Tuesday, March 31, 2009

call to action: miller lite ride for the arts

If you know me, you know I love my bicycle. Once I made the conscious decision to not have a car, my bicycle became one of my best friends. Every spring, as the snow begins to melt I start daydreaming of peddling aimlessly for hours on a sunny day through Milwaukee's beautiful parks and bike trails. I even rode late into the season this year, participating in one of the most fun bike events of my life.

Why such growing enthusiasm for pedal pushing?

Last June I did something I doubted I would be able to do so early in the season: I rode 50 miles for the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts. Some people say that their butt hurts just thinking about doing that -- luckily I have padded shorts. Why did I "torture" myself before a full summer of riding? Because living in Wisconsin I can only bike part of the year, but I can enjoy the performing arts year 'round thanks to the generosity of the United Performing Arts Fund.

I am a proud season ticket holder for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and I try to catch a Milwaukee Rep production at least one or two times a year. I am always open to checking out any performance around town by the many innovative arts groups UPAF funds.

As an adult I enjoy the performing arts, but I would not have this love for them if it had not been instilled in me as a child. Granted I came from an art-friendly home, but I also had the opportunity to experience arts groups in the many communities I lived in as a child. I did not grow up in Milwaukee, but I believe increased exposure the arts is one of the critical solutions to the educational crises we face in this city.

We all know it's a bad economy and unfortunately it does not look like another WPA is in the cards to solve this. Arts funding is being cut and even UPAF itself has reduced its fundraising goal this year. That's why I am committing myself to INCREASING my personal fundraising goal this year. I am shooting to raise $1000 for the performing arts in Milwaukee (I find this appropriate as well, because I am riding with the FUEL Milwaukee team, a group that in its several incarnations, has exposed me not only to arts groups, but some of my best friends who are also arts-minded people). At first the number seems daunting, but when I realize that I have nearly 350 Facebook friends, asking less than a third of them, 100 people at $10 each, puts the goal in perspective.

Will you fund my $20/mile goal?

Donating through the First Giving site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.

Many thanks for your support -- and don't forget to forward the site to anyone who you think might want to donate too!

I just got my bike back today from Cory the Bike Fixer. I look forward to posting ride AND fundraising updates here.

milwaukee props: marquette madness

Even though we were knocked out in the second round, I have to hand it to my alma mater, Marquette, for landing us on a pretty impressive Top 5 list.

From CNN.com's Great College Basketball Towns to Visit:

4. Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There is no football team at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That means students and alumni are even more dedicated to the men's basketball team, they say.

Marquette may be a Jesuit university with just over 11,000 students, but it boasts one of the highest attendance rates at basketball games in the country. Students at Marquette don't pitch tents like at Duke, but the games are so popular, some will bring their sleeping bags 10 hours before the game to get the best seat in the house

"It's such a great feeling to know you can walk anywhere in the city when you have a Marquette shirt on a basketball day and people will talk to you about basketball," said Sarah Dembkowski, a sophomore at the university. "It gives this city a bonding feeling."

Although the West region No. 6-seeded Golden Eagles lost to the University of Missouri in the tournament last week, a trip to the Bradley Center, where the Marquette men's basketball team plays (and where the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks play) is well worth the visit.

Marquette students, called the Superfans, are famous for their peculiar behavior, dressing up in costumes to support their team and distracting opponents with oversized cutouts of celebrities' heads.

On campus are several bars, including the Union Annex, that tout cheap beer pitchers and food specials for fans. Just several blocks from the university is downtown Milwaukee. On Water Street, where most of the fans crowd on game day, visitors can hang with the locals and enjoy a hub of sports bars, taverns and restaurants.

Of course real fans go to Hooligan's .

thankful tuesdays: holy tickets batman

I am thankful this week for Maribeth convincing me to get us U2 tickets for the Soldier Field concert on September 12.

I am thankful for the Ticketmaster gods for allowing us to get through on yesterday. Apparently 65,000 tickets sold out instantaneously.

I hope I can have the same luck getting Lollapalooza presale tickets today.

I am NOT thankful for Ticketmaster fees being higher than the cost of one ticket. I feel like it will now be Mar, Meghan and our Imaginary Free Friend rocking out in September. I am also NOT thankful that big sales are no longer held on Saturdays. I think it's a lot to ask for people to take time out of their work day to buy/stress out about tickets. Not everybody has iPhones and a lot of people have strict internet rules at work. Isn't this discrimination against the employed?

Monday, March 30, 2009

my little slice of the twilight zone

A couple of weeks ago I was at a dinner party and everyone was telling ghost stories. Although I know I have a bunch from childhood (I was a weird kid and super into the occult--yeah, I know, whatever), I could not think of any.

Well, I got served a double-whammy last night.

Thought I had insomnia last night, but it was super weird. I was tossing and turning and I had a super strong Kat sense. Like I needed to talk to her. But she doesn't really have a phone. I finally crawled out of bed and was going to email her to see if all was right.

And then her blog popped up on my reader and said that yesterday would've been Andy's (her late boyfriend who died in a freak accident a few years back) 30th birthday. So then I was like DANG! and got major goosebumps. I went on Gmail to email her, but she was online!!! So we had a good chat, but until like 1 AM. She is okay, but it was helpful to talk to me. She'd been thinking of me too at that time. We both agreed that it was pretty weird, but when you've been best friends for almost 15 years maybe you just tune into one another.

