Hello there. I must introduce myself because I am a gentleman, and that’s what gentlemen do. My name is Kollin; I’m from Wisconsin, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the newest reporter at the Free Lance.

Geez, I just introduced myself to about 10,000 women, which is amazing because my voice usually cracks from saying “hello” to one.

The point of this column is not, however, to service my personal shortcomings. It’s my rare opportunity to share a Midwestern perspective of California life. After all, I still feel like a tourist when I go to buy a loaf of bread. But as you all know, that will change, and I will soon be saying things like “Dude, no way!” and “Totally, man!”

I’m kidding, of course. That was merely my playful revenge, as people from Hollister always jokingly say one of two things when they realize I’m from Wisconsin.

The first is this: “Cheeeeese!” The second thing: “Where’s your cheesehead? Hah hah hah!”

We do take our cheddar seriously in the Dairy State, though, and many loonies do base their lives on the Green Bay Packers. So I guess it’s fair tomfoolery. We can call it even. For the record: I do not own a cheesehead.

Since we just met, you’re probably wondering: Kollin, what do you think of Hollister?

But I won’t bore you with an answer such as “It’s a nice city” or perhaps “I’m not so sure about this place.” I’d rather describe both the enjoyable and also negative changes California offers.

Honestly, the first few days were quite a culture shock. Driving from Wisconsin to Hollister was like moving to a different country. After all, Canada is much more similar to Wisconsin than California. Oh, yah, it is, hey.

I still occasionally miss home and even sometimes shed tears. For instance, I cried out “Moooom, please help me!” when I drove to Nob Hill the first week and spent $20 on some deli meat, a loaf of bread and a banana.

Californians may be used to spending $7 on a package of turkey. I, however, would rather purchase a fine brick of Wisconsin Colby Jack and a six-pack of Miller Lite for that price.

Odors here are another difficult adjustment. There’s the inescapable smell of garlic passing Gilroy on Highway 101 that I will never savor. There’s the gaseous stench of Hollister water when I take a shower each morning that makes me think: What’s worse? The smell of that water on my body or the impending B.O. from not bathing?

And there’s that skunky smell of fellow reporter Chandler Harris every time he lifts his arms in the newsroom. Just kidding, Chandler. Or am I?

On a more pleasant note, for the first time in 13 years, I’m close to being an ethnic minority. The abundance of Spanish city names still ring strangely to my ears. San, Sana, Santa: I’m more accustomed to American Indian city names such as Oconomowoc, Menomonee, or Milwaukee.

The only “Santa” anything I’ve ever known dressed in a fake white beard every Christmas, drank a bottle of Captain Morgan and usually passed out under the tree before noon. But Grandma, I’ll always love you for trying.

Even though the last anecdote was merely a farce, Wisconsin folks do enjoy their beverages. I am yet to discover whether Californians treat beer consumption with similar adornment. My college roommate Don, for instance, creates a new holiday each month as an excuse to throw yet another binging beer party. Last month was “September Fest” I hear.

Even though San Benito citizens don’t make up such holidays, I still feel quite welcomed here.

This year’s county fair particularly stands out as a personal comforter. It reminded me of the Sheboygan County Fair back home: 4-H respectability, the pleasant stink of livestock and commercial booths with local businesses where everyone knows everyone.

People here may not realize the obvious to an outsider such as myself: This is truly a community. And it’s something to be cherished because most other places have lost it.

By the way, what is a Jack-in-the-Box? An In-N-Out Burger? Albertson’s? Why is Hardees called Carl’s Jr. out here? Where can I find Blue Moon beer? Where did all these cars come from?

Of course many other staples of life will probably never change. There’s still a local Starbucks, which Free Lance City Editor Dave Moseley aptly calls “Evil!” I can still enjoy Big Macs. And if I need to lose weight from eating too many burgers or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, the “Jared Diet” is still an option at the local Subway. Kmart still offers cheap anything. And I can always find a Blockbuster Video on those nights and weekends when complacency rules.

Now, to wrap up – overall, what do I think of Hollister? Well, it’s a nice city.

Pleased to meet you, Hollister. I hope we can talk again soon.

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