Sunday, November 30, 2008

milwaukee challenges: three challenges for 2009 (more may come)

Another promise from last Sunday, was to outline some of the "Milwaukee Challenges" I've been thinking about for next year. These will certainly give me instant blog-fodder and help me highlight Milwaukee's best to you, my hopefully increasingly loyal reader.

Milwaukee Challenge #1: Read my way through Milwaukee's Public Libraries

I mentioned part of this challenge here, when I signed up to do the Support Your Local Library online challenge. The challenge is rather simple in that I just have to read 12 books (one a month) from the Milwaukee Public Library.

I decided to add my own "Milwaukee Challenge" twist to that, and vow to visit each location of the library system and pick one of the librarian's choice books there. Conveniently there are 13 locations, but since I visit the Central Library all the time, I will focus on the 12 satellites.

Milwaukee Challenge #2: Ride my way through the Milwaukee County Transit System

Speaking of visiting new parts of town, I will definitely be using the bus to get to the libraries above. I actually am challenging myself to get the most out of my employee pass and ride each of the nearly 30 regular routes in the system round-trip next year. Not only will this help me do my day job better, but it will allow me to explore many parts of the County I don't regularly visit.

I may also hop off the bus at landmarks along the way to give the blog posts some extra flavor, so if you have some tips on unique spots on Milwaukee's various bus lines, leave them in the comments.

Milwaukee Challenge #3: Pray my way through the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

For quite awhile I've toyed with the idea of starting some sort of Church blog, as I definitely enjoy visiting historic churches and places of worship in my domestic and world travels. One of the cool things about Milwaukee is that there are several unique churches of all faiths here and many associated with a particular ethnic tradition.

It would be impossible for me to hit all the churches in the city in a year, even at the rate of one a week. It would also be foolish of me to commit to going to Mass once a week, as I know myself too well.

I do however, think it realistic, to commit to a "church blog" twice a month. So, 24 churches next year. I'm going to start with what I know -- Catholicism, but I'm always willing to check out other traditions (keyword being "tradition" -- no "Christian New Wave" for me, thank you, I can respect you (well provided you truly are "Christ-like" in your teachings), but I'm just not interested) as bonus blogs. As you've probably also guessed from this blog, I'm a very liberal person and there are certainly opinions of the Catholic Church that I disagree with. I am a self-described "Cafeteria Catholic" and that viewpoint should be taken into account as I describe the services. I'll also focus on the art and architecture of the church as well. I'm also going to stick to the City of Milwaukee, with one exception, to keep things simple.

What churches will I be hitting up? I'll cross the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist off my list, as I just gave a description of that, and it is just a hop away. I should make some effort!

  • Old Saint Mary Parish is just up the street from me and one of the oldest churches in town. I also just saw on there website that one of my favorite priests, Fr. Tim, who also presides at the Three Holy Women parish is assigned there as well.
  • Speaking of Three Holy Women, I will add that to my list as well. I'll probably try to blog about St. Hedwig, as it's a predominant landmark on Milwaukee's popular Brady Street. It's also the parish I used to attend when I lived over on the East Side.
  • No Milwaukee Church tour would be complete without the Basilica of St. Josaphat. I'm ashamed to even admit I've never been in here, as it was the third minor basilica designated in the U.S.
  • St. Stanislaus has always intrigued me because of it's unique architecture and the fact that it's perched right over I-94. Now I'm even more intrigued because the Sunday masses there are held in Latin!
  • St. Joan of Arc Chapel at my alma mater Marquette is another unique to Milwaukee place of worship that I couldn't possibly leave off this list.
  • St. Benedict the Moor is another Milwaukee church with an interesting history. It was founded in 1908 to serve Milwaukee's African American population.
  • Many of my friends who live on the west side of town attend St. Sebastian church in Washington Heights. Sometimes you need a little help from your friends to complete these types of challenges.
  • I happened upon St. Michael parish while canvassing on election eve and was struck by its imposing beauty. My co-worker used to be a member of the parish and told me it's gorgeous inside. Not in the best of neighborhoods, but it's going on the list. It also has a Hmong service, which might be interesting to witness.
  • Ss. Peter & Paul has some very fascinating architectural features I'd like to write about. I've been to this Eastside church before, but will probably swing through again for the challenge.
  • St. Adalbert on the Southside is a former Polish church that now has primarily Spanish masses.
  • In browsing the listing of churches out there, I came across St. Catherine of Alexandria, a historic church in the far northwest corner of the city. This is a part of town which I'm quite unfamiliar with, so I may as well add it to the list. I may hit this one up after the bike racks go on the buses!
  • I bike by St. Francis of Assisi sometimes on my way home from work and am interested to see that they have mass with gospel music and one with Spanish folk music. Which to hit up?!
  • St. Hyancinth has a great name, a history, and Misa en Español.
  • Immaculate Conception is in the heart of Bay View, so it'll be interesting to check out where those in that cult worship
  • St. Martin de Porres is another African American Catholic church, located in Riverwest.
  • Speaking of Riverwest, Our Lady of Divine Providence parish is comprised of two historic churches in that area. I think I will try and visit St. Casimir.
  • St. Rose of Lima church is near Marquette and tucked away. I've never heard of it, but I'll add to the list.
  • Sacred Heart Croatian has Croatian Mass. I'm intrigued and there!
  • St. Vincent Palotti is another combined parish with historic churches on the west side of Milwaukee.
  • All Saints is a combined parish of 9 central city churches. It has a gospel choir as well.
  • Congregation of the Great Spirit is a Catholic Native American Community. Fascinating!
  • Ss. Cyril and Methodius has Polish Mass
  • St. Mary Magadelen has Korean Mass.
  • My one exception to Milwaukee churches is Holy Hill, another Wisconsin basilica. I've never been here either and hear amazing things.
What challenges are you issuing for 2009? Are you interested in participating in any of these?

sunday catch up: past present music

I realize I promised last Sunday to give you a review of Present Music's "Thanksgiving" performance.

Clearly, that's been a big FAIL. But, I will try and make some amends.

Keep in mind that this was my first experience with Present Music. Also, unlike other performing arts groups that I've mentioned in this blog (the Milwaukee Rep, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the late Milwaukee Shakespeare), there aren't multiple performances to encourage someone to go see -- Present Music is an event.

While I've been meaning to check out one of these events for most of my young professionalhood, I was finally motivated to go because Present Music is an adopted non-profit of my former FUEL Milwaukee team, Leisure & Culture.

