Hey, 2014, you weren't so bad. Let's keep building momentum in 2015, but first, a bit of reflection on some of this year's finer moments.
Concert: I didn’t get to see New Order when they came to Milwaukee 25 years ago, so catching the English '80s band at Summerfest this year was long overdue for me. Bernard Sumner and company took the stage two hours later than listed on the schedule and the sound was muffled at times, but it really didn’t matter. Dancing and singing to "Love Vigilantes" with a thousand or so other dark souls was a high point of my summer and, most likely, the chance of a lifetime.
Book: I read the YA novel "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell to my kids, never expecting to cherish it as much as I did. The fact it took place in the ‘80s, and there are references to some of my favorite bands from the era (The Smiths!), made the book even more meaningful for me. But what really got me about this story chronicling two high school misfits who fall in love is Rowell’s respect for their feelings and she shows us, through exquisite-yet-digestible writing, that young people hurt and love just as profoundly as grown ups. I read as much as I could about the gender-stereotype-defying book and learned she wrote "Eleanor & Park" while listening almost exclusively to The Mountain Goats’ "The Sunset Tree," which has, consequently, served as my writing soundtrack of choice, too.
Milwaukee moment: Throughout the year, I collected images in my mind of Milwaukee people helping Milwaukee people. My favorites revolve around folks helping others catch a bus. At least three times this year, I witnessed a person running to catch a bus, and another person – a stranger – going to great measure like yelling or frantically waving their arms to get the bus to wait for someone who's clearly desperate to get on board. Some days, I am deeply disappointed in this city – in this world – and I pull out memories like these to feel just a little better about humanity, about Milwaukee.
Performance: When Betty Blexrud-Strigens asked me if I wanted to perform the poem "Piss Factory" in her genius reinterpretation of Patti Smith songs (and poems) called "Smith Uncovered," I had to look up the piece because I didn’t know it off hand. After reading just a few lines of the lengthy poem, I was in. Being a part of this incredible show, and becoming deeply intertwined with this powerful poem about work and transformation, made the always-ailing part of me a wee bit better.
Article: Finishing and publishing my article about The Norman, a Downtown apartment building that was the dwelling place of many musicians, artists, junkies, hookers and poor families, burned down in 1991 and left four dead (including two kids) and hundreds without anything. (Literally, nothing. The fire spread so quickly that Ricky had to run out of the building naked.) I spent several months tracking down former residents (thanks, Facebook!), then numerous hours interviewing, transcribing and finally writing the piece. In doing so, I was connected to many people with whom I am now friends, heard stories that brought me to tears and was able to place a tiny brick in Milwaukee’s Great Wall of History.
Recipe: I don’t think I will ever make pickle potato soup as delicious as Polish Fest’s version. However, I am quite pleased with my last couple of batches, loosely based on this recipe. Now if I could just create anything close to the Ren Faire’s mushroom stew I’d never ask for another kitchen miracle.
Person: My best friend and partner in life and crime, Royal, received his Ph.D. in English this month after years of working on it, quitting it, working on it, quitting it and finally, producing a lovely, 250-page dissertation about reflection and writing. I've never been so proud of anyone – especially considering he dropped out of high school to work at Pizza Hut and later became the first person in his family to receive a doctorate. Plus, to live in tandem with someone who spent great stretches of time both on and off "the path" there is so much to be gleaned about perseverance, passion and the ability to live life authentically instead of trying to cram it into a socially admissible box. You rock, doc.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.