By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 20, 2011 at 8:35 PM

I moved to Riverwest in 1993 and rented an apartment with a friend on Pierce Street. I came in search of cheap beer and cheap rent and because so many of my friends had relocated already to the neighborhood in search of the same things.

When I wasn't writing confessional poetry on the forearm of a philosophy major, I drank Stein at the Stork Club and the Hop Inn. I danced at the Mars Hotel, watched crappy punk bands at Quarters (hey, I was in a crappy punk band so I can say this) and ate mayo-heavy sandwiches at this brand new cafe that brought the '90s coffee shop concept to Milwaukee called Fuel Cafe.

When I was super broke, I went on the Lakefront Brewery tour for $2 when the brewery was still a one-room operation on Chambers Street, next to Dino's, where I ate about a thousand plates of fried fish.

In 1997, I bought two houses in Riverwest: a single family and a duplex for about a nickel each. In 2003, I sold these houses for about a dime each to pay lawyers so I could bring a 9-month-old Guatemalan boy with wild curly hair and a penchant for mushed-up bananas over the Texas border.

Both of my kids spent most of their lives hanging out in Riverwest, from friends' backyards to the Riverwest Co-op, Gordon Park, Children's Outing Association (COA), the playroom at Rio West Cantina and in stimulating, colorful classrooms at La Escuela Fratney.

In 2005, I created an outdoor communal living space on Booth Street with a friend who owned three properties surrounding my property. We literally tore down fences, put up one fence around the parameter of the four yards and created a green space that, over time, looked like this place my kids believe in called heaven.

Riverwest inspired me. I wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of poems and essays and articles from my bubblegum pink home office. I planted begonias and broccoli and gourds and garlic and tomatoes and tulips and sometimes, sunflowers on the sly in public places just to spruce up the neighborhood. (Actually, many of the Riverwesterners I know are like sunflowers with hardy stems that soak up toxins and with faces filled with cheer and light.)

So many people and places defined my 18 years of Riverwest bliss, from the lady with the snake wrapped around her neck at Locust Street Festival to the always-2-for-1 happy hour at Art Bar to Wednesday night bowling at the Polish Falcon.

Over the years, people moved from Riverwest in fits and spurts to "safer" neighborhoods. And I witnessed crimes, even took a couple of direct hits, but I never felt the need to move away despite suggestions that I should.

"Riverwest is not for everyone," was usually all I would say. "But it works for me."

And then, one day, it didn't. Not because of the neighborhood, but because of my need to plant sunflowers in fresh spaces. After a series of endings, I had this deep desire to bust out of the one-square-mile radius I had lived in my entire life. And so I folded up my futon, extinguished my incense and moved to Walker's Point.

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.