As it turns out, there is actually a place called Madison, Wisconsin, and a university called the University of Wisconsin.
Of course, I knew that — otherwise, my wife Suzi, ESPN and a handful of others would have perpetuated a huge hoax — but until we got there today, it only existed in my wife talking about graduate school and many football and basketball games on TV.
So this visit to Madison is filling in gaps in my knowledge, seeing the place I had only ever heard about.
But aside from the connection with my wife, it’s basically like other college towns I’ve seen — Austin, Texas; Columbia, South Carolina; the Hyde Park area around the University of Chicago that we visited the other day. (Neither of the cities where I attended college — Utica or Albany, New York — could be considered college towns.)
For my wife, it’s a return after 20 years away. Some things have stayed the same — the pharmacy, the feminist bookstore, the noodle place where we had lunch.
To me, Plaza Tavern looks like just another bar, but she tells me it’s the place where staff members from The Daily Cardinal would drink, as would a certain Green Bay Packers quarterback when they played preseason games at Camp Randall Stadium.
And after two decades, a lot has changed. She said the Kohl Center was no more than a “hole in the ground” when she left, and the art museum has moved and expanded.
And not only are the facilities new, the areas around them have been built up and modernized. It’s all part of the arms race among colleges, needing newer and better and more modern to attract students.
She had no problem walking to two of her apartments from the four years she lived in Madison (they were across the street from each other), or talking about places where she worked, jobs she didn’t get, how important her first cat Skippy was and the advice she got that ultimately led her to move back east.
Well … the advice and the forecast of a high of 2 degrees below zero.
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