The Travelling Minstrel Show
At 11:27 PM 11/27/2005, you wrote:
Although I make my way through the East Coast at this time, I feel the imperceptable but nonetheless powerful tides of the Great Lakes in my bones.
I have just spent three important days in Toledo, a forgotten yet powerful city in its right. The Toledo School for the Arts is training young people to take art by the balls. I love it. I did some education there on tour, the link is here ( http://www.apoorplayer.net/movies/r3fight_full_workshop.mov).
The Travelling Minstrel Show
Today is a snow day in Staunton, VA. A whole inch of snow fell and every school within a 75 mile radius closed. Where am I?
I have been asked to elaborate on the idea that the tides of Lake Michigan resonate through the bones of those that were bred within its sphere of influence. This is not simply the smell of the alewives wafting over the east side. Milwaukee growing up was a place of freedom. Freedom from development, jobs and hope, mostly, but this sense of freedom has infected my life. Living in the ruins of industry made me realize, perhaps, that my world would have to be born from the ashes of the phoenix. Something pushed me out of Milwaukee to other locales, big and small, to create a world in which I can exist.
Lake Michigan is a dirty place. It is filled with sewage, pollution and misery. I am afraid of Lake Michigan. She is no ocean - she isn’t even her bigger sister, Lake Superior. She dips into the country, the avant-garde of the Great Lakes, the five old spinsters. Chicago emerged from her womb with afterbirth spilling around him. Nobody cleaned it up and that’s what stinks to high heaven in Gary.
Then we have Milwaukee and her church steeples. From afar, I see the possibilities and the failings of my mother. She struggles and fights for relevancy while age and the ravages of Great Lakes winters sink her further underground. Sleek air conditioning has opened up the once inhabitable desert, and this young upstart steals our people, seduced by its promise of neverending youth. Milwaukee shows her age, and often wears it well. But age is no longer a marketable commodity. Her churning furnaces cannot compete with the high-frequency hum of the air conditioner.
The arts are strong in Milwaukee, made strong perhaps by the fight for relevancy which the arts spearheads. The quality is fine even without the money to support it. Artists are still hungry in Milwaukee. I may be over-simplifying and perhaps that bitch nostalgia has crawled into my bed and has seduced me. If it is not true, it is a remarkable story which lives in my heart to the rhythms of those Lake Michigan tides.
This is a story that I want to tell. This is my travelling minstrel show. I may be telling stories that have no bearing to Milwaukee or her particular and specific story. One day maybe. But they are delivered to the accompaniment of the inaudible frequency of Lake Michigan. The more I am open to that, the better my story is told.
I will always be from Milwaukee, even if my journey does not lead me back. My children may not be from Milwaukee, and will (hopefully) rebel against my love for my former mistress. It is not something I hope to pass on or impose upon another. I will live with it enjoy the storytelling circle that we will create around it. I will return and hopefully tell some of my stories there.