Madison, Wisconsin

by Fresh and Frugal

Life does funny things to us.  A while ago, I had been invited to attend a conference in Madison by the classical studies graduate students, and I leaped at the opportunity to talk about my blue Minoan monkeys. All materials submitted, I was accepted and then just had to play the waiting game. Finally, this Friday morning at 4:15, I hopped into my own car (Philly shuttles were full and a cab company told me they weren’t running because of the hurricane battering the coast), drove to the airport, and was in Wisconsin by 10. Just walking across the tarmac was enough to put a smile back on my face, not because of the conference, but because of the smell.

I always forget how earthy the midwest smells. I don’t mean like, earthwormy, but like apples and grass and maybe even a little water nearby. Believe it or not, Philadelphia (like central London) is dirty enough to make your boogers gray. Gross, but true. Back in the land of cattle and corn (more cattle in this case), everything just seems… brighter. The people are genuinely kind, and the food is served with a freshness no major city on the east coast can really provide. A tomato tastes like a fresh tomato, not a canned, preserved, or hydroponic tomato. Things here are just… right. The way they should be, y’know?

The conference was fantastic. The hosts were so kind and went so far out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and knew how to get from point A to point B, that I really felt more like I was on vacation (except for the getting dressed up part) than when I’m at home. There was plenty of time to go shopping, to look around, take a tour of the capital, and on Saturday night we all went to a quaint Irish Pub. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for more out of a conference, much less my first official conference as a grad.

Anyway, so to be brief: I was at the airport for a 6 am flight which became a 6pm flight. After freaking out for two hours (everything seems worse when you’re exhausted), I came back to the hotel, got a late checkout, crashed until about noon and then went out and played again. Life has a funny way of telling us to slow the hell down. Taking my time, I had a coffee and people watched for a while. Then there was finding fun things, like Art Gecko, a store with all kinds of amazing crap, and a pizza place with macaroni and cheese pizza, and a pub with a beer stock market.

There was even a parade of fire trucks for the kids. It was funny — everyone was in the bars and restaurants watching the Packers’ game, then during halftime they streamed onto the sidewalk with their kids and everyone waved and cheered for the firetrucks going by. Kids got candy, screamed and yelled, babies cried, parents waved. It was a fantastic thing to just sit and watch.  I really do have to get back to what’s real and makes me happy. The moment this PhD is finished, I’m high-tailing it back to a small, fun, liberal arts college in the midwest and working for scraps. And I can’t wait.


More photos, added now that I found my camera!