Monday, August 5, 2013

A Stroll Down State Street

Here I am in Madison, Wisconsin for a work-related scientific conference.  In the 24 hours that I have been here, I have quite enjoyed the hospitality of the locals. 

My hotel is the Monona Terrace and I have a fabulous view of Lake Monona from my hotel room window.  Almost immediately upon my arrival, I ordered the finest bacon cheeseburger ever made and discovered there was a water skiing show on the lake.  I enjoyed both from the cool comfort of my room.  Quite relaxing following the adrenaline rush of two flights with a 45 minute layover in Minneapolis.  Not for the faint of heart.

Today, I decided to go down and check out the waterfront in spite of the light rain that was falling.  After scarfing down the divinely inspired Tuscan Breakfast Pizza in the Olive Bar, I donned my light jacket and grabbed my camera and made my way down to the waters' edge.  There was a slightly too cool breeze, so I didn't stay long.  But I did explore the 'terraces' for which the hotel is named.  I have since discovered that the terraces were either designed by or inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I found some familiar flowers and some that are not so familiar.

I also saw my first ever loon although I could not get a picture of the bird.

After checking in with work and making sure all was as well as could be expected, I decided that since the rain clouds had cleared, I'd hike around the downtown area and see if I could find a) the Pyle Center where the conference is starting later today and b) a suitable place for lunch.  I was feeling adventurous.  I headed around the capital building to State street and started walking.

After about a half a block, I found a very nice little restaurant called Diego's Mexican Bistro.  Suddenly starving, I decided this would do.  The moment I walked in the door, I knew I had the right place for me.  For there, on the blasted brick wall, was a huge oil painting of Frida Kahlo looking as angry and annoyed as ever I saw her.

The waiter seated me at the window table and I ordered the Sonora salad.  To. Die. For.  It was huge, so I packed half of it into a box and took off down State Street to see what there was to see and to see if it really was a mile or so the Pyle Center.  It is, but that's not the end of the story.

My walking tour had only gone another block or so when from out of the corner shop doorway to my right came a pair of men running full speed.  The chaser was shouting at the chasee to 'give me my glasses and wallet you son of a bitch!'  The chasee was tackled in the middle of State Street and the chasee cried, 'Here take it, takeittakeit," while scattering the other man's belongings in the street. A scuffle ensued which was broken up by a passing, off-duty cop who grabbed and promptly sat on the chasee until the on-duty cops got there.  A good sized crowd had gathered and there were many comments about how rough the off-duty cop was being although I didn't think so.  He was really just detaining the much larger man by sitting on him. He showed the man his badge at least twice that I saw.  The off-duty cop's wife ran to their car and returned producing a shiny pair of handcuffs.  The squawking by the chasee got much louder.  Seriously!?  The off-duty cop had SEEN what happened.  He had been right there.  How in the world could he deny it now?

Several people paused long enough to take a photo of the incident and then went on their way.  I don't know how many photos there are now of the cop sitting on the man in the street with his torn shirt and bleeding lip.  There were so many comments about the off-duty cop that, disgusted, I decided to leave as the police cars and rescue squad were arriving.

It was discouraging to this small town girl.

I had been given a pretty brutal reminder that even though Madison is a Midwestern city and seems very much like where I've lived most of my life in many ways, it's still a city and suffers from the same woes as any large city does.  The incident sort of cast a shadow over the rest of my trip up and back on State Street. I found myself walking a little more quickly and holding onto the strap of my purse and camera bag more carefully. Rather than spending the time I had intended to spend lingering in front of shop windows and considering a trip inside, I hurried past trying to look like I was going somewhere and not a 'tourist.'

I did not like how it made me feel.

I found the Pyle Center and made the trip back up State Street walking on the other side this time.  I passed the place where the two men had fought and the chasee was sitting in the back of a cop car.  I congratulated the chaser on his mad tackling skilz.

On a much more positive note, as I was rounding the corner and had my hotel once more in my sites, I found something wonderful.  A vegetable garden.

Yes.  Right there on the grounds of the capital building was a small vegetable garden complete with peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, dill, onions and I don't know what all for sure.  My inner goofy tourist/gardener/plant nerd came out and I took several pictures of the garden.  This is the sort of thing that gives me hope for the human race and helps me see the big picture.

Even though just down the street people are stealing from each other, other people--smart people--are showing how even a small space on the corner of the capital grounds can be used to grow the food we eat.

How refreshing.  I think I'll google for some more gardens to tour...

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