The burial ground was last used in 1814, and it took considerable effort to open the stone door.
I’ve been making a determined and deliberate effort to make Milwaukee feel like home and have pretty much succeeded.
Part of this process, I think, was going to live in Walker’s Point, a neighborhood on the south side of town.
A mostly industrial area, on low-lying ground between two rivers, and in recent years just a footnote in the city’s story, this neighborhood has also long been a hub for people who were “othered.”
For many years, this was a German town, but in the early 1900’s, immigrants from Mexico were brought in to work in the numerous tanneries, which for a time, produced more leather than anywhere else in the world. Polish and Slovenian immigrants had arrived before them, to work in the steel mills, machine shops and factories.
Walker’s Point is now gentrifying and growing, old businesses and warehouses being converted to brewpubs, restaurants and loft apartments, but the residential population is still pretty small, and its low-lying houses nicely frame the skyline of the downtown. The skyscrapers for Northwestern Mutual and U.S. Bank are easily visible and not too far, but a world away from this neighborhood.
Also visible is the clock tower at Rockwell Automation, with its 40-foot clock faces (twice as big as Big Ben’s clock), big enough that ships on Lake Michigan use it like a lighthouse.
The area is also home to artists and the gay nightlife scene, and there’s a diverse and tolerant crowd roaming these streets. After being a backwater, now I think now the currents here are a lot of the lifeblood of the city, with true big city hustle & bustle but small town feelings of neighborhood.
Walking around, there are oldtime residential pockets, and you’re struck by the many Victorian homes. Many are stately and charming, with quaint flowerbeds and yards full of statues and art. While a lot of this area is still industrial and not far from the harbor (and the Milorganite factory is sometimes within smelling distance), it’s quiet and safe.
Here’s some cellphone snapshots of random things from from recent walks. There’s no theme today, it’s just an interesting town to walk around.
Here’s some stuff from other parts of the city. Closer to downtown, they’re building a 25-story apartment building. What makes that interesting – – it’s wooden! I don’t mean it will have wood facing or paneling, but the actual structure. It will be the tallest timber frame building in the world.
Near the high school where I worked a few years ago, are some Frank Lloyd Wright houses, currently being restored.
The Basilica of St Josephat, built by Polish immigrants. Maybe it was the spiritual locus, but the sky above it really was that blue the day I walked here.
Hard to believe you’re looking at a former post office (keep reading for the explanation).
By 1900, when this was built, there were 60,000 Poles living here, and they already had seven churches, but wanted something grander, with room for over a thousand worshippers. So this is basically a scaled-down version of St. Peter’s in Rome.
In a clever bit of economy, they bought the old Chicago Post Office, a big 4- or 5-story Second Empire-style building, which was being replaced, and re-used the stone blocks. (The giant 9-story Old Chicago Main Post Office you see today, which goes over the Eisenhower Expressway, was built in the ’20’s and ’30’s)
And that’s the news from Milwaukee. I hope everyone is well and staying dry.
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From floor to floor, and down and side to side,
The summer’s gone, and temperatures are falling,
It’s you, it’s you must go, and I must bide
And on the ice must slide.
But come ye back when busy is the blizzard,
And when the valley’s hushed and white with snow.
It’s I’ll be here, in long johns like the Eskimos,
Oh Danny boy, I cannot feel my toes.
Oh Danny boy, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are knocking
From floor to floor, and down and side-to-side,
The summer’s gone, and radiators need unblocking,
It’s you, it’s you must go, the thermometer’s fried.
But come ye back ere next summer’s in the meadow
And when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
Tis I’ll be here in salt brine and in ice floe,
Oh, plumber guy, plumber guy, how my nose I’ll blow!
But when ye come,
and the flowers have taken a beating,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Maybe then ye’ll come and find the place
and finally fix the heating.
Woolly Bears are of course the most reliable forecasters of the coming winter.
The broader the black band, the tougher the conditions will be.
So I was darn pleased to see this fellow, telling us it will be a really mild season.
I was thinking about what to call our little furry weather predictors.
I guess you could call them “palmists” because we like to gently pick them up, and hold them in our palms, to see them roll themselves into a ball like a tiny hedgehog.
But we couldn’t say “soothsayers,” because they never say anything.
They communicate their predictions by how they’re dressed. Not such a crazy idea – if the weatherperson on TV appears in hipboots & sou’wester, it’s pretty easy to interpret, just like the woolly bears, so we might need a a word for this.
Someone predicting warm weather, by wearing stripes, you could go with SeersuckerSoothShow-er.
But HypothermiApparelAugur is too clunky, as is ClothClairvoyanGlacé.
Snowsuit Sibyl isn’t too bad.
Meteorlogifashionista is my best effort, trips right off the tongue, doesn’t it.
