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Travels through America’s Purgatory: Rochester, MN

Just a note: I have finally finished this essay, over a year after I originally started writing it and almost 14 months removed from the event that took me to Rochester.

It’s famously known for being the home of the Mayo Clinic, the premier medical center of the world.

Well, if it weren’t for the hospital, there really wouldn’t be much else to Rochester.

And why is the hospital so important? Aren’t hospitals about death, dying and sickness? Wouldn’t you rather have your town known for other things?

Say what you will about Milwaukee, at least they have Bob Uecker.

I shouldn’t say Rochester is only known for the Mayo Clinic. They also have a water tower painted to look like a giant ear of corn. Yea.

I was in Rochester for the MNGOP state convention. Oh yeah, I’m living the gangsta life.

Timing myself rather successfully, I got to Rochester early enough to drive around a bit. I soon realized leaving this place wouldn’t be hard at all.
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Travels Through America’s Purgatory

The Last Episode

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is the holy Mecca of Wisconsin; the most sacred site of this infernal region. I visited this shrine to “Wisconsinism” with great trepidation and fear. I had no idea…

People talk about “post Katrina New Orleans” as if that was the new name of the town. I guess that’s fine, but I don’t ever hear anyone talking about “Post-Terrorism New York” or “Post-Napoleonic France.” However, when referring to Milwaukee, the town should be regarded as the “Post Milwaukee-Milwaukee.”

“Urban Planning” is used in many cities with varying degrees of failure. No one who lives in a city that’s been “urban planned” seems to like it, but they’re always clamoring for more and new “Urban Planning.” The major cities I have visited in my life have all suffered a little from “Urban Planning.” Minneapolis is stuck with a rail line which takes urban criminals to fertile suburban feeding grounds.

I guess that’s actually a positive for Minneapolis; the money brought in from exporting crime helps pay for thousands of Minneapolitans to support their drug habits and put their children through school.

Madison, Wisconsin has created its own special Hell. But that’s already been visited by me.

Washington D.C. is a healthy mix of war zone and bureaucratic cesspool. Washington D.C. is one of the few cities where you can see the U.S. Capitol, walk two blocks to get mugged, walk two more blocks and see the White House, walk two blocks to get on an underground rail (“The Metro”) and get mugged three or four more times on the way back to your home, which has been robbed since you were away.

Each of these cities did get a little something positive from their “Urban Planning.” Typically high crime and high cost of living are balanced by public art. I can’t tell you the number of times I felt better about just having my car windows smashed because there was a beautiful upturned spoon with a giant cherry on top a few blocks away reminding me about the wonder and mystery of “Urban Planning.”

I don’t know what has been going on in Milwaukee, but it’s in desperate need for some “Urban Un-Planning.” There is no “center” to Milwaukee. It all sucks equally. If you’re near the water, it sucks. If you’re away from the water, it sucks, north, sucks, south, sucks, up, sucks, it all sucks.

I admit, I showed up to Milwaukee area when it was going through some very heavy construction. All of downtown had been practically torn up to make way for newer and better roads. Why Milwaukee needed newer and better roads to take people to the same dirty, run down and disgusting buildings in their downtown area beats me. Not that the buildings in downtown were worse than the dilapidated buildings covering the whole of the city. If Milwaukee was a face, it would be a horribly acne scarred face covered in acne. There wasn’t a giant spoon to be found.

On the plus side, Miller Park looked nice and there appeared to be plenty of parking. Milwaukee did have a lot of burger joints too. Burgers, cheese, malts, shakes, more cheese and more beef were available in huge quantities every couple of blocks from burger stands which were in abundance everywhere in Milwaukee.

Oh yeah, there was also beer. Everyone was drinking beer all the time, and eating, and jaywalking, and driving too fast, and not wearing their seat belts. In fact, the people of Milwaukee weren’t the most health or safety conscious people. I guess that’s one thing I can understand about Milwaukee: its people are trying to end their lives through neglect. In this way, the people of Milwaukee have a lot in common with Milwaukee.

