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Jose Garza loved talking to people. And drinking good tequila.
Jose Garza loved talking to people. And drinking good tequila.

Happy birthday, Conejito

Last night, I accidentally attended a birthday party for former owner of Conejito’s Place restaurant, Jose Garza. Garza -- who went by the nickname "Conejito" -- died on Oct. 7 and yesterday, he would have turned 76.

At about 7 p.m. last night, I stopped in for what I refer to as "Mexican comfort food" and margaritas and found a room full of green and red balloons. The bartender, Lala, was offering up shots of Centenario -- a high-end tequila that was Garza’s favorite. She poured one for Garza, too, and put a lit candle in the full shot glass. Then she played "Happy Birthday" on the jukebox about 10 times.

I have been a regular diner at Conejito’s since I was a kid, and I spent numerous evenings as an adult sitting at the bar with Garza, talking mostly about Milwaukee, family and food. I appreciated the chance to toast him one more time.

I Googled "cute ski mask" and this is what I found. Nope, not gonna work for me.
I Googled "cute ski mask" and this is what I found. Nope, not gonna work for me.

Knitters, I need you

The subject of ski masks and why I’m not wearing one keeps coming up. It all began a week or so ago when temperatures first started to really get mean, and after walking just a few blocks to a coffee shop, my face was so frozen I looked like I got a bundle of botched Botox injections.

Since then, I remarked to a few dozen more people -- including Kramp and Alder during our Heat Index segment last week -- that I don’t understand why more Milwaukeeans, including myself, don’t wear ski masks in winter.

They make perfect sense for the frosty season and yet, I never see anyone wearing one who’s not a toddler, a snowmobiler, a superhero or a television robber or rapist. (Maybe real-life robbers and rapists wear ski masks, I do not know for certain because, luckily, I have never seen one in action.)

This is where you come in, knitters. Is there -- or could there be -- such a thing as a cute ski mask, or is this an oxymoron? Are they inherently creepy? Furthermore, can a person wear one without looking like they’re on the verge of  committing a felony? I really want to rock one, but I'm not sure I can really pull it off.

Damn, it’s cold out there, Milwaukee.

La Fuente on Blue Mound opened on Oct. 12, 2010.
La Fuente on Blue Mound opened on Oct. 12, 2010. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)
A three-dimensional matador mural nods to the El Matador restaurant formerly in the space.
A three-dimensional matador mural nods to the El Matador restaurant formerly in the space. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)
The fireplace is a cozy touch.
The fireplace is a cozy touch. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

Is the new La Fuente adversely affecting the old?

This is a very un-scientific observation, but after recently visiting both La Fuente locations -- 635 S. 5th St. and the new one at 9155 W. Blue Mound Rd. -- I am left wondering if the Blue Mound locale is affecting business at the Walker's Point joint.

The last couple of times I visited the original La Fuente, there seems to have been fewer customers than usual, and last week, despite a heavy snowfall, the Blue Mound location was slammin’ busy. (The new La Fuente opened in October in the old El Matador space and has an identical menu to the Walker's Point La Fuente.)

Expansion can be a beautiful thing -- especially when it happens to a local business person like La Fuente owner Jose Zarate -- but I hope the new location doesn’t discourage Mexican food lovers from the western suburbs from visiting the Latin Quarter.




For the record: a roll of tape is a crappy Hanukkah present, on the first night or the last.
For the record: a roll of tape is a crappy Hanukkah present, on the first night or the last.

Hanukkah gift giving generates confusion

Velia Tarnoff -- wife of OnMilwaukee.com publisher Andy Tarnoff and a friend of mine -- recently posted a link on her Facebook page to a list of "Eight Questions Gentiles Love Asking About Hanukkah."

One of the questions on the list asks, "Do you really get a present every night, and if you do, is it just like socks?"

I am no expert in the Hebrew Arts, but because my father was Jewish -- making me what Andy Tarnoff and I refer to as Jew-ish -- I am still often the go-to girl for anything related to non-Christian holidays, the teachings of The Torah and even once, the spelling of the word "yarmulke."

That said, I particularly appreciated this list because an acquaintance -- in a bar, no less -- asked me about the rules of gift giving during Hanukkah. Before I could really answer, she proceeded to tell me that she had heard that Jews give small gifts on the first night "like a roll of tape" and a bigger and bigger gift every night, until the eighth and final night, when they get "something like a Wii."

Um, sure? This is possible -- well, except the roll of tape part, that’s a lame present for any of the December holidays -- but the truth is, not surprisingly, that every family has its own rules, usually not hard and fast, about giving presents at Hanukkah.

I particularly liked Velia’s comment, after I told her, via a Facebook  post, about my friend who thought the gifts had to gradually increase in value.

"Personally, I think (Hanukkah) gift-giving should have a certain rhythm. Start off big. Bring it down. Maybe spike in the middle. Bring it home on the last night. Kinda like a DJ," she wrote.

And it's the last night of Hanukkah, Milwaukee. Light 'em if you got 'em.