July 31, 2010

If you're traveling in the north country...

... where Highway 63 meets Route 2... there is a café... Casablanca Traders...

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... where the nice lady kept the place open for an extra 15 minutes so that Meade could have a smoothie and I could have a peppermint tea with a shot of internet. We were the only customers, and Meade said you must do very well in wintertime, and she said that's what she, a transplanted San Diegan, thought when she moved up here and opened the place. But the truth is, no one comes in the winter. The customers come on the sunny warm days (which are few, up north).

In winter, where does everyone go? Don't they want to be somewhere cozy? We drove quite a ways in the Chequamegon Forest. And what we saw were bars, bars, bars. Bars and bowling alleys. The culture up north isn't so much about coffee and WiFi. It's more about beer and bowling. That was my observation, as I drove by....



... with my vision admittedly blurred... by speed, not beer. I was on peppermint tea...

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... and to-go chocolate cake, leftover from lunch.

33 comments:

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Beer and bowling works, as long as there's WiFi, too...

Verification word: "frappes"

T J Sawyer said...

In winter, the snowmobile trails lead from bar to bar. Cold day - more frequent stops.

You only missed Winter (WS) by a few miles.

But you missed the big parade at Solon Springs by a couple of weeks:
http://sawyertravel.blogspot.com/2010/07/here-comes-parade.html

virgil xenophon said...

Ann, you live in Wisc. and are surprised about the plethora of "bars, bars, bars?" Surely you jest....

Remember, the drinking age in Wisc. was 18 for eons...not to mention home of the original brewing capital of the nation...Milwaukee's baseball team isn't named the "Brewers" for nothing..

john said...

Northern Wisconsin county bars seem more plentiful than people.

My buddies and I (mis)spent a number of summer weekends using fake IDs showing we were 18 and from Wisconsin (both lies) so we could drink in the county beer bars and try to make good with the summer girls hanging out in places as Spooner, Solon Springs, Hayward.

traditionalguy said...

This road trip is very near Bob Dylan's birthplace in Duluth. I wonder if they have a tour of his home yet. They could serve beer and play Joan Baez background music. Dylan's voice would scare off the tourists.

john said...

Are you playing some good music on your trip?

OTOH, this probably means you won't be live blogging Chelsea's wedding.

edutcher said...

Northern Wisconsin sounds very blue collar. As for winter business, I would imagine people don't go out much, unless it's for something that's going to take a while. That's more beer and bowling than smoothie.

Ann Althouse said...

... with my vision admittedly blurred... by speed, not beer. I was on peppermint tea...

That shot of internet is what did it.

PS To-go chocolate cake sounds like like something The Blonde could get behind.

Beta Rube said...

It's been a long time since my vision was blurred by beer or speed.

I don't miss it.

madawaskan said...

Oh this actually has been studied.

I use to baby sit for one of Glamour magazines "most successful women of blah, blah, blah-do they do that-anymore?

Anyways-I think after watching her life from a certain angle "success" got redefined for me ...

Anyways-one of her research projects was-small towns, long winters, "cabin fever" and the relationship to -

Drinking.

[IBM also paid her to do stuff-I don't know for what exactly.]

What's funny is having relatives in the Great White North and having went to some high school there-

I never saw more drinking in my life.

I was a bartender, and cocktail waitress to pay for college-so I'm telling you.

What was weird to me was the comment made over and over again to me by "small towners" that some how people in big cities must do way more partying than them. Therefore they had to keep up or something.

Oh back to "theory" officially it's suppose to be because there relatively little else to do-I think it might have more to do with the illusion of trying to keep up with "The Joneses." [that's probably not the way to pluralize that-oy.]

madawaskan said...

there *is* relatively less to do.

JAL said...

How fast was Meade driving?

Just wondering.

wv mentzing
Don't know. Just a nice word.
Synonym for "thinking?"

El Pollo Real said...

How could you have gone through Hayward and not stopped here?? You owe it to Meade-part of his erdution on all things Wisconsonian.


OTOH, it really would be a treat if you two turned left and headed over to Duluth.

k*thy said...

You make me smile, A. Yes, it's all about snowmobiles and bars up ther in the winter. Besides tourism, I couldn't really tell you what the other major industies are. I'll be up the next week - I love the pine smells and hanging at the beach. Enjoy your odessy.

Wendy Kloiber said...

Welcome, Althouse + Meade!

There's still some gorgeous fougasse left at the Ashland Baking Company. Saturdays only.

Have drinks and apis on the deck by the fireplace at the Wild Rice in Bayfield later.

