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"What's Milwaukee like?"


"find me some clouds find me some clouds find me some clouds find me some clouds"  



So, intern starts late this month (who will be referred to as “M” to protect the innocent) and M, not being from the area asked what Milwaukee was like.

A day flashed before me from last summer.

One of the countries biggest bacon factories is only a few blocks from my house, and it caught on fire.  It was a BIG plant and a BIG fire.  A several block wide plume of black smoke filled with soot and lord knows what sort of preservatives and flavoring billowed up for an entire day.  The mayor who will be reffered to as “dumbass” announced a mile wide evacuation.  The big concern was that the ammonia in the cooling tanks might explode/leak and gas the area with deadly ammonia fumes.  I was busy.  Busy with the years biggest deadline and couldn’t be bothered with this nonsense. I evaluated the situation.

1-in one of my early blogs I retold the story of accidentally gasing myself with ammonia…It was awful but I lived.

2-among other military grade decorations in my house I have a gas mask and HAZ MAD suite.

3- I looked out my window…the wind was blowing to the south as it has and does all summer long for oh…my entire life.  I live right by the lake and the “lake effect” overpowers any prevailing winds.  The air currents always blow into the lake in the summer.  My house, while it was only blocks away, was north of the fire, and had nothing but clear skies above it, and unless lake Michigan where to dry up in the next several hours I would continue to have clear skies and fresh air no matter what happened to my south.

4-mayor dumbass when calling for the evacuation told everyone to go to the local grade school for shelter…I looked out my northern window and saw that his evacuation center was directly in the path of the smoke.

I wish you all could been sitting with me as I watched his “press conference”…and yelling…”hey dumbass you’re sending everyone INTO THE SMOKE!! AND HALF THE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE TO TRAVEL PAST THE FACTORY THAT YOU HAVE BLOCKED OFF TO GET TO THE EVEACUATION CENTER!  How the FUCK are they supposed to get there if you already told them to stay off of Packard avenue?!”  anyway he looked like a deer in headlights as he was forced to actually get out of bed before noon and deal with something more serious than what color to paint city hall.

So anyway I stayed.  Luckily enough the obstinate curmudgeon who owns the print shop one block from my house also felt the mayor was all wet and he stayed open.  Well...he closed all the blinds and shut off the front lights but continued to keep the presses rolling.

It was sort of like “omega man” (or "I am legend" for those of you who like the will smith version) as I would make my way back and forth to the print shop darting from house to house avoiding the police patrols who where going door to door and driving up and down the street making sure we were all safely in the path of the smoke and not perilously waiting it out in the comfort of our own homes…were there was FOOD AND WATER…did I forget to mention the “evacuation center” didn’t have food or water because it’s summer and there were no classes? Well they had a water fountain.  So I could have spent the day on a cot surrounded by people I spend my whole life avoiding waiting for the smoke to drift over and gag us…


I mean…this isn’t a real bad area anymore but it’s still laden with white trash/unemployed…and anyone who doesn’t have a car to simply drive away in for a few hours, or one single friend to stay by for the night …isn’t going to be the cream of the crop and isn’t someone I want to share a water fountain with knowwhatimean?  Plus they are going to be awful surly as they sober up, and realize all the taverns are closed…and begin to worry about all the crytal meth they just made catching on fire if the plant explodes.

 …what was I?..oh yeah!  so I snuck back and forth to the printer, several times almost getting pinched by the cops.

Over the radio the folks at the print shop and I heard that the mayor had announced that everyone had to now go to a DIFFERENT evacuation point because the smoke was closing in on the school.  He announced that they all go to the high school. 

"we're suposed to evacuate agian?"

The two guys at the print shop and I then walked over to the wall where they had a 4 foot map of the city tacked up for the delivery driver to plan his day.  The high school was also in the path of the smoke.  We laughed, shook or heads and went back about our business.  They uploaded the files I gave them and I snuck back to my house. 


I toyed with the idea of cutting a hole in the bottom of my garbage can for my feet so I could wear it as I snuck back and forth and just stop dead as the cops past like I was wile e coyote sneaking up on the road runner or something.  But I was too busy to have fun with the whole situation.  Which is a shame cause my friend called and said we should go to the evac center with his wheel chair and cause some mischief.  A really tempting offer, the two of us could have probably even got disorderly conduct charge that would read like a scene from “animal house” but again…too busy.

The ammonia tanks never exploded…probably because they are compressed tanks made of grade 8 steel and you couldn’t shoot a hole in them with a high powered rifle much less burn a hole in them.

Most of the black smoke was (and the print shop guys and I deduced this in the first three seconds) grease burning up because the entire roof surrounding the smoke stacks is covered with about three inches of grease.  Once a week the entire block smells like bacon as the cleaning crews power wash all the grease off it.

I had also deduced that since this was only a day or so after the forth of july, that the cause of the fire was a stray firework and not arson or a terrorist attack.  Which turned out to be the case…more or less.

As the week passed the cops found camera footage of the firework hitting the roof.  The angle of the firework came from my block…then they found that it was actually a military grade flare.  This was looking more and more like I did it.  I hoped that they would catch the guy asap before my neighbor, who hates my ass, put two and two together and turned ME in.  I mean…I probably had the same flares…the angle of the flare came from right near my house…I wouldn’t be able to present one single character witness who could honestly say that I would never do something like that.  In fact putting anyone who knows me on the stand might give the prosecutor an air tight case against me.  Not to mention I was working alone that whole week and would not be able to produce an alibi.

Thankfully the perp was some guy who’s brother was in the military.  TWO HOUSES AWAY!  Man…that was close. 

They threw the book at the guy for endangering the entire city, and glossed over any possibly responibility the plany might have since the the factory is almost a hundred years old, probably not up to any current fire codes, and made of grease soaked wood…and topped with three inches of bacon grease on any given day.  And thats just the grease that settles from the smoke stacks…lord knows what we are breathing in the days when the smell of bacon is filling the city.

This all passed through my mind as I read M’s question “what’s Milwaukee like?’

Then I started thinking about how when I work I have one radio playing talk radio, another playing music and the t.v. on with the sound off.

I asked my friend what I should say.

remember the time you and Al cut up a full sized van in your alley with an acetaylene torch?”


“or the time you got in argument with your neighbor and used your projector to have “jackass” lit up on his house in six foot letters?”

Ha yeah!

Or the time you threw three pounds of dried corn into his garden so crows would hang out and chase his wife every time she went to it to pick the tomatoes”

Ha HA, you bet!

Or the time you threw the computer off the second story proch?

now...That was a very stressful week, and it was cathardac… not done out of anger.

"Yeah, well don't mention any of that"  

 He just shook his head “working with you for a summer is going to be like a cross between “V for Vendetta” and “sanford and sun”

...and concluding with the part in “anchor man” were will ferril and christina applegate hit each other with typewriters and vcrs...get some headphones so you don't drive M nuts with your OCD radio listening.

tsk tsk...such negative energy from this guy...

So I just sent M some links to the art museum and a local custard stand ...and bolted down the VCR.




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