Monday, September 15
We finally located the missing cable to upload photos, so here goes...
Wisconsin was a blast. Rebecca has a lot of aunts and uncles, and also some grandparents that were all excited to see her/meet me. We stayed with her mom and Barry for the most part, taking daytrips/excursions to hang out with other family members. Barry is a retired economics professor. It was fun for me to talk to him about macroeconomics. He is of a very progressive political persuasion. Which, actually, is a conservationist attitude. It's progressive to be frugal. It drives me nuts that people who call themselves "conservatives" are actually behind a lot of the most wasteful, polluting practices of big business. Just shows how words can get twisted. Anyway, enough rant. I showed Barry The Story Of Stuff, which I was surprised he hadn't seen yet. By the way, if you haven't seen it yet, please watch it, and pass is to your friends. All children should see it. Even grown up ones.
I had a lot of interesting conversations and interactions with Rebecca's family. Her aunt Janice and uncle John took us out on the Mississippi one evening.
Her uncle John and I were talking about how our social customs and culture aren't always conducive to good health. This came up because he was telling me about how he used to have plantar fascitis. He was given ortho shoe inserts and everything, but nothing really worked for him. So he started going everywhere barefoot, and the problem corrected itself. I should say right now that this man is no hippie. He's just a guy who didn't want to deal with excruciating foot pain, and found a simple, natural way to change it. However, our culture dictates that bare feet are a no-no, so he always received funny looks from people, or was forced to put on shoes to go places. Little things like that are so interesting to me. Why is it such a big deal if someone is barefoot? Who really cares if the bottom of their shoe is dirty or the bottom of their foot? Either way they are dragging dirt around.
This, of course, led to my belief that the American toilet is not conducive to properly moving the bowels. The seated posture doesn't allow much room for things down there, and the squat that citizens of "developing" nations use is more physiologically appropriate. Of course, they are crapping into a hole in the ground, but really so are we, it's just a hole above ground. So, I'm doing my part to educate the pooping public...
Speaking of pooping, I got to use a nice outhouse on our trip. One of my favorite things we did was to stay at Jeannie and Steve's cabin. We had to drive down a gravel road to get there, which made it all the more exciting.
There was a gas stove, electricity, and a sink, but no running water. Not too bad for "roughing it."
I took a lot of naps during our time in Wisconsin!
We heard a rumor there were blackberries growing on the property, so we set out in search of them. We brought a small bowl with us. Once we found the patch, we realized that our small bowl was filling up too fast, so we came back with a bigger one. I think we spent about three hours out there just picking berries. It was so peaceful. I didn't even notice the time go by. But look at this haul:
Eventually we made it back into society, and we couldn't wait to show off our blackberry pile. We took the whole stash to Rebecca's grandparents, Frex and Arla. Arla makes her own jam, and we thought maybe we could somehow leave the berries there and hopefully she would just go to work. When we showed them our score, they seemed ambivalent. We were nonplussed. Where were the dropped jaws? The words of praise for our outstanding foraging skills?
Apparently, we put the berries in too deep a bowl, and the weight of the pile was crushing a lot of them. I thought they smelled vaguely alcoholic, and Frex confirmed. "These are getting a little winy already on ya."
So, what do you do with berries that are turning into wine? Help them along! They went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of blackberry wine they had made a while ago. It was delicious. They didn't have the recipe anymore, so they had to call around to find which lady from church had the good wine recipe. Frex got somebody's grandmother on speakerphone, and we got to hear the instructions. Juice the berries, add water, and a ton of sugar. Leave it out on the counter and scrape the muck off once in a while. In eight weeks you should have wine.
So that's what we did. Hopefully in early November, our work will pay off.
Rebecca also has an aunt Tony and uncle Jerry who live about an hour and a half outside of Chicago, just before the Wisconsin state line. We stayed with them on our way back form finding an apartment in Chicago, and then again when we were actually moving down.
Jerry is a carpenter, and has been "doing green building since the 80's. But nobody called it that then, cause there wasn't any money in it!"
Needless to say we had a good talk about sustainability and trying not to screw up the planet. And a lot of laughs. They built their house in one of those rural developments that has a HOA code to maintain property values. Apparently Jerry's neighbor took issue with his mulch choice and came over to let him know what he thought. Jerry described his moment of enlightenment when, after spending time listening to the man rant about mulch, he realized that he just didn't care, and shared his realization with the befuddled neighbor. Way to go Jerry!
Their son/Rebecca's cousin, Nick, works night shifts in a warehouse. He was one of those kids that flew through high school at an accelerated rate, and then decided to wait to go to college until he knew he really wanted to. (Sound like anyone you know?)
The irony of his situation is that his friends are all just graduating from college and can't find jobs with their degrees. So, they are all taking blue collar jobs because they have to do something. So, Nick explained, because he's been at the warehouse for a while, he's actually making more money than his college grad friends, and he doesn't have the debt to pay down! A lot of people are realizing that college can be a very empty promise. Of course, Nick is in a good position as he still lives at his parents' place, and supplements his income with money from chess and online poker tournament winnings.
It was a great time. I needed some nature, and some naps. Also, people cooking for us every where we went didn't hurt either...