2 marginal adults, 2 kids, 9 CDs, one rental car, and a crapload of stuff in the trunk. No plan of any kind. An eleven to fourteen hour drive from Murfreesboro, TN, to Madison, WI. Summertime, when the livin's easy. Friends. Dogs. Curds. Wouldn't have it any other way.
Matt came to see us last week, on a stop-through fun visit while he was in town on business. We had good times & dinner with him, bullshitted and shared music and books (HE shared food and books, we didn't contribute much), and once he left, we started getting our stuff together; digging out coolers and air mattresses, luggage, and car toys. This took almost a whole day, the 14th. We arranged for a rental vehicle, the Hyundai Elantra (which has little compartments for goddamn everything), and shoved all of our stuff into Christie's Saturn the morning of the 15th. We baked a banana bread ("What were you thinking?"), and were out the door by seven. Those of you with kids will understand the accomplishment inherent in this act. We got the rental from surly Budget Rental, transferred our stuff into it, and left C's car in Meredith's driveway. After McBreakfast, we hit the road for a day of driving, which included Metropolis, Illinois followed hard upon by The Bleak Nothingness of Endless Fucking Soybean Fields, Illinois.
We reached Madison at about eleven or so that night, and installed ourselves into the upstairs room of the most gracious Eric and Diane, our hosts for this trip. It is quite something to allow four people, three of whom are still learning basic rules of human interaction and decorum, into your home for a week (letting them stay even after you are gone), and to additionally offer up all of your time, food, coffee, resources and space is priceless. Thanks again to Diane, Eric, and Tito the head dog for putting up with us for days. I actually don't clearly remember the first night, other than thinking that Eric and Diane had put a lot of thought into where we would sleep, and it was like a little Neil Gaiman dormroom up there.
Friday the 16th. I am up at dawn, for no particular reason. We got out about midday, had lunch at the Great Dane, and walked the Capitol and surrounding areas. We went by Representative Mark Pocan's office, and spoke at length with Glenn, getting caught up on everything I've missed over the last seven years or so. Which is a lot, and I'm sure it still wasn't really everything. After going up high onto Madison, there was Rockband 2, which would soon become a theme of our trip - punctuating every experience with Rockband 2. I also finished the book Matt had loaned me, Feast of Snakes. There are much worse ways to spend one's time. Our gracious hosts got our dinner at Tex Tubb's, which was awesome, then screened for us Mary & Max, which was even more awesome. More on the film later. Another late night was had, and I remember crashing about 2 or so, I think.
Saturday the 17th. Abby and I are both up with the sun, and we lay on the floor and played with Legos for an hour before joining the world in progress. Eric made flapjacks for breakfast (and there was some controversy with the flapjacks of which I never fully became aware, but I heard the murmurings) and we hit Westfield's Comics in it's new location. While looking for Westfields, we unexpectedly found the Jester-Helings at Half Price Books, so we saw them in advance of seeing them, which was nice, though Nora was a little afraid of me at first, I think. Saturday evening, we traipsed over to their soon-not-to-be-theirs anymore home, where we celebrated Josh's birthday (late) and C's birthday (even later) and there was a Q (I had the jerk chicken - appropriate), and a cake, and it was all delicious and the kids played together really well for the most part and this was all very nice - but. All of this paled in comparison to the full and wonderful feeling of sitting around the table outside with Josh, Amy, Jon, Colleen, Diane, Eric and Christie and hashing out exactly what it is that remains grossly wrong with the better part of the human race, and nailing down some approaches to fixing it. The friendship and feeling of being part of that group again, of being heard and enjoying hearing others cannot be underestimated. Joy. Seriously. Thanks to all who participated. We busted up at a time I will call "kid late" and I flopped asleep later on the air mattress with my head in the fan. I started reading a couple of Eric's books somewhere in here.
Sunday - got up, made arrangements, and met Mike and Sarah Basford and Megin McDonell at Mildred's for conversation, jokes, plans for the collapse of civilization and a brief history of everything else I missed that Glenn hadn't told me about. Once again - surrounded by people who were happy to see me. Doesn't happen often enough that I can't treat the instances when it does like a little bit of a special occasion. I very much enjoyed lunch and conversation once again, long enough that lunch stretched into a three hour plus affair that fucked up the schedules of everyone else for the rest of the day. Megin and Basfords: I have not forgotten the content or plans contained within our discussion. The eagle is in the air, the carpet is vacuumed, and the bunker is filled with liquor. Stay strong.
