Credit Union THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU?
(THIS PUBLICATION WENT TO THE PRINTER ON JANUARY 25, 2021)
lot transpired over the past month, and I believe that we have come through all this a stronger country with a more engaged citizenry who understand that our democracy is not a given. We should be very pleased and proud that we had the most watched and examined election in our lifetimes, and there was not a shred of evidence to question that we had a very clean and honest election. All the votes were honestly counted in both red and blue states and both Republican and Democratic election officials made sure their elections were properly conducted. We had a president who lost by seven million votes but tried various ways to change the results of the election from intimidating election officials to change the vote count to inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol to prevent the Vice President from executing his constitutional responsibility of counting the Electoral College votes. The Republican leaders in both the House and Senate now put the blame on President Trump for the insurrection. As we know, the insurrection caused people to lose their lives including a Capitol Police officer.
OUR NATION PASSED THE TEST I have many friends who spent countless days worrying about the transition and “what if Trump refuses to leave the White House.” No matter what I would point out to them, they continued to lose sleep over whether there would be a peaceful transition. When you have a group of people believing Trump’s lies that he won by a landslide and the election was stolen, you would expect some demonstrations arguing the election was stolen and that some would become violent. That violence did not in any way stop our governmental transition from moving forward. As long as our military continues to function professionally, as they have always done, we will not have a violent coup. People also worried about how this transition would look to the rest of the world. We are the country that takes great pride in our peaceful transitions of power. This year I think we came out looking great. We had our peaceful transition while continuing to have a free society. A peaceful transition does not mean a repressive, obedient populous as one sees in North Korea. When you have a free society with a robust internet and social media to
amplify everyone’s opinions—including crazy conspiracy theories—you will have demonstrations, especially from angry, ill-informed people. This year it got more extreme with a president inciting an angry ill-informed crowd. We also had a Capitol security plan that for some odd reason was poorly planned. However, it is badge of honor and a model for the world to have a society where people can speak out, unfortunately with some actually getting violent, yet still having the usual swearing-in ceremony for our duly elected new administration at our U.S. Capitol.
OUR INSTITUTIONS REMAINED STRONG Rather than look weak, I think America looked strong. Our society can handle the punches that come when you have a free society. Four years ago, we unfortunately elected an autocratic white supremist as president. We made a huge mistake. Four years later when the president tried various efforts to subvert the Constitution of the United States and try to stay in power, our institutions prevailed. The courts, including judges nominated by Trump, threw out over 60 lawsuits where Trump tried to overturn free and fair elections. Our military remained highly professional and continued to protect the constitution, and our state election officials from both parties honorably did their jobs some literally under death threats from Trump supporters. And our media stood up for the truth even with the president calling us “enemies of the people” as is done in authoritarian countries. Wisconsin did unfortunately have several unpatriotic disgraces including Senator Ron Johnson and the Wisconsin Republican Congressional delegation’s vote to not accept some of the Electoral College results submitted by both Republican and Democratic state officials in all 50 states. We also had 15 Wisconsin state representatives who sent a letter to then Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the state’s electoral votes so these legislators could try to alter election results. Their plan was to get Republican controlled state legislatures in various states to overturn the popular vote and declare Trump the winner. It is rather disgusting when you think that our tax dollars
that are paying the salaries of these 15 Un-American characters like New Berlin’s State Representative Joe Sanfelippo, and when Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appears to act as if this is just fine.
GOING FORWARD: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT? Biden was not my first choice in the presidential primaries, but after looking at the election results on November 4, he was definitely the right choice. He might have been the only Democratic presidential candidate who could have won the close elections in swing states like Arizona, Georgia Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We wish President Biden great success. He has a very difficult job ahead, but his history of working well across the aisle will come in very handy if he is to be successful. He has very thin majorities in both houses of Congress. He has a very ambitious agenda, and we strongly support it. His cabinet choices are experienced people with whom Biden feels comfortable. Some may feel it is not an exciting new cast, but right now, with a pandemic raging, an economy in recession, climate issues crying for action, and a need for much greater racial and social justice, you want experienced people. Joe Biden has a long history in government and like all people who have a long history in government, he has made some serious mistakes along the way. He has acknowledged most of these mistakes and hopefully learned from them. We wish him and America well. Louis Fortis Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
Photo by Tyler Nelson
A Reset for America
FEBRUARY 2021 | 3
NEWS 06 Despite the COVID Slump, Credit Unions Thrive
10 Making County Government Work Like It Should: Interview with County Executive David Crowley 13 This Modern World 14 Election Reform Made Easy: Whoever Gets the Most Votes Should Win Taking Liberties 15 Blanket Immunity Invites Dangerous and Deadly Behavior Issue of the Month 16 Dana World-Patterson Works to Free Victims of Human Trafficking Hero of the Month
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18 What nine prominent Milwaukeeans will do and what they’ve learned Off the Cuff
FOOD & DRINK 22 Curbside for Sweet Basil Thai and Lao Street Eats 24 The Endorphin Rush of Red Chile Enchilada Sauce — Flash in the Pan
26 Your Older Cousin Armagnac Beverages
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28 Best of Milwaukee Winners 40 Four Great Milwaukee Fish Frys 42 Spring Arts Guide 2021
CULTURE 48 Going ‘Off-Road’ at the Harley-Davidson Museum 50 Milwaukee’s Music Producers 54 This Month in Milwaukee
LIFESTYLE 56 With a Democratic Senate, the Reform of Marijuana Laws Becomes Possible Cannabis
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58 Turn Your Collections into Striking Spaces — Domicile 60 Looking for a Compatible Life Partner? Out of my Mind
HEAR ME OUT
62 (Not So) Hopelessly Devoted to You Dear Ruthie 64 From Lou Sullivan to Elle Halo, Milwaukee Continues the Struggle for Transgender Rights — My LGBTQ POV
ART FOR ART'S SAKE 66 From the City that Always Sweeps
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Cover Illustration by Ali Bachmann
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FEBRUARY 2021 | 5
DESPITE THE COVID SLUMP,
Credit Unions Thrive BY JEAN-GABRIEL FERNANDEZ
efying the economic slump into which the COVID-19 pandemic cast the world, credit unions are doing quite well. The third quarter bulletin of 2020, released by Wisconsin’s Office of Credit Unions, highlights how well the state’s 118 state-chartered credit unions have been doing: Total assets represented by Wisconsin’s credit unions rose to $48 billion, up from $41.1 billion at the end of 2019, generating $362 million in net income by September 2020. “I’m not surprised credit unions are growing in Wisconsin and nationally. Consumers are savvy. Because we’re owned by our customers, or members, the credit union business model provides them with a great value, and we’re focused on member success rather than shareholder profits, people can tell it’s a good deal. And that’s the credit union difference” says Kim Sponem, CEO of Summit Credit Union.
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WISCONSIN’S LARGER CREDIT UNIONS, WHICH OFTEN HAD ASSETS IN THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, HAVE GROWN SIGNIFICANTLY UW Credit Union President Paul Kundert is also not surprised. “Credit unions tend to grow counter-cyclical to the economy. The more difficult time people are having with their finances, the more likely they are to shop around and examine their options,” “Credit unions grow based on the increase in members that they have. We have nearly 300,000 members and each one has less than $10,000 of deposits with us on average. So, our growth really is a reflection of how many people are coming
in and opening accounts. Even this year, we’ve had more than 10,000 people open a checking account with us.” Historically, the nature of credit unions— smaller, community-based and mission-driven—contributes to this trend. More and more people are choosing credit unions than ever before, and credit unions are growing and are more able to provide larger loans and more services. As the grow, a disproportionate share of assets is being gathered by a few top performers. Five of Wisconsin’s largest credit unions, Landmark, Summit, UW Credit Union, Community First and Educators, have a combined number of more than 1 million members. The other 115 credit unions in the state share another 2 million members.
SO WHAT IS A CREDIT UNION? Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions that coexist with banks and Photo by jk78/Getty Images
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offer many of the same types of services with different types of leadership and membership. Because credit unions are member owned, the credit union serves its owners and that is you. Members of a credit union are, by design, part of the same community: to join a credit union, one must typically share a link to the union, be it through family, employment, geographical location, school, union, religion, etc. As cooperatives, credit unions are collectively owned by their customers; customers elect members from their own ranks as board members and decide the direction of the institution. “In a bank, the shareholders elect the board, and a bank board is more likely to spend time talking about profit, but in credit unions, the board spends more time talking about member satisfaction,” Kundert adds. Even with large assets that could rival a bank’s, credit unions retain their mission to serve communities, reduce fees and not seek profit. As such, the success of credit unions in the face of the pandemic shows that they are particularly well-suited to the needs of the people in these difficult times. “Summit has been growing and we’re proud of that because growth allows us to help more people build financial security, including homeownership, and give back to the communities where our members live and work,” explains Sponem. “And, it’s not just about growth. We were also named a Top Workplace in 2020.” Sponem continues, “In addition to COVID-19, 2020 put a spotlight on racism and gave us an opportunity re-examine and refine our ongoing work in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Summit and in the communities we serve. We firmly believe that diversity is our strength.” Credit unions traditionally have been smaller than banks and fill a niche for small loans and financial education that banks are often too big to fill. A credit union member’s savings and loan balances are typically lower than a bank’s which often means higher fees in percentage terms than for larger customers. However, since credit unions are mission-focused, members are likely to pay reduced fees.
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“Our board is focused on finding ways to reduce fees on members. In any given month, 97% of our members pay no fees at all for their checking accounts,” Kundert reveals. “We recently looked at some research by an independent industry source”, Sponem says. “It showed that, in just one year, Summit helped our members save $30 million, or about $333 per household, as compared to an average Wisconsin bank. That puts more money in people’s pockets. I always say, It’s your money. Own it.” Despite their quickly increasing financial power, the number of credit unions has been dwindling. In 2005, there were nearly 9,000 federally recognized credit unions. In 2013, that number was down to 6,600. Now, there are barely more than 5,100. The number of credit unions has been nearly cut by half in the past 15 years. Wisconsin went from 171 state-chartered credit unions in 2013 to 118 today.
MORE CUSTOMERS BUT FEWER CREDIT UNIONS Every year, Wisconsin is seeing more consolidation with larger entities regularly taking over the smaller ones to consolidate their positions. Being a successful financial institution has become increas-
ingly more expensive, requiring new secure tools, heavier regulations and heavy investments in technology. This makes it far more difficult to be viable as a tiny, local financial institution, while the major players can bear the brunt and spread the costs over a much larger number of customers and larger asset bases. “At the peak, there were 563 credit unions in Wisconsin; we had more credit unions per capita than anywhere else in the country,” Kundert adds. One hundred years ago, Wisconsin took a leadership position regarding small loans and opposing predatory interest rates. In 1913, four years after the first American credit union opened in New Hampshire, Wisconsin enacted legislation allowing credit unions. It wouldn’t be until 1934, more than 20 years later, that the Federal Credit Union Act passed, allowing all states to follow in the footsteps of the Badger State. For its key role in pioneering credit unions, Wisconsin has been housing the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Madison. Wisconsin credit unions doubled the sum of assets they represent in less than a decade: At the end of 2013, their total assets had reached $24.5 billion. Not only are credit unions experiencing an acceleration
of their growth from year to year, but 2020 has proven to be a record-breaking year for them: From January to September 2020, credit unions increased their assets by an additional $7 billion, far more than the $4.1 billion acquired from 2018 to 2019, $2.8 billion the year before, and so on.
$3 million to members in emergency loans,” he says. “We require no payments or interest for three months, and then you can take up to three years to repay at 1.9% interest. We also offered payment extensions for people so that they wouldn’t be reported as delinquent in their loans.”
Wisconsin’s larger credit unions, which often had assets in the hundreds of millions just a few years ago, have grown significantly: Landmark Credit Union represents assets worth more than $5 billion; Summit Credit Union has more than $4.3 billion; UW Credit Union has just passed the $4 billion mark, $700 million more than at the end of 2019; Community First Credit Union reports more than $3.4 billion; and Educators Credit Union reports more than $2.6 billion, up from $2.1 billion one year ago.
Summit Credit Union highlights the work done for local businesses: Through the CARES Act, Summit “helped many businesses be able to keep paying their employees by providing more than 1,400 loans worth about $59 million.,” says Kim Sponem. “Now, we’re working with these businesses to get loans converted into grants, where possible, so Wisconsin’s small businesses can stay afloat despite the economic impacts of the pandemic.”
CREDIT UNIONS MAY BE GETTING LARGER BUT THEY HAVEN’T LOST THEIR MISSION This does not mean that credit unions are turning into member-owned banks, however, Paul Kundert assures. When COVID hit, “We offered emergency loans to members that suddenly lost income and there was a delay in getting unemployment benefits. We loaned out almost
Educators Credit Union expanded their education-based approach to help members and organizations with financial literacy efforts and donations. “These efforts include providing lunches for frontline workers, funding a sensory bag drive, supporting the No Empty Backpacks school supply drive and donating $80,000 worth of backpacks and school supplies for homeless MPS students,” says Kelly Blickle, spokesperson for
Educators. In the 2020 year alone, despite the economic hardship, Educators Credit Unions opened two new branches and provided an unprecedented $4.27 million in rewards to their members. Beyond the fact that economic hardship pushes people to reallocate their savings to credit unions, the year 2020 brought a number of abnormal forms of revenue to countless Wisconsinites—and Americans in general. “Members have increased their savings dramatically during the pandemic. The federal stimulus money that came in, many of our members have put that away in savings and haven't spent it yet,” Kundert states. The increased unemployment benefits aimed at lessening the blow of mass unemployment also contributed to solidifying the assets of lower- and middle-class households, which make up the customer base of credit unions. Additionally, with the closure of entertainment venues and eateries, there have been fewer avenues to spend that money. This is a trend that has been reflected nationally: The National Credit Union Administration reports that total assets in federally insured credit unions rose by $248 billion—16.1%—in 2020, reaching $1.79 trillion. Wisconsin’s credit unions bolstered their assets significantly more than the average seen in other states.
Jean-Gabriel Fernandez is a journalist and Sorbonne graduate living in Milwaukee. He writes about politics, cannabis and culture for the Shepherd Express.
