Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I just got back from a late weekend visiting Tony’s mom in Cedarburg, WI. It was a wonderful nice time. If I recall the sign correctly I think that the population of the town was about 11,000. I have never spent more than a few hours in a place that small, maybe a night. Being in Cedarburg for two nights and three days was an experience.

Minneapolis is the smallest place I have ever lived, other than the Sarah Lawrence campus and that was nestled in lovely Yonkers, not your typical small town. I had spent four hours in Cedarburg before but the few days trip was something I was really looking forward to. I wanted to get a glimpse of small town life. I know there are many towns out there with far less than 11,000 people but the size was definitely enough to give me a small town feel.

We drove up with Tony’s friend Ryan. We stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle for a quick drink and Ryan got some jam at the other cheese place down the road. It was actually my second visit to the cheese castle. Surprisingly, I didn’t buy any cheese. I just didn’t feel like it and I was being cheap. The Morel & Leak Jack Cheese at the place next door looked relatively delicious though. I kind of wish I had purchased some. Oh well. We also stopped on the South Side of Milwaukee to eat a little food with Tony and Ryan’s childhood friend Greg. He was a good guy.

Cedarburg is about 20 minutes outside Milwaukee (with no traffic) and we met up with Tony’s mom at a wonderful little spot called Ernie’s Wine Bar. Apparently this place was the “Triple L Tap” when Tony was growing up and he and Ryan planned to go there as soon as they turned 21. It was not the triple L tap they remembered. Other than Tony’s mom there was one man and the owner/bartender in the establishment. I think there had been some other people in but they left as soon as we walked in the door. The place was quaint epitomized. It was absolutely beautiful as far as decoration went but had a quiet rustic charm. The walls were a nice muted green, kind of the color of my parent’s dining room (this information helps very few people) and had a wonderful dark wood bar and mirror. The outside patio was incredibly comfortable. The other patron was thinking about leaving to catch Desperate Housewives but instead they just put it on the bar TV.

Cedarburg calmed me. I couldn’t explain it at that point in the trip but there was something about the atmosphere that really made me feel comfortable. The next day I went to my very first real and true Piggly Wiggly. In all honesty I can’t remember seeing those anywhere other than in the movies. Then again, I just had a sinking suspicion that there may have been one in Tarrytown. Maybe I am just dreaming though. The funny think about Piggly Wiggly was that I was expecting it to be this hilarious back woods place with off brands and a limited selection of food. Workers were supposed to be wearing red and white striped shirts and aprons. It wasn’t like that. I was very impressed with their selection. They had a nice vegetarian meats case and we got some burgers to tide us over. We tried desperately to find some Americone Dream but it was sold out and I could just see the sticker under one for Mint Chocolate Chip or something like that. The employees had navy shirts. It was a very nice looking grocery. We also went to the other grocery store in town; the more upscale one, to try to find Americone Dream. They too were sold out but hadn’t put anything over the price sticker for the flavor. Tony has yet to taste any. We may have to write to Stephen.

Before leaving Tony and I were standing in the yard of his mother’s house and I was looking at the surrounding town. There was something about the place that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I wasn’t sure why I liked it so much or what made me feel so good. Eventually I noticed it was the air. The actual air of the town was something I had never experienced. It had a smell, a crispness if you will, that I had never really encountered before. It was so incredibly fresh. Then I looked around and noticed how clean everything was. The grass (even with dandelions) around the neighborhood was lush and green. I realized I hadn’t seen a really dirty car while I was there, everyone kept things washed. The houses all looked to be painted well and were in good repair. Even the sidewalks themselves were clean. They were literally a few shades lighter than the concrete I am used to looking at. The sky was a blue I had only seen on the rarest occasions. A car past with audible music and I realized it was the first time I had heard noise other than birds chirping, the rain, and cars driving by the whole time I had been there. It was like living in a different world.

Unfortunately, do to weather and time I didn’t have much of a chance to walk around town. I was pretty confined to the small section that the house was in. I am looking forward to another visit when we can really take in the town in full. I want to see the area where Tony grew up and go playing in the woods of his childhood. He suggested maybe TPing a house because “that’s what you do in Cedarburg,” although I am pretty sure he was joking.

It isn’t a place I would want to live at this point in my life. The owner of Ernie’s mentioned to us that it isn’t a place someone under 40 would want to live. He is probably right. There just isn’t enough excitement around. However, as a place to just be and a place where you can easily relax it was absolutely wonderful. I look forward to being able to seem more of this quaint little town.


Sling said...

America LIVES in small towns natalie.
..and you know what?,,so does the rest of the world!..I thoroughly enjoyed your descriptives.Great post! :)

terry said...

my mom moved to racine a few years ago... so i, too, have been to the mars cheese castle AND a piggly wiggly!

honestly, if you live in a big city, going to places like that is a real culture shock. and fun.

and also a reminder that i thrive in a big city.

CSG said...

