Is Wisconsin the best state in the Union? Well, I don’t know if I can answer that with honesty since I haven’t been to every state, but this last trip to the badger state really left an impression on me. And when I say impression, I’m talking the first time you listened to The Dark Side of the Moon impression. Yea, it was that good. Now you’re probably thinking Wisconsin’s just another typical Midwest state with a bunch of cheese. But it’s so much more that, and nearly impossible to capture it’s prominence in just a few paragraphs. But hey, I’m always up for a challenge, so here it goes.
I rolled into Wisco on a Tuesday morning, meeting my family at a paradise called the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes where my grandparents reside in house on the lake with a little cottage on the side which has remained nearly untouched since its creation in the late 19th, early 20th century. Now, a house with 150 feet of lake front property plus a cozy cabin on the side would be a dream for any American to own, which was the case for my grandparents. However, their ever-increasing age has prevented them from being able to keep up with this beautiful piece of prime real estate. Therefore, it must be sold, and knowing it was the last time I may ever get to step foot in such a place that has been such an amazing part of my life, I had to make this experience count, in the best way possible.
Shortly after my arrival, I took a seat at the fire pit located halfway between the beach with a floating dock a short swim away and the porch of the cottage. Sitting across from me was my mother, and I believe we were discussing the hit song of the summer “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which happens to be her favorite song right now. Now back in my high school days, she would’ve slapped me for listening to such a song with lyrics like “What rhymes with hug me” and whose music video has naked girls running about, but she seemed to be well aware of both scenarios, and was ok with it, which still baffles to me, but that is neither here nor there.
Down the stairs from the deck of the house comes my cousin’s daughter, Taylor, one of the toughest cookies east of the Mississippi. The kind that doesn’t take crap from anybody. My previous encounters with Taylor have resulted in dirty looks, where she squishes her face and sticks out her tongue, disgusted at the sight of a strange relative attempting to make conversation. And who can blame her? I can’t imagine what a 2nd grader of her stature has to put up with during school hours with all the unruly kids running amuck. She has to have an attitude in this day and age. It’s the only way they survive.
It is even rumored that she once beat one of her classmates up, just for the fact that he was a boy. I can’t confirm the story to be true, but I have no reason not to believe it. In fact, I do believe it.
But even the mightiest of 8 year olds occasionally let their guard down, even if it’s only for a second. She approached my mother and I and shot me a look of confusion. I sat there, anticipating the devastating insult that would soon be thrown in my face. “Just get it over with,” I thought to myself. I knew it was going to hurt, but how much?
She opened her mouth and I braced myself for the finishing blow. The subsequent words pierced my heart as if it was made of warm butter. A phrase I would never forget for the rest of my life.
“Are you Aaron Rodgers?” She asked.
Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, and critically agreed THE best quarterback in the NFL today. It was a question so innocent, so sincere, and so genuine. A smile formed from ear to ear across my face, for it was quite possibly one of the greatest questions I’ve ever been asked.
No matter how mean she can be, how many times she bosses people around or intimidates you with slaps and bruises, Taylor will always be ok in my book. And from that moment on, I knew it was going to be one of the best vacations ever!
Shortly after the infamous incident, I joined my older sister along with her newly pronounced fiancée to the harbor bar, a local watering hole that I’d be frequenting often during my stint in Waupaca, where you could pull up by pontoon and be served right there on your boat. It was awesome!
There again, I received another comment on my resemblance to Aaron Rodgers. This time from a 50+ year-old cougar. She wasn’t exactly my type, but nonetheless I was quite flattered, so we chatted about all of the famous NHL players she lived next to and how I should check out all their houses and stop by for a drink and say hello. Yade yade ya. I wasn’t really paying that much attention. I was just stoked on the fact that I had been in Wisconsin for less than 4 hours, and everybody I ran into thought I was Aaron Rodgers.
Now in Wisconsin, the Packers are more than a football team, and people loose their freaking mind over Aaron Rodgers. But I’ll talk about that at a later date. I could write a mega novel about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers that would make any piece of Ayn Rand literature look like child’s play. The important thing to understand is that all of this Aaron Rodgers talk made me brew up an idea. An idea that was too good to pass up. Now a lot of my ideas spring up at the whim of a moment, and most of the time when this happens, and after I’ve had a little while to think it through, the idea ends up being bad, and the consequences are brutal. This was one of those times, except I didn’t have time to think. I just had to act, even if it meant receiving a giant scolding from my mother. It was a risk I was willing to take.
I walked up the staircase to my grandmother’s living room and got into character. God bless my grandma, I love her to death. BUT she can be ruthless sometimes, and for that reason, I make her life a living hell whenever I’m around. It’s the only way I know how to tell her that I love her and that she’s the best grandma I still have. And she loves Aaron Rodgers to death. More so than all of her grandchildren. Combined.
I enter the house in a state of gloom. My grandma looks at me with concern. “What’s wrong honey?” She asks.
I delivered her a stare that would slay the likes of Chuck Norris.
