We Did the Door

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We just got back from a couple of days in Door County.  I could post the pictures and tell you what a wonderful place it is to visit, and I would sound like a travel magazine.  But anybody who ever reads this blog knows that’s not what you’re going to get. 

We did the things we like to do, which means we avoided all the tourist trinket shops entirely, and visited the photogenic places — Cana Island, Peninsula State Park, Cave Point, a few pretty buildings, and the ferry port on the edge of the world.  Beebee had a good time with her dad’s camera.  She probably had a good time with her parents, too, but the camera won the popularity contest.

I restrained myself from bringing little bits of Door County home with me. Last time, my mind got stuck in the groove of crab claws and other lake debris being cool.  I brought home a margarine bucket full of such things.  It resides on a shelf in my closet, and I take it out and look at it every couple of years with my nose plug in place, because all those little marine life thingies smell horrible.  I think someday I will show my crab claws to the grandchildren to see whether they are scared or delighted.  I would imagine at least one of them will be delighted.  I will tell him Grandma got these while sailing the seas in a pirate ship, and he will think I am even cooler!

I noticed they don’t have any homeless people hanging around under the docks and park benches in Door County.  It’s probably because they would freeze to death in the middle of July.  I’ve never been to Door County when it wasn’t freezing.  I recommend bringing your winter coat when you come in May.  We didn’t, and we should have.

I didn’t see too many taverns, either — not that I missed them, or needed one, or anything like that.  I suppose the locals there get the same satisfaction out of a bowl of lingonberries as folks in my neck of the woods do out of a bottle of beer.  (Lingonberries are like a cross between cranberries and currants.  You eat them in a sauce.)

Eating is a problem in Door County, unless you bring your own food or have a wallet the size of Warren Buffet’s.  The lingonberries cost, folks!  And when it is off-season (it still is, in late May) there are not a lot of places open for business.  The owners stay in Florida until June, hoping to store up warmth, somewhat like a solar battery.  They want to bring back at least the remembrance of what it was like not to shiver constantly.  But Al Johnson’s is always open.  I would eat every meal there  —  if I had Warren Buffet’s wallet at my disposal.

We stayed at the same resort that we were at the last time.  Back then, it was elegant to my plebeian eyes, but it was decidedly tired this time.  The entire building was extremely musty-smelling and my nostrils were assaulted with nastier-yet odors upon entering our room.  I did not look under the bed for dead mice resting in an ashtray full of cigarette butts, but I think I would have found that if I had looked.

The lady at the front desk informed us that if we wanted to go swimming and had not brought our suits, they had a supply of left-behinds from previous guests.  We could pick through them and wear them if we liked.  Uh, no thanks. I wonder if they offer free recycled underwear that was left behind, too.  How about toothbrushes?

Which brings me to my husband, who forgot his toothbrush.  He thought he was going to share mine.  There are times when I am not in a sharing mood.  Forgotten toothbrushes are one of those moments.  Beebee thought it should be no big deal if he just didn’t brush until we got home from the trip.  (I see that I am going to have to monitor the child’s toothpaste consumption, to make sure it is being … consumpted.)  Thankfully, my husband did not think skipping the tooth maintenance was a good idea.  We sent him down to the desk, and they sold him a toothbrush.  It was still neatly wrapped in plastic, so I don’t think it came out of the box of recycled underwear and bathing suits.

It’s a good thing that the resort thought to keep a stock of (new) toothbrushes, as we were staying at the absolute end of nowhere, at least five miles from inhabited places, and by this time every store in town would have been closed anyway, because it was after 3:00 p.m., the official time all the businesses shut down and everybody forgets to breathe until morning (except Al Johnson’s, which serves lingonberries far into the night — until 8:00 p.m., in fact).

So that’s the angle on Door County that no one else will tell you.  There’s more, but we’ll save it for another day.

Weird Search Terms

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I’m intrigued by the search terms that people use to get to my blogs.  A lot of people don’t just type in search words; they enter whole questions.  Here is a sampling for your entertainment, along with my reactions:

1.)  “Where in the Bible did Daniel fast?”  — He probably did it in the kitchen, in the living room, at the annual convention of the Chaldean Wise Men for Better Working Conditions, and in the bathtub.  Oh.  It says, “in the Bible.”  I think it was in Genesis 1, because they weren’t allowed to eat meat at that point in the Bible yet.  So Daniel ate veggies.  Eat your veggies.  They are good for you.

