Madison’s B.B. Clarke Beach To Greet Clarke Family Reunion With 36″ High Thistles?

To see the condition of the grounds surrounding the benches at B.B. Clarke Beach is enough to make anyone hopping mad.  (I have pictures below.) After a determined and costly effort to replace the old benches at the beach, continued work by energized volunteers from the neighborhood to keep things spruced up, there is now a depressing feeling that the City Of Madison no longer cares.  And it comes at the worst of times. 

I received the following note from the relatives of Bascom Clarke, the man whom the beach was named, alerting me to their visit and family reunion at the beach.

I am the great-grandaughter living in France and am the eldest of Bascom’s great grandchildren. Actually, my husband and I are planning to visit the BB Clarke home in Madison on Spaight St this coming August 2010 with our first cousins from St Paul, MN, and hoping Bascom’s other 9 great-grandchildren will be able to make it to the BB Clarke Beach for a family picnic.

If the Clarke family had been at the beach on Monday they would have been greeted with numerous thistles 36″ tall, weeds, and grass growing like no one in the city knows how to trim or mow in conventional ways.   I am not sure about anyone else, but that embarrasses me.  I want this city to shine in all that we do.   The 9-year-old boy on a bike at the beach was none too amused either when he asked what I was taking pictures of.  When told of the thistles he remarked that he often rides in the park and sure would not want to fall off his bike into the thorns.  I would hope the City of Madison feels the same.




Over the better part of two years various committees and  members of the Marquette Neighborhood, along with the City of Madison, considered how to best replace the aging benches at B.B. Clarke Beach.  In the end it was decided that artist Erika Koivunen would create new benches for the quiet beach located on the Isthmus.  Using recycled metal, and wood salvaged from the grand oak trees at Orton Park, Koivunen created truly impressive designs that were installed in 2009.  The benches have pleased the neighborhood and those who curl up for a read under the trees. 

Five benches were placed at the park, each costing $3,575.  Three of the five benches were paid for and donated to the city by families in the memory of a loved one.  In total the city will make $17,900 from this effort by the neighborhood.   

Volunteers have planted flowers along the retaining wall for some of the benches with the aim to have all showcased with blooms.  Weeks ago volunteers saw the start of numerous thistles growing near the benches.  When the city was alerted about the thistles the volunteers were told that very strict rules allowed for only a certified applicator taking care of the thistles.  At that time the thistles that have prickles on the stem and also on the flat part of the leaves were only a few inches tall.  Today they can be measured with a yard stick!  Clearly the volunteers could have done circles blind-folded around the city plan to remove the thistles. 

In addition to the thistles is the fact that city employees have so much fun riding the huge mowers while at the beach, but are unable to complete the job with a conventional lawn mower.   One has to wonder why?  As a result there is a trashy look to some parts of the park.  That look can breed an attitude among some beach-goers that if a place looks messy ‘we can leave our trash here too’.  And they do!

I understand the city has budgetary limits as to what it can do, but that refrain gets old real fast in light of how Mayor Dave  Cieslewicz was willing to do whatever it took to insure the Edgewater plan succeeded.  The true test of leadership might not be in what new things are acquired, but how one maintains the things already owned.

I sure as heck hope that when the Clarke family arrives for their reunion at the beach the City of Madison will have made an effort to have everything looking  presentable.

Letter From Home 5/30/10

When I drove past the coliseum at noon on Sunday every nook and cranny for a car to be parked was taken.  Scores of people were jammed about the grounds.  There was a carnival atmosphere  in the air, mostly because it was a carnival atmosphere on the ground.  Elvis had performed concerts there  in the 1970’s, and given the throngs on hand as I drove to the west side for groceries, one might have thought Elvis was making a return visit.

But no, the King is still hanging out at Burger King, if the latest reports are accurate.  What was taking place and creating all the excitement in Madison was ‘The World’s Largest Brat Fest’.  It is now an annual event that takes place at Willow Island by the Alliant Energy Center, though I still term the whole place ‘the coliseum’.  As I drove along I really wanted to be enthused about the brat-fest idea as much as all those in attendance.  It is not that I do not enjoy a brat, as I do love to load them up with raw onion and the fixings like everyone else. 

