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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Midwest Austin

I'm someone who often misses the obvious, but there's no mistaking that Madison is a college town and that drinking is no mere pastime, but a full-on profession. I am clearly in the 80s/90s version of Austin before all the kids grew up and had kids -- but in the Midwest.

We had some very good meetings today (from a personal development standpoint, one of the first times I've led an analysis engagement, so major props for me for a change). I can't talk about it, so all that's left is food and alcohol. At lunch we walked over to Erin's Snug, a great Irish pub. I tried a midwestern beef burger -- good!

After meetings, Mark, Roxy*, Cleopatra**, and I went to downtown Madison and we started the partying set. I admit to being tired, though and was the night's buzzkill. Conserving my energy for walking, eating, and processing a ton of information from the day, I lapsed into what was probably a very awkward silence. Fortunately, Mark stepped in and helped fill the void that is Michael being tiredly thoughtful. People kept remarking, "you're being very quiet, Michael." This in and of itself is not a surprising statement to my ears. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

The first place we went to was a bar/restaurant on a peir right on one of the large lakes near downtown. The name escapes me at the moment. We tried cheese curds (we had to sign a waiver that we'd try these before we left Wisconsin). These were, well, fried cheese balls. Oddly delicious when dipped in a light wasabi sauce. I had a couple of local beers in 1/2 pint glasses and gravity intensified.

Cleopatra** departed for an existing appointment and we moved on to a place right near the university. We saw the capitol and took some pictures. We went to a Mexican restaurant and had some food - I had nachos, trying to be light, but it was huge. The meat was like pot roast rather than fajita meat I am used to in Texas, but it was all very good. Food + margarita had me positively silent. Mark again filled in, hassling the waitress who took it and dished it right back. Our hero! All with the lovely accent of the region. You betcha! Did we all look that young and thin and unconcerned back in those days? Surely we must have. I might be approaching 40.

From there we walked down the long street to the student union. The walk reminded me a ton of Iowa City, actually - a long pedestrian mall of unique, interesting shops. We went to a former-student bar in the union and sat outside on the patio with a few thousand people as a band warmed up for a show -- right on the lake. It was extremely relaxing - a state I was already having great trouble avoiding. Relaxation with extreme prejudice.

After a shared pitcher of beer, I cried uncle ("crazy uncle Mark!!") and we headed back to the La Quinta. I am one tired analyst. I plan on sleeping better tonight.

I don't want to paint a fully drinking picture of Madison - the people we've interacted have been super nice, and the place is creative, fun, and uninhibited. People were playing music or singing on the sidewalk toward the university. Some people were practicing juggling en masse in the courtyard. Tons of people were just out, enjoying the summer, the quiet atmosphere and lakeside. Yeah, this is a fun place to be, don'tcha know?

Delerious. Going to bed now.
*, **: Names have been changed, etc.

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