Hello again! Look at me sort of kind of getting back to my normal blogging schedule, golly. It’s almost like I’m a responsible adult who has her life pretty much together or something. So weird.
ANYWAY: There is actually going to be zero Canada in this post (literally nothing of note happened last week), so the title’s a little deceptive. But instead, you all get a wealth of pictures from my reading week vacation! I spent approximately two days in Madison and two in Chicago, hanging out with friends I haven’t seen in ages and eating so much good food and basking in great architecture. Tactically speaking, going on vacation probably wasn’t the best decision–I have so much to do now that I’m back–but it’s fine, I got to snapchat museums, I’m good.
So, without further ado…
First up: the saga of the garbage cookie.
I flew out of Toronto via Billy Bishop City Airport for a change. The only airline that flies in or out of that airport is Porter, which I’d never even heard of till a couple of my professors recommended it to me. The thing about Porter is that they only have about 60% of their life in order at any given time–my flight was supposed to leave at noon but we didn’t even start boarding till 11:55–but they valiantly attempt to make up for it in their free food and beverage selection. Most airlines will give you peanuts, maybe, or super bland pretzels or terrible trail mix. Porter, on the other hand, gives you three food options:
- Terra brand veggie chips
- Blue Diamond almonds
- Some sort of cookie thing!
When the flight attendant came by and offered me the basket full of needlessly highfalutin’ food, I saw the word “cookie” and immediately pincered one of those things. I started lifting it out of the basket–so I was already at the no-takes-backsies point, right–and that’s when I saw it. The cookie flavor.
Milk chocolate raisin.
What kind of sadistic, horrible person would PURPOSELY put RAISINS in a PERFECTLY INNOCENT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE?
But I’d already touched the package! It would have been weird to be like “nah tho,” especially since neither of the other choices looked too appetizing at that moment. So I took the cookie, gave the flight attendant my most sympathetic, I-worked-in-customer-service-once-too smile, and stuffed the cookie in my backpack the second he moved on.
Fast forward a few hours: I was on a bus to Madison, I wasn’t due to arrive in town for another couple hours at least, and I was absolutely frelling starving. “Aw darn it,” I thought, “I don’t even have any food with me–”
I still had the cookie.
I won’t lie, I debated just going hungry for a solid ten seconds. But eventually I went “screw it,” fished the cookie out of my backpack, and ate the garbage cookie, raisiny parts first. Tasted like humble pie.
(And on my return flight, I got the veggie chips. Fool me once, Porter.)
Anyway, now for more pretty pictures and less garbage-cookie melodrama.
Y’all, I love this place. I could totally live here.
For real, Madison perfectly blends that hip college town vibe with a Midwestern sensibility. The sheer hipster of it all can get a little ridiculous at times, I’ll admit; the moment I clambered out of my friend Isaac’s car on Willy Street, I heard the dulcet tones of a street marimbist, of all things. But honestly, I ate it up. I loved every second of it. It’s everything Hamilton wants to be–and can be, I think, once it deals with its gentrification growing pains and figures itself out. I could rhapsodize more, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The state capitol building: Wisconsin has the most chill capitol building I’ve ever heard of. You can just walk in and gawp during normal business hours, easy as you please. And it’s well worth gawping at–the outside is impressive enough, but the interior is stunning.
Monona Terrace: Hi, Mom. I know you’re reading this, and I also knew you’d probs fly up to Toronto just to chew me out if I didn’t see something Frank Lloyd Wright-related while in Madison, so here ya go. 😉
FLW only designed the outside of the building, apparently; the interior, in contrast, is super-duper Generic Convention Center. But the outside is rad as heck, and the views in all directions are gorgeous, so that’s cool.
The UW-Madison campus:
When you visit a botanical garden in the dead of winter:
I’m generally not a beer person, but… apparently fruit beers are a thing. Giant shoutout to Nathan for introducing me to cranberry beer and cherry cider.
And now for what I’m sure y’all have been waiting for with bated breath*: Snapchats!
Whitney Snapchats the Madison Public Library:
Whitney Snapchats the Henry Vilas Zoo: A small yet free zoo in the middle of Madison that–forgive me–scratched the zoo itch I’ve been having lately. Perfect.
Whitney Snapchats the Chazen Museum of Art:
Coffee: Beyond all the excellent coffee I consumed in conjunction with excellent food (detailed below), I dropped by a chain coffee shop that, for a chain, is pretty excellent. It’s called Colectivo, and it needs to come to Canada asap because I miss it already.
