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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  Light Rain
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#MyMadisonDay: 24 hours in the life of the city


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Freelancer Stu Levitan came up with the idea for a print piece chronicling a day in the life of Madison. We decided to take it a step further. We settled on a date (Sept. 21, 2012), cooked up a hashtag (#MyMadisonDay) and put out a call to the community to record, via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the day's events, whether big or small.

Levitan hit the streets, as did Isthmus staff and contributors - and even professor Lucas Graves' Journalism 335 class from UW-Madison. The following is but a sampling of the material collected and posted that day. For the full menu of unedited posts, snapshots, videos and even a banjo tune, please see MyMadisonDay.com.


5:30 a.m., Labor Ready

If you're looking to get on a day labor crew at Labor Ready out on Cottage Grove Road, you'd better get up early.

"You've got to be here by at least 5:30 a.m.," says a man named Keith, who wouldn't give his last name. "I get up at 4:30 or 5."

- Joe Tarr

6 a.m., Wisconsin Public Radio

Terry Bell greets me on the seventh floor of Vilas Hall and ushers me past empty desks and darkened offices.

"It's just my one-man band," he says, "with all my bowling pins and spinning plates."

Bell's voice greets thousands of Wisconsinites emerging from their slumber each morning as he delivers the state news during the broadcast of National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

- Jason Joyce

7:05 a.m., Corner of Allen, Commonwealth and Eton Ridge

Nothing says "start of the day in Madison" like little kids walking to school with backpacks almost as big as they are. At the treacherous five-way intersection of Allen, Commonwealth and Eton Ridge, crossing guard Janet makes sure each kid's day begins safely - not to mention amiably. Janet is legendary in this neighborhood for knowing just about every child's name, greeting them with a smile and a friendly word.

"Okay, Ben, come on and cross! Have a good day!"

- Dean Robbins

7:30 a.m., Marquette Elementary School

Marquette principal Pam Wilson assembles her staff for their annual photo. Lifetouch photographer Adam Brown also takes about 250 individual student photos. Marquette may be the only elementary school in Dane County with a portrait of bebop great Dizzy Gillespie and a quote from blues giant B.B. King adorning its walls.

- Stu Levitan

8:15 a.m., Vilas Park Zoo

The animals seem a lot more excited than staff at the delivery of a large shipment of hay.

Unloading the flatbed truck is a big job, which means all the staff pitch in. Some wear masks to keep down the dust and sniffles.

The zoo gets hay about four times a year. The alfalfa, higher in protein, goes to the large animals in the camel barn. The grassy hay for goats gets delivered to the red barn at the children's zoo.

- Judith Davidoff

8:45 a.m., Downtown Library

Fourteen people stand outside the library and wait for the doors to open to a warm, safe place to read or use a computer. They're in a single-file line in the rain.

Heather Welch, dressed in a sweatshirt, windbreaker, baseball cap and wool winter gloves, says she waits here for about 20 minutes every day. When asked about her favorite part of the library, Welch beams: "The books!"

- Meredith Lee

9:12 a.m., Meriter Hospital

Laurel (Mrs. Jedidiah) Draeger gives birth to a daughter in the Meriter Hospital Birthing Center. It's the first of nine births over the next 24 hours, bringing the year's total at Meriter to 2,756.

- Stu Levitan

10 a.m., Dane County Courthouse

The mood is far from somber as protesters cited for holding signs at the state Capitol await their appearance before Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Todd Meurer. In fact, they leave the courtroom singing and pose for a group photo in the lobby of the courthouse.

Bart Munger, whose ticket was delivered to him at work at UW-Madison, pleads not guilty and requests a jury trial. So do the others, according to attorneys Aaron Halstead and Jonathan Rosenblum. Munger is now scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 26.

- Judith Davidoff

10:15 a.m., Troy Community Farm

By the time I get to Troy Community Farm it's already sprinkling. Despite the lack of actual human farmers, there are more signs of life than you might expect. The rows of sunflowers are alive with small birds that dart too fast for me to see identifying markers, scavenging for seeds. A table is full of bags and water bottles. Snaking throughout the compost pile are volunteer tomato vines and full-blown squash.

Finally I see someone near the greenhouses.

Christine Welcher is loading flats of cat grass into the back of a pickup for delivery to the Willy Street Co-op. Fridays, the sprout and cat grass operation kicks in about 6 or 7 a.m. and wraps up about 11 a.m. "Rain or shine, 100 degrees or 30," says Welcher, now dotted with raindrops. She commiserates with me about my left shoe, enrobed in wet mud. "It's an occupational hazard."

