Storycatchers: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Public speaking is scary, especially using a microphone. I have a loud voice, how loud is it now? Was basically my biggest concern, but I did this thing anyway.

I walked up, adjusted the microphone – like a pro – cleared my throat and took a good look at the crowd of people from my community who came together to listen to a slew of teenage angst stories.

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With all those the faces peering back at me, I felt strangely calm. I started telling a story I’ve shared on Properly Ridiculous in the past about stealing a car at 15-years-old and soon the whole rooms gaze was interested.

That’s powerful. 

It was my second time participating in Storycatchers, feeling more comfortable than the first I even threw a few rehearsed jokes in this mix.

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They wanted to know what I was going to say next, just as I anxiously awaited the outcome while listening to theirs. It’s not a competition, simply coexisting and partaking in each other’s memories.

There were stories about struggle, poetic journal excerpts, all sorts of folks expressing how they’ve been humbled by the universe.

I live in the best city. Appleton is erupting with a local artistic flare that encourages people to come together and share. Music, stories, art – whatever trips your trigger. I’m lucky to call it home.

If you’re interested in hearing my story you can watch it below.

I Live in the Drunkest City in America

With more than 20,000 cities populating the United States, what are the odds that four out of the top ten drunkest cities in America are within 25 minutes of my home, while living in number one? Even if we go a bit further out, 11 out of the top 20 are in Wisconsin.

[Drunkest city in U.S.? It’s Appleton, Wis., report says]

I did not grow up here, I moved from Minnesota roughly seven years ago and while I still feel uneasy when people call the drinking fountain a bubbler, and I still want to slap the mouths that say Duck Duck Goose rather than, Duck Duck Grey Duck… I feel comfortable calling the Badger state my home.

So what is this list all about anyway?

The first time it perused across my screen I assumed it was a local survey of sorts, I mean, four out of ten cities I consider local, even spending significant amounts of time in each of them, it made sense. Knowing now that the gathered information consumes the entire country, I can’t help but laugh and everyone else around here seems to find this tidbit of national spotlight amusing right along with me.

I logged onto Facebook today and was instantly greeted by three variations of the story – one was the original, followed by two covers from the local news and radio stations and then the plethora of friends who shared the news with a bunch of laugh-cry emojis.

For the record, it is not that there is nothing else to do out here, it’s just normal to drink while doing everything.

Last year, trick or treating in Appleton, Wisconsin we stumbled across a couple in their late 20’s or early 30’s, with no children, pulling a wagon full of Busch Light. Parents walking over, laughing it up over their clever take on adult trick-or-treating. Does this kind of thing happen in Arizona or Connecticut? If I’m being honest, we already had some chocolate liqueur mixed with our hot chocolate for the trek through the neighborhood. Don’t judge us.

Now that I’ve seen this list, I’m beginning to think our normal, out here in drunksville, is not necessarily the norm for the occupants in the other 19,000+ cities. I’m being forced into these assumptions that people outside of Wisconsin who look at this list think we’re all a bunch of slurring, staggering morons. I’m stuck imagining people in Oregon and Utah right now, sipping their herbal tea or decaf coffee gossiping about how we must hate our lives to have so many heavy drinkers condensed in one common area…

…but most of us don’t.

Sure, there are people who can’t handle themselves or their alcohol consumption as well as the next Wisconsinite, but overall, it’s a way of life that everyone is simply accustomed to; call it a tolerance if you will. I could name at least five people in my life that would tell you, without hesitation, four or five drinks in a two-hour span of time is nothing. I imagine their look would scream: Yeah, and…?

Out here we have these restaurants called Supper Clubs, where people gladly wait over an hour for a table because they enjoy sipping on cocktails before dinner – that’s the whole point of coming. Even when there is no wait, a large chunk of individuals will belly up to the bar before taking a seat in the dining room only to find themselves back where they started for an after-dinner drink. Sometimes it’s a grasshopper, sometimes it’s coffee and Kahlua and sometimes it’s Jack on the rocks but it’s never considered abnormal.

Coming from Minnesota, where you can’t purchase any alcohol on Sundays and the rest of the week it’s sold only in liquor stores, you can imagine my face when I stopped into Walmart and saw a section full of alcoholic adult beverages. I felt like a rebel. You mean, I can just throw this 12 pack of Coors Light with my toilet paper, deodorant and greeting card… and be on my way?

You can buy booze at Walgreens.

Sick? Picking up a prescription for a nasty virus? No worries, you can throw in that bottle of brandy the doctor suggested under his breath; one stop shop.

I mean, if we’re being real though this list came from recent statistics the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found on per capita alcohol consumption, which makes it a touch more sensitive.

Thankfully most of us have already passed the denial phase, if there even was one, we accept who we are. Wisconsin residents and I drink more than we should; good, bad or ugly… it’s the norm. Call it an excuse if you’d like, in Wisconsin, it’s a culture.

Cheers.

Live & In Color: Bernie Sanders in Appleton, Wisconsin

The dynamic I witnessed today at the Bernie Sander’s Rally in Appleton, Wisconsin was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or been a part of, ever. When thousands of people come together with one common denominator there is a vibe that makes you want to pump your fists and high five until it hurts; and that’s before even getting inside.

