Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm a Lucky Leprechaun

Milwaukee's Irish Fest is a perennial favorite for me. Like all of the best festivals, it has a kindred spiritits revelers all sharing smiles and the love of a good tune.

My day at Irish Fest yesterday was no different. Well, it was a little different. This year I donned a green plastic fedora and I painted my beard bright orange (spirit!). I also brought one of my guitars to the Fest to strum and sing some tunes with members of The Rogue Six. One of the membersMarkis using his local's knowledge of Ireland and its music to start Ireland Music Tours to provide his guests a custom guided tour of some of the best places to enjoy Irish music in Ireland. To put a little emphasis on the music part, we brought our instruments to his booth and played a little.

Early in the afternoon, I had a great time playing with Cindy (percussion) and Lori (fiddle). We ran through a handful of Irish tunes and songs. After our short set, my wife and I explored the rest of the fest.

We saw some great things: Milwaukee and Chicago's world-renowned Trinity Irish Dancers, banjo-playing brothers from Galway "The Banjo 3", and the bluegrass legend Del McCoury. In between, we observed many other great displays of Irish heritage and music. If it wasn't for our neighborhood block party, I'd be right back to the festival today.

Connor and I sing Whiskey in the Jar
However, the highlight of the day came late and rather unexpectedly. After a full circle of the grounds, we returned to Mark's booth. Naturally, after seeing all the great musicians at the fest, I had an urge to pick up my guitar and strum a few. While doing so, a family of threea mother and her two sons, one of which had Down Syndrome and a love for Irish Music as big as the Emerald Isle; his name is Connorapproached us and made a few song requests. While we could not fulfill them all, I was able to fulfill Connor's request for one of my favorites: The Fields of Athenry.

Of all the times I've ever strummed my guitar, none were ever as rewarding as singing and strumming The Fields of Atherny with Connor. I leaned over the rail of the booth and we sang together, eye-to-eye. Fortunately, I sang the song earlier in the day so the lyrics were still mostly in my memory and in the proper order (Quite a feat after a day of, umm...Irish cheer!).

After the song, we shook hands and thanked Connor's family for visiting and suggesting such a great song. A few more requests were made, but unfortunately, we weren't able to fulfill them to a satisfactory level. They thanked us and headed out for more Irish Fest fun.

Roughly an hour laterthe booth packed up and the guitars put away in casesConnor's family returned and Connor skipped all greeting formalities and just shouted "Whiskey In The Jar!"

"I know it!" I replied.

And with that, I took my little Gretsch back out of the case and asked Connor to join my in the seats behind the booth's table and we belted out Whiskey In The Jar.

Just like the song we did earlier, Connor and I locked eyes and sang out every verse with gusto. Connor particluarly would give it full force on the "Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da! Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o. There's whiskey in the jar!" part.

It wasn't until about a half an hour later did I realize just how meaningful this was to me. It was great to finally have years of playing guitar reward someone else besides me. I am proud to have performed these few songs with Connor and I hope he and his family had an Irish Fest filled with as much fun as I had in these few moments we shared.

It's going to be hard to top Irish Fest 2012.

For a few more pictures, click below.

120818 Irish Fest w Connor

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rules for Teachers in 1872

These Rules for Teachers from 1872 gave me a chuckle. They are posted on a historic building at the Aztalan Museum.
  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the days's session.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each day pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public baths or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.
With the exception of Rule #3 -- I am a pretty good nib whittler! -- I don't think I would have made it as a teacher in 1872!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Amazing Wisconsin!

What a great four days of pure Wisconsin I've just experienced.

I took a few days off of work to accompany my wife on a tour preview that visits Wisconsin Native American historic and cultural sites. On top of that, we had to cut our long weekend short so I could rush back to Milwaukee and debut with my new Irish music (mostly) band, The Rogue 6. On Sunday, my only "free" day of the four, I went to that most excellent of Milwaukee and Wisconsin traditions -- the Wisconsin State Fair!

Take a breath, grab a beverage and settle in for my recap. (In order, I think.)
  • Aztalan State Park - the site of an ancient Mississippian culture settlement that flourished during the 10th to 13th centuries. Possibly Wisconsin's most important archaeological site. 
  • Great pastries and coffee at a Lake Mills' Water House Foods - a fantastic little cafe/bistro in the heart of Lake Mills.
  • Man Mound Park in Sauk County. Like Aztalan, an amazing archaeological wonder of a 214' long man or ancient God. Sadly, farmers in the early 20th century plowed off the effigy mound's lower extremities and built a road through its knees. Still, a significant amount of the mound exists. Visit for more information and pictures.
  • Guitar shopping at Baraboo Music. Only walked out with a tuner and some guitar picks though.
  • Lunch at Baraboo's Garden Party Cafe. Truly some great soup served here and definitely home made. 
  • A meandering drive through the countryside from Baraboo to Antigo through rainy, stormy skies. It was a beatuiful and unique way to see Wisconsin.
  • A stop at the Langlade County Historical Society Museum in Antigo. We didn't go in the museum, but we enjoyed the walk around the permanently displayed  440 locomotive - the last steam engine to travel through Antigo in 1957. Awesome.
  • Drove through the Wisconsin's northwoods from Antigo to Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation (Ojibwe). More specifically, the Lake of the Torches Casino, where he had the good fortune to have won a two nights stay. Gambled a bit and didn't lose, so that's a win right there!
  • Pizza dinner at Lac du Flambeau's The New Flame where we enjoyed free apple pie shots with every Packers score (First preseason game -- fortunately, they didn't score very much!).
  • Minocqua Farmers' market.
  • Golfed 18 holes in Arbor Vitae at the scenic Trout Lake Golf Club - a northwoods course that's been around for 88 years!
  • Minocqua fun at Minocqua Brewing Company, Otto's Beer and Brat Garden, a Friday night fish fry at Matt Morgan's, a stop at the legendary Thristy Whale, where we watched Minocqua's Min-aqua Bats' waterski show from the pier on a remarkably chilly August evening, a visit to the beautiful Norwood Pines restaurant, and lastly, a stop at the rustic Black Bear Bar. Fun night!
  • Breakfast in Mincoqua at The Island Cafe. (Reviewed by me on Yelp!)
  •  Rushed back to Milwaukee so I could perform in the debut of a new band -- The Rogue 6, playing Celtic influenced music live at Milwaukee's Brocach Irish Pub (there's two Madison versions too). Again, another fun night. Super fun, even!
  • Slept in a bit, mowed the lawn and then rode bike to enjoy the final day of Wisconsin's mid-August extravaganza -- State Fair
I listed all of the above to demonstrate the wide variety of things there are to do and see in Wisconsin. Along the past 4 days, I've rubbed elbows with all types of Wisconsinites -- from the erudite to the unsophisticated -- and no matter whom, it was a pleasure. There is so much to see and do in this state, if I had a years's worth of 4-day weekends I couldn't see and do it all. 

I've lived here my entire life, and have traveled considerably, but every time I return, I am proud to call Wisconsin home.

Now I can't wait to return to work tomorrow to get a little rest! ;)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cool Your Paws, Crazy People

This news of the temple shooting and has been terribly saddening and troubling. My heart aches for those who have suffered loss in this senseless act. To take our minds off of it, we took a walk along the Menomonee River with Bailey. Here's a picture of a happy dog cooling her paws.

Nice, right?

People should be more like dogs. Rather than go nuts and harm people, take off your shoes and dip your feet in some cool water and soak up the Summer sunshine. Then go to Yo Mama's for some frozen yogurt.

All better.