28 Apr


Janey and I were in our snowsuits, just outside the pasture, on the Lund’s farm. It was one of those warm winter days when the fog rolls in from who knows where and everything’s white—the trees invisible, the snow-covered cornfields infinite beyond the near fence.

“Did you know,” Janey said, “that if you shut your eyes, it’s impossible to walk a straight line?”

I was eight, maybe nine. I didn’t believe her. So I closed my eyes and took a few unsteady steps forward. The thick, damp air cocooned around me, absorbing all but the sound of my heavy footfalls in the snow. My course felt guided by some invisible tunnel heading straight toward the fence posts at the border of the cornfields. After ten sure steps, I opened my eyes.

Everything had disappeared.

I watched my breath float into the air and join the fog as it drifted past my face. I turned a full circle. “Janey?” I said.

But she was gone. Five years had passed. She’d moved out, headed west for college.

And there I was, her little brother, stranded in a winter field, wondering how I’d lost her.

16 Apr


Need a change of scenery on the front page here, and I love this pink bus. I’m steeped in grad school deadlines, so not much time to dedicate to an accompanying story, but I’ve got an idea. I picture a couple of kids, maybe a brother and a sister, playing at the end of their long driveway, near the roadside. Their father runs a farm, which has been struggling lately, and he’s in a bad mood all the time. Mom has told them to stay out of the way. As they’re playing at the road’s edge, throwing rocks at fenceposts and trying to whistle through blades of grass, they hear the shifting gears of a large vehicle coming round the bend. They stop what they’re doing and stare down the road. A pink bus comes into view. As it gets closer, they hear music blaring from the open windows–something like Bolero, maybe. It goes by, kicking up dust and rattling over the country-road potholes. They watch it crest the hill and disappear over the gradual slope on the horizon.

“Was that a pink school bus?” the younger sister says.

“It was pink. And it was a bus,” says the brother.

“What was it doing?”

“How should I know?” the brother snaps.

The girl hangs her head and kicks at the the gravel on at the road’s shoulder.

“But it might have been the candy bus,” the boy says.

“The candy bus?”

“Yeah.” The boy invents a legend about a bus that picks up kids and takes them to the best candy story in the country. Everything there is free. Plus, they have waterslides. And you can ride elephants. “I didn’t think it was a true story,” he says. “But I guess maybe it is.”

“Why didn’t it pick us up?” the girl says.

“Because we didn’t ask it to,” he says.

“Will it come again?”

“Probably. Some day.”

The girl smiles and they go back to playing. The end.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I’ve been fairly escape-minded recently, posting images of treehouse communes and private Irish islands on tumblr. It’s the only thing keeping me sane amidst all the dishonesty and cronyism and power-grabbing going on in my state right now. I’d love to hitch a ride on a candy bus to a land where Scott Walker doesn’t exist.

13 Mar


I feel the need to take a break from what I normally do here, which is usually creative and relatively playful stuff. But I can’t really have a site called Wisco-anything without giving some attention to what’s happening to my home state. Below is a list of resources I compiled and posted to Facebook. Read, educate yourself, and combat the viral ignorance out there. If all you want is the Action list, click here.

As FDR once said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” It is in the spirit of education that I am compiling a list of resources on Scott Walker’s assault on public employees. Please, take the time to educate yourself and gather information. The coming war will be an information battle. Those with money will fund propaganda, and those in power will spread lies and half-truths. The mainstream media has shirked its responsibility as the “fourth branch” of government; it is up to us to seek out accurate information.

Walker has chosen to favor corporations over working class employees; he has manufactured a crisis that doesn’t really exist. Not to say that we aren’t facing some tough economic times, but to blame public employees for those economic hardships is disingenuous. Our country is involved in two unpopular wars, and we have just bailed out irresponsible banks and their bonus-earning CEOs, who caused the conditions of our current recession. In the meantime, here’s what got passed on March 10th.

I’ve categorized the issues as follows:

1) Class War: this is about the unfair fleecing of public employees for the benefit of the rich. A sub-category here: cronyism.

2) Lies: the misinformation and lying perpetuated by Walker Republicans (I specify Walker Republicans because not all Repubs are as dishonest).

3) Media Fail: the various ways in which the media has participated in the misinformation or spread lies.

4) Polls: obvious, no?

5) People: a look at who these “union thugs” are.

6) Inspiration: a few videos that might encourage those who feel as depressed as I do.

7) Action: what you can do to help out.

Class War:

Connecting the dots from Wisconsin to D.C. (video explaining the Walker Republican “unpopulism”)

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About (article with charts!)

Daily Show on “fat-cat” teachers vs. CEOs and their bonuses (video)

Colbert’s The Word – New Country for Old Men (exposes the economic injustices at work here)

Wall Street v. Working Class; You Have More Money In Your Wallet Than Bank Of America Pays In Fed (article)

GOP strategy: Disaster capitalism (video; Naomi Klein interviewed)

The Koch-Walker mutual favor-giving diagrammed

Maddow Exposes Walker’s Privatization Agenda and His Past Failures in Doing So (Cronyism 101, here)

Battleground Wisconsin (Op-Ed by Dean Bakopoulos)

A brief article explaining the basics of the class war

A very good summary of what has been unfolding in Madison

Ezra Klein – Unions aren’t to blame for Wisconsin’s budget (WaPo)

The hollowing-out of Wisconsin (A good, brief article about how Walker is flushing Wisconsin down the toilet.)


Daily Show exposing Walker’s lies about protester damage

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he campaigned on his budget repair plan. Liar

20 lies (and counting) told by Gov. Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says Wisconsin is broke. Lie.

