Here it is, March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some unknown and perhaps magical forces have transformed this place into a balmy paradise. It is 81 degrees F outside, flowers are blooming, trees are sprouting leaves, and chipmunks are cavorting around the forest floor. I am appreciating it. Last year was a very different story. We had a blizzard at the very end of January, and snow fell into April. The last two months of snow in a winter that can sometimes take up half the year can be very trying on a person’s patience. Especially if that person lived in California for 15 years and got rather attached to sunshine and greenery! So, what is there to do in Milwaukee when the weather is nice? So glad you asked!
Steve used to live on the East Side of Milwaukee, which is kind of an East San Francisco. Well, a little bit, anyway. There are lakefront parks, beautiful old buildings, college students from the University, and a smattering of the nature freak/hippie vibe. On St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to his old neighborhood to take in some of this atmosphere, which was augmented by people parading about in green beads with plastic tumblers of beer, enjoying the unseasonably comfortable weather on a Saturday devoted to pub crawling. It made people-watching that much more interesting.
We ate a late afternoon meal at Beans & Barley, which features a deli and market as well as a vegan-friendly cafe with a huge selection of tea. I had a grilled balsamic Portobello mushroom sandwich with red peppers and bleu cheese, accompanied by a fantastic curry potato salad and a bottle of New Glarus Spotted Cow beer. Steve had a black bean burrito with some very spicy salsa, an entree that is approaching “landmark status” since its debut in 1979. We shared a piece of their “killer chocolate cake” for dessert.
After I was satisfied that every bit of frosting had been thoroughly licked up, we headed over to the deli and market to take stock of their offerings. It was there that I found this most delightful treasure: it’s an old cigarette vending machine that now provides the customer with a genuine work of art for the price of one token. All of the Art-0-mat items are the size and shape of a pack of cigs, and decorated in a variety of different ways, by different artists. Examples are installed on the front of the machine.
Here is a close up of one example:
I simply love this idea! I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s hip, it’s visual, it’s smoke-free. These should be everywhere, supporting artists in every community.
I’m feeling young, artsy, and energized. We take a walk down to the lighthouse station. I do a portrait of Steve that I think would look good on the back of a book he will write some day.
I’m having fun discovering something wonderful every day, no matter where I am. This is how I want to keep myself well and happy for the rest of my life. A few weeks ago, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ben Merens did a show on wellness that featured an interview with a personal life coach named Colleen Hickman. Steve likes to call into this radio station when the topic moves him, and he called in to add to this discussion. He had two things to share. First, he said that his partner (me!) was very good at appreciating things, and then he said that his contribution to our positive relationship is that he doesn’t think of life as a problem to be solved or a commodity to be evaluated. It is something of which to be constantly aware, though. After he hung up, Ms. Hickman says, “Steve is certainly one of the lights we have in the world.” That makes me chuckle because it sounds so “media”, but I have to agree. If you want to hear the broadcast, here’s the link; just scroll down to the Friday, March 2, 5:00pm broadcast and click the Windows Media Player or MP3 icon to the right. Steve’s call is 17:30 into the program.
What a wonderful world! Even in Wisconsin in March!