Eds Note: Dino dropped by with this year end summary…
To my Dear Wausau,
I wanted to take the time to say thank you. This has been quite possibly the best two years of my life, and I think a lot of it has to do with this great city, and all the wonderful people in it. Just today I was given a few great examples of the good and the bad, and I want to thank you all. We live in a beautiful place, a place that teaches me great lessons each and every day, a place that sticks it out with me and teaches me great big lessons that it takes a long time for me to understand and often find myself fighting, we live in a city that accepts people and their ups and downs and does not ever let anyone get too far along, we live in a city full of such promise it is possible to stand in front of City Hall and just sort of smell opportunity and really good people.
I wanted to take some time and hit my personal highlights. I know for the most part my writing tends to be of an increasingly personal voice each and every time I sit down to write, but my professor in college told me that it is the only voice that matters, that my eyes are the only eyes that see my world, and that poets are the unofficial legislators of the universe…writers give divinity to things when we write about them…and these things might not be divine, but they sure are special to me.
1. Evolutions in Design. Go on, tell me I am advertising. Then you walk in the door, and you smell the flowers, and meet the designers, and then the owners, and you tell me that this is not an amazing place. I have a personal connection to the place, and have known the design staff for a while, and I can say in all honesty that they are actually good people. Creative people. People that seek inspiration, and seek to celebrate creativity. They have personal relationships, and they pay attention to the people that are their customers. An example, I am a big fan of giving my mother flowers. I like to do it often, and the people at EID are where I go. I take the time to walk in, and walk through that wonderful maze of wonder, and I get to the counter to be greeted by someone who knows the place they are working in is amazing, and they know my name. I can simply say, I would like you to send some flowers to my mom. They tend to ask how much, and I pay. Then for fun they ask me what I want, and I just say, Angela knows. And the thing is, Angela does know. This designer who handles thousands of arrangement a week, knows what MY mother likes, and she knows what each mother likes when she sees the name on a tag. Not just mine, and not just Angela. Each of those designers knows each of our mothers and what they want.
2. Dwellers. I bought all of my Christmas presents at Dwellers this year. All of them. The cool thing is the staff. In contrast to many other retail outlets in the area, the guys and girls at Dwellers know everything about the things they are selling, the industries they are a part of, and what makes sense. The owner is quick to point out the industry problems, and the items that come from it…told me about a silly product that they sell. At the same time, the owner, Jason, and I talk a long time about shared history in skateboarding, and Jason finds the perfect skate video for this old guy to watch just to get my blood up. Then the big haired kid behind the counter, just awesome. Takes the time to talk to each person, to give them the stoke of whatever it is they are buying, to pass along that energy that he feels for the stuff in the store. Even the mom buying something she does not understand for her son, the guy with the big hair tells her that she is making a good choice, that it is a good product, that she is giving her son something he will be happy to get, and the mom is grateful for the words of the big haired kid. Jason and the staff at Dwellers are a big family. A big welcoming family in this town.
3. Ed Gale. Now we take a turn huh? Have you ever met Ed…or seen a City Council Meeting. It had never happened for me either, but my friend Pat got me to go, and now I am addicted. From what I understand Ed has been on the council for a while, and he takes it pretty seriously. He can be gruff, and fast with people, but he also can be rather mentoring, and guiding new people along in the process. From what I can tell he is a man who stands up for his beliefs, and is not afraid to voice them, and he is also a supporter of all voices, and supports each of them.
4. Jim Rosenberg. I tend to think of Jim as our only rock star politician. I also think he brings a chair from home to the city council meetings, as he looks really comfortable. Like Gale, Rosenberg is willing to put it out there. As a matter of fact I think he is the only City Council member posting on the forum at the Wausau Daily Herald. Rosenberg is seen as a real advocate for the city, and from the times I have spoken to him (not often) he is an actual happy guy.
5. Inner Sleeve Records. What can I say? Mike is an independent record store.
6. Wausaublog. Maybe we do not think of it, as we are just reading it, or writing on it, and expecting Bill to lead the way. Here’s the thing, Bill is a Dad of 2, a husband, and is actively a part of this community. Yet he takes the time to go around town, shoot photos on his own time, he writes posts for Wausaublog, and he edits the chicken scratch some of us give him. The thing that goes along with it, this is a forum that anyone can sign up to be a part of, to get their voices heard, to get it out there in some interesting sort of way. This is the heart of the new media, and I know Bill hates it, but he is a real figure here in town.
7. The 400 Block. We can all go around and around about an amphitheater, a farmers market, this or that. But the coolest thing is to go there and sit on the bench in the summer. To sit in the center of our wonderful town, and just be in a green space. I say we do nothing with it. Take the money we are looking at spending Bill Forest, and give it to the guys who build swimming pools.
8. Wausau Area Events. So this might take a while. But lets go back to the time of Amy. The beginning, when no one was sure of the role, what it could accomplish, much less what kind of impact it could make. Amy Altenburg cut a giant swath through the cultural life of this city, creating the institutions that we all celebrate, and striving to support all the downtown businesses that she could. There was no original charter, and no real focus, and Amy gave it life. She created the organization that we all look to for our fun activities, and the organization that makes those things happen. She even dealt with two executive boards, they created their bylaws, and terms and what not (time for an election I think), and she was a great partner with the city and the surrounding communities and her corporate partners. Now Wausau Area Events has two new staff members, as it appears Amy is going to be taking on new challenges in downtown, Kari and Leah. Two young women who are finding their way through their first winter. Two women who are full of ideas, and passion about the city that they live in. Lets call upon the boards that these women work with to make their transition an easy one, and lets celebrate their collective talents, and support the ideas they put forth. Because at the end of the day, that is all they are doing, trying to work for us. Not get rich, not make profit, they are on salary of some sort, and as a result there work is pure. Thank them. Call them on the phone and thank them personally. Call them on the phone, and like the grown up that you are, show them your support.