2.)  “Talking like a Yooper”  — (For those of you who are uninformed, a Yooper is someone from the U.P. — Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It is a territory of Wisconsin.)  The question raised in my mind was, “Why would anyone want to?”

3.)  “Did Tommy Thompson ever eat Fruit Loops?” — Only when Lee Dreyfuss did not send him any “bee poop” for Christmas.  What kind of a fruit loop asks these things? (This is strictly a  Wisconsin joke, based on our history.  If you’ve lived in Wisconsin thirty years or so, you understand.)

4.)  “Did the Pope visit Door County?” — Of course he did.  Everybody visits Door County, even Santa Claus.  The Pope ate at Al Johnson’s — had the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries (because it was Friday, so the meatballs were off-limits).

5.)  “Undertaker grants a wish” — I’m sorry, but this one really brought a question to my mind: who is “Undertaker”?  For some reason I kept thinking of a pro wrestler, or maybe a champion killer bronc on the rodeo circuit.  But on second thought, it sounds a little like a title of a children’s picture book. 

6.)  “Free socking music” — Do people need background music for fistfights?  Does it enhance the experience?  Come to think of it, there was music in the background on those old Roy Rogers movies while he was duking it out with the bad guys!  Or maybe someone needs soothing music while he folds his laundry and matches his socks.

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I’m from Wisconsin, and I Oughtta Know

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So, you’re visiting Wisconsin, and you don’t want to look like a tourist, eh?  Never fear.  We’ll help you out a little so that your stay in our wonderful state will be satisfying and you won’t act like a total doofus.

Now this is the easy part:  If you live in Chicago, and the only place you are going to try out is Door County, just be yourself and no one will care.  During the peak season in Door County, the ratio of Chicagoans to resident folks is about 20 to 1, so no one will mess with you.  Even if you say REALLY dumb Chicago-ish things, the natives will smile and pretend not to notice, because they want your money so badly.  They can’t go to Florida in the winter if you don’t buy all the Scandinavian sweaters and “I Love Door County” trinkets that they offer at five times the true market value.  They are counting on you to come to their lovely corner of the state and throw your money at them, so keep coming, and behave as un-Wisconsinish as you want to.

For the sake of safety, do yourself a favor and wear green and gold.  Green Bay Packer attire will make you look like a native, and even if people notice by your accent that you aren’t the real thing, they will love you for your loyalty to the home team.  Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that says “Dallas Cowboys,” “Chicago Bears,” or “Minnesota Vikings” on it.  You may get your facial features rearranged before you leave the state, if you do.  However, you will be safe and appreciated if you wear “Chicago Cubs” stuff.  A lot of Wisconsinites despaired over the Brewers ever winning anything years ago and became Cubs fans.  This may not be logical, since the Cubs’ record is usually on a par with the Brewers’, but it’s the way it is.

But for the true experience … you have to know what a bubbler is.  Do NOT ask anyone to direct you to the water fountain.  You will be given a blank stare, especially if you are in a grocery store.  Why would a grocery store have a water fountain?  After collecting her thoughts, the clerk will probably direct you to the city park, or maybe the local life insurance company.  Such places have water fountains, and you can even slip your shoes off and dip your toes in, if you like.  But grocery stores and other small businesses do not have them.  They have bubblers.  That’s what we call them — bubblers.  It makes sense, you know.  The water bubbles out of the little hole, and you drink it as it bubbles ….

If you are from the South and are visiting in the winter, do not go to a clothing store and ask for a toboggan.  They will wonder what is wrong with you, and direct you to a sporting goods store.  You will do all right at Wal-Mart.  If you ask in the clothing department there, they will merely think you are lost and will point you to the sporting goods department.  In Wisconsin, a toboggan is not a ski cap.  It is an eight-foot long sled.  You park it at the top of a hill when there is snow on the ground (doesn’t work too well without the snow), pile a bunch of bodies on top, push off, and careen madly down the slope until you either hit a tree or make it to the bottom.  Sometimes the sled makes it to the bottom but the bodies don’t.  Everybody thinks this is fun, and laughs heartily, whether they manage to stay on the toboggan or fall off along the way.  We know how to enjoy life here, let me tell you!  So remember — ask for a ski cap, not a toboggan, unless you are going sledding.  Better yet, visit Wisconsin in the summer.

