Sunday, January 16, 2011

Black and White Winter Ramblings

white swans black gese and ducks
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Typical winter must-do-something-about-this-cabin-fever-ness:
  • Finally, finally FINALLY we got snow that was snowy enough to go sledding in. I had a bazillion things to do, but chief among them was getting them all done so I could scoop up the kids after school and hit Humboldt Park, with its Sonny Bono and Kennedy trees frightening me. It's a perfect sledding hill so long as you keep going right between the trees, so the first thing I made the kids prove to me was that they knew how to bail out of the sled should it take a funky turn and head toward a tree. That proven, we had a wonderful time.

  • I went to my first indoor soccer game last weekend, same day as the Packer game, so I "watched" the Packer game on twitter. It was when we took our seats (good ones, friends had won them in a work contest and didn't want to skip the Pack) that I'd just realized that this was the first tim I'd ever been in the Arena. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the days when NBA ball was played here: what a barnburn that must have been. And I learned whatever happened to the old Bradley Center jumbotron that was replaced this year -- it's here at the Arena. I also have to admit that indoor soccer in person is a lot more exiciting than regular soccer is on TV. Maybe it's because we can see the players more closely. Maybe it's because we can take it in in a single line of sight. Maybe because -- by the size and speed of things -- it's really hockey played on grass. We even got a fight! A bench-emptying, player-ejecting, NHL-style fight! Woo! Still didn't make up for the Wave losing miserably, and apparently (you can tell we don't follow them closely) this game decided the division leaders, who are now Baltimore. Oh well.

  • Missed the debut of Rose on Fire, Laurie Kern' new group. Well, girl, what did you expect on a Thursday night. Still, the reviews are pouring in and Laurie Kern is BACK, apparently. She was a songwriting-s sauraus in the 90s, and she kind of faded out for awhile and lately, she's gotten a second wind and it shows. She's always had that beautiful clear voice, and could always put a good tune together, and by all accounts, she's also put a good band together. Babysitter and time will allow me to see this for myself, but enough people I trust have good things to say about Rose on Fire, so i'm taking their word for it and putting them out as a recommendation.

  • Also recommended, the Mummies exhibit at the Museum of Dioramas aka, the Milwaukee Public Museum. It's eye opening because it's not just those "traditional" egyptian mummies, they're from all over the world, and not all mummies are intentional mummies. Worth reading all the side notes too. Of course I had the kids with me, and they were equally fascinated and freaked out. There was one mummy, very clearly male, in an obvious state of rigor, if you catch my drift, and Stella and Sammy were cool enough about it to not say anything. Well, not until some high schoolers whom we decided to call Beavis and Butthead showed up and started in on giggles. So, fair word of warning: the mummies are very interesting, but some of the viewers are who you should be concerned about. Tip: if you were kind of leaning toward an Egyptian experience, check out the "Mysteries of the Nile" IMAX show when you're done.

  • We grabbed our Zoo Pass card on Friday since the kids had off school and headed to see the animals in winter. How fun! First of all, MPS wasn't off, so the zoo was fairly unpopulated with people. But get this -- the polar bears weren't out. Of all the animals we expected to see out and about, they were inside sleeping. The big cats were quite animated, though, and we got to see animals we normally miss because they're hiding: moose, the dall sheep. And a lot of the small mammals were really jumping about. Even in the nocturnal section. Lake Evinrude had a large non-frozen section, and it was littered with geese, ducks and the swans, who held our attention for a long time. We followed up with skating at Red Arrow Park and came home to sleep up for that wonderful Packer game yesterday.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

What was the Chance I'd miss this?

OK, I've turned into one of those people, those people who say, "Ah, I don't go out on New Year's Eve...." Partially because the truth of the matter is I can't afford a sitter. Also because I don't feel like paying three times the $$$ that I'd pay for a beer on any other night. Also because it is, well, Amateur Night and I don't feel like sharing the road with some messed up drunk.

Granted, I did go out earlier in the evening. First stop was my traditional stop at the Safe House. I've written about their schtick before: they celebrate midnight around the globe, so the kids can ring in the new year in the Greek Islands at 4 pm, Rome at 5 pm, and London/Paris at 6 pm, with appropriate hors'o'deurves for each city. (Of course, the Safe House picks the glam cities in each time zone -- the sort of locales where JB himself would stumble into to get his latest gadget from Q -- not necessarily North Malden.) The kids are usually good for about two time zones and then they've had it.