But I recall the days when the brat fest was smaller, simpler, and more pleasant to participate in.

When I lived on the west side of Madison I made a habit of going to each brat fest that was held at the Sentry Food Store at the corner of Midvale and University.  I would park the car and James and I would grab a couple brats, greet the celebrity on hand who was helping, and sit down to eat.  We often ran into someone we knew, chatted for a while, and had a pleasant time.  It was a relaxing, easy, and fun thing to do.  

Then something happened, and the small event had to be ‘bigger and better’.  No longer could the small event be enough, instead there had to be a huge venue, a carnival, games, and endless enticements like fireworks to lure folks into buying a brat and spending hours of time and money.

When the brat fest ceased to be a parking lot event I stopped going.  I am not a curmudgeon, or uneasy in large crowds.  Quite the opposite on both counts.  But I have  negative reaction to the idea that everything has to be bigger to be better.   I always cheer on the groups that work this event for the proceeds that help non-profits.  But the whole idea of BIG IS BEST baffles me.

Based on the size of the crowds sweltering at ‘the coliseum’ on Sunday I fully understand I am in the minority.  (Shocked!) Based on all those who I suspect drove by the event and recall the smaller and more pleasant version from days gone by I suspect I am in the mainstream.

Sunday Echoes: Movie Of The Week

Once upon a time network TV programming did more than find a way to vote someone off the air.  There was a time when stars and actual scripts were used!  There was a time when old astronauts did not dance with young ladies for ratings.  And we liked it that way.

Colin Powell Underscores Why Teabaggers Are Wrong About Role Of Government

I have been watching and listening, as we all have been doing, to the words from many across the political spectrum over the need to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.   However, I have been smirking at times as some of the small government types, the ones that very well might latch onto a Tea Party rally for political benefit, as they also state they want more of a federal response to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf.  While General Colin Powell is certainly not one of the teabaggers his words today underscore what I have often thought about during this whole dreadful mess.  

This oil spill underscores the folly of the teabaggers when it comes to understanding the need for a strong federal government.  After 40-plus days of pure BS from BP it is plain that private industry is not up to the task of ending this spill.  With the track record of the oil companies why would we think they could be?  Private industry often makes the messes that the federal government has to  clean up.  While the federal government should never have granted off-shore oil drilling in the first place, one other thing is also clear.   A robust, energized, and full-throttled federal response is the only way to end the BS from this corporate giant.   There is no soundness for the small federal government clatter that so many teabaggers would have us think is the only way for the nation to operate.  At times like this it is clear why we pay taxes, and have large arms of government at the ready to act.

Today General Colin Powell makes the case for federal intervention, and he is right. 

GEN. COLIN POWELL tells Jake Tapper on ABC’s “This Week” that the Gulf gusher is now “beyond the capacity” of BP to solve: “The president has to get involved as quickly as possible. If you don’t, then public opinion starts to drag you in the media, and pushes you. And so when something like this clearly is going to get beyond the capacity of whoever caused it, get beyond the capacity of local authorities, I think the federal government has to move in quickly and move in with, to use my favorite expression, decisive force and demonstrate that it’s doing everything that it can do.”

TAPPER: “And you didn’t see that … ?”

POWELL: “I think the president directly said the other day that he’d been monitoring it, following it, and … been on top of it from the beginning. But that impression was not conveyed to the American people. And the comprehensive speech he gave the other day, I think he would have been better served – and the nation would have been better served – if he had given it a few weeks earlier. But I think the federal government is now fully engaged. … ”

TAPPER: “… Do you think the military could do a better job than is being done right now?”