Photo by Drazen Zigic/Getty Images
FEBRUARY 2021 | 9
MAKING COUNTY GOVERNMENT
Work Like It Should INTERVIEW WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE DAVID CROWLEY BY LOUIS FORTIS AND TYLER NELSON
ast May, David Crowley became Milwaukee County’s first African American County Executive. He took office less than two months after COVID hit Milwaukee and a month before protests over the murder of George Floyd. 2020 was a difficult year, but Crowley brought competence and experience to his new job. As 2021 begins, he looks forward to a new administration in Washington and the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine but is prepared for many challenges in the months ahead. You came into the office during a pandemic, a recession, a serious structural deficit in the budget and an active movement for social and racial justice on the streets. So, how do you like your job? You know, I absolutely love my job. I would say we have been able to do a lot. When you think about this pandemic, when you think about the social unrest— Milwaukee County has to be at its best when everybody feels like we’re in the worst of everything in our lifetime. So, we
have been building relationships along with the County Board, along with business leaders, community leaders, as well as building relationships with other units of government and businesses outside of Milwaukee County, because we know that we have to lean on one another, not only to get through this pandemic, but to build back better once we near the end of this pandemic and start thinking about the economic recovery. So, I feel good about everything. Yes, there are a lot of challenges out there, but I think there is also an equal amount of opportunities that we have to pursue. You are totally a self-made guy, and I have great respect for that. Tell us about your background growing up. Where did you grow up and what was your life like? I was born and raised right here in the City of Milwaukee. Grew up in the 53206 ZIP code. I am the middle child; I have an older brother and a younger brother. Went to public schools my whole life, and we struggled a lot. My
parents struggled with drug addictions, but they also struggled to put food on the table. My mother struggled a lot and got to the point where she needed food stamps. She struggled to the point where we needed a lot of Milwaukee County services because we were evicted at least three times. Honestly, what changed everything for me was when I was about 17 years old and got involved in a youth organization called Urban Underground, and it really taught me how to love. When you grow up on 23rd and Burleigh, 22nd and Brown, you see a lot of different things in your environment. And if it weren’t for Urban Underground intervening, I wouldn't have been introduced to community organizing or wouldn’t have been introduced to actually leaving my own neighborhood. Urban Underground introduced me to other programs such as Public Allies, who helped me understand what it means to give back and be a servant-leader in this community. From Public Allies, I continued to do community organizing throughout the city. Image by Sean Pavone/Getty Images
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My first job out of high school, I was working for Project Return, helping ex-offenders find employment and housing when they were being released. And I would say that was one of the hardest jobs that I had, but also one of the most fulfilling, which let me know that I wanted to continue doing community work. I worked for Children’s Outing Association on 23rd and Burleigh. I was a community organizer for the Northside YMCA, as well as a community partner for Safe and Sound before getting my first political organizing start in 2010, working for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. I was his African American statewide organizer and had the opportunity to travel with him and other organizers across the state to get support in the Black community. In doing that, I quickly realized not only did I love what I was doing, but folks were telling me that I was good at it. After that Feingold campaign, which was a tough loss for all of us, I wanted to continue to stay involved in politics. In 2011, I worked for the Democratic Party in Wisconsin working the Senate recalls across the state. And from there, I had the opportunity to actually work for then County Board Supervisor Nikiya Harris for about a year and a half before she actually went to Madison to be a state senator for the 6th Senate District, and she brought me along. For four years, I worked under her leadership as a community outreach director and policy director, before deciding that it was time for me to run on my own in the summer of 2015. I ran for city government and the 7th Aldermanic District and I lost in the primary to Khalif Rainey and School Board Chair Dr. Michael Bonds. When I lost that race Nikiya decided that she wasn’t running for reelection, so that opened up a spot at the state level for me to run. I ran for State Assembly in the 17th District and won that seat in a three-way primary with about 57% of the vote. After that, I was elected to be the chair of not only the Wisconsin Black Caucus, but also the Black and Latino Caucus, as well as chair of the Milwaukee Delegation, and I continued to work with all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle trying to create meaningful change. After serving four years, this seat opened up, I decided to take a crack at it and ended up winning the seat. In less than a year, you have you transformed the County Government into a smoothly running and effective democratic institution. How did you do it? I would say that my experience working for the County Board and seeing the turmoil was always in the back of my mind: This isn't what local institutions are supposed to be doing. Local institutions, at the end of the day, are supposed to be fighting for everyone who lives in that municipality. I value relationships, and for me, it’s really about having open, honest and transparent conversations. I’m always honest about what I can and cannot do and what we can work towards, and I’ll make sure to keep the board in the loop of what we are doing here in the County Executive’s office, because it’s extremely important that we work together. We look at ourselves as two heads coming together to really focus on the issues at hand. And two heads are always better than one. You know, many of us share the same values. We want to see different types of
changes. When we think about the mission and vision that we have here in Milwaukee County, you know, we all believe in it. We all believe that we can achieve being the healthiest county by achieving racial equity and having everybody at the table, knowing that everybody’s heart’s in the right place. It has been good, but I would also say that my success isn’t just based off of what I do. My success is based off of all 4,200 employees here within Milwaukee County, including the County Board. You said I’m self-made, but honestly, my teachers, my mentors, everyone around me who has held me accountable have contributed to the success. I can’t take all the credit for this, because there are so many people throughout my life that have touched me in some capacity. You appear to have developed a good working relationship with Marcelia Nicholson, the chairwoman of the County Board? Absolutely. We talk—at the bare minimum—once a week. We have a standing meeting to talk about what is going on and how we can tackle it. It’s been a great working relationship with Chairwoman Nicholson, and I look forward to working with not only her, but everyone on the County Board, because that’s what the success is. Success is only going to come based off of us working together. We have our disagreements, but when you start from a place where you know you can agree and then work from there, it makes a lot of things easier. Government is about compromise. It is not about always getting your way. Let's get down to some policy. What do you see as the greatest challenges going forward in terms of policy changes or improvements for the county, and what are some of the issues you're looking at? We’re definitely looking at racism as a public health crisis. There have been many different racist policies at all levels of government that have unequally distributed critical ser-
Image Courtesy of David Crowley
FEBRUARY 2021 | 11
vices. We want to focus on all the social determinants of health, because this poor distribution of services and the lack of investments have really led us as a county to being the second unhealthiest county in Wisconsin. So we were launching our strategic plan to focus explicitly on racial and health disparities, because we know that’s what’s going to move this community forward. To do that, it takes resources. One of the biggest policy discussions that we’re having is for the option to have a local sales tax here in Milwaukee County. When you think about our parks, about mental health, about our Domes, about transportation, about our mandated services—we are in a tough position. For the past nine years on average, we see about a $30 billion gap every year. A 1% sales tax is going to be critical for us because, in six years, if we don’t diversify our revenue streams, Milwaukee County will not be able to make the investments not mandated by state government. So, when you think about our parks and transportation, some of our most used amenities here within Milwaukee County, it’s going to be hard to keep those things afloat. When I think about this year and what we’ve been able to do with this 2021 budget, we were able to stave off many of the different cuts because of the first-time influx of CARES dollars. Right now, because we’re in the middle of this pandemic, we know many small businesses and many individuals still need access to community support programs. We want to make sure that we are providing those dollars upfront, to help out as many individuals as possible. If we don’t, there’s a greater cost when you think about the folks who are facing evictions, or don’t have transportation to get to work, or won’t be able to get a COVID test or vaccine. Really, it’s about how we manage the expectations of not only Milwaukee County employees, but this community, because of the tough position we are in. What do you think the chances are of you getting support from the state legislature on your 1% sales tax plan? I’m very optimistic. We know about the insecurities that many individuals, businesses and governments were having before the pandemic, but I also think that this pandemic has really highlighted the
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need for this local option sales tax. We have seen the amount of lost revenue and know that many individuals come to Milwaukee County and to many different places in the state to work or to play. And so, we know that we have to capture many of those dollars of those who are living in Illinois or Minnesota or just coming to enjoy our touristic attractions. We have been developing relationships with folks to understand that this is not just a Milwaukee County problem—this is a problem across Wisconsin. Milwaukee County has always been the political lightning rod here in Wisconsin, so we’ve made a point to build relationships with other municipalities, trying to also work with different associations across the state to get support for something like this. And I would like to say that not only is the County Board involved, but we have the business community, the 19 different municipal government partners in Milwaukee County and other municipalities across the state who are lobbying for this local option. This will also help us provide a huge property tax relief to this community while also making the critical investments, fighting for racial equity right here in Milwaukee County and pushing our mission and vision forward. What does the Biden presidency mean for you and your policies moving forward? It is a dream come true for our local government, particularly in the middle of this pandemic. I will say that the first round of the CARES Act did help, but we’ve continuously pushed back to say that there is more assistance needed. Just recently hearing about the $1.9 trillion package that the Biden administration is talking about, there’s going to be a huge amount of help in making sure that Milwaukee County can deliver its services that people absolutely need. This gives us the ability to make sure that we can keep people in their homes and prevent evictions or help people not lose their homes because they’re behind on their mortgage. This package proves that he is listening not only to his own administration, but he’s listening to local and state governments who are strapped for cash right now and who want to make sure that we’re properly responding to this pandemic. This is a dream come true when
you think about what we have seen in the past four years. There has also been talk about an infrastructure package, and we definitely need to update our infrastructure here within Milwaukee County. We have a lot of assets, and not just our county buildings or our courthouse—I’m hoping this gives us the opportunity to look at what we can do when it comes down to the Milwaukee Domes, to our parks and our transit system. Have you made any progress in creating the grants office? Absolutely. That was one of the first things that we did with the County Board’s support, and we set aside three different positions. I believe we filled two of those as of right now and are looking to fill the third in the near future. We were really excited about this grants office because we think it’s going to give us the ability to go after other state, federal and foundational dollars that are out there. We also know that our foundational partners in the philanthropy community are looking to get involved and help out. We look forward to working not only internally, but with our external partners on identifying businesses and other nonprofits that we can partner with to bring more resources to this county. Recently, Representative Gordon Hintz, the Democratic Minority Leader in the Wisconsin State Assembly, sent a letter to Speaker Robin Vos calling out a list of 15 Republican state legislators who signed a letter to Mike Pence calling for him to refuse the results of the presidential election. What do you think this means for elections going forward? Can the Republican Party recover from this? I’ve seen some of the names on there, and many are individuals I’ve worked with in the past on different types of policy at the state level. My mind was just boggled at some of the individuals who had actually signed on. When it came down to the 2020 presidential election, we cannot stand for the lies and this vitriol that we have been seeing. And I’m not going to say Republicans, because there’s a small fraction of individuals in the Republican Party who absolutely continue this type of rhetoric—I’ll say these Trump supporters, these “Re-Trump-licans”’ as some would say, they are an issue, and they can be
a cancer to our democracy. We have to have a transparent and open and honest conversation about what democracy looks like, and I hope that they know that there is integrity in our elections here in the state of Wisconsin, and I hope that as we continue to have these conversations, people recognize and actually tell the truth that Biden and Harris won this election fair and square. Is there anything else that you want to say to your constituents? I think it’s really about making sure that we can continue to uplift this community in the middle of this pandemic. We don’t have a health department and that could be a little frustrating, but we also recognize where Milwaukee County can have influence. We set up this Unified Emergency Operation Center to work with the healthcare systems, emergency management, as well as our public health officials, so we can try to find ways to still have one Milwaukee County voice. And it’s been going well so far, but
I want folks to know that as we continue to talk about this vaccine distribution, we just need patience. This is something that is unprecedented. Unfortunately, we weren’t getting the leadership that we needed from the federal level, but I’m just asking folks to stay patient and bear with all of us as we continue to roll out this vaccine, making sure our most vulnerable residents and our frontline workers get this vaccine to make sure that they are as safe as they can be. But we also have to make sure that we are educating folks on the efficacy and safety of this vaccine to make sure that individuals are making the best decision for themselves and their families. And it is our hope that, when we roll this out for the public, many people actually get the vaccine to protect not only themselves, but their loved ones as well. Louis Fortis is publisher of the Shepherd Express and a former state legislator and economics professor.
NEWS TAKING LIBERTIES
Election Reform Made Easy: WHOEVER GETS THE MOST VOTES SHOULD WIN BY JOEL MCNALLY
ne of the most outrageous lies Donald Trump told in the last days of his presidency was that Congress could stop election fraud by throwing out all the legally cast votes for President Joe Biden in five states, including Wisconsin, and allowing corruptly gerrymandered Republican legislatures in those states to declare Trump the winner.
Two-thirds of House Republicans and eight Republican senators betrayed their country and supported Trump’s destruction of democracy. They voted against certifying electoral votes in two states, Pennsylvania and Arizona. So much for Republicans pretending to protect the Electoral College from Democrats who have always been eager to abolish it for very good reason. Because of the Electoral College, the presidential election is the only election in America where the candidate who gets the most votes can be declared the loser. That’s exactly what elected the last two Republican presidents. Al Gore got 543,000 more votes than George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton got nearly three million more votes than Trump. Fortunately for all of us, Biden defeated Trump by more than seven million votes and won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. But that was closer than you might think. If only 65,000 votes out of 155 million votes cast had gone to Trump instead of Biden in Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nebraska’s Second Congressional district, the Electoral College would have declared Trump the winner with 270 electoral votes to Biden’s 268. That’s how unreliable the Electoral College is.
REFORMING THE PROCESS How could the leaders of a nation that until Trump considered itself the world’s greatest democracy perpetuate such an unfair process that can so drastically distort the intentions of American voters? I just told you. Republicans have no interest in re-
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forming an egregiously unfair process that elected the last two Republican presidents. It’s also intentionally difficult to amend the Constitution as it always should be. Amendments require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate and approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures. That’s why states are pursuing a grassroots alternative called the National Popular Vote Compact. It’s a simple agreement among states to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. So far, 15 states (not including Wisconsin yet) and the District of Columbia (which has three electoral votes even though it’s not represented in Congress) have joined the effort. Those states actually control 196 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to elect a president. If it can reach that threshold, the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationally would win the presidency. What a concept. The Electoral College can’t assure that because electoral votes are determined by the number of Senators and members of Congress in each state. The Senate isn’t really a democratic institution because every state has only two senators regardless of population, whether it’s California with 39 million voters or Wyoming with 578,000. The Electoral College wildly overrepresents sparsely populated rural areas and small towns and underrepresents large metropolitan areas with racially diverse populations. Sounds familiar in American politics, doesn’t it?