This morning I was going to let myself sleep in because of the late night, and hit the gym tomorrow. But I started having extremely troubling dreams about my great-uncle who has never gotten over his wife's death (he is in his late 80s, they never had kids, etc). I finally woke up because the dreams were so upsetting (don't really remember them, but they were awful). When I awoke I realized that Aunt Mary either died or her funeral was EXACTLY 5 years ago this week

The thought of my dead friends and relatives visiting me at night is a bit disturbing. If my brother's dead roommate, Sean, stops by anytime soon I'm gonna be pissed or my Grampy whose five year death anniversary is in about 3 weeks.

I emailed my mom to call and check on her uncle. Hopefully the spirits will stop bugging me now. Even psychics need to sleep!

monday munchies: old favorites

While I'm chomping at the bit for my CSA to start up (just got an email that I'm in for the egg share!), sometimes an old favorite can tide you over.

Exactly what happened tonight when I was about to start boiling noodles (although I broke a bowl and glass, which sort of killed my mood to be in the kitchen) -- Jane called and asked if I wanted to go grab some Lulu. Although I am totally exhausted, I couldn't pass up a chance to catch up with one of my best friends nor indulge in an East Indian Chicken Pita and half-and-half (asian slaw and house chips with bleu cheese). Mmmmm. Perfection.

Skipped the pie, since I skipped the gym this morning, but it was a fun bite to grab!

Thanks Jane!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

sunday catch up: randomness

I completely owe so many posts, I have been a slacker. But I had the most randomly epic weekend, so a lot of fodder. Hopefully I'll get something of value up this week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

thankful tuesdays: film forging ahead

Awhile back I posted my frustration with Wisconsin film incentives being cut from the proposed budget. I'm happy to report that the movement is forging ahead to reinstate them, but your voice still needs to be heard.

In addition to joining the Facebook cause, writing your politicians, and signing an online petition, if you have time during the day (nothing frustrates me more than "public" meetings during business hours!!!) you can attend an info session Wednesday, March 25 to give your input.

Today the Milwaukee Business Journal reports that "The co-chair of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has told WisPolitics.com that there is enough support among committee members to keep tax credit incentives for the film industry in the state budget." Thank you State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) for the hope!

And yesterday JSOnline mentioned Wisconsin actors are stepping up to the plate on the incentive. Thank you Jane Kaczmarek, Bradley Whitford and Tony Shaloub!

More good news in the Wisconsin Film world is that Milwaukee Film has finally set dates for when it is bringing film festival back to Milwaukee. Mark your calendars for September 24-October 4, 2009.

Even cooler, you can become a member of the Founder's Club by donating a measly $100. In the words of Milwaukee Film:

Since our first event last October, we’ve been hearing how excited everyone is to see the return of a major international film festival to Milwaukee. People have told us how much this event means to them, and often asked, “How can I help?” The Milwaukee Film Founders’ Club is here for just that. By donating, you are doing your part to ensure that the festival you love thrives.

Please consider becoming part of the Milwaukee Film Founders' Club by donating $100 to support us at this important start-up time. Your Founders' Club membership will bring you …
  • A cool, limited-edition, eco-friendly Milwaukee Film T-shirt. Our designs are by artists who are known nationally but work locally.
  • Drawings exclusive to Founders’ Club members -- including festival tickets and fun items from our partners -- throughout our founding year.
  • Special recognition in the film festival program book, including your name on our Founders’ Club “Wall of Fame.”
  • In addition, the first five people to make cash donations will each receive a pair of tickets to the “Monday Night at the Movies” film of their choice, so act now!
This is a critical phase for our organization. As a start-up during a tough economic climate for everyone, fund-raising beyond corporate and foundation support is a pressing necessity, especially since ticket sales don’t cover all of our costs. In fact, if we only relied on ticket sales, each seat at the festival would cost upwards of $25.

To support the inaugural Milwaukee Film Festival, please click here. The form you find will also give you the opportunity to volunteer, share your thoughts about our organization, or participate in other ways.
I was lucky enough to jump on the offer and will be attending an upcoming Monday Night at the Movies. It took about two seconds to "found," so get clicking!
Blogger now allows me to text blog? Hmmm.

Monday, March 23, 2009

monday munchies: basketball food

If you are smart, and I believe you are, you've likely guessed that I haven't spent much time in the kitchen lately.

While the majority of the food I ate this weekend wasn't the healthiest, I did succeed in a couple culinary adventures.

I ate child-friendly food on Saturday, which was a first for me since possibly my babysitting years. My friend Michelle brought her adorable kids, Ally and Owen, downtown for a playdate. We had all sorts of healthy veggies to dip in "Wild Tomato Hummus Dip." See I just need a mom to cut up peppers, carrots, broccoli and celery (or SELLRY SELLRY SELLRY!!! as Owen kept singing) for me. Michelle also brought a selection of fancy cheeses from Sendik's for the grown ups to enjoy -- veggie colby, stout cheddar and good ol' brie. Delicious with Kashi crackers!

I grabbed an iced mocha from Espresso Christoph on my way back from the Cathedral Square to get energy for my afternoon of March Madness.

