Appleton, Wisconsin. I spent the last three days as a visiting artist at Lawrence University. My old pal Ben Rinehart invited me as part of their lecture series program. Ben and his partner Josh moved her two years ago leaving NYC for a full-time teaching job which in a matter of days snowballed into the American dream of home ownership and fatherhood. Once Ben signed his contract he and Josh found a wonderful house just 1.5 miles from campus with a sweet yard and lots of space, something one only dreams about in NYC unless they have the cool 1.2 million, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment. And just as they were getting moved into their new home a wonderful new opportunity came upon them to adopt a beautiful son, who they named Harper. So this weekend was my first trip to Wisconsin, the first time seeing their new family and visiting the house. It was one of the most wonderful weekends I have had in recent memory.
The weekend began with a full schedule of a group critique of art students at Lawrence, followed by lunch with faculty, individual critiques with students in the afternoon, a public lecture, gallery reception, then dinner. It was intense, compact and extremely rewarding. The caliber of students at Lawrence is extremely high. The students are some of the most thoughtful and well-researched kids I have ever met. During our critiques they would tell me who they have read, what artists they are looking at and all the additional research they do from the point of view of art, biology, sociology, economics, etc. They are smart, they know that art does not happen in a vacuum and they conduct through their library, in book, film, and visual documentation. They are able to explain what the goal is of their work and they achieve. Many of these kids are double or triple majoring and have three, four and sometimes five minors. They are high achievers.
The exhibition of my work supported the lecture that I gave about my running, hiking, and making art. Sometimes when I give talks there are things in my brain that I think I communicate but I actually don’t’. I showed a lot of photos, perhaps too many but I did it in rapid succession to illustration the collection of images I made for my future work.
The next day after the best sleep I have had all year, I got up to run. The weather was perfect, 41 degrees, dry and mild sun. It was to be a slow, muscle relaxing 8 miles. I started out trotting along the sidewalk, running along the river, and over each of the bridges in Appleton. I did not keep track of my time, and I had not even broken a sweat when I check my watch. I had already covered 6 miles at a 7:39 pace, which is faster than the last 10k I raced. I was thrilled and it was a big boost to my confidence since the NYC marathon was just one week away. I went back to the house and did 30 minutes of yoga.
Later in the day after Joshua, Ben and Harper returned from the neighbors birthday party we loaded up the car and headed to the outlet mall, an extravaganza of North Face, Gap, Ralph Lauren, Eddie Bauer and a whole slew of other stores. I scored big time, coming back with two new pairs of pants, four sweaters, flannel shirt (I was in the Midwest after all I need a some flannel), and three long sleep black t-shirts, all for $150. That alone was worth the flights.
That night we went to dinner. Eating in Wisconsin feels like a foreign country, it is very odd that everything contains milk and meat products. The day before at the university lunchroom I saw adults drinking glasses of milk, I did not know anybody over the age of 10 drank glasses of milk. Anyhow we went to a Mexican restaurant, which is always a good bet, being that two of us are vegetarian. One can always get beans and rice, ahhhh, with exception of here. I did not even think to ask if the beans were prepared with lard and sure enough they are cooked with ham. No big deal just take the beans out of the burrito and use roasted vegetables and rice, that is unless the rice is made with chicken broth – grossssss. So that removed the rice as well. But the dinner did come with a salad bar and I was excited to get some greens. At first I saw a big bowl of iceberg lettuce and thought, oh god this cannot be happening, but right behind the iceberg was a nice bowl of deeply colored mixed greens. As I started to pile on the broccoli, I saw cheese shreds in the broccoli, why in the world add cheese to broccoli, but unfortunately it did not stop there, it also had some kind of meat product, ham or bacon mixed in with it. There was no vinegar and oil dressing only creamy milk based junk. It was all meat, all the time. I could not help but think about my recent studies in clinical exercise physiology and diabetes. I am sure the rate is high here as it was pretty obvious the obesity rate was. I had to tease Ben, who really likes pork, but he is very slim, that he could get chicken gravy or pork gravy on poured over his meal. Umm yea, give me a pork and cheese enchilada smothered in pork gravy. Other meals we had over the weekend were very tasty. I had a delicious tofu bulgogi at a very popular Korean restaurant and a nice vegetable and angle hair pasta with lots of artichokes, olives and sun dried tomatoes. I did however ask to have it prepared with olive oil rather than butter. The thought of butter made me visualize a bowl of melted butter with pasta floating in it all runny and soggy. That was probably not the case at this rather expensive restaurant but I was not about to take any chances and since I am not a dairy eater, I was not going get sick. Yes I am a troublesome dinner outside of NYC but if my eating habits can keep me running strong, ward off arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and possibly cancer I will do anything I can to keep healthy. Plus I see no reason for eating animals.
I spent Thursday though a very early Sunday morning in Wisconsin. It was tremendously relaxing and I had the best sleep I have had all year and the best run. The noise and the light of my apartment in NYC, while I am deeply conditioned to it, have an affect on how well I sleep. The getting up at 6:30 to take the dog to the park always feels a bit tiring, yet I easily awoke well rested at 5:00 today to catch my plane. I am excited to get home, but I miss Ben and it was great to see him. Being at Lawrence really makes me examine my the University where I teach, comparing the students, the administration support, the budgets, the enthusiasm and involvement of other faculty, the ultimate university community where everything is about investigation, ambition, involvement and excelling. It was an inspiring environment and far less stressful than being at a tuition driven university with little administrative support and with students who need more recourses than the university can offer or perhaps should offer for people that are expected to operate at a standard university level. It gives me a lot to think about.
Now I am on the plane from Chicago to New York. When I get back my dog will be eagerly awaiting me and Kat, a friend and trainer of Conrad may be at my apartment with her two dogs who stayed there while I was away. I have a paper to work on for exercise physiology, and a few miles to run to keep my legs going. Whatever I am working on, I have the NYC marathon in the back of my head with high hopes for cool and dry weather.