POWELL: “It depends what you want them to do. The military brings organization, it brings control, it brings assets. … Certainly, I am sure my colleagues in the Pentagon are looking at it. … First, you’ve got to figure out : What do we need? We need people to clean beaches. Do we need people to put out skimmers? We have LOTS of fishermen and others down there who are available, who want the work, and know the water a lot better than an Army unit coming in. But whether it’s Army, Coast Guard, local forces, it’s time for … total attack on this problem, to protect the shoreline, … to protect the wetlands, and most of all to give the people in that part of our country a sense of hope that this is going to be solved.”

Country Singer Judy Lynn Kelly Dies

Country recording artist Judy Lynn Kelly has died in Indiana at the age of 74.

Relative Kay Kelly Cook says Kelly died Wednesday at her home in Jeffersonville after suffering congestive heart failure.

Kelly was born in Boise, Idaho, and got her big break in her teens when she was hired to fill in for Jean Shepard during a touring show of performers from the Grand Ole Opry. In 1952, she was part of a show with Gene Autry.

She performed under the name Judy Lynn.

In 1980, she retired from show business and became a minister.

BP Fails, Oil Still Spewing In Gulf Of Mexico

It seems BP needs to go back to the drawing board.

BP engineers failed again to plug the gushing oil well on Saturday, a technician working on the project said, representing yet another setback in a series of unsuccessful procedures the company has tried a mile under the sea to stem the flow spreading into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP made a third attempt at what is termed the “junk shot” Friday night, a procedure that involves pumping odds and ends like plastic cubes, knotted rope, and golf balls into the blowout preventer, the five-story safety device atop the well. The maneuver is complementary to the heavily scrutinized effort known as a “top kill,”which began four days ago and involves pumping heavy mud into the well to counteract the push of the escaping oil. If the well is sealed, the company plans to then fill it with cement.

The technician working on the project said Saturday pumping has again been halted and a review of the data so far is under way. “Right now, I would not be optimistic,” the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. But he added, that if another attempt at the junk shot were to succeed, “that would turn things around.”

BP said Saturday it would not comment on the technician’s assertions BP does not know whether the top kill effort has worked, Doug Suttles the chief operating officer, said at a news conference in Fourchon Beach, La. He would not confirm that they have stopped pumping mud into the stricken well, but acknowledged that engineers had been pumping in intervals and then monitoring it.


Madison Congresswoman Baldwin Separates From Partner

This is sad news for the gay community when a major figure has news of this type.    I think the release of this news on a Friday before a long holiday weekend, while hoping for not a lot of attention paid to it, underscores the sadness all around.  I always was pleased to see Congresswoman Baldwin and her partner out on their lawn puttering around with plants, or doing the other mundane tasks of home ownership like taking the garbage out.  The best memory was the laughter of a crowd on their balcony in the evening as I walked by.  They were a couple that seemed perfect and content.  It is just natural to want to see these relationships work, not only for the two involved, but also for the larger message it sends to all.  This is indeed sad news.

Baldwin, a Madison Democrat and first open lesbian elected to Congress, issued a statement through her office Friday saying she and Lauren Azar are terminating their domestic partnership.  

They were among the first to sign up for Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples last year.  

Azar is a member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. She was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2007. 

Saturday Song: Ray Price “A Mansion On The Hill”

At age 84 Ray Price continues to travel and perform all over the country.  This past week Price was in Kansas City where the local review of his show summed it up by saying Price “retains his comforting croon and rare elegance.”  The article also noted, “his instantly recognizable voice remains warm and inviting.”

But it was this next paragraph that hits the mark.

The audience of about 500 sighed in delighted disbelief at the introduction of each decades-old hit. Hearing half-century old songs sung by the original artist, after all, is a unique experience.

Ray Price is one of the few big-name stars who was recording about the same time as Hank Williams, and still is still performing on the stage today. Another of course is Little Jimmy Dickens.  But  so many others like Billy Walker, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Red Sovine, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Carl Smith are gone. Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright are still alive, but don’t perform anymore.

With that said here are a few videos of Ray Price, including a fantastic Grand Ole Opry on-stage performance.  (After all, it IS Saturday!)