Of course, I negated the healthy snacks, by promptly heading out to Hooligan's on Saturday afternoon, where I enjoyed a Bloody Mary (or two), some Strongbow, various Lakefront Brewery products and a Spotted Cow somewhere in there too while watching a solid seven hours of college basketball. I repeated the same liquid menu on Sunday, but to a lesser extent, although my beloved Marquette's loss called for some unplanned sorrow-drowning.

Hooligan's does have pretty tasty food, and over the course of the weekend I indulged in chicken tenders (with a healthier option of a side salad in lieu of french fries), and split some orders of nachos, spinach and artichoke dip (with divine garlic bread!) and mozzarella marinara. Thank goodness I don't watch sports incessantly throughout the year.

I did have a brief respite from the artery-cloggers yesterday when my friend Kim and I decided to check out The National, a new coffee shop on National Avenue. My friend Wren recommended this place, and I'm grateful for that. Not only was the place adorable, but their food and beverage was delicious. I had a mocha and a bowl of very unique Tomato Walnut Pesto soup. Tasty! This joint plays excellent tunes and is really into supporting local artists and local food suppliers. Now that my bike is getting its yearly tune up at Cory the Bike Fixers, I foresee a ride there in the near future.

Of course I was back on the greasewagon tonight, as I am at the tail end of my paycheck (much of which went to March Madness beverages) and had a coupon for a free Culver's value basket thanks to Twitter. I had their blackened chicken sandwich, fries and a lemonade. Delish!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

rough day

marquette and badger losses.

lots of $$$ spent at hooligan's.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

march madness

I'm not dead, just engulfed in college basketball.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

music madness: the hazard of the hazards of love

St. Patrick's Day this year had an extra level of awesomeness added to it.

The Decemberists new album, The Hazards of Love, became available on iTunes.

Go, download it NOW. Give it a listen

Back? Did you just listen once? If so, you're not doing it right. You see, the "hazard" is that you're pretty much not going to stop listening to this album for the next month. Possibly, actually, the rest of your life.

As much fun as I had with my friends last night at Paddy's, I was just a little sad that I was pounding back the Guinness and Harp instead of filling my ears with audio ecstasy.

A few months ago I'd found out from Pitchfork that "The Decemberists' New Album Is Totally a Rock Opera" and I got fairly excited. Then I found out that two of my favorite female vocalists, Becky Sharp from Lavender Diamond and moreso, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (pretty much my favorite female singer out there), were going to be guest vocalists, and got more excited. That was followed by extreme jealousy that my friends Brooke and Craig were going to see the full performance of said opera at South by Southwest. I then got VERY excited to procure tickets for the band's tour which is hitting the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee.

Now, on the fifth listen of this album, I have reached a level beyond excitement to see it performed live.

To be fair, I need to lock myself in a room, not multitasking and listen to the whole thing straight through to truly describe it to you. Right now my favorite tracks (but DON'T listen track-by-track...it's an ALBUM) are the two versions of "The Wanting Comes in Waves," "A Bower Scene," "Annan Water" and "The Queens Rebuke." Actually any songs with the character of the Queen, played by Worden, who seriously rocks this album. Colin Meloy's storytelling has never been in better form and the band's rocking has never been either.

I hopefully can give you a better musical analysis soon, but for now, I just wanted to point out the hazard of this album being un-put-downable.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

thankful tuesdays: happy st. patty's

Just a quick thanks to all my friends in Milwaukee and Chicago that made St. Patrick's Day 2009 a memorable one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

globetrotting: vfw "kroake" in wicker park

As I mentioned, I went to Chicago for the weekend. There is much to be blogged, but I'll give you a tidbit now.

After an evening visiting various apartments in Wicker Park., my host suggested we might stop into the VFW Post a block from his house for one beer. Apparently my friend and roommates hang out there occasionally for a low-key evening. As we approached though, we saw flashing disco lights and heard Cher pounding out onto the street. I was intrigued.

My friend looked at me and shrugged "You wanna check it out?"


We opened the door and a large group of people looked at us and stopped talking.

"Is this a private party?" my friend asked.

"NOT ANYMORE!" said the flamboyant man in a purple hoodie, who hopped down from his barstool to welcome us to Karoake night (actually it was spelled "Kroake," and no one's exactly sure why. It may have something to do with the fact that the old hippie dude running it drove up nightly from Peru, Illinois).

How was there popular karaoke at a VFW post in Wicker Park? Well apparently it was a slow/empty karaoke (for vets??) for awhile, until this group invaded. Where did they come from? The gay bar up the street that also has Friday night karaoke, but it gets really competitive and crowded, so some internet research turned up this secret spot for them to get their Cher on weekly.

I'm not quite sure if the highlights transfer to the general PG-rating I've given this blog, but it was unbelievable. I have a new BFF named Richard who was my duet partner for "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "I Love Rock N Roll." My name is also now "Rebecca" because the group has a friend that looks like me and they decided they were just going to call me that for the evening.

I don't have any photo evidence, but you'll have to take my word for it that this was the most awesome thing to happen to me since the random Latin Dance Palace Drag Show in Toronto. My friend and I were both terribly hungover on Saturday morning and if not for that fact, would not have believed the evening actually occurred.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

social media madness: accidental hiatus

I will be going to Chicago this weekend for my first trip out of state since I returned from India. The last time I was there was pretty fun, so look for updates after Sunday.

And yes, it's still the SEARS tower to me.

