THE REAR END: My Least Worst ‘Best Of’ Categories
quite possibly the best thing you’ll read all year
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, living here in little ol’ Eau Claire, Wisconsin, it’s that we quirky Midwesterners tend to be the kind of people who love to talk about the kind of stuff that takes place here like cheese and passive aggressive neighbors, and ope, by golly, four-way stops and shoveling snow, tubing on the river, Mom’s lefse, and OK, I’m pretty sure the editors of Volume One Magazine have glazed over and stopped reading.
Everyone be cool. No sudden movements.
It’s time for the real talk. This is V1’s annual “Best of the Chippewa Valley” issue, with its many, many, many categories about everything from Best Midcentury Davenport Retailer to Favorite Spot for Gas Station Corn Dogs in August. But I know what you really want.
You want my opinion. You care about what Mike Paulus thinks. Well, my little cats and kitties, I’m here to deliver. What follows is a list of my very own “Best of the Chippewa Valley” winners – the stuff they don’t want you to see!
Strap in, ding-dongs, this is gonna be the Best Thing You Read All Year.
Most Important Least Understood Thing: Affordable Housing
This would be a way cooler thing to write about if I actually understood how it works, but beyond the burning belief that WE NEED IT NOW, affordable housing is a problem around which I can’t wrap my head. I’m told it’s a “landlord’s market” here in Eau Claire, and if landlords have no incentive to make things affordable, it’s up to the city, right? And what can the city offer landlords? I don’t know. I don’t blame people’s urge to bring it up (and up and up and up and up) in every online conversation about city spending, but … so what? What now? What’s next? Guess I better learn more. And maybe you do, too.
Judy Clark is, like, the one thing we can all agree on, right? She’s earned every ounce of this community’s perpetual over-adulation, due to the SHEER UNBRIDLED POWER of her pleasant on-air personality.
Biggest Comeback: Open Mics
Welcome to 1999, because open mics are back on the menu, boys! Here in our barely post-pandemic America, lots of stuff is standing in line to make a comeback – such as live, in-person shows – and open mics somehow have the strongest foothold. The most popular format is “get on stage and do whatever” as opposed to segregating music, poetry, comedy, and bare knuckle boxing into separate events. And it’s awesome. Open mics are cheap to produce, easy-ish to organize, and as long as everyone has a good time, well-attended. I should know, because over 15 years ago, I hosted a long run of open mic poetry slams, and, like, um … I still want credit for it.
Guiltiest Pleasure: Eau Claire Foodies Facebook Group
You all love to complain about it, put it down, declare how other members should act, and scoff at its clueless posts, but let’s be honest – you’re in love with the Eau Claire Foodies Facebook Group (21,000 members strong). You may not seek it out, but when you stumble upon a post in your feed, you immediately scan the comment thread for delectable morsels of drama, don’t you? Yeah, you do. Admit it: This is mostly why you’re still on Facebook.
Most Important Waste of Time: 2022 School Board Election Campaigns
Hey, remember when a handful of local nut jobs tried to win seats on the Eau Claire Area School District Board of Education like it was some kind of QAnon beauty pageant? While Eau Claire’s elections didn’t explode into the jacked fiascos seen elsewhere across the nation, our board president did receive a death threat (just like in the big city). School board elections are supposed to be boring competitions between nerdy people whose names we can’t remember but who actually care about kids and their teachers. Not furious spectacles where religious/LGBTQ-phobic/Stop the Steal crybabies demand we stop teaching Critical Race Theory to toddlers in their government-mandated litter boxes. A school board shouldn’t be a stepping stone to a higher seat of power, and treating it that way is a tremendous waste of time and money. It holds us back as a species. So I’m both mad and glad about the time and money it took to stave off the lunacy.
Woman Most Likely to Save Us All: Judy Clark
Judy Clark is, like, the one thing we can all agree on, right? She’s earned every ounce of this community’s perpetual over-adulation, due to the SHEER UNBRIDLED POWER of her pleasant on-air personality. Hey, unless there’s a tornado within the city limits, I don’t even watch local TV news, but I’ll still do anything Judy the Newslady tells me to do. One day, she will lead us into the everlasting light. We must protect this woman at all costs.
OK, I think we’re clear, and that’s why I love living in little ol’ Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where it’s really not too bad, after all.