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Archaeologists are not unlike truckers. Exploring Minnesota and Wisconsin's oddities, scenery, culture, back roads, and eateries helps keep me sane.

13 February 2011

How I Will Deal with Wisconsin's Budget Crisis, Thanks to Scott Walker

I will be the first to admit that I have many blessings in my life and that many in my state are experiencing more hardships than me. I have worked hard for what I have, put myself through college and graduate school, and worked my way up the ranks. I left a private sector job across the country 5 years ago to return home to Wisconsin and be closer to family and my ever-growing brood of wonderful nieces and nephews. I turned down well-paying private sector positions across the country to return home to Wisconsin as a Limited Term Employee (no union, no insurance, no paid time off, no sick leave), earning $9 less an hour than the job I was leaving. I fought for, earned, and accepted a permanent public sector position, knowing that it would be years before I earned what I had made in the private sector, and knowing that I would be extremely lucky if I got a raise more often than every 3 years. As a permanent employee, I would not be earning over time pay for those numerous 50-60 hour construction weeks, evenings after work spent tracking down property owners for land access permission, and prep work to keep a crew of 10 busy and efficient during the work day. Yes, I have been occasionally laughed at by construction workers who tried to tease me for being one of the “privileged ones” but they didn’t laugh for long once they realized they earned more at 18 fresh out of high school than I did at 29 with a Masters degree.  Still, I do not regret any of my choices.

I don’t have a family to provide for, but I still have to budget every month to be able to enjoy my hobbies and extracurriculars. Hard work and budgeting has allowed me to pay down enough of my debt to be able to enjoy my place in my community and to make healthy decisions for myself. I’m willing to make sacrifices for the good of my community and environment; it’s part of my liberal nature. I realize I’m lucky to enjoy some of the luxuries I do. More than lucky, I’ve earned it. However, if Walker’s proposed bill passes, I will have to make do with a 10% pay cut. My community, sanity, and general state of happiness will take a big hit. And to think I’m plotting a career move into education, because I think teaching kids how to appreciate nature and the outdoors is important for their health and well-being. I might have to find a rich husband and do this on a volunteer basis. Because let’s face it… education AND the environment? I’m screwed.

Here are some of luxuries I’ll be cutting or drastically reducing to deal with Scooter’s proposals.  I can see how some of these things might sound trivial to some... but then, this is what I have worked for.  Not you.

  • Yoga and Pilates through Sun Prairie’s community parks and rec. I use these classes to gain strength after months of digging and laboring, to avoid further complications and physical therapy for my back and shoulder.
  • Buying local free-range or grass-fed meats. I recently saw Food, Inc, and it disturbed the hell out of me. Did you see what that family in the film had to live on because they couldn’t afford fresh produce? I suppose I could just eat a burger and pretend it’s not made from parts of 1000 cows.
  • Buying less organics in general. I wish I could eat them all the time, but sometimes it’s just not a reality on a budget. Should I renew my Willy St Co-op membership?
  • Guitar lessons at the Madison Music Foundry.  Have I mentioned that music is sanity?
  • Dropping in at the Goodman Community Center’s fitness room. I could jog outside in the winter like some of the more hardcore people, but why not patron my local community center IF I can afford it?
  • Feeding my live music addiction at places like the Majestic and High Noon Saloon. Should I spend more weekends at home watching Redbox DVDs and parking my ass on the couch?
  • Having dinners and brunches out with the girls. We especially enjoy the downtown Madison businesses like Graze that serve meats and produce from local farms. I hear Applebee’s is cheap.
  • Buying and collecting vinyl from places like Half Price Books and the Exclusive Company.  I'll just raid my parents' collection some more.
  • Shopping at downtown boutiques like Patricia Shoppe and The Driftless Studio. I can find cheaper, less thoughtful gifts elsewhere.
  • Occasional happy hours at the Atwood/Willy St Bars after work.  Where else is better to vent about the stresses of a job than the Harmony Bar, Alchemy, or Weary Traveler?
  • Visiting local businesses such as restaurants, shops, and museums, in towns across the state when I am stationed in their communities for work. Hotels have free cable for a reason, I guess.
  • Spending weekends driving across the state to visit friends and family. If only there was a train…

What will you have to cut?

06 February 2011

Who Cares If It's Winter -- Play Outdoors!

This blog may need to transition to something else, just like my life is.  I'm trying to move away from shovel bumming, which will make my travel for work much less frequent.  However, my gypsy blood will continue to take me to amazing places like the ones I've written about.  So here's a start to blogging about travel for play, rather than necessity.

Where's a better Wisconsin place to kick this off than Devil's Lake?  It's one of my favorite places to snowshoe.  The lake and surrounding cliffs are so amazingly beautiful, and winter keeps away the hoards of vacationers who frequent the hot spot in the warmer months.  Nothing like competing with hundreds of people for a "camping" spot and trail hiking.  I'll take winter at Devil's Lake over any summer day there.

