Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Leaving Walker's Point *sniff*

(For maximum effect, cue Sheryl Crow's "Leaving Las Vegas" at the bottom of this post first.)

I'm not going to lie. This week, I have a very heavy heart.


From 1990 to 2005 I was employed by manufacturing companies that made in their homes in the 'burbs. Franklin, Sussex, Waukesha... I worked 'em all. Then, in late 2004 an opportunity arose for me to work in Walker's Point neighborhood. Once I decided that the role was a good career fit, I was delighted to accept a position that permitted me to work daily in the city of my birth: Milwaukee.

It was perfect. I had a job for which I was well-suited, I was comfortably near my Wauwatosa home, and I got to work in the burgeoning and gentrifying neighborhood that is Walker's Point.

While the job had its occasional shortcomings, working in the 53204 more than made up for it. To be gainfully employed in Walker’s Point was a benefit that never would appear in the employees' handbook: eat at great local restaurants, take mind-clearing walks to The Milwaukee Public Market, lunch daily (if you wished) on marvelous Mexican food, happy hour on Wednesday nights at Steny's with coworkers, lakefront runs after work and on and on.

I have loved it. And along the way (not entirely separate from the advent of social media), I have made and fortified some great friendships.

However, my nine-year run is about to come to an end. The business for which I work is moving to Pewaukee. This Friday will be our last day at 201 West Walker Street.


And I'm really gonna miss it.

If you haven't been paying attention, Milwaukee is where it's at. It's not only my hometown, but it's the place I want to be. It has so much going on and it's been fun to be a part of its rebirth as a modern 21st century American city.

Here's an example of one of the things that I'm really going to miss: coffee. Oh, not that I still won't quaff voluminous amounts at our new corporate home, but the availability of good coffee from our city's fine shops will be stunted. When I drive eight miles from Wauwatosa to Walker's Point in the morning, with only the slightest deviation from a straight-line, I can hit the following:
My new route will take me straight west through Wauwatosa along North Avenue. Fortunately, there is a Colectivo at 92nd Street. After that, well... I do remember seeing a PDQ somewhere out on County F.

Me, west of Hwy 100. Imagine that. For the last nine years you had a better chance of seeing Elvis eating a banana split at Leon's.

To get through the week, I'll focus on the good stuff: our business does need modern facilities and the building that we will inhabit was built to our specifications. That will be nice and I am definitely looking forward to the updated facilities.

But dang, it sure would be nice if Cielito Lindo would drive that taco truck of theirs out every once in a while.

Plus, just a thought .... Steny's West. ;)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Very Short Thought on Tony Stewart

As a boy and a young man, I had a wicked temper. When I was mad or upset, I became completely
irrational and knew that, in my blind rage, it was very possible that I could hurt someone.

That said, I was always a fan of highly competitive and temperamental athletes, e.g. John McEnroe, Charles Barkley, Bobby Knight, etc. I knew that if I were in their situations, I'd be known for throwing the exact sort of conniptions for which they became famous.

Like those athletes, I mellowed with age. I made a conscientious effort to try to not let myself get too worked up.

Breathe deep. Relax. Think of puppies.

Which brings me to the tragic incident of Tony Stewart and the death of fellow racer 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. Like other famously temperamental athletes, if I watched a NASCAR race, I'd root for Stewart. However, this time he went too far. He did not stay in control of raw emotion. He may never be charged, and clearly Ward Jr. should have never left his vehicle and taunted Stewart, but I believe this was an incident that could have been avoided had Stewart kept his anger in check.

I don't think he intended to hit Ward Jr., but it appeared that he tried to throw him the racer's version of a brushback pitch. Rather than drive low and steer clear, he passed near Ward Jr. and accelerated. It's the acceleration that tells me this was rage-flash moment.

I'm not certain how all of this will play out--it's too early to tell, but I definitely can say that I'll never root for Stewart again. If he doesn't land behind bars, at the very least, he should get some help.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to Spend an Entire Day at the Wisconsin State Fair

Milwaukee is chock full of Summer festivals and fairs, but there’s none bigger and more fun than the Wisconsin State Fair. It’s the only event that can be enjoyed from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and at least once a year I make an honest effort to enjoy it for 15 hours straight!

Here’s my suggestion for the best way to make the most of a day at the Fair. Start at the north end but skip the midway. Meander slowly through the barns and exhibits while taking in the sheep, horses, goats, pigs, cows, rabbit, chickens and ducks. This is a cool area to meet some Wisconsin’s next generation--I always marvel at these hard-working kids from all over the state who make the annual pilgrimage to Milwaukee to show off their best efforts.

One place where you can easily lose an hour is the Farm & Family Building. With a group of other adults and kids we watched a chick hatch from its first peck at the shell until she walked up to the glass wall of the bulb-heated incubator and said “Hello!” to the world. This was a little bit like watching grass grow, but it was well worth the wait when the exhausted little bird finally broke completely out of the shell to cheers of “Happy Birthday!” for all that waited for her arrival.

If you plan your route just right, by the time you make it out of the barns it’ll be lunchtime and time for a beer (well, maybe it was time for a beer a few hours earlier, but we all have our own choices to make). There’s always the weird, gross and exotic foods to try (bacon-wrapped deep-fried Oreo on a stick? No thanks.) and I’ve tried them a bunch, but for my buck, I stick to the classics: an Italian sausage sandwich slathered with peppers at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, jerk chicken
sandwich at Tropics or Mexican corn at Margarita Express.

By now you’ve made your way to the heart of the Fair--my favorite part. This is where one can really lose themselves. Find a place in the warm sun, refresh yourself with Milwaukee’s favorite adult beverage and sing along to some cover band absolutely nailing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (As far as you care, anyway.) Hours can slip away quickly here as you engage in a friendly game of State Fair Bingo. As in, tank-topped mullet guy at 6 o’clock. B! and pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. I! It doesn’t take too long to spell BINGO at least 3 or 4 times in an hour.

Meander properly and you’ll soon find yourself at State Fair’s favorite watering hole: The Micro. The Micro is sponsored by one of Milwaukee’s longest establishment dedicated to the art of craft brewing: Benno’s. Enjoy one or two here but heed warning: these are stronger ales than you’ll get elsewhere at the fair! (Trust me.) And if you’re lucky enough to get the last beer out of a barrel, you’ll be awarded with a KEG KILLER t-shirt!

After leaving The Micro, you’ll be feeling fine. Where to go from here is a wildcard. You could head further south to the Exposition Center where hucksters are shilling mops, metal polishers and knives that can cut a

coffee table in half. I like this area, but it can be crowded and I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

For us, however, the place to go at 6 o’clock is back north to Saz’s where every night the incomparably fun Bobby Friss Band plays every night. Oh man, I’ve rocked away the hours here. Mr. Friss IS the guy that nails every song that he covers. You’ll be holding your beer and singing “What a Whole Lotta Love” like you’re in the front row of a Led Zeppelin reunion concert (like that’ll ever happen). Too. Much. Fun.

By the time Friss rocks you, you’ll be quite exhausted and it’ll be about time to call it a night. Use your Uber or Lyft app to call for a ride and make your way out of the park. Along the way, don’t forget to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a goat. They’re pretty good listeners and there are a few goats currently living in Shiocton that know more about me than my own family. (Hey, it’s been a long day!)

The 2014 Wisconsin State Fair, enjoy it!

P.S. - a full album of my unedited pictures from the Fair can be viewed here.