A farewell to Boston, a hello to Madison.

The month of June was so devoted to the carboat project that I barely realized, when it was over, that half the summer had passed me by — the months of July and August marked a period of eclectic goodbye to the city in which I’d spent the last seven years of my life. Much of this extended farewell manifested itself in Red Sox fandom — I went to five games this season, probably as many as I’d been to in total before 2005, and spent a lot of time reading the Globe, watching NESN, and listening to WEEI broadcasts on the roofdeck. I learned to score, and read and talked about baseball more than I ever had. I went to see local bands, took advantage of Haymarket, went to Walden, rented a lot of stuff from Hollywood Express, walked around downtown, and made my obligatory pilgrimages to the Harvard Bookstore. I borrowed Faithful from the Boston Public Library, experienced the deliciousness of The Neighborhood and R. F. O’Sullivans, got to know Brookline and Southie better, went to Castle Island twice, and spent a lot of time sunning myself on the roofdeck. I hung out with my friends. I bought local apparel. I took a bike repair class. I went to bars and restaurants I’d never been to before. I both relaxed and made an effort.
I celebrated my birthday in style with a huge group of friends, saw people I’d not seen in a long time, made a long-awaited pilgrimage to Cooperstown. And soon it was time to think about the impending move, so I bought a car, packed up my things, made a farewell batch of margaritas, and before I knew it I was on my way to Albany in a fully laden car, a Phish show on the stereo and I-90 stretching out before me all the way to Madison.
I arrived here a week ago today, along with the first day of true late summer weather, that long-awaited but oh-too-short period before things really cool off, those warm, clear, bright, crisp days that usher in the autumn, the ones that, when school begins, make it next to impossible to do your work anywhere but out of doors. Luckily, I have a front porch, on which I imagine I will be doing much of my reading until the weather gets too cool for comfort.
My parents drove out here with me: I left Boston on the 24th, and we started out from Albany the next day, stopping in Buffalo for dinner with Wally’s brother Phil. We spent the night somewhere outside Erie, and were off in the morning, early. We hit the perennial traffic on the outskirts of Chicago, and stopped for dinner at a rest area near O’Hare, before deciding to spend the night in Rockford, IL (our major criterion for hotel choice: a pool where we could rest our weary limbs), where we ate a delicious pizza from a joint across the way and I got to see glimpses of the Sox game in progress on an ESPN recap that was playing in the restaurant. We rode into Madison in the morning, and arrived around 11:30.
We had coffee with Lisa, my landlord, and met Joe, one of my other housemates, who turns out to be from the same tiny town in northern New York as my cousins. Once we’d settled a bit, we did the big move, which mostly consisted of maneuvering my box spring up the stairs in a series of terrifyingly Dirk-Gently-style configurations. Just when Joe and I were convinced it was a physical impossibility, my dad did something which sent the thing over the top stair, and, unbelievingly, we dragged it into my room. The mattress came up much more easily, and the hardest part was over.
We moved the rest of my stuff into the house, and then I gave my folks a mini-tour of the city and the campus. We had a late lunch/early dinner at the Great Dane, and came back to the house for a while before going on a grocery shopping excursion to the Woodman’s out on Milwaukee. Woodman’s is a strange enough grocery store and we were exhausted enough to make the trip into a rather surreal adventure: the store is huge and low-ceilinged, and overrun with mothers dragging around two shopping carts piled high with family necessities, a real Union Square Market Basket frenetic vibe. The good news: it’s open 24 hours, so if you need that 20-lb bag of Goya rice at 3 in the morning, you can get it, and get it cheap.
In the morning, we made bacon and eggs, and my parents set off on a day trip to Mt. Horeb so that I could take care of the rest of my unpacking and getting settled. When they returned, we went to check out a street fair over by Monona, then out to Roman Candle on Willie St. for pizza and beer, and then back to the house for some relaxation on the porch. Dad smoked a cigar and we drank some bourbon and talked about his days at Iowa. Mom summoned us to the lakeshore around sunset, and we went for a short walk around the neighborhood before coming back and collapsing into bed.
The next day, my last housemate, Abby, arrived. After we spent some time with her and her dad, we went on a shopping excursion to the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Willie St. to find me a desk. We came back with two Steelcase typing tables, which I’ve arranged in the corner of my room, and which match my Western Electric phone and Royal portable to a T. Afterwards, my parents set off on their return trip, featuring stops in Palatine, IL and Slippery Rock, PA to visit old friends, and I set off on my new life in Madison.
My first trips were to the hardware store on Willie St., which turns out to be a fantastic establishment, and the Jenifer St. Market over on Jenifer and Division, which has a nice selection and a wonderful in-house butcher. I’ve noticed that all the grocery stores seem to have a huge assortment of cheese, beer, and brats, and you can buy lefse in a lot of the markets, which I’ve never seen for sale before. Welcome to Wisconsin!
I had some time before school stuff began in earnest, so I did a bunch more organizing and arranging of my things, did some cooking, ran a bunch of errands, and walked around a bit to get to know the neighborhood. I caught up on some correspondence, and spent every breakfast reading on the porch. I’ve had a lot of time for contemplative solitude, which has been surprisingly relaxing and welcome — though I’ve spent a lot of time by myself, I’ve not been lonely for a second. I miss everyone from home, but I’m enjoying all of the me-time I’ve had of late.
I had my department orientation on Tuesday, which basically consisted of meeting the faculty and other incoming grad students, getting some library tours by librarians with whom we will work a lot, and having lunch on the Union Terrace with a bunch of the grad students from the department. I went and waited in line with a bunch of undergrads to get my student ID and bus pass, then ran into a fellow Course IX alum. We went to grab some coffee on State St. before I headed home to listen to the Sox game and cook up some leftovers for dinner. Scott called, and we talked for a while; later, I went out for beers with some Environmental History people.
Wednesday I felt a little under the weather, so I took it easy and hung around the house, catching up on writing and letters and blogging. Thursday morning, I met with the director of graduate studies for my department and finalized my schedule for the term, then opened a bank accoung and investigated the situation at the college bookstore. Erin Rhode arrived in the evening, and we went to a little party being thrown by one of the grad students in my department on the west side. She left in the morning on Friday — my first official visitor!
Yesterday I did some more stuff around the house, hung pictures in my room, and then went down to campus to meet up with one of the professors from my department with whom I might work. I ran into one of Paul’s friends, who invited me to a party later in the evening, which I ended up attending for a little while, out by Vilas Park. And this morning I went to the farmer’s market at the Capitol and stocked up on produce for the week. I’m thinking of making some eggplant parmesan.
So far, life in Madison is good: parking is easy, I can bike everywhere, the weather is glorious, and I adore my house. I have some reading to do for my classes this weekend, but I should also have time to get about and explore town, enjoy the weather, and relax.
Verdict: thumbs up. It ain’t Boston, and I miss the city that I now call home, but I think this will more than do for the next few years.


8 thoughts on “A farewell to Boston, a hello to Madison.

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