Sharing 3 Things (and More) in Madison

You know I try to keep this blog as closely related to travel as possible, but, sometimes, it’s the people we visit that’s the reason we’re at a certain place. Madison, Wisconsin, is one of those places, one in a long string that I’m currently marking on my maps using a person icon.

Heck, I even already wrote about how surprised and delighted I am by funky Madison when we visited two years ago in, Eclectic Madison. It’s still funky and eclectic (to me, at least). But, with repeated visits I get to know the people even better, and they’re the highlight here.

My last post was about Doug, my friend from high school; this is about Guy, Tracy’s friend from grad school at UW, Madison. You may remember when we got together with Tracy’s UW Madison econ officemates when we were near D.C., but we were missing this one: Guy stayed in Wisconsin, to his great benefit as he has a delightful spouse (hi Patti!) and four great sons they raised here.

It’s interesting to meet someone once on the road, see them years later, but nevertheless feel an increased connection. I think that’s a sign your compatibility is strong!

So, three things are going on with Guy, Patti, and Tracy and me this week in Madison.

1) A Meal that Defined the Night

Guy loves cooking for people, and he invited us for a meal weeks ago. In the meantime, he surveyed us about what food we miss because we’re on the road and we’re limited by the Airstream kitchen, and he asked about our spicy preferences and drink favorites, and he put all that info into a casually presented (in that we sat outside for hours talking and drinking and enjoining each course) and seemingly effortless gourmet extravaganza.

This photo is a rare moment when Patti and Guy are not sitting with us on the deck, but plating our meal and picking our drink pairings. I love how busy they look, which was totally hidden from us as they presented our meal and ate with us all laid-back. I would’ve been freaking out with all they had to do!

And here’s the food. The appetizer was carpaccio on the left with roasted shallots and arugula, then scallops on the right, and somewhere in there were capers, with the sauces in the middle a parsley juice and siracha aoli that accented both, and I don’t know how to describe it because it was delicate and full-flavored and just a wonderful way to sit with friends and nibble and talk.

The main course was a nod to Tracy with beef and horseradish sauce and a nod to me with roasted vegetables: two things we eat less of now that we’re together. Oh, and roasted Brussels sprouts came out, too. You just don’t know how special it is to be fed a meal made just for you … well, of course you do (if you’re fortunate), but not when you’ve been on the road as long as we have.

Desert came after the champagne, special beers, and lots of toasting, so I’m not sure about it: several ice creams and macaroons, I believe, which is something else we never have because our freezer is so freaking small. It was gooooood, I remember that. Not the end of the evening, though.

2) Ukulele Lessons

Patti and I met just that one time two years ago, but she reads the blog, and we text sometimes, and I feel a kinship with her that I think is natural given that Guy and Tracy get along so well: we’re a good mix. So when Patti mentioned wanting to learn a few basics on her son’s ukulele, I was all over it.

Because of incoming rain, we moved into the garage for after-dinner drinks and cheese (of course, this is Wisconsin), and we pulled out the ukes. Guy plays guitar so was probably chucking at my amateur instructions on how to tune her uke and how to play a few basic chords, but Patti is eager and excited, despite being left-handed and using her son’s right-handed-strung uke. The most fun part is that we share a love of certain bands, so picking out songs to motivate her through the rough beginning was easy peasy.

3) Not Fade Way

And here’s the clincher, and it’s about the bands, well, one band.

Patti, Guy, and Tracy went to one or two Grateful Dead shows together; Patti remembers the band playing Looks Like Rain at the outdoor Alpine Valley music venue, and they were having so much fun they couldn’t care less about the actual rain.

Turns out Guy and Patti and I were at the final Grateful Dead show, the end of the Fare Thee Well tour in 2015. (This is the one that Doug hosted me for in Chicago.)

Not only were we all three at that very special show, but we all three walked out of Soldier Field through a tunnel while the crowd chanted “Not Fade Away,” a cover song that the Grateful Dead played near the end of that night. The crowd sang it to ourselves as a reminder that, although Jerry is gone and the Grateful Dead are finished, their impact on us will never fade away.

Walking through that tunnel during that chant was one of the most impactful moments of my life (this fact may sound absurd, but it’s true for many significant reasons that would take me even farther off the travel-blog course were I to explain them).

To think that Patti and Guy and I all had more than goosebumps at the same place and the same time—to me that cements our bond as well or better than Guy’s very specially prepared dinner and Patti’s enthusiasm and patience learning the ukulele (and her Tiny House that I haven’t had a chance to give her!).

Once again, and again and again, travel shows me how many people out there with different lifestyles and different backgrounds and different environments than I have still share a real connection with me. Which means that people all much more alike than we are different: a truth we need to be reminded of especially right now.