THEY'RE NOT CELEBRITIES. THEY WALK PAST YOU ON THE STREET, BRING YOU YOUR FOOD AT A RESTAURANT, AND LIVE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. THEY'RE EVERYDAY PEOPLE. JUST LIKE YOU.
MAY 2004: KEVIN VOGEL
KEVIN VOGEL IS A GUY THAT WILL ALWAYS OFFER YOU A BEER. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT TIME OF DAY OR NIGHT IT IS... HE'S QUICK WITH A COLD ONE. AFTER BEING INJURED ON THE JOB, THIS FATHER OF THREE IS ADAPTING WELL TO SOME TIME OFF FROM WORK. AND DURING SOME OF THAT FREE TIME, HE SAT AND TALKED TO THE CHICKENS ABOUT HIS CHILDHOOD, BEING DIAGNOSED WITH DIABETES, AND COPING WITH HIS DAUGHTER'S... EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.
Wayne: So, Kevin is a person that I know I can always have a beer with at his bar.
W: So, what year were you born?
Kevin: Nineteen hundred and sixty-two.
W: And you were born in Milwaukee?
K: Yep. On the north side of Milwaukee, on 29th and Locust.
W: And then, what?
K: That's about it.
K: And now I'm here.
Fphatty: Didn't you go to school in the ghetto?
K: Yes, I did. It was... well, it didn't start out that way. It was one of those transitional things. Milwaukee was a predominantly German neighborhood back in the day. In the early Seventies, the neighborhood was completely white. And then you went to bed and woke up the next day, and you were one of three white families on the whole block. (laughs) It happened that fast.
W: Why do you think that was?
K: I have no idea. It was just weird. But it didn't mean nothing to me, you know? I didn't really care, except I didn't like getting the crap beat out of me every day. (laughs) No, not necessarily every day, but--
W: Every other day. (laughs)
K: It was the same thing with grade school, too. It was predominantly white. I think our school had, like, 500 kids, and I'll bet you there were less than 50 white kids in the whole school. So then my mom sent me to parochial school. (laughs) I probably would have had to go to Washington High School, but then we moved up to Pewaukee. The race issue wasn't why we moved to Pewaukee; it was just an opportunity my parents had. My dad was soon to retire, and it was my mom's aunt's house, and she was moving out to California. And so, my parents just loaded up the truck, and moved to Beverly.
Night Watchman: Did you really get hassled a lot? Like, you were kind of joking about being beat up?
K: Well, let's put it this way: I can honestly say I have a great appreciation for-- not necessarily what blacks went through in the early Sixties-- but how they probably felt; very intimidated, not welcome, and people always looking at you. That kind of stuff.
K: Because that's the way it was. You really felt like you'd better watch what you say and who you say it to, and don't step out of line. I mean, I don't want to say it was scary, but you could be beaten to a pulp for that. It was quite a transition. But, as a white person growing up in that environment it gave me an appreciation for what they went through, which, obviously, was wrong just because they were black. And, you know, I can say that I was hassled because I was white. Even though it was my neighborhood. And it wasn't always kids from my neighborhood. My neighborhood, I thought, was pretty good, actually. But if you went two or three blocks in any direction, it was like, "What are you doing here?" (laughs)
F: So, you'd get the crap beat out of you?
K: Well, not necessarily. But you'd better not stick around unless you had business there. If you had a friend that took you in that area, that lived on that particular block, I guess you were alright. I had two or three bikes up until I was 12, but they all got stolen. You know, basically taken right out from underneath me. And it just came down to the point where I was like, "What's the sense?"
F: Did you lock your doors at night?
K: Oh, yeah.
F: Because Wayne said he never did growing up.
W: On the south side, where I grew up, we never did.
F: I grew up in the suburbs, and we always did.
K: Ah... I never lock my doors now. I take the kids to school, and I'll leave the garage open.
W: Kevin's address is....
W: So, you grew up in the ghetto. But then you moved out to Pewaukee, which is the exact opposite of the ghetto; it's pretty much a white man's 'burb.
