Monday, October 21, 2013

Costume of The Week: Who Was She?

 As soon as my coworker pulled this dramatic black chapeau out of the travel trunk I knew it must be mine. While modeling it in the mirror, I fantasied about what sort of woman wore this hat before me: Where she worked, what shade of lipstick she wore, what brand of cigarettes she smoked, or if she was still alive.

The next delight came after reading the embroidered tag: "Sarah Becker Millinery, Milwaukee WI".

 A little research led me to the jsonline archives and The Church Times ebook where I discovered an ad for the 1930's hat shop.  The millinery stood in what was then  the industrial warehouse district of the Third Ward. I was anxious to visit the building, but found that the hulking overpass now stands in its place.

This hat-jewel has sparked a new obsession: finding vintage pieces produced in the yesteryear of our fair city. They could be anywhere at any moment; sleeping in closets and resale shops, waiting to be worn, waiting to tell you a secret. You can find more treasures like this one via Fashion Farmboy.

What are you wearing this week, Muffins?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Milwaukee Haunts & Hell Holes

It was the year 2000 just before Halloween. We were thirteen year-old girls in a mildewy basement wailing along to Alanis Morrisette. (She understood our complex boy problems.)  After bouncing on the fold out sofa and punching a hole in the low hanging ceiling tile with an air-guitar solo, we opted for a less obnoxious activity.

A Ouija board was pulled out from under the dust ruffle of the loveseat. There were hissed slumber party whispers and some kind of pine-cone-sun-dried-turkey-dinner-fresh-off-the-laundry-line scented candle flickering on the floor near us.

"Dude, you're moving it."
"No you're moving it."

Our straight faced friend interrupted us,
"Shut the fuck up. The dead are moving it."

We held our breath as we watched the fish eye of the little pointer glide over the letters. How serious. How interesting. How different. Our otherworldly communion was broken as our hostess' mutant brother smashed his piggy face up against the window well. We screamed.  More boy problems.

Did I really believe that we spoke to wayward spirits through a piece of cardboard? I will leave that up to you, dear reader. But what I will tell you is that I loved that feeling: the feeling of oddness and mystery. The feeling that anything or any place-- like a piece of cardboard or a stinky wood paneled basement-- could be magical. Or dangerous.

I still seek out those places, whether they be haunted, secluded, strange or steeped in urban legend.   These are a few of my favorite Milwaukee haunts.

The "Witch's House" (Fox Bay) was the incredible home of the prolific artist, Mary Nohl. With the eyes of bizarre sculptures peeping out above overgrown grass and a chain link fence obscuring the view of the house, this property became the inspiration for generations of urban myth.

Though Frank 'N Stein (Riverwest) has closed its doors to the public, it remains a novelty as a funeral parlor turned hot dog joint. The building itself is a century old with reports of eerie activity in the dish room--formerly the embalming room. 

Built in 1893, The Pfister Hotel  (Downtown) is reportedly haunted by the ghost of its founder, Charles Pfister. The sumptuous decor of the 'Victorian Splendor' is both breathtaking and unnerving as it can be difficult to tell if you feel swept away or suffocated.

Forget that The Milwaukee Public Museum is haunted by its flamboyant caped former director, it's full of dead animals and mannequins. Enough said.

Shakers Cigar Bar (Walkers Point) is reportedly a hotspot for poltergeist activity. Though I'm not sure if I'm as unsettled by the stories of ghost kids watching you pee as I am by their heavily promoted 'Serial Killer Tours'. Keep it classy, MKE.

Forest Home Cemetery is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever visited in the country. With flowering trees, reflecting ponds, winding walkways and monuments suited for a sculpture garden it is easy to while away an entire afternoon enjoying the afterlife.

The Hide House (Bayview) is a tannery turned crumbling painting studio, practice space, business development and church. As a former tenant of this haunted hell hole, I can personally vouch for its weirdness. Aside from housing the restless spirits of THOUSANDS of dead cows, the unreliable power, rotted floors, doors to nowhere, boarded-up hallways and an endless supply of mystery dust make this "raw space" a real treat to visit. Don't touch anything. Really.

The Seminary Woods (St. Francis) is a green jewel boasting some of the oldest trees in the city. While walking the paths of the peaceful woods you will stumble upon a small cemetery and the lovely "Our Lady of Lourdes" stone grotto.Sober. Sublime. A bit spooky.

According to the internet, The Seven Bridges trail (Grant Park, South Milwaukee) just reeks of ghosts. The infamous covered bridge is the site of several suicides, reoccurring twinkling lights and reportedly the home of a reclusive giant praying-mantis-super-demon. Round up the kids and check it out!

