There’s No Place Like Home

It’s official.  Post-Vacation depression has finally set in.

I found out how I was missed when I went back to work.  I went down to the cafeteria and the guy behind the counter ringing me up for a Snapple asked where I had been.  I told him I was on vacation in California.

“Connecticut?” he asked.

“No, California,” I repeated because he doesn’t speak English well.  He then pointed to my T-shirt which had Connecticut on it.  I smiled and told him that was last year’s trip and that I hadn’t gotten around to doing laundry yet.  It reminded me that I am sort of like a walking billboard sometimes.

I love being on the train almost as much as my vacation destinations.  When you go to the dining car, they seat you with other people so they have full tables and there is room for everyone.   It’s interesting to discuss with the other passengers where they are headed, their experiences and, almost as if it’s required, why they are traveling by train.

Sometimes conversation starts slow. During dinner my 2nd night on the train trip home, I was seated at a table across from an elderly gentleman and next to a middle aged woman.  The southwest chief Amtrak train was actually heading northeast at this point.

“You must be going to Milwaukee,” the man said finally breaking the ice.  It also broke a wide smile across my face as I thought about home.

“I am.  I was on vacation in California,” I replied.  The train originated in Los Angeles so a lot of us had boarded in Cali.

“I was in San Francisco for a reunion of my ship’s crew.  I served on the USS LITTLE ROCK,” he told us.

“The LITTLE ROCK?  The one that’s in Buffalo?” I asked and was correct.  He was impressed and a little proud that someone of my generation would know that particular ship.  I explained my interest in all things Maritime.

Once our meals arrived and after a brief hiatus in conversation the man asked me if I knew what the best part of being on vacation was.  I was a little puzzled and thought since we were at dinner it might have been the fact that you didn’t have to cook or do dishes.

“The best part of vacation,” he clarified, “is coming home.”

I smiled again.  I had been away from my family for 2 weeks and was missing them terribly.  It made me a little teary as I agreed.  I love to vacation in California and other places I’ve been, but I would never choose any of those places over Milwaukee.

“I’ve never been to Milwaukee really.  Took a plane through there,” the man said and then he asked me what made Milwaukee so great that I’d leave sunny California for it.

“I love Milwaukee,” I looked down at my shirt.  It was black with the image of a Godess-like woman leaning on a globe that says Milwaukee Feeds and supplies the World.  It may have at one time, but even me as Milwaukee’s biggest bolster, would have to admit that it doesn’t anymore.  To me the shirt always emitted a tone of Socialism

“If I were a tourist there where should I go?” he asked.

I explained how our art museum “The Calatrava” is known throughout the country, as well as our Summerfest, which is the largest music festival.

I was asked if those were my favorite since I mentioned them first.  I admitted they weren’t but that it was something that was supposed to make Milwaukee popular.  I said I would choose the Milwaukee Symphony or the Milwaukee Repertory Theater over the art museum. 

“Then what makes you smile about Milwaukee, the way you did when I first mentioned it?” he asked.  

I love Milwaukee’s architecture.  It has an old world charm in that many of the buildings are still in use from the 1800’s having survived the urban blight when industrialization when out the window (or should I say to China).  So many of our old buildings have been given a new life in the form of condos and office buildings such as the Pabst and Schlitz breweries.  It’s neat to see an expertly built brick building butted up against a clearly modern structure.  Old meets new.  That’s what Milwaukee is about.

But if looking for free things, Wisconsin is so pretty in every season that if I moved I would miss hiking and biking through the State Parks and along the lake front.  We’re lucky to have 2 Great Lakes for our borders.  My personal favorite is finding historical landmarks and it’s so easy to travel around Wisconsin compared to California.   I said I like to vacation in Wisconsin and go to places like Holy Hill, The Dells, Cave of the Mounds, Apostle Islands and The House On The Rock.   

The man was really intrigued until I started telling him that there were once pyramids in Wisconsin in Aztalan (A.D. 1000 and 1300. The people who settled Aztalan built large, flat-topped pyramidal mounds and a stockade around their village. )

Wisconsin DNR photo of Aztalan

I thought I needed to reel the man in again so he knew I wasn’t just telling wild tales because he had never been there before so I began to tell him the story of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company and the 28 submarines that were built on Lake Michigan during WWII.  I figured bringing it back to the Navy side of things would get him back into the conversation. 

The lady who had been quiet til now decided to mention the trouble with the police shootings.  I think she was tired of hearing me go on and on (She was from Chicago…. I think there might have been a rivalry there) so it ended my Chamber of Commerce lecture. But just because she stopped me from talking, it doesn’t mean I won’t go on and on if you want me to 🙂



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