Both years I've returned to Madison for WisCon, I've had delusions of renting a bicycle for the week. Last year I had a pretty solid excuse for not doing so, in that we got a colossal quantity of rain while I was there. So biking was rarely an option. The weather this year was better, and I could have rented a bike, but I seemed to be busy enough that I just never got to it. Yeah, I'm a slug. I know.
I did, on the other hand, do a lot of walking this week. Mostly down State Street and around the University, where I took a number of photos. I also walked to a packing and shipping store twice, once to pick up a long, thin box to mail the artwork I bought back to California in (Lucy the Travel Goddess advised me to never, ever try checking artwork on a plane), and again to actually ship the packed artwork.
Potentially useful information: Packing peanuts are cheap. It cost me about $4.00 to fill an 8"8"x50" box with peanuts and artwork.
Also, way, way back in college I started going to a neat coffee shop in New Orleans called Borsodi's regularly. I often read or studied there, but just as often I hung out with friends and socialized. Sometime during grad school coffee shops turned into a more solitary activity for me, where I'd hang out and read (and watch girls) (whoops, did I say that out loud??). It's only been in California that it's become a more social activity, meeting folks like Lucy for coffee (although I have been known to snub people once in a while if I really just wanted to quietly get some reading done; I've only done so a couple of times, but John and Anders have never let me forget it).
Anyway, on my Madison vacations I've spent a fair bit of time walking to my old coffee shop and sitting and reading. Since WisCon falls after the UW-Madison lets out for the year, it's pretty quiet (as contrasted to those frigid winter days in December before finals when the coffee shops are just packed full). So I got a bunch of reading done, as I've already noted, and drank a bunch of coffee (although the girl-watching was not so strong).
I spent the weekend hanging around with my hosts, Dan and Charlie, when they were around. I also spent Saturday night over at my old friend Gene's. Gene and I went to grad school together at UW-Madison, and then we worked together for a few years at Epic until he left to go to an ISP in the city. When I lived in Madison, we gamed regularly - he was one of the folks who introduced me to Magic: The Gathering back in 1995 after my then-girlfriend Colleen and I broke up. For a while, I was the regular host of gaming sessions on weekends at my place, which was pretty neat, although you can game a lot on a Saturday, and it was easy to burn out.
Gene invited two of the other gaming regulars, Matt and Mike. Mike was the documentor on my product at Epic when I was there, but, like Gene and some others, he's moved on elsewhere. (I made a halfhearted attempt to persuade him to come to California to work for Apple, but he declined. He's truly a Midwesterner.) I haven't seen any of these folks since I moved to California, and it was good to see them all again. The funniest (from a certain point of view) bit of the evening was that I kept calling Matt "Jeff", after yet another gaming buddy, who wasn't there. It's was surreal because, other than the fact that I usually saw the two of them together (because I didn't often see them outside of gaming), they're not much alike, especially appearance-wise. Mike and Gene were dying from laughter. Sheesh!
We played a couple of games of Settlers of Catan, both of which Gene won, and then moved on to Res Publica, the first of which Mike won. Mike then made the foolish announcement that he'd won every game of Res Publica he's ever played (including two previous games with another group), so we of course resoundingly trounced him in the next one. I won, and it felt good!
It was a fun time. Mike was nice enough to give me a lift home, and kind enough to say that now that he'd seen me again, he realized he missed having me around. (And also that I was the catalyst for their gaming, since they hadn't gamed much since I'd left.) It was a good feeling. I had a good bunch of friends in Madison to hang around with and work with for a few years, and I miss them too. Things I miss about Madison have been weighing on my mind all week.
I had a quiet day today, mainly reading and going out for a walk. I also finished playing MYST III Exile, the third in the popular series of lushly-illustrated puzzle games. This one was as good as Riven, although I doubt anything will ever have the impact of the original MYST since it had such an impact on me at the time it came out. This one felt a little easier than Riven, but not a whole lot. It took me two weeks of intermittent playing to finish. The premise and story were more fun, too.
Today's the last day of my vacation. Tomorrow I go back and Tuesday I start my new job. I don't feel completely rested from this vacation. I think I'm partly feeling nostalgic for Madison, and partly feeling stressed about the prospect of looking for a house when I return to California, which I've been saying I'd do after this vacation. But all in all, it's been okay.
I do want to start taking some vacations in places I've never gone before, though.