All In A Mouse’s Night

Posted: July 18, 2017 in Uncategorized


I have a mouse in my office.  Well, to be fair, where there is one there is more than one, so mice.  Meeses.

I guess that’s what happens when a pub occupies the ground floor space in a downtown location, especially near the River.  I guess she didn’t look big enough to be a rat….

So, for me, the question becomes, do I name her and put food out, or go for eviction with extreme prejudice?


Town Cryer

Posted: July 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

A friend of mine was looking through my CDs once, and remarked “Dude, do you think you have enough Elvis Costello?”   I responded saying “can you think of a BETTER artist to be obsessive about?”

After the rampant musical excess of Summerfest, Milwaukee continues to make the most of the all-too-brief summer weather by making every weekend some sort of excuse for drinking outside.  This weekend was Bastille Days, when they shut down several blocks downtown in the shadow of City Hall, and do…French stuff, I guess.  It involves drinking and eating and a forty foot replica of the Eiffel Tower built by the engineering school.

And music, of course.  Friday evening was a double set by perennial favorite local ska-punks Something To Do, who were soldiering on, down one guitar player due to “honeymoon”.  I made a crack that they went through guitar players like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.  HAH!

They played a new song about Richard Spencer, that Alt-right Nazi dickweasel who got punched in the melon on TV, which inspired a spirited discussion on when it is appropriate to punch someone on the melon.  The Internet quickly determined that punching Nazis is perfectly appropriate.

Anyway, this is their most recent single, “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”

So tonight, Elvis Costello (as BBBB calls him, Brother Declan) and the Imposters visited Milwaukee for the umpteenth time in recent years.  Seriously, I think we’ve probably seen him 10 or twelve times by now, and he is consistently one of the most rewarding performers, never playing by number or phoning it in.  He especially likes our Riverside Theater, as we’ve seen him a couple of times where for the encore, he sings into the hall using no amplification, just his voice and the conducive acoustics.

For this show, he was focusing on Imperial Bedroom, one of his albums that took me a while to warm up to but has over time and evolution become one of my favorites.  It has a subtlety and complexity that rewards focus and repeated listens.

For this tour, he brought along a pair of singers, Kitten Koroi and Brianna Lee, who really punched up the vocals of the songs.  Especially on the show-closing encore, “Everyday I Write The Book” and when they sang “Alison” with just Elvis on guitar.

They played for an initial set for a bit over an hour, and left, then came back for a batch of slower, more focused songs with limited instrumentation, eventually bringing out the band for full throated closers “Man Out Of Time” and “Pidgin English”.

Did I say “Everyday” was the show closer?  Nah, that just set up the band intros, then they barreled full-tilt into “Pump It Up” and then blasted the roof off the joint with    “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”

Damnit, pretty much every time I see him, that is the finale;  I KNOW it’s coming, I know every line and every chord of that song, I know Elvis didn’t even write it, even if his is the definitive version, and every goddam time it makes me weep.  And in this time, the lyrics seem much less hippy-dippy goofiness, but more prophetic and even more relevant.  Maybe one day Elvis will no longer feel the need to sing that song.  But for one more time, it brought a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine….

Here’s another version.  Apologies for the gratuitous Dave Matthews, and the gratuitous Glenn Frey; perhaps made up for by the Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, and Mike Mills on the big strong bass.


Hamburger Holocaust

Posted: July 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

Woah.  I need a stiff drink.

Just got home from a pre-construction meeting at a chain restaurant.  Won’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Shmed Probster”.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not the type of job I typically do, or want to do.  It is relatively nominal work from my end, and barely required (the mechanical contractors involved surely have a licensed Engineer on staff who could act as Supervising Professional).  It amounts to mechanical work on a duct for a new Type I hood, which has higher requirements than the existing Type II hood.  Oh, I gave the Project Manager the hard sell:  “Well, you could probably save money by having one of the mechanical teams handle it.  I know the architectural codes, but this mainly falls in realm of the mechanical codes.  I’ll probably have mileage and trip charges….” you know, I nearly burglarized the guy.  But he got my recommendation from a former employee of mine who now concentrates solely on residential work, and he said that I was ‘very highly recommended’, so I felt an obligation….Besides, as Geddy Lee once said, ‘hey, ten bucks is ten bucks, eh?’

So, tonight we visited the site, 10 PM no less.  Sheesh.

You see, when I was in high school, I worked several food service jobs.  Fast food, sit-down, fine dining….the one common thread is that wherever you go to eat, you REALLY do not want to see the kitchen.  The best run places have smoke and grease stains ground into the walls and ceilings.  Evening cleaning involved trying to scrub the grease off the floor using boiling water and caustic chemicals.  After closing, I would come home exhausted with a stench of sweat and curdled grease.  My hair never got clean, and my face never cleared up.

