Milwaukee Doors Open ’17

Temps have cooled down some, but it’s still warmer than usual for this time of year. At about 12:30 this afternoon, I saw an ice cream truck drive down our street. I can’t ever remember seeing one in October.

Last weekend, Yuriko and I drove up to Milwaukee to participate in Milwaukee Doors Open. Ann couldn’t make it, even if she’d wanted to, because she was attending her first high school speech tournament.

That’s a good thing. Her joining speech inspired me, while in Texas recently, to open up one of my high school yearbooks, the 1979 edition, to the page devoted to the National Forensic League. I was a member.
NFL AHHS 1979I discovered when Ann signed up for debate that it isn’t the NFL any more, but the National Speech & Debate Association, only since 2014. What kind of name is that? Hopelessly bland. It’s as distinctive as the name of a suburban office park in a mid-sized market.

Note in the picture above: the club’s officers (I was one of those, too) had fun with belonging to the NFL. We lined up like football players for the picture.

Doors Open Milwaukee 2017First we went to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, which is in the near suburb of Wauwatosa. It’s best known for being one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last works, and in fact was completed after he died. As I read, and as I saw, this 1950s church is informed by traditional Byzantine forms. But I also couldn’t help thinking of space age forms.

From there, we went into the city and revisited the Basilica of Saint Josaphat. Last time we were there was Good Friday 2011, and as you’d guess, the church was fairly busy that day. This time, it was open just for a look, so we were able to do that at some length.

East Town, the part of downtown Milwaukee east of the Milwaukee River, was next. A number of churches along or near Juneau St. were open, so they became the focus. Doors Open features a lot more than churches, but with so many clustered together, I figured that would be a good theme for this year.

They included All Saints’ Cathedral (Episcopal), Summerfield United Methodist Church and Immanuel Presbyterian Church. All were worth seeing.

At one of them, a U.S. flag and another flag graced the entrance. The other one, which I’d never seen before, intrigued me. Y held it so I could take a picture, since the wind wasn’t up.
The People's Flag of MilwaukeeI asked the volunteer inside the door about it, and she told me it was the new flag of Milwaukee. I took that to mean officially, but that’s not so. There’s a movement to make it the official flag, to replace this embarrassment, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Currently it’s the People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Sounds like the banner under which the proletariat would storm City Hall, but I don’t think the organizers of online poll to pick a new design had that in mind. I’ll go along with it, though I don’t live in Milwaukee. It’s a good design. Vexillologists hate the current flag, and I agree with them.

Speaking of Milwaukee City Hall, that was the last place we went for Doors Open Milwaukee after a late lunch at the downtown George Webb, the local diner chain with two clocks. I interviewed the mayor of Milwaukee in his office at City Hall in 2003, but I really didn’t get to look around. It’s a splendid public building, dating from the Progressive Era.

Den-Tex ’17

Before my most recent visit to Texas, which ended today, I spent a few days in Denver. It was like a first visit, because the last time was in June 1980. I had a layover of six — eight? — hours as part of a bus odyssey from Texas to Utah that summer, and took the opportunity to kick around downtown Denver, including a visit to the state capitol and the U.S. Mint.

Though I only remember Denver faintly from that visit, this time around I still felt that there’s a lot more Denver than there used to be. Of course, as a matter of objective fact that’s pretty easy to check. The metro population in 1980 was about 1.3 million. Now the Census Bureau puts the metro population at 2.8 million, though it seems that the definition of the statistical area has expanded over the last three decades-plus.

So it’s a big place. I can see why people want to move there. There’s lots to recommend greater Denver, except for the traffic and some dodgy areas, but every big city has those.

My trip focused on metro Denver. I didn’t climb cathedral mountains, or see silver clouds below. Saturday before last, I started with a walkabout in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which included a look at two major churches, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) and St. John’s Cathedral (Episcopal).

I also had a late breakfast or early lunch — I can’t call it brunch, it just didn’t have that atmosphere — at a joint on E. Colfax Ave. called Tom’s Diner.

Tom's Diner, DenverDecorative stone walls, avocado and orange tiles, big windows, yellow-surfaced booth tabletops, a counter to sit at while facing the kitchen: it was like stepping into 1973.

Later, I headed over to the Denver Art Museum and spent time wandering through the galleries. Just outside the museum, the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration was going on that day, so I got to see some of that too.