Scott Walker’s unprincipled rigidity(WaPo)

The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions (Forbes)

Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies

Myths of the Budget Bill

Teachers Unions, ACT/SAT, and Student Performance: Is Wisconsin Out-Ranking the Non-Union States?

Media Fail:

Media Malpractice in Madison (article from The Awl)

Media Blackout: CNN Fox News and MSNBC Ignore 100,000 WI Protesters

Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who ‘ Contributes’ to Public Worker Pensions?

Colbert exposes the FOX/Tea Party misinformation and mischaracterization of protesters and public opinion


Poll: Majority want Walker to negotiate (WI Policy Research Institute (conservative-leaning))

WSJ/NBC Poll: Strong Support for Bargaining Rights

Poll Shows Support for Embattled Public Sector Workers (NYT/CBS)

Poll: Americans favor union bargaining rights – USATODAY.com

Weirdness in Wisconsin: Poll on 2/17 paid for by We Ask America

?Building a Stronger Wisconsin Poll Finds Voters Overwhelmingly Think Walker has Gone Too Far in Proposals Related to Public Employees



Voices of Wisconsin (video)

Ground Zero in Wisconsin (interactive photos)

Republican War On Working Families


Taylor Mali on what teachers make (video)

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest Pt 2

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest Pt. 3

Wisconsin Protests Pt. 4

Two Weeks In Madison: A Tribute


Help to Recall The Republican 8

WEAC’s site has easy forms for emailing your reps

Donate to recallrepublican8 efforts

Donate to PCCC recall committee

Donate to keep great ad on tv

Help Kloppenburg get elected on April 5th

Pledge to recall Walker

I encourage you to spread this information to friends and family. It might help to cull it and pass on just a few articles or videos. Truth, reason, and compassion are on our side; if you approach others with compassion, you can change their minds.

A personal note of my own:

As a public educator, I have seen how school boards deal with budget constraints. Scott Walker’s proposed budget has almost $1 billion of cuts from education (in the upcoming 2 years) and his abolition of collective bargaining will result in the quality of schools plummeting. Why? Because in order to meet the financial constraints they face, school boards will cut enrichment opportunities (like extracurriculars and reading specialists); they’ll likely mess with the schedule of the day/year (having fewer days of operation or requiring teachers to have fewer prep periods–two things that will reduce the quality of the curriculum); they’ll definitely reduce teacher pay (guaranteed because of Walker’s changes to benefits and pensions), and they may change the entire wage scale (eliminating higher pay or raises for teachers with professional development or advanced degrees, thereby discouraging teachers from getting any better at their jobs); they’ll be forced to have smaller staffs (mass retirements may somewhat offset the need to lay teachers off, but schools won’t fill the vacancies), which will increase class size. I could go on and on. The forecast is dark.

I’m not pleased about receiving a massive pay cut (one that will essentially equal the mortgage I’m paying on my house), but I’m even less pleased with the coming decline of public education. I have been demoralized and disheartened by the events of the past few weeks. But I’ve also been thrust into gathering with a group of people with whom I’m sure I would often disagree, but with whom I’ve felt a sense of community I have not ever experienced before. One night, while down at the Capitol, I overheard a woman telling a young girl, “All these people are our friends.” Please keep the passion going in the next year.

23 Oct

The Magic Lamppost

Remember that time when we decided to meet by the lamppost. And you said which one? And I said, the magic one. And you said okay and walked away to class, and later we met by the lamppost and kissed?

You knew which lamppost was the magic one even though none of them were magic. And I knew how to kiss you even though I’d never kissed a girl before.

And later, when we graduated, and I took you down to the lake and you said yes before I proposed, I couldn’t speak because I was so happy. Do you remember that? I never got a chance to ask the question.

We got married, we got jobs, we had our first baby, we moved, we had a second baby. We never had a clue what we were doing. But somehow we always found our way.

I loved every minute of it.

Nowadays, I wake before dawn. The sky is clear with winter’s approach, and the stars are as bright as they ever were. My bones ache and the bed is cold, so I walk in the dark to the kitchen and put the kettle on the old gas range. I watch the blue light flare and hold my hands to its warmth. And in the glow of that first flame, I think about magic lampposts and your silvery touch.

I miss you, my love.

But I trust you’ll know where to meet.

20 May

Hilter Rd; or, Anyhwere Else

Hilter Rd.

Just looking at the name of the road, you expect some evil intention. And when you get there, you see strange beasts scurry behind the house. Someone lowers the shades. You think you see devil horns behind a tuft of grass. And those eyes peeking at you from the second story window remind you of the monster you used to imagine hiding under your bed. Is this house Pandora’s box? Holding all manner of evil inside? And are you the hapless Pandora, who will unleash horrors upon the masses?

You bite your lip, take tentative steps forward, and try to talk yourself out of your paranoia. But then you hear something as quiet as the rumbling of a hungry belly, as soft spoken as poverty. It’s a shushing that, on any other day, might remind you of wind rustling through trees in spring or the collective settling-in of an audience before a symphony. But today, it evokes authoritarian teachers and knees scraping on gravel. It’s gone now, but you heard it coming from within the house. You’re sure of it.

You cannot enter. You simply cannot. So you turn to go; you gaze out at that horizon of possibility and tell yourself that you can be anywhere else. And just as you’re pondering why any road would have such a horrid name, you realize your mistake. The door creaks open behind you. “This is not that road,” you say. And your friends shout surprise and jump from their hiding places. They’re carrying cake and paper plates and balloons and noisemakers. And now, funny enough, you don’t want to be anywhere else but here.