Size in northern Wisconsin is something I began to notice only after moving to Madison. Wisconsin is a gigantic empty space, with small blurbs of civilization around Madison and Milwaukee. The buildings of the state are huge and low, surrounded by expanses of asphalt and decorated lawns, vast fields and deep forests.
I’m sitting in the basement of the Colonial House supper club. This building is no exception. On the wide open rural edges of the Fox River Valley, it’s the classic supper club of the Midwest. Wisconsinites gather here for buffets, steak, fish fries, beer, baked potatoes, Mother’s Day, Easter, and weddings. The one-story building houses five giant halls, plus this basement that is a bar, dance floor, and dining room. This building is huge, surrounded by a vast parking lot and lawn among the endless fields of the tiny town of Freedom, Wisconsin.
The Colonial House is home. Family. History. My wedding reception was in this very basement; everyone’s is. The restaurant upstairs remembers the faces of everyone who went to my high school. The bartenders have known my husband since he was six. My best friend’s cousin’s mom owns the place. This basement has seen the celebration of every marriage, anniversary, and holiday in town.
We’ve been gathering here often lately, after hours, with a smattering of musicians from around the Fox Valley to “jam”. I have to use quotations because the word doesn’t roll off of my tongue with ease; I’m not as cool as these guys. But that’s what they’re doing. We’ve shoved aside catering carts and dining tables, and we’re surrounded by amps and electric guitars and drums and keyboards and a violin. Tonight, in addition to the music, there are artists taking pictures, I am writing, and one woman is sketching the scene.
We’re surrounded by the magic of art, come together.
It’s the simplicity of artists crossing the line together from childhood toward our dreams. We all came from this tiny place, from this town of small hope for big dreams. This is the beauty of jamming at Colonial House. Here, we aren’t the sons and daughters of plumbers and mechanics and pencil-pushers and teachers. Here we are just artists, come together, sharing one life. Hearts and souls, and people and their art, all piled together into a space. Together, we are bigger than this place.
The music is organic, each of us playing our part. The musicians come together and play. The artist sketches Sam on the drums. My brother-in-law jumps to the sound board when he’s needed, and he rolls the joints. Our French friend rolls around on the ground snapping pictures. My husband strums the bass guitar. A high school friend shakes the tambourine. A girl I slept with once sings the melody. My sister plays the keyboards. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
And I write. I watch the scene, and I play my part, capturing the memory of the night.
From This Artists’ Life Volume One: Welcome to the Shit Show, You can buy my book on Smashwords.com