My God! Is that a still from Avatar?
Wisconsin is, in many ways, very similar to Pandora. I can say that with authority because I’ve recently been to both states–one the actual state, the other, a state of mind. I’ll let you guess which is which.
The Native Wisconsinites are not all that different from the Na’vi. They are often larger (because of their broad-shouldered Nordic ancestors, and the readily available cheese curds), and blue (from the cold). Geographically, Wisconsin also has lots of trees, bodies of water in varying sizes, and a whole bunch of Eywa blessing seeds floating around in the air. I know this because I spent 85% of my time there on Benadryl.
Wisconsin is rad even the dead of Winter. Lake Superior looks like a frozen ocean right out of that middle school science book chapter about Pangea and the Ice Age and woolly mammoths. Socially, it’s considered deeply impolite for you to not wave at a pedestrian or driver (depending on which you happen to be at the time), and you’re constantly being fed. You can take free samples in the grocery without judgment–so long as you say thank you–and there are no lines in the impeccably clean public bathrooms.
And the cheese, oh the cheese! Smoked apple cheddar, havarti, the aforementioned cheese curds, chèvre (go ahead and laugh as I look down my nose at you), chocolate cheese–I JEST NOT!
Wisconsin seemed to me the perfect place to rest my world weary, 13-month-post-college head. I’d learn how to build a fire and ice fish within a year. By year two, I’d be genuinely enjoying upscale beers. Year three would see me riding snowmobiles and building my own ice fishing shack for hardcore, all-day ice fishing on Lake Superior (or as I’d come to call her, Ol’ Reliable).
By blessed year three, I’d be able to stomach the low-grade beers with the best of them, and would do so with relish. People would begin referring to me as “Salt o’ the Earth” instead of Keely, or, perhaps, simply as “Beulah.” I would take on a year-round maternal glow, and my fingers would joyfully fatten.
It would take me considerably longer to understand, and then enjoy, football.
Alright, maybe it’d be unfair to expect too much of Wisconsin.
And the alcohol, so cheap! So cheap, and so very unfortunately the sole reason I cannot move to Wisconsin.
This is a whiskey sour:
I know that this is a whiskey sour because, 1) Google told me so, and 2) I’ve ingested roughly a thousand of them in my lifetime. Like I said before–alright well, I didn’t say it outright. I don’t like beer. It’s safe to say that I straight-up dislike beer. I’m not into drinking carbonated bread, but whatever (literally!) floats your boat. What floats my boat is the kind of alcoholic drink that, ideally, tastes like one (or all) of the following
1) a milkshake
2) an Easy-Bake Oven cake
4) a fruit roll-up
I’m vain enough to not want to look like a total pansy every time I go to a bar, and a whiskey sour is one of those drinks that sounds pretty badass, and tastes like a delicious combination of #3 and #4. When I order it, it sounds like I’m telling the bartender, “Gimme whiskey–but wait. That isn’t enough. I need something that I’m gonna hate drinking even more than just straight alcohol, because I’m just that emotionally weathered. You make that whiskey sour, too.” Or, maybe it just sounds more like, “Got any expired milk? No? Fine, then just gimme some rancid whiskey.”
The point is, whiskey sours are “my drink.” Bond has the martini, Shirley Temple has the Shirley Temple, and I have the whiskey sour. I enjoy drinking it, and it gets me real tipsy real fast. Win/win.
So we go to the Wisconsin bars, where there is free popcorn and peanuts–I’m not kidding. “Alright, New Home!” says I, “Time for a drank!” And so I order a–yep!–whiskey sour. I take a sip and realize that I am definitely drinking a whiskey and ginger ale, but whatever, this will not be my last drink of the night. So I chug that and order another.
Another whiskey and ginger ale. Another guy joins our party and orders a whiskey sour–he knows my secrets. “WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?” I yell at him from across the table, because James Taylor is playing, not loudly, but James Taylor really knows how to ruin a conversation. Best to cut him out of the equation entirely. “Uhh, a whiskey sour,” says The Guy Who Isn’t James Taylor’s Disembodied Voice. So I grab his drink and take a sip. Whiskey and ginger. I tell him so. He claims that he’s had a lot of whiskey sours and that this must just be really weak sour mix. He has obviously never battled a a fruit roll-up addiction. He is not to be trusted.
We leave that bar and move onto the next. Fine, maybe the bartender was out of sour mix. Maybe he was new and didn’t know how to make a whiskey sour. NOPE! Next bar, can I have a whiskey sour? Thank you for the whiskey and ginger.
However, this barmaid was smarter than her barman counterpart. She poured me a large glass of whiskey, with a a subtle hint of ginger ale.
Later in the evening (fifteen minutes later), totally soused, I told her that she had given me a nice pour, to which she responded, “Didn’t pour it special or nothing. Way I always pour it.” For a moment of mental abstraction I wanted to grab her by the overalls that she wasn’t wearing, get all up in her Midwest grill, and say through gritted teeth, “I know what’s going on, with you all. You all and the whiskey sours. I’m not some hayseed like you, Beulah. I got out. I see things for what they are now. Also, when I said ‘nice pour,’ earlier I wasn’t hitting on you.”
I know that earlier I was “Beulah,” but in my vengeance dream, she was. (It’s my story, let it go, Freud is a thing.) Then I’d gently set her back down–yes, I had lifted her off the ground in my anger–slam back the rest of my drink, tip my hat to her, murmur a final “nice pour,” and exit through the rustic swinging doors.
The third bar we went to didn’t even bother with pretense. The barman there shamelessly served me something I’d only ever heard of in stories about child alcoholics’ birthday parties: a whiskey and Mountain Dew.
Mountain Dew. The drink my brother has nicknamed “The Devil’s Piss,” the soda that is not soda at all, but sugar and food coloring! And, now, alcohol! I took a sip of my third Wisconsin Sour–i.e. any alcoholic drink ordered within Wisconsin that is not a Whiskey Sour–and couldn’t believe it. Whiskey mixed with my all-time favorite soda! Delicious.
(Just to clear the air, I’m not sure if there is any Nordic ancestry associated with Wisconsin. Wisconsinites genuinely seem to be a broad-shouldered people, and I associate that physical trait with vikings, who were possibly Nordic, sometimes.)