"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
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I ♥ Milwaukee

I just read this post on why Milwaukee rules, shared by Tankboy via Google Reader, and I was surprised at the power the flood of my very personal memories had about our little sister to north. Years ago I dated a woman who lived in the Brew City neighborhood of Bayview. That spring and summer of 2003 we were together and spending lots of time there is a period in my life I am quite fond of. The At Random and Koz's Minibowl are just two of the neighborhood landmarks that are a must visit on a trip to the city.

Not to mention virtually my entire extended family is from the Milwaukee area, and I certainly have the honor of calling that town my second home. I'm gonna repost the article below (in addition to the link above) with my personal commentary in italics on most of the points.

Why Milwaukee Rules

By Drew Adamek

I've lived in Milwaukee twice in my life, first in the early '90s and then in the late '90s during community college. I have a special place in my heart for the town; it is a laid-back, hard-working, hard-partying town without any pretenses or hang-ups. The people are friendly, the town is accessible and the funky, beer fart stench smells like home.

Milwaukee knows what it is and likes it that way. It isn't fancy, it isn't redneck, it isn't Chicago, and it isn't Green Bay. It has a better airport than Chicago, you can get great food and beer, and it's affordable. I miss living there, and would live there again in a heartbeat.

Milwaukee gets a bad rap.

Here, then, is my list of reasons why Milwaukee rules.

1. The Beer Fart.

The cultural significance of the beer fart in Milwaukee is not to be underestimated. There isn't another city in America where people can tell the brand and vintage of beer you were drinking the night before by the flavor, aroma and "mouth feel" of your flatulence. As a corpulent and flatulent man, the cultural honor bestowed to the beer fart by Milwaukee warms my gassy heart.

My uncle's back yard, on a late August afternoon. Hazy, mid-80s. The sun is low and the house is casting a long shadow upon grass. About 15 close family members are chatting quietly about politics and past adventures (we are a Peace Corps family, a traveling family), the remains of a party that included a larger group of extended relatives. An odor of citronella mixes with that of the slowly cooling grill and left over food on the picnic table: chicken, burgers, potato salad, and watermelon. The night will be long and rewarding and relaxing, for the cooler is still full of beer. I hold one of those Old Style cans, ice-cold and dripping with condensation in my left hand, and lean onto my right butt cheek…the loud report rips off the plastic seat beneath, and conversation stops. My uncle Jack responds, “Brian, I take it you’re offering your opinion on this subject?”

2. Bowling Alley Bartenders.

The slim dating pickings I had in the '90s would have been a lot worse had it not been for mildly to severely alcoholic bartenders. You can't ask for more fun than a woman who knows how to keep bowling score, swears like an autoworker, drinks Jager bombs for breakfast and ain't afraid of a dick joke or two.

See Koz’s Mini Bowl above. It’s an amazing, wonderful place. Milwaukee and Baltimore are the only places where I’ve seen mini bowling, or Duckpin, as they call it Charm City. Neighborhood Hispanic kids reset your pins for tips, it’s up to you to keep score (but who cares), and the bar coolers are filled to the point of overflowing with Pabst. Great, beautiful white, silver, and blue stacks, perfectly lined up, beckon from behind the glass set in ancient cabinets. I imagine my father or Uncle Bob here back in the 60’s with its dirty tile and wood paneling. There’s not one “date picking” or even pretty face to be found in a place like this, but would you really rather be in So-Po or Wicker Park (eyeroll…)?

3. East Side Cafes.

All the atmosphere and ambience that you would want in a coffee shop without any "artists" or "writers" fucking up the buzz. Just people drinking coffee.

Brady Street is beautiful in the morning sunlight. The loud fat guys are gone and the trees rustle quietly in the breeze among colorful facades and historic buildings. Take a bike ride down and back along the lakefront, and then roll into the neighborhood and take your pick. Fuel on Center, Roast on Locust, and Café Hollandworth on Downer Avenue are some of my favorite places to chill before, during, or after a ride about town. Alterra is Milwaukee’s answer to Intelligentsia or Metropolis and is better coffee, in my opinion.

4. Summerfest.

This is the festival I thought Taste of Chicago was when I was a kid: bands, drunks, sausages. Some of the best shows of my life have been at Summerfest: Metal Church, Arrested Development, Dylan and the Dead, Tom Petty. All for the price of parking in Chicago.

I was at that Arrested Development show. And Wilco in ’03. And The Roots last year. Cheap Trick more times than I can count. There’s just more to see, more space to walk than just back and forth on Columbus, and far less turkey legs/ass cracks. Take Amtrak up, walk two miles to the grounds, buy the early-bird discount, grab an ear of roasted corn, and wander, listen, eat, and drink your way through the grill smoke and oddly pleasant smell of spilled beer. And all that food and beer are available...for cash. Not tickets. Enough said.

