I blinked and it was August. AUGUST! I'm not even sure how it's possible. And as I post this it's already a WEEK into August. SUMMER, SLOW DOWN! There has been so much preventing me from sitting down to write this but I'll get there. First, I should probably address the "murder" part in the title of this love note...
Murder, in this instance, it is referring to one of my favorite games: "Murder Mystery." This game was introduced to me by one of my closest friends and favorite bloggers, AJ (read about his amazing travel adventures here: https://getwayoutthere.wordpress.com/). AJ and I have played this games more times than I can count in numerous settings, New York restaurants, every night on our Christmas vacation in Puerto Rico with our closest friends and late into the hours in a hostel in Istanbul with new friends. And somehow, almost every time, he's the murderer. ;)
For those who have never played, I'll try to give a brief overview. From a deck of cards, the King (the murder) and Queen (the accomplice) of spades are taken out and enough additional cards so that everyone gets 3 cards each. The dealer deals, everyone looks at their hand and lays out their 3 cards in front of them. Everyone closes their eyes and the person to the left of the dealer counts to 10 at which time the people who were dealt the King and Queen of Spades open their eyes and "attack" by flipping over one card as quietly as possible. When the counter gets to 10, everyone opens their eyes and everyone discusses who they think the murderer is. The counter calls a vote whenever he or she sees fit. Everybody votes on who they think the murderer is and whoever gets the most votes has to flip over one of their cards (the group decides which one). The murderer/accomplice win by fooling and "killing" everyone (a "kill" is flipping all 3 cards). Everyone else wins if they find and flip over the murderer! It's a fun game - especially if your friends are good at being real sneaky, liars.
So yes, over the years this has become one of my favorite games and when I get the chance, I teach other friends about this game. And I won't lie, I secretly judge how well people play and I wonder about the state of our friendship if they 1. don't like the game or 2. are really terrible at it. Luckily, I haven't lost any friendships... yet. When I hosted game night a few weeks back, I was pretty nervous to teach my new friends how to play. What if they didn't pass the murder mystery test?!
Good news! Everyone loved murder mystery and I have to say this group picked it up real quick. We played again at our second game night and again at a last minute dinner party. Not only am I impressed with how they play the game, I'm so happy they love playing the game! Because you know what they say, nothing grows friendship like friendly deceit and "murder!" Okay, fine, nobody says that....
Next up: TRAIL TIME
In addition to being an artist in residence with MKE<->LAX, I also came out to Milwaukee to be a creative placemaking consultant on the Beerline Trail Neighborhood Development Project. For an overview of all the different phases and aspects of the project click here and watch the short video. The short version: the Beerline Trail is a physical space that has been developed to bring together the Harambee and Riverwest communities of Milwaukee. At this stage in the initiative, there are projects that don't necessary have to do with the physical trail but continue to community build in other ways. My main work is on one of these projects but that will have to wait for another love note.
This past week and weekend, I got involved in an event that had to do with the physical space and more specfically the Beerline Trail Extension. About three years ago, on one of my many visits to this city, I came out to this part of the trail. It still very much looked like an abandoned train line. There was a walking path but it was made of loose gravel and from the street it did not look like a path easily used for walking or other transport. Flash forward three years later and that loose gravel remains in spots but there is a paved pathway making it easier for pedestrians and those on wheels (for rookie skateboarders like me, it's a perfect place to skate!). Outside of this paved pathway, however, the rest of the path remains pretty undeveloped. Finally, a few months back, an invitational RFQ went out to designers all over the country to change this. Three finalists were selected to come to Milwaukee, meet with community members, stakeholders, project leaders, etc. and run workshops to introduce their ideas and previous work to the public. And this day of workshops was exactly the event I jumped in on to help execute.
It was a hectic and crazy week with a lot of running around that did not end until literally the first workshop was up and running. Somehow, it all came together, as these things tend to do and overall, I think it was a pretty great success. People showed up, the designers all gave great presentations, interesting and important conversations were had and we all managed to have a little fun too! I'm excited to see which designer is selected but I'm even more excited to see what the designer can do to really engage and activate this amazing space. It will be nice to reflect in three years time to see just how much it has changed.
Game nights and spending time outside on the Beerline trail are both awesome but are you ready for the COOLEST thing I have done to date since I arrived in Milwaukee just over 2 months ago?
BIKES... and a little thing called Riverwest 24.
And by little, I mean a huge 24 hour bike race that takes place in Riverwest. It kicks off with a community meal and then all 1,000 registered bikers plus those who just want to ride for fun (me) line up. Shots are fired and all the bikers take off. Lining the streets are people with chairs, tents and food cheering the whole way. It was a pretty incredible experience to do this first lap with everyone. The only thing I can compare it to is the Boston Marathon but Riverwest 24, in my opinion, has a lot more character. And there were even some bikers who dressed up as characters to boot! There are four check points in total in what is about a 5 mile loop. Registered teams and individual riders get something called a manifesto and must get a hole punched at each check point. Once you've made it to all four, one lap is completed. And this goes on for 24 hours!!
It's hard to describe the magic that is Riverwest 24 but trust me it's truly magical! The Colectivo along the route gives out free shots of espresso, one check point hands out free shots of whiskey and one time when I decided to do another lap for fun I saw a random community member handing out whiskey shots as well! The owner of a corner store along the route was handing out water at one point. There's a part of the route called "Twizzler Alley" because adorable little children stand on the sidelines and hold out Twizzlers for the bikers. Checkpoint 3 is at the Swing Park and there was live music or a DJ the entire time! There was even a late night dance party at this same check point and the next day I ate free pizza, popsicles and cupcakes there! And I know I missed so much more because I wasn't actually participating as a registered rider/racer. That being said, I still had such a blast riding for fun and getting to be a part of this huge community event. It was brilliant and who knows, maybe next year, I'll compete!
So one final thing to conclude this love note...
For those keeping track, I was supposed to be here just for the summer. Once I got out here, however, my contract was extended until the end of September which means I would only have 2 more months here. And I would be pretty sad about that! I say "would" because as it turns out I have many more months here. At least twelve more to be exact. I guess this is as good as time as any to announce, I'm officially moving to (or I guess staying in?) Milwaukee! I've had a good long crush on this city over the past six years and this summer romance has been more than I could ever imagine. And sure, maybe when it's February, I'll get real mad that I stayed here. Or, maybe I won't... Time will tell but for now, I'll continue to fall in love and send out as much love as I can in the form of blog posts that I call love notes!