K: Yeah. The parochial school I went to there had one black kid, but even he was very "white". I know his first name was Donald, but I can't remember his last name. He was a really super-nice kid. You could josh with him, and he'd laugh. He laughed at himself. I suppose he probably felt intimidated, even though our school wasn't very big. It was small enough that you had fifth and sixth grade, or seventh and eighth grade, in one classroom. In eighth grade you would have had 12 kids, and in seventh you would have had 12 or 13; that type of thing. I'm sure it had to be different for him being the only black kid in the school. Then, when I moved out to Pewaukee, I don't think there were any black kids in our school.
W: And that had to have been kind of weird.
K: It was. It was pretty racist out there. I thought it was. All of these kids grew up in nothing but the suburbs, and didn't know, you know what I mean? I don't know what the black population is, as far as Pewaukee goes, right now. But I know it's pretty high in Menomonee Falls... although, I don't think their basketball team is any good. (laughs) Just kidding!
K: But I can honestly say I had a good experience growing up. I never had any problem with it.
F: Was there a definite difference between people in the two places, other than the races? People's attitudes and stuff like that?
K: I don't know. Growing up, I only really had three friends I would consider close, and we pretty much stuck to ourselves. There was this one place, it was an alley house, kind of like what you guys have. There were three people; two guys and a girl. One guy, I think, worked for the post office. I don't know what the girl did. And the other guy worked at some metal fabricating shop. We used to go hang out there. They'd let us use their yard as a refuge, because they knew what the deal was, you know? (laughs) In fact, that's the first place I ever got high. I think we were ten or eleven years old, and I don't know if they were just getting off on seeing how we would act, or what. (laughs) One of the guys' dad was a career military guy, and was always gone. Being an Army brat, he had access to a lot of things, and one of them was pot. He said he was 13 or 14 years old, and he'd be in the living room rolling his own cigarettes. He said, "I couldn't make any funny noises or hold it in or anything, but I used to smoke right in front of my parents."
K: And he said that his parents were just so oblivious that they never even knew... or at least they never let on or stopped him. But that was pretty neat... where was I going with that? (laughs)
K: But, as far as the change between the two places, I couldn't honestly make a comparison. Once the neighborhood changed, I didn't really have a lot of contact with the neighborhood. We just basically hibernated in that yard. The last two years we were there, that's how we lived. And we'd go steal cigarettes from my brother. (laughs)
K: But then we moved to Pewaukee, and it was always a big party town. There was always some kind of beer party going on on the weekends. I never did any drugs like cocaine or all of that stuff, but pot was pretty prevalent. But it wasn't a problem. In my sophomore year, being a smoker at that time, we were allowed to smoke on campus. They actually had a smoking lounge outside, so we'd be out there in the middle of the winter freezing our asses off.
K: And partying was pretty casual and open. And you could always find something. In the group of friends that I made, only one of us had a job, so he always had the reefer. (laughs) And one guy's dad was divorced and had a girlfriend, and so he was always by her house. So we'd always hang out by this kid's house, the other guy would bring the pot, and we'd just listen to Nugent and goof off.
K: And that was pretty much my whole high school career.
K: Until I met Robin [Kevin's wife]. That's why I wasn't a very good student in school. (laughs)
W: So, you met Robin when you were how old?
K: I was 15 or 16. Somewhere in there.
W: And you're still with her.
K: We didn't actually start going out until the end of our junior year. It started out as a group of people we hung out with in the cafeteria. And then we seemed to have the same study halls, so we'd go to the library... and then we weren't studying anymore. (laughs)
K: And then she started going out with me.
W: So, was your family life, with your mother, father, and brother, pretty conservative and kind of low-key?
K: Oh, yeah.
W: And I know how Robin's family is.
