In Holiday Guide

Surprisingly, a crooning clown made Molly's best of list. (PHOTO: Royal Brevväxling)

2015 picks: Molly Snyder

Hey, 2015, you weren't so bad. Let's keep building momentum in 2016, but first, a bit of reflection on some of this year's finer moments.

Concert: I admit I went to the Puddles Pity Party show in May at Turner Hall out of morbid curiosity. After all, a nearly-7-foot-tall crooner dressed as a sad, old-timey clown was too deliciously bizarre to pass up. What I was not expecting was to witness one of the most beautiful baritone voices I have ever heard and music so emotionally charged it brought me to tears. The audience, who traveled from all over the Midwest for the show, was fascinating as well. While shooting photos for a gallery that night I asked people what made them adore a melancholy clown and many said it was a combination of qualities, including his sexuality. Wait, what? Yep. One audience member told me that he came from Eau Claire with his girlfriend to see Puddles because he knew he'd "get some at the hotel after," if he did. Another fan, who attended the show with his wife and children and sported a ZZ Top-style beard, passionately kissed Puddles mid concert. At first, I was in awe and judgment of those fantasizing about a clown, but by the end of the concert, I got it.

Book and movies: I read "Room" by Emma Donoghue earlier this year – although it was published in 2010 – which tells the story from the point-of-view of a 5-year-old boy, Jack, being held prisoner in a small room with his mother. The plot, language and perspective is completely fresh, unlike anything I've read before, and the story is both harrowing and heartfelt. I didn't think the film adaptation of the book would be anywhere as powerful as the book, but it was, and "Room" made the short list of my top films for 2015. I think the movie version was successful, in part, because Donoghue wrote the screenplay, and also because Brie Larson's acting is superb.

I also gotta shout out to the August-released film "Straight Outta Compton" for the entertaining and gritty story of NWA's rise from the rough streets of Compton to worldwide fame in the 1980s. Hip hop is an extremely influential music genre and an integral aspect of the African American experience in the United States, and yet it's often unfairly judged, misunderstood and marginalized. "Compton" has its flaws, but it brought a previously untold story to the mainstream. More of this in 2016, por favor.

Milwaukee moment: I was pretty jazzed to win the "celebrity" potato eating contest this year at State Fair after years and years of losing, but it was even more satisfying to watch my then-11-year-old-son win the kids' cream puff eating contest. Not only did he finish in two bites (it was a small cream puff, but still), but after the contest he said something that gave me an "a-ha" moment. "Mom," he said. "With our mouths we will always win!" Although he was talking about the fact we share the similar feature of a fairly large kisser and therefore will always fare well in the competitive eating arena, I took it to mean more. After years of disliking my mouth for reasons that range from rude remarks from men to my own self criticism, his comment sparked a thought process that would go on for weeks and result in me actually liking my mouth. This summer, The Moth came to Milwaukee and hired me to tell this story and that, too, was a transcendent experience for me.

Restaurant / bar opening: As a resident of Walker's Point, I revel in the fact so many Mexican, small plate and upscale restaurants are in walking distance from my home. However, when I heard a beer-and-sandwich spot called Camino was going to open on Second Street I realized that's exactly what was missing from the mix of neighborhood eateries. I have only eaten there once, but tried both the Brussels sprouts grinder and the burger and found them delicious. I will be back – again and again I suspect.

Articles: My piece about Mitchell Airport's "recombobulation area" sign resonated with more people than anything else I wrote in 2015 – and it was a blast to pen.

Secondly, breaking the story that a local man opened a sneaker shop with Darryl McDaniels from Run-D.M.C. in Shorewood was a treat for me, as was going to the grand opening and having a meaningful conversation with McDaniels, who is a prolific, articulate storyteller and a really likable guy.

However, I am most proud of articles that ran every Sunday during the Milwaukee All-Star series, created by myself and Fred Gillich, which recognizes a person living in the city who is not often in the limelight. Through the All-Stars series I have met a wonderful batch of dedicated, interesting Milwaukeeans who kick ass every day with little reward or recognition. The All-Star series will end in early 2016, and I look forward to honoring the 52 All-Stars in February at a special event.

Person: In recent years, I have needed my mom, Rosemary Brunetto, more than I've needed her since I was a troublemaking teenager. She has been there with support, transportation and bottles of wine. While I struggle to find acceptance in a blended family, my mother exemplifies the true meaning of family with her loving, wide-open welcoming of all. While others may judge, my mom continues to live up to her life mantra, with me and with everyone: live and let live.

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