Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Kiel, Wisconsin as a True Detective location

For family reasons, I spent five days in Kiel, Wisconsin. It was interesting. It was hard. My phone had weak signal and no data. The only wifi I could connect to was at the public library. There is no Starbucks, the only chain here is a Dairy Queen, and I spent a lot of time quilting. Things improved when, on the suggestion of a friend in passing, I looked at the town through the lends of True Detective (season 1 only, 2 does not exist). Here are some photos and notes that I took.

My Handiwork

Walking down a road. On my left there’s a hum on power lines, on the right is the rustling of leaves in the wind. Down the road there is what looks to be an abandoned housing development. Bird cries and cicadas. The roar of Harelyes and trucks.

Everyone sees you. They are looking, they are watching, and you will know it. Unlike in San Francisco, where you can walk passed someone a foot away and their eyes will not track you, in Kiel there will be eye contact. And possibly a smile.

The Tracks

Of course the truck that drove, at speed, down the gravel road had a billowing confederate flag off the back of it. True, there’s some sort of printed text over the flag but... I’m skeptical that it was a statement condemning the flag it crossed.

There are many discussions about food. What did you eat? What did they eat. Opinions about the quality of food, how filling it was, and how much it cost. Is there really anything else to talk about?

The Marsh

The yards are large. Each house has one to five trees on it, and these are not light weight trees. These are testaments to how long this neighborhood has stood. These old houses’ architecture harkens back to German architecture, houses built by folks to remind them of where they came from, lived in by people who will never go there. All of the houses have basements and I am continuously reminded of Silence of the Lambs.

We’re in the back of a church-run thrift store. It’s a flock of old ladies, ranging in age from old to very old. There’s whispered discussion about how the church is trying to raise four million for a new roof or some such and folks are going to start to go door to door, asking for funds. There’s also the pie stand at the city fair to raise funds. One of the women scowls and mutters under her breath that she’s not going to bring a pie this year. Moments later a lady across the room loudly asks what pie she’s baking this year. “Oh, I don’t know yet...” the first calls back with a smile.


The women fill out nicely here. And then they keep filling in.

There are signs of breeding everywhere. People aren’t having just one kid and there’s whole jungle gyms being constructed for each brood. Toys litter all doorsteps and yards. The names are listed here on sign-posts in the yard. Custom little wooden slats, presumably hanging in birth order, one under the other. It’s unclear what happens to the dead.

A Family of Artists

On Wednesday, I started talking aloud to myself.

Don't get me wrong, it was great to see family. I got a tour of my Uncle's office and saw a picture hanging on the wall, made by my cousin in his youth. My heart warmed to see how fucking creepy it looked. Talking to my blood... forever interesting. My Aunt said something that struck me, something about "that typical Stecker coddling" in regards to making a sport of watching their friend dying of ALS trying to eat. You know, in a friendly way. Sounded very much like something I would say.

The Scene

I found myself walking a lot, to get out of the house, to get away from the TV, to not go mad, to not get mad. On one of my walks I wandered by the Sheboygan river that snakes through town. Giving into a whim, I constructed a hanging stick triangle construction, binding it with just river grass and hanging it from a tree. You know, to reflect my thoughts onto the landscape.

The towns sprawl until they just sort of peter out for no discernible reason. A thin sort of sprawl. Crawling but uncrowded across the rolling landscape. Panning shots of residential girds bursting with trees. Patchwork fields on the horizon. I am so happy to be flying home.


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