I had a very traditionally American St. Patrick’s Day yesterday: we went down to Uncle Fester’s on Kirkwood and watched a Thin Lizzy tribute band and a Pogues tribute band called the Fauxges. We drank green beer because it was half the price of any other beer. I wore a green cashmere sweater and danced. Then some dudes in the front decided that they really wanted to mosh, so I wound up covered in green beer and standing in the back of the room so I wouldn’t get knocked over into the dirty green beer puddles on the floor or accidentally get Rahul’s MP3 player wet. Very traditional. At least the sweater was green too. And they closed their set with “Fairytale of New York,” complete with impromptu confetti snow from the balconies, so I was pleased.

So I think I mentioned that we spent the end of last week and the weekend in Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, scoping it out. It seems likely that we’ll end up in Madison. Unfortunately, UW seemed like a much better fit for Rahul than IU–they’re small, they have an emphasis on nontraditional, innovative research, they have a broad range of good professors should he change his mind about what to study, and one of the top consumer culture theory researchers in the field works there. I say “unfortunately” because despite my best hopes, Madison didn’t strike me with the same kind of instant love that Bloomington did (despite the golf ball-sized hailstones and tornado I encountered in my first few hours in Bloomington).

It’s a much bigger town. A city. When I saw the Capitol Square on the map, I was hoping for a small, charming town square along the lines of the Courthouse Square. It’s more like the San Francisco Civic Center–too big to be a nice place to hang out. The streets are wide and full of traffic.

I just never got a truly homey feeling from any neighborhoods there. I suppose that might change if I have friends there, or during a more photogenic time of year. There was so much snow! (I hear it hasn’t snowed this much in a hundred years, though, so it’s not typical). It didn’t snow while we were there, but there were many uninspiringly huge snowdrifts piled around the streets, with bicycles or cigarette butts embedded in them. Here is Rahul, standing next to a relatively small example.
And people were skating around on the frozen lake.

However, on the plus side, we talked to someone in the business school who had lived in Bloomington for 6 years before coming to Madison for his Ph.D., and he said that overall, he liked Madison somewhat better. I can see his points–there are tons more restaurants and stores in town, including a Trader Joe’s, a really stupendously large bookstore and a shop that specializes in pelmeni, and I’m sure activities on the multiple giant lakes around town are wonderful in the summer. And there is a free zoo! It really lacks the tucked-away, cozy, communal college town feeling of Bloomington, though.

Some highlights from my trip:
– Eating these insanely beautiful sandwiches (chicken curry with almonds and Asian pear with gorgonzola, honey, and sage) at a charming teahouse named Macha, just like our old guinea pig

– Visiting a couple of lovely yarn shops, one with a fabulous coffee house with a view of the water… and I hear there are more in the area, too
– Going to to the Babcock Center to sample dairy products and discovering a new kind of cheese, called juustoleipa, or “Finnish bread cheese”
– Discovering that the golden statue of Wisconsin personified standing on top of the capitol building is apparently wearing a helmet with a badger standing on it. (There were many badgerful details on various buildings around town, which pleased me greatly.)

Here is a photographic series I call “Architectural Treasures of Madison”:
The Gothic tower with crows, and probably people getting beheaded inside.

The Laboratory of Hygiene.

The… what is this?

The business school.

I actually quite liked this carving of Jesus standing in flowers:

I also have a series called “Architectural Treasures of Chicago”:

No, we did not take a field trip to Cabrini-Green. This dilapidated FEMA shack is actually the Metra station at Roosevelt Road, the closest stop of “the worlds [sic] finest commuter rail agency” to Chicago’s world-class Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Shameful. I am always embarrassed when people from other countries see what passes as first-class public transportation in the US, and this brings my humiliation to a whole new level. For a minute or two, we actually could not figure out how to leave the station because we didn’t think it was even possible to walk through that boarded-up shack… then we realized that part of the boards could be pushed open. (See the area directly under the hole in the roof, in the picture with Rahul? That’s a “door.” There are two shiny ticket dispensers inside the urine-soaked hovel it leads to.) It all reminded me of those cobbled-together buildings in There Will Be Blood that kept collapsing on people, except with more graffiti and plywood.

We had a great time at the Field Museum, we saw part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade from afar, and much to Rahul’s delight, we ate some deep dish pizza.

We also had to park our car a few blocks away from our hotel, because the Swissotel charged $49 a day for parking, and we also got charged $43 for drinks from the minibar because they are apparently RFID-tagged and detected that we had removed them from the refrigerator for a minute while trying to make room for our leftover pizza. They did reverse the charges, but on top of the 2 hours we spent stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the approach into the city, and the hour we spent on the phone with three different people from Expedia trying to cancel another reservation, it all made for a pretty frustrating trip. Next vacation, I’m going to the middle of the countryside. I’d rather be lost in cornfields than trapped in traffic.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you might enjoy some knitting content, too. Here is something I made a couple of weeks ago but only just photographed now.

Pattern: Cat Bordhi’s Moebius Cowl

Yarn used: Plymouth Baby Alpaca Brush, color 1000 white, a little more than 1.5 skeins (80 g total)

Needles used: US size 10/6 mm 47″ Addi Turbos

Date started: March 3, 2008

Date finished: March 5, 2008

Mods: I worked 12 reps of the diagonal lace instead of 10, and I bound off by turning the work and working k2, *put 2 sts on left needle, k2tog tbl, k1, rep from *

Notes: This is the second time I’ve made this lovely pattern–the first time, I only had one skein of locally raised worsted-weight alpaca yarn and a little bit of handspun angora, and ran short on yardage, so had to leave out quite a bit of the pattern. I like how large and fluffy this version came out, although it did get slightly too big after blocking–more capelet than cowl. The Baby Alpaca Brush is to die for–super-soft, fluffy, non-itchy.

Oh, and a bonus FO is visible in some of the photos of Madison above–the black hat Rahul is wearing in the photos of the hygiene building and the giant snowbank. Due to the cold, I had to make Rahul a super-fast emergency hat. I’ll write up what I did next time, once I pry the hat from his head and get a chance to measure it. It’s made from one skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca and is his current favorite, though he wants me to make it longer.

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