When I was a kid Wisconsin was one of those places that existed in name only. Places like Wisconsin and Minnesota and Kentucky were as unlikely to actually exist as Bora Bora or the Canary Islands or Narnia. In a “tree falling in the forest that no one hears” kind of way, if I wasn’t aware of these places were they even real? Did I know anyone who had been there and returned to tell of it? Well, it turns out Wisconsin is a real place, and Milwaukee is a real city just like in Laverne and Shirley.
To get there you have to travel along highway 94 where you can buy cheese pretty much anywhere. Not just from grocery shops or convenience stores, but from strange out-buildings scattered awkwardly among the small farms and cow pastures along the highway, just cheese. Granted, the curds (with a “c” not a “K”) are to die for, but still, you’d think they’d have a jerky aisle, or a rack of potato chips, or some Wisconsin shaped key chains by the cash register.
In many ways Wisconsin is a lot like Minnesota. In most places you look out the window and you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. But there are some subtle differences, like the fact that Wisconsin has an actual NFL team. The mosquitoes aren’t quite as bad either, I’m pretty sure 5 or 6 of them can’t take down a moose like they’ve been known to in the land of 10,000 lakes. The food isn’t the greatest, it is so bland you’d swear someone coated your tongue with Kilz primer. I noticed for instance when I got to my hotel restaurant that there were only four “entrees” on the menu, and eight different beer labels, all local. The entrees had short one sentence blurbs like, “chicken roasted with potato wedges and a slab of cheese,” but the beer list had these eloquent narratives with words like “hops” and “barley accents” and “hint of disguised caramel aroma,” which made me openly wonder why the f#@& caramel aroma needs a disguise and what is it disguised as, turnip?
Turns out two of the chicken entrees were really the same dish. I didn’t know that when I ordered the half baked chicken (I always picture a half chicken hopping around on one leg when I order that). In a very odd mid-western passive aggressive kind of way they brought me the chicken dish I didn’t order and then they apologized profusely and (I kid you not) offered me free beer. Now I already had (again I kid you not) a coupon for free beer, so I ended up drinking way more beer than I had any intention of drinking which turns out is a really important part of the experience. It was all very strange. I was actually OK with the dish they brought me (it wasn’t a big deal as I was pretty hungry), so I ended up feeling like these people actually look for reasons to give you free beer. I could learn to love this place.
Anyway it’s no surprise Wisconsin’s major league baseball team is called the Brewers. Brewers are heroes out here because they are responsible for the making of the beer … beer is it’s own food group. You get the feeling that there are huge swathes of the population that subsist strictly on beer and cheese. And why not damn it? What else could a person possibly need? It’s funny, if the locals figure out you’re from out of town sometimes they will stand in a corner and watch you apprehensively after they’ve served you your beer at which point it is very important that you make an exaggerated gesture of refreshment because if you don’t they will continue to bring you free beer until you are satisfied or plastered (whichever comes first). I think it’s like a code of honor.
Not only is their team called The Brewers, but their baseball stadium is named after a beer (even the team’s original owner is named after a beer). In fact the whole city is named after an Ojibwe word “ominowakiing” which means “gathering place (by the river) where you drink beer.” There are several beer museums, and I’m pretty sure there is at least one beer saint, Saint Barleyhops or something.
Today I get to take in a game at Miller Park. Can’t wait. Last night the Brewers were a comedy of bibulous bobbles and burps playing against a Mets team that had just gotten off a plane after playing a series against the Diamondbacks that felt like it lasted a month. But the Brewers can’t possibly be as bad as they were last night, especially if they manage to sober up. The Mets on the other hand are a much different team from the one I got to see in Minneapolis a while back. Different shortstop, completely different outfield, a new kid starter, so this should be interesting.
The Mets also have Ike Davis back. I am told it is the real Ike Davis not the weird impostor we were fooled by for the greater part of the season. My only worry is that having no doubt imbued the local fare by game time, the playing field may be leveled for the Mets. But so it goes. It is rumored that Bud Selig himself is going to announce the All Star game rosters at some point, so we should be in for a beer barrel of fun, sports fans.