The Rear End

THE REAR END: Perfect Eau Claire Day

having the very best day this city has to offer goes something like this

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |

You wake up. It’s 6 degrees outside, which is way warmer than yesterday. It’s time to start your Perfect Eau Claire Day, so let’s get crackin’. 

You get ready and step outside. Someone already shoveled your sidewalk. Probably the dude who lives two doors down. You spoke to him three times all last year and not since September. It’s gonna be an awesome day. 

You consider a walk on a bike trail wending right through town, but it’s winter and you’re not ready for that. Let’s hit a coffee shop. 

You drive through downtown Eau Claire and marvel at the many, relatively large-scale construction projects people are praising/blasting/just barely even thinking about. You’re happy that things are happening, but you’re annoyed by the ongoing traffic detours. It’ll be nice when it’s done.

Hey, look. 

There’s that beloved local place that’s finally closing – the place that you, despite living here for three decades, have visited literally twice. But they always had great food/live music/antiques. It’s a great space, and you sure hope a new business moves in to offer great food/live music/affordable housing. 

You’re really not sure how affordable housing works. Gotta look that up. 

You get coffee. Now what? 

For dinner you pull into the Culver’s drive-thru thinking about how Culver’s is “kind of local” in the same way that Target is “kind of not Walmart,” and it’s fine to eat there once in a while.   This is your third ButterBurger this week.


Let’s hit a sledding hill! People love the big hill outside of town, but the one in your neighborhood is way closer to home, and you’re sure as hell not about to use a public restroom. The hill is fun, but you’ve got a brittle plastic sled and the huge bumps at the bottom are shattering your spine. After six or seven runs, the bumps knock most of the air out of your lungs, and it’s time to leave. 

You could visit a ski trail/skating rink/yoga class/art gallery/different coffee shop, but it’s cold and you’re hungry. You go home and microwave the leftover pizza/burger/pad thai/pulled pork sandwich you had for dinner last night. 

After lunch, you check your phone and see they’ve announced this summer’s lineup for Country/Rock/Fest/Jam/Ox. Some people are excited. Others are underwhelmed. But mostly, everyone in the comment section has a lot to say about whether or not we’ll be wearing masks/forcibly vaccinated/enslaved by liberal school board members by June. 

Hey. Let’s meet your friends at a brewery.

You roll up to The Brewery, park your car, and meet your friends as they walk in. You start to put on a mask, but no one else is putting on a mask, so you stop putting on a mask.

You throw your coats onto a live-edge wooden table and approach the bar. So many beers! You stand there gawking up at the digital menu, scanning for words you recognize …

… sour imperial rhubarb double-barrel milkshake hazy weiss lager vanilla juicy lactose hops…

Ah, yes! You’ll have the #12 because it’s a “lager” and your brain can actually parse the description. Kind of. You’re being totally honest when you tell your friends it tastes really good. You hang out for a few hours talking about fantastic TV shows and order a few more #12’s.

Now what?

For dinner you pull into the Culver’s drive-thru thinking about how Culver’s is “kind of local” in the same way that Target is “kind of not Walmart,” and it’s fine to eat there once in a while.  

This is your third ButterBurger this week. What’s next?

You have time for a show at the Heyde/Mabel/Pablo by a local/regional/national act. But you’re feeling tired because it’s getting late/expensive/pandemicy, so you go home and watch the first 20 minutes of a free online book reading.

That night before bed, you look at your phone and (if you’re over 24 and still checking Facebook five to 70 times a day) you scroll past posts from You Know You are From Eau Claire When.../Eau Claire Foodies/The Real You Know You are From Eau Claire When & Scanner Page. Not a single pissed off member has posted a performative rant about “what this page is for” or even “why I used to like this site” and “all the drama,” and it really feels like people are finally just scrolling past the posts that don’t interest them. 


However, you see plenty of people still telling everyone else that both Ann Landers and Dear Abby are from Eau Claire/Ray’s has the best hot beef sandwiches/there’s an old cave along the river downtown/Buddy Holly played here right before the day the music died/they’ve never listened to Bon Iver (and never will) like its some kind of revelation.

Overall, it’s been a great day. You fall asleep and dream of the city’s historic lumber industry.