Saturday, 24 October 2015

Geekrant and the Camo Couture

Greetings, Geekranters!

I hope noone minds being referred to as "geekranters" but as a poetry junkie, the alliterative potential of that opening statement was too good to pass up.

So once again I decided to blog and to send you "a letter from America!" (credits to The Proclaimers)
and to speak once more about this new life I find myself in, on the shores of the new world.

Today, I engaged in an event that, it seems to me at least, is formative and pivotal in the lives of many in the midwest. Yes, I bought my first item of clothing with a camo pattern on it.

Now when I was a child growing up in the U.K., I enjoyed a good piece of camo couture as much as the next child whose grandfather told him stories of the war and his little piece of the struggle against Hitler. I even once tried on his old battle dress and saw a Lee Enfield rifle on his dining table (it wasn't his but a friends.) but that was military camouflage made up of coloured splodges designed to allow soldiers to vanish into a landscape away from human eyes. This, this is something quite different.

This is hunter's camouflage, a design that involves images of twigs, leaves and even branches, printed onto items as varied as phonecases, baseball caps, backpacks, guncases and even slippers and I know what you're thinking. You're right, I bought the slippers.

In a state like Wisconsin,  hunting is still very popular, and with an area that is easily the size of the British mainland but with a population of only 4.5 million (that's over million people less than the population of London) there's a lot of wilderness areas out there. So hunting is also arguably considered as necessary and a way of life for many people here and in the states nearby.

These people are close to the land, they farm it, they eat of its fruits (they are more obsessed with fresh produce than any celebrity chef you care to name, and yes, British readers, that does mean Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall) and they hunt on it. It seems to be a way of keeping a living connection with the countryside around them and reminding themselves, in this era of internet shopping carts and Netflix, that to their forbears, this was wilderness. This was frontier country. The oldest settlement in Wisconsin, Green Bay, was founded primarily to hunt beaver and Wisconsinites haven't forgotten.

No matter how fond they are of hunting, they do it in a safe way with rules, many rules, about good hunting protocol and conduct and the need to wear orange.

There is a season for hunting every sort of game and, as Mrs Geekrant kindly pointed out to me during the writing of this blog, a camouflage for each. The one that I seem to see a lot here, appears to be for the hunting of deer. So if you're out on a hunt, you don't want to disturb the deer. So looking like tree bark is good. But you also don't want to get shot by one of the hunting party with a bad aim whp thinks you're a tree and is the vice president of the United States. So you wear orange, a shade of bright orange called blaze orange, in fact. This is to make sure people can see your neon clothed self from miles away (and the deer are colour blind, so to them, you're still a tree) and to create one of the most interesting colour combinations in history.

Camo and Blaze Orange.

Its everywhere and on everything. A popular phone case here is camo with orange accent colours, Underarmour manufacture a whole range of camo and orange gear. So I thought I'd join in because after a month of doing, well, not a whole lot, I have a job

So because I have a got a job, albeit a temporary one, I decided to take my wife out to tea (that's dinner to my American readers and any southern British readers, I'm talking about a meal, not a nice cup of camomile) and what better place to take her than Glass Nickel Pizza.

America is well known for its regional variations in food, ranging from street food to sit down meals in restaurants. Polish Hot Dogs in Chicago to deep dish pizza in... in Chicago as well. Although Wisconsin isn't really known for pizza, Glass Nickel has made pizza it should be known for, Madison style.

This is pizza that hipsters would eat while families argue at the next table. It's served by hipsters (one of whom upon hearing my accent, asked me if I'd heard of the Happy Mondays and then proceeded to put a track on the sound system so obscure, the band itself would have difficulty identifying it) with typical midwestern niceness. It's very Wisconsin in the fact that its the only pizza place I've ever been to that has a tester flight of local beers on the menu. It's also the only pizza place I've been to that doesn't pretend to be at least slightly Italian. This ain't no pizzeria. This is portions designed so frugal Midwesterners have leftovers for tomorrow, delivery cars that run on vegetable oil to fit in with Madison's deeply held hippyness and it is good!

The menu is full of word play and jokes. Such as the "Boaris Karloff" (That's a meat pizza with meats from the "Three Boars Head" meat company), "Fetalicious" (unsurprisingly feta based), "Breakfast Pie" (All day breakfast on a pizza), "Couch Potato" (Potato wedges, Cheese and Bacon), "Ranch" (my wife's favourite, with Ranch dressing on it) and Cardiac Arrest (that's just basically a whole lot of meat)

This time, we got a ten inch pizza each and it was good! Good in the way that only food prepared in a hippy stronghold obsessed with fresh produce, great music and ironic pop culture references can be. It came to our table piping hot and very quickly.  We were in and out of there in less than an hour, (With leftovers which are in the fridge awaiting the test to see if they taste as good cold as warm) and although a tip is more or less required in this country, it's worth it for pizza that'll knock your socks off, leave you feeling hipper than a Grateful Dead album being played at Woodstock and will truly fit in your lunch hour.

So somehow being able to take Mrs Geekrant out increases my self respect and lowers my boredom level. Just the fact of having a job makes you feel better, a contributing member of society. I got it through an employment agency which is the one thing in this place which is absolutely no different than back home. No different whatsoever, They're the same, right down to the inspirational posters on the wall with slogans like "Perseverance" and a stock picture of a mountain. But they had jobs and a much lower tax rate and the state has a much lower cost of living than back there. So I felt good enough to blow some money on camo slippers and glass nickel pizza. Oh, and I bought a Wisconsin Badger's pennant to prove I live in Madison and just because...

So until next time, stay frosty Geekranters, this is Geekrant signing off.

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