3

Season in the Sun

One thing I’ve learned since being in Wisconsin for almost a year is that there are but two seasons: winter and roadwork.

When I moved here, I guess I didn’t notice the roadwork part much; maybe because school was starting, they eased up. Winter was winter, but as soon as it ended, roadwork came and it’s still coming.

It started with the construction on new buildings. That’s not so much of a problem, but it is kind of a nuisance sometimes to have to dodge construction workers and risk being crushed by falling debris on the way to the gym.

But then, they started tearing up the roads.

It started when school was over, and it started here on Langdon. Driving straight down Carroll or down Langdon towards State Street isn’t a problem, but the left side, until recently, was closed off. The weird part, though, was that people still drove through it anyway. I still don’t get that.

But then, there’s Johnson Street.

“Giant mess” doesn’t even begin to describe it. The street is orange as far as the eye can see, with the netting, cones, and barrels. Not to mention down to one lane. It’s come to the point where I dread going east, and when I do, I’ve been driving around the Capitol just to avoid Johnson. The Capitol.

Going to the west, the end of State Street in front of the library is all torn up and cut off from the public. It’s like basic training just to get to the front door of Memorial. A girl actually fell in a hole right at the intersection of State and Lake. I didn’t see it happen, but I did see her get helped up. It’s pretty ugly-looking. At least the creepy guy who leans against the wall and tries to start conversations with me whenever I walk past him isn’t there anymore.

Then, there’s W. Broadway in Monona. Um…no thanks, ever.

And going eastbound on the highway.

I think I need to go read a book or something.

1

Geocaching Milestones: #1100-#1500

After having no luck yesterday, I found my 1500th geocache at 2:57 this afternoon.

The last time I posted a geocaching milestones post was when I found my 1400th last year; now, I conclude this series with the stories of my five most recent milestones.

#1100: Who Needs Labels? (Katy, Texas)

This cache was on a hot and sunny day in Katy. It was a little hard to find, because it was near some train tracks, but it had a lot of favorite points. I felt stupid when I found it; it was an ammo box painted white and attached to something. I wore a tan shirt that day.

#1200: Sunset in the Far East (Houston, Texas)

This cache was decently sized and despite the name it was in the western part of Houston. It was at a dead end under some rocks, and ironically, I found it just after sunset in my gray Bookcrossing shirt.

#1300: I’d rather do the Texas Alphabet Chili Challenge (Shenandoah, Texas)

I hadn’t explored the wealth of caches in the northern suburbs of Houston, and so I decided to head to The Woodlands and Shenandoah that day. This challenge required a geocacher to have found a cache for every letter of the alphabet, somewhere in Texas. With over 500 Texas caches at this point, it was pretty simple to make a list. I saw a big turtle near the cache, which was a pot in a patch of woods next to a parking lot, about 100 feet from the car. I found it in my green Edward Gorey t-shirt.

#1400: the Secret Garden (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

The journey to this cache was stressful. It was during the move from Houston to Madison, and I knew I was coming up on this number. I didn’t want my 1400th to just be a pill bottle or a skirt lifter; I wanted a real cache, and the morning we left Oklahoma City, I had 7 to go. We visited the Oklahoma City memorial, where I scored 3 virtuals, and nearby was a large hospital complex with 4 physical caches on its grounds. My dad was more interested in getting on the road, so he gave me 30 minutes to find the caches. I booked it through parking lots and grassy knolls, and as luck would have it, the first three were spot on. The last one was a nail-biter; I had only 5-10 minutes left and I was searching all through this little garden. Finally, I spotted it sitting in a small tree. I can’t remember what I was wearing, but I was very sweaty.

#1500 : District 13 (Madison, Wisconsin)

I really wanted my 1500th cache to be extra special. District 13, a mystery cache, was my initial choice. But then, I realized that I was at 1,494 and was going to Perrot State Park and potentially Minnesota the next day, so I could only find a maximum of five caches on that trip. I didn’t end up finding any, which was a bummer, but the next day, I just picked up where I left off. I looked for a few easy caches around town and found five out of seven of them, then headed to the coordinates I got after I solved the District 13 puzzle. Though it was a pain to find parking, the cache was an easy-to-find tupperware container hidden near a grocery store. As I took my victory picture, I realized that I was wearing my Virgin Records t-shirt – the exact same one I wore when I found my 100th cache. That’s either a very bad thing or a very good thing.