Where are your favorite haunts?
Keep it weird, Kittens.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Urban Caveman Vlog

Earlier this week we improved our mouth's life with the friendly folks at Urban Caveman!
DISCLAIMER: This video contains gratuitous use of pork and embarrassing dancing.
You've been warned...

Visit Urban Caveman's facebook page to scope out their schedule and get your mitts on something delish.

Wishing you Sweet Potato dreams,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shitty Halloween Party Syndrome

We've all been to that party.

The Halloween party you spent weeks preparing the most clever costume and hardly slept a wink the night before, tingly with anticipation. This is Christmas for the rest of us. That party that you've fantasized about since this time last year only to arrive and discover it's lit like a truck stop bathroom and everything smells like the inside of a hot rubber glove.

Sad trombone.

I fear that I may be morphing into a crotchety old bitty with no sense of humor.  I have lost the desire to schmooze with sexy-oven-mitts and sexy-playground-monitors, covered in their own barf or figure out how to remove a zombie-friend's corn-syrup blood from my toilet seat. I'm probably 99% dead inside.

Between you and me, I secretly long--pine even--for a beautiful spooky party. Something classy and delirious. Something unexpected and magical.

Like some Eyes Wide Shut shit.

 We can do better, Party People. It's up to us. Don't let Shitty Halloween Party Syndrome happen to you.
Here are a few pro tips to help you kick it up a notch this Halloween.

Start at The Door. Give your guests a sneak peek of what's next by starting your decor at the front door. A lit path up to the stoop? Someone jumping out of the bushes and demanding their wallet?

It can be subtle, but it clues your friends in that you aren't messing around and this is going to be AWESOME.

Less is More. To avoid SHPS there needs to be some cohesion to your decor.  A cardboard skeleton here, a severed arm there, a precious moment pumpkin here...looks like a chimp raged through a Party Card Outlet. In fact, it's a good rule of thumb to just stay away from those places in general.

When designing parties for clients, I like to think about what would actually make sense in their home. Stick to a limited color pallet. Monochromatic schemes are particularly spooky and high impact.

Pick a theme. Stick to it. Your party will rule.

Sound Tracks are Party Psychology. Your music selections set the tone.  I've never liked CD's that are two solid hours of a door creaking and a woman screaming. I always thought those were better suited to adult book stores than Bartz. If you are playing this soundtrack, you are an angry person.

Get creative. Phillip Glass, Edith Piaf, Kronos Quartet, warped thrift store opera records, and even a fuzzy AM radio station will work beautifully to start.

For the Love of Pete Turn The Heat On. Odds are you have very sexy friends who wear very sexy costumes. I've been to parties where you could see your own breath. Unless it's a Survivor Man themed party where you're doing shots of your own pee, Turn the Heat On.

Candles. Hundreds of them. That is all.

Jump Out of a Cake. Jolt your friends out of SHPS with something unexpected. Everyone knows there's going to be gobs of cobb webby garbage. Everyone knows there's going to be a mystery anti-freeze green punch. Everyone knows there's going to be gloves full of ancient popcorn.

Show us something else. A little dry ice in the bathroom sink. A room set for a seance. A belly dancer that slips out of the closet. Fortune cookies with something vaguely threatening inside.

Body Part Food is a Never. If you have graduated from high school, there is not excuse for this abomination. No one really wants to eat a finger, but they will because they are your friends. And friends don't make friends eat fingers.

Story Time: My intense hatred of body-part food started in grade school. During a girl scout meeting, to earn some sort of sadistic badge, our troop leader made us stick our hands in cold spaghetti while describing cat entrails. Seeing that my whole body was cringing, my troop leader honed in on me by stuffing my arm into a bag of slimy peeled "eyeball" grapes. I gagged.

She then insisted on making me put one of these awful grapes in my mouth (which about twenty grimy girl-hands had touched by the way...) saying if I didn't, I wouldn't get my badge. The group turned into Lord of The Flies and chanted to torture me. "Chew it! Chew it!"

I did. All I could think about was the snap and squish of an eyeball on my tongue. I vomited in front of the group.

I haven't eaten a grape in 15 years.

The moral of the story? I don't care if you saw it in Martha Stewart Magazine:

Don't fucking serve fingers.

What are your Halloween Party plans this year? Ideas you're wanting to try? Need advice?
Have you experienced SHPS? Share your disgust. 

Wishing you all a bon fete!