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.

Perception Frame

I don’t have a fancy camera, I’ve never taken a photography class and I believe Instagram can make anyone a photographer if they want to be. (To be clear, that is not to discredit advanced photo takers.)

I can’t help but feel that the blue sky is different from each perspective. The sky above is just as pretty – yet I feel the like driftwood yearns to be on the other side… cause it’s always greener over there.

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[On a farm in Hammond, Wisconsin]

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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.

It’s Duck Duck GREY DUCK, and yes, it’s serious.

I’m a transplant from Minnesota living in Wisconsin. I traded the 45-minute-traffic-filled city commute to work for the smell of manure on a hot summer day. Is it strange that I would rather smell animal dung than sit in traffic?  Each are gross for their own special reasons – but, if I had to pick one…

After years, it may appear that I’ve come full circle but there are still a few Wisconsin-isms that make me shake my head. The fountain that provides drinking water is called just that. It is a drinking fountain – I will also accept, water fountain. The good people of Wisconsin call this thing a, bubbler and I don’t like it.

It does not bubble and if you ask me a bubbler sounds like something British people would call the toilet. Fact: Toilets bubble more than drinking fountains.

Yet another, the stickers that you put on your license plate that show you’ve paid your dues? I call those, tabs. Found out that was a Minnesota thing the first time I went to renew.

Hi, I’d like to to purchase the tabs for my car… 

The stare down began and it was clear she had no idea what I was talking about. I still call them tabs – only now I explain myself.

Now, for the most important one:

If anyone in Wisconsin wants to debate the “Duck Duck” game – I will fight you over this.

Probably not physically, I’m not much of an actual fighter but I will raise my voice. Why on earth would any child choose to play “Duck Duck Goose” over “Duck Duck Grey Duck”? I urge anyone that would argue that it is supposed to be, Duck Duck Goose to put yourself in the child’s shoes.

Minnesota: Red DuckBlue DuckGreen DuckOrange DuckGREY DUCK!!!

Everywhere Else: Duck….Duck…..Duck…..Duck….GOOSE. 

Who is going to argue with that? Try me. But, I doubt you feel as strongly about it as I do, so…maybe you should just keep that opinion to yourself.

Way to get it right, Minnesota!!

Wisconsin does win a few pretty substantial victories; I have been converted to saying, soda. I miss saying pop and it makes my heart a little sad that when I do say, pop – it seems a little off. I suppose that’s what happens when your primary source of income at the time of finding employment in Wisconsin is bartending & waiting tables.

You get a few looks …  you know the looks I speak of and you realize it’s just easier to say soda. You say tomato, I say tomaato; doesn’t really matter (except Duck Duck Grey Duck, that does indeed matter).

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.]