Ich bin ein Milwaukeean!





dad porch

There are those who say jaywalking cannot be curbed.
Let them come to Milwaukee!
There are those who would have us believe that lawn care cannot be a way of life.
Let them come to Milwaukee!
There are those who do not know the difference between a bubbler and a water fountain, and God knows where they’ve been soaking their feet—let them come to Milwaukee!
Yes, my friends, I am proud to say,
“Ich bin ein Milwaukeean!”

THE AUTHOR, pandering to Milwaukeeans
They say you can’t go home again. You can, but you discover they’ve put green siding on it. I’m not kidding; our old house looks like a record-breaking avocado. When I think all of the times I risked a heart attack watching Dad go up on that three-story ladder to paint it tan. The cement-block retaining wall he built—The Great Wall of Dave Feldman—looks like Joshua’s been there. That was a great wall, too—you could crouch behind it and rain snowballs (plague-like) on Uptown Motors across the alley with near-complete impunity. The object was to see if you could startle the salesmen into dropping their feet off their desks and run¬ning out into -the lot long enough for you to slip in and grab the keys to a sharp-looking Hudson fastback. We never got that far, but a guy could dream.
The alley’s even in disrepair, if an alley can be in disrepair. I don’t know, I’ve never seen a new one. That alley was the world to me—playground, escape route, toboggan slide. With proper icing, you could sled all the way from Fifty-eight Street to Ruth’s Sweet Shop on Fifty-first, knocking Rabbi Twerski off his feet on Fifty-third if you cut it too close to sunset. But if you got past Twerski, it was a round of wax lips for everybody.
I didn’t knock on the door. I was afraid we still lived there and I’d be back in the damn bedroom with Arthur, my Moriarty, trying to sleep in the beds Dad built in without benefit of box springs. I used to pool up at night like a blob of mercury. Arthur in those days was some kind of nematode, a night creature that came up from the basement (where, generally, he had been converting my bike into a golf cart, or failing in an attempt to make my six-transistor radio into a two-transistor radio) to bed only in the wee hours, flipping on the light and whistling while he filed between his toes with his sweat sock. The upside was that my bad dreams, by comparison, didn’t seem so bad. There were actually worse accommodations in the house: Howard slept in the sun-room, which was on Highway 41. An amazing number of cattle moved past our house. We felt like the only Jews on the Santa Fe trail.

Mother was the only one who liked the house. With all those strings of lights over the used-car lots, she didn’t have to put on the kitchen light. And it was convenient; in winter, Barger’s bakery was only a black-and-blue fall and swollen knee down the alley which, unfortunately, we had iced that day for a new try at the record: all the way down to Sherman Park at Forty-third Street. (Never, to my knowledge, been done, although Mom came the closest.)

———–photo David A. Feldman. He made the porch, too.

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One Comment on “Ich bin ein Milwaukeean!”

  1. Suds Terkel Says:

    Eloquently expressed homage demonstrating that while you can take the boy from the town, you can’t take the town from the town, particularly if the municipality in question is Boys’ Town. In this case it’s not and instead it’s Milwaukee, which is just fine by me, although I’ve yet to frequent the place. Reading this and listening to WYK today makes me want to remedy that…


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