- Linda Falkenstein

10:21 a.m., Fire Station 7, 1810 McKenna Blvd.

Firefighter/paramedic Chris Homman is explaining his station's operations when a computer tone snaps him to attention with a call to assist an unconscious person at 7707 N. Brookline Dr. The address is a familiar one. He and colleague Linnea Anderson quickly board their 2008 Ford E450 Advanced Life Support level ambulance and head out, arriving at 10:27 a.m. Ladder 7 is already on the scene, providing patient care before transferring the case to the paramedics.

- Stu Levitan

11 a.m., St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church

Father Chad Droessler presides over the Mass of Christian Burial for Ruth Jeanne (Schoelkopf) Faulkner, who died last week at age 83 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Born in Bear Creek, Wis., in 1929, she married Richard Faulkner at 19, and they farmed together in the Cambridge area. She was just 47 when he died, and she moved back to Madison, where she worked for St. Mary's Hospital and Anchor Bank. She also crocheted afghans for babies and taught catechism at St. Maria Goretti.

- Stu Levitan

11:26 a.m., Cherokee Heights Middle School

Teacher Lori Nelson, joined by Sarah Buechel of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, conduct team and community-building exercises with the AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) class. A major piece of the plan to close the achievement gap, this college-readiness program (for kids whose parents did not go to college) is in its first year in district middle schools.

- Stu Levitan

Noon, state Capitol

There's evidence of recent tensions between protesters and Capitol Police in the Capitol Rotunda, where people begin gathering for the regular Solidarity Sing-Along. Signs arrayed on the second-floor railing tell the story: "Indict Walker." "Capitol Police, You've Lost Your Way." "Shame."

The police, who've been issuing citations to protesters at the behest of controversial new chief David Erwin, prowl the perimeter of the Rotunda. They are grim-faced and intimidating.

- Dean Robbins

12:30 p.m., Tenney Park Locks

The Tenney Park Locks are open only Thursdays through Sundays these days, so you'd expect more of a crowd, but not today. "I've only seen one or two boats out on the lake all day," says Jerry Volk, who is the - lockmaster? I forget to ask him what his title is. "It's the weather," says Volk, who observes that we've been about one month ahead of the usual weather curve all year long.

- Linda Falkenstein

1:30 p.m., Dane County Jail

As of 6 a.m., 913 people were booked into the Dane County Jail's three detention facilities.

Of these, 795 were men and 118 women. Four hundred and four were African American, 490 white, eight Native American or Alaskan, and 11 Asian or Pacific Islanders. Fifty-nine were brought into the system in the past 24 hours. The jail is not yet at capacity - that's more than 1,000 people.

Jonathan Britton was brought in this morning from the state Waupun Correctional Institution, where he's been for about a year. He's back in Dane County to face additional charges that he says resulted from "a lot of fighting."

"I like it here better. They give you a little more freedom," he says. "[In prison] there's nothing to do but lie down all day."

- Joe Tarr

1:42 p.m., Mayor's Conference Room

Mayor Paul Soglin, in blue jeans, work shirt and black T, gathers with senior staff for a final meeting on the 2013 executive budget. Aide Sally Miley's iPhone plays "Tracks of My Tears," part of her "Songs for the Budget" playlist, along with "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." First up: aldermanic amendments to Soglin's capital budget, on tap for Monday's Board of Estimates meeting.

"Where does he plan on getting the money for this?" Soglin asks, referencing Ald. Mike Verveer's proposal to accelerate street reconstruction in the Capitol Square outer loop, which Soglin has slated for 2016-17.

"Where's the financing coming from? GO? TIF? He's gonna do what he pleases [at BOE], but make it clear that by moving it to '14-'15, he's setting expectations that may not be able to be reached."

- Stu Levitan

2:45 p.m., YWCA Job Ride, 3101 Latham Dr.

Friday afternoons are busy for Kirk Betterkind, who schedules all rides for the YWCA Job Ride program.

The program provides subsidized rides for low-income people to and from work (and to interviews and training), and about a quarter of them do not get their work schedules for the next week until the Friday before. In all, Betterkind schedules about 2,000 rides a month.

"Most riders really appreciate us because they have no other way to get to and from work," says Betterkind. "It's a form of social service that benefits people who already have jobs. It's vital."

- Judith Davidoff

3:30 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art

The Chazen's imported exhibition from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, "Offering of the Angels," is doing land-office business. Art lovers crowd around the Renaissance and Baroque works in the invitingly dark gallery, admiring two-point perspective and chiaroscuro by the likes of Botticelli and Tintoretto. Nice to see that 500-year-old paintings and tapestries can still cause a sensation.