Present Music's mission is to "engage artists and the audience in imaginative and provocative experiences with new music through ensemble performance, commissioning, and education." Part of the "experience" of PM is the venue in which the concert is held. In last Sunday's case it was in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, which is conveniently located directly across the street from my apartment.

There were many similarities between the Cathedral and the Present Music performance, which likely was a factor in selecting the venue. In both, one can see modern interpretations of traditional themes.

In the case of the Cathedral it is the gigantic modern crucifix that is the centerpiece of the church. The sculpture was installed during the controversial remodeling a few years ago. My Lutheran friend that I was with remarked on how grisly the imagery in Catholic churches can be. I've been in a lot of Catholic churches and I think this crucifix takes the scary cake. If I were a small child, I'd actually probably have nightmares from it. Jesus is a skeletal specter, with overtones of a Holocaust victim, pinned to a sharp stake-like cross, encircled by an overexaggerated crown of thorns. I found a blurry image on the web, but this truly doesn't do it justice:
The sculpture makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and that's one of the reasons I prefer not to attend church there (on the rare occasions when I do go to Mass). However, from a theological perspective, it should make me uncomfortable. Obviously Christ's death for our sins is central to the Catholic (and general Christian) faith and it's not supposed to be a pretty thing (that's the Resurrection part). This modern interpretation of the crucifix hits the Catholic guilt nail (sorry, pun intended) on the head and makes you feel really personally horrible about Jesus' sacrifice.

At any rate, the rest of the Cathedral truly is gorgeous and provided the perfect setting for the Present Music performance, which as I mentioned combined the modern and the traditional as well. Like the Cathedral, there were parts of the performance that made me uncomfortable, and parts that I truly enjoyed.

The "Thanksgiving" theme was demonstrated by selections based on musical traditions from Christian, Jewish and Native American cultures and beliefs.

The opening and two closing pieces were traditional Native American songs performed by the Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group. It was pretty incredible to hear so many drummers, dancers and singers in the acoustics of the Cathedral. The second to last number, "Friendship Dance," was interesting as several audience members participated in a dance circle around the interior of the church.

Movements from the piece "Mass in Gregorian Chant" by Henry Brant helped transition the concert from one selection to the next. This was an all-flute piece performed by about 20 or so flutists spread throughout the church. I quite enjoyed these movements, especially in regard to their spatial exploration.

The first piece in the "meat" of the program was "Glory to God for This Transient Life" by John Tavener. As the piece progressed, the vocalists in the Milwaukee Children's Choir began a procession around the church, slowly exiting so their disembodied voices floated in from the attached atrium. The effect was very stunning and I liked this selection a lot.

Back to the "uncomfortable," the next piece, "Meditation on a Bach Chorale" by Sofia Gubaidulina, did not do it for me at all. My untrained ears focused on how it provided a matching horror soundtrack for the crucifix statue, but I can certainly respect the mathematical composition of its cacophony.

The palette-cleansing "Fugue in E flat Major 'St. Anne'" by the aforemeditated Johann Sebastian Bach certainly put the Cathedral's pipe organ to work. I don't know how anyone could not enjoy hearing such a majestic piece in a holy building. Massive church organs are one of the manmade smoke and mirrors that convince me of divinity (don't worry, nature convinces me of that much more, but I definitely appreciate some of that grandiose church stuff too).

Following Intermission came Sanctus by Jan Sandstrom performed by the Milwaukee Choral Artists. This was a pleasant choral piece that didn't really sway me one way or the other. It's been quite awhile since I heard a straight up choral piece, so I did enjoy it.

Next was "Pathways to Security" by Henry Brant. I initially liked this piece, as it featured baritone Kurt Ollmann meandering throughout the church while singing his parts, then echoed by the musicians and choral artists. As a listener, I appreciated the audio-spatial effects of the performers in motion. However, honestly, as shallow as this is going to sound, the piece was WAY too long for me. I think perhaps because it was a synthetic language, the repetitiveness just started grating on me after awhile. I definitely can handle longer symphonies, but this selection in full just wasn't my style.

Closing out the set, before the return of the Native American drummers, was a short piece, "Al Shlosha D'varim" by Allan Naplan. The Hebrew chorus was printed in the program for the audience to accompany the choirs on. I did appreciate the choral arrangement here as well, and you must also appreciate the translation of the chorus: "The world is established upon three things: truth, law, and peace."

Clearly I had a mixed reaction overall, but again, I think that's what Modern Art is all about. I do like to be challenged by art and I will likely attend a future performance of Present Music. It's nice to be reminded that there's plenty of musical art still being created, and even if I don't thoroughly enjoy it, I can definitely appreciate it more than musical crap.


Interested in catching an upcoming Present Music performance? You actually DO have two opportunities to catch the next one:

"Close Up"
Friday, January 9th or Saturday, January 10th
7:30 p.m. both nights
Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

I will be on the other side of world at that time, but maybe I'll catch you at the next one!

30 by 30: pre-storm workout

I braved the increasing snowfall this late afternoon and dragged my butt the few blocks to The WAC. Was a good time to go since the place was pretty empty. Halfway there I realized I forgot my headphones, but luckily there was a spare set in the lost and found.

I tried to mix it up a bit in my self-guided workout and use my old personal training routine as a guide. I warmed up on the elliptical, did half of my "arms" weight training workout, a couple of laps on the track and then finished it off with about 15 minutes on the Precor.

I am hoping to get up early and go tomorrow, but since we're supposed to get 6"-10" of snow, I thought I'd stockpile some endorphins this evening.

sunday catch up: photo evidence

I do realize that photos are supposed to enhance, not follow, a blog, but since I wasn't able to share last weekend, here's a quick photographic journey through Becky and I's Pre-Thanksgiving Milwaukee Food Fest.

From Tourist in My Own Town
Once again, we began our day at the Fondy Farmers Market, which surprisingly had a lot of produce for the last day of the season.
From Tourist in My Own Town
We passed on the apples having just finished our take from last month's Elegant Farmer excursion.
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
Once again, the prices here were beyond reasonable. The average price for one of those bins or huge heads of produce was about $2-$4.
From Tourist in My Own Town

Our next stop was Outpost, I didn't take any photos of the inside of the store, but that's okay because it's worth it just to show you the name of the Auto Parts store next door.

From Tourist in My Own Town

I fix your truck Mofoco!

From Tourist in My Own Town

We then stopped at the new Good Harvest Market in the Third Ward. This place was definitely a little pricey, but it's nice to have a new option for organic food downtown. Also, I love grand openings because everything is so pretty.

