Entry 0088: Wisconsin Wonderland

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7-inch: Time of the Season by the Zombies

1968 Date Records 2-1628

Favorite Track: Time of the Season

 

I love this Zombies song and I can’t believe I forgot to request it during our drive up to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Is there a more magical state? It was still bright when we drove over the state line, stopped at a rest stop and took photographs by the state sign. Soon, it would be dark and stormy. My friends and I did not mind; we were enjoying an IPA called Steve Doesn’t Use His Rearview Mirror and Steve himself who was sitting at the counter asking if he could sign some boobs. After a long car ride in which I read the entirety of the first Hawkmoon book, and with the sense of adventure before us, what was a little rain?

Setting up camp in a field overgrown with wild plants, I surveyed the surrounding environs. We had some shade provided by three or four trees that served as our hammock city. In one direction was a large farm and sometimes motorcycles went past on the road. Other than that, we were alone save for squabbling of Sandhill cranes and the mosquitos. Blue Team was victorious but Green Team was sexier. The night quickly turned into country songs and beer competitions. Cheese curds were consumed. More alcohol was consumed. The Milky Way gleamed above us like a glistening spider web, each star an insect caught on its strands. This time I blew up an air mattress and didn’t have to sleep on the cold ground, not that this land was very cold.

And then it was morning. The tent was stuffy, unbearable, but upon opening the flap, cool air soothed my soul. So did the hammock as I read the second Hawkmoon book. Although it was the second, it was they day to celebrate the fourth and we do so in mighty Wisconsin style. First, we pontooned around Lake Wisconsin until we found a sandbar by the source of the Wisconsin River. I don’t know what I like about boats so much but I find them very therapeutic: a nice wind blowing through my hair, beautiful water and trees as far as the eye can see in any direction, and the slightly bumpy ride which shakes me out of the deep reveries I often fade into during traveling. The water was nearly perfect and it wasn’t long before we were splashing and dunking each other. Everyone we met were super friendly; Wisconsin reminds me of Buffalo in that sense–it must be the hard winters. Then it was time to head back to shore after throwing a mixed CD into the lake for the sake of comedy. We went to a small town firework show, which was bright, loud, dazzling, and maybe a tad dangerous–the fiery firework remnants were still on fire as they came down and hit the ground. But the music was good and the night sky clear.

On the actual fourth, we were drinking beers in tubes floating down the Wisconsin River when four bald eagles flew over our heads. American as hell. Each night we wound up in bed or at last down at the camp site earlier and earlier, watching the shooting stars and cracking each other up.

On the ride home, I finished the third Hawkmoon book. We rolled into Cincinnati late at night. I got five hours of sleep before having to wake up and go to work the next day. After eight hours and barely being conscious, I came home, ate dinner, closed my eyes for a nap and woke up at one A.M.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Easily, it my top five favorite trips.

I did manage to read another Conan story that I will now review with spoilers:

“The Hall of the Dead” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

 

I found that this story was too similar to the last story, “The Tower of the Elephant”. Both starred Conan befriending another person to steal fabled treasure from some mysteriously booby-trapped building. I liked the set-up of the story with its beginning with Nestor leading his men after Conan. His troops have various opinions about Conan, which is a good way for an author to build up character development with a bit of suspense. A rock slide trap easily disposes of the troops, leaving Nestor on his own. Their fight was predictable, but I was glad that Nestor wasn’t killed; throughout the rest of the story I waited to see how he would return. Of course, Conan gets chased around and then kills a giant slug which felt similar to the giant spider fight, but not as scary and immediate. When Nestor catches up I was hoping for a final showdown, but instead they befriend each other for the sake of treasure. This is probably a smart move story-telling-wise, but it didn’t seem completely plausible. The mummy fight was not nearly as strong as the one in “The Thing in the Crypt”. It felt a little bit like forced action. The resolution with Conan discovering his gems turned to dust, the jade statue turning into a live snake, and him having to leave his (first?) woman behind only to discover that Nestor lost his treasure too really tied the story together. There is something dark but grimly humorous that they can laugh off the experience that cost people their lives and put themselves in danger. I guess it is the rough barbarian life style.

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