She Pauses To Nibble On Her Pickle

“You have to travel with people who want to explore

otherwise everything is constructed, pills

warns Louise.

She pauses to nibble on her pickle,

and contemplate those frequent trips

she has made to visit her family in Barbados.

The last time she went down there with non-explorers

they whined every time they left the hotel, find

“Can’t we just take a cab?”

The non-explorers carefully followed their itinerary,

rushing through the locations of designated interest

and afterwards they would state,

“We’re done now. Can we go back to the hotel?”

Louise was appalled,

“American people traveling,

they don’t get it.”

She prefers to take it slow,

by walking or bicycling,

discovering the unknown island.

When she returned to Milwaukee she felt,

“I had to take another vacation.”

Just to counteract the energy she expended

on frustration with her boring companions.

“It costs too much to go to Barbados to sit in the hotel room!”

But I think she feels the same way about life in her own city,

having lived in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee,

she tells me with confidence that she has never seen a city

more segregated than Milwaukee.

“You can’t just stay in that little neighborhood you live in.”

She talks boxes

she talks fears and safety

that make the boxes

that we call our neighborhoods.

She believes that the east side of Milwaukee is the most diverse

but even then it is all young people,

not old.

“And brown-skinned people are less likely to be seen

walking along the lakefront,”

where Louise bikes on a regular basis

amongst countless light-skinned people

who do not notice the lack.

“I think people as they move around the city

they need to open their hearts and minds.”

She tells me the best way to expose yourself

to variety in Milwaukee

is to attend gallery night

and Summerfest.

“Here in America it’s like,

what race are you?

You can’t just claim one,

I always check the box that says ‘other,’

and write ‘black-Indian-Island-Scottish-French.

Nobody’s white, you’re light skinned.”

Louise pats the marble under her plate,

“I’m not black, this table is black,

I am brown.

But we just need to get past it,

we won’t in this lifetime

but I go to Barbados and Trinidad a lot

and they don’t talk that way there.”

She waves her French fry in the air,

advising,

“Go somewhere and get lost,

just walk and explore.”

DSCN1219
I take her advice.

 

DSCN1227
Louise.

 

Pineapples Visit Sauerkraut Boulevard

Mark and Delores (who have a German last name) are here from Miami. They are getting the German Milwaukee experience. They toured the Pabst Mansion, did a beer tasting and are asking who Captain Pabst (Pabst beer’s founder) was close friends with. Honestly, I don’t know.* Delores bought a T-shirt from Mader’s, Milwaukee’s classic German restaurant.  She is debating as to whether she can wear it when she returns home when Germany plays in the soccer finals. Most people in Miami are Brazil fans. “You don’t have a lot of Germans in Miami,” I joke. They shake their head, “Actually we do, Germans are everywhere, and you can spot them a mile away with their thick socks and sandals.” Delores confides that similar to a German tourist, she brought some socks with her to wear with her sandals in preparation for Milwaukee’s nippy 85 degree weather.

Back in Miami when a soccer game day comes around, “30% of people on the street will be wearing a jersey of some sort.” Mark & Delores arrived at the hotel on Friday and watched the game in the bar with four other people. “But if this were Miami, there would have been 200 hundred people and they all would be wearing costumes, too.”

Mark has on a polo shirt with refreshing teal stripes. Quite the tropical look. Delores is in pink. Incidentally, teal and pink were the two favorite colors of a close friend of mine in college who hailed from Miami.

Though he is now retired, Mark recounts for me his work history; he toured banana and pineapple plantations all over the world for Del Monte. When he started out in the business, all pineapples sold in the states were shipped in from Hawaii. Hawaiian pineapples have a sugar content that changes throughout the year, and sometimes the fruit is more tart than sweet. Eventually a hybrid variety of pineapple was developed to ensure a sweeter fruit all year long. That variety is grown in Costa Rica. Most American stores now carry pineapples from Costa Rica.

A year ago Mark & Delores were on vacation in North Carolina. They met a truck driver (who sold tractors) in a bar and he insisted that they visit the natural wonders of the Wisconsin Dells. He provided an argument so convincing that Mark and Delores are heading there next after inspecting the Circus World Museum in Baraboo.

*I’ve since asked our resident historian and concierge, Peter the question of who Captain Pabst liked to hang out with. Peter told me, “There was a whole cadre of people who lived in the Highland neighborhood that the Yankee aristocracy looked down on as “Sauerkraut Boulevard.” The Highland neighborhood was full of German mansion families such as the Uihleins, the Vogels, the Gettlemans and the Schusters. They all knew each other and intermarried. What’s more important a point to Peter when considering who Captain Pabst spent time with is how “Today we tend to have fewer friends and acquaintances, but back then community was central to the idea of how the world worked. You didn’t have just a few best friends.” Captain Pabst and his contemporaries thought more about what they could give back to the community they interacted with every day. Captain Pabst gave Milwaukee the Pabst Theater, Frederick Layton gave Milwaukee the Layton Art Museum, Guido & Charles Pfister gave Milwaukee the sumptuous Pfister. “The sense of themselves was part of the city. In the culture of the commonwealth they built their homes by worker’s cottages, there was no shame to live by the people who worked for them.”