0

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Little Winery on the Prairie

After a tumultuous semester, it was time for some exploring. So, today, I went west in search of wine and cheese. I found one of the two, and some other things as well. Join me for another episode of…

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 2: Little Winery on the Prairie

About 45 minutes northwest of Madison, just where Dane County meets Sauk County on the Wisconsin River is the town of Prairie du Sac, home to the Wollersheim Winery. I had tasted their wine before. Their most well-known vintage is Prairie Fume, which is light, white, and wonderful. At their beautiful vineyard, their hour-long winery tour and subsequent tasting is worth way more than the paltry five-dollar entrance fee.

Wollersheim Winery dates back one hundred and fifty years. The “modern” era, as they call it, started when a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and his wife bought the land and revived the practice. They hired a French man to work for them, and sure enough, he ended up marrying their oldest daughter, and now the two of them run the winery. Funny how that works. After a short film, we walked outside through the carriage house to see the slopes of grapes. It was a gorgeous day. Back inside, we saw the huge vats where they process the wine, and then went downstairs to a pungent underground wine cellar with casks and barrels of wines. One barrel had a window so we could see inside, but it was mostly sediment. Then, we went back up into the carriage house for a wine flight, which is a fancy way to say “wine tasting.” We got to try six wines: Prairie Fume, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, River Gold, Eagle White (a special!) and a Semi-Sweet White Riesling. Obviously the Prairie Fume was the best, but the River Gold and the White Riesling were quite tasty as well. Outside, we walked up to the top of the hill, where another wine cave is built inside the hill. There are also wine gardens where you can sit and enjoy wine bought from the gift shop, ten dollars a bottle (eleven in stores!). They also had these cute miniatures in the refrigerator. It was my first ever winery tour, and overall, it was lovely.

After that, I drove to Plain in a vain attempt to see the Cedar Grove Cheese factory; alas, they were closed for the day when I got there. However, we weren’t far from Spring Green, which is famous for the House on the Rock.

It took so long to get there on winding, twisty roads up a hill, but The House on the Rock is something to be seen. When you drive in, it’s like an alien garden with giant Chinese urns covered in flowers. Alas, I only had an hour left before they closed, so I could only do one section of the three-part tour. But of that one section, I saw a heck of a lot.

Walking through the winding staircases, you enter a tiny, dark house full of Asian art and sculpture. The ceilings are low, but the atmosphere is so architecturally high, and high above the valley. There are rooms upon rooms of Asian furniture, hidden waterfalls, and so much art. Then comes the Infinity Room, which is truly a sight to behold. It’s a long, narrow room that seems to go on forever and ever, jutting out over the valley. They also had an automated violin/tambourine/harpsichord thing that scared the hell out of me whenever it came to life. Then, you go back inside to see even more rooms, sit on the couches, and climb the twisty staircases to the sun deck. The Japanese garden is splendid as well. I hope to go back and visit again.

5

If This Coffee Cup Could Talk…

Today, I decided to have an adventure in the wonderful town of Madison. I had heard of Dig N Save, but I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. I knew it was a resale shop, but we’ve got plenty of those, St. Vinny’s being the most prominent. Another friend told me that she had gone to Dig N Save and bought three hundred Beanie Babies to gut them and make a rug. I know that the 1990s aren’t coming back, but eviscerating them and sewing together their furry exteriors for art’s sake? Shudder.

Beanie Baby guts aside, I went to see Dig N Save for myself, and I couldn’t believe what I saw once I got there. There are resale shops, and then there are resale shops. Dig N Save wasn’t particularly big in terms of floor space, with only two large rooms, but the amount of crap they had was spectacular. The front room had dumpster-sized tubs full of used clothing, which people were rooting through. In the back, though, was where they had some really interesting crap. Mounted on pegs were wooden chairs and stools, most of them in great condition. The floor beneath them had dressers, file cabinets, desks, shelving, tables, sofas, and chairs, which, again, were a little dusty but not unusable. I guess if was truly unusable they wouldn’t bother putting it out. In the front of the room, however, were three rows of bins full of dolls, stuffed animals, board games, Beanie Babies (the ones that survived the massacre), and other childhood toys. The bin on the far wall contained china, and that’s where I found this gem.