I visited the Colorado State Capitol again, though just the grounds, since it was closed for the weekend. From there, I caught the no-charge bus that plies 16th Street through downtown, making my way to two urban spaces that I’ve written about a number of times, and which I very much wanted to see: Denver Union Station and Larimer Square. Both are superb examples of redevelopment.

I couldn’t visit urban Denver without riding the RTD, the city’s relatively new light rail system. I’ve written about it, too. I caught a train not far from Union Station.
RTD Denver Union StationA sleek, new system: it was everything it needed to be, depositing me near the Denver Convention Center. It wasn’t long before I found myself looking at “I See What You Mean.”
"I See What You Mean" DenverA 40-foot blue bear statue, the work of Lawrence Argent, installed in 2005. A lot of tourists reportedly take pictures of it. Why should I be any different?

After Saturday, I had less time for tooling around metro Denver, but I did squeeze in a few other places, such as Golden, Colo. Guess it counts as outer suburban Denver now, but in any case the town has some exceedingly pleasant public spaces, especially along Clear Creek (which is a river).

In Morrison, not far from Golden, I visited the extraordinary Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. I didn’t see a concert there, but I can see the appeal to both the musicians and the audience. It’s an uplifting, masterpiece of space design.

At Red Rocks — which is owned by the City and County of Denver — I took note of the flag of Denver (on the right).
Flags: Colorado, US, DenverI don’t remember seeing it before. Like the Colorado flag, it’s a fine design. (Number three on the American City Flags Survey of 2004.)

I wanted to visit two historic Denver cemeteries, but I only had time for one: Fairmount Cemetery. It’s a well-tended property, unlike Riverside, which is on the South Platte and supposedly has the virtue of being unkempt.

The Texas section of the trip was mostly devoted to work and family matters. But I did get out for a few hours one day to visit the King William District just south of downtown San Antonio. The last time I was there was ca. 1976. I mentioned that to a person even older than I am, and he said, “Yeah, I remember it then. It was a slum.”

Not any more. For example, the house at 425 King William St., according to Zillow at least, is for sale for $2.7 million.

Flag Day, Such As It Is

It occurred to me today, before I went out on some errands and for no particular reason, that it was Flag Day. So I decided to take note driving along whether there seemed to be more American flags than usual flying in my slice of the northwestern suburbs. The answer: not that I could tell.

Adam Goodheart, writing in 2011 in the former NYT blog Disunion, wrote about the origin of the day, which falls on the anniversary of the adoption of the flag by the Second Continental Congress: “It was destined, eventually, to become the runty stepchild among American national holidays. One hundred and fifty years after its original creation, no one ever hosts a Flag Day cookout or sends a Flag Day greeting card. Nobody gets to take a long weekend from the office. Even the most customer-hungry car dealers don’t advertise Flag Day sales.

“…exactly 150 years ago after it was first celebrated [in Hartford, Conn.], almost no one seems to have noticed the anniversary. Google searches for ‘sesquicentennial of Flag Day’ and similar phrases yield exactly zero hits.”

The day might not have endured as much more than text on calendars, but reverence for the flag has very much endured. I didn’t see no U.S. flags during my drive today, just flags where they usually are, which is a lot of places.

“Before 1861, the American flag had served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory, flown from forts, embassies and ships, and displayed on special occasions like the Fourth of July,” wrote Goodheart. “But after the Southern states began to secede — and the Union garrison at Fort Sumter took its stand as a lone bastion of resistance — the Stars and Stripes began to fly, as it still does today, from houses, from storefronts, from churches; above village greens and college quadrangles.”

(And at Ft. Sumter to this day.)

Ft Sumter 2017“The adulation of the national banner hardly diminished during the years that followed… As for Flag Day, it seems to have remained a largely local observance during the Civil War and Reconstruction years, despite occasional efforts in Congress… to have it declared a national holiday. Official federal recognition came only in 1916.

“The holiday’s popularity seems to have crested in the period of the two world wars and the early cold war. Then, for the 1960s generation, it became more or less the epitome of square: a vaguely embarrassing grade-school memory to be filed alongside duck-and-cover drills and mandatory prayers.

“Flag Day never regained much of its former cachet in the decades that followed. And yet, holiday or no holiday, this June 14 — as on all other days of the year — the American flag remains as ubiquitous and as venerated as the most pious citizen of Hartford could have wished in 1861.”

