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Hey, we have one of those!
Hey, we have one of those!

Milwaukee is everywhere, even Vancouver

No matter how far I travel, I am always reminded of Milwaukee.

Last week, I went to visit a friend in Vancouver, British Columbia, and within minutes of arriving to her wonderful neighborhood, Commercial Drive, I saw a business called People's Co-op Bookstore which, of course, immediately reminded me of one of my favorite Milwaukee-based bookshops.

I also saw a bar/restaurant called the Cactus Club (turns out they are a chain in Canada).

But what amped up my Milwaukee pride the most was seeing Lakefront Brewery's New Grist on a menu at a super cool bar called St. Augustine's. I was so excited I tweeted at Lakefront, announcing my Canadian discovery.

"Yeah, we get around," Lakefront tweeted back.

And even though there were plenty of different things, from reliable rail travel to money bearing a woman's face to ketchup-flavored potato chips, I kept making connections to my hometown.

My brain just can't escape you, Milwaukee.

Scooter's Garden of Hope is a bright spot on Buffum Street.
Scooter's Garden of Hope is a bright spot on Buffum Street.
Peace fish.
Peace fish.
"What began as tragedy has become a source of hope and inspiration."
"What began as tragedy has become a source of hope and inspiration."

Scooter's Garden of Hope brightened my day

I found Scooter's Garden of Hope on accident, while driving through the Harambee neighborhood. I saw the colorful, totem pole-like pillars in the 2400 block of Buffum Street and drove toward them, only to find a beautiful garden with handmade peace flags, sculpture, painted benches and an abundant garden.

I later found out the garden was created by AWE (Artists Working In Education), the students at nearby Oliver Wendell Holmes School and The Scooter Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to raising awareness about gun violence and promoting peaceful conflict resolution.

The group was started by Susan Schmidt after her brother, popular Water Street bartender Scott "Scooter" Schmidt was killed on the block while walking his dog.

"What began as tragedy has become a source of hope and inspiration to Milwaukee youth," reads the website.

This is true. For the few minutes I stood in the garden, I felt uplifted by the vibrant art and lush greenery. We're all destructive and creative, but committing to the latter is the best we can do during our tick-tocking time here.

Let's plant more hope gardens, Milwaukee.

Art's and I have a date in the near future.
Art's and I have a date in the near future.

Five Milwaukee bars I really want to visit

I have been writing for for 12 years, and yet, there are still so many people, places and things I have yet to profile. That said, here are five bars that I hope to write about someday, or at the very least, stop in for a drink or two.

1. Art's Performing Center, 144 E. Juneau Ave. I went into this "gentleman's club" once about a decade ago, but I didn't spend very much time there and certainly didn't get the who/what/when/where/why scoop. I find this place particularly interesting in light of other strip clubs not being able to move in Downtown.

2. Scaffidi's Hideout, 1837 N. Humboldt Ave. I lived on the East Side of Milwaukee for much of my life, and have never been in this place. I just need to know what's going on in there, since I pass it about a dozen times a month.

3. Treats Tavern, 2221 N. Humboldt Blvd. See my blurb for Scaffidi's Hideout, only change the word "dozen" with "hundreds." Seriously, how have I never been in this place? Maybe I need to do a far-south-end of Humboldt Boulevard pub crawl. I've only been to Stubby's, 2060 N. Humboldt Ave., one time. (And while we're talking about this area, can someone please reopen the Tasting Room or put something else in there? K, thanks.)

4. Cafe Centraal, 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. This one's kind of a shocker. I don't live far from the place, I frequent other Lowlands Group spots on a regular basis, and yet, I have never stopped here for food or drink. It's one of my Brew City Blindspots, I guess.

5. Kelly's Bleachers, 5812 W. Blue Mound Rd. Seems like an iconic sports bar and I have never been in there once. Who is this Kelly, after all, and what is so special about her (or his?) bleachers? I will report back.

How often do you go to a county park?
How often do you go to a county park?

Would improved parks really attract more people?

Last week, the Park People Board, a local advocacy group, called to create a parks district that was independent of county government. This proposal came after the firing of Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black.

The group believes the county can't afford the parks anymore, and therefore, The Park People asked that an elected board be granted the authority to tax so the parks wouldn't have to compete with other county services for tax dollars.

This is an interesting proposal. Personally, I spend a lot of time in parks, but mostly because I have children who, like all children, love a playground.

I often find the parks to be under-utilized, which surprises me because Milwaukee has so many beautiful green spaces that don't charge admission. It's free entertainment. ("Free" entertainment for those of us paying taxes, of course.)

I agree with The Park People that many of the parks need some maintenance because of recent tax cuts, but I really don't think the parks are in terrible shape, nor that beautifying the parks would bring that many more people into the parks system.

From my perspective, people just don't seem to go to parks as much in Milwaukee as they do in other cities. Maybe it's fear of crime. Maybe it's our less-nature-centered entertainment lives that are more focused on bars and restaurants.

In any case, I really wonder what, if anything, would get people to go to the county parks? More beer gardens like the one at Estabrook Park? Updated playgrounds? Off-leash dog areas? Anything, anything at all?