Please let me know if you come up with something good!
Cellphone shot of a 1915 station in Sparta, on the Chicago Northwestern.
Originally, this line was called the Baraboo Air-Line Railroad. (Isn’t that kind of great!?)
The trains don’t go there anymore.
Although there’s active stations not too far away (eighteen miles east in Tomah, and 28 miles west in La Crosse), because Amtrak runs more-or-less northwest across the state, on its way to St. Paul.
This little brick building is now the office for the 32-mile Elroy-Sparta biking trail, which the official guide tells us, is “considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States.”
It’s about 120 miles northwest of Madison, and if you continue NW from Sparta, on the La Crosse River Trail, you’ll hit the Mississippi.
The sections I walked were pleasant, if unexciting, but the big attraction is the tunnels.
In the 1870’s, RR workers dug & blasted their way through the hills. We walked through the longest tunnel, nearly 3/4 of a mile long.
At the foot of the hill, there’s what looks like an ancient stone-lined canal.
It was actually just an attempt to divert storm water away from the tunnel and railbed.
At some point, the burrow is reinforced with massive stone blocks, and water cascades down the wall – – I think the spot where the workers hit an underground spring. This picture was taken with a flash, there’s no lighting in the tunnel.
If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, and perhaps hearing a bat or two overhead, it’s a wonderfully cool place for a walk on a hot summer day.
And a great place to sing, if there’s no one around.
I recommend selections from Bohemian Rhapsody, or Phantom of the Opera.
A cellphone snap of an 1878 church near Norwalk, Wisconsin (pop. 638)
Built by German immigrant farmers, miles from any village, surrounded by hills and cornfields.
Looking well-looked-after, in a nice setting, surrounded by thriving crops.
Apart but without any feeling of isolation, just peacefulness.
The church is called St. John the Baptist, and the corn certainly looked well-watered.
As you head south out of Ithaca, NY, there’s a stretch of highway that’s one of the main commercial drags in that little city. It combines routes 96, 13, and 34 for a few miles, and it’s fairly hectic – – lots of banks, car dealerships, fast food, grocery stores, motels, etc.
And then you hit the city limits, and all that commercial stuff pretty much stops. The Green Party – Socialist State of Ithaca is behind you — the Asian and vegan restaurants, peace signs and rainbow flags are gone, and the pro-NRA banners begin. You’re now in the Southern Tier, and it’s shotgun racks, dollar stores, and Don’t Step On Me flags all the way to the Pennsylvania line.
But there’s a sweet spot, a DMZ between the two worlds, just as you leave Ithaca, and that’s two nice state parks — Buttermilk and Treman.
Buttermilk is the first, named for the whitewater of a big falls (165′ tall), very close to the highway.
It’s impressive in the spring, or after periods of heavy rain, but I think it’s more interesting than beautiful. Instead of a vertical drop off a rock ledge, it’s a tiered cascade, pouring into a swimming area.
The curved slope of siltstone and shale is shaped a bit like a section of a domed roof, or maybe a big hoop skirt, and the creek just comes down it in a pretty uninventive way.
The water doesn’t really leap from the rock, and go for it, take the big plunge, it just slides over it. Dutifully following the law of gravity, falling without any particular style, just like the rest of us.
If you or I were on that slope, we’d be sure to slide down it too, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to think that was very clever, would we.
It’s right off the highway, with picnic tables, a swimming area at the base of the falls, and playing fields close by, so it’s a bit busy.
I mean, it’s perfectly nice and has that pleasant bustle of people picnicking, dogs barking, kids happily hitting each other with sticks and rocks, etc. but combined with the rumble of motorcycles and trucks on the highway, the noise drowns out the water sounds.
So, why the heck am I talking about a spot that I’m not entirely keen on? Because if you cross the creek, on a little iron bridge built in 1881, and follow the steep trail up the south side of the gorge, it’s fantastic.
There’s a whole series of smaller but wonderful falls.
The water is having a wonderful time, whizzing through high-spirited chutes, swirling in circular pools, dividing and rushing back together in playful angles, and you’re right next to it all, you can stick out a hand and feel the spray.
The trail is rough and often slippery, but totally worth it. Once you’re in the glen, ferns decorate every crack and ledge, overhead are maples, beeches, and hemlocks. The highway noise disappears, and there’s just the sound of rushing water.
Get there early in the morning, or early evening, especially on a day when rain is threatening, and you’ll probably have the place pretty much to yourself, and can just soak up the quiet musical reverberations, and watch the acrobatics of the barn swallows, swooping and streaking through tight turns just above the water.
Here’s a bit of a contrast to the beautiful spring blossoms.
A pair of sinister mug-shots.