Thursday Trifles

My wooden back scratcher — one of earliest inventions of mankind, for sure, and still one of the best — still has its label attached. I just noticed that. A product of Daiso Japan, it was acquired in Japan early this year and brought to me as o-miyagi.

The label is in Japanese and English. The English WARNING says:

Please understand that there is a risk of having mold and bugs since this is made of natural material.
Please do not use this for any other purpose than what it should be.
Please follow the garbage segregation rules imposed by local municipality.

Here’s a picture from Lou Mitchell’s last month. “A Millennial Couple at Breakfast.”


The flag between them is a Cubs W flag. They were all over when the Cubs were in the World Series, and you still see them sometimes. Ann asked me what it stood for. I said, Win. She said, couldn’t that be for any team anywhere? I assured her that that kind of reasoning has no place in sports fandom.

Here’s an article about Carvana. That’s a company that develops automobile vending machines. Or rather, mechanical towers that dispense cars previously acquired online. I’d never heard of it before. They’re in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, among other places, so maybe I ought to take a look at one.

A few weeks ago, there was a thing going around Facebook: List 10 musical acts, nine of which you’ve seen, one you haven’t. Others are invited to guess which is the one you haven’t seen. Pointless but harmless. I refuse to do it on Facebook, but I will here. Alphabetically.

The Bobs
Chubby Checker
Irwin Hepplewhite & the Terrifying Papoose Jockeys
Gustav Leonhardt
Bob Marley
Natalie Merchant
Bill Monroe
Taj Mahal
They Might Be Giants
Francis Xavier & the Holy Roman Empire

The 606 in ’16

On Saturday we went to the city for a few hours. Yuriko went to a cake-making class offered by a woman she knows who lives near Humboldt Park. I was the driver, since it’s complicated to get there by train and bus, and driving in the city unnerves her.

As it should, with cars everywhere, parked and in motion, operated by sometimes careless or aggressive drivers and often closer than you think; delivery trucks blocking the way; road construction crews doing likewise — though the rough surfaces and potholes never seem to go away; buses acting as if they own the road; bicyclists passing between you and parked cars suddenly and with inches to spare; random pedestrians all over the place, a few with no sense; people opening their car doors in front of you without warning, emerging onto the street (some with children in tow); large intersections without the benefit of turning signals; and stretches of street being resurfaced, but not completed just yet, which on a dry June day raises clouds of dust through which you must pass.

Then there’s the matter of parallel parking. Yuriko doesn’t care for it. A lot of people would say the same. I never knew how to do it until I moved to Chicago in the late ’80s. Then I learned it well. It’s an essential skill for owning a car in the city. I also learned what to expect driving in a place like Chicago. Or New York or Boston or Washington DC or Atlanta or Miami or Dallas or Los Angeles or Seattle — all harrowing in their own sweet ways.

I’ll say one good thing about driving in Chicago, though: it’s easy to know roughly where you are all the time. The streets mostly form a grid, with major streets at regular intervals, and just about every street, even the most minor, marked with an easy-to-see, well-placed and legible street sign. Not every city has such luxuries, and I mean you, Boston.

With Yuriko at her cake class, I had a couple of hours to kick around in the late morning. The Puerto Rican Festival in Humboldt Park, Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, was slated to start at noon, as evidenced by people carrying the commonwealth’s well designed flag into the park and the flag being flown by a lot of passing cars. Here’s a vendor selling some.

Puerto Rican Day Chicago 2016Since the event wasn’t actually under way, I went elsewhere. I visited St. Mary of the Angels church about 20 blocks to the east, taking a North Avenue bus, and then walking back, partly on the 606, the same linear park we visited on its opening day a little more than a year ago.

This time I saw a bit more of the trail’s eastern end, though not quite to the east terminus. At around 11 am in mid-June, the sun is high and the trail very warm. Temps were in the upper 80s F. That didn’t keep people away.
The 606 ChicagoI was glad to see that the landscaping on the edges is now more lush than a year ago. Also, development of the land nearby continues apace.

606 Winchester AveI also noticed that the trail is short on shade. Most of the year, that wouldn’t matter, but in summer it’s important. Even the trailside parks weren’t particularly shady. At Park 567, where the trail crosses over Milwaukee Ave., there were only three or four spots under trees offering any significant shade. I was lucky enough to be able to sit by myself in one sizable pool of shade, though I would have shared the space if any had asked.