Wi fi til 9 at the Black Cat and til 11 pm at the 2nd St Bistro in Ashland.

A good day to hike Lost Creek Falls today. I'm not all athletic but love to climb up the left side into the creek above. Paradise.

EDH said...

But the truth is, no one comes in the winter. The customers come on the sunny warm days (which are few, up north).

It's because that evil sinner Bob Herbert won't drive up there and buy a cup of joe, even though he has the money to pay for it.

Michael Haz said...

The culture up north isn't so much about coffee and WiFi. It's more about beer and bowling. That was my observation, as I drove by....

Nice. Peer out the windows of a speeding Audi for half of a day and reach that lame conclusion.

I've just come from lunch at a wonderful restaurant in the Wisconsin north woods that has been on Wine Spectator's list of best wine-friendly restaurants in America.

Tonight I'm going to be enjoying a blues concert that will draw 1,500 attendees, in part because the musicians are former touring members of several big-name bands. They now live in the north woods.

Last week we heard an orchestra play in a small-town arts center. The orchestra members were mostly retired members of the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies, who retired and live up here.

I could go on about the artists, the chefs, the jazz musicians, by why bother. You've drawn your conclusion.

Strange indeed that you hike and bike in the city, but can't find a way to do so in the great northern outdoors.

As people in northern Wisconsin say with great affection: Go back to Madison.

rhhardin said...

It's practically Canadian up there.

peter hoh said...

I like the cool summers on the south shore of Lake Superior, and I'd live there if it weren't for my wife, who likes the heat.

Original Mike said...

"We drove quite a ways in the Chequamegon Forest. And what we saw were bars, bars, bars."

Well, yeah.

Greg said...

As Mr. Haz pointed out, you're missing quite a bit.

Class factotum said...

Don't forget curling.

And brat fries. And fish fries.

Gordon said...

Winter in northern Wisconsin is cold, cold. It's such a deep soaked-in cold that one is amazed that summer ever returns. The warm camaraderie of a bar can be preferable to the islands of isolation one finds in a coffee shop or cafe.

Ann Althouse said...

@Haz I'd appreciate your reading the post again and with more charity. Here's what you are missing:

1. I felt bad that the nice café wasn't getting much business and trying to understand the owner's explanation of the pattern of the business.

2. "so much about ... more about" = words of relativity. I didn't say "only about." I was writing that carefully, and you shouldn't rewrite it in your head to mean what you are afraid I mean.

3. I said my vision was "admittedly blurred" -- that is I was being self-deprecating and acknowledging my limited basis for understanding.

4. You do not know why we spent the amount of time we spent there. If you assume we took a quick look and got the hell out, you are wrong. That is not the explanation, and you don't know the full story about us. There's some irony in that, no?

Meade said...

As people in northern Wisconsin say with great affection: Go back to Madison.

Actually, from Wyalusing to Prairie du Chien to La Crosse to Galesville to Trempealeau to Pepin to St Paul to New Richmond to Chequamegon to Wausau, everyone we met was remarkably friendly and hospitable.

I love Wisconsin - the parks, farms, forests, rivers, lakes, towns and cities. And the people. Decent, dependable, unpretentious.

El Pollo Real said...

I love Wisconsin - the parks, farms, forests, rivers, lakes, towns and cities. And the people. Decent, dependable, unpretentious.

You're the kind that they love back even more Meade.

OT: If Todd Palin raced electric snowmobiles...would the left love him a little bit more?

Michael Haz said...

@Althouse - I have re-read your post after reading your comments above.

I felt bad that the nice café wasn't getting much business and trying to understand the owner's explanation of the pattern of the business.

I don't see any part of your post in which you "felt bad that the nice café isn't getting much business". Meade said that she must do very well in wintertime, the owner said that no one comes in the winter. You may have felt bad, but that feeling isn't represented in what you wrote.

Did you feel badly enough about the cafe's lack of business to buy something more than a smoothie and cup of tea while you were using their WiFi? I would have bought a bag of wild rice or a piece of jewelry, at least. Every bit of revenue helps.

"so much about ... more about" = words of relativity. I didn't say "only about." I was writing that carefully, and you shouldn't rewrite it in your head to mean what you are afraid I mean.

I didn't re-write your words, in my head or elsewhere. They stand as you wrote them and were quoted without editing at the top of my comment.

You wrote: "The culture up north isn't so much about coffee and WiFi. It's more about beer and bowling." That is the observation you made as you drove by; I didn't re-write it, I quoted it.

If I had re-written it, it would have read: "The culture up in Madison isn't so much about coffee and WiFi. It's more about beer and bowling." And that would have been as accurate a statement as the statement you made about northern Wisconsin.

