Thursday, July 01, 2004

Cheeseheads in Paradise
Some things in life are quintessentially Wisconsin. Our taste for brandy, fried cheese, and the Friday night fish fry, for instance. The experience of seeing a black bear cross the highway in front of you like deer do in other places. (This has historically been an Up-North phenomenon, although it's becoming more common here in southern Wisconsin now.) The Wisconsin accent, and the peculiar terms you'll hear coming out of our mouths, like "bubbler," "leaker," and "stop-n-go lights."

By happy coincidence, The Mrs. and I will be taking in two of Wisconsin's quintessential summer events in the same week. Last night, we attended the first Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Concert on the Square. Nobody would mistake me for a fan of orchestral music, but the Concerts on the Square are a lot more than that--you can spread out a blanket on the Capitol lawn or set up a chair on the sidewalk; there's plenty of good food and drink to enjoy, or you can bring your own (and some people get very elaborate, with linen, china, and crystal); and there is, of course, the gorgeous concert venue, the south and west sides of the Capitol. I resolved when I moved back here four years ago that I would never let myself get tired of our spectacular Capitol Square, and the concerts only confirm how lucky I am to be here when I'm there.

The other great Wisconsin event is Milwaukee Summerfest, which is going on through the weekend downtown on Lake Michigan, and which we'll be attending on Saturday. Each day from noon to midnight, you can eat your way from music venue to music venue, and the entertainment lineups are often spectacular. Last night, for example, you could hear Pat Benatar, Styx, Kool and the Gang, the Fixx, Gin Blossoms, Tesla, and Loverboy--provided you could be in seven places at once, as all of them were on different stages at the same time. (Each stage is conveniently surrounded by great restaurants and beer stands.) Since we moved back here, we've caught Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Terrance Simien, Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, Govt. Mule, Robbie Fulks, Jack Johnson, Ambrosia, Dave Mason, and other big names, all for the price of a $12 daily ticket. (Plus whatever it costs to eat.) The real serendipity of Summerfest, however, is when you catch a band you've never heard of and they become a band you want to hear again. And did I mention you can eat? The most popular food item at Summerfest is--wait for it--fried cheese, albeit mozzarella and not swiss or cheddar, in a wonton skin with marinara sauce. Outrageous.

Hard to believe it's the first of July already. Wisconsin summers go by really fast.

Recommended Reading: Ashcroft out? Maybe. If the Los Angeles Times had it right yesterday, the administration had no plan B if it lost the Guantanamo detention case in the Supreme Court, the Justice Department is mostly to blame. They were so sure they would win that they didn't even imagine they could lose, and consequently, they were left scrambling to cope. Sound familiar?

Tonight on Best of the Blogs: What If.

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