It has been suggested to me that I should turn in my man card because I am a cat person. I will not be intimidated by this suggestion, however. I am proud to be a cat person. I have nothing against dogs, fish, birds, or any other critter people choose to keep in their homes. I merely prefer a low-maintenance animal, because I am a low-maintenance animal myself.
My wife and I have been cat people for a long time. We got our first one, Abby, in 1991. Sophie joined the household in 1992. Abby died in 2006, but Sophie stuck around until last June, when her ongoing health problems---and being nearly 21 years old---finally caught up with her. So most of this summer, we had no cat in the house. It took some getting used to. I was up in my office a couple of weeks after Sophie died when I heard a noise downstairs. The thought crossed my mind that I would have to go and investigate now, which I wouldn't have done before. I would have just assumed the cat was into something and kept right on working.
We are catless no more, however. Last week, we welcomed Meeka and Maizie, a pair of five-year-old sisters we adopted from Dane County Friends of Ferals through the adoption center at Mounds in Middleton. Both of them spent part of their first day at home in the basement, hiding behind the water heater, but Maizie, the more adventuresome of the two, was up to check us out by that evening. Meeka waited until the next evening, but both of them are doing fine now. They're getting used to us, and we're getting used to them. Keep an eye on the Magic 98 Facebook page this coming weekend and I'll post a picture of them.
If you are thinking of adopting a cat, Friends of Ferals has lots of them. If you're looking for some other pet, the Dane County Humane Society has a surprising variety---from cats and dogs to snakes and horses. You'll have to pay an adoption fee at both places, but it's not much. In the long run, for everything you'll get in return, it's a steal.
I've done a lot of stuff in my 30-plus years in radio. I did play-by-play on a cow-chip-throwing contest. I did a live broadcast from a bar wearing a Bob Uecker mask to pay off a bet. One thing I had never done until recently: traffic reports. Last week I filled in for Deana Wright on afternoon traffic, and I thought you might be interested in how it's done.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation provides us with continuously updated travel times on the Beltline and the interstates. We're also able to electronically monitor traffic volume on major Madison streets. We can see what's showing on the network of DOT traffic cameras. When there's an accident that affects traffic flow on a major highway, we get a special alert from the DOT. We listen to area police calls on the scanner. We also depend on listeners--if you see something people should know about during the morning or afternoon rush, we hope you will call the Magic Line at 321-0098.
In the days before the Internet, traffic reports were something you heard only in major American cities--New York, Chicago, Los Angeles--where it was cost-effective for radio and/or TV stations to own helicopters to fly over the expressway system. Eventually, companies like Metro Traffic got into the biz, using improved technology to provide reports in those same big cities. Smaller cities had to find other ways. When Magic 98 first started carrying traffic reports years ago, somebody drove around the Beltline in a van to see what was happening on the ground. With the tech we have now, traffic reports are as fast and accurate as we can make 'em, because we know you want to get to work on time, and--more important--get home on time.
I'm from Monroe. Down there this weekend it's Cheese Days, which is a very big deal. It happens in even-numbered years only, because if you're going to live on nothing but cheese, sausage, and beer for 48 hours, you shouldn't do it every year.
Even with that health warning in mind, it's still a lot of fun. You can tour cheese factories and farms, buy cheese (one year when we lived in Iowa, Ann and I went back with about 40 pounds for friends and co-workers), and listen to polkas, schottisches, and waltzes played by accordion bands, often sung in German, with yodeled accompaniment. Locals say the appeal of this entertainment is waning. Younger people are more attracted to the carnival . . . or the bars. Even though I’m not as young as I used to be, I can count on seeing a lot of people I know in various watering holes, many of whom I haven’t seen for two years and won’t see again until two years from now.
There’s a big parade on Sunday, and getting a good parade-watching spot is difficult. I suspect that houses on the parade route, which has never changed in my lifetime, can probably command a premium on their selling prices because of where they are. It’s usually my preference to skip the parade, which has also never changed in my lifetime; I’d rather watch the Packer game, although this year they don't play until Monday night. In past years, however, we have combined the two. An old friend's in-laws have a house on the route, and he's run the TV out into the yard a time or two.
If you're going to Cheese Days this weekend, look for me. I'll be the guy with a beer in each hand.
The date was September 23, 1972. I'd been a Badger football fan for a couple of years by then, but that was the first time I ever set foot in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers killed Syracuse 31-7 that day, and if I'm recalling correctly, the great running back Rufus "the Roadrunner" Ferguson had over 200 yards and might have gone over 300 if a long run hadn't been called back by a penalty. I got to a couple of games over the next few years, but I was a fan mostly via the radio and the newspaper in those days, when the games were rarely on TV.
In 1982, we attended the famous "bounce-pass" game against Illinois. We were living in Iowa then, and we would spend most of the next 18 years there. In 2000, we moved home to Wisconsin. I had watched three Rose Bowls from afar, and now I was ready to become a fan up close. We got a few single-game tickets in the early 00s, but I always said that if I ever got the chance at season tickets, I would snap them up. And in 2005, with the renovation and expansion in the stadium, I did. Ann and I have a precious pair in Section Z2, and it's our favorite place to hang.
Our football Saturdays have a special rhythm. We get downtown early enough to take a lap around the Farmer's Market, then we hike toward the stadium. We almost never miss the Badger Bash with the marching band at Union South, which always ends in time for us to get to our seats about a half-hour before kickoff. After the game, we hike back toward the Capitol Square. Often we need to stop for refreshments along the way back--after a Badger game, anybody in red and white is a friend, and it's fun to have a beer or two with them along the way. The weather never deters us. We've done it in 95-degree heat, we've done it in 30-degree cold, we've done it in the rain. It's Badger football, and in this town, there's not much that's better.