Friday, May 31, 2019

Outdoor Gig and Peon Appreciation

Yesterday I skipped out of work early to play at our annual gig at the Mount Horeb Farmers’ Market. This is a gig that pays in tips, and we don’t always have an actively engaged audience since people are just wandering around shopping, but once in a while someone stops to actually listen to us, and sometimes children will even dance. One adorable girl who looked about three was a HUGE fan. No violins exploded this year, but it does get a little warm under the tent where we play. Still, I got to be outside on a beautiful day AND play music in public, so that is a win. Maybe because my day job is counting money, the band asked me to divide up the tips, and we each got $7.81 – how convenient that it was divisible by four. If our third fiddler and accordion player had been able to make it, then I would have had to figure out how to divide it by six.

Today our college had a Peon Appreciation Reception, which was lunch and then the Dean talking about how great we all are. To my surprise, he mentioned my name because I am on that committee that he chairs, and then afterwards he came to talk to the people at my table because a number of us are on that committee. He asked if he pronounced my last name right, and I said he did, but it’s Travalon’s family name and would have been pronounced totally differently back in Hungary. Since my family name is the same as a well-known magazine, it doesn’t usually get mispronounced, but you’d be surprised what people can butcher when they put their minds to it. This dean is a professor of Economics, but he said he is not allowed to talk about his economic positions in his current job, and when he becomes Provost, then he won’t be able to talk about how much he loves our college because in theory he will have to love the whole university equally. I think I was a little nervous around him, because I feel like I was talking too fast and maybe a little too much. Man, if I can get star struck around a university Provost, it’s a good thing I’ve never met an actual celebrity! I would make a total fool of myself if I ever had the chance to meet Stephen Colbert, I just know it. Fortunately that is unlikely to ever happen.

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tri-State Road Trip: Memorial Day

Continuing the story of our road trip, when we woke up Monday morning at our hotel in Savannah, it was raining. The weather had been beautiful the other two days, but we drove through a storm to Galena, where I suggested we take a trolley tour of the town while waiting for the rain to subside. The trolleys were very cute.

The one we rode on was pretty on the inside too, and our driver/guide was very entertaining. He was actually from Madison!

We saw all kinds of cool houses on the tour. Most of the buildings in Galena are made of red brick, and this one has beautiful tiles on the top floor.

After that we shopped a little and had lunch at an Italian restaurant, and then we headed back into Wisconsin. As we drove along, we saw a sign for the grave of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a famous missionary priest in the area back in the 19th century. This was in Benton, so we stopped and took a picture.

Across the street was a war memorial, so we took pictures of that too, since it is what the day is really about.

Here is the church Father Mazzuchelli (or, as the Irish in the area called him, "Father Matthew Kelly") built in Benton: St. Patrick's.

And this is the rectory where he lived for years.

There was a sign that stated an even older church built by Father Mazzuchelli was just down the road in New Diggings, so we went there and found St. Augustine, which is not actively used these days, although they do have Mass there once a year.

In New Diggings there was also a biker bar, not as elaborate as Poopy's, but we stopped there for a drink.

Then we went to Shullsburg, which Travalon wanted to show me because he said it is a small Galena, with old buildings made of red brick. (Though it does not have the spectacular geographical surroundings of being built into a cliff overlooking a river.) There is yet another Father Mazzuchelli-built church there called St. Matthew's.

We went to the mining museum there and took a tour with two young teen guides. They took us down into the mine shaft, and here is a picture of that:

In the part of the museum above ground, they had all sorts of historical things, like the hats being sold at a store in the 1920's. Check it out - this one looks just like Famous Hat!

After that we drove to Brodhead, which is a small town maybe an hour south of Madison. Why? Because up near where we live there is a billboard that says: "Visit Brodhead," so I was curious. What's there? It does seem like a funny place to put the billboard; Travalon says it should be down near Rich's house, because the people driving that way would be going the right direction to head there. I did wonder why the billboard is on the way to the airport - are people planning to fly to Brodhead?

On the way there we saw a rainbow.

There is some pretty architecture in Brodhead, and this lovely gazebo, but not much was going on the evening we were there. We just walked around town a little and had dinner. Weirdly, their Catholic church only seems to have Mass on Wednesday evenings, not on Sundays at all.

We did find yet another war memorial there, so that was appropriate for the day.

