Out on the Razzle in America

United Kingdom
Freelance writer, literary graduate and minor lad. In America for pleasure, not business. I've never been before, so I thought I should. Should I have done it all at once? Can it all be done at once? Only one way to find out...

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and the Great Plains

Milwaukee is the home of Miller, "America's greatest beer". The brewery tour was very American, proud and boastful, but there was a hint of irony. At least, I hope there was a hint of irony. Miller is very poor beer, and I would suggest that the Genuine Draft version is actually the worst beer in the world, as it has no characteristic or flavour to actually complain about. It may as well not exist, which makes the idea of paying for it totally ridiculous. We took to referring to the beer with flavour, when "Miller Time" did occur, as Miller Shite. Nice show though, with a germanesque hologram explaining how he was exiled from home / left for the US because he made terrible beer / wanted to make the greatest beer in the world. That was where I saw the irony, though I was looking pretty hard. There is a great art museum in Milwaukee too, with a flapping roof, which is most impressive after several cans of 'Shite.

I camped for a night on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. The group camping next door were Christian missionaries, and their charity extended to giving out some tasty corn on the cob and 'taters, which was jolly nice, even if they did think I was Australian. I didn't really take enough pictures of Wisconsin, but then again, from the interstate, there's not much to see. Just corn. Which is probably why the missionaries had some to spare.

After deciding to forgo the Spam Museum and its "16,500 square feet of SPAM artifacts, history and fun", the only thing to see for me was the road, the charismatic I90, which is like route 66, but far less cool, but does allow for some roadsign reading: "Abortion. The choice that kills", or "The wage of SIN is Death". That, and the picking up of some tasty Bible belt and central country radio stations, as well as classic rock stations that proclaim: "This ain't yo momma's station. Unless you got a really cool momma...". On a road trip such as this, you readily turn to anything for entertainment. According to South Dakota's Traveller Magazine, the average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows. Who knew?

On the subject of country music, it is worth taking a thought about the lyrics of the poverty-stricken farmhands, alternating topics between religious conservatism and bumping uglies with a redneck woman behind one's trailer. Taking a recent release: "I got a roof over my head, boots under my feet...got all I need", you get the sense that country music is often a tribute of resigned contentment at having nothing. Listen to other songs though, stating "freedom isn't free...I'm a patriot...on the front line...I am an American soldier", or "where would we be without believers?" and you get the sense of a religious, almost jingoistic war, protecting or spreading freedom. So, religiously conservative farmers and disgruntled, exploited, downtrodden poor folk who revel in their condition to spite those above them. It rings a few Al Qaeda coloured bells.

Most people fight because they want things, why does middle America sing songs about having nothing, living a tough life, disliking those townie folk who use the wealth of America's workers, but not really wanting to rebel or complain? It is very strange to experience, perhaps they are happy enough because they have America, and that will do, regardless of the disparity between the complaint of country music and the smug projection of capitalism and all its trappings. Nevertheless, hearing country music espousing the mission to go yonder with your Patriot gun and its Freedom bullets does make you think.

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