Embracing My Inner Cheese


Welcome to Milwaukee!

I just went back to Milwaukee. It’s where I was born and raised. I appreciate it more, each time I visit.

Who wouldn’t love this place? The staple food’s are, cheese, brats, and let’s not forget….beer. It’s the place where the field trips are to the museums, festival’s and breweries.

I didn’t appreciate it so much, until I’ve gotten older, and seen more of the world. I felt I was stifled, in a sense. When I first moved away and started my flying career, I was always met with, “Are you from Wisconsin?” Not so strong an accent anymore. But what touched me more than this, was the response, “Oh, people from Wisconsin are so nice!” I have found that this is true. When I go back, I’m aware of the difference in culture. The people are so approachable, and are more than happy to help others.

Of course, my irritations, in my younger years, has been replaced by a feeling of endearment. I was envious of cities, with current fashions. Since Milwaukee seemed to be about 4 years, behind the curve. The fashion hasn’t changed one bit, since I was a teenager. Which means, you don’t have to spend a lot on clothing. It’s a standard pair of jeans, a flannel shirt, and boots, or sh**kickers) as we used to call them.

I seemed to be an alien, as I would not abide by those dictates. I had my own style and refused to be bound by the opinions of my peers. I still remember a friend, who had given me a pair of his camouflaged pants from the military. I wore these with a red turtleneck to Oktoberfest, in LaCrosse. The streets were littered with beer, paper cups and a mob of college students. The sneers of the girls told me, I was not following the rules. I didn’t care. I loved it, that I seemed an alien from another planet.

I hated it when I would tell people where I was from and they would say, “Oh, you have a lot of cows there, don’t you?” I never saw cows, unless, I went into a town. It’s not as if Milwaukee was a big farm. Yet, this is the impression that most people had.

I worked downtown and it was a city, like any other. I loved the feel of this city. In fact, when I did finally visit my friend, who had moved from Milwaukee to New York, she said, “It’s like a big, downtown.” She was right. New York, felt exactly like our downtown, only bigger. And, as I said, they actually had the latest fashions, displayed in their storefront windows.

But, still, I couldn’t help but laugh, when I walked through the General Mitchell Field Airport, and saw the souvenirs. One t-shirt, “Nothing tips like a cow,” with a cow, lying on its back.  I bought it for my daughter, as she’s in the service industry. She thought this so funny and said, her friends, are going to crack up when they see it.

The truth is; I never saw anyone tip a cow. I didn’t even hear of any friends doing it, until I had a trip down to Ormond Beach, Florida. We were visiting a friend. Her brother was going out with his friends, to tip cows. They asked if we wanted to go, cow tipping. I didn’t believe it at first. I sure was too afraid to do that, and thought it was pretty mean. Now, I’m not a vegan or anything. And I don’t mind eating burgers, but come on. The poor things are asleep and they get knocked over. I secretly hoped that a bull was standing nearby to give them a run for their money.

I seemed to notice new things all around me, which I’d never seen before. I loved the old blue, fire/police call boxes. I had to get a picture. my cousin told me that these are being stolen. “What? Who can steal something this big?”

When I was a kid, we heard that if you pulled one of these, a dye would cover your hand, which could only be detected with a black light. In my neighborhood, they were constantly going off. I can only wonder, what in the world, anyone would do with one of these, in their home. Probably use it for a clothing rack, like I do my treadmill.

I was talking with a guy who used to coach my son’s baseball team, yesterday. He’s a firefighter. “Hey, I said, I have a picture with one of those old call boxes, for the fire department. I showed him, the picture, with the blue box. He then pulled up a picture on his phone. There he was standing with two other guys, next to a red one. “This one is from Boston,” he said. My buddies are also, firefighter’s, and when we go somewhere, and we see them, we pose next to it.” I laughed, that I thought I was the only one who noticed these antiques. Now I’m wondering if he has one in his house as well. Being used as a coat rack or something.

Now one of my favorite things, in Milwaukee, is Leinenkugel. I actually put a bunch in my suitcase once, just to ship back to myself. I can’t find these, where I live. I remembered, having a trip to Germany and going to a beer garden. I had a banana beer, which was pretty good. I went straight from there to Milwaukee, where I visited the state fair. I had marveled at the strong German influence. It seemed I never left Germany. I had a Leinenkugel for the first time, in Milwaukee, and have loved them ever since. They have, berry, lemon, and wheat. I love the flavored ones. As I was sharing this with my friend, he said, “Oh, I have a lifetime supply.” “What?” I was asking how I could become a member. “Oh, I won this.” He said. But you have to go to the Leinenkugel Lodge, to get them.” “Wait a minute. There’s a lodge for Leinekugel Members?” “Yea, he said, it’s in Chippewa Falls.” Geesh! “Only in Wisconsin.

Now I realize, why my daughter made the remark when she was very young. “All people in Wisconsin do in the winter, is stay in the house, smoke and drink beer.” I laughed so hard at that statement, as this was the impression she had, and it wasn’t too far off.

Now, I don’t mean to brag, (Bragging Jackass), but gotta love them Packers! Come on. Undefeated? They continue to shock and awe. No one plays like they do, and the fans are the best.

I went to a real Milwaukee bar, on Saturday night. My cousins friend was celebrating his birthday, and there were a bunch of Harley’s out front. I was amused to see the middle-aged biker’s all over place. But, they knew I was a transplant. They could tell that I’d lost a little cheesie-ness. Some big people live in Wisconsin. I attribute this to all the dairy and beer. As I looked around, the guy had a ton of food and they’re not embarrassed to pig out. I got to watch the Badger’s play, and they got ripped off, at the end of the game. Coming from behind to tie it up, only to have a bad call in the end. Hey, that’s my opinion after watching the replays. The bar went crazy. “This is the life,” I thought. In a bar in Milwaukee, surrounded by biker’s, watching the Badger’s game. The only thing I could have asked for is that they would have gotten that call right. Because we all know, Wisconsin won.

My cousin complains about the girls being to big. But hey, they have to keep warm in the winter. Besides, my cousin, isn’t very small himself. At one point, he pointed out his picture window and said, “Hey, there goes a Milwaukee hot guy!” The guy was huge, with a flannel shirt, jeans and his sh**kicker’s.

The bars, have something for everyone. Dry Hootch, is a place on my list. They are ready to welcome all the soldiers back from war. Brady Street, is where all the action is. And on a trip to Milwaukee, these are my old stomping grounds.

I watched the Occupy Milwaukee march, with pride. The whole movement had its inception with Wisconsin and Ohio. My people, are always ready to fight the powers. I still have that in me. The friendly people of the Midwest, have a true fighting spirit, when you back them into a corner. It’s a toughness, developed by the hard-work ethic, and tempered by the spirit of empathy.

As I share my experiences with my children, I always remind them, that they are not, cheeseheads, in the true sense of the word. But they are, processed cheese. And mixed with my stepchildren, we are now more of a blended cheese. They have the cheese inside, and it’s not something you can ignore.

I have finally arrived at a place in my life, where I am proud to be part of The Cheesehead Nation. I understand why my mom, keeps saying, “I want to go back to Wisconsin.” Dorothy was right, “There’s No Place Like Home!”

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