"Karmic" might be too strong of a word to describe the friendship between Rachel Allen and Biju Zimmerman, but they might have some kind of coincidental connection.
Originally, the two met in 1999 at a Benjamins concert at the now-defunct Globe. At the time, Allen was a 17-year-old living in West Allis, but she really wanted to see her friends’ pop / punk band at the North Avenue venue, so she asked her dad to take her. And he did.
"My dad is awesome. He was the ‘dad of the East Side,’" says Allen. "He and I have always had music in common."
Zimmerman, who was a drummer for the band Camden at the time, stopped in to see the show, too.
"The Globe was a clubhouse for musicians," says Zimmerman. "Our friends were the bartenders, our friends were the bands."
During the concert, Zimmerman met and conversed with Allen and the two continued to run into each other through music and mutual friends for the next decade. When Allen took a job at Sabbatic, 700 S. 2nd St., she started to see Zimmerman on a regular basis and their friendship deepened.
Unfortunately, as Allen says, "stupid sh-t happens in pairs" and such was the case this past March starting when Zimmerman – who is a tour manager for musician Eric Benet – thought he was having complications from asthma.
He eventually went to the ER at Colombia-St. Mary’s, expecting to be in the hospital for a few hours. Turns out, Zimmerman had pneumonia and so much liquid around his right lung that he needed to undergo surgery.
"I was in the hospital for two weeks," says Zimmerman.
A few days later, Allen went to see a doctor because she thought she had stomach flu. Instead, she found out she had cancer in her intestines. Allen was admitted to Elmbrook Memorial Hospital and underwent surgery.
Both Zimmerman and Allen were shocked by the severity of their illnesses and while in the hospital, the two were texting each other as their mutual friends split their time between bedsides.
"Michelle (Hoff) would come here and knit and friends like Libby (Merline) would go between spending time with me and Biju," says Allen. "In general, I was overwhelmed by the love and support from people. I thought most of my friends would say, ‘see ya in six weeks’ when they found out I was sick, but instead, they were f-cking amazing. Casseroles, calls, offers of help."
Most of Zimmerman’s and Allen’s friends are connected to what they refer to as "The Block" – a few block radius around 2nd Street in Walker’s Point with Sabbatic and Tin Widow, the bar across the street, arguably at the heart of The Block.
"There is something really cool and supportive about the people here. Milwaukee needs more of this," says Allen.
Zimmerman has lived and hung out on The Block for 10 years.
"My friend Diane (Dowland) originally called it ‘Biju’s Block,’" says Zimmerman. "It was kind of a joke on me, because through my job I travel all around the world, but when I’m at home, I usually stay around the same two or three blocks."
Recently, to contribute to Allen’s and Zimmerman’s medical bills, friends planned a fundraising party, aptly called, "The Block Party On the Block."
The event takes place on Sunday, June 21 from 2 to 10 p.m. at Sabbatic and Tin Widow.
"Not only do proceeds go to help two amazing people I am lucky enough to call my friends, there is a fantastic line-up of musicians, amazing bartenders and really cool raffle prizes," says co-organizer of the event, and co-owner of Tin Widow, Michelle Hoff.
More than 15 bands and DJs will play half-hour sets, including the debut of PYRITE – featuring members of GGOOLLDD and Boy Blue – along with Human After All, Bobby Flowers (the singer from Zimmerman’s former band, Carolina), Whiskey of the Damned, Evan Christian, DJ Paul H, DJ Freshluggage and more.
The event will include a raffle with prizes ranging from flying lessons to gift cards from Milwaukee Boat Line, Milwaukee Courier, Burnhearts, Goodkind, Tonic Tavern, M Salon and more. Pabst and Tullamore Dew are event sponsors.
Bratwurst and hotdogs will be served at 4 p.m. by Chef Frank and Todd Allen, Rachel's dad.
"This event is happening because our friends are so awesome. We would never have a fundraiser for ourselves, but we are super appreciative they wanted to do this for us," says Zimmerman. "This is why we love Milwaukee; why we love The Block."
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.