Monday, October 27, 2008

Adventures in Madison!

Sorry for the week-long hiatus from blogging. I need them every now and then to be productive. I spent last week working on the proposal for my third novel (aka the first 50 pages of it and outline). Now I just need to tweak it a bit per the notes from my fabulous critique partners and I need to write some semblance of an outline. I abhor outlines. I really don't know what is going on in my books until I am about half to two-thirds of the way done. I just need to follow my characters and discover who they are until then. But I need to give my agent some semblance of an idea of how the book is going to go. Then she'll let me know if she thinks this idea is worth pursuing (I hope, I hope, I hope! I've been back and forth between two ideas for the past few months, but finally have my heart set on this one). In the meantime, I hope to be at work on the revisions for BALLADS once my poor swamped editor is able to get me notes!

Anyway before I disappeared into 3rd Book Land, I had a very exciting trip to Madison as you know. I took Scott to see my old haunts, including my first apartment building:
Now, I'm not gonna lie. At first I wasn't sure this was my building. I coulda swore I lived at 524 W. Wilson not 526 and I also thought we had a balcony. Yeah, well I guess I was mixing up the balcony thing with my second apartment in Madison. I texted Tai and she told me that, but she also didn't remember our address so I didn't feel totally horrible about. And besides, after standing there for a little while the memories came back to me. So that's my first apartment building. The first place where I lived by myself. Pretty cool.

My old neighborhood hadn't changed a ton in almost twelve years, but there were some fancier looking condos here and there. The "punk" house down the block, which was one of the first squats I'd ever been in, is now a regular house. The name of the grocery store I worked at changed from Capitol Centre Foods to Capitol Centre Market. The sketchy convenience store down the block from my second apartment had become a fancy florist and there's an upscale wine shop across the street. Scott and I had the following conversation about that:

Me: Oh man, I'm glad that wasn't there when I was living here. It would have been bad to have so much wine so close by.

Scott: You wouldn't have been able to afford that wine.

Me: Hmm. Yeah. I guess they probably don't sell Franzia boxed wine, huh?

I'd also noticed a cool looking dive bar at the other end of my block and wondered why I didn't go there. I was probably too pretentious at the time.... But the changes in my neighborhood that upset me the most were that Mifflin Street Co-op was gone and that the little park with the swings I used to go swing on to think had been turned into a dog park. Dog parks are great and all, but those swings meant a lot to me.

State Street was mostly the same. I was sad to learn that Cat's Meow, which used to be the source of many of my fabulous goth outfits and accessories was gone. But there was my delicious Nepalese food at Himul Chuli and plenty of other fun funky stores to make up for it. Willy Street was good, too. Mother Fools was still the same, which made me happy. That's where Tai and I used to play board games and eat vegan scones that were so delicous that Sidney would go crazy when we brought them home like they were made of meat and cheese and fish or something. Sadly, Sid is no longer a kitten and now he has such a touchy stomach that even though I saved him a bit of scone, he was uninterested. Lars and Kaspar enjoyed it though.

Inferno was the same but different. Yes, I actually went there. I didn't plan to. I have good and bad memories there, but clubs just really aren't my scene anymore. I drove by it so Scott could see it from the outside (and in the process realized I'd never seen it from the outside during the day and it totally doesn't look like most clubs), but Saturday night, Kevin suggested we go there and I agreed. It was odd going in there in jeans, sneakers and a hoodie, which I would have never ever done back in the day. Going out to Inferno always meant dressing to the nines either goth or glam (oh god, how embarrassing are these pictures!):

So I felt a little bit strange and out of place, but it was cool to see how the club had changed. The back bar(s) are set up completely differently and it looked pretty sleek, though I'm not sure how I felt about the giant screen TV... maybe if it was playing old horror movies like they used to. The music was still the same. I saw some old friends like Amy and Kat, which was great. But it used to be that I knew or recognized everyone when I went to Inferno. Now I was the stranger. There were all these new characters that I didn't know. Like back in the day, the guy we used to make fun of on the dance floor was Tai Chi Guy, who "danced" like he was doing tai chi. Now there is Annoying Chains Guy. This must be the thought process of this guy every time he gets ready to go out to Inferno (because Kevin tells me, he is always dressed like this): Hey, I think I'll wrap some huge chains around my neck, shoulders, and legs like I'm a serial killer being led to the gas chamber, that will look awesome and whenever I dance everyone in the entire club will be able to hear every move I make. That's not annoying or anything! Now, I've definitely worn some crazy shit out to the club in my day (*cough* see above outfits), but this guy was a reminder that at the Inferno there was always someone weirder than me. I think along with my bar book, I really need to write a club book someday...

