It's Miller - I mean Conference - Time

Welcome to the Miller Time Pub in downtown Milwaukee. I had a few delicious lagers here during my week of conference hell. The software conference I attended was required for my job, and I thought that maybe I would have some time to go around the city and visit the old Pabst, Blatz, and Schlitz breweries, but that sadly did not happen. That is because the majority of my time was spent in training rooms with 173 other strangers watching Power Point presentations about databases and having sanctioned fun-times at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The typical day would start at 6:30 AM with taking a shower and then heading down the sterile and empty "sky walks" that connected the Hilton and Hyatt Hotels to the Midwest Airlines Center (I had never flown Midwest Airlines prior to this trip. They bake their own chocolate chip cookies during the flight (or so they say)).

After walking to breakfast, I would attend classes until lunch, when all 173 of us would sit at round tables and small-talk for an hour and a half. Next, it would be another three hours of training courses and then, finally, the time I most looked forward to each day: when I could go to the Miller Time Pub for one hour before heading off to dinner.

To the left here you can see the inspiring hallway in front of Midwest Airlines Center room 202D. Note the inspirational quote on the wall in raised letters, the Native American battle-axe-themed carpet, and the long tables just waiting to be topped with bottles of water and bowls of Caesar salad. Oh, if these walls could talk, they would bore you to tears with the endless small-talk they hear. "Where are you from?", "How long have you worked there?", and "How did you enjoy that Power Point?" are featured daily.

When I came to Durham for my job interview, I woke up and the first thing I saw out my hotel window was a huge ad for L&M cigarettes, followed by an interview at the American Tobacco Campus (which has a water tower with "Lucky Strike" emblazoned on it). When I woke up each day in Milwaukee, I would see the Miller Lite sign on the building across the street. If you combine Durham and Milwaukee's industries, you get the best dive-bar ever. Too bad they both had to specialize.

Although I did not get to see too much more than a four-block radius of what I suppose was downtown Milwaukee, I did see enough to know that I want to go back with some free time to see more. It was a very unassuming city and I really liked how no-frills it was. Like the tourist article in the in-flight magazine I read about it stated, "Milwaukee does not try to be something it's not".

I wish I could say the same for the Power Point presentations.


Southern Gothic

When Sergio came to Durham for his job interview, they toured him around the campus and paused outside of the Duke Chapel. "Let's just stop here and admire the view", the guide said proudly. A moment of silence, if you like, for one of the architectural landmarks of the area. On one of my weekly trips to the Duke library - long live the "New and Noteworthy Books section"! - I thought it was high time I poke my head inside. After all, the Gothic style arch appears all over campus, in every building.
I didn't take any pictures inside the chapel as I was the only person there that afternoon (having just missed the daily organ recital) but I think you can imagine that it was impressive, vaulted stone ceilings and large stained glass windows. But - but - there was something missing. It was all very tidy and neat, well-kept - almost too tidy. It didn't have the layers of soot from centuries of candles or the worn stone floor from thousands of people passing in and out of the church. It brought to mind a church we came across in Arles last year, the Eglise St-Trophime. It was built in the 11th Century and as you walked inside, you couldn't help but feel all those centuries settle around you and I got that distinctly un-North American thrill of realizing that my feet were walking the path that people have taken for over a thousand years. That they created amazing feats of engineering without factories or machinery or cranes.
Duke Chapel was built in 1935 - well after the debut of the internal combustion machine - which took the edge of the admiration. Pretty indeed but not awe inspiring.
Stay tuned for pictures of the not Southern Gothic but distinctly mid-century modern items we've been collecting in anticipation of our move to an unfurnished apartment this weekend. Speaking of which, our new address as of August 18th is:

101 NC 54
Apt. D2
Carrboro, NC 27510

Sounds vaguely like the address of a prisoner, no? Hopefully it won't feel that way.


Athens, Georgia

Will's porch at night, Athens, GA.

We spent the weekend in Athens, GA. - home of REM and the B-52s and more recently, the Elephant 6 bands. Also home of Will, Sergio's friend from San Francisco who issued an invite to his birthday hootenany. Given we now live 6 hours drive away, rather than 6 days, and also given that we are desperate for friendly, creative human company, we made the drive. Our slightly elderly car is refusing to provide AC when the weather gets too hot - paradoxically, hot weather is exactly when we need AC. I think our little Pacific NW Outback is having a hard time adjusting to hot and humid, which August has brought in force. So a very warm drive brought us to Athens, which turned out to be my postcard perfect image of a college town. Small but dense, walkable and interesting, restaurants and interesting shops and theatres...Chapel Hill could take some lessons out of Athens book.

But they could leave the bugs in Georgia...Will has a little house outside of town where he pursues his painting career - here's a link to his paintings but I'm not going to tell you the ones I have my eye on. We spent most of the night on the porch where the lights and the tiki torches attracted a swarm of exotic creatures including the famed Palmetto Bug, essentially a flying roach. I am not ashamed to admit I squealed a little and ran inside when it blundered its way near me. Giant beatles, moths, and spiders also made an appearance but the food was fine, the beer was cold (water for me, of course) and the company excellent so we braved the bugs on the porch 'til the wee hours.

We took the back roads home, lazily winding our way through the Georgia countryside and the small towns of South Carolina. The kind of small towns where you pick your lunch stop based on the number of people who are lined up outside in their nice clothes, looking for a post-church lunch. Barns, old houses, rusting trucks, mac n' cheese - we managed to cram in all the Southern cliches. And we reminded ourselves to get off the highways and try to take the slow red dirt roads more often.


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