Milwaukee. Before these last few days, if you’d asked me what sprang to mind when I heard the word Milwaukee I don’t think I’d have even been able to tell you if it was a state or a city. From what I can vaguely remember, the television show “That 70’s Show” was set in Milwaukee.
my first glimpse of Wisconsin...
So apart from learning that Milwaukee was actually a city in Wisconsin, these last few days have opened my eyes to the beauty of Milwaukee and made sure that I never forget the amazing experiences we’ve had.
Our journey to Milwaukee started all the way back in February when Jules and I went to see Misery Signals play at Manning Bar in Sydney Uni. After the show we went up to talk to the band and just kind of lurk because they were Americans and babes. Our conversation centered around us going to America in June/July and how we planned to go to make our way across from the West Coast all the way over to Florida and up to New York City. When they heard we wanted to go to Florida they completely shot us down and said we should go to Milwaukee instead. After a few more minutes of conversation we were semi-convinced and unfortunately because it was a Wednesday night we had to leave because of work and school in the morning. That didn’t stop us from mulling over the idea of Milwaukee though. Jules had already used her incredible cyber-stalking skills to find Kyle on Myspace so over the next few weeks they messaged back and forth and the rest is really history, – four and a bit months later we found ourselves in Milwaukee.
It turns out that the guys live in a massive house (a mansion really) right on Lake Michigan in the nicest neighbourhood I’ve ever seen and it’s been featured on MTV Cribs. The fact that Andy Hurley, the drummer from Fall Out Boy, is their housemate as well was something not lost on us either, but luckily (or unluckily, it can be seen either way really, but if he’d been there we probably would have made fools of ourselves in front of him) he was away on tour so we didn’t have the opportunity to completely fan out on him.
So after dumping our huge suitcases we got a full tour of the house by Kyle. I swear Andy has a shower bigger than my entire bedroom back home, completely crazy, you’d be able to fit 20 people in that thing. Then Kyle took us to a yummy restaurant called ‘Beans & Barley’. After the shocking food we had to endure in Las Vegas ‘Beans & Barley’ seemed like heaven on Earth. They had vegan options! And it was fresh and healthy! I ordered a dairy-free black bean burrito with home cut fries and I have to say it was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a long time.
We made a quick pit-stop at Whole Foods afterwards and picked up some of Milwaukee’s finest beer, – Spotted Cow, for Kyle. Next stop was the liquor store for some drinks for Jules and I (turns out Whole Foods doesn’t cater for the vodka-drinking population) and on our way out we made complete fools of ourselves by trying to get into the wrong car. To be fair, it was a black jeep but about ten years older and more beat-up than Kyle’s car. We hadn’t even started drinking yet so we knew we were in for some crazy times ahead.
While we showered and made ourselves presentable for a night at a local pub, we drank and chilled out. One of housemates was dj-ing at the pub we were going to and one of Kyle’s friends was the bartender there so madness ensued. Free drinks, free shots, happy snaps of shakey faces and the appearance of rap hands made sure that by the end of the night I fell asleep in the bathroom. If we didn’t have the photos to prove it, I swear I wouldn’t believe everything that happened. One of the best quotes of the night was when Renee said to Jules “Oh did you lose your voice? You should have borrowed some of Kyle’s while you guys were making out”. Completely unforgettable!
did someone say shakeyface? oh yes they did!
someone decided letting kyle behind the bar was a good idea.
I think we proved to the Milwaukee-ans (what do they call people from Milwaukee?!) that Australians can’t drink as much as they think, well at least these two Australians can’t! The drive back to the house is a bit hazy but I do remember getting to sleep on the comfiest couch I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
The next day I slept like the dead until almost 1pm, even though there were workmen there from the early hours bashing away at renovations. Our time in Milwaukee has been more like a food tour of the Mid-West because Kyle and Ryan took us to a vegan restaurant called ‘Comet’. We snacked on faux Buffalo ribs and hommus (a new experience for me, but I’ve been completely won over) with pita bread before our main meals all arrived. It didn’t seem as healthy as the ‘Bean and Barley’ meal from the day before, but it was still an awesome feed.