From Tourist in My Own Town

After our dose of high class, it was off to 'Stallis and State Fair Park for the Holiday International Folk Fair.
From Tourist in My Own Town
Upon walking in we encountered some revolutionaries:
From Tourist in My Own Town
But quickly moved on to find the food. Nearly everyone selling food was stereotypically dressed.
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
Funny word.
From Tourist in My Own Town
A revolutionary in a motor scooter. Handcrafted by Paul Revere?
From Tourist in My Own Town
Decorations at the Native American food stand.
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
The Great Danes.
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
I actually just really love this shot. It's the back of one of the Native American dancers. I definitely feel the Native Americans were the least cheesy of the folks at the fair. They seemed there to actually take pride in their culture, versus just have an excuse to throw on the Leiderhosen.
From Tourist in My Own Town
For some reason there was a bonsai contest. Sure, why not?
From Tourist in My Own Town
From Tourist in My Own Town
And when I think International Cultures, I think ANIMAL PUPPET THEATER!
From Tourist in My Own Town
In comic sans no less!
From Tourist in My Own Town
There were plenty of non-plush animal entertainers at the event as well. Unfortunately the lighting in the Expo Center was pretty craptastic.
From Tourist in My Own Town
I think it was the poles that were selling "coffins."
From Tourist in My Own Town
We didn't eat one, for many reasons. Though I am curious as to how representative of traditional Polish culture they are if only 25 years old?
From Tourist in My Own Town
Besides, the beehives looked much more delicious, although we didn't eat. Instead we split this delight from Bavaria:
From Tourist in My Own Town
Yeah, that's right we dove into that bad boy before we took a picture. You're lucky you got one.

But honestly, what holiday or folk fair or office bridal shower is complete without one man?

From Tourist in My Own Town

Ben Flippin' Franklin!

See wasn't it worth the wait for the photos?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

being a good consumer this holiday season

For starters, don't actually follow the tips in this creepy satirical video:

Instead make a conscious effort to Buy Local, independent and/or sustainable this holiday season.

I started my shopping today at Art Vs. Craft, Milwaukee's DIY craft fair. I, as well as thousands of other folks apparently, look forward to this event each year. The opportunity to find unique, funky, handmade gifts created by local or regional artists is one you just can't pass up. I was smart this year and went with cash instead of a credit card, so I managed to do a better job of limiting my own presents. I still got plenty of cute stuff for myself and crossed several folks off the gift list.

I don't want to spoil any surprises, so I'll be vague about my other gift ideas. Basically though, I am vowing to avoid all national retailers for gifts this Christmas season. Obviously there are some exceptions, like I'll probably use the Kodak application built into iPhoto to print some photos, but I think that is acceptable since there's no local alternative.

So how am I going to do this?
  • Some of my friends are going to have to wait until after the holidays to get their gifts. When I return from India, they'll be getting global gifts that were bought locally. I think I can do just as good of a job of importing at World Market.
  • As I mentioned I got a good chunk of shopping taken care of at Art Vs. Craft today. For other physical gifts that must be purchased before the 25th, I plan to hit up locally-owned businesses, especially those that are members of Our Milwaukee.
  • Per usual, some of my hobbyist photography will probably end up in some gift packs this year.
  • Despite a great Seinfeld episode giving it a bad rap (The Human Fund. Money for People), I may try giving some charitable donations this year to those in my circle who are less selfish than George Costanza. If I do this I'm going to try and make a concerted effort to tie in the cause to the personality of who I'm giving it to.
Any other tips or suggestions you have for a Sustainable Christmas? What are your consumer goals this holiday season?

social media madness: twitip challenge

I've alluded to Twitter in this blog before and daily I'm finding fantastic new uses for this great tool. A new challenge issued on the blog asks twitterfreaks to make a list of the top 10 influential tweeters in their niche. While I do use twitter to follow many areas, among them marketing/social media and of course transit news, I thought I'd take the challenge to name the Top 10 Milwaukee Insiders you should be following on Twitter.

A couple of caveats to the list are that I'm not including folks who solely or the majority of the time update from Twitterfeed, nor am I listing folks that are twittering just for their 9 to 5. So sorry @onmilwaukee, @bucksdotcom, @newshub, @bigshoesnetwork, etc. you're DQ'd for this one. I'm also only listing folks who regularly tweet, so even though there's some fabulous folks who just joined the scene or who post occasionally, I had to take you off the Top 10.

Surprisingly most of these folks (save for a couple) are ones I've found through Twitter versus in real life, although I think that will be changing as there seems to be real interest in TweetUps and the like. I have however heard of several of them from their day jobs, and really value the information they share on the site, especially in regards to Milwaukee issues.

So here goes in no particular order (pretty much in order I found their tweets. This really is a challenge in that Twitter sucks in managing your followees):
Who am I missing? I'd love to expand this list to the Top 20. After two of the places I went in Chicago last night didn't even have websites, I'm feeling some love for the Milwaukee Social Media Scene.

A Night Out in My Kind of Town

Sometimes a girl just has to get out of Dodge. Thankfully four day weekends and a major city just an hour and half train ride away allows for that fairly easily. Throw hospitable high school friends into the mix and you've got yourself a fabulous night out in Chicago.

I have to give the friends bonus props as they apparently drank their Thanksgiving dinner, plus some, the night (and day) prior. Luckily they were still up for taking me out as planned.

After all, I have been trying to meet up in Chicago with Sheila and Monica for five years, give or take. Our friend Timmi started med school in Waukegan this semester and our friend Ryan decided to come visit for the holiday week, so plans could not be set aside because of the after effects of our two-faced friend alcohol.

We started our night off at a restaurant called The Publican (surprisingly this place doesn't appear to have its own website) in the West Loop, fairly close to Sheila's condo. I enjoyed a delicious cider selected from the extensive beer menu, while Sheila, Timmi and I waited for Monica and Ryan to arrive. From the moment we arrived the service excelled. Add to the mix that Monica is friends with the manager and we were treated like absolute royalty.

I guess the best way to describe the vibe of this place is "communal chic." From the seating to the food presentation to the bathrooms, the emphasis is all on shared experiences.

Because that bathroom reference may have confused/grossed you out, I'll describe those first.

You walk into the restroom area and initially only see the giant round sink, which is a hybrid of a fountain in the town square of a European village and the sink in your elementary school bathroom (but instead of that pink chalky soap, they have some fine French hand wash and body lotion). Another diner and I discussed watering our goat here and we communally washed our hands. Surrounding the fountain sink are six imposing doors -- three labeled women and three men. Each toilet is enclosed in its own individual room -- don't fret, the sharing does stop somewhere!