More Travels Though America’s Pugatory

Green Bay, WI

I was really looking forward to visiting Green Bay. The bay, the green, trees, Packers stuff. I thought there was something interesting, attractive about living in this tucked away corner of the United States.

Boy was I wrong.

Green Bay sucks. It sucks in a way no other town has ever sucked. It’s the suckiest suck that ever sucked.

I drove to Green Bay to visit the UW school there, it was under construction. The entire campus was caked in this clay from the construction vehicles going in and out all over the place. UW-Green Bay is located in a swamp next to a giant lake, I can’t even describe the smells. I was quite happy to leave.

After I had finished my business at the University, I took a tour of Green Bay. It took about an hour. First and foremost, the air in Green Bay is thick from some sort of industrial smog which mixes from the surrounding slew into some sort of arousal sludge. There are a lot of smokestacks in Green Bay. It is quite possible that every smokestack in Green Bay is legal and doesn’t produce excessive pollutants, but there is a cumulative effect from these hundreds of stacks over the last century. Green Bay is the only city I have been to in desperate need of environmentalists.

I decided to visit the local history museum. That took about fifteen minutes. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but the history of Green Bay involves grime. I’m not an anti-pollution nut by any stretch, but even this little museum had its own industrial sludge being pumped into the canals around Green Bay.

Green Bay is also fairly small; it takes less than an hour to circumvent along its beltway. I drove through some of the town, mainly blue collar homes right out of any 70’s sitcom (I thought I had entered the world of “All in the Family”). Green Bay looks like a town that had faced a wildfire, everyone evacuated for a decade, and they just got back before cleaning up. It keeps this half abandoned look in perpetuity.

I couldn’t leave that town soon enough. It took an hour of washing to get the grime off my car.

More Travels through America’s Purgatory:

River Falls, WI

A small town with all of the drawbacks but none of the positives a small town normally offers. The really is nothing more to say. There are cheap parking meters there…

More on my travels through America’s Purgatory:

Menomonie, WI

Home of UW-Stout

“Traditional, yet progressive” is the motto of Menomonie. I don’t even know what the hell that means. I doubt the 15,000 people of Menomonie have any clue either. I’ve spent a few days in this quiet town over the last few weeks. Right off of I94, this town is, I assume, another former logging town. I don’t know this, as I couldn’t seem to find a museum or detailed history of Menomonie anywhere.

I did find this piece of work:

I figured there would be some sort of museum inside, but the place was empty. There was no one in the gift shop. There was some antique furniture scattered throughout the building, but I couldn’t figure out any theme to this place. My only clue was the historical marker on the outside of the building:

The university in the area is a fascinating study into sociology. About half the 4000 students are from the surrounding area. For the most part, they are all self described rednecks. Having walked around the campus, I can verify this; about 1 in 2 people I saw met and exceeded my visual stereotypes for “redneck.” My heuristics were also accurate in talking to some of these people. It was awesome.

What about the other half of the student body?

Liberals from the Twin Cities. The worst sort too, those interested in only getting far enough away from their parents so they don’t have to see them, but close enough so they can still visit home with ease.

The interaction between these local rural rednecks and the pampered Minnesota liberal imports makes for some fun campus “activities” which the CR chapter so gleefully plans.

The town is almost pathetic. Almost. Being the situation where you squeeze two opposing forces together on equal ground in an experiment that could only have been designed by a madman makes Menomonie awesome. It’s a design created by a sort of Dr. Morbius for the Social Sciences. UW-Stout would have been the ideal college for me. I am almost saddened that I can’t stay and plot longer. But like Dr. Frankenstein, my monster is on the move.

However, you shouldn’t consider moving to Menomonie, ever.

Milwaukee, in all it’s strangely spelled glory:

http://tommunism.blogspot.com/2006/01/end-of-era.html

Madison, WI

I thought that I had been to some fairly odd and radical places, but Madison has completely changed my understanding of irrationality.

Madison is located on an isthmus between two large lakes. The city is basically being pinched by the lakes like a zit between two fingers, putting pressure on the land and the people. The state capitol building of Madison rises like a stressed whitehead ready to pop.

I hope it happens soon.

I decided to do some research into the history of Madison, there had to be some explanation for this place.