Food: Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I think I’ll be dreaming about all the food I ate here for years. Let’s do a quick rundown, shall we?
- Buraka: Ethiopian food, which I’d never had before but now want to stuff my face with for a week solid. I went here with Isaac on Monday night, and we caught up over curry chicken and other sorts of chicken and injera. Injera is a flat, spongy, almost crepey bread that you can use as an excuse to eat food with your hands, so naturally I was a huge fan of it. We also had lentil samosas with this super spicy sauce that almost burned off my taste buds (because I’m a wimp who can’t handle spicy food).
- Culver’s: Okay, sure, I’ve been here before because there’s one in Mason City. But honestly, this was what really made this place feel Super Duper You-Betcha Midwestern(TM) to me.
- Bradburys: Breakfast the next day, with Sydney, Nathan, Isaac, and our new Japanese friend Yuto. I got the dark chocolate and salted caramel crepe, which was lifechanging, but Sydney was gracious enough to let me try her trout crepe as well.
And here’s a nifty little deal Bradburys does, for all you caffeine hounds out there. They’ll give you a free teensy cup of espresso, provided you drink it in the restaurant and you don’t put anything else in it. So that was a much-welcomed wake-up call.
Oh, and did I mention the place itself just plain looks cool?
- Great Dane: Tuesday lunch. Pretty standard pub fare, except with about 100000% more cheese because this is Wisconsin. I was stoked to see my beloved poutine on the menu, and it held up about as well as could be expected to actual Canadian poutine. The gravy was a little different; I’m guessing Great Dane’s recipe has more flour in it.
- Sal’s Pizza/Table Wine: Tuesday dinner. Sal’s is one of the legendary pizzerias in Madison, but it tends to not have enough seating to accommodate all its eager patrons… which is where Table Wine comes in. I don’t know who thought one day, “Hey, what if I open a wine store where people can bring their own food in but buy wine to have with their meal?” But whoever it was, they’re an absolute genius. A whole bunch of us split three pizzas and two bottles of excellent red wine, and a phenomenal time was had by all.
- The Chocolate Shop: Sydney, Nathan, Jen, and I headed here after Table Wine and had assorted chocolatey goodies, including a teensy cup of Parisian hot chocolate split four ways because god, it was rich.
(And their decor was perfect.)
- Porter: Wednesday breakfast. Hilarious because I flew to Chicago via Porter, but probably only hilarious to me. I had a liege waffle, which apparently is like a god-tier, mega-dense Belgian waffle coated in cinnamon sugar–and also super hot, as I found out when I tried to tug it out of the paper packet it came in and almost burned my finger. Whoops.
Also, it’s one of a few stores built into a literal old train depot. As if this place wasn’t hipster enough already.
- Estación Inka: Wednesday lunch. Pretty much everybody had told me this place served fantastic Peruvian food. I’d been wanting to try Peruvian food for a good long while, and my god, was it ever worth it. The arroz con pollo had cilantro rice. I was in heaven.
- Babcock’s: The half-price ice cream parlor on the UW-Madison campus. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Baskin Robbins, but this was quite literally the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life.
- Morris Ramen: Wednesday dinner. Y’all, this place is so hipster it doesn’t even have a sign out front. This ramen joint is in an unmarked friggin’ building. And as you’d hope of such a painfully hipster restaurant, the food is painfully good.
Next up: Chicago! Approximately in order…
God, I love this city:
Whitney Snapchats the Art Institute of Chicago (Again):
Some of you may remember that I snapchatted this place in October 2015, when I went to see Laurie slay as Feste in Twelfth Night. Well, unfortunately, my old phone threw the biggest of temper tantrums about two months afterward, restarted randomly one night, and in the process deleted several folders’ worth of pictures (and its entire learned dictionary, which is actually what I complained far more about). I’ve been itching for a second chance at the Art Institute ever since, and it’s a good thing I was, because it turns out there’s so much I didn’t see last time. I didn’t snapchat the whole museum–there’s a particular sweet spot in Western art history in which art can be ridiculous yet take itself extremely seriously–but I nevertheless spent about five and a half incredible hours in there.
Anyway, here, have yet more snapchats.
And now for some serious photos of cool art:
Star Wars trivia: Laurie and I teamed up with another team of two, and together we had a pretty respectable showing despite being absolutely ripped to shreds in the first round (out of nine plus a bonus round). I’m still perhaps overly proud of myself for remembering that Poe Dameron’s call sign is Black Leader.