Sunday afternoon we had our glamorous photo shoot with Amy J, who made us look good and deleted the the other stuff, though we wouldn't know that until later. That night Diane made dinner, and I'd like to just say that her pesto and not-meatballs are magnificent. No, but really. I found excuses to put Diane's pesto on bread, crackers, and eventually, a burrito. Man. I can taste it right now. Dinner was amazing and followed by Rockband 2, obviously. I think we made our band, Riboflavin Glaybin, that night, and designed our people. My Squidbag singer has green Elvis hair and a Lemmy beard. Of course he fucking does. That's right, I can sing, kind of. Well enough to play Rockband.
When you vacation during the Summer to see friends and your wife is a teacher, and you stay with another teacher, it becomes easy to forget that other people work and have lives and have to respect things like Monday. We spent part of our Monday at Ella's Deli, enjoying the food and ice cream and exposing our kids to a Golem and a lot of crazy crap on the walls and shooting out of the ceiling and flying around. I had a really solid Pastrami there, too. Later that evening, we headed over to Jon and Colleen's for bookchat and hanging out and more good times, and we met Lilly (Dog) Butler. There was excellent pizza of unknown (to me) pedigree, and the kids split into little groups and played games. Ben and Max were enthralled by Jon's iPad, while, if Abby is to be believed, (and she usually is, after you cut through the odd syntax and general strangeness) the girls played something where they were animals sometimes and wore costumes some other times, and weird good fun was the only rule. The night ended earlier, and we drove around and took some pics of stuff, getting back to see the end of Eric and Diane packing to leave for NJ. We watched some of The (American) Office (which was new to me) and hung out, and then went to be relatively early, as they left the next morning before 7.
Tuesday was kind of the off day - we originally thought we'd be doing something else that didn't work out, and we ended up waiting a while to see if that would come to fruition. It didn't, so we spent the first part of the afternoon on State Street, at Noodles and Room of One's Own. We bought a bunch of books - 'cause what's a trip where you don't return with a bundle of books - and then met Jon Broad for a BS session at this bread place that makes a helluva Danish but drops the ball on oatmeal cookies. We drove around for a little bit after that doing photos and errands, and basically just killed the afternoon and evening. Then, some Rockband 2. As you, by now, predicted.
We also played it upon waking Wednesday, our last day in Madison. It's a game, we're addicted. We started in on laundry and dishes and tidying our host-house, and then met Amy J for picking pictures. Amy's being generous enough to print some cool wall-hangings for us out of the pictures she had taken previously, and they're going to be beautiful, despite the fact that I'm in some of them. Kudos and thanks again to Amy for the photo excellence - you rock the big black. (Amy picked up my camera shortly after we arrived in the same way you might pick up and regard a pretty, delicate flower, crystal or furry creature. "Oh, cute," she did not say aloud but might as well have.) Afterwards, we found Josh to give a quick hug, and then did the preparing for dinner with Julia errands and the picking up Wisconsin products for people in Tennessee who can't get them errands, and then it was time to go the park and meet Julia. Literally, we had used up all of our remaining time. We had dinner by the sunset-dappled lake and fed ducks (inadvertantly creating an abomination when Julia's niece Anna fed chicken to a duck) and then there was much talking and haircuts and I crashed hard while putting Abby to bed. I got up again and put Rockband away, and then finally retired around 1:30 or so, reading the fourth EP & DLF house book.
We left in the rain. We were up and out by nine, caught some breakfast on the road, and made better time coming back despite toll road nightmares in Illinois and Indiana. Max and I learned that Amish men do not wash their hands in bathrooms (three different guys, three different locations), and we ate a lot of dried food - pineapple, wasabi peas (best road trip food ever), trail mix - and sandwiches on pita. We pulled into Mer's driveway at 10ish, gave her gifts of beer like alcoholic wise men (we followed like, a star?) and made it home by 11:30, spending the entire next day lazing around, recuperating, having some cheese curds and putting things away. Max's fish - Rick, Spot & Demon - were all still alive.
There's a new photo album down there on the left - have a look at that. I want to thank everyone (and your dogs) again who conspired to make this a wonderful visit for us, and say that we all really enjoyed our Madtown time. it's always nice to feel like you have a home away from home, especially when you've spent more time there than in your current home. It was good to see all of you again - except for the Ella's Golem and the PDQ Idiot Girl.