Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday but had to cut the conversation short because I had plans.

“I’m off to see the Statue of Liberty,” I told her.
“Umm, okay,” she responded. “Didn’t know y’all moved to NYC.”

Well, we didn’t (though with our continued eastward migration, it feels like that’s only a matter of time, ha). But in the past few weeks, we’ve been transported to Norway and Switzerland via Wisconsin. Why not the Big Apple, too?

Why not, indeed.

I’m the guy who goes out of his way to see kitschy attractions like the SPAM Museum in Minnesota and Carhenge in Nebraska, so when I saw an Instagram post touting an inflatable Statue of Liberty on frozen Lake Mendota – the centerpiece of the Wisconsin Union’s annual Winter Carnival – I knew I had to visit in person. It reminds me of a scene from the 2004 disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. The one starring the less-sexy Gyllenhaal sibling (though I suppose some might disagree).

Like so many other Madison traditions, this one started out as a college prank. In 1979, the Pail and Shovel Party, led by two UW-Madison alumni, made a campaign promise to bring the Statue of Liberty to Madison if elected. When they won, they erected a styrofoam Lady Liberty head, arm, and torch on Lake Mendota that February. The tradition continues to this day, though they have since upgraded to a more durable inflatable version.

Getting a photo free of people in the foreground wasn’t easy. Have you seen those Instagram vs. Reality photos that depict the truth behind some of the most popular destination shots?

Yeah. This was like that.

I staked out a spot with good sitelines and waited. And waited. And waited. Time and again, groups would pose for selfies right in front of me. I don’t blame them; it’s a pretty good photo opp (and Lady Liberty was only there for a day and a half). Eventually, I figured there’d be enough of a break in the crowd to snap a pic, and after about 15 minutes, my patience was rewarded.

The ice was extremely slippery, by the way. I mean, I know that’s the very nature of ice, but when you’ve got crowds of hundreds traipsing back and forth over the same spot, it wears it down even more. I almost fell on my ass with the first step I took onto the ice, slipping and sliding comically, arms flailing in a desperate attempt to maintain balance. Graceful I was not, but a little embarrassment was a small price to pay for not falling and breaking a limb. Every step I took afterward was very carefully orchestrated.

In the end, totally worth it. I ventured into the city solo, because Tara came down with a cold and was in no mood to leave the apartment. I parked my car at Olin-Turville Park on Lake Monona and walked the 2.1 miles to the carnival, through downtown and across the UW-Madison campus, then down State Street and past the Capitol on the return leg. I ended up with about 16,000 steps for my efforts, but the sun was shining and the temp reached the upper 30s. All in all, a pretty comfortable winter’s day, and a very scenic stroll.

Walking along the bike path that parallels Lake Monona transported me back to early August, when I drove out to Madison on a clandestine reconnaissance trip. I couldn’t help but recall walking along this same path a mere six months earlier, when it was hot and humid and we’d decided we were going to roll the dice once again, give up everything we’d worked so hard to achieve in Rapid City, and start a new life in America’s Dairyland.

My thoughts were preoccupied with the enormity of such an undertaking that day. The city was right there, gleaming and beautiful, and I wanted it badly…yet it felt maddeningly out of grasp. I wondered if the whole idea was destined to be nothing more than a pipe dream, something that would come up in casual conversation while sitting around our patio in Rapid City. Hey, remember that time we had that crazy notion to move to Wisconsin? Because at the start of August 2022, a lot of different things had to fall into place perfectly for us to have any chance of turning this dream into reality. Finding a job and an apartment to rent from 772 miles away, selling our house, moving, and finding a perfect house out here. It all felt hopelessly daunting.

Even after miraculously pulling off those first four feats in record time, we still had to contend with our new landlord, The Todd.

We met The Todd the day we moved in, on Sept. 1, and took an instant disliking to him. Because as we were signing our lease paperwork, we made a spur of the moment decision to change the terms from one year to six months, opting to pay more per month in exchange for the freedom to leave sooner should that perfect home appear. When we told The Todd our plan to to buy a house and move out in March, he was very dismissive. Especially when we talked about how we wanted land for gardening and privacy from neighbors, among other things.

“Ha! Good luck with that!” he said. “I’ve been in property management for years and there’s shit for inventory out here. You’re going to have a really hard time with that!”

Which, first day in a new apartment (already a sacrifice) in a new state, when we were already feeling a bit homesick and out of sorts, questioning whether this big gamble had been the right or smart thing to do, was not what we wanted to hear.

To be fair, The Todd isn’t a complete dick. He’s always been responsive to our maintenance needs, and when our fridge didn’t work the first few days, he credited us $50 off our October rent without any prompting. His biggest sin might simply be a lack of the warm-and-fuzzies.

What The Todd failed to realize was the fact that his new tenants were master manifesters. Because here we are, preparing to move into a new home with lots of land for gardening and privacy from neighbors, in March. Exactly as predicted.

That’s enough reflecting for one day. We’ve got a Super Bowl to watch (though that 5:30 start time will take some getting used to) and things to do. Let’s go, Eagles!

49 thoughts on “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.