At any rate, enough about the restrooms, back to the main attraction -- the dining.

We were seated in the interior ring of the dining room at a section of string of long wooded tables forming a hollow rectangle in the center of the restaurant. The outer ring consisted of enclosed booths resembling hog pens. The simple and linear wood decor definitely hit the "European farmhouse" look on the mark. To style it up, the entire room was softly illuminated by rows of spherical ceiling lamps. The one drawback, Monica warned, is that as the place fills up it gets quite loud. There is no fabric to soak up the acoustics.

That's okay though, as our later conversations turned into mere oohs and mmms as the food came out dish by scrumptious dish.

The ordering method and delivery of food as it came up, versus all at once, reminded me quite a bit of La Merenda, one of my favorite Milwaukee eateries. There was also an emphasis on locally-produced foods, and even if not local, each menu item was labeled with its geographic origin. I really wish more places would do this. I certainly care more about sustainability-focused labeling more than nutritional facts.

I did feel a bit bad throwing a kink into the communal ordering with my no red meat or pork rule, but we made due just fine.

Following a serving of homemade sourdough bread with goat butter, we began with a plate of oysters from a variety of locations (clearly these weren't local). I tasted one from Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables oysters, as Monica called them), accurately described as "lettuce-y;" one from Rhode Island (briny); and one from Oregon (I don't recall the description or taste).

After tasting Timmi's, I ordered a Kriekbier (cherry beer) to accompany my meal. A wise choice, as the cherry emphasized the flavors of each plate.

Next in the line up came a heirloom apple salad. Quite possibly in my top five salads of all time. Thinly sliced apples accompanied by pomegranate and pistachios tossed lightly with some sort of tasty greens and a spicy vinaigrette. I don't know how they did it, but there was the perfect amount of dressing. It was also drizzled with some type of warmed, creamy cheese.

During this course the rest of the gang munched on fresh made pork rinds, which I was told were crunchy, salty and tasty.

Up next were our two entrees--a roasted dover sole and grilled farmhouse chicken.

The sole was topped with perfectly seasoned and cooked cauliflower. The fish itself was light, but filling -- again done "just right." The chicken adorned a bed of frites, its juices soaking into the crisp potatoes. (Summer sausage typically balances out the plate as well, but my friends and the kitchen staff were accomodating to my dietary restrictions and it came out separately.) Grilled until just black, the slightly spicy marinated chicken danced on tastebuds (and not the chicken dance).

After the feeding frenzy ended and we began to digest, three desserts magically appeared. A belgian waffle topped with butter, powdered sugar and cherry preserves; a shortbread brownie with a scoop of chocolate ice cream; and brandied date bread pudding with maple sugar ice cream. Normally I am a chocolate gal, but the bread pudding was divinity in a ramekin.

By this time we were sufficiently bursting and Ryan's friends, Max and Porter, showed up to meet us, so we hopped a cab and headed to Danny's Tavern (which also apparently lacks a web presence -- what's up Chicago?) on Dickens (which caused many a giggle) in Wicker Park. Danny's was a GREAT bar. Reasonably priced drinks (I chose the "bang for your buck" route with Unibroue's Chambly Noire), low-key vibe and fantastic music. It definitely got crowded later when the hipster dance party started to the funk and soul. General vibe reminded me of the Riverhorse, which reminded me that I need to go out in Riverwest more. We danced for a bit, Ryan's friends left, Monica's gentleman friend arrived, and we headed out to the last stop on our list.

The California Clipper in Humboldt Park proved to be hipster central, although most of what occured there is very fuzzy. I know Sheila and Timmi left at this point, I know I had a grasshopper, and I know there was some sort of lounge band. I also know that while very groovy, this place could not hold a candle to Bryant's.

Ryan and I made it back to Sheila's in a cab and I promptly passed out on the couch. I managed to wake up by 9 AM and catch a cab to the train station without waking up the sleeping masses (although I think Sheila was up and in the shower). I also must say each time I'm out in Chicago though, I appreciate not reeking of smoke the next day.

I'm so glad I went down there and my Chicago friends were able to show me their town. Hopefully they will make it up to Milwaukee one day so I can show them our hip hangouts.

Thank You North Carolina!

Remember my 50 states blog visits challenge issued last week?

It's not going so hot, but today Google Analytics told me I got North Carolina!

I actually think I should be thanking my friend Ellen, since the hit was direct and from Raleigh, but I will thank the whole state.

I'm also going to extend the challenge until the end of the year.

Any tips on how to track down the elusive states? I know commenting on blogs myself will get hits back, any interesting blogs you know of in the outstanding areas? Here's a list of where I need visits from:
  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Nevada (I think Becky is going to take care of this one on her business trip -- good friend!)
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

Friday, November 28, 2008

weekending: post-turkey edition

I must say I've had quite the productive "Black Friday." My laundry is done and put away. My dishes will soon be done and I may even be able to squeeze in some light cleaning.

At 3 o'clock I'm headed down to Chicago to hang out with some high school friends who live down there. I'm very excited to get out of town for a night!

Tomorrow I'll be heading back at a reasonable hour, as I need to hit up Art Vs. Craft. I'm sort of bummed I won't be able to open it (the venue is across the street from my house!), but I'm excited to browse all the goodies this year. Also, another high school friend is selling recycled clothing there. Randomly ran into her last year. Keep in mind that I went to high school in Portland, so running into folks in the Midwest is a rare treat.

On Sunday I hope to finish my cleaning, put up some decorations and maybe even catch up on blogging. If I am up to it, I may also go to the Save Broad Vocabulary thing down in Bay View, but we shall see.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I may post later today, but need to hit the kitchen momentarily to whip up some mashed potatoes and "something with brussel sprouts."

However, I just wanted to once again say "Thank You" to everyone who has positively impacted my life in the past year. I realize that I am truly blessed to have decent health (and healthcare), a job that I love and look forward to going to each day and above and beyond wonderful friends and family.


I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Enjoy the gobbler!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Come Stuff the Bus Today in West Allis!

Yes, I am up at the crack of the crack of dawn, but it's for a good cause.

I'm headed to the Pick N Save at 111th & Greenfield in West Allis to stuff buses full of non-perishable food for needy families this Thanksgiving.

It's the annual Stuff the Bus event for Second Harvest of Wisconsin with 99.1 WMYX.

Our goal this year is to collect 200,000 pounds of food.

How can you help?

