Until today, I hadn’t seen my friend Kiera in nine years. The last time I saw her we were having one last group sleepover at my house the week before we each moved out of Milwaukee to seek our higher educations in other cities. I went to Missouri for the Kansas City Art Institute and Kiera went to Oakland for the College of Creative Studies. Kiera has been living in Oakland ever since. Understandable, Oakland is a balmy paradise full of bookstores and coffee shops, and it is easy to navigate without a car. Unfortunately, the gentrification of Oakland will soon force Kiera to move out. The soaring rents will soon match those of San Francisco where the average one bedroom apartment is $3,000 a month.
Keira tells me that this could be a good change because she would like to live somewhere quiet where there is lots of space between the houses. However, Kiera is conflicted about this idea because she a city girl. I recommend Detroit to her because whenever I go to that city it has a quiet feel due to all the boarded up houses, but remains a city where only those possessing much grit survive. She agrees with me but says she probably won’t be moving to anywhere in the Midwest since her boyfriend, Snow, doesn’t like cold weather!
Kiera tells me about how one time Snow and his father went skiing and got separated on the hill. Snow’s father started calling for his son, “Snow! Snoooow!!!” and people looked strangely at this man who seemed to suddenly realize that the world around him was covered in snow.
Kiera joins me for a meal at the Pfister café. She surveys the menu and starts to laugh when she sees it offers a salad called a “cheeseburger bowl,” featuring a hamburger with cheese on a bed of lettuce “Only out here,” says Kiera. I ask what the “only out there” regional equivalent would be in Oakland. “Maybe if you asked for the simple arugula salad, with just arugula and tomatoes.” We are sitting in one of the café booths and it reminds us both of hanging out late at night at 24-hour diners in high school. Kiera laments that Oakland has a scarcity of 24-hour establishments.
We walk around the hotel imagine what it and the city were like when it was first built. Kiera takes her time, reading every plaque and investigating every painting and photograph. We stop in front of a picture that was taken when President McKinley came to the Pfister. There must be 2000 people in the room, and we try to find even one woman in the crowd, but don’t see one, not even a maid. We both say how we cannot fully grasp what life was like back then. Although I do look at over my contemporary, Keira, and (using my hundred year old filter) observe that she wears her hair very short. Radical! Kiera wonders if any of her ancestors from her dad’s side are in this photo. The German side of Kiera’s family had some influence in this town back when Milwaukee was considered “the gold coast” prior to the first World War.
One more thing: Radical Kiera is just back from competing in Art Prize, a national juried art show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here she is modeling a nine-foot wearable art piece that she designed with five other collaborators.