I look forward to buying a "Whatchu Talkin' Bout Willis?" t-shirt off the street.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

milwaukee props: consolidated elections

Dan Cody has a great blog post up about why Wisconsin should consolidate elections.

It really is a "no-brainer" when you think about the fact that there truly are no "non-partisan" politicians in this state--or at least Milwaukee--even those holding "non-partisan" positions. I encourage you to follow Dan's advice and contact Sen. Jim Holperin who is behind this movement. I just did.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

thankful tuesdays: economy edition

People are excited about the Dow closing up today. I guess I am too, if that's what it takes to get the nation out of funk.

No, in all seriousness, I'm so thankful to have not just a job, but more-or-less my dream job, right now. I'm thankful to be working in an emerging industry. I'm thankful not to be at my former employers any more, not just because I was seriously unhappy, but because both of them have experienced layoffs.

I'm thankful that I live in Milwaukee where thanks to the seismic industry shifts this place has experienced over the years, there's not a stigma to being unemployed. There's also an innate thriftiness to the culture and your dollar lasts longer here.

I'm thankful that I have the support of wonderful friends and family.

Thank you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

monday munchies: post-chili coma

Maribeth, Ben and Becky pre-coma.

Sunday marked one of my favorite days of the year -- WMSE's Rockabilly Chili Contest.

There were 53 chili recipes to vote for, narrowed down to 19 for me in the vegetarian category. I did scope a couple poultry-meat chilis so ventured into that category slightly.

It seemed this year I couldn't turn anywhere in the past week without hearing about the event, so to no surprise it was packed.

Luckily packed = successful, which meant one of my favorite Milwaukee organizations ended up raising $32,000. Rock on!

So which chilis did I try?

Brewed Café (tasty and my pick for Best Display), Fuel Café (mmm--my pick for best vegetarian), Koppa's Fulbeli Deli (the last one I ate, was too full to judge), Maxie's Southern Comfort (the first one I tried and excellent cornbread), Outpost Natural Foods (turkey chili, was a little bland for my tastes, but the cilantro sour cream rocked), Roots Restaurant & Cellar (not a big fan, but great name -- Seitan's Balls), Good Life (hot! hot! hot! best heat for me) and Flannery's (white bean and chicken, my vote for best meat--but my field was extremely limited).

Flannery's chili.

Mar and Maxie's delicious cornbread. I really want to eat there!

Although we all nearly died of a chili coma afterward, it was well worth the rainy afternoon trip to the Kern Center. Unfortunately due to daylight savings and the weather (oh, and probably my hangover), I did not make it to church in the morning. After the event it was out of the question. I worshiped at the House of Chili this week, and that's okay with me. Some of the concoctions were truly divine.

I'll be back next year. And hopefully get a better picture of the world's best mullet then!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

resoluting: march

Pretty successful so far in the March resolution: unplug phone charger when not in use.

Continuing February's and January's resolutions as well, as best I can.

January's: Don't go to bed with dishes on the sink. February's: use the stairs at work, unless carrying something heavy.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

WTFisconsin: pedestrian peeves

You'd expect living in a major second-tier city that you wouldn't have to fear for your life or your convenience walking through it's streets. Unfortunately sometimes I run into that. This week was one of those times.

Those who follow me on twitter may have seen my upset tweet on Tuesday:

Just had THREE CARS cut me off in the crosswalk at van buren and wells. Car 3 caught my wrathh [sic--hey, i was typing from a cell phone after almost dying]

I then asked for folks to give me their scariest intersections and I found that others share my fears. Some comments from twitter and facebook:
  • Oakland and locust
  • ogden and astor. it's a four-way stop, but nobody can figure out who should go first, esp. when there are pedestrians.
  • E. North Ave. and N. Farwell Ave.
  • crossing St. Paul on the west side of Water
  • how about Capitol Dr. - and any side street. As for Milwaukee - anything near the PAC.
  • Brady/Farwell/Oakland
We shouldn't have to live in fear. Drivers please LOOK IN THE CROSSWALK for people before you hit the gas pedal. It's best for both of us.

Yesterday I ran into a couple of frustrating, but not deadly, obstacles.

First, the city is doing some maintenance to the Riverwalk. Fantastic! However, it's completely closed on the eastside of the river just past John Hawk's Pub. One would expect there to be a sign at the entrance to this section of the walk at Wisconsin Avenue to give people the head's up that if they are using this as a pedestrian thruway (because would you really want to go look at the dirty, melting river right now?) they can't can't through. Uh, well that didn't happen. Instead I got to this:

Really? Closed? You don't say. Maybe the fact that there are big boards blocking the way I'd figure that out. You know what would have been better? Putting that warning up BEFORE I walked an unnecessary 500 ft.

My second annoyance came in the form of navigating through the mudflats at the Cathedral Square sidewalk. Unfortunately during the winter these are never cleared sheets of sheer ice. Spring isn't much better. I'm guessing it's the county that is responsible for clearing, so I have one more thing to blame He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (but you can guess that his last name doesn't mean he is one!) for:

Yes, that is my shoe sucked into a swamp. Lovely.

One other peeve I had walking home was wondering why there were a bunch of creepy looking middle-aged suburbany white guys lurking around downtown with zombified looks in their eyes. Then I remembered this creepy conservative conference was here this weekend. *Shudder.* If you want to see a lot of white people, check out that last link.