GERRYMANDERING A similar grassroots movement has begun nationally to correct another serious election problem. That’s to prevent a repeat of the corrupt political gerrymandering that occurred after 2010 when the racist, anti-Obama Tea Party election gave Republicans the power in many states to redraw voting districts. Wisconsin is still
among the worst gerrymandered states in the nation with lines dishonestly drawn to assure Democrats win the fewest possible legislative and congressional seats. In 2018, Democrats swept every statewide office and won more legislative votes than Republicans, but Republicans still retained control of the legislature with an almost two-thirds majority in the Assembly. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a terrible Supreme Court decision in 2019 forbidding federal courts from interfering with corrupt gerrymandering to protect voting rights. That’s why 21 states have now created independent or bipartisan redistricting commissions to prevent elected politicians from using the power to keep themselves in office. In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will be able to veto unfair redistricting by the legislature. In November, Republicans tried to win a veto-proof legislative majority, but they failed. If redistricting ends in a standoff between Evers and legislators, courts can still redraw the map. After four of the longest years in our lives watching the daily destruction of American democracy by Trump and his Republican enablers, like the country song says, “thank God and Greyhound he’s gone.” We are left with one of the deadliest public health crises and the worst economic devastation our nation has ever experienced simultaneously. We know everything can’t all be fixed at once. But it already seems refreshing to have a perfectly sane president saying and doing rational things to begin restoring our American democracy. Who knows? Maybe we won’t even have to think about him every day. Joel McNally was a critic and columnist for the Milwaukee Journal for 27 years. He has written the weekly Taking Liberties column for the Shepherd Express since 1996.
ISSUE OF THE MONTH NEWS
BLANKET IMMUNITY INVITES
Dangerous and Deadly Behavior By Gretchen Schuldt
he state is apparently on the path to granting businesses, schools and just about every other conceivable organization broad immunity from liability in COVID-19 lawsuits, meaning organizations and individuals would not be liable for their own COVID-related negligence.
While organizations in favor of the liability protection say it is needed to stop a flow of frivolous lawsuits, a group representing trial lawyers said those lawsuits do not exist. Each house of the legislature has passed its own version of immunity protection. Neither the assembly nor the senate bill would provide protection for “reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.” The version adopted by the assembly specifies, however, that violating an order to close or limit the capacity of an entity is not reckless or wanton conduct. The senate version does not include that sizeable loophole.
WMC’s Footnote Problems
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce supports them both. In its legislative testimony, WMC said “the business community is now faced with an epidemic of largely frivolous lawsuits.” WMC did not, however, identify any Wisconsin lawsuits. “Advertisements soliciting plaintiffs for COVID-19 related mass tort lawsuits are up,” WMC said, and in a footnote cited as a source a Legal Newsline story that did not say that. Instead, the story features the ads of four very small, out-of-state law firms that mention or allude to the pandemic, but that do not solicit clients for mass torts. In the ads “lawyers searching for business are touting their abilities to handle problems the coronavirus poses in the legal community,” the story says. WMC also cites a Reuters story for the same “mass tort” statement, but that story doesn’t really support the WMC, either. Instead, the Reuters story that says lawyers are buying more TV ads looking for
clients for lawsuits against drug and consumer products manufacturers because advertising prices have dropped amid the pandemic. The story does not say the law firms are seeking to file COVID-related lawsuits. Actually, a Reuters article on January 21, 2021 stated that lawyers’ advertising for plaintiffs for tort clients was down 33% from last year. Jay Urban, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, which represents lawyers, said there have been no COVID liability suits filed in Wisconsin and the liability protections proposed are not needed. If there are lawsuits down the line, the courts already are equipped to handle them, he said. “Our system is set up to handle all kinds of situations,” he said in an interview. The Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to have civil disputes tried by a jury, he said. “WAJ believes that the civil justice system and trial by jury should be unhindered by immunity,” he said. “WAJ, on behalf of consumers, is very much against anything worse and this is one step that is unnecessary and less safe than the status quo.”
Those offering legislative testimony in favor of immunity spoke of frivolous lawsuits and litigation costs, but generally did not mention those sickened by the disease through negligence or carelessness who may look to civil courts for relief. Urban said the fear of a flood of frivolous suits is unfounded, no matter how many times that specter is raised. “Just because you say something doesn’t make it true,” he said. “There is no such thing as a get-richquick frivolous lawsuit.” Current litigation standards would require a plaintiff to prove that a specific exposure led to an infection—something that, since people have so many potential sources of exposure—is almost impossible to do, he said. Other opponents to liability immunity measures have argued that the protections could give a competitive advantage to businesses (and other organizations) that are less careful about protecting workers, customers, and clients. Gretchen Schuldt is Executive Director of Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Nearly half a million state residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and almost 5,000 have died, the association said in its legislative testimony. “And yet, to our knowledge, not a single workplace safety lawsuit has been filed in Wisconsin,” WAJ continued. “If the actual prevalence of litigation matched the fears of litigation described by some today, you would see hundreds or even thousands of lawsuits already filed. And yet, they have not been”
Immunity Would Not Stop Lawsuits
In any event, the immunity protections included in bills before the senate and assembly would not stop lawsuits from being filed, although they could discourage some potential suits. Organizations and individuals could still be sued and incur costs of defending against those suits.
FEBRUARY 2021 | 15
Photo by Erin Bloodgood
NEWS HERO OF THE MONTH
Dana World-Patterson WORKS TO FREE VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING By Erin Bloodgood
anuary was Human Trafficking Prevention Month, but this is an issue that needs more attention than 31 days can offer. A study released in 2018 shows that in a four-year period, 340 adults and children under the age of 25 were victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee. And that only includes the people that reached out to the police. There are many individuals in the city who are deeply invested in this issue, but one person who deserves the spotlight is Dana World-Patterson, founder of Foundations for Freedom, Inc. The mantra of the organization says it all: “One less victim in Milwaukee. One less victim in the world.” Started in 2014, the organization focuses on prevention with the goal of strengthening women and girls. As World-Patterson explains, building self-worth and confidence makes women less susceptible to the coercion of a trafficker, also known as a pimp. The perpetrators take a lot of
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time to look for and groom someone they can easily manipulate. “It’s that place of vulnerability that will cause someone to do something that, in their stronger space of mind, they would not consider,” she says. World-Patterson started her work with young women long before she knew what human trafficking was. In what she calls Etiquette and Image, she teaches girls to find self-esteem and love for themselves. When Martha Love approached her and asked for help fighting human trafficking, World-Patterson saw a natural way to blend the two lines of work and extend that teaching to women in the sex trade. They began learning as much as they could about the issue and speaking with women willing to talk to them that were “in the life” or forced to sell their bodies for money. They contributed to founding of the County Human Trafficking task Force 13 years ago, which became the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater
Milwaukee two years later. It was in that transition that World-Patterson became the chair.
FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING For years, World-Patterson has been helping women move from a space of victimization and survival to a space where they can thrive. The prevention work she does with Foundations for Freedom, Inc. is only half of the battle. The organization also seeks out hotbed areas for trafficking and introduces themselves to the women involved. It is a slow process of gaining trust and providing resources, making sure they do not force or pressure the women to do anything. “If we’re able to come into their world and offer peace and not harm, I believe that one day they’ll call us, they’ll remember,” states World-Patterson. Once the women are ready to come out of the life,
Foundations for Freedom, Inc. finds them resources that offer therapy for trauma relief, housing, care for their children and anything else they may need.
At the end of the event, one woman came to World-Patterson to say, “I am sick and tired of this life.” She was ready to accept the help she needed to escape.
Learn more about the Foundations for Freedom, Inc. at foundations4freedom.org or call the human trafficking hotline for help at 888-373-7888.
In December, the organization hosted an event called Strength for My Sisters in which they handed out boots and jackets to women on the streets that they collected from donors. Since the summer, they have given away more than 500 shoes and 600 coats to women and men in need.
“That is why we do this,” World-Patterson explains. They reach out to as many women and girls as possible in hopes to help one more woman in need. Their never-ending work to make people aware of this dire issue, which is so close to home, is all for the goal of having one fewer victim.
Erin Bloodgood is a Milwaukee photographer and storyteller. Visit bloodgoodfoto. com to see more of her work.
FEBRUARY 2021 | 17
NEWS OFF THE CUFF
18 | SHEPHERD EXPRESS
When the Pandemic is Over... WHAT NINE PROMINENT MILWAUKEEANS WILL DO AND WHAT THEY’VE LEARNED By Mary Sussman
espite the promise of vaccination, we remain bruised and dazed by the pandemic, pandemic politics, the “contested” election and massive overexposure to TTL (Terrible Toxic Lies) emanating from high places and spreading like COVID throughout the land. In 2020, we cancelled most of our usual activities and travel plans, lost loved ones and jobs, and we spent a lot of time confined at home and on Zoom. Yet, as we enter what might be a long winter of even more disease, death and discontent, which demands continued vigilance, we still dream our private dreams of what we would most like to do when the pandemic is finally over and give thanks for whatever good that has emerged from the pandemic. Off the Cuff talked to a few Milwaukeeans about what they would like to do when the pandemic is over and asked if the pandemic had a silver lining.
Executive Director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? I can't wait until I can hug people and hang out with friends and family in person. 2020 has been tough, and we aren't able to grieve and heal in person the way we conventionally would. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? I learned to create boundaries for myself and extend myself grace. This year was a challenge and I had to be intentional to be kind to myself with so much happening around me.
Milwaukee writer and historian What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? Go into any Milwaukee bar or restaurant I want without worrying that it will kill me. I've been a freelance writer for almost 50 years, working from home and setting my own schedule, so my life hasn't changed all that much. It feels like the world has slowed down to catch up with me. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? More time with family, more time in nature, more time to think about what to do next.
Gretchen Schuldt Executive Director, Wisconsin Justice Initiative
What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? 1. Stop looking at and thinking about prison COVID case numbers. 2. Have a beer in a bar with friends. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? The decline in vehicle traffic. Serious effort to reduce jail and House of Correction populations. I don't want to wish time away, but I won't miss 2020.
Top Left: Caitlin Cullen (Photo by Tyler Nelson). Top Right: John Gurda (Photo by Max Thomsen). Middle Left: Kathleen Dunn (Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Dunn). Middle: Bela Suresh Roongta (Photo Courtesy of Bela Suresh Roongta). Middle Right: Marcelle Polednik (Photo Courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum). Bottom Left: Tom Barrett (Photo Courtesy of the City of Milwaukee).
FEBRUARY 2021 | 19
NEWS OFF THE CUFF
to see lots of maskless gatherings, celebrations and rejoicing.
What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? I am going to go out to eat and buy lots of drinks and tip well and wait to go home until they turn the house lights off and kick me out.
Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? Gratitude. I am thankful for simple pleasures like walks in nature, home cooked meals and quality time with family. The pandemic took away many things, but also reminded us to appreciate what we do have.
Chef and owner, The Tandem restaurant
Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? The pandemic exposed a broader audience to a lot of systemic mess that we knew was there, and if we all learn from this experience, it will be a “good thing.”
Kathleen Dunn Retired Wisconsin Public Radio host
What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? I want to hop in my car and take a long road trip to Houston to visit my son. We haven’t been in the same dwelling for almost a year. Later, I’d hop in the car and day after day head to every swimming pool and lake in the area and enjoy long swims. When we can be face to face, maskless, may we relish the bonds we have with friends and family, and enjoy laughter and happiness. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? It made me much more politically active. The pandemic didn’t need to be so tragic for so many in this country. I worked hard to help achieve a change in national leadership. I also thought more deeply about my father, who spent four years away from home in WWII. I began a form of prayer each night, asking for guidance from my ancestors.
Mayor of the City of Milwaukee What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? We are all craving human interaction. I am looking forward to people leaving their homes and coming together. Once the pandemic is over, I want
Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director, Milwaukee Art Museum What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? I want the museum to be standing at the end of this pandemic, and am looking forward to opening our doors again and welcoming our community inside. It is estimated that 30% of the art museums across this country will not reopen. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? This pause has allowed us to contemplate what is most important for the Milwaukee Art Museum, and we’ve learned as an institution to be nimble and adaptive in the face of frequent changes and obstacles. We have tried as much as possible to give energy to small successes, or the silver linings of the pandemic. For example, within a week of the shutdown in March, we had transitioned many of our programs to online experiences, providing some continuity and a space for our visitors to connect and find inspiration online. These efforts, underway before COVID-19, were by necessity accelerated and will continue after we open things up again as we work toward further broadening accessibility to the Museum and the art. We’ve also been able to utilize this time to make strategic hires, such as Kantara Souffrant as curator of community dialogue. And thanks to support from grants, we’ve been able to focus on important behind-the-scenes initiatives that advance the objectives outlined in our Strategic Direction.
Bela Suresh Roongta
Artist, writer, former Pfister Hotel Narrator in Residence What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? Hug my people. Give big huge hugs. And travel. Near and far. First, to see my sister. Then, anywhere and everywhere. To my favorite cities and unknown places. To see my friends and adventure alone. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? Rediscovered time, admiration and love for my kids, friends and community. And gratitude for my health, my art and Milwaukee's rivers and lakeshore, where I have spent a lot of time walking, running, biking and reflecting on the state of the world and my own personal fears, hopes and dreams.
Pardeep Singh Kaleka Executive Director, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and Zeidler Group
What do you most want to do when the pandemic is over? I want to connect, I want to embrace, I want to hug, to shake hands. I want to go to the restaurant or café and see people make eye contact and genuinely feel a sense of human kinship where the division of race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, ability, sexual orientation, etc., no longer seem to matter as much as appreciative connection. Were there any good things that came out of the pandemic? There have been lots of great things to surface during this pandemic. Kindness, empathy, love, sacrifice and healing were on full display. Tragedy is such that there are always silver linings. Another hope is that the lessons that were taught on how injustices and inequities continue to plague the world are not soon forgotten. I hope that the urgency to work towards a cure for COVID-19 is as urgent as a call for us to commit our lives to working for a cure to racism, oppression and dehumanization.