There is supposed to be a covered bridge just outside of town, but we never found it. We will just have to head back sometime and look for it, and while we're at it we will take a hike at the evocatively-named Magnolia Bluff, which is right along the way. So stay tuned.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tri-State Road Trip: Sunday

Sunday Travalon and I had breakfast at the charming bed and breakfast in Mineral Point, then we headed down the road to Dubuque. Our first stop was an island where we found not only the boat we would be riding on, but also this memorial display. We spent some time there to remember the whole reason for the long weekend.

Here are some photos from our boat ride. This is the bridge from Wisconsin to Iowa.

This is some sort of fancy bed and breakfast that looks like a castle.

And this, of course, is us! Someone offered to take our picture. People on this boat ride were really friendly, and a lot of them were from Wisconsin, so they cared deeply about the news that Bart Starr had just died. (The Iowans were all, "Bart who?")

This is a view of downtown Dubuque from the boat, including Town Hall.

And this is a view of the old brewery that is now a wine bar, and the shot tower, that are at the end of the riverside trail we have often walked.

We had seen something like a castle tower from the boat (and I took some blurry photos of it), so we thought we would try to find it since it was south of Dubuque and so right on our path. Travalon guessed it was in the Mines of Spain Natural Area, and in fact it was! It is the memorial to Julien Dubuque, the founder of the town, who is buried in it. I would love to have a final resting place in a giant rook overlooking the Mississippi!

Then we took a hike in the park on a trail called Horseshoe Bluff. As the name implies, it is a bluff that curves around so at first you feel as if you are walking through a canyon, until you get to the inside and can't go any further. Check out these amazing rock walls.

We drove down to Sabula, but it is sadly dead there these days. There was an ice cream stand going strong, but we had already had ice cream. Both the hippie pizza place and the diner where we had eaten in the past were out of business. The hippie who owned the pizza place died, but I don't know what the story is with the diner. We continued on to Savannah, Illinois and the famous biker bar, Poopy's, where we had dinner. Travalon had "poopfried chicken," and I had catfish, which was an entire fried catfish, fins and tail and head and all. During dinner a Credence Clearwater Revival cover band played. Here is a photo.

As the night wore on, a Guns N Roses cover band took the stage. Here is a brief video of them.

Tomorrow: our impromptu Father Mazzuchelli Tour!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tri-State Road Trip: Saturday

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I took another road trip down to the southwest part of the state, as well as parts of Iowa and Illinois, during the long weekend. I took a ton of pictures, and so I am going to split this post into three parts: one today, one tomorrow, and one Thursday. (Or at least that is the plan.) Today I will blog about our day on Saturday.

Travalon and I headed southwest and had lunch at the Mexican restaurant in Sauk. It was a gorgeous day, so we stopped for a hike by the Wisconsin River in Muscoda, which looks like it should be pronounced muss-COE-dah but is actually pronounced MUSS-cah-day. Nobody seems to know why.

Then we drove to Soldiers Grove, in the driftless area, to go to the Driftless Brewing Company. I know "driftless" may sound like a description of your nephew who dropped out of college and hangs out in his parents' basement, but it actually describes the area not flattened by the glaciers, and this town was so hilly it was almost like being in the mountains.

Back in 2010 I saw a meteor, as recounted on this blog, and it fell somewhere southwest of Madison. After that I kept dreaming about going to find the meteor, and I would stay in a bed and breakfast in each small town. Now not every town has one, but Mineral Point has one that is also a brewery! It's like a dream come true! It feels very Medieval to stay at a tavern that is also an inn, and the walls added to the Medieval feel. It reminded us of the castle we stayed in back in Ireland.

Here is a shot of the tavern, where we ate dinner and drank beer.

We went to evening Mass at St. Mary's in Mineral Point, and the windows were so beautiful that I took pictures of them. You can't see it in these pictures, but the writing on the bottom of the windows was in German. I don't read German, but I'm guessing it said something like, "This window was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt," something like that.

We watched the Bucks game in that wonderful room, and at first the Bucks were so on fire that I half-hoped my tweet to Giannis had encouraged them all. Unfortunately the Raptors woke up and overtook them, so their season is over. Travalon got over his disappointment by enjoying the hot tub in our room. It was kind of small for two of us, so I just stuck my feet in it.

More tomorrow!