When I went to college, I had a Work-Study grant, so I went to the cafeteria, but they were staffed up.  Going to the financial aid office, they went me to the campus library, where I ended up working for the sweetest little old lady named Polly in the Periodicals and Interlibrary Loan department.  Biggest stroke of luck I ever had in college…

And walking into this kitchen, while the crew were trying to do the evening clean, with buckets of water slopped over the greasy floors….brought back those long ago days with a vengeance.

It was weird, and I was glad when I could leave.

Moving Pictures

Posted: June 17, 2017 in Fridge Note, Shovels, Uncategorized

Just a little throwaway post, about nothing much, here.  Filling some time before ramping up for Summerfest, you know.

As an architect, I recognize that we have many traits and idiosyncrasies that point us out for mockery and ridicule, and occasionally lawsuits.  One of the most long standing (and deserved) ones is that we do illustrations of projects that are FAR more flattering than what results after construction.  I remember seeing a series in a book, that showed buildings and spaces filled with happy laughing people, children, pets and ample verdant greenery in a public space, and when complete is was a barren paved parking area with worn late model cars and stained asphalt.

The evolution of 3 dimensional CAD has been helpful on this, but it can also be as big a culprit.  I have seen many illustrations that feature either ridiculously multi-ethnic crowds or faceless white ghost people.  Ghost trees too.  Improbably clean vehicles, and brand-new buses and trains.

But some of you may recall this project, that started out like this a couple of years ago:

4021 shorewood block design

So that project has worked its way to completion, with only one serious snafu (on a project of this scope, 96 apartments, with associated parking and retail space.  Here was a rendering of the project that was presented to obtain approval from the Architectural Review Board:


And, here is a photo of the final product:


LOL!  Of course, I put those in reverse order, the illustration is on the bottom.

The biggest fudge on the illustration is that main facade in it is north facing, so the sun position was massaged to provide better shading to show the third dimension.  Also, you can see that as much as I tried to get him to adjust the color balance, he missed accuracy on the material colors.  Although frankly, the rendering is closer to the way human eyesight actually interprets the colors.

Incidentally, the project won a Business Journal Real Estate Award.

Some of you may remember, that in between sporadic posting, drunken benders, and arguing incessantly with mikey, I occasionally perform professional architectural services.  One of which is doing a facade inspection on buildings five stories or greater, which almost always involved boom lifts or swing stages, and these efforts often result in amusing anecdotes involving petrifying fear of heights. HA!  HA!  Fear is funny, says the Firesign Theatre….

Well, I haven’t had to do that in a while; I decided that my Fear Billing Rate is equal to my highest billing rate, and on top of equipment rental that makes my fees to do these things fall at the higher end of the spectrum.  Don’t miss it, although I never minded cashing the checks.

So anyways, one of my current engagements is to provide professional consultation for a wall failure on a 6th floor penthouse addition to an older building, where the original contractor is out of business and the track of culpability is not able to be established, yet the wall needs to be repaired and rebuilt.  We’ve tracked the cause of the failure, and as we disassemble the walls, the internal evidence supports our hypothesis, so the repairs we are specifying are appropriate.

And last week, I was called to the site to review some conditions that exhibit a bit more deterioration than we’ve seen, and the contractor wanted to get my review.  The residents of the penthouse floor were not available to obtain access through their units, so we had no choice but to use the boom lift to access the sixth floor, roughly 70 feet above street level.  I geared up in a harness, explained to the Operator that I was not a fan of aerial work, and up we went….

As we rode the bucket, we chatted.  Operator told me that the building developer was pretty tense going up, I told about having a boom trip the overbalance breaker once, and as we went higher and higher, I was glancing out at the roads, and to the East the Summerfest grounds; and I became aware that my hands were not white-knuckling the railing. 

When we got to the sixth floor, I clambered out of the bucket onto the roof, and we spent the rest of our time walking back and forth along the roof, looking at the exposed structure and level of deterioration, and discussing various potential remedies.  Climbed back into the bucket, and rode down….

When we landed, and I unbuckled my harness, I reflected on what just happened.

Every prior time I was doing aerial work, my fear of heights triggered, and I was terribly uncomfortable.  Sometimes, just walking out onto an elevated balcony (one I had designed!) was enough, and there was a full height railing.  Glass walkways could trigger it.

Best I can figure, is that after The Event a couple of years ago, I now have a different frame of reference for existential Fear.

Riding a bucket to 70 feet or so, while wearing safety gear and with a trained operator pales in comparison to sitting in an Emergency Room with a half dozen medical professionals trying to keep me alive while it becomes more and more difficult to breathe.

