Alone But Not Lonesome

ot to get all tragic, but when I go out, I go out alone. It happens to be the way I roll these days. I dine alone. I go to movies alone. I attend the theater alone. Table for one. A single ticket. Just one ice cream cone. I am fine with this. It’s Milwaukee that seems to have a problem. I have practiced my aberrant lifestyle in New York, in London, in Switzerland, and along the decidedly un-cosmopolitan north shore of Minnesota. Never have I been as challenged and pitied as I have been since I moved to Milwaukee.…

The Making Of A Family Portrait

get the first few phrases out just fine. “Nou pral retounen,” I tell the kids in my broken, neophyte Haitian Creole, “pi vit ke posib.” And if my Motorola smartphone’s Google Translate app is accurate, I’ve just said: “We will return as soon as possible.” To check if I’m making sense, I follow up with, “Ou konprann?” Four-year-old Rey nods. He understands. I’m crouched beside him, left arm around his torso, right hand fiddling with the phone. And while he may understand the words, he can’t possibly appreciate all that’s happening now in the Hotel Kinam’s open-air courtyard. It’s a…

Outside Looking In

Southeast Wisconsin’s epic political chasm is the focus of two recent high-profile news stories – one local, one national – and the headlines signal radically different approaches. The first, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is no-nonsense: “Dividing Lines: Democratic, Republican voters worlds apart in divided Wisconsin.” Then, this clickbait from the New Republic: “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star.” The first headline tops Craig Gilbert’s analysis of Milwaukee’s political polarization. The second lures readers to Alec MacGillis’ cover story, which dives into the history of race and…

Guardian Angel

y feet are pushing hard on the pedals. This is a new bike, my first. Mom, Dad, and my favorite uncle, Warren, are standing on the front steps, watching. My feet slip. The pedals spin. I fly down the hill, over the curb, and under a moving car. Minutes later, Dad is racing to the hospital. Warren is in the back seat, cradling me. My head is wrapped so I can’t see, but I can hear his mellow voice. “It’s OK, Judy. You’re going to be OK.” A few days later, head still bandaged, I wake up early and find…

Worn Identity

n a blustery March day, Carter Lupton, the Milwaukee Public Museum’s curator of ancient history, leads me up a flight of stairs to see the early stages of “Beyond the Veil,” an exhibit about the cultural clothing worn by Middle Eastern women in Milwaukee. Considering the weather, it’s only fitting that we pass a taxidermied polar bear as we head into an intake area where the dresses, jewelry and head scarves are being cleaned and preserved. In the first room of the divided intake area, a lightweight cobalt tunic lies taut on a table, its wide T-shape exposed and its…

A Great Lake Diminished

By John Kaufman Photo by Taylor Keating Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” traveled east across Wisconsin by train in June of 1861. He had been to Minnesota and was headed home with his traveling companion, Horace Mann Jr. The two spent the night, according to Thoreau’s journal, at a Milwaukee hotel called the Lake House. On the morning of June 28th, they boarded the Edith, a propeller steamship that would take them up and across Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island. “Milwaukee, of all the settled places,” wrote Thoreau, “has the best harbor on Lake Michigan. There are…

The Piano Lesson

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris My wife and I were living in Boulder, Colo., when one day, our neighbor told us she and her boyfriend were splitting up. “Charlie’s moving out,” she said. “We’re selling the piano, if you’re interested.” I’d been strumming a guitar for a few years, and I thought I’d give the piano a try. So, with money I had gotten from a student grant, we gave the neighbors $300 and dragged the upright into our living room. The wood grain shined like amber; the octaves rang clear and precise. The Piano Album We moved that piano…

Laura Gordon

Photo by Sara Stathas You’ve just finished acting in Noises Off at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. You’re directing at Renaissance Theaterworks this year, and in Madison, Las Vegas and Utah. You spend a lot of time with actors. Do they drive you crazy sometimes? Actors have egos. They also have vulnerabilities. And to put yourself out there in front of people and reveal something can make you quite vulnerable. Actors deal with that vulnerability sometimes by putting on a big veneer, a big defensive quality. There are some people who can take up a lot of psychological space in a…