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CANDIDATESâ€™ ANSWERS INSIDE
The new normal ALEXEI VELLA
• FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL • NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY • MENTOR FOR JUMPSTART AND RESPECT RETREAT PROGRAMS
Jordan Bishop from Monona Grove High School Winner of the 2019 American Family Servant Leadership Award for his academic, athletic and servant leadership. “Silver Eagle Award”, a team award voted by his teammates for the player who makes the biggest positive impact in the community and at school.”
MARCH 19–25, 2020 ISTHMUS.COM
- Brandon Beckwith, Coach
Watch Jordan’s video at isthmus.com/amfam
VOLUME 45, ISSUE 12 MARCH 19-25, 2020 4 SNAPSHOT
LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
Rev. Alex Gee seeks to educate and foster change.
To the Death!
Amendment concern The move to add Marsy’s Law to the state constitution has its critics.
When we bought Isthmus more than five years ago, “To the Death!” had a weekly spot in the staff box. The paper’s motto captured the counterculture vibe of an alt-weekly. We dropped it when we redesigned our paper and website in 2015, but it now seems more relevant than ever.
A personal take
Isthmus co-owner Craig Bartlett on how COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. 11 COVER STORY
How our community and officials are responding to the threat of the coronavirus.
As Madisonians, we are all fighting to “to the death.” Fighting to conquer a virus, fighting to understand a new reality, fighting for our businesses. Some day COVID-19 will be gone, but its impacts will be felt for a long time.
Venues and musicians face a new future.
As a business owner, there is no way to prepare for something like this. Most businesses don’t exist on big margins where putting money in a “rainy day” fund is possible. This is especially true for local, independent news organizations. When the revenue spigot is turned off, owners are faced with obligations that are hard to meet.
The shows mustn’t go on
Cancellations have stagehands and theater artists reeling. 18 ARCHITECTURE
Students’ voices have been absent in negotiations over the fate of Taliesin’s school.
At Isthmus, just like most other local businesses, we are doing everything we can to weather this storm. You will see a paper this week with a much different format; missing, for obvious reasons, is our usual extensive arts coverage, event “Picks” and calendar section (see isthmus.com for up-to-date cancellations and openings).
19-20 FOOD & DRINK
I wish I could tell you what the future will bring, and how we will adapt to this change. But it seems that no matter what I say, it won’t be relevant in 30 minutes. For now, we will continue to soldier on, 6 feet apart of course, fighting “To the Death.”
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Mark Tauscher EDITOR
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Todd Hubler David Michael Miller
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Emilie Burditt Kori Feener
Lindsey Bushart Julianne Lind
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Restaurants work to keep their kitchens going.
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CONTRIBUTORS: Jane Burns, Kenneth Burns, Dave Cieslewicz, Nathan J. Comp, Aaron R. Conklin, Ruth Conniff, Michael Cummins, Marc Eisen, Allison Geyer, Erik Gunn, Howard Hardee, Holly Henschen, Mike Ivey, Bob Jacobson, Seth Jovaag, Erica Krug, Stu Levitan, Bill Lueders, John McLaughlin, Liz Merfeld, Andy Moore, Mike Muckian, Bruce Murphy, Kyle Nabilcy, Erik Ness, Jenny Peek, Michael Popke, Steven Potter, Katie Reiser, Jay Rath, Gwendolyn Rice, Dean Robbins, Robin Shepard, Sandy Tabachnick, Denise Thornton, Candice Wagener, Tom Whitcomb
© 2020 Red Card Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Isthmus is published weekly by Red Card Media • email@example.com • Phone (608) 251-5627 • Fax (608) 251-2165
ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR
Migrants means tacos and more from former Fuegos chef Oscar Villarreal.
Seeking mental and physical fitness in the time of COVID-19.
Just off the Beltline
Alex Gee: “Our goal is that people take responsibility.”
Knowledge, then progress BY ERICA KRUG
PHOTO BY MARY LANGENFELD
News of the coronavirus is getting worse, but on March 9 there is no talk yet of event cancellations or restricted gatherings in Madison. Almost 300 people have come together for an evening meeting at Fountain of Life church on Madison’s south side. “You come out in the snow, you come out in the rain, you come out even though much of the world is in chaos,” says the Rev. Alex Gee. “At the end of each course we sit back and vote for our favorite cohort and I’m voting for you, cohort five. Don’t get close to me, but I love you.” When the laughter subsides, Gee turns to tonight’s topic, the civil rights movement in Wisconsin. A slide behind Gee appears on the screen with the following decree: “No part of these premises shall ever be owned or occupied by any person of the Ethiopian race.” The sentence is from a 1931 covenant that banned African Americans from living in Madison’s Nakoma neighborhood on the near-west side. Shorewood Hills, another west-side neighborhood, had a similar law. Although these restrictions are now illegal, “some of the neighborhoods [in Madison] that still deal with integration go back to these clauses,” Gee tells the audience. “What practices do we employ that still con-
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM 4
vey these messages?” This history is important to know, Gee adds. “We have blinders on that this doesn’t happen in Madison but it does,” he says. “Unless we understand how we got here we can’t move ahead.” And that is one of the goals of the nineweek Justified Anger history series, presented by the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development. “We take a look at United States history with a special lens on black history for the sake of mobilizing non-blacks into allyship,” says Gee, who founded Nehemiah in 1992 and who created the history series with his colleague, Dr. Karen Reece, in collaboration with UW-Madison faculty. “[I thought] if we could use an academic approach that was devoid of emotion, we could at least have an awakening among folks who consider themselves woke.” Alexander Shashko, a lecturer in UWMadison’s Department of Afro-American Studies, follows Gee at the March meeting, delivering a 60-minute talk focusing on Milwaukee and Madison in the mid-1900s. Citing segregationist practices like redlining and “blockbusting,” in which real estate agents would scare white property own-
ers into selling their houses at low prices by convincing them that racial minorities would soon be moving into their neighborhoods, the lecture gives context to why Wisconsin now ranks as one of the worst states in the country in terms of racial disparities. With a sell-out crowd each year and a long waiting list, participants in the Justified Anger course come as individuals or as part of a group; professions represented include school staff, city employees, realtors and people from the restaurant industry. “Our goal is that people take responsibility….Don’t talk about diversity and then move farther and farther to the suburbs,” says Gee. So far Gee is pleased with the results. “To watch its impact on policy, discussions, philanthropy, has been powerful,” he says. When Gee wrote his “Justified Anger” essay for the Capital Times in December 2013, he says it was meant to be his “swan song” to the city of Madison. But the series has given him new hope. “To consistently see hundreds of non-black people show up in January and February for nine weeks to learn about history in order to rethink their place in the world has overwhelmed my heart,” says Gee. “It has recommitted me to a community that I could have easily written off.” ■
Number of people enrolled in this year’s course: 282 Total number of participants to date: over 1,000 Number of volunteers who help run discussion groups: over 40 Percentage of participants who identify as white: 90 Percentage of participants with a master’s degree or higher: 50 Some of the groups participating in this year’s cohort: UnityPoint
Meriter physical therapists, city of Madison clerk’s office, Short Stack Eatery, Shabazz High School, YWCA Madison, Verona Area School District, Madison Police Department, UW-Madison Police Department
The UW Science Alliance regrets UW–Madison to inform everyone that both Science ExpeditionsSCIENCE and Engineering EXPEDITIONS Expo have been cancelled UW SCIENCE EXPEDITIONS
We thank our event organizers and funders for their time, talents and support; and we want to express our gratitude to our many visitors over the years! We look forward to sometime soon welcoming groups of visitors back to campus. Even when our doors are closed, our portals are always open.
University Place of
ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020 5
Who’s got the right? Marsy’s Law on the ballot April 7 BY DYLAN BROGAN
MARCH 19–25, 2020 ISTHMUS.COM
What could be wrong with giving crime victims “additional rights”? Wisconsin voters will be asked April 7 whether to amend the state constitution to do just that. But defense attorneys and a handful of lawmakers say the amendment is not that straightforward and could negatively impact the criminal justice system. The proposal is part of a nationwide effort, funded by a California billionaire, to add what’s known as “Marsy’s Law” to every state constitution. Since 2017, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin has spent more than $1.5 million lobbying lawmakers to change the constitution and quickly shepherd the proposal through the Legislature. The group recently hit the airwaves with TV ads encouraging voters to adopt the amendment. “I was thrown to the ground. His hands were around my neck choking me. I escaped with my life only to be left in the dark by the justice system,” Christina Traub of Madison says in the TV spot about a 2015 domestic abuse incident. “My abuser had more rights than I did. We can change that. Marsy’s Law will give victims a voice and guarantee we have equal rights.” Attorney Craig Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, says “voters shouldn’t have to vote in the dark.” The Wisconsin Justice Initiative unsuccessfully sought to keep Marsy’s Law off the ballot with a lawsuit filed in December 2019. The group argued the wording of the ballot question fails to explain the “drastic changes” the constitutional amendment will bring to the criminal justice system. “People are going to see this nicely worded question that seems to be as American as apple pie. But the information on the ballot question is very limited and it doesn’t even begin to explain the far-reaching changes that this constitutional amendment would incorporate into the criminal justice system,” Johnson tells Isthmus. “Wisconsin voters have the right to a full and complete explanation of exactly how this might affect our court system.” Johnson says some provisions of Marsy’s Law are laudable and others mirror what’s already on the books. He’s concerned a few of the additional rights in the amendment may leave the accused unable to defend themselves in court, particularly language about the victim’s right “to privacy” and right to “refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request. ” “There is a very real possibility of someone stonewalling investigations and covering up information that could potentially prove someone’s innocence,” says Johnson. “That’s a real due process issue. It’s this kind of unforeseen issue that no one’s going to have a clue about when they go into the voting booth.”
Teri Jendusa Nicolai, chair of Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, says the proposed amendment gives victims “equal footing” in the justice system.
