I got a call sometime in January from an old pal, asking if I’d like to have lunch in two hours, spur of the moment, and I said yes. It was a wonderful lunch and a wonderful time, and I resolved that if I had the chance to see an old pal again, I’d do it, because once you hit 50 you just never know. I missed my college-newspaper reunion two weeks ago, and I regret it, but we did make time for Dr. Frank Byrne’s 60th birthday party in Madison over the weekend, and I certainly don’t regret that, even though it required a too-early flight out and a too-late flight home and the weather was fairly shitty. It was still a great party, and a day-after breakfast, and somehow — Frank swears — it remained a surprise.

He swears. He’s too nice a guy to say otherwise, but if it’s true, I don’t know how she did it, because it was one big party. All his kids flew in from their various outposts, his mom and sister showed, and there were a few from Fort Wayne, as well as the expected horde from Madtown.

I’ve been living in Detroit long enough that my eye is thoroughly scuffed to the decay; I hardly notice it anymore. But man, did I notice Madison. What a prosperous, money-soaked town. There was a demonstration going on down at the capitol, where we didn’t linger. (See weather report, above.) I mentioned that when we arrived at the party.

“I see they were demonstrating at the capitol.”

“They’re always demonstrating at the capitol. The news would be if they weren’t.”

I gather this will continue until the election, and if Walker isn’t recalled — polling says he has a good shot at prevailing — likely for a while afterward.

That photo below was taken in the student union — the Rathskeller, where we drank beer because of the rain outside, on the famous Memorial Union Terrace. Frank’s favorite summer socializing spot, by the way. Send him out for a pitcher, but don’t expect him back for 45 minutes; he has to stop to talk to a few million people along the way.

(We stayed at the Hotel Red, by the way — Mrs. Frank got a rate. The showers were amazing. I could marry that damn shower. If you ever get a chance to experience one of those multi-head, crazy-ass showers, do so. It made up for the chill rain.)

Our last stop on the way out of town was a record store, where we bought Kate the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” album, along with Black Flag’s “In My Head.” “If my parents bought me these records when I was 15, I’d have checked the refrigerator,” the clerk said, but didn’t say for what. I left it at that. Some things, you just leave unexplained.

Posted at 12:25 am in Same ol' same ol' |

52 responses to “Madtown.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 1, 2012 at 12:48 am

    And some explanations don’t, anyhow.

    36 chars

  2. Dexter said on May 1, 2012 at 3:18 am

    Bob Ufer was a great track athlete at the U of Michigan in the 1940s and gained much attention as the football radio play by play man for the football Wolverines. He was the best, and the most ardent Wolverine promoter in the land.
    But when it came time to send his own daughter off to college, he packed her off to Madison, Wisconsin to be a Badger. Ufer’s fame and his legacy would have removed any obstacles to her admission to U of M, but no, Ufer knew she needed to create her own identity, and he picked a great pace to send her. I have read (can’t recall which sports journal) that she balked at first, but she ended up loving Madison.
    …fwiw, when we spent the long weekend in Madison, we stayed at The Edgewater, pictured here.

    861 chars

  3. Jolene said on May 1, 2012 at 7:31 am

    To follow up our earlier conversation re taking care of elderly relatives, a new story from NPR, this one focusing on the cost to caregivers (in lost wages and Social Security benefits) of providing care at home. Lots to think about for those still facing these issues.

    402 chars

  4. A. Riley said on May 1, 2012 at 9:05 am

    We love Madtown too. We took a little sightseeing trip up there not long ago to look at Monona Terrace (a Frank Lloyd Wright design) and fell in love with the whole place.

    171 chars

  5. Bob (not Greene) said on May 1, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Sounds like you stopped at B Side Records on State Street. I love Madison; it’s one of the few other places in the Midwest I’d live if I had to move. Spent three great years there as a grad student, and it’s the place my oldest son was born, so you could say I have an attachment to it.

    No. 2 son lives just a stone’s throw from the above record store. After a great freshman year, he had to drop out, move out of our home in the Chicago area and spent the entire year working at Walgreen’s out on Park Street to establish residency in the state. Last week, he registered for the fall semester and I have to say I’m very proud of him. The decision will allow him not to have to go into perpetual hock to go to the school of his choice (he’s a chemistry major). For all those assholes who complain about lazy students, they can kiss my ass. He’ll still have to work a barely-above-minimum wage job to afford in-state tuition and pay his rent (they really gouge the college kids near the campus).