5. Cryptosporidiosis.

The entire town had the shits at exactly the same time. Think about that when you are complaining about the price of a Chicago city sticker.

Totally gross. Got nothing for that, but I do recall the nauseating stench of Alewives along the lakefront…

6. Pat McCurdy.

Sure, this is a stereotypical answer, but show me another bar singer who everyone knows and whose songs everyone can sing along to. If I dated a girl for longer than a month while living in Milwaukee, you can bet that we saw Pat McCurdy together.

I am happy to have broken through this stereotype.

7. County Stadium Bleachers.

The Brewers sucked. I probably went to 50 Brewers games when I lived there, and I can't name a single player from that era. But we could walk to the stadium, get a bleacher seat for $5, and hang out with people from the neighborhood. The old County Stadium was everything that Wrigley pretends to be.

The tears are welling and my lip is all quivery. I saw my first major league baseball game at County Stadium; against the Tigers in 1987. Kirk Gibson hit a home run in the first inning. When Cecil Cooper came up to bat, everyone yelled, “Coooo!” The sausage race only had three contestants (not that I don’t welcome Chorizo these days) and Bernie the Brewer actually slid down his slide from his chalet into a giant stein of beer after homeruns. And my politically incorrect Uncle Bill, in a less politically correct, and innocent, age said to the people in the row in front, whose arrival forced the relocation of my feet, “don’t sit there. He’s got the AIDS. You’ll get the AIDS from him. BEER!”

John and I drove up on a couple of nights the summers of 1999 and 2000. The new stadium was supposed to open in 2000 but a tragic crane accident delayed construction, so County hung around one more year. The walk from the car was long, an epic sensory journey. Much like Summerfest, the smells were to be savored – charring brats and foamy, parch-laying beer, spilled in moments of laughter; the sights of huge crowds under tents and around cars made us smile. The feel of dust, gravel, and broken glass crunching under your shoe soles as you walked into the hazy, smoky sunset towards the gate was as comforting as your mother’s arms. Inside, just as you walked up the stairs and came back into the evening air the experience just intensified, now all wrapped up tightly together in a blanket of organ music and crowd noise; a lazy, happy hum. You sat down in your $5 bleacher seat, with John and your Uncle Bob on either side, took a sip of your beer, a bite of your dog, and told Joe Carter to, “pull up your fucking pants!!!

Today’s Miller Park is a Disney-esque abomination; a reality-TV version, with all its idealization of what supposedly makes a ballpark great. But nothing is really nostalgic about it at all. It’s a shopping mall, with restaurants, stadium clubs; showy, faux-golden age signs and lettering; that sort of thing. The lighting is terrible. The retractable roof is designed like a Japanese fan, so even when it’s open a great deal remains overhead to block out the sun. Combined with the high walls that support it, the entire field, even on a sunny Sunday afternoon, is in shade. Bud Selig missed the boat by not putting the stadium closer to downtown. The old highway spur north of downtown by the Bradley Center is gone now, and that huge space sits dusty and empty. Perhaps the team is a victim of bad timing.

But the biggest victim of all was Bernie the Brewer. He no longer has a beer stein to slide into; now just a spiral from one deck to another, onto a homeplate. The team didn’t want encourage binge drinking, we were told. This team named after beer, that plays in a stadium paid for and named by a beer company, with a 400 x 400 foot beer sign plastered over the outfield.

8. The Cute Girl At Rochambo That I Never Got The Nerve To Talk To.

My wife is going to kill me for this one, but if that blonde girl still lives in Milwaukee, it's worth living there on the off-chance that you might see her.

I am glad to say I talked to one pretty girl at the Up and Under one night, or I probably wouldn’t be writing all of this.

9. Cheese Farts.

The cultural significance of the cheese fart in Milwaukee is not to be underestimated. There isn't another city in America where people can tell you the brand and vintage of cheese that you were eating the night before by the flavor, aroma and "mouth feel" of your flatulence. As a corpulent and flatulent man, the honor bestowed to the cheese fart warms my heart.

As we say to our racing friends who head north of the border for some weekend warrioring, “Have fun storming The Castle!”

10. Jeffrey Dahmer's House.

It isn't there anymore, but it's still kind of cool to tell people that you lived a couple of blocks from him, and drove past the place once a day, while he still lived there.

My grandmother Morrissey (“Granny Mo”) used to brag about it like she knew him. She lived in Kenosha.

1 comment:

Pankonin said...

I was born in Milwaukee. Not too far from Dahmer's house!