Beggars and Champagne
Once upon a time, there was a magical land far, far away named Milwaukee. It was a land filled with beggars and champagne...
...at least in my eyes, the starry eyes of a non-native.
Before I moved here I led a previous life in Dallas, and a previous-previous life in SoCal. At a young age, Wayne’s World taught me that Milwaukee was Algonquin for “The Good Land”.
Hey, I thought it must be an alright place if Alice Cooper and the Native Americans said so.
Other than that, people told me it was a land of cheese and beer. Seriously, this is all I once knew.
When I first met my Milwaukeean paramour in Dallas, we interrogated each other – as we all do during the dating phase – and naturally we confessed our first dreadful jobs.
Quite casually, he said, “I used to be a beggar.”
“A beggar?” I asked, batting my eyelashes and trying my darnedest to stay open-minded, because man oh man was I smitten!
“You know...at the grocery store.”
“Oh, a BAGger! You bagged groceries.”
“That’s what I said.”
No you didn’t.
It turns out the letter “a” is pronounced a little differently in the Midwest.
We had a good laugh over that...obviously. And, me and my far-from-bumming beau got hitched and moved to Milwaukee, the good land.
However, soon after settling in, I was working a front desk job, and a cute little girl – pigtails and all – confused the daylights out of me.
“Excuse me?” she asked sweetly. “Where’s your bubbler?”
Like a couple of bushy bullets, my eyebrows shot straight up to my hairline.
Why in the blazes would a kid ask me for champagne? What is this place?
“I’m sorry, what?”
A coworker came to my rescue. “She’s looking for a drinking fountain.”
What should have been a comforting tip launched my imagination into a frenzy.
Wow, the good land has drinking fountains with champagne!
I pictured two fountains of different heights, nestled side by side. The smaller variety, spewing non-alcoholic champagne, entertained a generous flock of children.
They were delighted by this mystical bubbler.
The taller fountain boasted the real stuff. Butts out, the adults leaned over and enjoyed lengthy slurps. Then they sauntered away with lazy smiles, licking bubbly remnants off their lips.
OK, now I’m just yanking your chain.
For those who have moved around, even within the same country, you know what I’m talking about. Allegedly it’s the same language you’ve always known, but somehow the accents, the slang, and the misunderstandings inexplicably make you the foreigner.
You don’t recall the passport stamp or the visa, because neither came into play. You’re just somewhere else, a new land.
But, it’s hard for beggars and champagne to trump my Texas doily tale.
I was selling tires and batteries (you have my permission to chuckle), and a heavily southern accented character with beer-scented morning breath ordered six tires for his doily.
Why would anyone in their right mind require more than the usual set of four? And, why would he want them for a doily, something utilized in high society tea parties by women with flouncy hats?
Lo and behold, a dually is a gargantuan pick-up truck...and it requires six tires. It was an awkward exchange.
OK, back to the cheese state!
Boasting a zestful arts community, a peppy local food movement, and a bouquet of snazzy inhabitants, Milwaukee is, in fact, the good land.
Before you start dashing to Milwaukee on a gallant quest for champagne drinking fountains, please know they do not actually exist.
But, the cheese will melt your heart and the beer will change your life.
And I’m thinking with all this phenomenal beer around, somebody should really get going on this drinking fountain idea, don’t you?