    No. 3 son just accepted his offer from Eastern Michigan University and will be spending the next four years near Nance Land. I have to say, EMU was very generous, for which I’m eternally grateful.

    1199 chars

  6. Julie Robinson said on May 1, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Too-early flight in, too-late flight home and often hostile weather also describe our trip to Washington, with the addition of too much money spent. But 12 days with our sweet Sarah were worth it all. If I can figure out how to link to dropbox, I’ll share a photo of the acres and acres of tulips.

    298 chars

  7. JWfromNJ said on May 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

    sounds like a nice weekend. You’re fortunate that Detroit is still an airline hub – I’m guessing you didn’t have to go via Chicago or worse, Atlanta. Still makes for long travel days with driving there, dealing with the TSA, delays, etc.

    237 chars

  8. Julie Robinson said on May 1, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Photos from the tulip Festival:

    238 chars

  9. Dorothy said on May 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Those are lovely, Julie! Was that Washington state, or D.C.? I’m flying out Thursday for a fun weekend with my daughter, coming home Monday. We’re driving up on Friday to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Wooo hooo – I bet all you guys will be so jealous! Yarn galore to shop for, surrounded by crazy knitting women everywhere – it’s going to be so much fun. We’re spending Sunday in D.C. on the way back home. I’m anxious to see several spots there as it’s been more than 30 years since I’ve been there. Mother/daughter time is long overdue for us so I’m going to soak up every minute.

    599 chars

  10. Charlotte said on May 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been mentoring a kid all year through the college process and I’m just thrilled that she’s decided to go to my alma mater, Beloit College — I’m even more thrilled that Beloit gave her such a great deal that it’ll cost her half of what the U of Montana will. She’s a good kid, and I think it’ll be a great experience for her, but I still didn’t want her going into that kind of debt. No one should (says the woman who should have her PhD paid off this year — 13 years after getting it). So yay tiny liberal arts college and yay to all my more-solvent alumni friends who made it happen for her.
    We lived in Madison when I was in middle school — and my mom worked across from the Union — I *still* remember that ice cream. The cinnamon was my favorite … sigh.

    769 chars

  11. Julie Robinson said on May 1, 2012 at 10:57 am

    That’s Skagit County, Washington, north of Seattle. They grow tulips for bulb sales, which they claim they even ship to Holland. Dorothy, I hope you mom-daughter time is all you want it to be. I am newly inspired to pick up knitting after seeing some gorgeous mittens made from scrap wool that are so much nicer than anything I ever crocheted. Maybe this time I can figure out a way to keep the yarn on the needles!

    416 chars

  12. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Beautiful photos, Julie. I’ve borrowed the first one for my desktop. Firefox let’s me do it with a right mouse click, so I change the thing several times a week. Some sites are amenable to this function, others are not. Dropbox does, hurrah. National Geo photos are all susceptible to this trick. I love tulips.

    What will those evil Islamists get up to next? Sharia condones necrophilia. There is almost nothing more galling than American rightwing nutjobs expressing their profound concern for women’s rights in the Middle East. Tush Limbo’s comments are particularly offensive. Cochon is still not letting go of his contraception buffoonery.

    Sounds more like Robyn Hitchcock.

    842 chars

  13. beb said on May 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

    In writing about the 20 anniversary of the L.A. riots (Rodney King verdict) Digby links to this article:
    which argues that the seeds of the riot began with the harsh police crackdown for the 1984 Olympics, held in L.A. The police chief didn’t want any crime to mar the Games. But they never let up afterwards and 8 years later people were so sick of constant police harassment that they rioted.

    The author, David Zirin, offers up this analysis as a warning to London and Rio, sites of the next two Olympics. Rio is notorious for its poverty problem and is expected to try to sweep the poor out of sight. London may not seem as bad but with England heading into a double-dip recession there’s probably as many unhappy, unemployed people there as in Rio. As for the police state…. The reports that the military are going to install surface-to-air missiles on the rooftops of apartment building overlooking the Olympics seems pretty over the top. Science Fiction writer Charles Stross notes that one doesn’t need to actually launch rockets at the Games now, one only has to trigger a panic using a decoy radio-controlled model airplane to get the military to fire off their rockets. The rockets will rain fiery debris over the region all by themselves. Frankly the Olympics are beginning to look like more trouble then they are worth.

    1429 chars

  14. Bob (not Greene) said on May 1, 2012 at 11:29 am


    Did you mom work at the State Historical Society? I had a work study job there doing research and what not for a couple of years. I liked that job. I think my dream job, if it actually paid, would be to be one of those history detective guys. I love doing historical research.