“Oh grandma, you didn’t hear? It’s all over the news… Aaron Rodgers just got in a car accident. He’s in critical condition. He may be paralyzed…”
“OH NO!” She replied in a most somber fashion as she lowered her head into her arms, tears ready to burst from her eyes at any moment. She was absolutely devastated. Within the two seconds that I could stand to contain myself from bursting into uncontrollable laughter, I saw her age about 10 years to the point where I nearly gave her a heart attack. But I couldn’t resist the temptation. I fell on the floor and laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.
“You little Sh**!” she scowled at me in fury, waving her arms in a shooing motion. If you ever make your dad swear, you know you were in trouble. Your mother, you best be running for the hills, because your ass will be met with the spanking stick… IF you’re lucky. But every time I’ve made my grandma swear, I feel as if I’ve received the Medal of Honor. I smugly trot about and brag about the incident, while others around me hang off my every word from the back-story of receiving such a prestigious award.
To be fair to my grandma, she was in disbelief at the fact that I had once again fooled her after years of torment. She ought to know better by now, but it’s those few determined souls whose creativity flourishes to find a way around, time and time again. If I could, I would visit my grandma every day, but unfortunately I fear that she would drop dead after a month of relentless grief.
That night, after having a fantastic fish fry at my Uncle Mike’s followed by some serenading songs on the guitar, and probably one too many old fashions, I took a moment to sit at my grandparents dock to reflect upon the events of the day. Out in the distance across the lake, something caught my eye. It was a glitter of flashing lights in the distance towards the east as if there was a rock concert smack dab in the middle of Appleton Wisconsin. But why Appleton? And why was it so big? “Oh well,” I said to myself. I just didn’t care enough to investigate the situation and thus made the decision to retire into a deep slumber… A decision that I would soon learn to regret.
3 hours later, I awoke to disorder. Violent chatter, blinking lights; I had no idea what was going on, for my mind was functioning at a half-conscious state knowing full well that chaos was hammering me from all directions, but at the same time, I was still dreaming. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t wake up…
I was freaking out man!
Pounding rain continued to blast the walls, and the sound of 1000’s of gun shots tormented me continuously minute after minute. With my mind running a million miles an hour I tried to make out where I was, but from the evidence I could gather from all the pandemonium, the most logical location I could muster in my head was a mix of being trapped in a tent at the boundary waters during a flash flood that was being pummeled with World War II mortars, sending the tent walls crashing down at any moment.
“BOOM!” A thunder crash sent me kicking and flailing in the upstairs bedroom of the cottage. I glanced out the window. Lightning was flashing so fast it look as if there was a mega-sized strobe light pulsating in the middle of the lake. From the sound of horizontal rain drops slamming against the cottage and wooden debris ripped from trees that have stood their ground since the colonial times, the most rational idea would be to get the hell out of there, cause this place was going to tear apart at any moment. But I couldn’t resist. The sight was just too intriguing. I had to watch.
The sky was perfectly layered with clouds swirling about like the Milky Way galaxy. Rain shot at the windows so fast I was amazed it didn’t shatter the glass. “An alien invasion” I thought to myself. I honestly thought for a moment that aliens were coming down to take us over, and the worst part was that I was content with it! But I knew better. I saw the debris of busted up sidewalks and uprooted trees in Minnesota, and have heard of such phenomenon in recent days. This was a good ol’ fashion Midwest storm; one that caused a blackout across the Fox River valley of Wisconsin.
I was in awe of the havoc rustling about, and stayed up for over a half hour watching as Mother Nature destroyed the weak vegetation standing in her wake. With the natural strobe light erratically gleaming and an occasional howl of thunder, she would toss around the lakeside remains at any and all manmade structures sprawled around the shores of the lake, sending a message to remind us that she would always be in charge, and never be stopped… No matter what.
It was quite a show, but the storm started to die down to a manageable rate whereas I could slip back into bed. It was then that I had an epiphany. I shot up, my mouth agape, heart pounding. It was a realization that paralleled the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison, and the light bulb burned bright in my mind, guiding me towards my next move.
“MY CLOTHES!” I exclaimed as I scurried down the steps out onto the porch… and into a giant puddle of water. The porch, only protected by a screen, had let a flood of water seep through, covering everything in its path. And it was on that porch where my entire catalog of valuables laid…
My clothes? Completely soaked. Guitar? Drenched. Dad’s super crossword puzzle book? Destroyed. Hot sauce? Lost cause. iPad? Too bad.
What a bummer buzzkill to an almost perfect first day in Wisconsin. But if you know me, I never let the turkey’s get me down for too long. My iPad survived, and my clothes along with the guitar eventually dried out. I was rocking and rolling again in no time, and the Armageddon hot sauce still had enough kick to send me into a hallucinogenic state the day after when applied to my famous hot wings, in which I would end up sitting against the wall uncontrollably shaking, mumbling gibberish of how much I loved my Grandma and that I’m going to miss her when I’m gone. You know, the type of stuff you say right before you’re going to die. So all’s well that ends well!
But it wasn’t quite over yet. Soon, myself along with a few choice family members would venture to a land of sacred ground and significance to the people of Wisconsin. The Mecca of the Mid-West. Lambeau Field. We were going to see the Green Bay Packers…
TO BE CONTINUED…