Living it up in Wisconsin

I am currently visiting my soon-to-be in-laws in Appleton, Wisconsin, which happens to be the home and burial place of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the self-proclaimed birthplace of Harry Houdini (he was actually born in Hungary), and home of the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States. Appleton has roughly 75,000 residents and the pace reminds me of my hometown of Greenville, NC — not too small, but not big either. I’m just plain enjoying it. Mike Albo pretty much nailed how I’m feeling in the NY Times earlier this week (“Stultification: How Sweet It Is“):

Now I am 37 years old and I can’t wait to go insane at Christmas in that comfortable padded cell known as “home.” Instead of being tedious, going home has become an indulgent retreat from my fried-out issue-driven city life. It is a place where I line my mind and body with the fatty lard of my suburban youth and experience not one moment of regret.

I’ve been laying low, and I knew just how low I was laying when I asked one of my future brothers-in-law this question 10 minutes into a movie we were watching: was this straight-to-video?. Then I watched the whole thing. When the plotline is described on IMDB like this: “when a high school burnout discovers he’s been rejected from every college he’s applied to, he creates a fake university in order to fool his overzealous parents,” and the star of the movie is the guy who is the Mac in the “hi, I’m a Mac, hi, I’m a PC” commercials, my critical defenses are gone — sign me up and pass the cookies.

I love the Bay Area, but Wisconsin is a nice break from the day-to-day madness. The good people of Wisconsin are making my first visit here a really pleasant one.

On the subject of big city madness, be sure to check out Douglas Rushkoff’s account of his recent mugging at gunpoint in Brooklyn while on his front stoop taking out the garbage, and Barbara Rushkoff’s (his wife’s) reaction on her blog “A Girl Grows in Brooklyn,” a blog described as follows: “from preschool applications to park-bench gossip, nothing escapes the gimlet eye of this Park Slope magazine writer.” The blog started up earlier this month as a window into hip urban parenting and was duly noted by BoingBoing, but the mugging experience seems to have made Barbara question the whole idea of the urban parenting struggle: Yes, I’m upset, and yes, I may be overreacting. But man, I am too old and tired for this. We outta here. So what do you do when you’ve started a hip urban parenting blog and one of your first posts is about a seemingly firm decision to leave and give up the fight? Both posts are fascinating, and the comments are probably moreso.

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