Johnson says the amendment will also apply to more than just victims of violent crimes. “A business, its owners, could be a crime victim,” says Johnson. “Does a business have a right to privacy or the right to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery requests?” Teri Jendusa Nicolai, chair of Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, told The Capital Times in December that the Wisconsin Justice Initiative’s lawsuit was “a slap in the face to survivors of all types of crimes in the state of Wisconsin.” She says her group has spent three years educating the public about Marsy’s Law. “I really do believe that the more help we give victims, the more victims will come forward because they’ll see that the system is on their side,” says Jendusa Nicolai. “The more victims come forward, the less crime there will be on the streets.” The proposed amendment significantly expands section 9m of Article I in the Wisconsin Constitution which already protects victims’ rights — and was added by voters to the state constitution in 1993. It’s in the same section that ensures free speech and a free press, prohibits slavery, and guarantees trial by jury in the state. Section 7 of Article I — which has not been amended since the state constitution was written in 1848 — outlines rights of the accused including to “demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him.” Currently, the state constitution ensures crime victims have “privileges” including being treated with “fairness [and] dignity,” a timely trial, restitution, the opportunity to make a statement to the court, information about the outcome of the case and the release of the accused, and other protections. The Marsy’s Law amendment would replace that language with “victims shall
be entitled...to rights” including “dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness,” the provisions currently in the constitution, plus more rights including privacy, and “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery.” Additionally, Marsy’s Law adds a definition for “victim,” provisions that allow family members to represent the victim, and authorizes victims to assert their rights at court proceedings. Instead of the constitution stating that victims’ rights shall not “limit any right of the accused,” Marsy’s Law states victims’ rights are “not intended to supersede” the rights of the accused. In order to be added to the Wisconsin Constitution, Marsy’s Law first had to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature during two consecutive sessions. The state Assembly and Senate did that in 2017 and 2019 with support from a majority of Republicans and Democrats. The final step for Marsy’s Law to be added to the state constitution is approval from voters. When it was up for second consideration in the Legislature on May 15, 2019, the Assembly passed it 82-15 with just a brief statement of support from its lead sponsor Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville). That same day, Marsy’s Law passed the state Senate, 27-5. Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) voted against the amendment. He argued it is written like a state law and is twice the length of the U.S. Bill of Rights. “We really need more lawyers in [the Wisconsin Senate] that understand the difference between a constitutional amendment and state statutes,” Risser said during the floor debate on May 15. “Constitutional provisions are drafted broadly and designed to express overarching rights and principles rather than details. Statutes are supposed to provide concrete guidelines.” Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) was the lead sponsor of Marsy’s Law in the Senate.
He agrees that many of the provisions in the amendment are already on the books. “[But] when it comes up against constitutional law, it never stands up,” said Wanggaard during the Senate debate. “This is about providing equal legal rights to victims in the criminal justice process. Under the current system, victims are often treated as second-class citizens.” Casey Hoff, a criminal defense attorney in Sheboygan, says comparing the rights of victims to the rights of the accused isn’t a fair comparison. “Victims aren’t being subject to having their liberty taken away by the government. That’s exactly why we have the protections that we do for defendants,” says Hoff. “Marsy’s Law could easily be read to compromise a defendant’s rights. How do those two things interact? The answer is we just don’t know.” Marsy’s Law has already been added to the constitutions of nine states, with efforts underway in seven others including Wisconsin. It’s been the mission of one man, billionaire investor Henry Nicholas, to see legal rights for victims expanded in every state constitution and eventually the U.S. Constitution. In 1983, Nicholas’ sister Marsy was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Los Angeles. A week after the murder, Nicholas and his mother saw their loved one’s killer in a grocery store while he was out on bail pending trial. Starting with a successful California ballot initiative in 2008, Nicholas has spent more than $100 million funding campaigns to have Marsy’s Law added to state constitutions. Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says the push for Marsy’s Law in Wisconsin was not a homegrown effort. So why has the amendment received bipartisan support from lawmakers? “Because they’re being cowardly,” says Rothschild. “They don’t want to face an ad the next time they’re running that they were in favor of some criminal as opposed to a person who was horribly victimized.” Jendusa Nicolai says concerns about unforeseen consequences of Marsy’s Law are exaggerated. She adds that the Wisconsin amendment was crafted by a coalition of law enforcement groups, victims’ rights organizations, as well the support of former Republican attorney general Brad Schimel and current democratic attorney general Josh Kaul. “I have to tell you that I have never run across a person — that wasn’t a defense attorney — who thinks Marsy’s Law is a bad idea,” Jendusa Nicolai tells Isthmus. “All it does is give victims a lot of the rights they already have. It just makes them stronger. So they have equal footing during the whole process.” n
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ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
Let’s make sure we support each other through these hard times BY CRAIG BARTLETT
Craig Bartlett is the associate publisher of Isthmus.
MARCH 19–25, 2020 ISTHMUS.COM
I wrote a piece last week, now outdated, about how we can all support local businesses. Many of those businesses are now closed or facing closure due to health directives. So much has happened since March 11. It still keeps happening, and unless you can keep a mental news ticker of timelines and new updates, it is all just a blur. There has never been anything like this. That’s part of what makes this so hard. No one has experience in this scenario. What’s happened since Friday morning? My kids are done with school. So are everyone else’s. Cities and states nationwide have closed their schools. Everyone I know in the parenting world is scrambling to find child care so they can continue to work. Grocery stores have been scoured for canned goods and paper products. No brats, no Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. We are weird people. Grocers that are usually open 24 hours are having to close because they need time to put the pieces back together before we show up again. President Trump told us to stop hoarding. Read that last sentence again. Gatherings went from a limit of 250, to 50, to 10, as now mandated by the Evers administration. Bars and restaurants in the city have now been ordered to close for anything other than takeout or delivery. Some restaurants had already made the decision to focus on takeout and delivery. They are all making the best decisions for themselves. I respect them all. I am gutted for them all. Retail stores will be doing the same. There’s a good
Expectations Re: “We the Undercounted” (3/12/2020): Peng Her of the Hmong Institute says that “you cannot send Caucasians with clipboards…into neighborhoods that are majority Latinx, Hmong or African American and expect the doors to open.”
DAVID MICHAEL MILLER
chance that more restrictions will follow. I am gutted for all of us. My kids. Your kids. My parents. Our grandparents. You. All right. Enough of the woe-is-me shit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad and scared and don’t know what comes next. That’s not going to help today or tomorrow, though. Hope will, though. Not hope that everything is going to be OK. Everything will not be OK, but we will adapt and have to figure it out. I’m talking about hope that what we are doing and going through is the right
thing to do. That it is worth it. Hope that if we hunker down and do what the smart people are telling us to do, we will get the needed results. We must and we will. And it is going to suck for a while. How do I stay hopeful? I try to stop reading everything that fi lls my news feed. I try to distract myself from thinking about how various scenarios will play out. I cook and I eat and I drink and I tell my kids to play nicely with each other (which I did two weeks ago and will two months from now). I breathe. I talk to people. So how can you help and stay hopeful? Still try to buy local if you can. Order takeout or pick-up. Donate to the Second Harvest Foodbank, River Food Pantry or any other local outlet. Be smart and follow the guidelines set out. They will work. Take care of yourselves. Stress is awful for mental health. Be careful in what you consume. Talk to people by phone, not just text and not just online. Find safe distractions (Disney+ is killing it at the Bartlett house; Marvel stuff for me). We need to do this so that when the time comes, we can go again. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a nerd Liverpool Football Club fan. Their club anthem is “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which, oddly enough, is originally a song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. It ends, “Walk on, walk on, With hope in your heart. And you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.” That seems pretty fitting for right now. Let’s take care of each other and ourselves. ■
This sounds pretty racist to me. He is implying that the Latinx or Hmong person in the house (where the census worker appears) has a perfect right to not admit that worker, based solely on the basis of his or her skin color. If that is not racist, I don’t know what is. According to that line of thinking, then I, as a white person living in my house, would have a perfect right to refuse admittance to a Hmong or African American person with a clipboard standing at my door, based solely on the skin color of that person. Is that okay? No, it is not. — M. DeRocher, via email
How to handle a search Re: “Give the guy a chance” (3/5/2020): In a Madison 365 interview, Michael Johnson [of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County] said he wouldn’t have hired any of the three finalists [for schools superintendent]. During the public input process I suggested to MMSD that they limit the search to the four states (Mississippi, Alabama, New Jersey, Massachusetts) where African American fourth-graders read more than a year ahead of their Wisconsin counterparts. That’s how we would handle a search if it were sports. — Robert Meyer, via isthmus.com It was bad enough that they started trashing the guy before he even put boots on the ground, but then they had to go and moan about the guy they didn’t hire. It turns out he was leaving under a cloud of suspicion over some funky finances where he refused to release the results of an audit! Talk about a red flag! — Patrick M. O’Loughlin. via isthmus.com
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“Confronted with a crisis, what is the artistic impulse? Is it to dive headlong in, and record suffering for future generations? Or is it to make us forget the crisis? To fill us, either by beauty or laughter, with the will to live. Or or or, is it a rejection of art entirely, a mere fight for survival? A turning away from the luxury of fiction. And if it’s art we choose, then which is art: An ark to carry us over the waters? Or a nail that bleeds for us, so that we can be healed? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.” – Jordan Harrison, The Amateurs
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ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
venues are dark, libraries are shuttered, programs everywhere are canceled, and restaurants are closed for in-house dining. All of those changes are reflected in this week’s issue. No Picks. No Guide. No film reviews. We also scrapped our planned cover story to focus exclusively on how COVID-19 is affecting our community. To that end, staff writer Dylan Brogan talks to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway about how local government is addressing the threat at hand, and planning for future impacts. Editor Judith Davidoff looks at how an especially vulnerable population — people experiencing homelessness — is faring and what is being done to address high-risk populations in shelters. And Anders Nienstaedt explores the science behind hand-washing. Also in our cover package: Features editor Linda Falkenstein looks at how restaurants and bars are pursuing new strategies for serving food to customers; arts and culture editor Catherine Capellaro checks in with actors and stagehands now out of work; and Bob Jacobson talks to local musicians who have lost gigs. Isthmus co-owner Craig Bartlett shares some heartbreak and hope in a guest column and Andrew Cohen offers ways to continue exercising — solo. Stay safe, everyone!
