Deer in the Fear Lights: A Letter To Joe, From Werner, On Big Tom & Beer City
Deer President Biden (pun intended!)
Please forgive me for the joke, kind sir, but here in the Midwest we sometimes like to take things a bit on the lighter side!
I sure bet you can understand, boy, with all the tragedy after loss of smell after rioting these years, it sure is nice to make your lips turn into a nice upward, capital “U” shape every now and again, am I right?
Allow me to introduce myself, my name in Werner Arendt. I’m a handyman, outdoorsman, and I’m one hell of a bowler also, born and raised right here in Beer City, Wisconsin.
I know you must be pretty busy with running the country every day and all that, but remember last summer when the Milwaukee Bucks won the biggest ball bouncing bracket in all the land? Wow!
“Fear the Deer” is our team’s slogan, and even though in reality no human being would ever actually have just cause to literally “fear a deer” (because they are a fundamentally meek and skittish animal that’ll pretty much bolt at the first sign or sound of human presence), that’s somehow what we settled on, so again, please take my tongue-in-cheek “Deer President” as a compliment and sign of colloquial respect!
And man, I wish you could have seen the revelry here last summer! All around the Bucks stadium when they won, the corporation created these massive billboards and jumbo-sized posters for the occasion, somberly recognizing that now that this group of adult men whom we’ve hired at great expense to move from their hometowns into our hometown, so that we can watch them bounce balls and place those balls into fixed, top-shelf circles while we drink beer and scream at them, well the thing is, they’d just done it so well last summer, our Bucks, you see, that it was boldly declared that Milwaukee itself had “Made History.”
Which at first made me scratch my head a bit because, no offense Mr. President, but let’s just say I’m aware that neither you nor I are exactly spring chickens at this point! But, “Made History?” As far as I recollect, the Bucks won the exact same Championship in 1971! I’m sure you remember. But I guess 1971 is no longer considered part of history? What a relief that must be for the Ghost of Richard Nixon, am I right?
Anywho, I’m pen-palling you today because I want to express my gratitude for the other slice of, dare I say, true-blue History Making that happened in Milwaukee last summer, and it all happened thanks to you Joe, our good-old Ace of the Amtrack himself!
In fact, the occasion I’m referring to happened just a few weeks after the Bucks won the ball bouncing contest. But unlike that story, it seems like most of my fellow yokels around here barely even picked up on it! That’s what I call, loco!
Allow me to cut to the chase: Thanks to you, Mr. President, our proud city just got a major bump in its profile (and no, I know what you’re thinking, I’m NOT talking about a social media profile for Christ’s sake!)
On August 25th 2021, I crap you not, I was sitting in a local establishment with my nose in a good old fashion book (remember those?) As I was about to head out, I checked the Brew City news on my magic pocket machine, and you know what it said? I honestly couldn’t even believe my eyes I was so excited!
The local newspaper, (which, of course, is not a local newspaper anymore and is instead owned by a massive international corporation based in the mid-Atlantic) informed me that the handsome man who is and has been the Mayor of our Fair City for 17 years, Mr. Tom (Big Tom) Barrett, had just received the honor of being promoted by the President of the United States (yourself) to the prestigious role of Ambassador to Luxembourg!
My first thought was, “Holy Smokes! I can’t believe it! I’m an Arendt! I’m an Arendt! And wouldn’t you know it? Big Tom himself has been selected, plucked, recruited, groomed for this critical foreign policy role, which could play a key part in shaping our entire nation’s future by the Commander in Chief himself!”
The President of the whole gal-dang country from sea-to-shining-sea decided that Big Tommy Boy Barrett has the stuff to do whatever exactly it is that I slept through in history class the day when they explained what Ambassadors to places that 99% of us have never ever heard of before actually do!
Looks like good old Cream City had “Made History” twice in a row in one summer!
That’s what I call, pretty neat!
I learned that the Mayor was in fact going to give a statement regarding this glorious news later that very afternoon at City Hall. Being a lifelong devotee of inspirational and visionary leaders in political history (Honest Abe, Mahatma Ghandi, Dan Quayle, Dr. MLK of course, and Tom Barrett to name a few), I knew right away I better get my keester over to City Hall on the double!
So, I hurled my chunky carcass into the driver’s seat of my pick-up and I start making my way over. Honestly, it did take me quite a bit longer to get there than I felt like it should have, but no sweat, I ended up having some interesting opportunities to reflect on my drive over to see Big Tom’s History Making announcement.
Mostly, as I was driving, I was flooded with emotion over the now imminent departure of the Mayor who’s been in charge of Wisconsin’s largest city since the square middle of the George W. Bush administration.
