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Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Chicago - a pompous Milwaukee." - Leonard Levinson

It's official... Wisconsin has disappointed us yet again.

The story of our affair with The Copper State is actually a tragi-comedy. First, there was the trip to the Jelly Belly WAREHOUSE in Pleasant Prairie, and then the very rainy weekend in Madison, and finally, Memorial Day Weekend 2008 in Milwaukee.

We had great intentions for the weekend - we headed up Saturday night after a family wedding. Brian reserved us a room at a really cool, historic hotel - the Pfister - and we were excited to wake up the next morning to begin our adventure! We crashed in bed ecstatic that we had found a parking garage nearby where we could leave the car all weekend for only $5.

We thought we'd start out the next day by visiting Brady Street - a unique shopping district downtown that was very highly reviewed in everything we read. Apparently, during the '60s, it was Milwaukee's version of Haight-Ashbury. I suppose our first clue should have been when the cab driver questioned why we wanted to be dropped off at Brady Street... all we saw were coffee shops, a couple of restaurants, one or two women's clothing boutiques (that were pretty junky if you ask me), a private gallery for one artist - who happened to be there when we stopped in, and made it awkward for us to leave without giving her empty and dishonest compliments, and a juggling/novelty store that sold plastic turd. I think we reached the end of the street in about 10 minutes, and that was after making a couple of stops. See, Brady Street was supposed to be the highlight of our first day... and it wasn't.

At the end of Brady Street, we found the Oak Leaf Trail that took us along the lake shore, all the way to the area of the Milwaukee Art Museum. We got tired of walking along the bug-infested shoreline (at least I did), and noticed a bunch of people on Segways. I got a little excited, thinking that taking a Segway tour would be a great way to overcome the day's disappointment, but Brian thought we'd look like dorks, so we didn't do it.

Still feeling a little let down, we headed over to the Milwaukee Public Market - a year-round indoor farmer's market. This place was pretty cool, but a lot smaller than I expected it to be. We had some lunch, and picked up some delicious chocolates that would later melt in the car.

Exhausted from our day's exciting activities, we walked back to our hotel, where I promptly crashed and Brian went swimming. (So all was not lost after all!) That night we had a marvelous steak dinner at the restaurant downstairs.

Monday morning, we headed to Brian's favorite pancake restaurant for breakfast, The Original Pancake House. After a yummy meal, we thought we'd check out Harley-Davidson, since we were in the area, just to make Brian's dad jealous. Naturally, they were closed, so we got some pictures of the outside.

With hours to kill before we were ready to head home, we went over to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Finally! An activity in Milwaukee that would agree with us! We started with a sleep-inducing IMAX film, then headed upstairs to a really neat butterfly exhibit - one of those tropical gardens where the butterflies flutter all around you. The museum was surprisingly extensive, and seemed to focus heavily on open-air life-size dioramas. (Honestly, after seeing "Night at the Museum", they were a little creepy!)

The museum was also hosting the wildly popular "Body Worlds" exhibit, which we never got a chance to see while it was here in Chicago. The entire display was much larger than I expected it to be, and well worth the time we spent queuing in line. They had dozens of cadavers on display, each illustrating something fascinating about the human body... there was even a horse! A lot of the donors (cadavers on display) had been smokers - many black and darkened lungs. As expected, the entire exhibit really tried to hone in on the negative health effects of cancer sticks, and I thought they did a great job.

Most of the full-body displays were of men... very few women in this first round, but they did have a fascinating, separate fetal development and pregnancy exhibit. It was sad thinking that each fetus/embryo was a life lost - there were probably 20 in the room - but so incredible to see up close. The main portion of this section was a pregnant woman on display, and you could see the 8-month-old fetus still in her womb. Absolutely amazing.

Towards the end, Brian cracked me up with his comment, "If I never see another man's penis again..." Every single one of the male cadavers still had his organs intact, and on display, for all to see. Dr. Gunther von Hagens, we have to tell ya, it was a bit overkill. But even with all of that, plastination was still the highlight of our weekend getaway!

So, my apologies if you're from Milwaukee, or it happens to be one of your favorite places. It just didn't do much for the Spriks, and/or we picked the wrong weekend to visit. Do you have any suggestions??

Strangely, I think we're going to give Wisconsin one more try... after all, we did have a nice weekend in Lake Geneva once. In a few months, we're planning a trip that will take us up through Door County, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and finally to Mackinac Island... to the Grand Hotel, of course, where "Somewhere in Time" was filmed. :)



Poage Perspective said...

Gunther von Hagens was accused of obtaining some bodies from prisons, mental hospitals, etc. I just read the Wikipedia entry. Looks like he managed to get away with it.


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