Friday, March 6, 2009

happy friday

Has it been a long week for you?

Though I have a packed weekend, I'm keeping it rather low key, so hopefully you will see some updates in this space.

What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

milwaukee mysteries: some solved

Above is a crappy cell phone photo of the aforealluded to building next door in my Milwaukee Mysteries post.

Thanks to Michael Horne of the excellent MilwaukeeWorld for finding out this tidbit for me:

#1 Permit 816273 has been taken out on 802 N. Van Buren by owner Radovan Stojanovich for repairs. There is no record of a violation or enforcement letter.
Horne also identified #4 as Milwaukee Water Works. (What a gorgeous building though, wouldn't you agree?) He also dug up this about Saylece's: Saylece's is owned by Cary M McCoy of Jaycee Investments, and has a license that will expire in Feb, 2010. Still not quite sure what that is, and it's still a shame that the Commons closed.

Thanks for the feedback everyone, I think I'll keep the mysteries a'comin!

Stuff Your Face with Community Supported Agriculture and Radio

Any plans for the daylight hours on Saturday or Sunday? Check out these two inexpensive MILWAUKEE ROCKS options!

Saturday, March 7 from noon to 4 p.m.

I'm already signed up for a veggie share from Rare Earth again this year, but I'm curious to check out fruit, meat, flower and dairy shares they've added. I'll be heading over there around 1 p.m. on Saturday if anyone wants to go.
Sunday, March 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
MSOE Kern Center 1245 N Broadway – Milwaukee
$6 Admission; $1 per chili sample

Vote for your favorite meat and vegetarian chili from over 30 of the area’s best restaurants serving over 50 different chilis! Proceeds will benefit Community-Powered Independent Radio WMSE, 91.7 FM

This is THE place to be on Sunday, I promise you won't be disappointed. Come starving. I'm pretty much game to go at the start. I encourage going early so they don't run out.


THIS is why I struggle with the Catholic Church. From MSNBC.com:

Brazil girl, alleged rape victim, aborts twins
The procedure on the 9-year-old girl draws complaints from Catholic church

RIO DE JANEIRO - A 9-year-old girl who was carrying twins, allegedly after being raped by her stepfather, underwent an abortion Wednesday despite complaints from Brazil's Roman Catholic church.

Police said the stepfather has been jailed since last week.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil, but judges can make exceptions if the mother's life is in danger or the fetus has no chance of survival.

Fatima Maia, director of the public university hospital where the abortion was performed, said the 15-week-old pregnancy posed a serious risk to the 80-pound girl.

"She is very small. Her uterus doesn't have the ability to hold one, let alone two children," Maia told the Jornal do Brasil newspaper.

But Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a cesarean section.

"It's the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder," Miranda said in comments reported by O Globo.

Calls to Miranda were not immediately returned.

Brazil is home to more Catholics than any other nation.

Also, "alleged"?!?! Why do we even need to use the word in this case? Clearly if a nine-year-old girl is pregnant it's not by her own choosing. Okay, I understand maybe the "alleged" is director toward the stepfather being the criminal. So why can't they say "a nine-year-old girl who was raped, allegedly by her stepfather?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

milwaukee mysteries

A couple of Milwaukee mysteries I'm looking to have solved (perhaps I will post these after every episode of LOST):

1. What the hell happened to the building next door to my apartment? I believe the address would be something like 802 N. Van Buren.

View Larger Map

Anyway, it's that Cream City Brick building in the street view. I came home from work today and noticed that there's caution tape around the entrance, the stairs have collapsed and a big KEEP OUT sign was posted on the door. WTF? The lights are off over there tonight and we never could quite figure out what the building was, other than perhaps a rooming house for MSOE. At any rate, if you have any idea what is going on, leave a note in the comments please.

2. What's up with Riverwest Commons? There's a big sign on the outside that read's Saylece's? More of a mystery: How do you pronounce that? Vague message on MySpace page that says it's no longer a music club. What happened?

Riverwest Commons NOT around the corner?

3. Is this really what's left of the sinkhole? Really? I'm a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a weird glow.

4. What is this amazing building along the westside of the river just north of the Locust Street bridge? I've always wondered and got a good shot off on Saturday.

5. Why is there a lone, beat up East Town sign in front of the Newsroom Pub?

Again, if you have answers (or conspiracy theories) to any or all of these Milwaukee Mysteries, please leave your comments below.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

thankful tuesdays: 30 by 30: 1/3 there

I guess my dedication to Couch to 5k and home cooking is paying off. I went to the doctor today and found out I've lost 10 pounds since I was there last month for my illness of doom.

I kind of hit the "reset" button on my life in 2009 and I'm glad that I'm taking it in a positive direction.

I am really thankful that I've been able to stay focused and motivate myself to go to the gym and moderate my junk food and booze intake. I'm really thankful for my friends who have been supportive of my efforts and my mom who has set me up with all the appliances I need for success. Special thanks to Becky who will be my CSA buddy this year and to Lars who is my virtual gym buddy.

Speaking of CSAs! If you want to be thankful for them this summer (and trust me you will be), check this out:

Saturday, March 7 from noon to 4 p.m.
Urban Ecology Center CSA and Local Food Open House
I'm already signed up for a veggie share from Rare Earth again this year, but I'm curious to check out fruit, meat, flower and dairy shares they've added. I'll be heading over there around 1 p.m. on Saturday if anyone wants to go.

