Head resting on arms against the window of an Amtrak train, I know the exact song I want to hear. Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" is simple, pure Petty. White t-shirt and blue jeans. Maybe a song he wrote for his daughter, maybe for a teenage love. It is the song to accompany the emotions rushing through me as we cross the Illinois border into Wisconsin. I am staring out at a green no other green can imitate. Alternating fields with black swaths of earth, ready for a crop that will complete its entire life cycle before September harvest. Hibernating farm equipment sleeps in piles along dormant fields. Wind turbines rotate lazily on the edge of a far hill. A single car on a country road waits patiently for the train to pass by. Life is right.
Noting all of the golden things I have unintentionally forgotten, I feel guilty for not getting back to Wisconsin more frequently. Admittedly, I wouldn't have ended up there this weekend were it not for the wedding of two dear friends. With all of the places on the planet to explore from this coastal home base, with this busy life, with all the excuses that come up, it is hard to remember The Motherland is good for us. I won't diatribe too heavily on love for Wisconsin. Those who hail from there know the cords of their heartstrings. Being in its borders makes me feel sure of all the things I knew about myself at 16- freedom, optimism, invincibility. Air fills the pockets of my lungs differently there.
To be sure, there were great things seen in Chicago, as well, this week.
The Art Institute of Chicago put on a quietly devastating exhibition of the photographs of Aaron Siskind.
Reckless Records on Milwaukee continues to be my favorite record store, possibly (definitely) owing to its heavy emphasis on classic rock and roll and real up-and-coming groups.
Big Star tacos continue to hold up to their fame.
But Milwaukee, my goodness! Where were you all these years? (Where was I?)
Kickapoo Coffee, I love you. You far exceed expectations in ambiance, taste, location, service, BISCUITS. You are a gift.
The Milwaukee Art Museum architecture by Santiago Calatrava. Exceptional at any time, magnified by a million when populated only by friends for the classiest wedding I have yet attended.
The lakefront path along Lake Michigan, littered with bodies celebrating the first days of unabashed sun and warmth of the year. Running through a cloud of lighter fluid puffing from the cow-spot-painted shack doling out custards, burgers and fries into awaiting hands.
And last but not least, as wise Wisconsinites know and hold dear and holy, the great New Glarus beer. The most divine beer in all the land and only available for sale within the borders of my home state. (But seriously, when you're considering how to pack glass bottles into your checked duffle, you know you're gambling on something a step above.)