If you go to the Badger women's hockey games this weekend (Friday November 2 and Saturday November 3, each game at 2:00 in the afternoon), you'll enjoy the brand-new LaBahn Arena, which is located just west of the Kohl Center, attached to both the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion and the SERF.
LaBahn Arena serves a number of purposes. It's the competition arena for the women's hockey team. They've played in the Kohl Center in the past, but even a big women's hockey crowd seems small in a 14,000-seat arena. LaBahn seats something like 2,700. It's a more intimate space, and a louder one, which matters a lot on game day. LaBahn also has office space for the women's hockey staff. It's also the practice facility for the men's team. Even though they haven't played regularly at the Coliseum since the Kohl Center opened in 1998, the men's team still had to travel there to practice every day. No more. LaBahn Arena has locker room space for the UW swim teams, which use the SERF as a practice facility. (Chuck LaBahn, whose family made a major donation to get the facility built, was a UW swimmer.) And finally, LaBahn is a great showcase for Wisconsin hockey history, with displays on the concourse devoted to the men's and women's championship teams, individual winners of the Patty Kazmaier and Hobey Baker awards for the top players in the country, and the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic team, which featured Badgers Mark Johnson and Bob Suter.
Women's hockey is one of the most underrated sports among Wisconsin fans, despite the team's success, with four national championships in the last six seasons. LaBahn Arena makes it more enjoyable than ever. It's always been pretty economical to attend a game--adult tickets are $5 and kids get in for $2--and that hasn't changed. If you go to the games this weekend (or on the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend), you will hear a familiar voice on the public address system--mine. For the last several seasons, I've been a PA announcer for the team, doing a few games each year. It's fun, and I consider it an honor to be involved with UW women's hockey, even in a small way.
See you at the games. . . .
When I was a kid, I can remember thinking that there was something romantic about a radio station at night. Geek that I was, it wasn’t the romance of listening as much it was the romance I imagined in being on the air. It must be quite a feeling, I thought, to have your voice reaching into all those cars and bedrooms, into listeners’ lives from out of the darkness. It was romance by the old-school definition: something exciting, mysterious—and idealized.
When I actually started working in radio, I learned that the reality was, as reality tends to be, far more mundane. In the days before digital technology, you were busy getting records and commercials ready, you had to run to the newsroom to check on the news wire, you had keep an eye on the transmitter and deal with the routine trivia that’s part of every job. There was not a lot of time to think about the places your voice was reaching, or who might be hearing it, or how they might be responding to it. Today, when digital technology does a lot of those things for us, pondering still comes fairly far down the list of tasks you’ve got time for. And when you’ve been around radio as long as I have, you understand that “romantic” is fairly far down on the list of things radio is.
But not off the list entirely.
Not long ago I was working late, walking down a darkened hallway in our building. In the distance, echoing from the speakers down in the reception area, I could hear the station playing. The building was quiet, as it tends to be at night. I stopped at a window to watch the night outside for just a moment, and suddenly where I was and what I was doing felt just a wee bit romantic. Not so much the excitement and mystery of reaching into homes and cars and convenience stores, but a different meaning of romance: ardent emotional attachment.
I have a really cool job. I'm lucky to have it. And I'm grateful to you for being part of it.
When you are a kid, the hours after bedtime are uncharted territory. Back when bedtime was 8 or 8:30, my family would sometimes visit a cousin of my father’s, who had kids about the same age as we were. Our parents would play euchre and visit, we’d fool around doing kid stuff, and sometimes we wouldn’t get home until after midnight. Geek that I am, one of the memories I have of those nights is seeing what was on TV so very late: Surfside 6 and Hawaiian Eye, the sort of thing a small-market local TV station might have run after the late local news on a Saturday night around 1968 or so.
