By Royal Brevvaxling Special to Published Nov 15, 2011 at 5:33 AM

I moved to Milwaukee from Minneapolis in 2004. Since then, I've engaged in numerous acts, rites of passage really, that I believed would not only more fully acclimate me to Milwaukee culture, but beholden me to my adopted city and its people.

I had traveled to Milwaukee numerous times before moving, beginning around 1992, when a friend of mine was working nights in a chrome plating warehouse on the North Side. We were tattooed, Harley-riding, heavy-drinking types who made bar owners a little anxious but would ultimately win over the whole bar with our levity and good spirit.

My friend and I would hit many a third-shift bar during the week and head Downtown on the weekends, where I spent countless hours at drinking institutions like the Safe House. These hours are countless both because of their sheer number but also because the activities with which I was involved don't exactly enable one to accurately keep count of things – like the number of cold Milwaukee beers we had.

A fond, if slightly fuzzy, memory was of another Minnesota friend, who accompanied me on one Brew City excursion, removing a rather large picture from the wall inside Rosie's on Water and subsequently being pounced on by three bouncers as he stepped onto the sidewalk.

Like many Milwaukeeans of a certain age, I got a tattoo in Waukesha before they were legal here.

And I got engaged in much more deliberate, adult-oriented activities – and I don't just mean the strip clubs, though yes, I've experienced those too, most memorably Solid Gold – but I also studied Milwaukee history.

I came to understand the city's importance in social movements, such as the Open Housing Marches, its connection to labor movements and its proud Socialist past. The history of its many immigrant communities extends through Milwaukee's neighborhoods today. The working class fabric woven into the very fiber of our city is palpable, felt everywhere from the places people work to the kinds of homes they live in.

I've been a labor organizer, talking to workers from across Milwaukee's class society. I teach writing at UW-Milwaukee and witness its continued expansion toward becoming a first-class research institution and the primary economic generator for Southeastern Wisconsin.

And I'm a father who has encouraged his daughter to feel a real sense of place, to build a connection to her city. We live in Walker's Point and we talk about its history. She's getting a bilingual education in Milwaukee Public Schools. We both rode the pepper at La Perla (she now several times; I figured once was enough for me).

Developing a sense of place is linguistic, emotional and performative. It involves putting conscious attention on how that place's past works with its present; it also means doing the things people enjoy doing there, being part of it all.

My daughter and I both say "bubbler" now. While I find it sometimes hard not to say "pop," she refers to the carbonated beverages she desires unhesitatingly as "soda."

I was in a bowling league in Minnesota at a young age (17). Since living in Milwaukee, I've been to Koz's Mini Bowl, Landmark Lanes and Bay View Bowl. I know I need to get over to Holler House.

And so, I've got a list of accomplishments I'd like to add to. For instance, I've done Summerfest, mostly to take pictures for reviews, but also to see my personal best concert ever: Public Enemy on the U.S. Cellular Stage (in 2010). Indian Summer has been an annual destination four years running.

I have a physical need for more Friday fish fries; I simply crave them for the food and even more for the community. I've had the East Side Dark beer-battered fish fry at Hooligan's, the fish fries at American Serb Hall, O'Lydia's Irish Pub (and Slim's before that) and Cafe el Sol.

I tried to get into Kegel's Inn, but the wait was too long for my time constraints. I plan to try again. I know I need to get to the Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden for the polka just as much as the fish fry.

And then there's the fair, with or without kids. Is there some way to quantify the claim that the Wisconsin State Fair is the country's best? I'm not talking about gate sales or number of cream puffs sold, but some way to demonstrate that talking to farmers as they groom the animals for contests while eating corn on the cob, then cruising down the Giant Slide, taking in a show at the Potawatomi Main Stage and following it all up with a local band, like Whiskey of the Damned on the Slim McGinn's stage (while drinking a few Guinness, why not?) is really, really good for the soul.

(To be fair, pun intended, it should be noted that the Minnesota State Fair has the same giant slide. That's my pretense to objective journalism here.)

I've done the Lakefront Brewery tour. It was a good time, especially observing the workers in the warehouse at the end loading up all that Riverwest Stein and bringing it that much closer to consumption. I'm waiting until the Clock Shadow Creamery opens to do the tour of Milwaukee Brewing Company, so I can get my cheese and beer together, as promised by the developer.

What's living in Milwaukee without enjoying Lake Michigan? I've been on yachts (my daughter got to steer one toward the breakwater, in order to scare seagulls, only to have the crew spin the ship around just in time). Last summer, we rented a pontoon from Riverwalk Boat Tours and Rentals and explored the rivers and harbor, also taking in Barnacle Bud's by water rather than our usual approach via land.

Although I wasn't able to have a drink at National Liquor Bar before its demise and have yet to close Wolski's (thus earning my bumper sticker), I have at least had a few at the latter establishment. As for Milwaukee's favorite frozen treat, I've enjoyed Leon's, Kopp's, Gilles and Junior's custard stands. Are there any others?

What's left to explore that's not just unique to Milwaukee but essential to achieve full Milwaukeeness? As I continue to write about the people and places in Milwaukee I find interesting, with my particular "Minnesota, WI" perspective (thank you, Bon Iver), I also ask readers to aid me in my quest to fulfill these rites of passage via the Talkback feature.

(By the way, back in '92 I had to perform for the Safe House crowd watching on then-grainy, black and white monitors and now, even though I know the password, I never tell anyone, which recently resulted in my visiting 79-year-old father doing ring-around-a-rosy before gaining admittance.)

Royal Brevvaxling Special to
Royal Brevväxling is a writer, educator and visual artist. As a photo essayist, he also likes to tell stories with pictures. In his writing, Royal focuses on the people who make Milwaukee an inviting, interesting and inspiring place to live.

Royal has taught courses in critical pedagogy, writing, rhetoric and cultural studies at several schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Royal lives in Walker’s Point with his family and uses the light of the Polish Moon to illuminate his way home.