I guess there’s no moral to this, unless it’s that you can cure acrophobia by having a heart attack, which seems like kind of a stretch if not a kind of unadvised attempt at a cure.


Posted: May 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

As most of you know [Joe Strummer/ ALL THREE OF YOU/Joe Strummer] We recently went to Ireland and had a WONDERFUL time.  While there, we met a family that we already knew from Milwaukee, and spent much time drinking with Deb and Stu and two of their kids.

It was very weird and wonderful that we traveled thousands of miles to become good friends with people we had only met peripherally through our children’s school and activities, but that’s the universe for you.

Stu is guitarist for a local reggae band, King Solomon, who is currently in the midst of a monthly residency at a local music bar, Up & Under.  Yeah, if you’re in town, stop in.  It’s worth it; local drinking and music dive bar but you have to walk up.

Regrettably, Wife Sublime had urgent business to conduct in Japan, and they were playing on Saturday night.  I was up early, and did a bunch of varied tasks and duties during the day.  Walked the damn dog, and gave her her pills and took my own damn pills.  And then was very tired.  But after some slight dozing in the easy chair, I decided I should support local music, and headed down.  Five dollar cover CHEAP, dammit.

During the night, I remarked to several people that when I moved to Milwaukee, you couldn’t go out on the East Side without seeing live music.  SO MUCH MUSIC GREAT MUSIC.  One of the club owners was notorious for insisting that the bands play for the door, that if they couldn’t convince their friends to pay a couple-three bucks, they needed more or better friends.

And that since then, people have gotten stingier.  Fuck, I saw the people in front of me, and several other people after, want to circumvent the 5 dollar cover for this show.  Five dollars!  Won’t even buy you a Starbucks, darling.  Ridiculous, and an unsupportable outgrowth of the idea that people are somehow entitled to the work of artists because the internet makes it easy to steal it.

Fortunately, also talking to some people tonight, the Milwaukee music scene seems to be bubbling under with tons of amazing new artists, working to find new ways of making art and making money.

King Solomon played a lovely show, and although Deb (Stu, the guitarist’s wife) told me they were all kind of not on top of things — mainly due to the prior night’s birthday party for JD, the singer/toaster— it sounded good to me and the pretty full bar crowd, who were dancing and cheering and apparently it was part of the recordings for some future live release.  I confess I left shortly after the second set started, as I am old and I had to try to make my way home through the college crowd drinking areas.

During the night, however, I had a bit of time to reflect on moving to Milwaukee in 1983, when the music scene, especially on the East Side, was not only thriving but the major labels were paying attention.  There were so many good bands, but the local musicians were trading places in cross-pollination that made everybody support everyone else and all of them create new music that was different.  It was not an accident that the Pretenders asked the Femmes to open for them at the Oriental, it was destined. Da BoDeans were always going to be signed.  Local labels started up. Every weekend, if not every night, you could find great local bands doing great stuff.  At one point, I had a roommate bail on me, leaving me holding the lease, and when I was trying to figure out what to do, I would often go to Murray Tap to see a blues band play a smoking set from a plywood stage set up on one end of the bar.

Since then, it has become much harder for musicians and performers.  Especially in Milwaukee, where people balk at playing 5 dollars.

Paying for art of any kind is a hallmark of a modern civilization.  We are becoming a cruel, pinched and self-concerned society who not only resents supporting the arts, we want to punish artists by not allowing them access to any kind of health care.  And when arts are paid on the federal side, they are attacked as not being Christian or conservative enough.  Gilead enough?

But, while I was putting myself around a few whiskeys,  what I noticed in this small dive bar on an historic street in Milwaukee, is that a reggae band was playing for a wildly diverse crowd.  Fuck, in the immediate circle that I knew upon landing was a mixed-race African American, a Native American, another mixed race African American and before long a transgender man showed up. There were women dancing sexually with each other.  There was a guy I didn’t know who kept walking by and shaking my hand.

While I was there, the crowd was mostly…well, I will only say they were mostly brown.  I will not hazard a guess as to their racial makeup, and it merely points out that why should I care?  Being Milwaukee, there were also plenty of melanin-challenged folks, but at best we were a bare majority.  AT BEST.

And that is therein the crux.

I grew up in a white flight suburb of Madison.  And went, at first, to a very white cow-town land-grant college.  When I moved to Milwaukee, it was a tremendous opening of my eyes; after much work, I eventually became comfortable working with and within the black community.  To be honest, it also involved the members of the AA community becoming comfortable with me.