If you are from the South, do not ask for a Coke if you want a 7-Up, and then expect the waitress to ask what kind of Coke you want.  Coke means Coke here, not soda.  If you want a soda, ask for one.  It’s not all that hard!

Awhile back, I told everyone that the new state motto is Eat cheese or die!  Be polite, and just eat it, if it is put in front of you.  There’s nothing wrong with it, it is processed in sterile conditions, and it will not hurt you.  Honest.  If you are trying to fool everyone into thinking you are a native Wisconsinite, eat lots of it — with a smile.

But, for those of you foreigners who really like cheese, do not carry on about it day and night, either.  You need to understand that those of us who live here do not consciously think about cheese every minute of our lives.  We do not serve cheese curds at every meal.  If you have to have cheese curds, make a little stop at a local cheese factory on your way out of state, buy yourself twenty pounds or so, and enjoy the squeaks they make all the way home.  We’re tired of hearing about the cheese curds.

Now this is the biggie: You have to know how to pronounce “brat.”  We all know that once you’ve had one, you’ve got to have more.  They’re like potato chips — “No one can eat just one.”  But you have to know how to pronounce them when you order, if you don’t want to sound like a total idiot.  Brat rhymes with “hot,” not  “cat.”  If you ask for a brat, and you make it rhyme with cat, the brat stand owner may hand you one of his children.  Brat is short for bratwurst, by the way.  But people will look at you funny if you ask for a bratwurst, too.  Just learn to say the abbreviated form properly.  For the full Wisconsin experience, eat it with sauerkraut slathered all over it.  (Sauerkraut — shredded cabbage pressed down in a wooden barrel between layers of salt and left to decompose to a state of perfection over several months’ time.)

Are you ready to visit?  It’s worth the trip!

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My Latest Inspiration

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I have been reading Tasha Tudor’s biography, Drawn from New England, and it has inspired me to write a biography of my best friend Peggy–authorized if she is enthused, and unauthorized if she isn’t. She won’t have a choice!

I thought the Tasha Tudor thing had a pretty good title, seeing she was an illustrator (Drawn) and from New England (lived in New England). So I’ve decided to go with a catchy title like that for my buddy’s biography. We want the readers to know she’s an artist (she’s into basketry), and we want them to know she is from Wisconsin, so we’ll call it, A Basket Full of Bratwurst. Isn’t that good??!!!

I haven’t got much material yet–just a great title–so I’ll have to interview Peg (for the authorized version) or those that know her (for the unauthorized version). Better yet, why don’t I just make it up as I go along? Who cares if it has any basis in reality? Hey, Hillary Clinton got away with this, and look how well her book did! Especially for the unauthorized version, we will have to find people who aren’t Peg’s favorite friends and can provide scoops of dirt (isn’t that the way they do it for the celebs?). Maybe, true to the Drawn from New England style, we’ll just stick with my own fond remembrances.

I’d better make this biography sound convincingly positive to Peg, so that she’ll cooperate, because we’ll need lotsa pictures–cute baby ones right up through the awkward years. (No, I’m not referring to adolescence. It’s the latest stage we’re in–the almost Depends generation.) We’ll want to include the colorful pictures of her accomplished artwork–knit sweaters, baskets, paintings, quill boxes, silk banners, grapevine wreaths, beadwork, and any other of her past art passions that I can’t recall right now. I’d just go steal the pics off her web site, but she has them all scientifically sabotaged so that they can’t be swiped.

If I do an unauthorized version, I probably won’t have to pay her anything from the massive profits I make. But then, she probably won’t let me have the pics, and I’d have to rely on dirt. Such a hard decision! Tsk.

This biography brainstorm has just got to be a winner! I figure, with Peg’s colorful, multi-faceted art career, she has at least as much going for her as Tasha Tudor. All Tasha did was create art while living like the pioneers did 100 years before her. Hey, Peg did bugs and butterflies, too! (See Chapter 9–The Lepidoptera Years.) We could add a little extra interest by having her pictured crafting an art piece in an RV with a flat tire out in the woods of Door County. It’s a sure winner. Yes, I like the ring of it–A Basket Full of Bratwurst.

Purchase at Amazon: Drawn from New England

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