K: Well, my brothers and sisters were all gone by the time I was older. There's almost ten years separating me and my brother. So I pretty much had the rule of the house, you know? My parents were pretty old. I mean, my mom had me when she was 42. By the time I was old enough to be out on my own, it was like being raised by my grandparents, practically. (laughs) With my mom, it was like, "Whatever. Get out of here." (laughs) You know: "Can I use the car?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever."
K: My dad was a workaholic; he always had something to do. When he wasn't working, he was at home doing something. But, yeah, I pretty much had whatever I wanted. I could stay out later than anyone else. My parent's were pretty laid-back that way.
W: Was it a culture shock when you started hanging out with Robin's family?
K: Yeah. It was different, because they are so close in age. And it always seemed that they all had to fight for their time, you know what I mean? (laughs)
W: Even still. (laughs)
K: (rolling his eyes) Yeah, still. But Bob [Robin's brother] and Robin always seemed to get along the best. Well, Betty [Robin's sister] wasn't there. And Robin's parents always seemed to like me, even when I was just coming over as a friend. They'd always feed me, especially Hi-Guy [Robin's father]: "Did you eat yet?" "No. I'm gonna go home." "No! Come on, eat something!" So I was practically living there. I'm surprised they didn't offer me a room in the basement.
K: But it was pretty good. I never had a problem with Robin's family.
W: Tell me the story you wanted to tell on Robin's parents' anniversary tape; about how you and Robin were watching M*A*S*H one night.
K: Oh, yeah. (laughs) You mean the one where we almost got caught? Where I was unclothed?
K: Yeah, we were... yeah. We were watching M*A*S*H, and Grandma [Robin's mother] was at work. And then, all of a sudden, at about 11:10-- because I think she got home from work at about 11:20 or 11:30-- we must have fallen asleep; Hi-Guy comes into the room and flings over the covers! I don't think he saw anything, but he says, "Hey! Get out of here! The old lady's gonna be coming home!"
K: But he left right away. And it was like, "Whew!"
K: Worse than that was Bill [Robin's brother]. Every once in awhile, we'd do it on the floor, and we'd have our heads against the wall. And Bill would knock on the door and try and open it. We're holding it shut, and he's going, "What are you guys doing in there?!?" It was all we could do to keep that door closed.
F: How old was he then?
K: He had to be 14 or something like that. Bill, he'd always wait to do that; he'd go out of his way to try and catch us. I think she ended up putting a lock on her door just because of that.
W: And then you and Robin ended up getting married.
W: What year?
NW: So how long after high school was that?
K: Four years. We technically dated... except for the time we were on a break!
F: Whose break was it?
K: I think it was her break. I don't even remember what caused it. It was probably her fault; it's never my fault.
K: I remember it was so weird, because I was one of those types of guys who was like, "Ah, screw it! I don't need her!" That kind of thing. And then, all of a sudden, two days later, I'm parked in front of her house, waiting for her to come home. Literally stalking her. That went on for almost a month. And she even hooked up with another guy from school. They weren't technically "going out", but they were doing a lot of stuff together, and I'd follow her all over town. She went over to a house of a friend of ours, and one time I showed up there and was knocking on the door. "What are you doing in there?" I was calling her all the time. I was like (in a high-pitched, sad voice), "Please come back to me!"
K: "I can't afford the gas to follow you anymore!"
K: No, I don't think it was that bad, but I was relentless. One time I confronted her, and it even got a little physical, where I picked her up. Not that we were hitting on each other or anything, but it was a little physical. Just trying to show her how much I cared. Plus, you know, I hadn't gotten any in a month.
K: And then we got back together. That was the only time in the six years that we dated that we were apart.
W: Then, when you got married, you moved back to Milwaukee.
W: And you were there for a little while.
K: From '84 to '92. When we moved out here [Menomonee Falls], Robin was still pregnant with Matthew [Kevin's son]. No, wait. (to Matthew) Were you born here?
Matthew: Yeah. I was born here.
K: Were you? Oh. (shrugs shoulders) I don't know.