  • Come on down to the Pick N Save between 5 AM and 6 PM today (I will be there with the bus until about 3:30/4) along with your canned goods. Here's a list of what's needed.
  • If you can't make it down, or aren't in Milwaukee, you can donate online as well. Obviously you can't put a can of corn in your computer, but you can give money to help purchase food.
Hope to see you later today!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

I thought it would be appropriate to post this away from the break up post...don't worry this is so far from the reason things ended. Trust me.

But at any rate, it is a very important issue and I thought I would shed some light on it in my little corner of the blogosphere.

It's scary to think that as far as we've come by 2008, there is still prolific violence against women, both internationally and in our own country.

Here's a freaky statistic from the UN Development Fund for Women: "At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime."

Yes we hear about international issues in far away countries (for a particularly jarring issue, visit the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women website). Unfortunately Milwaukee, with its high poverty rates, is far from immune from the issue of violence against women. Fortunately, there are phenomenal programs in place in this city to start chipping away at the roots of the problem. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to participate in the Young Professionals of Milwaukee's (YPM) Service Circuit program, which was the predecessor to FUEL Milwaukee's Adopt-A-Nonprofit program. Through Service Circuit I became involved in the United Way of Milwaukee's Healthy Girls Project which targets funds to organizations which help better women's lives. From the website:
The funded programs respond to one of two issue areas identified as impediments to good health and well being of girls in our community: teen pregnancy and sexual violence against girls.
In addition to planning a donor event for this program, those of us in the volunteer group became exposed to several of the non-profits funded through the initiative. About a year or two after that volunteer experience, I served on the public service committee for Ad 2 Milwaukee where we created a campaign for a preventative organization, PEARLS for Teen Girls (see more info below).

Through these experiences I gained hope for what can be done at a local level to eradicate violence against women. Here are some Milwaukee organizations helping tackle the problem. Please leave any more that you know of in the comments.

The Task Force on Family Violence: "The Task Force on Family Violence provides advocacy, education and resources to keep people safe."

Milwaukee Women's Center: Their mission is "To provide holistic care to empower women and families who are experiencing abuse to live safe, independent and healthy lives." I had a friend who worked here for many years and could not speak more highly of the services this organization provided. Through the Healthy Girls Project we visited a safe house and learned firsthand about this empowering organization. One of the most impressive things that sticks with me years later is the fact that many of their staff were women who had used the Women's Center services in the past and overcome cycles of abuse to help other women.

YWCA Milwaukee: A national organization that has a large presence in this city. They really live by their simple mission of "Eliminating racism, empowering women." In addition to providing business education resources to women, they also coordinate the FAITH Program which helps women find transitional housing to move forward in creating a better life for themselves and their children.

The Counseling Center of Milwaukee / Pathfinders: Aims "to help people in need take charge
of their lives, connect to others and contribute to the community." Primarily focused on issues surrounding teen runaways, helping break the cycles of violence early.

Sojourner Truth House: "We provide shelter, safety, support, education and advocacy to break the cycle of violence because domestic respect is the right of every woman, man and child."

The Alma Center: "The Alma Center works to motivate peaceful change through education in intimate relationships, family and community." This is a very unique organization in that it focuses on training for men to unlearn habits of violence against women. I know a couple people who are involved with this organization and it's another one that can't get enough rave reviews for the work that it does.

PEARLS for Teen Girls: "PEARLS for Teen Girls is committed to being the community's signature program for maximizing girls' self-development. True girl/adult partnerships result in building and living PEARLS attributes: Personal Responsibility, Empathy, Awareness, Respect, Leadership and Support." PEARLS is near and dear to my heart because of the experience I had with the Ad2 campaign. I cannot describe in a short blog post what an amazing organization it truly is. It fights the issue of violence against women by empowering girls at an early age to take a stand and start making a difference in their communities. The dedication of its board and staff is truly inspirational. I am very excited that PEARLS is an adopted non-profit by FUEL this year as well.

Again, this is a pretty heavy issue to think about and it may seem despairing to wonder where do we start and how do we make an impact. But there is the occasional gleam of good news that makes you glad these organizations are busting their tails. The good news here? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week that the teen birth rate in Milwaukee is at a 28-year-low.

Slowly but surely we can make change.

What local organizations am I missing here that help this cause? If you're not a Milwaukeean, what are organizations in your community doing similar things?

30 by 30: zumbavel

Okay, now that I've had a quick cry I can happily report that I did indeed make it to the gym right after work.

I was shooting for the 5 p.m. Zumba class, but unfortunately the instructor was ill and the sub was not "Zumba Certified." Yes, apparently it would've been illegal for him to teach Zumba.

So instead we did Interval. Interval may be a Circle of Hell that was left on the cutting room floor. But, yeah, yeah, it was good for me, I didn't die, etc.

I have to comment again about how wonderful the staff at the Wisconsin Athletic Club is. You really feel like it's a place where they care about your overall well-being and desire to get fit, versus how much you can bench, how good you look in sporty gear, etc. I clearly was not cut out for the Interval workout, but you really do feel okay just going at your own pace. I also ran into my old trainer who gave me a high five for kicking my own butt back in gear.

thankful tuesdays: breakin' up is hard to do edition

Unless you've been under a social medialess rock, or are new to this blog (hi! I'm normally not like this), you know that there was a recent decision by both parties to take a break from a relationship of three years. I would like to use this edition of Thankful Tuesdays to shout out to all those friends who have helped keep me sane throughout the ordeal. Your emails, g-chats phone calls, hugs, drinks, Thanksgiving invites and impromptu Packer gatherings have been much appreciated!

I also want to thank my family for respecting my wishes and not prying into the situation. I especially want to thank my brother for referencing this blog in his humorous condolences: "So instead of 30 by 30 you've already taken off 200-something!"

Finally I want to thank Phil for three pretty great years. We had a good run of it. 

30 by 30: hurried tuesday update

I could not drag myself out of bed in the snow yesterday morning, but successfully hit the gym last night for Zumba class. The instructor was awesome, and was 6 1/2 months pregnant, so she made you feel like a wimp for wanting to die. She also was NOT one of those skinny, perky aerobics gals so it was pretty damn fun. I also ran into my friend Jodie there, so it was good to have someone to be totally off-rhythm with.

Woke up early this morning, but felt I had too much to do before I could hit the gym. Especially since my week is thrown off by having to get up at 3:30 AM tomorrow morning. I do have my bag packed to go to the gym directly after work tonight. Hopefully that will tucker me out enough to hit the hay by 7 or 8 PM.

Have a great Tuesday! (thankful tuesday will be coming later too!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

maybe i lied...

