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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 24, 2014

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"O'Back Barama."
"O'Back Barama."

O'Back Barama gets my kid's vote

Even in the summer months, when my son’s skin darkens from a milky mocha to rich hot chocolate, I don’t register that his skin hue is different from mine. Sure, we’ve talked about it a few times in a factual manner. Once, while watching "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals" he said, "Those cows have all different skins like we do in our family."

"Good," I thought. "He gets it. Enough said."

But I forget that despite our downplaying of his brown-ness, it is already a part of his 5-year-old identity. Yesterday, Kai saw Barack Obama on the evening news and said, "O’Back Barama is going to be a president and he has brown skin like me."

I am glad he will grow up believing that someone with brown skin could just as easily be the president as a white guy (or gal), but it occurred to me that Kai, who was born in Guatemala, cannot run for president someday. Suddenly, I had so many thoughts running through my mind, but  all I could say was, "Right on!" and flip the channel.

I got to The Miller Lite Oasis more than an hour before Matisyahu went on stage, but this was as close as I could get.
I got to The Miller Lite Oasis more than an hour before Matisyahu went on stage, but this was as close as I could get.
Some of the fans looked like this ...
Some of the fans looked like this ...
... but most of them looked more like this.
... but most of them looked more like this.

Matisyahu was no schlep at Summerfest

Last night was the fifth night of Summerfest, and the 29th birthday of Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, who headlined the Miller Lite Oasis in front of a massive crowd. The birthday coincidence was good timing for a Summerfest show because it contributed to the already raging party vibe. (I haven’t smelled that much reefer in the air since Jerry died. Seriously.)

About halfway through the almost two-hour performance, a stagehand brought out a birthday cake and got the audience to sing the "Happy Birthday" song. Although Matisyahu kissed him on the mouth in appreciation, he went on to say, "The Torah says the candle is the soul of God and you should not blow it out, but I’m making a wish."

Matisyahu, along with his five-piece band, blew through a dozen numbers, including "Chop ‘Em Down," the crowd-pleasing "Jerusalem," "Moonlight Twilight," "Time of Your Song," "Lord Raise Me Up" and new songs "I Will be Light" and "So High, So Low."

He also belted out "Slap Me Daft," an autobiographical song about the lack of real-life knowledge provided by conventional high schools and a warning against drugs and alcohol use. "Substance dulls the mind / Traife wine clouds the heart / You can't sew a stitch with one hand / While you're taking it apart."

This song was well received by the crowd, many of whom were young, white teenagers and twentysomethings combined with a fair share of Matisyahu look-alikes. When Matisyahu played at The Pabst Theater last summer, the crowd was more diverse, with a representation of Jewish families and older, die-hard reggae fans peppering the mix.

Matisyahu, born Matthew Paul Miller, is a Hasidic Jew and therefore does not perform on Friday nights to observe the Sabbath. He wears traditional Hasidic clothing, including a yarmulke on his head and massive beard. During last night’s show he donned a white cotton shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes. Towards the end of the gig, he invited hundreds of fans on stage with h…

I give this bubbler a 9 on the Public Hydration Scale.
I give this bubbler a 9 on the Public Hydration Scale.

Milwaukee's best bubbler

I've slurped water from hundreds, maybe thousands, of Milwaukee bubblers, but every time I take a drink from the one in Back Bay Park I think to myself, "This is a damn fine bubbler. Perhaps the city's finest." (Or something like that.)

So, if you, like me, are a connoisseur of the bubbler, this is worth noting.

Back Bay Park, on on Terrace Avenue on Milwaukee's East Side, has a small-but-mighty bubbler that's a popular stopping place for runners, rollerbladers and playground kids and their parents. In my experience, it is always cold -- but not too cold -- and just the right amount of pressure. (I hate wimpy bubbler dribble or when it arcs too high and blasts you in the face.)

This town has other bubblers worth bending over for, and perhaps you know of one. If so, enlighten us via the Talkback feature.

Super small cars are best if you don't have regular backseat passengers.
Super small cars are best if you don't have regular backseat passengers.

Are kids safe in the backseats of tiny cars?

I am hoping to ditch my gas-glugging Jeep Cherokee and buy a smaller, used car this summer. Initially, I thought I wanted a Honda Fit, Pontiac Vibe or Toyota Matrix (which is basically The Vibe), but after doing a bunch of research, I'm starting to reconsider these tiny cars.

Sure, the gas mileage is amazing, but because I have two kids who would ride in the backseat, I am questioning the safety of driving something with so little junk in the trunk. (Even though I joke with friends that my mothering motto is "safety last," I am hyperactive when it comes to their well bring.)

If I didn't have kids, I would be all over these small cars, because they make sense on so many levels, and they are affordable, too. However, although the safety rating for the driver and front passenger are excellent -- especially in the Fit -- the rear ratings for most of these  small fry rides received a "poor."

For me, it's difficult to gage how much of a risk it really is to drive a very compact car.  Are Americans brainwashed by the belief that mammoth cars mean safety? Could it be that some of the warnings against driving small cars are so we'll consume more fuel? Europeans drive much smaller cars, but then again, I have not researched their death rates compared to ours.

Despite my posed questions, I am actually feeling very solid in my thoughts. It boils down to the fact that, as a parent, you do what you can do to keep kids safe. Common sense tells me that if one of these clown cars got rear-ended by an SUV, it wouldn't be pretty.

Sure, saving on gas is important, especially for families like mine who feel the impact of the rising costs of food and fuel, but, obviously, sparing a few bucks at the pump isn't worth it if something happens to one of my kids. It would be just another example of trading blood for oil.

I am not exactly going to buy a mini van, but now, I'm researching the slightly larger vehiceles, like the Subaru Impreza. Any thoughts on …