Monday, March 2, 2009

monday munchies: in the kitchen with meghan

Because I generally only show you photos of the final product, like this amazing modified chicken tetrazinne I attempted last week,

I decided to take photos while I made my Red Lentil Potage soup yesterday.

Look! I chop veggies:

I heat them up in a pot:

Even add stock (homemade chicken stock -- you really can make those rotisserie birds last forever):

Blend the heated product (I really think it's time for a hardcore blender and food processor):

And serve it to my grateful self!:

Thanks to that trip to Shiraz Persian Grill, I also made myself some hummus. Mmm-mmm good!

What have you made lately?

monday munchies: shiraz persian grill

In between my quest to the Martin Luther King Library and visitation to Atomic Records and Schwartz (post coming later this week, too depressed after Atomic farewell), I wandered up Locust Street and found myself with some time to eat.

Not finding anything to my liking on the Locust strip in Riverwest, I turned north when I hit Oakland and opted for Shiraz Persian Grill. I'd been to their now-closed location in Wauwatosa (now Juniper 61, which I highly recommend), but hadn't ever eaten at what I believe is the original spot by the UWM campus.

I'm glad I stopped in.

Unlike the other location, this is much more deli like. You get to choose an entree, a rice and two sides. I selected the Chicken Koobideh plate, with raisin rice, hummus and falafel. The woman behind the counter highly recommended this dish, and I wasn't disappointed in the flavor at all. The texture took a little getting used to (it's ground chicken, reformed into a strip), but it was delicious on the warm pita surrounded by the raisin rice, which had sweet spices dancing on my tongue. The hummus was a little too runny for my liking, although it tasted alright (it did inspire me to make my own thicker homemade hummus yesterday). The real winner of the lunch selection was the falafel.

I'm a falafel snob, so I usually wind up disappointed. However, I honestly think the falafel at Shiraz is a culinary gateway to Heaven. The outside of the ball was crispy, but not burnt, and subtly spiced, just how it should be. You bit in and the inside melted in your mouth. I think an orchestra played with every bite.

I had leftover of everything else, but not the falafel. In fact, even though I'm full right now I could eat about 10 of those succulent snacks.

I washed it all down, by the way, with a fantastic lemongrass tea (they gave me a cup full of raw honey to add to it too), which I ended up spilling on the floor at Atomic.

milwaukee props: farewell atomic records

Dear Atomic Records,

You used to intimidate me, I'm not gonna lie. Back when I was a tragically unhip college student, slowly learning the ropes of indie rock from my older boyfriend (who I distinctly remember lining up outside your doors to buy Kid A while I sat in his apartment studying), I was a bit wary of walking into you alone. We broke up and there was some time where I was insulated from the eastside, but learning about alt.country from my drinking buddy and Pitchfork from my co-worker.

When I bought my record player in 2002, my co-worker took me back through your doors and I purchased a used copy of More Songs About Buildings and Food by The Talking Heads from you. I didn't buy anything new on vinyl because I was a bit nervous about choosing poorly.

At some point over the past seven years I stopped being nervous. I found my own groove in Milwaukee's eastside and discovered places to hear music. From clubs like Onopa/Stonefly and Mad Planet to radio stations like WMSE and Radio Milwaukee to the incredible Pabst Theater group to music festivals in Milwaukee and Chicago to local online fanzines, I morphed into a timid listener to an active music consumer. One of my fondest music purchase memories is buying Funeral the day the vinyl came out and delicately holding it as I biked home.

Of course I'd love to say that I was independently wealthy and spent all my money buying hard copies of music at Atomic Records. Alas, that's not the case. Please forgive me for getting music online and borrowing from friends. I didn't know it was going to kill you. I know my visits to you were pretty sporadic, increasing in the past year or so when I could pop in and buy tickets for Pabst shows from you as well. Seemed like things were going okay. I wish I could've done more.

It was pretty surreal walking through your doors on Saturday (with my aforementioned alt.country drinking buddy and his equally musically knowledgable wife) and knowing it would be the last time. I'm sorry I knocked over my tea on your floor. I'm sorry I couldn't buy every amazing 45, LP, CD and poster I spotted amongst your treasures. I'm sorry if I didn't fully represent your customer base when I gave a soundbite to the woman from WUWM interviewing people (yes, I did have a Culture Club album on the top of my stack -- it was only $2!). I'm sorry I couldn't single handedly save the independent record industry.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see an in-store at Atomic. It sucks that it takes your closing to make me realize that I need to seize upon more of the cool underground things going on in this town and not waste half my years fretting about if I'm hip enough to go to them. It sucks that I realized that a little too late about you.

You'll be missed.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

milwaukee challenges: a trip to the martin luther king library

On the last day of February, I squeaked in part two of one of my self-issued challenges for the year.

To refresh: I'm talking about Milwaukee Challenge #1: Read my way through Milwaukee's Public Libraries, in which I pledged to obtain my 12 books--for an online "Support Your Local Library" challenge--each from a different branch of the city's libraries. Even though the official challenge doesn't have a "one-per-month" limit, that's how I've elected to pace myself.

