The quirk factor.
WHEN I WAS IN my 20s, I lived in Hoboken, N.J., and spent much of my free time exploring old places and oddities with a few close friends. New Jersey had a wealth of them. Our favorites included a drive-in movie theater adjacent to Newark Liberty International Airport, where the big jetliners ascended and descended over the screen, adding an extra layer of entertainment to the third-run features they showed. There was a circular-shaped diner (we referred to it as “The Place That Fell From the Sky”) that looked to be from the early 1950’s, where a grizzled grill cook maneuvered mounds of home fries on the griddle, hurling pound-sized bricks of butter onto the sliced potatoes with palpable aggression. (They tasted delicious!) A few blocks from my apartment, humongous propellers for ships were stored in a fenced-in yard behind the defunct factory that had produced them. They were strikingly sculptural, and seemed like the debris of an ancient civilization. Tucked away in a forgotten corner of the town was a place called Acre of Fun. With its meager offering of flea-bitten ponies and rusted kiddie rides, it did not over-deliver on the modest proposition of its name.
Quirkiness held great appeal to me then, and working on our “Hidden Milwaukee” feature (page 38) reignited that interest. Matt Hrodey, the editor of the story, did a phenomenal job digging up little-known gems all around town. From former speakeasies, to unsung museums, to Jeffrey Dahmer’s favorite hangouts, there’s plenty to explore for anyone who prefers to travel off the beaten path.
Several other stories in this issue also fall under the “hidden” rubric. “Skin in the Game” (page 56), a profile of Jon Ferraro, the owner of Silk Exotic, lets you peek into the world of gentlemen’s clubs. Meanwhile, “Going Coastal” (page 50) takes you to the sunken ruins of ships on the floor of Lake Michigan, and tells about new efforts to protect them.
This month, we introduce a new column in the Dining section called “Notes From Brandyland.” It’s penned by Robert Simonson, a former Milwaukeean who writes about cocktails and spirits for The New York Times and other publications. There’s more to drinking in Wisconsin than just old fashioneds, according to Simonson, who admits it wasn’t until he moved away from the state that he was able to fully appreciate its unique imbibing culture.
As for me, I’ve lived here for a little over a year now, and I feel that I’m in the sweet spot of being fairly well acquainted with the city, but still able to see it with the fresh eyes of an outsider. I look forward to continuing my exploration of what makes Milwaukee so unique and wonderful, hidden and otherwise. Until next month, cheers!