Mary Sussman is an award-winning Milwaukee writer concerned with science and its impact on society.
FOOD & DRINK
Sweet Basil Thai and Lao Street Eats By Alisa Malavenda
weet Basil is a family owned restaurant whose simple philosophy, “Make everything from scratch and treat everyone like family,” shines through with their outstanding food. Even through the rough times for restaurants during COVID, Sweet Basil opened their doors and hearts to the community. The restaurant is still not open for dining in, but their curbside pickup is easy to navigate with time slots. Everything comes out hot and fresh. Their system is as precise and impressive as their menu. Sweet Basil serves food with heart, using the best ingredients they can find. They embrace you and bring you into their family through a culinary journey through their favorite Asian street foods, classic entrées and some inspired fusion dishes. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, beautifully presented (even in a to-go box), fresh and oh so delicious. Each eco-friendly takeout container is lined with a banana leaf. The menu is easy to read and the options are geared toward serving customers’ individual palates and dietary restrictions. It starts with a long list of authentic Thai and Laotian small plates. The classic Lao lab with lettuce leaves, chewy Asian ribs, beef teriyaki or jerky and chicken satay are just a few of my favorites ($2-$10). Given the many outstanding choices, we found it exciting that they offer a platter section on the menu where you can get a taste of all your favorites. These family style platters range in price from $18 for the vegetarian to $32 for the Lao BBQ platter with chicken wings, Lao grilled steak, Asian ribs, sticky rice and Jeow dipping sauce. The platters give you a traditional Laotian food experience in your own home with different tastes of everything—
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including the “must have” sticky rice (à la carte for $2). It also gives you the cultural green light to eat with your hands. For the full experience, I recommend the Jeow flight ($3) of three authentic dipping sauces to pair with the meat, but also to enjoy with just the sticky rice. The three sauces begin with Jeow Bong, a chili paste made with such Laotian ingredients as galangal and fish sauce. Next is Jeow Mak Len, a Laotian version of salsa made with tomatoes, chilies, lime and cilantro. The third is Jeow Som, a sweet and sour sauce perfect for meat skewers and lending a hint of citrus for balance. All were fresh and delicious accompaniments to our meals. The Thai curries, both Panang and Green ($8-$13), are full of vegetables and can be
ordered with meat, tofu, shrimp or vegetables only. They can also be prepared vegan. There are four different fried rice options ($8-$13): The house fried rice with vegetables and egg; fried rice with fragrant Thai sweet basil; yellow curry; and my favorite of the four, the Jeow Bong with a spicy kick from the chili sauce. The noodles and ramen stir frys come with the same protein choices as the rice ($8-$13). Another another highlight is the Tom Yum Ramen, 32 oz of delicious hot and sour broth with ramen noodles, fresh herbs, vegetables and homemade meatballs. Pad Thai, Pad Khing and General Tso’s are among the more familiar items on the menu, along with four desserts. Try the playful egg rolls filled with bananas,
apples or a sweet and crisp chocolate wonton with dipping sauce, but donâ€™t pass up the sweet mango sticky rice with sweetened coconut milk and fresh mango. The level of heat ranges from 1 to 5, and I found it true to scale: 1-2 is mild with 2 giving you just a finish of heat at the end; 3 gives you that tingle on the lips; with 4 you start to sweat; and 5, well, that is for those daring enough turn up the heat. When I ordered 3 and 4, I found it helpful to have one of their Bomba Smoothies on hand made with fresh fruit.
Sweet Basil not only brings a cultural dining experience into your home, but the family owners have hearts as big as their portions of delicious food. They have jumped in to do their part for the community and the planet. Talk a walk through their website, not only to order off the fantastic menu, but to read their story, community involvement and giveback, and their ongoing efforts for to help the planet with eco-friendly practices. 6509 S. 27th St., Franklin (414) 301-4126 | sweetbasilmke.com $-$$ | Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options Only curbside pickup for now Milwaukee writer Alisa Malavenda is a professional chef, culinary instructor, caterer and cookbook author.
RED CHILE ENCHILADA SAUCE
THE ENDORPHIN RUSH OF
Red Chile E nchilada Sauce BY ARI LEVAUX
inter is the season for red chile enchilada sauce. You can almost smell the piñon and juniper smoke drifting from the leaky wood stove, as your mouth explores the profound depths of a good red chile made from scratch. It’s good on potatoes, squash and other wintry foods, keeping you warm inside and out, from your spicy mouth to your sweating skin, and, for better or worse, everything in between. 24 | SHEPHERD EXPRESS
You can find the ingredients for a good red chile nearly everywhere, from the bulk section of Whole Foods to the “Ethnic foods” aisle of a small town supermarket with little more than salsa, soy sauce and ramen. We aren’t going to call it “chili,” by the way. The Mexican word for the plant from Mexico is “chile.” Enchilada, meanwhile, is the past participle of enchilar, a Spanish verb
that literally means “to put chile on something.” In the popular dish enchiladas, named after that verb, the “something” to which chile is applied is corn tortillas. In Spanish language slang, enchilada can mean red-faced and triggered, like a charging bear sprayed with mace. Meanwhile, researchers have determined capsaicin does indeed trigger endorphins, which give a rush that has been compared
Photo Credit Ari LeVaux
FOOD & DRINK FLASH IN THE PAN
to those of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and runner’s high, depending on what you’re into. The endorphins can dull pain, too, including, fortuitously, the pain of hot chile. I used to feed cayenne powder to my chickens to make their yolks extra-red. Although they didn’t taste spicy—the capsaicin doesn’t make it to the eggs, even though the beta-carotene does—those yolks, grammatically speaking, were enchilados. The world’s first enchiladas were little more than tortillas dipped in chile sauce. Generations of Mexican chefs took this initial breakthrough in countless directions. Chips and salsa is one derivative, although some might argue the chips are actually entomatadas, aka treated with tomato. Don’t confuse this with enfrijoladas, treated with beans. I’ve got some red chile drying in my living room, strung up in ristras New Mexico-style. The peppers are Italian Long Hots, a thin, crinkled chile sometimes described as like playing Russian Roulette because you never know when one will be searing. Mine are consistently sweet at the tips. You take a bite, feel the pungent power and brace to be slapped, but you get kissed instead by that bright red sweetness. Encouraged, you keep eating, until you get slapped for real as you approach the seeds. It’s a great pepper for red chile sauce, but any whole pod will work, preferably not too hot. When one eats as much chile as I do, one has to pace oneself. If you can’t get whole pods, you can substitute ground chile; depending on its quality and freshness, that can turn out fine. At some point, folks like myself might as well concede that we aren’t actually applying chile to this or that substrate, because chile IS the substrate. All the other stuff like tortillas, chicken, cheese, etc., are all just different ways to season and decorate the chile. But until then, we’ll keep calling it red chile sauce.
Ari LeVaux has written about food for The Atlantic Online, Outside Online and Alternet.
Red Chile Treatment While most New Mexican red chile recipes are thickened with a little flour, I prefer corn masa, the same stuff tortillas and tamales are made of. Masa is a flour made from corn treated with calcium hydroxide. This ancient process (it used to employ wood ash) is called nixtamalization, and it gives the cornmeal a creamier texture. I gently fry the masa in butter into a kind of roux. This masa-based roux is easier to manage than a flour-based roux, and it has this fun, smooth foaming action that will eventually develop a nutty brown color and flavor, but it isn’t eager to burn. (To stay with this French saucey theme, you could stir in some cream at the very end). Just a few spoonfuls of masa adds a distinct dissolved tortilla flavor that is so noticeable I often skip making the “whole enchilada,” if you will, and simply apply this thick chile sauce to my choice of protein. I’ll garnish with onions, cilantro and avocado and call it good. 1 quart chicken stock (1+ tablespoons of Better than Bouillon paste in a quart of water, or equivalent) 1 ounce dried red chile pod, clean and devoid of seeds and stems 3 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon oregano 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon oil 2 tablespoons masa 1 pound minced onion Optional: cooked chicken meat, corn tortillas, grated jack or similar cheese for the entire enchilada; fresh onions Heat the stock to a simmer. Add the cleaned chile and simmer 10 minutes. Then, let sit for an hour. When it’s cool, add to a blender with the oregano and garlic, and blend until smooth. It will coalesce into a magical, near translucent state of chile gel, and some cooks will call it good right here. Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the masa and fully stir it into the oil and butter. When it starts to brown, add the onions and a cup of water. Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring as necessary to prevent sticking; about ten minutes. Then, add the chile blend and heat to a simmer. Keep it there 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Don’t overcook. You want to keep that bright red hue. To make enchiladas, stack or roll your tortillas (heat them first in a foil-wrapped stack if rolling). Heat the chicken in the chile sauce for a few minutes before building the enchiladas. Bake until the cheese melts, and serve garnished with raw onion. Background Image by Svetlanais/Getty Images
FEBRUARY 2021 | 25
FOOD & DRINK BEVERAGES
YOUR OLDER COUSIN
Armagnac BY GAETANO MARANGELLI
ou’ve got this friend. She’s your cousin, actually, but you think of her as a friend. You see her at holiday dinners, at family weddings and on summer holidays. She’s smart, she’s fun, she dances well. You’ve got this other cousin. She’s your older cousin, actually, and you don’t know her as well. She always surprises you. Where your younger cousin is kind of fancy, your older cousin is kind of wild. Where your younger cousin is all grace and polish, your older cousin is more devil-may-care. Where your younger cousin is more Beyoncé and Rihanna, your older cousin is Lizzo. She’s Cardi B. Both your younger cousin and older cousin are great, and both are family, but being with one isn’t like being with the other. Chances are you know what Cognac is. She’s your younger cousin. Chances are you don’t know your older cousin as well. She’s Armagnac. Armagnac and Cognac are both brandies, which are distilled spirits made from fermented fruit juice. Both are aged in oak barrels. Also, both are places in the southwest of France—Armagnac is south of Bordeaux, Cognac is to its north. But Arma-
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gnac is older than Cognac, with a history beginning in the 12th century. The history of Cognac begins four centuries later. Where Cognac is double-distilled in copper Charentais pot stills, Armagnac is single-distilled in alambic Armagnacais stills. Armagnac comes off its still at a lower alcoholic strength than Cognac, which means Armagnac holds onto more aromas and flavors. And because Armagnac is distilled once rather than twice, it holds onto more esters and acids—more character. Armagnac is fuller, rounder and wilder than Cognac. More intense, more fiery, more complex. Kind of like your older cousin. Armagnac isn’t as popular as Cognac, but good quality Armagnac is less expensive than Cognac. Armagnac is a true digestif, and it offers great gustatory pleasure. It’s also a lovely companion for desserts of many kinds, from tarte tatin to chocolate mousse. A
perfect after-dinner companion for Valentine’s day. An ideal tipple any day.
PRODUCERS AND NEG OCIANTS
Where Cognac is an appellation of big brands, Armagnac is a region of small producers and negociants. An Armagnac producer grows their own grapes, makes their own wine, distills their own brandies at their own property, then ages them in their own cellar. Many have vintages going back 25 years. A negociant may or may not own their own vineyards and may or may not make their own wine. Most have an inventory of older vintages purchased from other small growers, negociants or cooperatives.
BLENDS AND VINTAGES
Armagnac was traditionally released with a vintage date but is now more commonly blended from multiple vintages. These blends may appear with labels like VS, VSOP, Reserve, XO, Napoleon and Hors d’Age, which represent the years of aging of the youngest vintage in the blend. VS: One year and older. VSOP and Reserve: Four years and older.
Illustration by Tess Brzycki Photo by Esperanza33/Getty Images
Napoleon: Six years and older. XO and Hors d’Age: Ten years and older. Vintage Armagnacs are bottled from single casks and made from single distillations. They are at least 10 years old.
SUB-APPELLATIONS OF ARMAGNAC
Armagnac is divided into three sub-appellations: Bas-Armagnac, Ténarèze and Haut-Armagnac. Their soils yield wine grapes which make for Armagnacs of varying qualities. The sandy soils of Bas-Armagnac yield grapes with more acidity than those from the clay and limestone soils of Ténarèze and Haut-Armagnac. These soils and grapes of Bas-Armagnac make its Armagnacs rounder, more supple and with more finesse than those from Ténarèze and Haut-Armagnac.
LOCAL AVAILABILITY OF ARMAGNAC
The availability in the state of Wisconsin of the best quality Armagnacs is poor. The Armagnacs of Château du Tariquet, one of the most important producers of Bas-Armagnac, offer the state’s best opportunity to explore Armagnac. A complete list of Tariquet Armagnacs available in the state is on the website of Waterford Wine & Spirits. Gaetano Marangelli is a sommelier and playwright. He was the managing director of a wine import and distribution company in New York and beverage director for restaurants and retailers in New York and Chicago before moving to Wauwatosa.
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SPECIAL MILWAUKEE'S BEST FISH FRY
Milwaukee Fish Frys A complete guide to Milwaukee’s fish frys would be as long as a phonebook. And given the enormous number and variety of the locally popular entrée, how could we presume to pick and chose which are best? So, we left it up to our readers. The four restaurants below were the top vote getters in our 2020 Best of Milwaukee contest for fish fry. Enjoy, but remember: There are hundreds of others to choose from.