Sorry folks, I won't likely be covering my promised blog topics from yesterday tonight, in fact I don't even know if I'll get my weekly Monday Munchies column up (but I'll probably stretch myself and try).

Why? Because I'm hitting the gym (could not drag myself out of bed this morning) for Zumba, and then meeting my wonderful friends at Tutto for the Packers on Monday Night Football.

I really owe it to my friends for putting forth a concerted effort to get me out of the house and not letting me sit around and feel sorry for myself.  Perhaps were tipped off by the prolific blogging? I think maybe I will date my blog actually.  It's pretty dependable.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

challenge of the week: conquering the US via google analytics

Okay, so I am huge nerd.

If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you've probably figured that out.

At the beginning of November I added Google Analytics to my blog so I could see what is interesting to my readers. One of the neat features of Google Analytics is the "map overlay" which shows you where your visitors are coming from. I think it's pretty groovy that I've gotten visits from a bevy of countries since the start of the month, but I like to take goals one small piece at a time.

Before I conquer the world I need to takeover America.

It's pushing myself pretty far, but I need to get visitors from 18 states by the end of the month. I could use your help! I'd like folks from the following places to become honorary Wisconsinites...even if it's just for one click through:

  •  Alaska. As long as it's not Sarah Palin trying to set up an interview. Although I am a "blogger in my pajamas." But not in my parents' basement. Ouch.
  • Idaho. I think Wisconsin is #2 in potato production. You wanna throw down?
  • Nevada. Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. Can you stop sinning for two seconds and take a quick peek at my blog?
  • Montana. I have familial roots there. Of course the stories my grandma tells are from a time when Montanans didn't have electricity and rode horses to school. I'm sure they have the internet now though, right?
  • Wyoming. Wy not?
  • New Mexico. Albuquerque, I'm so hurt, I visited you so I could add a state to where I've physically visited this year. I know, I didn't blog about you. But that was when I was a blogging failure, I've changed. Look, here's even some pictures from my August trip to you:

    One of your beautiful Farmer's Markets.
    From Albuquerque
    From Albuquerque
    I know I can't write in Petrogylphs on my blog, but it doesn't mean you can't stop by.

    From Albuquerque
    The Rio Grande from your river mountain bike trail. Look you have water (for now), you don't have to take it from Wisconsin yet, but you may one day, so be nice and read my blog :)

    From Albuquerque
    Okay, okay, you have the National Atomic Museum. Maybe I should be nice to you.

    From Albuquerque
    Just one mariachi to visit this week, that's all I ask!

    Yeah, yeah, enough with the bad jokes. The rest of the photos are here by the way.
  • North Dakota. I know I haven't been to you, but it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about you.
  • Oklahoma. Likewise. I'm a fan of your musical, if that helps.
  • South Dakota. I recall liking the Badlands as a child. Oh, and that's one of my favorite songs, though I don't think it has anything to do with your state really.
  • Indiana. What's up? Show some Midwest solidarity.
  • Mississippi. Again, I'm sorry I haven't visited you yet. I promise you're on the list.
  • West Virginia. Don't you want to beat those from "Real Virginia"?
  • North Carolina. ELLEN!!!!
  • Delaware. You're so tiny I almost didn't see that you slipped through.
  • Rhode Island. Just as sneaky as Delaware apparently.
  • Vermont. Too busy with that Phish reunion?
  • New Hampshire. HEATHER!!!!
  • Maine. Ouch. That really hurts. I was born within your borders. Can't you show me a little love?
If you read my blog and know someone in one of these states: forward along an article of interest and encourage them to pop over, click around and maybe say "hi" (or however they say that where they're from).

If you are form one of these states: Thanks for stopping by! If you have a tip of what would be interest to get you to come back, please leave that in the comments!

sunday catch up: coming soon

Not so much in a blogging mood right now, but owe a post for the day.

Here's what you can expect from me early this week though:
Come back tomorrow and see what's up!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

slacker saturdays: not really, just a three hour nap

Let me just say, yoga was just what I needed this morning. I'm so excited the Downtown WAC has it each Saturday now at 9 a.m.

I lost at poker last night, but that's okay because I saved mucho dinero by going the last day of Farmers Market Season at the Fondy Farmers Market. Got tons of great veggies, including some funky Jerusalem Artichokes, for really, really bargain prices.

Sample day at Outpost, not so cheap. Decided to purchase several of the sampled wares. The newly-opened Good Harvest Market also got my pocketbook by sending me a coupon for a free gallon of milk by spending $25. I got my milk, then some.

The  Holiday International Folk Fair's awesomeness cannot be described with words. Only with visuals and taste buds. The visuals are coming soon. The taste buds--well you can still go tomorrow at State Fair Park!

Photos of today's adventures will be posted soon. My pal Mar is en route to take me out for a much-needed cocktail after some news I just announced.

Friday, November 21, 2008

weekending: pre-turkey edition

This weekend is shaping up to be pretty jam-packed. That's a good thing since the doldrums (and the freezing temperatures) kept me from leaving my home after work this week.

Anyway, here's what's on tap:
  • Tonight I am joining one of my gangs for a friendly game of old fashioned poker. I haven't played in forever, but it's only five bucks, so what's the harm?
  • Tomorrow I am planning to attend my first yoga class at the Downtown WAC at 9 a.m.
  • After yoga, Becky and I are conquering Milwaukee's organic food offerings. We're going to the last day of Farmers Market Season at the Fondy Farmers Market, hitting sample day at Outpost, then checking out the newly-opened Good Harvest Market.
  • Following our shopping adventures, Becks and I will head over to State Fair Park and check out the  Holiday International Folk Fair. We're most excited about sampling international delicacies, but it sounds like a nice mix of cheesy and cool, so that should work out well.
  • On Sunday I am spinning at the Downtown WAC at 9 a.m. I can't do Wednesday spin as I am stuffing a bus for Second Harvest/Feeding America bright and early that morning. 
  • Post-spin I will be volunteering at Open Door Café across the street.
  • Hopefully that afternoon I can finish some laundry and some work I've been meaning to do. 
  • At 4 p.m. on Sunday I'll head back across the street to attend Present Music's Thanksgiving show. PM is an adopted non-profit from FUEL Milwaukee and I'll be meeting other FUELers over there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

daily inspiration: creative fund raising with "Mr. T"

This story was on today and it really impressed me.

In case you don't have time to click over, basically this guy is raising money for diabetes research (his father died a heart attack brought on by the disease) by slowly transforming himself into Mr. T. With each level of fund raising reached, he ups the ante on his emulation.

