As many of you know, today is the last day I can refer to myself as a Milwaukeean, a term I have worn as a badge of honor for three great years. Tomorrow I will get in my trusty box-mobile and drive across the country to Austin, Texas, where I will begin a long-awaited plunge into the world of teaching music in the public schools. As much as I am going to miss my life in Wisconsin, you have no idea how excited I am about this next chapter in my life. Even though Austin was not the setting of Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and is not according to Wayne “Algonquin for the Good Land”. Despite this I assure all of you, my midwestern friends, that Austin is a spectacular place that you better visit very soon!
I moved to Milwaukee in July of 2007 knowing nothing of what I had gotten myself into. To me Wisconsin was the setting of “Step by Step”, the place where the Green Bay Packers played, and a city that got a wee bit more snow than the one flurry a year I experienced growing up in Dallas. Perhaps it is those snowstorms I just mentioned, or the local food, which tests every last capability of the human digestive system, but Milwaukee is capable of one powerful thing from the day you show up: it toughens you. I moved to Milwaukee hopeful, idealistic, energetic, and also extremely naive. I moved to Milwaukee only knowing the lollipops and rainbows of music making, not knowing what to do when things get hard. I made friends with people that challenged me in ways I never knew possible, something I will be thankful for the rest of my life. I fell in love with music on an entirely new, deeper level, now realizing that the healthiest relationships on earth are the ones that push you as much as they adore you.
I have also learned in my time here of Milwaukee’s most endearing attribute, one that goes hand-in-hand with its ability to toughen you up: Milwaukee is a loyal city. It’s a city where people care about each other, even if they only see each other each morning waiting for the bus. It is a city that isn’t afraid to look you in your eye when you cheeks are red from tears. It’s a city that will stick by you, even after you make a poor choice, because the best lessons learned are the ones that come from our own error. I have heard people give Milwaukee a hard time, something that I will continue to refute as long as I live away from here. This place’s beauty comes in the rarest of crevices: in the mortar between aging bricks, in the sunflowers that peek between slabs of concrete, in the smile of an old man at a pub. While other cities wait impatiently for you to give back to them, Milwaukee grins and nods, knowing that you’re good for it. This is because the same loyalty that the city emits flows in the blood of every last person I have come in contact with.
There are beautiful parks, wonderful architecture, and flowers in every garden, but the source of Milwaukee’s beauty comes from people. In fact, everything I have said above about this city really applies more to you than anything else. YOU are the force that challenged me. YOU are the presence that stuck by me. YOU are loyalty, beauty, and perfection, just by being a part of my life. The friends I have made here are a crop of people that could not exist anywhere else, and just like this city that we called home, you are irreplaceable. This is the city of Frank the Cannoli Guy, Cowboy with a giant iguana, Dick Bacon, homeless woman that screams all of the time, one-armed bouncers, and also the city of each and every one of you. Sledding down St. Mary’s Hill doesn’t work unless you have somebody to push you, literally and figuratively. Playing air hockey at the Landmark Lanes until 3 in the morning only works when you’re holding that paddle, taunting me and chugging a cold one. Great conversation on a Brady Street patio is only great conversation if you are in that chair next to me. We learn names and dates in school, but we learn what is worth living with each other.
With this I say goodbye. I am a loyal but flawed man that has much to learn about the world, but with 3 years in Milwaukee I feel closer to my destiny than ever before. Thank you for being a force in my life that truly only YOU could do. All of my best,