An exerpt from a story detailing a visit to the Midwest made by Jan Galligan (galligan@sprynet.com) and his daughter Lydia. 
Galligan emailed the GIF image above to accompany this text.
This page originally published on Mark Czerniec's Kenosha website, 1997


15 July 95, 6:02 A.M.
7 die; power outages pock region
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday Final Edition

   A cruel and killing heat contributed to the deaths of at least 7 people in the Milwaukee area, and some 32,000 animals across the state.
   The death count among animals included 12,000 chickens at the Humpty Dumpty Egg Farm in Manitowoc and 15,000 turkeys at Jerome Foods in Barron.
   In northern Wisconsin, an approaching cold front set off storms with damaging winds and "baseball-size" hail. The cooler air is expected to reach the rest of Wisconsin Saturday.
   A handful of house pets succumbed to the heat, including Peter and Mopsey, the Diem family's elderly rabbits in Racine, and a pair of tropical lizards named Sonny and Cher in Whitefish Bay.

11:33 A.M.

   Heading east on I-94 for Milwaukee, then south on I-90 to Kenosha.


Location: East-side, Madison, WI


Persons: Shanan, Mark, Nickie, Max, Peter, other friends.

Cats: Clarence, Nimh, Books (i.e., runs fast).

Apartment: Three bedrooms, one bath, front room/dining area, kitchen, closed-in front porch. Ground floor, corner apartment.

In the pantry: Dinty Moore beef stew, granola, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, soup cans, crackers.

Books: Lots ... novels, poetry, social science, philosophy, computer handbooks, Dilbert collections, cat books, foreign language books (French, Spanish, German), various college texts, some coffee-table books of photographs and art.

Music: CDs, numerous; cassettes, many, mostly dubs of other cassettes and CDs, or original tapes of friends' bands; guitars, electric and acoustic; amplifiers, no vinyl records that I could see; some sheet music.

Games: Sega, GameBoys, CD ROMs, no board games that I could find.

Online: CompuServe and America Online.

Computers: One, shared between the three. Shanan's old XT was given to another friend who is using it to write papers for graduate school.

Other things on the wall: Photo blow-up of Max's father and uncle when they were five-year-olds in Hartford, WI. ("a nice place to leave"). 8 1/2 x 11 drawings probably done by Mark, pen and ink, slightly surreal and cartoon-like. Two posters in the bathroom ... one for the band Phish, the other a closeup of a peeled banana being held upright by a female hand, the banana dripping with chocolate sauce. Five or six of the various photos of Lydia and/or Lillian that I have sent Shanan in the past two years. On the wall right next to the front door, in a narrow hallway, a poster of Sonic Youth.

Other reading matter: No magazines to speak of ... no TIME, Newsweek, etc. Multiple copies of the local underground newspaper, the Isthmus. No stacks of bills, letters, catalogues, or other junk mail. Back issues of the New York Times and Village Voice.

Trash: Sorted by recycling category (mostly).

Drinks: Plenty. Coke by the 24 pack, beer by the case (mostly Berghoff, a local brew), some hard liquor in a cabinet under the sink. Lots of other sodas, tonic water, club soda, natural juices, and some frozen lemonade.

Drugs: None that I could find, though I did see some rolling papers on one bookshelf.

Tobacco: One roommate smokes, the others don't. The one who does is a computer programmer. Seems to be the one who drinks most of the Coke. Numerous ashtrays around the house, full of butts. Cans of air freshener on some shelves. Found some cans of cat deodorant too, and some devices for extracting tobacco smoke from the air.

Cat food: 50 lb. bag. Three dishes for the cats' dry food (one Q-tip in each dish along with the food ... I fed the cats at 5:30 A.M. while I made coffee). No cans of wet food. One water dish for all 3 cats. Do cats drink milk? I gave them a little this morning. One litter box for all three cats, needs changing/cleaning. I didn't attempt to.

1:15 P.M.

   Lunch at Hardee's, hamburgers, fish sandwiches, and lots of American flags. Lydia and her brother Shanan have hamburgers, I have the fish and take photos of the flags.
   We've just turned off of I-90 and are headed east into Racine, to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Building.

4:30 P.M.

   At my brother's house in Kenosha, two hours into the surprise 70th birthday party for my mother, I was talking with Sam K., now in his mid-60s, who lived in Racine prior to moving into the house next door to my mother's, when I was a teenager. I mentioned to Sam that we had stopped at the Johnson Wax Building on our way to Kenosha. He told me how he had worked on a rehab project to fix some problems that the building developed in the 1950s, 20 years after its construction. He said that the job involved removing one layer of the double thick brick walls to get to the internal cork insulation layer that Wright had designed and had specially constructed for this building. What happened was that the similarly specially designed window system (which I remember well from my readings about this building) leaked water regularly over those 20 years, soaking and ultimately destroying the cork insulation. Wright wanted a window system integral to the design of the central tower of the building. As he envisioned and built it, the windows wrap continuously around the tower, with curves to match those on each "corner" of the tower. He fabricated the windows from hollow glass tubing of 2" diameter, with bends perfectly matching the corner curves. Each window set, on each floor, was constructed from a stacked group of twelve hollow tubes. The tubes were held in place by a system of custom designed brackets and twisted wires. Wright had a team of chemist/engineers work six months to develop a silicone to use to fill the spaces between adjoining rows of glass tubing. The problem was that with the changes in temperature, the tubing shifted, weakening the silicone seals and the windows then leaked rain and snow. Consequently, Sam spent one summer vacation, while an automotive engineering student at UW-Madison, working construction for the company hired to perform the rehabilitation work to replace the water-damaged cork insulation.