Photo: Okay, so I saw this coffee mug in a junk shop and I couldn't look at it without laughing so I bought it. So much character. I wonder what it's story is and how it ended up in Madison.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bought it, because who knows what’s been in that cup. But I saw it, laughed, and every time I passed it by, I couldn’t help but laugh. So I had to buy it, dust and all. They charge by wright, 35 cents per pound, and all I had was the mug, so it came out to a bank-breaking 37 cents.

But just look at it…it’s hysterical.

Someone named Bernie (or with a friend named Bernie) went to Las Vegas and bought this mug, pictured here on my kitchen table. First of all, there’s that name…Bernie. Bernie. Seriously. Do you know anyone under the age of 65 with that name? And no, pets don’t count. Plus, Las Vegas, the place where you can get lucky in the casino, or in other ways (if you have the money).

So here’s the image I have, and a story to go with it.

This guy is about 5’7″ and a half, average build, maybe a bit of a pot belly. He appears to be in his late fifties or sixties. He’s got wrinkly skin, a slight tan from working outside, a brown mullet, and of course, a porn-mustache offset by his grayish facial hair. He’s not from Vegas; he’s just visiting from California because he won his disability case for choking on a Good-n-Plenty while driving the forklift at his job at a beverage supplier. He drove here in his pickup, and is staying at a fleabag motel but spending all of his time between the blackjack tables and the bar. There he sits, in his blue striped dress shirt, faded leather jacket, jeans, and boots. He’s also wearing those thick-framed glasses that are kind of a pinkish at the top and fade down to clear. After losing almost all his money on a poorly-placed roulette bet, he’s at the bar, flicking cigarette butts into an ashtray, when he sees a quarter someone left on the ground by his stool. On a whim, he picks it up, goes back into the casino, sticks it in a slot machine, and what do you know – five thousand dollars. He goes “whoopee!” and then off to the mall to get some classy duds and to a dealership to trade his car for a white Cadillac. He drives down the Strip, catching the eyes of some drunk ladies, and tells them to get in. They do, and he takes them on a shopping spree for sequinned dresses and jewelry, so they look like his fantasy: the spokesmodels from The Price is Right. Then, he checks all of them into a fancy hotel where they get even more drunk, possibly snort some coke, and play around naked in the hot tub. Then, Bernie announces that he’s feeling lucky, so he gets into his new purple Hugh Hefner pimp suit and the ladies back in their dresses (silver and gold, of course) and back down to the casino. He shoots some craps, plays some blackjack or poker, then tries his luck on the roulette wheel. He asks one of the girls when she was born, and she says “26!” so he bets it all on 26 as he kisses her and she coos. Of course, his roulette wheel luck returns with a vengeance and the ball lands on 17. He turns to the girl and she says “how strange, I’m 17!”

“Wait, I thought you were 26?”

“Yeah, 26. I was born on June 26.”

“I asked you your age.”

“Ohhh, I didn’t understand the question.”

An undercover cop notices, and arrests Bernie for bringing a minor into a casino, taking him away as the girls vamoose. As the cop’s loading him into the car, Bernie trips and falls face first into the console, which pops open to reveal a bag of marijuana. Bernie quickly grabs it with his teeth, and as he gets up with it, head bruised and bloodied and all, the policeman realizes he’s been caught. A bunch of people have been watching this whole thing and go “ooooh.” The cop quickly grabs the bag from Bernie’s teeth, jams him in the car, then gets in and speeds off, narrowly missing a lady who is knitting while walking. He quickly makes a deal – he’ll release Bernie if Bernie leaves Vegas immediately. Without much of a choice, Bernie heartily accepts. The cop keeps driving past the police station and arrives at the airport. He stops in the loading zone, quickly, goes to the back seat and unshackles Bernie, leading him to the ticket agent and giving him $500 to pay for the ticket right there and then. Bernie buys the ticket, and the cop then runs out of the airport, gets in his car, and speeds away, yelling, “keep the change!”

