College

We all grow up with expectations. My parents made it clear that I was to go to Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship, as they had no money to give me and, even if they had it, they wouldn’t give it to me, as I was on my own once I turned 18.

I took that literally and moved out during my senior year of high school. I still had no plan other than to go to college, but I wasn’t going to be the doctor they wanted me to be, and I wasn’t going to Harvard or Yale. I applied to exactly one school. I got accepted and the plan was set in motion.

Over that summer I discovered a whole world that I hadn’t known existed. Suddenly I had a life; a life I didn’t want to leave behind. My car was in no shape to drive 2000 miles to school, so I pulled the engine and replaced the clutch so it could make the trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that until it was too late to drive out there before school started.

I booked a flight to LA, arriving without some of the bare necessities like sheets and blankets. I stole an airline pillow (back in the day when airlines provided pillows) and used towels for sheets until I could go shopping.

While I wasn’t stupid, being a student had not been my favorite pastime. It didn’t take long to realize that paying large sums of money to do something I didn’t enjoy was not a viable life plan.

It rained in late October. I went up to the roof of my building and looked out at the ocean. Two things struck me: 1) I could see the ocean, which I hadn’t seen from there for the previous two months, and 2) my eyes didn’t burn. I hadn’t realized my eyes had been burning for two months until they weren’t. That was the day I knew I was leaving Los Angeles as soon as the semester ended. The semester wasn’t a total loss – I gained two lifelong friends and knew what I wanted to do with the next part of my life.

I arrived back here and went back to work at the organization I left behind. I became Executive Director and stayed in that position until I shut down the organization and moved on. I started another organization with other folks and stayed there for the next ten years. It’s still alive and well nearly 40 years after I left it. My parents wondered when I would do it “for real”, which to them meant I had to be the sole proprietor of a business if I wasn’t going to be a college graduate and a doctor. Another ten years went by and I went to college when I finally had a reason to be there – a reason that was not “because you’re supposed to” or “because your parents want you to”. Did a college degree suddenly make me smart at 45? Nope. College is not for everyone and it is not the arbiter of intelligence. But you knew that, right?

In case you hadn’t noticed, his “deep thinking” is wrong, but he says it quickly and convincingly, which is usually good enough “back where I come from”.

Talking people down from bad trips was not something you learn in college classes (though I note that you can now get a professional certificate for guided psychedelic therapy for research – and soon to be therapeutic – purposes). Running a co-operative business required communication skills that were beyond what was needed in most schooling (and would an MBA have helped?). Being a plumber required a sort of three dimensional thinking that was different than that needed in school (and is taught via apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training). Working in the developing world required solving problems with the tools you had, not always the tools you wanted. Working in health care (okay, that was after college) required knowing how to use big words but also to know what those words meant so you could use small words when they were more appropriate (which is most of the time). Common sense and critical thinking are the major life skills needed in most endeavors. Are those taught, or learned? And what’s the difference? Discuss among yourselves.

So go to college if you want to and have a reason to. Do something else if it interests you more. Know that whatever you do, the odds of it sustaining you for the rest of your life are slim. Have a fallback position, or know how to think on your feet and change when the time comes.

Some of us are crocus and bloom early but not for long. Some are late bloomers like chrysanthemums. Some bloom repeatedly throughout the season, like some roses and lilies. Maybe your blooms aren’t showy. Like many trees, they come and go and many folks don’t really notice. Or do others just see you as a weed?

Bob Odenkirk (“Saul Goodman”) wrote the character of Matt Foley for Chris Farley while both were at Second City. I’m twice as old as Matt Foley, so I must know twice as much, right?
David Crosby 8/14/41-1/18/23

Home: a love story

One of the half-fast cycling club graduated from UCLA. It was tough getting through college with dyslexia. He told me they gave him a sweatshirt. It looked like this:


Image from Pinterest

That’s not what we came to talk about today. We were riding in the Baraboo Hills and it got me thinking about places. Much of what I know about the place I call home came from the book The Physical Geography of Wisconsin.; and the physical geography of this place is one of the reasons I love to explore it by bike.

A question from a reader led me to realize I live in paradise.

Fifty miles to the west of me is Spring Green, home to Taliesen (the home of Frank Lloyd Wright) and American Players Theatre (one of the great classical theatres in the US – one of the founders was Randall Duk Kim – you may know him as The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded. I know him for playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the titular Titus Andronicus on back-to-back nights).

Spring Green is in the heart of the driftless area. Much of north central North America was covered by glacier in one or more previous ice ages. The driftless area in the southwest corner of Wisconsin was missed by every glacier. It is a land of steep and craggy hills. The eastern edge of the area is rich farmland (hence the town of Black Earth), whereas farther west it is too steep and irregular to support much farming and leans more toward wooded hills and dark valleys. The driftless area is home to the Dells of the Wisconsin River, known to geologists for its rock formations; known to the rest of the world for its waterparks. Much of my time on a bike is is the driftless area.

Stand Rock (WI Dells) image from Science Source. Don’t try this at home.

