That's what they say you find here in Wisconsin, friendly people. And we have, and do.
Yesterday morning the bakery-cafe at l'Etoile, in Madison, had a good-sized line trailing out the door. The farm market was on, ringing the capitol building across the street, and I'd guess there were thousands of shoppers milling around. Some of them were bound to want the same coffee and croissants as us.
In line we struck up a conversation with a local woman, who was our first source for the information about Odessa Piper's recent sale of the restaurant to her chef Tory (see entry below). The line moved forward, bringing me to the barista at the espresso machine. I struck up a conversation with him, watching him pour a perfect heart shape into the head of a cappuccino. (That's his photo, just above this entry.) I told him about Starbuck's reported revision of foamed milk on cappuccinos. Oh, he said, well, there's two ways of doing it, the Starbuck's or California method, and the Italian method. Please, I said, don't equate California with Starbuck's; I'm from California. Oh, I'm sorry, he said, I didn't mean all Californians do it that way, it's just what we call it out here.
We got our lattes and croissants and took a table. At the next table another friendly woman said hello. She turned out to be from Palo Alto, and we kidded back and forth about Stanford and Cal. Lindsey was wearing a bright red dress, but I said that didn't mean she favored Stanford. We talked about kids and grandchildren and l'Etoile and the like, and then we packed up and hit the road for Lindsey's family reunion. I won't write about that; that's family stuff.
This morning we visited Columbus, Wisconsin, to see a building by my favorite architect, Louis Sullivan -- more about him another day. As we were photographing it a car drove up and double-parked. A woman got out to make a deposit in the old-fashioned brass pull-door beside the front door. I complimented her on her bank, and asked if there were a Starbuck's in town, using the word generically. No, she said, we don't have one. She actually apologized; then got in the car, which drove away.
We went on taking a few more photographs, and then the car pulled back up again, from anothe direction, and the driver, a man, rolled down his window. You're looking for a Starbuck's, he said, We don't have one, but there is Julie's Java, across from the train station.
We thanked him and headed for the train station. Julie and her assistant told us about the newspaper situation in Madison, where the conservative morning paper and the liberal evening paper are both published by the same outfit. Then they got started on Starbuck's, and we rehearsed all that all over again. The lattes at Julie's weren't as rich or strong as we generally like, but they had more presence, in a way, than Starbuck's.
And then we hit the trail again, to visit a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright houses further upstate, and visit a cousin and her husband on their dairy farm. And now we're in a Residence Inn in Green Bay, with kitchen, couches, desk, high-speed internet and all that, for sixty bucks. Thanks again, Priceline.