You may recall last month I visited the East Library. Although I'd originally selected Rabbit, Run by John Updike as my book of the month, I gave up. I'm sorry but it's incredibly rare that I just don't get into a book, but this was one. And you always feel bad when it's supposed to be "important" literature. But crap, man, I really, really, really dreaded having to pick this sucker back up every time I closed it for the day. I got about halfway through and after conversing with a friend about it, who had pretty much the exact same opinion as I, I realized it was okay to let go. Maybe I'm not fully embracing my English major, but I need books with plot or at least where the external internal dialogue doesn't make me want to punch the main character. Yeah, yeah, I understand the anti-hero, but this was too the extreme. Sorry if anybody thinks I'm less intelligent now.

Conversely, I sped through another book I grabbed from the "new fiction" shelf--A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar. This was a funny and poignant story of both the Islamic female and American immigrant experience. I loved it. Couldn't put it down, in fact. I'm anxious to check out Jarrar's other works.

Though I'm still working on It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways and the Search for the Next American Music by Amanda Petrusich, I made myself get to the Martin Luther King branch yesterday before the close of the month.

Located at Martin Luther King and Locust Street, the King library looks a lot like the East library from the outside--squat, post-modern architecture.

The inside, however, couldn't be more different. Although the building opened in 1971, the inside is fully modernized. It's bright and sunny and has many modern computer terminals. It's got a cute little children's area and a nice area for young adults. There were actually a few kids there studying on a Saturday. Great to see in this part of the city!

I didn't see a "Librarian's Choice" display, but I did notice their "African-American Collection which includes both current and historical works of fiction and non-fiction reflecting African-American life and culture." From this I selected my "book of the month": Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston. I also found a book called The History of Black Catholics in the United States by Cyprian Davis. I'm not sure if I'll get through it, but I figured it may help with my other challenge. And in the "one of these things is not like the other" category, I happened to pass by Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits while walking through the shelves, so I picked that up too.

Learning my lesson again to read up before I visit places, I missed a couple features of note at this library:
…an African American Archives collection that focuses on local African American history and persons.

… a sizable collection of permanent art, some pertaining to Dr. King, and a unique accordion book by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. which contains Dr. King’s most noted quotations and adinkra symbols associated with the Ashanti people.

...NewRecently reinstalled photo exhibit titled: Milwaukee Leaders. Originally introduced in 1989 as “Black Role Models in Milwaukee,” the Milwaukee Leaders collection honors those chosen by members of the community as exemplifying strong role models for their own generation and for those that follow.

There were no newsletters for me to pick up this time, but I did take the time to walk through the neighborhood up Locust on my way to bid adieu to Atomic Records. I will post on that adventure in the coming week.

At the recommendation of my friend Angie, next month's library will be the Villard Avenue Branch. It's Women's History Month, so I'll try to fit with that theme.

lenting it up: first sunday of lent at st. ben's

Woke up early on this freezing cold Sunday morning to head over to St. Benedict the Moor parish for 10 AM mass to keep up with the momentum on the Milwaukee Challenge: Church Edition. Caught a Route 12 soon after arriving at Wisconsin Avenue and hopped off at 12th and State to walk the couple blocks down to 9th.

When I was a Marquette student I vaguely recall folks encouraging us to go check out St. Ben's. I never did. I know it was a "hot spot" for the Midnight Run program, but I never had time to volunteer there (believe it or not, I did Midnight Run at St. James at 7 in the morning freshman year). The church has an extremely interesting history and plays a very important role in administering peace and justice in the Milwaukee community. Here's a little from their website:
For 100 years, St Benedict the Moor has affirmed and welcomed a rich variety of persons, especially the disenfranchised of our society. This welcoming of the unwelcomed permeates our diversity of ministries.

In 1908 St Benedict' s primary purpose was establishing a mission to serve the growing number of African Americans living in Milwaukee. Through the years a variety of services have been offered at St Benedict's. These included a parish committed to serving the spiritual needs of African American Catholics; a boarding elementary and high school, providing education and academic excellence to young African Americans; a community meal, supplying food on a daily basis to the homeless and hungry of Milwaukee; a clinic, furnishing quality health care to the homeless and uninsured population; and jail chaplaincy, meeting the physical, spiritual and psychological needs of Milwaukee County inmates.

The one constant over the years that permeates these ministries has been the affirmation given to all gathering at what is affectionately called St Ben's. People outside the mainstream of society are welcomed daily to some rest and a little bit of home.

I can definitely attest to the "rich variety of persons" there. The parishioners ranged from the NPR-crowd to students to African-American families to homeless or mentally ill folks that I recognized from volunteering at Open Door Café. The amazing thing about St. Ben's, and what I now understand to be why some of the more hippie-dippy campus ministry folks at MU loved it so, is that it truly does embrace all walks of life into its community.

I don't think I've ever been to a Catholic church like it. It reminded me of some of the evangelical churches I've been to with friends or relatives on occasion. They introduced/welcomed new members and visitors before mass started (I hid in the back), the Sign of the Peace lasted about 10 minutes (and you really couldn't hide, there were people with nametags that came around and wished peace to EVERYONE--one gentleman added "have a great week" onto the traditional "peace," why thank you I will!), they passed a mike around for the Prayers of the Faithful to anyone who raised their hand and it was mandatory to hold hands during the Our Father. If you are lost and trying to seek IMMEDIATE connection with a community I would very much encourage you to go to St. Ben's. You kinda can't walk out of their feeling unloved by your fellow "brothers and sisters"--yup, that's what they referred to their fellow parishioners as. I swear, this was a Catholic service!

