Tuesday, March 28

The Long And Winding Road.

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The boat almost left without us, and you know I can't swim.

I had heard from my mom that American English, the world's greatest Beatles tribute band, were playing at a resort in Mishicot, about 150 miles north of Madison. Some of my family members had seen them a few months back and gave them glowing reviews, so we wanted in on the action. Besides, we desperately needed something to do over the weekend. Anything to get us out of the house and into the unseasonably warm weather we were having.

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Opting to forget about the show until the last possible minute, we reserved one of the last rooms (2 queen beds? perfect!) and snagged a pair of the last 'A' Section tickets, speeding out of the city at about 2pm on Saturday afternoon.

The drive to Mishicot was beautiful, as is most any road trip through Wisconsin. The resort was on the right side of lake Winnebago near lake Michigan, a place that I've seldom been in my 24 years as a Wisconsin resident. The only time I remember being over there was when I was about 6 years old. I went there with my parents to watch a friend of my dads race in a stock-car tournament. A blinding downpour cancelled the event and my family's 1983 Buick Skyhawk literally burst into flames on the highway. As presumably toxic black smoke billowed through the air vents and into our lungs, my dad had to hitchhike back to town to find someone to help us out. We vowed as a family never to return, and that promise still stands 18 years later.

We had never been to this particular resort before, so when the webpage started talking about The S.S. Fox Valley and a Magical Mystery Cruise and lido decks and port bows and whatnot, we assumed that at least some of the entertainment would be taking place on a boat or cruise ship.

Nope, not even close. How silly of us.

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In reality, the Fox Hills Resort had just decorated the place to look like a cruise ship, and no agonizing detail was spared. Every employee was wearing Love Boat-style uniforms, people kept saying 'welcome aboard!' to us, and there were Hawaiian leis everywhere. I helped myself to a handful and showed myself to my room, trying very hard not to 'salute' any of the poor costumed people forced into this charade. I was secretly glad that I wasn't really on a ship, because I'm afraid of the water and would somehow find a way to tumble overboard. It always happens.

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Despite being built in the 60's or 70's, the resort was actually pretty cool. The staff was great, the rooms were nice and the floorplan was unlike any hotel I've ever stayed at before. Long and skinny, it really did look like a cruise ship. Stairways went to nowhere. Hallways would end without prior warning. It was like the Winchester Mansion, but more claustrophobic and less ghosts.

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Also, there was gambling (yay!) for charity (boo!). There was also free wireless internet, so I made sure to bring my laptop for no reason whatsoever, other than to appear cultured in the lobby that was covered in life preservers and tiki torches. The walls between rooms were thinner than the ones in my apartment; and with all the alcohol and foolish hats I was seeing the guests carry around with them, I was mentally preparing myself for a long night of sleeping in the car.

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After we unloaded, we got ready for the 4:30-6pm pre-party at the pool (they called it the lido deck or veranda or something). Basically, for those of us who purchased the Titanium-Clad package deal for the night, we got to go to this 90 minute, all inclusive, 'all you can eat/get as drunk as you possibly can for free' gathering before the show.

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When we walked into the pool area, all the employees were standing in a line, decked out in their best sea captain outfits, each sporting copious amounts of liquor and cheeses.

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I shed a single tear, told them where I would be sitting, and kindly asked them to check on me every 45 seconds until I was asleep or floating face-down in the pool.

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Not being used to this sort of thing, me and the Missus sort of felt bad to have these people handing us free stuff over and over again. Once we realized that we did, in fact, pay for this in advance, we made a vow to rob them blind. It was nothing but Rum Punch and tortilla roll-ups for the duration. We made a point not to speak to each other, because that would waste valuable time spent eating and drinking. There would be plenty of time for chit-chat before the concert.

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I was stumbling around well before 6pm. Each trip back to the bar got me closer and closer to realizing my dream of seeing someone fall in the pool, although the person in question would have been me. When it was all over and they filed us drunks out, I called my mom for some reason. I wanted her and my sister to show up, as I knew they really wanted to see the show and only lived a half hour away. I even told them I'd pay for the tickets, and they could share our 2 queen bed room if they wanted to stay the night (read:I'll pay for everything). They politely declined, told me to drink some coffee and hung up.

