Love Note #4: The Oh-Sh!t, I'm homesick note

You were all waiting for it, especially you – yes you, my friends and family who thought I was just doing this whole Milwaukee thing for few months and then I nonchalantly said I was actually moving here. While you've all been so supportive in my move here, I get that it gets obnoxious to hear just how wonderful and magical somewhere else, somewhere where you're not, is. As many times as I've been the person moving away, I've had to wave goodbye just as often. Therefore, I get that even though it's sad to hear your friend/family member is homesick it's nice to know they still have feelings and attachments to the people and place they've moved away from. So, yes friends, yes family, while things are still amazing here in the midwest, I miss you. And this homesick feeling felt like a sucker punch.

Let's back up though because my last note was written a month ago! I had a bi-monthly plan but summer was fast and furious (not like the film franchise but not unlike the film franchise either...). August was full of so many events and adventures. In my last post I talked about the event I helped organize on The Beerline Trail Extension. The weekend immediately following that big production, I helped put together a dinner on the project that I was brought out here to work on. This project lives within the Beerline Trail Neighborhood Development Project as well but instead of being something that happens directly on the trail, it lives inside the Storybuilding initiative which works to build community off the trail. The project is a cookbook that will gather healthy and easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by family/community recipes but we also want to talk about the importance of gathering and eating together as a family, neighborhood and community. In order to really talk about this we decided we needed to actually host some dinners! Luckily, my new friend Ellie Jackson (who let's me come on her radio show All the Things just about whenever I feel like it) was eager to host the first dinner! With her enthusiasm for hosting/cooking, a great backyard and a little Martha Stewart-like magic that I like to pull out for occasions just like these - a dinner party was born! It was small, smaller than I imagined, but the food was delicious and the conversation was rich. And while I had all these expectations that didn't exactly materialize in the way I thought they would, looking back, it was a success. We came together to sit down and eat together in hopes to form connection. And for whatever reason the act of having a meal together, particularly when it's at somebody's home, a closeness forms. And I think that night, this certainly did happen.

Photo by: Adam Carr

The night of the dinner, also happened to be the night after the Milwaukee riots – I for one felt so removed from the riots. I had been at a bar across town and watched the gas station burning on television much like all the people who asked if I was okay the next day or so. As a newcomer, I wasn't really sure how to react to these riots. I know the history of this city and it's no secret that it's the most segregated city in the country. And of course, anger, fear and a whole range of complex emotions are woven into the different neighborhoods and communities. That being said, my Milwaukee has been full of amazingly diverse, progressive, open-minded, warm-hearted creative group of people. And these people, love Milwaukee, for better and worse and are all doing something to work against the awful history and to change the statistics. While the riots didn't directly put any of the people I've come to know over the last few months in physical danger, there were a lot of emotional repercussions across the board. Having dinner to talk about the pain these riots have causes was so necessary, so important. 

Outside of work events, I have had some real important adventures. The first being, Wisconsin State Fair. Not only was this my first time at the Wisconsin State Fair, I'm pretty sure this was my first time at a state fair period! It was completely overstimulating but so much fun. We slid down the Giant Slide on a burlap sack, we visited calfs and cows, we watched pigs race around a track while two fat men in overalls acted as our announcers, we drank cold beer with fried cheese curds, we had a giant cream puff for dessert, we took a ride on the sky glider so we could get to the carnival section with all the crazy rides and games, we spent about $4 to go in a silly glass fun house and this was all to the soundtrack of some pretty terrible cover bands playing at multiple stages throughout. Will I go back to the state fair next year? You better believe it!

Another fun adventure I took in August was very much the opposite of the state fair. A few of us headed out to Arena, Wisconsin, which is a couple hours away, to go canoeing and camping. It was an overcast day when we headed out and despite knowing that rain was coming, we decided to go on our camping adventure anyway. I think the impending weather scared off many people, so we were some of the only people canoeing! This made for taking in the absolutely gorgeous scene even better. We even saw a bald eagle! I'm pretty sure this was the first time I've ever seen a bald eagle in the wild – welcome to Wisconsin! We canoed to an unclaimed sand bar and set up camp. We got real lucky with weather and had a few hours of fun to make dinner and roast s'mores. Not long after it got completely dark though it started to pour. And this is how I learned that if your tent comes with a tarp, obviously make sure the tarp doesn't come out past the tent or else it will act as a funnel for rain and your tent will flood! While I love camping, #campingfails remind me that I'm pretty much as city as you get. But hey, I'm trying to change that! That being said, if you have a OuterEQ Camping Sleeping Bag (seriously, I can't recommend this sleeping bag enough!), eat enough s'mores and drink enough Twisted Teas, you might not even notice your tent is flooding until your tent-mate wakes up and realizes she's basically drowning. At that point though all you can do is laugh and that's exactly what we did.

