Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Not sure what I expected, but I don’t think I found it

Well, I did go to Wisconsin this morning. Left here at 4:30 and got back at exactly 9:30, 230 miles in 5 hours. But I didn’t feel worn out. I was alert the whole time. Beautiful sunrise this morning.

I was glad, I was celebratory this morning. I did it! Why? asked those I volunteered my tale to. Because it was there—I had nothing better to do.

It is kinda odd and funny. I felt dishonest about driving up their driveway and not stopping, but they weren’t up, and I wasn’t going to knock on any door at 7 a.m.

Not sure what I expected, but I don’t think I found it. Somehow Wisconsin is supposed to be exotic—at least different from Illinois. But it didn’t seem so. There are more hills, more farms, less people—much prettier than around here. But I could now place myself in one of these towns and see that it would be as dull here as at home. I couldn’t escape that responsibility this time—didn’t allow my fantasy of the Good Life in Wisconsin to flourish. Life seems as hard there as here. Different to some degree, but not exactly what I’m looking for, either.

[24 July 1994, 3:50 p.m., Journal 7, page 23]

Overheard at the Wedding Reception of Steve & Rachel

LAKE WINDSOR GOLF CLUB, 5 April 2014 — An older white man, later identified as Rachel’s father, said to those assembled for the reception that while the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team would be playing in an NCAA tournament game later that evening, “the wedding was important, too.”

Steve’s former roommate and groomsman Dave said to the group that “it took me a while to break [Steve] in.”

When I asked a member of the waitstaff if I should keep my fork as she was taking my salad plate, she said, “you have plenty.” She was right; there were three more forks around set at my place. “That’s a good assessment,” I concurred.

As I gestured with my pen towards my wife’s bare legs, I said, “Hi! Want some smiley faces on your knees?” She did not.

Tracy, whose husband, Pete, was another groomsman, was at our table with her two-day-old son, Zakkury (spelling uncertain, due to the disconnect between English pronunciation and English spelling). I said the boy would be a party person as he grows up because “he’s been partying since he’s been born.”

“I’m Greg,” said Greg, to the group.

Greg, who is the groom’s brother, also said that his brother’s doctorate didn’t make him any more mature. Greg called him, “Doctor M___, P.H.D., L.M.N.O.P., S.O.B.” Greg also said that he was at first unimpressed that his future sister-in-law was a native of Wisconsin. Then he said something nice about Wisconsin, “so I don’t get beaten in the parking lot somewhere or something,” Greg explained.

A little boy was in the path a server was about to take. A woman said, “David! The cake is comin’ — sit down!”

A four-year-old boy at my assigned table noted that his fish and his chicken portions used to be alive. I noted that this boy, whose parents had been students in my high school about 11 years ago, would be my student in another 11 years. My former students said this made them feel old.

Increasingly inebriated groomsman Dave noted “‘at’s a byootiful dressh” that the bride was wearing. (I may have exaggerated the “sh” but not the dropping of the “Th” from “That’s”.)

My wife started swaying left and right, and at the next table, Emily did the same, mirroring my wife, and Emily noted that she herself was swaying “with cake.” Later in the evening, when I read Emily this quote from my little notebook, she said, “make sure you add ‘bitch’ to my comment.”

The boys frightened little three-year-old Olivia off the dance floor, said her dad, Pete, who then said “YES!” and pumped his arm. My wife later said, “that’s very dad-ish.”

From the dance floor end of the hall, the D.J. started calling out larger and larger numbers, and couples stopped dancing and left the dance floor. By the time he called out “62, 63,” there was only one couple left, and then they stopped dancing. It may have been a chance to honor those who’ve been married for that many years, or he may have been auctioning off old people.

As some people were speaking of nerds, Liz said, “have ya MET Steve?”

The D.J. played the “Budweiser Song,” which my old high school used to play at football games as the “Hub Song” (though a fellow student of almost my age did not recall this, I confirmed it with our band director), and during which the Wisconsin contingent shouted “WIS-CON-SIN” where the song says “BUD-WISE-R.”