    290 chars

  15. coozledad said on May 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Just like a stupid piece of Kannapolis mill trash. In a fit of homosexual panic, he attempts suicide and misses his own head by a good fifteen yards. You’d think spending 9/10 of your life beating off to guns would at least give you a fraction of time to learn to shoot properly:

    395 chars

  16. Connie said on May 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Lovely tulips. Midwesterners note that it is Tulip Time in Holland Michigan beginning later this week and continuing through next week with the big parade on May 12. . Beginning last year Governor Snyder continued a longstanding governor’s tradition by donning a Dutch costume and sweeping the street’s in Wednesday’s volksparade. I remember Governor Romney in Dutch costume back in my childhood. I also remember the Bushes and the Reagans in the 1980 big parade just a week before the Michigan primary. No Dutch costumes for them.

    561 chars

  17. MichaelG said on May 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’ve long thought the Olympics were more trouble than they were worth, beb, and that they were more about greed and self aggrandizement than anything else. There’s a lot of talk about trying to get the winter games back to the Tahoe area. I hope it doesn’t happen.

    267 chars

  18. alex said on May 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Off topic, but today I notice Roll Call has already written Dick Lugar’s political obituary.

    Lugar’s problem, in my humble opinion, is that he’s campaigning in a tinfoil teabagger hat and he doesn’t wear it well. Normal people don’t like watching Lugar debase himself and the crazies whose vote he’s after will vote for his crazy opponent in any case. My biggest fear is that Indiana’s just crazy enough to elect a Sharron Angle Republican this fall, and what’s more one who wears a really bad rug.

    634 chars

  19. Jakash said on May 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    When Chicago got bumped off in the first-round vote narrowing down the choices for the 2016 Olympics, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth around here. But I gotta say, I was among the not-insubstantial chunk of the citizenry that was delighted. “More trouble than they are worth” is how I looked at it, too, Beb.

    327 chars

  20. LAMary said on May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Connie, I can’t believe that marching band wears wooden shoes. I thought I grew up among crazy Hollanders. Jeez.

    112 chars

  21. Jeff Borden said on May 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    C’mon, Coozledad, thet ol’ boy jist showin’ some Southern-style hos’tality by aerating thet ol’ sign with a lil buckshot.

    I’m sure the neighbors feel so much safer knowing a knuckle-dragging douchebag with a shotgun is watching out for them and theirs. What is it about guns that have a multiplier effect on assholes? It’s like a gun can increase assholishness by a factor of 10,000 or so.

    392 chars

  22. Charlotte said on May 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Bob (not Greene) — she worked for a travel agency near the union annex (Union West?). This was probably ’75 or ’76. Classic post-divorce job for a mom without a college degree. Although her first job when we moved there was working for the Madison Blues minor league hockey team — *that* was a great job. We saw a lot of hockey that winter, and the guys on the team made my brother do his multiplication tables over the phone when we’d call to check in after school. That was the winter we saw Reggie Fleming stomp on a guy’s hand. One of our players, knocked out, and his glove came off. Fleming skated over and stomped his skate on the passed-out guy’s hand. Meanest thing I ever saw anyone do.

    698 chars

  23. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    The Google Mayday doodle for the rest of the world, that is too controversial for the USA.

    That cracker in cooz’s video has larger moobs than Phil Mickelson. Needs a bro-ssiere.

    399 chars

  24. basset said on May 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    And we have this firearms-related incident down in Terre Haute – tv station master control operator got fired for bringing a gun to work, came back after hours and shot the place up:

    when I worked in Terre Haute TV I would have been more tempted to shoot myself.

    Continuing the college discussion… Basset Jr. will graduate from Middle Tenn. State on Saturday.

    453 chars

  25. del said on May 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I love the music for the May Day doodle. Happy cross cultural band music that any worker can relax to with a beer in hand.

    Charlotte, I visited a very close friend at Beloit College in 1985. I loved the place. I remember the hippie chicks walking around the cafeteria with strategically placed leaves in their hair. The nymph look, pretty cool.

    351 chars

  26. Judybusy said on May 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Julie,that is stunning! Dorothy, it’s grand when we discover passions, especially when they can connect with our loved ones. That sounds like a very fun trip!

    It is tulip season here,too. My sweetie and I visited the U of MN arboretum on Sunday to see their annual display. The dog and I went to the dog park in the afternoon, and I caught some lovely wildflowers. Here is a short album.

