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Returning to Mad City

Above:  I think Wisconsin's capitol building, in Madison, is the prettiest in the nation.  It was modeled after the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

After my pleasant "family reunion" in the cemetery near Mayville, I got back in my truck and headed southwest across Michigan.  I spent the night in a dingy Motel 6 in the dingy town of Battle Creek, which, of course, is the home of Tony the Tiger and Kellogg's cereal.  I wish, like Tony, I could say, "It's grrrreat!" about Battle Creek, but not so much. 

 

The next morning was sunny and warm, and I got on the Interstate and headed to Minnesota.  I had told my friends in Minneapolis, Mark and Jayne, that I'd be there around dinnertime but as I would discover, it's a loooong way from Battle Creek to Minneapolis.  I guess I was still used to driving across all those small states in the northeast.

 

After a pretty drive across southwestern Michigan, I crossed into Indiana, which isn't, let's say, the most interesting state in the nation (see The Best and Worst of the 50 States).  Things livened up an hour later, though, once I hit Chicago, which was congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic, even though it was a Saturday.

 

I snaked through the heavy traffic in the Windy City but then faced an endless string of toll stops on Interstate 90 as I drove through northern Illinois.  The toll roads here charge exactly 40 cents every few miles -- not 50 cents (i.e., two quarters), which would be much simpler and would make more sense.  No, they charge 40 cents, like a quarter, a dime and a nickel.  I guess people in Chicago must travel around with lots of quarters, dimes and nickels in their cars, but I almost about ran out by the time I reached Wisconsin. 

 

Oh, and if you ever drive on these nickel-and-dime toll roads in Illinois, be sure to read the signs above each booth carefully as you approach because otherwise, you may get in the wrong lane and, not having any change, will have to back up your truck and get in the correct lane.  All the while, cars and trucks around you will blast their horns and yell at that idiot from Oreee-gone.  But that's another story.  Needless to say, I was glad to cross into the more civilized (and toll-less) state of Wisconsin around 2 p.m.

 

Above:  What's with all the 40-cent toll stops in Illinois?  Some of us don't happen to carry large quantities of nickels, dimes, AND quarters.  Here's a tip:  just make them 50 cents.  Nah, that makes too much cents.

My main stop that afternoon was in Madison, Wisconsin (a.k.a., Mad City), home of the University of Wisconsin, where I went to grad school back in the 1980s.  Although most of my friends from those days, like Marilyn and Jake have since left (see News:  August 8, 2001), I still know a few hangers-on in Madison, such as my former Geography compatriots, Brad and Cynde (formerly known as Cindy), who I wanted to stop and see.

 

But unfortunately, they were both attending a beer festival that day called the Madison Brew Fest which, in beer-crazy Madison, is something like going to a religious pilgrimage.  I wasn't sure how I'd find them there because I didn't know when I'd get to Madison that afternoon.  Besides,  there'd be about three million drunken, beer-thirsting people there. 

 

The answer, as Brad cleverly decided during a phone call the previous night, was simple:  we'd use our cell phones.  I had bought one before leaving Portland (though I hadn't used it much on this trip) and Brad told me that he could borrow one from a friend.

 

 

Here's Madison's unofficial theme song. This is Frankie Yankovic and his dazzling accordion playing Beer Barrel Polka.

   

Note many years later:  Cell phones back in 2001 were still a novelty and few people owned or used them.  What's obvious today -- using cell phones to find others -- wasn't so obvious back then.  Oh, the miracles of technology!

 

So thanks to Brad's ingenuity, I got to see him and Cynde for about 20 minutes before I scurried off to visit the campus for a bit and reminisce, then I headed on to Minneapolis that evening.

 

   

Above left:  Driving through Chicago on a busy Saturday.

Above right:  Late that afternoon, after using all my quarters, dimes and nickels on the Illinois toll roads, I reached Madison, Wisconsin.  I went to grad school here in the 1980s at the University of Wisconsin and have always enjoyed coming back.  Madison is a great city.

 

       

Above left:  I was supposed to meet my friend Brad here at the Madison Brew Fest... somewhere.  What a mob scene!  Braaaaaad, where are yoooou?

Above center:  Beer makes everyone happy.

Above right:  Through the miracle of cell phone technology, Brad and I finally connected.  That's Brad and Cynde on the left, two friends from my UW-Geography days.  A couple of Brad's happy friends are on the right.

 

       

Above left:  Here are a few old photos.  That's Brad (center) at a UW-Geography party in 1984.  For some reason, I have lots of pictures of Brad drinking beer.

Above center:  Here he is in 1985 in Utah, not drinking beer but eating a burrito.  I was working in Colorado that summer and Brad came out to visit.  We went down to Utah for a few days (and drank a lot of beer).  Being a bit inebriated, I made a fool of myself in front of a cute ranger here, but that's another story.