We had a hard time deciding what time to arrive, how early is too early? Living less than ten minutes away, logically my husband and I pulled out of our driveway at 7:45am  with a door-opening of 9:30am.  Come to find out, the first people showed up at the Appleton Performing Art Center, ready to wait for Bernie, at two o’clock in the AM and a few hundred earlier than us.

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Our POV
Photo by Graham Washatka - www.grahamimages.net
Photo by Graham Washatka – www.grahamimages.net

Scanning the faces of all these people we are passing while making our way to the end of the line, which weaved around the venue and down the block at this point, I’m finding average college kids, hippies galore, old ladies and any other stereotype you can come up with. There are street vendors with wagons filled with T-shirts and buttons screaming into megaphones about a revolution. There are people running for congress handing out information – and an old Jewish socialist brought us all here.

If you’re in need of some free education…

Democratic Socialism Is Not: Communism

Democratic Socialism Is: People Over Profit

If you’d like further information… click here. 

I’ve never been in the presence of the Secret Service before and scenes from The Blacklist just started spinning around in my overly-excited brain once we got inside. I’ll go ahead and state the obvious… those guys mean serious business. Don’t make a joke… is all I kept repeating while making my way to the metal detector.

When we made our way to the seats, up in the 2nd balcony, there were roughly two hours before Senator Sanders was scheduled to begin speaking. The anticipation was not to hear what he has to say… I know what he’s going to say. I’m well versed in Bernie’s speeches and policies – but it’s like hearing your favorite song live for the first time.

Photo by Graham Washatka - www.grahamimages.net
Photo by Graham Washatka – www.grahamimages.net

Chants of his name echoed throughout while people started the wave; I saw high fives, people embracing and shaking hands that I feel never would have crossed paths otherwise. Everyone was happy. Everyone was there with the same radical ideas. Bernie Sanders has brought people together, he has opened the minds of people who have dismissed politics and felt complacent with more than a few terribly corrupt government happenings.

When the Senator made his way to the podium, I made a conscience decision to take in my surroundings and if I’m being honest, I’m having a hard time putting my experience into words. There was so much hope, excitement and awe at once, but it was so far from being overwhelming – I didn’t want the cheering to stop. He expressed his views, plans and hopes for our country while the audience never stopped encouraging him for more with standing ovations and outbursts of support. I’ll tell you what there was not also, there were zero violent incidents.

When it was over he made his way to shake hands with supporters and even offer some hugs to attendees who were close enough – like those dedicated 2-am-ers.

Photo by Graham Washatka - www.grahamimages.net
Photo by Graham Washatka – www.grahamimages.net

For the husband and I, seeing and hearing him with our own eyes was plenty to fill our cup. Bernie Sanders reeks of genuine compassion and truth. I left feeling proud to be a part of his movement and ready to place my early vote for him here in Wisconsin tomorrow. I urge all my Wisconsin friends and followers to at least take a look at his policies and if he’s not the candidate for you – at least go out and vote for who is on April 5th. Find your polling place: HERE.

[Okay, okay…I know I said if he’s not for you to vote for who is, but I challenge you to find another candidate running for president who flies coach, has voted consistently for 20+ years and radical or not, has the American people’s best interest at heart.]

 

Dear Copps [In Appleton, Wisconsin on Ballard Road]

I stopped into your grocery store, yesterday early afternoon to pick up some necessities for copps open letter super bown necessitiesthe Superbowl game; tampons, cupcakes & Coors Light.

I typically praise your establishment – before moving to the area, I was more of a Piggly Wiggly kinda gal.

Sidnote: 7 years ago – before I moved to Wisconsin, I thought Piggly Wiggly was a made up grocery store for the movies.  

Before I get ahead of myself let me create a visual of the weather so people can exercise their imaginations accordingly. It’s cold. Insanely windy…I drove through three snow-tornado-spinney-deals on my way through your parking lot. It’s gross & disgusting.

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That’s legit but, if I was going to show you something with less credibility…

It’d be more like this:

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yOU GUYS HAVE THE MOST DAINTY, YOUNG LADY OUTSIDE SHOVELING. 

Wearing her puffy jacket with a fur-lined hood…she’s shoveling the nasty muck all the vehicles have shoved into the walk way in front of your store.

Why is that? Who told her to do that? I picture someone who surely doesn’t want to go shovel themselves…if it was a guy… shame on you.

I briskly made my way through the slop…because it’s miserable outside, but I stopped to say to her…

Are there no able bodied men inside who could be shoveling?

I’d start a petition if I were you…

She gave me this, you have no idea look that I’m decently familiar with.

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Inside the warm, cozy building not surprisingly I see a minimum of 5 men putting away produce. I’m not blaming these guys… they are also, just doing their job; doing what they were told to do by hopefully, you – Mr. Manager at Copps in Appleton, on Ballard Road.

I’m not a feminist, obviously.

Please get some men/boys/guys out there to help a girl out. If this girl offered to shovel – more power to her. Good for her; it’s not the most business savvy decision either way.  She was struggling; that’s a fact. I’m sure I’m not the only person out of the the plethora of people making last minute trips to the grocery store on Superbowl Sunday to acknowledge it. – it’s a mess & certainly not that young lady’s fault.

Sincerely,

Jen