Ah, the Milwaukee Lakefront. I’ve had a love affair with it for as long as I can remember. Coming ‘down to the lakefront’ was always a treat – even before it was as pretty as it is now. It was actually designed by Frederick Law Olmsted along with 3 other Milwaukee Parks, something I didn’t know until I moved away.
But I remember hanging out here as a teenager (in my wasted youth :)). I’d come down here with my buddies and we’d walk or nap on the hill (gone now – there used to be a big hill and grassy area where that beautiful white winged building is located). Then I went to Arizona for college. No lakefront there… But I made due in the desert for a while – like 4 years.
I moved back to Milwaukee in the mid 70’s and my lakefront had changed a lot. To preserve the shoreline they dumped a whole lotta fill to create more land, creating most of Veteran’s Park and extending Lake Park to the east. Most of it was still mud at the time, but it grew slowly into the area that you see now. As I spent the next 20 or so years in Milwaukee, hanging out at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Summerfest grounds and Lake Park I was always restored by the water and the waves.
But in 2000 I moved again, this time to Upstate New York – to Saratoga Springs to work at the Quad/Graphics plant – and I loved it there. Instead of my lake I now had mountains to explore. The Adirondacks, the Greens, the Berkshires – I was surrounded by mountains. Every weekend I was off – to Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. Need a lift from New Haven to Boston? No problem! Stuck at Logan and need to get to Manchester, New Hampshire? Be there in a couple hours. If my friends and family were anywhere in the northeast I was always ready and willing to drive off to adventure.
But I got to missing those friends and family. After moving away from Saratoga Springs to Rome, NY I lost touch with a lot of my friends there. When I moved back to Troy it was too far from Saratoga to do more than hang out on a weekend and, by now most of them were too busy. Life had caught up. I still toddled off to Vermont at every opportunity (my apartment was 28 miles from Bennington), but now went alone. I still met Steve in Boston every year and we’d hang out for a couple wonderful days, but then it would be back to Troy and alone. It started to wear on me. Fact is, I’m not getting any younger.
So I came back to Milwaukee again. This time after 12 years away – and you can’t even imagine the changes this time. I felt (and still feel) like I’m in some sort of strange time warp. The streets still have the same names, but they don’t look like they did. Whole neighborhoods that I remembered one way are now completely changed. And again I refer to that white winged building above – the Calatrava or, it’s official name The Quadracci Pavilion. Wow! I was blown away. And next to it the Discovery museum, the surrounding park with fountains and the bridge to Downtown Milwaukee. Who would have thought that all this beauty would be built here? In Milwaukee?? Now, before you look at me askance – Milwaukee has always had a world class art scene: one of the better modern art collections, world class orchestra, chorus and opera company. Lots of galleries. But now to have all this as well? Wow… just… wow.
Definitely time to get reacquainted.