Photo Courtesy of The Packing House
The Packing House
Kegel’s Inn is a remnant of old Milwaukee in West Allis—a German restaurant with authentic Old World charm, many Bavarian dishes and a fish fry with many options (baked included). Kegel’s “Classic Fish Fry” includes five pieces of lightly battered, golden-brown cod with two slices of hearty rye bread, homemade coleslaw and a choice of soup. French fries and mashed potatoes are the standard sides, but Kegel’s also offers some unusual alternatives: potato pancakes, red cabbage or spaetzle. It’s available for carryout on Fridays. Adapting to COVID conditions, Kegel’s has installed a yurt on its outdoor patio, the Beer Garden, where up to 12 people can eat or drink in an insulated, enclosed space. (David Luhrssen)
There is something to be said about a fish fry’s popularity. On a Friday evening in early December, approximately 75 cars strung east on Layton Avenue, filled with hungry folks in line for the Packing House’s drive-through fish fry. The line moved steadily, and the 35 minute wait to get to the cash-only window was worth it. Three large pieces of mild, flaky cod were prepared lightly breaded and served with creamy coleslaw, slices of marble rye bread and a side of tartar sauce. The fries were extra crispy, and we also sampled a cup of the clam chowder; the perfect way to warm up a winter evening. The Packing House’s dining room is open, and the full menu is also available for carryout. If you choose this option, you will be given a pickup time and your order will be delivered to you in the nearby Nite Owl parking lot. (Blaine Schultz)
5901 W. National Ave. (414) 257-9999 | kegelsinn.com
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900 E. Layton Ave. (414) 483-5054 | packinghousemke.com
Background Image by NaokiKim/Getty Images
Papa Luigi’s Pizza
3475 E. Layton Ave. (414) 483-6111 | papaluigiscudahy.com
Photo Courtesy of The Saucy Swine
An Italian-America red sauce and pizza joint might not be the first place you think of for fish fry, but why not? It’s one of the rare places that lists pasta with marinara sauce as a “potato,” making for an unusual but intriguing pairing with crispy, beer-battered cod and rye bread. Opt for crunchy breaded shrimp or perch and you're most of the way towards makeshift seafood parmesan. For the purists, there are four potato choices, including thick-cut, skin-on broasted potatoes. An Ital-Fashioned, a unique take on an Old-Fashioned with grappa and aromatic amaro, is a final Italian spin on a classic Wisconsin meal. Dine in, take out or have it delivered. (Lacey Muszynski)
The Saucy Swine
2245 E. Saint Francis Ave., Saint Francis (414) 509-5390 | thesaucyswine.com Located inside the distinctively painted tavern called Redbar, this near-hidden restaurant’s nondescript location only adds to its mystique. The festive bar area gives way to a quiet backroom dining area. A barbecue-centric place, The Saucy Swine offers a Friday fish fry sub-menu, and we dove in. The potato chip-encrusted cod dinner comes with three large pieces of mild, flavorful fish, a cup of coleslaw and a generous heaping of potato skins. We started off with the Korean Brussels appetizer (crispy, fried brussels sprouts, chopped bacon, sesame seeds, Korean Kick barbecue sauce and curry aioli), and to be honest, that pretty much sealed the deal. It was fantastic. You will not be disappointed. (Blaine Schultz) Fish Illustrations by Vladayoung-Getty Images
MUSEUM OF WISCONSIN ART
SPRING ARTS GUIDE 2021
Spring is coming and this year the new season brings the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine and the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Meanwhile, most arts events are virtual and scheduling remains uncertain. Check ahead before planning to attend. ACACIA THEATRE COMPANY acaciatheatre.com No event scheduled. ALFONS GALLERY alfonsgallery.org No event scheduled. ALL IN PRODUCTIONS allin-mke.com No event scheduled. APERI ANIMAM aperianimam.com No event scheduled. ART GALLERY AT CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY WISCONSIN cuw.edu No event scheduled. ARTS @ LARGE artsatlargeinc.org No event scheduled. AURA THEATRE COLLECTIVE auratheatre.com The Weir, March 18-21. BACH CHAMBER CHOIR bachchoirmilwaukee.com No event scheduled. BEL CANTO CHORUS belcanto.org No event scheduled. BLACK ARTS MKE marcuscenter.org/series/black-artsmke No event scheduled. BOULEVARD THEATRE milwaukeeboulevardtheatre.com No event scheduled. BREW CITY OPERA brewcityopera.wixsite.com No event scheduled. Dean Meeker, BLUE LADY, 1948, oil on canvas. Gifted 2013 James and Karen Hyde Foundation. Image Courtesy of the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
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EARLY MUSIC NOW earlymusicnow.org No event scheduled. EX FABULA exfabula.org “StorySlam: EXperience AfterDark,” February 13.
HAGGERTY MUSEUM OF ART marquette.edu/haggerty-museum “Crossing Boundaries: The Movement of People, Goods and Ideas,” Visual art exhibition, through May 23. H. F. JOHNSON GALLERY OF ART carthage.edu/art-gallery “Two Men and a Truck,” Visual arts exhibition, through February 26.
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“StorySlam: ReImagining Self,” March 25. “All stars: ReImagining Winning,” May 21.
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“Grounded,” Visual arts exhibition, March 8-April 9.
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FEBRUARY 2021 | 43
SPECIAL SPRING ARTS GUIDE
JOHNSON CREEK CLAY STUDIO rickhintzepottery.com No event scheduled. KACM THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS kacmtheatrical.weebly.com No event scheduled. KETTLE MORAINE SYMPHONY kmsymphony.org No event scheduled. KO-THI DANCE COMPANY ko-thi.org No event scheduled. 9 LATINO ARTS, INC. latinoartsinc.org “Los Rostros Ocultos/ The Hidden Faces,” Visual arts exhibition, through February 19. Virtual Guitar Festival Concert, February 27 Canciones del Alma, March 11 “Hyphenated America featuring the artists and friends of LUNA,” Visual arts exhibition, March 5-June 4. LILY PAD GALLERY WEST lilypadgallery.com No event scheduled. LYNDEN SCULPTURE GARDEN lyndensculpturegarden.org No event scheduled. MARCUS PERFORMING ARTS CENTER marcuscenter.org Hiplet Ballerinas, April 1. Concert by Leo Kottke, April 2. “BritBeat: A Multimedia Concert Journey Through Beatles Music History,” April 10. Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock-n-Roll, April 16. The Comedy Of Hamlet… Kinda Sorta, May 13-15. MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY THEATRE marquette.edu/communication/ theatre-arts.php Silent Sky, Virtual play, March 12-21. Antigone, Virtual play, April 16-25. Pinkalicious the Musical, May 15-22. MASTER SINGERS OF MILWAUKEE mastersingersofmilwaukee.org No event scheduled. MATERIAL STUDIOS + GALLERY materialstudiosandgallery.com No event scheduled. MEMORIES DINNER THEATRE memoriesballroom.com Four Old Broads, March 12-21. Blind Dating at Happy Hour, April 9-18. The Housekeeper, May 7-16 2021. 44 | SHEPHERD EXPRESS
MILLER HIGH LIFE THEATRE millerhighlifetheatre.com Fabulously Funny Comedy Festival, April 11.
MILWAUKEE REPERTORY THEATER milwaukeerep.com “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” virtual, February 8
MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM mam.org “Virtual: 2021 Scholastic Art Awards: Wisconsin Exhibition,” Virtual exhibition, February 6-March 21.
“It Takes a Village,” virtual, February 15
“James Benning and Sharon Lockhart: Over Time”
McGuire, March 23, April 18.
“The Quilts of Pauline Parker” “First Impressions: Early Printed Books in Europe” “Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel, 1820–1920” MILWAUKEE BALLET milwaukeeballet.org To the Point, February 25-28, March 4-7 “Re.Gen,” April 22-25, April 28-May 2 MILWAUKEE CHILDREN'S CHOIR milwaukeechildrenschoir.org “Unique” concert, February 27. “Festival of Lights” concert, May 8. MILWAUKEE COMEDY milwaukeecomedy.com Matt Braunger at The Laughing Tap, May 6. MILWAUKEE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP milwaukeeentertainmentgroup.com No event scheduled. MILWAUKEE FESTIVAL BRASS mfbrass.org No event scheduled. MILWAUKEE INSTITUTE OF ART & DESIGN miad.edu “TYPE Portrait—Tangible TYPE,” Visual arts exhibition, through March 5. “Vision & Voice,” Visual arts exhibition, through March 13. MILWAUKEE MAKERS MARKET milwaukeemakersmarket.com Celebrate Milwaukee Market, The Kind Oasis, April 18 Market, Ivy House MKE, May 16 Market, Discovery World, June 20 MILWAUKEE MUSAIK milwaukeemusaik.org No event scheduled.
“The Ground on Which I Stand,” virtual, February 22 Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song, February 16-March 14. Antonio’s Song/I was Dreaming of a Son, April 7-May 2. Nina Simone: Four Women, April 27-May 23. MILWAUKEE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA mso.org “Dream Gates,” Virtual concert, February 6. “The Great American Songbook,” Virtual concert, February 13. “Eight Is Enough,” Virtual concert, February 20. “To the Mountaintop,” Virtual concert, March 6. “Piazzolla Centennial Celebration,” Virtual concert, March 13. “Let’s Dance!,” Virtual concert, March 20. “Night Music,” Virtual concert, April 10. “Celebrating Takemitsu,” Virtual concert, April 17. “The Bach Effect,” Virtual concert, April 24. “Storm and Drive,” Virtual concert, May 8. “Musical Fireworks,” Virtual concert, May 15. “An English Romp,” Virtual concert, May 22. MILWAUKEE YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA myso.org Fundraising event, April 29. MUSEUM OF WISCONSIN ART wisconsinart.org “Rafael Francisco Salas: In Flowered Fields,” Visual arts exhibition. “Upcoming Exhibitions | Museum of Wisconsin Art | Museum of Wisconsin Art,” Visual arts exhibition. “Dean Meeker: Myths and Legends,” Visual arts exhibition.
MILWAUKEE OPERA THEATRE milwaukeeoperatheatre.org No event scheduled.
NEXT ACT THEATRE nextact.org Principal Principle, February 11-March 7.
MILWAUKEE PUBLIC THEATRE milwaukeepublictheatre.org No event scheduled.
The Last White Man, April 15-May 9 Red Herring, May 27-June 20
SPECIAL SPRING ARTS GUIDE
NORTH SHORE ACADEMY OF THE ARTS facebook.com/ northshoreacademyofthearts No event scheduled. OIL GALLERY MILWAUKEE oilmilwaukee.com No event scheduled. OPTIMIST THEATRE optimisttheatre.org No event scheduled. OUTSKIRTS THEATRE facebook.com/outskirtstheatre No event scheduled. OVER OUR HEAD PLAYERS overourheadplayers.org No event scheduled. PABST THEATER pabsttheater.org Gaelic Storm, Concert, March 11. Drew Lynch, Comedy, March 19. John McGivern, Live show, through March 21. Gregory Porter, Concert, March 25. Colin Hay, Concert, March 26. Kathleen Madigan, Comedy, March 27. Barracuda The Ultimate Heart Tribute, Concert, April 10. Almost Queen, Concert, April 24. Tusk, Concert, April 29. Milky Chance, Concert, May 7. The Mountain Goats, Concert, May 16. Trey Kennedy, Comedy, May 19. PENINSULA MUSIC FESTIVAL musicfestival.com/index.php Alex Ayers and Pau Hauer, February 7 Linda Minke and Victor Minke Huls, February 14 Amy Sims and Christi Zuniga, February 21 PENINSULA PLAYERS peninsulaplayers.com March 1, Virtual Winter Play Reading Series April 5, Virtual Winter Play Reading Series PORTRAIT SOCIETY GALLERY portraitsocietygallery.com “What on Earth,” Visual arts exhibition, through February 12. PRESENT MUSIC presentmusic.org “Thanksgiving: Wherein Lies the Good,” Virtual concert, through February 22. “Out with the Cold, In with the New,” Virtual concert, March 26-June 26. 46 | SHEPHERD EXPRESS
RACINE ART MUSEUM ramart.org “Watercolor Wisconsin 2020,” Visual arts exhibition, through April 24. “In Stitches: Contemporary Approaches to Needlework,” Visual arts exhibition, through May 8. “Expect the Unexpected: Unusual Materials in Contemporary Craft,” Visual arts exhibition, through July 3. “Collection Focus: Mary Giles,” Visual arts exhibition, through July 3. “Silhouette: Capturing the Human Form in Contemporary Prints and Art Jewelry,” Visual arts exhibition, through July 3. “Someone’s Cup of Tea: Contemporary Teapots ,” Visual arts exhibition, through July 24. “The Art of the Cup: Variations on Cups from RAM’s Collection,” Visual arts exhibition, through August 7. RACINE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA racinesymphony.org No event scheduled. RENAISSANCE THEATERWORKS r-t-w.com Neat, Virtual performance, March 12-April 4. “Best of Br!nk Briefs,” June 25-July 18. SADLER GALLERY sadlergallery.net No event scheduled. SAFI STUDIOS facebook.com/SAFIStudios-131592873590442/ No event scheduled. SKYLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE skylightmusictheatre.org Evita, postponed. Raisin, postponed. SOUTH MILWAUKEE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER southmilwaukeepac.org Mutts Gone Nuts in Canine Cabaret, April 29.
THEATRICAL TENDENCIES theatricaltendencies.com No event scheduled. TORY FOLLIARD GALLERY toryfolliard.com “Wallflowers,” Visual arts exhibition, through March 20. TIMO GALLERY facebook.com/pages/category/Artist/ Timo-Gallery-WorkspaceShowca se-151322358243630/ No event scheduled. UPAF RIDE FOR THE ARTS June 6, 13 and 27 UW-MILWAUKEE PECK SCHOOL OF THE ARTS uwm.edu/arts “Winterdances: Upliftment,” Virtual dance performance, February 4-6. “Chamber Music Milwaukee,” Virtual concert, February 18. The Playboy of the Western World, April 7-11. UW-PARKSIDE uwp.edu “27th Parkside National Print Exhibition,” Visual art exhibition, May 4-October 2. UW-WHITEWATER THEATRE uww.edu No event scheduled. VAR GALLERY & STUDIOS vargallery.com No event scheduled. VILLA TERRACE DECORATIVE ARTS MUSEUM villaterrace.org No event scheduled. WALKER'S POINT CENTER FOR THE ARTS wpca-milwaukee.org No event scheduled. WARTBURG THEATRE carthage.edu No event scheduled.
SUNSET PLAYHOUSE sunsetplayhouse.com A Midsummer Night’s Dream, April 15-May 2.
WAUKESHA CIVIC THEATRE waukeshacivictheatre.org Jake Revolver, Freelance Secret Agent, February 5-21
Razzle Dazzle ’em: The Music of Kander & Ebb, May 6-9.
