Tuesday, Jan. 5th, 2010

Dreaming Brett Favre

Here’s a little teaser for an essay from the next issue – a piece about a dream writer Nickolas Butler had about Mr. Brett Favre ...

  •     By all rights, I still ought to hate Brett Favre. I live in Wisconsin in a blue-collar cheesehead neighborhood where people still wince at the mention of his name. I even once worshipped the man in that uncomfortable way adult males idealize other adult male athletes. And, a few weeks ago, Favre torched my Packers and looked like the Favre of old, a betrayal of epic proportions. But something odd happened a few nights ago that cleansed me of my ephemeral hatred of the man.
  •     Dreams are an easy conceit for writers, but I must confess that this dream is authentic, no doubt a product of afternoons of NFL football on the television and years of commercials layered over my psyche like paint. I had fallen into a deep sleep and at some point, late in the evening, I began dreaming. The dream was cinematically vivid. In my dream, I was in a Wranglers commercial with Brett Favre. That Wranglers commercial. Surrounded by the guys I once played high school football with, we populated a moist, verdant football field somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Our coach was even there, pot-bellied and hoarse of voice. And I was the star of this Wranglers commercial. The soundtrack was loud Credence Clearwater Revival, and on the field, all of us laughed and grab-assed in a carefree way, but no two men more intimately or happily than Brett and I. He even leaned on me and talked trash into my ear. At one point, he might have lifted me off the earth, a la Donald Driver, my legs kicking fruitlessly in the autumn air.
  •     I am aware that here the dream takes on a benign but decidedly PG “Brokeback” quality ...

Read the rest in the Jan. 14 issue.

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Local curlers crawl from the frosty woodwork

You may have heard about Volume One’s initiative with the EC Curling Club to launch a new starter league on Monday nights this winter. Well, last night’s curling lesson (the first of three freebies) was a huge success as roughly 120+ people showed up to try out the game and grab a free beer from that night’s sponsor – Fat Tire Beer (New Belgium Brewing). The night started with a huge line of people out the door waiting to sign a waiver and play, and it was everything the curling expert volunteers could do to keep up.

We immediately had to expand the new league from 8 to 16 teams (which we hoped for) and there’s already have a waiting list of 3-4 more teams wanting to play as well (so like 20 total). In fact, the club is now looking to give us another partial night for the league, Sunday or Tuesday, so we can accommodate all the new interest.

So! If you were still thinking of coming to one of the free curling lesson nights on (Sunday Jan. 10 or Monday Jan. 11) you totally still should because there may end up being a whole additional night of curling! Check out the curling club's thoughts over on their blog, including a whole bunch of great pictures (like the one above).

We couldn't be happier about all this. Go winter 2010, yo.

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Monday, Jan. 4th, 2010

In search of good donuts

In case you haven’t heard, Marie’s Bakery in downtown Eau Claire is now – and abruptly – closed. To many people, Marie’s was the beginning and end of baked goods in the Chippewa Valley. While plenty of places around town from grocery stores to gas stations to coffee shops offer you donuts, pastries, and bread, Marie’s was one of only a handful of actual, dedicated bakeries, though its hours and selections where ... how you say ... select. I can already hear the moaning and the lamenting and the What? Aw, man!’s from Marie’s many fans. And it’s to be expected – Marie’s didn’t just offer baked goods, it offered European baked goods of the kind and quality you can’t you couldn’t get anywhere else in the Valley.

But. This closing once again reminds me that the Valley lacks a true donut shop/bakery. Yes, we have a few, and yes some of them do certain things pretty well, but we lack an actual full service bakery. (Correct me if I’m wrong, please.) And I’m not talking about galettes and pain au chocolat, as good as that stuff is. I’m talking about donuts and bear claws and danishes and crullers. Pretty much since Eau Claire’s Hoeppner’s closed down a few years back, there’s been donut black hole that’s been impossible to fill with Ron’s Castle long johns and Kwik Trip Glazers.

But I don’t blame the bakers. I blame our overwhelming urge to get our morning’s sugar/fat/carb concoction from a Holiday Station rather than a real bakery. What’s up with that?

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Freak Fish Is Snared
January 6, 1909

Freak Fish Is Snared
Eau Claire Leader | January 6, 1909

What may be termed a “chameleon fish” has been discovered by the government seiners working in the Black and Mississippi rivers near here, and so far local scientists, who have been trying to establish the identity of the freak, have failed. The fish differs in many particulars from the usual fish both in habits and in looks. During the time it has been in the hands of the local fishery crew it has changed in hue several times, each variation coming with a drop or rise in temperature.

With the recent cold spell that invaded this part of the state it shifted from a light “pike color” to a dark, almost the color of a channel catfish. With the head of a black bass it has the body of a sand pike. The head tallies with that of a the bass with the exception of the red mark in the eye, characteristic of the black bass. The body, shaped like a pike has none of the pike’s characteristic colorings. When startled by a touch, instead of darting forward, or to the side, as do most fish, it dives to the bottom of the tank and with a few flips of its tail stirs up the sediment, completely enveloping itself in the cloud. It rarely swims forward but down and over- practically “looping the loop.” The attention of Congressman Esch has been called to the freak and he is in communication with the United States fish commission in an effort to establish its identity.

Chad’s Take- Just another odd Chippewa Valley creature.

For some inexplicable reason the Chippewa Valley was once rife with some very odd creatures. In past articles I have written about the sword fish caught in the Eau Claire River, the small hippopotamus looking thing dug up in Shawtown, Water Street’s monster black snake, the Third Ward’s trained porcupine, Chippewa’s giant wolf, and an unknown vicious animal causing terror in Eau Claire. For those of you keeping track of Chippewa Valley oddities get out your pencil, because you can now add “Chameleon fish” to your ever-growing list. Why was the Chippewa Valley such a hotbed of weird animals? One could certainly understand these stories coming from the logging camps of the North Woods where stories of Paul Bunyan, twenty-pound mosquitoes, and the Hodag were commonplace. But when these same stories originated in the heart of the booming Chippewa Valley community their explanations become a bit clouded.

Were these bizarre cases simply a matter that the science of the day wasn’t advanced enough to identify these creatures, or do these mysterious creatures remain unknown today? Unfortunately in this case we will never know. Word was never given whether Congressman Esch, or anyone else, was able to identify this strange fish. Even the final whereabouts of the fish have been lost to history. Perhaps the preserved fish is tucked away under a pile of dust in your attic waiting patiently to finally be discovered.

Keep an eye out…

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Sunday, Jan. 3rd, 2010
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