Before deciding whether or not to buy tickets for this year’s big AirVenture, one should consider that the event is held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a state about which little was known until I resided in it for ten months half a decade ago.
Situated on the west-central edge of Lake Winnebago, the first American lake to be named after a popular recreational vehicle, the admittedly fun-to-say name Oshkosh derives from the Menominee Indian word for bland, and has few ethnic restaurants of any distinction. If one craves delicious Thai cuisine, for instance, he must drive south to Fond du Lac (French for “fond of the lake”) and there ask directions to Chicago.
The locals speak in the puerile hyper-American manner famously caricaturized by William H. Macy and Frances McDormand in the 1996 film Fargo, and later adapted by the politician and devoted wife and mom Sarah Palin, to whose daughter Willow we pause to extend our congratulations for having recently been ordained as a hairdresser in Arizona, which bears no resemblance whatever to Wisconsin.
I lived right between two lakes in Madison, and couldn’t work up much fondness for either, as they both just sat there like gigantic puddles. To one who had grown up with a view of the Pacific, they seemed hopelessly lethargic. And I could never forgive the smaller for being that in which Otis Redding perished.
I will admit that during my brief, tortured tenure in America’s Dairyland, I didn’t exactly wear out the road between Madison and Oshkosh, but I’d be willing to bet that folks there are very similar to the more salt-of-the-earth types I knew in Wisconsin’s capital, where the women pride themselves on the number of canapés they are able to make with Spam. The menfolk typically wear baseball caps bearing the logo of either the Badgers (as the University of Wisconsin’s athletic teams are called) or the Green Bay Packers, and become dewy-eyed at the mere mention of former quarterback Brett Favre, even though he was exposed toward the end of his career as a philandering, interception-prone egomaniac and native Mississippian. Their idea of a wonderful time was to go into the wild and shoot something — preferably a deer — dead, and then to drive around with it on the back of their pickup truck, as though to demonstrate themselves Manly Hunters. Both the gals and the menfolk are required by state law to be fond of bratwurst.
Students at the various campuses of the University of Wisconsin speak with disdain, if McDormandishly, of “coasties,” vacuous narcissists who can’t move their eyebrows for all the botox injected therein, and yet the typical Wisconsinian loves to chirp, “Have a great day,” at the end of every interaction, pronouncing great in the manner of Tony the Tiger, as though it has two syllables rather than just the one. Such eminent politicians as union-busting present governor Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, whose saturnine good looks and unashamed worship of Ayn Rand so endeared him to right-leaning voters in last year’s presidential election, are local boys made good, and of course avid Packers fans, though it makes no more sense for the average person to be a fan of a professional sports team, professional sports teams comprising mercenaries who eagerly abandon one team the moment another waves a more lucrative contract at them.
In any event, see you at AirVenture, and have a grr-ate day!