K: It was '91 or '92. I want to say it was June of '91, maybe. Because Rachel [Kevin's daughter] would have been starting school. When does that start? June?
W: No. August or September.
K: Well, maybe it was August then. I don't remember. (laughs) But, yeah, we wanted to be somewhere so that Rachel could start school. It must have been August or something. It must have been '91.
W: You had Rachel when you were how old?
K: When I was 27.
W: Wait. What year were you born in? 1962?
W: So, you were 25 when you had Rachel.
K: Okay. (laughs) I'll go along with that. (laughs)
W: Was it weird to be having kids that young, because your parents were so much older?
K: I don't know. I never even thought about being a parent. It just comes naturally. You don't think about it. It's like saying, "We're going to wait until we can afford to have kids." (laughs) You can never afford to have kids.
K: I mean, you can't. You literally can't. You just do.
W: You just manage.
K: And if you don't eat for a week, you don't eat for a week. (laughs) But, it's good. All of our kids were... I think they were all planned, because Robin was on the pill when she was 18. And then she went off when we wanted to have kids.
W: You've got a pretty close relationship with your kids, even though it obviously is also a parent/child relationship. Do you think that's different because you're closer to them in age than you were with your parents? Or did you raise them as a parent, but also as a friend?
K: No. I mean, we want to be involved in what they're doing, or just be accepted, even though they prefer us not to be there. Rachel doesn't mind, but Heather [Kevin's other daughter] is like, "Get outta here! Don't talk to me!"
K: We'll go to school or something like that, and be like, "Hi, Heather!" And she'll be like, "Who's that? I don't know them."
K: I don't know why she's like that. I think it might just be her age.
NW: Did you set up a battle plan for how you wanted to raise them? Or did it just kind of come along?
K: Yeah, you just... roll with it.
K: Honestly, we just wanted to be able to provide them with a safe environment, but not keep them under a cover. We want to let them experience stuff. Not necessarily give them carte blanche-- we've had to say no to a lot of things-- but, again, they're not bubble babies. (laughs) They can pretty much do what they want. Within reason.
F: Yeah, I'm remembering a story you told about Rachel being in a van parked in your driveway with a guy.
K: Yeah. She said nothing happened. She "dropped something" or whatever.
W: Now, Rachel is going to be 18 in a month or two--
K: Yeah. That's weird. Not really her age, but her dating. I've gotta admit that it's... I mean, I don't know how Hi-Guy did it. Not to say that he didn't know what was going on, but I never really considered what he thought about it. Do you know what I mean?
K: What did I care, you know? And yet, I am paranoid about what Rachel does with boys. (to Rachel) "What're you doing?!?"
K: You know, Robin even said that we fooled around for two years when she wasn't on the pill. And we were lucky, I guess.
K: I'm assuming that Rachel's a virgin... I guess I'll always believe that.
K: Even when she gets married. As long as she doesn't have kids, I'll assume she's a virgin.
K: I guess, as a parent you don't want anything bad or premature to happen that's gonna screw things up, especially considering she's going to go to college. I mean, look at how your lives would have been screwed up if you'd had a kid.
K: Any of you people. And whether it's drugs or alcohol, pregnancy, or something like that, you just hope that none of that affects you before you have a chance to at least do something. If you're 40 or 50 years old, and you get into drinking or whatever, then, fine. That happens. But if you do that when you're 18, then you never even had a chance.
W: Right. So, you haven't worked in awhile. Do you miss work?
K: I have two neighbors that are retired, and I am a firm believer that it's ridiculous that people have to work until they're 65 or 70 to enjoy their life. I understand why you have to work so long, whether it be for health insurance or other benefits or something. But... I could get used to this.
W: So, you had surgery because you got injured. How did that all happen?
K: Well, I've had a back problem for awhile. But then I did have a fall at work that accelerated my problem beyond what the doctor said the normal progression is.
F: Explain what you do, or what your trade is.
K: Well, technically, I'm what they'd call a machine operator in a machine shop. I'm not a machinist; a machinist knows what they're doing.
