Monday, January 14, 2008
On 26 December we flew to Green Bay, opened presents with Erin's parents, her sister and brother and their S.Os. Then we ate. (Speaking of which, I cooked two meals for the six of us that week and they seemed to like them.) A couple of days later, we did a round robin to two houses, eating breakfast and then dinner and playing games with Patti's (Erin's mom) very loud family; the decibel level was remarkable and they are a very funny family, including the 86-year-old patriarch. I learned the expression "kiss my squirrel" from one of Patti's sisters. This was the first time that Erin had seen her family as Dr. Colwitz, by the way. They didn't seem to give a rip, though excited for her about her job and her move. I include a picture here of Erin when we went to a great New York style steak house in Long Beach to celebrate her Doctorization. Just so her family can see it.
We watched college bowl games all week, of course, but the highlight of the week for us was going to the Packer-Lions game on the 30th at Lambeau Field with Andy, Erin's brother, and Karen Schrock, my favorite soprano of all time. Karen's parents were the ones who scored the tickets for us, which were on the 20 and halfway up--great seats.
Of course, the temp was about 19 degrees. We had on Gene's (Erin's dad) ski and snow gear and I bought a pair of camo long underwear, tres chic, so we were fairly warm until the fourth quarter. Our tailgate party was with Karen's dad's corporate lawyer, who had converted an ambulance to a Packermobile for pregame partying, complete with brandy, beer, sandwiches and chili with macaroni in it (!!), but the sauce wasn't bad, even though a bit wussy with the pepper-- this is still Wisconsin, remember.
Speaking of Wisconsin, a Packer tailgate parking lot is a cultural phenomenon possibly unlike any other. 74,000 people are waiting for season tickets and those who have them spare no effort in terms of costumes, lunacy and sheer fun. Only sixteen people got tossed out, only five arrested. This is remarkable, considering the amount of booze consumed from 9:00 AM until the start of the fourth quarter. People are very friendly; no one is a stranger. Especially to Erin, Karen and Andy, who drank beer and talked to everyone and peed for most of the afternoon. I refrained from beer because of the icy steps and the many layers of clothing that I didn't want to bother with. Even in the heated toilets.
A big part of what makes Packer culture unique is the fact that, unlike any other team in the NFL, the Packers are not owned by a single, obscenely rich man or woman, but by the city and a corporation set up by the city. Green Bay citizens are in many ways shareholders in their team. This makes the team and the town easy to love--they are the smallest market in the league, yet they not only survive, they prosper. When the Pack won the Super Bowl, the town shut down for three days: no school, no work. Not bad for a city of only about 150,000. Astounding, actually. And in my mind, American in the best sense of that overused word. Their name comes from the fact that they started playing with a bunch of immigrants who worked for the Acme meatpacking company. These were not gentleman celebrities. These were tough sons-a-bitches who banged heads in their spare time for the hell of it. And probably for ten bucks a game. Better, and more fun, than killing livestock and skinning carcasses.
Speaking of carcasses, Erin and I had New Year's Eve dinner at a very trendy and expensive restaurant that actually had Osetra caviar and a fine wine list, in addition to an unheard-of cognac and espresso. Food wasn't bad, either, though overpriced. The room was beautiful--we were near the fireplace, a real one--but the focus of the room was an immense moose head over the fireplace. Ah, Wisconsin: caviar, cognac, coffee, and a moose head. Can't beat 'er, eh. Doesn't happen anywhere else.
As you know, Brett and the Pack play soon in the NFC Championship. Root for 'em. Ain't nothin' quite like 'em.