When I got back from camping, a certain annoying string of events happened prompting me to move out of the place I was staying immediately. In turn, my last couple of weeks in August were mostly spent moving in and getting settled into my new place. My new place is exciting for a lot of reasons but mostly I'm just excited to live in a place I don't plan on moving from for at least a little while. Technically in 3 months, I've lived in 3 different places and that's just too much!

So now it's September and I'm settled in my new apartment and Milwaukee is starting to feel like the place I live and not just the place I'm just visiting. And since this isn'y my first time at the moving-to-a-new-city rodeo, I know that this transition time is exactly when homesickness creeps in. Except that I forgot about this! I always forget about this! Moving to a new place is always so exciting – everything is new and shiny! You're too busy to care about what you're missing from the place you left because getting acquainted with a new place is time consuming and distracting. Even if you have a routine (which as an artist and a freelancer, I barely have one) it's still a new routine and at least temporarily more interesting than any routine you had in the last place you lived. When all that newness wears off – BAM! Home sickness. And to be honest, I'm not homesick for Boston, the place, I'm homesick for the people. While I have an incredible little network here, it still feels very, well, little. I'm not new anymore but I still have so much to learn and so much to adapt to be 100% comfortable here. Unfortunately, there is no rushing this process. Being able to call a place home simply just takes time. The good news is I'm pretty confident that Milwaukee will be another city I feel home at – there are too many great people here for it not to feel that way. As for the homesickness, while it comes with a whole range of feels that aren't fun to have, it will pass, it always does.  

Love Note #3: Bikes, Trail time and Murder

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

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....

***

Friend and fellow consultant on the Beerline Trail Extension. 

Friend and fellow consultant on the Beerline Trail Extension. 

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. 

Some of my favorite people taking a pedicab ride during the event on Saturday! 

Some of my favorite people taking a pedicab ride during the event on Saturday! 

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!

Love Note #2: Summertime and Settling In

Today marks my 45th day in Milwaukee. Time is flying by and again, this love note is coming two weeks later than I originally hoped to send it.

After 45 days of being in Milwaukee this summer, I have a huge statement to make: Milwaukee just might be the best place to spend summer. This is if the weather cooperates of course, and this year I got lucky because the weather has been absolutely perfect. This has led me to take part in so many outdoor activities. More festivals including an excursion to Strawberry festival out in Cedarburg. I've spent time playing outside like a kid– biking, swinging on swings, playing in the sand, playing bocce in the dark, even learning how to skateboard and yes, playing PokemonGO (yep, I joined the craze and I have no shame about it)! I have come to love Lake Michigan and while it still doesn't compare to the ocean, I find a lot of comfort having daily access to such a large body of water. For those who know me, my favorite holiday is July 4th, simply because it's a holiday that takes place in the summer, and the fireworks here were no disappointment. I went through a Milwaukee rite of passage and went to Summerfest for the first time and I got to see Garbage - the angsty teenager in me was SUPER pumped. I enjoyed local music outside at Jazz in the Hood in Bronzeville and on Chill on the Hill in Bayview. So much outdoor summer fun! And I'm excited for what the rest of the summer has in store.

unnamed.jpg

That being said, I have to take a moment to write about a really exciting indoor activity that happened in the last three weeks. I had the opportunity to perform my newest work perception. here in Milwaukee. I performed it at Jazale's Art Studio which is an awesome art space that houses both youth arts programming as well as professional artist's studios and shows (like mine!). Jazale's is a place that almost immediately felt comfortable to me which made it that much more exciting to have it be the first host site for my piece here in Milwaukee. The last time I performed perception. was back in January and the nerves hit me this time more than they had ever before. Partly because of the time I had away from it but also because I had spent three weeks getting to know and really respect the people that showed up for me that night. It was hard not to wonder, did I have what it took to impress these people? I'll let them be the judge but what I can say is that somehow in a place far away from anywhere I've called home I felt so supported. About 20 people came out to participate, watch and take part in conversation with me on June 25th and I was incredibly moved by the level of respect I was shown and engagement I had from my audience.

