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The author, getting ready to enjoy his fourth frozen lemonade in four days.
The author, getting ready to enjoy his fourth frozen lemonade in four days.

The opposite of Milwaukee?

This weekend, I flew to Warwick, R.I. to attend my 15-year high school reunion.  For this blog to make sense, you should know that I lived in the Ocean State for five years, to the day, between 1987 and 1992.  Born in Milwaukee, my family moved to R.I. when I was 13; I stayed on the East Coast for college, then moved back to Milwaukee in 1996.

I went solo to the event, opting against bringing my wife, who would know perhaps two people at the party. (It's not that I didn't want to prove to people that the kid with braces, big glasses and "A Flock of Seagulls" hair married a beautiful wife -- rather I'd like to show her where I lived during a less stressful, more laid-back trip).

So, for the first time, I sought to pay enough attention to my surroundings that I could properly explain what it's like living in this tiny state. It's been five years since my last trip (and just my fourth or fifth in 15 years), so I finally had enough distance, I thought, to view the weekend with an objective eye.

Arriving Thursday night, the first thing I noticed, of course, was the accent.  When really strong, picture how a New Yorker would sound -- after he's been punched in the mouth.  It's not just different pronunciation -- it's the syntax, colloquialisms and entirely different words that we're used to in Milwaukee.

Above and beyond the obvious dropping of R's, Rhode Islanders drop G's, too ("shopping" becomes "shoppin").  They also use adjectives like "wicked," "retarded," and "queer" with reckless abandon, as they did when I got there in '87.  The concept of "PC" language doesn't resonate even with educated, enlightened people like it does here -- which isn't to say these people are homophobes or insensitive, because the majority are not (full disclosure: I found myself slipping these words back into my vocabularly within just a few hours at the "bah").


They call purses handbags. Subs are grinders. Milkshakes are cabinets. Cream for coffee is cal…


Memories of late Brewers third baseman Mike Coolbaugh

Whenever I see a peculiar headline like the Associated Press' "Minor league coach dies after being struck by line drive during game" in my Brewers RSS feed, I take a quick look.

But this morning I read that the coach was former Brewers infielder, Mike Coolbaugh. According to the report, the first base coach of the Tulsa Drillers was hit in the head by a line drive and was pronounced dead at a North Little Rock, Ark. hospital.

I had never met the 35-year-old Coolbaugh, but I was certainly familiar with him.  He traveled through the minors for 17 years, but had a stand-out Spring Training in 2001, and I was there to see it.  Every year, my friends and I pick one Spring Training favorite, and Coolbaugh was the guy in '01.  He earned a spot on the Brewers' roster, playing 39 games that season.  The next season he played five with Cardinals.

Coolbaugh was married with two young sons and another child on the way.

Tusla Drillers president Chuck Lamson put it well: "He just joined the staff and was a former Driller player. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

“We came to know Mike both from his time with the Brewers and the Texas Rangers organization, and the news has hit us very hard,” said Brewers Special Assistant to the General Manager and Director of Player Development Reid Nichols. “Mike was a kind and hard working individual who lived life and played the game with great passion. He will be greatly missed.”

I always wished Coolbaugh would pan out after a long and challenging career in which he never gave up hope.  It apparently wasn't meant to be.  I share the thoughts of Lamson, Nichols and Brewers fans who saw Coolbaugh's one month of glory back in March 2001.  Truly a sad story.

Milwaukee shines when traveling by boat

For a city that was literally born from its access to water, it's not every day the average Milwaukean gets to see Downtown via boat. Last weekend, however, some friends invited us aboard their small powerboat for a Sunday cruise around town. As someone who has tooled around the city by boat at least a handful of times in my life, let me tell you this: you haven't seen Milwaukee until you've seen it from the water.

We began at our friends' boat slip off of Canal Street, which put us in the water in (you guessed it) a canal, leading into the harbor under the Hoan Bridge.  From this perspective, we could witness a Milwaukee of yesteryear.  Shuttered factories and grain silos, views of buildings we never see, and lots more that harkens back to a time when the waterways powered Brew City.  We also saw at least three herons lounging around, which isn't something I spy every day on land.

Just past the Hoan, we made a right turn (that's starboard, for you boaters) and zipped south toward South Shore Marina, home to the South Shore Water Frolics.  Unfortunately, even though the Water Frolics were in full swing, from the harbor, we couldn't see much of the action.

We boated out past the breakwater and sped north toward the new Lakeshore State Park.  Once we got beyond the rocks, the difference in the lake was noticeable.  Waves pounded the small boat, and we caught a little bit of air before we returned to the "no wake" portion.  We also noticed some boaters flagrantly ignoring the wake rules, but by and large, the traffic was friendly and quick to offer a wave.  Between the pontoon rentals, the yachts, the kayaks and the sailboats, the Lake truly bustled with activity.

The tour of the new park served as my first up-close and personal view of the newly completed island. It looked great, and for the first time, I noticed the beach on the eastern part facing toward Summerfest.  I plan on returning, by foot, to check it out soon.

Next, we sailed up th…

Butchie Yost, played by Brian Van Holt.
Butchie Yost, played by Brian Van Holt.

My second, third and fourth favorite Yosts

Obviously, my favorite Yost is Ned, the skipper of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Some day, his son, Ned IV, who is floating around the club's minor league system, may become my second favorite Yost.

But for now, the second, third and fourth best Yosts are those on the new HBO show, "John From Cincinnati."

Like a lot of what HBO turns out these days, "John From Cincinatti" is a multi-layered and complex show.  It centers around a surfing town in Southern California and the lives of three generations of gifted surfers.  Flanked by a talented (albeit surprisingly so) supporting cast, including Luis Guzman, Ed O'Neill, Luke Perry and Rebecca De Mornay (stop laughing, those latter three really are good), the show dabbles in the supernatural in a loving but dysfunctional family.

The Yosts are Mitch, Butchie and Shaun, all played with conviction and emotion.  It's a confusing plot, so unless you have HBO on Demand, you might as well wait till the reruns start up to begin watching, but trust me, it's good.  Five episodes in, this latest offering reaffirms why HBO continues to put out the best shows on TV.

The irony here?  Ned IV recently hurt himself body surfing during an off day with the Brevard County Manatees.  On the show, the youngest Yost, Shaun, nearly died in a surfing accident.  I'm happy to report that they both pulled through and are doing well.

Is it art imitating life or the other way around?