Wisconsin Ain’t No Flyover State

“Wisconsin. That’s in Michigan, right?”

Once, on my family’s annual family vacation to New Hampshire, a kid asked me where I was from. I of course responded with, Wisconsin. Without skipping a beat, he responded, that’s in Michigan, right? I never forgot the disgust I felt that someone my age (11) had no idea where Wisconsin was located. Didn’t they have social studies classes in New England? Aren’t you required to locate all the fifty states on a map at least once in your childhood? Have you not watched a single episode of Schoolhouse Rock?

They don't even serve this where you're from.

Fast forward 17 years and I’m sure that boy now has a clear idea of where Wisconsin is located. I doubt he’s ever visited, because after all, what coastie would be caught dead hanging out in a flyover state?

Consider this article, “Just Tossing Around the Old Bag of Corn” that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article goes into detail about how New Yorkers are really getting into a game that we’ve been playing around these parts for decades. It’s how I imagine Columbus’s reports of the New World would have sounded to the people that he “discovered.” Dude, we’ve been saying the same thing for centuries. You didn’t discover cornhole, we did.

This is still "the beach."

My favorite is a recent post written by Wisconsin to New York transplant Megan L. Wood in The Awl called, “It’s Cute That New York is Catching Up to Wisconsin.” It expresses similar thoughts on how people in New York are now just discovering “new trends” that Wisconsinites have been setting for years.

It’s time to set the record straight. Wisconsin ain’t no flyover state, it is the real deal. You know you love us and secretly wish that you could be more like us. It’s time to put an end to that ridiculous nickname and realize that things that happen in Wisconsin are as relevant as things that happen on the coasts. Sometimes, even more so.

Since 1844!

If you still need convincing that Wisconsin ain’t all that, then I’d like to ask you a few questions. First of all, has your state been brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon since before it was an official state? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder grow up in a log cabin deep in the woods of your state which served as the inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series which later became a hit television series starring Michael Landon? Were duck boat tours started in your state? Is America’s Largest Water Park in your neck of the woods? How many publicly owned sports teams does your state have? Can you buy alcohol on Sundays? Was America’s first kindergarten in your home state? Does your state deep fry everything and then serve it with a side of cheese? Can you host a tailgate party at all of your local sports venues? Does your state have this many breweries? When President Obama wishes us all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year from the White House, will he do so against the backdrop of the White House Christmas tree, cut from the forests of your state?

Oh and did your state do this?

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

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Please Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Today, March 20th, is the late Mr. Rogers’ birthday.  If you’ve never had Mr. Rogers introduce you to his friends as his “television neighbor,” then you’ve seriously missed out.  Apparently a whole generation of kids will be missing out as PBS has severely cut airing time for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  In Tuesday’s New York Times, it was mentioned that PBS no longer airs Mr. Rogers on a daily basis.  Member stations now air the program once a week, if that.

Once a week?! I used to watch Mr. Rogers twice daily; once after morning kindergarten and once after my afternoon nap.  With the show now airing once a week, today’s kids just won’t get to know Mr. Rogers.  They will be missing out on the much-needed daily dose of the Mr. Rogers experience.  I can’t even fathom what that must feel like.

Every child needs to hear from a young age from the mouth of a television role model that they are liked just the way they are.  I don’t think kids hear that enough and Hannah Montana  isn’t exactly delivering that sort of message.

In honor of the greatest neighbor in town, here’s a look at some of the lessons learned from Mr. Rogers.

1) You’ve made this day a special day, by just being yourself. Mr. Rogers made sure he mentioned that every single episode. So reaffirming.  Mr. Rogers had a way of making his audience feel unique and deserving of a good life and had countless songs that drove the point home.

2) By finding common ground with people, you can relate to anyone; even a tiger that lives in a clock.  Mr. Rogers sought to find commonalities of experience among all of the people he came in contact with. In addition, Rogers and his neighbors kept some pretty eccentric company; Cornflake Especially, King Friday, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and the Platypus family come to mind.

3) It’s okay to be in a bad mood and think evil thoughts. Mr. Rogers sang a song called “Scary Mad Wishes” about how he wished a dragon would burn his dad’s store because he felt his dad was ignoring him.  He owned his evil thoughts, showing us that thinking mean thoughts is a good way to blow off steam.  Who can forget King Friday’s often scary demeanor?! Lots of neighbors in the Neighborhood of Make Believe were terrified of him, but he was the most revered figure.

4) Bad things happen to good people. Prince Tuesday had major meltdowns, Daniel Striped Tiger got pretty emotional and scared, Henrietta Pussycat’s house was on fire once, Lady Elaine Fairchild plotted evil revenge against her neighbors, Queen Sarah fell off the Eiffel Tower, and someone once steal Daniel Striped Tiger’s clock house.  However, they all managed to make it through.

5) Change out of your work clothes when you get home.  It’ll be fun! I’ll admit, I used to throw my shoes over my head when I came home after school.

6) Ride your bike whenever possible. Mr McFeely, the Speedy Delivery man, always delivered his packages on his bike. In record time!

7) Love music. Music was an integral part of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, beyond the obvious songs he sang regularly. His neighbor, Francois Clemens, was a singer, and Mr. Rogers made frequent visits to Joe Negri’s music shop.  In fact, Yo-Yo Ma performed there once.

8 ) Appreciate your hard-working neighbors. Mr. Rogers celebrated the professions of his neighbors by taking the audience on trips around the city, highlighting the work that people did. We met artists, chefs, musicians, fix-it men, people who made robots, and other factory workers.  These visits instilled a deep appreciation for the working person.

9) It’s necessary to visit the Neighborhood of Make Believe once a day. We all need time to space out and enjoy a world of our own creation.

And how ’bout that Picture, Picture?! What a contraption!  One moment it was a painting, the next it projected an insightful video on how crayons were made at the factory. Mr. McFeely would always pop by with the latest hit video and bam, Picture,Picture delivered!  Also, do you know anyone that has a traffic light in their living room? Another reason Mr. Rogers was in a league of his own.

It’s a travesty that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will no longer be a staple of today’s children’s television programing. In 1969, Fred Rogers defended funding PBS to the Senate, citing the fact that he was scared about how children of that era were bombarded with low quality television.  It’s alarmingly still relevant today.