In Milwaukee I visit with my Uncle George’s family in Muskego and head into the city the next day with my cousins. We take a tour at the local Lakefront Brewery, where your fee covers four glasses of your choice of the brewery’s beers on tap, a souvenir glass, and a “tour.” I put it that way because the tour guides are drunk and everyone on the tour has had at least three beers by the time the tour starts, so there is a minimum of facts or any information presented on the tour, but you won’t mind at all. The beer is good, the location is beautiful with the river’s canal in back, and the weathered brick walls provide a nice welcoming environment.
Milwaukee’s downtown has a historic feeling, but there is evidence of the growth in the newer condos geared toward the college kid population. I love the older homes. They’re sturdy edifice houses made of stone and wood, worn and colored by years of weather and age. Thick chunky layers of paint producing textures that only time can create. I feel so jealous of the history, with its patina and elegant decay. It makes the stucco and plastic of California seem so transient and frail.
This feeling continues the next day when I stop in Milwaukee again to see Marquette University on my way up Wisconsin’s coast. My Aunt tells me there’s a Joan of Arc chapel in the middle of the campus, shipped over brick by brick from the French countryside. As I’m walking down one of the main streets trying to find the chapel, I pass a few dorm buildings slowly being choked and consumed by rusty ivy.
I try not to be too resentful of the students who get to be emersed in a gothic ivy covered college. I know that’s not the best way to pick a school, but gosh darn it, it would’ve been cool to live on a campus with such personality. But, I round the corner and see the ugly modern college buildings I’m used to seeing. And there, across the open courtyard lies the beautiful and humble St. Joan of Arc Chapel from the 15th century. Although strikingly different than the surrounding lecture halls, the platforms and garden surrounding the chapel effectively bridge the gap. I walk inside and when the heavy doors close behind me, there is an instant quiet calm.