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Sunday, September 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Mostly Cloudy

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The empty nest, temporarily reoccupied

Those are big shoes by the door. They carry big dreams. Big plans. Big feet. They belong to our youngest son, who will lace them up, walk out to the car in two days and get in the back seat. We'll motor to the end of the driveway, take a right on Rutledge Street, then drive into the heart of his college senior year. >More
 A Central Park for the people

I've served as an emcee for all nine of the annual La Fête de Marquette music festivals. That means that, over the course of nearly a decade, I've introduced 100-plus acts. I've only mispronounced one. And friends, that was a king-hell bummer. It was the very first year. >More
 A bolt from the blue

The hickory tree is under the genus Carya. It's named after the Greek goddess Carya, whose promiscuity caused her to be transformed into a nut tree by the wino Dionysus. That's the kind of experience that could harden a girl. And it did. Hickory wood is arguably the strongest and hardest wood on the planet. >More
 Bike to Hell Day

Even though my hands were throbbing in pain, releasing even one from the handlebars wasn't a choice. The crosswind blew so hard a garbage can lifted and launched like a missile across the road just ahead of me. I'd lost sight of Peggy a half-hour before. For all I knew she was already in Milwaukee. This trip was turning into Bike to Hell Day. >More
 Flight follies

The line is a long wire, barbed with harried people. What's worse than harried people? Harried people in a hurry. Harried passengers who've been told, back there at the gate, to report to the airline's main help desk. Hashtag Every Man for Himself. O'Hare. >More
 An ode to college basketball

How I love thee. I love thee even before March when everyone loves thee. I mean I really love thee. I would make out with thee if I could. I'm talking tongues. I even love thee in May! When thou art no more even happening! I think of thee all the time. Not of football, not for a moment. Football is your plodding, mouth-breathing, six-seconds-at-a-time, head-concussing, knuckle-dragging cousin. I love THEE! >More
 The rigors of the winter diet

We decided to tackle the most flagrant first-world problem right after Martin Luther King Day. A diet. Who's we? Peggy, me and our 22-year-old daughter, Maggie. She's doing postgraduate research on the topic of empty-nest invasion. >More
 To trap a sparrow

Our son Tucker's laugh is a manic, fluttery yodel. Like the sound of a cuckoo clock being thrown down a flight of stairs. When he's startled, which happens easily, his scream sounds almost exactly the same as his laugh. It was the scream version that came up from the basement. >More
 On being a patient

Thanksgiving week is a great time to be in the hospital if you're a college basketball fan. Holiday tournaments in Alaska and Hawaii mean games are televised into the wee hours of Central Standard Time. That would be 2 a.m. right now. And here I lie in Room 910 with a giant plastic sippy-cup of ice water in one hand and a game-show button in the other. >More
 Barber chair roulette

It was a big day the first time I was old enough to get dropped off at the barbershop. I sauntered in, settled into the waiting area, and plucked a plump Playboy from the pile of Field and Streams and Sports Illustrateds. >More
 What's a man friend?

Man friends! You can't beat 'em, my man friends. What did I do to deserve them? I'll never know. You may be asking yourself, "What's a man friend, Andy?" Well, it's not a friend who is a man. That's a great thing unto itself. >More
 As Ironman winds down, Jim James completes a marathon of mystical rock at the Majestic

Jim James skated back and forth across the Majestic stage in his little, brown leather boots like some hip Hobbit. His new project, Regions of Light and Sounds of God, sounds like it could be the title of a Presbyterian sermon, but the music is pure mysticism and, even at the deafening volume he performed it, redemptive and soothing. >More
 The emotional prospect of adopting a pup

The music at the neighborhood festival hasn't started, but booths are set up and business is brisk. "Say hello to Sophie!" Peggy says as I approach, gazing down at the pretty white fluff-of-a-mutt in her arms. The little dog looks calm and pampered. Like a movie star. >More
 At the Barrymore, Steve Earle shows he's both a country outlaw and a family man

Steve Earle, the minister of heartbreak and highways, rumbled onto the Barrymore Theatre stage Saturday night and barreled into 31 songs with fellow travelers the Dukes and Duchesses. Earle is now Americana's elder statesman. >More
 18,000 pounds of fun at La Fête de Marquette (video)

When Ed Dudley took a job with Iowa-based Sound Concepts, he figured the owner was going to give him audio work at concerts and festivals. "I didn't even know he owned a Ferris wheel." That was nine years ago. Dudley's been operating a Ferris wheel ever since. Would you ride a 45-foot-tall amusement assembled by your neighbors? No? Too late if you rode the wheel at La Fête de Marquette last weekend. Dudley's contract says festivals must provide setup and takedown labor. >More
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