Photo by Adam Carr

Photo by Adam Carr

Being an artist can be incredibly tough sometimes. It's a life of being okay with constant rejection. I spend so much time applying to different things only to be told "no" or "sorry, apply again next time" over and over and over. It's hard not to want to give up sometimes but then out of nowhere someone says, "yes" and gives you a chance to do what you do and you remember why it's all worth it. And that is really what has been so amazing these last 45 days is being told yes. And sharing my very personal work with people here in Milwaukee hasn't been the only chance people have given me. I've been allowed to come work as a creative placemaking consultant on an incredible neighborhood development project. I've been invited onto a Riverwest Radio show, All the Things (listen to me talk for a whole hour by clicking here!) I was asked to be a mentor to a teenager who is already an incredible leader in her community at the age of fourteen. I have been welcome into an amazing group of female artists who gather every month to have poignant and thoughtful discussions and critiques. This group that comes together around the name femTALK is even taking a chance on me to let me host the next meeting. I have been invited to live in this incredible house and help it be a place where creativity and innovation can transpire. And I can't even get into the amazing people I've met, who I am lucky to now call friends, who invite me to do cool things and hang out with me into crazy hours of the night (or I guess, morning). In just 45 days, I've been given so much from this wonderful city and I will attempt to give as much as I can back.

Thanks Milwaukee, I think I just might stick around.

Love Note #1: Top 3 in 3 weeks

I was hoping to write my first note just after my arrival here in Milwaukee but Milwaukee does not joke around when it comes to good weather. There is something to do outside almost every day and on the weekends, the options seem limitless. It almost makes you feel bad for staying inside and binge watching terribly addicting television shows – but don't worry, I still found a way to sneak some binge watching in and on that note, I highly recommend everyone watch the show UnReal.

I could say so much in this first love note from the great midwest but as to note right a love novel I'll default to my love of list making and writing about the top three highlights from the last three weeks! 

1. Festivals, food and fun
Like I said, it's been nonstop festivals and festival-like activities out here in Milwaukee. So far, I've been to Bayview Gallery Night which had an outdoor food truck bonanza component, Locust Street Festival, NEWaukee's Night Market, Buck's Block Party and Juneteenth Day. And I honestly feel like I might be missing something but even just that list is pretty impressive since I've only been here for 21 days...

I have to say that out of all these my favorite so far was the Locust Street Festival – everything you love about a street fair - funnel cake and all! Which east coast friends, does funnel cake exist in the north east? Am I crazy? I only remember eating fried dough and this may have been my first time actually eating fried dough's fancier twin sister, the funnel cake. Anyway, what made this festival way better than any old street fair, however, was all the great live music to check out! My Boston music-loving crew would have totally digged this and I missed ya all to pieces specifically during this festival. On top of all this greatness, it was all free! Well, minus the funnel cake, of course.

While the funnel cake was quite delicious because you can't really go wrong when you deep fry things my actual favorite treat was found at Night Market at Pete's popsicle stand. I got a thai iced tea popsicle and it's still blowing my mind.

2. Art inside
Right when I got here I attended an art show with musical performances, A.D.H.D. Adventures. This was curated by two artists, Manny Vibe$ (Emmanuel Grant) & Winter Fareaux Hiatus (Julian Miller). I actually got to hang with both of them as they got ready for their show. It was fun to see it all come together and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the level of talent the two were able to pull together for an evening of art and music. It was a two day event but I was only able to attend one night but from the word on the street both days were a success. And clearly the way to my heart is through tasty treats so I fully appreciated that snow cones were being served. Another added bonus: they set up a selfie station so one could take a selfie of oneself eating said snow cone...

3. Art outside
Just this past weekend another art show called Temporary Resurfacing went up for one night only on two city blocks of West Historic Mitchell Street. There were over 30 artists who put up video projections around the streets inside store fronts, on buildings and in alleys. It was fun to be outside and engage with both the art in the public but all the other people out and about viewing the work. I met a ton of people, ran into people I've been meeting for the last few weeks and just got to spend time with the few friends I have made here checking out some pretty cool and different work!

Well, folks, that's all the love I got this time. 

xoxo

Work by artists: Namoi Shersty and Xav Leplae

Work by artists: Namoi Shersty and Xav Leplae

Love Notes From Milwaukee

While I have longed to figure out how to live the bicoastal life, in less than a week I head out to the great midwest! I'll be setting up shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the summer. I was invited to be an artist in residence with MKE<->LAX and work part-time on various projects out there. Living anywhere but the coasts wasn't something I ever thought about but when the opportunity to work with some cool artists and focus on my own practice out there presented itself, I couldn't say no. I've spent a handful of weekends in Milwaukee and I've got to say, it's a pretty rad place so I'm excited to get explore it more and call it home for a little while. And since it's been quite some time since I last blogged, I figured this was a good time to get back into it and document my time in the middle of the country!