1. "Cold enough for ya? You know, it's 15 degrees warmer out here in Waukesha."
Milwaukeeans who reside near the lake hear this refrain every spring from friends who live in the western suburbs.
The opposite effect takes place in the winter, and lake-siders get the benefit of warmer temperatures. But for some reason, bragging to your Brookfield friend in January that "hey it only got down to 23 degrees today on the East Side," isn't quite as fun.
2. "In the town of Laverne and Shirley, ..."
A lot of out-of-town journalists seem to think a reference to the TV show "Laverne and Shirley" is a clever opener to an article about Milwaukee (when on continental Europe, where "L&S" is less known, replace with "Happy Days" or simply "Fonzie"). I mean a lot of them -- do a Google search on "Milwaukee Laverne and Shirley" once and watch the hits pile up.
Milwaukee will be the focus of national media coverage later this summer for the 100th Anniversary celebration of Harley-Davidson. Here's some advice for the visiting reporters who will be in town: We could do without reminders of a lame sitcom from two decades ago. Avoiding references to Latrell Sprewell and all-star games that end in a tie would also be appreciated.
Some better examples of iconic Milwaukee include: Bob Uecker, the Milwaukee Art Museum's Calatrava expansion, Miller Brewery, the Femmes, Summerfest and the other summer festivals.
3. "If you eat at Conejito's, you gotta eat in the bar."
I'm not sure if this is told with the intent of giving advice, or to put on airs that you're a Milwaukee insider.
The benefit of following this recommendation at the popular south side restaurant is you get a larger dose of cigarette smoke with your meal. The service does seem to be quicker in the bar, probably due to its proximity to the kitchen.
4. "You Wisconsinites insist on driving slowly in the left-hand lane."
This is by far the most frequent response from a Chicagoan when a Milwaukeean reveals where he is from. A close second would be "Milwaukee -- oh we go up there every year for Milwaukeefest" (as Flatlanders invariably call Summerfest).
The cliché about our driving habits is generally true. With shorter commutes and less congestion, Milwaukee drivers don't have the same sense of urgency as our neighbors to the south. But bring that sluggish driving behavior south of the Wisconsin border and even the senior citizens will be passing you on the right.
5. "People here are friendly."
Some are, some aren't. Milwaukee doesn't seem to have a disproportionately high percentage of "nice" people compared to anywhere else I've lived.
This phrase ought to be retired. Considering that every town outside of New York City makes this claim, it doesn't really give much insight into Milwaukee. One East Coast transplant I know (and a few people your humble editor knows) thinks people here tend to be cliquish, and less open to outsiders.
6. "Milwaukeeans are cheap."
Apparently we've long had this reputation. After observing University of Wisconsin fans who had traveled to see the Badgers play in the Rose Bowl in the 1960s, one California columnist wrote: "It has never been the practice in Wisconsin to spend a dime when a nickel would serve."
The excuse that Milwaukeeans are cheapskates is often used to explain why more upscale retailers and a National Hockey League franchise have not located here. Again some are, some aren't. But perception is reality.
7. "A locked house is a safe house."
This expression is used by in-the-know locals when entering the Safe House, a popular downtown nightspot since the 1960s. Those who don't know this secret phrase are required to perform silly antics for the pleasure of bar patrons who watch on closed circuit TV. So if you're new to Milwaukee, commit this to memory.
Oh wait, that's not the real Safe House password. Did you really think we'd spoil the fun?
8. "Shouldn't the Bodeans be at one of the smaller stages now?"
Founded by two Waukesha natives, the Bodeans have played nine of the last 11 years at the Marcus Amphitheater, the Summerfest venue reserved for the biggest national acts.
Yes, there are some bigger names playing at the lesser stages. But gives these guys a break -- they still sell out their annual show(s), they have a loyal following here and most importantly, they're one of us.
9. "Been to the Fourth Base on National? Man, that place is pricey!"
It's an experience many Milwaukeeans share: you walk into what appears to be a bar and grill at 51st and National, expecting burgers and brats; you are pleasantly surprised by the variety of entrees on the menus, not noticing that the prices are not listed.
And you ask the same question when you receive the bill -- what is this, the Boulevard Inn disguised as a sports bar?
10. "One of these years I should really make it to Asian Moon Fest/ Arabian Fest/ Indian Summer."
These festivals have the least desirable weekends at the Summerfest grounds -- Asian Moon Fest is in early June, Arabian Fest and Indian Summer take place every September.
It seems like Asian Moon Fest happens before you realize the festival season has begun. And by the time Arabian Fest and Indian Summer occur, you're just not in festival mode any more.
But some year you'll make it to these festivals. Really, you will.