I grew up in a town of population 2000. I don't want to go back there, but I miss the mountains, and I miss the sound of the trees. Luckily, I just moved to a nice suburb next to the wild. I've been walking in the woods again after years!

Blog Antagonist said...

I've been to that Cheese Castle more times than I can count. And I've been to more small towns in Wisconsin than I can count. There really is something about them that just makes you feel at home. I want to get back there so badly! Although, we would not live in a town that small.

janeylynne said...

I grew up in a town of 2,000 and went to college in a town of 12,000. Whoa! That was huuuuge to me, until I lived in Detroit for a few months. After college I moved to Topeka, which is a few hundred thousand, I think. Lots of stuff to do, but you couldn't see the stars...or smell the rain... Now I live in a town of around 370 people. All you hear at night are the coyotes and crickets and you see a blanket of stars. It's amazing. Comfort is something different for each of us...and believe me, though I felt fine living in the larger cities, I feel comfortable in my teeny-tiny town. That's worth a lot!

With Love, Fat Girl said...

I grew up in the big city, but once spent a Christmas in a European mountain town with a population of 900. Gorgeous, quaint, but I'll never forget how slowly time went by.

Brooke said...

I'm pretty sure there are no Piggly Wiggly's in New York state. I think it's a midwest thing. Man, you used to make so much fun of me for even setting foot in a Piggly Wiggly.

RastaManErn said...

The Bar™ is from a small mountain town. I've actually walked from one side of it to the other while she was in classes one day. No shops are open on Sunday, and they all close early in the winter.

On a side and more appalling note: You don't have my blog in your blog list! I think I am going to have to seriously consider taking away some of your cool points, yo.

Johnny Yen said...

When Kim and I take the kids up that way, we like to stop in the little cheese places-- our kids love cheese.

Anonymous said...

Good Friend of Cedarburg. I dare you to stay with us in Cedarburg for a week. Walking to the coffee shops and being greeted by your first name after a few visits. You will never leave. Since my family arrived here in 1847 and we are still here, I speak with expierence. C'mon back. Love to have you.

Natalie said...

Sling- America might, I don't.

Terry- Good guy Greg calls that "race through Racine"

CSG- Your walks sound awesome. Woods are something I miss but even MPLS has woods.

Blog A- I feel the same way. I wouldn't want to live there but it was incredibly homey.

Janeylynne- 370! That is incredibly tiny. Wow I can't even imagine it.

WLFG- Time did pass slowly, it was nice though.

Natalie said...

Brooke- I know, I was blindsided by the rhymes and couldn't get past my mental picture. You can make fun of me now.

Ern- Really? My bad. I'll remedy that right freakin now.

Johnny- Do you know what happened to the big inflatable mouse?

Anonymous- I am intrigued. I would love to come back for longer. Maybe you can give me a tour of the town.

Phil said...

Glad you had such a good time.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

I was born/raised in a "city" w/a population of around 30,000. Then I moved to far larger cities nearing the million mark, and then to Hong Kong (population: too many)and back. I disagree with Sling in that not everyone in America or Canada lives in small towns, and certainly I would not plan to return to a small town to live out my days, although I enjoy a good visit now and again.

Yesterday we took a class of Gr. 3's on a field trip to a "city" (more like a town) beside our big city, and the stark contrast between the air in both places was jarring. We literally stood outside in the rain, sniffing the air, for a few minutes, noting that for all the drawbacks of a small quaint "community," the air was a big PLUS. But when we saw the shopping choices in this little town, we were quickly reminded of why we chose to live in the city ;)

kim said...

Mr. Yen doesn't remember that we actually WENT TO MARS CHEESE CASTLE.

Natalie, I knew I thought you were cool...but a Sarah Lawrence girl? You are my idol.

Natalie said...

Phil- who knew?

Mrs. L- I agree that not everyone lives in small towns but it's so strange that so many do. I can see living there until you are old enough to move away and maybe returning after retirement. However, there are so many that stay their whole lives.

Kim- AAAWWW thanks, it's nice to find someone who appreciates the good old SLC. Usually you just hear obscure ironic references to rich kids and angry feminists.

dave said...

we called it our piggly wiggly the wobbly sow growing up. we should all take a day trip to antioch sometime and go play in the woods out there! it's just a metra away!!

though from my recent visits, the woods may be very different from what i grew up in... namely their houses now.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natilie, I came across your blog searching for Ernie's phone number. You couldn't have described the special unique feeling about Cedarburg any better...great reading. I'm pretty lucky to live here, in fact the guy who owns Ernie's is my (ex) uncle and a heck of a guy with some really great wines...and the m&m's and pistachio nuts don't hurt either! On a weekend, it's a really hopping place! Come on back when you have more time...maybe for one of our festivals...you'll have a riot, yes, even if you're under 40! I just got the websites ilovecedarburg.com and welove cedarburg.com; can you tell that I love it here? Now just have to figure out what to do with them!
Take care, come back and visit some time! Steve Ihrcke