling really fat and ugly and way too old to be trying on these princess dresses, Light Bright said, “Try this one.” I didn’t like the looks of it – all lacy and too old-fashioned in the bag – but she insisted that I try it on. I did, and suddenly I felt beautiful, like an actual blushing bride. The dress was easier to move in than the ones I was trying on before, and it was on clearance, so I said, “I’ll take this one.” Light Bright said we didn’t have to find one that night, but both she and the consultant agreed that one was really flattering on me. I can’t post photos until after the wedding, because Travalon reads this blog and it’s bad luck for him to see my dress. They can only take it in two sizes, so I can’t lose too much weight between now and then. Richard Bonomo says this time Murphy’s Law is working in my favor, and I’ll be totally fit by my wedding, so then who knows what I’ll do?

Famous Hat

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Corny Labor Day

I hope you had a happy Labor Day. I started the day off right, meeting Travalon for coffee, then we drove to his friends’ house in Waupun and we all (including three school-age girls) went to the Corn Festival in Randolph. There was a parade earlier in the day which we missed, but we got there in plenty of time to enjoy free corn on the cob. You can have up to three ears of corn; I was only going to have one, but the guy handed me two, so I just took them both. Good corn, but nothing compares to the stuff at the Ashippun Firemen’s Picnic. Unfortunately the guy selling birch beer was not there this year. Apparently it’s like root beer but red, and totally delicious. We did have cheese curds, burgers, and cream puffs, saying we’d start our diets on Tuesday. You have to enjoy the last day of summer!

That evening Katzooks hosted a dinner party at Rich’s house with lots of vegetarian food, like brown rice couscous and homemade hummus. The food was so healthy that I felt myself recovering from all the junk I’d eaten earlier in the day. Now I am back on track and eating my daily broccoli, although today I didn’t eat it because there were so many other veggies around. Some retired coworkers came in and brought treats, and one brought raw veggies to dip in yogurt dip another coworker had made. Of course, another retiree brought doughnuts…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Navy Pier

Sunday morning Travalon and I drove to a Ukrainian neighborhood in Chicago to go to Sunday Liturgy. We met Cecil Markovitch there; he had left Madtown at six in the morning! The entire liturgy was sung in Ukrainian, and it was very beautiful but I didn’t understand a word of it. There is another Ukrainian Catholic church just down the road, and that is the original one, but some people felt it was becoming too Latin, so they founded this church to be purely Ukrainian.

Then we went to downtown Chicago to walk barefoot through the fountain at Millennial Park and to see St. Peters on the Loop, a church flush against the other buildings around it so you don’t really see it until you are across from it. We had Chicago deep dish pizza for lunch, then Cecil went off to a jazz record store while Travalon and I took the water taxi to Navy Pier. In all my travels to Chicago, I had never been there. It was very crowded because of the holiday weekend and the beautiful weather. We thought about riding the iconic Ferris wheel, but the line to buy tickets was really long, so we just walked the length of the pier instead. We listened to a live salsa band and stopped into the Billy Goat Tavern made famous on Saturday Night Live, the origin of the Curse of the Billy Goat. (Which did not seem to be afflicting the Cubs that day either, because they beat the Phillies quite handily.) We took the water taxi downtown and admired the Chicago architecture, then we headed home, with a quick stop in Pewaukee to see Travalon’s mother and grab a bite to eat. (We weren’t very hungry after that pizza!) Chicago was so much fun, and it really isn’t far away. We are going to try to get there more often. My one regret was not trying a beer from Five Rabbits Brewery that we saw on the menu Saturday night. How could I resist something with a name like that? But the waitress recommended something else, which was fine but nothing too special.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pilgrimage to Wrigley Field

My maternal grandfather was a huge Cubs fan, and my mother went to games at Wrigley Field during her childhood, but I had never been there. When I mentioned to Travalon that I had always wanted to go to a game there, he said, “That’s a pretty easy item to take off your bucket list.” He found tickets for this past Saturday, and we drove down to Chicago to see the game. We parked in the ‘burbs and took the train in, which was an adventure unto itself. The train stopped for quite a while with no explanation, and we thought we’d be late, but we only missed the top of the first inning.

Wrigley Field is a very beautiful field, very green with an old scoreboard where they still change the numbers by hand. On the rooftops all around the field there are more bleachers for people to watch the games. We sat by some Phillies fans, and although we are not from Chicago ourselves, we got really invested in the game and hoped the Cubs would win. And they did! It was a close game, but they won by one run. (Say that five times fast.)

After the game Travalon and I went downtown for dinner at a place called Chuck’s Mechanics or something like that, where you build your own dinner, then we went to the water taxis, but those had stopped running at 8:00. We admired the lights of downtown Chicago and then headed to our hotel rooms (separate of course, until next May) in Waukegan. I’ll continue with our Chicago adventures tomorrow.

Famous Hat