K: I'm a button-pusher. (laughs) But, I've been there since '87. It pays the bills; that's about it. It's a job, not a career. I've always wanted a career, but I just never found out what it was. Someday, I would still like to have a career. Right now, being home is a pretty decent career.
K: I'm supposed to go back to work in June, because that'll be one year after my surgery. Another thing is, depending on how it goes, I might not be able to do my job because of the physical part of it. The doctor warned me of that. He said it's basically going to be up to me. There are a lot of people who have had the surgery and have physical jobs, but they just have to deal with it. Maybe their wives don't work, or there's some other reason they stick it out. But I went back to work for a week in February, and it wasn't fun. (laughs) By the end of the week, I was sore.
F: What was the surgery you had?
K: I had a pinched nerve; a sciatic nerve. And I had some disk problems, and they were pushing on it. So they fused the bottom vertebrae together. I've been pretty much pain-free since the surgery. It's just that I've had a lot of discomfort. I wouldn't say it's pain, because before the surgery I had pain. Now we'll just have to see how it goes.
F: Do you have regular doctor's visits that determine you can't work?
K: Yeah. I've been going every three months.
F: You don't have people looking in your windows, making sure you're not doing things you're not supposed to be doing?
K: No, no. It's been pretty good. Originally, it was Workmen's Comp related, because it happened on the job. But then I needed surgery. So my employer's insurance company said they wanted me to see their doctor. So I did, and he said there was nothing wrong with me. So then, three months later, I had surgery. (laughs) If I had gone on the advice or analysis of the insurance doctor, I'd still be in pain. He said there's nothing wrong with me. Why isn't that malpractice or misdiagnosis?
NW: What happens if you go back to work in June, and you're not physically able to do your job? Will they try and move you to something else?
K: There's really nothing else that I can do there, because everything else is even more physically demanding. I work a Union shop, so it's not like you can just get placed anywhere. There's usually seniority and qualifications that determine the jobs. So if you don't have the seniority and you're not qualified, and if the job isn't available, you can't just go and do a job just because, you know? I'm a little limited in that way. Although, I was told by both my doctor and the attorney, that because of the nature of my case, and because it was denied by Workmen's Comp, the only thing that keeps me employed is that it's a Union shop. If it'd been a non-Union shop, I'd have been gone a long time ago. In fact, it's still in the courts. We had to get an attorney, and as soon as we get our court date, then they're going to make a decision on whose responsibility it is. If they find that my fall did accelerate my condition, then it will be considered Workmen's Comp, because of it happening on the job. If whomever presides over the hearing says that the evidence doesn't show that, it's not Workmen's Comp, and then our regular insurance will cover it.
F: How is it decided? Do you both get your doctors in there?
K: My side has my doctor, and they have theirs. And it's just whomever's doctor makes the best case. There aren't going to be any doctors present during the hearing; it's just paperwork and affidavits or whatever. I don't even think there's a judge; it's the court jester, or something like that.
K: He decides. I just wish it would be over with. Someone said that if I can't do my job, because of the wage I make, the chances of me finding another job with that salary is very small. It's very possible, and especially if it is Workmen's Comp-- which would be awesome-- that I would be eligible for Social Security. And they would either have to retrain me, or, if I found another job, Social Security would supplement my income to get me to where I was. But I don't know if that'll happen.
W: That is, if there's still any Social Security left. (laughs)
K: (laughs) Yeah.
W: I know that during all of this you were diagnosed with diabetes. Was that complicated? Is it annoying, or--
K: It's annoying. I probably haven't done what I'm supposed to do, as far as diet and eating the right stuff. But, because the oral medication didn't help, I have to take insulin now. I have to give myself shots all of the time.
W: Right. How many times a day?
K: Four. I gotta start finding different spots. (laughs) I don't know if the skin gets calloused or something from always being poked. You know, I think I almost bent a needle yesterday trying to stick it in me.
K: Honest to God, it didn't want to go in. Either that, or I got a dull one.