Bernie goes through security, only to find out he’s got some time to kill before his flight. So he gets a pizza and a coke. After he finishes, he’s on his way back to the gate when he spies an airport gift shop. He goes in and pokes around, before seeing the mugs on display, and what do you know, they’ve got one “Bernie” mug left. He has just enough money to pay for it. They call his flight number over the intercom, and he hustles back to the gate and gets on the plane, ready to put the trip behind him, with his coffee mug as a souvenir.

Then he realizes that he drove to Las Vegas.

Whoops.

If you’ve read this far, congratulate yourself. I wonder: what do you think of Bernie? I want to hear your “Bernie in Las Vegas” story…if you write and post one, comment below with the link and I’ll reblog you!

5

Top Ten Things a Stoner Might Say on Easter

In honor of today being both Easter Sunday and 4/20, I thought I’d make a list.

 

Top Ten Things a Stoner Might Say on Easter

10. “Man, these little green plastic streamers aren’t working…what did you line the kids’ Easter baskets with again?”

9. “I have risen! Hahahaha just kidding I’m so totally not high right now.”

8. “You seen a big tall rabbit anywhere around here?”

7. “Under my Easter bonnet…no one can see how high I am.”

6. “I’ll show you how this Easter Egg rolls…”*

5. “GIMME YOUR CHOCOLATE BUNNY, LITTLE GIRL IN MARY JANES”

4. “Haha, Mary Janes.”

3. “Dude. I want some ham.”

2. “Mmm…baked ham. Hahahaha”

1. “Whatever man. Is Taco Bell open today?”

 

Whether you did Easter or did drugs today, hope you had a good one.

It’s still Passover, so I did matzah today.

 

*Can’t take full credit for this one. My friend Hannah told me that even though Madison is a hippie-dippie kinda place, they had an Easter egg roll on the Capital lawn rather than some sort of marijuana-related event, which surprised me. I then suggested that they hide chocolate eggs and charge stoners $10 to find them, to which she suggested that if there was a way to stuff a slice of pizza in the egg, that would be even better.

0

On The Importance of Social Time

I’ll admit it, this hasn’t been one of my best weekends. Or my most productive. Well, that’s kind of every weekend, but this weekend I focused a little bit more on the snoozing and socializing aspect of it. I caught up on sleep, and I enjoyed a good amount of social time as well, including last night.

Last night was one of those “I wish I were an undergrad again” nights, with the game and everything. I went to the Union with Kelly and some other folks to cheer on the Badgers and was, of course, disappointed at the outcome – we all know what happened – but I’m glad I can say that I was there, rather than squirreled away doing work or perusing BuzzFeed. When I walked home, I was suddenly glad to be a grad student again, passing some firemen hosing down a small fire on the sidewalk on Langdon. It was only 10:30, but I was more than happy to spend the remainder of the night sitting at home and maybe trying to get some work done, or at least get in bed early.

And then Carly texted me that she was with Alex, Jonathan, and Gideon over at the piano bar, and that was the end of that plan.

So, after Weekend Update (which was not that impressive this week, Kate McKinnon’s Angela Merkel impression notwithstanding), I headed out to meet up with the gang. Carly is one of those truly wonderful, welcoming people who is always inviting me to join her on social activities. It feels good to be part of “the group,” and I’m rarely one to pass up an invite, which is why I’m sad that she isn’t in Madison full-time anymore. But she returned this weekend for the game, and when Carly’s in town, that can only mean good things and fun times. After a quick Cabin Cooler at the bar next door to get my ticket, I joined the group, which had expanded to include Meir, inside the bar. Initially, I was only going to stay for a little bit, but if you know me at all, that usually means I end up closing the bar. I hadn’t been to the piano bar before, and it was a little cheesy but just the right amount of fun, and with a good group of people, gave me a little squeeze of love that I’d needed; it felt so natural, like I could just be myself, let my guard down a little, and not have to impress anyone. I was, by no means, drunk, but as the crowd thinned and we got a table up at the front near the pianos, I really got into the music and was singing and shimmying along, because it’s a Saturday night in Madison. I actually exchanged looks with a blonde girl whose group was at the table next to ours, and when they started “Lean on Me,” we maintained eye contact and sang to each other. A Celine Dion song came up soon after, and we two were out of our seats, gesticulating to each other, and laughing hysterically, even getting some cheers from the crowd. At 1:45 AM I decided to call it a night, and said goodbye to Carly and the group and my new impromptu overly-dramatic singing partner, telling her I’d see her next weekend. Which maybe I will.