Security guard Kelly Moritz mans the entrance, making sure that no one brings in a backpack, takes a photo or sips a soda around the valuable works of art. She hasn't had any serious problems so far, but she has heard tell of people touching the delicate canvases. Madison, Madison, Madison.

- Dean Robbins

5 p.m., Overture Hall

Dave Gersbach, head carpenter and union steward for IATSE Local 251, arrives backstage to prepare for opening night of the Madison Symphony Orchestra's 87th season. His job description is simple and all-encompassing: "Make sure everything runs right." The 69-year-old has worked at entertainment venues in the 200 block of State Street since 1966 (Hello, Dolly! with Ginger Rogers, at the Orpheum Theater) and has no plans to quit: "I'm just enjoying it too much to stop."

He's soon joined by lighting technician Gary Kleven and sound engineer Paul Giansante. Kleven and Gersbach have worked together since they were both projectionists at the old Cinema Theater, before it became the more family-friendly Barrymore Theatre. Giansante, familiar with venues across the country, has a light workload: "My job tonight is actually quite simple. Because of the superb acoustics, all the music is heard without amplification." The only thing he has to mike tonight is the Prelude, MSO maestro John DeMain's pre-performance talk.

Brian Mott arrives to tune the Hamburg Steinway grand piano Garrick Ohlsson will use for Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2, a difficult and rarely performed work getting its MSO debut. The $125,000 instrument, a 2004 gift to the MSO from Peter Livingston and Sharon Stark, "tends to sound a little brighter" than the piano the city owns, the responsibility of another tuner.

- Stu Levitan

5 p.m., Emergency Room, UW Hospital

It's an uneventful Friday evening so far in the emergency room. Aside from the electronic beeps from scattered heart monitors and hushed conversations between unit clerks, the room is relatively quiet. Dr. Mike Abernethy knows, however, that this scene can change in a matter of minutes.

"You don't know, that's the nature of this business," he says.

Abernethy, entering his 20th year as an emergency medicine specialist, has overcome most feelings of anxiety with his job.

"You train to do this," he says. "If I wasn't trained in emergency medicine, you bet this would be very stressful."

- Michael Schuerman

5:30 p.m., Kollege Klub

On average, the Kollege Klub makes over 120 grilled cheeses every Friday afternoon between 4 and 6 p.m.

Students of all ages race to the KK's Friday After Class (FAC) for the $1 sandwiches, country music soundtrack and two-for-one drink specials.

Lindsay, a UW senior, says she's never missed a FAC. "Even when I'm sick I'm at the KK every Friday," she says. "The grilled cheeses and cheap deals are too hard to pass up."

- Rachel Bozich

7:38 p.m., Overture Hall

In white tie and tails, MSO conductor John DeMain enters to loud applause. He quickly calls his musicians to attention and opens his 19th season with the traditional "Star-Spangled Banner."

- Stu Levitan

8:15 p.m., Temple Beth El

The Mourner's Kaddish is a 2,000-year-old Aramaic prayer that observant Jews say for a month following the death of a spouse, child or sibling; and for 11 months for a parent. Although only a few at tonight's Shabbat service are in mourning, the entire congregation rises as Rabbi Jonathan Biatch leads the prayer.

- Stu Levitan

8:52 p.m., Varsity Room, Union South

Sporting a yellow fringe dress, Charlotte Deleste, co-host of the morning show on WISC-TV, wows the capacity crowd at the 8th Annual Rhumba for Rainbow fundraiser to combat child abuse and domestic violence. But she finishes second in the celebrity dance-off to NBC 15's Leigh Mills, elegant in diamonds and white.

Not making the finals: a masked Police Chief Noble Wray, dressed as a sinuous cat burglar. His partner, wearing a decidedly nonstandard police outfit, makes good use of her handcuffs. "A police chief into role playing," a guest notes. "Good to know."

- Stu Levitan

9:48 p.m., Madison Police Department, 2 W. Wilson St.

Officer-in-Charge Sgt. David Compton convenes the seventh of the day's pre-shift briefings, teleconferencing with the four area districts. After a brief rundown of recent developments, he reviews departmental policy on when to maintain pursuit of a fleeing suspect. When he gets no response to his first question, he falls back on a pop culture classic: "Bueller...? Bueller...?" A few minutes later, a final instruction: "Stay safe and have a good shift."