My Funny Valentine, February 10-11. The Language Archive, March 12-28.
THEATRE GIGANTE theatregigante.org “A Cosmic Fairy Tale a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” March 1-31, virtual
Dream Role: A Cabaret, March 24-25. The Addams Family, April 9-11. Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, April 30-May 16.
WEST BEND THEATRE COMPANY wbtheatreco.com No event scheduled. WEST PERFORMING ARTS CENTER nbexcellence.org/community/westpac.cfm No event scheduled. WILD SPACE DANCE wildspacedance.org No event scheduled. WINDFALL THEATRE windfalltheatre.com No event scheduled. WISCONSIN LUTHERAN COLLEGE - CENTER FOR ARTS AND PERFORMANCE wlc.edu No event scheduled. WISCONSIN PHILHARMONIC wisphil.org “Heroic Voices: The Glories of Black Classical Music,” February 21, Sharon Lynne Wilson Center WOODLAND PATTERN BOOK CENTER woodlandpattern.org No event scheduled.
CULTURE | SPONSORED BY THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
Dot Robinson was a Harley-Davidson dealer, Motor Maids co-founder, and a champion off-road endurance rider. Standing only 5-foot, 2-inches, Robinson skillfully piloted her Big Twin sidecar rig to numerous victories. In 1940, she conquered the grueling Jack Pine Enduro, becoming the first woman to win an American Motorcycle Association event. She triumphed again in 1949.
GOING ‘OFF-ROAD’ AT THE
Harley-Davidson Museum NEW EXHIBIT WILL FOCUS ON THE RUGGED BIKES THAT CLIMBED MOUNTAINS AND RACED ACROSS DESERTS By David Luhrssen
uring the first 65 years of Harley-Davidson, couldn’t most of the Milwaukee company’s motorcycles be called “off-road bikes”? “That’s exactly right and that’s the point of the exhibit,” says David Kreidler, exhibition curator at the Harley-Davidson Museum. He’s referring to the “Off-Road Harley-Davidson” exhibit at the Museum Garage, as well as the launch of a new line, the Pan American, a motorcycle designed both for cities and less traveled paths.
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From the early ’70s, Harley-Davidson focused on road bikes. “The Pan American is a return to what Harley-Davidson was during most of its history,” Kreidler continues. A prototype Pan American is also on display.
but the exhibit is ready and includes exemplary motorcycles produced from 1914 through 1972 plus one 2006 model from the company’s Buell subsidiary and a couple of one-of-a-kind custom jobs.
“Off-Road Harley-Davidson” was scheduled to open on November 21 but, alas, it hasn’t been able to jump the COVID hurdle. The museum remains closed to the public until further pandemic safety updates from the City of Milwaukee,
“Off-Road” opens with the 10-F, a 1914 model whose rugged adaptability is attested by the odyssey of a satisfied customer called Hamilton Laing. Text panels tell the story of the Canadian naturalist who bought a 10-F in New York City in
1914 and drove it to Manitoba with many stops along the way, including a tour of the Harley plant in Milwaukee. Several of his photographs adorn the panels, showing him crossing deserts and mountains and camped in a pup tent alongside his bike in a forest. “He kept a detailed journal and complained about the terrible roads in Wisconsin,” Kreidler says. “Road building was more art than science in those days.” Elsewhere in the exhibition is a picture from the same era of company co-founder Walter Davidson with his bike on a road, resembling a channel of water and mud, somewhere between Chicago and Kokomo.
model, lighter in weight than its predecessors, the first Harley marketed “directly to women.” With its low center of gravity, it was ideal for navigating urban traffic yet rugged enough for adventure. Kreidler continues: “It was for going cross-country— leaving the city and going beyond.” Some of the bikes are aesthetically beautiful, especially the 1963 Scat, as sleek as a panther in black and chrome with a tapered muffler and high gaps between tires and fenders. It ran races on dirt roads and forded narrow streams but couldn’t outrun the market shift when ATVs were introduced in the late ’60s.
WHERE CARS COULDN’T GO In the early days, one of Harley’s selling points was enabling riders to travel into places where automobiles couldn’t go—into woods for camping and fishing and across rugged landscapes more suitable for horses than rickety four-wheeled cars. They were built with a Germanic pride of mechanical craft coupled with the latest developments in engineering. “They needed to handle all different kinds of road conditions,” Kreidler says. Text panels display advertisements from the 1910s through the ’60s, among them a full-page ad that told of a Harley owner who rode his bike up and down a burro trail, surmounting California’s 10,000-foot “Old Baldy” mountain. Kreidler points to the ad campaign surrounding the 1921 WJ Sport
All Photos Courtesy of the Harley Davidson Museum Background Image by Arthit_Longwilai/Getty Images
Still, in the era of road or “touring” bikes, many riders remained diehards for Harley. On display in the “Off-Road” exhibit is a 1985 FXRP Police model customized by a Florida man, Charlie Pete, for a 9,000 competitive run across South America from Columbia to Argentina. He replaced the original gas tank with a larger BMW tank and installed a metal plate underneath to protect the engine, but that engine and the rest of the bike were designed and made in Milwaukee. David Kreidler will conduct a virtual gallery talk on “Off-Road Harley-Davidson” on February 25. For more information, visit h-dmuseum.com. David Luhrssen is Managing Editor of the Shepherd Express. He taught Wisconsin history at Milwaukee Area Technical College and wrote for American Iron magazine.
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CULTURE | SPONSORED BY THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
Music Producers DESPITE THE SHIFT TO HOME RECORDING, THEY STILL PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE
By Blaine Schultz and David Luhrssen
here might be as many definitions of “music producer” as there are people who claim the role. Some will stamp a recording project with their own personality while others offer an intuitive transparency to bring out the best in the artist. Nowadays, with the easy availability of home recording technology, many musicians opt to do it themselves. We asked five veteran Milwaukee music producers a question: In an age when anyone can make a recording, what’s the role of a producer?
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Jeff Hamilton Selected Discography: Violent Femmes, Paul Cebar, John Kruth, Chief, Floor Model, De La Buena, 20 Watt Tombstone, Codebreaker, Beatallica and True Heart Susie. Even though, traditionally, the producer is responsible for getting the project done on time, on budget and the liaison between label and artist—the basic need for a producer is still to provide an objective ear for the artist. Some artists are fine producing themselves; others prefer having
someone else make the final decisions. There isn’t a wrong way to record. The Violent Femmes comes to mind because it was full-on producing in the traditional sense. I booked the studios (while we were on tour), was responsible for the budget, interfaced with management and label, was liaison between the principal artists and guest artists, set up the microphones and equipment, I played multiple instruments on the recordings and oversaw the mastering. Photo by LightFieldStudios/Getty Images
Paul Kneevers Selected Discography: Michael Bolton, Present Music, The Blow Pops, Wilderness of Pain, Lova Nova, Lupinaire, The Lovelies, The Electric Hellfire Club, Morta Skuld and Little Blue Crunchy Things. A great memory [with the Femmes] is when we did a four-five song session in Nashville at Brown Bear studios—on a show day no less! I set up everything before the band got there. We all sat at our stations and did a little jamming to set levels and adjust placement. Gordon Gano then said to everyone, “OK, here is the song,” and he showed all of us the songs. We did a run through then a couple takes, and that is the record [album], We Can Do Anything. Live recording including lead vocals; after the musicians literally just heard the songs! Now that’s old school!
Mike Hoffmann Selected Discography: The Verve Pipe, Willy Porter, Victor DeLorenzo, Carnival Strippers, The Carolinas and The Spanic Boys. The role of a producer is at its core still the same; the title is derived from the word product. My job, as it was the job of all those who produced me through the years, is to create a viable commercial product. Of course, the onset and takeover of digital audio formats changed the value and control of marketing an audio product. In other words, I am still hired to create music that is what we call radio friendly, and I stay very busy because I still do it better than most. The music market in the last 20 years has changed, and its value has narrowed and decreased. With tech the way it has become, remote recording is a beautiful reality. I cut
drums anywhere I think sounds great. So yes, anyone can get the gear and record their band, but having the luxury of a person onboard who knows how to shape and blend people and arrangements to a fine result still requires people like me. Eventually, bands that have tried it themselves but feel like the song is still not right knock on my door. Putting those final touches to instill a strong vibe are essential to drawing attention to your music. I’ve been produced by some of the best in the world, and their styles and techniques were like magic dust in the control room. I took it all in. I think that’s the way it works, you just absorb and pass it on.
Musicians are a crafty lot. They are hard-working, used to being flexible, handle diverse responsibilities with ease. These folks are thrifty and try to make the best of their craft in any way they can. I started as a musician, a singer-songwriter. I did my first studio session at Solar Studios in 1976, when I was 16 years old. What does a producer do that makes them worth hiring? Rules and responsibilities for audio producers: 1. Make the best record they can. 2. Make that record on budget. 3. Create a positive, creative environment for all band members, so that they may achieve the best possible performance they can do. 4. Mediate differences of opinion, in order to refer to rule #1 5. Provide proper amenities to motivate artists. This category is very open-ended. Refer to rule #1. 6. Provide choices in equipment, techniques and technology that inspire the artist. 7. Invite and inspire guests, when applicable to refer to rule #1. 8. As part of the producer’s portfolio, provide additional networking, marketing and other support for the artist’ release upon completion. FEBRUARY 2021 | 51
CULTURE | SPONSORED BY THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
I do also like to work with young bands. Recently, I got to co-produce albums with Distant Cuzins and Wax Lips, both very young bands. It is always a blessing to help new artists find inspiration in things I may have to offer. One of the albums I am working on is by Dave Roberts, an artist who I have worked with since 1991. In September 2020, the music we co-produced received over 32,000 Spotify listens. I have over 400 albums as an audio engineer and producer, and still counting. I’ve slowed down a bit, but this year, I will still do over two dozen records, and release several of my own.
Shane Olivo Selected Discography: Eric Blowtorch, Meltwater Pulse Collective (Janalyn Rose, Murphy Kaye, Brett JB, Fe True, D Wiz, Ku Mays, Mark Soriano), The Newloud and Red Knife Lottery. The role of the producer in the record-making process is the same as it’s always been. The producer’s role is to help the artist elevate their art to the highest level it can be. This role manifests itself throughout many integral and wide ranging facets of the recording and songwriting process. The producer helps determine the good or “magic” takes from the mediocre. The producer helps shape the ineffable aspects like “vibe,” “feeling” or “sound” of the recording. In addition to these aspects, another key element
is bringing the correct energy to the sessions, energy that lifts people up when they need it. I think a producer today is just as important, because what a real producer specializes in isn’t something that is the subject of any “How to” YouTube video, because it is not just one thing—it is many things and each artist requires a slightly different combination. The problem of finding a great producer is still as difficult as it has always been. Because it’s a combination of the ineffable which is not always completely present in a large population of the people. Currently, I’ve been working on hacking the role of producer with the express intention of creating better artists. I have a group of diverse songwriters I frequently work with of all ages, from 23 to 48. We’re collectively called Meltwater Pulse. Over the past three years, we’ve repurposed digital product management solutions designed for business such as Trello, Discord and Whereby to solidly fill in all aspects of effective producing and artist development. Reducing the weight of having all jobs fall to one individual, instead dispersing it to a small, talented group. Meltwater Pulse is about to drop a new cycle of songs, which means every week for four weeks or so, a different artist releases a new song. With each
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single the artists release, there’s real tangible growth that can be heard. It’s inspiring to me.
Gary Tanin Artists worked with include: Roger Powell, Victor DeLorenzo, Daryl Stuermer, The Reedy Buzzards, Jack Spann, Peggy James. In an age when anyone can record and produce their own recordings, that does not mean they should. As a producer, one tries to be sensitive to the moment of an artist’s great performance when it arrives. It’s also knowing when to say no, when not to do more. It comes from having years of hands-on producing and listening experience. Artists and bands would do well working with a record producer because it would supply grounding, training and a knowledge base. Today, the ultimate responsibility falls on those of us still in the music business to educate a generation fixated on technology and immediacy. The recording equipment marketing targets novices on the ease of making a great recording in your bedroom. This is, at the very least, an oversimplification and does many a disservice. Blaine Schultz is a Milwaukee musician and music writer. David Luhrssen has coauthored several books on local music including Milwaukee Rock and Roll 1950-2000.
CULTURE | SPONSORED BY THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
This Month in Milwaukee 11 THINGS TO DO FROM FEBRUAY 3 THROUGH MARCH 3 BY HARRY CHERKINIAN, ALLEN HALAS, DAVID LUHRSSEN AND TYLER NELSON OPEN VIRTUALLY
AMERICA’S BLACK HOLOCAUST MUSEUM If James Cameron (1914-2006) saw people peering through the window of his Black Holocaust Museum, he would let the strangers in and give a personal tour—even in off hours. The museum is now housed in a splendid building (401 W. North Ave.) that will open to the public after the pandemic ends. Meanwhile, you can tour the seven virtual history galleries chronicling the story from life in Africa to Black America today. Click on the special exhibits gallery for Memorial to the Victims of Lynching. Cameron, one of the few Black men to survive a lynching, founded the museum to help us learn from the past. Visit at abhmuseum.org.
VILLAGE PLAYHOUSE SALOMÉ The controversial 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde was in prison when his version of the Biblical parable Salomé was brought to the stage in 1896. Now, the Village Playhouse will virtually stage the story of the infamous stepdaughter of King Herod Antipas who requested the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter after dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils. Her mother, Herodias, was thrilled. Herod? Not so much. Salomé is also Village Playhouse’s entry in the AACTFest, one of 40 theater companies to participate nationwide. Village Playhouse veteran producer and director Tom Zuehlke directs. For more information, call 414-207-4879 or visit villageplayhouse.org.