Monday, July 17, Madison, 6:20 A.M.

   Just finished faxing the Dells information to my brother's office machine in Kenosha. He's leaving tomorrow morning for a three-day trip to the Dells with his son, and one of his son's friends. Faxed the info via CompuServe. Very easy, you just replace INTERNET in the address line of the message with FAX, and then replace the actual address with a telephone number.


4:00 P.M.

   Highway I-90, headed east, back to General Mitchell Field, to catch our 5:00 P.M. flight to Albany. Lydia is joking about various reasons why we might miss our plane. Things like a flat tire, a traffic jam, engine trouble on our rental car, or at the moment, the possibility that a huge boulder might fall out of the semi-truck we're following down the highway. I explain to her that it's important to be careful what you joke about, and that one should not tempt fate. I say that accidents often happen, good as well as bad, and that while you can never directly control their outcome, it seems possible to influence the trajectory towards good or bad. Lydia immediately shifts her focus and asks about the likelihood of causing fantastic things to happen. Like what, I ask her? Well, you know, she says, what if aliens swoop down and pick up our car, or cloud our minds so we don't know where we are? We could still miss our plane that way, couldn't we? All of her talk of aliens has caused me to lose track of where we are, and I'm now circling the airport parking garage for the third time, looking for the rental-car- return entrance. We just might miss our flight anyhow.


8:30 P.M.

   I'm beginning to see that Lydia has become a seasoned traveller. Her eight years of trips to Puerto Rico have made her very adept at the routines of the airport. Getting from the arrival gate to the next departure gate, stocking up on gum and candy to keep our ears from popping during takeoff and landing, getting a few comic books to read on the plane, and making sure that I have the tickets and know which gate we're headed to for the next leg of our journey. When we get on the Detroit-to-Albany plane, as usual, Lydia gives the steward our tickets and tells him, he's my Dad and he's with me. The pilot invites Lydia into the cockpit to look around, so I head to the back of the plane to put away our bags. Meanwhile, Lydia has overheard the stewardess asking the first-class passengers if they would like a drink, while the plane is filling with those of us flying coach. The man next to Lydia says, not me thank you. Lydia says, I'm dying for a drink; 7-UP would be great. She hands the stewardess the tickets, to show her where she's sitting. When Lydia comes back to sit down, she tells me that the stewardess will be coming by momentarily with her drink. She does, and tells me that Lydia certainly knows how to get what she wants.
   Sitting in front of us is a family of three, a distinguished looking couple and their daughter in her early twenties. I learn later that the daughter is on her way to Boston to go to graduate school. Lydia and I were intrigued by them as we were waiting to board the plane, because we overhead them speaking in Spanish. On the plane, I ask them where they are travelling from, and they explain that they are on the fourth and final leg of a trip from Texas to Troy, NY. This is a trip that they make annually, visiting the mother's relatives. The entire family is originally from Columbia, somewhere near Bogata. The father seems to be a university professor, the mother is reading Salinger's Catcher in the Rye Later, I give the daughter a Wisconsin postcard on which I have drawn a map of our neighborhood in downtown Albany, showing the location of Cafe Capriccio, Jim Rua's Italian/Spanish restaurant, where I guaranteed them they could find the most authentic paella in the northeast, and where they might encounter William Kennedy, our resident scribe. They are very pleased with the recommendation. I then ask the daughter if she'd like to read a journal of my trip to the Midwest. Yes, she says, so I hand her a typed copy of this manuscript, which she reads during the rest of our flight to Albany. The mother says that she would like to read the story as well, so I leave the typescript with them.
   After talking about our past trips to Puerto Rico to visit Lydia's abuella and abuelito, the father says to me that I must visit Columbia, especially Bogata and Popayan. This reminds me of when I was a student in Chicago, living in the YMCA just down the street from the University of Chicago. I was an undergraduate student at the American Academy of Art, living in what was essentially a dormitory for graduate students. It was there that I met Manuel Rodriguez Escobar Romero, a Ph.D. candidate who had come from Quito, Equador. Manuel told me many stories about his life in Equador, and planted in me a dream that I have to this day to make a trip to the Equator. What I want to do most is to walk along the line where, on this earth, all things are equal.

© Copyright 1976 & 1996 by Jan Galligan (galligan@sprynet.com ), All Rights Reserved.
HTML by Mark Czerniec. Last modified July 3, 1997