‘T’was markedly gorgeous in Wisconsin this week, temps hovering around 70, clear skies for the most part, nights sweetly September cool. Here, as elsewhere, the drought abides, however. Not once in our week-long stay did the skies even threaten rain; we’d have been much more beloved by the locals had we lugged along some significant moisture.
But drizzly skies on the lakefront would have made for a far less radiant vacation.
The Lake Michigan beach is wondrous wide, the water level almost historically low. If I step out of the front door of the cottage we’re renting and walk only twenty feet or so, chunks of concrete still emerge from a storm of grass and weeds on the edge of an incline, marking—unmistakably—how high the water has been. Today it’s almost unimaginably higher, fifty yards at least between the front door and the beach, which is, at least for vacationers, a rich blessing. Maybe our host should have charged us more.
On Wednesday we travelled the peninsula, Door County, one of Wisconsin’s most-heralded treasures, a bit of New England right here in the rural Midwest. The weather was sharp and bright and fresh as a honeycrisp apple, the world peopled almost totally by retirees, like us. I remember walking through the mall when my wife was pregnant and seeing expecting women by the dozens, as if they’d never been there before. All we saw all day was people our age. There are no kids in the tourist spots right now, save a half-dozen home schoolers maybe. No young couples either. The world is gray. And bald. And slower. And quieter. Okay, maybe a little less handsome and probably a lot more boring. Door County was a huge couples club.
If I say the week was unforgettable, it’s not hyperbole. The local news out of Milwaukee, all week long, was dominated by treacherous injustice. On Tuesday, there were no other stories at all—it was all the game—how a Seahawk named Golden wrestled with a Packer back until it appeared to imbecilic replacement refs—one of them at least—that the hail mary was a touchdown, despite the fact that millions, even billions, of viewers around the world saw it as pass interference first, and, without question, an interception, saw it, in fact, time after time after time, in close up and slow-mo, time and time again, each replay proving those third-rate refs were in far over their head and that “the product,” the game itself, was compromised by the lousy owners, gadzillionaires themselves, all of them, except Green Bay, of course, where the franchise is publically owned, and they’re the ones who took it on the chin--no across the frickin’ chops, by the ragged tomfoolery of dopey refs culled from some silly petticoat league. The truth.
The talk has not yet stopped.
Even Scott Walker sided with the union. Even Paul Ryan. Even Mitt Romney. The lion with the lamb.
Here’s what we’ll say twenty years from now. We spent a week of our first fully retired month at a cottage on Lake Michigan’s western shore, a gorgeous week, the week the Packers got screwed. Twenty years from now, most Wisconsinites will say, “Ja, sure. Ja, that week.”
“It’s a day of infamy,” one fan said on TV. He wasn’t kidding.
A day of infamy, and we were here, in Wisconsin, too. We saw it happen. We were there.
That’s what we’ll say.
Tuesday morning the lake was rough and angry, threatening, as if it too had seen the horror, breakers thundering as far as out as some fourth sandbar. This morning, Friday, for the first time since game night, Lake Michigan has settled down, as if finally listening to Green Bay’s stocky coach, Mike McCoy, who said, stoically, the moment the horror went down that his blessed team simply had no choice but to move on.
It’s time for the Badger State to milk cows and make cheese, time to move on.
But they’ll remember for a long, long time, and when the legit refs return on Sunday in Lambeau, the place’ll go nuts—standing ovation.
And a bunch of times we’ll say, I’m sure, “That’s the week we were there.”