And of course, like any politician, Big Tom has his haters and naysayers. Nobody’s perfect after all, my wife sure can give you an ear-full on the thousand-and-one shortcomings of this old timer, I suspect the same might be true for you Mr. President!
But even still. The man’s been Mayor since 2004. Think of all the change Milwaukee has experienced under the leadership of Mayor Barrett!
As I turned the dial on the stereo back and forth trying to find a tune appropriately rousing enough for the occasion, driving through Milwaukee’s neighborhoods really got me thinking about some of the major societal shifts that Mayor Barrett has brought to the city most recently.
I got to thinking, these past two years have been hard for the entire nation, the whole dang Globe out there really. But my chest started to well with pride as I reflected on how bold and how innovative Mayor Barrett has proved himself to be as a leader in the face of such monumental challenges.
Really, it starts with the simple things. Like street signs. You know, the little green rectangles stuck up on a metal pole at every road corner? Like, “Oklahoma” for example, or “35th.” Now again, I’m a borderline geriatric who’s from this city, so I don’t exactly personally need to look at every single street sign on every single corner as I make my way from A to B around town.
However, I’ve noticed that over the past few years, many of Milwaukee’s street signs have simply disappeared.
I was confused about this at first, because logically you would think that if you are driving an automotive vehicle around the city’s roads, particularly if you are not a lifer here like me, it might actually be helpful to be able to look up to a street corner, where the street signs always used to be, in order to learn, or even just confirm which street you are actually in fact on at that exact moment.
Now mind you I’m no Political Scientist, but I’m also not the dumbest crayon in the toolbox either! So, while I cannot say with exact certainty what Mayor Barrett’s reasoning was in removing many of our street signs, (or allowing the removal of a high percentage of our city’s street signs without ever replacing them) my best guess, if I know anything about Big Tom Barrett, is that he did it as a way to demonstrate his responsiveness to the people!
Like it or not, times change, after all. Mr. President, have you met or attempted to have a conversation recently with anyone who was born after Y2K? Yikes! Good luck!
This new wave of smart-phone (dare I say, “dumb”-phone!) wielding young Americans, to put it in Wisconsin Cryptology, are, well, let’s say, a bit different than those of us who came before.
If there is one thing I know about these feet-watchers, it’s that they definitely do not like to read.
So now that this new wave of socially-illiterate and semi-illiterate-illiterate young adults has entered the voting age population, and the workforce and everything else, I suddenly realized the genius behind Mayor Barrett’s decision the phase-out Milwaukee’s street signs.
Times change, people! Get with the new generation or get out of the way! Big Tom’s in sync.
The Y2K generation does NOT like to read. So, when driving, they use their phone GPS systems and voluntarily share some of their most personal, private information (such as their exact, pinpoint location on Earth, all day, every day) directly with bloodthirsty, known and unknown actors behind-the-screens who profit off of all this data, possibly even legally.
Mr. President, remember when we were the age of these kids who are technically adults? Back in our day, the only real way that anyone could collect this kind of covert, quasi/non-consensual information about you over an extended period of time, would have been if an entity such as the FBI itself decided to have your landline wiretapped and your automobile and place of residence surveilled with live, full-time human agents!
But now, kids these days basically just let their Apps do that to them for free, no sweat, no resistance, just in exchange for telling them where to turn in their own city, so that they may be relieved of the burden of using their eyes to look up at the actual world, and potentially even to have to endure the triggering experience of having to read a street sign or two.
You see, a lot of people might criticize Mayor Barrett for our pervasive lack of a basic, practically ancient urban public service at this point, (labeling each street so that people can know where they are and where they are going) but those Negative-Nancys aren’t getting the bigger picture!
Just then a new song popped up on the radio. Anyone who knows me knows I like to listen to the Oldies-but-the-Goodies more than anything, I bet you can relate, Joe!
A chart topper from 1971 filled my heart with joy, but also a certain degree of sadness, as I allowed the lyrics to wash over me as I continued making my way towards the Mayor’s monumental announcement at City Hall.
It was “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5, total classic.
Where there is love, I’ll be there
Making a lane change, I was reminded of another super-chill policy change Mayor Barrett has enacted in Milwaukee over the past few years that’s probably really helped cut down on some bureaucratic backlogs. Remember how back in any year of our lives prior to 2020, it was very much the law that if you were driving an automobile on the city streets in Milwaukee, you always had to have a valid, current license plate registration?
Not anymore! For the past few years, we’ve suddenly been allowed to drive around without going through the hassle of having to keep our vehicle registrations legally up to date.
But that’s not all! Big Tom, probably understanding that, you know, times are tough and all that, also decided that in addition to allowing unregistered vehicles to operate freely without fear of law enforcement interference, took it a step waaaay further than that.