  1. The older you get, the scarier ice becomes. In my teens and twenties, we used to stand in front of unsuspecting friends out on a frozen lake in New Hampshire and call our Labrador–only to step out of the way at the last minute. Then we’d laugh as Toffee took people out like a brown bowling ball from hell. Now, of course, I’m amazed that no one broke an arm. I don’t think I’d even venture out on a lake now, Mark the Brave!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And there have been several cases this winter of people falling through the ice in Madison and other areas of southern Wisconsin. I wasn’t worried about Lake Mendota; the water is shallow ,and the ice here was super thick. But I would never venture out alone somewhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Huddled masses” is now in my check-off list for things to see when I visit touristy areas. Thank you!

    I camped on Lake Mendota but during the summer. I’m going to request that my Madison friends see this installation next winter, for sure. Not me, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Admittedly, when the Broncos aren’t playing, those are the big draws for me, too! I have more skin in the game this year because the Chiefs are AFC West division rivals and have beaten the Broncos for 14 straight games. They need to go down!


  3. Go, Eagles! I would love to get that many steps; I did get 15,000 yesterday but that’s rare these days. (winter laziness) That Statue of Liberty also reminds me of the Planet of the Apes movie if you’ve ever seen it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think a half frozen inflatable Statue of Liberty ranks right up there on the list of top kitschy attractions… especially since photographing it was such perilous work.
    Please be sure and give The Todd a great big hug on moving day. He sounds to be in desperate need of one.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I would be fearful of walking on a frozen lake, but I can be a big Suzy Safety. It’s a cool photo op, for sure. The Todd sounds like a real Negative Nellie, which is much worse than a Suzy Safety. I’m picturing him like Doug on the Liberty Insurance commercials.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s a total Doug, come to think of it.

      The ice may have been slippery, but it was very, very thick…and that section of the lake is extremely shallow. Not that I’d want to go busting through either way!


  6. I like the idea of ice in my drinks, but not walking on it. I don’t know how I’d feel about walking on a frozen lake. Of course when there’s an inflatable Statue of Liberty involved… 🤷‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The Todd. I just love that name. Amazing that your predictions were spot-on. I wonder when I’ll stop being amazed by your masterful manifesting. Cool of you to brave those cold, huddled masses for your perfect shot. Hope Tara feels better soon and that you manage to avoid getting sick also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a big “Scrubs” fan, and The Todd totally reminds me of The Todd. Plus, his actual name is Todd. Too perfect to pass up!

      I told Tara I refuse to get sick, so I’m manifesting good health. That works too, you know.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t make the Scrubs connection! Man, that character was terrifically obnoxious. Now I like the nickname even more!

        I had told my foot, “Listen, you’re a part of me. We don’t do long-term recovery. We heal quickly!” It kind of took the opposite extreme of that. I hope you have better luck with your body.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At least The Todd doesn’t speak in constant innuendo and try to high-five us at all time!

        I think your foot is healing slowly just to spite you. Obviously, it feels slightly by some perceived wrong. You should probably bring it chocolates for V-Day as a goodwill gesture.


  8. That is a crazy sight – no wonder you were drawn to it. I might have taken a VERY long lens, ‘cos I can fall over standing on a level carpeted floor if I don’t pay attention, so something with the slipperiness of ice is a major no no for me. Definitely getting The Day After Tomorrow vibes from your photo (without the hordes) which is a bit freaky to be truthful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally get that, you’ll get some amazing views from it, especially on your walks. Too crowded where we live and near enough to a major airport for there to be too many restrictions hence it’s one bit of photography kit we have swerved from acquiring.


  9. Ah, Todd. Sounds hard to like – but his biggest sin might be lack of imagination. Of course, you all are master manifesters so it’s definitely plausible that Todd wouldn’t be able to even tough your level of ability to make stuff happen!

    Kinda like the guys that brought the Statue of Liberty to Wisconsin. How clever! Glad you were able to get such a great shot! I imagine you were doing that just for us and I’m grateful! 🙂

    Sorry about the Eagles and Tara’s cold. May she feel better by the closing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I gained a healthy respect for ice when I fell walking one day and thought I had broken my ankle. The worst part was I was a few counties away from home and on my own. I hopped back to my car and drove home on the PA turnpike, figuring if I was going to the doctor I’d want to see my own. Turned out it was just a bad sprain, but man did that hurt. We’re talking thirty years ago, but I still shudder when I think how much pain I was in. And I was young and healthy. I always worry now when I see older folks trying to get around in the ice. Not that I’m in that range yet…yet!😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is completely unrelated to ice, but I’ve always wondered why only some states have turnpikes. They’re definitely a Northeast thing. What is a turnpike, anyway? Fancy name for an interstate? Are they usually toll roads? I have so many questions…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The Statue of Liberty event is pretty cool! I was thinking that the ice looked very slippery, as ice generally is. Glad you didn’t break anything.
    The photos by the lake are AMAZING!
    The Todd had no idea who you two are and your magical abilities!
    Hey, we had to wait for the game to start at 6:30…considering I didn’t want to watch it anyway, that made it worse. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s also been weird for me to not be able to just throw on shoes and a jacket before taking a walk outside. However, posts like this are moving me in the direction of just accepting the fact and going with the ice floes (meaning I will not even attempt one of those as you did here) and adding at least five minutes to layer up and start doing that when I get back to MI.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s