Loving Madison

I’m a little down today because I had such a good time in Madison last week and it was very hard to leave. Today has been one of those days, getting by on very little sleep from an overnight bus journey, where everything seems to get me down. From a less than desirable hotel, to an unhelpful hotel staff, to a downtown, which although doesn’t seem awful, isn’t Madison.

So, Madison. I had a feeling I would love it from what everyone had told me about it. It is very much like Portland to me, only on a smaller scale. The town revolves around the Capitol and the university. It is very progressive, and very fun. There are tons of restaurants and bars and shops and miles and miles of bike trails. In short, it’s great.

I was a little apprehensive about our hotel before arriving, as it was a Best Western, which conjures up all kinds of horrible motel images. But actually, the Best Western Inn on the Park was quite nice. Ryan and I paid a little extra for a suite, which meant an additional sitting room – which is always nice when you are sharing. The best thing about the hotel though, well the two best things, were the location…and the view. Check it out:

I took that from our window. Probably one of the best hotel room views yet. It was great staying by the Capitol, because State Street was only a block away, meaning everything we needed – from groceries, to restaurants, to bars, to the theater, were all within a five to ten minute walk.

On Monday I spent some time exploring State Street. I became a little obsessed with some toy cameras that I found in one of the novelty stores – there were a bunch of Holgas and Dianas and Fisheyes. They all take such cool photos, but I decided maybe I didn’t need one more thing to fill up my trunk. I finished up the day with dinner at a yummy Indian restaurant.

Tuesday was load-in and the show. The theater is only four years old, so it is new and spacious. Every dressing room and office has a TV, which was fun to pass the time. The crew, unfortunately, were not so good. A lot of old guys. A lot of lazy guys. My prop guy had to sit down between each cue. There are a lot of prop cues in the show – its not like you have tons of time between each. I was a little amazed by how he had to constantly sit down. I wasn’t all that impressed by the wardrobe crew either. Some of them had been around in the other Wisconsin cities as well. There were a couple who were pretty clueless. But, nonetheless, opening was smooth, and the run was sold out for the whole week.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I had lunch at a restaurant called The Old Fashioned, which serves food that is all home-grown in Wisconsin. I had a salad with these cherries on it that are grown upstate. Delicious! Then we took off on our bikes and explored some of the bike trails that go around the lakes in Madison. It was such a pretty ride, and so nice to be on dedicated bike paths.

Ryan on his bike

Ryan on his bike

Blossoms by the lake

Blossoms by the lake

Wednesday night we went to a brew pub called The Great Dane and drank some beers for Paul Baron’s birthday (he’s our trumpet player). It was fun catching up with Ben, our conductor, who is back with us now after a three month leave. Gurr, Suzanne, Adam and the Gribbster also joined us.

Thursday we decided to go for another bike ride since the weather was so nice. We ended up riding all over the place. First we rode up Williamson Street, where Paula and Matt were staying. They told us it was the hippie neighborhood, so we wanted to check it out. It looked like there were some cool cafes and bars on Willie Street (that’s what the locals call it). Then we rode through the residential streets surrounding and looked at some of the cute, cute houses. We cut over to the bike path and rode by the convention center, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Then we rode around the lake to Lakeside Fibers, a giant yarn store!

Lakeside Fibers was a great shop – it had four rooms of yarn (really good stuff, all the luxury brands), a cafe in the back (which made Ryan happy), with an outdoor deck, and a basement filled with weaving supplies. I bought some yarn to make Mitchell a Time Capsule cozy, which he has commissioned in “goth colors”. I bought black and purple – hopefully that suffices as “goth”. Ryan and I got some snacks from the cafe and hung out on the deck for a while, then got back on the bikes. We rode over to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, which was a mix of marshlands, forest and blooming trees. It was really pretty.

Lakeside Fibers

Lakeside Fibers

Ryan biking through the Arboretum

Ryan biking through the Arboretum

After getting through the Arboretum, we were running short on time, but we did make one more stop at another yarn store, The Knitting Tree, before heading back into town. The Knitting Tree was a much smaller store, with lots of novelty yarns, but they had some nice Berroco yarns and some Brown Sheep.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we figured out that we had ridden thirteen miles!

After the show on Thursday, Darryl (he’s one of our ensemble members) hosted a party at his parents’ house. It was really fun – it was held in their basement, and felt just like a high school house party, which was comforting and nice. Darryl’s parents prepared traditional Filipino food for us, which was delicious. It was fun looking at all the photos of Darryl everywhere, detailing every year of his life. It was also fun to see Jeff Dumas, our original Patsy. Jeff drove up from Chicago to see the show and then came to Darryl’s to hang out. I think he misses us!

Darryl and his niece

Darryl and his niece

Dumas gesturing emphatically about something

Dumas gesturing emphatically about something

On Friday we had understudy rehearsal. I went out between rehearsal and the show and bought some bags for my bike from one of the many bike shops in town. Now I am all set for Canada – I can bike to the grocery store and haul the groceries home in my new bags!

Friday night, Ryan and I went over to the Essen Haus, a bar that had been recommended to me by Lisa Chernoff. Essen Haus is a Bavarian Drinking Hall – complete with live polka music, waiters in lederhosen, and outdoor picnic tables. They also serve beer in giant glasses shaped like a boot. There are all kinds of rules about drinking from the boot – you can’t put it down, the second to last person to finish it has to buy the next boot…and on and on. The whole place would cheer on whoever was about to finish their boot.

Ryan and a boot of beer

Ryan and a boot of beer

We only stayed at Essen Haus for one drink though, before heading over to The Great Dane, where a birthday party was already in progress for Nate, our flyman, and Terry, one of our prop guys. I tried fried cheese curds for the first time at The Great Dane. Yum! I think the cheese curd is largely underestimated by the rest of the country.

On Saturday morning we got up early and went to the famous Capitol Farmer’s Market. It is the largest Farmer’s Market in the country that sells only locally-grown and made products. It was packed! We bought some things though – Ryan got some venison jerky, some oatmeal raisin cookies and some black popcorn, which sounded intriguing. And I was lured in by the jewelry. Ryan bought me one pair of earrings and then I bought myself three more pairs and a necklace. I couldn’t help it!

Unbelievable onions at the farmer's market

Unbelievable onions at the farmer's market

Fresh cut bouquets

Fresh cut bouquets

A musician playing a washboard

A musician playing a washboard

Between shows on Saturday we went into the contemporary art museum for a little while to check out an exhibit called “Myths and Monsters” by a Madison artist named TL Solien. The paintings were pretty cool – very colorful and trippy.

Saturday night was all about packing and then Sunday we closed, and load-out began. We took an overnight bus to Grand Rapids and arrived early this morning.

I wish we could have stayed another week in Madison. I feel like there was still more to see and do. And it was such a laid-back friendly town. I loved it. I’m a little blue today as we were greeted with less than stellar service at the Days Inn Grand Rapids. Oh well, I’m sure I will be cheered up tomorrow when I see Elaine, who is here to fill in for Mitchell’s vacation, and then later in the week my old friend Bret arrives to cover Ken and Jovon’s vacations – it will be great to see him as well.

…And there are only six more one-weekers to go before Vancouver!

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