When the social activity becomes so impromptu and apropos, that’s when the fluttery, butterfly feeling sets in.

And sometimes accompanying “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” with a stranger on a Saturday night, complete with animated gestures and exaggerating quasi-flirting is all I need to get me through things.

Thank you for being silly with me. I hope we can be silly together again sometime.

Oh, and welcome to my first visitor from Solomon Islands; not a country I expected to see show up so soon, but all the same, glad you came.

Also…wow, I just now realized what “social butterfly” refers to. SO META.

2

Wisc-ed Off to the Final Four

My day was pretty standard: wake up, do all the things, rush around, be late, watch rehearsal, dance, walk in the wrong direction…

Come home, be depressed, look at the mountain of studying…

And then, Wisconsin and Arizona. I turned on the game with 2 minutes to go, and watched until the game ended – Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63.

It’s the little things that just make the day so exciting.

Off to explore how crazy Madison will be; hope I make it back alive and cogent enough to give you a good report.

Go Badgers!

0

Sign of a Bright Future?

I mentioned conspiracy theories today in a conversation with someone, so I’d like to address another that recently came into my mind, both while shopping at Marshalls and then later when I was bored because of course, I have a million things that I have to do but end up slacking on.

Sunglasses.

I never liked sunglasses growing up, because I had actual glasses and could never wear real-person sunglasses until I was a teenager and contact lenses saved me from hating myself forever. I kind of have a thing for really funky, almost girly sunglasses, but never granny glasses, never. Actually, I really like the free plastic ones they give away at events – I have one on my dining room table that says “I ❤ ISRAEL” on the side – but I’m a little too old to be wearing them in public and be taken seriously at the same time. Ever since I moved to a very sunny place (Houston) followed by a place that’s not sunny but when it is, it’s blinding due to the snow (Madison), so sunglasses have been nice for things like driving and walking and avoiding eye contact with certain people. Sunglasses are also probably useful in Vietnam and Guyana, the two newest countries on my traffic (welcome!) There are so many cool kinds out there, and they’re usually pretty cheap.

The problem?

Every time I buy sunglasses, just as I start to really love them, they either a) break, or b) disappear. Usually it’s the first one.

I could give you a rundown of every single pair of sunglasses that I ever bought, but suffice it to say that they’ve been stepped on, sat on, crushed in a bag, and of course, forgotten somewhere. It’s almost to the point of laughter – every time I’ve taken a big trip, my sunglasses have been the first thing to go. I lost them early on in Ecuador, someone sat on them when we got to Slovakia, and I sat on them my first day in Israel. Occasionally I acquire new ones before the trip is out, but usually, I wait until I’m like “gee, now that was a situation where sunglasses would have been helpful, and I didn’t have them.” And then I get them, start to really like them, wear them everywhere, only to have something happen to them. And since the cheapest ones at the west side Marshalls (yes, I actually went to both) were over $15, I think that I have solid proof that I have, indeed, purchased and lost/broken all the $10 and under sunglasses in the world.

Anyway.

Just bought soap.

0

It’s Colder Than A…

Okay, this is it. It is officially cold outside.

How cold is it?

TK TK gifs

By the numbers, it’s -23 F here in Madison.

Negative. Twenty. Three. 

And that’s not even the coldest on record here.

But it’s cold enough that two of my meetings tonight were cancelled, and that all morning classes at the University of Wisconsin are cancelled tomorrow. And hopefully the afternoon ones too, not that I don’t love Irish drama but it would just make my day even more special.

And since it’s cold enough for that, it’s officially too cold to think.

So I’m going to let Google do the post for me today.

Going back to the initial question…

How cold is it?

I’m going to defer to Aubrey Plaza on this one.