When I got a little older, late-night TV became part of the weekend routine. After the 10:00 news on Friday nights, the fun started with Creatures From Dimension 13, the umbrella title for the horror movies on a Rockford station. (I grew up in Monroe, where Rockford stations are easy to pick up.) I saw ‘em all on that show: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, all the classic Hollywood monsters. At midnight, we’d flip over to Channel 15, because there was only one show we were going to watch: Lenny’s Inferno. The show had started as Ferdie’s Inferno in 1966, and changed its name sometime around 1970 or so. It was named in both cases for its sponsor, first Ferd Mattioli and later for his brother Len, owners of American TV. The show featured plenty of horror movies, but also episodes of Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and even Flash Gordon serials. It was hosted by the ghoulish Mr. Mephisto, who improvised humorous bits around commercial breaks, sparring with a disembodied voice that came from a box on his desk. The show ran until 1982.
You might have preferred watching Don Kirshner's Rock Concert or The Midnight Special or something else, if you could find anything else on TV late at night in an era when you were lucky to get more than four channels out of the air. But when I was a kid, Friday night was monster night.
Certain things we like to eat have never ever been better than they are right now. For example, it's the golden age of the french fry: thick ones, thin ones, curly ones, waffle fries, seasoned fries, fries with the skin on, sweet potato fries, you name it and you can get it, easily. It is also a golden age for sausage, mostly because people who are watching their weight, or should be, can actually buy healthy ones that taste good. (Don't read the nutritional information on your average grocery store/football game brat, because it's frightening.) Today, the stores are full of chicken and turkey sausages in every flavor you can imagine, from sun-dried tomato to jalapeno to apple/gouda to spinach/artichoke, lower in calories and fat than traditional ones, and often better-tasting.
This year, we can declare that the golden age of the pumpkin has arrived, in that pumpkin flavor is everywhere and in everything. I had the first pumpkin beer of the season last weekend, a pumpkin ale from Potosi Brewing Company, which is advertised as pumpkin pie in a glass. If you drink only fizzy yellow beer, you would probably find it pretty weird. Even I, a serious beer snob, took a while to decide whether I liked it. (Which I did. It is, however, a one-is-enough beer, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.) The bagel shop has pumpkin bagels and pumpkin coffee, and restaurants are advertising pumpkin soup. Ice-cream stores have pumpkin shakes and Hershey's is selling pumpkin-spiced Kisses. Somebody somewhere is probably making something with pumpkin right now that nobody ever made with pumpkin before. And that prompted somebody on Twitter to rant the other day, "If I wanted something that tasted like pumpkin, I'd buy a pumpkin."
I bet that pumpkins have never been better than they are right now.
I have been blogging at one place or another for over nine years now, which is about a million years in Internet time. The thing about reading a lot and blogging a lot is that you're always in danger of borrowing unconsciously from somebody else. And so, whenever I write something that seems really good to me, I'm afraid I stole it. I am not the only person afflicted with this problem. It's said that when Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run," he walked around for several days afterward trying to figure out who he'd stolen that from. So I can't be entirely certain that what I wrote about autumn in Madison nine years ago is entirely an original thought, but it's one of my favorite paragraphs. And it's still appropriate this week.
"Anyone who knows me well knows that I am all about September and October. Let others wax lyrical about the miracle of rebirth in the springtime, and all those little green shoots poking their hardy heads through the last of the snow. I say it doesn't take much skill to be born. Anybody can do it. The meaning of life, I am convinced, is in how we deal with ripening, harvest, and the onset of winter. Yes, those little green shoots grow strong and tall in the summer sun, but they don't last forever. When September comes, they begin to grow old, as will we. In October, they begin to wither and die, as will we. The lesson of September and October is that while the end is inevitable, we can at least expect to share some moments of indescribable beauty before we go . . . . The hills [are] draped in a riot of ridiculous October color--yellow to match the sunlight, orange bright enough to read by, red like a bad girl's lipstick."
I hope you've had the chance to get out and enjoy the colors, either in your own neighborhood or a bit farther afield. In any direction, there are amazing sights to be seen, but they won't be around much longer. Better enjoy 'em now--like life itself--while we still can.