Over the past two years, Mayor Barrett has apparently cleared the deck for any and all vehicles, no matter what state of operational safety, legality, or lack thereof, to just get out there and get on the road with the rest of us!
There is now No Vehicular Discrimination in our city, due to our progressive, forward-thinking leader, Mayor Barrett! That’s right, traffic in Milwaukee under Big Tom has become, how shall I put this, Highly Inclusive! Tolerant, for sure!
Forget the registration sticker and paperwork, in Milwaukee, you are now fully allowed to drive around the city without ANY LICENCE PLATE AT ALL!
This is a reality easily observed any time of day, any day of the week on Milwaukee’s street’s these days. It started in 2020 as a slow trickle. You’d see often an old car with, say, 60% of its hood bashed in from a previous accident that the driver had never had repaired. Frequently, it’s these types of confidence-inspiring vehicles you’re driving along side, they often also have tinted-windows, and now they also have no license plates whatsoever!
I’ll reach out my hand to you
I’ll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I’ll be there
By this point I was honing in on my final destination. Parking, with all the construction, could very well be a bit of a mess down there. But I know of a few secret spots I could probably score if it came to it.
It was still afternoon, with plenty of summer light left in the day. But now that my mind was on all Mayor Barrett’s traffic innovations, one more came to mind as I made my final approach towards the big announcement.
Mr. President, I know you’re a famous train-passenger, but have you ever personally driven a car at night? Like, in the dark? You see, this next one is one of the Mayor’s more recent traffic policy changes in our city that, if I’m being fully honest, although I completely understand the reasoning behind it, it still seems a little...I dunno, unsafe?
You see, when I personally drive a car at night in the darkness, one of the strategies I like to implement, is turning my headlights on. The main reason I do this is so that I can see where I am driving in the dark, so that I don’t crash into anything or anyone. And those very same headlights which help me, incidentally also help the other drivers on the road as well. Me having my lights on, it turns out, helps other drivers see where I am, you know, so as to help them too avoid the inconvenience of getting into a car-crash with me.
It’s kind of a you scratch my back, I don’t get into a car-accident with you and your kids kind of a situation.
But, in 2020 and 2021, in addition to the disappearance of many of our street signs and also the legal registration of many of our on-the-road vehicles, and also the new don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to simply having a license plate posted on operating vehicles in the first place, we’re also apparently now totally cool with motorists driving cars on the road with missing head and/or tail lights.
Mr. President, do you remember back in the day when if someone was driving a vehicle around at night without a functioning head or taillight in America, that they could count on getting pulled over by a police officer and ticketed for the public safety infraction?
I think that this is what happened. You know how when people get pulled over by police officers, they don’t like it?
I think Mayor Barrett really heard that, really understood that on a deep level, starting in 2020 for some reason.
So, I think he probably told the police: “Hey folks, now listen up, we’ve gotta make some changes around here.”
And then he likely explained to them that many people in Milwaukee really, really, really don’t like being pulled over by the police, even if they are presently endangering the lives of themselves and countless others on our streets by driving around in the dark at night without head or tail lights.
Mr. President, I’m not yanking your chain here. I have literally, personally witnessed, on multiple occasions, automobiles with BOTH HEADLIGHTS BURNT OUT, driving on high-traffic city streets at night, in the dark, in Milwaukee.
When you write me back, I’d be very curious to hear your perspective on Mayor Barrett’s new policy regarding Total Traffic Equity (TTE) for all Milwaukee vehicles, regardless of their make, model, year, legal registration, or adherence to basic safety measures we’ve followed our whole lives up until recently.
I’ll be there to comfort you,
Build my world of dreams around you,
I’m so glad that I found you
And you know what, Joe, I’m remembering again now that you’re more of a public transit man than a driver. Don’t get me wrong, certainly not all of us here in the Good Land are fortunate enough to own our own automobile! I sure do try to count my blessings every day! Cause man, in Wisconsin, having a car certainly is something to be thankful to the Big Man Upstairs for!
Rain, sleet, snow, or hail, every signal day of the year, you’ll see folks outside on the street corners in Milwaukee, waiting patiently (or not so much) for our public buses to come scoop them up.
And I don’t want you to think that Mayor Barrett has forgotten about these Champs either. In the past few years, I’ve noticed some changes at the public bus stops around town as well. Specifically, some extra precautions have been taken to enhance air-flow at the bus stops, I’m assuming to help slow the spread of the pandemic.
