Lost in Waukesha, Finding America

I don't know if the Cactus Club had power Friday night, but we didn't. So we spent the night at home as a family, lighting candles, and telling stories and actually entertaining ourselves by having a conversation. I'd told Stella about the last great power outage we suffered -- she was only 16 days old, back in '98, when a winter storm had power out for two days and we ended up staying at Gramma's. So only 5 hours without power in the spring was a minor inconvenience.

Saturday, however, was a different story. Before I get to my usual "Arts and Entertainment" rundown, I really need to rant about trying to find one's way in Waukesha County. I talked to enough people to learn I'm not alone -- what is with that place? There's enough perfectly intelligent people who live there, and on paper, it looks like it makes sense. But -- I can't put my finger on it -- nobody can seem to give directions that work there, the streets seem to change names or numbers every few blocks, and things like "East Avenue" have absolutely nothing remotely to do with the compass direction "East." It's on the south side of the city, it is not on the east side of the city, it doesn't get you to the East side of the city, and if you drive it all the way through, you will be no more "East" than when you first started. Maybe it was named for some guy named "Fred East" or something.

I bring this up because I'm taking my Girl Scout troop camping and I saw directions to the closest hopsital to the campsite, and i noted that this closest hospital happened to be Waukesha Memorial. Panic set in: you mean to tell me that if I'm in an emergency situation with an injured girl in my care, I'm going to have to find my way in Waukesha? No, I took a couple of hours and made a test run and I'm glad I did, because as usual, I got lost, ended up at Elmbrook Memorial and finally figured where I went wrong. (Hint: East Avenue figures in prominently.) So, rest assured, parents of my girls, I now know how to get to the hopsital from camp, I have written down directions and noted prominent landmarks (as opposed to the directions you sometimes get from Waukeshans: "Go on Hwy Such and Such which used to by State Road So and So -- remember, there used to be a Dairy Queen on it, right?") and it will NOT take me the hour and fifteen minutes it took me to initially find it.

On to A&E: What an uplifting treat Joel Richter's photography turned out to be! Very abstract in some respects, and when I say uplifting, it was nice. It was warm. It was not "inspirational" (read: nauseating). It was simply images he made with his point and shoot (he is, like I did, taking the foray into digial carefully) that just sugggested a contented, warm place in life. If you missed this, you can go back to the Gay Arts Center on S 2nd and get this exhibiton accompanied by music on May 10 --from the English, French and German Baroque performed by members of the Saint Paul's Choir with Jerrod Fenske, conductor. If I'm not too pooped from other engagements, I might do that.

Before I went to Shank Hall for the Thunder and Lightning release extravaganza, I stopped in at Don Quixote across the street from the GAC with a pair of co-workers for some tapas, and was treated to the sassiest waitress I've had in a long time. But she was European sassy, and I think that's why I liked her. The tuna croquetas were very, very good, the "tortilla" (which basically seemed more like a potato and garlic quiche -- and as my companions noted, "They are really in love with the garlic here") was almost a dinner in itself.

So off to Shank Hall, where I arrived to catch the tail end of the show. I missed Marvelous Marla, I missed Harvey Scales, I missed Dave Alswager sitting in as Neil Diamond (did they time this to coincide with Neil Diamond Week on American Idol, perchance -- can you wait to see what David Cook is going to do with this?), but at least I caught what I really came to hear Claire "Thunder" Sardina do: sing a trio of Patsy Cline tunes to a room that clearly was filled more earlier in the evening. This is a shame, because when Sardina turns on the Patsy, that's where she shines. She doesn't sound like Cline -- which is what keeps her from being a cheap imitation -- she's just a person who happens to do the same material Cline did -- and she does it organically and convincingly well. Why they stick this at the end, where fewer people are going to be around to hear the best she has to offer, is beyond me. On the other hand, I got to see it because I was running late, so it worked for me. But still, few people can touch this material and come out shining. Sardina does, which is why it deserves to be something a show is built around, not an afterthought.

Spotted in the crowd: globetrotter Judy Rohan, back from a destination wedding in Paris, gearing up for daughter Amy's next gig, which i really have to catch. Everything about Amy I've heard indicates I'll like/rave about her here, so I should get my butt out and see her already.

Ended the night at the Riverwest Commons, to catch Bobby Rivera and the Riviera, whoops, i mean The Del Ripleys. Speaking of ripping, I ripped Bobby a new one for, once again, not plugging this show until day of, but he pointed out that Myspace was being freaky and funky and actually, it has been lately, so i'll let him slide. I also let him slide on the amount of hotdogging he does on his guitar, but only because he's so damn good at it. Hightlight for me -- a particularly meanacing intro to "Pipeline". Well, that was the guitar highlight. That new chick singer (I have a last name now!) Pauline York, is getting more and more confident on stage, and it's showing in the easy sassieness in her delivery. "Where did you find her?" I asked Rivera. "Joliet." Well, that explains everything. Having come from that neck of the woods, the inflections, the phrasing, it all comes together now. Go see them. Old school country-blues (in Sardina's/Cline's territory) and grinding instrumental surf wrapped up in one band. Spotted in the crowd: Ron Turner, who agreed with me on Rivera. What a way to finish the evening.

Sunday morning I had breakfast with my photo collective, the Cream City Photogs, at the Anodyne Coffee Shop on brady, and had the most delicious whole wheat waffle with "the works" (pecans and bananas in addition to standard butter and syrup) to give me the carbo-boost i needed to finish my bike ride. And the Photogs meeting was a boost as well. You've probably noticed that -- in addition to this unillustrated post -- I haven't been shooting for shit lately. Meeting with those guys always gives me inspiration to at least try.


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