SATURDAY NIGHTS WISE FARM PRODUCTIONS’ BREWS & TUNES LIVE STREAM SERIES Wise Farm Productions, the production company led by singer-songwriter Wise Jennings, is offering weekly live streaming performances on their Facebook page, inviting several Milwaukee-area acts to play. February’s lineup includes a strong list of rock acts, with Dropbear Collective on Feb. 13, Cullah on Feb. 20, and Whiskey and the Devil on Feb. 27. ACA MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT’S ACA LIVE SERIES Since the pandemic altered live music plans, ACA Music & Entertainment have consistently hosted local artists and acts safely from the comfort of their studio space. February’s live streaming lineup includes performances from pop duo 7000Apart, singer-songwriter Gene Gruber and the Paul Silbergleit Trio, amongst many others. Details can be found at acaentertainment.com and on their Facebook page. FEBRUARY 10 LYNDEN SCULPTURE GARDEN “HOME: STORY TIME” Looking for things to do with your kids? How about a virtual, bilingual “Story Time” featuring children’s books by authors and illustrator who have experienced life as refugees, migrants or asylum seekers? Designed for children ages 4-8, each session ends with an art activity from Lynden Sculpture Garden’s art educator Claudia Orjuela. Worksheets and handouts will be available for download. 10:30-11a.m.at lyndensculpturegarden.org.
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THROUGH FEBRUARY 12 PORTRAIT SOCIETY GALLERY “WHAT ON EARTH: CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS AND THE LANDSCAPE” How do artists represent the natural world at a time when human hands have reshaped virtually every aspect of the environment? “What on Earth” tries to answer that question with work by more than a dozen contemporary artists. Photographer Lois Bielefeld, for example, created a series of photographs of freeway islands—those neglected bits of land skirting freeway ramps feel like strange hidden patches of unkempt wildness in her dramatically lit night scenes. Painter David Niec flees the light pollution of cities and “finds solace and poetry” in images of the moon and the night sky. STREAMING FEB. 12-14 AND FEB. 19-21 FESTIVAL OF FILMS IN FRENCH This will be the 24th year for the Festival of Films in French, an increasingly ambitious undertaking that has gone beyond France to encompass movies from across the francophone world—even films where French is seldom heard in the screenplay. The festival began in a UW-Milwaukee classroom, moved up to the UWM Union cinema and, given the pandemic, pivots to streaming this year. Selections will include “militant cinema” from director Jean-Pierre Thorn. FEBRUARY 13 REFLECTION OF FLESH PARASITIC EP RELEASE FEATURING SPECIAL GUEST TWAN MACK Worlds will collide on Saturday, Feb. 13, when metal band Reflection of Flesh plays an online kickoff show for their new release, Parasitic.
The live stream will emanate from Kneeverland Productions’ The Ring performance space, which is made specifically to cater to topnotch streaming shows, and it will feature hip-hop artist Twan Mack. The combination of aggressive styles is not to be missed, and more information can be found on Reflection of Flesh’s Facebook page. FEBRUARY 20 EAGLE PARK BEER YOGA Looking for a way to combine exercise, relaxation and beer? Eagle Park’s Muskego distilling location has the answer with Beer Yoga! It’s a recurring event, the third Saturday of every month, that offers something special for those looking for a safe excuse to get out of the house, do something active and have a beer afterwards. Each guest gets one beer of their choice—although not every beer is available—with the purchase of their ticket for the hour-long yoga class. Tickets are limited, so sign up early to make sure you get a spot! THROUGH MARCH MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM “SUSAN MEISELAS: THROUGH A WOMAN’S LENS” The exhibition features pictures by one of the most important American documentarystyle photographers of our time. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Meiselas seeks to bear witness to stories that raise provocative questions about the ethics of seeing. “Through a Woman’s Lens” presents never-before-shown photographs on subjects from human rights to domestic violence that reflect her ongoing commitment to working and sharing the stories of women. THROUGH MAY 2 MUSEUM OF WISCONSIN ART “WARHOL AND THE PORTFOLIO OF FAME: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DOUGLAS EDMUNDS” It took months for Wisconsin photographer Douglas Edmunds to secure 15 minutes with Andy Warhol. Four of the portraits he took of Warhol, gazing inscrutably as expected, are included in this exhibition. Warhol was only one subject of Edmunds’ “National Portrait Series” of famous Americans. Also on display at MOWA are his photographs of singer Ella Fitzgerald, poet Allen Ginsberg, journalist Bob Woodward and Harley executive Willie G. Davidson.
With a Democratic Senate,
THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS BECOMES POSSIBLE By Jean-Gabriel Fernandez
major obstacle to federal marijuana reform has been lifted. The Democrats are now in control of the executive branch, of the House of Representatives and the Senate, with 50 Democratic Senators plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. The Democratic-controlled House already approved two historic bills that would decriminalize marijuana nationally, and the political will seems present to force these bills through in the near future. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act made history in early December when it was approved by a large majority of Representatives, becoming the first cannabis liberalization bill approved by Congress since prohibition. At that time, the MORE Act could not have become law; the Republican majority in the Senate were clear in their refusal to reform laws that lead to over 600,000 arrests for petty non-violent offenses every year. Now, however, passing the MORE Act seems likely, along with the SAFE Banking Act, another bill spearheaded by Democrats which would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to operate like all other legal businesses. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has introduced his own bill, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which goes even farther than the MORE Act to fully scrub the prohibition of marijuana from the law books. Schumer has been clear: With him at the helm, marijuana legalization will be a priority of the Senate.
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“If I become majority leader, I put it on the floor, and my guess, it’ll pass. It’ll get Democratic and Republican votes,” Schumer promised about marijuana reform.
PASSING OF POWER Due to the passing of power to a new Congress, the MORE Act and other marijuana bills considered by the House need to be reintroduced, which will require time and effort. But, as shown by previous votes, it appears evident that there is intense political will to get this done: When the MORE Act made its way to the House floor in December 2020, 222 Democrats voted in favor of it and six voted against it, while 158 Republicans voted no and five voted in favor.
THE SUPPORT FOR LEGAL MARIJUANA IS AT AN ALLTIME HIGH, REACHING 68% ACCORDING TO A RECENT GALLUP POLL. A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICAN VOTERS ALSO SUPPORT IT. As it stands, the only real hurdle left to take the MORE Act from bill to reality is gathering the votes in the split Senate. There is a possibility that some Democratic senators could go against the demands of the party, opposing the Democrats’ official platform, and vote no in the Senate. That could potentially be offset by Republican senators choosing to support reform like five Republican Representatives did. The support for legal marijuana is at an all-time high, reaching 68% according to
a recent Gallup poll. A majority of Republican voters also support it: A September 2020 survey by the Justice Collaborative Institute found that only 27% of Republican voters oppose the MORE Act, while 53% actively want it to pass. This has been confirmed by another poll led by Politico in December, showing more than half of Republican respondents actively want cannabis to be removed from the list of controlled substances.
WHAT WOULD THE MORE ACT DO? The MORE Act is not the only such bill that attempted to make its way through Congress, but it is the more likely to succeed. It has been the cannabis industry’s best hope since it was taken up by Democratic lawmakers and made viable all the way to a successful vote in the House. The MORE Act is not very precise regarding matters of regulation once cannabis is removed from the list of controlled substances, however, and experts predict that, if it passes, it will be modified and serve as a foundation for an all-encompassing bill that all Democrats could get in lockstep behind. Congressional Democrats now have two years to take full advantage of their position of power before the deck gets reshuffled, which means that the MORE Act, if it is meant to pass, could become a reality by 2022. But what would the MORE Act mean? The bill aims to remove cannabis entirely from the list of
controlled substances, therefore making it federally legal but allowing states to ban it if they wish. In short, it would make the possession and consumption of marijuana legal in Wisconsin unless the Wisconsin Legislature chooses to go out of its way to ban it. However, Gov. Tony Evers has been extremely clear about his stance: He wants legal marijuana, and he would therefore veto any attempt to ban cannabis. Therefore, if the MORE Act becomes law before 2023—the end of Evers’ current term—this right will be safe from Republican state lawmakers. The MORE Act would not necessarily allow marijuana retail stores to crop up in Wisconsin, but it would waive away the ban on crossing state lines with cannabis; it would then become fully legal to drive to the Illinois border to purchase legal weed and bring it back home. More importantly, as the MORE Act would expunge the records of people convicted of federal cannabis offenses, it would lead to the release of “thousands of current inmates... In the future, decriminalization also would reduce the number of people in federal prisons and the amount of time federal inmates serve,” severely reducing the damage done by over-incarceration. More than 600,000 people are arrested each year for marijuana offense, a large majority of which are minor possession. The MORE Act would save $1 billion in incarceration costs and, by releasing prisoners on a marijuana-related sentence, it would save the equivalent of 73,000 years of imprisonment before 2030. The Congressional Budget Office offers an in-depth look at the actual consequences of the MORE Act passing in its current form. By 2030, they estimate that the MORE Act would bring in more than $13.6 billion dollars in additional revenue federally. It would bring a stream of revenue in the tens or hundreds of millions to Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and SNAP. It would decrease the federal deficit by more than $7.3 billion while bolstering social services and supporting communities. For the first time since marijuana prohibition started, Congress is finally in a position to make this dream a reality.
Jean-Gabriel Fernandez is a journalist and Sorbonne graduate living in Milwaukee. He writes about politics, cannabis and culture for the Shepherd Express.
Turn Your Collections INTO S TRIKING SPACES BY MARK HAGEN
he moment you walk into Thom Ertl’s Riverwest home, you’re instantly enveloped in a wonderland of artistry combined with eccentricity and smile-inducing kitsch. Ertl’s artwork flanks the walls, playful accents liven up every nook, and refurbished tables, chairs and desks put “fun” into functionality. That said, it’s Ertl’s collections that steal the spotlight. From antique kitchen utensils and pewter ashtrays to souvenir snow globes and sets of Salty and Peppy shakers from the ’40s, his collections offer guests a look into his personality. “The point of a collection is
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to see the stuff you like on display,” Ertl explains. “My philosophy has always been to go big or go home, hence the expanded statement on my collectibles.” When asked about guests’ reaction to his imaginative décor, Ertl replies with a laugh. “People react with big eyes that seem to say, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of stuff here.’ But the more they look at the space, the more they realize there’s a rhyme and reason for the way it’s been done. What they see is a balance of both form and function.”
A S EN S E O F H I S TO RY Like many collectors, Ertl enjoys the history and remembrance tied to his collections.
“As I look at my space, I see homages to the past,” he says. “The kitchen border featuring my collections of vintage kitchen utensils and mid-century mosaic tiles is an homage to my Grandma Patterson.” Among the 250 tile trivets that line Ertl’s kitchen, one has particular meaning; a trivet he made as a child with his grandmother. “Whenever I look at that trivet, it’s my ‘Hi Edith’ check-in.” “The Salty and Peppy shakers are items from my childhood,” he adds. More than 35 pairs of the wooden shakers sit on a modest shelf in the kitchen. “Today, I think they offer a cool kitschy-ness.”
Use Space Cleverly. “Cozy doesn’t mean crammed,” says Ertl. “Think of setting less on tabletops and more on walls for greater impact.” For instance, Ertl installed shelves along the wall of a staircase to showcase his collection of more than 300 plastic snow globes. “My advice is to not be afraid,” Ertl notes. “Play with what you collect and where you think you want to place it. Be smart, be strategic, but don’t get locked into a plan. After all, there are no rules when it comes to creating your personal surroundings.”
A B O U T T H E H O M EOW N ER When he’s not working as a graphic designer for the Medical College of Wisconsin, Thom Ertl spends his time creating pieces for Thom J. Ertl Designs. To see more of his work, visit thomjertldesigns.com or contact him at email@example.com.
C R E AT I N G E XC IT I N G S PAC E S FO R CO LLEC T I O N S Surrounding yourself with the things you love is one thing, keeping it cool or kitschy is another. “Creating a space with a story and history can be cozy without being chaotic,” says Ertl. The artist suggests finding the ideal spot to display your collection, tying things together with color and confidence. Avoid Theme Rooms. Perhaps the biggest mistake homeowners make when decorating with collections is setting lackluster presentations in one room. A doll room with dozens of toys lined up wherever space allows creates a crowded visual and less-than-functional living area. “Short of a man cave, don’t let your display turn into a themed room,” Ertl suggests.
All Photos by Shepherd Staff
Tie it Together with Color. “Don’t be afraid of color. It can be your ally in pulling together a collection,” Ertl says. Red paint covers walls throughout his home, effortlessly tying in his collections. “The painted accents on Salty and Peppy connect the reds throughout my house, and the kitchen utensils complement the tile pieces because they include the red aspects in every room.”
Mark Hagen is a décor enthusiast whose home has been featured in numerous national publications. His work has appeared in Fresh Home and Your Family magazines.
Think Outside the Box. When he became the owner of a collection of vintage pewter souvenir ashtrays, the artist discovered an ideal spot for them. “I saw their potential as ‘wallpaper’ in my bathroom. I even created a shower curtain using additional ashtrays housed in food-storage bags attached to a clear shower curtain. Today, my bathroom décor features more than 400 of these ashtrays.”
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LIFESTYLE OUT OF MY MIND
LO O K I N G F O R A
Compatible Life Partner? BY P H I LI P C H A R D
f you’re searching for a life partner, what values and attributes do you want to see in that individual? That was the question Adam brought to my door. Heading to graduate school in another city, he was a few weeks into an increasingly serious relationship, and he was pondering whether to ask his newfound heartthrob to accompany him. “OK, so I get that you’re smitten with this lady,” I began. “That’s great, but enjoyable as it is, infatuation clouds perception and judgment. So, I need to press you on how compatible you two really are.” “We’re very compatible. We have similar interests, like the same activities, share physical attraction and all that,” he answered. “Good. That helps, but there’s more. Talk to me about the personal values you want to see in a partner,” I pressed. It took some reflection, but Adam replied that he most valued kindness, honesty, self-reliance and optimism. So, of course, I pushed the point. “How many of those values does your would-be partner possess?”