I not only appreciate this because of the great cause it's helping -- The Diabetes Research Institute -- but because of its offbeat, creative approach to fund raising. The best part is, though he is a little wacky, he still has a clear personal connection to the cause.

I've seen more and more stories lately about non-profits having to shutter their doors due to lack of funds in this crappy economy. Unfortunately I think new and interesting fund raising methods are few and far between.

Not to say things aren't changing. The Obama campaign certainly showcased the power of the small donor. Non-profits are realizing that they need to tap into younger generations -- not just as donors but as leaders as well. As someone who got two pledge letters this week (and anticipates more on the way), I would be much more excited to give if the requests were a little more interesting. I'm under 30, engage me online. Like Mr. Fake T, show me the visual of what my donation is doing. Put up a YouTube video of the kids I'm helping. Start a Twitter account so I can follow where my money is going. At the very least, have a blog so that I can get a minimum weekly update. Engage me in a deeper conversation than just your annual appeal. I know you don't have staff, but this is something an energetic young volunteer could do!

I may be able to only give you $5, 10, 20 now, but if I'm still engaged with you in five years that amount will (hopefully) grow.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Fake T works at an interactive agency. He is doing his fund raising both on and offline. His fund raising site is:

Also, there is the plea on the site to hook him up with the real Mr. T for an endorsement. If you're just randomly happening across my blog but know how to make this happen -- make it happen!

penny pinching: getting my proper refund from fedex kinkos

Tonight I stopped by FedEx Kinkos Office Whatever It's Called as I had to FedEx some documents (including my visa app for India!) and make a quick copy of them first.

I used the copy machine nearest to the "office center" or whatever. I hit "black & white" and made two copies. As you know, you have to insert your credit card (or get one of their cards, but their machine was Out of Order). I was shocked that it cost me $1.04 to make the two copies. I hadn't been to a Kinkos to make plain old copies in a very long time, so I assumed that the inflation monster had gotten the best of them. Keep in mind there was no price listing on the machine itself.

When I went to go ship my packet, I mentioned to the guy "wow, the price of copies has really skyrocketed." He asked which machine I used and I pointed. "Well that's our docucolor copier." I explained that I only made B&W copies and had hit that specifically. He sort of shrugged. I asked "Is there any way that you can refund my money to what the correct amount should be? Seeing as there's not a sign on there saying that it costs more." He shrugged again.

That's when the Consumerist starting floating around in my head, I really need a "What Would the Consumerist Do?" bracelet. I was like "That really sucks, I'm probably going to call and register a complaint unless your manager maybe can do something?" A couple seconds later his tune changed. "Did you pay by credit card?" he asked. I nodded and handed it over. He disappeared and came back shortly with a receipt showing a refund and then the correct amount of 18 cents. I thanked him kindly, but apparently he must've been afraid of me at this point because another CSR helped me ship my packages.

Anyway, lesson learned to be very careful what machines you use at Kinkos and if you're not sure, ask the price before hitting the green button.

Meghan: 82 cents!

30 by 30: break pass

This morning, even though I am up at the crack of dawn, I am using a "break" pass. I am extremely sore from spinning yesterday, and since this is my first week back at this whole regular workout thing, I thought I should probably not overdo it.

Yes, I may go back to sleep for 30 minutes or so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

book club for one: 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge

I love my local library. Not only do I get to go into a beautiful building each time I want to check out a book, but I have access to millions of resources for FREE.

I've started following a blog called Novel Challenges, that really is designed for people who are goal-oriented and like to read A LOT. I finally spotted a challenge that sounds doable for me, so I'm signing up and will post my books in this post and on this blog throughout 2009.

The challenge, run by J. Kaye's Book Blog, is to pick a number of books that you will read from your local library in 2009. I'm going to undershoot here and say that I will read 12 books from the Milwaukee Public Library in 2009. One a month is totally feasible.

Are you up for a similar challenge?

My Books:
  1. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  1. A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
  2. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston

30 by 30: you spin me right round - PT 1

I went to bed early. That made a big difference in getting up this morning.

Made it to spin class with plenty of time to warm-up. Eased into it okay, but then we did THREE climbs. By the last one I was pretty dead and the last 30 seconds of it I had to stay "in the saddle." But I figure, one goof in a 45 minute class is okay for your first time spinning in months.

A couple of questions for other spinners out there:
  • How do you easily find your pulse while spinning? I can never find it and my counts are always off. I know I'm getting a workout, since I feel like I'm dying.
  • What the heck is "rate of perceived exertion"? How do you calculate it? How do you do math while on exercise equipment?
I do need to start getting my stuff ready beforehand on the days I do spin and take it all to the gym. Rushing a bit this morning (blogging while my hair dries).

Tomorrow I *may* try to do some arm weights. Hopefully my little cheat sheet is still there. Also, my spin instructor told us that there's a new Saturday morning Yoga class. I'm really excited about that as the other classes they have are at terrible times, and I'd very much like to learn yoga. (I need to complete my hippie punch card).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

globetrotting: yes, i'm going to india

I've referenced it a couple of times in this blog, but I guess I've never come out and said it:

I am going to India on January 1, 2009.

I figure that's a good way to meet a New Year's resolution.

I leave straight from Milwaukee at 1:17 p.m. (damn can't do the Polar Plunge this year--it's on my list of "Wisconsin To-Dos"), fly through Newark and arrive in Delhi at 9:20 p.m. on January 2nd. A car service picks me up at the airport and deposits me at the hotel where I will pop an Ambien (thank you Dr. Bonner) and wake up the next day when my travel companion Jason joins me after his independent trek through the northwestern part of the country. After a day of Delhi we'll head to Agra and the Taj Mahal, and then in a day or so, travel to Varanasi, where we apparently have a super-deluxe room overlooking the Ganges. Then it's back to Delhi for a couple of nights. I leave Sunday, January 11 (my 29th birthday) at 11:35 p.m.

I can't wait to fill in that itinerary with stories and photos.

Have you been to this part of India? What do you recommend? What don't you recommend?

thankful tuesdays: india prep edition

Hard to believe I'm leaving in just a few weeks!