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There were still a couple hours before the concert, so we shot some pool in the game room, which had themselves a genuine Dig-Dig machine.

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I tried to steal it, but it was bolted to the ground for some stupid reason. Still not fully satisfied with being well-fed and drunk on the hotel's dime, the Missus ordered a pizza and I hit the bar. The guy delivering the pizza was exceedingly late, so we only had about five minutes to mow it down before the doors opened for the show.

I should mention that this resort was chock-full of middle-aged resort folk, Beatles fans, alcoholics and barflies. It was like a packed college dorm with 40-50 somethings instead of complete dumbasses and horribly-tanned waifs. I couldn't even stumble through the halls in peace without some English teacher or small engine mechanic grabbing at me and screaming 'WHOOO!' for some reason. Empty bottles were everywhere, the 50's music was inescapable and I couldn't stop laughing. It was like spring break for married couples and lonely divorcees.

The ballroom where the concert was being held was a nice enough place. There were tables reserved for us supercool A-Section folk, and a dancefloor for those who couldn't seem to get their appreciation across by merely clapping. Our seats were great, although I didn't get many good photos. The lighting showed up very poorly on the camera, and my hands were less than steady.

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(Photo of actual American English show.)

In short, American English was perfect. Spot on. Note-for-note amazing. They looked, talked, sounded, played and bantered exactly like the Beatles. Their harmonies and attention to detail were surreal; along with their period costume changes to represent the eras and songs of the Fab 4. The PA wasn't the greatest, so when they put in too much gain or all sang at once, the faint pops and hisses sounded just like vinyl. I can't say enough good things about these guys; they are professionals all the way. They knew how to handle drunks getting on stage without dropping their accents or losing their charm. George sounded like George, John sounded like John, Paul played bass left-handed. From where I was sitting, their mannerisms and playing style looked uncannily like I was seeing the real deal. They played for three hours, and the dance floor consistently had about 100 people on it at all times.

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(Photo of actual American English show.)

I hadn't heard a lot of the songs they played for quite some time, which gave me the chance to enjoy their music in a new light and mindset. Look, if you honestly don't like (or at the very least, respect) the Beatles, you probably don't like music, or shouldn't. Any and every American and English band for the last 45 years has been inspired by their work, period. If it's been a while since you've listened to Sgt. Pepper's or The White Album, I suggest you do so sometime this week.

Watching all these middle-aged folks dance, sway and make fools of themselves moved me. At first, I was annoyed. After all, I didn't pay to watch them stand on chairs and scream 'Ringo!' over and over. Then it started to make sense to me. This is how normal people have fun, and I had to respect that, even if it didn't agree with me. I looked around and saw a lot of people doing a lot of different things, wearing ugly clothes and drinking ugly beer, but everyone was happy. If I wanted to sulk and piss my night away, I certainly could have (I've done it many times before), but a lot of things made sense to me at that point. Beatles music and, to a far greater extent, alcohol, are the great uniters, and for three hours it mattered not what you were on the other side of the ballroom door. That's neat to me.

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(My photo.)

When the show was over, hundreds of people spilled out into all corners of the S.S. Fox Valley, even louder and stumbly-er than before. On my way to the vending machine for some water, I went past the pool and again remembered why it's not such a bad thing that I can't swim. Booze + hot tubs + dozens of middle-aged people = the most bizarre game of grab ass ever played. I'm still not entirely certain that this place wasn't a front for a swingers club. Judging by all the open doors, along with how many people kept stopping me to talk in the halls, I might be right. I was nice to the first few people who accosted me, but eventually I just clutched the ends of my blazer in fear and made a beeline for my room. Perhaps it was because of how dead-ass sexy I looked that night (see top photo). I got to bed around 3am.

We woke up around 9 on Sunday morning and checked out before 11. Not needing to head home so soon, we decided to spend the afternoon in Kohler, a small village a few miles south of Mishicot.