Everything is on pause while Madison confronts the coronavirus
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM
BY DYLAN BROGAN
Our community is preparing for a wave of infections the magnitude of which is still unknown. City, county and state government officials have taken unprecedented action to stave off the spread of the coronavirus, the ultimate wrath of which we are only beginning to understand. The immediate concern is to ease the inevitable spread of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, so the healthcare system doesn’t become overwhelmed. The effort by Madison and Dane County is multipronged: batten down the hatches of life as we know it, keep the essential wheels of government turning, then reckon with the devastating financial undertow that will likely hit our most vulnerable neighbors the hardest. Just a week ago, closing schools, offices, libraries, restaurants, bars and malls still seemed unlikely. Now most cities in the country are shutting down. We are told to isolate ourselves yet we suffer together. Welcome to the new normal. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway say current efforts focus on impacting the trajectory of the coronavirus. There were three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Dane County on March 11. A week later, there were 23. There are 106 cases confirmed statewide as of March 18. The number of cases is expected to rise, especially when testing becomes more widely available. “The virus will have a cycle: It will increase, it will peak, it will decline, and it will level off. We feel that we’ve been very aggressive upfront and believe that will pay off,” Parisi told Isthmus on March 16. “The measures that have been put in place, we were going to have to put in place eventually…. The sooner we did it, hopefully the sooner we’ll be on the other side of this.” The other side could be months away. Rhodes-Conway says “it’s a crisis moment” with no precedent. “We are not only dealing with what’s right in front of us in terms of what’s happening with [the spread of coronavirus], but we’re also planning 24 hours, two days, a week, a month out, to prepare for what we expect to be coming,” the mayor told Isthmus on March 14. “We are trying to follow the best science and the best guidance from public health…. If we are overprepared, that’s great.” Local and state health officials announced March 17 that new cases of coronavirus in Dane County and other Wisconsin counties “indicate community spread,” meaning there is “no known source of the disease, such as recent contact with an infected person or travel from an area with a high number of cases.” As a result, Gov. Tony Evers prohibited public and private gatherings of 10 or more people with few exceptions. Everyone is being told to work from home. Schools could be closed beyond initial estimates of April 6. UW-Madison has canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. “When you look at the curve [of the virus] in other countries, it’s lasted several months,”
MADISON CIT Y CHANNEL
Priority number one for County Executive Joe Parisi and Mayor Satya RhodesConway: limit the spread of the coronavirus.
says Parisi. “Everything that we can do both organizationally and individually to lessen the spread of this virus is incredibly important.” Rhodes-Conway says the city will maintain core services “as long as possible.” “That includes the transportation system, of course public safety, also things like trash pickup,” she says. “We also need to make sure that at least some of our functions come back before too long, so that we keep the city going.” When will things feel normal again? “We don’t know at this point. That’s why more extensive testing is critical,” says Parisi. “That’s obviously one of the places where the federal government has really fallen down.” Rhodes-Conway says a return to reality could be a year away, maybe more. “I think we’ll come back to something that looks a lot more like normal sooner than that,” says the mayor. “But if you’re talking about how long before we have a vaccine, a possible treatment, how long before the mental health impacts will pass? It’s a long time.”
Many city and county agencies are already closed to the public. “Walkup counter service” for routine city
business has been suspended. Olbrich Botanical Gardens and community centers are closed. Farmers’ markets have been cancelled. Parking meters will no longer need to be plugged. Starting March 20, Madison Metro will run buses on the reduced Saturday schedule except for campus routes and service to Epic Systems. Animals at the Henry Vilas Zoo haven’t seen a child’s face since March 14. At the Dane County Jail, family visits have been canceled and all programming activities have ceased. Many defendants won’t have their day in court until at least April 17. City and county employees, whose positions allow it, will work from home, which has IT departments working overtime to supply equipment and training on how to conduct meetings remotely. “It’s all hands on deck,” says Boyce Johnson, the city’s digital media coordinator. Greg Mickells, director of Madison Public Library, says eight of the city’s nine libraries unexpectedly had to close on March 16 due to lack of staff. Had that ever happened before? “Never,” says Mickells. “It was just one of those kind of perfect storm
moments with everything that’s happening. I think a lot of our parents that work for us were kind of caught off guard and didn’t have childcare arrangements.” On March 17, all Madison libraries were shuttered until further notice. The Common Council voted that night to suspend much of its policy-making role during the crisis. Unless authorized by the mayor and the council president, most committee meetings will be prohibited. Only the Common Council, Finance, Plan, Public Works, and a few other committees will continue to meet to keep the city running. Ald. Grant Foster objected to the unprecedented measure to restrict the council’s role in governance, but was largely alone in raising concerns. Alders overwhelmingly passed the ordinance on a voice vote. Rhodes-Conway agreed with Foster that the language of the ordinance was “imperfect” and said she supported immediately repealing it once the crisis was over. But she said staff normally assigned to work with city committees are needed in other areas of government right now. “We can’t bring everything to a halt forever,” said Rhodes-Conway. “But we do need to put everything on pause right now.” What can’t be paused is the upcoming April 7 election, which includes the Wisconsin presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race and school board contests. Typically, the city’s libraries are utilized to accommodate early voting but it’s unclear whether those facilities will reopen before the election. Calls for social distancing mean absentee ballots are pouring into the City Clerk’s Office. Some city staff are being reassigned to that office as well as to the joint city-county health department. “This is a marathon, not a sprint...maybe an ultra-marathon,” Rhodes-Conway said at the March 17 executive committee meeting. She told council members they should start preparing for dealing with the aftermath of the crisis and the looming economic pain about to be felt. “I hope that [alders], individually and collectively, can help us think, six months, a year, two years from now, what do we need to be doing? What is our community going to look like? And how do we get back to a place where we want to be rather than one where we are stuck?”
Local government officials are
pulling out all the stops without knowing who will pick up the bill. But they are also limited in their ability to respond to businesses forced to shut down, which will leave potentially thousands of people in our community without a paycheck. The measures intended to protect us from the rapid spread of the coronavirus will leave an ugly economic scar. “I certainly realize how difficult this is for everyone. But we do need to be patient,” says
Homeless in a pandemic
An already vulnerable group faces additional challenges BY JUDITH DAVIDOFF
Families approved for a night’s stay at the Salvation Army on East Washington Avenue sign in at the shelter at 4 p.m., with dinner served at 4:30. The next morning, they must be out by 8. Normally, children would be heading to school around that time. But now that classes are canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, families already stressed by the lack of stable housing need to figure out other plans. “With schools being closed it’s difficult for families who are working, especially being homeless,” says Melissa Sorensen, executive director of social services for the Salvation Army of Dane County. “As things slowly are closing, it’s really making it hard for folks to have a place to go.” Some families go to The Beacon, Dane County’s day shelter on East Washington Avenue, which has a small family room, notes Sorensen. Some go to stay with family and friends. But even places that are traditionally open and welcoming during the day, including Madison’s public libraries and the Madison Children’s Museum, are now closed. As of March 2019, there were 3,269 homeless children and youth enrolled in the Madison school district, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data. Finding additional day options for these children and their families is a priority. “That is being processed and talked about,” says Sorensen. An ad hoc group of city, county and state officials, shelter providers, and other nonprofit groups has been holding conference calls to address the issue, adds Sorensen. “We are trying to problem-solve to make sure that some of our most vulnerable community members are being taken care of.” The Salvation Army typically houses 22 families who stay in individual rooms, and 45 women without children, who sleep on beds in a large gymnasium space. Staying open all day is not feasible, says Sorensen. “We have a very old building that was never meant to be a shelter. Having recreational spaces and larger spaces to accommodate [all-day occupation] is very difficult in this building.” There is also not enough staff for such a change and meals would be a problem. “Currently we don’t serve lunch,” says Sorensen. She says the facility is following safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for shelters. Cleaning has been upped and more hand sanitizers installed around the building. Families now eat at different times from the women who are sheltering without children. The shelter is also trying to distance the women 6 feet from each other and implement foot-tohead sleeping. But that, adds Sorensen, might affect how many people they are able to accommodate.
DAVID MICHAEL MILLER
The Salvation Army shelter for women and families will remain open. “It’s a needed service,” says Melissa Sorensen, director of social services. “We can’t close our doors.”
The social services and case management services offered by the Salvation Army out of the East Washington facility will continue to operate, says Sorensen. “Services are not ceasing at this end. Case managers will continue to work with folks — families in housing and in shelters — to problem solve.” And the shelter will stay open, despite widespread closings among other types of facilities. “It’s a needed service,” says Sorensen. “We can’t close our doors.”
Kristin Rucinski, executive director
of The Road Home Dane County, anticipates that the most vulnerable families will get hit on multiple fronts in the coming weeks. “Now it’s all about the children,” she says, noting school closings. “Next week I’m sure it will turn more toward food insecurity.” Many families receive their FoodShares benefits at the beginning of the month, explains Rucinski, so supplies will likely be running low. The following week, says Rucinski, “the worry will turn to April rent.” The Road Home helps homeless families find stable and affordable housing; the nonprofit also runs 30 units of supported housing in Madison. Rucinski says the group’s office is staying open with limited staff to continue to assist families and to allow for donations to come in — cleaning supplies, grocery gift cards — but hours are cut to 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (or by appointment). Donations can also be made online.
The organization also provides housingcase management services to the Healing House, a shelter run by Madisonarea Urban Ministry that houses homeless families who are recovering from a medical condition or surgery. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Road Home volunteers would cook and deliver meals for residents of Healing House and socialize with the families and children there. Volunteers are still dropping off dishes that can be cooked and served at the shelter by MUM staff, but are no longer spending time in the shelter. “Now with community spread [of the virus], we just don’t know who might have been exposed but is asymptomatic,” says Linda Ketcham, executive director of MUM. The shelter is also restricting other visitors and asking residents to only go out for essential appointments. “We are doing what we can but I think this is going to require massive community support,” says Ketcham, noting that local response has been swift. “I’m incredibly grateful that we live in a state, city and county where the leadership is taking this seriously and is moving quickly and aggressively to try to level the curve.”
