Friday, September 01, 2006


Wednesday evening, I was startled by MSNBC newsman Keith Olbermann's blistering response to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "appeasement" speech on Tuesday. Two days later, I'm still startled.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Movin' on up

Great news to share: As of last week, I am Isthmus newspaper's Features Editor.

Quick, someone tell me what features are. I've been faking it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Good word

"What symmetrical digits!"

-- W.C. Fields, of Mae West's fingers

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Way up north

A word, at last, about our vacation a couple of weeks ago. We spent a week in Bayfield, Wis., an old Lake Superior fishing village that has elegantly transformed itself into an attractive and peaceful vacation spot. Many resort towns -- Wisconsin Dells, for example, and Gatlinburg, Tenn. -- sprout tacky diversions that distract visitors from the natural splendor all around, but in Bayfield the focus is still the Great Lake and the grand Apostle Islands. Sailboats fill the harbors of the tiny town, and seemingly every other car that drives through has kayaks attached.

Bayfield had its heyday around the turn of the last century, and much Victoriana remains. Among the pretty old buildings are the Carnegie Library, where yours truly availed himself of the wireless Internet (even during off hours -- which is why, below, you see me hanging out on the porch), and Christ Episcopal Church, a quietly magnificent "carpenter Gothic" structure where we attended a lovely Mass and, a few days later, heard the Madison soprano Kathy Otterson sing Schumann's Op. 39 Liederkreis, as part of the church's annual (Mostly) Schubert Festival.

For the most part, though, we spent our time outdoors, including a couple of days on wondrous Madeline Island, the only Apostle Island that is not part of the National Lakeshore. The beach on Madeline Island is a stunner. This shady picture doesn't quite do it justice, except that you can see how the beach seems to recede endlessly into the distance.

On Madeline Island we spent an afternoon hiking in Big Bay State Park, where trails run near the beautiful sandstone outcroppings. On our hike we got startlingly close to some deer (perhaps too close for comfort -- yes to pretty deer; no to Lyme disease).

One afternoon on Madeline Island saw the near-total collapse of my David Letterman backpack. Wonderful, resourceful Ereck found a sewing kit at the local commissary, though, and set things right. (As an insurance policy, he reinforced the seam with safety pins.) The day was saved, and off we biked.

We did not visit any of the other Apostle Islands, but one day we saw much of the National Lakeshore over the course of a three-hour boat tour. The views were spectacular.

The weather was mostly great. The one rainy afternoon we spent at the Bayfield Maritime Museum, where I learned more about shipwrecks and fishnet strategy than I can ever hope to use.

We ate lavishly, thanks in part to the very good restaurants in Bayfield and LaPoint, the town on Madeline Island (there are, I'm glad to report, no chain restaurants in either burg), but thanks mostly to wonderful, resourceful Ereck, who prepared many of our meals. At his wise urging we sampled, among other local treats, the tasty whitefish spread sold at Newago's.

We spent an evening in nearby Ashland, whose charms are rather more prosaic than Bayfield's. One of them is the Bay movie theater, where we saw Miami Vice, a film about an altogether different kind of maritime culture. The Bay has a beautiful marquee, and a surprise: In some of the auditoriums are splendid murals that, theater employees told us, date to the 1930s.

Would we go back up north? In a heartbeat. Next time, though, we may skip the gaudy delights of Bayfield and Ashland and instead hole up in a cabin on Madeline Island.