May 05, 2005
Madison: Quirkiest City in the U.S.?
Posted by Gordon Smith

I am not sure how I missed this glowing story on Madison from last Sunday's Washington Post. Madison wins all kinds of awards, but this writer wants to crown Madison the King of Quirks. Some highlights:

  • Michael Feldman: "From the air, it looks like a giant sinus cavity, with Madison as the septum."
  • "I approach Ralph Barten of Ladysmith, Wis., who is representing the Wisconsin Coalition of Blind Hunters. Sure, people who are blind can hunt in Wisconsin, Barten tells me. In fact, he says, last year the state legalized the use of laser pointers on guns and bows for blind hunters."
  • "Madison was already a Midwest center for arts and culture when native son W. Jerome Frautschi and his wife Pleasant Rowland, creator of the American Girl dolls, decided to donate a record-breaking $200 million to expand the downtown center. The completed first phase includes a 2,257-seat, state-of-the-art performing arts theater with walls and panels that shift and move by computer, to maximize acoustics for various types of performances. When the second phase is finished next spring, the center will house nine resident arts groups, including an opera company, a ballet company, a symphony orchestra, a chamber orchestra and theater companies. The addition, designed by architect Cesar Pelli, comes highly acclaimed. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians who performed there proclaimed it better than any hall they'd ever played."
  • "We walk into the Rathskeller in the student union, where student agitators used to hatch their protest schemes. The walls are a sooty, nicotine brown. 'They thought the walls were stained with cigarette smoke, but they cleaned them and found out the paint was actually that color,' says Feldman. 'You used to be able to smoke pot here; now you can't smoke cigarettes.'"
  • "The next day, on my own, I take Feldman's advice to check out the university milking barns to see cows that have portholes in their stomachs so that students can study their digestive systems. Seems cruel, but the cows appear content and perfectly normal, except for the see-through stomachs. A pre-vet student says that if I wait while she returns some foals to pasture, she'll open the porthole and give me a closer look. Really, I've seen enough."

I have seen everything the writer talked about in the story, except the inside of the concert hall. (Note to self: make plans for a concert!) When I toured the dairy, my guide stuck his whole arm up a cow's rectum to demonstrate something, I have forgotten what. The worst part was looking at him after the arm came out!

Thanks to my colleague Alta Charo for the pointer.

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