Imagine what a normal Milwaukee bus stop looks like: there’s a single metal bench to sit on, enclosed by walls of solid glass that cover 3/4ths of the bench from the back and sides, so as to protect the bus-waiters from the raw Wisconsin elements. The other 1/4th of the would-be bus stop rectangle facing the street obviously is just open, so that the bus-waiters can get in and out and not be trapped inside, you know? That much always made sense to me.
But now, at multiple bus stops around Milwaukee, I’ve noticed that the large glass panes on the back of the bus stops have been completely shattered, and summer month after fall month after now winter month, they’ve never been repaired or replaced.
It’s gotta be freezing to wait in there now, with virtually zero protection from the Frozen Tundra’s winter winds. But again, we’re lucky to have a Mayor like Tom Barrett in situations like this. Sure, hypothermia and frostbite are uncomfortable. But when you are outdoors at a bus stop, maximizing front to back airflow, so as to slow the spread of a respiratory pandemic among people already largely wearing masks or scarves over their mouths while they are waiting outside, is probably more important.
I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength
I’ll keep holdin’ on
Yes I will, yes I will
Finally, I’ve arrived. I park my truck and make my way over to City Hall in a jiffy. As I approach our city government’s beautiful, historic German building, it occurs to me I’m likely underdressed for the occasion. Here I am, old me, just in my everyday Wisconsin blue-jeans and casuals, and sure enough, as I enter this hallowed communal space, I’m quite a bit outnumbered by suits and ties or at least nice collared button-down shirts that everyone agrees make you look serious in the brain.
Oh well. What are you gonna do? In my semi-inappropriate civilian garb, I climb a stair case or two, and now huffing and puffing just a tad, I notice all the T.V. camera crews and all the fidgety journalists as they wait to be let into the specific room in which Mayor Barrett’s big announcement would be made.
In no time at all, someone from the Mayor’s staff ushers us into an interior room with a podium from which the Mayor will shortly give his words. But the room is shockingly small. Almost everyone inside is instantly elbowing, shouldering, jockeying to stake out their personal space from which they will film, I think I was the only person in the room not filming, including all the people who, like me, are not filmers.
And remember this is August, 2021, so it’s hot-humid-sweaty in these cramped quarters. Also, remember, we’re a year and change into a Global Respiratory Pandemic, so the whole deal of hosting this massive piece of both local, state, national, and international political news in a virtual coat-closet was additionally confusing, on top of all the sweatiness. But everyone was a good sport about wearing their face-masks at least.
If you should ever find someone new
I know he better be good to you
Cause if he doesn’t
I’ll be there
And just like that, a presumable staff member of Mayor Barrett announces that Mayor Barrett is now here, to make an announcement. The room takes in a collective inhale, which is not yet released.
And just like that, here he comes! Big Tom walks quickly up to the podium. He’s even taller in person than he looks on T.V.! But something is off in his face. The eyes, specifically. I’ve seen this look before, but it takes a second to register.
Ah, there it is: this man’s face, is the face of a deer. A deer in the headlights, as they say. Fearful.
And just like that, the Mayor of the 30th largest city in the 3rd largest and 1st richest nation on the face of the Earth, stood there behind the podium for approximately two minutes, and read a prepared hostage statement he clearly did not write himself, which leaned heavily on words like “honor” and “privilege.” You know, as in how much of an “honor” it has been to be Mayor of this great city for 17 years and all that, but now, naturally, his deep foreign policy expertise and renowned, refined diplomacy skills were suddenly critical, and required for the stability of the nation, leaving him simply, reluctantly unable, to follow through on his commitment to completing the job we’d already elected him to do here in Milwaukee until his contract as Mayor expires a few years from now in 2024.
I forgot to mention that when the Mayor’s staffer announced the Mayor’s arrival for the announcement, he also, in a tone that clearly communicated he was already quite flustered and irritated, that the Mayor would “NOT BE TAKING ANY QUESTIONS, (GOD DAMNIT!)” regarding this extremely confounding announcement.
Mayor Barrett rattled off his script, turned his back on us, and quickly walked back out of the room.
In the seconds this transition took, one lone reporter, in a tone of genuine bewilderment, tried to ask the Mayor question anyway.
From the middle of the sweaty-humid-Pandemic-camera-crush, the voice of one reasonable woman asked, “Mr. Mayor, have you ever been to Luxembourg?”
The Mayor ignored her and continued walking. The Mayor’s schoolmarm staffer sneered at her, scolding the journalist as if she were a petulant child, “I SAID NO QUESTIONS!”
But at that point, pretty much everyone left over in the room just kind of looked around at each other in disbelief, and telepathically agreed with each other, that no matter how unwelcome it was received, it was a pretty good question.
Your (hopefully one day friend!) Werner Arendt!