Friday, January 14, 2011


Since I first saw Ken Burns first major treatment of history, "The Civil War", I really liked that sort of presentation. The old photos, with someone explaining the history, sort of like an old primitive movie. Only it isn't Chaplain, or some 3 Stooges type thing, it's interesting.

So, while looking for the explanation of a mining term, I came across a very cool website. They have some really nice "movies", which I really liked. The website is:
and it's about Aspin, Colorado. When watching the mining movies, say to yourself copper, and northern Michigan, the lake Superior shore region, is really similar. The mineral they were after was copper, and it's similar right down to hiring divers to come and try to pump the mines out after they were allowed to fill with water during a strike, which is what killed the industry. My Finnish ancestors were copper miners when they hit the US around 1900 and didn't speak much English.

My personal travels have included Colorado, but only the flat part. There is a highway from Denver to Cheyenne, and from that interstate you can see the mountains, but the area you are in is pretty flat. It smells like cow manure when the wind is right, they have a lot of feed lots in the area, and produce a lot of the steaks we have in the grocery store here in the midwest. The locals claim they don't smell it, I suppose..... It's a pretty area, expanses of green prairie as far as the eye can see to all directions except west, and to the west the mountains rise like a wall out of the prairie. If you've never been to Boulder, it's at the bottom of the mountain, about 20-30 minutes north of Denver. From Boulder you don't look west at the mountain, so much as you look up, like straight up. I guess it's cool. People sometimes compare it to Madison, I don't think so..... We don't have the rich people from Orange County driving up the price of homes here that they are rumored to have there.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Allen Hall

I was downtown yesterday, as in State & Lake. That's as downtown as downtown gets. I wanted something from University Book Store, and for some reason, I blanked on the Hilldale location, which is cool. Everybody in town should walk through the intersection at State & Lake on occasion.

When I first moved here, The Towers and The Statesider (2 private dorms really close to State & Lake), were called Allen Hall.

At that time, the national drinking age was 18 for drinking all 'beverages'. The old tradition in Wisconsin was that you could drink at 18, but it was 3.2 beer. During the Vietnam war, the public demanded that 18 year old's be given the right to drink. The reasoning was, 'Old enough to die in Vietnam, old enough to drink.' So, here in Wisconsin, the taps at the student union started serving real beer.

When I moved here, you could get a beer at the student union if you looked old enough, and practically speaking, most people over 16 looked old enough. So, almost anybody could go up to the bar and get beer. A pitcher of beer cost a dollar, and the deposit on a pitcher was a dollar. Watch somebody get up, put their coat on, and stumble away from an empty pitcher on their table, and you could cash it in for a pitcher of beer for yourself.

I've digressed.......

Allen Hall was a residential facility for "challenged" people back then. Ok, challenged is too politically correct, call a spade a spade. They were crazy people. Like most crazy people, they were supposed to take "meds." Most took them of course. Then these 'challenged', medicated people would cruise over to The Memorial Union and get a pitcher of beer. And why not? They were old enough. It was only a 3 block walk, and 3 rather short blocks at that.

As you may have correctly surmised, the combination of meds and beer got them more than a little looped. What do looped crazy people act like? Great mental image, isn't it?

So, the University of Wisconsin decided to start carding people not for a drivers license, but for a student or staff ID. It was said that it was a membership organization, which it is, I have a life membership to the union, anyone can buy one. That was the beginning of carding people, in the early winter months of 1980.

Now they card you for age and membership.

Was it a fun place? I went there a lot, as did all my friends. I guess the answer is yes. Did we ever push those heavy wooden tables together in front of the band stand and dance on the tables. Yes, we really did dance on the tables.

One of the things that I thought of was "experience", in the context of being a cab driver

Monday, January 10, 2011

I thought I knew Madison

When I started driving cab, I did think I knew Madison. Most of the people in town also think they know the place. Oh well.

I happened to remember a guy from my college years. There were a bunch of us who used to hang out together, have lunch together at the Union, things like that. Most Jewish, and most Nicolette HS. alumni. I was kind of an odd member, I was in my 30's and from Ann Arbor.

At the time, there were a bunch of Palestinian's who hung out on State st., and at the Union. Most were older men, 30's and 40's, but a couple who were young. There was one in particular who was young and good looking, and he was dating this really good looking Jewish chick who'd attended Nicolette. All my friends knew this girl, and all had something crappy to say about her choice in boys. She was making a statement, they were making statements, and the boy she was with, well he was making a living for himself. How so?

Before I go into how so, allow me to explain that these guys were here on some sort of government program designed to feed the poor, and make the world a better place. Thank god they used up all the money in the program or wore out their welcome, or what ever they did. Like many of our current resident aliens, they weren't people you'd want living next door. Anyway.... How do I allow myself to digress like that...........

I'm walking back from the front desk at the Union (back then they sold cigarettes in addition to news papers and candy), looking down at change in my hand or a Cardinal (student paper) or something, and I almost walk right into the beautiful young Palestinian boy. He was looking down into his hands too, so he also almost walked into me. Why wasn't he looking where he was going? He was fishing a glassine envelope out of his wallet to give to one of those tough looking older men. In that glassine envelope was a white powder.

I went back to the Rathskeller, and sat back down with my friends and 5 minutes later, beautiful young man brought back every rough looking old buddy he had. Must have been 15 of those guys. They all walked past me, single file, very slowly, and looked me in the eye, fixed gaze. It was very tempting to say something like, "Koose ama.", but I decided my friends didn't need the kind of excitement it might have generated.

What was the young man's business. Does anybody need for me to spell it out?

Sunday, January 9, 2011


That's Canadian for, 'right on.'

I will never forget a bill board I saw in NW Ontario. It was a hand with a cigarette between the fingers, and the caption, "Eh."

For those of us in the US, imagine a hand with a Winston, and a pack of Winstons, with the smoke curling up from the lit ash, and the caption, "Yeah."

If I'd had any sense at all, I would have gotten lost in the woods and never managed to find my way home from Kenora. Perhaps Canadian smokes had something to do with it. I never cared for them.