Fifty miles to the north are the Baraboo bluffs, home to our annual fall ride. This is on the edge of the driftless area and home to Devil’s Lake and the Circus World Museum, as well as Dr Evermor’s Forevertron. Devil’s Lake (roughly translated from Tewakącąk, the Ho-Chunk name, which may be more accurately translated as sacred lake or spirit lake but, due to the racism of European settlers who deemed anything sacred but not christian to be the work of the devil, was translated as “Devil’s Lake”). The lake was formed by a terminal moraine which trapped its outflow. While the bulk of Wisconsin drains to the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico, this lake drains slowly into the underlying bedrock. A drain was added in 2002 to remove years of accumulated phosphorus from runoff. The hills are Baraboo pink quartzite, and estimated at 1.3 billion years old.

Devils’ Doorway -Devil’s Lake. Image from journaltimes.com
Dr Evermor and the Forevertron image from Madison.com

Fifty miles to the east is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. A “kettle” is a depression left by a melting ice block as the glaciers receded, while a “moraine” is a ridge of rock pushed along by a glacier, then left behind as the glacier receded.

Ride one way and I can see what Wisconsin looked like before the ice age. Ride the other way and I can see how glaciers changed the landscape.

Hiking along a moraine. Image from u/alrobertson on reddit.com

Fifty miles to the south is New Glarus, home of my favorite of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides. (Actually, this one is closer. Fifty miles gets you past Monroe. New Glarus is only about 25 miles.) New Glarus was settled by Swiss immigrants who found the verdant hills and valleys reminiscent of home. It is one of the few places you can still find dairy cattle that are not Holsteins.

Contour farming near New Glarus. Image from halffastcycling.club.

Smack dab in the middle of all that is Taychopera or DeJope, AKA Madison, WI, AKA home sweet home. I can walk less than a mile to see an effigy mound that reminds me that this was sacred space long before I (or anyone who looks like me) was here.

There’s no place like home

Flying back home, I looked out the plane window to see this:

My house is just out of sight to the right of the frame. Nothing like living in a city that’s mostly water. I realized then that Dorothy was right.

I spent a few days in Estes Park, CO for a niece’s wedding, then a few more days in Oregon for another niece’s wedding. If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own back yard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.

Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park
Mt Hood

That doesn’t mean I won’t leave my back yard now and then. But, back in my own back yard (On Wednesday night’s bike ride), I happened upon a badger crossing the road, then waddling off into the undergrowth. I didn’t try to take a picture – badgers are notoriously vicious. A few miles up the road, a doe bounded along beside me for about 100 yards before darting across the road and disappearing into the woods. A bit later, two dogs came out into the road to greet me. I guess that made up for none of my friends being able to join me for this ride.

Home, sweet home

In between the two weddings, I was home for La Fete de Marquette, our annual Bastille Day celebration. We celebrated with Cajun, Zydeco, and New Orleans funk royalty. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys played sets both Saturday and Sunday.

bassist, Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie (Sorry, I can’t find his name.)

They were followed by Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. Geno is the son of the late John Delafose and learned Zydeco accordion from his dad.

We rounded out the day with George Porter, Jr and Runnin’ Pardners. Porter was the bassist for the Meters, Wild Tchoupitoulas, and the Neville Brothers; in other words, he is the bassist of New Orleans funk.

George Porter, Jr.

And, speaking of bassists, I also caught a set by Josh Cohen at the Art Fair Off the Square. While he also got funky at times, here’s something completely different:

La Fete is held in McPike Park. While waiting in a food line, I heard someone lamenting that it used to be Central Park but, as usual, wealth won out and the park was renamed after some rich person who gave the city a lot of money. I was happy to inform her that, while that is all too common, it wasn’t the case here. Milt McPike was the principal of East High School. (Articles about him often attach the word “beloved”. Personally, I can’t imagine loving my school principal, but “respected” might fit.) Milt was a role model – an African American athlete who made it as a pro (San Francisco 49ers) but also got an education so he would have a life after football. He spoke at my children’s kindergarten graduations, telling them that he expected to see them all graduating from East in 18 years.

Milt McPike, from Madison.com

UPDATES FROM THE ROAD

Charlie getting higher, photo courtesy of Charlie’s facebook page.

Bob, Terry, and Ken from last year’s coast-to-coast ride have completed their 1600 km circumnavigation of France. Charlie is on his 8th crossing of the US, now in Montana, going east to west. Jeremy abandoned the Great Divide Ride in West Yellowstone, MT, having completed 929 grueling off-road miles in 12 days. His hands had taken a beating.

Flying to Oregon, the clouds parted and something looked familiar below. The map showed we were flying over Gillette, WY, the site of last summer’s worst nightmare. I followed our route in reverse from above, looking down and at pictures from last year. It looks different from 30,000 feet. I had to supply the details.

Last year at this time – CycleAmerica World HQ, Cannon Falls, MN

P.S. Happy Golden Birthday to you know who. (Well, you may not, but they do.)