Famous Hat

Friday, May 24, 2019

Finding the Magic in the World

If you watched the game last night, didn’t it seem like the refs were calling fouls on the Bucks for just regular defensive playing? Conversely, they weren’t calling fouls on the Raptors for pushing Giannis down and tripping him and scratching his face till it bled. The Raptors probably wanted the fouls, because he was not shooting very well from the line. The thing is, I feel like Giannis is a big puppy who has been happily playing in relative obscurity, but now that he is in the spotlight, the haters have come out and caught him totally off-guard. I feel worse for him about that than just for losing. They haven’t lost the series yet, but it seems like he can’t get past all the vitriol being hurled at him. Why are people doing this to him? Jealousy, I guess. Being old enough to have borne him, I feel a maternal concern for him, so last night I sent him a tweet: “Ignore the haters – you are still the greatest!” Because he is.

When I was very young, barely an adult, and living in the Basque area of Spain for a summer, the coffee there was so wonderful that I drank it all the time. On the flight back to the US, we transferred from Iberia to Delta or something, some American airline, and I took one sip of their coffee and remembered why I never drank it here. The Basque girl who came back with me took one sip, spit it out, and cried, “What is this poop?” (Not the actual word she used.) I said, “Welcome to America, Arantxa.” But fortunately those days are in the past, and now you can find actual good coffee all over the US of A. I am still a little surprised that the very best seems to be in Nashville at the Johnny Cash Museum, but I enjoyed my mug full of A Brew Named Sue this morning and thought how great it is to have wonderful coffee at home. We just finished up the bag of Folsom Prison Brew, and I think A Brew Named Sue is even tastier.

My smart phone is so smart that it is scaring me. It compiles some of my photos into slide shows, like “Hiking at Such-and-Such State Park on a Particular Date,” and for some reason it made one for June 9 last year, which was just a day when Travalon and I went boating, but we were wearing the matching tie-dyed shirts I had made. Maybe artificial intelligence likes tie-dye? I mean, how are these compiled? It made a really good slide show of our trip back in March, and then it had one called “The Best of the Last Two Months.” Apparently the best of the last two months was Cuba and Olbrich Gardens. I thought about that, and the thing is those two days were magical. I really enjoyed Florida and the Bahamas, but they weren’t magical like Cuba, and that day in Olbrich with Tiffy was perfect: just overcast enough to be evocative, and all the flowers were gorgeous and smelled wonderful. But what is “magical”? When I was a child, now and then I would meet an adult or older teen who seemed to make everything magical, and I wanted to be that person when I grew up. To my delight, I seemed to be for some children years ago, but they are all Millennial adults now who seem to find me okay but nothing too special. Then I thought maybe the magic is showing someone the wonder in the world, and of course an adult can do that more easily for a child than for another adult. So what is the magic in the world? I think it must be a reflection of the Divine, so when I feel it now, I must be really sensing God’s presence in the world. No wonder it seems so beautiful, and why I wanted to be that guide for other people: I was helping them see the Divine! What could be more amazing than that? So then the question becomes: does my smart phone sense the Divine?

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Playing the Mandolin

Yesterday at band practice I gathered with the three fiddlers, and we waited. We knew the accordion player wasn’t coming, but we were expecting our fearless leader, the guitarist, who keeps the rhythm. Finally one fiddler called her, and she had lost track of time. Meanwhile, I tried to keep the rhythm while the fiddles played the melody. Since I come from a background as a fiddler myself, I first started playing the mandolin as a melody instrument, but it was hard to keep up with the agile fiddles. This was back in 2001, and I quickly figured out how to play simpler harmonies. Somewhere along the way I finally figured out how to play chords – seriously, nobody showed me, I just finally got it one day. But I wasn’t playing straight chords to keep time like the guitar; I was playing all sorts of backbeats or interesting rhythms. It took me a few minutes to stop doing that, because it really threw the fiddles, but eventually I was just playing straight chords to keep time. And do you know, we didn’t sound half bad even without any other rhythm instrument. That is one thing about the mandolin – it has made me more versatile as a musician. As a fiddler, would I have ever learned that I have an ear for playing harmonies? Maybe, but I almost certainly wouldn’t have learned to play chords. Now I can do it all – even play fiddle, and I have, but not lately. With three actual fiddlers in the band, the odds that they would need me to pick up my violin have fallen to statistically nothing. Maybe it’s time to find another mariachi band to join…

Another thing about the mandolin is that it attracts a lot more attention than a violin. Hardingfele and I walked to band practice after work yesterday, since it was such a beautiful day, and we stopped into the ZuZu CafĂ© for a quick rosewater lemonade. The people who worked there were very interested in my mandolin, but they didn’t even give Hardingfele’s violin a second look. I’m not even sure if they noticed her violin case, but the mandolin case is hard to miss. They had to know what was in there, so I took it out and showed them, and then they raved about how beautiful it is, and how well-made, and how it is clearly very old and valuable. Truly, you don’t see something like my mandolin every day! Unless you are me, because I see it every day. Do I practice every day? No comment…

