Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Curb-appeal blog.

Mailing lists work in mysterious ways, even more so in the age of e-mail. I can't claim to receive intolerable volumes of junk e-mail, but I get some. Junk press releases, now that's another story. I get a lot of those. Junk? So sorry, I mean press releases inappropriate to the editorial mission of my magazine.

Just today, the fine people at Rust-Oleum sent me a press release, which they actually called a media alert, a term of some frequency and little meaning in this biz. I have to admit, however, that I didn't know that Rust-Oleum as such had survived into the 21st century, so in that sense the press release was a success -- the editor has been educated.

But it probably wasn't their intention to make me think, "Gee, that name must have sounded Machine Age whenever it was coined, in the 1910s or '20s, I would guess. Now it just sounds old-timey."

The press release’s first paragraph: "Is the front of your home giving off the wrong impression? Does your window trim reflect the past owner’s love of purple? Could your porch use some punch? Is your front door just plain drab? If so, you're not alone. In a recent Rust-Oleum survey asking 1,500 Americans about the curb appeal of their home, the news is that most folks think their home front could use a bit of a facelift. In fact, the survey showed that 82 percent of homeowners indicated that the front of their homes need a little (or a lot!) of work."

I myself have been working on the curb appeal of my house. First I got rid of the couch on the front porch, then I chased the chickens into the back yard. I have a feeling they'll sneak back. But no matter what Rust-Oleum says, my hound dog stays.

And what does Rust-Oleum have to do with the continuing crisis in curb appeal? I didn't get that far. Education has its limits.

We spent 31 hours going to, staying in, and returning from metro Milwaukee on Sunday and Memorial Day. I've neglected Milwaukee as a destination for years, and I can't say exactly why. I've been there, of course -- always day trips, to such spots as the Milwaukee County Zoo, and parts of downtown; as it turns out, not the best parts.

We had good weather for it, too, at last. It was warm at home when we left at 11 a.m. Sunday. According to Rand-McNally, the distance between Chicago and Milwaukee is 92 miles. According to me, that's about one AU -- Austin Unit, which is one-millionth the distance between the Earth and the Sun. "Austin" because 90 or so miles is the distance between San Antonio and Austin, a drive I did frequently in my early and impressionable driving days. When I'm on a long drive, and I see that the destination has dipped below 100 miles, I realize that it's only like driving to Austin from that point on. It's a comforting thought, since to a Texas-trained driver like me, that's not very far.

Unfortunately, the Interstate run up to Milwaukee is even less interesting than San Antonio-Austin, mainly because there is no Snake Farm in, say, Gurnee, Illinois (but there is a Six Flags). Or more precisely, because there are no amateurish billboards every five miles advising motorists to SEE some-animal-or-other AT SNAKE FARM, a caged-animal tourist trap near New Braunfels, Texas (PETA fanatics, take note).

After you cross the Wisconsin border, there are a few spots of roadside interest, including two dirty book & video stores, a field with a small collection of military aircraft (I'm not sure what that's about), and Mars Cheese Castle, but that last one doesn't look much like Mars, or a castle, or even cheese, though they do sell a nice selection of Wisconsin cheese inside.

I-94 takes you into Milwaukee, and then the spur I-794 trends toward the lakefront. This was our primary goal.

Tomorrow: Dead little fish.


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