To protect individuals experiencing homelessness, efforts are being made to temporarily relocate people at higher risk for COVID-19 from shelters, says Casey Becker, communications and homeless services manager at Dane County Depart-
ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
Parisi. “We need to look out for one another. We need to advocate to the federal government and the state government for help and relief for the folks who are impacted the greatest economically.” Madison has announced efforts to help provide childcare for “medical personnel, protective service members and essential city services staff.” The city is also offering an additional two weeks of sick pay for city employees affected by the virus. And the city is partnering with the Madison school district to feed students, a program that usually doesn’t start until the summer. “One thing we need from the federal government is the assurance that when we use up all of our funding for summer meals that they’re going to come back and give us more funding [for the summer],” says Rhodes-Conway. Parisi says he expects Uncle Sam to step in, but to what extent remains unknown. “At this point, we can’t count on [the federal government] coming in and making us whole. We do feel they have a responsibility to help us with this,” says Parisi. “But we also have to, potentially, take measures that are within our control to make sure that we’re able to be financially healthy in the long run.” The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week that the governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature are in early talks about “providing emergency funding for hospitals, clinics, unemployment services and other areas affected by the spread of the coronavirus.” However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) wants to wait to see how Trump’s proposed $1 trillion relief package pans out in Congress. Rhodes-Conway says there are some actions only the state can take. “The city is specifically preempted from...requiring paid or earned sick leave in the private sector,” RhodesConway told the executive council. “I certainly hope that they are working on that.” When asked what keeps her up at night, Rhodes-Conway laughs and says, “Everything.” “But everybody is pulling together. This just reinforces for me what an excellent city staff we have and how grateful I am for our local government partners and institutions around the community,” says the mayor. “It’s not my worries that keep me up. It’s the list of things that I need to remember to do.” n
Lather, rinse, reprogram
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM
As COVID-19 spreads, two UW epidemiologists underline the importance of hand hygiene
ment of Human Services. She says this group includes people 60 and older, individuals with underlying health conditions, those with weakened immune systems and women who are pregnant. Jim O’Keefe, who heads the city’s office of community development, says such a move would also “reduce the strain on shelter facilities.” Housing these high-risk individuals temporarily in hotel rooms is one option, he says. Becker says the county has also pledged additional funds to the Salvation Army to help with its case management program and is looking to place additional handwashing stations and portable toilets in various locations where people may be sleeping outside. She says the county is also working to provide additional funds to help families facing eviction. (As of March 17, Dane County Circuit Court had suspended all eviction proceedings.) Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway noted some other steps being taken by the city at the March 17 meeting of the Common Council Executive Committee, including expanding shelter capacity so that social distancing can take place there. “And we’re working on a health screening protocol for shelters so that when people come in, they can be screened about their health and if they present with symptoms, there’s a protocol for dealing with that. And we’re working on isolation options for anybody who is symptomatic in the homeless shelter system.” O’Keefe says there are also efforts afoot to provide support to child care providers in Madison and Dane County that would “help them stay open and, in some cases, expand the number of children they are serving to accommodate parents who are particularly stressed” by the impacts of the pandemic. Officials are also searching for spaces that could be set up to provide daytime services or programming for families. “There is tremendous pressure on The Beacon,” says O’Keefe. “Ideally we’d like to free that facility from needing to work with families, so we’re going to need to find space and people that can provide some type of programming. We also need to connect families with meals.” Rucinski, of Road Home, says her organization has been asked to help provide staffing for such a space and has already started putting out feelers for “anybody who is young and healthy who would want that volunteer opportunity. There is a huge need for that.” n
BY ANDERS NIENSTAEDT
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our cultural perception of hand washing has shifted in just a few days. What was once, for many, an insignificant afterthought is now filled with uneasy weight. Dr. Ajay Sethi and Dr. Nasia Safdar can testify to the importance of hand-washing. Bottom line: “Hand hygiene is critical for limiting the transmission of disease,” says Sethi, director of the UW-Madison Master of Public Health program and associate professor of population health sciences. Even so, “Behavior decays over time if you don’t pay attention to it, and hand hygiene is one of those things that’s first to go if you’re not relentless about pushing it,” adds Safdar, professor of infectious disease at the School of Medicine and Public Health at UWMadison and medical director of infection control at the UW Hospital and Clinics. Sethi and Safdar are epidemiologists, scientists who study the spread of diseases. Where researchers in other branches of the sciences may spend years studying phenomena with no direct application in mind, epidemiology is fundamentally concerned with results. Throughout his career, Sethi has studied the interaction between human behavior and a variety of infectious diseases, a broad range that includes everything from the HIV pandemic to fungi in hospitals and antibiotic-resistant bacteria on dairy farms. He doesn’t study COVID-19, and he’s wary of over-extending his expertise. But his work has examined how hygiene behaviors, including hand-washing, affect the spread of disease everywhere from hospitals in Uganda to dairy farms in southern Wisconsin. “People don’t often think about hospitals and farms as being similar, but they’re both part of the landscape of public health,” he says. Safdar’s research has focused on limiting infections in hospitals — a leading cause of mortality in health care settings. She studies how hygiene can affect infections in hospitals. The goal is for patients, who are likely in an immunocompromised state, not to catch anything else while they’re in the hospital. Safdar says she will be paying attention to how patients with
other conditions could be affected by the changes hospitals will be making to deal with COVID-19. Together, Sethi and Safdar have examined structural issues related to hand hygiene and infection prevention, finding that factors like sink placement can make a big difference in rates of hand- washing. Safdar says that good workplaces make hygiene “standardized, convenient, and
developments were especially notable given that they happened at a time when miasma (“bad air”) theory was still the mainstream scientific explanation for disease. It might not get the recognition that history has given to penicillin, but handwashing was nothing short of a revelation for the field of health care. As Sethi watches news about COVID-19, he’s concerned by evidence that suggests that the spread of the virus could be driven by people who don’t have severe symptoms. The possibility of spreading the virus before symptoms appear makes containing COVID-19 a particularly difficult challenge. “For now, it appears that inevitably we will have widespread transmission in the United States,” says Sethi. That’s not to say that we can’t do something about it. Sethi and Safdar both stress the importance of mindful engagement with simple practices. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (yes, for at least 20 seconds, and don’t forget to scrub between your fingers). Use hand sanitizer if you can’t get to a sink (if you can get it). Keep an eye on CDC guidelines and updates related congregating in large groups. And avoid touching your face. “It starts with us becoming more self-aware and then making a personal commitment to improve,” says Sethi. If you need a reason to be hopeful, it might help to consider the history of epidemiology. The field is responsive, constantly expanding, and in ANDERS NIENSTAEDT search of solutions — complex and simple alike. Scientists have available.” She makes a comparison to light been studying the outbreak since its first switches, which we intuitively reach for at a murmurs in Wuhan, China, in December. specific height, even if we’re in a new room. Over the course of just weeks, they have “We strongly believe in nudge theory,” sequenced its genome. she says. “If you make the right thing to do The rapid progression of scientific the easy thing to do, then it is likely that knowledge about COVID-19 is remarkable people will do it.” in the context of the history of epidemiology, a science whose first practitioners saved In the 1850s, an English physician lives without much more than a simple hynamed John Snow became one of the pothesis: unclean hands and surfaces might pioneers of epidemiology after stopping a spread disease. London cholera outbreak by shutting down “If I were going to go back in time a contaminated public water pump. with a time machine, I’d visit them,” says Around the same time, Hungarian phySethi, speaking of Snow, Semmelweis, sician Ignaz Semmelweis and English nurse Nightingale, and the other pioneers of Florence Nightingale each saved scores the field. “I would love to just have cofof patients by instituting hand-washing fee with everybody and ask them what protocols at their respective hospitals. The they’re thinking about.” n
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ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
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Josh Harty (center) performed a live-streamed concert on March 14 with collaborators Pauli Ryan (left) and Blake Thomas.