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Polar Vortex Victims

The Polar Vortex has claimed more victims in town than just a bunch of trees on campus – it also killed all but one of the prairie dogs at the zoo. These poor little creatures became victims of this crazy weather because they hadn’t burrowed deep enough while hibernating to escape the vicious cold, since the water table was so high from the flooding last summer. The prairie dog that did survive is going to the Baraboo Zoo. Travalon had gone to our zoo and noticed the prairie dog display had vanished, which is a big deal because they are his second-favorite animals after the red pandas. Tiffy was the one who told me what had happened, which is kind of random because she doesn’t even live in town, but her brother-in-law had told her. Sure enough, we found a story online about it. I feel very bad for the prairie dogs, but they were in a hibernation state when they froze, so they probably didn’t suffer. I was practically in tears thinking about the people at the zoo, though. Can you imagine? They see one prairie dog dig out from hibernation… and none of the other twenty appear. Eventually they must have done some exploring and found them all frozen. That is the way of this climate change: big powerful people with a lot of money make decisions that affect it, but the ones who suffer are innocent creatures and the powerless people who love them. Or the powerless people themselves...

Famous Hat

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Honor of Working Together

I hope that my readers had a good weekend and got a chance to get out and enjoy the blossoms all around us. I sure did, as you can see from my previous post. If you are wondering about the post with the redbud seedling, it is from 2011 and is here, so you can see this redbud is eight years old.

Friday evening Travalon and I got fish fingers to go at Mariner’s and then came home to watch the Bucks game. They got ahead of Toronto and never fell behind the entire game. One of my coworkers is of Greek heritage, and she says there is a word in Greek that has no English translation but means something like “the honor of working together.” I think of that now when watching the Bucks, since Giannis is from Greece and so may be familiar with this concept. I like to think the word applies to the way the whole team works together.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich and Tiffy for coffee, then he left to visit his mother and hang out in Milwaukee for the day while the rest of us went to the Globe for lunch. Tiffy and I spent hours at Olbrich Gardens, then we picked up Rich and went to the Arboretum. I wish I could post the scent of all those blooming lilacs and crabapples on this blog. In the evening the three of us met a bunch of other Slow Food people for dinner at a new French restaurant called Merci. We loved the escargots, the pheasant soup, and the French bread, but the main courses were nothing too exciting. Of course, they were out of lamb, which is what Rich really wanted. He says he will have to go back when they have it.

Yesterday a bunch of us had coffee after Mass, then Travalon, Tiffy, and I went to a new Korean restaurant called Mr. Kimchee. Not only was the food delicious, but the waitstaff were really friendly and helpful. Then we had bubble tea with her niece and her niece's boyfriend. Travalon and I went for a hike on Governor’s Island, then we checked on my garden plot, and so far my radishes are coming up, but no sign of the carrots or herbs. I still have a ton more seeds to plant, if the weather ever cooperates. We were going to watch the Bucks game with Cali, but she canceled, so we just stayed home to watch the heartbreak of the Bucks losing in double overtime. It would have helped if they hadn’t turned the ball over twenty times… Hopefully they can pull it back together for Tuesday’s game. Fear the Deer!

Famous Hat

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Photos of May Flowers

Since  spring lasts for a week and a half around here, I have to enjoy it while I can. This first photo is a tulip tree on campus with its distinctive leaves that almost look like little tulips.

This is a tulip with barely any stem that someone abandoned in the adoration chapel at my church.

Here are some photos from the Allen Centennial Gardens on campus.


 fancy tulips

 more tulips

And these photos are from Olbrich Gardens, where I hung out with Tiffy on Saturday.

 fountain facing Rose Tower



 I love this sign!

 This one too! "Random Laser Beam"!

 fountain by Thai Pavilion

 cherry blossoms

 pearl bush

view from the Rose Tower

 black tulips

 Tiffy and me and crabapple blossoms

 yet another fountain

 tri-color beech



 crabapple blossoms

 double daffodils

And this is the redbud tree that was featured on this blog years ago as a little seedling. It lives in Rich's yard.

And finally, Rich, Tiffy, and I found this metal design with Madison landmarks on it downtown, and I loved their depiction of the Thai Pavilion.

Famous Hat