Letter From Home 1/18/10

Driving into the Inn’s parking lot my eyes saw continued signs of wear from years of too few dollars coming into the business, and the effects of weather and time not being addressed in the way that they should have been.   The heavy canvas type covering over one of the entry doorways was tattered, and there was more rust on one of the service doors that only added to the aged look of the building.   I made a comment to James, and he remarked that they needed a flag to fly on their  large mast just off the side of the restaurant located near by.  It was not the first time that we had made note of simple repairs that would improve the place; we seem to comment each time we visit.  Over the years that has been several times a year, mostly for relaxation and time to get away with some books and spend time in a hot tub and swimming pool.  So it was not strange to hear James recently say it was time again to pack a couple bags and slip way for a weekend. 

The place is not on the coast. Not in Chicago.  Not anywhere really ‘exciting’.  But it is a place that has memories for me, and one that James and I have both come to find as a  perfect little get-away located not too far from home that is clean, and safe.  Not a four-star inn, but one with the amenities and calm that we desire.  As we relaxed in the hot tub there recently I thought back to the number of  times that I have visited.  

I first stayed at the Elizabeth Inn in Plover, Wisconsin when I was about twenty-seven years old.  A friend from broadcasting school asked me to be best man at his wedding.  The reception was in the banquet room at the Inn, and it was there I made a toast to the couple that was pretty sentimental, and later discovered while dancing that a woman had put her room key into my tuxedo trouser pocket.  (Oh Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.)  Dressing that day for the wedding I was pleased with how good-looking I was in a tuxedo.  (Hence, the key.)  I still remark to my friend that the pictures from that day were the best that I ever have had taken. 

I next stayed at the Inn in 1997, the year my parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.   The next morning the three of us would be on a tour bus bound for Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry.  I can still see the Lamers Bus with the early morning sun glinting off of it waiting for us to board in the parking lot of the Inn.  Long before daybreak I was up, dressed, and ready ‘to roll’ when the wake up call came.    I recall shoving my damp swimming trunks into a plastic bag that morning, and placing them in my suit case.  A strange memory for sure.  But the idea of being able to relax in a hot tub or frolic in a swimming pool was not a part of my growing up, and so as an adult I have always thought it quite wonderful to have occasions when I could splash to my heart’s content. 

During the past decade James and I started staying at the Inn several times a year.  The majority of the time it was just to get away and relax.  But the Inn was also a place we stayed when my mom was sick and in the local hospital.  It was there in a room at 2 AM one Sunday morning  when James and I sat at a small table with paper from the front desk and wrote my mom’s obituary.   At the Inn I discovered what the longest night of my life felt like.  

The small restaurant located just a number of yards away holds great memories too.  For as long as James and I can recall the same older woman is there to take our orders.  Traditional baked chicken dinners, or ample mid-western breakfasts always taste best when coming from someone who handles two plates of food along with a steaming pot of coffee all at the same time while dispensing care-free conversation.  Middle America at its best! 

As a teenager and young adult I recall so many times when it was just too hot to cook, or my parents and I were out and about (such as after my nieces appendix operation) and we stopped in for food.  My parents always liked a booth in the back by the windows.   Today James and I prefer a table in the middle.  But never leaving without pie blurs time.  Some things never change.

I know at some point given the pace of ‘progress’ that this Inn will no longer operate as there are newer ones with splashy signs and better promotions.  But until then James and I will escape a few times a year after packing some clothes and a couple books, a crossword or two, and some tea bags for late nite TV.  We will travel northwards and hang out for several hours after lunch at the pool and hot tub while reading and talking.  Then shower for dinner.  Then back into swim trunks.

Relaxation does not need to cost a lot.

But one does need to bring the small plastic bag for damp swim trunks.

All-Star Rodeo In Madison Was Sexist, Racist, And Politically Conservative

This should not have happened in Madison.

I read this review of the All-Star Rodeo that made its way into Madison recently, and was really shocked.  The rodeo’s of my childhood (Manawa, Wisconsin) were not like the one that played out here in Madison.  In my youth dad bought snow cones for my mom and me as we all watched reckless antics  in the stands.  As a kid rodeos were about fun and skill, but it seems red-neck conservatives have changed everything.  That is a shame as I still think at the heart of a rodeo there can be lots of fun.  But as Penelope Trunk’s blog explains my childhood rodeo days are only memories.  What happened here in Madison this weekend is a real shame.  It is just embarrassing to read about.