I did, and there is.

The history of Madison is a stupid one. In the earlier parts of the nineteenth century, some rich guy liked the isthmus so much that he bought it. This is fine, I’m all for rich people buying land that they like. It has the dual purpose of separating rich people from the rest of us. Communists talk about equality, but really, rich people are typically arrogant and obnoxious. I want them holed away in remote mansions to waste away alone and unloved. It’s the rich people who feel that they are “the people” and who go to my favorite restaurants (hole in the wall grease factories that have vermin walking across the floor) that really bother me.

However, this rich guy not only bought this wonderful land, but then he sold the Wisconsin State Legislature on the idea of moving the state capitol there. Being rich and influential, it happened.

It’s one of those rare situations in this country where a town is created not by the geography or by resources or by proximity to roads and trade routes, but by one man’s fleeting whim. His name was James Doty, and I’m not lying.

So the people of Wisconsin started building their capitol in an area where there was no room to grow. This also left Madison as a city without an economy. There are no nearby resources; there is nothing there in which to increase wealth. The only thing the capitol of Madison could produce would be tax dollars.

Then the city of Madison attracted those that are attracted to government. Communists, hookers, liquor store owners, immigrant workers specializing in childcare and laundry. Those types of people. There are also people who bribe legislators, and the legions of government workers needed to support the entire structure.

In 1848 someone thought it’d be a good idea to have a state funded university nearby. Fools. A university just made the situation worse. Soon enough they had doubled the population of radicals and freaks. Now, just imagine this mess interbreeding for 150 years. Yeah, now we know why there’s a riot every Halloween in Madison.

It’s also a good explanation as to why Madison is so radical in its leftist ideology. Luckily, this level of radicalism is matched by the natural laziness of such descendants as the freak soup of Madison would produce. About the only thing these people do is protest whatever is on their minds at the moment and go back to playing video games and watching porn.

They also spend a lot of time on scooters:

I don’t know the deal, but these things were everywhere. Whenever I saw some guy without a helmet and sporting a leather jacket and sunglasses, I’d yell out my car window “You are not a man.”

It’s frustrating in Madison because it is so impossibly radical there. Luckily Madison has the best conservative movement in the country. They need it there.

Oshkosh and Highway 21

If Eau Claire is the bastard child of Osakis and Saint Cloud, then Oshkosh is simply Osakis. A perpetual, never ending Osakis. I jokingly refer to Wisconsin as America’s Purgatory, but on my cynical days I mean it; Oshkosh would then be located on the River Cocytus.

Traveling to Oshkosh on the 21 felt like the end of eternity. At first, when traveling from Lacrosse to Eau Claire on 93, I found Wisconsin’s many unincorporated towns fascinating, even quaint. The endless sea of old red barns and rusted, aged machinery were a throwback to the Norman Rockwell days I hear about on A&E.

But after an hour or so on 21, I realized that rural Wisconsin wasn’t a throwback to the “golden era” of the American Midwest. It is the refuse, the leftovers. The barns are old and red because there is no money to build new ones. The equipment is rusted and aged because there is no want of better equipment. These areas are dying. Rotting.

I’m not sure what the salvation for these areas are either. In Minnesota you don’t see many old red barns. When you do there is typically another, newer barn present. Tractors in Minnesota are either relatively new or in good condition, and all equipment is up to par. Rural Minnesota lacks “character” because rural Minnesota is still living, thriving in comparison to Wisconsin’s rural areas.

Minnesota’s rural regions may just be the recipients of better government subsidization, I don’t know.

As for Oshkosh itself, like I said, it’s an endless Osakis. There are battered buildings, old worn out homes, and some inclinations towards commerce. The commercial district is quite large in fact; a product of Oshkosh’s lumbering past. In fact, the history of Oshkosh is summed up by this monument:

That is an old smokestack that used to be attached to the old Paine Lumber Co. mill. Yeah, really fascinating I’m sure. I went to the Oshkosh Public Museum to find out more. Incredibly enough, there was a great exhibit on pirates at the Museum. Which is great, since when you think Oshkosh, Wisconsin, you think “Pirates.”