- Stu Levitan

10:10 p.m., Stop-N-Go, corner of Glenway and Speedway

Joe is working the 2-11 p.m. shift at Stop-N-Go, as he does most nights. He doesn't like missing dinner at home, and he admits that "this is about as boring as a gas station is going to get."

But Joe is amused by an incident that happened earlier in the day, when a cute college-age girl asked for $4 in gas, then wondered if she could borrow the $4 from him. It was a crazy request, but he was just crazy enough to lend her the money.

- Dean Robbins

10:29 p.m., Britta Parkway

Western District patrol officer Solon McGill is dispatched to a domestic abuse incident at a duplex on Britta Parkway, just off the Beltline on the fringe of the Allied Drive neighborhood. McGill recognizes the address and the caller - a woman who has not cooperated with police on previous visits. But tonight's different. She's sitting on the porch with her father-in-law and young child, drinking Bud Ice and showing a major shiner around her left eye. The apartment door is open; a 52-inch TV is on the ground.

McGill patiently takes her through all the seemingly obvious questions he needs answered in order to get a warrant: Did you give him permission to hit you? Are you injured? In pain? Then he waits for the investigator to come to take the necessary photos.

- Stu Levitan

10:30 p.m., Greenbush Bakery

It's early, so the line is not yet out the door. That doesn't happen until about bar time, says Alex Hintz, who holds down the fort evenings at the Greenbush Bakery.

All of the doughnuts on the shelf were made today, says Hintz. And he predicts nearly everything will be sold by the time the shop closes at 3 a.m. "They rarely throw anything out."

- Judith Davidoff

11:20 p.m., Britta Parkway

Officer McGill is back in the car when the radio crackles: "Man with gun" reported on Allied Drive. He hits the lights - but not the siren - and the dashboard video recorder starts up. He hangs a hard left on Red Arrow, kills the lights and parks. He puts a loaded magazine in the AR-15 patrol rifle, more accurate than a pistol. "You're more likely to hit what you're aiming at, and less likely to hit an innocent person," he says.

McGill knows the need for accurate marksmanship. As a major in the Marines - likely the only member of the UW Class of 2001 with that distinction - he served three tours in Iraq, from 2003 to 2008. He's still in the Reserves.

Is he an adrenaline junkie? "It's important to me to do something that matters," he says. "And I like to do something that matters and that's exciting at the same time."

Three more squad cars arrive, and the officers quietly fan out. After about 20 minutes, they give up the hunt.

- Stu Levitan

Midnight, 900 block of College Court

Two house parties are getting out of control. Someone calls the cops. At 12:42 a.m. Sgt. Tony Fiore tweets: "Party 1 overcrowded and fistfight happening as we get there."

Then, "Party 2 packd had intox high schoolers and people climbing on 4th story roof."

- Stu Levitan

1:20 a.m., downtown

The fall chill that kept the southwest neighborhoods quiet has no such calming effect downtown for Sgt. Fiore and the five patrol officers in the Central District Community Policing Team. "It's an alcohol-fueled Disneyland," he says while slowly rolling past hundreds of buzzed and horny college students on State Street and University Avenue.

- Stu Levitan

1:26 a.m., State Street

"Trying to visit Brats, Wandos and a few others TBD," Sgt. Fiore tweets, with the hashtag "barcheck," which he uses to announce when and where the policing team is about to drop in to check for age, occupancy and intoxication.

As soon as he and three other officers enter the packed State Street Brats, a noticeable number of attendees head for the door. The officers check several IDs, but all seem legit.

Outside two young men saunter up the street, heading straight for the clutch of officers while holding open beer bottles. Within a few minutes, they each have a $303 citation for carrying an open intoxicant.

- Stu Levitan

4:30 a.m., kitchen, Memorial Union

The chancellor's football brunches start two hours before game time, so an 11 a.m. kickoff is even less fun for staff than it is for fans. To serve breakfast for 100 at the Olin House at 9 a.m., Billie Bach, general manager for Memorial Union catering, gets to her kitchen more than two hours before sunrise. Her first task: measuring, by ruler, square-inch cubes of watermelon and kiwi, illustrating the menu's theme of "strangely built."

- Stu Levitan

5:17 a.m., Metcalfe's Market, Hilldale Shopping Center

This is my second trip to Metcalfe's this evening. Stephen's been my cashier both times. He's a master of multitasking. Right now he's disinfecting the checkout station. Within seconds, he's manning the cash register.

Stephen works the graveyard shift: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. He says he's done it before, at other jobs. There are some benefits. It's a pretty peaceful time of day. You get paid extra. There's just that staying-up-all-night part.

"My sleep schedule has adjusted," he says.

- Jessica Steinhoff

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