Friday, July 28, 2006

Appleton, ho!

Not exactly the most inspiring call, but what are you gonna do? We're going to load the family up for a quick trip back to Appleton this weekend. My nephew Eddie will be baptized on Sunday at St. John's Church in lovely Little Chute. We're only going to be gone one night, but it will be good to see my siblings and get a change of scenery. As readers of this feature well know, I've been out of work for some time now and while we're surviving this blow, it's been getting more difficult as the weeks go on. I haven't left the state of Minnesota since Jill and I test-drove the Portland area in December, so we're long overdue for a change of scenery.

Every time I return to my home town, I get to resume my ambivalent relationship with it. I've long believed that Appleton was a great place to grow up, but throughout my youth I was eager to find a larger canvas and I haven't lived there for well over 20 years now. In many ways, Appleton is a very different place than it was in the 1970s. The population has swelled and has opened its doors to the world, for better and worse. The Appleton I grew up in was prosperous, provincial and sometimes uncurious about the larger world. It sent a famous magician (Harry Houdini), a largely forgotten early female literary lion (Edna Ferber), a genuine American hero (Rocky Bleier) and a greatly reviled villain (Joe McCarthy) into the national scene. Some 20 years ago now, Sports Illustrated chose Appleton as Sports City, USA, for the varied sporting opportunities available there. It's a baseball town that has sent numerous teams to the Little League World Series, but it also lies in the shadow of Green Bay, professional football's holy of holies. In the 20 years since, Appleton has continued to prosper, growing into a modern small city. As Appleton has grown, its contradictions have become more visible, but from my perch 290 miles to the west, it seems like a better place now than it was when I grew up. It has changed, and so have I.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dilletante forget two other native Appletonians who have made a place for themselves in today's pop culture: Willem Dafoe and Gretta Van Susteren.

While it may be true that Appleton and the rest of the Fox River Valley lacks some of the culture and sophistication of the Twin Cities, no one from Appleton ever hit a referee in the head with a whiskey bottle during a football game, at least there is no documentation of such an event. The closest event recalled by this anonymous blogger happened when Red Drexler, a man who was no stranger to the brown bottle himself, God rest his sole, once had to usher off a disgruntled drunken parent who stumbled on to the court during a high school basketball game held at Mr Dilletante's Alma Matre during the early 1980's. Like our guns, it appears that we Wisconsinites checked our Whiskey bottles at the door!