F: They gave you a spoon-shaped needle.
K: But, it's not a big deal.
W: It's just obnoxious.
K: Yeah. From not having to do it, to having to do it is kind of a pain. Especially if you're gone for the day, and you have to carry the needles around with you, and give yourself shots.
K: It's not the worst thing in the world. There are people that have cancer and are going through chemo and stuff like that. So, in that respect, I guess I can consider myself lucky. There are worse things I could be afflicted with.
W: Right. When you go out in public and have to give yourself a shot, you should have fun with it. Like, take a band of rubber and tie it around your arm, and... (pretends to shoot up) right in the middle of a restaurant.
Latta De Saint: Make sure you put it in a spoon first.
K: Get the lighter out!
K: Go sit outside of a cop shop and do it.
W: I know that we already talked about this awhile ago, but I thought it was kind of a cool statement. You said that you don't pay attention to--
K: Income tax?!? I pay income tax!
W: No, not that! You don't pay too much attention to much in the news, because your world is right here, and as long as you have your house, as long as your kids are safe, and you have your wife.... I guess, my question is, are you happy with your life right now?
K: Yeah. I'm very fortunate. To be living where I'm living, to have three wonderful children-- (looks at Rachel)
K: --and a wife that takes care of the house, I think I'm very fortunate. I've got a great nephew.
W: A lot of them.
K: And he has great friends.
L: Who mooch off of you.
K: No, that's fine. I consider myself very fortunate. You know, compared to Hi-Guy, who's always been like, "What do I have to show for myself? I've got nothing!" He has always wanted a million dollars in the bank, and everything. There are a lot of toys that I would love to have, or the freedom to be able to do other things or more things. But I guess you gotta work for that stuff.
K: That involves work, and I'll have no part of it.
K: That's why I work in a Union shop, so I don't have to work for a living. (laughs) But, yeah, I'm pretty happy.
F: What do you do during the day?
K: It's not good.
F: Do you have shows? Programs? Do you have stories you watch?
K: Yeah. I've got a couple of shows I like to watch. I'm not as productive or energetic. I can sit in a chair and watch TV. I mean, once the weather starts getting nice, I like doing some yard work. Hopefully, I'll get a little more ambitious. During the winter months, it was pretty bad. I can say that, without actually sitting in my underwear with my thumb in my mouth, that I've experienced some partial depression. Just because it is hard to do anything. I get sore if I do stuff, so sometimes I just quit doing stuff altogether. But I'm not to the point where I need help or anything. And my family's been really supportive. And there's always alcohol.
K: But I'm not depressed!
W: I know you're involved in Heather and Rachel's sports, and that keeps you busy.
K: Yeah, I like that a lot. It's pretty neat. There's the typical TV show or Sunday movie, where the dad's kid is the best quarterback, or the best swimmer, or something like that. But all of my kids have something they're strong at.
K: Matthew is a clown.
K: Heather's got baseball, and Rachel's got boys. You know, she's a whore.
Rachel: Quit calling me a whore!
K: Yeah, I'm gonna pimp her out pretty soon.
K: But I try to be involved in it as much as I can. Just to be supportive. And so they don't step out of line. (to Rachel) Right?
R: Yeah. When have we ever done anything bad? Never.
NW: I have a question. When did the whole Wayne and Kevin kissing on Christmas thing start? [Every Christmas, Wayne and Kevin take a picture of themselves kissing each other.]
W: I don't know.
K: It wasn't my doing!
W: That's gotta be six years old, at least.
K: I think it was just one of those things. You brought your camera, and you said, "Come on! I'm going to take a picture, but let's kiss!" And now, every year, it's like, "Come on, we gotta get the kissing picture!"
W: Christmas kiss. It's Kissmas.
W: Okay, so, our last question is, do dogs have lips?
K: Well, when I kiss my dog, I can feel them. I thought you were going to ask me why my dog licks my balls.
K: Because I can't.
W: That's a good note to end it on.