    After a bit of wandering, I finally wound up in Madison in ’88 and finished my undergrad and earned my master’s degree there. I saw some amazing music, discovered the farmer’s market and ate at good restuarants. They also had a Landmark Theater, The Majestic, so we got to see a lot of independent films, too. My ex and I did live-in foster care for two developmentally delayed adults: my loan-free ticket to my education. When we needed a break, there was a incredible B and B above an amazing bookstore. The store has since changed hands, and it looks like the B and B is now apartments. Still pretty cool.

    1207 chars

  27. Julie Robinson said on May 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    It’s hard not to feel happy when you look at tulips, no?

    My husband got an iPad at work shortly before we left so he was experimenting with its camera functions. You look pretty dorky snapping pics with it, but I think the quality is better than the iPhone. We haven’t run these through Photoshop or even cropped any of them.

    Here’s one more, where he was trying to be artsy: %20AM.jpg

    459 chars

  28. Dorothy said on May 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Prospero you stated you liked the tulip picture so much, it’s your new desktop background. Here’s mine – and credit goes to one of you darling people for linking to the NASA astronomy picture of the day archives last week:

    Julie it appears your link is incorrect. Can you repost?

    325 chars

  29. Julie Robinson said on May 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Huh–I’m just learning Dropbox, but let me try again:

    If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to actually take the tutorial.

    195 chars

  30. Connie said on May 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    LAMary, having danced in wooden shoes I can tell you that if they fit well and you are wearing plenty of socks, marching is no big deal. They have a cool Klompen kick routine they do while marching, while playing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

    242 chars

  31. Dexter said on May 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Thank yous to prospero and WaPo for explaining what May 1 is around the world. God damn the powers that be for squashing and censoring the history of workingwomen and workingmen in the USA.
    When I was a kid lawyers came to our school and lectured us on “law”. Back then it was “Law Day”. Sheesh…it was way after high school before I had access to the historical knowledge of Haymarket and the reason the eight-hour day became a sort of industrial standard.
    I was actually disappointed today, having to search Google to find the real May 1, 2012 Google Doodle. I really thought Google was more ballsy than this…this non-acknowledgment of the true May Day is shameful.
    These people never forgot what May Day means to them:

    834 chars

  32. Bitter Scribe said on May 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Agree with beb and Jakash about the Olympics. It would have been nothing but an immensely expensive pain in the ass for us locals. Those of us not related to an alderman would never have gotten near any of the prime events. Pampering and soothing Daley’s ego is not worth it.

    275 chars

  33. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Julie@29: The compound-eye-level tulip view is great.

    Tulips mean winter is over, to me. We’ve got them in window boxes mounted on the balcony rail.

    Basset, maybe that gone-postal TV guy was a Gilbert Agent 0 Arenas fan:

    edit: I was living in Athens GA when the Olympic Games brought Eric Rudolph to Atlanta. Bad all around. What Rudolph said about his bomb-planting and the Olympics:

    In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and the purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is the promote the values of global socialism as perfectly expressed in the song “Imagine” by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games — even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these despicable ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27th was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand. The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.

    Sounds like the Teabangers discussing Obama.

    1622 chars

  34. Dorothy said on May 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    *CLAP CLAP CLAP* Julie that “artsy” photo is yummy!

    52 chars

  35. Deborah said on May 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I disagree with the other Chicagoans about the Olympics that didn’t happen; for selfish reasons, it would have meant lots of work for architects at a time when the bottom was falling out for a lot of them.

    Julie, I think I like the last one best, lovely tulip pics.

    268 chars

  36. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Who’d be more damaging to the Constitution and individual rights in America than Scalia and his homunculus Long Dong?Robert Bork, that’s who.

    Juan Cole on Willard Windsock:

    Romney is a scary conspiracy theorist when it comes to the Muslim world, and his discourse in this regard is eerily similar to that of European far-right figures such as Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer.

    Like most GOPers, RMoney is ignorant as a hodful of bricks concerning the Muslim world.

    669 chars

  37. Kaye said on May 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Love the tulips photos, Julie. That is what I expected to see in Holland MI last week; we did see tulips but not big
    fields like those.

    Tulips shot from ground level make impressive photos. Last month I was on a mission to get a good photo with the US Capitol dome over pink tulips in beds across the street. Did get some decent results but I am holding out for a better shot next tulip season.

    Dorothy, I am disappointed you will miss Barack’s vist to OSU as I enjoyed your photos and stories of a previous visit. Instaed, I will look forward to your report of the Sheep and Wool Festival, I have heard good things about it but have not yet attended.

