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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

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Yes, you can make the tail on this snake rattle, too!
Yes, you can make the tail on this snake rattle, too!
The museum's second snake button is in this area.
The museum's second snake button is in this area.

Second snake button found!

You can imagine our dismay yesterday at finding the snake button at the Milwaukee Public Museum inactive. But imagine our surprise a few minutes later when we found and pressed the museum's SECOND snake button. Who knew?!

Like you and your kids, I bet, mine know exactly where the snake button is by now and whenever we reach the second floor of the museum, we make a bee-line for it.

Yesterday, the museum was packed as public schools were closed for a banking day. So, it seemed an especially bad time for the snake button to be on the blink. But, press as we did, the button did not work. An employee stopped to tell us that it's broken – we got that – and that we could press the other snake button.

"Ah, OK, thanks," I said. Wait, what?! The OTHER snake button?

"Oh yes," she said, "there's another snake button." She gave us detailed directions, but while I hate to disappoint you, I'm not passing them on to you. Instead, I will post a couple photos with this blog that offer some clues.

After all, where's the fun if I just tell you where it is?

I will say the button (and its accompanying snake) is on the first floor and in the vicinity pictured in the second photo above. I will also suggest you seek out the first-floor rattlesnake first. That will help you locate the button.

Or, of course, you could ask an employee. I could hardly judge you for that, could I?

Peckham Junior High School was built in 1926.
Peckham Junior High School was built in 1926.
The six-sided chimney is something of a trademark of architect Guy E. Wiley.
The six-sided chimney is something of a trademark of architect Guy E. Wiley.
I love this kind of brickwork.
I love this kind of brickwork.
Apartments have been built in the old gym. The rest of the gym is the main entry.
Apartments have been built in the old gym. The rest of the gym is the main entry.
The former library's woodwork has been kept. The space is now a community room.
The former library's woodwork has been kept. The space is now a community room.
Look at this gorgeous stone work around the main entrance.
Look at this gorgeous stone work around the main entrance.
The tilework - another Wiley feature - has been preserved throughout the building.
The tilework - another Wiley feature - has been preserved throughout the building.
Many apartments have these windows.
Many apartments have these windows.
The auditorium, which is currently not in use, hasn't changed at all.
The auditorium, which is currently not in use, hasn't changed at all.

Urban spelunking: Neighborhood landmark gets a new lease on life

We often rue the loss of old buildings. Especially ones that were near and dear to us. And no buildings fit that bill more than schools, where we grew up.

It’s a shame, for example, that schools like Jefferson (at Juneau Village), Jackson in the Third Ward, 18th Street (now a parking lot) and 21st Street (replaced by a shoebox of a building) have all been erased from the landscape.

So, it makes me all the happier when I see what has become of the original Peckham – and, later, Jackie Robinson – Junior High School/Middle School, 3245 N. 37th St. Peckham opened in 1926 and Jackie Robinson closed in 2005.

Gorman & Co. bought the building from MPS and has transformed it into the Sherman Park Senior Living Community, with 68 units that are already entirely occupied.

Last week, I got a tour from Gorman’s Tom Piacentine, an old friend of mine, and was thrilled at the result.

Pulling up and parking on 32nd Street, I saw the Jackie Robinson School sign still on the building and the old playset is still out there on the grass. The former schoolyard is now parking and open space.

The 1926 building was designed by then-MPS architect Guy Wiley, who drew plans for many, many MPS buildings before his resignation in 1951, including Lincoln Middle School, Neeskara, Garden Homes, Pulaski, Rufus King, Fernwood, Townsend Street and others.

The scholastic Tudor style building has four giant arched windows in the north facade that once flooded light into the gym. That gym, like the rest of the school – or most of it – is now apartments. In the entry, which is the southernmost part of the old gym, are murals depicting Jackie Robinsin and the school building during construction. It’s an airy space that preserves the gym’s hardwood floor and some wall markings used for games.

Also here is a hair salon that serves residents. Above us is the original balcony overlooking the gym.

The library has been preserved and transformed into a stunning community room with gorgeou…

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Just looking at these puts me in the mood for some vino nero.
Just looking at these puts me in the mood for some vino nero. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

What's your go-to grape?

"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round – brought to you by Aperol, Pinnacle, Jameson, Fireball, Red Stag and Avion. The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Like many non-expert wine drinkers, I was swimming in a sea of varietals looking for something to grab hold of and float downstream with. It took my introduction to my family's ancestral homeland to find it.

In fact, my return to the hilly Monferrato area in northwestern Italy in the 1990s led me to a number of wines I hadn't really known and that I fell in love with instantly: barbera, grignolino, ruche and the white erbaluce and cortese.

I'm especially enamored with the versions Sergio DeMartini and the local farmers make at the Sette Colli coop down the hill from Moncalvo. It's down-home wine that families drink together at table, made from the most local of grapes.

The problem is in Milwaukee the most of these are often impossible to find. Once in a while they pop up here or in Chicago and I stock up a bit. But at the moment, the cellar is dry when it comes to the spicier and rarer in America red varietals grignolino and ruche.

But their absence only makes my heart grow fonder and when I get to pop open a bottle, I'm never disappointed. Instead I'm instantly transported to a table at which my cousins are arrayed, smiling and talking and eating some of the best food I've ever had.

Luckily, America has discovered the acid, low tannin barbera. It's flavorful – rich in red berries – and extremely drinkable. It's no coincidence that despite what the wine-heads will tell you about Barolo and Barbaresco, barbera is THE wine of Piemonte. It's also the third-most planted grape in Italy.

Barbera – which my cousins in Piemonte sometimes call "vino nero" (black wine) – is now synonymous with wine for me. When I think of a glass of wine, I s…

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A detail of Gregory Crewdson's photograph on the cover ofa 1999 Yo La Tengo release.
A detail of Gregory Crewdson's photograph on the cover ofa 1999 Yo La Tengo release. (Photo: Matador Records)

Let me take your photo

You sure wouldn't know it from the now perhaps-regrettable turquoise and pink gear, but power pop wavers Speedies were one of the best unsigned bands in New York City when I was in junior high school.

The band's "Let Me Take Your Photo" was a little new wave-era gem with a super-catchy chorus.

The title also turned out to be somewhat prescient as guitarist Greg Crewdson – who I thought was pretty cool – would later grow into one of the most respected photographers in the world. Music fans might recognize his work on the cover of Yo La Tengo's 1999 disc, "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out."

Crewdson can be seen at right in the above video, shot on Brooklyn's Promenade in 1979.

Crewdson, who in addition to being a former minor pop star, is a Yale prof, and his work has been exhibited across America and Europe and in Wisconsin at the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan and right now at Marquette's Haggerty Museum.

Crewdson will present a lecture in room 105 at Marquette's Straz Hall on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. A reception follows. Both events are free and open to the public.

An untitled work from Crewdson’s "Twilight" series is currently on view in the Haggerty as part of "Dark Blue The Water as Protagonist," through May 19.

Here's a great video of Crewdson talking about his process as an artist.