My wife was concerned about the D.J.’s musical selections. “This man who’s in charge of my dancing fate. … I’d be happy with some Kesha. The ’60s were a LONG time ago,” my wife said during “Brown-Eyed Girl.” When the D.J. ordered “You guys sing” at the part of the song that goes “sha-la-la,” my wife and I protested, quietly, “ah, fuck you.”

After a little girl of maybe six years vintage asked my wife to dance with her to “Footloose,” my wife found the request adorable but the dance exhausting. “These little girls are brutal, man,” said my wife. Later, several of us adults repeated the dance moves this girl came up with during such songs as “Thrift Shop.”

After the groom’s mother sorta fell-flopped into a sitting groomsman’s lap, the groom’s aunt Lyssuh said of the mother, “I know. She’s a skank; she’s been like that all her life.” (Note: The transcription of the name “Lyssuh” and of the semicolon are the transcriber’s guess.)

“Panera, Noodles and Company, or something GOOD,” said Liz, to my wife, about the lunch restaurants Liz would like to see come to the town where they both work.

“I don’t want to go yet! I don’t want to go home!” said groomsman Pete as he danced across the dance floor, not more than a couple minutes after he had said he was leaving the reception.

The next morning, my wife didn’t feel so good. She said that maybe she had never had hangovers, but “I just had dance-overs.”

Update: After I told my wife I had posted this, she said she liked the idea of having someone record what a person says at a wedding. If the couple hires a wedding photographer, why not hire an undercover wedding reporter?

I may not be loyal to you, Illinois

Lake Mendota, Madison, 6 Aug. 2013

Lake Mendota, Madison, 6 Aug. 2013

Enjoying the sunset and the locally made ice cream at the UW-Madison Union Terrace last night, my wife and I (as UIUC grads)  found it hard to sell our alma mater to a student who was considering attending a Big Ten (or “Big Variable” Conference, where “Ten” has an evolving, non-ten value) school. His priority seemed to be a school that has a reputation for winning athletic programs, and that’s not what Illinois is known for. (It’s better known as the birthplace both of HAL and of the Web browser, not to mention being the alma mater of Roger Ebert, Hugh Hefner, and Ron Swanson).

But I’m glad I went there for the latter five-eights of my undergrad semesters. I was taught by some good professors and some great T.A.s, learned a lot about writing and editing at The Daily Illini, and met terrific friends (including my wife — I got my “M.R.” degree, as well as my B.A., at Champaign-Urbana).

But, alas, those twin cities lack some of Madison’s features: Both are on water, but the Boneyard Creek (a stream so ugly it got paved over in Campustown) is no Lake Mendota. Madison’s rolling hills offer vistas; Champaign County is damned flat. Madison has a skyline and urban planning that connected the university to the state capitol via State Street; Champaign city exists only because the Illinois Central railroad passed two miles west of Urbana.

Maybe I’m just a little bitter that my wife keeps getting alumni mail from the university we both went to, but I get no such acknowledgement of my graduation. It’s no big deal, of course, but it’s just the kind of little indignancies I like to nurse and be petty about.

Also, I realized yesterday that I don’t own any Illinois-marked garments because, really, navy blue and orange aren’t my favorite colors.

I still recommend the University of Illinois to those of my students who can afford to go to a four-year college and who want a public school, but I’m not sure, with all the cutbacks in state aid over the last several years, that it’s still as good a school as the one I went to. On the other hand, I’m not sure anymore what it means to say a school is “good.”

The longer I’m a teacher myself (though at a high school), the more I see individual students having particular educational experiences that are not necessarily attributable to the school itself. Students having different teachers for the same course will have diverse experiences, and of course, students bring their own interests, abilities, cultures, values, and backgrounds to their own educations.

So I guess I’m not sure if it matters where one goes to college — or, let’s say, it probably matters in such profound and unknowable ways that it almost doesn’t matter where one goes, any more than it matters which shoes I wear today or which book I pick up at the bookstore. Whatever one does, one learns from it. I learned from attending two other colleges before transferring to UIUC that it’s OK to try things out and if they don’t feel right, to find something else.

And that’s one of those profound life lessons that nobody really teaches in a classroom in any college.

*Titular note explained here.