After lunch we went back to the house to chill for a bit before heading out to take in some of Milwaukee’s finest vintage clothing stores. Downtown Milwaukee isn’t like a normal downtown. All the stores are in quaint little buildings that look like they could have once been houses; the sidewalks are wider and the traffic lights are encased in yellow metal; every house has a front porch and most have porch swings and an American flag hanging out the front. I felt like I was finally experiencing ‘real’ America; that we’d finally found somewhere off the usual tourist path. I think that’s one of the main things I will take away with me from the whole Milwaukee trip, and judging from the places we are heading to after this unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be experiencing the small-town, real-America feeling again anytime soon.
Even though he was the only boy on the shopping trip, it turned out that Kyle was the only person to buy anything while we were at the vintage stores. There were lots of amazing pieces but everything I tried on was either too small or too big. Better luck next time I guess.
Another new experience was just around the corner for us, – kickball. Although we didn’t play, we sat on the sidelines and took it all in. Every week a bunch of Milwaukee kids all get together at a local baseball diamond and drink and play kickball. For those who are unfamiliar with kickball it’s basically the same layout and rules as baseball except instead of a bat and small hard ball, the pitcher rolls a large foam ball along the ground and you have to kick it. One thing that I really noticed was that everyone I’d seen in Milwaukee really gets into outdoor sports. Even on the drive from the airport to the house we passed the beach on Lake Michigan and it was jam-packed with people riding bikes and playing volleyball. I guess when it’s crappy weather for 8 months out of the year you have to make the most of the 4 sunny months you get. Coming from a place like Australia where even in the winter months you still get sunshine and bearable temperatures, I really can’t comprehend going days on end without seeing the sun and sub-zero temperatures.
milwaukee, famous for beer.
The end of kickball saw us get excited over something else we’d been looking forward to all day, – vegan pizza. When we ordered the pizza I was a bit aprehensive, – between six people we were meant to share only two pizzas. To me, a large pizza is about 20-25 centimeters across. So imagine my surprise when we arrived at ‘Classic Slice’ and were greeted with two boxes almost half a meter across each! I’m usually pretty good at demolishing whole pizza’s but even with this one I could only manage to eat 4 slices. They were definitely some of the best four slices I’ve ever eaten though.
the best vegan pizza. ever. hands down. and the biggest.
Our plans for the night were to have some pre-drinks, a few games of ping pong and then head to a bar past downtown called ‘The Cactus’. Pre-drinks probably killed our ping-pong playing skills because Kyle beat us both by a huge margin, much to his delight. While we were waiting for Ryan to finish tracking a band he was working with, a friend of theirs called Bridget arrived and it turned out she was to be our designated driver for the night as well. Bridget was rad, and she’s planning on heading out to Australia for a work abroad programme in January next year so I think we managed to sell her on the idea of living in Sydney.
Renee’s screams from upstairs alerted us to raccoons on the porch, – she was terrified but being the tourists we are Jules and I were really excited to see them. Apparently a lot of raccoons carry rabies but even that idea didn’t stop the sight of a mother raccoon and her four small babies running down the porch and dashing in and out under the cars in the driveway being just too cute for words for us. So far we’ve seen squirrels, raccoons and seals, so our American wildlife experience is going almost as well as our American food experience.
Upon our arrival at ‘The Cactus’ we were greeted with cigarette smoke and metal music, a classic dive bar. But instead of being filled with a bunch of drunk old men it was filled with scene kids. So it was pretty much a rad night. There were people there that we’d met the night before at the Irish pub Kyle had taken us to, so even though our memories were a tiny bit hazy they completely refreshed them for us. 2am rolled around eventually so we all got kicked out and despite our best-laid plans to break into a local water park we headed home instead. The last night in Milwaukee was just as fun as the first and we managed to capture Kyle’s laugh on camera, so we can forever remember (and torment him) how hilarious it is.
We slept in until noon again on our last morning in Milwaukee and headed to Whole Foods one last time to stock up on food for our train trip to Chicago. I have to say that so far, Milwaukee has been the hardest place to say goodbye to, and even though I don’t know if my travels will ever take me back there again, I will never forget the two days I spent there. So now it is goodbye to Milwaukee and hello Chicago, from one mid-west city to the next our adventures continue.
us and our fave milwaukee buddies