In the museum were some interesting bits of geology, geography, and history. The Indians were conquered, animals were eaten, trees were cut down. The town was borne of lumber, and continues to exist because of the local water and local interstate. The museum also housed a rare 1913 Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Some of the more fascinating things at the museum were an impressive collection of WWII relics:

Along with those relics was this aged punt gun that was pulled out of a local waterway. The gun is contrasted with a 12 gauge above it, making the gun somewhere near the 4 gauge size. The gun was used to kill flocks of birds:

The “favorite” piece in the museum was a handcrafted grandfather clock made out of wood and old car parts:

Like I said, these people get bored, and not in a good way.

When I went to buy some postcards, the lady behind the counter had to dig out a bag of disgusting green pennies to give me correct change. She told me that the museum used to have a beaver pound into which children would throw coins. They only used those coins when they were short on change because of the intense oxidation on the coins. The coins had a lot of oxidation because it was a pain in the ass to pick them out of the pond, so they rarely did it.

I really didn’t need the penny, and I would have happily accepted the loss of a penny to my net worth. The lady insisted though. I intend to keep the penny, it being so oxidized I doubt anyone would accept it as legal tender.

The town is placed amidst an assortment of rivers and lakes. This is why it was such a boom town during the lumber days, and now it just makes navigation curious. There are plenty of drawbridges that look exactly alike to make the town difficult to figure out for us out of towners.

Oshkosh must also be astoundingly dull to Oshkoshiens. Driving around the city I encountered one strip club after another. As is custom, these clubs typically open about 4pm. In Minnesota, when you can find a strip club, it also opens typically at 4pm. However, in Minnesota there are typically few cars in the parking lot at 4pm. In Oshkosh, at 3:50pm the parking lots for a majority of the clubs were already half filled. (despite the fact that “opens everyday 4pm” was clearly visible from the road).

I can only imagine the prostitution racket in this town must be quite profitable and robust.

The most impressive aspect of the town was the cemeteries. They were gorgeous, spacious, with beautiful monuments set in idyllic conditions. It was almost like people around here looked forward to their imminent demise.

Across the street from the dead people was a rather spotty looking bar the bragged of having “the best burgers in town.” After getting cold service and an unimpressive burger (It tasted like stuff I’ve grilled) I tried to find some positive aspect to this place.

The best thing I could come up with was the motto of the bar I was at:

Grab a beer
Pull up a seat
You’re better off here
Then across the street
Ricoshay’s

I guess I have to agree, you are better off in Oshkosh then in the grave.

Barely.

My travels are done, except for a trip back to Washington D.C. next week. I have posts on Madison and on Oshkosh WI that I’ll try to post up soon. I’m also going to do some site-seeing around Alexandria. This weekend is the last weekend that I can spend trying to solidify the conservative groups that I formed, so that’s what I’m doing (along with some paperwork).

The job at LI was a success, I formed 13 groups at 10 campuses other than my alma mater. I formed 5 groups at the U.

My job at LI was to identify, recruit, train and place young conservatives, and a large part of that is organizing conservative student groups.

It was fun.

Superior

Superior, WI, just across the bay from Duluth, is its bastard twin; which made it more palatable to my tastes. Superior doesn’t have any “hip” to it. It’s just a port town with a dying industrial area, and Superior seems almost accepting of that. There’s no attempt at cleaning up downtown, no attempt at attracting tourists. Superior just sucks, and that’s alright with me.

U-Wisc-Superior was about like that, it sucked except for the fine conservative gents I talked to. These guys reeked of “competent” as well as “farm boy.” They were perfect for that campus; a campus that has the “welcome center” give out the parking tickets.

What was even better was that on the ticket portion of the ticket, it listed various fines for parking violations. Of those fines was my violation, expired parking ticket. Man was I dumb, as you can see, I could have parked on the freakin’ lawn for an additional 8 bucks!

If you’re ever in Superior, be sure to visit “The Anchor Bar and Grill.” No description. It has to be experienced. Don’t worry, everyone in Superior knows where it is and they would be pleased to show you. Be sure to get a burger.