And then there was "Captain." He got up (to use the restroom?) early into mass, returned to his seat, responded back during the homily and offered a lenghty and somewhat indecipherable prayer during the POTF (my hearing was shoddy during the service as I was next to a toddler and a very loud radiator). I believe I've seen this gentleman around town, perhaps even ranting and raving. He seems to be a fixture in the Church, but the way the pastor and other parishioners responded to his outbursts really showed me what a tolerant and welcoming place this was. During the SOP one of the nametag people genuinely hugged him and audibly said "I love you so much!" As a one-service observer, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if we all hugged and loved the marginalized members of our society -- I mean isn't that Christ's message at the very base? Shoot, even on a global level -- don't you think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might just need a hug?

Granted "Captain" made himself part of the service, but the church's diversity shone in the servers and readers participating in the service. Instead of the white, community-theatre dropouts who typically read at most parishes, both of the readers were Latino immigrants (and we blessed them before the service!) who delivered the readings in accents. One of the servers during the Eucharist I recognized as someone I've served volunteering -- today she proudly held the plate of the Body of Christ (which at St. Ben's is a full pita-bread that the priest breaks apart -- literally breaking bread! -- versus the typical wafer, unfortunately a big chunk of Jesus fell off into my cowl neck sweater and I had to subtly fish Him out before taking the Blood of Christ) for the pastor. Anyone want to explain to me if there is a difference? I could theorize that the pita bread is more filling, and perhaps an extension of their social ministry? I mean that not to sound ignorant or blasphemous, just thinking out loud.

As if the community acceptance hadn't hit home yet, during the POTF, a gentleman (very NPR-looking) who volunteers for the Jail Ministry read a prayer offered from an inmate incarcerated across the street (St. Ben's is situated between the county jail and another correctional facility). The prayer was simple, elegant, unselfish and moving and actually stirred up an involuntarily reflex to pray for this person behind the proxy. One final thing that struck me about the POTF, was the response. Generally I have always heard "Lord, hear our prayer." At St. Ben's it was very noticeably "God, hear our prayer." Any scholars out there want to explain this to me as well?

The interior of the church was extremely simple. It had clearly been renovated/gutted recently, as there were no fixed pews, but instead modern chairs and benches were situated to face the center of the church, so it was more like a town hall meeting than mass (surprise! more community!). Unlike the ornate decorations at Old Saint Mary Parish, the decoration was quite simple. The walls were all white, but that made the mural and statue at the altar stand out quite prominently, which of course was St. Benedict the Moor and his black followers. There were several simple stained glass windows (I ended up under St. Theresa of Avila and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha (who is a very interesting pre-saint -- I encourage you to read the Wikipedia link), which were lovely on a sunny day like today -- letting in lots of natural light. The tile floor (much nicer than OSM's blue carpet) also helped keep it bright and cheerful.

The readings for today were Genesis 9:8-15 (establishing the covenant with Noah) and 1 Peter 3:18-22 (prefigured baptism of those who died in Noah's flood -- I didn't even know this passage existed!). The Gospel was Mark 1:12-15 (wherein Jesus heads to the desert for 40 days -- hmmm, sounds familiar). Brother Jerry's homily compared the flood to today's troubled economic times (he did not hesitate in saying this is the Great Depression Part II) and focused on the importance of bonding together as a community to help those less fortunate keep hope through the flood. The Lenten takeaway was to use these 40 days to come to peace with one's self through self-reflection so that we will be strong enough to help others.

Although I expect to eventually run into parishes where I disagree with the homily, I can't say I've disagreed with anything I've heard so far in this experiment.

One thing that had been missing at Old St. Mary's (although it could've been due to the midweek, quickie mass) was music. St. Ben's obviously has a group of dedicated musicians (they even post for a Folk Music Sing-A-Long in the bulletin), including a pianist and a cellist. They have a huge organ in the back, but that was unused (at least today), but the cello was definitley unique.

I also observed that A LOT of self-reflection time was built into the service. There was time during the prayers at the beginning of the service and then a good chunk of time after communion. It was kind of nice and I felt I got a lot of quality one-on-one time in with the big guy. Boy, am I really grateful for all that I have! Honestly! Also, because of the modern design there were no kneelers, so I could really get lost in my prayer and not worry about stabbing pain in my knees.

The most impressive thing about this parish is it's dedication to community activism. The weekly bulletin is chock full of vigils and protests. The church is a member of MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Help) and is also apparently the base for the Pax Christi movement in Milwaukee. I didn't even know we had one (I read a bunch about this group in Fr. Dear's book). If I wasn't doing the church hop, St. Ben's is definitely a parish I'd consider going to regularly.

Again, I only got some pictures of the outside of the church. I really need a "church buddy" so I don't feel like a weirdo taking photos after mass. Has anyone ever done a project like this before? Any suggestions?

I also skipped out on going to coffee after church (another reason the "buddy system" would be great). As I'm sure you can surmise, I would've been welcomed, but I'm not sure I'm at the point yet to publicly talk about this sociotheological experiment yet with strangers. Your thoughts?

St. Casimir at 9:30 AM prior to heading to the Rockabilly Chili event.

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