Finding Enduring Attributes Given the brevity of their relationship, he wasn’t sure. What’s more, he acknowledged he hadn’t given this question much thought, if any; which is the norm for most of us. A recent psychological
study demonstrates that many of us fail to assess and contemplate the qualities of those we are courting, even while presuming we are doing just that. While dating is designed to test the interpersonal chemistry, those “tests” usually focus more on surface elements, such as physical appearance, socio-economic status, shared interests and the like. These sorts of characteristics matter but fail to include more enduring attributes, like sensitivity, empathy, loyalty and other traits that often sustain a bond when less durable elements, like physical beauty, fade. As anyone who has utilized online dating realizes, these platforms often provide algorithms or other assessment tools to educate users about how well their own qualities align with prospective mates. These can help but still run the risk of the “Photoshop effect,” meaning the tendency to positively amplify one’s public image while downplaying or avoiding the disclosure of personal information others might dislike. So, even when we focus on the specific qualities we desire in a romantic partner, the Photoshop effect can undermine an accurate appraisal, which is what happened to Adam. After I encouraged him to delve more deeply into his sweetheart’s qualities, he returned with a surprising finding. “I think I’ve been overlooking some things I shouldn’t,” he told me.
When we like what we see on the surface, it’s easy to misread what’s on the inside or, if we see something there we’d rather not, look the other way. Early in courtship, most of us are as smitten by the experience of infatuation (being “in love with love”) as by the partner in question. As it turned out, Adam woke up to this blind spot toward his girlfriend over a romantic dinner date. “The cook messed up her order, and it really set her off. She was rude to the server and complained about it several times during our meal and even later that night,” he reported. “I don’t think she’s as kind and forgiving as I thought.” Adam had mentally projected his easy-going, live-and-let-live approach onto his lady friend, assuming she was similarly inclined. After discovering his perceptual error, he surmised, probably correctly, that it would only be a matter of time before he would become the target of her critical and judgmental mindset. Soon after, other caution lights began flashing, and Adam had his answer, even if an unwelcome one. Unlike him, many in this conundrum simply rationalize hints of bad behavior in a love interest and press on, often to their detriment. Couples counselors frequently promote the importance of shared values. And while alignment in this regard with a prospective partner need not be 100%, too many disconnects can spell interpersonal disappointment or disaster. Determining compatibility is best done through closely observing the would-be partner’s behavior, rather than relying on their self-reported list of qualities. After all, it’s not what we claim but what we do that speaks most clearly about who we are. For more, visit philipchard.com.
Philip Chard is a psychotherapist and author with a focus on lasting behavior change, emotional healing and adaptation to health challenges.
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HEAR ME OUT DEAR RUTHIE | SPONSORED BY UW CREDIT UNION
(NOT SO) HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU DEAR RUTHIE, I’ve been dating a woman for five weeks. I’ve been an out-and-proud lesbian for 11 years, but she only came out a few months ago, and I’m the first woman she’s dated. While I like her, and I pursued her pretty aggressively, I’m finding our relationship boring. I really don’t have a good time with her anymore, but because I’m her first, she’s totally in love and completely devoted to me. I don’t want to break her heart, but things are just too boring with her. Any advice?
Not-So-Hopelessly Devoted DEAR HOPELESS, I hate to say it, honey, but this is one of the issues many people face when they’re someone’s first love. Granted, many fall in love for the first time, and that person becomes their soulmate for the rest of their lives; that just doesn’t seem to be the case here, I’m afraid. The way this big-boned redhead sees it, you’ve got three options: 1) Give it another shot by talking to her about how you’d like to see the relationship change; 2) Let her know that things aren’t working for you, and suggest the two of you take a break; or 3) Let her know that this isn’t what you hoped it would be and suggest you part ways permanently. Regardless of the path you choose, ya little heartbreaker, communicate with her in a thoughtful, caring manner. Don’t end things with a text or ghost her. After all, a little communication goes a long way. XXOO
Ruthie Have a question for Ruthie? Want to share an event with her? Contact Ruthie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on social media, too! Facebook: Dear Ruthie | Instagram: RuthieKeester | Twitter: @DearRuthie
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DEAR RUTHIE BROUGHT TO YOU BY
Ruthie’s Social Calendar FEBRUARY 5 ‘RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE’ VIEWING PARTY AT MARY’S CORNER BAR (734 S. FIFTH ST.): Take in Ru’s new episode alongside your hostess Becky Essence Hall. The show starts at 7 p.m. but the bar opens at 5 p.m., so come early to order some of Hamburger Mary’s appetizers, burgers or dessert and get comfy! Enjoy $5 Smirnoff cocktails and $6 Smirnoff Bombs during the show. FEBRUARY 5 JUKEBOX BINGO AT WALKER’S PINT (818 S. SECOND ST.): Looking for something new to do on a Friday? Check out this popular night where bingo meets “Name that Tune.” Five rounds of fun offer prizes, drink specials, pub trivia and more. The free games start at 7 p.m. Can’t make it on the fifth? No worry! This ladies’ bar hosts bingo every Friday in February. FEBRUARY 9 ALL-DAY HAPPY HOUR AT THIS IS IT! (418 E. WELLS ST): Take advantage of this 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. happy hour at one of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ landmarks. Toss down two-for-one specials on all rails and taps while you get to know the friendly bar staff, meet new people and take a break from the work week’s craziness. FEBRUARY 12 VIRTUAL VALENTINE’S DAY FUNDRAISER AND DANCE PARTY: COVID isn’t going to stop the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin from having some fun and raising donations! The 7 p.m. extravaganza includes music, raffles and other online plans sure to get you moving and grooving in your own home. Visit lgbtsewi.org to get your pass to the Zoom event. FEBRUARY 12 VALENTINE’S RED WINES, CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE ONLINE CLASS: Surprise your Valentine with a wine and chocolate pairing from Milwaukee’s Indulgence Chocolatiers (211 S. Second St.). For $75, you’ll receive three bottles of wine and enough chocolate and cheese to host a group of four. Pick up the kit the day before class, then log on for a fantastic night. The virtual classes are popular, so call 414-223-0123 to reserve your tasting kit before they run out. FEBRUARY 17 & 18 LOVE IS LOVE VIRTUAL LGBT AND ALLIES WEDDING SHOWCASE: The team at the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce helps you plan your special day with this online offering. Check out the vendors, suppliers and others who promise to make your wedding shine when you register via the event’s page at wislgbtchamber.com. The cyber showcase runs 4-6 p.m. both days. FEBRUARY 24 NETWORKING ONLINE HAPPY HOUR: Grab a beverage at home and settle in for some virtual elbow rubbing when you attend this monthly happy hour of business owners from the LGBTQ community. The 4:30-5:30 p.m. social is free and open to all, but you need to register first via wislgbtchamber.com. FEBRUARY 25 QUEER BOOK CLUB: Miss your book club? You don’t have to! This online group offers a great way to discuss literature and make new friends. The club meets virtually the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m., discussing books about social justice, advocacy, personal growth and more. This month’s book is Untamed by Glennon Doyle. Shoot an email at email@example.com to learn how to participate.
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HEAR ME OUT MY LGBTQ POV | SPONSORED BY UW CREDIT UNION
From Lou Sullivan to Elle Halo, MILWAUKEE CONTINUES THE STRUGGLE FOR TRANSGENDER RIGHTS By Paul Masterson
n 1966, as a 15-year-old Milwaukeean, Lou Sullivan, wrote, “I want to look like what I am but don't know what someone like me looks like.” The transgender activist would eventually leave Milwaukee in 1973 to settle in San Francisco. There, he pursued his life in a more understanding and embracing environment. During the 1980s, he founded FTM (Female-to-Male) International and was a founding member of the GLBT Historical Society. An author and lobbyist for trans gay men, he also has the unfortunate reputation of having been the first transman to die of AIDS. In the decades that followed, the struggle for transgender rights have come to the fore. For its part, Milwaukee has played a significant role in the pursuit of transgender equality. Co-founded in 1994 by Michael Munson, FORGE, an organization with a mission to educate and provide resources to both the transgender and greater communities, has since garnered national recognition. In 2007, FORGE hosted the first FTM/ SOFFA Conference held in the Midwest. At the forefront of presenting transgender artists and musicians, the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center (MGAC) hosted the itinerant trans performance troupe Tranny Roadshow in 2006 and 2007. Underwritten by Cream City Foundation, artist and author Dylan Scholinski exhibited at MGAC in coordination with the FTM/SOFFA Conference and did a reading from his autobiography, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, at the Riverwest alternative book store, Woodland Pattern.
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Great strides came about under the Obama administration. With the lifting of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, transgender soldiers and sailors could actively serve. FORGE-Milwaukee received significant Federal funding for its anti-violence and other programs. Transgender rights seemed to be not only improving but becoming universally recognized. The election of a Republican president in 2016, however, brought about a shift in government attitude towards the LGBTQ community in general and especially its transgender members. LGBTQ references were scrubbed from the White House website. Despite opposition from high-ranking military leaders, a transgender service ban was introduced. Locally, Republican governor Scott Walker’s administration denied certain health benefits to transgender state employees. It took an ACLU lawsuit to rescind the Walker policy.
Hate Crimes That victory, however, was overshadowed by a dire outlook for the future. Hate crimes, increased steeply since 2017, targeted the transgender populations worldwide. Forty-four transgender individuals were murdered in 2020 in the USA alone. During the rally that served to launch the failed January 6 Republican coup d’état, Donald Trump Jr., son of the former president, revved up the crowd of MAGA insurrectionists by attacking transgender people, specifically transwomen.
Still, despite the pervading animus towards them, or perhaps because of it, some among the transgender population have become political leaders. In Milwaukee, as part of the People’s Revolution, a movement launched in response to racial inequality and the nation’s endemic racism, one transgender woman, Elle Halo, has been making her mark as a local civil rights personality. Her portrait now graces a mural celebrating local social justice activists. Meanwhile, political fortunes for LGBTQ people and particularly those who are transgender have taken a positive turn. President Joe Biden has unequivocally stated, “I will put forward comprehensive solutions to help empower the transgender and gender non-conforming community and prioritize the prosecution of anti-transgender violence. My administration will enact the Equality Act to end legal discrimination against LGBTQ people, expand economic opportunities for LGBTQ people, reform our treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in our criminal justice system, ensure access to accurate identification documents, and improve government data collection to better track violence against the transgender community.” We can all hope President Biden’s vision will be realized.
Paul Masterson is an LGBTQ activist and writer and has served on the boards of the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, Milwaukee Pride, GAMMA and other organizations.
Image by diegograndi/Getty Images
ART FOR ART'S SAKE
FROM THE CIT Y
That Always Sweeps BY ART KUMBALEK
’m Art Kumbalek and man oh manischewitz what a world, ain’a? Good lord, it’s coming up on nearly a year since the care-free access to our favorite watering hole-hotspots have been kiboshed down to nearly next to nothing. And so wouldn’t you know, the other night, I laid/layed/lain/threw/flung my head on the pillow and had a dream. I dreamt that I was me in an alternate universe, or maybe it was alternate-universe me dreaming of me in this universe. I know, it’s complicated, what the fock. Past, present, future—couldn’t figure which was which, but I wrote down what I remembered and here she blows: It was damn near Valentine’s Day, which meant one thing: Presidents’ Day would be right around the corner. And so it was high time for me and the guys to rendezvous for our annual Presidents’ Day costume party gala event over by the Uptowner tavern/charm school to honor the day and the office, so’s to dress up like a dead president and then knock off a couple, three cases of ice-cold bottled beer rather than dress up normal and knock off a couple, three cases of ice-cold bottled beer as if it were just any ol’ damn day. Hoist to the chief. And I dreamt that me and my gang were there at the Uptowner tavern/charm school as if it were a wake to honor in fond remembrance of days past. The dream proceeds: Ernie: So Emil, make sure you still got a couple bucks on you by the end of the night you can lend me. Emil: You got money ’cause I just seen you buy a cocktail, so fock you. Ernie: Yeah, I got money now, but I won’t by closing time, and tomorrow I got to buy
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the wife some candy bars for the Valentine’s so I don’t end up in the doghouse again this year. So no, fock you. Little Jimmy Iodine: Someone should really tell the young people that being the husband and wife isn’t going to be a cakewalk in the beach with a balloon every day, ain’a? You know the experts say that the marriage is something you have to work at. Emil: Work? You got to be jerking my beefaroni. Fock the experts. That’s why I never got married, you betcha. You work all day at your crummy job and you finally get home just looking to take a load off—but no—now you’re supposed to roll back up the sleeves and hit the goddamn grindstone with your nose in it, just so the wife doesn’t put you to sleep in the doghouse again? It’s cruel and inhuman. Julius: Listen to this I’m reading in the paper here: “Under the lax rules of the chimp mating system, a female is likely to be inseminated several times, and males need to deliver competitive volumes of ejaculate to have a chance at paternity.” Cripes, sounds like a free-for-all. I tell you, if we get reincarnation when we die, I sure as hell know what I’m signing up for to come back, and it sure isn’t no goddamn canary. Little Jimmy: It just doesn’t sound fair that chimps get a lax mating system and we don’t. Those chimps just better pray to God they never have to evolve like the human had to. Ray: Emil, don’t tell me about the doghouse. When I was the married man, no matter how hard I tried to watch my step, one way or the other I’d still step smackdab into some kind of pile of crap and there I’d be—scraping off the bottom of my shoe in the doghouse, again. Cripes,
I spent so much time in the doghouse that come the Father’s Days, my kids never thought for a second to get me a necktie or a pipe, no sir. I’d get a flea collar and a bath with the hose. Ray: Yeah, my favorite part of the day would be when everybody else was out of the house so I could drink out of the toilet. Little Jimmy Iodine: Hey, Artie! Over here. Put a load on your keister. Art: Hey gents. What do you hear, what do you know. Emil: Ray was telling us about drinking out of the toilet. Art: Oh yeah, that. Nothing quite like being married to the girl of your dreams, ain’a? Herbie: Remember what the philosopher Henny Youngman said: “My wife and I have the secret to making a marriage last. Two times a week we go to a nice restaurant, a little wine, good food. She goes Tuesdays; I go Fridays.” Art: And I remember the difference between a tornado and an ex-wife. Julius: What’s that again? Art: There isn’t any—they both get the house. Ba-ding! I then awoke in time to say to you’s, what with the Valentine’s Day folie à deux, good luck and god speed with your love and romance. And as tradition here dictates, let me remind you what the famous Greek philosopher Anonymous said about that: “The ideal relationship can only be achieved when one partner is blind, and the other is deaf,” ’cause I’m Art Kumbalek and I told you so.
Image by Pauws99/Getty Images