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.

I Do Not Fear Mental Illness – I Fear Our Perception Of It

I sat in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin by the water with my 8 year old son last night. It was beautiful…and scary. It wasn’t like this before. I found myself looking over my shoulder every time I heard voices coming in our direction. I kept a judgmental eye on people who seemed to be moving in a way that didn’t seem normal.

The typical safety I feel by being surrounded by a baseball diamond full of players & other folks enjoying the weather… was gone. It does not matter how many people you’re surrounded by when there could be one individual in the crowd who is unstable and battling an inner struggle that you or I cannot comprehend.

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[Police: 4 dead, including suspect, in Menasha shooting]

At 7:30pm on May 3rd, 2015 in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin four people werementalillness killed, including an 11 year old girl.  Grief struck me last night as I sat with my son; I felt sadness for a child that will never experience life & for her mother who survived. I looked at my son, put my arm around him & realized I cannot protect him from a mentally ill person with a gun. When a human being is overcome with a negative shadow, rarely is an offense they commit planned out. Randomly, they seem to take their aggressiveness and feelings out on innocent people who never see it coming.

Gun control, gun control, gun control… in America we all have an opinion. We read about it, we talk and debate about it – if we, as a nation, discussed mental illness the way we ranted about gun control… we might get somewhere. But, the focus remains on a belonging, rather than people.

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I’ve always been an overly-analytical person, trying to understand things by dissecting every aspect of a scenario, regardless how big or small. While watching people in the park last night, I started to wonder how the shooter’s family and friends are grieving the loss of him.

Were there red flags that now haunt them? Had he attempted to reach out for professional help, what steps would have been taken by doctors… medication?  I can’t help but get angry when mental-illness is downplayed or not taken seriously.  We’re failing not only a person who has something terribly wrong with them… but we’re failing the 11 year old girl whose life got cut short.

Sitting in a quiet park in Wisconsin with my son, should be anything but an anxiety-ridden experience. The pleasantry of the trees finally being filled with green leaves & the sounds of kids running around, without a care in the world have been replaced with an uneasy pit in my stomach.mental health quote glenn close1