March 19, 2005 was the day Gavin and the winner of the first Win a Date contest, Abby VanOoyen , decided to spend the afternoon together. Since Abby lived in McHenry, Illinois (home on spring break from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) and Gavin lives in Kaukauna, Wisconsin they met in Madison.
Around 3:15, the pair entered the city from opposite ends and parked in the State Street parking ramp. About a block away was the lunch destination, Yummy Buffet (411 West Gilman Street), where they had chinese food. The food was pretty good. Abby says, “It was YUMMY! Good cheap Chinese food, but I only got one piece of sushi.” The selection was minimal, but tasty and and the price was right. My only complaint is that we were not given fortune cookies, which are an important part of any Chinese dining experience. (On a related note, the trip to Yummy Buffet made my friend Katie jealous and Jodey helped to increase her jealousness by telling her how good the buffet in Madison is.)
We wandered State Street a bit (I am switching between third and first person now), not covering too much of the territory. The day was cold, but two stores in particular caught the attention of the winner. One, Paul’s Books (670 State Street), is a used book store known for its wide array of topics and considerable amount of out of print material. Gavin enjoyed the linguistics and philosophy sections, while Abby looked in the sociology section for “Slim’s Table” by Mitchell Duneier (no dice) and scoured the literature section for some Joyce Carol Oates. Both of them could have spent the entire day in that store, but they didn’t.
We briefly stopped in Pipefitters, Madison’s famous head shop. I felt the place had been cleaned up a bit since I was last there, but they still had plenty of water pipes and hookahs (“for tobacco use only”). How this place is legal I do not know. It’s one thing to have a store full of bongs and hash pipes, but then to have right next to them fake containers for hiding “money” and shirts pushing for marijuana legalization… this store really teeters on the line. We did not get anything, but at Abby’s insistence I tried on a silly hat and she wore a wig (there should be a picture of these things near this paragraph). As Abby says, “I convinced Gav to try on a Peter Pan hat and I tried on a wig.” She had tried to get me to wear the wig, but I refused.
We stopped into another store that I think is called Peacocks, but neither of us liked it. The store had a very strong smell and the items were very unusual (like clothing you could only get away wearing if you were very artsy).
A few blocks away is University Square, a little plaza of stores that aren’t on State Street (though could be, as they fit the college mood). These are on University Avenue, near the campus. We had planned on seeing “The Ring 2” but timed our visit wrong (how were we supposed to know when movies where? we didn’t even know where a theater was!). We did end up seeing “The Jacket” with Adrien Brody, which was far better than I had expected. Brody’s acting is really good, and after seeing him in this and “The Village” I would be eager to see what else he was able to handle. Other than a great cast, great acting, great directing (Abby, did you notice that the lighting and colors in 1992 were fading but in 2007 they were more bright than reality? Subtle). I also liked the strong incest and pedophile undertone of the film (this is a debatable thing, but Abby will back me up). She says, “Good movie, I recommend to all…. but then again my taste in movies is often different than most.” (Her taste in movies is fine – she also recommends “Garden State”.)
After the film, we decided to wind down the night with some coffee. I did not want to go to Starbucks (though, by the rules of the date, I suppose I had no right to protest) so we went to another nice store that seemed more college oriented. The place was called the Espresso Royale Caffe (yes, Caffe) at 208 State Street. I think this is a franchise, but it’s the only one I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere was nice, and we enjoyed a nice film conversation as well as other odds and ends. I found out Abby does not like horses, which I found to be a great thing for a woman to admit.
Near this paragraph, you should see me endorsing a delicious coffee with four shots of espresso (this caffeine addict is no lightweight) while Abby, who is not in the picture, has a mocha. Abby has captioned her photo: “Gav gave his red eye a seal of approval.” Also, we should have taken a picture of the counter monkey. He was wearing a Pixies shirt, and had the hair and build I appreciate in young men. We made small talk about my strong order, and I got the sense this guy would be someone worth talking to. But my focus was on Abby, not the employee.
I walked Abby back to the parking ramp and we parted ways… a good day. I had a wonderful time, and hopefully I see Abby again …
 Abby’s connection to The Framing Business runs deep. She has been a close, personal friend of Gavin’s since about 1997. And what’s more, if you type “abby vanooyen” in the Google search engine, the first link you’ll find is a page on The Framing Business. (Soon, this page will probably become the first link.)