Friday, April 29, 2011

Madison Crazy

I can't help feeling a bit like an evangelist when people from out of town ask me why I like Madison so much. My answers tend to turn into long, drawn-out sales pitches with an inappropriate amount of detail and enthusiasm for how casual their initial interest likely was. But I can't help it, I love this damn city. It's the first place I've ever lived (and I've lived in several different cities/states...but no city-states, alas) that actually feels like home.

And after over 10 years of residing in this liberal lakeside paradise I feel fairly well qualified to expound on its particular quirks and stereotypes.

Which is why I had to laugh to myself today when I pulled up on my bike to the UW Credit Union ATM out front of the Willy St. Co-op - and there I was (already fulfilling several Madison archetypes myself), surrounded by:
  1. The old guy who plays bluegrass guitar and busks,
  2. A little girl making friends with a middle-aged fella and his shaggy German Shepherd, and
  3. A not-entirely-right-in-the-head gentleman ranting at what I can only assume was an innocent bystander just trying to eat his late lunch about imperialist wars in Libya and Blackwater conspiracies and things of that nature.
The sun was (finally) shining, birds were singing lustily in the newly budding trees, and everywhere people on bikes were zipping around doing errands like me. After a long, few weeks of rainy, cold, gray weather it takes only a few seconds of sunshine to compel every good resident of more northern climes to come outside in droves.

The impulse can all too often lead to some craziness, as well.

Continuing on my errand route I made my way to Schenk's Corners for the post office in the corner store. When I arrived there were three firetrucks, several police cars, a huge crane, and a clutch of firefighters all gathered around the Chase Bank on the corner. I asked the store clerk what had happened. "Someone took the turn too fast and crashed into the bank building, right into one of the pillars," he explained. Not only that, but the force of the crash actually knocked over the pillar, causing its capital to crash through the car's windshield and into the passenger seat. Thankfully, there was no one sitting there and the driver was apparently all right.

Much of the neighborhood had come out to gawp (I did, too) at the totaled car and toppled pillar. Earlier, apparently, many of them had come to see if they could help. I took a moment to be grateful that no one was seriously hurt, and to marvel at how fast the car must have been traveling to not only get through the barriers that block off the front of the bank, but to completely upend one of the stone pillars.

Maybe it was the springtime crazies clouding the driver's better judgment. Maybe they'd had a bad day. Maybe they just shouldn't have been driving. Regardless, I love that I live in a city where your neighbors generally give a crap about what's going on around them/each others' well-being, are friendly (for the most part*) with strangers, and are a little more comfortable with everyone's eccentricities. Madison ain't perfect, but it's my kind of getting there.

*The gentleman who swore at me while I was working today would be the most recent exception to the rule that I've encountered.

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