I will probably struggle with racism for all my life.  I grew up with it.  My parents were racist.  My wife’s parent’s were racist.  Some people will say they are no longer racist, but if they are white, they are lying.

Racism is boiled into the foundation of our country.  White people, for the most part, refuse to acknowledge that.

And for this time, tonight, watching a reggae band do what they do, while all kinds of people dance and drink and spend their time flirting and drinking, I knew this.   Party and music and dancing and having a good time is something that is inimical to the Republican party.  P.J. O’rourke once wrote (back when he still could managed decent writing and some humor) that he determined, through a time-honored method, that people of all races were basically the same; by sleeping around.  And that seemed to be the order of the night, it certainly did.

Hell, we even welcomed the people from Michigan who stopped in as refugees from the Hall & Oates concert.

At the end of the night, it was comforting reminder of why I came to appreciate and love living in a (relatively) high-density urban environment with healthy populations of minorities.  That America is made up of, and stronger for, immigration and diversity.  And that good people of many races and orientations get along JUST fine outside of right-wing divisive hate-fantasies.  And that music erodes barriers.  And that King Solomon is opening up for Ziggy Marley at Summerfest.  And that this is a zombie filled with love.



so, after-action subsequent action report.  We went to see Old 97s at Turner Hall the night after, and Good Friend Rory and I have seen this band 10 times?  Maybe?  At all kinds of venues, but they love Milwaukee and love Turner hall and Rhett Miller said they were a little worried about playing on a Sunday night, but they scorched the damn stage, one of the best tightest and hardest I’ve ever seen them play.  And on their new album, they have Brandi Carlisle sing a song – Good With God- with Rhett, and for the show they brought out opener Nicole Atkins (who is totally boning Rhett Miller, and hey he’s so gorgeous that I am tempted and Wife Sublime is basically in love with him) and she really just kicked Brandi Carlisle’s ass.

It as, of course, a completely different crowd from Saturday night, all pretty much white.

But in any case, it was a reminder that we have such a vibrant music scene in Milwaukee right now, it reminds me of when I moved here.  Except for the pain in my back and feet from standing all night.

House We Used To Live In

Posted: May 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

Ben Carson is the Director of Housing and Urban Development.  I thought I would mention that, if you might have forgotten it in the onslaught of horror from the Orange House.  He is so sleepy and dim, how much damage could he do?  Well, apparently, a fuck of a lot.

But now he has pissed me off, and he is going WAY up the list of first people up against the wall in the Zompocalypse.

Gonna link to a Big, here, he thinks most low-income housing is way too comfortable.


See, and here, that in my real life, I am an architect and you all know that.  But what you may not know, because when I write about these I get longwinded, but I have worked on many tax-credit projects intended to provide decent housing for people on limited means.  It was called Title 42.  It was not an entitlement program, but it provided tax credits for projects that provide low-cost rental apartments to people with limited incomes.  It is intended to put slumlords out of business, by providing apartments that meet code in lieu of shit apartments.

In that realm, I have designed a few hundred apartments across Wisconsin.  Many in Milwaukee, in the African-American community.  I worked for many years with Welford Sanders, one of the most respected Community Organizers I have ever met, and he sadly passed a couple of years ago and I miss him both as a catalyst…and a friend.

After a couple of projects with Welford, I attended a ‘groundbreaking’ for a further project, well attended including the Mayor and Gwen Moore.  During the presentation portion, a woman who moved into one of the prior phases of the area’s projects, spoke movingly about her experience living in one of the units.  In fact, she had a few sobs, because she talked about moving from a crappy, sub-code apartment with her kids to a clean, well-built new apartment where she didn’t have to worry about her kids being shocked by shitty electrical work.  She upstaged Gwen Moore and the Mayor.

When I have walked around these black communities, I occasionally get challenged.  When I say, I am the architect who does these projects, I get thumbs up and acceptance.  I care enough to make them good, and they respond with respect.  You know, like humans do.

Ben Carson pisses me off not because he’s being a rich asshole (although he is).  And not because he is pissing on black people (although he is).  Several of my projects were out of the urban areas, and mostly populated by white Wisconsinites.

But what he is doing is saying that people who avail themselves of the several levels of housing assistance are not worthy of basic human dignity.  They must be subjected to humiliation and degradation.  The idea that this will spur them to make more money in some magical way.  It has been estimated that people under the poverty level have to work for 20 fucking years, and not have a single disaster to work their way out of poverty.

Ben Carson, an educated idiot, is saying that anyone less fortunate than he is, should either have to live in shitty housing or a cardboard box.

I have worked in black communities more than Ben Carson.  I have worked with more Blacks that I respect far more than Ben Carson.  I have had more of an effect on black communities than Carson has (up till now).

And in conclusion: