Monday, October 6, 2008

Wisconsin by a foot

Every time I begin thinking the ear is the ugliest part of the human body I get a glimpse of my barefeet and am reminded the ears will always be runner ups. The terrible daily pounding taken by the feet shows. It’s hands-down the ugliest part of the body.

I think I saw the ugliest feet in my life last week on my way to Wisconsin. It was on a connecting flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee. I had the middle seat. Aisle seat seemed like a crabby guy who resented that I had to squeeze past him to the middle. That’s why I was glad window seat seemed so friendly.

The guy had a really nice smile under what looked like a Santa starter beard. I figured we’d be talking sports before take off. But that was before a truly offensive sort of take off occurred.

As the plane began to taxi, he reached down and took off his blue croks. Now, any man wearing blue croks is showing terrible judgment, but what he did next had me looking around for a parachute and the nearest emergency exit.

He reached down, slipped off the silly blue croks and crossed his leg so that his horrible barefoot was practically resting on my leg. I recoiled as if a leper had plopped down on my lap. The heel was cracked and calloused. With the slightest bit of turbulence it would have ripped multiple holes in my nice khakis. The yellow toenails resembled witches’ teeth.

Amazingly, the middle and window seats on the other side of the aisle were vacant. In violation of every FAA rule and under the scowls of the bitter and overworked flight attendants, I dove over two startled aisle passengers as if I was escaping a live grenade.

It may have been the ugliest human body part I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was coincidence, but I’ve had trouble sleeping ever since.

Maybe the gods figured they owed me after that because I had a wonderful time in Wisconsin. They treated me and two other golf writers like kings. I played five of the golf-rich state’s best courses (Erin Hills, Whistling Straits, The Bog, Wild Rock and Grand Geneva). The dining was superb.

On the last day under perfect blue skies amidst spangled autumn trees, I played golf with two great guys at The Bog, a magnificent Arnold Palmer course where they welcomed me, a Latrobe resident on assignment to Palmer’s Kingdom magazine, as if I were Palmer himself.

I told my golf partners all about my week and the fine dining and confided I was looking forward to hearty staples like hamburgers and good pizza.

They gave me directions to a place called Sobelman’s behind an obstacle course of construction in a grungy warehouse district of downtown Milwaukee. The place was packed with friendly Brewer fans who were getting ready for the home playoff game against the Phillies.

The friendly owner seemed aghast that I’d been sitting at his bar, unattended for maybe two minutes (I’ve been a regular at places where I’d need to shave between servings so two minutes was nothing to me). He immediately poured me a free beer, the first of three, and I began calculating how my life would change if I moved my family to Milwaukee just to be close to a bar this cool.

The Bloody Mary’s were like salads with vodka dressing. Each pole vault sized-stalk of celery was pinned with a shrimp, a pearl onion, a cherry tomato, an asparagus spear, a jalapeno pepper, a chunk of cheddar and a delicious little dinner sausage. It’s the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. Nothing else even comes close.

And the burger was up there, too (the best is still Tessaro’s in Bloomfield near Pittsburgh), but this was outstanding. It had four cheeses, bacon, jalapeno peppers and mustard.

I liked Milwaukee a lot. Friendly people, great bars and restaurants, petty parks and I got to take my picture with the "Bronze Fonz"(give it a Google).

I’m going to try and get around to writing about all that stuff when I finish up my assignment. But the story I’m most looking forward to writing is based on what I saw at the Kohler Design Museum in the world's most posh factory town.

The museum features all the sinks, showers, tubs and faucets that have helped the Kohler family build a bathroom and kitchen empire and lavishly funded the fabulous town and golf resort that is the magnificent centerpiece of the golf boom taking over the state.

But what struck me was the 50-foot wall of commodes in the rear (go ahead and make your own jokes) of the museum. It towers over the space like a troupe of Chinese acrobats stacking porcelain chairs. They rise majestically from floor to ceiling, hundreds of them. If it were possible to flush them simultaneously, it would rival the storied Bellagio water show in Las Vegas.

Truly, in Kohler, the throne itself is king.

My love of stories like this has really held my career back. To succeed, I’m sure I should focus on all the splendors I enjoyed. I should concentrate on the sumptuous dining, the excellent golf, the friendly people and the splendid scenery.

But, no, I intend to forge ahead and write about the great wall of potties.

There’s never been a more perfect metaphor for why my turbulent career’s often in the crapper.


Anonymous said...

It's a shame that you made it all the way up to Kohler, but missed playing Wisconsin's only Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms. Do stop by the next time you are in the area.

Chris Rodell said...

Thanks. I heard plenty of raves about the Bull while I was there. I'm going to be sure to include a mention of its great reputation in my story. And thanks for the invitation. I'll be sure to take you up on it during my next visit to Wisconsin. Chris R.