  • I can't say it enough...thanks to HMOm for giving me a boost for the prep costs. As you will see below, the costs of my immunizations were drastically reduced, but HMOm told me to put the money toward travel insurance and my visa.
  • Thanks to Dr. Bonner, the doctor at the Aurora Travel Clinic. He advised that I did not need one of the shot series I'd been calculating in, so I only had to go back to him yesterday and now I'm set for the trip.
  • Thanks to my travel buddy Jason who made all of our hotel reservations yesterday.
  • Thanks to my co-workers who are putting up with all my India chatter.
  • In non-India news, thanks to Maribeth for going to Eurydice with me on Sunday.
  • Thanks to all the friends I caught up with last week. Courtney and Maggie for a lovely dinner at Transfer last Wednesday, followed by Brooke, Craig, Neil, Kelly and Becky at Craig's birthday party. The symphony crew on Thursday. Sharon, Margaret and Monica at Hotel Metro on Friday.
  • Thanks to Larissa for making sure I've been up and at 'em the past two mornings.
What are you thankful for this week?

30 by 30: back again baby

Same workout as yesterday, but like I said, I'm easing into it.

Tomorrow is the dreaded Spin class. I was keen on watching them today to pump (freak) myself up (out). According to the schedule Kelly is the instructor, who I really like and who generally does enough of a balanced work out that there are parts where I shouldn't want to keel over. Of course, there are a lot of climbs. I hate climbs.

I'm thinking next week I'm going to start trying the different morning classes, and then after that start mixing in the conditioning stuff I was doing before.

I debated giving myself Tuesday/Thursdays off, but I think temptation takes hold to easily then. Plus, getting up at 5 a.m. gives me a really good reason not to go out and to go home early. After Creative Council last night, it was off to home for me -- no beers needed :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

monday munchies: nice knowing you fresh produce

Exciting as it is that I sent in my 2009 CSA app to Rare Earth Farm today, it's saddening that I have picked up my last delivery for the season. We get one more next week and then a long, canned, frozen, and non-locally produced Winter.

But not until June will I see a scene like this on my counter:

From Cooking with Meghan

No more fresh spinach and radish salads (although there will always be mozzarella to top off):

From Cooking with Meghan

Goodbye Kale and Potato Gratin:

From Cooking with Meghan

Squash willing, I could have more Spicy Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup, but likely not topped with fresh cilantro:

From Cooking with Meghan

Most of my winter meals will probably look more like this, thank goodness for frozen homemade pesto:

From Cooking with Meghan

understanding the underworld: eurydice at the milwaukee rep

As promised last night, here's my take on Eurydice which is playing at the Milwaukee Rep through Sunday.

I am a huge fan of quirky. The majority of the time quirky, convoluted storytelling -- especially in film or on stage -- will automatically get my endorsement. Occasionally this can be done in annoying, poor way, fortunately in Eurydice by Sara Ruhl it is not.

Ruhl draws upon the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology as a foundation to set her entirely original play. As Shakespeare did with others, Ruhl takes liberties with this myth, adding in the character of Eurydice's father and repurposing the Erinyes (The Erinyes often stood for the rightness of things within the standard order) as "The Stones." The Stones attempt to maintain order in the Underworld, although become increasingly frustrated as the main characters Eurydice, her father and eventually Orpheus refute their demands.

The added character of Eurydice's father adds an extra dimension the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice's rather simple love story. One could argue it almost brought an Electra complex into the play. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, in Jean-Paul Sartre's play The Flies, the Erinyes (who represent remorsefulness--"The Stones" in this play) chase Orestes and Electra for the murder of their mother. No idea if that's just coincidence, but I'm thinking it is not.

What really made this play stand out for me was the exploration of the spatial relationships between life and death. Both the "alive" and "dead" characters co-existed on the stage. There were no set changes, the "above" world easily became the Underworld and back again. A stream on the beach became the River Styx. What I got from this bouncing back and forth between worlds was that the dead can be alive, and the alive can be dead. At the beginning of the play, when Eurydice's father was "dead" (and the other two characters were alive and kicking) he seemed alive because he held out hope for his daughter and was actively involved in following her life. Later, when Eurydice died, Orpheus, although alive in the above world, seemed "dead" due to his immense grief.

The concept of Memory and memories also played a large role in the play. Ruhl expands on the idea that the River Styx washes away the recollection of one's former life when one enters the Underworld. With the character of Eurydice's father she asks "what if someone wasn't fully washed?" Would they remember? He has to keep secret what he has retained from mortality, so as to not be washed again, more thoroughly. The father also teaches his daughter to remember after she joins him in the Underworld. Ruhl argues that even if someone is supposed to be programmed to forget, that human connection is stronger than any magical river and will draw out the memories.

For Orpheus, alive, the memories of Eurydice are what compells him to find a way to the Underwold to rescue her. The massive failure of that attempt (presented by Ruhl as a mutual fault -- his by turning around, but now hers by calling out to him) sets in motion a series of events that use both the aforementioned spatial relationships and importance of memory to set up an utterly tragic ending to Ruhl's interpretation of the myth.

Lest you think this is just another Greek tragedy, let me assure you that it certainly has its lighthearted and yes, quirky, moments. The Stones are a fantastic interpretation of the Greek Chorus, they are as creepy, yet uncomfortably funny, as the Bard's use of the modern chorus in the Witches in Macbeth. The Lord of the Underworld (played by the fabulous Wayne T. Carr, who was also in Love's Labour's Lost) in each scene represented a separate bizarre version of The Devil. Plus, the characters entrance, to what I believe was a Judas Priest song, was one of the best orchestrated comedic scenes I've ever encountered at the Rep. The elements of the Underworld were all designed to be "just a little off" from what should be in the real world. The set design captured the quirky essence of the play just beautifully.

A final beautiful quirky element in the play was the use of music (apart from the just plain funny aforementioned entrance scene). The wedding music for Orpheus and Eurydice drifted into the Underworld for her father to enjoy. The father carried around a small tape recorder from which he played haunting instrumental tunes. And ultimately, as in the myth, Orpheus burst into the Underworld on the notes of a song. Although any song could've been used, the director (or perhaps Ruhl) selected a wonderful modern piece (that I know I know and can't place, but it sounded like Sigur Ros or something along those lines) and the wondrous way that the scene plays out -- well you just have to go catch it by Sunday!

As I mentioned before, I love the slightly offbeat. If I had to make a "if you like x, you'll love Eurydice" comparison here, my definite go-to would be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Especially regarding the exploration of the importance of memory.

Alternately, my friend Maggie (who didn't care for the play) thought it reminded her somewhat of Labyrinth. But, she said it may just be that she equated the Lord of the Underworld summoning The Stones to Ludo (who apparently has a fansite) calling boulders. Regardless of whether Ruhl intended that comparison, I did promise Maggie that for her feedback I would include a picture of Bowie in spandex within this post.

Have you seen Eurydice? What were your thoughts? Any other good plays showing right now that I should catch?

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