Next stop was my friend Mary Jo's -- and she hosted a family freindly New Year's Eve at her house. There were a bunch of kids upstairs, two of the kids are hers and since I've known them since birth there was the obligatory "Oh my god they've grown" exchange. Here's what happens when you send a plate full of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts up to a roomfull of pre-teen and teenage kids. Lots of laughs when the plate came back down. But we didn't stay for midnight. I was kind of tired myself, and we went home to watch a re-run of Seacrest with the husband and kids. (Brian didn't feel like going out at all. Don't blame him, really.)

So, normally, I'd be happy with my holiday and not complain that I'd missed anything until I got an email from my friend, bass player Andy Aeros Kaiser, inviting me to see pictures he took of James Chance at the Circle A.

Wait wait wait whoa whoa whoa! James Chance at the Circle A?!?!?! THEE James Chance? As in "Contort Yourself"? James White and the Blacks James Chance? The Sax Maniac himself?

Andy returned my email to confirm Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. "He played along to James Brown & Contortions tracks & ad-libbed vocals for about an hour, " Kaiser reports. And here's kind of the sad part: "Wasn't even that crowded." Well, maybe that's what Chance wanted. Just goes to show you its a good thing the Circle A is back up and running, if that was one of the good things that happened in 2010. Magical moments happen in that little room all the time, and this particular time I wasn't there to see it, but I grudgingly have to say it warms my heart that we have a place in Milwaukee where stuff like this happens. Anyway, here's a set of photographic evidence, courtesy Andy Aeros Kaiser.

Well, January 1st came along, and it was the first time this season the family got their butts out to a Bucks game, and even without Brandon Jennings, it was good to see the team together. It was a "New Year's Day Party" theme, so they had specials such as $1 hot chocolate (which came in handy since the wind blew in a NASTY cold....) and there was a nice touch in the form of red sparkly sprinkles on the whipped cream. Anthem from a group of middle-aged men called the "Holden On Quartet" which thankfully wasn't a barbershop group. (The tenor DID have the melody) and they didn't have a really high pitched voice, so they didn't go for the gold on "Laaaaaand of the free." But that would have sounded obnoxious. These guys played it safe, and thus it worked. Opening montage was OK, I guess. Not over the top, but maybe the background music could be better. It's some kind of ballad, instead of some stadium-like anthem it needs to be. Because of that, the whole steam stacks (the ones that make you think "I am the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz) they use when introducing the players seem even more ridiculous.

The Bucks did not play it safe. Two men down (and later in the game, that made three when Mbah A Moute had to leave the game with a mild concussion. There was a scare in the third quarter when Dallas actually came ahead, but Bango's team made up for Bucky's embarassment at the Nose Blow earlier in the day. (I watched the Rose Bowl simply because it was on. Sorry, I went to Illinois. I really don't care about the Badgers. Oh, and I don't really care about Marquette all that much either.) But sixthstation readers know I normally will tell you all about the halftime entertainment, which Stella said was terrific, but I didn't get to see. Why not? Well, Sammy and I decided to take advantage of another of the evening's specials, the two-for-one jumbo hot dogs.

Now, you would think the guy running concessions would say to himself, "Let's see. It's two minutes before halftime. We're running a special here on dogs. And in fact, that special expires after halftime is over. There will be a rush on these starting... oh, well about now. Perhaps I should put some on." You would think that, but you would be wrong. Once Sammy and I got to the front of the line (which was rather quick -- it was two minutes before halftime, not halftime itself, after all....) it was at least 10 or so minutes (the guy said "Oh, about five" -- and he told another customer five minutes later the same thing -- when I piped in "Uh, you told us five minutes five minutes ago!" before they were finally up. At least they were hot. Fail.

One final note about the Bucks' entertainment: Why don't you just cut the act, buy some stripper poles for the Energee girls and be done with it already? But it's OK. The Bucks pulled out a win, and it's nice to see that happening more often than not these days. Nice start to the year -- and at least I didn't have to miss that.