1. Biking to work (and everywhere else). On Facebook, I regularly post pics with the tag “What I See On My Way to Work.” Included are pics of the multi-blued and aquamarine Lake Michigan, the Calatrava wing at the Milwaukee Art Museum, autumn light slanting through orange-, golden- and green-leaved trees. The comments from people living elsewhere—”Rough!” “Must be nice!”—are great reminders not to take this daily joy for granted.
2. The neighborhood food scene. I love exploring great little restaurants in unlikely locations—Café Centro on Center Street, Café Corazon (just off a bike trail!) and Nessun Dorma in Riverwest, Cloud Red on Oakland, Barnacle Bud’s on the river, Triskele’s near the Polish Moon, Mekong Café on North, Easy Tyger on Brady—there are so many great places to check out.
3. The lake, the lake, the lake, the lake. Some people may not want to hear this, but thank our socialist mayors from years past who ensured that the lakefront belongs to everybody, not just those who can afford to buy property there.
4. The parks (and beer gardens). I’m amazed, when taking visitors from other states to stroll or bike through our parks, how often they tell me, “We don’t have anything like this.” And they don’t. And we do.
5. We are not Chicago, but it’s nearby when you need it. Some major show at the Art Institute, the early touring company of Hamilton, a game at Wrigley—it’s all accessible, and you don’t have to deal with the daily hassle or expense of living in a massive metropolis. Flipping directions, the great north woods and Door County are easily weekendable, too.
6. Our amazing theater companies. The Rep, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Boulevard Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, First Stage. Milwaukee’s theatre scene will entertain, thrill, challenge, move and change you.
7. The jerk-quotient is relatively low. I like that, as a general public, we don’t put on airs. People are friendly and engaging. Sure, we have problems, some fairly major ones, but I keep meeting people who are trying to make a difference, who feel that we as a community are greater than the sum of our parts, and that enthusiasm offers us something that too often is in short supply: hope.