Also, a signature Whitney(TM) moment: during the “Star Wars in pop culture” round, the emcee asked, “which Marvel movie features Star Wars on a list–” and that was all it took. I basically launched myself across the table at a teammate to spit out, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier!” Never let it be said that I don’t stick to my brand.
The UChicago campus: Last time I was here, I spent a brief amount of time on this campus, but it was dark, so I didn’t get to fully appreciate the gorgeous architecture. I was content just to revel in the atmosphere for several hours.
Women and Children First: Only the coolest little feminist indie bookstore I’ve ever been in. I don’t know how I managed to only come away with one book. If I’d had the means, I probably would have bought the entire bookstore and toted the inventory back to Hamilton with me.
The Neo-Futurists: After dinner (more on that below), Laurie, Erin, Ashlyn, and I went to see the Neo-Futurists perform “These 30 Plays.” Admittedly, I haven’t seen nearly as much theater in my life as I’d like, but this was still unlike anything I’d ever seen before. There was no set order for the titular thirty plays–they just color-coded the plays and randomly selected one for whichever color-coded audience group screamed the loudest. Lather, rinse, repeat. Some of the pieces were surreal, some were just plain funny (in particular, “The Life and Death of a Zit” was hilariously unpredictable), and some were absolute truth bombs. I actually got recruited to participate in one, “The Abstract Art of Getting to Know You,” and here’s the proof:
(Getting this back to Canada was interesting, lemme tell ya.)
I could gush about the show more, but frankly, I think that’d spoil the sheer frenetic joy of it for the rest of you. So if you’re in the Chicago area or just planning to be in the Chicago area anytime remotely soon, definitely go see the Neo-Futurists. The tickets are cheap, the plays are eclectic, and you’ll have a cracking good time.
Coffee: So, uh, I was going to go to the Museum of Science and Industry on Friday afternoon, but I kind of ended up at Robust Coffee Lounge instead before just giving up on maps and heading back to the UChicago campus. All I got here was a plain ol’ cup of coffee and some welcome wifi access, but it was definitely the kind of place I could relax in.
And wouldn’t you know it, the TV above the counter was playing the final episode of this year’s College Championship. That was a nice little bit of serendipity.
I also had a pretty good vanilla chai from Peet’s, when I first got to Chicago.
- At Fadó on Thursday night, I got these teensy little smoked salmon blini. They were bite-sized, fantabulous, and half-price because it was happy hour. Win.
- Lady Gregory is in the same part of town as Women and Children First and the Neo-Futurists’ theater space. I was cheap and only got a small plate of deviled eggs, batting cleanup for the others when needed, but the eggs were absolutely worth it. They served them on a bed of cilantro, which pretty much made my entire life.
And a little bit of trivia for ya: Lady Gregory is named for Isabella Augusta, the world’s most badass Irish dramatist and theater manager who you’ve probably never heard of. (I hadn’t heard of her either, not till Laurie looked her up.) She was a huge force behind the Irish Literary Revival and generally a super cool and underappreciated person. New historical idol? I think yes.
What I’m reading: I got Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here at Women and Children First, after talking myself out of getting it at A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, and I started reading it on the plane ride back here. It’s already terrifying.
What I’m watching: Why did none of you jerks tell me Jon Batiste was on Colbert’s show???????? He’s my favorite.
(tbh I haven’t seen La La Land but I’m pretty sure this video alone is better than that whole movie don’t @ me) (I’m looking at you, Carl)
Action items: Totally forgot about this section in the last post, whoops. Anyway, here’s what you can do to help save the world this week:
- Sign up for Daily Action! It’s a super handy automated text service that’ll give you one thing to do each day.
- Call your state-level reps about anti-protesting bills, if there’s one in your state. I know the Oklahoma legislature is batting one around, and I also see Iowa on the map in the link.
- This one is Oklahoma-specific: seriously, people, call your state legislators about that divorce bill. In case you somehow haven’t heard about it, one effect of this bill would be to make divorcing due to incompatibility a lot harder. The bill’s author, Rep. Travis Dunlap, is trying to couch this in family-values language, but a bill like this would make it so much harder for people trapped in abusive marriages to get out. Given that Oklahoma ranks sixth nationally for the number of women murdered due to domestic violence, this bill could be downright devastating.
Whew, that was a long update. I may not be back with a post next week, because I’ve got a lot of schoolwork to get done in a very short period of time, but regardless, you’ll be hearing from me again soon 🙂 Toodles!