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Kohler is a weird place. It was built by rich white people, lives by a doctrine of perfection they call 'The Master Plan,' and the median income is in the six-figures. The U.S. Open is regularly held on one of their many golf courses, and every house comes equipped with an extra-high gate. Our kind was not welcome here, which is why we went. Kohler is also home to the Kohler company, manufacturer of fine home fixtures and designs. There's a good chance that your house has a Kohler sink or toilet.

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Oooh, the water's coming out of the mirror!

We wanted to tour the company, but we needed to eat first. All the country clubs looked rather intimidating, so we stopped at a gas station to ask where all the eateries were. "There are no restaurants in Kohler," sniffed the clerk. She was serious; there aren't any places to eat in Kohler. Period. This place reminded me up and down of The Truman Show; I was waiting at any moment for a stage light to fall out of the sky. We had to actually drive to the next city over just to find a place to eat. Worse still, it was an Applebee's. I'd rather eat drywall; but we compromised.

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They take their toilets pretty seriously here. Same goes for their showers, which are fully capable of stripping the flesh from your bones, should you choose that particular setting.

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At this point, I want you to know that I think it's funny what my life has amounted to. When I was a kid, I would have absolutely despised a day trip such as this. Nowadays, it doesn't seem the least bit strange to ask the Missus if she wants to go and see the 2006 line of bidets.

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Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe I'm an idiot; I don't know. It's probably the company I keep. Frankly, I could go to a kick-me-in-the-balls-with-a-steel-toe-boot convention and have a good time as long as the Missus is around.

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For such a deep tub, it wasn't nearly long enough to accompany my massive 5'9" frame. And what day out would be complete without me trying to hit on a woman made of plastic?

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The streak continues.

After our tour through Poop Towne, we made it back home before prime time. It is at this point that I want to draw attention to Sunday's episode of the Simpsons; certainly the best episode in quite some time. New rule, Ricky Gervais gets to write one episode per year. No, two.

So, that was our weekend in a nutshell. It was busy, it was bizarre as all get out and it was a pretty good time. What do you have to say about it? Sound off in the comments section. March is inching closer and closer to the highest traffic total ever for the CDP, and your support is greatly appreciated.

Okay, you offered to pay for everything after you were six or more drinks up. I'm not sure you knew what you were offering. I wish we could have been there, they are a great band to see. Also, I like poop towne, it is quite refined. Maybe I should move there.
Tickets were $15 apiece, so I would have been more than happy to swing it for the two of you. Also, the room was already paid for, so that was no extra cost. You really missed 'oot.

Country clubs and 6-figure incomes be damned; there's no way I'll ever live in a town with no restaurants. I've been mighty spoiled here in Madison, which has been annually recognized as the city with the most per capita eateries in the nation.
I don't know if it's cool or weird that I, too, have toured the Kohler Toilet Showroom.
See, I knew that this would strike a chord with some people. Not as many as I thought, though.

The showroom is quite beautiful. It's like a snooty Home Depot. If I live to be 100, I'll never know how to install any of these things into my home.

Resorts for the elderly, Beatles tribute bands, toilet showrooms...I should just buy the blue Adidas tracksuit right now and retire; playing shuffleboard for eternity.
You mean you can't install a faucet that comes out of the middle of your mirror? Wuss.
There was one bathtub setup where the water streamed out of the ceiling, landing directly in the center of the tub. It was like the entrance to the Kennedy Center, for God's sake.

Not being a homeowner, the biggest 'fix it' project I ever took on was when we needed new knobs for the bedroom closet. I felt like such a big man walking through Home Depot; purchasing knobs that didn't match or fit my closet door whatsoever.

You'd think after 4 years of hardware store experience, I'd be better at this stuff. Nope. Not even a little bit. But I do have a beautiful Craftsman toolbox full to the brim with tools I've never had to use. Someday...
We just gutted our bathroom down to the studs and rebuilt it, and dudes were always, "Are you doing it yourself?" I would just quietly giggle at the thought.