    663 chars

  38. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Willard babbling, and if you don’t have parents that can finance pulling you up by your own bootstraps, frack you, you are irrelevant.

    Speaking of wool, these poodlerized shorn alpaca are kinda humorous.

    511 chars

  39. Connie said on May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Kaye, like so many fruit crops in Michigan the tulips got busted by the weird spring weather. As did my lilac buds.

    116 chars

  40. Prospero said on May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    E.L. Doctorow is seriously POd about the GOP/Teabanger political agenda.

    187 chars

  41. Deborah said on May 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    That Doctorow piece is fantastic.

    33 chars

  42. Charlotte said on May 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Hey Del — ’85 is when I graduated from Bel-wah. A great little school — gave me a ton of money, and ruined me for grad school by never once implicating that the way to get ahead was by parrotting your professors.
    And yes, spring, we were probably all wearing leaves in our hair — ah youth …

    298 chars

  43. Deborah said on May 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Little Bird got word today from her Dad’s family that her cousin was in a bad accident in Afghanistan involving a Jeep. It doesn’t sound good. A grave head injury at best. She doesn’t have much info at this point. We are certainly hoping for the best. This is her Dad’s brother’s only child. He already has a purple heart from an earlier incident. Let’s get those folks out of there soon.

    388 chars

  44. del said on May 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Sorry to hear about your cousin Little Bird.

    Charlotte, my friend Dan Mulligan graduated in ’86. He loved it. His conservative older siblings — who did not leave the Detroit area for college — considered it to have been a frivolous expense that ruined him by inculcating him with a love of liberal values.

    312 chars

  45. Rana said on May 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Deborah, Little Bird, what awful news. I hope he pulls through.

    64 chars

  46. Dexter said on May 2, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Deborah, Little Bird…may he have at least as good a recovery as our local army medic who had a welcome home parade here in our little city:

    368 chars

  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 2, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Some one must have been up late dancing around the Maypole; Happy Beltane, Maggie et alia!

    90 chars

  48. beb said on May 2, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Lession 5295 on why newspapers are failing.

    On my drive to work this morning I saw a bunch of TV news vans parked a couple blocks away from an elementary school. Curious about what was going on that would attract so many TV stations I logged into the Free Press’s site when I got to work. Nothing. I went to the Detroit News’ page – nothing. So, remembering on of the TV station’s web page I type in that and found out that there had been a shooting and the suspect was still at large. When a newspaper can’t insert breaking news into their web page they are going to lose ground to the people who can and do report the breaking news.

    638 chars

  49. Dorothy said on May 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I’m so sorry to hear that news, Deborah. I’ll be thinking of Little Bird’s cousin and saying lots of prayers for a good outcome. We heard about two weeks ago that my brother-in-law, who will be 50 in September this year, is headed to Afghanistan in the fall. We were hoping his year in Kosovo a few years ago would be the only overseas assignment he’d have (he’s National Guard, as is my son).

    Kaye I don’t think I’ll ever go to see a President (ANY Prez) after having to stand for 3 or more hours straight when I saw Mr. Obama. I loved seeing him and Mrs. O, but at my age standing in one place for that long on concrete, with no cartilage in my left knee, was a killer. Unless I’m guaranteed a seat, I’ll be there in spirit only. That, and I already bought plane tickets a few months ago for my weekend with my daughter.

    p.s. do y’all know E. L. Doctorow went to Kenyon?

    887 chars

  50. Charlotte said on May 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Dex — I didn’t know Dan Mulligan but that’s what Beloit does best — inculcates liberal values like reason and argument and thinking for yourself. At the time, we all thought we were sort of losers for not getting into better schools, but my Beloit friends have gone out into the world to do all sorts of wild and interesting things.
    And grad school was a crashing disappointment after Beloit. Posers and brown nosing the likes of which I’d never quite experienced.

    467 chars

  51. Prospero said on May 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Agreed Deborah. 100% factual, no-nonsense.

    Political faux doc set in Madison WI. Something like Altman’s brilliant Tanner ’88. Not that good, but mighty good anyway. Short episodes, < 22 min. apiece. Well-written, very well-acted.

    306 chars

  52. deb said on May 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Charlotte, thanks for the tip about the cinnamon ice cream from Babcock Dairy. My son lives two blocks from the Union right on Lake Mendota…swoon. I intend to visit him a lot before he moves. It may be a long time before he can afford lakefront property again.

    262 chars