I got a look at the trail’s first art installation, the serpentine “Brick House,” by a sculptor named Chakaia Booker.

606 - Brick House scultpureI’ll consider the title whimsical, since no bricks are involved, or any obvious connection to the song celebrating feminine pulchritude. It’s made of stainless steel and recycled tire rubber. Put in last fall, the piece attracts children, who instantly want to climb it.

I would have spent more time on the trail, but I’d forgotten a hat (though not water). The shade, provided by mature trees, is better on many of Chicago’s neighborhood streets, so after about a half mile, I walked the rest of the way on small streets, as well as along North Ave., whose buildings also provided shade at that time of the day, at least on the south side of the street. I’m not the devil-may-care teen I used to be, who sometimes walked miles in clear 90-plus degree weather in San Antonio or Austin.

Dayton ’16

Not long before Memorial Day weekend this year, my professional duties took me to AAA’s web site, and a press release there told me that among American travelers, “the top destinations this Memorial Day weekend, based on and AAA travel agency sales, are: Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Washington, DC, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, Honolulu, Los Angeles and South Padre Island.”

We didn’t go to any of those destinations last weekend, as interesting as they all are. (I’ll bet Myrtle Beach has its charms; it’s the only one on the list I’ve never been to.) Instead, we went to Dayton as the primary destination, with shorter stops in Wapakoneta, also in Ohio, along with Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne — the last two for meals. So it was a western Ohio trip.

Ohio, land of the curious swallowtail flag. The Ohio Burgee, it’s called.
Ohio BurgeeOr maybe we took an aerospace-themed trip, since we spent the better part of Saturday at the sprawling, extraordinary National Museum of the U.S. Air Force just outside of Dayton, on the grounds of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It has a reputation as one of the best aviation museums in the country, often mentioned in the company of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Now that I’ve been there, I can see why.

The Wright brothers were from Dayton, and the Wright sister too. Four boys and a girl survived to adulthood, and all but the eldest brother were ultimately involved in the business of flying machines. These days, the city features the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. Part of the park includes a museum dedicated to the Wrights — and, curiously enough, to Ohioan poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who did have a remarkable life. After lunch on Saturday, we took in the Wright-Dunbar exhibits, despite our tired feet.

On Sunday morning, as my family lolled in our room, I went to the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. Covering 200 hilly, wooded acres, Woodland is a fitting name and most aesthetic burying ground I’ve seen since Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

We came by way of I-65 to Indianapolis and then I-70 to Dayton. I didn’t want to return the same way, so we headed north on I-75 to Wapakoneta, boyhood home of Neil Armstrong, and current location of a spaceflight museum. From there, US 27/33 took us to Ft. Wayne, a city I’d never visited, despite its relative proximity.

I also wanted to drive US 30 from Ft. Wayne across Indiana. It turned out to be a fairly fast way to traverse the state, something like the Trans-Canada Highway out in Saskatchewan or Manitoba; that is, as a divided highway, but not limited access one.

Maxine’s Chicken & Waffles in Indianapolis offered the best meal of the trip, so good and filling that we barely needed to eat the rest of the day after stopping there at about 4 EDT on Friday (but still 3 CDT according to our stomachs). Chicken and pancakes were on the menu, which I had this time around.

When we came out of Maxine’s, I saw something I’d only ever heard about: a Megabus.

Megabus, Indianapolis 2016The bus on the Chicago-Indianapolis run. I suppose there on N. East St., toward the eastern edge of downtown, is where it picks up its budget-minded passengers. According to the web site, the price for Chicago-Indianapolis is “from $25.” I’m not sure how much that really would be, but at least the bus offers wifi. They know their market.

Hall of State, Fair Park

At one end of the Fair Park Esplanade is the Hall of State, a stately hall indeed. “The Hall of State, a museum, archive, and reference library, was erected in 1936 at a cost of about $1.2 million by the state of Texas at Fair Park in Dallas to house the exhibits of the Texas Centennial Exposition and the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition of 1937,” explains the Texas State Historical Association.
Hall of State, Fair Park“The structure, designed by eleven Texas architects, is characterized as Art Deco… The front is 360 feet long, and the rear wing extends back 180 feet… The walls are surfaced with Texas limestone. A carved frieze memorializing names of historical importance encircles the building. Carvings on the frieze display Texas flora.”