Although I did a classic "man project" and fixed our kitchen sink faucet. I was all proud. Now I'm going to attempt to change all the burners in our propane grill. Hopefully our homeowners insurance covers explosions due to incompetence.
There is such a feeling of accomplishment when you mend even the slightest of things. I can understand why guys get so good at it (something tells me that Paste can take apart and put together damn near anything).

Yeah, before you start fiddling with the propane, you better rake though your policy pretty carefully.

Remember, "Head to feet, you won't cause a leak. Feet to head, everyone's dead."
I do enjoy taking things apart and putting things back together. The problem is that I'm very lazy and don't follow through on any projects. And also sometimes I can't put things back together. This last summer, I needed new shocks and new front half-axles on my car, and I was determined to do it myself. I got it far enough to where I had to have it towed to the mechanic. I did get real greasy, though, so that was fun.
The journey is its own reward, so as long as you feel like you've accomplished something, it's all good. Grease=success.

When I was just a wee CDP, me and my cousin would try to take apart and put back together expensive audio, video and auto equipment (stereos, TV's, engines). We knew it was a suicide mission because we didn't know what we were doing, but just putting ourselves into a mess like that was fun enough.

We got into the habit of tape recording these sessions and giving a play-by-play. The last 20 minutes were always the best, when we realized that we had broken something expensive and started fighting with each other and freaking out. The family got a real kick out of listening to these during the holidays.
I must say I enjoy the sense of accomplishment from doing my own projects. MMA (Massachusetts Maritime Academy) was very hands on. I learned enough about plumbing, electrical, and other things to be dangerous, VERY dangerous. So speaking as someone who has torn a bathroom down to bare studs and completely remodeled it, it was the worst 5 months (I took my damn time) I've ever spent. Tears were shed. Unholy promises were made. In the end it all came together quite nicely. And nothing can replace that glow of pride I feel everytime I use it. Or was that the chimichanga I had for lunch? I love those things!
It must be neat to use a bathroom that you built from scratch. That's probably a lot like driving a car that you completely overhauled.

The closest thing I have to that feeling is when I make a really good batch of toast, or take the time to put banana slices on my cereal.
I used to overhaul my mountain bike annually when I worked at a bike shop, taking it down to each individual part and cleaning everything very thoroughly. I loved that first ride when everything was smooth and working flawlessly. I need to do that again, I haven't really worked on or ridden my bike much in years. I built the wheels myself (started with rims, hubs, and a pile of spokes) which made me feel super cool.

Back in my awesome BMX days, we used to try to get our bikes to where you could bounce them on the ground and nothing at all would rattle, not even the brake cable, so it'd sound like a basketball bouncing almost. That was pretty cool when about all you heard was the tires rolling through the dirt and no creaks or clanks. They never totally stayed like that for very long.

I've had an upstairs leaky tub faucette for years. I'm just lazy about the house stuff, and I can always find something better to do. I have all kinds of plans, though.
I live in an apartment, so your house plans sound a lot like my plans for this page. Sure, I plan to add video, I plan to archive into a book form, I plan to change to an independent server. I know what that's like. Something better always comes along, like The World's Most Violent Bull Gorings on Spike TV.

A bike from scratch...crazy. That actually sounds pretty cool. All well-lubricated and whatnot. Makes me wish I had something I was really good at, besides instantly recognizing the best booth at a restaurant.
Booth recognizing is an important skill, don't sell yourself short. It's a fine art. Have you ever written a post detailing the previously unwritten rules about choosing your seat in a restaurant? It's almost like picking which urinal to use in a public restroom.
It sure sounds like I've written something about booth/urinal rules of the road. I can't remember anymore. I'll get to work on that.

If you blow the call on either of these, your night will be shot, end of story. The public needs to know, and if they already know, they need to be told again from me.
There's actually a kick-me-in-the-balls-with-a-steel-toe-boot convention next month, if you're seriously interested. Let me know and I'll get you the details.
Is it BYO Boot?
Ooh, I hope there'll be a BBBQ, too.
I'm thinking the great wall of toilets rivals that stone wall thingy in China - am I right?
That wall of toilets spans the entire length of the building and is about 30 feet high. It truly is the 8th Wonder of the World.

The extra 'B' stands for 'BYOBB.'

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