Eau Claire, Wisconsin

to_be_a_diplomat

— Brian John Schaefer (circa 1985)

 

Twin Peaks 1.4

I suppose it was the moment I read that the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire had a journalism department worth scooping home about. That sounds about right. I needed some internal rationalization of why I chose this particular branch of the venerable state-strong UW system. Eau Claire? Like the perfume? And yes, the fact that it once was a woman-only nursing college back in the yesteryears was a selling point until one realized that you were enrolled at former woman-only college.

(“Like, are they all lesbians, or something?” asked a now indistinguishable acquaintance at the time.)

No, my insignificant figment of a fragment of my gut opinion on who you were and who you are now. No. The reality? I wasn’t accepted into UW-Madison.  My grades stunk. My SAT/ACT results were suspiciously absent of a genuine intellectual portrait of myself as a young man. Grammar never interested me much. My most beloved artists went out of their way to ignore rule, rote, and regulations with grand aplomb. If Henry Miller or John Cassavetes didn’t do it, then why should I?  I didn’t see D. Boon fretting about grades and attendance as he chose a musician’s life in his teens.

Because he is the one remembered from the schools he attended. Not those who believed taking the preparatory workshop for writing a plea for acceptance into the esteemed institution of their intent would make, break, or fake them.

No, gentle reader. I was not going to let a lifetime — albeit a short one at the time — of:  1) nonexistent relationships with girls…  2) a case of the “chubbies” where I was never “fat” by any means, yet never looked as  rail-thin as just about everyone else in the world, including you, if you miss the ‘70s as much as I do….and 3) an increasingly hostile view of mankind as a whole.  (Y’all sucked.) Everyone. Except Dylan, Nietzsche, Stephen King, Vietnam War vets, Minnesota Vikings, the obsessively crushed Mrs. Wilson, the cool guy at Pipe Dreams, my grandparents, my high school English teacher William Bauknacht, and Iggy Pop. Throw in a few friends, my immediate but inconsistent family members and Paul Welle, my father’s friend who I worked for and respected if for nothing else, his inappropriate color commentary on life and this who are living in it. In this thing.

Life.

The truth is I didn’t give a damn about not getting into Madison. It hurt, for a second. Because I knew I verged on subsisting in the land of the lowliest of the lows, that group of ne’er-do-nothings that were the most disappointing.  The uber-under-achievers. Those — myself present — who not only recognized their own potential, but couldn’t pull their dicks out fast enough to piss on the very idea of it. Fear of failure, fear of success. More like, “I just wrote a series of poems that makes Wordsworth look like the meandering mama’s boy he was…and you want me to actually put some effort into this? Do you I realize I was on hallucinogenic mushrooms during the SAT test and still killed in the Right Brain portion? That I was arrested 5 hours prior to receiving my high school diploma for underage drinking and disorderly conduct?”

That during the night before my parents drove me across the state, due west, to my new home — the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire — that I wa  balls-out tripping on acid and with a couple of encouraging friends harvested 50 pounds of rotten stink hemp from behind a slaughter house that I first crammed into the hatch of our family Ford Mustang II only to spend an hour pulling out every rancid stalk on the side of road before coming home and parking the car only to have my father emerge from my ma’s tricked out Ford Bivouac Econo-line pre-SUV automobile, wearing nothing but a pair of blue briefs, an unkempt head of hair, and a terrycloth robe that’s color instantly reminds me of being a child…(exhale)…”WTF?” I blurred. Is this happening?

Oh, why yes, it was, and suddenly he’s questioning where I was earlier that night and oh-yea, the reason he justifiably popped me in the jaw a moment after lying to him was because…

I saw a pair of eyes staring at me from the pedi-van parked next to me in the Eve’s Supper Club parking lot, the second one, past the train tracks, settled right into a nice unobstructed view of the river.  Yes, a stoner spot, and not a good one for obvious reasons, but that’s not the point. This is. Despite the blotter I ingested hours before, which was waning in its life escapability, I knew there was someone in that van.

While the three of us were arguing about the worth of the ditch weed and/or the lack of it, I, the driver, naturally more attuned to my surroundings, especially in the state I was in and the location (EASY PICKINGS) of where we thought we were most protected.

THERE’S SOMEONE IN THERE, MAN!

‘Nah…you’re crazy…tripping, man…’  Yea, well, crazy this shit, skippy, I’m getting the fuck out of here!  You see, because I had already been arrested 5 times in the past year, and if I stood in front of one particular (but effective) judge one more time, I was going to pay for all the idiocy I had been propagating. Hard and deep. (The man threatened to bypass all law and procedure in open court and punish me as he saw fit.)  And I wasn’t getting popped the very night before I fled my intolerable home town. Not me. Not tonight. Not freshly 17 with a world to be seduced by and eventually fucked.

I threw that piece of shit into (R) and swung the wheel violently to the left, stuck (D) and mashed the gas and my body was enveloped by a sense that I WAS RIGHT!!! I KNEW IT!!!!

I saw him, glasses, pale face, balding, frantically trying to situate his sausage-shaped ass into the captain’s seat and give chase. And I looked out the window just to make sure the mirror wasn’t a lie and the hell if I didn’t see a dozen lights glare at once, ignition a go, with the sound of an engine, wheels, and gravel all at once, pelting my dixie-cup multi-colored brain.  GODFUCKINGDAMMIT.  It was over. My life. My future. My hatred of the future. College. College girls. Somewhere. Somewhere far away. Far enough where I can get a headstart to keep moving and escape if any of you ever found out where I was.

I launched that engineering failure into a frenzy it had never seen. In the span of 20 feet, I managed to get “air” over the railroad tracks in between the top tier and lower stoner lots. The now-trusted mirror? Verified: He’s in pursuit. Weaving through the parking lot, my friends balking at and then encouraging me to flee in the span of a single second, I knew the cemetery was directly across Riverside from the entrance to Eve’s and if I could get a pussy-hair of distance between myself and this <NO IDEA — probably a cop> and get into the winding, multi-laned holy-moldy property, I could lose him by the time I climbed the hillside and reached Webster Avenue. The widow-maker of Green Bay aorta. The main line. The road you needed to know to get around the gut of the city. There was a traffic light. And I didn’t give a damn what color it was when I got there, I was going straight through that intersection. At a high rate of speed…

——-

TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR THE PENULTIMATE PORTION OF THIS PARTICULAR TALE —AND WHY “EAU CLAIRE”? Why today?  Bon Iver is in town. And will be carrying my girl and myself along on a lilting, powerful path of musical exploration, And the puppet master behind Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, is from “Clear Water”. Where the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers do weave.
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