We’re in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving. It’s always a refreshing pursuit to change venues, and while most of our venues this year have been Morris County (NJ), Boston, Seattle, NY and the greater Washington area, the Midwest has much to offer.[In addition to actually FLYING on Midwest Express air whose chocolate chip cookies are da bomb.) In many ways. Technically, I suppose, if you bothered to do a study on all the criminality in the country, and read the Compendium of Statistics of Annoying Behaviour (Annotated), you would very well see that there are as many twits and jerks in Milwaukee as there are in all the places we KNOW they exist. But when you’re here on a short sojourn, much of the jerkiness gets filtered out, and you end up with some quite delightful little moments. Even the mere upfront attitudes are like a splash of cool rose water on parched skin. This morning we dragged Iris’ life long pal Tina (born in Boonton, grew up running a minor shake down syndicate in grade school with Iris, and moved to Wisconsin in high school) to a new, and I mean crinkly new Costco, on the outskirts of town. There are some things you need to do when in search of large quantities of Pigs in a Blanket (finger food), and this was one of them. We arrived yesterday afternoon, Jordan late in the night, so the four of us dragged ourselves into the store with great hopes of cheap Malbec red (Argentine) and PiaB’s. Jordan and I quickly peeled off, and went marauding on our own through the new store. There were some great tastings offered up by folks who not only spoke English but were more than willing to engage in conversation as they handed out Lindt Chocolate Truffles. Frankly, who couldn’t make conversation with the ante card of a tray of Truffles. But here they do it with an earnestness that is quite delightful. Even a hint of mischievousness crept into her attitude. It made scoring a Truffle all the more fun. And on the way out, JK and I (sorry there is no photo, this was a good one) posed, like a couple of modern day twits, ourselves – right out of Dumb and Dumber – in front of a large mountain of boxes, heralded by the sign “Traditional Fruitcake, $ 12.99” It was a father – daughter moment of the first order, as we all convulsed with laughter, heading for the cashier. I suppose it could have happened at the Costco in Arlington, but it would be less likely. All those Pentagon officers being serious. All the Hill people being serious. All the rest of the K Street crowd taking themselves so seriously, one might even risk imprisonment with all those sour pusses. From Costco we went to City Market, (like the Pike St. market in Seattle, but no ballistic salmon which night knock you down.) Nice folks, smiling, and happy to help, not all that concerned about whether or not you’re spending, they’re just happy to have you there, and please, take a taste of the Wisconsin Cheddar while you’re at it.
Central Hall, Milwaukee Art Museum
Paul Gero, a great photographer, and pal who used to live in DC, and now is living in southern Cal, is from Wisconsin, and is blessed not only with that great accent, but a gift of mimic: he can do just about any version of the English language you like, and with very little prep time. I think Paul, more than most, appreciates that sense of open engagement you get here. Like a lot of things, you could turn these aphorisms into the legislation, and make a lot of people happy. I mean, you could mandate that anyone paying more than, say, $5000 a year in taxes (you have to draw the line somewhere) would get a free trip to one of the other parts of the country for a long weekend. So you could have lawyers from Tupelo visiting Boise. Lobstermen from Maine coming to Des Moines. Phoenix toy salesmen coming to Green Bay. The point is, that while vacation time is supposed to do that, we have forsaken a lot of this kind of immersion time for “quality Disney park” time (hey, I own a few shares of Disney, but it doesn’t’ change my opinion). The real theme parks out there are the themes of real people: barbecue & music in Memphis, brats and brews in Milwaukee, coastal drives and fish frys in Monterey. I am a big believer in travel as the best education, but you first have to figure out where to visit. And for us, coming to Milwaukee for a few days is like being dipped in a lovely bain de l’ame.. a bathing of the soul. This afternoon, after we did the delivery of the Thanksgiving goodies to the ‘big room’ where we’ll (23 of us) gather tomorrow, I walked in the blustery wind to the Milwaukee Art Museum,
even in the first winter's snow... Milwaukee is...
a newly minted singularly striking structure on the shore of Lake Michigan, shaped like a giant prow of a ship, aimed at the endless sheet of silver water. Walking in, you are confronted with a stunning wide band of windows, fully reflective, which give you the sense of an enormous pair of kissable lips. I shot a pic with my phone (yes, it IS that era) and showed it to the docent, asking if the “lips look” was done on purpose. The reply was a surprize: “wow, I work here everyday, and I’ve never seen that!” Well, I guess the architect had it in mind. And it was well done indeed. Situated in the center of the windows was a pretty tree, lit in small red lights, with a label, denoting it as the Holiday Tree. Proof again, that even in a relatively sane place like Milwaukee, silliness abounds. Let’s just call it a Christmas tree, folks. It’s not a Hannukah Bush, it’s probably not a Kwanzaa Bough, either. But someone felt it necessary to fall into the crevice of political correctness. Maybe they’ll get over it when they realize they just have a big set of lips on their hands, and name it for a Rolling Stones Album. That would make a bit of Midwest sense, wouldn’t it? We’re just sayin…David