Archive for May, 2010


Our house, our home at 2517 East Mifflin Street on the near east-side of Madison was sold on Friday.  After almost five months on the market (officially) the little green casita surrounded by gardens and greenery was sold to a very nice woman and her baby boy, Jack.

We are no longer Madisonians.  We no longer dwell on that strange and wonderful isthmus that is Madison, Wisconsin.  Buttressed as it were, on almost all sides by blue lakes and yellow fields of corn.  The magnificent capitol building a great white citadel of democracy and progress and higher than all other buildings in the city.  Madison: of bratwurst and autumnal football, of tulips and fresh produce, of pond hockey and summer nights embraced lustily at the Union Terrace.  Madison: bastion of slow, haute cuisine and artisan beer.  Of indecently fine cheeses and seductive chocolatiers.  Of Frank Llyod Wright, Crazylegs Hirsch, and Bill Cronon.

We lived at 2517 for five years.  We bought the house near the peak of the real estate market when it was a spartan, ignored bungalow in need of new paint, new floors, a new roof, and some landscaping.  We put all we had into that house, and my father-in-law certainly put a good deal of his own sweat and blood into the little domicile as well.  When we first moved in, the smoke stains on the walls were so prevalent that the former family’s crucifixes were “burned” indelibly into the walls.  The carpeting was little more than dust.  There was graffiti on the garage and syringes in the backyard.  I remember the night I chased a prostitute and john from my own backyard where a covert blowjob was in progress.

Now, the yard is drunk with color and flowers.  Baraboo quartzite, gathered by Regina and I and piled into our now-deceased pickup truck lines the gardens and fruit trees.  The house is painted green and white and has the feel of a north-woods cabin.  It is a snug, warm place on earth, and surrounded by the finest neighbors a person could ask for.  Teachers and blue collar workers and Vietnam vets and widows and hippies.  In the springtime we gathered every year to read poems about the blossoming cherry trees.  In the summertime we gathered on the streets and danced to Greek music as it caromed through the neighborhood from the Greek Orthodox church.  In the fall we lighted fires in grills and cooked bratwurst and drank too much beer and yodeled until our hearts broke.  In the wintertime the snow fell in record amounts and we piled it beside our driveways and sidewalks until we were buried.

We took good care of one another.

We made no money from the sale of our house, even though our mortgage was modest.  I was talking to some friends today about America, about Wall Street, about invisible and unfathomable commodities being traded in voids of secrecy and greed and it is enough to make my cry.  We have poured our hearts into something to make it better.  To display our pride.  And yet, the market tanked because too many people were too greedy.  Because they don’t care about their neighbors or the world, or their own county.

I’m not as bitter as I felt four months ago, when the first offer rolled in at $139,000.  And I am grateful for our time in 2517.  The memories we have of that place and our good neighbors.  I am thankful for the buyer of our old house and I am thankful for President Obama’s tax credit.  But I am here to tell you this: you try to be the best person you can be, you try to take good care of the planet that sustains you, and your neighbors and family, and sometimes it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes, all the greed and darkness in the world overtakes you.   I don’t understand sometimes.

I just erased two paragraphs of redundant rants because I don’t want this entry to be overly negative.  We are on to the next best thing.  There is the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the fall and a new job for Regina.  We are so blessed.  Just yesterday I spent an entire afternoon in a cramped aluminum boat with three friends, catching fish and drinking cans of Hamm’s beer until the world went terrifically blurry.

We will buy another house some day.  Another house to comfort and grow and protect our family.  I hope it is near Eau Claire.  I hope there is a place to sow a garden and an orchard.  I hope there is a place to lob baseballs and footballs to Henry.  I hope there is a small shack there, a place for me to take my coffee and paper and pens.  A window to stare out of.  A warm kitchen gusty with the oven smells of cinnamon and dough.  There will be another house.


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on this Mother’s Day morning, with my wife and child asleep, for some reason my mind turns to the notion of tattoos and I don’t know why, except that I spoke to an old friend on the telephone the other day and tattoos came up in conversation.  Neither of us are inked up.  Nor is Regina.  But here, in Madison Wisconsin, it seems that every one under the age of forty is tattooed.  Tattoos of cartoon characters, tattoos of beer labels, of foreign languages, maps, animals…  Working at a liquor store, I see them all.  Tattoos on necks, faces, ears, fingers, hands, arms, legs, bellies, backs, butts, breasts…

Where/when is the backlash?  Are not unadorned bodies also inherently beautiful?  Are these scars fake, phony, contrived?  Is it not mutilation?  I like the bland bodies.  The bodies of hair and naked flesh.  Of tanned flesh and pale flesh.  Of softened flesh and hardened, muscled flesh.  I like the scars of labor and the scars of violence.  I like the accidental scars, the sporting scars, the scars of fire and kitchen knives.

I do not have any tattoos, and I believe this makes me old.  I do not have any tattoos and I believe there will be a time this qualifies me as austere.  My body being more elegant for being simple.

But it is Mother’s Day.  And were I to take ink into my skin, I would have Regina’s name in script on my forearm.  Regina Forever.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day Regina.  Happy Mother’s Day America.  It is the women of the world that hold this place together.  In the ghettos and in the villages and in the cities and suburbs and trailer parks.  Men run away all the time.  It is the women of the world that are left holding the broken pieces of reality.

Godspeed America.  It is true that I am a feminist.

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Receive a paper bag of freshly foraged morels from friend and co-worker ADAM CASEY.  Wash thoroughly.  Slice in halves.  Dice an onion, a head of garlic.  Melt three pads of butter in a good pan.  Then melt more butter.  Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic and sautee slowly, being careful to coat mushrooms evenly with melted butter.  Add beer, white wine, or pepper to taste.  Serve alongside steak and salad.  Best eaten with good friends and family.

ADDENDUM: Hunted morels two days ago with friend Jeff Sartin.  Some luck.  Nice tall yellows, but the thicker patches we’ve seen in prior years seemed less vigorous.  Only one deer tick when I returned home.  Looking forward to hunting in Strum, where my father-in-law and brother-in-law had some luck recently.

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