Above right:  Me and Cynde (or Cindy, as she was known then) in Madison, in 1984.  I have no idea why she's holding a stuffed bunny.

 

       

Above left:  After seeing Brad and Cynde at the festival, I walked around the University of Wisconsin campus.  Science Hall is the home of the UW Geography Department.  It was also my home for a few years.  Science Hall is the most beautiful building on campus and still evokes feelings of fondness -- and terror! 

Above center:  Legend has it that Abe Lincoln stands up whenever a female virgin walks in front of him.  In all the years that I attended school here, I never once saw Abe get up.

Above right:  State Street is the happening place in Madison.

 

   

Above left:  You know you're in Wisconsin when you start seeing cheese shops.

Above right:  Back on Interstate 90 that evening, watching the sunset while driving to Minneapolis to visit my friends Mark and Jayne.

An Old Friend in Minnesooooda

I pulled into Minneapolis late that night, but Mark and Jayne had stayed up waiting for me and greeted me with tired smiles.  Mark is one of my oldest and best friends.  We met in seventh grade while debating the upcoming Nixon-McGovern election each day during lunch period in junior high school in California.  McGovern fared as poorly in that election as I did in the debates, but Mark and I became good friends nonetheless and still love talking about politics.

 

Above:  Mark is one of my oldest and best friends.  Here's that goofy guy wearing his Ross Perot Ears.  That's his wonderful wife Jayne on the right.  I spent four days visiting Mark, Jayne and their kids.

Throughout high school, Mark, I, and and a few other friends (including Troy and Carole, see News: June 14, 2001) played endless games of poker, Monopoly, and Risk and engaged in immature and ill-conceived pranks that I won't delve into here.  We also played a lot of sports and every Friday afternoon, we invaded the local bowling alley and harassed the ill-tempered, red-haired woman at the counter, whom we ingeniously dubbed "Big Red" before bowling a few games.  Mark and I also worked on our high school's newspaper, which we both agree was the highlight of our high school experience.  That tells you something about our high school experience.

 

After college, Mark moved back to his home state of Minnesota and met a wonderful woman there named Jayne, who had attended the University of Wisconsin and therefore possessed a superior intellect.  Jayne comes from a huge family and, as you walk around Mark and Jayne's house, you'll trip over hundreds of framed pictures of close relatives, distant relatives, and total strangers.  But seriously, it's nice to see someone who appreciates family as much as Jayne does (take the hint, Mark).  Jayne also loves cats while Mark has a "Cat Free Zone" sign posted on the door of his den.  They're a great couple and are fun to be around, and their two kids are also lots of fun.

 

Above:  Mark grilling steaks for dinner (oops, this is the Midwest so I mean "supper").

And being from the upper Midwest, they both speak with a Minnesota accent.  I've mentioned this before, but I'm constantly fascinated by the accents found in the different parts of the country and have fun trying to guess where a person is from, just by hearing them speak.  So far on this trip, I've dealt with the Cajun accent of Louziana, all the "y'alls" I could handle in Tennessee, and the spoons and "focks" of New England.  Of course, now that I was in Minnesota, I had to adjust to the Midwestern accent, which is totally different.

 

Back in New England they have trouble with the letter "R," like those "caahs being pawked faa away."  But here in the Midwest they do funny things to the letter "A," often adding an "E" in front of it. 

 

For instance, a "chair" in the Midwest is actually a "chear" -- or even a "cheer" in Illinois.  And a "salad" is actually a "see-alad."  And here in Minnesota, they tend to draw out the letter "O" so it's pronounced "Minnesooooda," while a simple "no" turns into the much more-involved "noooooh."  As you move into northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota, the Canadian influence becomes apparent and they start tacking on an "eh?" to the end of every sentence, whether it needs it or not.  "So where ya from, eh?"  Of course, us folks out in Oregon don't speak with any kind of accent -- it's everyone else in America who talks funny.

 

Along with chuckling over the Midwestern accent during my wonderful four-day stay at Mark's house, I got to visit with his parents, Doug and Kay, whom I hadn't seen in 24 years when Mark and I lived in California.  During our conversation, I learned that Doug, by sheer coincidence, had once dated my mother's cousin in North Dakota back in the 1940s.  Considering that I didn't meet Mark or his family until the 1970s (and that was in California, where we all lived), I found this to be totally amazing.  Of course, if Doug had married her, Mark would be my second cousin.  And with that sobering thought, I left Minneapolis and headed west.

 

   

Above left:  Don't those steaks look gooood?

Above right:  Riding on the freeways of Minneapolis.  Eh?

 

   

Above left:  Here are a couple of old photos.  This is Mark and Jayne during my visit in 1995 shortly after they met.

Above right:  Mark's car got pummeled a few years ago during a hailstorm, which are common in the Midwest.  Here's his pock-marked roof.  But like a good neighbor, State Farm was there.

 


 

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