Music in the age of social distancing Local artists and venues scramble to adapt BY BOB JACOBSON
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM
arin Wolf, arts program administrator for the city of Madison, learned a new term last week: force majeure. French for “superior force,” it refers to a clause that appears on most performance contracts that removes liability in the event of an unavoidable catastrophe. Like, say, a pandemic. “I’m embarrassed that I was never aware of that clause before,” says Wolf. “But now we’re having to figure out how to respond to all these cancellations in a way that’s fair to everybody.” By the time Public Health Madison & Dane County announced, on March 15, a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and slashed occupancy limits of restaurants and bars in half, Madison had already largely gone quiet. Virtually all large-scale music events had already been canceled or postponed. Smaller venues were still holding out hope that some of their scheduled shows would happen, but the health department proclamation put the kibosh on most of those as well. Meanwhile, Illinois and a few other states had announced the shutdown of all bars and restaurants for dine-in, and now Wisconsin is following suit. Either way, measures to thwart the spread of the coronavirus have been devastating for local musicians and the venues they perform in. Classical musicians were among the first to feel the pain inflicted by the cascade of cancellations, with the Overture Center announcing late last week that it was going dark. That decision put major organizations like the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra on ice for the next several weeks. Brian Whitty, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local
166 (also known as the Madison Area Musicians’ Association), notes that for musicians who play in both groups, it amounts to a full-time job. “You’ve got 150 musicians who are out of work,” Whitty says. “You can’t work from home, and there’s no sick leave.” Whitty says the union is exploring options for helping musicians weather the shutdowns. Members of those orchestras may have some relief in the form of unemployment benefits, and there are special rules in place to streamline eligibility for those put out of work due to venue closures during the pandemic. But for self-employed gigging musicians cobbling together a living playing jazz, rock and all other genres, the outlook is bleak. Whitty, a trombonist, has lost multiple jobs, including the Madison Jazz Orchestra’s scheduled performance at The Brink Lounge and a few salsa gigs. Tubist David Spies says the timing for him was particularly bad. “I’ve lost at least six significant gigs over the next six weeks,” Spies says. “I was going to judge a high school concert band festival. Several Neophonic Jazz Orchestra gigs. The Racine Symphony. This was going to be a pretty lively period.” The timing was even worse for musicians who specialize in Irish music, who typically cram several lucrative gigs into the few days around St. Patrick’s Day. Bagpipe ace Sean Michael Dargan had a dozen lined up. None of them happened. “This is my busiest time of the whole year and I lost every single gig I had,” Dargan says. “The big ones were the Shamrock Shuffle, a big fundraiser race [benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County] which was supposed to happen on Satur-
day. And the big parade that was supposed to take place Sunday. And then I had a handful of what I call drop-ins, where I just drop in and play for 30 or 45 minutes.” As late as Saturday, some smaller venues were still hoping their St. Paddy’s events would take place. That day, Lacee Blair, a bartender at the Harmony Bar, and Daithi Wolfe of The Currach Irish Trio, both indicated they planned to go ahead with their scheduled celebration on Tuesday. By Sunday night, that was no longer an option. Other small and medium-sized venues were taking an event-by-event approach as of last weekend. “We’re talking to artists and trying to make mutual decisions that make sense,” Brink Lounge general manager Ada Hays said on Saturday. “We don’t want to waste anybody’s time, either staff or artists, but we’re trying to go ahead where possible.” A day later, that approach was out the window. Among the Brink events postponed was the Madison Area Music Awards Finalists Party scheduled for March 16. MAMAs founder Rick Tvedt is optimistic that while the awards process will be delayed, there will be minimal long-term financial impact. “We’ll likely have to push back the awards show itself, which is scheduled for May 31, because we still have to fit in that last round of voting,” Tvedt says. “The finalist party itself is a fundraiser for us, so it doesn’t make sense to go ahead and announce the finalists before we can reschedule the party. But thanks to our sponsors, we should be okay financially.” Another factor is that the awards event has been tied to the Between the Waves festival and conference organized
by Roy Elkins, founder and CEO of Broadjam. Elkins says Between the Waves will likely be rescheduled for the fall. He was expecting 300 to 400 attendees from around the country this year, a significant jump from last year’s conference. “ We made the formal announcement that we were postponing on Friday, but I’d been thinking about it for a couple weeks,” Elkins says. “I kept thinking, ‘What if we have this conference and somebody gets sick, then it spreads to other people and it was 100 percent preventable?’” With no in-person outlets for their music, some artists are doing what creative types do — creating their own. A number of musicians have begun streaming performances. Disco purveyors VO5 (including Isthmus’ Catherine Capellaro) live-streamed a “Saturday Night Fever” concert on March 14 to replace a planned show at Bowl-a-Vard. With very little notice and just social media outreach, 1,700 entertainment-starved shut-ins tuned in for at least part of the performance; it’s now past 4,000 views. Josh Harty also replaced a live show with a live-streamed one. Wendy Schneider of Coney Island Studios has set up a Facebook group to support musicians’ efforts to set up and execute streaming events. And while it won’t keep the rent check from bouncing, musicians rendered inactive by majeure forces have received one priceless gift: time to concentrate on their art. “There’s a lot of fear right now, and what I tell the musicians I talk to is to try to use this as an opportunity to create,” Elkins says. “It’s not going to pay the bills, at least not right away, but writing about what we’re experiencing helps us confront our fears.” ■
Actors and stagehands are out of work, and sets are hanging in empty theaters BY CATHERINE CAPELLARO
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ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
Just when the sets were mounted, the world came crashing down. “I couldn’t think of a more perfect storm to knock out our industry,” says Mark Bitney, a union stagehand at Overture and member of IATSE Local 251, the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees. Bitney was part of stage crews that worked on three enormous shows: the Broadway tour of Wicked, Children’s Theater of Madison’s Peter Pan, and country singer Jason Aldean at the Alliant Energy Center. “It’s a complete shutdown of what we’re doing,” adds Bitney. “I’ve had three different major productions get cut midway through. Wicked was in the middle of the run, and we just finished doing the fly cues and doing the final dress rehearsal of [Children’s Theater of Madison’s] Peter Pan. At least the kids got to perform for the parents.” The sets are still up in Overture Hall and the Capitol Theater. Bitney, a 30-year veteran, says the economic impact, especially on younger members of the union, which has approximately 200 members, is devastating. “There’s a lot of younger members living paycheck to paycheck. Spring is one of the busiest seasons and it’s when a lot of the younger stagehands get to take on bigger roles. We were bracing for one of our busiest times.” And given the current spread of COVID-19 and subsequent cancellations, Bitney wonders whether the stagehands’ biggest events, the upcoming Democratic National Convention and Summerfest, will go on as planned. Bitney, 52, applied for unemployment compensation on March 16. “I’m not super proud of that but that’s what it’s there for — I’ve been paying for it all my life,” he says. Justina Vickerman, IATSE’s call steward, has set up a GoFundMe account to help stagehands in their time of need. They do not receive vacation or sick pay. As of March 18, the campaign had raised $3,484 toward a $10,000 goal. “We’re going to get through this,” says Bitney. Roseann Sheridan, artistic director of Children’s Theater of Madison, is reeling from the experience of having to cancel the company’s ambitious and costly production of Peter Pan. She says it was “gut-wrenching and profound.” The normal concerns of how to make a show go smoothly quickly became overshadowed by the looming possibility that the show would be shut down. “My heart broke for all the work that had gone into making this show and getting so close to opening it,” Sheridan writes in an email. “At Thursday night’s cast meeting before our run-thru, a young actor asked, with more
than a twinge of worry in her voice, ‘Is there a chance we might not get to do this show?’ Friday morning, we at CTM made the decision to cancel the run of the show, and by Friday afternoon the governor’s mandated limit in crowd size was in place. The word got out, so we counted heads at the stage door and let in the allowable number of people. Some people didn’t get in.” Sheridan says the crowd for that one performance was “the most amazing audience ever. I can say it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life — I laughed, I cried, I watched that audience and those actors on stage take in this experience like it was the last time they would ever be together and they were going to celebrate every moment. I really can’t describe it. We use the word ‘magical’ a lot in describing the experience of theater. This was a time when I can say that is truly the best word to describe it.” Yet another theater heartbreak came when Forward Theater Company had to cancel on the eve of opening the Midwest premiere of The Amateurs, a new play with an eerily relevant message for living through a pandemic. “It’s a play about a troupe of amateur performers in Europe in the 14th century performing Bible stories while they try to outrun the plague,” says Jennifer Uphoff Gray, the company’s artistic director. “It’s a comedy, but it’s incredibly profound and insightful about the purpose of making art in times of crisis.” The Amateurs was cancelled right as the show was beginning tech rehearsals. “The very first thing we decided to do was pay everyone to the completion of their contract,” says Gray. “I understand not everyone can do that, and I ache for them. And we are going to take a hit, a big hit, but our mission says we provide a home for Wisconsin theater artists.” The cast and crew continued to rehearse with plans to provide a livestreamed performance. Doing this involved a quick pivot and negotiations with unions, lawyers and authors agents. But in the fast-changing world of recommendations on crowd numbers, those plans had to be scrapped on March 16, two days before the recording was due to take place. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in Wisconsin, and it takes more than that to mount the show. Gray says she hopes Madison audiences will have a chance to gather again and see a production of The Amateurs, with its themes of living under quarantine. “The play reflects from a modern perspective, the years of the AIDS crisis. When we chose it, we liked the parallel of looking at the 14th century and the late 20th century,” says Gray. “Over the last three weeks, it felt like every new line took on new significance.” n
Students speak out
Battle to save Taliesin’s architecture school reflects diverging views BY JAY RATH
threatens me with kicking me off the property and also saying, ‘If you don’t listen to what I’m saying, I’ll have the whole school thrown out of here, too.’” Some believe the foundation is pursuing its own agenda. “The gift shop at Taliesin West tells you everything you need to know about the closure of the School of Architecture,” writes former Taliesin teaching fellow Ryan Scavnicky in The Architect’s Newspaper. “Look around it and you will realize there is little gained by the world of architecture from a room full of tourists paying top dollar for home decor with Prairie Style motifs. One can smell the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation cashing in on the aesthetic legacy produced by the work of the late architect.”