Despite my lack of being dressed up, I felt pretty at home at Inferno though. When Joy Division came on, I almost jumped up to dance, but I wasn't so sure I wanted Scott to see that side of me and plus it really was more fun to dance with the cool clothes and shoes and not to mention a couple more drinks in me...

Anyway so that was the revisiting my past part of my trip, which was fun because I do enjoy a bit of nostalgia, but the three most fabulous things about my trip were not nostalgia-based. Now I can't really rank these events in order of coolness so I will write about them in chronological order instead:

1. School Visit at Madison's Alternative High School Work and Learn Program. When I agreed to take part in the Wisconsin Humanities Festival, they asked me if I would be willing to do school visits. I was very excited about this, so I said yes. Then they couldn't find a high school classroom interested in having me. A few days before I was to leave for Madison, the organizer of the school visits asked me if I would be willing to visit with kids in an alternative program. I told her, Hell yeah, those are my people! (Okay, so I really didn't say it like that, but that's what I thought.) I haven't made it a secret that I hated high school and I hung out with people who felt the same way. Two of my best friends dropped out of high school to home school. One friend got pregnant and dropped out and did an alternative program. A bunch of other friends got kicked out or dropped out for various reasons, some of them going on to alternative programs and succeeding, some of them not going on and not really succeeding. I finished high school as fast as I could, graduated early and hightailed it to Madison. All of us shared one thing in common, the traditional system of learning did not work for us. And many of my friends were written off as failures from a young age because of this. I think this is bullshit. So, I hugely support programs like Work and Learn where kids who don't fit in in a traditional school environment are given a chance to succeed. And I hugely admire teachers like Erik Shager, the teacher of the class I visited, who work so hard to meet the needs of kids who were pushed aside or fell through the cracks of society.

I loved the kids I met with at Work and Learn. They were clearly some of the brightest, most talented kids and I have no doubt that if they stick with their program that they will succeed. It was awesome talking to them because I didn't have to put on any airs. I just told them the straight story about my life. I even passed around the zine I wrote while I was in Madison just to give them an example of something they could do to express their thoughts and feelings. As it turned out many of them already were expressing themselves creatively, some through writing, some through rapping or other kinds of music. I was really impressed by all of them and the discussion we had and look forward to going back to visit Erik's classes again in the future. Here I am with some of the students:

The next day was my scheduled Wisconsin Book Festival event, a reading, discussion and signing at my favorite bookstore in the Mad City, A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore. As always I had a great time reading and answering people's questions and there were some amazing folks that came out. It was really cool to see a mother/daughter pair, both big readers, writers and punk rockers who could enjoy my book together (not to mention, the daughter, Mariah had a killer green wig on!) sitting in the front row. And then there was Chelsie and Justinne, who I think might be deserving of biggest fan of the year awards! They drove an hour down to see me, recognized me as soon as I came and gave me big hugs. And we got to chat a ton before and after the event, exchanging book recommendations among other things. These girls really just made my day. They made me feel like a superstar and it means the world to a writer to feel like that. You write a book, put your soul into it, then it goes out into the world and you hope for the best. Meeting people that really loved it and have great faith in you to write more good books is so important. I still have the self-esteem of the average teenage girl, so it's always nice to get a little boost from people who believe in me. Not to mention Justinne and Chelsie are just damn cool girls. They totally remind me of me, Katie, Polly and Thea in high school, just really into books, reading, zines, and having adventures. It was unbelievably awesome to meet them. Here we are, that's Chelsie on the left of me and Justinne on the right.

Then after my event I got to spend time with Kevin and Ryel, who really are two of my favorite people on earth, but I never get to see them because we live in different cities and have busy lives and not enough time to visit each other. Scott and I spent the whole weekend at Kevin's so we got to catch up with him a lot (well, catch up for, get to know for Scott). He also is an amazing framer, so he framed this blow-up of my book cover which is going to look so fabulous in my living room once we tear down this ugly mirror thing on the wall. Ryel is just one of those kindred spirits that I'd be having tea and great conversation with once a week if we lived in the same area. Instead we had incredibly spicy Thai food. Oh it was so good. I'll be back in Madison for that dish ASAP. Not to mention more time with my dear friends.

1 comment:

Keri Mikulski said...

Looks like you had an amazing time.. Thanks for sharing the pics.. :)