9. Marcus Nelson. Yeah, he is my friend. But more than that Marcus is a good man, a good father, a good husband and one of the most creative dudes I have ever known. He is a friend that struggles with the public figure that he cut previously, and now he is quietly utilizing his amazing skills and passion to start his new company SUPERSTARCH. Bringing the new face of the Internet to our fair city, working with companies and clients to show them the new tools that are out there to bring their message to the public. But more than that Marcus shows me everyday about living ones life as an example. I am not going to get all church or new agey on you, but Marcus is a good guy. A flawed guy (can you say shoe obsession?), but he is a man who works each day at it. Thanks for your friendship Marcus.
10. Jessica Dale. I do not think she reads this, but I am sure some of you will get this back to her. This one is purely personal. Jessica recently forgave me, and helped me forgive myself for something I did years ago. She reached out to me to save our friendship in the time of the holidays. A time that a friend knows that I experience tremendous depression. She was amazing to me in that one simple phone call, after I experienced so much shame after what I had done. And Jessica, like no other person I know, is simply a force of nature.
11. Adam Jamgochin. Since I am throwing together a set of friends, I will throw Adam in there. Adam is a chef. I was about 27 before I knew what a chef actually was. I just assumed you got a job in a kitchen and someone taught you how to cook. Recipes and what not. Cups and teaspoons. Wow, was I wrong. When I got back to Wausau and spent sometime with Andrew Wickman, and he took me to eat at the Hiawatha one night, and I ate this amazing food. I did not ever once think that food was like this, food worthy of discussion, food on purpose and from some sort of tradition. And Adam is a good hockey player, a good snowboarder, a good brother and son.
12. North Central Technical College. This is a complicated one. Some might think I would be bitter, but I think I moved past that. So my NTC experience was building a community radio station, getting 120 volunteers, and getting something special started. NTC made a choice, and that was that. NTC has acted honorably about everything they have said they were going to do, and not all big companies do that. The list of people I met while there is amazing. Each amazing folks. Shawn Sullivan, the student life director. Marc Borowicz, the marketing coordinator. Katie of the ever-changing last name, also in marketing. Graphic Designer extraordinaire Anne Weiler (also a new first time parent). Paul Clarke. Randy Hytry. Stephanie Smith, the woman who brought me there. Melanie Platt Gibson, my supervisor and a truly strong woman. Melanie taught me a lot, so much more than I ever thought I would learn. Tim Dunbar. Mark Fenske. Brian Weber. Chet Strebe. Arves Jones, Arves was exceptional in the fact that he was a really smart man, and he was really smart all the time. Your felt you were around a smart guy. Nick Blanchette, the only man I know who would run a marathon for love. The new President Dr. Lori Weyers. Dr. Weyers may have made a decision I did not like it, but I can officially say that she treated me with respect and compassion after it was all over. But most of all, at NTC I met and spent time with Dr. Bob Ernst. He was the president when I arrived, and he had the foresight to want to create a Community Radio station at NTC. I have never met a university president, and Bob is simply a cool guy. I cannot tell you how often he showed up and sat down and we talked about this or that, and I always felt that Bob was officially a member of the Church of the Cool Guy. He was passionate about everything, and wanted to know about it all. There are so many more, but it is 4 am.
13. Jim O’Connel. So, Jim runs Arts Block, and all the related activities. Jim takes the time to speak to each and every person who comes through the doors of that amazing theatre, and he listens to each and everyone of our ideas about what we want to see happen. He works to make sure that each and everyone on of our ideas come to fruition. You can go by at just about most hours in the evening, and the lights are on in Jim’s office and Jim is getting work done. Talking to a person with a ticket, or preparing something with his staff.
14. Our foundations and philanthropists. I am not really going to get into this too much, but our city is one of certain patrons, supporters of the arts and culture and all those things we take for granted. I think we know who they are, and while they do what they do for our city’s good, someone should thank them. I think when Mr. Staples passed; this lesson came clear for me. I hope that it does not take their passing for us to acknowledge the great service of these people. I think I will only mention one by name, so, thank you Terri Sturm for everything you do. You’re a good guy, and I know how hard you work, and I thank you.
It is nearly four o’clock in the morning. Today is Christmas Eve, and I spend this day with my family. Giving presents to my mom and my brother and his fiancé. It feels amazing to have family, to be within arms reach of those people who like to give you hugs. How much of a blessing is it? It is actually a big blessing.(the song on my ipod right now is Luckenbach, Texas by Waylon Jennings, how great is that).
I know for the most part I am giant moosh, a softie, a big teddy bear…but man…look at the cool folks who embrace each and everyone of us…Tammy at the City Pages, Eric Sorensen, Pat Peckham, Ryan Cass, Marc Fichner, my dentist Dr. John Krasowski, my moms cancer doctor whose name I do not know, Mark Baldwin at the Wausau Daily Herald, Jim Carlson, Will Heisler, the guys of Planet of 9, Tom Jordan, Todd Campfield, Marty Cheyka, Tom Bergs, Amy Ryan and the other new editor of the Everest paper, Peter Yang, Jim Tipple, Bill Brandimore, Mark Loppnow, and Abe Gabor.
And speaking of Everest…did you buy your kids teachers a gift for Christmas? If not just give them cash. We all know that these folks are the most underpaid people on earth.
God this is a great city. Thank you so much for giving me blessings Wausau. Thank you so much for showing us all what a city can be.