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM
In accounts of the on-again-off-again future of the School of Architecture at Taliesin, one constituency is seldom heard from: its students. That’s because they’re afraid. They allege a gradually increasing pattern of harassment designed to drive them away. Students divide their time between residencies at Taliesin, near Spring Green, and Scottsdale, Arizona, home to both Taliesin West and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The foundation maintains control of the properties and allows the school to use portions of them. On Jan. 28 the foundation announced that the school would close. Foundation president and CEO Stuart Graff explained to Architectural Digest, “We just wanted to make sure that in the best interests of “The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation the students it was sustainable. Give me a was formed in 1940 as a nonprofit sustainable model, I’m there.” corporation of the Taliesin Fellowship,” Two weeks ago, alumni and donors Wright wrote in his last will and testaSIMON DEAGUERO came to the rescue with more than ment. “The purpose of the Fellowship — Architecture students divide their time between residencies in Scottsdale, $500,000 and, according to Inside Higher Arizona (above), and Spring Green. a cultural endeavor — is that of perpetuEducation, “a sustainable way forward. ating organic architecture,” he wrote, There was just one problem: They didn’t appearing to grow increasingly threatenconventional graduate programs. It’s already “and that [purpose] of the Foundation is, have the foundation’s blessing.” Instead, the ing. He continued: late in the year to apply to schools. Many in addition, the encouragement of the fine foundation issued a prickly press release “Go fuck yourself. students just don’t know what to do. arts by education and teaching of the art of criticizing the school’s handling of the situ“Honestly go fuck yourself. Graff often points out that the school and architecture and collateral crafts.” ation. On March 14, the foundation’s board “Who the fuck do you think you are? foundation are separate organizations. And Graff was appointed CEO and president announced it was terminating the MemoYou are nobody.” yet the foundation — and Graff in particular of the foundation in January 2016. He has randum of Understanding, which means Martinec’s girlfriend felt so uncomfort— continually intrudes into school business, a law degree and an MBA. He served previthe school will close as of July 31 unless the able after the incident that she moved away reducing the space it is allowed, reducing the ously as an executive at a “furniture care school takes legal action. to stay with Florida relatives. number of available classrooms, threatenand protection business” and Rubbermaid. The foundation refers all press inquiries It wasn’t the first such incident. “There ing to charge rent and even interfering with Foundation tax records show Graff’s total to J. Lauren PR, a public relations agency in have been many reports that we’ve submitstudents’ thesis projects. annual pay at $264,328. Tempe, Arizona, which offers no information ted and it seems like they’ve just turned Students also report that Graff and other Frank Lloyd Wright is being pepped up as beyond press releases and refuses requests a blind eye on them,” one student says. foundation members intentionally intimi“the latest lifestyle home brand,” according to for interviews with Graff. “There are numerous cases of specifically date, surveil and photograph them. Stuan article in Curbed. “The foundation tasked Some faculty refer to a “non-disparagethe CEO harassing the students.” dents are allowed to roam only parts of the with preserving and protecting his legacy ment” agreement that they must sign. “Students are made to feel like inTaliesin West campus, and are given maps wants to build on that substantial brand One instructor, who asked for anotruders in the place where we live,” says and warned to stay away from the “historic equity with new product licensing initiatives.” nymity, relates, “The tyrannical way the another. “I would say there are many core.” No alcohol is allowed, except that sold Wright is to be “more of a lifestyle brand.” foundation’s CEO is acting appears to be examples where we have not been treated by the foundation. Visiting family members Potential products include furniture, motivated out of desperation and not by with respect as humans.” may not stay overnight. home goods, floor coverings, rugs, wall anything resembling clear thinking.” Faculty members say they suffer the Sources confirm that the foundation coverings, masonry veneers, hardwood As Architect magazine notes, the foundasame treatment, but they fear retribution closely monitors student social media posts. flooring and architectural millwork. As tion so far seems “more interested in atif they speak out. In turn, faculty members They use personal email accounts for fear Graff pointed out to Curbed, “Frank Lloyd tacking the [school’s] board than reconsidwarn their students. that their school accounts are not secure. Wright is known by so many people and ering the school’s closure. Without a change “It has been insinuated on multiple Students report that “chance” encounters embraced. We think there’s a big market of heart by the foundation, the school occasions that the foundation would be with foundation employees on Taliesin West out there, if we have the right products.” In remains scheduled to close at the end of the willing to pursue litigation against us for grounds become threatening interrogations. defiance of Wright’s wishes, it appears that term this spring.” slander if we speak to the press,” says one They fear stalking. They allege that it’s an those products will not include Taliesinstudent. “Most of us are in our 20s. We incremental campaign to get rid of the school. trained architects. Students report an oppressive and inva- have a [foundation] CEO who is a lawyer The information blackout extends to “How are you going to run a school that sive atmosphere at the Scottsdale campus at and we don’t know how these things work.” tourists. Days after the school’s closure was meets the goals of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. This is illustrated by a campus Martinec, 33, feels more free to speak, announced, site tours of student projects will, which demands that the mission itself incident report filed on Nov. 15. It documents having already established a career before at Taliesin West were suspended. Tours rebe a place where architecture is taught? How a chance encounter between Graff, the founjoining the school. He says he’s seen felturned only recently, after students received can you do that if you’re not teaching people dation’s CEO, and Alex Martinec, a first-year low students “cry all the time,” especially “training.” Today, if visitors ask about the to become architects?” asks Benjamin student from New York state. Martinec was the first week after the announcement of controversy, students are instructed to reAranda, of Aranda/Lasch, a New York- and walking the emotional support dog that lived the school’s closing. spond, “I don’t know.” Tucson-based design studio. He’s taught at with him and his girlfriend. Having enrolled in a unique school that Speaking of his own encounter, Martinec the School of Architecture at Taliesin. “I’m the CEO of the foundation here,” emphases environment and communal says, “it’s great insight into [Graff] and a bit His professional partner, forbidden Graff yelled. “Who are you? Honestly, who experience, the 30 or so full- and partof a foreshadowing of this event of closing from speaking, is Chris Lasch, the School’s time students are scrambling to find other, the school, because he even said that. He current dean. n 18 are you?” Graff began to move his arms,
Taco of the town
Migrants offers many fillings and housemade tortillas…and takeout/delivery BY KYLE NABILCY Editor’s note: This review was written before coronavirus dining restrictions. But Migrants is still offering takeout, and delivery through EatStreet.
When chef Oscar Villarreal announced that he would open Migrants, a fast casual taco spot, in the latter half of 2019, he was still at the helm of the vegan/steakhouse/tapas joint Fuegos. But by the time Migrants was ready to open, Fuegos was about to close. While Migrants, just off the Beltline next to Bonfyre American Grille in the Arbor Gate complex, doesn’t have as extensive a menu as Fuegos, Villareal does provide some special touches. The name pays homage to his family. They travel north from Texas yearly to work the harvests in Wisconsin and neighboring states. Both the corn and the flour tortillas are housemade. The website lists local sourcing from such farms as Hidden Valley and Alsum Farms. The space’s former tenant was a Silver Mine Subs, and Migrants has utilized its assembly-line layout. The centerpiece is the taco menu, with ample options for meat-eaters and those avoiding meat (there are seven vegetarian tacos). You choose the filling, you choose the topping — the American “lettuce, diced tomato, and shredded cheese” trio, or the traditional Mexican “onion, radish, cilantro, and a sprinkle of queso fresco” quartet. Chorizo was the star filling, salty, but not too greasy. There’s also a quinoa-centric vegetarian version of chorizo, which was too paste-like but tasted about right. I enjoyed the duck adobo and the mildly acidic chicken tinga — these both defied the tendency to get waterlogged in this kind of setting, sitting in warming pans.
Similarly, a big but not huge burrito filled with spicy pork didn’t end up with the bottom blowing out with juice. Both the broccoli adobo and roasted cauliflower fillings could have been more aggressively caramelized, but the flavor was good. The mix of papas y rajas (potatoes and peppers) was dominated by sweet potato and a little overcooked, with no browning. The housemade tequila reaper cheese sauce is an excellent nacho base: spicy, but only just so. Ground beef, black beans, and optional guacamole — I embrace the “I know guac is extra” meme — did nachos right, and Migrants has 10 different salsas — the standard and the verde pico salsas particularly tickled me. Migrants The presence of a break2601 WEST BELTLINE HW Y #106 fast menu at Migrants really 608-630-8194; migrantsmadison.com; had me excited, as Mexican 8 am-8 pm Mon.-Sat.; $3-$13 breakfast is a special thing. Bless a culture that legitimizes eating chips for breakfast. The huevos rancheros is a glorious heap of There’s also a breakfast burrito (availchorizo, beans, eggs, and salsa served on a able vegetarian) and a breakfast torta, as crisped tortilla, something like a tostada. Alwell as a basic American egg breakfast, though the El Rancho Grande platter of three pancakes and vegan pancakes. eggs plus meat, potatoes, and tortillas was a There’s a little something for everybody little wet from all the salsa spooned over the at Migrants. The flavors tend toward undertop, it was a grande portion indeed. The option stated, but the unexpected duck heart and of choosing lamb as a meat is a nice touch, chopped duck liver in my duck adobo taco even with the occasional bone fragment. speaks to Mexican food literacy.
Taco toppings include the traditional Mexican chopped tomato, onion and cilantro.
CAROLYN FATH ASHBY
There’s a lot of office space near Migrants, as well as retail and residential, so a quick-service spot for working lunches and on-the-wayhome dinners makes sense. Villarreal and his team are warmly friendly. The deployment of crunchy tortillas is superb. And at right around $3 per taco, the prices are right. n
Rendezvous with Treffpunkt BY ROBIN SHEPARD
$11/four-pack. Other Gathering Place beers in Madison are Murdered by Crows, a coffee rye stout; Arrivederci Roma, an Italian pilsner; and Friendly Debate, an IPA. Treffpunkt is a light crisp kölsch with distinctive hoppiness. It’s not bitter like a pale ale or IPA; however, it does have a sharp, spicy hop character that becomes dry and lingers in the finish. It pairs well with baked fish, light lunch sandwiches, salads and mild buttery cheeses. I like this take on the style — a hoppy edge that stands out among milder, more traditional versions of the kölsch. n
See Isthmus.com for a list of restaurants adopting takeout/delivery/curbside carryout, plus other details.
ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
Gathering Place Brewing Company, a small operation in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, has been distributing its 16-ounce cans to Madison liquor stores on a more regular basis — about every other week. (Its Milwaukee tap room is currently closed.) A good way to get to know Gathering Place is by picking up its flagship and best-selling beer from a store. It’s a German-style kölsch called Treffpunkt. The name Gathering Place is an homage to the origin of Milwaukee’s name (“gath-
ering place of the waters”) and location, where the Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers meet at Lake Michigan. Treffpunkt means “gathering place” in German. Owner Joe Yeado started as a homebrewer, but brewmaster Corey Blodgett handles Gathering Place’s seven-barrel system. He makes Treffpunkt with a core of pilsner malt to keep it light and crisp. It gets its spicy herbal accents from Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Saphir hops, and it’s fermented with a traditional kölsch yeast strain. The beer finishes at 4.6 percent ABV and 28 IBUs. It’s available in Madison liquor stores for around
A kölsch with distinctive hoppiness
Reinventing the restaurant Eateries turn to new strategies to keep serving food BY LINDA FALKENSTEIN
The Old Fashioned on Madison’s Capitol Square was doing a brisk business at noon on Friday, March 13 — packed as usual, despite Gov. Tony Evers’s declaration of a public health emergency the day before. By lunchtime on Monday, the restaurant had just three or four tables filled and a few customers at the bar. It wasn’t quite as if things changed overnight, but it was a precipitous slide over the weekend. “Friday was good,” says manager Thomas Bohlen. “Saturday was good until about 7 or 8 p.m. Sunday was down.” At 12:45 p.m. on Monday, the restaurant had served about 30 customers. All over Madison this week, restaurants were scrambling to find ways to keep serving during the COVID-19 crisis. Gov. Tony Evers has now restricted the options with his March 17 directive to cease all in-restaurant dining and move to takeout or delivery only. Some, like sibling restaurants Sardine, Gates & Brovi and Marigold Kitchen, chose to close even before Evers’ announcement. Others, like the Food Fight group, were already trying curbside pickup, takeout and delivery only. Even so, it was reported on March 17 that the restaurant group, which has 21 restaurants, would be furloughing 750 employees. “No-touch” and “curbside” became the new buzzwords, as restaurants worked to minimize contact with patrons. Even food carts — already takeout only — were stepping up caution. The Common Pasta cart was at its usual station on East Main Street on March 16. Co-owner Brian Baur demonstrated the cart’s new no-touch system — no cash; all cards. Customers swipe their card themselves on the cart’s tablet; then Baur sanitizes the screen.
LINDA FALKENSTEIN PHOTOS
Andrea Hillsey: balancing being a small business with public health.
Salvatore’s Tomato Pies was among the first restaurants, on March 12, to post about stepping up sanitation and moving to “nocontact delivery” — with customers ordering and paying online and delivery persons texting upon arrival — from the Sun Prairie location, while Madison delivery was available through EatStreet. Pasture and Plenty on University Avenue closed its dine-in area early this week, but increased production of its locally
sourced meal kits and prepared farmto-freezer meals. As families stocked up on essentials for preparedness, yet wanted to keep eating healthy — not just canned goods — this proved a popular option. “We’ve sold what is usually three weeks worth of our farm-to-freezer meals in two-and-ahalf days,” says Pasture and Plenty owner Christy McKenzie. The strategy is “letting us keep our kitchen staff and front of house people employed,” says McKenzie. It’s also helping local farmers, she notes, who are taking the hit along with the restaurants that ordinarily buy their meats and produce. McKenzie moved the restaurant’s drop-off sites outside to minimize close contact. The Monday drop-offs are for meal kits, along with any additional food ordered, such as farm-to-freezer meals. The University Avenue storefront has been rearranged to facilitate social distancing, with six feet between the customer and the point of sale, says McKenzie, with hands-free payments, and customers need to use hand sanitizer before touching the payment screen. Orders can be placed online, by email or over the phone. Pasture and Plenty also offers no-touch delivery. Tami Lax’s fine dining, locavore restaurant Harvest, on the Capitol Square, moved to a new model called “Harvest Go,” with delivery and curbside pickup for a menu that changes frequently, including salads, soups, and several entrees (recently including coq au vin and vegetable lasagna). The Harvest Go website also states the restaurant will “stock up your fridge” with a larger quantity of prepared meals, upon request.
Meals from The Old Fashioned, next door, can also be ordered for takeout with curbside pickup. The Angry Rooster, ordinarily a Monday night-only chicken offshoot of The Tin Fox on Monroe Street, is now offering its fried chicken as takeout Monday-Saturday (it’s not yet been decided if the restaurant will operate on Sundays). The Tin Fox’s menu is also available for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery Tuesday through Saturday. Square Wine is now all “grab-n-go,” says owner Andrea Hillsey; customers can call in a wine order and pick it up curbside on North Pinckney Street. “It’s one day at a time,” says Hillsey. “Trying to balance being a small business with public health.” n
Organizations make some changes as they provide food to those in need BY DYLAN BROGAN
MARCH 19–25, 2020 ISTHMUS.COM
Most food pantries in the Madison area are remaining open during the coronavirus shutdown. Those located in schools, however, are closed until at least April. Pantries have retooled their operations in an effort to keep patrons and staff safe. Instead of people selecting products, some food pantries are bagging products and offering curbside pickup. Others are limiting how many people can be in the facility at one time. Charles McLimans, president of The River Food Pantry, typically serves more
than 1,000 families a week. He expects that number will increase in the coming weeks. “The reality is many people in the food and beverage industry are already not getting tips and are being laid off,” says McLimans. “So the need for our services is greater than ever.” Kris Tazelaar, with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, says his organization is “built to handle crises like this.” Second Harvest supplies food to other pantries and nonprofits in the area.
“Normally, we rely on 80 to 85 percent of our food to be donated. But in this particular case, we’re going to have to step up and purchase more food, especially more shelf-stable food,” says Tazelaar. “The costs are going to rack up fairly soon. But this is something that we’re prepared for, we are ready for, to make sure people have access to food that they need.” The River Food Pantry and Second Harvest are seeking donations, as are other food pantries. If you are in need, call 211 to be connected to the nearest emergency food provider. n
See Isthmus.com for a list of restaurants adopting takeout/delivery/curbside carryout, plus other details.
Seeking physical and mental fitness in a time of social distancing BY ANDREW COHEN
Wild Birds Unlimited
8402 Old Sauk Rd. Wild Birds Unlimi 608-664-1414
8402 Old Sauk Rd Wild Unlimited 608-664-1414 8402Birds Old Sauk Rd. 8402 Old Sauk Rd. 608.664.1414 608-664-1414
Casey Green, West High School’s head girls track and field coach, this week sent his charges a highly detailed training plan, including separate plans for midand long-distance runners and sprinters, jumpers and hurdlers; six training videos; and a pace chart. The training plan continues the progression coaches had set during the team’s first official week, with the idea that it would prepare them for eventual competition, should any take place this season. Green believes that the breakdown among athletes will be about the same as it ordinarily is: A third will execute it in full, a third will do it in part, and a third will choose another form of leisure. But he also thinks they’ll face a bigger challenge, being unable to head out in groups. “Unfortunately currently, but fortunately for the rest of time, I think group exercise is incredibly important for motivation,” Green says. “It’s a really positive thing because it creates a lot of positive social interaction. Right now it’s really hard, though, for anyone to stay motivated, whether they’re student-athletes or the average person. It’s difficult to stay engaged in activity when you can’t be around people to do it.” Green will continue to run with partners, which technically one can do while maintaining 6 feet of separation, but notes that coaches were instructed by the school system not to encourage any group activity, even in pairs. For adults, one alternative that he sees as providing some appeal is fitness apps that offer live, trainer-led running classes. But, he adds, “if you’re someone who likes going out and running with a group of running partners, you’re pretty much shit out of luck.” The fitness portion of the CDC’s advice on “Things you can do to support yourself” says, in total, “Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or
meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.” In Madison and elsewhere, studios are experimenting with video conferencing alternatives such as Zoom for sharing fitness classes with members at home. YouTube is overflowing with home workouts, and the latest can be accessed now that most big-city papers have dropped their paywalls to provide free coronavirus coverage. For example, the Boston Globe has gathered links to some popular free online workout videos, though my personal favorite is a days-old story touting a Coronavirus Workout that has already swept, virus-like, through every newsroom in Australia. The story features “Canberra-based personal trainer Jenna Louise,” who recommends substituting canned goods for dumbbells and offers a listing of dozens of upperbody, lower-body and core exercises that together add up to a 75-minute daily workout. It’s OK, it’s looking like we have the time. And there’s no telling whether this is a one-, two- or even three-plus-month hiatus from playing or watching sports, hot yoga or spinning. If March Madness gives way to April and May Madness, what then? If the past week is any indication, the future will provide even more opportunities for intense and demanding supermarket-based workouts. “Everybody’s freaking out about the virus, but then 10,000 people jam into Costco or Walmart for a case of water, right? That makes no sense to me,” Kolodziej says. “You’re panicking for goods or supplies, and getting into closer contact and touching more things with more people than a gym. That’s kind of the irony to me, that you see these massive lines at Costco but the gym’s unsafe.” n
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Is there such a thing as conventional wisdom in an unconventional time? Evidently. The CDC’s prescription for warding off the coronavirus boils down to staying home, washing your hands frequently, and not touching your face. And the prescription for maintaining your sanity in the age of COVID-19 is turning off the news and keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, even if it’s safer to communicate from afar. The trouble is that so many of our fitness and conditioning routines involve other people and sweaty vinyl. It’s a problem, whether you’re a student-athlete cut loose from your athletic program or an employee working from home. And then there’s the moving target — or moving goal posts, or whatever sports metaphor might capture this moment. If you belong to pretty much any for-profit club or studio, you may have just received a swift progression of email announcements to the effect that 1) everything is okay; 2) members should stay home if feeling unwell and, if not, wash their hands before and after their workout; 3) the club has boosted its already vigilant cleaning and disinfecting regimen and is providing extra sanitizers and wipes; and 4) the club is closed until further notice. The best clubs are allowing their members to pause their accounts; the worst — SoulCycle in Los Angeles, via Twitter — are fighting the pandemic with exhortations such as “the only thing that’s contagious is your energy!” Ross Kolodziej, the former Badgers defensive tackle who now leads Wisconsin football’s strength and conditioning program, says the team was last together for training on March 12, and at that moment all expected that team workouts ahead of spring ball could restart a little more than a week later. The following day, he was telling them to plan for their immediate return — but, at the same time, to pack for an indefinite stay at home. “It evolved rather quickly,” Kolodziej says. “On Thursday, the workout program for the break was set, but at that point there hadn’t been statewide or even nationwide high school closures. The assumption had been that they would have access to training facilities and certain equipment, and over the course of the weekend a lot of guys were texting that their local high school was shut down, their parents didn’t want them to go to the gym, and what were my recommendations?” Kolodziej’s modified spring break workout program involves utilizing home equipment for certain exercises, and then others that can be executed using an athlete’s bodyweight: squats, lunges, lateral lunges, step-ups, push-ups, pull-ups. “I’m pretty sure most guys have access to a street, a back yard or a flat piece of land somewhere,” Kolodziej says. “So running and multidirectional work should not be an issue at all.”
