oh, Milwaukee. I cried on my drive home a year ago today, and maybe I will today too. what started as a trip to IKEA turned into a visit once a month for thirteen months. my reasons for visiting evolved over time, but it came to a point where making the drive was important for two reasons: getting out of Door County for the day and simply completing a year of monthly visits. it’s been lovely, it’s been hard some days, and it happened. these thirteen months held four trips to IKEA, two visits to the art museum, and visits to Discovery World, the Domes, and the zoo. I wandered lakeside parks, thrift and vintage stores, and cemeteries. I ate Mexican food served by a woman who called everyone cute pet names, frozen yogurt on a park bench, a burger in a fake treehouse, and the best cake at a tiny coffeehouse. I laughed until I couldn’t speak, cried in a bedroom other than my own, yelled “and don’t get murdered!” with a bunch of strangers in a fancy theater, and loudly listened to The Lumineers’ III. a piece of my heart will forever live in Milwaukee, probably in the shape of a rock on the floor of my favorite Lake Michigan. thank you Milwaukee, and thank you to the people who were part of these mentioned and unmentioned memories. until next time, stay weird.
December: getting to spend time with two friends for the first time in too long. IKEA. so tired. Mexican food. packed a suitcase as a guarantee that I would make it home. accidentally spent the night. crying. drive home in the morning. so tired.
January: request a decent shitty diner. it’s perfect in that sense. loud children. improperly cooked apples in the crepes. listening to music and laughing. back home early.
February: Discovery World for the aquarium and Les Paul. children everywhere. Mexican food. neighborhood tour. thrift store laughter. a sense of belonging. talking and crying about things that only a handful of people know about. Hotel Showdown. leaving too late in the evening and telling myself I should know better.
March: burgers in the fake treehouse that is Georgie Porgie’s. Target. Goodwills. Timbuk3 following us around. knowing I found a friend for life. The Outpost and Trader Joe’s on the way home because I wasn’t running late.
April: Goodwill. coffee and pizza at Anodyne. being followed by a goose as I wandered a lakeside park. Target. first Milwaukee cemetery: Forest Home, where the brewers reside. Ulta says my perfume is discontinued. the boys call and say that Notre-Dame is on fire and I don’t believe them. VV. sitar and guitar strings and amps. dinner at Kopp’s before finding a first printing of one of my favorite books at Half Price Books. listening to the songs he wasn’t working on all day. don’t stay too terribly late this time.
May: announce that I’m buying a house. American Science and Surplus. Target. migraine. picking a fight about vacuums. Chick-fil-A. IKEA. the lake. driving circles downtown around my hotel because parking is hard. broken toe. long walk. brunch at the Plaza. sort of rainy. art museum. Mac and cheese downtown. My Favorite Murder at the Riverside. Vince annoyed because I kept trying to ask the ladies in front of me if they needed a Sharpie. hugging Georgia and Karen. breakfast at Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. long walk in the third ward. hike at Schlitz Audubon. ignored by a waitress in Whitefish Bay. photoshoot in Cudahy. back to crazy reality after a short break.
June: breakfast with the boys at Morning Glory. they slept on the drive. Trader Joe’s. the Domes. driving around aimlessly. Tip-Top Atomic and a record store with a dog on Kinnickinnic. Insomniac Cookies. drop the boys off and go to a cemetery in St. Francis (Saint Adalberts). peonies and angel statues. back to Trader Joe’s. home at Dad’s by nine.
July: bakery lunch in Whitefish Bay. lakeside park wandering. Goodwills. Big Lots and feeling ignored. frustrated and sad. drive down to McHenry for my first Steak ‘n Shake experience and a city tour. meet the families. leave Illinois too late for an angry drive through Kenosha County. goodbye hugs in the street. home early in the morning.
August: IKEA for the new catalog and my free birthday lunch. wander through the store and buy a new bath mat for my new home. Mayfair outlets and mall. migraine. disappointed. laugh about June 2015. downtown Wauwatosa. frozen yogurt and a lovely long conversation on a park bench while the sun sets. home late, but happy.
September: art museum before one exhibit closes and after another opens. crying in the Nares exhibit remembering April 2017. lunch in the bank building. long walk through downtown and third ward. street art. beautiful library. Monarchs in the cemetery. knowing that I’m here for myself.
October: lunch at Colectivo after driving around because parking is sometimes too much for my brain. Wauwatosa is beautiful. zoo. excited to see flamingos. missing Florida. penguins look like Toad. Halloween decorations. another cemetery before the rain starts falling lightly. a little boy waves at me while I’m leaving. no longer feeling concerned about the Trader Joe’s parking structure. difficult but important phone call on the drive north from Green Bay.
November: excited to go to Sprocket Café. delicious cake. quaint, beautiful space. St. Francis is a favorite neighborhood. antique store. Target has the gloves I’ve been looking for again for years. feeling lost. Sam’s Club. sun sets between Sam’s Club and Aldi. defeat. Trader Joe’s, always.
December: closing a chapter. visit the lake at the end of Layton Avenue. no snow. Sprocket Café. red velvet cake. driving in circles. IKEA. buy too many things. almost cry, but don’t. three-level antique store. happy. weird to be driving a car that’s not mine. traffic.
a photographer with the desire to hide behind the camera a little less and let the light shine through.