Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Death by Bouncy Ball

Just to clarify - I took this picture with my eyes closed...

"I swear, I didn't think THAT would happen!!!"

Yea, famous last words, usually intoned with a degree of awe, shock, and slurred due to the heavy drinking done beforehand.

A variation of the first utterance would be "Whoa...whodathunkit???" depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, the length of time it took to consume it, the body-weight of the consumer and the amount of resistance they've built up over years of soaking their brain cells in beer.

If coma-by-beer is imminent, you may hear 'Whooooh!  YEA!" along with a string of four-letter words interspersed by sounds that don't correspond to any known language.

Did I mention that Wisconsin takes its beer as seriously (if not more so) than its baked goods? 

Wisconsin was home to Miller, Old Milwaukee, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers once upon a time.
We've got micro-breweries in half our cities.

We've a lot of small towns in this state that can only be pronounced when the tongue is slightly anesthetized, lest you risk biting said muscle when trying to twist it into the proper contortion to pronounce  Oconomowoc, Manatowoc, Waukesha, Menomonie Falls, Sheboygan and Mukwonago.

Our pro-baseball team is called the Brewers, and they play at Miller Park (renamed for a HUGE pile of money when they rebuilt the stadium).

Another good (or bad, you decide...) alcohol-induced distinction Wisconsin held for years was the town of Watertown.  For decades, this little town, population 20k-ish, had 'more bars per capita than any other city in the world.'  I lived in Watertown for many years, and can confirm the title's accuracy.  Even today, you can't go more than 2 blocks in any given direction without finding a drinking establishment in front of you.

Safe to say, Wisconsinites are steeped in barley and hops from before we're born to after we've been put in the ground.  You can hear the livers within the state collectively pickling on any given warm summer night after the bars close... but you have to really listen.

shhhhh...hear that?

The University of Wisconsin/Madison (UWM) was known for years as THE party campus in the US before some puritan college administrator got a wild hair up their ass and started demanding muscle to tamp down the shenanigans.  I think it had something to do with proximity to the Capital Square, a bare mile east of, and a straight shot up State Street, away, and some busybody worrying about the 'public face' of higher education in the state.

Or maybe, they got drunk, and took a vow whilst dealing with the 'morning after' hangover.

I hate when that happens...

Yes, I realize that at any college in the States, you will find, on any given Friday or Saturday night, a kegger party or two (dozen) as very-young adults, on their own for the first time in their lives,  make the same bad decisions their parents did at the same age, and learn all about the consequences of those decisions.  Sometimes, dubious herbal substances make appearances at these same gatherings.

"higher" education at it's finest...  

At UWM - they didn't limit themselves to Friday and/or Saturday night.  Keggers on campus were every hour, on the hour, 24/7/365, excluding summers where everyone went home to drink.  You could set your watch by the sound of a new keg being tapped.

Well, a long time ago, on a campus far, far away (spacial/relative proximity irrelevant in story mode) there was a battle against those who frowned on hops, and those who celebrated the cold, gold, carbonated beverage-of-the-gods.  They were called the Dry's, and the Wet's.

After years of vicious fighting, in which much beer was spilled, many tongues (and fingers) wagged furiously, many mind-altering substances tried and celebrated, and far too much moral outrage exhibited, the Wet's and the Dry's came to an uneasy settlement which caused the cessation of hostilities.

The daylight hours were dedicated to study and education.  The nighttime hours were for recreational substances...and never the twain shall meet.

In Wisconsin - beer IS a solution
                                 (this tagline brought to you by the Chemistry Department at UWM)

Every college campus has a street or avenue or park 'dedicated' to the college after-class scene - where the young-adults gather for social purposes.  In Madison, this is State Street - the mile-long stretch of road linking the university campus to the Capital Square.  It's filled with little shops offering food, drinks, snacks, books, religious icons (big or small, we offer 'em all...), decadent desserts, clothing, recreational glassware, and oddball boutique-y/artsy items unique to denizens who congregate nightly. 

