Family Traditions–New & Old

After rocking out Friday night, our little rebels slept in on July 4th.  

We wandered around the hotel for a bit, taking in the old world glamour.  Seriously, we loved the Pfister.  It reminded us of the Driskill in Austin or our frequent haunt in Toronto, the Royal York.  Great public spaces in which chandeliers are sprinkled like fairy dust, and everything glows golden.

This is the way the Pfister celebrates July 4th: red, white, and blue flowers.  For all this glamour (with a u), it was actually one of our lower cost options in the heart of Milwaukee on the holiday/Summerfest double slam weekend.  Lots of the folks in the hotel seemed to have stayed there so they could watch the fireworks from the top floor.

Making plans for May 1, 2093!

What is art?

Keys through the years:

Harper has spied an old phone.  “How does one text on that thing?” she wonders.

Summer rates at the Pfister have gone up a bit.

After our stroll through the past, we took our cards up to the club, which was essentially empty except for one joyful table of friends reminiscing about their own shared pasts and one of their son’s future.  After a while, I realized they were retired NBA players and their wives, and two were the parents of Bucks young star Jabari Parker.  Brush with near-greatness.  As if my family cared, they were there to play Shanghai, the Davis family card game last seen making an appearance at the Little Goat Diner, not to talk smack about the young guns and how everyone used to be tougher and smarter.  Discard, Pat!

Much mirth was had, including when Harper sneezed so hard she whipped forward, smacking her pinwheel headdress on the table and sending it high into the air.  

Luckily, we were alone in the club by then.  By the way, this is the steely game face of the girl who almost won.  

What a wonderful setting for a family tradition.  (We were not alone in this.  During our stay, other families played Scrabble and Life up here.  Must be a Wisconsin thing.)

After Ned–as always–won, we were off to a family reunion of sorts.  My mother’s brother, John, and his wife, Teri, host an annual 4th of July gathering, so we flew past the lady bugs eating this building …

and by the now classic Milwaukee Art Museum wings …

caught the stained glass of the Veterans’ Memorial …

and kept on driving way out to the far suburbs of Milwaukee to the party.  No one in my extended family lives in the city anymore.  In fact, no one even goes to Summerfest.  They stay in their suburbs and are very happy.  (We agreed we were happy to be very nearby and frequently in our city and in others, too.)   The party was fun; the food was plentiful; and I learned it’s very odd to see little people you used to babysit now be very big people with little people of their own.  I guess that means I’m now old.  Oh, well.  We also played pool.  Harper and I won.  It may have been because Ned hit in the eight ball, but a win is a win, people!

After dinner, we drove back into the city to walk once more to the Fest.  We took a slightly different route and saw more lovely Milwaukee sites.

This series of plantings had old bikes in them.  Very cool reuse!

I guess every Pompeii is a disaster: this one was cordoned off, perhaps in anticipation of a coming volcano.

The Summerfest grounds were decidedly less crowded on the 4th, probably because the fireworks were on the 3rd.  However, despite the decreased attendance, we got wanded on the way in, which did not happen the night before.  As frequent visitors to NY, we kind of take this stuff in stride.  (We got wanded at the Alt-J show. Alt-J?  Do wands pick up psychotropic drugs?)   After he finished, the officer remarked wryly, “Welcome to Summerfest.”  I said, unwarily, “Thank you!”  (Funny story about safety in Milwaukee: When I was little, the city moved Halloween to the Sunday afternoon before Halloween because too many kids went missing.  The 70s were a weird decade.)  
The upside of the absent crowds was the equally absent line at the Skyliner–the gondola ride that runs the full length of the Fest grounds and had hour long lines the night before.  We were on it! 

Food, food everywhere!  Look how big the Fest is.

The legendary tower of Harleys–Milwaukee made, Milwaukee strong!

The water splash park …

… right next to the roving beer cart.  Okay, a word about Wisconsinites and beer: there is so much beer at the Fest that it quickly moves from tragedy to comedy to absurdity.  You can basically buy beer every one feet, but if that’s too long a walk, the grounds are filled with wandering beer salesmen and women.   Full disclosure, we’re complete squares when it comes to drinks and drugs, but I’ll say this for Milwaukeeans, we closed out Summerfest on both Friday and Saturday nights, and we did not see one single drunk fight or altercation.  Don’t get me wrong, the grounds were completely filled with drunk people and–by the smell of it–weed was everywhere.  Yet, folks were happy to be there and happy to have others be there, too.  Drink and smoke on, Milwaukee, you can keep your stuff together.

One person who couldn’t keep his stuff together was Ned Davis, shown here with his son in the distance.  He freaked out on the Skyliner (the Skyliner!) because he kept imagining it crashing to the ground.  Penn showed his sympathy in a way only a son can: as soon as he sensed his father’s fear, he immediately began rocking their gondola “to see if it could fall.”  On the other hand, I–fearful of all roller coasters and the queen of motion sickness–loved it!

Look, it’s the Johnson Controls stage where we saw Sylvan Esso the night before.

And Lake Michigan!

And our feet!  I was on the fence about buying her those Birkenstocks, but I gotta hand it to her: she wore them every single day.  A worthwhile investment.

And in the distances, it’s the BMO/Harris Pavilion, where we would be later that night.

But, first, we needed some good old American festival food.  What could be more Wisconsin than Bacon Bottom Pizza?  None thing. Yummo!

Fully bacon-ed up, we grabbed our seats at BMO and awaited Weird Al.  BMO offers a limited number of seats for free reservations a month before each Summerfest show.  How popular is Weird Al (WA)?  The 2,500 reserved seats went in about 10 minutes.  (Other acts were still trying to give them away the day of show.)

The pavilion has room for 10,000, and it was completely packed, with folks well outside just to hear the show. We went because the kids (especially Penn) have discovered WA on YouTube and just love him.  I went because live music at Summerfest.

And, look how EPCOT-futuristic it is!

This show did not disappoint any of us.  WA is a true showman, and at every wardrobe change, he filled the time with video montages of his many pop culture appearances.  The crowd was rapt and sang along at the top of their 10,000 x 2 lungs.  When “Amish Paradise” geared up, I thought the roof would spring off.

Earlier in the day, Ned spied a set of guitar cases leaning against a column in the hotel lobby.  One said “Clapton” on it.  There were no rumors that Eric Clapton would be playing the Fest (not that I would care, side-eye), so we were puzzled.  But, when WA’s band (which was really fantastic!) backed him in an acoustic “Eat Me” set to “Layla,” it all made sense.  WA was staying at the Pfister 🙂  Natch.

The encore was a mini-set of Star Wars parodies complete with dancing Stormtroopers and Vader.  Again, the entire pavilion rang with the audience sing-a-long.  Big smiles on everyone’s faces.  And, a super drunk guy shouting “USA!”  Our reply, “Yes, Summerfest, USA, indeed!”

Happy 4th of July!

And, about two hours after it had started, our adventure with Weird Al was over, and as we walked out of the BMO at a little after midnight, we were advised by the mysterious voice of Summerfest that the grounds were closed for the night.  We said goodbye to the World’s Largest Music Festival * (*not a guarantee) and slept the sleep of rock and roll patriots on our last eve in Milwaukee.

The next day, we spent some time with my Aunt Marge and Uncle Ken, and my cousin Paul and his family before following this awesome time traveling 70s panel van on the highway back to Chicago to catch a flight back home.  Seriously, this is a real van on a real road in Milwaukee.  Groovy!

Another amazing Kress-Davis family adventure drew to a close.  Good-bye, earthtone-striped, possibly-Chevy van.  Keep on truckin’, Good Buddy!  We definitely will.

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