I don’t remember running across these before, but apparently they’re quite common.
“Devil’s Urn” or Urnula craterium. (Based on extensive research for almost ninety seconds on the internet.)
One article indicates that if you blow into the cup, it may spray out a cloud of spores with an audible hiss.
In the original Star Trek, there’s an episode called “This Side of Paradise,” where some alien flowers spray spores onto the colonists from Earth, and establish a symbiotic relationship, giving them all perfect health. The spores also cause Spock to fall in love & be happy, for the first time in his life.
So, everyone is healthy & happy & in love, and no one sees much point in flitting around space in a giant tin can, bothering the natives. Luckily, Captain Kirk is there to save everyone from this horrible fate, and evacuates the planet, so everyone can get back to being normal humans, staring at computer screens all day and paying taxes.
If you remember, it was after this episode, that Sulu and Chekov started referring to a “Captain Buzzkill,” and Scotty suddenly couldn’t ever get the transporter to work right, and kept leaving Captain Jerk, sorry, Kirk, stranded on hostile planets.
I took a box of microwave popcorn out of the cupboard, and saw this label in the photo.
And thought, only real ingredients?? What other option do they have?
Is this some sort of pretzel logic, or are there actually buckets of purely theoretical popcorn being sold, drenched in pseudo-butter?
If all the ingredients are unreal and imaginary, and the box is sold by weight, not volume, you’re gonna have a problem.
Even “reality shows,” famous for mental lightweights, have some sort of density and concreteness, especially between the ears. A big box of the the unreal, even if supersized and 33% more volume! (than the smaller box) is just going to irritate people, when it dawns on them that it’s empty.
I’ve got no objection to the imaginary or unreal, heck, whatever gets you through the day, or gets you an Oscar, or elected to office, unreality seems to be trending in the USA.
But how do you get FDA approval? What are the additives and carb count, and what does it weigh?
Mostly I don’t read food labels, they’re kind of mystifying and scary. Glycerides sounds mythical, I looked them up, expecting they were related to Greek deities like Gaia or Gymnastika (the goddesses of earth and morning exercises, respectively). Or maybe it’s Roman, glycerides, a slippery version of the Ides of March?
But they’re apparently something real, and then reading about Glycerides gets you involved in a Wikipedia story about Fatty Acid Ester – – sounds tough, doesn’t she? like Ma Barker. Apparently though, according to the article, she’s very hydrophobic (like people with rabies?) and probably sticks to bathtub gin.
My second thought was, “Only Real Ingredients…how very disappointing.”
Isn’t food something we look to, every now and then, for a little bit of imagination or even fantasy?
One of my grandmothers used to make Angel Food Cake, with whipped cream and strawberries.
We knew, I guess, it wasn’t really food by, or for, angels, but that didn’t seem entirely unbelievable, either. It was pretty delicious, blissful, and gave you a floating sensation.
If it was strawberry season, and the fruit was just perfectly ripe and fragrant, it surely seemed to be pretty darn angelic.
Another ancestor was famous for her Ambrosia. The recipe for this food of the gods was passed down, but the old folks say, they cannot duplicate the perfection they remember. Some even mutter darkly of sabotage and the sin of omission — some ingredient or super-secret wrist action, when the whipped cream is folded in, that wasn’t written down.
A warm, fragrant slice of Pie in the Sky seems like it would be tasty and felicitous right about now. Not sure what type of pie, I know my favorite, but maybe the angels are sensitive about eating apples, I seem to remember some sort of biblical issue over that. Or I’d like to pull a Mason jar out of the cupboard – pickles, apple butter, whatever, it doesn’t matter – maybe find it forgotten on a shelf in the pantry, and find a hand-written label “Legendary Good Stuff. One Jar of the Fantastical.”
I guess that label, “Only Real Ingredients,” could be a hopeful sign, really. It implies the possibility of “Unreal Ingredients.”
One hallucination per box, and no monosodium glutamate.
This kind of wishful thinking is easy, when you grew up hearing about pubs in Hogsmeade serving delicious butterbeer and the tasty-looking Krabby Patties they dish up in Bikini Bottom. When you’re a bit older, say, thirteen, you find most real cocktails are disappointing, compared to a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster. Wish I had one right now.
Well, I see that on April 1st, April Fool’s Day, the State of New York has legalized recreational marijuana, we’ll see if that inspires some more interesting dishes. I hope they don’t make a hash out of the brownie recipes. Just keep it real, man.
A disintegrating old barn, leaning six ways to Sunday.
I like the hand hewn beams & weathered wood on old barns, and this had the right stuff, but right angles, not so much. Nothing was entirely straight or plumb.
The light coming through the boards looked like some sort of coded message to me, but the first person I showed this to, saw a cityscape at night.