There are no 'chain' stores on State Street...the vibe is very intimate.  Very organic.  Very REAL.  The entire stretch is steeped in a Bohemian energy generated when people withOUT wealth have to use their creativity and imaginations to entertain themselves, instead of buying their entertainment pre-packaged and mass-produced to create income streams for the few who can buy into the system.  
I had the opportunity to walk the length and breadth of State the last weekend in September, to feel this intense vibe personally... properly chaperoned by two who have adopted (or is that the other way around?) the location.  I have to say - that vibe alone is intoxicating... no beer necessary.

Oooooo - what you said!!!

I can't wait to go back, armed with more than my little iPod for a camera, to attempt to capture the flavor of this little pocket of free-spirit energy.  As a whole, we humans really need to cherish these pockets, and figure out how to make them grow withOUT exploiting them for their 'income potential.'

But for now - I'll share the few photos I did manage to take with the iPod that are acceptable to the photographer within me.

I found this dragon-ship in a rock shop. 
Does anyone else see the humor in the term 'Rock Shop?' or is it just me?

This particular rock is a boat, carved from a single piece of jade.  Only the $400 price tag kept me from immediately adopting this ship to sail home with me.

Sadly, carving things out of rock are not part of my creativity package - I just have to be happy with looking, drooling, and photographing.


Another jade carving in the rock shop - a TEA set.  How could I NOT snap a photo of this one??

I may be back to the rock shop to capture more images of this one, and incorporate them into the blog.  Stay tuned!

Here would be the resident water feature on the square.  I've found 'wealth' delights in adding artistic water pieces any time they want to impress the masses.  Any time I find such an object, I make it a habit to introduce myself to the water spirits of the place.  So, I played with the water for a bit - shook hands with the resident spirit, as it were - and snapped a couple of quickies after thanking the water for contributing to the vibration of the area.

I WANTED to capture the Capital dome backlit by the sunset, but the scene wouldn't cooperate with me - the angles were wrong no matter where I stopped to frame the shot.  This was the best shot I could get of the dome and one of the statues lining the square.

Someone parked a few circus wagons at the junction of State Street and the Square - this one was one of my favorites with the heavy gilding making the carved figures pop against the rich blue wood.
My kids took me to this little, hole-in-the-wall pizza place for a respite against all the walking we were doing.  This place sold pizza by the slice.  Not impressive-sounding?  The slices were HUGE.  They hung off the edges of a regular dinner plate.  I couldn't finish my single slice of Ham and Pineapple.
And the toppings?  More varieties than I could count. 

I captured myself in this shot - I'm in the left (appropriate, no?) corner of the mirror.


I love to decorate with light - so did some of the shops on State Street.  These 2 pictures show one window-decoration where the shop-owners showed off some of their very-impressive light fixtures. 

I really, really, REALLY want this one!!!!

I love the mix of old-world and high-tech blended together around the Capital square.  You can see this mix all up and down State Street.

Part of what makes this particular photo 'work' is the mix: it's both over- and under-exposed in the same shot.  I actually stood in the middle of a side street to capture this one - with the kids watching for cars coming up behind me.  I had JUST enough time to frame, shoot, and move out of the way of the car racing to catch the green light.

"But wait!" you cry, angered at your computer screen. 



I bought one recently, when visiting a little hot-dog shack with my youngest son.  He originally snorted and rolled his eyes in true teen fashion, disbelief radiating from every pore that his MOTHER would go to such lengths to embarrass him by purchasing a toy crafted for children - not the young-adult he's aspiring to be.

Once we got through the posturing, the teen image maintained and the illusion strengthened, we bounced the thing back and forth in the parking lot - enjoying ourselves with this simple sphere of rubber.  The amusement was had for the bargain-price of three quarters fed to a glass and aluminum machine and a simple twist of a handle.

The ant, unfortunately, suffered a painful and rather surprising end as the ball crushed him to a tiny moist spot on the pavement.


This has been another 'slightly to the Left of Reality' brain wandering...

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