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BY MATT JONES
“Freeducation”—a freestyle puzzle for now 8 “You’re a better man than I am” poem
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MARCH 19–25, 2020 ISTHMUS.COM
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10 Travel expert Steves 11 Words before Base or spades
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12 Quit messing around 13 Japanese appetizer 14 Advisory councils 21 Healed up
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25 Dry, as Italian wine 28 Former New York Jets owner Leon 29 Muppet whose tweets often end with “Scram!” 31 “___ Hope” (1980s ABC soap) 34 Three-note chord 36 Machine that helps with sleep apnea 38 Fix firmly in place 39 “Wide slot” device #980 BY MATT JONES ©2020 JONESIN’ CROSSWORDS
ACROSS 1 Rotary phone parts 8 Whip holders? 15 Hoppy “New Englandstyle” brew 16 System that includes emoji 17 Invited up 18 Compliment after getting out of bed?
43 Enjoy immensely
33 Most sound
63 Not consistent 64 The “devil’s interval” in music (heard in “The Simpsons” theme)
44 Instrument in a “Legend of Zelda” title 45 Spins around
65 Took once more, like a white elephant gift
48 “Little Women” author
35 They may have chains and locks 37 Pic off a monitor? 39 1960s TV spy thriller with a 1997 movie remake 42 Site for ants or bumps? 46 Slick stuff
50 Returning grad
23 ___ Dems (U.K. political party, informally) 24 Fictional Marner 26 Achievement 27 Neighbor of British Columbia 30 Like birthday celebrants
41 Evasive sorts
32 Letters in some Baptist church names
19 ___ Bhabie (rapper first known as the “Cash Me Outside” girl from “Dr. Phil”) 22 Indian curry dish
40 “Cautionary Tales for Children” author Belloc
47 Dreadlocked one, maybe 49 Like some fast-food chicken sandwiches 52 Flashlight battery 54 Alternate spelling abbr. 55 Anwar who shared a Nobel Peace Prize 57 Deep-sea killer 58 Sister of Poseidon 59 Secure firmly
66 Pieces of Sanskrit religious literature DOWN 1 Dry white wine 2 Jones who played Angie Tribeca 3 Keep showing up in a book and film series? 4 Turned from white to pink, maybe 5 Pot top 6 Big pictures? 7 Company behind Hello Kitty
51 Furious with 53 Actress Linney of “Kinsey” 56 “Africa” band 58 “So ___” (Kid Rock song) 60 Wheaton of “The Big Bang Theory” 62 Malleable metal LAST WEEK’S ANSWERS
Quickies BY DAN SAVAGE
DEAR READERS: I live in Seattle, the U.S. epicenter of the novel coronavirus epidemic, with my family. A lot of my readers wrote this week to wish us well. We are fine — scared, but fine — washing our hands compulsively and staying close to home. I’m going to keep churning out the column and recording my podcast, while being careful to maintain a safe social distance from the tech-savvy, at-risk youth. I’m hoping the column and podcast are welcome distractions. Please take care of yourselves, take care of the people around you, and wash your damn hands. I’m wondering if you know of a word that describes the fetish of getting off from talking dirty. I’ve searched a lot, and I can’t find a label for this kink or fetish. While googling around, I did learn some new terms, like “katoptronophilia” (being aroused by having sex in front of mirrors) and “pubephilia” (being aroused by pubic hair), but I can’t seem to find one that describes my kink. Dirty Talker
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see isthmus.com. Email Dan at email@example.com or reach him on Twitter at @fakedansavage.
My wife and I have been married for a little over two years. We both have demanding jobs, but she admits to being a workaholic and spends almost every night on the couch answering emails and binge-watching Bravo. I’ve resorted to getting high most nights to cover up for the fact that I’m very unhappy. Despite being overworked, she’s started a side hustle selling skin-care products to her friends, most of whom she rarely sees in person. Bottom line: I didn’t sign up for this. I’m beyond bored and want to travel and explore. But she refuses to give up the side hustle and dial back her work or her drinking. We both earn comfortable salaries and we don’t need the extra income. Would I be justified in leaving because of her newfound hobby? Basically Over Redundant Enrichment Side hustle or no, BORE, you aren’t happy, and that’s reason enough to leave. And while you won’t (or shouldn’t) be doing much traveling anytime soon, you can find a lawyer, search for a new apartment, and initiate divorce proceedings while your wife sits on the couch answering work emails and pushing skin-care products to her friends. I would typically encourage someone in your shoes to risk telling the truth before walking out — you’re unhappy, you’re bored, you don’t want to live like this anymore — but it sounds like your mind is made up. So use your time at home over the next couple of weeks to make your escape plan. I’m a 35-year-old woman in a long-term cohabitating relationship with a man. We opened our relationship about six months ago, and it’s going very well and we both have FWBs. My primary partner and I are going to be getting engaged soon, and I’m wondering what my responsibility is to my FWB of five months. Do I make a special effort to tell him about the engagement—on the phone or in person, like I plan to tell family members and close friends? Or is it okay if he finds out via social media like other people I’ve
I used to live in a college town. While there, I hooked up with a gorgeous guy. He had an amazing smile, a nice body, and the most perfect natural dick I’ve ever seen. (Can we please stop saying “uncut”? It’s so disgustingly plastic surgery-ish.) We hooked up a couple times, and he was so much fun. A JOE NEW TON couple of years later, in another town, he showed up out of the blue at known for only five months or less would? my new job. It was awkward at first, but My getting engaged (or married) won’t it got better over the couple of years prevent me from remaining his FWB. we worked together. I always wanted Wanna Be Ethical to just sneak him into the bathroom and give him another blowjob. He still Golden rule this shit, WBE: If your lives in the same town, and I want FWB got engaged, would you want to message him to see if he’s up for to find out via social media or would some more fun. We haven’t spoken in you want him to tell you personally? years — and last I heard, he was still I’m guessing you’d rather hear it from not out. I want to message him, but I’m him. You’ve known your FWB for wondering whether there’s a time limit only five months, it’s true, and other to reconnecting with someone? Fuck, five-months-or-less friends don’t rate man, he was so hot, and his natural, big, hearing it from you personally. But veiny dick was maybe the most perfect you aren’t fucking your other fivecock I’ve ever seen. months-or-less friends. A little more Big Ol’ Dick consideration for your feelings is — or should be — one of the benefits. Seeing as you haven’t spoken to this I’m a young white woman, and my last boyfriend, a black man, left me two weeks ago. Ever since, I have been masturbating only while thinking about black guys. My question is: Do I have a “thing” for black guys now? I’ve accepted that our relationship is over, but it was really intense. I feel disgusting after I masturbate, because it feels gross and not respectful toward my ex somehow. What do you think? Desperately Horny For Black Men Masturbate about whatever the fuck turns you on, DHFBM, and if you’re worried someone would find your masturbatory fantasies disrespectful… don’t tell that person about your masturbatory fantasies. I suppose it’s possible you have a “thing” for black guys now. (What’s that thing they say? Actually, let’s not say it.) Unless you are treating black guys as objects and not
man in years, BOD, I’m going to assume you no longer work together. And seeing as you hooked up more than once back in that college town, I’m going to assume he liked your blowjobs. And seeing as there’s a worldwide pandemic on, and seeing as life is short, and seeing as dick is delicious, I’m going to give you the okay to send this guy a message. Social media has made it possible for people to reach out to first loves, exes, and old hookups. And so long as the reacher outer is respectful, has reason to believe their message won’t tear open old wounds, and instantly takes “no” for an answer (and no response = no), there’s nothing wrong with reaching out. And while social-distancing protocols will prevent you from sucking that gorgeous natural dick anytime soon, BOD, who doesn’t need something to look forward to right now? n
ISTHMUS.COM MARCH 19–25, 2020
I’m old enough to remember when people who needed to feel a strong emotional connection before they wanted to fuck someone got by without a word or a pride flag of their very own. They just said, “I’m someone who needs to feel a strong emotional connection before wanting to fuck someone.” But now they can say, “I’m a demisexual,” a five-syllable, vaguely scientific-sounding term that first popped up in an online forum in 2006. Unfortunately, when someone says, “I’m a demisexual,” the usual response is, “What’s that?” And then the demisexual has to say, “I’m someone who needs to feel a strong emotional connection before wanting to fuck someone.” So leading with “I’m a demisexual” seems like a waste of time to me. But it does extend the amount of time the speaker gets to talk about him/ her/themselves… and who doesn’t love talking about themselves? Anyway, DT, you’re someone who enjoys dirty talk. There isn’t a special
people, or you fetishize blackness in a way that makes black sex partners feel degraded (in unsexy, nonconsensual ways) or used (in ways they don’t wish to be used), don’t waste your time worrying about your fantasies. Worry about your actions.
term (or pride flag) for you that I could find — I did a little halfhearted googling myself — and I don’t think you need one. You can get by with “I’m someone who enjoys dirty talk.”
IS CANCELED Please save the dates for next year’s WISCONSIN FILM FESTIVAL: APRIL 8–15, 2021 Friends of the Wisconsin Film Festival, The 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival is canceled as a result of the threat posed by COVID-19. Tickets for the 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival will be refunded. We humbly ask for patience as we work through the many details involved with this process. We would be grateful if you could refrain from contacting the box office at this time. Updates will be posted on our website as more information becomes available. We are grateful for your understanding of this difficult situation and your support of us through the years. Know that we remain committed to our mission of celebrating the best in global cinema and look forward to seeing you at next year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, April 8–15, 2021. Our hearts go out to all of the people and communities affected by COVID-19. Sincerely,
Background photo by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison
MARCH 19–25, 2020 I STHMUS.COM
Professor Kelley Conway, Artistic Director, Wisconsin Film Festival Susan Zaeske, Interim Director UW–Madison Division of the Arts And the entire team at the Wisconsin Film Festival
The Wisconsin Film Festival is presented by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts in collaboration with the Department of Communication Arts.
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