To be honest, it's early Monday evening. And I'm not hungover. But man, did I need a day off.
Kevin Wagner, a good old boy from back home, comes to town. Actually, he arrived Thursday night at his old roommate's place up here, but by 7 p.m. my legs refused any offer of recreation, so I drank half a six pack and watched X2: X-Men United.
Then came Friday, which started off just fine. Being the most skilled with the skilsaw, I was assigned to cut out what would become the support for the stairs. So for most of the morning I hung out by myself in our new house's basement, blaring Charlie and cutting wood (no pun intended, though it sounds like a promising euphemism for something). It was nice. Working hard and sweating out everything you have gives you a certain kind of feeling, don't get me wrong. But the morning was what I imagined work would be like when I was a kid -- nobody yelling down your throat for this or that, you just use your skills and at the end of the day you've made something. Few of us imagined sitting at computers all day.
It was Dan's last day at work, and to celebrate we spared ourselves another day of sandwhiches and chips and ate some Rocky Rococo. If you don't know, Rocky's is awesome deep-dish super greasy pizza by the slice. After one of those and a handful of breadsticks you can barely move. We managed to frame in the afternoon, but it wasn't easy.
After work I met Andy and Kevin for mini-golf. I'm pretty sure the last time I played was about three years ago, with the same two guys. Surprisingly, I'm not that bad, and tied Andy for first. At which point I decided that two gut bombs in one day was a good idea, so we gorged ourselves at the west side Laredo's.
To the terrace after that, where my drinking was significantly held up by the fact that I had to carry my belly around like a baby. There was a hip-hop festival going on that night, which was subtly hilarious. First off, if you saw Kevin, Andy and me at a table, a hip-hop show is that last place you'd place us. Secondly, we sat by the sound guys, both of whom drank straight from the plastic terrace pitchers. And while the first group was quite good, their follow-up was a group of girls going for some Dreamgirls kind of effect, who sang in bad gospel imitation voice, "University of Wis-connnnn-siiinnnn, Yeah, one more time!" Except one more time was six more times, and we left. After a visit to God's favorite tavern, the Plaza, it was time for rest.
It was time to do the true Milwaukee experience, starting with the Miller Brewery Tour. Having been to the New Glarus brewhouse and other fancypants booze factories, it struck me that Miller was very much in touch with their client base. The introduction video was more cheesy beer commercial as than brewing documentary, and people seemed fairly happy with this. Although I can't tell you how many times they got the phrase "Miller Time" into 12 minutes.
They showed the packaging center and explained some of the beer-making process, but the Miller crowd is much more interested in being told they're drinking a great beer than actually knowing a whole lot about it. Most of the tourists and just twiddling their thumbs until the samples at the end, and the employees know it. In that sense, there's an admirable lack of pretention. I don't know if anybody took the optional extra portion of the tour.
To be fair, free samples are one of the great gifts of the spirit. And Andy had to drive, so I got my three and one of his. Then to the ballpark.
Beers inside Miller Park cost $7.25, so the only reasonable option is to front-load enough to carry you through nine innings. Plus, the parking lot experience is something to behold. When Milwaukee built the new stadium, everyone apparently objected to the idea of a downtown stadium, because where then could they set fires and chug 12-packs? So unlike most of the new class of ballparks, Miller stands as an island in a concrete sea. As noted in previous posts, Brewers baseball is more about the culture than the game.
We went this particular weekend because the Royals came to town, of whom Kevin is one of a select few diehard fans. Hanging out with someone in an opponent's colors around a horde of drunkards draws some danger, but it was all in good fun. Mostly because the Brewers won 7-1, but also, I think, because the fans can see some level of respect for one another. Both teams toil in Midwest anonymity and aside from out-of-nowhere zeniths in the early 80s have been mostly terrible, especially of late. Brewer fans can smirk down at the Royals from their first-place perch, but the truth is most of them are still rather dizzy and uncomfortable up there.
Also, the Polish dog won the sausage race. I was relieved. I just want a real sausage to win, not the bloody hot dog.
Back in Madison, we went out again. There was an amazing division that night as you progessed down State Street toward campus. Irish Pub, where we started, fielded only a small contingent of 20-somethings, many of whom looked like regulars and sang along to the playlist of Journey, The Clash and The Bangles. At City Bar, where we ended, my PBR tasted like cleaning fluid because they had just addressed a little accident by our table. We chugged the beer and got the hell out of there.
One day of beer and baseball is never enough, so I tagged along with Carrie and friends to the Duck Pond, home of Madison's quirky independent league team, the Mallards. And if you're going once, you have to sit in the duck blind.
Like any self-respecting minor league club, the Mallards never price their tickets higher than $7-8. But there's also the option of the Duck Blind, one of the truest Wisconsin things I've come across. Tickets cost $25, but that includes all the beer you can guzzle and all the food you can eat. Yeah. It's just as glorious as it sounds. And carrying about as much pretention as the brewery tour -- half the seats face away from the game. Yeah, they know you're not there for the game. It's ok. It's Wisconsin. Nobody's going to judge you for that. They just give you a plastic cup and you can fill it up as many times as you damn well please. I think I went through six before they stopped sales in the 7th inning.
After party and PBR back on the Ishtmus. I got home fairly early since it was a 3p.m. game, and that was no doubt a good thing. I needed today off for laundry, errands and recovery.
Oh, and by the way, the Mallards won. I'm pretty sure. I knew you were on the edge of your seat about that one.