Conceived, born, and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin—that’s me, Paul Vincent Bartlett, a (displaced) cheesehead. And not of your typical Wisconsin lineage. Nope. Not one drop of German or Polish blood circulating in my body. With a Sicilian father (actual surname is Bartalatto, not Bartlett) and a Swedish mother, mine is a conflicted, confused DNA. My wife, Linda, is also a cheesehead, but she found her way to Wisconsin via Illinois. (I’ve never held that against her.)
I’m often asked, “What’s it like, being a native Wisconsinite, living here in Minnesota?” It’s a compare-and-contrast sort of question. So I answer with my standard litany: In Wisconsin, we cheer a pro football team that’s won three Super Bowls. Our poor Minnesota brethren still lament four crushing Super Bowl defeats.
In Wisconsin, we cheer a university football team that’s won three Rose Bowls in the past fifteen years. And poor Minnesotans—their team has not seen the inside of the Rose Bowl in recent memory.
In Wisconsin, we relish our fine artisan cheese. In Minnesota, Cheez Whiz (usually served on a slab of Spam) is a gourmet treat.
In Wisconsin, we expect our churches to be open on Sundays, but we demand that our liquor stores also be open. Here, Minnesotans head to Wisconsin on Sundays to stock up on their libation du jour.
In Wisconsin (Green Bay, actually), our colloquial expressions include “deese” (these), “dem” (them), “dare” (their or there), and “dose” (those). In Minnesota, your major contribution to the English language is “Ya, you betcha.”
Wisconsinites share an affinity for beer and brats (and lots of both). Here, a helping of lefse is a gastronomical delight.
But we do share more than a common border, healthy competition, and progressive history. Our men (mostly our men) take to such activities as deer hunting, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and, of course, falling through the ice (pickup and ice shanty in tow). In the fall, Wisconsin men don their Sunday-best Elmer Fudd attire and head “up nort” (up north) with the fervor of amorous bucks during rutting season. In Minnesota, Sven and Ole do the same.
But you know what? I’m no longer a Wisconsinite. I’m a Minnesotan. I’m a Saint Paulite. Everything I love about Green Bay I also love about Saint Paul: that small-city feeling, with kind, friendly, gracious people. (But I’m still a Packer fan!)