I said my vision was "admittedly blurred" -- that is I was being self-deprecating and acknowledging my limited basis for understanding.

What you said was "We drove quite a ways in the Chequamegon Forest. And what we saw were bars, bars, bars. Bars and bowling alleys." You posted a video clip of trees blurred by the motion of your driving past them There were no "bars, bars,bars. Bars and bowling alleys.." in that video. Perhaps they were hiding behind the trees.

You did attempt a version of the twinkie defense...the peppermint tea and leftover cake defense. That doesn't change what you wrote, however; it's just an admission that you were having second thoughts about it.

You do not know why we spent the amount of time we spent there. If you assume we took a quick look and got the hell out, you are wrong. That is not the explanation, and you don't know the full story about us. There's some irony in that, no?

I didn't presume to know (nor do I need to know) anything more than what you included in your post. Stop being so defensive.

It's interesting that you have chosen to overlook the phrase "with great affection" that I used in my comment. There's your irony.

I wish you and Meade a safe journey for the remainder of this trip, and your trip through life.

Clyde said...

Why are bars, beer and bowling popular in Wisconsin? According to Wikipedia's article on the state:

"The five largest ancestry groups in Wisconsin are: German (42.6%), Irish (10.9%), Polish (9.3%), Norwegian (8.5%), English (6.5%). German is the most common ancestry in every county in the state, except Menominee, Trempealeau and Vernon."

All of those nationalities are known for a fondness for strong drink; the Germans are known for brewing exceptionally fine beer. And according to Wikipedia's article on Bowling, some ancient forms of the game were recorded in Germany as far back as 300 A.D.

America didn't spring forth from the seafoam like Aphrodite; we are the descendents of Europeans who brought their cultural backgrounds with them to the New World. That's both high culture and low culture, including bars and bowling alley.

HDHouse said...

You might want to generalize those "small north rural towns" into your threads. There are alot of people who really don't give a rat's ass about the political fights and snipping...they just want to get through the next day..wifi be damned.

Wendy Kloiber said...

In a recent spring election in Ashland, there were yard signs that said "Vote Local" - meaning, vote for candidates whose grandparents were born here, not "transplants" from Madison.

My daughter was born here, but will never be local.

We love it here.

Also, the alcoholism here is crazy. Northern WI has one of the highest ratios of bars to population anywhere in the world. Our juvenile rate of citations and crimes involving alcohol and drugs rivals Milwaukee's. So does our teen pregnancy rate. Interagency groups are trying to figure out how to get kids sober when their families, immediate and extended, are also abusing and their lives are so unstable.

Living here isn't easy. But it's also amazing. It's incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful. My kid lives a life of outdoor freedom that's like something from an earlier era. It's not a life that's available in Madison.

Life here is three strands wound together - the remnants of the Great Lakes shipping and mining industries (imagine Ashland bustling, packed with 40,000 people at the turn of the century.) The "locals" are their descendants, who found a way to stay when the trees were all cut and the great ships were cashiered. The "transplants" come from Madison and elsewhere, fall in love with the lake, and try to invent (or reinvent) a way to make a living. And then there are the Anishinabe people - the Bad River and Red Cliff bands of Ojibwe - who have survived both the development and the decline of the Chequamegon.

Ann Althouse said...

Buying trinkets because you feel sorry for a café owner? Sorry. On that sort of thing, I'm right wing. Sell something I want and I'll buy it. I'm a customer, not an alms-giver.

This is why I don't answer my doorbell, lest I have to disappoint some child selling caramel corn.

Michael Haz said...

(A) I felt bad that the nice café wasn't getting much business...

(B) Buying trinkets because you feel sorry for a café owner? Sorry.

Yes, it's all about feelings, you see.

One big difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals see a situation and say "I feel bad" or maybe "Someone should do something." Whereas conservatives say "What can I do to help?"

Cheap is not the same as right-wing. It's often the opposite. Just ask John F. Kerry.

Michael Haz said...

This is why I don't answer my doorbell, lest I have to disappoint some child selling caramel corn.

How selfish and condescending. "..lest I have to disappoint some child.."

We have a rule at my house, a house that has a lower earned income than at your house. We buy cookies, popcorn, whatever from every child who rings our doorbell raising funds for the band, the scouts, the athletic teams, whatever.

And we don't consider it "alms-giving". We consider it as being good neighbors, good humans.

Ann Althouse said...

But it's such shitty caramel corn.

Anyway, be a business or be a charity. That's my position. Keep the line clear.