I moved to Riverwest in 1993 and rented an apartment with a friend on Pierce Street. I came in search of cheap beer and cheap rent and because so many of my friends had relocated already to the neighborhood in search of the same things.
When I wasn't writing confessional poetry on the forearm of a philosophy major, I drank Stein at the Stork Club and the Hop Inn. I danced at the Mars Hotel, watched crappy punk bands at Quarters (hey, I was in a crappy punk band so I can say this) and ate mayo-heavy sandwiches at this brand new cafe that brought the '90s coffee shop concept to Milwaukee called Fuel Cafe.
When I was super broke, I went on the Lakefront Brewery tour for $2 when the brewery was still a one-room operation on Chambers Street, next to Dino's, where I ate about a thousand plates of fried fish.
In 1997, I bought two houses in Riverwest: a single family and a duplex for about a nickel each. In 2003, I sold these houses for about a dime each to pay lawyers so I could bring a 9-month-old Guatemalan boy with wild curly hair and a penchant for mushed-up bananas over the Texas border.
Both of my kids spent most of their lives hanging out in Riverwest, from friends' backyards to the Riverwest Co-op, Gordon Park, Children's Outing Association (COA), the playroom at Rio West Cantina and in stimulating, colorful classrooms at La Escuela Fratney.
In 2005, I created an outdoor communal living space on Booth Street with a friend who owned three properties surrounding my property. We literally tore down fences, put up one fence around the parameter of the four yards and created a green space that, over time, looked like this place my kids believe in called heaven.
Riverwest inspired me. I wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of poems and essays and articles from my bubblegum pink home office. I planted begonias and broccoli and gourds and garlic and tomatoes and tulips and sometimes, sunflowers on the sly in public places just to spruce up the neighborhood. (Actually, many of the Riverwesterners I know are like sunflowers with hardy stems that soak up toxins and with faces filled with cheer and light.)
So many people and places defined my 18 years of Riverwest bliss, from the lady with the snake wrapped around her neck at Locust Street Festival to the always-2-for-1 happy hour at Art Bar to Wednesday night bowling at the Polish Falcon.
Over the years, people moved from Riverwest in fits and spurts to "safer" neighborhoods. And I witnessed crimes, even took a couple of direct hits, but I never felt the need to move away despite suggestions that I should.
"Riverwest is not for everyone," was usually all I would say. "But it works for me."
And then, one day, it didn't. Not because of the neighborhood, but because of my need to plant sunflowers in fresh spaces. After a series of endings, I had this deep desire to bust out of the one-square-mile radius I had lived in my entire life. And so I folded up my futon, extinguished my incense and moved to Walker's Point.
Very nice article that reminds me of so many great times and interesting people I knew in Riverwest from about 1993 until about 2006. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, knew Molly when she was 18, glad to see her recording worthwhile experiences to share. I think I understand the comment re. snobbery, based on nickles and dimes, though I never saw her as such. Perhaps there is something unsettling about referring to a house price as a "nickle", which is apparently code for a large amount of money ($50,000?). I'd love to be wealthy enough to see 50 grand as a nickle, 100 grand as a dime!! Thank goodness some of us made it, and the rest will keep trying. Love.
I too have just left Riverwest after 6 years. I'm now back in Bayview after living there first in the early 90's( when it wasn't cool to live there.) I didn't move for any reason but Molly's, a new perspective on life. New view. I miss Riverwest for it's originality and tenacity, my numerous excellent friends and acquaintences. It was the first neighborhood I truly cared about, proud I was an important part of the texture of living there. I volunteered at the power down festival, helped out at Rockerbox, enjoyed the Locust St. Festival, spent my money in all of the neighborhood restaurants and bars. Indeed there are issues, but as with anywhere, you take the bad with the good and try to do your part to make it just a bit better. (ie planting flowers, starting a block watch, attending meetings at the police department, etc) And, if you look at is as a whole, it's Milwaukee. And anywhere in Milwaukee is cool enough.
you had me up until the ending. Was there a larger reason or specific incident that led to the move? Why Walker's Point? Feels like a lateral move to me. Will there be a follow-up: "Hello, Fifth Ward".
You had me right up until the end. It seems like you have more to say, like an incident which leads to the move, or better explanation to the specific choice in the move (which feels kind of lateral, quite frankly). Is there going to be a part 2: "Hello, Walkers Point"?
Why all the bayview haters? Not enough violence for you.
Show me the other 14 Talkbacks
19 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published March 6, 2015
Facebook saves the day. Well, a facebook friend named Bob did anyway.
Published March 5, 2015
Wendy Christensen, the Milwaukee Public Museum's taxidermist / artist, is best known for her recreation of Samson, the beloved gorilla from the Milwaukee County Zoo. Most recently, however, she constructed two life-sized, detailed Arabian horses for the museum's new exhibit, "Crossroads of Civilization."
Published March 3, 2015
Nomad World Pub will turn 20 this month and plans to have a new beer garden and food service. There's even talk of a Miami-based Nomad.
Published March 1, 2015
Happy hour drinkers at The Irish Pub weighed in on the new Guinness potato chips.
Published Feb. 28, 2015
In 1951, Mary Jane "MJ" Riffel was a divorced single mother. Despite numerous challenges from sexism to cancer, she went on to a successful career in real estate and opened two real estate schools in Milwaukee. Today, Riffel is 92, lives on the shore of Lake Michigan in Bay View and is writing a collection of short stories.
Published Feb. 28, 2015
The Midwest is often influenced and inspired by the East Coast, but sometimes the reverse happens. Such is the case with The Butterfly: a retro lounge and supper club located in New York City that's an homage to The Butterfly in Beloit. OnMilwaukee.com recently visited the Beloit Butterfly, and The Butterfly in New York is officially on the "bucket list."
Published Feb. 27, 2015
Last night, Matthew "Sherm" Sherman hosted a soft opening for his new bar, Junior's Hook, located at 1517 S. 2nd St. Take a look.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
Angelo's Lounge, 1686 N. Van Buren St., is available for lease. Hopefully, the right person will take it over and keep the lounge magic flowing.
Published Feb. 26, 2015
The patio will be blanketed in snow, but Barnacle Bud's, 1955 S. Hilbert St., reopens on Friday, Feb. 27. Luckily, there's a warm, dry structure next to the patio for us to reacquaint ourselves with Bud's.
Published Feb. 26, 2015
Although cars and technology made some communications faster and / or paperless, many businesses and individuals still need to transport hard copies - and transport them near the speed of light. This is good news for Wayne Wallner, who owns Breakaway Couriers, and Steven Feih, the owner of Milwaukee Courier Company.