I went inside for a look, and soon was face-to-face — or maybe face-to-plinth — with six statues of early Texas luminaries: Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, James Fannin, Thomas J. Rusk, and William B. Travis. Here’s Lamar (1798-1859), second president of the Republic of Texas, among other things.
MB LamarPompeo Coppini did the sculptures. I’d run across his work before at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. If it’s a monumental sculpture in Texas done in the early to mid-20th century, odds are he did it.

Then I entered Great Hall.
Hall of State, Great HallThe TSHA again: “The Great Hall, or the Hall of the Six Flags, in the central wing, has a forty-six-foot-high ceiling. Murals on the north and south walls depict the history of the state and its industrial, cultural, and agricultural progress. These were painted by Eugene Savage of New York.” I’d run across him before as well.

Great Hall, Hall of StateDuring my visit, the Great Hall happened to be sporting an exhibit about Texas musicians, and I will say that I learned that Meat Loaf was from Dallas, something I didn’t know. Actually I didn’t know much about many of the Texas musicians mentioned in the exhibit, such as various bluesmen and Western swing players and Tejano bands.

On the back wall of the Great Hall is a gold-leafed medallion with the Lone Star emblem of Texas surrounded by representations of the six nations whose flags have flown over the state.
Gold leaf!The United States and the Republic of Texas are at the top; the Confederacy and Mexico in the middle; and France and Spain on the bottom. The six together are a persistent theme in symbolic representations of modern Texas.

Parade on the 606

On our way back to Humboldt Ave., where we got on the spanking-new 606 linear park on the Northwest Side of Chicago, and where we planned to get off, we encountered a little parade. Looked like an impromptu to-do.

Parade on the 606, 06-06 Parade on the 606, 06-06Whatever uniforms and instruments you got, bring ’em!

Parade on the 606, 06-06Cheerleaders are OK, but flag girls are where it’s at. That’s how I felt in high school, anyway, and some opinions never quite go away. Incidentally, the flag the woman in red is carrying said “FLAG” (as seen in the previous picture). Her shirt said “I ♥ a Scientist.” And note the Chicago flag wristband; nice touch.

And speaking of flags, this is a variation of the Chicago flag I hadn’t seen before.

Chicago flag variationJust happy chance that we got to see the little parade go by. That, and we showed up at the 606 on opening day.

Come and Take It

There probably aren’t too many Come and Take It flags flapping in the Illinois wind, but there’s one in my back yard. It’s along with a Stars and Stripes, one of many that a Realtor posted on our block – all near the street – for the Fourth of July this year.

Come and Take ItIt’s the flag I bought as a souvenir of my visit to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site in April. It was a little long to take in a suitcase on an airplane – and it’s a little pointy, just the kind of thing that might alarm a literal-minded TSA agent and who might indeed take it – so I left it at Jay’s house, intending to pick it up in July, when I could take it back in my car. Remarkably, I remembered to do just that, though it’s been in the car for a few weeks.

Nothing like an obscure historic flag of defiance to brighten up your deck. Unlike the Gadsden Flag, it hasn’t been co-oped by anti-government radicals (anti-government, except for their Social Security and Medicare).

Lights No, Flags Yes

While driving along this evening I saw two houses with Christmas lights. Christmas lights all aglow here in mid-November. No, no, no. I can understand putting up the lights during the relatively warm days of November – even though it’s been cold lately – but lighting them? Let November be November, not some run-up to December.

Another thing I saw in the neighborhood: a flagpole flying the Hawaiian state flag, right under the U.S. flag. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Hawaiian flag around here before. It’s one of the cooler state flags, with its Union Jack canton and red, white and blue stripes supposedly symbolizing the major islands. I wonder what the occasion is; maybe the homeowners were there recently, and brought it back as a souvenir.

I also wonder whether they’ll fly the flag on Hawaiian holidays. According to the always interesting Flags of the World web site, whose Hawaii page includes such details as an 1896 variation on the flag, state occasions on which to fly the flag include Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day and King Kamehameha I Day, March 26 and June 11, respectively. Also, the third Friday in August is Statehood Day.

And, of course, not everyone is happy about the Hawaiian flag, even though it was used by the independent kingdom in the 19th century.