The best part of shoeshoeing at Devil's Lake is walking across the lake and standing where you would normally be a boat.  Sometimes it's scary as hell... an adrenaline walk?  But you can't beat the view.

Standing in the middle of the lake is essentially standing in the middle of the gorge surrounded by Baraboo quartzite ridges.  Geology nerds, unite. 


The only proper way to follow up a fabulous winter hike was with a scrumptious vegetarian lunch at Wisconsin Dells' Cheese Factory Restaurant.  I heart their curried chickpea stew so much.  Along with fried bananas in a Thai peanut sauce, cappuccino, and slice of Princess cake to share -- yes, please!  The restaurant always has international wait staff, along with most places in the Dells.  Our Polish waiter asked if it was either of our birthdays, and even though it wasn't, he wanted to sing us the Polish happy birthday song.  Completely brilliant.

En route back home, we made a necessary stop alongside Dr. Evermor's Sculpture Park to photo the road side sculptures in the snow.  I can't believe I haven't made it inside this place yet.  It's on the list!


03 February 2011

If You Ever Have the Chance to Live in Galway...

It’s been said that Ireland is good for the soul, and Galway may be best of all. If you mention Galway to an Irish native, they always say, “That’s the best spot.” People love Galway for a reason. Things happen in Galway. The city draws in people of all ages, from all cultures, seeking a change or adventure. Time spent there allows them to both grow up and feel young again, fall in love, figure out who they are, discover their truth, let loose, and realize what they shouldn't settle for. Galway brings emotions to the surface and helps the grieving and downtrodden become strong again. It’s a bit of an escape, but not enough of one to leave reality behind. New friends and new music are discovered every day. A short holiday to Galway won’t reveal all of these things.  Spend at least a few months there.

If you make to Galway, try the following. Words, photos, and video only hint at the magic. There really are no words.

Walk the cobble streets and explore the pubs and cafes. There’s always a friendly ear or newspaper as a companion to your drink. At least one day you’ll find yourself settling in for a morning coffee and then falling off the same bar stool eight hours later.

Shop Street from the Neachtains flat.

Stroll along the River Corrib or along Galway Bay to Salt Hill. Think, meditate, let the water and the air hypnotize you.

 The River Corrib emptying into Galway Bay.

               Jumping at Salt Hill.                           Sunset along the walk to Salt Hill.

Grab some cans and a picnic lunch from the Saturday market and sit in the sun near the Spanish Arch. There’s no buzz better than a warm spring or summer day.  Try the crepes.  And the samosas.  And the curry... and then more crepes. 

The Spanish Arch on St. Patrick's Day.

Look up and to the side. There are remnants of medieval life everywhere, carved in stone. Walkways, windows, lentils, fire places. A lot of Galway’s history never left it.

Lounge around in Eyre Square. It’s where Galway’s journey begins for many people getting off the trains and buses.

A summer day at Eyre Square.

Become a regular at Tigh Neachtain. Their regulars are the best craic. Someone might be playing music in the corner. Maybe it’s Gerry. Maybe he’ll draw you a picture or write you a poem. Maybe Denis has a story (but don’t take his seat!). Find a nook. You might start to believe in ghosts after spending some time at Neachtains.

 Hanging in a nook at Neachtains.              Denis in his spot.

Mural outside of Neachtains.

Go to Taafes, The Crane, or Tig Coili’s or several others for a trad session. Anyone with an instrument is welcome to jump in.

Play music on the street or at an open mic. There’s music everywhere. You can walk the length of Shop Street, and as soon as one performer’s song starts to fade, another’s grows stronger.

Buskers and performers on Quay Street.

Friends having a laugh and earning a few quid.

Dance in the clubs. Pubs close early… midnight-ish. And then it’s all about music. Live bands at the Quays or DJs at the likes of GPO or CP's. Just dance. http://galwaynightlife.ie/

Dancing at Cuba (RIP Cuba, will you be resurrected?).

If you’re not done drinking when the clubs close, there’s always a house party. Enjoy the comradery of like-minded people, passing around guitars and having a chat. Make it to a few sunrises and stroll home amongst the lads unloading kegs for the new day’s imbibing.

Friends and flatmates in the Neactains flat.

Check out the festivals. The Galway Arts Festival, the Oyster Festival, Race Week. Every festival and every bank holiday is as big as the next. Get used to drinking, and then walking it all off.

Galway Oyster Festival.

The crowd during the Galway Arts Festival... or was it Race Week?

Get used to a slower paced life. There are more days off, things are open fewer hours. There is plenty of downtime. Socializing is part of a the culture, no matter where you’re working or studying.

Go with the flow. Galway’s flow will pick you up and carry you to where you need to be. Just let yourself go.