Before there were animals there was the flag, rising above the dirt ring, and the announcer saying everyone should sing the Star Spangled Banner to honor “the flag that protects our troops, and our churches and our great country.”

I looked over at the farmer for churches, and before I could roll my eyes, the announcer said, “Everyone please rise in the name of Jesus and sing the Star Spangled Banner.”

I told my kids to stay seated.

The farmer stayed seated out of solidarity even though he hates standing out. It was a great moment of compromise for us.

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In between cowboys falling violently to the ground, the announcer would say jokes like, “My girlfriend says she wants to get married. I told her I hope she finds someone nice.”

The theme of the evening, in general, was “real men get thrown off bulls and treat women like crap.”

Until the women came out. They were acrobats on fast running horses. Sort of like the clowns, only dressed like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. The most special time, I think, was when two girls did tricks on one horse. The girls did not share a horse because the tricks are more difficult that way, it was more like the girls shared a horse to make you think they’d be available for a threesome after the show.

Luckily, this was lost on my sons. And the farmer acknowledged that this was not a family values kind of thing.

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Okay. So we stayed. And then, the clown started talking about doctors. He said there are 120,000 doctors in the US and there are 70,000 accidental deaths a year. And there are 80 million gun owners in the US, and there are 12,000 accidental deaths a year. Then he shouted out, “So doctors are more dangerous than guns! So Washington, keep your hands off our guns and our health care!”

I looked at the kids. They were concentrating on their popcorn.

Then, out of nowhere, the clown brought out a wig, that had dreadlocks, and he put on a Rastafarian hat, and he started pretending that he was Barack Obama. He said, “I feel so presidential.” And he made jokes about whether Obama is a US citizen.

Why am I telling you this?

First of all, it made me feel lonely. I have heard the doctor/gun owner argument before, but not in a stadium, in Madison, WI, which is one of the most left-leaning cities in the country. And I know there is racism in this country. But I can’t believe that not a single person in that stadium yelled out anything after a racist joke. I would expect, actually, that people would boo and hiss and throw things into the ring. But no one said a word.

I felt lonely that I live in a city where this could happen. I wish I could find a place where I feel like I fit in. I think I find it, and then I don’t. And really, how could I even think that I’d fit in at a rodeo? But I kind of thought the place would be full of people like me and the farmer. Now I think I don’t even know what that means.

If Martha Coakley Does Not Prevail, Health Care Must Succeed

This nation must get health care, even if  teabagger  Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts come Tuesday due to a poorly run race by the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley.  (She is a dreadful candidate, and looking at it from a campaigning perspective, deserves to lose.  That pains me to say as this is not the legacy that should be affixed to the seat Teddy Kennedy held for over forty years.)  This nation has had a year of debate and angst over the issue of health care, an issue that every other forward-leaning nation resolved years ago.  Even though the Senate bill is far from perfect it is, as argued here at CP before, a honorable effort that kicks the ball down the field and allows for expansion of our ideals to be enacted in the future by another Congress.   That is how policy goals often are created.  One step at a time.  It is vital that not one inch be given to those who made a mockery of the process with disgusting displays at town hall meetings during the summer of 2009.  To reward them with the destruction of health care at this stage of the process would be akin to allowing an arsonist part of the insurance money.  Teabaggers are not engaged with policy debates, but are instead only loud and unruly obstructionists, more interested in bluster and red meat.  Brown is a perfect example of the mindset of a teabagger.   His whole campaign has been a list of things he will not do, the first being his promise to kill health care.  Democrats must not give an inch to teabaggers, as we are still fighting what has been a decades long battle for health care reform in America.  Even if Coakley does not prevail, health care must succeed. 

Here is how we do it.

The likeliest scenario would require persuading House Democrats to accept a bill the Senate passed last month, despite their objections to several parts.

Aides consulted Sunday amid fears that Republican Scott Brown will defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy’s seat. A Brown win would give the GOP 41 Senate votes, enough to filibuster and block final passage of the House-Senate compromise on health care now being crafted.

But even as Obama campaigned for Coakley in Boston Sunday, top aides furiously weighed options if she loses. They include:

  • Acting before Brown is sworn in. Congressional and White House negotiators could try to reconcile the House and Senate bills quickly and pass the new version before Brown takes office. A firestorm of criticism would follow, but some Democrats say it would be better than having no bill.
  • Seeking a Republican to cast the crucial 60th Senate vote. Some Democrats hope Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, might do this, but others seriously doubt it.
  • Start over and pass a new, scaled back health bill using budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority of 51 Senate votes. Several Senate aides said this was unlikely.